Tom McCoy’s New York Times crossword
This theme is rather meta, circular, self-referential:
- 20a. [Like 20-Across], PRONOUNCEABLE.
- 28a. [Like 28-Across], UNHYPHENATED.
- 43a. [Like 43-Across], TWELVE-LETTER.
- 52a. [Like 52-Across], PENTASYLLABIC, having five syllables.
Peculiar, no? Certainly not a theme that’s been played out many a time already.
Five more things, quickly:
- 47a. [October event, informally, with "the"], SERIES. Can a series of games be called a singular “event”?
- 63a. [Spread out in the kitchen?], MAYO. Yep, I filled in OLEO first and scowled at seeing the word in the grid. Oh! MAYO, much better.
- 8d. [Officemate of Don and Peggy on "Mad Men"], PETE. Is he the silver-haired thin guy who was once on ER? Haven’t watched Mad Men.
- 10d. [Pat Nixon's given name], THELMA. Trivia!
- 42d. [Extremely juicy], TELL-ALL. Who doesn’t love a tell-all peach?
3.75 stars. I didn’t love the theme, but it was an interesting concept.
Byron Walden’s American Values Club crossword, “State of the Union Addresses”
Interesting and subtle political theme: Some senators have last names that begin with the two-letter postal abbreviation for the states they represent:
- 1a. [R-(circled letters), since 2013], TIM SCOTT of South Carolina. Don’t know him.
- 19a. [D-(circled letters), since 1997], MARY LANDRIEU of Louisiana. Hey! She has a MARYLAND in her name too.
- 34a. [D-(circled letters), since 2013], MAZIE HIRONO of Hawaii.
- 49a. [D-(circled letters), since 2013], EDWARD MARKEY of Massachusetts. He’s new, right?
- 62a. What 1-, 19-, 34-, and 49-Across all are], SENATORS.
This 72-word grid would pass muster as a themeless, and with lively fill too. Of note: John McCain’s ONLINE POKER, a RUNAWAY HIT, SAN MARZANO tomatoes, politicians’ PRIMARY WINS, SWIZZLES, Missouri’s BOOT HEEL, and Redford’s BRUBAKER. Plus an overall politics vibe scattered throughout the fill (IKE, CSPAN, BARR, RED).
Clues of note:
- 16a. Rules of engagement?], PRENUP.
- 46a. Star Wars Day month], MAY. As in “May the Fourth be with you.” Just dreadful. Spoils my anniversary every year now.
- 9d. Hits below the belt?], SPANKS.
- 50d. Year old?], ANNO. Latin is indeed an old language.
Did not know: 59a. [Jazz drummer Richmond], DANNIE.
Raymond Hamel’s CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword, “Do Not a Prison Make” – Dave Sullivan’s review
So today’s CrosSynergy puzzle is not, in fact, advice from Yoda about what one should not build, but instead quotes from Richard Lovelace’s To Althea, from Prison:
Stone walls do not a prison make,
Nor iron bars a cage;
Minds innocent and quiet take
That for a hermitage.
If I have freedom in my love,
And in my soul am free,
Angels alone, that soar above,
Enjoy such liberty.
He wrote this in 1641 after being convicted for presenting a pro-Royaltist petition to the English House of Commons. A bit confusing why he was imprisoned for supporting the King (Charles I), perhaps someone better versed in British history can enlighten us all in the comments below.
So what does all this have to do with today’s puzzle? you ask. Well, we have four theme phrases that end with something found in a prison:
- [Boxers' protectors] clued MOUTHGUARDS – we’re talking boxers sparring in a ring here, not dogs or an alternative to briefs. (Speaking of which, can someone tell me why the plural of thief is thieves, but brief is briefs?)
- [Energy sources] were ELECTRIC CELLS – not a very common phrase to me, I prefer the photovoltaic type.
- [Output of Willy Wonka's factory] clued CHOCOLATE BARS – I think I would’ve preferred a reference to watering holes instead of to candy, since chocolate bars are in the shape of the bars of a cell. I also like the visual image of inmates ordering drinks while shackled to the barstools.
- [Location of North America's only living coral reef] was FLORIDA KEYS – the singer Alicia Keys would’ve been a better entry here I think, but at least these keys are islands not real keys.
Probably not my FAVE theme (I try not to dwell on what can be found in a prison), but I did enjoy the literary tie-in in the title, so it sort of balanced itself out for this solver. ADDUCE for [Cite as pertinent] was tough to come up with; it’s opposite (impertinent) is used to describe unruly (inappropriate) children. Didn’t know the actor CYRIL Ritchard of Peter Pan; I see here that he played Captain Hook to Mary Martin’s Peter. Bret HARTE, who wrote about pioneering in California in the turn of the century (1900, not 2000!) was also hard to dredge from my aging memory banks. The more famous author E.L. DOCTOROW and Slovakia’s capital BRATISLAVA helped to bring the fill back into more familiar territory.
Peter Collins’ Fireball crossword, “European Agreement”
Despite the title, it still took me a long time to suss out the theme. Each of the four long answers has “yes” in a European language added to a familiar phrase:
- 17a. [Vessel for a fictional sailor?], SINBAD RAFT. That’s Spanish SI appended to NBA DRAFT.
