Daniel Finan’s New York Times crossword
This week’s Thursday NYT theme requires looking at letters for their shape rather than their sound or meaning:
- 17a. [J], FISH HOOK.
- 37a. [U], HORSESHOE.
- 62a. [X], TIRE IRON. Though the letter X is elongated rather than being a four-right-angles multiplication symbol (×) that looks more like a tire iron.
- 11d. [Y], WISH BONE.
- 37d. [O], HULA HOOP. Though the hula hoop is more perfectly circular than the oval letter O.
Put together, these five items spell out JUXYO, which is why so many farmers have all five items nailed up on the side of their barns. (What?)
This puzzle made a lot of sounds, didn’t it? Some YUKS. OOH. A goat’s MAA (which is not a word I run into outside of crosswords) and pigs’ OINKS. And then a YAH. Meh.
Surprised to see plural TONYAS (although! I was just telling my hair guy that I was going to a crossword tournament this weekend, and he was just in New York and said if only he’d known, he would have found a way to dose the other Lollapuzzoola competitors with Ex-Lax to clear my path to victory. I called him my Tonya Harding and he corrected me: “Jeff Gillooly.” Which he and his friends say instead of “absolutely” because it flows the same) and ROTCS.
Favorite fill: DOGGY BAG, SMUSHES, CLEAN-CUT, STARGATE, VOODOO, SO SORRY, HASH OUT.
Seven more things:
- 14d. [Trypanosomiasis transmitters], TSETSES. Everyone’s favorite insect from the order Cruciverboptera. Pannonica can surely tell you the other members of this order.
- 13d. ["Another name for opportunity," per Ralph Waldo Emerson], AMERICA. Didn’t know that one.
- 41d. [Tamed, as a stallion], RIDABLE. That is one ugly-looking word.
- 54a. [Mughal Empire rulers], SHAHS. Man! I cannot believe I was so stumped in the southwest corner and that despite my college class on the History of Modern India (meaning ~1500 to Gandhi/Nehru) and knowing Shah Jahan et al., I tried RAJAS here. D’oh!
- 46a. [Does perfunctorily, as a performance], MAILS IN. Really? I know “phones it in.” Was this the terminology back before Alexander Graham Bell devised telephone technology or what? These days, people should just text it in.
- 43d. [Mediterranean resort island, to locals], MENORCA. The Spanish name for Minorca.
- 32d. [Activity with dolls], VOODOO. This is my favorite clue in this puzzle. You’re picturing a little kid playing with dolls, maybe setting up a tea party or a doll house, and … stabbing pins into the dolls to vanquish his or her enemies.
3.25 stars from me.
Nancy Salomon’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s Review
I haven’t seen Nancy Salomon’s by-line in what feels like yonks! Apart from being one of the most published crossword constructors – a crossword ROCKSTAR – she has mentored countless constructors, and also wrote several essays on crossword constructing. Take a look at this one.
I bring her essays up here, because it really felt like the puzzle was like seeing her puzzle advice realised in crossword form! First off, the theme is only 43 squares, arranged in a pinwheel shape; it’s a style we don’t see nearly as often as even three or four years ago, as the squeeze for more theme squares has become prevalent. I think I’m as guilty as anybody of doing that! Second, the theme answers. They all start with JEERS, which are disguised by the fact that none form a full word. They’re all beautiful answers: RAZZMATAZZ (evoking this puzzle, which actually used RAZZLEDAZZLE), HOOTENANNY (I never knew what the word meant!), BOOBYTRAP and HISSYFITS (small demerit for the plural of convenience, although this is easily trumped by the beauty of the answers as a set).
Outside of the theme, we have a number of other lulus as well. PLEASEDO, INPJS and GOCOED/KPDUTY crossing ROCKSTAR are great answers! Amy’s the COED pundit, but I think she’d approve of the 1969 clueing for that answer! And the price we pay for those answers is… almost nothing; crossword-ese is mostly limited to repeaters (legitimate short answers that appear often) rather that actual weak entries: probably the lowest points were TENAM and ENE… That’s saying something!
I hope I won’t be accused of being a lickspittle, but this puzzle really sang to me, despite its basic theme! 4.5 stars
PS: I should note the 4-Z puzzle does have some weaker fill, but it’s a four-z puzzle for heavens’ sake!
