Derek Bowman’s New York Times crossword
I like the first row’s two-parter, “EASY THERE, / TIGER” (wanted FELLA at first) better than the last row’s UNDER / THE BRIDGE, as EASY THERE would work fine on its own but THE BRIDGE needs its UNDER partner and feels like a 9-letter partial (and yes, I suppose you can make exceptions for long partials if the missing part is elsewhere in the grid, but it’s less elegant).
But! There’s the Red Hot Chili Peppers song “Under the Bridge” to make everything better. Aren’t you glad the musical link isn’t in relation to SCARY SPICE? And my god, Anthony Kiedis’s hair is so smooth, shiny, and healthy. I wonder what his secret is.
My solving time would’ve been 4:45 if I’d noticed that I mistyped HELENE instead of HELENA. Sure, that made my [Piranhas] be CERIBES instead of CARIBES, but I don’t know that I knew CARIBES was another name for those fishies.
I like this [Eraser head?] clue for LONG E even though I half thought the initial sound was a schwa. Dictionary says long E is correct. Huh.
Funky new fill: 53d: SOJU, [Korean liquor similar to sake]. Did somebody say “Korean”? If you have not yet seen the worldwide smash hit from Korea, “Gangnam Style,” you should probably watch the video. 617 million views so far. Still so much of the world to conquer!
Other highlights in this 72-worder: PUPPY LOVE, GET IT RIGHT, BY THE SCORE (this is two thirds more than “by the dozen,” people). Lesser entries include ENYA, LITH, IPSE, JEANE, EPEES, plural INSTS, ADLAI, and ESTE.
My overall sense of this puzzle suggests a rating of 3.33 stars.
Gail Grabowski’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Gareth’s review
Gail Grabowski, one of the most accomplished makers of easy puzzles, on a Friday? Holy cats! Sure enough, it has the Monday “pinwheel” design that facilitates smooth fill; there’s very little fill-wise that I’d look askance at on a Monday… That’s a good thing! The clues can always get beefed up!
Anyway, I’m not feeling very 1a, “Bright-eyed”, ALERT, so this may not be too long, or coherent for that matter…
The theme… Erm… I’m still just seeing “?” type answers. Let me have another look. Oh, right, “URE” is added to answers bringing with it “the wacky!” Respect to Ms. Grabowski for including MANURE, even if it’s pronounced differently to the others, that was my favourite answer! MACHOMANURE indeed. I’m sure you all spotted the other three… Moving on.
I had no idea what 23a, “Movie theater appliances”, POPPERS was getting at until revisiting it now. Is that what popcorn making machines are called? It makes sense. In my vocabulary poppers are recreational drugs, though. 31a, “Influential sports figure”, AGENT is primo cluing – quality misdirection, that. 51a, LATIMES – shameless sucking up, I’d never stoop that low! (That comment was only believed by those with very short memories…) Also, 62a, IDI seems to be flavour of the month. Gail put BLOOD next to CULTURE; I wonder if this was intentional. Blood agar is a common culture medium. STORETHE was a tad weird, though I like THESTORE as an answer. 35d, “Mashie and niblick”, IRONS – who still uses these terms? 47d, “Polecat kin”, FERRET – Go team mustelid!
That’s what I wanted to say. Sorry if it’s been all choppy!
Patrick Blindauer’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Making Lunch”- Sam Donaldson’s review
If you’re a fan of crosswords with a visual element (a “Liz Gorski,” if you will), you’ll eat this one up. And that would be appropriate, as today’s puzzle shows us all the elements of a ham sandwich. You have SOURDOUGH BREAD on the top (at 20- Across) and bottom (50-Across), with MUSTARD (44-Across) on the bottom slice, topped with HAM (38-Across) and LETTUCE (27-Across). The inner ingredients are perfectly centered, but the bread slices aren’t exactly aligned. That’s okay though, because most of the sandwiches I make look exactly like that anyway.
I can’t be the only person who noticed the mold on that bottom piece of bread. Note how more than half of it is UNEATABLE, or [Not fit for consumption]. And maybe the LETHARGIC tag abutting the top slice of bread is a warning that the sandwich will spike our blood sugar levels and then leave us feeling drained after just an hour. Despite the warnings, I’m happy to enjoy the sandwich.
Other items of note:
- ADOLPH isn’t an easy entry to see in a grid, but Patrick makes it much lighter by noting it’s [Harpo's given name].
