Sean Dobbin’s New York Times crossword
We’ve seen this sort of theme before—where an S shifts its allegiance from one word to a neighboring word. Back in ’06, for example, we had one from Lynn Lempel with COLE’S LAW—each theme entry moved the S from the beginning of word 2 to the end of word 1, turning word 1 into a possessive surname. There are all kinds of riffs on the concept—today’s puzzle shifts the S from word 2 to the possessive in word 1, and the first word becomes an MLB player in the possessive:
- 20a. [California ballplayer's pound?], GIANT’S QUID.
- 26a. [Missouri ballplayer's connection?], CARDINAL’S IN.
- 45a. [Michigan ballplayer's rubbish], TIGER’S TRIPE.
- 55a. [Pennsylvania ballplayer's joint?], PIRATE’S HIP.
Mind you, it isn’t a criticism to point out that the theme was picked from fertile ground. There are also many variations on add- or subtract-a-letter-or-word themes, and they generally get the job done. Crossword puzzle, theme that works, mildly entertaining? That’s the job. I’m surprised that this one’s running on a Thursday, though; with eased-up clues, it would not be out of place on a Tuesday or Wednesday.
Anyone else get confused by 60a: [The Penguin's player in "Batman Returns"] parked right beneath the Pittsburgh PIRATE’S HIP? I thought of the Pittsburgh Penguins before Danny DEVITO.
Five more clues:
- 11d. [One way to prepare pollo], AL MARSALA. I was reading this as the Spanish pollo rather than the Italian. Understandable mistake, right?
- 12d. [Where Ronald Reagan worked as a sports announcer], DES MOINES. Trivia I did not know.
- 29d. [Hassan Rowhani, for one], IRANI. He’s the newly elected president of Iran, but that makes him an Iranian (the preferred and prevailing demonym) and not an Irani. I roll my eyes at every single puzzle that clues IRANI as if it’s totally the word we all use instead of Iranian.
- 5d. [Cricket player], BATSMAN. Have you watched the YouTube with a cricket commentator giving the color commentary on a baseball game?
- 41a. [Band with the 1984 hit "My Oh My"], SLADE. How else are you gonna clue SLADE? I got nothin’.
I didn’t love all the fill in this puzzle. Plural OLINS, NES, ATTU (crossing BEATLE, which could be BEETLE crossing ET TU, but that would be a Latin/Spanish dupe with ERES TU), EXE, TAC, meh.
Geo trivia I didn’t know: 28d. [Westernmost city on the African mainland], DAKAR, Senegal.
Bruce Sutphin’s Fireball crossword, “Turning Tail”
Excellent theme idea and execution. The puzzle’s title and the phrase “BRING UP THE REAR” are used to inspire the other theme answers to have a synonym for “hindquarters” make a 90° turn upwards into a Down answer:
- 27a. [Person who may need a lot of sunscreen], BEACH BUM. The BUM travels upward inside 20d: MUBARAK.
- 33a. [Meeting of the minds, maybe?], HEAD BUTT.
- 54a. [Come in last (and an alternate title for this puzzle)], BRING UP THE REAR, inside the Brazilian aircraft manufacturer EMBRAER. (How else are you gonna use EMBRAER in a puzzle?)
- 79a. [Ticket to ride], BUS PASS.
- 81a. [His wife chewed the fat], JACK SPRAT. Pratfall pertains to falling on your prat, or hindquarters.
- 95a. [Pit crew item], GAS CAN.
I guess there’s no suitable crossword answer with ending with PMUR or a good phrase ending with RUMP.
Top fill: TELEMUNDO! Unusual fill: a TARP TENT for backpacking, actor Ioan GRUFFUDD (he’s the guy with the stellar bone structure who played Horatio Hornblower on TV 10 to 15 years ago), MAERSK container shipping (you’ve seen those Maersk shipping containers on flatbed trucks or train cars, right?), CYBER-AUCTION (who says “cyber”-anything anymore?), ACIDULATE, NOBU, and [Soup with mussels and cream], BILLIBI. Also (ahem) 84a. [Many Farsi speakers], IRANIS.
Jean O’Conor’s Los Angeles Times crossword
Unusual placement of the revealing answer(s) in today’s puzzle: INTHE/BAG is broken in two to fit in the bottom-left and bottom-right corners. Each of the 4 theme answers ends in something that is typically stored in a bag. It’s a cute theme idea, and the theme answers themselves are very good, viz:
- [*Polite words showing little interest], NOTMYCUPOFTEA
- [*Words often heard after "Welcome"], YOUVEGOTMAIL. Since AOL was never in South Africa it’s merely something in that movie to me. I’m told AOL is declining in popularity, although both Will Shortz and Rich Norris are AOLers…
- [*Verbal gamesmanship], TALKINGTRASH. The order of these words does not affect their meaning!
