Dave Sullivan’s New York Times crossword
Hey, look! It’s our faithful webmaster, none other than Evad Navillus, or Dame Evadna, as I think of him. When he was putting this theme together last year, I helped him brainstorm potential theme entries. And despite that, I had to take some time after I finished solving to figure out what the theme was. (My thematic memory empties its cache regularly, apparently.) I bet I’m not the only one who had to sound out the theme answers to make sense of them—it’s a subtle homophones-of-opposites theme without a revealer entry.
- 17a. [Good stretch for the Dow], STRONG WEEK. Strong, weak. Super-timely, as it turns out—the Dow closed over 15,000 today.
- 23a. [Extra after a movie's credits, perhaps], HIDDEN SCENE. Hidden, seen. Is … that a thing, this HIDDEN SCENE? Tough to clue.
- 39a. [2006 Jay-Z single], LOST ONE. Lost, won. Wow, this one has a factual trivia clue that fits.
- 50a. [Midas service], BRAKE REPAIR. Break, repair. Super-smooth. I wanted mufflers to squeeze in here somewhere. Also, my dad spent much of his techie career with the Midas company.
- 59a. [Cry accompanying the arrival of visitors], THEY’RE HERE. There, here. Perfect.
What are the five toughest bits in this puzzle? I vote for these:
- 46a. [Pitcher Dennis in Cooperstown, for short], ECK. Short for Eckersley. ECK is also the German word for “corner.”
- 58a. [Conical woodwind], OBOE. It’s … conical? I’m not sure I’ve ever seen that word in an OBOE clue.
- 10d. [A bionic part of Steve Austin], LEFT EYE. Now, I was just reading about the upcoming movie (on VH1 this November) about the hip-hop group TLC, Crazy Sexy Cool: The TLC Story, featuring Lil Mama as the late Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes. I don’t suppose this LEFT EYE is quite famous enough for a daily newspaper crossword?
- 25d. [Biblical verb], DOEST. “Verb” doesn’t narrow it down much, and “Biblical” just pins it down to -EST or ETH, though BEGET/BEGAT is also plausible.
- 62d. [English comedian Mayall], RIK. I would’ve guessed that Rik Mayall played bass in a British band that was big in the late ’60s. I may be thinking of Toots and the Maytals.
I like seeing NAME-DROP in the puzzle a day after the name-dropping theme, and I like to MULL OVER various things (but not ESSO and YSER).
Does 29d: META‘s clue, [Self-referential, informally], pertain specifically to the meta puzzles of Matt Gaffney’s Weekly Crossword Contest? I suppose the metas do refer back to the crossword each time. Dave has contributed a guest puzzle to MGWCC, hasn’t he? And he has a Fireball contest puzzle coming up later, if I recall correctly. Dave is way better than me when it comes to solving meta puzzles.
Ben Tausig’s Ink Well crossword, “Going for a Spin”
54d: [With 30-Down, journalistic selectivity, and what this puzzle's starred entries contain] clues MEDIA / BIAS, and that’s what the answers I’ve circled contain. A news network appears on the bias (diagonally), skewing our theme answers.
- 4a. [*Part of Georgia named for a relative of baseball legend Ty], COBB COUNTY. This answer’s “bias” comes from BBC. Note the inclusion of verboten 2-letter entries in the grid; they work because they’re really just the beginning of longer answers and not 2-letter words.
- 17a. [*Place to get clean], REHAB CENTER. ABC bias here.
- 48a. [*Furry arctic creatures], WHITE FOXES. Fox News bias. Did you know there were white foxes? (I circled the wrong ES. Should be the 2-letter entry in the bottom row, not the end of MINXES.)
I guess Ben couldn’t find any phrases that contained an MSNBC in the middle.
The long fill in this puzzle is terrific. SIDE BETS, the RIVIERA, and PHANTASM spiff up the Acrosses (along with the shorter G.I. JOE and MINXES), and the Down direction gives us JAZZ HANDS and BEER NUTS along with MOCKTAILS and PUSSY RIOT. You wouldn’t expect a puzzle with three-way checking of the squares that get diagonal action to have good fill. You’d expect lots more of the following sort of stuff:
- 20a. [Greek colony associated with philosophy], ELEA. Crosswordese classical place name.
