Note from Amy: Whoops, I blogged Aimee’s AV Club puzzle and put my solving time under “Tausig” above, and neglected to blog Ben’s puzzle. See the Thursday post for the review of Ben’s puzzle. Sorry for mucking up the star ratings and schedule.
Daniel Kantor’s New York Times crossword
Today’s theme is CHANGE OF HEART, and the letters in the word HEART get CHANGEd into different orders in the theme answers:
- 17a. [Yellow-eyed birds of prey], GREAT HORNED OWLS.
- 22a. [Part of a fraternity ritual, perhaps], SECRET HANDSHAKE.
- 37a. [Decision reversal ... or, literally, what can be found inside 17-, 22-, 49- and 58-Across], CHANGE OF HEART.
- 49a. [Cybermenaces], COMPUTER HACKERS.
- 58a. [How children should be, in a saying], SEEN BUT NOT HEARD.
Four 15s (two of them plurals to stretch to 15 squares) plus a 13 = 73 theme squares. And you know what that means! That means there’s not much room left for the rest of the fill to shine. RAW BAR and “I’M, LIKE …” are zippy but that’s about it. TAE, LAO, UP A, AIT, DEE, and COHOS did not jack up the fun quotient. I’m looking for more things to talk about here but I’m not finding them. Three stars.
Patrick Jordan’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Blame Game”- Sam Donaldson’s review
We haven’t had a quip theme in the CS for some time now, but that streak ends today. Today’s puzzle offers an observation about aging: YOU ARE ONLY YOUNG / ONCE, AFTER WHICH / YOU START USING A / DIFFERENT EXCUSE. This meets the basic elements for a good quip theme: the punchline is saved for the end, it’s “gettable” even with only some of the crossings in place, and the statement is lightly amusing. Look, no one finds himself or herself or itself on the floor recovering from the laughter induced by a crossword quip. But if it provides a half-smile recognized only by the solver, then it’s offered a mild distraction from the chores of the day–and that’s what puzzles are for.
For me, the fill ran the gamut from “whimsical” to “what the?” (admittedly not the largest gamut one will encounter). I loved JAY-Z, NO WAY, SUDAFED, MOONLIT, BODS, THORNTON Wilder (too bad WELDER nearby wasn’t WILDER), and CAN SO, the [Childlike retort] that often precedes an injury. (Also, I was proud of myself for finally remembering ARSENE Lupin. Before this blogging gig, the only Lupin I knew was a werewolf and part of the Order of the Phoenix.)
But some of the entries left me somewhat jarred. HOARSEN looks and sounds weird, though I concede it’s legit word meaning to [Become raspy, as one’s voice]. Then there’s that intersection between Rapa NUI, the Easter Island that I can never seem to remember, and DITS, the [Morse code bits]. Dits, dots, dashes and dahs–oh if only we all spoke the same Morse code language! Sure enough, I tried DOTS, only to spend some 10 or 20 seconds after I was done looking for the error that kept “The puzzle is filled correctly!” from appearing on my screen. Finally, I think I’m getting a little tired of the HARD ? and SOFT ? answers–this time it’s HARD G, clued here as [Greece’s capital?]. The first dozen or so times we see it it’s fun, but it seems to have aged quickly.
Favorite entry = HOT DATES, the [Intensely amorous social events]. So that’s what they are. Favorite clue = [Cafe card] for MENU. I remember this really tickled me, though now I can’t think why.
Mark Bickham’s Los Angeles Times crossword
I feel awkward mentioning one of my own puzzles in the review of another constructor’s puzzle, but here I don’t see how I can not in this case . Here’s a link to my LAT on 24/10/2012. The time between indicates it was independently conceived, but I love how it’s the same concept only gone one bigger and one better! Also FORAYS is a really clever use of homophones as a revealer! Bravo Mr. Bickham!
The puzzle has a bumper six entries, and it’s not as though Mr. Bickham has gone for quantity over quality. There are some really fun answers, even the first and last entries, which are one-word answers are fun! We have:
- 17a, [*Largest port in NW Africa], CASABLANCA
- 24a, [*Warrior's cry], ATTACKATTACK. My first try was ATTACKATDAWN.
- 32a, [*Picnic side dish], PASTASALAD. Mmmm. Anyone got a good recipe?
- 42a, [*Knocking sound], RATATATTAT. Normally seen in crossword-land without the second TAT!
- 51a, [*Delighted], HAPPYASACLAM. A colourful idiom brightens any puzzle! BTW, who decided clams were a good yardstick for happiness anyway?
- 60a, [*Island nation in the Indian Ocean], MADAGASCAR
Weird start to the puzzle. It proclaims itself [Not interesting], but JEJUNE is a very interesting beginning, despite its meaning! The clue [Animals who like to float on their back] is also nice, considering how many clues for OTTER(S) have been written. I mostly think of sea otters doing this? [Violin holder] for CHIN is another out-of-the-box clue. Short but sweet. Lastly re ["Whoso diggeth __ shall fall therein": Proverbs], APIT - see also Judas Iscariot in the first chapter of the book of Acts.
Despite six theme answer Mr. Bickham also managed two two-answer 10 stacks. 3 of the 4 answers would shine in any themeless: WINECELLAR, MENTALNOTE and especially DANCEATHON. That’s great going!
4.2 stars! Maybe it’s because I’ve done the theme with 3 A’s, but I appreciate the effort taken with the theme answers, both in terms of quality and quantity!
Aimee Lucido’s AV Club crossword, “A Staggering Event”
Reading the theme clues and seeing the winding path of circled squares told me that the WALK OF SHAME would figure into the puzzle somehow. Here’s how it played out:
- 18a. ["What happened last night? Ugh. My eyes are filled with ..."] MASCARA GOOP.
- 24a. ["My head is pounding. I've never had such a terrible ..."], HANGOVER.
- 56a. ["Even if I could find my comb, I couldn't drag it through this ..."] RAT’S NEST.
- 67a. ["8:00 A.M.? No time to shower! I guess it's time for my ..."] WALK OF SHAME.
- And the walk home after the bender and one-night stand involves a reeling walk (the titular “Staggering Event”) of three SHAMEs marked by the circled letters.
I once had breakfast at IHOP on New Year’s Day. Oh! So many walks of shame going on. It had snowed heavily overnight, and I couldn’t help laughing at the young women hailing cabs in mini skirts and heels, mincing through piles of gray curbside snow. Then there were all the didn’t-go-home-last-nighters at IHOP. High heels with men’s pajama pants or sweatpants? It’s a look. I can’t say it’s a good look.
- 4a. [Shoe brand with a logo that looks like cell phone reception bars turned diagonally], ADIDAS. Neat clue.
- 27a. [Word meaning "achieved victory" that I recently learned is not pronounced like "Juan"], WON. I know others who pronounce it like “Juan” rather than as a homophone of “one.” Working theory: This is more likely among first-generation Americans.
- 76a. [Weapons made of light or metal], SABERS. Star Wars!
- 2d. ["___ atcha boy!"], HOLLA. Have we seen HOLLA in the NYT crossword yet? Holla! How about the West Coast HELLA?
- 52d. [Gallant's screw-up brother (or alter ego; it was never entirely clear)], GOOFUS. Goofus! Let us all embrace our inner Goofus with empathy for human weakness.
Lowlights: ENARM as a letdown for a question-marked clue, [Heat up?]. ARTE, clued foreignly as [Musica, e.g.]. ANAT, IMRE, OSSA, ESS.