News flash! Tune in to CBS This Morning on Wednesday from 7 to 9 am (or set your DVR). On the schedule: Mo Rocca’s interviews with various puzzle luminaries in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the crossword.
Ed Sessa’s New York Times crossword
Three theme answers, taking a phrase that starts with the word a and gluing that word to the next one to form a different word:
- 17a. [Plaque from a governor?], AWARD OF THE STATE. Meh. If you got a state award, nobody would call it an “award of the state.” “From” the state, sure.
- 36a. [Mime's motto?], AWAY WITH WORDS. Who needs words? There are actually some words in this puzzle I wouldn’t mind doing away with from a cruciverbal standpoint.
- 59a. [Arrive via a red-eye?], ALIGHT IN THE DARK. Most of us run into the past tense of “alight” far more often than the present tense, since ALIT is crossword-friendly. And also boring.
Not particularly excited by the theme today.
I like the look-like-theme-answers-but-aren’t long fill, ESCAPE PLAN and I SMELL A RAT.
Now, whenever we have more junk fill than I like to see in a puzzle that’s jam-packed with thematic material, I ask why the constructor didn’t ease back on the theme a bit to let the puzzle breathe. This puzzle’s got a basic three theme answers, so the fill should be splendid. And yet I found myself scrunching up my face with displeasure. ATTU? If you’ve got ATTU in your puzzle, constructors, please do consider ripping out that section and trying again. EBON. D.S.O. Plural AAHS. Crosswordese SERE. The MTA (50a. [What Charlie rides, in a 1959 hit]? I don’t know who this Charlie is—we’re supposed to not only know the titles and performers of our crosswordese songs of yore, but also the lyrics?). IRE crossing IRAE, providing the English/Latin dupe of essentially the same word. 11d. [Floating accommodations], BOATEL? I never see this one outside of crosswords, personally. Yes, I had a headache when solving this puzzle, but these would make me cranky no matter the solving circumstances.
2.75 stars from me. Over and out, time for bed.
Ben Tausig’s Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword, “Just Toss It”
Don’t toss this puzzle into the trash—toss it in a salad bowl.
- 20a. [Where a "Gilligan's Island" sex symbol moved after striking it rich?], GINGER’S PALACE. Swaps ginger dressing for Caesar dressing.
- 35a. [Herding sheep?], THE RANCH JOB. The Italian Job is a movie.
- 42a. [What Gaia and Athena use to alert other drivers?], GODDESS HORN. French horn. This one confused me because a newbie is a greenhorn and there’s a Green Goddess dressing.
- 53a. [Drag, and a hint to this puzzle's theme], CROSS-DRESSING.
Clever riff on “cross-dressing,” to go the criss-crossed salad dressing route. If only my dressing of choice, balsamic vinaigrette, (a) would fit into a 15×15 grid and (b) had another meaning.
- 10d. [1989 Great White album], TWICE SHY. Never heard of Great White, but the “once bitten, twice shy” phrase is so familiar. And so oddly worded, now that I think about it.
- 11d. ["Q: How does Moses make tea? A: Hebrews it," e.g.], CHEESY JOKE. I just had a dispute with someone about whether “cheesy” and “corny” were synonymous when it comes to talking about jokes. What do you say?
- 26d. [Colorful Mexican cocktails, in slang], MARGS. Short for margaritas. The standard marg is not so colorful, of course, being tinged with the the faint green of lime juice.
- 4d. ["Fudge"], DANG IT. I do say this often.
- 39d. [Star and director of the biopic "Pollock"], ED HARRIS.
- 8d. [Continent with about twenty cities larger than New York], ASIA.
- 5d. [Sexy swimmer?], SPERM.
3.5 stars. I like the fill, but that GODDESS HORN threw me.
Jeffrey Wechsler’s Los Angeles Times crossword
Today’s puzzle is simple enough. OUTSIDECHANCE tells us that each answer is encapsulated by letters that form chance – consult the coloured letters in the answer grid to see which. This crossword is exceptional in that it has a longer word than is usual for the genre: CHANCE is 6 letters, 4 letters being the norm. Although there are only three answers, they’re interesting ones, which is often better to me than cramming a puzzle with more pedestrian theme answers. We have the classic CHANTILLYLACE, ["Oh, baby, that's what I like!" oldie] (Yes you had to know the lyrics even though the song was from ’58 – horror), CHAINLINKFENCE, and the tough but interesting trivia that CHAMONIXFRANCE was the [Site of the first Winter Olympics]. I knew this titbit, but needed a few crossings to jog my memory!
Even though I had no idea who the [Poet whose work was read in "Four Weddings and a Funeral"], AUDEN was, it was an interesting clue to be confronted with at one across! The longer answers consist mostly of single words. I did think NEATNIKS and CYBERNETIC were fun!
Two names flummoxed me: MEUSEL of stone age baseball and HILLEL the Talmudic sages. 1920′s baseballers and Jewish sages aren’t really my knowledge sweetspot! The puzzle was ably put together, with sporadic crossword-ese (that almost never bothers me) and a few awkw. answers: ADDL, IBAR (if it is an actual thing in the US, I apologize to it), NOI and most mystifyingly DET. That corner looks easy enough to fill without resorting to that, but then I haven’t tried.
I’ll leave you with one of my favourite instrumentals, from 1960 (no words!)
Randolph Ross’s CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword, “By the Numbers” – Dave Sullivan’s review
Sorry for the delay, folks. Got caught up in trying to recover from a lot of customization I had lost when I upgraded the site this morning to the latest version of WordPress. It may still be a bit rough around the edges, but I think most of the major functionality is back. As for today’s CS/WaPo puzzle, we have three theme phrases that are a string of numbers that have idiomatic meaning:
- [Emergency] was NINE ONE ONE. So the 411 on 911 in my book is that it’s what you dial when you have an emergency, but do people use it as an emergency in itself? “Hello, operator. I’m having a 911 at 311 Morning Glory Drive.”
- [All the time] clued TWENTY-FOUR / SEVEN. Much better here…it refers to the hours in a week.
- [Even] was FIFTY-FIFTY. Well, an even split if you started with 100. I suppose it could also refer to percentages, and then the total number doesn’t matter.
Fun theme, just back from the eye doctor, so I’m missing TWENTY-TWENTY as an entry, as well as the aforementioned 411, which has come to mean “the lowdown” on something. I thought the long down entries of TRENDIER and YOUTHFUL were nicely paired. BREAD BINS, on the other hand, seem just the opposite in terms of modern culture. The imperative “GET IN LINE!” or [Behave] seems more like something a drill sergeant might say instead of a scolding parent or teacher. Finally, the three-consonant start of CD TOWER was a nice entry as well.