Alan Olschwang’s New York Times crossword
This grid’s anchored by a triple stack of 15s down the middle, flanked by two more 15s toward the periphery and crossed by three other 15s. Here are the long beasts:
- 17a. [He may be trying to unload crates], USED CAR SALESMAN. “Crate” as slang for “junky car.” Clue totally tricked me into thinking of warehouse and dock workers.
- 36a. [Mutating, highly resistant microbe], ANDROMEDA STRAIN. I know the sci-fi book but not this phrase as a generic term. Do scientists use the term?
- 55a. [Tend to work without a net], LIVE DANGEROUSLY. A particularly nice -LY answer. Usually they come off icky but I like this one.
- 3d. [1985 Ralph McInerny novel], THE NOONDAY DEVIL. Never heard of it; crossings all the way.
- 6d. [Place for a delivery], SERVICE ENTRANCE. See? Where people are unloading the crates! Don’t deliver a baby there if you can help it.
- 7d. [Withdrawing words], ON SECOND THOUGHT. Great entry.
- 8d. [Withdrawing], BEATING A RETREAT. Aren’t the beaten retreats always hasty?
- 10d. [Mathematics branch associated with fractals], COMPLEX ANALYSIS. I didn’t get that far in my mathing.
Random good bits: Boo Boo Bear in the HANNA clue; BBC RADIO (never heard of “Any Questions?,” though); 28d. Jazz player Malone], KARL, because he has fabulous cheekbones; crazy demonym I didn’t know, 43d. [Its natives are called Loiners], LEEDS.
Lots of clunky fill in this grid. Consider the awkward GOT A B; partials I IN, ME A; TSO; AMICI; ENGR over ENTR; Roman numeral MDL; crosswordese [Rectangular paving stone], SETT; SAITH; plural AA’S; U.R.I. Felt like there were a lot of trade-offs for the 15s, in terms of fill that I was not pleased to see.
Tougher than most Friday puzzles, I thought—especially with that non-Jay writer McInerny and his book I’d never heard of slowing me down. Rating for this puzzle: par 3. (Please let there be no golf clues in any of the Friday puzzles! The non-golf crowd is going to quit the blog entirely if the golf chat continues.)
Randolph Ross’s CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword, “From the Beginning to the End” – Dave Sullivan’s review
Either the CS themes of late are becoming more recondite, or I’m just finding it harder to wrap my brain around them, but this one is another that’s hard to describe. I believe what is going on is that we have phrases that begin with a synonym of “beginning,” and then we put that word at the end of the phrase and clue accordingly. Let’s see how that postulate works out in practice:
- [Sunrise?] was DAY COMMENCEMENT – the unswapped phrase here was “commencement day,” which is when students graduate from their schools, speeches are given, tassels turned and diplomas handed out.
- [Cap or water?] was a difficult clue for PISTOL STARTER – I have always heard “starting pistol” as what is shot when a race is begun, but maybe I’ve misheard the phrase. Anyway, the clue idea is that the words “cap” and “water” can precede “pistol.”
- [First line on an IRS form?] was a RETURN KICK-OFF – the original phrase here was “kick-off return,” or what happens after a score is made in football.
- [introductory words from an emcee?] clued CEREMONY OPENING – “opening ceremony” here, such as at the recent Sochi Olympics.
Another tough outing for me–I had a mistake at the crossing of ["Three Little Fishies" bandleader] or KAY KYSER and Prince ALY Kahn, for which I had an I at first. I really wish the clue for ONCE referenced the great musical that won the Tony for Best Musical in 2012. Terms like TRACER, ONE CAR, RIGHTO, C-STAR, KETONE and REGROW are not in my wheelhouse, so it made sussing out the punning theme phrases that much harder, until I made the “beginning” synonym connection among them. I did enjoy the parallel AVOIDING and AVAILING in opposite corners and thought the clue [Chain with links?] was HOF for IHOP, as we’re talking about sausage here.
