Patrick Blindauer’s monthly puzzle for December is up. We’ll give you a chance to solve it before posting Matt’s review.
Steven Atwood’s New York Times crossword, “Lo and Behold!”
This is a standard add-two-letters theme. The results are all solid, though not laugh-out-loud funny. The base phrases are particularly fresh here.
- 23a. [Consideration in choosing a deli?], THE LOX FACTOR.
- 28a. [Part of a butcher's stand-up routine?], LOIN JOKE. This one could have gone blue.
- 35a. [Laundry basket of just colors or just whites?], CLASSIFIED LOAD. I might’ve gone with a truckload of nuclear material here.
- 48a. [Wise lawmaker most likely to be re-elected?], FAVORITE SOLON.
- 61a. [Artistic expression on the slopes?], SLALOM DANCING.
- 67a. [Causing Election Day delays?], SLOWING VOTERS. Hey, this is no joke.
- 84a. [Chart indicating the progression of darkness after sunset?], GLOAMING TABLE.
- 93a. [Power in Hollywood?], DIRECTOR’S CLOUT.
- 103a. [Paintball weapons?], BLOB GUNS.
- 113a. [When there might be a two-for-one special on ice cream drinks?], FLOAT TUESDAY.
I wanted 5a: [A pop group might have one on Facebook] to be the fresh, new term FAN PAGE, but alas, it was merely FAN CLUB. Still waiting for the Times’ tech folks to work out the backspace kinks, as I could only type over the wrong PAGE, not delete those letters. I will be sticking with the pzzl.com applet for the time being.
95d: [Small rented farms, in Britain] are CROFTS. This puts me in mind of Seals & Crofts” “Summer Breeze,” of course. And that makes me envious of our Southern Hemisphere friends who are heading into warm summer. I mean, it’s supposed to hit 67° here on Monday, but it looks like northern November.
Cute two-fer: 101a and 117a [Prop(s) for Mr. Monopoly or Mr. Peanut], CANE and TOP HATS. Nothing says “fancy” like a walking stick, am I right?
Glad that 4d: [Paul Bunyan, e.g.] turned out to be FOLK HERO rather than FORESTER.
Lots of open zones with 7- and 8-letter fill. ALI BABA, CALIENTE, MIDSIZE car, and C.C. RIDER are among the zippier long entries.
3.5 stars for a solid puzzle. There are a handful of “meh” short answers, but no Sunday puzzle escapes that. Didn’t hit anything that triggered the Scowl-o-Meter to beep (what? you didn’t think it beeped?), and the theme didn’t hit any sour notes.
Merl Reagle’s syndicated crossword, “Heard the Good Word?”
The theme here is phrases in which the first word rhymes with the last word(s) or syllable(s):
- 16a. [No. 1 hit of February 1971], ME AND BOBBY MCGEE.
- 21a. [On-the-job training slogan], EARN WHILE YOU LEARN.
- 33a. [Gift for the shower], SOAP ON A ROPE. No longer such a popular gift.
- 51a. [Golden oldie, perhaps], BLAST FROM THE PAST. See also: 16a, 86a.
- 63a. [Conform, in a way], GO WITH THE FLOW.
- 74a. [Really relaxed], LOOSE AS A GOOSE.
- 86a. [1973 Johnnie Taylor hit], CHEAPER TO KEEP HER. “Hit”? Never heard of it. Super bluesy; have a listen.
- 104a. [Swimming, surfing, etc.], FUN IN THE SUN. It’s only fun till somebody loses an arm to a shark.
- 118a. [Final-appeal venue], COURT OF LAST RESORT.
- 125a. [In optimum acceleration mode], PEDAL TO THE METAL.
The theme works fine, though I didn’t find it particularly entertaining. Much of the fill left me cold. IN WEIGHT, OBEY ME, lots of partials (NOT TO DO, LED AN, and more) … I wasn’t enchanted. 2.75 stars from me. The stacked theme answers didn’t buy quite enough forgiveness.
Randolph Ross’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Sunday Challenge”- Sam Donaldson’s review
I needed a good six minutes to get some traction in this 70/25 freestyle Sunday Challenge, but once I got a little bit of momentum it all started to fall into place.
The grid is anchored by two 15s: ARE YOU KIDDING ME and ROTTEN TO THE CORE, both nice expressions for crossword purposes. Then there’s the triple 10s in the northeast and southwest corners. The southwest stack is the more attractive of the two, with a RIVER HORSE abutting IRANIAN OIL, the latter sitting next to GOLD-PLATED. The other 10s in the grid less sparkly, though I liked CHOWED DOWN a lot. LATE CAREER is legit, I suppose, but it feels a little forced to me.
Here are some of the bits I struggled with most:
- I’m not the only one who had TERIYAKI for the [Japanese dish], right? Sure, SUKIYAKI is accurate, and TERIYAKI is not. But I can’t believe I’m the only solver who fell into this trap.
