Erik Wennstrom’s New York Times crossword
Fun theme—people whose last names can be construed as -ing verbs are clued as if they have something to do with those verbs.
- 20a. ["Charlotte's Web" actress on a hot day?], DAKOTA FANNING.
- 28a. ["A Brief History of Time" author doing sales?], STEPHEN HAWKING.
- 46a. ["Porphyria's Lover" poet with a pan of ground beef on the stove?], ROBERT BROWNING. The poem doesn’t ring a bell but the poet does. I know lowercase-P porphyria better than big-P Porphyria. Hemoglobin gets metabolized wrong, the urinary P gets dark, and the skin is ultra-sensitive to light.
- 55a. ["Tom Jones" novelist playing baseball?], HENRY FIELDING.
- 11d. [Person who has a way with words?], LINGUIST. See also: PALATAL, [Like some consonants]. Linguists are all over that sort of thing.
- 38d. ["Musetta's Waltz" opera], LA BOHEME. I was just editing a clue about Rent, which is based on this opera.
- 50d. [Puts the pedal to the metal], GUNS IT. We would also have accepted [Watch over a pistol while its parents are out].
- 49d. [CBS drama featuring LL Cool J], NCIS: LA. Technically, the show is NCIS: Los Angeles, but isn’t it more fun to have an answer where all six letters are pronounced individually?
Not sure how I feel about this one. 7d: [One who's morally flawed] is NO SAINT? It feels uncrosswordy to me.
Did not know: 51a. [One of the two characters in Dr. Seuss' "Fox in Socks"], KNOX. Hang on, is this where Italian defendant Amanda Knox got that “Foxy Knoxy” nickname? It does sound a bit Seussy.
Martin Ashwood-Smith’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Slitherin’ House” – Dave Sullivan’s review
Today’s CrosSynergy puzzle isn’t for the faint of heart; we have three grid-spanning phrases that include an animal that “slithers.” The title, by the way, is probably obvious to you Harry Potter fans out there, but not having read the series, I had to look up this to see that Slytherin is one of the four houses of the Hogwarts school of Wizardry.
- [Create unexpected problems] clues OPEN A CAN OF WORMS – I’m reminded of that magic trick where the “worms” are compressed springs that literally “leap” out of the can opened by an unsuspecting audience member.
- A [Hidden enemy] is a SNAKE IN THE GRASS – I hear they can be on planes as well.
- [Hard to hold] clues SLIPPERY AS AN EEL
I know Martin likes his 15-letter entries, which usually find their way into the triple or quad stacks he is famous for. Perhaps he encountered these and felt they deserved to live in a themed puzzle on their own. I also wonder if the grid design, which somewhat resembles a couple of slithering animals in the center, is intentional. Nice open corners in this; I liked the 8-letter entries of SPLITS UP, MAGNOLIA (I had MARIGOLD as Mississippi’s state flower first!) and NOUVELLE (nice to see someone realizes cuisine is a feminine noun in French, instead of seeing it modified by “nouveau”). Really nothing not to like, I suppose ETD for [JFK approximation] along with its sister ETA are something we see a bit too often, but they’re just one of those things you fill in and move along.
MaryEllen Uthlaut’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s review
I’ve seen variations on this theme several times before. Each starred answer is a BOARDGAME. I get the feeling the popular board games here and in the States vary somewhat, as I hadn’t heard of most of the board games in this puzzle; The first answer is BATTLESHIP which to me is first and foremost a pencil and paper game; I have seen it sold as a board game, but I can’t imagine too many would be fooled into buying it! It would be like buying noughts and crosses (which I’ve seen for sale too…) I’ve never heard of MOUSETRAP; it sounds quite strange! OPERATION I know, although I never owned it as a kid. It’s the one with the strange buzzy sounds, yes? I hadn’t heard of the final two either: OTHELLO and CAREERS. My search also turned up seemingly incredibly sexist CAREERS For Girls decked out in shades of pink! I suspect that most of these are incredibly familiar to American audiences…
With short theme answers, the grid has an offbeat feel to it. There are two colourful down answers that have nothing to do with theme – LINSEEDOIL and BATONROUGE - both longer than some of the theme answers – which are thus marked with asterisks in the clues. Another amusing answer was NORRIS, clued as Chuck not Rich! Mostly though the grid was solid with a few interesting answers. I’m personally not a big fan of rhyming scheme answers like ABAB, but I recognize it’s probably just a personal bias.
I’m not counting my personal unfamiliarity with the answers against the puzzle, but the theme was still a bit ho-hum. I wonder if the nostalgia factor won’t elevate this for somefolks? Solid grid and answers, though. 3 stars?
Ben Tausig’s Ink Well crossword, “Geez, Again”?
Instead of having one word in a two-word phrase starting with a G, Ben adds another initial G to each phrase. Ergo, G’s, again.
- 17a. [Slimer filling in for Letterman?], GUEST GHOST.
- 24a. [Veteran forty-niner?], GOLD GEEZER.
- 30a. [Drab arsenal?], GRAY GUNS.
- 44a. [Outstanding infielder?], GLOVE GOD. Nice!
- 50a. [Money for regulating the thyroid and thymus?], GLAND GRANT.
- 60a. [Nervous first-time husband-to-be?], GREEN GROOM.
The original phrases are guest host, old geezer, ray guns, love god, land grant, and green room.
Highlights in the fill include Senator/comedian/writer AL FRANKEN, TITLE IX, and SLEAZEBAG.
Least familiar words:
- 8d. [Bear, taxonomically], URSID.
- 33a. [Adult entertainment award], XBIZ.
- 16a. [Girdle bones], ILIA.
- 49a. [Hebrew month when the universe was created], NISAN. If you’re not Jewish, you probably know the Hebrew months only from crosswords. I just wondered why we don’t also see Chinese month names. Maybe because the whole system is confusing?
- 53a. [Old Slavic title], TSAR.
- 67a. [Yemen's capital], SANA. Or Sana’a, or Sanaa.
- 28d. [___ Khan], AGA. My college president left to go work for the Aga Khan in Pakistan.
- 51d. [Form top, say], LINE A. Meh. Linea is also Latin for “line,” as in your abdominal muscles’ central linea alba.
- 55d. [Positive battery terminal, sometimes], ANODE.