If anyone ever asks you where to find crossword puzzles for teenagers, I say you can’t go wrong with puzzles that skew young and feature contemporary pop-culture references, internet memes, etc. Read my recommendations at Rookie, a website for teen girls. There’s also Natan Last’s book, Word. if you’re looking for a purchasable gift item rather than a download-your-puzzles-throughout-the-week concept. (Plus BEQ’s book and Ben Tausig’s book.)
Gareth Bain’s New York Times crossword
I … don’t much feel like blogging. I’m in Yuengling (pronounced “ying-ling”) beer territory and the first glass was so delicious, I had another one. Now I’m mellow and sleepy. To the bullets!
- 8a. TEAM USA! Hey, Gareth, do your locals chant “RSA! RSA!” at games in international competition?
- 24a. KENOSHA, [Wisconsin port]. Wisconsin is home to even more geographically restricted beer, the brews of New Glarus Brewing Company. (Mmm, Spotted Cow cream ale…)
- 32a. [Writer of the lines "Pigeons on the grass alas. / Pigeons on the grass alas"], STEIN. Gertrude, I presume. Pigeons on the streetlight above your parked car, alas.
- 35a. OMG, no! The crosswordese SNEE! (See also: SARD, STLO.)
- 43a. Favorite clue. ON SAFARI: [Watching the big game, say]. Ha! Excellent.
- 64a. EYEWASH is [Nonsense]? Huh. I thought eyewash was used to rinse out your eyes after you splash chemicals in your eyes, and hogwash was nonsense.
- 5d. [Alpha senior], PROM KING. This “senior” is not the kind the gerontologist is concerned with.
- 26d. Needed lots of crossings to see that the [Mustang competitor] was a Japanese import, the Mazda MIATA. I wanted VETTE here.
- 31d. [Prescribed amount] is a DOSE. Dessert tonight was as the Ice Cream Dr. I ordered the half dose, which was a regular-sized scoop in a small cup. The dose is a larger scoop. The mega dose appeared to be a quart cup.
- 33d. [Gracile] means THIN? Probably I should have known that, but I did not.
- 34d. I can’t possibly be the only one who read [Ones unable to swim straight?] and assumed the answer would be SPERM. What? Four letters? EELS? Hmph.
- YOUNG GIRL, FEMALE, I HATE MEN, and PROM KING are today’s acutely gendered answers.
Barry C. Silk’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Andy’s review
Here’s a riddle for you: where can PEAHENS exist comfortably with a SPERM WHALE on top of them? This crossword, of course! There’s a lot of great entries in this one, but first, factoids:
- 25d, AL HAIG [Ron Reagan's first Secretary of State]. Without the “Ron” in the clue, I probably would have been at sea for a while. I’ve only ever heard “Alexander Haig” — a quick Google search reveals that “Al Haig” was a pioneering jazz pianist. I wonder if that’s how this entry was originally clued? The crossings are all exceedingly fair, so that wouldn’t have been so bad. I’m not sure whether I prefer the obscure but more-correct entry, or the very-famous but rarely-referred-to-that-way answer. Thoughts? Am I just mistaken about the appropriateness of the nickname? In any case, the Haig referred to here is probably most famous for his statement “I am in control here” following the assassination attempt on Reagan. It’s a common misconception that Haig was ignorant of the 25th Amendment order of succession; in fact, he was merely stating that, in the absence of VP Bush, he was handling White House affairs.
- 47a, TOLTEC [Ancient Mexican]. A Mesoamerican culture centered in Tula, from circa 800-1000 CE. The later Aztec culture saw the Toltecs as their intellectual and cultural predecessors; historians still disagree as to the extent to which Aztec accounts of Toltec culture are historical, as opposed to mythical.
- 12d, HOME ALONE [Film in which Marv says, "He's only a kid, Harry. We can take him."]. Spoiler alert: They can’t.
- 38d, SOIR [Liszt's "Harmonies du ___"]. The eleventh of Liszt’s twelve Transcendental Etudes, it requires stamina, big hands, and the ability to play a ton of broken chords in rapid succession.
- 1a, WIKTIONARY [Its goal is to include "all words in all languages"]. Plunked this one down right away; not a lot else it could be. Either you’ve heard of it, or you’re working off of crosses for the W and K.
- 15a, A QUARTER TO [Approaching the hour]. Lovely entry, very “in the language.” Got a bit distracted by the fact that it starts with AQUA-.
- 17a, RUNS SCARED [Retreats]. Had doubts about my crossings after I saw –NSSC—-.
- 20a, SERIES E [Bond first bought by FDR in 1941]. Roughly, though not exactly, synonymous with War Bonds.
- 36a, THX [Texting nicety]. Its complement is PLZ.
- 42a, DIME NOVELS [Relatives of penny dreadfuls]. Both terms describe quickly written, sensationalized, superficial pieces of written work. Their popularity is tied to the spike in literacy among the working classes of the U.S. and the U.K.
- 57a, BURGER KING [Instigator of '70s-'80s wars]. That is, the Burger Wars. My mother managed a chain of McDonald’s restaurants for quite some time; I took a job at Burger King in high school. Now there’s the kind of intra-family Burger War that could inspire a dime novel.
- 26d, “YEAH, MAN” [Cat's assent]. I dig this entry.
