Jim Hilger’s New York Times crossword
This is a cute theme, but it makes me sad. You know why? I’ve had caramel apples at least three times this fall, and not a single one of them was really any good. Mushy apple? Feh. Strange chocolate coating on the caramel? Meh.
The theme answers are an ALL-DAY SUCKER on a stick, represented by three sans-serif I’s stacked up; a CARAMEL APPLE III; a FROZEN BANANA III; and the STICK. The sucker, apple, and banana are all straight-line entries rather than being shaped like a sucker, apple, or banana. This is perfectly fine—it’s a crossword, not a coloring book.
I vaguely recall an old puzzle in which a bunch of I’s were used to draw a line or something. That ring a bell for anyone? There was also a 1999 puzzle by Harvey Estes and Nancy Salomon, theme entries running vertically; TARZAN THE APEMAN’s last words are “SOMEBODY GREASED / THE VIIIIIIIIINE.” The string of I’s there mimics the vine, too. (Aside: Cast your eyes on the Xword Info thumbnails of Harvey’s NYT puzzles to see some really smooth triple-stacks with non-junky crossings. I miss seeing his themelesses in the NYT but luckily, I get to edit some for Crossword Puzzle Pack and they’re always fun.)
Somebody said on Monday that UNITER should’ve had a fun Dubya clue if the word had to be used in the grid; the word appears here again, this time clued as [George W. Bush, self-descriptively]. Turns out he was rather divisive in the end, no?
Really like seeing PASS/FAIL in the grid, as I appreciated that [Grade option that doesn't affect one's grade point average]. Not only wasn’t I going to get straight A’s in gym, but it wasn’t Honors Gym so even good grades were worth less than in some of my academic classes.
SPRING ROLL is also a terrific entry, and the puzzle is pleasingly free of horrible fill. Favorite clue: [Opposite of raises], for RAZES. Four stars.
Robin Stears’ Los Angeles Times crossword — Gareth’s review
Ms. Stears delivers an a-plus effort theme-wise today. There are those who pooh-pooh “words that follow/precede” themes as unimaginitive, especially when the revealer is merely COLUMNS, but look at all the elegant touches.
First off, all the themers run down, rather than across. This echoes visually the central theme idea of COLUMNS. Allied to this, the two blocks of 6 in the middle of the grid on the top and bottom rows, plus the central COLUMNS form an actual representation of a column! Simple enough to construct, but requires a special kind of imagination to think of an idea like that! More subtly, each of the four column words refers to a different type of column. From left to right:
- 26d, FIFTHWHEEL, [*Double-date extra]. The fifth column is an idiom meaning quislings. It originally refers to a column of soldiers. If memory serves this is from the Spanish Civil War where a city was besieged by four columns of soldiers and the general said he had a “fifth column” of rebels within the city itself. I could look it up, but I’m sure there’s someone prepared to hold forth in the comments anyway. Also, I’m not sure how a double date ends up with a fifth person involved, but I’ve never really done the whole dating thing, so who knows!
- 5d, SPINALTAP, [*"Break Like the Wind" band]. The spinal column in the body. Literal spinal taps tap the CSF in which said column is bathed, so the pop culture angle helps separate things.
- 34d, IONICBOND, [*Chemical connection that involves a transfer of electrons]. Ionic columns are of the architectural kind. One of the 3 ancient Greek styles, the others being Doric and Corinthian, which had less possibilities for Ms. Stears to build from… Ionic bonds are contrasted with covalent bonds. NaCl (Na+ + Cl-) is your classic ionic bond.
- 10d, GOSSIPGIRL, [*TV drama narrated by a teen blogger]. Gossip column refers to “column” as in opinion piece in a newspaper.
My solve time ended up being slightly longer than usual for a Wednesday. It was all down to a few persistant errors. OffSIZE for OUTSIZE, Rte for RDS and Pepo for POME. I also really, really wanted BROGAN to be BROGue, although NESS quickly disabused me of that notion.
- 13a, DEADPAN, [Like Steven Wright's delivery]. That name rings a bell… I seem to remember reading a list of his quotes that was very funny. Off to find some for all y’all. Here ‘wah. (I can’t be sure of their authenticity, nevertheless…)
- 29a, EPEE is followed by 32a, POINT. I think that that’s accidental. It amused me nonetheless. Similarly, 60a, MOODIER is followed by 62a, PRETEEN.
- 52a, ETHNICS, [Ones with a common heritage]. It feels to me like that word is often used in a pejorative sense, even if the clue is as ecru as can be.