Patrick Blindauer’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Less Than Great” – Dave Sullivan’s review
Does anyone recall a puzzle from around 2005 by constructor Patrick Merrell in which he “lightened up” colorful phrases like AMERICAN PINK CROSS and WILLIAM OF PEACH? This puzzle reminded me of that, as it took three book titles down a notch:
- We start with F. Scott Fitzgerald and [Less-than-great book #1] as it clues THE SO-SO GATSBY – has anyone seen the recent Baz Luhrmann remake with Tobey Maguire, Carey Mulligan and Leonardo DiCaprio? I haven’t, but have only recently read the book when I found it in a bookcase at a B&B we were staying at.
- Next, author Charles Dickens gets the treatment with [Less-than-great book #2] is MEH EXPECTATIONS – we just rented the BBC production of this with Gillian Anderson as a ghostly Miss Havisham.
- Our final book is one I hadn’t heard of as [Less-than-great book #3] changes to NATE THE NOT BAD – isn’t there a Monty Python takeoff in Holy Grail with knight names that are less chivalrous than typical? Hold please…. I see Sir Robin the Not-Quite-So-Brave-as-Sir Launcelot, maybe that’s what I was thinking about.
I enjoyed seeing these classics (well, at least the first two) taken down a notch as well as having each one use unique descriptions for “not so great.” A couple of tough areas–that PC JR’S / SOOEY / JOEY RAMONE nexus gave me some traction, especially since I wasn’t sure how that [Part of a hog call] was typically spelled. I also was not familiar with JOHN CONNOR from Terminator Salvation, so having that cross the N in NATE of the third less-than-great book was just an educated guess on my part. Finally, anyone else plop down PRONTO before PRESTO for [On the double] or am I alone in that trip up?
I’d like to award my FAVE today to ["Law & Order" figs.] or DAS, not because it’s a great entry (it’s not), but they are my initials! My UNFAVE goes to the missed opportunity of cluing XED and OUT together as opposed to individually. Congrats to Patrick for a “just ok” puzzle today!
Ben Tausig’s AV Club crossword, “Next-Level Shit”
This is really some next-level ish here. You see those bouncy green buttons/platforms? (I don’t know what they are. It’s a video game thing.) 1a WARP is clued [Speed things up, as Mario, and what one can do at specially marked squares in this puzzle]. The puzzle appears to have four theme answers, but really there are eight.
- 20a. ["Zip it"], SHUT YOUR MOUTH. Or warp to 32a, which is USH. Keep the SH of 20a that take you to the warp button, add USH, and you get SHUSH, another valid answer to the clue.
- 34a. [Groomed], SPRUCED UP. Jump to 61d, you get SPIFFY.
- 47a. [Invade], BREAK INTO. Jump to 75a, BREACH.
- 60a. [Managing emotionally], COMING TO GRIPS. Jump to 71a, COPING.
The warp answers USH, IFFY, EACH and PING are all clued straight.
Across Lite and the .puz format, sadly, still cannot accommodate graphics or extra numbers in the squares. I solved using Crossword Solver and the .jpz file, and it looks pretty good, doesn’t it? Not even gonna check the PDF to see how the layout program might have worked it out.
Fave fill: PING as the verb [Contact, digitally]; UZBEK clued by way of Herman “Remember me? No?” Cain; TEAM USA; GOLEM; SMARM; KATNISS.
4.75 stars. Inventive and challenging theme in an otherwise standard crossword.
Brendan Quigley’s website puzzle, “It’s a Mouthful” — Matt’s review
Quick review here since I’m traveling to New York City today for Lollapuzzoola 6!
If you happen to follow the great Francis Heaney on Twitter then today’s BEQ was a snap, since @fheaney tweeted this great “crash blossom” earlier this week. Proof that theme inspiration comes from many sources.
This one, chopped into five pieces for this L-R grid, reads GIRLS’ / SCHOOLS / STILL OFFERING / SOMETHING / SPECIAL — HEAD. Did this read well for those of you who hadn’t seen the tweet? It looks like the dash between SPECIAL and HEAD would really help unravel the headline-style syntax.
BEQ-style fill: SEX SHOP, HAIGHT, LEGOLAS, MIAMI, HTTP, US TOUR and OK THEN. OK, then, was there any lousy fill? Not much, but ECTO ENT sounds like a new wave band circa 1979.
3.95 stars. See you in Manhattan if you’re going!