Joe Krozel’s New York Times crossword
Let’s take this one categorically.
First up, the category of The Woeful Crossing:
- 28a. [Matadors' red capes], MULETAS. No cognates that I know of that help you get this if you happen not to have heard the term before.
- 28d. [___ Gerais (Brazilian state)], MINAS. This is also part of a Tolkien place name, Minas Tirith. What the heck are these two answers doing crossing at the M? Did you run the alphabet, plugging in random letters until the puzzle accepted your solution? Somehow I pulled MULETAS out of the cobwebs of my mind, but MINAS didn’t look at all familiar and I had zero confidence in it.
Grid: It’s asymmetrical and it has 18 blocks. I thought the deal with asymmetry in a themeless was, as in Frank Longo’s terrific Mensa Crosswords for the Super Smart, to attain heights in fill quality not possible with a symmetrical pattern. NOT WITH, MULETAS, MCMII, RATEL, INSANER, ELASTIN, MENISCI, TWO IN/BID IN, MINAS, RESAT, and TEN ONES are impressing, well, perhaps not no one, but not me. “The insaner guy resat at the auction and bid in with his ten ones?” I have said it before and I’ll say it again: I solve for the stuff in the white squares, not for the black squares. Call me crazy! But it’s called a crossword, right? The words are key. (Clarification: Actually, the grid has mirror symmetry along a diagonal rather than rotational.)
Art! 48a. ["Jazz" artist], MATISSE. I’ve always been fond of Matisse’s style. Jazz, a book of cutouts, is packed with pictures that pop.
The 15s: The grid is framed by eight 15s. RECAPITULATIONS and OVERESTIMATIONS are awkwardly plural and a little boring with the -ATIONS. IMAGINATIVENESS isn’t a roll-your-own word, but feels like one. LOVE ME OR LEAVE ME is terrific and gets a clue that was foreign to me: 15a. [Doris Day film with the song "Ten Cents a Dance"]. 17a: [Peoria resident's representation] clues AVERAGE AMERICAN, which is all right. 2d: [1991 entrant for the Democratic presidential nomination], GOVERNOR CLINTON … I guess that works too. STOOD ON ONE’S TOES is a ONE’Sie; okay, but the ONE’S part is meh. Not sure the AGAINST part of CONNIVES AGAINST is properly “in the language” rather than just a preposition that can go with a particular verb.
Biggest groaner: 32d. ["Does the name Quasimodo ring a bell?," e.g.], GROANER.
Fill I liked: PINE NUT, GUNKY above BLOBS, PUEBLOS, FUNKS, INIMICAL.
Number of stars: 2.5.
Raymond Hamel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Neologisms”- Sam Donaldson’s review
Today’s puzzle honors the authors behind five “neologisms” (or “newly-coined words”). I knew none of the answers based only on the clues, but needed just a few crossings for them to fall, as all of the writers are very well known. Did you know these fun facts:
- 16-Across: J.R.R. TOLKIEN is the [Fantasy writer who coined the word "tween"], thus substantiating my theory that Miley Cyrus is an orc.
- 39-Across: DR. SEUSS is the [Children's author who coined the word "nerd"]. I will not eat them with a herd, I will not eat them with a nerd.
- 61-Across: EDWARD LEAR is the [British poet who coined the term "runcible spoon"]. I’ll just assume that’s interesting, as I’m not familiar with runcible spoons. Oh, alright, I’ll look it up. My dictionary says it’s a “three-pronged fork, such as a pickle fork, curved like a spoon and having a cutting edge.” Happy now?
- 10-Down: JANE AUSTEN is the [British novelist who coined the term "dinner party"].
- 27-Down: JAMES JOYCE (or was it Joyce James?) is the [Irish writer who coined the word "quark"]. I had no idea he was a Deep Space Nine fan. (You’re welcome, three people who got that joke.)
Past puzzles to the rescue! Tony Orbach’s last CS puzzle reminded us that the ALTO SAX was [Charlie Parker's instrument], and it wasn’t that long ago we saw SANAA, [Yemen's capital]. I grew up knowing a [Mouthful of tobacco] as CHEW, not CHAW, but the crossing ABCS saved me. Had nearby crossings been harder, I would have stewed over HOYT Wilhelm, a Hall of Fame pitcher known for his knuckleball and for being the first reliever to notch 200 saves.
