Kristian House’s New York Times crossword
Cute theme: SAINT PATRICK and a SNAKE CHARMER are responsible for five snakes (COBRA, ADDER, MAMBA, PYTHON, ANACONDA) snaking through the grid. The winding types of snakes gimmick feels so familiar, though—does anyone recall a similar sort of theme? Googling … ah, yes! Ben Tausig’s puzzle in January, an intricately laid scheme of snaking snakes that are tails of longer answers.
Ben’s puzzle had fewer theme squares, leaving more wiggle room for good fill. This NYT puzzle has a fair number of the answers I group under the “crosswordese” tag: ROUE, BRAES, SRO, ENURES, AMAH, AGUE, ENNEA-, ESS.
Among the tougher bits were these:
- 45a. [Britain's Arthur Wellesley, with "the"], IRON DUKE. Wha…?
- 2d. ["How Are Things in Glocca ___?" (1947 hit song)], MORRA. Gotta love your 1940s hit parade.
- 47d. [GPS above-the-Equator fig.], NLAT. Northern latitude??
On the plus side, I liked the clue for UNDERWEAR, [Drawers in drawers]; ARM CANDY; ODDBALLS; and IMELDA, who I was just reading about in the New Yorker.
15a. [Archie's sitcom wife], EDITH Bunker, was played by Jean Stapleton, who died this weekend at the age of 90. She’s a legend for creating that indelible character.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “Euro Winner!”
We get puns here, with two Scandinavian swaps and two Slavic ones:
- 17a. [Plays April Fools on, in Krakow?], POLES A PRANK. Pulls a prank. But … you can’t pole a prank. Poles are Polish people.
- 62a. [Singles bar thought, in Prague?], CZECHS DIG ME. Chicks dig me. This one works perfectly. Both are nouns.
- 11d. [Best parts of the tennis racket, in Uppsala?], SWEDE SPOTS. Sweet spots. Swede = noun, sweet = adjective.
- 28d. [Big crooner in Copenhagen?], DANE MARTIN. Dean Martin. O-o-kay. Name-for-demonym swap.
The theme feels too uneven to me. I’m not sold.
In the fill, I appreciated working LIKE A DOG, HORSE-WHIP, fluffy PERSIANS, and ANACONDA.
I overlooked the year in [Harold's friend, in a 2004 movie] and couldn’t figure out why MAUDE wasn’t working. Wrong century! It’s KUMAR for 2004.
67a. [Character in a TV episode called "Space Madness"] is REN. Ah, yes. One of the all-time classic episodes. I believe there was eating of soap as if it were an ice cream bar, owing to the space madness.
Three stars. The theme is too much of a minus for me to fall for this puzzle.
David Poole’s Los Angeles Times crossword
A functional theme: 57a. [Classic Hitchcock film, and a hint to the end of 18-, 23-, 38- and 50-Across] clues REAR WINDOW, and the other four themers end with words that can precede “window”:
- 18a. [Need after a bank job], GETAWAY CAR. Lively entry.
- 23a. [Business that cuts locks], BARBERSHOP. Not security locks at the bank.
- 38a. ["Know what I mean?"], “GET THE PICTURE?”
- 50a. [Jamaican resort]. MONTEGO BAY.
Answers we don’t see all the time that are nice to see here:
- 33d. [Religious ritual], LITURGY.
- 10d. [Harvard and Yale are in it], IVY LEAGUE.
- 34d. [Household gadget used on a board], STEAM IRON. I could only think of things used on a cutting board. I spend way more time in the kitchen than ironing things.
- 46d. [Preposterous], ABSURD. A great word. Does English have any other words with that “surd” root?
- 47d. [Causing serious nose-wrinkling], RANCID. Breakfast test!
Could do without OESTE and TES, plural IGORS, IN RE, SLIER—but overall the fill was fairly interesting.
I liked the fill better than the somewhat flat theme (of course windows are generally flat), but GETAWAY CAR and MONTEGO BAY bring a little juice to the game. 3.5 stars.
Raymond Hamel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Film Noir” – Dave Sullivan’s review
I imagine the theme generation process that constructor Raymond Hamel went through to bring us today’s grid went a bit like:
- Come up with title “Film Noir”
- Notice that “noir” literally is French for “black”
- Come up with four movies that begin with “black”
- Find stars of those movies who can appear symmetrically in a puzzle
Since my brain does not apparently have the gene to store much movie or movie star knowledge whatsoever, I struggled with some unfamiliarity with this one:
- ["Black Narcissus" actress] is DEBORAH KERR. The actress is familiar to me, but not the movie, which came out in 1947.
- ["Black Rain" actor] is MICHAEL DOUGLAS. Again, know the actor, not the movie (1989). I’ve heard this actor will be playing the over-the-top flamboyant Liberace opposite Matt Damon in an upcoming HBO series. Now that’s some creative casting.
- ["Black Swan" actress] clues NATALIE PORTMAN. Yay! Finally know both the actress and this movie, in which she won the Best Actress Oscar in 2010.
- ["Black Sheep" actor] is CHRIS FARLEY. This comic genius was one of my all-time favorite SNL alums, but tragically dead at the age of 33.
So-so theme in my book, but redeemed by some longer fill, like the crossing CASABLANCA, and what I can safely say none of this blog’s readers are, ILLITERATE. (Is there such a group as the illiterati?) My FAVE entries were the juxtaposed BURRITO and TAMALE. Yum! Not as big a fan of the Welsh actor Roger REES, who apparently played Robin Colcord on “Cheers.” I’m not getting a visual, so this would be my UNFAVE today.