- 7d, BEARCUB, [Berenstain youngster]. You mean the books are actually the Berenstain Bearcubs?
- 8d, RADIO, [Active beginning?]. Musical interlude.
- 61d, DOE, [Forest female]. You know you’ve solved too many puzzles when you start filling in ENA and have to backtrack.
That’s all from me. If you loved the puzzle too, please join in in the comments, I think Ms. Stears will be reading them!
Raymond Hamel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Fabrication”- Sam Donaldson’s review
An informal poll of my friends suggests there are many adjectives that could be used to describe me (about 20% of which are flattering). One conspicuously absent from the extensive list is “fashionable” and its kin (“fashion-forward,” “stylish,” “fashionista,” and the like). I mention this as a disclaimer for today’s review–it’s entirely possible I’m missing some key component(s) to this theme. As I understand it, the four theme entries all begin with a word that can also be used to describe a particular item of fabric:
- 17-Across: The [Sweet gum wood used for furniture] is SATIN-WALNUT. Now I know satin the fabric. But this “satin walnut” doo-hickey is new to me. My sources at Wikipedia tell me satin-walnut is another name for Liquidambar, a “genus of four species of flowering plants in the family Altingiaceae, though formerly often treated in the Hamamelidaceae.” Um, yeah. Reading further: “They are all large, deciduous trees, 25–40 metres (82–130 ft) tall, with palmately 5- to 7-lobed leaves arranged spirally on the stems and length of 12.5 to 20 centimetres (4.9 to 7.9 in), having a pleasant aroma when crushed.” As Mamma always said, if you’re going to have leaves, it’s best to have them palmately.
- 23-Across: The [Flaming dessert] is CREPE SUZETTE. So crepes aren’t just for consumption at brunch? The problem is that my dictionary says the fabric version is spelled “crape,” not “crepe.” That’s what has me thinking I’m missing something in this theme.
- 47-Across: TERRY GILLIAM is the ["12 Monkeys" director], and I’m fine with that. Again, however, I’m struggling on the fabric side of things. As one who has owned my share of bathrobes over the years, I know terrycloth fabric. But I didn’t know that terrycloth is sometimes known simply as “terry.”
- 59-Across: [Prince's record label] is PAISLEY PARK. Shows you what I know. I would have sworn that “paisley” was a pattern, not a fabric. The others are fabrics, not patterns (at least I think that’s the case). I can’t find independent verification that paisley is indeed a fabric (or that any of the others is really just a pattern), but I’m loath to label this an inconsistency based on my severely limited knowledge base here. Can anyone provide evidence one way or the other?
Thank goodness for gettable crossings or I would have been at sea for a long time here. Some of the highlights in the fill include HIJACK, clued as
[Greeting to musician White] [Take by force], MRI SCAN, I CAN’T WAIT, TRUE NORTH, and SEMI-PRO, the [Will Ferrell basketball movie] I have not seen. I thought it odd that the grid has both AUTO and CARS, but I guess it’s not technically a duplication.
Favorite entry = PANTS SUIT, the [Working woman's wear]. Favorite clue = ["Totally tubular!"] for RAD. Gnarly!
Brendan Quigley’s American Values Club crossword
You want in on the AV Club crossword? Visit the Kickstarter page and pledge enough to subscribe for the next year (or decade, if you choose), and you’ll keep receiving the puzzle via email each week. You find the naughty words to be crude and you complain bitterly that the puzzle isn’t as prim as you? You’re in luck! You will no longer be forced to solve this puzzle for free. You will be liberated from terrible offenses.
BEQ’s theme takes the Oxford American Dictionary’s WOTY (that’s word of the year, of course), GIF, and inserts a GIF into each theme answer. Sadly, the technology is not yet there for actual animated GIFs to appear inside a crossword. If you don’t know what a GIF is, here is an example; god help me, I don’t know why that is my all-time favorite GIF. “Bi-curious” becomes BIG IF CURIOUS. Ted Turner, GIFTED TURNER Vanna White. T junction, TGIF JUNCTION. That sounds like a TGI Friday’s in Petticoat Junction. And the Ford Focus is transformed into a Kathie Lee GIFFORD FOCUS; this last one is particularly deft.
- 5d. [World Toilet Day org.], UNICEF. Flush toilets are a huge boon.
- 25d. [Sadat who signed a peace treaty with Israel (sigh)], ANWAR.
- 32d. THAT’S ["__ racist!"]. This is my second favorite GIF.