The theme required a lot of Js in the grid (four of them, by my count), so we saw the usual suspects when it came to J-words: BAJA, RAJAS, JAPE, JOE. We also saw some common crossword friends like the ARAL Sea, an INCA, ESS, ETE, and so forth. But there was also a good amount of lively stuff like CROSSBOW, SMURFS, YOLKS, HONKY, and DISCO. That the grid can be this smooth given all the rare letters is quite a constructing feat.
Favorite entry = SWAT TEAM, the [Police unit]. Favorite clue = [They're taken in checkers] for TURNS.
Jack McInturff’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Gareth’s review
Straight-over-the-plate letter edition theme from Jack McInturff today, SANDP (SP) are added to the beginnings of the final answers of four phrases: RELIGIOUS(SP)RITE, ILIKE(SP)IKE, HAPPY(SP)ENDING, BLACK(SP)ICE and HATSINTHE(SP)RING. My faves are the ones that go beyond just two word answers, viz ILIKESPIKE and HATSINTHESPRING.
Big corners today for such a dense theme! Mostly they work: I didn’t know DULCINEA, but then I haven’t read Don Quixote… Still a good entry! NOBITING was, even more than the theme, the highlight of the puzzle for me. Unexpected!
Apart from DULCINEA, there were a few other unknowns for me today. I’m venturing [Airport near a Gt. Lake], ERI refers to Erie, Pa: YES! I only know “Eri Tu” from crosswords, but I reckon it’s a good couple of orders of magnitude better as a clue. SIPE is also way out of my knowledge base, that’s a goofy surname right there! Author RAU and LES Aspin in Clinton’s cabinet also required all the crossings! Regular crossword-solvers probably had no trouble with ITER and EBRO, but I can see a newbie having a blank square there!
Let’s see… 3.5 stars? Gareth out.
Mark Feldman’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Sharp Philosophy” — pannonica’s write-up
One generally thinks of philosophers having sharp minds, acute intellects. This puzzle’s theme means to put teeth to that notion, highlighting four philosophical concepts that have a certain tang.
- 17a. [Constant and imminent peril] SWORD OF DAMOCLES, which I frequently take one step further, imagining a double-edged sword of Damocles.
- 28a. [Principle that the simplest explanation is usually the correct one] OCCAM’S RAZOR. I learned about this concept about the same time as the “serious” component of Bill Murray’s acting career began, in a film version of W Somerset Maugham’s The Razor’s Edge (1984). As a result, all three are permanently conflated in my mind, thus ensuring that I will have difficulty discerning the simplest explanation of anything.
- 45a. [Set of two contrary opinions that lead to the same unhappy conclusion] MORTON’S FORK, which I hadn’t heard of but heartily endorse.
- 58a. [Impossibility of reconciling what is and what ought to be] HUME’S GUILLOTINE. Ah, another ray of cheershine. Philosophy can be a gloomy biz.
Of the four, I feel the guillotine and the razor are unequivocally sharp, the sword not necessarily so, and the fork even less guaranteed to be (it’s more of a strength-in-numbers implement), but the point is well-taken.
Along the way, we’re treated to some stylish fill, notably the longish TRAPEZES, TIRE PUMP, OPEN ARMS [insert Journey YouTube link here], EREMITES. PLAUDIT, and SESSILE.
Symmetrical pair of MOCHA ice cream and KOLAS, the [Caffeine-rich nuts].
- 12d [Vichyssoise vegetables] LEEKS. I am thoroughly enamored with baby leeks. Pricey, but so tasty, and minimal rinsing required.
- Second-most amusing wrong answer: 26d ["You're in my seat!"] MINE, rather than MOVE.
- Round-up of question-mark clues:
- 34d [Early buzz?] ALARM – meh.
- 38d [What's needed if you're not feeling enough pressure?] TIRE PUMP – eh.
- 43d [Unfaithful one?] ATHEIST – ah.
- 47d. [Scientific centers?] NUCLEI – good!
- 46d. [Degree candidate's hurdle] ORAL. Less stressful than the alternative, I should imagine.
- 55d. [World Thinking Day org.] GSA. I looked to Wikipedia for a list of GSA organizations and was unable to assess which one it might be: the Genetics Society of America, the Geological Society of America, the German Studies Organization, the Gay-Straight Alliance, the Girl Scouts of the USA, the German Scholars Agency, or the Gerontological Society of America. It was the Girl Scouts.
- Most amusing wrong answer: 68a [Resident unable to leave] INTERN, not INMATE.
Good, fact-imparting puzzle.