David Steinberg’s New York Times crossword
It’s been a long week, and it’s not over yet. So I am in no sort of blogging mood, and yet here is a puzzle. So. Let’s get on with it.
Highlights in the fill:
- 1a. [First female candidate to win the Ames Straw Poll], MICHELE BACHMANN. Really wanted it to be MICHELLE BACHMAN, but no. Will anyone remember this name in a collection of NYT puzzles a decade hence?
- 17a. [It airs in the morning, ironically], THE LATE LATE SHOW. Uh, there’s no irony there. The wee hours of the morning count as late night. Also, in the Central time zone, the show starts at 11:35 in the evening.
- 57a. [Alternative to a breakfast burrito], HUEVOS RANCHEROS. Once saw a motel diner menu with “eggs rancheros” on it.
- 61a. [Big source for modern slang], URBAN DICTIONARY. Came across an unfamiliar term yesterday but knew I would only be horrified if I looked it up at urbandictionary.com. No good can come of that (aside from gaining understanding of how slang is used out there).
- 38d. [Definitely], FOR SURE.
- 43d. [Modern mouse hole?], USB PORT.
- 52d. [Competitor of Lauren and Klein], BEENE? No. No, no, no. Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein are huge fashion brands that are worn by men and women in a range of age groups. And Geoffrey Beene? I had to Google. The brand’s site says you can buy their stuff at Men’s Wearhouse and a handful of department stores. Looking at Men’s Wearhouse, okay, fine, I see that they also sell Lauren and Klein. But clearly no woman ever touched this clue. Geoffrey Beene is a nonentity in women’s apparel.
- 54d. [Numerical prefix], NONA. Nona Hendryx is disappointed we’ve gone the boring prefix route.
- 14d. [Formula one?] is a cute clue to have in a puzzle with FERRARIS. The answer is a NEONATE, who might drink baby formula.
- 8d. [Ill-humored], BILIOUS. This is a great word and we should all use it more often.
- 47d. [Emulates Homer], PAINTS. My first thought was the Homer who wrote about the ITHACAN [Odysseus, e.g.], and then I thought of Homer Simpson. Third time’s the charm—Winslow Homer.
- 7d. [Female adviser], EGERIA. Your mythological vocabulary word of the day. Wikipedia says, “Egeria was a nymph attributed a legendary role in the early history of Rome as a divine consort and counselor of the Sabine second king of Rome, Numa Pompilius, to whom she imparted laws and rituals pertaining to ancient Roman religion. Her name is used as an eponym for a female advisor or counselor.”
3.75 stars. A decent puzzle, but not terribly exciting as such things go.
Jeffrey Wechsler’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s review
I liked this puzzle more than most definition themes, as there here thee iss an a-ha moment to be had! There are three mystery unclued entries – 12/15/15 – that direct us to the final 12-letter answer. Once revealed, this answer, CATCHPHRASES, allows us to understand the three definitions, which are definitions of CATCH. All three are nouns: HIDDENHAZARD, BALLTOSSINGGAME, and GOODTYPETOMARRY.
The puzzle played very easy for me, except for some hesitation in closing. I think Rich Norris eased up on the non-theme clues to make up for the long answers that are, until you have the revealer, unclued; but I got that answer fairly early on.
It’s a mostly dreck-free grid, with a few splashes of colour: there are a pair of ten-letter spoken-language answers in the 3rd and 13th rows that could easily be mistaken for theme answers. I’m not too familiar with people saying ITSAWONDER, but I assume they do. IMNOTALONE is a trope I know from media; I’m always alone so I don’t think I’ve had to say it. Other personal highlights were the answers HANDBAG and SUMER and the clue [Mail at a castle] for ARMOR. DOTCOMS is also I nice entry, although the clue, [Targets of many searches], seemed somehow awkward.
Nicely structured puzzle: 3.5 stars.
Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword, “Let’s Get Ready to Rumble!” – Dave Sullivan’s review
As the drums of war beat for possible military action in the Middle East, we have what might be said to be an appropriate theme in today’s CrosSynergy puzzle: four phrases which begin with a synonym of military conflict:
- [Where bullets fly] was COMBAT ZONE – growing up, Boston had a “Combat Zone” and the only thing flying there was discarded clothing. It was cleaned up quite a bit in recent years, but you can still find pockets of it in the Chinatown area.
