I am thankful for the many brilliant people who make crosswords, the hard-working people who deliver the puzzles to us, and a phenomenal assemblage of blog commenters. Here, have a piece of my pecan pie. You want me to warm up your slice?
Joel Fagliano’s New York Times crossword
16×15 grid with a terrific theme: Take a familiar phrase or word and break the first two letters into individually pronounced letters that form 2-letter chunks. [Cackling cry from a mad scientist before unleashing havoc on southern California?] clues L.A. DIES FIRST. Funny! Now, be honest: How often does a crossword’s first theme answer actually amuse you? No more than one time in ten, I’ll bet. (Unless you’re easily amused.) R.A. IN CHECK, B.A. BY BOOMER (which feels amiss—wouldn’t the degree be for him rather than by him?), the very funny B.O. ON DOCKS with stinky longshoremen, and the splitting-a-word-again P.R. IS ON BREAK. You know how sometimes you shake your head and wonder what possessed an editor to accept a certain puzzle? If you’re doing that here, you should have your head checked rather than shaken.
The puzzle’s corners feel like a Friday puzzle. Tougher stuff like ILIESCU, MEAT PIE, and Lenin’s VAN DYKE beard appears in stacks with smooth crossings. We’ve also got some 8s, my favorite being UNCLE LEO—here’s an assemblage of Seinfeld clips featuring the character.
4.5 stars from me. How’d you like this? It’s no turkey, I say.
Don Gagliardo and C.C. Burnikel’s Los Angeles Times crossword
Neat theme: To go on the CATWALK, you don’t need a designer outfit. You just need to take stroll around the perimeter of this grid. BOB, HOUSE, LAP, PERSIAN, ALLEY, STRAY, TOM, KITTY, BLACK, and BURMESE are all clued without reference to cats, but all of those words can precede cat too. Cats are also fond of 29d: TUNA. You won’t find FELINES in this puzzle, though.
If you squint at the grid, you just might descry a cat’s face with some peculiar whiskers. Yes? No?
The fill includes bright spots such as CHICAGO (17a. [Longtime pop group with mostly self-named albums]), GELATI (lower in fat than ice cream, but the flavor’s richer because gelato is served at a higher, less-tongue-freezing temperature), TUNISIA, LAMBASTE, and … BONGS? I like the conversational “NAME IT” and “SCRAM!” too. It also includes a number of dim patches: REO EERS NSEC NEY SKOL (surely I’m not the only one who tried SKYY for [Vodka brand] here).
Clue of the day: 41d. [Seat cushions?] for GLUTEI.
Patrick Jordan’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Uncertain Terms”- Sam Donaldson’s review
Gotta get the turkey in the oven, so today’s review will be a bit abbreviated. Our theme involves three [Skeptical comment]s, all of which may be uttered by the DOUBTING THOMAS at 54-Across:
- 20-Across: I’M FROM MISSOURI. I’ve never heard this (not even from someone hailing from Missouri!), but I assume it derives from Missouri being the “show-me state.”
- 32-Across: SOUNDS FISHY TO ME. That one I’ve heard before, but maybe that’s because I grew up in the Pacific Northwest, where the smell of fish is all too familiar.
- 40-Across: WHERE’S YOUR PROOF? I think the last time I heard that was in my geometry class.
My solving time was slowed by a number of answers that either eluded me or fell into the (cavernous) “I just plain don’t know it” category. I didn’t know ALDO [Ray of "The Green Berets"], for instance, and CASPAR as a [Magi member] means nothing to me. Likewise, I know few lyrics from Send in the Clowns, so ["Are we ___"] A PAIR took quite a while to fall. And while I had the FLOWER part soon enough, I needed three more crosses before getting STARFLOWER as the [Bloomer in the primrose family]. My own inability to read the clue [Fix the pitch again] correctly led me to write RE-MEND instead of RE-TUNE (I thought “pitch” was “patch”).
Favorite entry = OUT-RUNNERS, the [Leading members of dogsled teams]. Other goodies included UH-HUH and GONZO, the [Hook-nosed muppet]. Favorite clue = [Drive one's spouse to the couch, perhaps] for SNORE.
Brendan Quigley’s website crossword, “Giving Thanks”—Matt’s review
Quick write-up from me today with holiday activities drawing nigh: Brendan gives thanks by adding “ta” to a base phrase. I believe that ta is a precious way of saying “thank you” among the hip folk, and that it comes from Welsh. Let’s see if either of those are true. No, not really — it’s a British thing, and comes from way back from Danish.
17-a [Hogwarts job opening?] = not a magic wand, but a MAGIC WANT AD.
22-a [Really weird IRS agents?] = not the comic book series “Uncanny X-men” (I looked it up), but UNCANNY TAXMEN.
38-a [Barricade made of metal thread and pub paper?] = not a barb-wire fence, but a BAR TAB WIRE FENCE.
54-a [The act of gluing corn husks together?] = not male bonding, but TAMALE BONDING.
61-a [Volkswagen model that's easy to pop?] = not a bubble-jet printer, but a BUBBLE JETTA.
That works for me. Top 3 fill: XFL, RACK UP and EGG DYE. Top 3 clues: [Warm greeting?] for ALOHA; [Night spot?] for BED; and [Sleep and a stiff drink, among others, for new parents] = NEEDS.
4.10 stars. Happy T-day, everyone!
Ben Tausig’s Ink Well crossword, “Personal Styles” (plus last week’s puzzle)
Clothing items named after the people who made them famous are the theme this week: HAMMER PANTS, COSBY SWEATER (which I recently heard was actually an expensive Coogi-brand sweater), KANYE GLASSES, NEHRU JACKET. I don’t think KANYE GLASSES or COSBY SWEATER have made it into crosswords before, but NEHRU is clued as a jacket far too often and I think HAMMER PANTS have made the big time already. Fun stuff.
Highlights in the fill: SHE BANGS, INSANELY, WIKILEAKS, MANNEQUIN, YOWZA, LMFAO, CYA, HOME ICE.
Let’s take a peek at last week’s puzzle, too. MUSCLES sometimes have shortened nicknames, which appear in our theme answers. Delt in MODEL TOWN, lat in ATTILA THE HUN, pec in PENELOPE CRUZ, quad in AQUA DRAMA. Note that each muscle is “stretched” across the space between two words.
Likes: SUN RA (did he realize all the letters in his name appear in “Saturn”?), WEEZER (which is followed by three more proper names), SAZERAC, PHOTO OP, ID BADGE, DREADS. Less pleased with: ULRIC, OMOO, MLI.