Alex Vratsanos’s New York Times crossword
13d. [Kid's art activity ... or something seen four times in this puzzle's solution?] clues COLOR BY NUMBER, and in four symmetrical spots, a color (RED, BLACK, GREEN, TAN) appears beside a number (SIX, EIGHT, THREE, ONE). The color and number phrases are mostly solid, though “EASY ONE” feels a hair contrived to me. I’m also curious to know if COLOR BY NUMBER is familiar to the rest of you; “paint by number” is what my mind goes to. Amazon has some color-by-number books, though; I don’t recall those from my childhood. Who wants a coloring book that’s all bossy?
I finished the puzzle as if it were entirely themeless, save for the long revealer clue that I didn’t read all of while solving because the full clue was truncated. Things I liked include CORDELIA, OP-ED PAGE, RATED X, TORPOR (love those -or nouns), KEEL OVER, geographic ENCLAVE (though exclaves are cooler), and thematic RED TAPE, BLACK OPS, EIGHT-BIT (despite the spelled-out number), and PAR THREE. I also like to say OCH; I should absolutely use it more here in the blog.
Could have done without KTS ([Gold units: Abbr.]), which I suspect is not pluralized in most standard usage; 24k gold, 24 kt., sure, but 24 kts? Also in my “och!” category are ON CD, ESPO, RYN, NAGEL, IN ESSE, NEED A, and ANENT. I prefer the van Rijn spelling for Rembrandt, personally.
Jeremy Horwitz’s American Values Club crossword, “Bye Bye Birdie”
Surprising trivia theme for me, as I only knew one of the three had this feature (or lack thereof). “Bye Bye Birdie” refers to “flipping the bird,” and our three thematic people have suffered traumatic injuries to the MIDDLE FINGER (27d. [With 56-Down, what the starred entries lost part of]):
- 25a. [*Chicago mayor (working at Arby's)], RAHM EMANUEL. I knew this one. The loss of the middle finger’s end may have spurred him to develop his verbal cussing skills.
- 30a. [*"Star Trek" actor (invading Normandy)], JAMES DOOHAN. Scotty! I never knew about the finger thing. Did they hide it on the show or write it into his back story?
- 63a. [*Jam band guitarist (chopping wood)], JERRY GARCIA. Not on his strumming hand, I hope?
Jeremy is a huge trivia maven and he loves pop-culture trivia, so it isn’t at all surprising that he came up with this theme.
This 11×21 grid sure does have a lot of 3s in it, doesn’t it? Thirty-four of them? Meh. Five things:
- GO DUTCH, GRUYERE, ALOUETTE, HOMEGIRL, MISNOMER, and GREENHORN are sweet fill.
- 1d. [Maker of a dish Patton Oswalt called a "failure pile in a sadness bowl"], KFC. Google your way to the YouTube video of that comedy bit if you haven’t heard it (provided you’re okay with swear words).
- 5d. [Unit inserted through the vagina, briefly], IUD. Well, yeah, but there’s more to it than that. If it doesn’t make it through the cervix, it’s not going to work. Don’t know why cervix isn’t in the clue instead.
- 68a. [Arthur whom The Smoking Gun claims was "a truck-driving Marine"], BEA. More trivia? I don’t know the story here.
- 53a. ["___ to Be ... You and Me" (1972 Marlo Thomas gender stereotype-fighting album)], FREE. If the rest of the puzzle had been nothing but ANIL and OLEO and VIRNA LISI, it would still get one star just for this clue.
Bruce Venzke’s CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword, “Board Meetings” – Dave Sullivan’s review
Rather unusual (well unusual if you’re not a carpenter, that is) theme which is revealed by 67- and 69-Across: [Description of the last word of the puzzle's four longest answers] or WOOD JOINT:
- [Where team owners might sit at a ballpark] was a PRIVATE BOX – I read here that a “box joint” is similar to a “dovetail” or “finger joint,” and it’s used to join to boards at the corner of a box.
- [Pre-race warm-up circuit at Indy, say] clued PARADE LAP – completely new phrase to me, but I’m not a fan of the NASCAR circuit, so no surprise there. A lap joint is used when two board overlap, such as with a cabinet.
- [Last bit of a stogie] was a CIGAR BUTT – I’m afraid to even look at what a “butt joint” is, hope I can find something other than NSFW entries. Here’s one. Two pieces of wood do not interlock and are just “butted” together with glue or nails.
- [Headdress once donned by Benedict XVI on formal occasions] clued PAPAL MITER – so has Pope Francis eschewed this fancy headwear? A “miter joint” involves two beveled pieces of wood joined at an angle. I believe there’s a tool called a “miter box” that cuts these pieces at the correct angle.
Whew, I’m exhausted just thinking about all these carpentry terms. Moving on to the fill, I do wonder about [Last's correlative, in a phrase] or NOT LEAST. Not sure that passes the lexical chunk muster, but it’s an interesting clue nonetheless. The IDID sequence in SAID I DO amuses me, as does the AE action in SAMBAED. Finally, isn’t a [Wrinkle remover] just an IRON and not an IRONER? Or are we talking about the wielder of said iron? I guess I would call them a cleaner, or in most cases, my husband, instead.
