Thanks to Team Fiend for stepping up and keeping this joint hopping while I was off at Lollapuzzoola! Great to see a bunch of old friends and meet some Fiend readers face to face.
The tournament crosswords were a delight. Even if you don’t fancy yourself a competitive solver, you own it to yourself to drop $10 for the At-Home solving division—you’ll get the set of Lolla puzzles and can solve them at a leisurely pace and report no solving times if you want to, or you can try to race through and submit your solving times to find out where you’d have ranked at the tournament. The Lolla constructors have the leeway to use oddball grid sizes, whatever suits their theme and maximizes the fun. And I loved each one of the crosswords. Get them! Via bemoresmarter.com. Registration deadline is Saturday night; puzzle times due by Sunday.
Joel Fagliano’s New York Times crossword
Theme: The game of BATTLESHIP involves little plastic (or pen-and-paper) seagoing vessels. The PATROL BOAT is two squares/units wide. The SUBMARINE and DESTROYER are each three; the AIRCRAFT CARRIER is five; and the BATTLESHIP itself is four. Cute to have the theme clues refer to 56a: BATTLESHIP, which also referred to itself like a snake swallowing its tail. Possibly there is some other level/angle here that I’m missing.
Tuesday puzzles don’t usually take me this long. I am beat and just about ready for bed. Meaning I have been ready to sleep ever since lunchtime but haven’t brushed my teeth for the night yet. So, three things and then I’m done here:
- 19d. [Plan for losers, informally?], LIPO? No. No, no, no. A diet is a plan. Liposuction is a surgical procedure. It’s not a weight-loss “plan” in any sense of the word. Boo.
- 3d. [1980s toy craze], CARE BEARS. You know, people were less rabid about them when they returned in the last decade or so, but Care Bears are still out there. Like Afros and tube tops.
- 44a. [Small paving stones], SETTS. Joel, Joel, Joel. SETTS? Will, Will, Will. On a Tuesday? Seems like more of a Wednesday-plus word.
3.5 stars. Good night, all!
Bruce Venzke’s CrosSynergy crossword, “In Search of Shade” – Dave Sullivan’s review
I’m glad this one had a revealer (found in the last across entry), since I was not grokking the theme as I was finishing it and was prepared to ask for our gentle readers’ assistance in this post. But we have at 67-Across: [Item hidden in each of the 15-letter answers in this puzzle] or TREE. So back I went to check and found each of them “shading” their respective entries:
- The stately ELM is found within [Boneless rib eyes served at a famous New York restaurant] of DELMONICO STEAKS – I read here that there are still some of these institutions around.
- The mighty OAK grows inside [Completely drenched] which clued SOAKED TO THE SKIN – I brought my umbrella to NYC and of course that guaranteed that I would never need it, FTW!
- Finally, we have the ASH towering over [Pricey winter warmer] or CASHMERE SWEATER – locally, we are watching for an infiltration of the Emerald Ash Borer, who belies his cuteness with a passion for killing native stands of ash trees.
I’m certain I’ve seen similar themes before, with longer tree names hidden inside, but I’m not sure they were always contiguous letters, nor were they always starting at position 2 in 15-letter word phrases, so this iteration is unique in those respects. Fill was serviceable but a bit on the blah side for my tastes, especially given the opportunity to spice things up with just 3 theme entries. The medium lengths of ARRIVE AT, THRASHES, EXCERPTS and KITCHENS needed a bit more pizzazz and a bit less pluralization. I did have a FAVE, though, and that was [Nickname of 7UP] for UNCOLA, even though that’s a bit dated, it’s not a grid entry you see very often. And though there was a valiant attempt to “tog up” our friend EPEE with the clue [Pointless Olympic weapon?], I’d still count it among my UNFAVEs.
Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle, “Risky Business”—Janie’s review
Like those [Velvety-smooth Godiva chocolates] known as TRUFFLES, this gently-graded “on-ramp” of a puzzle is easy to take. First of all—and especially for those who are newer to solving—we get a highly accessible theme: synonyms. Today, that’d be synonyms for being put at risk (see title…). But easy though this kind of theme may be, in this case, that doesn’t equate with “no thinking required.” I think there’s enough complexity here, too, to satisfy the more experienced solver while stretching the newbie’s crossword sensibilities, for, as is typical of Liz’s puzzles, there’s a strong theme set and cluing that virtually talks to us—quite slyly at times—to keep things interesting.