- ["Will you marry me?" accompaniment] clues ENGAGEMENT RING – funny how this type of engagement is practically the opposite in meaning from “conflict.” That is, until one is married for a while…
- [Spots occupied in a crisis] was BATTLE STATIONS – no real double meaning here; I prefer entries like the one above where the idiomatic intent is much different from the surface sense.
- [Some riot quellers] were ATTACK DOGS – again, attack dogs are supposed to engage in conflict already.
I’ve got to say the combination of a bellicose theme and theme entries which didn’t offer much in the way of wordplay didn’t play into my sweet spot for puzzle enjoyment. So instead, I looked to the fill for some pleasure and found it in a couple of fortuitous crossings, IDOL and IDLE in the NW and LUST and LOVESICK in the NE, for example. I would guess EROTIC is based on EROS, so that combo seems a bit repetitive to me. Entries like GAMIN ([Guttersnipe]) and NABOB ([Big cheese]) also help to spice things up. I entered EATS DIRT before EATS CROW for [Suffers humiliation] and it made me wonder which repast is more humiliating to eat? I’m on the fence on the entry-worthiness of THE LOT, clued as [Everything]. Partial or no, puzzle people?
Derek Bowman and Sarah Keller’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Flip-Flops” — pannonica’s write-up
The theme takes advantage of the way a capital W, flipped on its horizontal axis, resembles and M, and vice-versa. In the first half of the themers, the original phrase’s single M flips to a W for a wacky new answer, and in the second half the single W flops to a W for a macky one. Further, none of the original phrases contain the other letter either.
- 19a. [Tweet from singer Cyrus?] MILEY POST. Wiley Post was the first aviator to fly solo around the world. His plane was called the Winnie Mae (not the Minnie Wae, not even while performing barrel rolls).
- 22a. [Britain, at the English Empire's height?] ISLE OF MIGHT. The Isle of Wight is part of England. The annual outdoor music festival there features some mighty AMPS.
- 26a. [What cat burglars do?] GLOM IN THE DARK.
- 34a. [Be a baby Einstein?] INHERIT THE MIND. The 1955 play was ostensibly about the teaching of evolution (the so-called Scopes Monkey Trial), but was also a thinly-veiled criticism of the contemporary Red Scare trials.
- 48a. [Gadget intended for use on tough potatoes?] HIGH PRESSURE MASHER. Did you know that some french fries are mass-produced by “shooting” them at high pressure through a gridded screen?
- 63a. [Wizard with no tricks up his sleeve?] HONEST MAGE.
- 66a. [Those new to recycling?] OLD WASTERS.
- 74a. [Diner special for cabbage lovers?] GRAND SLAW BREAKFAST. I had thought the “grand slam” moniker was exclusive too, possibly trademarked by one of those chains, probably Denny’s. But I’m no expert.
- 88a. [Inflated ego after a win?] SWELL OF VICTORY. Ah, the smeet swell of success.
- 98a. [End Sleeping Beauty's sleep] KISS AND WAKE UP.
- 108a. [Leading fast food chicken franchise?] WING DYNASTY.
- 111a. [Inferior computer programming?] WORSE CODE.
Some genuinely amusing new phrases generated by the theme. Appreciated the winking entry at 77-down, ["Mom really flipped for this!"] WOW. The only real themic complaint I could conceivably muster is that if there had been none in Row 8, the idea of mirror images would have been visually reinforced, with that locale representing the reflecting axis. Instead, there are two theme answers there, the first—on the left—finishing the W-to-M bloc, and the second—on the right—initiating the M-to-W group. Naturally, making that row off-limits to theme answers would be a real headache for the constructors, so the approach they used is understandable. An alternative, coming up with a single, long central answer containing an M and a W (or an equal number of multiples), while flashy, wouldn’t really have brought the puzzle closer to my proposed visual ideal.
Many good long answers, and they’re stacked along themers as well: ANECDOTES, CHARTERED [Like some buses and accountants], LHASA APSO, EMPANADAS (which, as they are popular throughout South and Central America, Iberia, and parts of Asia, could easily have been clued as something other than [Mexican fare], but then again there’s 81a [Mexican fare] TACOS).
- 25a [A "hoi" mate?]. Even with POLLO– in place, my morning mind resisted processing the weird-looking clue.
- Favorite clue: 72a [Spray containers] VASES.
- New abbrev. for me: CAA (Creative Artists Agency), co-founded by Michael Ovitz. Yay!
- Good vertical 7-stacks in the northwest and southeast corners.
- Least favorite partial: IT UP (31d), though there are many to choose from, and not a few abbrevs., either.
Good puzzle, about average.