David Steinberg’s New York Times crossword
I really enjoyed 95% of this wide-open 62-word puzzle, but that other 5% had some unfortunate crossings. You know the ones, don’t you?
- 35a. [Turkey ___, baseball Hall-of-Famer from the Negro leagues], STEARNES. Wholly unfamiliar name for me, but of course the Negro leagues players got short shrift. Wikipedia says the “Turkey” nickname referred to the way he ran.
- The first E in STEARNES crosses 33d. [Musician who arranged the theme for "2001"], DEODATO. With that ≥50% vowels name, I’m surprised I haven’t seen it in more crosswords. Did not know the name.
- 36d. [Olympic ice dancing gold medalist Virtue and others], TESSAS. There have been other TESSAs in crosswords, but I don’t recall seeing this one. Had TESSES for a good long while. The A was in 45a. [Division d'une carte], ETAT. ETAT is French for “state”; is carte a map as well as a menu?
In my top 7 list, we have the following zippy entries:
- 1a. [1999 rap hit featuring Snoop Dogg], STILL DRE. I had no idea, mind you, but STILL is a word and Dr. Dre is also name-checked in Eminem’s “Forgot About Dre.” Dre, we ascertained over dinner, was in NWA along with Ice Cube, before Ice Cube made terrible movies.
- 23a. [Diamond deal], TWIN BILL. This means “doubleheader,” right? I’m guessing here. Have seen TWIN BILL in other contexts.
- 25a. [Mode of transportation in a 1969 #1 hit]. JET PLANE. This song. (Hey, Steinberg: What’s with all the references to songs that were pretty much before your parents’ time?) JONI Mitchell, SANTANA at Woodstock, Simon & Garfunkel’s “El Condor PASA,” the 2001: A Space Odyssey soundtrack…
- 43a. [Golda Meir and Yitzhak Rabin led it], LABOR PARTY. I went with LIKUD first. Don’t mock me.
- 46a. [Place of outdoor meditation], ZEN GARDEN. Peaceful.
- 25d. ["Wordplay" vocalist, 2005], JASON MRAZ. Don’t know the song. Don’t know any of his songs, actually. But I dig the spelling of his last name.
- 30d. [Italian region that's home to Milan], LOMBARDY. That is one great place name. The Italians call it Lombardia, mind you.
- Honorable mentions: CONEHEADS, the LIMBIC system, LEONTYNE Price (but BATTLE isn’t clued as opera’s Kathleen), SCARFACE, SNOW TIRES, GET REAL, properly spelled AMOEBAE.
Tough clues? Yes:
- 16a. [45 degrees, for 1], ARCTANGENT. Been a long time since I had trig, and this doesn’t ring a bell.
- 20a. [Cuban province where Castro was born], ORIENTE. Plausible Spanish word, but no, I don’t know my Cuban provinces.
- 35d. [Where to bury the hatchet?], SHEATH. I was working the crossings and almost tried THE ASH. … What?
It would’ve been neat to clue 10d: LEAN IN ([Try to hear better, maybe]) by way of the best-selling book by Sheryl Sandberg.
Despite the struggles in the lower left quadrant, I enjoyed this Saturday-tough (for me) puzzle. Four stars.
Doug Peterson’s CrosSynergy crossword, “Train Set” – Dave Sullivan’s review
Types of trains complete theme phrases in today’s CrosSynergy puzzle by Doug Peterson:
- [Traditional topping for mashed potatoes] was BROWN GRAVY – a “gravy train” is something one is on if they are getting some type of regular benefit or payment–I think of it as not being deserved, is that how others see it?
- [Precursor to the family minivan] clued STATION WAGON – Wagon Train was an old west TV series, right? I think it’s also a brand of dog food. (No time to check this morning, so let me know in the comments how far off-base I am!)
- [Unit of ammo for a werewolf hunter] was SILVER BULLET – I think of Japan when I think of “bullet trains,” but wasn’t the one that just had an accident in Spain?
- [1965 Beatles album that followed "Help!"] clued RUBBER SOUL – Soul Train was a TV series that was a lot like American Bandstand, featuring primarily (or solely?) African American performers.
I had a hard time initially sussing out the theme–I guess with the “wagon” entry, I was thinking that we were talking parts of a train initially, but they finally fell into place. Scrabbly fill around them–I enjoyed the J action of JURIST, JABS, JELLO and JEWS. VROOMS for [Drag race sounds] seems a bit awkward to me in the plural, but it’s fun to find entries that begin with VR.
Craig Stowe’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Area of Interest” — pannonica’s write-up
In this crossword, the constructor has discovered one way to achieve the impossible, that is, squaring the circle. Well, sort of.
First, it took me a while to realize that I had a puzzle with so-called rebus squares (virtually) in my hands. Then, it took me a further while to isolate which sequence of letters needed to be crammed into single boxes. They ended up being PIR, which made no immediate sense to me until working out the revealer at 62-across [Theme of this puzzle], which also was delayed, as at 54a [Any knight] –I–, I had HIM rather than SIR, which left me for some time with H–EA at 54d [Shrub of the rose family]. Eventually I put it all together for S(PIR)EA, SIR, and (PI R) SQUARED – πr2 – which is of course the formula for the area of a circle. That revealer precluded the puzzle having a less oblique title. Such as, oh, I don’t know, say, “Squaring the Circle.”
- 17a/1d. [Port Royal sight] / [Judger of fairness at times] (PIR)ATE SHIP / UM(PIR)E.
- 19a/11d. [Do curls, maybe] / [Beasts with prominent snouts] PUM(P IR)ON / TA(PIR)S.
