Ian Livengood’s New York Times crossword
I really enjoyed this six-zone themeless. Right on target with Friday-level difficulty and jam-packed with crunchy fill. The highlights:
- 18a. [Grammy-winning singer from Barbados], RIHANNA.
- 25a. ["Be right there"], JUST A SECOND. Better than the more common fill IN A SEC, what with being an 11, having a J, and being perfectly in-the-language.
- 38a. [Orange entree, informally], MAC ‘N CHEESE.
- 40a. [Not take a back seat to anyone?], RIDE SHOTGUN.
- 56a. [Improbable victory, in slang], EPIC WIN.
- 57a. [Potentially embarrassing video], SEX TAPE.
- 7d. [Spring figure?], BOBBLEHEAD.
- 28d. [It's already out of the bag], OPEN SECRET.
Plus BURPS! And a WEE LASS, APLENTY, SIRI, CHALUPA, UNION SHOPS, and CAR LOANS round out the honorable mentions.
Nice one-two punch from the Better Red than Dead Department: 21a. [Belief opposed by Communists], TSARISM, is followed by 22a. [Hammer and sickle], TOOLS.
Did not know TATIANA, 58a. [Mezzo-soprano Troyanos].
I wonder if Ian originally had 55a. [Cubs' home], BEAR DEN, clued by way of artist Romare Bearden.
Have I ever mentioned my fondness for a preponderance of fun fill? 4.66 stars.
Matt Skoczen’s Los Angeles Times crossword
It’s definition theme-time! I maintain my position that I don’t enjoy trying to puzzle out the wording in made-up phrases whose meanings I actually do know; there isn’t an a-ha at the end of it, more an exasperated “there.” The concept behind the puzzle is sound: four French phrases beginning with “En” and followed by a five letter word are defined in English. Among the answers, STYLISHINPARIS is, for me, a very awkward choice of definition, as it indicates its Frenchness in the clue, er answer; the other answers don’t. I haven’t figured out if the central ELITIST is part of the theme or not. A subtle jab at people who drop French into their conversation perhaps? A chacun son gout! Ok, here’s the list of theme answers:
- 17a, [En masse], ALLTOGETHER
- 17a, [En vogue], STYLISHINPARIS
- 17a, [En garde], GETREADYTODUEL
- 17a, [En route], NOTYETTHERE
It seems to be the overarching theme of this week, we have another muted grid: METONYM is interesting (I always get my -nyms mixed up!) and BUTCHER has nice ring to it. Like before, its no biggie, I’m happy so long as I’m not constantly frowning at the short answers. There were a few dull notes today, but not too many: spelt-out-only-in-crossword answers USONE over BANDO and two awkward ON answers in one puzzle: ONS and ONA were the worst offenders. If you’re frowning at HEROS, for some reason the plural of the sandwich lacks an “E”, unlike the other definitions of HERO. I have no idea how this standard evolved it’s bizarre! My favourite clue was [Movie clue sniffer] for ASTA. I haven’t watched any of his films, but it makes sense that if he took part in the crime-solving process, he’d do something like that!
Raymond Hamel’s CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword, “Hair Care” – Dave Sullivan’s review
Occupations at a salon end four two-word theme phrases:
- [Shell seeker] clues BEACHCOMBER – to “comb” in this sense is to sift through; I guess I was thinking of a hermit crab at first.
- [Actress married to the singer Sting] was TRUDIE STYLER – the TYLER part of this were the first letters to drop and I was wondering if her first name was TRUDIES. Trudie is his second wife, and they’ve been together over 30 years with four children.
- [Seaplane that made its first transpacific flight in 1935] is a CHINA CLIPPER – I think of clippers as types of boats, not airplanes, but perhaps the term just refers to something that moves quickly (at a “clip”?)
- [Dog with a mahogany coat] clues IRISH SETTER – a beautiful breed. So are there individuals in a salon whose job is to “set” hair? What does that actually mean? (Though I do go to a salon to get my hair cut, it’s generally a pretty simple operation with electric clippers on the sides and some shears up top. No setting involved that I’m aware of.)
