Patrick McIntyre’s New York Times crossword
Today’s theme is 67a. [Journalism staple], THE FIVE W’S. Five random questions that begin with the five W words fill the grid:
- 14a. [Defiant response to an order], WHO SAYS SO? I don’t know who says “Who says so?” Feels mighty contrived.
- 20a. ["Can you explain this?"], WHAT GIVES? I do like to say “What gives?”
- 29a. [Searcher's query], WHERE ARE YOU? I would ask that far more often over the phone as opposed to when searching for someone.
- 45a. [Antsy premeal question], WHEN DO WE EAT? Contrived.
- 52a. ["Is it any use?"], WHY BOTHER? I like this one.
None of these questions, of course, are remotely journalistic, so the theme concept feels a little rough to me. Something like WHENDIDITHAPPEN, for example, would be more reportorial.
Most of the long fill is quite good. SOUND BITE, a boxer’s LONG REACH, ON THE NOSE—these are zippy. But that plural ALOE VERAS (63a. [Soothing lotion ingredients]) chafes. Are there really multiple aloes vera that are specifically used in lotions? Because the clue promises us that. There is other fill that grated, too. We’ve got the transliterated-from-Ukrainian-instead-of-Russian 5-letter spelling of ODESA (34d. [Black Sea port, to locals]). The locals don’t spell it ODESA, they spell it Одеса. This is the second (!) time this spring that the NYT puzzle has contained ODESA and the last time, I think it was Martin Herbach who rallied to its defense as preferred by Ukrainians. Ah, but the NYT doesn’t care. The newspaper still uses the Odessa spelling. (Memo to constructors and Will Shortz: Stop trying to make ODESA happen. We’re not buying it.) (And furthermore, the puzzle is trying to piss off Ukrainians by spelling 51d as KIEV, not Kyiv.)
Also on my “no, thanks” list of fill: ARETE, ESSO, STAGER, ASCH on a Tuesday, EFT, EL-HI, and the “What the…?” term E-DATE (32d. [Online time stamp]). How is this E-DATE used in a sentence, anyway?
I’m iffy on the theme with the inclusion of contrived and thoroughly non-journalistic questions, and I’m negative about too much of the fill. (Memo to all constructors: When you make an easy sort of theme, it would be terrific if you could also fill the grid with Monday/Tuesday-grade fill. We don’t want to frighten off the newbies. We want to expand the ranks of puzzlers by easing them into things.) 2.5 stars.
Sarah Keller’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Time Lines” – Dave Sullivan’s review
Four phrases in the form of X OF THE [time period]:
- [Special at most restaurants and diners] clues SOUP OF THE DAY
- The longish clue [Major League Baseball announcement recognizing top performance] leads us to PLAYER OF THE WEEK
- [Produce gift that keeps on coming] clues FRUIT OF THE MONTH. I’m familiar with monthly wine and coffee clubs, but haven’t heard of the fruit variety. Would be nice to have fresh fruit delivered to our northern climes in the middle of winter.
- [Annual Time title from 1927 to 1999] clues MAN OF THE YEAR. Time magazine’s last award in 1999 went to Amazon’s Jeffrey Bezos; starting in 2000, the award was renamed “Person of the Year,” but has still only gone to men if you don’t count the group awards to 2002′s “The Whistleblowers,” 2003′s “The Soldier,” 2005′s “The Good Samaritan,” 2006′s “You” (representing the importance of individual content on the World Wide Web) and, most recently, in 2011, “The Protestor.”
Nice alignment to have the time periods increase as the solver works down the grid. Probably one of my quickest weekday solves as well since I recognized the theme pattern early on, allowing me to prefill much of the subsequent theme entries. My FAVE entry was becoming acquainted with the new-to-me term OVERS for [Printer's extras]. My quick cursorial glance over the internet only shows a cricket reference to the noun form of this word, but it makes sense that extra printings of some publication might be given this term. My UNFAVE today is the very awkward partial LEG OF, clued as [Words before lamb]. A FITB clue [___ lamb] might’ve called less attention to it, but its prominence in the middle of the grid is hard to overlook.
Gareth Bain’s Los Angeles Times crossword
The LA Times puzzles are missing from Cruciverb at the moment; perhaps Kevin M. is out of town. So I solved today’s puzzle in the uclick.com Flash player, which has navigation that drives me nuts. So I simply marched through the Downs, consulting Across clues as needed, and filled in the puzzle with a couple mouseclicks here and there but mostly proceeding smoothly and not speed-typing in the wrong squares or fighting with the controls (which I never remember) for changing direction. Might’ve been a little faster in .puz form, might not.
Gareth’s theme is PASTA, with pasta shapes found at the end of four theme answers:
- 18a. [Sculling competition craft], RACING SHELL.
- 28a. ["Support our troops" symbol], YELLOW RIBBON. What’s the Italian name for ribbon pasta? Is this just any flat noodle like fettuccine?
- 47a. [Convenient neckwear], CLIP-ON BOWTIE.
- 62a. [Disorder on the court], TENNIS ELBOW. Great clue!
In my family, we call ‘em blond brownies rather than BLONDIES, but I know that name is what’s out there and it’s a cute entry. I like blondies provided you don’t put those nasty “butterscotch chips” in them. Nice to see RICKY Gervais in the puzzle, too.
Least favorite entry: 49d. [Remain close to], BE NEAR. No, no, no. This is no kind of crossword answer, is it?
Trickiest clue: Call me a ninny, but I read 53d: [Soaring hunter] and thought of “way up high in the sky” rather than “flying, with wings,” and filled in ORION before the EAGLE hatched.
In the “meh” zone, we have ELIHU, plural OLES, letter CEE, initials GBS, ALCOA, UTICA, and ORONO. Surprised to see this many such answers in a Tuesday puzzle.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “That’s the Thinga”
Add a schwa sound to the end of a word, use the letter A for that schwa, adjust the spelling as needed to make a real word, and clue accordingly:
- 17a. [Xbalanque, for instance?], MAYA WORD. “My word!”
- 25a. [The Dalai Lama?], LHASA LEADER. Loss leader. I’m in the camp that pronounces loss with an [aw] sound, rhyming with boss, as in “I solve crosswords like a bawse.” The “lahss” pronunciation is also kosher, though.
- 37a. [Talks that may ask "What's it like having a palace in Tatooine"?], JABBA INTERVIEWS. Job interviews.
- 50a. [Creature that fire-roasts its own pies?], PIZZA DRAGON. Pete’s Dragon.
- 62a. [End of a deep sleep?], COMA OVER. Comb-over.
I like the variety of spelling changes happening here, the motley assortment of lively original phrases, and the humor payoff of 37a and 50a.
For 34a: [Port type], I could only think of seaports and port wine. USB! *shaking fist*
- 5a. [Rear admiral's rear], AFT. C’mon, you thought this would be Navy slang for “derriere,” didn’t you? (Like.)
- 46a. ["Whatevs" grunt], MEH. (Like.)
- 64a. ["___ always money in the banana stand!" (George Bluth)], THERE’S. Arrested Development comes to Netflix this Sunday! All-new episodes! (Like.)
- 39d. [USSR head known for his bushy eyebrows], BREZHNEV. I spelled it right on my first try. I wonder if there’s ever been a Chia Brezhnev? (Like.)
- 52d. [Neckwear for a Mystery Machine passenger], ASCOT. Fred! (Like.)
Mehs: The 3s ERN LEN TEM AMO GTE; the MOI/MES French dupe.