- 27a/26d. [Setting for Faulkner or Twain] / [High points?] MISSISSI(PI R)IVER / S(PIR)ES.
- 45a/40d [Grist for a Dan Brown novel] / [Realm] CONS(PIR)ACY THEORY / EM(PIR)E.
- 60a/50d. [Amazon menaces] / [Cheerleader's asset] (PIR)ANHAS / S(PIR)IT.
Very clever theme, and quite dense in execution. Six entries in total, two at 14 letters and the other pairs sharing a single row each. The ballast fill is neither flashy nor trashy, so it just does the job of counterbalancing the theme. Starting the proceedings with UTE at 1a is clunky though, but at least I learned something from the clue, [Black Hawk War combatant]. Oh, and the two rows (5 and 11) that consist solely of three-letter junk—NSC/SSN and E’EN/OAT—they’re distasteful. So, revised assessment: the ballast fill isn’t entirely untrashy.
Longest non-theme entries are the CHE-worthy EINSTEIN [Author of the "Annus Mirabilis" papers] and VALLETTA [Maltese capital].
Favorite clue: 8d [1/768 gal.] TSP, for its absurdity.
IN TOTO (64a) an above-average crossword.
Jack McInturff’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s review
A bit of a bland theme for me. [Busy one that has made its mark in this puzzle's five longest answers] is BEE explains it. I don’t think the puzzle needs a revealer, but simply putting BEE in the grid was a bit of an anti-climax. None of the puns really spoke to me either, especially considering that the number of potential answers for a +B puzzle is pretty vast. That said, I recognise that the humour in “wacky” puzzles tend to break down pretty unpredictably among the puzzle solving populace. For all I know, most of you enjoyed them!
So the theme was as follows:
- [Hipsters who prefer old-school programming languages?], COBOLCATS
- [Tiny Timex?], BABYWATCH
- [Golf club used as a dance pole?], LIMBODRIVER. I think this one worked better than the first two, because it didn’t alter the syllable count and still sounds somewhat similar to the original phrase.
- [Furrier's assessment?], SABLESTAX
- [R2D2's bar order?], ROBOTBEER
Outside of the theme, we have a well-constructed grid with some interesting longer answers. I battled most with the top-middle, where I didn’t know EEOC and wasn’t sure about ABIE; the clues for VACATE, [Get out] and especially VANE, [Wind instrument] were tricky to say the least.
My favourite answers were TRAPDOOR, INTEGERS, LOSTABET, ISOTOPE, TRICKLE and LADYBUG. In general, the choices of long answers entertained me.
A well-made grid couldn’t quite lift this puzzle’s dull (for me) theme. 2.75 stars.
Nancy Cole Stuart’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “A&E Network” — pannonica’s write-up
The original versions of the theme answers are phrases with a word containing the vowels A and E, whose positions are sweppad around for a wacky result. More specifically, they’re two-syllable words in which those are the only vowels. The results are quite amusing.
- 23a. [Cheesy drink garnish] TWIST OF FETA ( … fate). Okay, just ignore that feta cheese has no rind to twist and that it would crumble if you tried to perform the operation on the cheese itself.
- 25a. [Ballet rail used by a Kundalini practitioner?] YOGI BARRE ( … Berra). This one postponed my comprehension of the theme, as I persisted in thinking of Yogi Bear.
- 40a. [Weatherman, at times?} STORM CALLER ( … cellar).
- 48a. [Headquarters for a disaster-relief org.?] HALL OF FEMA ( … fame).
- 60a. [Why they have to ask if you want paper of plastic?] BAGGERS CAN’T BE CHOOSERS (beggars … ). 21-letter spanner, quite probably the seed entry. Also the first themer not to have the altered word last.
- 77a. [Prison transport?] PENAL TRUCK (panel … ). Now the second; will the bottom set all have this configuration?
- 84a. ["I didn't steal the giant's treasure" and the like?] JACK’S DENIALS ( … Daniel’s). Guess not.
- 101a. [Portion of a nation that borders on Uganda and Lake Victoria?] KENYA WEST (Kanye … ). Northern, or “North” Tanzania also borders both places, but obviously doesn’t work in context.
- 103a. [Brick that's part of a fireplace shelf?] MANTEL BLOCK (mental … ). And the last two are back to the first word.
Simple theme idea, entertaining in execution. It’s a minor nit and probably one that most solvers won’t notice or care about, but I did find the imbalance of the locations of the words with the transpositions to be a distraction.
Nothing astonishing in the rest of the grid, just solid fill with good clues.
- 57d/64d [Open to bribery] VENAL / CROOKED. 33d/51a [Lustful looker] OGLER / EYER, >shudder< See also: 18d [Litigious lot] SUERS, 97a [Plaintiff's goal] DAMAGES; 92d [Bolshevik leader] LENIN, 96d [Nicholas II, for one] TSAR.
- Favorite clue: 5d [Give and take, e.g.] ANTONYMS.
- Unknown to me: 59d [Classic build-a-bug game] COOTIE. Wikipedia tells me it’s been around since 1949 and has been owned by giants such as Tyco and Hasbro/Milton Bradley. Would rather have seen a clue for classic jazz trumpeter COOTIE Williams, but that’s just me. Factette: “cooties”, the affliction grade-school children often accuse each other of, is thought to derive from the Malay kutu, for body louse.
Additionally, a handful of medium-length fill, such as MANDRAKE, ENSEMBLE, SLIP INTO, TRADE WAR, and … erm, JUDO MAT. Hardly any junk of the CAP Quotient™ variety, so a very solid puzzle overall.