David Levinson Wilk’s New York Times crossword
I figured out soon enough that there were HR rebus squares, but I didn’t udnerstand why until the very end. I came across 66d. [Smash hits: Abbr.], HRS (home runs) and thought, “Oh! They’re … home runs in squares.” But no, that’s a red herring: 67a. [Subject of the Final Jeopardy! question that knocked out Ken Jennings after a record 74 wins ... or a hint to this puzzle's theme] clues tax preparers H & R BLOCK. Get it? Blocks … with an H and R in them. In addition to the HR rebus squares, there’s that &/AND where the company meets the A&E network.
The HR department includes SETH ROGEN/ASHRAM, SEE-THRU/NEHRU, SINGLE-THREAD/SLEIGH RIDE, TEHRAN/GEHRIG, NEPHROLOGIST/ANTHRACITE, and EHRLICH/SHREK. Nice mix of names, places, common words, $5 words, Germanic and Indic. HR gets around.
- 16a. [Those created equal, per Jefferson], ALL MEN. Iffy entry (“all men” isn’t quite a lexical chunk, is it?), plus Jefferson was totally fudging on the “all” part. All men … preferably white … definitely not women … and of course not slaves. In 1776, abolitionist Thomas Day responded thusly to the Declaration of Independence’s hypocrisy: “If there be an object truly ridiculous in nature, it is an American patriot, signing resolutions of independency with the one hand, and with the other brandishing a whip over his affrighted slaves.”
- 28a. [Flimsy, as stitching], SINGLE-THREAD. Sewing terminology? We don’t get so much of that in crosswords.
- 39a. [Keys on a keyboard], ALICIA. As in Alicia Keys, who plays piano.
- 64a. [Bacteriologist Paul who coined the word "chemotherapy"], EHRLICH. Between Paul Ehrlich and the NEPHROLOGIST, this puzzle’s medically savvy.
- 8d. ["Hip, hip, Jorge!"?], OLE. Jorge is pronounced, roughly, “hor-hay.”
Without the word space in the crossword grid, doesn’t SETHROGEN look like a hormone? [Slightly mixed up female hormone incorporates the beginning of Heigl, Knocked Up star].
Andrew Ries’s Fireball crossword, “Centric Activism”
The puzzle’s title sounds like it’s got to do with … I don’t know what. Four theme answers have an X added to the exact middle, altering the meaning. The TV show MALCOLM IN / THE MIDDLE provides the hint: Malcolm X’s “X” is what’s in the center, and he was an activist.
- 17a. [With 64-Across, 2000s family comedy (and a hint to this puzzle's theme)], MALCOLM IN THE MIDDLE.
- 26a. [Competitions for Tony Hawk?], BOARD X GAMES. Board games meet the X Games, and Tony Hawk’s a skateboarder.
- 40a. [Auto mechanics with superpowers?], CAR X-MEN. Carmen’s an opera, the X-Men are Marvel comics characters.
- 42a. [Hospital image that's totally awesome?], DEF X-RAY. Defray, X-ray. Does anyone still use the slang “def”?
- 52a. [Mulder and Scully show for the blind?], AUDIO X-FILES. Audio files, a little less of a dictionary-grade thing.
Two two-word phrases changed, two single words/names changed. Three hyphenated X-terms, one with a space after the X. Not cast-iron consistency, but not a sieve of consistency either.
Question for all who are reading this: Do you know 31a: REI, the [Outdoor gear chain] that sells things like camping gear, ski pants, bike helmets, kayaks, running shorts, and all sorts of stuff you might use for outdoor exercise/sporting activities. I hear that some of the newspaper crossword editors have asked constructors to remove REI from their puzzles—the company has stores in over 30 states and a long-standing web presence, but puzzle editors do shy away from regional fill. Wondering if the store is more familiar than the editors realize, or if they are entirely right that the entry would be perplexing to too many solvers.
Nine clue/answer comments:
- 58a. [Coauthor of "You: The Owner's Manual," familiarly], DR. OZ. I am looking forward to reading the article about him in last week’s New Yorker. I hear terrible things about his straying far afield of actual medical science in the name of putting on a daily TV show.
- 59a. [Instructors that are often grad students], TAS. I much prefer “who” to “that” in this setting.
- 68a. [Lit], OILED. You know you gets lit, oiled? (Besides oil lamps.) SOTs and DIPSOs. These are all terms that live inside crossword puzzles for me.
- 3d. [Hunt and Peck, e.g.], FILM STARS. Amazing clue! Helen (or Linda!) Hunt, Gregory Peck.
- 5d. [Crooner who had a cameo on "Seinfeld"], MEL TORME. Great entry, though I don’t quite remember that episode. Was there a Kramer or Newman connection?
- 10d. [They often have three-legged tables inside them], PIZZA BOXES. Terrific clue for a good entry. Although! Wait a minute. Aren’t those little plastic doodads usually stuck in the middle of a pizza that’s in a paper pouch rather than a cardboard box? The little doodad isn’t needed to keep cheese and cardboard apart. Corrugated cardboard stays clear on its own.
- 30d. [They may ask about positions and preferences], SEX QUIZZES. The X crosses a theme answer, but the ZZ and the Q are entirely optional. Worth the ALAE tradeoff?
- 46d. [In a mockingly humorous fashion], APISHLY. Am I reading the wrong things? Because I seldom encounter apish outside of crosswords.
- 53d. Cities, collectively], URBIA. Not sure I’ve seen that word before.
Lynn Lempel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Bodily Nourishment”- Sam Donaldson’s review
It’s a cannibal’s dream puzzle–four foods with names that include various human body parts. Yum! Let’s check out the menu:
- 17-Across: The [Aspic-like meat dish named for an ingredient it doesn't have] is HEAD CHEESE. I always wondered what that was. I can’t say the clue answers all my questions, but at least I know now that it lacks either head or cheese. I’m rooting for the former.
