Jeffrey Wechsler’s New York Times crossword
Theme: 50a is “PRESTO CHANGE-O!” and that doesn’t mean to change an O in each theme answer, it means to change PRESTO by scrambling the letters. Ergo, WHAT’S OPERA, DOC; H. ROSS PEROT; AIRPORT SECURITY; and LOBSTER POT.
Best fill: MISFIT, WHO CARES, CRABAPPLE (mine isn’t blooming yet but when it does, that is my favorite fragrance).
Toughest spots for Marbles crossword tournament solvers: Our round 1 and 2 finalists finished this puzzle first in round 3. And the next three finishers all had errors! So the sixth finisher became the finalist from round 3. At least one wannabe lost out because of the 4d/13a crossing. [France : chateau :: Spain : ___] clues CASTILLO, and [Be errant, say] clues MISS—but CASTELLO/MESS was attempted as well. And 33a: LUANA, [Child actress Patten of "Song of the South"]—whoa, not a big famous name. Disney stopped releasing the movie once they realized it was kinda racist, so a great many people have had no opportunity to see it, much less familiarize themselves with its cast. Good gravy.
Sam Donaldson’s Fireball crossword, “Two for One”
Hearty 19×19 grid with a two-for-one theme: Five sets of twins whose names have the same number of letters must appear conjoined in their squares. 25a has Gemini’s CASTOR and POLLUX squeezed in, and both letters count in each crossing Down answer. (See the CP in EPIC POEM, for instance.) LUKE and LEIA from Star Wars, Marge Simpson’s sisters PATTY and SELMA, the twin characters on Disney Channel’s The Suite Life of Zack & Cody and Suite Life on Deck, ZACK and CODY (real names, Dylan and Cole Sprouse), and Lisa Kudrow’s Friends roles, PHOEBE and URSULA (who was on Mad About You too). Nifty concept for a rebus theme, executed perfectly. TRIMSPA, HERETIC, and DERRIERE in one corner. US STEEL
Outside of the rebus zones, look at that fill, man: DECLASSÉ, SNOW MELT and LAND MASS, IGGY POP, HERETIC, DERRIERE, US STEEL, PUMP UP, good stuff. The Downs crossing two-fer squares even give us CUZCO and ACAPULCO, plus DEER XING and ANTEATER.
Tough bits: ART CAR = [Street-legal form of expression]. Wha…? That T crosses a term from statistics class: [They check means], T-TESTS. Rebused 53d: ST. MALO, not easy.
Fave clue: 38d. [Land of Oz], ISRAEL. Where writer Amos Oz lives. Funniest clue: 54a. [Definite no-no for a French Orthodox Jewish vegetarian], PORC. Also a no-no for a French Muslim vegetarian.
4.75 stars. What’s wrong with this puzzle? Is there anything wrong with it? There’s a little tough fill, plenty of tough Firebally clues, lots of zippy stuff, and a cool two-fer rebus dealio.
Tyler Hinman’s American Values Club crossword, “Hand-chosen”
I don’t watch The Big Bang Theory and I have not yet explored all of the internet, so I was unaware of the Rock Paper Scissors variant called Rock Paper Scissors Spock Lizard. Tyler’s theme answers end with those five words and the clues explain what beats what:
- 17a. [Genre at Woodstock (breaks 38-Across and crushes 51-Across)], PSYCHEDELIC ROCK.
- 23a. [Translucent supply for an artist (covers 17-Across and disproves 62-Across)], TRACING PAPER.
- 38a. [Break a basic kindergarten commandment (cuts 23-Across and decapitates 51-Across)], RUN WITH SCISSORS.
- 51a. [Troupe behind "Super Troopers" and "Beerfest" (eats 23-Across and poisons 62-Across)], BROKEN LIZARD.
- 62a. [Children's author? (vaporizes 17-Across and melts 38-Across)], DR BENJAMIN SPOCK.