Jacob Stulberg’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “States of Matter” — pannonica’s write-up
Zippy theme idea. All US states have standard two-letter abbrevs., and many elements on the periodic table have two-letter abbrevs. There’re bound to be a few combinations shared by both. Indeed there are, and four of them are employed herein as rebus squares. The elements go across, the states down. All appear as the beginnings of two-word phrases. Good consistency in those respects.
I’ve circled the relevant locations for clarity. An asterisk appears next to my time because it turns out that the square numbered 52 only accepted the first letter rather than a bigram as correct (note the black mark in my solution grid). Poor coding consistency!
- 4a. [Shade similar to sapphire] (CO) BLUE (cobalt).
4d. [Lake Mead feeder] (CO) RIVER (Colorado).
I could see how some solvers might guess NILE, especially before appreciating the theme’s conceit.
- 9a. [Alternative to plastic wrap] (AL) FOIL (alumin[i]um).
9d. [Cocktail made with sloe gin] (AL) SLAMMER (Alabam[i]a).
- 46a. [Old-fashioned theater technology that uses lime] (CA) LIGHT (calcium).
46d. [1965 Beach Boys hit] (CA) GIRLS (California). Incidentally, the abbrev. for californium is Cf.
- 52a. [Bright advertisement] (NE)
LIGHTSIGN (neon). (thanks, ahimsa)
52d. [Erroneously classified fossil found in 1917] (NE) MAN (Nebraska).
Though they aren’t symmetrically located, the four theme pairs are roughly distributed one in each quadrant. Considering the constraints involved, this is completely understandable and acceptable. Further evidence of the difficulty in assembling this theme comes in the form of a couple of arcane answers: CA(LCIUM) LIGHT and (NE)BRASKA MAN. Alas, KLIEG, GEL, JAVA, PEKING, HEIDELBERG, CHEDDAR, and PILTDOWN are neither chemical elements nor US states.
Bet you’re wondering which other elements and states have the same abbrevs. Well, even if you weren’t I’m going to share them with you. Why? Because I bothered to do the legwork.
AR – Arkansas / argon
SC – South Carolina / scandium
MN – Minnesota / manganese
GA – Georgia / gallium
MO – Missouri / molybdenum
IN – Indiana / indium
LA – Louisiana / lanthanum
ND – North Dakota / neodymium
PA – Pennsylvania / protactinium
MD – Maryland / mendelevium
Some fun long fill to further spice things up: ARTISANAL (Which a local, knowledgeable public radio host consistently pronounces as if it were “artesianal” [sic] – I wonder if he knows the difference? Irks me no end.) BIENVENUE. WATERMELON. RENEGING ON (meh).
- Central crossing: FANCIER and
- See also: 6d [With 26-Across, whip wielders] LION | TAMER. Do not see also: 60a ROARS [Bellows].
- 53d [Part of the Hindu trinity: Var.] SIVA. Vāha, sirpha vāha.
- New clue for GNU: 61a [Animal on some South African coins].
- Most gratuitously CHE-ified clue: 21d [Sine qua non] for NEED. (I liked it).
Marti DuGuay-Carpenter’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s review
CH becomes SH creating “wacky” answers in this puzzle by Ms. DuGuay-Carpenter. I struggled to close it out because I wanted FLAM to be shAM and for 60a to end in SHOCK. I forgot to note that 22a was at the beginning, and so there had to be a second one like that for the pattern to be allowable. I’m probably the only one who got confused by this. Without a revealer, this puzzle lives and dies by how well the theme answers appeal. I’m not sure they really grabbed me today, but reactions to such answers tend to be highly individual. Anyway:
- 17a, [Liner with Intel inside?], SILICONSHIP. Not a fan of how there is still a hint of SILICONCHIP in the clue.
- 22a, [Nylon notable?], SHEERLEADER.
- 37a, [Get one's kicks in a painful way?], TAKEITONTHESHIN.
- 47a, [Principal plant?], THEBIGSHILL.
