Peter Broda’s New York Times crossword
Despite the corners full of 7s, this grid ends up with a word count of 78. Looks like a Thursday grid but isn’t.
Peter—who has been known to comment here as “Bananarchy”—has more puzzles at his website. His style skews younger, which makes sense because he is young enough to have had a puzzle selected for the “20 Under 30″ collection. Fill we might expect to see in the indie and alt-weekly puzzles pops up here. To wit: RED BULL, SEX SHOP, NEXT-GEN, and HELLA (which means [Very, slangily] in the patois of the Bay Area people). I IMAGINE that Will Shortz will hear from disgruntled solvers who feel that HELLA isn’t a word and a brand name like RED BULL isn’t worthy crossword fill, but I like what Peter’s done here.
The theme—did you think I’d forgotten?—is GO BELLY UP, which ties to four activities that when you do them, your back faces down and your belly faces up. The CRAB WALK, BACKSTROKE, LIMBO DANCE, and the HIGH JUMP. Terrific theme, with a lively phrase used to tie together four things in an unexpected way. A+ theme.
I liked seeing 13d: [Onetime catchphrase for athlete Jackson], BO KNOWS. Bo Jackson was one of the athletes at the Michelle Obama “Let’s Move” launch that was one of my kid’s recent school field trips. These days, I don’t think kids know “Bo knows” unless their parents make a point (as I did) of telling them.
Boo to plural DRACOS, 17a. ["Harry Potter" antagonist and namesakes]. C’mon, Broda, tell the truth. You still can’t believe Will accepted a grid with DRACOS in it, right? The theme was so crisp and fresh, what choice did he have?
I wonder if the constructor deliberately included [Common dog name] REX while also cluing ISH as [Suffix with fiend]. Playing to the critics?
Favorite bit: 27d, 33d. [With 33-Across, ixnay or amscray], PIG LATIN. Neat that ixnay and amscray share a certain dismissiveness.
4.25 stars. Keep ‘em coming, Peter.
C.C. Burnikel’s Los Angeles Times crossword
Busy busy day, short short post.
Theme: Vowel-sound progression, long A to long E to long I to long O to long U (OO). TURNED PALE, LEMON PEEL, SLUSH PILE, TOTEM POLE, KIDDIE POOL.
Grid: Similar to the NYT, with open corners but a standard word count (76).
Fill: Good but not great. Liked HOT PINK and RAVIOLI the best. Surprised to see ADELE clued as [Fred's dancing sister], given the number of decades (at least eight!) that have passed since her heyday and the wild popularity of the British singer Adele.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “Freestylin’”
Themeless Jonesin’ this week. Eighteen long (9-11 letters) answers is a lot, and then there’s the center section with a 5×7 block of open space. I like ESAI MORALES and TOMMY CHONG, GOOGLE MAPS and SADDLE BAGS, CREAM CHEESE frosting, EARL GREY TEA, HANG A LOUIE, ON THE BEACH, and GOT AROUND TO, but not all of the long answers were as good. RED DRESSES is a tad on the side of just being color + noun, plural DIPLOMACIES looks odd, and if [Willie Mays' first wife] is our most famous MARGHERITE, then the name is tough to clue and not great in a crossword (though a Stumperesque name etymology clue could save it).
- 22a. [Celeb who tweeted about hemp oil for cancer treatment], TOMMY CHONG. Trust a marijuana fan to be pro-hemp.
- 33a. [Acronym that triggered protest blackouts in 2012], SOPA. Internet blackouts, websites going voluntarily dark, not electrical blackouts.
- 43a. [System where A = 4], LEET. See also: w00t, n00b, or leet spelled as 1337.
Did not know 8d. [Rapcore band ___ pe], HED. Newspaperpeople use “hed” for headline, no? Also did not know 24d. [MxPx vocalist Mike] HERRERA.