Jean O’Conor’s New York Times crossword
Cute and timely theme for beach weather:
- 17a. [*Abrupt reversals of opinion], FLIP-FLOPS.
- 23a. [*Uninjured, after "in"], ONE PIECE. Awkward clue used to avoid cluing it as a swimsuit.
- 26a. [*Hoosegow], COOLER. Slang for “jail.”
- 36a. [*Scandal damage control], COVER-UP.
- 39a. [*Across-the-board], BLANKET.
- 49a. [*Ghostly figures], SHADES.
- 51a. [*Kind of insurance policy], UMBRELLA.
- 59a. [One packing up the answers to the seven starred clues, maybe], BEACH-GOER.
HELIOtropic and a sunBURN are also semi-thematic.
I liked the longer fill (VAGABOND, LADY LUCK, Bowie’s “LET’S DANCE”—go have a listen, KABOOM, LOUSE UP, and Minnesota GOPHERS) but there were a number of off-putting bits in the grid too:
- 1d. [Amount received, as of cash], INFLOW. Cruciverb shows one prior appearance for this word, in a New York Sun puzzle where it was clued as [Lake volume increaser]. Did the “cash” clue make you want INCOME rather than the less specific INFLOW? And what the heck is “cash” doing in that clue when the grid’s also got 16a. [Online outlay], E-CASH (ugh)?
- 48d. Roof worker, of a sort], TARRER. Puts me in mind of the fake movie on 30 Rock, The Rural Juror. Awkward and a mangled muddle when spoken aloud.
- Two members of The Dreaded E**E Club. Really, is anyone ever excited by an answer that fits that pattern? ERIE and ELLE are ordinary enough, but EPEE, ERNE, ERLE, and ELBE are right up there with ELKE, [Hollywood's Sommer], and ERSE, [Language spoken around Loch Ness], in putting me to sleep. Pretty sure that readers of the New York Times aren’t encountering the dated term Erse anywhere but the crossword no matter how well-read and educated they are.
Interesting new fact about NAS (35d. ["Daughters" rapper])—he’s just been honored by Harvard naming the Nasir Jones Hip-Hop Fellowship after him, so the rap haters out there should give some Ivy League props to Nas now. Read all about it.
Patrick Jordan’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “The Fix Is In” – Dave Sullivan’s review
This isn’t your traditional “add-a-letter” theme idea; a synonym for “fix,” namely RIG, is inserted into four unsuspecting phrases:
- The 1962 Beatles hit, P.S. I Love You, gets the fix treatement as [Song dedicated to prudes?] or PRIG, I LOVE YOU – hope that’s of the “tough love” variety so he/she becomes less prudish.
- A Jamaican “steel band” (or I suppose it could be a metal ring or bracelet) becomes [Metallic plunderer?] or a STEEL BRIGAND – copper seems to be the metal of choice for thieves in our area, probably as it must get the most on the black market.
- The phrase “sit idly by” gets fixed as [Wait tensely?] or SIT RIGIDLY BY – for some reason, I see this happening in a doctor’s waiting room.
- Finalment, “fickle fate” becomes [Flighty warship?] or a FICKLE FRIGATE – hard to imagine a warship acting in a fickle manner; perhaps if it doesn’t respond to commands from the helm?
I really enjoyed this theme, although the resulting “fixed” entries were somewhat of a mixed bag. I’ll actually award my FAVE to both the first theme entry, PRIGS, I LOVE YOU and the very apt title, “The Fix Is In,” which is exactly what the constructor did here. The partial A GAY, as in “We’ll have a gay old time” is a new entry on me–but it’s so out there, I can’t rightly give it my UNFAVE award. I’ll guess I’ll give that to the revealer at 60-Down, ["Fix" synonym added to the phrases at...] for RIG itself, since, even for a beginning solver, I believe this was unnecessary.
Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle, “You’ve Got Your Knickers in a Twist!”—Janie’s review
Okay. Tell the truth. Those [Drawers that are disorganized in this puzzle...] at 22A. After entering PANTS (because after untwisting those circled letters you saw what Liz was up to), did you first think of this or of something more like this? Because, after all, knickers and PANTS and drawers are all synonymous—with drawers doing double-duty for the undergarment and a place they may be found. I was so proud of myself for sussing out the puzzle’s gimmick on the basis of the title with its cryptic-style message (where the word twist serves as an announcement for anagram), my first (un-thought-out) thought was of the latter. In my haste, I wasn’t giving full attention to just what kind of drawers were being referenced. Which, I blush to say, I only came to realize while composing this post. Got me! Again…
That said, I still took this one down in a trouble-free way. How about you? In case you have any question about what Liz did and how she did it, a look at the theme answers should clear up any questions. In all cases, she’s found lively, in-the-language base-phrases that contain the letters in the word PANTS, but that scramble ̕em up. Comme ça:
- 17A. UPSTANDING [Respectable, like a citizen].
- 26A. TIBETAN SPANIEL [Small, intelligent dog originally bred in the Himalayas]. Totally new breed to me, but one really cute one, too!
- 33A. BUNDT PANS [Molded bakeware designed for making ring-shaped cakes]. Yum. And I love a clue/fill combo that suggests an outcome that appeals to the senses.
- 44A. GUEST PANELISTS [They're invited to speak at a conference]. See, and for me, this fill conjures up recollections of old and very, um, what seemed at the time, sophisticated TV shows (because of the PANELISTS’ “witty” banter, I s’pose), like What’s My Line? or I’ve Got a Secret or To Tell the Truth—or even more recent radio shows like NPR’s Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me! No matter the venue or medium, though, am glad the format still exists!
- 59A. RECENT PAST [Time period that covers the last few weeks, say].
While UPSTANDING is the only entry that’s a single (compound) word, I particularly like the way the letters of PANTS span the words in the remaining themers. I suppose the “weakest” of those is those BUNDT PANS, only because that’s the only example in which the theme fill doesn’t contain (in the sense of “surround”) the anagrammed letters. But ya know what? Life’s short. I’m not gonna get my knickers in a twist about that!
Rather, let me mention some more of the puzzle’s virtues. I may be in the minority here, but I’m one who loves well-chosen prepositional phrases. I find that there’s something very “present” about them, and I take this as a real plus. So, glad to see ya: AGREE TO, BUILD ON, REINS IN and TOP OUT—which may happen not only when you [Hit the upper limit, as a salary range] but when you do the same on your ATM CARD. And, oh boy, do I like Liz’s clue for that: [Wallet item that's often swiped?]. So, not “swiped” as in stolen (we definitely hope, although it’s fairly safe to say this is not an unusual occurrence…), but “swiped” as in passed through an electronic scanner. (Which reminds me of another clue that was tricky to parse: [Force] for DINT—where force is a noun and not a verb. First learned this word as a kid, from the British musical Salad Days, when the university dons, bidding their students farewell, remind them that: “By DINT of labor unabated, you have gradually graduated!”)
EASY FIX is one peppy phrase; and you don’t want to know my AVC-style/censored response to [Seamstress's expletive]. Punny answer is “OH, DARN!” I like the sublime-to-ridiculous mirroring in the grid of the near-perfect GODIVA (chocolates) and those far less-than-perfect autos, EDSELS—a word that’s become synonymous, in fact, with “epic fail.” I also like ART SALE—because it reminds me of those TV ads that always make me giggle (okay—I’m a snob…) about “starving artist” and “hotel art” oil painting sales held at the Marriotts around the tri-state area. How about where you live? And while I have a quibble with [Early-evening light show] as the clue for SUNSET (doesn’t the kind of light show a SUNSET provides depend less on its being “early evening” than on time of year and where you are?), I sure love the image that word conjures up:
<sigh> AND TO ["...___ all a good night!]” (or good day…) indeed!
Gareth Bain’s Los Angeles Times crossword
You can crack a joke, crack a smile, crack the case, crack a safe, crack the code, and crack a window. The first four of those are suggested by this theme:
- 18a. [Best kind of wrinkles to have, arguably], SMILE LINES.
- 36a. [What the starts of 18- and 57-Across and 3- and 28-Down can be], CRACKED.
