Barry Silk’s New York Times crossword
I wasn’t loving this puzzle. When your first word in the grid is TINCT, it doesn’t bode well. Plus, I misunderstood 1a. [Food item resembling an organ]. I was picturing the large musical instrument with a keyboard and drew a blank. Ran the clue by my husband and son just now; husband said KIDNEY BEAN (ding, ding! we have a winner!) and the kid said liver.
Weirdly, my favorite thing in this grid is where LULU is mirrored by ULUL(ATE) in row five.
Deb Amlen mentioned to me that she wrote about meeting one of the people in tonight’s puzzle. So of course I said, “So you actually know BRAD AWL??” He is clued as 41a: [Cousin of a screwdriver], but I don’t know who this screwdriver fellow is.
Ten clues to discuss:
- 11a. [Not long-departed], LATE. Is this implying that the usage “the late Brad Awl” is only applied to people who died recently? Because I don’t think that’s the case. What’s your take on the clue?
- 25a. [Be loud at a funeral, say], ULULATE. Shoot, I have been missing out on ululating at all my funerals. It’s primarily a Middle Eastern custom, to my knowledge.
- 44a. [Largest city in the South Pacific], SUVA. Capital of Fiji. Anyone else fall for the 4-letter South Pacific crosswordese city trap of APIA?
- 46a. [Six bells in the morning watch], SEVEN A.M. Somebody who knows how that works, please explain. My first guess was THREE AM, one bell for every half hour.
- 56a. [It replaced the Indian rupee in 1932], IRAQI DINAR. The English had the Iraqis using Indian currency?
- 61a. [Ithaca is at its southern end], CAYUGA LAKE. Ithaca, New York, not the Greek island. Needed almost all the crossings.
- 63a. [His Secret Service code name was Providence], EISENHOWER. It would be neater if Providence was a cryptogram for EISENHOWER.
- 6d. [Casual assent], YEH. Bleh.
- 14d. [Compact first name?], ESTEE. I was thinking of compact cars rather than powder compacts.
- 32d. [Home of the Black Mts.], N. CAR. I’m sure the mountains are lovely, but I loathe NCAR as a crossword entry. Hardly anyone uses anything but N.C. or NC. Even the old GPO abbreviation was N.C.
Alas, my list of favorite fill is limited to KIDNEY BEAN, NETFLIX, and AIR FRANCE. I like to have more than three highlights in a themeless, I do.
3.33 stars from me. The debit column also had IN RE, UTA, LEM, IGN, DAH, and ELOI, which brought no thrills.
Patrick Blindauer’s August website puzzle, “Places for Bases”—Matt’s review
I’ve just sent my monthly e-mail to Patrick asking if I’ve missed a level to his crossword. Usually it’s because I’m worried that I’ve overlooked a level of Blindauer Brilliance, which often happens to be the case, but here it’s because I’m genuinely not sure which way the theme is going. I’ll give you my thoughts and then see whether the author has written back to set me straight.
The three theme entries are phrases that can follow DIAMOND:
17/35-a [DIAMONDS ...] = ARE A GIRL’S / BEST FRIEND. That first part looks like “Area Girls” at first glance.
49-a [DIAMONDS ...] = ARE FOREVER
67/78-a [DIAMONDS ...] = ON THE SOLES OF HER SHOES. From the Paul Simon song.
Then at 1-a there’s also BLOOD clued as [Word with diamonds]. On the positive side, that keeps the theme symmetry [not true, this grid isn't symmetric at all! see below] by offsetting SHOES; on the negative side it’s inconsistent with the other themers since “Diamonds” follows “blood” instead of preceding it.
Next up we have two DIAMOND rebus squares in the NE and SW:
Up top it’s [Singer-songwriter inducted into the Rock and Rock Hall of Fame in 2011] for NEIL(DIAMOND) crossing (DIAMOND)HEAD clued as [Volcanic tuff cone of Oahu]. I’m going to arbitrarily add .05 to his score here for including the phrase “volcanic tuff cone.”
Downtown we have the once-in-a-lifetime clue [Phillips head?] rescuing the icky partial LOU(DIAMOND), which crosses (DIAMOND)STUD clued as [Piece of expensive jewelry].
But wait, there’s more! The notepad instructs us to “Connect the circles in alphabetic order, then return to the beginning.” As you can see from the diagram, connecting the circled A-B-C-D-E and then returning to A gives us the shape of a diamond gemstone. Nifty.
So that’s a lot of diamond action, isn’t it? There’s a mishmash feel to it, with several inconsistent elements (BLOOD at 1-a, two of the three DIAMONDS… answers starting with ARE but not the third, the two rebus squares), but I have to admit it was a fun, rather trippy solve as new elements kept emerging. It reminds me of this puzzle by Liz Gorski where she threw everything but the kitchen sink into the grid from 5 different directions, yet somehow made it all work.
