Adam Perl’s New York Times crossword
The theme is decent, but I felt an acute sense of ennui when it came to filling in the rest of the puzzle. Too much AMANA ALIT NOLO AES ETAIL, not enough zip.
The theme is DOUBLE PLAY, which ties to five compound words, each containing two components that can partner with the word PLAY. Some of the resulting PLAY-compounds are two-word phrases and some are compound words, and PLAY’s placement isn’t 100% consistent.
- 17a. FAIRGROUND, either “play fair” or “fair play,” plus “playground.”
- 21a. DOWNTIME, either “play down” or “downplay,” plus “playtime.”
- 35a. ROOMMATE, “playroom” and “playmate.”
- 47a. DOUGHBOY, “play dough” (which I’m not seeing as a dictionary entry, though people use it as a generic for Play-Doh—oh! Wait! Maybe it’s a reference to Playdough, the Greatest Emcee in the World. At last, we know who is the king of the rap world, and it is Playdough from Texas) and “playboy.”
- 59a. DATEBOOK, “play date” and “playbook.”
Most unexpected clue: 52a. [Distinctive parts of a Boston accent], AHS. I wonder if some solvers went with the Bostonian ARS crossing RAIFA instead of HAIFA for the [Israeli port] at 53d.
Most pleasant clue: 9d. REDWOOD [__ City, California locale named for local flora]. I generally think of flora as considerably smaller plants than redwood trees, but trees are plants too.
Three stars. The theme may merit more, but the overall solving experience felt too snoozy for me to rate the puzzle higher.
Ki Lee’s Los Angeles Times crossword
Plenty of zip in this crossword. The first long answer I filled in was 29d: STAYCATION, leading me to guess the theme would be recently coined words or portmanteau words, but as it turned out this terrific answer was just plain ol’ fill. The theme centers on 39a: TUESDAY, with the first word of the four longest Across answers preceding that word:
- 17a. ["Syndrome" that causes smartphone typos], FAT FINGER. First I ever heard the term, it was in reference to an electronic trading error attributed to a trader hitting the wrong key. Fat Tuesday is Mardi Gras.
- 24a. [Dorothy clicked their heels to return to Kansas], RUBY SLIPPERS. “Ruby Tuesday” is both a Rolling Stones song and a fast-casual restaurant chain whose salad dressings are much too salty.
- 50a. [Biker jacket material], BLACK LEATHER. Black Tuesday, October 29, 1929 stock market collapse. Before you know it, the Tuesday before Thanksgiving will be called Black Friday Tuesday and stores will open before daybreak.
- 62a. [Evil genius's foe], SUPERHERO. Super Tuesday is a big day in presidential primaries every four years.
Other than STAYCATION, I liked these parts:
- 67a. [He's coming to town soon], SANTA.
- 5d. ["Impossible!"], CAN’T BE!
- 6d. Sheepskin boots trademark], UGG. I have always mocked the boots (particularly when worn on an 85° August day with a miniskirt), but I must admit that UGG gloves are super-warm.
- 22d. [Apple on iTunes?], FIONA.
- 26d. [Game to go after], PREY. I like this one because my brain led me astray to PROM off the PR.
- 48d. OH, DEAR! See also: 5d.
Huh, what do you know. The NRA ([Big gun lobby: Abbr.]) website hasn’t got any new content mentioning Newtown. Discretion is the better part of 12d: VALOR?
Four stars. The STAYCATION and the profusion of 5-letter fill livened the puzzle up. (And I just realized that this TUESDAY theme is in a Tuesday puzzle. Nice bonus!)
Randolph Ross’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “As Easy as CBA”- Sam Donaldson’s review
Just yesterday I was wondering whatever happened to Randolph Ross. He’s back today with five theme entries that start with (or, in one case, is by itself a) “reverse trigrams” (a three-letter sequence in reverse order, like the CBA in the title):
- 17-Across: PONDEROSA is the ["Bonanza" ranch]. Whenever I think of Bonanza, I think of the opening theme. That, in turn, makes me think of the old game show, Make Me Laugh, when comedians had to get a contestant to laugh within a minute. I couldn’t find it online, but there’s one episode where the comedian starts humming the Bonanza theme while holding up a piece of notebook paper with “Bonanza” written across the front. He then sets it on fire with his Bic lighter. Trust me–it was gold.