For some reason, I had trouble getting traction on this one. Looking at the NW quadrant (where I always begin), I see that I didn’t know COBIE Smulders from How I Met Your Mother and then plunked down AKITA where AKELA belonged for the Cub Scouts leader. Then my troubles continued at the top with IMPORT for IMPOST ([Customs duty]) and MPH for RPM for [Tach reading, briefly]. Luckily things were easier from the bottom up and I was able to correct these early mistakes, although I did think the Afghani language was Pashtu instead of PASHTO. (Luckily, there are no such things as SETTUS.)
I enjoyed DIRTY LOOK, I LIKE IT! and HANKIES, but my FAVE was the clue for HARP, namely [Chordophone with a triangular frame]. Pianos, violins and guitars are chordophones as well; they refer to stringed instruments. Runner up was another new word I learned today, which was SOMATIC for [Related to the body]. I’m sure for those of you in the medical industry, this one was a gimme. I’ll have to award my UNFAVE today to ATTA for ["Boy!" or "Girl!" lead-in]. That one didn’t win any attaboys from me.
Gabriel Stone’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Copyrighted Books” — pannonica’s write-up
Familiar book titles with the letter C inserted at the beginning of a word to radically alter said titles. It almost seems as if the title should have been “Copywronged Books,” as these changes aren’t exactly corrections.
- 23a. [Erich Segal's tale of a Garlic bulb?] CLOVE STORY.
- 25a. [Stephen King's tale of a witch town cardiologist?] SALEM’S CLOT.
- 41a. [Garrison Keillor's tale of a house divided?] CLEAVING HOME.
- 59a. [Cormac McCarthy's tale of verbally rounding up comely Clydesdales?] CALL THE PRETTY HORSES.
- 67a. [Ernest Hemingway's tale of an Arctic sailor?] THE COLD MAN AND THE SEA.
- 87a. [Sun Tzu's tale of a military transport?] THE CART OF WAR.
- 110a. [Charles Dickens's tale of harvesting leafy green vegetables?] CHARD TIMES.
- 112a. [Jack Kerouac's tale of highway swindles?] CON THE ROAD.
Strangely unsatisfying theme. Perhaps I’ve come to expect more from large format themed puzzles these days. I appreciate that the introduced C is the sole occurrence of the letter in each title, but it would have been more stylish to eliminate all Cs from the remainder of the grid. After all, lipogramatic crosswords aren’t so unusual. That would have strengthened the theme, for sure. Or perhaps the grid could have featured a Lizgorskian pattern approximating the © symbol? That would have worked also.
But back to the theme as it is. The answers simply aren’t that strong; for the most part, they fail to entertain. One of them—CON THE ROAD—barely makes sense. One changes the pronunciation of the original word (CLOVE from LOVE), one forms a new phoneme with the letter following the C (CHARD from HARD). Two of the new words seen allied (CLOVE and CHARD are both vegetables). Too many disparate anomalies undermine the sense of unity that a good theme demands.
It’s a bit amusing that 4-across SEE OFF phonetically suggests the opposite of the theme’s mechanism (‘C’ on); that its symmetrical partner at 120a is SEAGAL … I don’t know what to make of that. Additionally, SEE OFF is followed by SAW VI: see-saw!
- Favorite clue: 15d [Grave marker?] ACCENT. Honorable mentions to 37d [Material for a suit?] LIBEL, 74a [Went on] RODE, 101d [It may be filtered] E-MAIL
- Liked the flanking long downs: END CREDITS and THE SHADOW. Much preferred the trivial nugget from the latter’s clue—that Orson Welles voiced the character on the radio program—to the random-feeling one for the former, [Gaffer's acknowledgment, e.g.].
- BLOKE,GENT, ODOUR, SNOOT, LLOYD’S of London, [Cheerio!] TA-TA. Both ODOUR and MOLD are clued in relation to Stilton, but the one apparently references the English town, while the other means the cheese; the English/American spelling discrepancy feels a bit weird though, as the two clues are subtly linked.
- First had COIN instead of DIME for 104d [Makeshift screwdriver].
- Nice to see full-name ARTIE SHAW in the grid.
Adequate but unexciting and underwhelming puzzle.