Todd Gross and David Steinberg’s New York Times crossword
Well, the diamond in the grid looks great, and it spells out DIAMONDS ARE A GIRL’S BEST FRIEND without omitting the punctuation, which also appears in the Across and Down crossings, HE’S and ABC’S.
(We will not discuss the unfortunateness of the instructions to use the first letter of the punctuation, which would be A for apostrophe. I used the A and the software told me that square was wrong. “Reveal” informed me that what I needed in that square was a Z. Went back and put the damn apostrophe in where it belongs. Those of you who solve on paper can cackle with glee that no crazy glitch interfered with your solve. It’s almost comical, the parade of errors from the NYT’s technical folks.)
The theme consists of the triple-checked squares in the song title plus MARILYN MONROE, who sang the song in an unnamed movie that came out 60 years ago Thursday. Why on earth isn’t Gentlemen Prefer Blondes in one of the theme clues? [Star who sang 23-Across in "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes"], there you go.
The theme’s triple-checked tentacles lead to a lot of compromises in the fill. The crosswordese/etc. parade includes ARTE, -OUS, URI, BELS, SNERD, ELIEL, AER, ALG, and ETTE. Some regular enough answers get stodgy old clues, too: ARGO is [Mythical ship], VALE is [Goodbye, in old Rome], ALBA is [Duchess of ___ (Goya subject)]. There’s nothing wrong with those clues, but when they’re added to the parade, I can’t help feeling we’ve gone pre-Shortzian.
I’m curious about the clue for 2d: IMAM, [Kuwait V.I.P.]. I filled in EMIR right away, but that mangled 1a: MINSK. I did a quick check in the Wikipedia article on Kuwait. I did a “find” for emir and there were 32 instances of the word on that page; for imam, zero. Clicking through to the Religion in Kuwait article, again no imam. Digging further, the Islam in Kuwait article yields two imams in mosque names. The Emir, on the other hand, is the country’s monarch. I think he wins in the V.I.P. sweepstakes. You’ll probably find more powerful imams in Iran, no?
Aside from looking at the empty grid, thinking fondly of Elton John and KIKI DEE (“Don’t Go Breaking My Heart”), and admiring NEAT FREAKS, nothing in this puzzle felt fun to me. 7d. [Advance notice request], WARN ME, felt contrived as well. 2.5 stars.
Peter Gordon’s Fireball crossword, “Extremely Bad”—contest puzzle
Okay, no actual review at this point. Meta contest! Deadline is Sunday. My boss and I were trying to puzzle this one out, and we seem to have made excellent progress save for the “two words total 20 letters” part. To the tune of “Khaaaaaan!!” I say “Metaaaaaaa!”
Brendan Quigley’s AV Club crossword, “With Pride”
This puzzle feels a few weeks late, as most locales celebrated Pride Week(end) in late June. Better late than never, though. 64a: LGBT is clued as [Queer community inits., and a hint to the start of this puzzle’s theme answers]. Sound those letters out and you hear Elle gee bee tea:
- 19a. [Fashion model nicknamed "The Body"], ELLE MACPHERSON.
- 24a. ["Omigosh!"], GEE WILLIKERS. I might’ve gone with whillikers, but the one dictionary I’m checking has neither spelling.
- 42a. [Utah's nickname], BEEHIVE STATE.
- 49a. [Song from the Police's "Synchronicity"], TEA IN THE SAHARA. “My sisters and I / Have one wish before we die / And it may sound strange / As if our minds are deranged.” Cups still full of sand! I know the lyrics, but I don’t know what this song is about.
- 9d. [Part of a dress code stipulation on convenience store signs], NO SHOES. You know how places that serve food require customers to have shoes and a shirt? After the pride parade, my friend and I saw a guy leaving our bar/pizza place wearing naught but a thong and sandals. The owner working the front door didn’t know how he’d gotten past him with that health code violation.
- 6d. [Get back down to brass tacks?], RENAIL. Blurgh.
- 41d. ["Hit Me with Your Best Shot" singer], BENATAR. Is this song encouraging partner violence?
- 63a. [David McKee's patchwork elephant of kiddie lit], ELMER. I missed this one when I was little, and missed all the spin-off books when my kid was little.
- 44d. [Red eye treatment], VISINE. Holy cats, did the day camp pool have too much chlorine today. Kid came home with pink sclera and blurry vision. Non-Visine-brand eye drops helped.
Four stars. Fresh way to lay out a theme, no?
Raymond Hamel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Release the Hounds” – Dave Sullivan’s review
A playful romp with phrases that begin with another word for “man’s best friend”:
- A [Youthful infatuation] is also PUPPY LOVE – recently “steady boyfriend” was a theme phrase, this phrase seems to come from a similar era.
- [Mismatched comic strip pair] are MUTT AND JEFF
- [Line-drive punt, in football] clues POOCH KICK – the alliterative phrase “pooch punt” is more familiar to me, what I don’t know is if this is an intentional kick (like when you are hoping to get the ball back with an onsides kick toward the end of the game) or the punter mishits it. I think the latter is a “squib” though. Funny all these terms for types of football kicks, methinks a theme seed is in there somewhere.
- [Cuspid] clues CANINE TOOTH – or just a “canine” on its own, no?
- [Container for half a steak, perhaps] is a DOGGIE BAG – I would like to think many Americans take home half of the meat portion they are served at a restaurant, but I’m afraid too many eat what is way more than a recommended amount given what I read about obesity trends in the U.S.