- I kept fighting ISAK as the answer to [Author Dinesen] because I couldn’t make sense of KOD as the answer to [Floored]. Um, Sam, that would be K-O’d, as in “knocked out.” Without the punctuation, “KOD” looks like Norwegian bait fish.
- Didn’t know that [General Wellington's nickname] was the IRON DUKE. I might have a beef with Wellington.
- NAT Adderley, the [Jazzman] was also new to me. He’s one cool cat, though.
- So there was a [Great Society agcy.] called OEO. The full name of the agency included “Ah ah ting tang Walla Walla bing bang.” Hear for yourself.
- One of these days, I’ll remember that MAB is [Queen of the fairies]. But that day wasn’t today.
I like the consecutive clues [Wayne film set in Africa] for HATARI and [Wayne portrayer Kilmer] for VAL.
Favorite entry = PULL TAB, the [Can opener]. Favorite clue = [Put out] for TAG. I didn’t get it when I solved the puzzle, but now that I do I really like it (in case you’re similarly addled, it’s a baseball reference–tagging the runner on the base path to “put” the runner “out”) .
Frank Longo’s Washington Post crossword, “The Post Puzzler No. 139″ – Doug’s review
Hey, crossword fans. Many thanks to Neville for handling last week’s puzzle write-up. Are you solving Neville’s puzzles every Friday? If not, get yourself over to his website and get caught up. This past Friday’s puzzle, “One to Grow On”, is one of his best.
I’m a little short on time (what else is new?), so let’s quickly run through a few highlights.
- 43a. [Teach the pirate] - EDWARD. Edward Teach, better known as Blackbeard. Is it Talk Like a Pirate Day yet? Seems like that pops up about eight times a year. In other pirate-y news, I went to a concert a couple of weeks ago, and one of the opening bands played Scottish pirate metal. Very cool. And I learned a new word from one of their songs: banjaxed! From what I can tell, it means ruined/broken/screwed. “Oh, crap, the NY Times site’s banjaxed again. Someone call Deb!”
- 15A. ["Indecent Proposal" director] – ADRIAN LYNE. Joon and I were discussing crossword-friendly directors a couple of days ago: RITT, ROEG, COEN, LUMET, MALLE, etc. This LYNE guy didn’t come up. Wikipedia tells me he received an Oscar nomination for Fatal Attraction. OK, that’s solid. He also “uses natural light, a fog machine and other effects to create eroticized atmospheres.” Thick fog makes everything sexier, even crossword blogs.
- 30a. [Dated copies] - MIMEOS. Love the clue. I remember my teachers giving us “dittos” when I was in elementary school. I don’t know if they came from a mimeograph or not. Jeez, I hope I’m not that old.
- 5d. [Winner of three consecutive NFL MVP awards in the 1990s] - FAVRE. I was banjaxed here initially, because I thought the answer was (Steve) YOUNG. Let me check … Steve Young won two MVPs in the ’90s, so I wasn’t too far off.
- 55d. [Villain in "The Avengers"] – LOKI. Emma Peel kicked his Norse butt all the way back to Valhalla.
- 4d. [Jazz bandleader who composed "Muskrat Ramble"] – KID ORY. Not to be confused with the Captain & Tennille classic “Muskrat Love.” Was the entire country on drugs in the ’70s?
Other fun stuff: YUCK FACTOR, SLOW COOKER, TATTOO INKS, and SEA SLUG.
Kathleen Fay O’Brien’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “Heard Down Under”
O’Brien’s theme changes long-A sounds into long-I sounds, Australian style:
- 23a. [Arranged pickling solutions on the shelf?], RACKED ONE’S BRINES. (Brains.)
- 40a. [Funhouse admission fee?], FRIGHT CHARGE. (Freight.)
- 73a. ["Your shingle work stinks!" e.g.?], ROOFING SLIGHT. (Slate.) Is it just me or are “freight charge” and “roofing slate” pretty dull phrases to base theme entries on?
- 105a. ["Don't take candy from strangers," say?], GUILE WARNING. (Gale.)
- 123a. [Empty church basket?], COLLECTION PLIGHT. (Plate.)
- 16d. [Landing with just a toothbrush?], LIGHT ARRIVAL. (Late.) Not sure that one who “travels light” can be said to have a LIGHT ARRIVAL. The arrival isn’t light, the luggage is.
- 67d. [Indian chef's series of adventures?], SPICE ODYSSEY. (Space.) Mind you, an expert in Indian cuisine isn’t considering use of spices an ODYSSEY. Keep in mind that toddlers in India probably eat far more curry than the typical American adult.
I wasn’t thrilled with the fill in this puzzle. EMALL, SNEE, SMEW, TEK, MCCI, and EASEFUL are emblematic of what I didn’t care for.
- 72a. [One in a military march?], HUP.
- 77a. [Outfit for an outfit], UNIFORM.
- 54d. [Topper seen on a mogul], SKI HAT. I put in TOP HAT first and scoffed at the clue, wondering how many business moguls sport top hats these days. Whoops.
- 107d. [It's common in some camps], NUDITY.