Erik Agard’s New York Times crossword
The nonconsecutive circled squares hide Tuesday’s major-party running mates, incumbents OBAMA in GOD BLESS AMERICA and BIDEN in BEHIND THE SCENES as well as Republican challengers RIGHT ON THE MONEY/ROMNEY and …PRESBYTERIANISM/RYAN. Those four 15-letter answers are tenuously connected to the U.S. presidency and political campaigns, leaving a little taste of “Wait, what? Why?” in my mouth. (It tastes like marjoram, if you must know.) More to the point, 65a anagrams to “I’m Britney Spears,” which is probably Erik’s real motivation for making this puzzle.
You know what I like about today’s constructor? That his last name hides the crosswordese word AGAR. What I do not like about him is that the whippersnapper is solving puzzles faster than me now. V. irritating, that.
The good, the bad, and the ugly:
- Goodies include the lovely MS. PAC-MAN, quaintly slangy RHUBARBS, HEADS UP, and MR. SMITH Goes to Washington (quasi-thematic).
- The bad and the ugly share a category and include partials A BELL and I’M AT, plus a bunch of lackluster 3s (ONS, ALS, SHA, ENL, ET AL.)
My Chicago language got in the way at 62d. That [Pop's Brothers ___], *IBB? I decided that the Mr Pibb sodapop now had a Brothers PIBB family of soft drinks. Uh, that’s pop music, and the GIBBs of the Bee Gees (and their little brother Andy). The Bee Gees sang “TRAGEDY,” and it really is a tragedy that Barry, the eldest, has lost all three of his younger brothers, isn’t it?
3.5 stars, elevated by the 7s and 8s in the fill.
Raymond Hamel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “A Nose for Gnus”- Sam Donaldson’s review
Today’s mailbag question is from Ara in South Bend, Indiana: Did you ever write a blog post of about 450 words, only to lose it all when you went to save it and something went wrong? Yep, Ara, I have. It happened just now. And no, I don’t feel like re-writing the mini-essay on why a pinwheel arrangement of theme entries worked so nicely on this particular puzzle. Take my word for it–it was good. The basic thesis was this: when you have four theme entries of eight to ten letters in length, the pinwheel arrangement is great for keeping the theme entries apart from each other, thus facilitating great fill.
I only have the patience to re-list the theme entries. The theme involved four 10-letter entries ending with a homonym for “gnu.” The analysis included some witty observations based on the fact that three of the four entries referenced politicians, and on Election Day no less. It was pure gold. The theme answers are: PARK AVENUE, TIPPECANOE, JOHN SUNUNU, and SPIRO AGNEW.
Favorite entry = IN A FUNK, the sensation of [Feeling down] to which I now relate. Favorite clue = [Like a virgin?] for VESTAL. Stupid internet connection.
Neville Fogarty’s Los Angeles Times crossword
Hey! It’s not an Election Day theme, and that’s fine with me. I voted two weeks ago and I’m beyond ready for the election to be over.
The 65a theme revealer is FLAG, [Flier on a pole, and at the ends of 18-, 25-, 45- and 57-Across]. COLORS, BANNER, STANDARD, and JACK can all mean “flag.” Until I reached 65a, I was also eyeballing WISH LIST, OIL BARON, SIT ‘N SPIN, and MUG SHOTS—all lively entries in their own rights, but not part of the theme. Here are the themers:
- 18a. [Real attitude underlying a facade], TRUE COLORS
- 25a. [The Hulk's alter ego], BRUCE BANNER
- 45a. [Song covered by Michael Bublé, say], POP STANDARD. I had OLD STANDARD first.
- 57a. [Aunt Jemima competitor], HUNGRY JACK. People! Try real maple syrup. You might not love it at first if you’re accustomed to the big brands of corn syrup + artificial flavors, but it will grow on you.
Excellent puzzle, Neville. BANGKOK, LET IT BE, and BIEBER join those four great 8s as fill I liked. Could do without SNERD, NAES, and ONE-L, but there was so much good stuff in this grid, the “meh” bits were scarcely noticeable while I was solving. 4.25 stars.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “Rated R (for Relocation)”
The letter R is relocated in four movie titles, changing the plot entirely. Sometimes a word space is added:
- 17a. [Tunnel effect created by blowing air through a line of empty-headed participants?], EAR WIND ROW. Was Rear Window.
- 31a. [Solo's attempt at an orchard?], THE HAN GROVE. Was The Hangover.
- 44a. [Guy who complains there are too many trees in the woods?], FOREST GRUMP. Was Forrest Gump. I gotta tell you, the revised version sounds more solid.
- 58a. [Idiot who drove his car into two feet of mud?], MORON STUCK. Was Moonstruck.
Faves: QUALMS, NEROLI [Oil from orange blossoms], BIG GULP, BO DUKE, ZONKER, and RICE-A-RONI. V. good stuff!
- Never heard of 64a: [Actor Hakeem ___-Kazim of "24"], KAE, but I wish him great success in show biz on account of that 3-letter name word with 2 vowels.
- 34d. [Type of pricing], BASE POINT. No idea what that’s about.