- 36a. [Second-best of the Hank Williamses], III. Great clue. Roman numerals aren’t so bad if they’re in the I to XII range.
- 40a. [Mauna ___ ("long volcano")], LOA.
- 41a. [Cordial texted word], PLZ. I spell it “pls.”
- 57a. [Magazine with an Independent Press Award], UTNE. I like the Utne Reader, but it’s in more homes via crossword answers than actual issues.
- 7d. [Midget car-racing org.], USAC. No idea what the letters stand for.
- 58d. [Nonpro sports org.], AAU. Amateur Athletic Union.
- 1a. [Genre vaguely alluded to by No Doubt], SKA. The daily newspaper puzzles have so little snark in their clues.
- 8d. [Ryan who made out with Billy Crystal], MEG. That wasn’t CGI?
- 34d. [Kitchen initialism popularized by Rachel Ray], EVOO. Extra-virgin olive oil. This puzzle is so virginal—there’s a Virgin Mary in the MOCKTAILS clue and a gummy candy shaped like the Virgin Mary in the HOAX clue.
- 59d. [Source of "frankenfood," briefly], GMO. Genetically modified organisms. I believe the large majority of mainstream grocery-store items containing corn products are made with GMO corn, but U.S. law doesn’t require them to be labeled as such.
Doug Peterson’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Theme Songs” – Dave Sullivan’s review
Doug brings us four phrases that end with a synonym of “song” and reclues them as “theme (entry!) songs”:
- [Sherpa's theme song?] clues MOUNTAIN AIR – lots of that here in our new hometown of Woodstock, VT
- [Physicist's theme song?] clues ATOMIC NUMBER – a “number” is a song in a longer “routine” or “set.” I wonder if this one would start “The itsy bitsy atom ran up the water spout…”?
- [Bodybuilder's theme song?] clues MUSCLE STRAIN – I think a “strain” is part of a longer song, but maybe I’m thinking of the rhyming “refrain”?
- [Docent's theme song?] clues MUSEUM PIECE – I think of classical music when I hear a “piece” of music. Would a current hip hop song qualify?
Excellent repurposing idea, and I love how Doug reinterpreted the word “theme” of “theme songs” to refer to the theme entries in his puzzle. Very meta! Hard to pick just one FAVE entry with some great fill around the theme songs. I’ll go with SPELLBIND for [Enchant], which this puzzle did for me. My UNFAVE entry was the spelled-out A AND E (["Storage Wars" network]). Reminds me of entries like U-TWO, etc., which you never see spelled out that way.
Thomas Takaro’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth
Thomas Takaro is not a name I recognize; I think it’s a debut: if so, congrats Mr. Takaro!
Today’s puzzle is a mash-up of two common crossword tropes: the vowel progression theme and the clue-as-answer theme. Five one word clues [Hack], [Heck], [Hick], [Hock], and [Huck] are defined in their answers. The answers are not too strained, which is a common problem with this type of theme. ANNOYEDOATH seems to be a nod to The Simpsons, where Dan Castellaneta famously interpreted “annoyed grunt” as “D’oh!” If you’re not familiar with the term “Hock” keep in mind it is used not only for equines, but any four-legged mammal.
This is a dense grid for a (presumed) newbie, but its ably filled. Inevitibly, we get mostly short fill, the exceptions being ALLWRONG and ADORABLE. The two small blemishes for me were OUSE and ARMA, real old-school crossword-ese those!
What turned out, in hindsight, to be a ridiculously shorted bulleted list of notable answers:
- [Suitable for marriage], NUBILE. I can’t help feeling the word NUBILE has somewhat icky connotations in modern day in English.
- [Quaint "Listen!"], HARK. A vagrant!
3.5 Stars. I like the idea of combining those two theme types. I’ve seen it before, but I liked how it played out.