Sarah Keller’s New York Times crossword
Today’s theme is missing a bowling ball and a nose:
- 20a. [Norwegian import in the dairy case], JARLSBERG CHEESE.
- 28a. [Links], GOLF COURSE.
- 36a. [You can hardly believe it], FLIMSY ALIBI. Less of a “lexical chunk.”
- 45a. [Bit of equipment for an outdoor kids' game], WIFFLE BALL.
- 56a. [What 20-, 28-, 36- and 45-Across are], THINGS WITH HOLES.
Highlights in the fill include CON JOBS, IN A SLUMP, WET BAR, and CLOSERS (44d. [Sales pros]). You might have thought I would group CLOSERS in the “roll-your own word” category, but I have seen Glengarry Glen Ross and I know that “coffee is for closers.” I also like to taunt children that cookies are for closers.
Lowlights in the fill also make themselves known. HEXAD? 6a. [Legs on an insect or strings on a guitar]? It is a real word, yes, “a group or set of six,” but who is going to use the word when talking about bugs or guitars? Sextet is markedly more common, and fits right in with 14a: OCTET. Two legal Latinisms, AMICI and RES. EPEE, LAH, FEN, RIEL, SEL, OAS, SLO, EMER, ONE-A, lots of arid little answers—if there were only a couple of these seen-more-in-crosswords-than-anything-else-I-read entries, no problem, but it felt like there were too many. LAPPS, the [Northern Scandinavians] who prefer to be called Sami.
I do not care for the clue for NON-PC, 42a. [Inappropriate for the easily offended, say]. The “easily offended” bit is so dismissive. If you use offensive language and people are offended, it is not because they are “easily offended,” it is because you are being offensive and should be more respectful of people. If you try to argue this point and defend your right to offend people, don’t be surprised if it raises some hackles.
Bob Klahn’s CrosSynergy crossword, “Service Station” – Dave Sullivan’s review
I know going into a Bob Klahn puzzle that it will likely take me about twice as long (or even more if it’s a “Sunday Challenge”) than from any other CrosSynergy constructor, and this one was no exception to that rule. Today we have four 13-letter theme phrases that end with a word that can precede SERVICE:
- The simple clue [Space] is BREATHING ROOM – this was not space, as in the “final frontier,” as I first thought. Not much “room service” in the bare bones “pod” I stayed in during the recent Lollapuzzoola.
- [Game with five rounds of betting] clues SEVEN CARD STUD – “stud service” sounds like something that my female goats would need on a regular basis to provide me with milk for my incipient cheesemaking operation.
- [Until the very last moment] is DOWN TO THE WIRE – taking the no Wikipedia pledge this morning, so I’m just guessing “wire service” is either how money is transmitted to someone else electronically or how news is transmitted from overseas, or something else completely.
- A [Hard case] is a TOUGH CUSTOMER – “customer service.”
I’d say “room” and “customer” are more familiar types of service than “stud” and “wire,” but the theme phrases are all snappy and I like how they nestle above each other with those black T’s on either side of the grid. Per usual, lots of interesting and intersecting clues, beginning with the pair of [Return from the Grand Canyon?] for ECHO followed by [Grand Canyon transport] for MULE in the across direction and then [Go out on the beach] for EBB and [Hermit on the beach] for CRAB in the first two downs. Other fun entries were UNCHIC, RIPOSTE and OWN UP TO, and my FAVE of [Smacks in the face], which wasn’t violent at all, but SMOOCHES. I’m struggling with [Film score Dimitri with twenty-six Oscar nominations and four wins], and since I took my no Wikipedia pledge, I have no idea which films Mssr. TIOMKIN scored.
Edited to add: Please make an effort to do past-CrosSynergy reviewer Sam Donaldson’s American Values Club puzzle today, “Battery Change.” Very creative!
Tim Poor and Jeff Chen’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s Review
I don’t have behind the scenes info, but past puzzles would suggest that Jeff Chen has been mentoring Tim Poor, and that therefore the primary concept was Tim’s; thereafter, I have no clue as to how the puzzle workload broke down. Anyway, the puzzle concept is excellent: the top three answers are “old” devices related to information, the bottom three are “new”. The examples used are inevitably rather quirky, but on consideration I like that they embraced that inevitibility. The top and bottom answer pair are information storage devices: an old CLAYTABLET and a new FLASHDRIVE (see what I mean!). SMOKESIGNALs have been replaced by TEXTMESSAGEs (a very American-and-British English answer, here they’re called SMS’s pretty much exclusively) to send information. The weak link for me was CARBONPAPER to the COPYMACHINE for duplicate information. Although used less than before, CARBONPAPER is still very definitely still in general use for things like reciepts and invoices: probably only by smaller businesses and charities, but still.
If this puzzle has 6 theme answers, why is the grid still chock-full of other great answers. The WEBCAM is a bonus information sending device, and is found next to the colorful city of TOPEKA. I appreciate the use of two helper squares to finesse those corners. Other fun answers include the quaint MILKSOPS and SPYGLASS, the meta NOTACLUE, USOPEN and GUSTO. Clunkers were pretty limited: the contrived FGH and ANAP. ANAP is rescued by the great clue [I think somebody needs ___!].
One of my personal challenges is trying to get on top of all those US SCHs. I can’t tell which are legitimately well-known and which aren’t. I think we have around 14 universities, you seem to be have 100s. Where all this is going is that I’ve never encountered UCSB in a crossword before. I assume that’s University of California at San Bernadino. Good, bad, indifferent?
I appreciated the really imaginative theme and the superbly filled grid: 4 stars.
Ben Tausig’s Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword, “Copy Edits”
In each theme entry, a two-letter chunk is copied:
- 17a. [Sell-off when Hostess went bankrupt?], THE OLD HEAVE HO HO. Hostess snack cakes are back now, of course. And the ingredients list still includes animal fat, which … why?
- 25a. ["She lost her voice on 'Poker Face' and fell down dancing to 'Bad Romance'"?], GA GA STANK.
- 37a. [Org. that lobbies for looser restrictions on ballerina costume sales?], TUTU PAC.
- 45a. [Viral video in which a defendant gets a light sentence?], MERCY MEME.
- 57a. [Nanobot's hypothetical ability, and the process that's overtaken this puzzle's theme answers], SELF REPLICATION.
Listen, I think my computer is emitting a burning smell. 3.5 stars, over and out.