OK, time to backpedal a bit: Patrick writes to remind me (I had e-mailed him about this but then forgot it until he replied) that the two diamond rebus squares in the corner are suggestive of two smaller diamonds cradling the larger diamond in a ring setting. OK, that is cool! So the two rebus squares are not inconsistent at all but rather lock in nicely with the overarching idea.
Also: in the opening paragraph I mentioned confusion about which way the theme was headed. I meant that I thought there might be a baseball diamond tie in, pushed in that direction by the title “Places for Bases” and the two rebus squares in the corners (plus we’re in the midst of baseball season). As I went on that seemed unlikely, and indeed Patrick has informed me that there’s no intended baseball element to the puzzle.
So that’s a lot going on. With all that themage you can expect some clunkers in the grid (LAA, HOU, LER, OLA, ELE) but he also snuck in TACKLE BOX, RED LIGHTS, TRAIL MIX and I DID SO. Only right now while looking for TRAIL MIX’s 8-letter counterpart do I realize that this grid is not symmetrical. Sneaky.
I will be clicking either the 4 or the 5 button, not sure which yet. This puzzle is not a flawless diamond, but it’s a diamond nonetheless.
Todd McClary’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Football Scholarship” — pannonica’s write-up
Phrases that happen to end in generic (American) football player positions are reframed as fields of academic study that said imagined players might investigate.
- 17a. [Football player studying information technology?] DATA CENTER.
- 22a. [Football player studying broadcast communications?] RADIO RECEIVER.
- 34a. [ … studying literature?] BOOKEND.
- 36a. [ … theater design?] SETBACK. Mathematics would have been acceptable too. Perhaps preferable.
- 44a. [ … theology?] CROSSING GUARD. Crossing? Seems more than a little weak.
- 51a. [ … marine biology?] FISH TACKLE. “Fish tackle” vs “fishing tackle”? I’ll let the Google Ngram tool graph it out for you.
- Other sports: 4d [Court coup] SLAM DUNK (basketball), 24d [In the ballpark] CLOSE (baseball, exclusively?), 54d [Harvard grad in the NBA] Jeremy LIN (basketball).
- Ugliest abbrevs.: MTGES and ASTR, which make the rather benign ISR and AGT look fairly sour too.
- 18d [It may be inflated] EGO; 50a [Product of the id] URGE.
- 6d [Setting of Hopper's "Nighthawks"] DINER, because ART INSTITUTE OF CHICAGO didn’t fit.
- So glad that 39a [Sang rhythmically] wasn’t LALAED as I feared it would be. LILTED.
- Worst for last: 37d [Fly appendage] BALANCER. What?! As far as I know, they’re simply a sort of chromosome found in the genome, and have no relationship whatsoever to any physical appendages. Unless it’s about something like flywheel calibration, this is a very sloppy clue.
Disappointing, erose puzzle.
Jack McInturff’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s review
My favourite part of today’s puzzle by Jack McInturff is the revealer: OHYOU is a fun, colloquial answer in its own right, and perfectly describes what’s going on in the puzzle: O’s are switched to U’s in this bumper Friday theme. I say bumper, the five theme answers (plus the revealer) occupy 70 of the 187 white squares! The theme answers today are:
- 20a, [Gap that's easy to bridge?], MINIATUREGULF. Cute answer!
- 28a, [Prize for neatest coloring?], KINDERGARTENCUP. And another!
- 36a, [Kiss while hiking?], TRAILBUSS. Is that bit of American slang still current?
- 49a, [Alien adopted by Herman and Lily?], THEGREENMUNSTER. I think I’ve watched The Munsters once? Isn’t it in black and white? Hard to tell who’s green then? (I don’t mean that as a slight on the entry!)
- 57a, ["If you don't go to bed, Santa won't come, " e.g.?], CHRISTMASRUSE. I’ll be happy when this whole Santa Claus malarkey dies a natural death.
70 theme squares is an awful lot, so your IDE/ILE/IOLA/ESO/NOS/ONOR brigade were out in force today! I don’t think it quite got out of hand though! There were even a few interesting longer answers: OFFMIKE, and the mid-day trio of KETCHUP, ATLUNCH and ORDERUP. More mysterious is another food answer, ALLA clued as [___ vodka: ristorante phrase]. Does that mean all orders are served with a shot of vodka? That’d be… odd.
With all the somewhat unavoidable weak short answers, it was vexing to see OEDS in a place that it didn’t have to be. I’d have used SULLEN/PREFACE/AGE/MEN in that corner myself.
3.5 stars. I’d be remiss if I didn’t leave you with a link to the [1973 Stones ballad], because it’s one of their best!