Only two real cringe-worthy moments, in ENNEA- and CLII. EROSIONAL isn’t snazzy, but it’s a real word, and if that’s what sticks out to me as the worst fill, then the fill must have been pretty dang good. And you know what? It was. Pretty much every other entry I didn’t mention was somewhere between good and great. EXIT LANES, SLEEVE, AMADEUS, I QUIT, WARPS [They may be found in board examinations], V-NECKED, just to name a few. 4.2 stars from me. Until next week!
Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Close Call”- Sam Donaldson’s review
Well this has to be my fastest time on a Randy Hartman puzzle. For me, the three CrosSynergy constructors who usually slow me down are Bob Klahn, Randy Ross, and Randy Hartman. Bob’s in his own tier, of course, but it feels to me like CS puzzles from “The Two Randys” routinely come in at a Wednesday level of difficulty instead of the normal “Tuesday-lite” that the CS puzzle routinely hits. This one, though, felt like a pure Monday to me. Maybe it’s this new French Roast blend of coffee I’m currently enjoying. Speaking of which, hang on a second while I visit the restroom.
Thanks for waiting. Okay, let’s get going. You’ll note that CALL is hidden inside the four longest Across answers:
- 17-Across: A [Crazy cackle][ is a HYSTERICAL LAUGH. You know, like this.
- 25-Across: The RADICAL LEFT is an [Anathema to conservatives]. “An anathema” is quite the little tongue twister.
- 43-Across: The [Rules of Christian theology] are known as BIBLICAL LAW. .
- 55-Across: [President Obama, for one], is a POLITICAL LEADER.
I had no idea what to make of [Fibbertigibbety], the clue for DITSY. I’ve never heard that term before. Does that make me ditsy? I also didn’t know KICKS was a [1966 hit by Paul Revere & the Raiders], but that’s what crossings are for.
Lots to like in this grid, including JAILBIRD, BAD SEED, JAB AT, and BELLY FAT (in any other grid, I think, this would have been my favorite entry by far). I like the use of ["That's outstanding!"] for two consecutive entries, I’M GLAD and COOL at 44- and 45-Down. It looks a little strange to have ROME, RONA, and KONA all intersecting each other multiple times, but it sounds sorta poetic. Hmm, the coffee must be wearing off. Better sign off and grab another cup.
Favorite entry = THE ROCK, [Dwayne Johnson's wrestling persona]. Finally, The Rock has come back to crosswords! Favorite clue = [Facing Justin Verlander] for AT BAT. Definitely not a Monday-level clue (at 1-Across, no less!), which had me concerned for a while. Still, I like the knotty beginning. It kept me on my toes throughout.
Bruce Sutphin’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”
Usually this sort of grid pattern in a “Stumper” is associated with yawning on my part, as the fill leans heavily on boring 7-letter words. But I actually enjoyed this one, thanks to lots of good stuff in the 7s:
- 16a. BLOOPER, [Part of some reels].
- 31a. MERCY ME, ["Well, I'll be!"].
- 37a. PC CLONE, ['80s copycat product]. Although wasn’t the term “IBM clone” much more in the language at the time?
- 41a. JAM TART, ["Crostata di marmellata"]. I never really run into “jam tarts” but the Italian clue sounded delicious. Is marmellata any jam, or orange marmalade in particular?
- 57a. SPANISH, [Where "abalone" comes from]. An etymology quiz.
- 1d. STEINEM, [Christian Bale's stepmom]. No idea who Christian Bale’s dad is, but I infer that he’s married to Gloria Steinem.
- 7d. THE SAME, [Constant].
- 8d. PBS NEWS, [Sponsor of Student Reporting Labs].
- 12d. EPITOME, [Word from the Greek for "abridgment"]. Another etymology quiz. Stumpers are good for those.
- 24d. MCCALL’S, [It became "Rosie" in 2001]. And ceased publishing in 2002.
- 28d. TYPOS, [Skotch and sooda]. I know this isn’t a 7-letter answer, but with enough typos, it could be.
- 41d. JUPITER, Jove, Zeus, [Thunderbolt wielder].
Other items of note:
- 45a. [They run south from the Arctic Ocean], URALS. Best clue I’ve seen for the Ural Mountains.
- 30d. PROMS, [What Brits call "grads"]. I had ALUMS at first, thinking that “grads” in the clue was an Americanism. Eventually (hours later), I figured out that American PROMS are what Brits call “grads.”
- 17a. [Federalist Society cofounder], ED MEESE. Anyone else think we needed a name from 200 years ago? No? The rest of you are better versed in American political history?
- 4d. [AirCalculator.com abbr.], NNE. I’m guessing that AirCalculator tells you how many miles separate two cities, and what direction you travel from one to the other?
- 34d. [Letters on some collectible belt buckles], CSA. As my restaurant placemat reminded me last night, part of Florida’s rich history is that it fought for the Confederacy in 1861-65. Sigh. Southerners, it’s OK to stop being proud of this particular bit of “heritage,” especially given how hurtful it is to so many people. The Germans got past WWII, right? They don’t paste swastika flags on their pick-up trucks?
Lowlights: The affixes in ENLACED, SNIDEST, REDNESS, ARMORER, RENAMED, RELINES. MARNE, ONS (have you ever heard anyone talk about “ons”?), the regionalism HOV (I know you people with HOV lanes think everyone uses the term, but there are plenty of places that either don’t use the concept or use a different name for it).