- Because of my incorrect spelling of LETHARGIC (dunno why, but I had LOTHARGIC), the northwest corner was the last to fall for me. You try thinking of an [Item sold in sticks] that ends in -LOO. And I couldn’t figure out the answer to [Frost bit?] for a good 15 seconds, though I loved it when I realized it was a reference to Robert Frost and, thus, a POEM. Once I cracked that, the OLEO sold in sticks made much more sense.
- Normally I would carp at bits like OLA, CTR, EBON, and ICH, but I think one of the reasons I didn’t mind them so much here is because of Patrick’s gift for playful cluing that brings new life to a blah entry. Like the clue for OLA, [Ending for pay, plug, or schnozz]. We get the “pay” part all the time, but “schnozz” adds a fresh feel to the clue and, by association, the entry. So that’s one way to get a pass for using tired fill.
- Though not directly relevant to this particular puzzle, I’m happy to plug Patrick’s upcoming Puzzlefest IV. The prior three fests have been fantastic, and I’m already signed up to get the new batch of puzzles when they come out. Even though I’ve struck out on two of the three metas, I’ve really enjoyed the crosswords. For my entertainment dollar, there is no greater value. Click here to get in on the fun yourself!
Favorite entry = JELLO, the [Moldy dessert] that goes well with a ham sandwich. Favorite clue = [Speech for a glass elevator?] for the TOAST offered by the one hoisting a drinking glass. That one will be on the short list come Orcas time, I’m sure.
Patrick Blindauer’s monthly website puzzle, “For Blockheads”—Matt’s review
Whoa, you’re probably thinking; didn’t we just have a crossword with this exact theme? Indeed we did: just last week, Caleb Rasmussen wrote a puzzle in the New York Times where the various Tetris blocks did double duty as black squares. Caleb’s puzzle had echoed a 2005 Ben Tausig crossword using the same concept, too, so when Patrick sent me this I was a bit taken aback. Didn’t he know about those two? Yes, he replied, and this puzzle is meant as a variation on the theme, not intended to step on any toes. So all is clear and happy in crossword themeland — and of course Patrick found a new way to play it.
His two wrinkles here are 1) to use a rectangular grid (11×20), similar to a Tetris screen, so the blocks indeed appear to be falling more than they did in the Rasmussen and Tausig puzzles. And 2) they’re not just randomly placed, as the clue for TETRIS at 56-a explains: [Arcade game you can sorta play with this puzzle's black squares (reassemble them into a 5×8 tall rectangle to win; only the 2 long shapes need to be rotated)].
OK so that’s an epic Tetris fail on my part, but I’m sure someone more skilled at mentally rotating shapes can steer me right (leave the solution in comments and I’ll change the graphic), so don’t penalize the constructor for that. UPDATE: Dave Sullivan sends in the correct 5×8 rectangle at bottom right.
Fantastic wide-open grid, including FITNESS TEST, DREW THE LINE, IN LA-LA LAND, ST. LUKE’S, KIDDIE LIT, MADE A PASS AT, CANAL STREET, LYNYRD SKYNYRD (!), SKILL SET and SUKIYAKI. Sneakiest clue: [Ritzy spread] for ESTATE at 44-d. Anyone else miss the Y in that clue and think about crackers?
4.321 stars from me. Where’s the button for that rating?
Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Join the Party!” (pen name = Alice Long)
The theme plays around with politics by urging independents to “Join the Party!” Each theme entry’s formed by inserting an IND into a familiar phrase:
- 23a. [Talk to the trees?], CONTACT LINDENS.
- 34a. [Allow a sacred river to ask for divine guidance?], LET INDUS PRAY.
- 40a. [Part of a manual for an old watch?], WINDING TIPS. Recently saw automatic watch winders on Amazon and don’t understand that. How much work is it to wind a watch?
- 61a. [Genuine versions of a lively swing dance?], TRUE LINDIES.
- 69a. [Tab?], INDENTER KEY.
- 89a. [Woods wearing women's clothes?], TIGER IN DRAG.
- 97a. [Transparency, for example?], WINDOW FACTOR.
- 111a. [Gauges for investors in the Milan Stock Exchange?], ITALIAN INDICES.
Best fill: ODDBALL; SAM RAIMI; DELOVELY; AMES, IOWA; MA BELL; NOT SURE (which might describe some of the independent voters still making up their minds about who to vote for on Tuesday); YAKUZA.
Mystery item: 12d. [Divisions of the Tanzanian shilling], SENTI. Who knew?
Nice grid overall, with lots of 6- to 8-letter fill keeping things interesting. Four stars.