Jacob Stulberg’s Fireball crossword, “E Pluribus Unum”
Terrific theme: 38a. [Queen's English feature? ... and a hint to this puzzle's theme], the ROYAL WE, suggests using WE where you’d normally expect to see I.
- 17a. [Woolen fabric under laces?], TONGUE TWEED. Tongue-tied, with the letter “i” changed to a WE.
- 59a. [Unhip character at a Renaissance fair?], SQUARE WENCH. Square inch. Ren fair participants are by definition geeky, no?
- 11d. [Lumberjack's comment at quitting time?], ENOUGH SAWED. Enough said.
- 25d. [Kidnaps Dolph Lundgren and Lena Olin?], TAKES SWEDES. Takes sides.
Five clues of note:
- 19a. ["Imagine painting all the statues in the world in the color of the sky" tweeter], ONO. Would you believe my first answer was JLO?
- 21a. [Drives off the wall, perhaps], SLUGS. No idea what this refers to. Anyone?
- 53a. [Body art?], NUDES. Art depicting the body, sure.
- 13d. [Flame-throwing fireman, often], CLOSER. I had STOKER, of a furnace or engine. Baseball again? Gordon, you disappoint. Too many baseball clues. 49a, 57d, possibly the mysterious SLUGS, and this? Maybe two baseball items per puzzle would be a good limit.
- 27d. [Spit in the food?], SKEWER. Good one!
Solid fill, tough but mostly interesting cluing with a few surprises along the way, solidly executed theme with a great revealer/raison d’etre. 4.33 stars.
Brendan Quigley’s website puzzle, “Bottoms Up!” — Matt’s review
Three pairs of theme entries today in which the lower entry hands its ASS over to the upper one:
17-A [Mass serving when the wine runs out?] – CHRISTIAN BASS ALE, from actor Christian Bale. Add the ASS.
20-A [What desperate druggie crossword puzzle makers will use as inspiration?] = OPIUM FOR THEMES, from “opium for the masses.” Lose the ASS. Great pair of entries.
41-A [Ropes wolves?] = LASSOS LOBOS. From Latin rock band Los Lobos. Add the ASS.
44-A [Spellcaster from Stockholm?] = SWEDISH MAGE, from “Swedish massage.” Lose the ASS. This is a nice pair of theme entries but their clues are too straight-definition for a theme this fun.
60-A [Sneak previews of next year's evangelical garments?] = CASSOCK TEASERS. From “cock teasers.” Add the ASS. Isn’t it “cock tease” instead of “teaser”? But no, Google favors Brendan’s version.
68-A [Agency that handles alien affairs?] = E.T. MANAGEMENT FIRM. From “asset management firm.” Lose the ASS.
Nice theme and well-executed, with all six entries somewhere between decent and excellent.
***Six entries taking up 76 squares — wait a second, he snuck another non-standard grid size by me, 16×16 in this case. I rail against unusual grid sizes but then I don’t even notice them myself until I blog the puzzle.
***Anyway, six theme entries taking up 76 squares is still a lot for a 16×16 grid.
Nice stacked sixes in the Oregon and Virginia sections: BLASTS-RUNWAY-INTERN and AT BEST-LIOTTA-EASE UP. Also dig TASMAN and ON SALE. But I would’ve changed CHIMES-ENE-TUN to CHIMPS-EXP-TUX.
***54-a is [Abalone so-called from where it comes from and what it looks like]. OK, so I’m told I should be willing to learn from crossword entries, and I must admit that a SEA EAR sounds intriguing. Let’s see what it looks like. It looks like an ear.
***At 11-A [Denver's altitude] is MILE. When they legalized pot there recently I thought of making a pun-filled crossword (mile-high city, etc.) but soon found that all the good ones had already been used in newspaper headlines, so I shelved that idea.
Jeffrey Wechsler’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s Review
Today’s puzzle by the prolific Jeffrey Wechsler includes phrases with LAW spanning two of the answers’ words. This is tipped off by the answer LAWBREAKERS. With a basic theme like this, it’s good to have interesting theme answers. I liked seeing NILLAWAFERS in full, even though as a foreigner, I only know them from crosswords. IFEELAWFUL has a great clue [Flu sufferer's complaint]. I was trying to come up with some presenting complaint, but the letters wouldn’t play ball! The theme answers are:
- 17a, [Cookies named for their flavor], NILLAWAFERS
- 28a, [Flu sufferer's complaint], IFEELAWFUL
- 34a, [Fib], TELLAWHITELIE
- 40a, [Washington county or its seat], WALLAWALLA
- 55a, [Ones often in custody ... and what 17-, 28-, 34- and 40-Across are?], LAWBREAKERS
The asterisk next to my time is because I had to do the 26-letter shuffle to find the final answer, the crossing of VERISM and VFW. That square would’ve been blank at the ACPT. I didn’t know either, but I guess you could infer the former from the root veritas, eventually…
I liked how Mr. Wechsler maximised the narrow top-right and bottom-left corners. We get LIFEOFPI/OVERTURE/PERGOLA in one corner and TOAMOUSE in the other. Otherwise, the main thing I’m interested in knowing is if Superman is stereotypically AKIMBO to other people? This is news to me, but I don’t pay much attention to him.