- 60a, [Surprise the neighborhood?], SHOCKABLOCK. I liked this one the most, possibly because it took so long to emerge!
Four 11′s and a 15 makes for a conservative grid. This means a lot of the interest in the puzzle is focused on the theme. Here some of the plainer answers did get very good clues like [Playground bouncer] for BALL and [Digital temperature gauge?] for TOE.
There were also a couple of tricky clues I think may need elucidating: [Ally of Sun], CHIANG refers to CHIANG Kai Shek and Sun Yat Sen. [Marathon unit: Abbr.] BBL refers to a company called Marathon Petroleum; never heard of them! [Trains may stop at them], ALTARS refers to bridal trains and not ones on tracks. Do professors still wear [Professorial duds] TWEEDS? It seems dated, but still effective as far as association goes.
Harold Jones’ Wall Street Journal crossword, “The X Factor” — pannonica’s write-up
The identity of X in this case is Χ, the Greek letter chi. It’s been inserted into (funny how the associated preposition seems redundant but is somehow necessary; in is as well) base phrases to generate wacky creations.
- 22a. [Confident comment on the 2014 Winter Games?] I BELIEVE SOCHI (I believe so). I believe this was quite likely the seed entry, contemporary as it is.
- 31a. [Selfies posted by the IT department?] TECHIE SHOTS (tee shots).
- 49a. [Avoids eviction from tenant farms in noble realms?] PAY ONE’S DUCHIES (pay one’s dues).
- 61a.[Poem commemorating a ragamuffin from Rhodes?] ODE ON A GRECIAN URCHIN (Keats’ Ode on a Grecian Urn). This long one is another good candidate for theme inspiration.
- 81a. [Dishes including a lot of sea bass and maize?] CHILEAN CUISINE (lean cuisine). Mmm, Patagonian toothfish and maíz. How about some pisco?
- 92a. [Unexpected problem at a Japanese electronics company?] HITACHI SNAG (hit a snag).
- 108a. [Musician in a sombrero and white fur-trimmed red suit?] SANTA MARIACHI (Santa Maria).
Solid theme. I really appreciate the variety displayed. Many different languages invoked Insertion at the beginning, middle, and ends of words; even a -y to -ies plural. Stylish realization of a modest theme.
- Beer! 44a [Sources of beers] KEGS; 45a [Like some beers] DRAFT; 56a [Beer cousin] ALE; 111a [Source of beers] BREWERY. All acrosses. Honorable mention: 17d [Guinness book fodder] FEATS.
- Had a single incorrect square in my solve: the sport-on-sport crossing of 98a [Former NFL linebacker Justin] ENA, and 94d [Home run, in baseball lingo] TATER. Both were obscure to me. I’d filled in ENO and TOTER, thinking the former a new clue for crossword staple Brian/Roger ENO.
- Favorite fill: 43d [Zeppelin pilot] AERONAUT. Runner-up: 88a [Sundial part] GNOMON.
- Least favorite fill: 39d [Court jester, for example] AMUSER.
- 7d [Wasn't oblivious] KNEW; 37a [Not oblivious] AWARE. I noticed these. Also noticed that IN ON didn’t appear in the grid.
- There were a bunch of excellent clues throughout. Some of my favorites: 47d [Record holder?] FELON (proximate to 32d [Single surface?] SIDE A); 40d [Noted name in Notre Dame] ROCKNE—aside from the alliteration, somehow the wording of the clue ineluctably misdirected me to consider only the famous Paris church; 87a [Make sound] HEAL; 6d [Futurists] SEERS (could have used a question mark); 86a ["Murder in the Cathedral" playwright] ELIOT (nice change of pace there).
- Clue That Didn’t Work For Me: 34a [Kick in] START.
- Clue That Fooled Me Good: 102a [Handy abbr.] ETC, not DIY.
- Also liked the across stacks in the NE and SW corners: SHARIF / GLUCOSE / NIGELLA and RETINUE / BREWERY / STRODE, even as the latter has almost entirely common letters.
Again, solid theme, solid puzzle.