Peter Collins’ New York Times crossword
Ah-choo! Yes, my odd little cough has morphed into a cold. And my internet keeps going on the fritz, so I think it has that flu that’s going around. Which is to say: Let’s get this show on the road and, uh, put it to bed quickly.
Theme: Fishing! It’s an interesting double-pronged theme. There is a FISH hidden within THE PAPER CHASE (perch), DIRECT ROUTES (trout), LAB ASSISTANT (bass), and CAUGHT UNAWARE (tuna). And to catch the fish, you’ll need four short Across answers: BAIT, HOOK, ROD, and REEL. I didn’t notice anything fishy until I reached 65-Across—did you?
At first I thought the later theme answers embodied THE PAPER CHASE because DIRECT ROUTES ends with ROUTES, which can follow/chase “paper” (paper routes), but no.
FATNESS is, in fact, a dictionary-grade inflected answer, but it’s not a word I see much. I Googled it and you know what I found? “The Hungry Games, starring Fatness Evercream” as a pun on The Hunger Games and the implausibly named Katniss Everdeen. Ha! I think it’s cute.
44d. [Women's tennis champ Medina], ANABEL? Who? Ah, she has won doubles at the French Open.
Love the word WHELP but would not miss OAS, PATEN, AUER, NSEC, and PLINTH if they departed. (I know what you’re saying: What would you call a column base, missy, if we took PLINTH away? I would probably call it “the base of a column.”)
Gareth Bain’s Los Angeles Times crossword
I think it’s been a long time since one of Gareth’s LAT puzzles landed on my blogging day.
I wonder if Gareth has published more crosswords in American newspapers than anybody else in Africa—or perhaps even the whole Old World. Martin Ashwood-Smith is probably the Canadian leader, no?
Theme: BARBERSHOP QUARTET gets riffed on as a foursome of barbershop items rather than just four dudes singing a cappella in a characteristic manner. The items at the start of MUG SHOT, POLE SITTER, CLIPPER SHIP, and CHAIRPERSON are found in a barbershop context that strays from the original phrases’ meanings. I suppose POLE SITTER could have been swapped out for RAZOR CLAMS or RAZORBACKS, but I’d rather lose the mug than the barber pole. But then, MUG SHOT is a great answer in its own right.
Did it throw anyone that there are eight 7-letter Across answers in the fill (plus four longer Downs) despite there being two 7-letter theme answers? I was fine with it.
42a. [Female political refugee], EMIGREE—that’s not a word we see often. Not much need for it, I don’t think.
Likes: OLD-TIMERS, STRETCHER with so many consonants, the kimono clues for the intersecting ROBE and OBI. Also noted the autobiographical bits: ARUMS are [South African lilies], BOER is a [Dutch South African] (but I think Gareth’s not a Boer), and ANAT. is a [Vet sch. course].
Randolph Ross’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Inflation”- Sam Donaldson’s review
Here’s one of the rare cases where reading the puzzle’s title at the start ending up throwing me for a loop. I thought we were in for a letter insertion theme where common terms would get IN added to them. But instead the theme entries are common terms ending with a word that can also be something you inflate. That, um, took the air out of my sails. Throw in a higher than average number of errors and you get today’s slow solving time.
Let’s get to the theme entries:
- 17-Across: GEORGE RAFT is an [Old-time gangster movie actor] that is unfamiliar to me. But hey, he doesn’t know me either. (A raft can be an inflatable boat.)
- 26-Across: A SPEECH BALLOON (you can inflate a balloon) is a [Comic book convention]. That’s a terrific clue, and sure enough I kept wanting an answer that was a synonym for Comic-Con. (One inflates a balloon, of course.)
- 46-Across: The HOUSING BUBBLE is [One cause of the financial crisis of 2008]. (Do you inflate a bubble? Or do you just make one through the act of inflation? Maybe the theme isn’t as tight as I originally thought.)
- 61-Across: A LIVING DOLL is a [Wonderful girl]. (This sheltered boy knows nothing on this particular topic, but apparently there are dolls out there you can inflate, though the purpose behind doing so escapes me.)
As I mentioned, I made a lot of errors in this puzzle. I had WARM instead of WASH for [Prepare for dinner], TO LET instead of UNLET for [Still on the market for rent], STING and SMASH instead of SMART for [Hurt], TIED instead of EVEN for [Knotted up], ICON instead of LOGO for [Apple's apple, e.g.], GIVE UP instead of GIVE IN for [Yield], and GIG instead of SET for [Band performance]. Most embarrassingly, though, I went with SPENDS for [Flips] instead of UPENDS.
Then there were the things I just plain didn’t know. Like [Daphni's love], CHLOE. (Chloe Sevigny?) Or that one who [Didn't straphang] simply SAT. And I struggled to recall SUBROSA, clued here as [Secretly]. With all these gaps and errors, coupled with my inability to see the theme for the longest time, I should be happy I finished the puzzle under ten minutes!
Favorite entry = SHUSH, clued as ["Pipe down!"]. Favorite clue = [Digital communication, for short] for ASL, American Sign Language.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “Pass/Fail”
Matt makes sure all the phrases pass by changing their F sounds into P sounds. (Tinkles?)
- 20a. [Lottery ticket that's also a coupon?], SCRATCH AND SNIP. Vs. scratch and sniff.
- 23a. [Person who vilifies ad writers?], COPY ROASTER. Vs. coffee roaster. Now, I am in the camp that pronounces coffee as “caw-fee,” not “coff-ee,” so this one has a vowel sound change as far as I’m concerned.
- 33a. [The purpose of milk, in the mind of a cat?], IT IS TO LAP. Vs. “it is to laugh.”
- 51a. [Grabbed the end of Indiana Jones's weapon?], CAUGHT A WHIP. Vs. caught a whiff (of that crazy casbah jive).
- 54a. [What your card says when Toronto's NBA team sends you a present?], FROM THE RAPTORS. Vs. (hanging) from the rafters.
- 13a. ["Wonder ___ powers, activate!"], TWIN. Never saw the cartoon this is from but it is part of my lexicon anyway.
- 10d. [Sherbet variety], RAINBOW. Why use a scientific clue when you can go with frozen desserts?
- 15d. ["Oh yeah, I forgot there was another one"], “THAT TOO.”
- 39d. Award bestowed by the Annals of Improbable Research], IGNOBEL.
- 47a. Singer Bachman], TAL.He’s Canadian, eh.
- 3d. Rotating power tool part], DISC PAD.
I like the grid, with all the 7-letter fill. Theme’s all right, but coffee/COPY lost me. Fill’s pretty good. 3.5 stars.