- 57a. [Port in a storm], SAFE HARBOR.
- 3d. [Kid], JOKE AROUND.
- 28d. [Social agency employee], CASEWORKER.
The theme works pretty well, though it bears noting that the SMILE and JOKE that are cracked are exactly the ones in 18a and 3d, whereas a CASEWORKER isn’t working a criminal case and SAFE HARBOR has nothing to do with a burglar-proof box. It would have been better to use all four literally or all four with other meanings.
I checked Wikipedia to see if BUDAPEST and CHI-TOWN were sister cities. I was under the impression that sister city arrangements were to be made only between cities of comparable size. So why does BUDAPEST have two American sister cities—Forth Worth, which is less than half its size, and New York City, which is more than twice Budapest’s size? Apparently that’s a looser guideline than I had been led (by undoubtedly nefarious individuals) to believe.
- Kind of a tough 1-Across for a Tuesday puzzle, no? JUJU is a 1a: [West African amulet]. What?? Gareth’s not even from West Africa!
- Most awkward entry: 52a. [Hitting bottom, spirits-wise], AT A LOW. I feel that “at an all-time low” and “at a low point” are more in the language.
- 2d. [Where embryos develop], UTERI. I wasn’t expecting a Latinate plural.
- 5d. [Bricks-and-mortar workers] are MASONS, quite literally. I’m fond of the word as I come from a multigenerational line of brickmasons; the line ended when my grandpa had five daughters, none of whom followed him into the trade.
- 9d. [Drink for the calorie-conscious], DIET COKE. Awesome answer. Better than CRISTAL Champagne. Did you know pricey Cristal is considered a “Veblen good”? The higher the price, the more people want to buy it. Also! Economist Thorstein Veblen went to Carleton College.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “Sounds Terrible”
Neat theme—Take a music genre and add one letter to make a word negative.
- 17a. [Extremely drab orchestra tunes?], BIG BLAND. Big band.
- 25a. [Rap so ancient that fungus is growing on it?], MOLD SCHOOL. Old school, which always makes me think of the pilot for The Bernie Mac Show, wherein B. Mac lays down the law for his sister’s kids. “Don’t touch my old school, my new school, my slow jams, my party jams, my happy rap… and you better not touch my James Brown or somebody’s really gonna get hurt.” (Happy rap = Kid ‘n Play.)
- 35a. [Loud music that's too deep to think about?], HEAVY MENTAL. Heavy metal.
- 48a. [Anti-label music that's totally bogus?], INDIE CROCK. Indie rock.
- 59a. [Moronic offshoot of reggae?], DUMB STEP. Dubstep. Have you seen Key & Peele’s take on what dubstep does to the listener?
Lots of pop culture names in the grid, which I enjoyed:
- 14a. [Vincent of "Law & Order: Criminal Intent"], D’ONOFRIO. Loved him best as the alien farmer in Men in Black.
- 40a. ["Arrested Development" surname], BLUTH.
- 63a. [Pink character on "The Backyardigans"], UNIQUA. My kid was 4 1/2 when the show started, so we didn’t absorb much. Needed all the crossings for this name. Matt’s kids are younger so he’s probably up on his Yo Gabba Gabba names too.
- 1d. [Deceased Wu-Tang member, briefly], ODB. Ol’ Dirty Bastard.
- 8d. [Lovey's hubby on "Gilligan's Island"], THURSTON.
- 10d. ["America's Most Wanted" host John], WALSH.
- 15d. [Progressive character?], FLO. Progressive insurance TV commercials.
- 20d. ["Someone Like You" singer], ADELE.
- 23d. ["Jackass" crew member Margera], BAM. Easy enough to clue as a comic book/Emeril exclamation, but this is an alternative.
- 29d. [Sarah of "Roseanne" and "Scrubs"], CHALKE.
Don’t know what this is: 36d. [Easy-to-recognize word in speech recognition programs], VOICE TAG.
47a. [Pic taken at arm's length], SELFIE. Do you think this word will enter the language long-term, or is it a fly-by-night neologism?