Alan Arbesfeld’s New York Times crossword
This grid felt like it contained considerably more E’s and S’s than the typical Friday puzzle. ESTATE SALES! ESSAY! ERTES and STET and ARETES! And in fact, no fewer than three entries contain the word SEE: There’s 23d: FORESEE, 27d: SEE TO, and the great-except-for-that-dupe 55a: “TRY TO SEE IT MY WAY.” Elsewhere in the Department of Redundancy Department, we also have 7d: ALBEIT and 43d: SO BE IT, the latter of which I struggled with because I figured the BEIT part couldn’t possibly be repeated. And then the TO of SEE TO and TRY TO SEE IT MY WAY appears again in ALIEN TO. OYE vey! (OYE is 39a. [Juan's "Hey!"], and no, you can’t play it in Scrabble. I’ve tried.)
- 1a. [African city of 4+ million whose name means, literally, "haven of peace"], DAR ES SALAAM. Salaam = shalom = peace.
- 14a. ["Why such a fuss?"], “WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL?” Great entry.
- 33a. [Classified], TOP SECRET. Solid entry. I’m not at liberty to say more.
- 48a. [Frito-Lay snack], CHEETOS. I’m partial to the Simply Cheetos, but will also keep an eye out at Target for the new chocolate-covered Wavy Lays potato chips.
- 5d. [Dopes], SCHNOOKS. Who doesn’t love a Yiddishism?
- 12d. [Irritability], CHOLER. Love this old-timey word.
I don’t much care for the ARF ARF clue, 36d. [Pair of boxers?]. “Pair uttered by boxers” would still be pushing it, but this “Pair of boxers?” verges on nonsensical. Yes, boxers are dogs. But a supposed transliteration of a dog’s bark, times two, is not a “pair of dogs.”
And NO NOISE has an arbitrariness to it that NO NUKES lacks.
The dupes and the (seeming?) profusion of S’s, E’s, and T’s sapped my enjoyment, to tell the truth. Three stars from me.
Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword, “Doubled Up” – Dave Sullivan’s review
Ambitious theme–UP is added to the beginning of the first word in a two-word phrase, and also appended to the end of the second word. Let’s take a look how it turned out:
- [Distraught bungler?] clued UPSET SCREW-UP – the term “set screw” is somewhat familiar to me; it’s used to hold objects against other objects, like a pulley or gear.
- [Order a larger Uncola?] was UPSIZE SEVEN UP – That’s really 7 Up, folks, and the base phrase “size seven” is today’s “green paint” example.
- My opinion of the best of the lot, [Candid presentation of possible perps?] was UPFRONT LINEUP – I think first of the PBS show when I see “Frontline,” but it’s obviously what someone is on when he/she is bearing the initial assault.
- [Second-stringer with a good attitude?] was an UPBEAT BACKUP – I’m guessing “beat back” is to repel something.
This was a very difficult theme to pull off, and I think today’s constructor does a decent job with it. RECURVE as a [Kind of archery bow] was new to me–I’m thinking all bows curve, so does a recurve curve twice? A slight step toward something that might not pass the Sunday breakfast test with ["What ___ ..."] cluing THE. I guess you can finish that one anyway you choose. TORPEDO and URCHIN are fun mid-length words and were interesting finds.
Dan Fisher’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Change of Venue” — pannonica’s write-up
Easily grasped theme in which the name of a nation is followed by its own anagram to form a phrase. All are clued in the context of “visitors.” We’ve all seen this type of thing before, I suspect.
- 23a. [Dance for visitors to a South Pacific nation?] TONGA TANGO.
- 25a. [Necklace for visitors to an Asian nation?] CHINA CHAIN.
- 37a. [Fancy trappings for visitors to an African nation?] ALGERIA REGALIA.
- 52a. [Transportation for visitors to an Asian nation?] NEPAL PLANE.
- 59a. [Counterpart for visitors to an African nation?] ANGOLA ANALOG.
- 66a. [Soap opera for visitors to a Middle Eastern nation?] ISRAEL SERIAL.
- 76a. [Discomfort for visitors to a European nation?] SPAIN PAINS.
- 90a. [Plastic toy soldier for visitors to an Asian nation?] MYANMAR ARMY MAN, crossing MARYAM d’Abo. Appreciate the anagram, but want to see Burma come back into preferred use.
- 108a. [Adversary for visitors to a Middle Eastern nation?] YEMEN ENEMY.
- 110a. [Secular sect for visitors to a European nation?] ITALY LAITY.
The rundown: good geographic spread, good consistency with the the visitor conceit (admittedly with varying degrees of success). All theme nations have one-word names and all but one of the anagrams are likewise one word.
The predictable critique: would have preferred not to see the names of nations in the grid non-thematically. 14d [Its coat of arms includes a marlin and a flamingo] BAHAMAS; 113a [Nation whose prime minister is Tuilaepa Lupesoliai Sailele Malielegaoi] SAMOA (but the clue gets chutzpah points); 105d [Country name on some euros] EIRE.
Tangential theme entries: 78d [Capital indicator] STAR; 40a [Nontourist] LOCAL.
As always, the editorial touch (and presumably the constructor’s anticipations thereof) make a good mix of high quality misdirections, alliterations, clechoes (clue-echoes), gentle and puns.
Good puzzle, average to slightly-above average.
Jeffrey Wechsler’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth
A surprisingly chewy puzzle for me, but I may be an outlier. Basically, I stormed through most of the puzzle but ground to a screeching halt in several places. My problem was I didn’t (correctly) get any theme answers for a long time (8+ minutes) and couldn’t suss the theme, which with different clues could almost be a Monday theme! Strange that! Basically the sound of the last syllables of multi-syllable words are repeated after them as separate words, creating whimsical phrases; I mostly enjoyed this… eventually.
- 19a, [Stadium section for charity workers?], VOLUNTEERTIER
- 26a, [Really old hardwood?], ANTIQUE TEAK
- 36a, [Disney's "Bambi"?], WHITETAILTALE. I filled in WHITETAILDEER fairly early and stuck with it most persistently, which was a major factor in obscuring the theme for me. And yes, I couldn’t figure out why it would need a question mark at the time!
- 44a, ["Merrie Melodies" theme song?], CARTOONTUNE
- 54a, [Emperor Justinian as a young man], BYZANTINETEEN. This answer is more obvious if you aren’t far more familiar with BYZANTINE rhyming with mine and pine…
There seems to be a Western minitheme with [Western, e.g.} OMELET, BOLO, DRAW and over on the other side TEX.
I think I'll finish by listing non-theme answers I found particularly tricky. The combination of these answers nad not grokking the theme made this puzzle very taxing for me:
- [Item in a musician's kit], SIDEDRUM. I didn’t know that term.
- [Kind and caring], ALLHEART. Hard to see for me.
- ["That's my intention"], IHOPEIDO. Difficult to parse; I’m also on the fence with that as a legitimate answer
- [Quick], SPEEDY. I had STEADY??? No I don’t know either; I also didn’t spot my mistake in a timely manner.
- [Words of tribute], PRAISE. Considered the right answer early on, but decided the clue was implying a phrase. A cunning misdirect that!
- [Ark units], CUBITS. I got fixated on some synonym for “twosome.” Nice extra-effort clue that!
- [Prefix with culture], API. I had OVI then AVI before API. Sigh.
3.5 Stars. Interesting theme.