You know, this was a very good puzzle–fun theme, interesting phrases and surprisingly good fill given the theme density. My FAVE award goes to the clue [Hands and feet] for UNITS, both being units of measurement. (I think of the height of horses when I think of using hands to measure, are there other things that are measured this way?) Some tough names for beginning solvers–Johanna SPYRI of “Heidi” and John CHO of Star Trek (any relation to Margaret?) may not be in your brain’s puzzle databank. I’ll have to give my UNFAVE award though to POOP, which could’ve been clued more closely to the doggie theme, but instead the opportunity was missed with [Latest information].
Julian Lim’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth
Many of us admire intricate multi-layered themes, but I’m just as impressed by one that’s simple, yet elegant, like this one. The revealer is 54a, [Ignore warnings, say ... and a hint to the last words of the answers to starred clues], ASKFORIT, and the starred entries end in a word that completes “Ask for ___”. All of those words are two or three syllables long, which makes the puzzle all the more impressive! Today’s theme answers are as follows:
- 17a, [*"Press Your Luck" contestant's cry], BIGMONEY. “Ask for money”. Familiar phrase, but the clue meant nothing to me, referring to a US game show that’s never aired here. I assume it’s well known.
- 19a, [*What sputtering might indicate], ENGINETROUBLE. “Ask for trouble”. One demerit here as “ask for it” and “ask for trouble” are pretty similar in meaning. ENGINETROUBLE is a great answer!
- 34a, [*Aid for the short?], DEBTFORGIVENESS. “Ask for forgiveness”. Debt relief is more familiar to me as a phrase, but “debt forgiveness” googles quite well!
- 47a, [*Glee club on "Glee"], NEWDIRECTIONS. “Ask for directions”. Didn’t know this, but then I haven’t watched “Glee” and have no desire to. It’s still a certified fresh answer!
Eight-letter answers in the third and thirteenth rows play havoc with your grid design, I can tell you! They force stacks of 6-letter answers in the opposite corners. Stacking 13-letter answers on top only ups that challenge! This grid is a 38/72, which is themeless-legal. I’m guessing the open grid with extra white space is what tipped Rich Norris towards running this puzzle on a Thursday, because the theme certainly isn’t in any way tricky!
The most obvious thing I noticed about the non-theme fill and clues was a golf mini-theme! This is especially appropriate as it ties in with the start of The Open today! We got 15d, [Tiger's concern], BOGEY, 35d, [Longish club], FOURIRON (Tricky to clue that!) and finally 37d, NAE clued as ["__ wind, __ rain--__ golf!": Scottish adage]. This clue is doubly appropriate as this year’s Open is being played at Muirfield, Scotland. I wasn’t familiar with it, but after some squinting, it seems to suggest that golf isn’t golf without wind or rain, the prevalent conditions of a Scottish links course!
What else is there to note?
- I didn’t know that 14a, BORABORA was known as a [Honeymooner's island destination]. Fun answer though!
- I also didn’t know 18a, DTRAIN, [Bronx-to-Coney Island subway]! I was only aware of the celebrated a-train! I assume trains C and D exist as well?
- 23a, [Big name in smooth jazz], KENNYG. Another strong answer! People seem to love to hate this guy, yes?
- Again, I didn’t know 53a, [San __, Argentina], ISIDRO. It seems to be a district of Buenos Aires…
- 13d, [Ballyshannon's river], ERNE. Thank you! The river/lough clue angle is massively superior to the bird! The erne doesn’t go by that name anymore, at least everywhere that I’ve encountered it. Rather “White-tailed eagle” is the current name.
As already stated, I adored the theme and the tough grid was deftly negotiated with only a few potholes! 4.25 Stars.
Brendan Quigley’s website puzzle, “Reverse Psychology” — Matt’s review
Brendan’s theme today sprang from his title: “Reverse Psychology” it reads, and the circled letters spell the surnames of five famous shrinks backwards:
17-a [Information off all the stashed acorns in an area?] = SQUIRREL DATA SET, concealing Alfred (?) Adler. Yes, his name was Alfred. Don’t remember anything else about him from Psych 101.
24-a [Half a score of mountain goats?] = TEN IBEXES, concealing Binet, the IQ test guy, whose first name was…also Alfred? Yes!! 2 for 2! That one I did not feel sure about at all.
37-a [“Oh, nuh-uh, gun, you did NOT just shoot that!”?] = REVOLVA PLEASE. Silly, but how else are you going to fit Alfred Pavlov in there? OK, he was an Ivan, not an Alfred. The man who conditioned dogs to salivate at the sound of a bell. A couple of decades later Ivy Lee and Edward Bernays figured out you could condition humans the same way and the field of “public relations” was born. Hey, wait a second — we’re all just a bunch of sheep!
50-a [Pullover with a bearded creature on it?] = GNU JERSEY. That’s Carl Jung in reverse, and +.25 stars for this one since it’s also a U.S. state.
58-a [Vanquisher’s savagery?] = SUBDUER FEROCITY. That hides Sigmund Freud, or her if you prefer.
Here’s a theme entry he could have used: [Calculate the chances of winning a regatta on Shakespeare's river?] with enumerations (3,4,4)? Don’t spend too much time on it: RUN AVON ODDS, hiding Brendan’s psychologist wife, Liz DONOVAN.
I dig this theme. Wasn’t obvious what was happening too quickly, even with the circles, and even after I’d gotten the idea it was still fun to keep getting them. And the theme entries were funny, which is obv. important.
Top 5 fill: I SUPPOSE, UNSEXY, I’M GLAD, SAFE SIDE and EFFIN’.
Top 3 cluage: [Snack bars?] for UPC; 15-letter word [Notwithstanding] as the clue for 3-letter YET (reminds me of people who say “alternatively” when they mean “or”); and [Either “True Grit” director] for either Joel or Ethan COEN.
4.30 stars is my reasoned assessment. Yours may be higher, lower, or precisely the same.