- 25-Across: Athletes at UT-SAN ANTONIO are [The Roadrunners of the WAC].
- 37-Across: MLK is short for Martin Luther King, Jr. [We celebrate his birthday every Jan.], you know.
- 44-Across: FEDERAL CASES are [Supreme Court business]; its specialty, you might say.
- 59-Across: JIHADISTS are some [Militant Muslims].
Accepted Crossword Construction Convention #4 states that “Except in the case of helping words like IN, THE, OF, AND, OR and the like, none of the words used in the clues should be an answer word in the grid.” Does this same convention apply to crossword titles? It felt odd to see EASY at 7-Down and in the puzzle’s title, especially since the other key element of the title, CBA, isn’t in the grid.
The theme was a success overall. I’m conflicted about MLK, as it’s the only one with no letters following the reverse trigram. But maybe it’s best to think of it as a “bonus entry” instead of a regular theme entry.
The three spots that gave me the most trouble were: (1) my error in choosing MESS as the [G.I. fare] instead of MRES; (2) my inability to realize that the answer to [Killer ending?] was going to be a suffix meaning “kill” (-CIDE) instead of one that actually follows “kill;” and (3) the crossing of FRAY and RYA, which you can see from the snapshot above (taken right after I finished solving) was the last letter to fall. I kept reading [Scuffle] as a verb instead of a noun, and since the answer to [Scandinavian rug] was something I knew I was supposed to know but couldn’t recall, I had to play guess-the-letter until the green “The puzzle is filled correctly!” message displayed.
Favorite entry = CLIP ART, the [PowerPoint pastings]. Favorite clue = [Life sentences?] for an OBIT.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “It’s the End of the World!”
Like Merl Reagle in his Sunday puzzle this past weekend, Matt Jones gives the supposed Mayan apocalypse (just three days off now! Did you finish your end-times shopping yet?) its due.
- 17a. [It's the end of The World!...actually, it's a radio station mentioned at the end of PRI's "The World"], WGBH BOSTON. I’m a WBEZ Chicago listener.
- 21a. [It's the end of the world!...or, the country home to Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world], ARGENTINA. Of course, if you keep going south, you’ll reach the non-city research settlements of Antarctica and enjoy its true far-end-of-the-world vibe.
- 33a. [It's the end of The World!...or not, since that was the first company to provide access to it in 1989], INTERNET. No recollection of this particular World.
- 45a. [It's the end of the world!...if you sort the countries alphabetically], ZIMBABWE.
- 59a. [It's the end of The World!...or at least it's seen in the bottom corner of the tarot card The World], LION’S HEAD. Lionshead is better known to me as a resort area in Vail, Colorado. If you should ever need your skis or snowboard tuned in Vail, or want to rent skis, my brother-in-law’s Ski Valet shops are there to help. Locations in Vail Village and Lionshead.
- 64a. [It's the end of the world!...if you want to get really literal about it], LOWERCASE “D.”
Quirky approach to a trivia/lateral thinking quiz.
The long fill in this puzzle is great. DR. HIBBERT and ROBIN GIBB, TAE KWON DO, you and your BIG IDEAS, and SCALE BACK. (DISASTER isn’t as zippy and contains such common letters. It is merely fine.)
- 1a. [Alabama Shakes or Sparklehorse], BAND. One is soul and the other is … one of the My Little Pony gang?
- 50a. [Coyote score], GOAL. The Coyotes are one of those inactive NHL teams. I can’t recall what city/state they’re in. Phoenix?
- 18d. [Makers of the Mallo Cup], BOYER. Who? I may well have never eaten a Mallo Cup.
- 61d. [Jane Velez-Mitchell's network], HLN. I watch Headline News slightly more often than I eat Mallo Cups. First guess was HSN.