If you’re having trouble accessing the New York Times’ crossword page tonight, as I am, you can download the .puz file from Crossword Fiend’s “Today’s Puzzles” page.
Don Gagliardo and Zhouqin Burnikel’s New York Times crossword
SKYFALL! I just saw that Sunday afternoon, in a nearly sold-out cinema. Have you heard Adele’s theme song for the new Bond movie? It’s old-school. And the movie’s all right. Loved Javier Bardem’s villain.
Today’s crossword theme is SKYFALL, with the word SKY falling in this and six other answers: MUSKY, SKYY VODKA, ARONOFSKY, BUTTINSKY, RISKY MOVE, and PESKY. I like how the theme plays out, subtly but with zip (BUTTINSKY!). MR. OCTOBER, mixed METAPHORS, and The World’s Least Appealing Fragrance, Calvin Klein OBSESSION, lend further style to the puzzle. (I’m not kidding about Obsession, either. That farty cheese my husband was eating? It’s utterly rank, but it didn’t bring an instant headache the way Obsession always did.)
There were a handful of Scowl-o-Meter triggers in addition to that headache trigger. Good gravy, 14a: UMIAK/[ Walrus-skin boat] crossing 3d: LIANA/[Jungle vine]? That’s crosswordese double jeopardy right there. And 50a: LARY/[N.F.L. Hall-of-Famer Yale ___]? Don’t recognize that at all. Not as a famous football player, not as a surname I’ve ever seen. Now, LADY and LACY could cross non-disclosure and non-compete agreements (I’m more familiar with NDA, but NCA came to my mind first), but LAZY wouldn’t work because the Wu-Tang Clan has a GZA and a RZA but no NZA. Also a little negative on that YEP/YESES crossing—dictionary says YEP is a “nonstandard spelling of YES, representing informal pronunciation,” so it’s basically the same word crossing itself.
4.25 stars for the theme and its visual interpretation of a movie title, minus 1 star for the unfortunate bits of fill.
Bruce Venzke’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Hay There”- Sam Donaldson’s review
59-Down tells us that BARN is the [Word that can precede the last word of the four longest entries]. It’s no lie:
- 18-Across: Something that’s [Frightening] is HAIR-RAISING (“barn raising”). If you have hair, that is; otherwise, I suppose it’s just scalp-raising.
- 27-Across: To [Jabber on at length] is to TALK UP A STORM (“barnstorm”).
- 47-Across: SONG AND DANCE (“barn dance”) refers to [Behavior designed to deceive].
- 60-Across: The [Jet power booster] is an AFTER-BURNER (“barn-burner”).
We’ve seen this gimmick many times, of course, so there’s nothing much to say about the theme. The fill certainly has its highs and lows. On the high side, there’s BREAK AWAY, TEA CUP, DWEEBS, IMBIBE, and KEANU Reeves.
On the low side there’s just SCOURER (smack dab in the grid’s center, alas), ANNI RIATA, NL-ER, ‘ENRY, ICER, TARN, TAIS, OR BE and REE. I would have added OLIO to the list, but that would be a bit hypocritical. You see, when I moved across the country this past summer, I dutifully marked every box according to the room where the stuff would go. Any box containing miscellaneous crap that could go anywhere was marked “OLIO.” Of my 18 boxes, 11 were marked OLIO. (I’m lucky my then-fiance found that endearing rather than worrisome.) So since I in fact used OLIO in a non-crossword context, I have to give it a pass here.
Favorite entry = ARMCHAIRS, the [Spots for “unofficial” quarterbacks?], though I’m unsure why the clue merits the wordplay signal (aka a “question mark”). Favorite clue = [Statutes in Ohio or Iowa, say] for STATE LAWS. Why Ohio and Iowa, you ask? Beats me. It’s so unorthodox, so random, so … weird that I love it.
Jeff Chen’s Los Angeles Times crossword
This is the most skeptical theme I’ve ever seen. ["As if!"] clues AIN’T GONNA HAPPEN; NO WAY, JOSE; DREAM ON; YEAH, RIGHT; and FAT CHANCE OF THAT. The last one sounds a bit off—the OF THAT seems superfluous—but I like the others.
Jeff made space for some excellent longish fill here. MEATHEAD! LIP-SYNCING! RINGTONE clued as [Modern caller ID, perhaps]. WARP FACTOR, PORSCHE.
My three favorite clues:
- 1a. [College donor, often], ALUM. I missed a year of giving to my alma mater for the first time this year. I was dumbfounded that a school that prides itself on being a progressive institution hired yet another white male as its new president. Has your alma mater also had an unbroken chain of white men in charge?
- 66a. [Way to be tickled], PINK. Let us not speak of Elmo.
- 2d. [Film heroine with memorable buns], Princess LEIA.
Uninspired by: ESAU, OR FOE, CLEM, ACR, TEC.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “Secret Crossword”
Crossword themes that feature a hidden word embedded in each theme phrase are fairly common, but they use 3-letter words far more often than 4s. Here, Matt uses the 4-letter INFO, inspired by the phrase INSIDE INFO.
- 17a. [UFO tracker's headwear, it's said], TIN-FOIL HAT.
- 21a. [Shrimp and salmon, it's said], BRAIN FOOD.
- 33a. [They're full of old growth], VIRGIN FOREST.
- 43a. [Song title followed by "in all the wrong places"], LOOKIN’ FOR LOVE. From the late ’70s/early ’80s country crossover era, when Eddie Rabbitt and Crystal Gayle were top-10 artists.
- 54a. [Shar-pei's features], SKIN FOLDS.
- 63a. [Secret the theme answers contain], INSIDE INFO.
Solid theme. Some people deduct points for including phrases in which not every word touches that hidden INFO, but here my favorite theme answers were TIN-FOIL HAT and LOOKIN’ FOR LOVE.
Five more things:
- 10d. [Song contest with previous winners ABBA and Celine Dion], EUROVISION. I know what you’re thinking—Celine Dion’s Canadian, so what the heck is she doing in the Eurovision contest? She represented Switzerland. Wikipedia doesn’t seem to explain why she represented Switzerland. Is this a Swiss banking scandal?
- 29d. [Fossilized marine animals], TRILOBITES. My family had a neat trilobite fossil when I was a kid. My sister or I took it in for show and tell one time and—poof!—gone. Somebody stole it. No idea if my dad had bought the fossil or somehow managed to find it in the wild.
- 24d. [Belarus city not far from the similarly-named capital], PINSK. The capital’s Minsk.
- 56d. [Forthcoming psych book], DSM-V. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Volume 5. Ooh! Wikipedia tells me that they’re going with “DSM-5″ and dropping the Roman numerals. Attention, Super Bowl: Consider going Arabic as well. I’m glad DSM is going to use Arabic numerals, because “DSMV” makes me think of Prince’s “D.M.S.R.,” and then I start watching Prince concert videos and the day vanishes.
- 39a. ["Heroes" villain (anagram of L-RAYS)], SYLAR. Hey, I didn’t need the anagram hint. [Zachary Quinto's best role evah] would have gotten me to the answer.