Today’s theme set is drawn from film, the show biz, TV, and that increasingly crazy place where politicos meet social media. In each case, it’s the last word of the phrase that ties into the theme. In each case, we get fill you may not have seen before in your puzzle. Starting with
- 20A. LIVING IN PERIL [1997 James Belushi/Rob Lowe film]. Kudos to Liz for sussing this one out, because from all I read on IMDB, this is also one that deserves to be LIVING IN obscurity… It’s a title I was completely unfamiliar with, but which the crosses (and connection to the puzzle’s title) assured me was right. Hands up if you’ve seen it! This one may be “fresh fill” for the wrong reasons, but it’s very much an “in the language” kind of phrase, so fresh it remains. Ditto its grid-mates, the more easily discernible:
- 35A. TRIPLE-THREAT [Versatile performer who sings, dances and acts]. And can do it over and over again. Think Hugh Jackman, Bernadette Peters, Robert Preston, Julie Andrews. That ilk. Among the up-and-comers, the likes of Neil Patrick Harris and Lea Michele.
- 43A. CARLOS DANGER [Anthony Weiner's nom de plume]. Oh, dear. The guy just can’t seem to stay out of trouble, can he? Or, as the puzzle puts it: “OOPS.” ["Uh ... did I send that photo to all my Twitter followers?"]. “OOPS,” indeed. Perfect tie-in.
- 57A. “FINAL JEOPARDY!” [Game show round known for its "think music"]. First of all, if there’s any round of any show you need to catch up with, voilà! But then—”think music”! What a concept, eh? What do you suppose Mozart or Einstein used? (Maybe “The Sounds of Silence”—so to speak…) Regardless, here’s a link to Jeopardy!‘s—but you might want to check out other classic TV-music as well. In that case, have at!
In addition to this tidy (if “treachery-laced”…) theme set, there are any number of clue/fill combos that spice things up—literally, like [Spice cake spices] and CLOVES; and (perhaps more critically) humorously/punnily, like [Gatherings for touchy people?] for ORGIES (with BUILDS/[Physiques] abutting ORGIES [so to speak...] and adding to the imagery). Or [Stand before Monet?] and EASEL (where “stand” is a noun and not a verb); and the literal v. idiomatic contest within [Promising words from an eye doctor?] and “YOU’LL SEE!” That [G.I. Joe?] and BOY-TOY combo also surprised and laugh-out-loud delighted. The mash up of this and this (nice coincidence in the latter case, no?) sure worked fer me! It’s the constructor’s job to find ways of making us think about things in indirect ways—and these examples really do make the case for Liz’s success in that department.
I was also caught by (what I saw as) this puzzle’s mini-themes—a nod to the world of technology for one, by way of the iPod NANO, Apple’s iPAD and the reminder that where keeping the latter a state-of-the-art item is concerned, oh, yeah—["There's an APP for that"]. And we also get a nod to the wild, wild West with Wyatt EARP who, with Doc Holliday, found himself having to FIRE AT cattle thieves at the legendary Gunfight at the O.K. Corral. Where there may be a MESA in the background.
And with that, pardners, I call it a wrap. Oh—except to note: TERI Hatcher is an author? Of a book of personal philosophy called Burnt Toast? No disrespect to Ms. H. (or her fans…), but I’m gonna guess A Room of One’s Own this ain’t!
Greg Johnson’s Los Angeles Times crossword
The theme is described by one of its entries: UNUSUAL.
- 57a. [*Whom "I'm in love with" in an Ames Brothers song, and a hint to what the answers to starred clues contain], YOU YOU YOU. Each theme answer has three U’s in it. (Never heard of the song, of course.)
- 16a. [*Montevideo native], URUGUAYAN.
- 22a. [*Form a line], QUEUE UP.
- 48a. [*Far from common], UNUSUAL.
- 11d. [*Component in early TV sets], VACUUM TUBE.
- 26d. [*Guided by strict principles], SCRUPULOUS. A word I love.
Saw a very fancy ETAGERE (7d. [Curio display case]) at the Met on Sunday. I considered taking a picture of it to illustrate my blog post the next time ETAGERE was in the puzzle but didn’t. Dammit!
PRETRIP and I’M DUE felt a hair contrived to me, and OCA, YEO, and ESSE are like sauerkraut icing on the crossword cake. Three stars from me.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “A Clean Start”
This puzzle is not dirty:
- 17a, 25a. [With 25-across, "Fantasia" role for Mickey Mouse], SORCERER’S APPRENTICE.
- 38a. [Photo-ops for one], SOLO APPEARANCES.
- 48a. [Fruits that flavor Puckertinis], SOUR APPLES. Eh. The plural is only there to make the theme symmetry work.
- 62a. [2007-08 Boston-based reality show setting up dates during MLB games], SOX APPEAL. Never heard of it.
- 69a. [Supply hidden in the first two letters of the long answers' words], SO/AP.
Did not know ROSARITA, 7d. [Refried beans brand]. Not a big brand in Chicago.
Top three clues:
- 45d. [Holiday with fake grass], EASTER.
- 34d. [Etch A Sketch controls], KNOBS. I wanted DIALS but KNOBS is better. Dials have markings, don’t they?
- 8d. [Made with skim milk, at a coffee shop], SKINNY.
Theme isn’t too thrilling, though it’s a nice riff on the phrase “a clean start.” 3.5 stars.