Bob Klahn’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “End Notes” – Dave Sullivan’s review
A relatively straightforward theme (four phrases that end with a type of “note”), but, as usual, a gnarly solve from this most challenging constructor from the CrosSynergy pool.
- [Rhett Butler's daughter] was BONNIE BLUE – I think of jazz when I hear “blue note,” any musicians out there want to fill in the gaps?
- [October 1962 chart-topper heard every October since] clues MONSTER MASH – I hear it was “a graveyard smash.” I had to look up what a mash note was, seems to be (surprisingly, given my relative advanced years), before my time.
- A [Classic cocktail] clues WHISKEY SOUR – I hope this commentary doesn’t hit a “sour note” with you!
- [Computer cache] clues MEMORY BANK – I believe the bank refers to banks (or strips) of memory chips that sit on a PC (or other computer’s) motherboard. A “bank note” is another name for a bill of currency.
So straightforward theme, but oof! what a tough time I had with this, particularly the lower left and right. When there are two words you have never even seen before–I’m looking at you KNUT and you COWLINGS (now that I think about it, the hood of monk’s cowl reminds me of a jet engine’s housing)–and some characteristically misdirecting cluing, you know this one needs to be solved in pencil or at least erasable ink. Just a few clues “of note” among many that are remarkable:
- [Grumpy companion] was HAPPY – I think we’re talking dwarves or Smurfs here. (Any why isn’t the plural of Smurf, Smurves, I want to know!)
- [Hypothetical first words] was WHAT IF – I was thinking Genesis, not as in a hypothetical phrase
- The alliterative [Duplicate door device] was a SPARE KEY – I don’t consider keys as “devices,” so that along with its unfamiliar neighbor COWLINGS became my Waterloo here. And don’t even get me started on the also never-before-seen crossing SCROOP ([Sound of a rusty gate]) – so that makes three new words today.
- Another alliterative phrase, [Past prince, perhaps] was FROG – very cute clue
No faves or unfaves among the bunch today, as your mileage may vary depending on your familiarity with the entries I didn’t know.
Harold Jones’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Poetic Justice” — pannonica’s write-up
Constructor Jones wrote us a SCOTUS puzzle.
- 23a. [Justice Thurgood exhibiting a bias?] PARTIAL MARSHALL.
- 41a. [Justice Earl, born overseas?] FOREIGN WARREN.
- 46a. [Justice Elena practicing nature worship?] PAGAN KAGAN.
- 63a. [Justice Stephen after joining the Franciscans?] FRIAR BREYER.
- 76a. [Give Justice David some remedial help?] TUTOR SOUTER.
- 95a. [Justice Hugo, who's highly skilled?] CRACK BLACK.
- 97a. [Give one's word to Justice Clarence?] PROMISE THOMAS.
- 118a. [Justice William O., clean and sober?] DRUGLESS DOUGLAS.
This roster is comprised of current Justices (Kagan, Breyer, Thomas), a recently retired Justice (Souter; 2009), a past Chief Justice (Warren), a couple of long-serving Justices (Black – 34 years, Douglas – 36 years; both appointed by FDR and retiring in the 1970s), and one historic and relatively long-serving Justice (Marshall, the first African-American appointee; 24 years). Seems a good mix. Also commendable that the great majority of the rhymes feature significant letter changes (all but Kagan and Black).
- Started out flying, plopping 1a AQABA [Port captured by Lawrence in "Lawrence of Arabia"] and the crossing 2d QUAIL [Patridge family cousin], whose clue didn’t fool me for a moment. The remainder of the solve was fairly quick and smooth, though the timer never started I’d estimate 10–11 minutes.
- 55a [Jazz vibraphonist Jackson] MILT, nicknamed “Bags“. The jazz vibe continues with 13d Sonny ROLLINS, 93a—whoops, that’s Oscar Robinson (the BIG O), not Oscar Peterson (“O.P.”). There must have been something else … oh yes, 106d [Bandleader Kay] KYSER.
- Longstuff: MELODRAMA, TALL TALES, GOLF SCORE.
- Partials, prepositional phrases, and the like, good and bad: UP TO, FLOAT UP, AN EAR, NO HASSLE, AHEAD OF, IN AWE, AS IF, OL’ MAN, AT LARGE, ON A TEAR, NOT SO, BRIC, IT’S TRUE, SHA, FROM NOW ON.
- Nifty new knowledge: 81d [Game originally called "La Conquete du Monde"] RISK. 59d [Its national anthem is "The Great Charlemagne"] ANDORRA (tried AUSTRIA first).
- HAZE/BLAZE, CRAZE/MAIZE.
Verdict: It’s time for my morning constitutional.