- 27a. [Colorful wrap belonging to comedian Anderson?], LOUIE’S SERAPE. That’s French OUI inside a LESSER APE.
- 45a. [Swap involving a farm animal and the old man's garden implement?], OX FOR DAD’S HOE. That’s Russian DA inside OXFORD SHOE.
- 59a. ["The narrator of the 'Fifty Shades' trilogy's a stealth assassin"?], ANA IS NINJA. German JA inside ANAIS NIN.
I struggled to parse the first three, but the ANAIS NIN part jumped out strongly and cracked the code. Note that the addition of each 2- or 3-letter “yes” splits up the words in the base phrase and changes the pronunciation, obscuring the original phrase. SINBAD is such a unit that SI + N.B.A. + D— did not occur to me. —SER APE into the three-syllable SERAPE? Well played, Peters.
I solved the puzzle last night but then was too tired to blog it, so let’s eyeball the puzzle and see if anything jumps out as something I’d noticed last night.
- 37a. [Defeater of Superman in a 1978 comic book], ALI. Muhammad Ali? If so, how odd!
- 41a. [Meager], LENTEN. Haven’t seen this equivalency before.
- 58a. [Language of the national anthem "Qaumi Tarana"], URDU. You don’t say. I could not have guessed what country had that national anthem.
- 2d. ["That invisible bone that keeps the neck stiff," according to Stephen King], PRIDE. Interesting clue.
- 33d. [Free solo climber Honnold], ALEX. Did not know the name at all, so I Googled him this morning. Here’s a National Geographic video (warning: the video begins playing automatically with a short and loud ad, and the ad plays again at the end of the video, possibly even louder). I don’t know about you, but my palms got sweaty with vicarious terror during the climb.
- 34d. [Big red], ZINFANDEL. Your fresh breath goes on and on while you chew it.
Mark Bickham’ Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s review
Mark Bickham gives us an atypical vowel progression puzzle today – five answers begin with homophones for E’s, I’s, O’s, U’S and Y’s respectively, when they are pronounced as letters. THEAS, which apparently didn’t play ball in terms of forming a viable theme answer, is then relegated to sitting on one side and acting as a revealer of sorts. The answers themselves had a slightly quirky feel to them, but I did enjoy them nonetheless:
18a, [*Make it not hurt so much], EASETHEPAIN. Musical interlude.
23a, [*Marching order], EYESFRONT
36a, [*Has unfinished business with the IRS], OWESBACKTAXES
51a, [*Entice with], USEASBAIT
58a, [*Sagacious], WISEASANOWL
53d, [MLB team, familiarly (and what's missing from the sequence found in the answers to starred clues?)], THEAS
A bit different, but refreshingly so. 3.5 stars
Brendan Quigley’s website puzzle, “Seeing Spots” — Matt’s review
This puzzle took me almost 10 minutes to finish. Tricky cluing combined with last night’s birthday celebrations (I turned 41 yesterday, thanks) don’t make for a quick solve.
Started with HIJAB at 1-across (always forget if that word is HIJAB or “hajib”) but couldn’t crack the upper-middle section for a long time. At 8-d [Many a ? crossword clue] looks like an answer-specific trap, since everyone including me put PUN there even though it’s GAG. And PUN fits with the incorrect SPUR for [Urge on] even though the answer there is COAX.
Other mistakes: had KEBAB instead of the correct KABOB at 49-a, which made [Jezebel's husband] the incorrect crossword stalwart ESAU instead of the correct AHAB. And then I hadn’t fully grokked the theme when I was trying to fit a Ritz into 45-across, clued as ["Ms. Kardashian ... have an orange cracker"?]. It was KIM, CHEEZ-IT.
So on to the theme: classic BEQ, going where others fear to tread. No nice way to put this, but you have to add a ZIT to four base phrases to get wacky new phrases. Like so:
16-a [Soprano autoharp feature?] = ZITHER HIGHNESS, from “Her Highness.”
24-a [All the actors on any Disney channel show?] = ZITCOM CAST, from “Comcast.”
45-a was the above-mentioned KIM, CHEEZ-IT, from “kimchee.”
57-a [Elvis with a bowl of pasta?] = THE KING AND ZITI, from “The King and I.”
Referring to this puzzle, Brendan writes on his blog:
When it comes to making a ?-themed clue puzzle, it always boils down to one crucial point: how funny are the theme answers?
I think they’re funny, and it’s inherently funny to put a ZIT in four places, so we’ll give this a thumbs-up. In particular ZITCOM should be a thing. Let me check and see if it already is. Yes.
***KIBITZ is clued with a dirty word [Shoot the shit] but it’s also a term in chess. You kibitz when you make unwanted recommendations on a game still in progress.
***Did you notice while solving that the grid is a 14×15? The tipoff for me was when I saw a six-letter entry across the middle of the grid. A central entry with an even number of letter means someone is messing with the system.
***at 6-a, EDGE is clued as [Most likely place you'd find REASSESSES in a themeless crossword grid]. Specifically the bottom edge. Friends you’ll also see there: ESSAY TESTS, STRESS TESTS, MEAN STREETS and SESAME SEEDS. Any of those is almost a free row to constructors.
Good stuff, 4.20 stars.