- [*Metaphorical boundary], LINEINTHESAND
It is a dense grid, but I must say I found myself frowning an awful lot at the short fill today. There are some good long answers: SLUMDOG, LAMEDUCK, and also TABOULI. I hadn’t heard of the latter, but it’s an interesting, colourful answer. Apparently, it’s from Syria so maybe Foodie/Huda will come by with more?
The answers/areas that bothered me: TENTER as [Backpacker, often], shameless roll-your-own as clued. Though it is a legitimate technical word for a drying frame. ERIQ/ESQS: I am willing to bet the number of people excited about the Q is less than the number frowning about the plural abbr. or the overused (but legitimate) name. The area around LAMEDUCK. I like the answer LAMEDUCK but is it worth it if you have to use ALIT, ISON, ICAL ([Canon ending?] – who doesn’t love those we’re-pretending-this-is-a-legit-suffix clues?), SLS and EKGS?
Cute theme, somewhat strained fill: 3 stars.
Donna S. Levin’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Keats, Reimagined” – Dave Sullivan’s review
English Romantic poet John Keats (who lived just a short span of 25 years!) serves as the inspiration for today’s CrosSynergy puzzle. Constructor Donna S. Levin takes his last name and anagrams it four times to come up with starting words for her theme phrases:
- [Rests briefly] clues TAKES A BREATHER – snappy, contemporary phrase, which I imagine comes from the sporting world.
- [Bistro fare for meat-and-potatoes lovers] clues STEAK FRITES – the French “frites” is signaled by the “bistro” in the clue methinks.
- To [Declare ownership] is to STAKE A CLAIM – do people use stakes to claim land anymore? Seems very Wild Wild Westish, but of course the phrase has become idiomatic today.
- [Venture into dangerous territory] clues SKATE ON THIN ICE – again a phrase that has taken on much more than its literal meaning.
Looks like these four are really the only four options for this theme, as there really isn’t a phrase that starts with TEAKS. I think “steak frites” is somewhat of an outlier as the other three are verbal phrases, but that’s a minor nit as all four are fun. I had trouble with the FITB clue [Bani-___ (former president of Iran)], but once SADR fell with the crossings, it seemed familiar from an Iraqi city with the same name. My FAVE entry today was MOLESKIN for [Blister pad material]. Not sure what a “blister pad” is, but it does remind me of the moleskine journals I used in my writing classes. My UNFAVE was [Third string] or C-TEAM. A-Team and B-Team, yeah, but let’s stop there, shall we? Also, and though E SHARP is an [F natural's equivalent] it’s rarely referred to as such (only in the (I believe rare) keys of C# and F# major and A# and D# minor).
Aimee Lucido’s American Values Club crossword, “Role Play”
Am out of time! Super quick, then: Theme answers are GENDER BENDERs in that an embedded HIM or HER (not circled in the original puzzle) bends mid-answer. Evenly split between three HIMs and three HERs, although do we not wish to reject this gender binary? Elegantly, the HIMs and HERs occupy exactly symmetrical spots in the grid. Somewhat less elegantly, HERAT and HEROD also appear in the grid without bending at the HER.
Tougher than 3/5 on the AV scale, if you ask me. I’d call it 4.
Fresh clues for CASTRO ([If you're going to San Francisco, you're going to meet some people selling penis cookies there, with "the"]) and HOARD ([Act like someone on a disturbing A&E show]) and ADAPTOR ([Electrical device more-or-less synonymous with "charger"]).
Overall rating, four stars. Tough, interesting.
Brendan Quigley’s website puzzle, “Time Out” — Matt’s review
Brendan goes outside the box today, thrice taking a literal “time out”; that is, you have to put a word for a long period of time on the right edge of the grid:
17-a [Trying to look brave] = PUTTING A BOLD FAC(E ON)
35-a [Cell phone feature] = DIGITAL VIDEO CAM (ERA). I had DIGITAL VIDEO REC (ORDER) here at first. ORDER isn’t a period of time, but you have to admit it sounds like it should be.
51-a [It’s frequently struck by keys] = TYPEWRITER CARRI(AGE). Brendan would know.
So that’s an amusing outside-the-gridder. Beautiful, wide-open grid, too — 72 words, so freestyle territory. SIAMESE, MATA HARI, VANITY, SILVER, NAACP, TV SET, AM/FM, BAD CASE, LIONEL Messi (not to be confused with Lionel Richie), and all tied together with the themers-connecting ART MOVEMENT. And, more or less, no dreck, though I would give BOCCIE a “var.” tag since I’ve only ever seen it without the I. But overall, Bravo.
Top 3 clues: [Camel droppings?] for ASHES, [Crack squad?] for DEA, and [___ Mr. T (plant that grows in the shape of a mohawk)] = CHIA.