Three 15s and two 12s means 69 theme squares, and yet the fill’s pretty darn solid. Have you heard of “the War on Fill”? Tyler is firmly in the camp that preferences good fill over any other crossword-constructing feat. I can’t say he’s wrong.
- 2d. [It's a big butte and I cannot lie], MESA. Ha!
- 31a. [Outdoor company acronym whose first letter stands for a misspelled word], KOA. Kamping!
- 60d. [Boring shade], ECRU. Yes. Let’s have judgmental clues for boring entries.
Jeffrey Wechsler’s Los Angeles Times crossword (Gareth’s Review)
Here it is. Jeffrey Wechsler’s encore after the NYT. As a theme type, it isn’t my favourite (although I’ve made a few myself). Each 15-letter answer answers to [Pop]. I don’t know why answers in this particular theme-type always have 15-letters answers, but they do… Each of the four [Pop] answers refers to a different meaning of [Pop] which is something. They are:
- 17a, CARBONATEDDRINK… In some parts of the States.
- 26a, PUNCTURINGSOUND… As in Pop! Goes the Weasel when you puncture it.
- 43a, WARHOLSARTSTYLE… Pop Art.
- 56a, TOOTSIEROLLITEM… A Tootsie Roll is some sort of American snack food. I’m not sure how something can be a “Tootsie Roll item.” Let’s see. A “tootsie pop” appears to be a sucker filled with the same filling as a tootsie roll, which seems to be more of a sweet than a “snack food.” I still don’t quite understand TOOTSIEROLLITEM though.
The first, most-obvious thing I’d like to mention about the rest of the puzzle is the fifth non-theme fifteen, EXTERIORCAMERAS, which crosses all four theme answers. It’s a legitimate answer, which is impressive, purely from a construction point of view.
My hardest corner was the top-right: PUNT crossing WPA and ETTA. I first tried jUNk, but ETkA made no sense, and a junk isn’t flat-bottomed isn’t it? Then I worked backwards from ETTA being the most likely answer and went through the alphabet for the P… WPA is apparently the Washington Project for the Arts. Google didn’t help me much for ETTA, but IMDB suggests “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” as the western. It is suggested she is the lover of the latter… Obscure clue?
An olio of other comments:
- 1a [Dot-__ printer], MATRIX is old school, before laser and inkjet printers…
- One sign I’ve done too many American crosswords: [Brand with a Justice For Potatoes League] required no crossings to reach OREIDA, and my answer was based solely on “potato”!
- 48a ["Sooey!" reply] OINK. I think I learned this from some old comic short story, but don’t ask me to name it. I’ve spent some time on pig farms and I never heard that once… I’m guessing it’s old-fashioned and/or American. And does it work?
- 6d [Second word of Coleridge's "Kubla Khan"], XANADU. “In Xanadu did Kubla Khan a stately pleasure-dome decree…” That’s as far as I can recite.
Heck even Coleridge couldn’t remember it all and he wrote it… It’s echoed by the clue at 62a, [First word of Longfellow’s “Paul Revere’s Ride”. I am aware that that poem exists, but have never read it, so I needed about every crossing…
- Another curious clecho is 1d, 4d, and (stretching a bit) 54d. And it echoes the repetitive nature of theme, which I guess is cute…
- 28d NUMEROLOGY. Ugh. Can we at least have pseudo-science in the clue?
Well-made grid. Slightly blah theme. 3 Stars?
Brendan Quigley’s website puzzle, “Child’s Play” — Matt’s review
In a rush so 140 words or fewer: BEQ plays a game of Chutes & Ladders today, with three LADDERs and four CHUTEs filling the grid’s circled squares. Cute idea, and some nice tricks to conceal them (like golfer FRED DALY, whose name conceals a backwards LADDER). The others were diagonal, which makes filling the grid tough, but he still snuck in AD SPACE, HEREDITY, IN SHREDS, ITALY and KUGEL.