- 27-Across: The [Common minestrone ingredient] is ELBOW MACARONI. Most of the macaroni I see is inside a box from Kraft, but on Super Bowl Sunday I enjoyed a wonderful home-made Mac-n-cheese dish that featured spinach and garlic. And it had skim milk and just 2 ounces of cheese for the whole recipe! I love guilt-free indulgences like that.
- 43-Across: The [Strip at a meal] turned out to have nothing to do with steak, as I suspected. Instead, it’s a CHICKEN FINGER. I’ve never found this name very appetizing despite being a devout carnivore.
- 57-Across: A JELLY BELLY is a [Morsel to be counted in a jar, maybe]. “Quick, while there’s still time” is another.
Am I reading too much into this, or are the theme entries deliberately moving from top to bottom along the body? HEAD, ELBOW, FINGER, BELLY? I choose to believe this is deliberate and not just a happy coincidence. Had the grid been bigger, maybe we’d be treated to PORK BUTT and a FOOT-LONG HOTDOG.
The long Downs (namely KASHMIR RUG, BRANCH BANK, and FILE BOX) contain a number of rare letters. I like the rug and the box, but to me “branch bank” is a little awkward. “Bank branch” and “branch office” look perfectly normal to me, but “branch bank” is jarring to my ears. But a Google search of the term turns up “About 2,590,000 results,” so apparently I’m just wrong about this. In my defense, “bank branch” gets 7.71 million results.
Two volcano references in one puzzle! We’re told an ISLE is a [Volcano's legacy, perhaps], and that ASH was a [Contributor to Herculaneum's ruin]. (If you missed those, don’t blow your top.) Elsewhere we learn that NAPLES is the [City near the ruins of Herculaneum]. Sigh, another puzzle with dual Herculaneum references. How trite.
Favorite entry = NBC NEWS, [Brian William's bailiwick]. Favorite clue = [Actress Dakota Fanning's actress sister] for ELLE. That family’s sick with talent.
Mike Buckley’s Los Angeles Times crossword
We’ve seldom seen a draw-on-the-finished-puzzle theme in the LA Times, yes? This puzzle has three long theme answers, four thematic letters that I’ve circled, and a connect-the-dots puzzle.
- 18a. [Instruction for this puzzle], JOIN THE VEES. I don’t care for the crosswordese “VEES” standing for the plural of the letter V.
- 39a. [Small, numbered 60-Acrosses], FOUR-SIDED DICE.
- 60a. [What you'll draw in this grid if you 18-Across with six straight lines], TETRAHEDRON. The three bottom V’s are the base of the triangular pyramid/tetrahedron, and each vertex connects to the V on top to form the three exposed sides.
I hated the puzzle until I figured out how to draw the lines on it with Apple’s Preview application, and then the tetrahedron was so pretty, I almost forgave Mike Buckley for that SNEE. I do like how two of the V’s appear in terrific 12-letter Downs, MISS UNIVERSE and MOVIE CRITICS.
Likes: Tolkien’s dragon SMAUG and J.K. Rowling’s SNAPE in fantasy fiction land; the J-LO/ORAL-B echo; [Reprimander's slapping spot?] as a clue for WRIST; and the initially mystifying PONY clue, [Doodle's ride] (“Yankee Doodle came to town, riding on a pony”)—however, I don’t think that Doodle is a last name that can appear in a clue as a stand-in for the full name.
I wasn’t too thrilled with the fill overall, though. OCTAD ADZ EBBS? Meh.
3.5 stars. See how pretty my tetrahedron is!
Aimee Lucido and Zoe Wheeler’s AV Club crossword, “Striptease”
The T’s (“tease”) have been “strip”ped from the theme clues and answers:
- 17a. [Bale weapons used for cuing salaries?], INCOME AXES. Restore the T’s to the clue and get [Battle weapons used for cutting salaries?] and the answer, which is income taxes minus the T, makes sense.
- 27a. [Ho and heavy Yiddish cries?] SEX OYS. Hot and heavy, sex toys.
- 39a. [One having kinky desires for a holy ex?], BIBLE HUMPER. Holy text, Bible-thumper. This answer is among the most blasphemous-sounding of all AV Club crossword entries, no?
- 54a. [Rhymes for a bug hug?], FLY RAP. A bug thug keen on rhyming would be an insect rapper; flytrap.
- 66a. [Fed-up grammarian's raining program?], WAR ON ERROR. Training, war on terror. I love this one … although it depends on what gets the grammarian’s goat. If they’re railing against the singular, gender-neutral “they,” then they can take their war elsewhere.
Five more clues:
- 10a. [Bubbly drink from Asia], BOBA. Huh? Is this bubble tea with tapioca balls, or something fizzy?
- 19a. [Pair of jeans?], LEGS. Not LEES.
- 21a. [Place which rings a bell?: Abbr.], NYSE. I once saw my husband on CNBC at the opening bell. All the flights to New York from O’Hare the night before had been canceled or were fully booked, so only two people out of maybe five or six Chicago NYSE colleagues made it to Wall Street. My husband and a coworker flew to Boston five hours later than their original flight to NYC, rented a car, and drove to New York. They checked into their hotel at 6 am, showered, and got dressed for the bell ringing. Some people will do anything to be on TV, am I right?
- 31a. [Mr. Grey and such, in bawdy novels], DOMS. Fifty Shades of Grey, bondage and domination.
- 53a. [Picked locks?], AFRO. Locks = hair, worked through with an Afro pick.
Could do without OGEE, AS WE, ERSE, and NES. Having five theme answers constrains fill more than having three or four, no?