Big thanks to Team Fiend for holding down the fort while I was off carousing on campus! Andy, Gareth, pannonica, and Dave on Friday; Joon, Andy, and Dave on Saturday; and Doug, Gareth, Dave, Matt, and pannonica on Sunday—three cheers for all of you! As for me, I did no crosswords and no blogging between Thursday morning and Monday morning. However, I am not well-rested. Minnesota cleverly scheduled thunderstorms for every night I was there—sometimes two in the same night. And flimsy dorm-room curtains do a lousy job of blocking out lightning. Living like an undergraduate savage, just terrible. Great to be back home, but I haven’t repaid my sleep deficit yet. So bear with me as I yawn through the puzzles from sheer tiredness (not boredom!).—Amy
Joel Fagliano’s New York Times crossword
This 16×15 puzzle is terrific. The theme is simple but filled with lively stuff:
- 56a. [Popular app ... or a hint to the starts of 18-, 24- and 49-Across], WORDS WITH FRIENDS. This is the Facebook and smartphone app that Alec Baldwin refused to stop playing even though his plane was about to take off. Me, I don’t like the interface. I prefer another Scrabble-type game, Lexulous. Anyway: The other theme answers begin with words that pair with “friends,” so this answer is a perfect description of how the theme operates.
- 18a. [Being an online creep, in a way], FACEBOOK STALKING. Fresh fill!
- 24a. [Oscars category], BEST DOCUMENTARY.
- 49a. [Square root of -1, e.g.], IMAGINARY NUMBER.
Joel shows off with ORBITZ, GO PRO, RESCUE PARTY, SPARE RIBS, COIN A PHRASE, and other long fill. Four more clues:
- 25d. [Minnesota city SW of Minneapolis so named for its fertile soil], EDEN PRAIRIE. I always wondered if crossword stalwart Edina, which is right next door, was etymologically related to Eden Prairie, but no.
- 34d. [Nickname of basketball's Allen Iverson], THE ANSWER. I had no idea what the answer was.
- 39a. [Tito Puente specialty]. THE MAMBO. Arbitrary inclusion of “the” in this answer?
- 67a. [Folk singer Pete] SEEGER. Met someone the other day whose grandson is named Seeger. Also know someone with a boy named Guthrie, but that kid is not named after a folk singer.
Could do without stuff like COIT IBN ONA PFC SSR RARA, but overall the puzzle won out with the preponderance of zippy longer fill. 4.25 stars.
Alan Arbesfeld’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Old MacDonald’s Refrain” – Dave Sullivan’s review
Unusual theme idea–invent four phrases whose words following the E-I-E-I-O rhyming pattern:
- [My mortgage adjustment charge that's late?] clues REFI FEE I OWE – once I filled that one in, I knew this puzzle was going to take some time.
- ["Those of us near the coast have to hide out"?] is WE BY SEA LIE LOW – aye, be careful ye coastal dwellers…there be monsters out in those stormy depths.
- An [Extra-large action figure] is a KNEE-HIGH GI JOE – an 18-inch doll is just scary to think about. Moving on.
- Finally, ["Go steady with me, Mr. Manning"?] is ELI BE MY BEAU – Umm, sorry, he’s already taken, marrying Abby McGrew of Nashville, Tennessee in 2008.
I’m afraid these phrases are a bit too tortured for my liking, but they are fun to say, I’ll give them that. Does anyone actually know what EIEIO stands for? I enjoyed reading here that there are many international translations of this song; I particularly like that the Turkish version substitutes Ali Baba for Old MacDonald. Some nice long fill in this–THREE-PEAT, LOOK AT ME! and HANGTIME are all contemporary and fun. My FAVE award goes to the clever clue for RENEW: [Ask for more Money], where Money is the financial magazine. The clue [Bashful, but not Doc (abbr.)] ran a close second for ADJ. (adjective). I was less happy with BASER ([More contemptible]) in the 1-Across position; not sure I can distinguish levels of baseness myself.
C.C. Burnikel’s Los Angeles Times crossword
This puzzle had a sweet vibe, with the PECAN praline, PETIT four, CHERRY PIE, and MR. GOODBAR. It’s the four basic food groups of dessert: chocolate, icing, fruit, and nuts.
The theme is entirely unrelated to that. 57d: TNT is clued [Big bang cause, and an informal hint to 17-, 23-, 47- and 57-Across]. Those four answers have T&T initials, and ‘n’ can stand in for “and.” We’ve got TIME AND TIDE, TATTERED AND TORN (for me, inextricably linked with the Thompson Twins’ 1983 hit, “Hold Me Now”), TRUCK AND TRAILER (never heard that phrasing before—”tractor-trailer” sounds right to me, but my gearhead kid says that “truck and trailer” is completely familiar to him), and TEA AND TOAST (is that a thing?). So the theme did not resonate with me as much as the hits of dessert throughout the grid.
Other good stuff: SEA BREEZE, PAST TENSE, OLD GEEZER.
Could do without: ANODE; plural AHAS, DRATS, and NYETS; IRED.
3.5 stars overall.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “You’re an Animal!”
“Blanking animals” is the theme, and all four animals here fit in the category of farm animals.
- 16a. [Spreadable cheese brand], LAUGHING COW. I blame the French.
- 27a. [Kid's ride]. ROCKING HORSE.
- 47a. [Species popular on YouTube], FAINTING GOAT. Is the fainting variety of goat a particular species or subspecies? In this household, we are far more familiar with goats that scream like humans. These goats have gone viral.
- 61a. [Easy target], SITTING DUCK.
Reasonable, basic, lively theme.
Five more things:
- 3d. [Horse-drawn vehicle, despite being named for another animal], DOGCART. HORSE is in the theme. Apparently the dogcart was designed with a box below the seat for the dogs to ride in.
- 34d. [They were once picked up by rabbit ears], TV SIGNALS. In an animal-focused puzzle, you pictured a rabbit being carried by the ears, didn’t you?
- 46d. [Upright citizen?], STANDER. I had STANDEE. When the answer is sort of clunky, I prefer not to have a question-marked clue making me think it’s going to be fun.
- 37a. [Hot Topic founder ___ Madden], ORV. I’m guessing the anagram clue for WORF is used to keep solvers from guessing it’s IRV crossing WIRF.
- 51a. [Brown bag sammy], PB AND J. I prefer “sammich” to “sammy.”