Alex Vratsanos’s New York Times crossword
Do you know your chemistry? Your periodic table of the elements? Four long Down answers begin with a word that’s an element, and the clue number matches up with the atomic number.
- 18d, 38d. [With 38-Down, property of the first part of the answer to each starred clue (appropriately positioned in the grid)], ATOMIC / NUMBER.
- 6d. [*Typist's duplicate of old], CARBON COPY. Carbon is element #6. You know what was probably much harder back in the day? The “blind carbon copy” that email makes so easy. Was “bcc” a thing in the pre-email era, or was that invented only with email?
- 10d. [*They're big on Broadway], NEON LIGHTS. I wonder how many theaters still have neon signage. The first three in this alphabetical list don’t, but the August Wilson Theatre has a zippy neon autograph.
- 26d. [*Medieval device with spikes], IRON MAIDEN.
- 29d. [*Anti-Civil War Northerner], COPPERHEAD. Not familiar with this usage; making a mental note of it.
I’m thinking ECO would have worked better with a “green prefix” clue rather than 1a: ["Foucault's Pendulum" author], what with the OCHS crossing (3d. [Protest singer Phil]) at the O. Both Umberto Eco and Phil Ochs are names I learned from crosswords and rarely encounter elsewhere, which makes them poorly suited as crossing entries.
ROBB gets a modern clue: 47a. [Eldest Stark child on "Game of Thrones"]. Last season didn’t … go so well for Robb.
Likes: JEOPARDY, the fog that ROLLS IN, a game SPINNER, HOLED UP crossing NIBLETS, and LOLLIPOP.
Unfond of: ECO as clued, NES, ON A, ARAL, NACRE, KAN., NUTRI-, “I’M SAD,” DH’S, ESSE, STER.
Randolph Ross’s CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword, “No Finale” – Dave Sullivan’s review
No, the theme entries don’t depict the ending of a Japanese drama, nor do they, in a word-play fashion, add “NO” to the ends of phrases. Instead, the title is to be parsed “No Final-E,” where the letter E has been removed from the ends of phrases.
- [Home to almost 65,000 lakes, e.g.?] clued MICHIGAN STAT – rather timely as the No. 4 Spartans will be playing No. 1 seeded Virginia Cavaliers this Friday night.
- [Crocodile tears?] was CRYING SHAM – are crocodiles known for their ersatz whimpering?
- [Where a cleaner is cleaned?] clued VACUUM TUB – please don’t try this at home, particularly if said vacuum is plugged in at the time.
- [Messy dab of mustard?] was GOLDEN GLOB – are globs necessarily “messy”?
- [Outstanding victory?] clued SPARKLING WIN – it’s now gauche, I believe, to order champagne (or sparkling wine); now, the in-drink is the Italian prosecco.
I’m thinking there are many theme choices here; not sure the constructor has chosen the best examples, but they work for this solver. Seems like more than your usual amount of 3-letter words in this one: HES, PER, AGS, INC, ROT, MOM, AXE, ANA, CAV, USG, IBM, BUN, RUE, BUS, RIP, DTS, LIP, AAA, GMT, EAT, ARC, IRS and GUT by my accounting. None of these are that off-putting by themselves, but they tend to pull attention from the more sparkling longer fill, such as GETS ON IT, TAGS UP, “WHAT THE…” and POLITIC. OAK TAG, clued as [School poster material] brought me back to my childhood; I sure hope kids these days are making posters that way and not just on computers. Finally, I learned that SASHA is a typical nickname for Alexander in Russia, after first thinking Sacha Baron Cohen‘s first name used to be Alexander.
Ben Tausig’s Chicago Reader/Ink Well crossword, “Scratch That”
The theme puts a sneaky ITCH into four familiar phrases:
- 18a. [Huge fan of spells, conjuring, and anything and everything broom-related?], WITCHING NUT.
- 28a. [What happened, perhaps, after "Tower Heist" failed to be nominated for Best Picture?], MURPHY BITCHED. Eddie Murphy was in the movie.
- 48a. [Task in the pit after a blowout?], TIRE SWITCHING.
- 64a. [Blown-up, make-believe sous-chef?], KITCHEN DOLL.
Somewhat amusing, no? The base phrases/words are a lively batch: wingnut, Murphy bed, tire swing, Ken doll.
- 33d. [Classic Samberg-Timberlake "SNL" song], DICK IN A BOX.
- 3d. [Occupy Wall Street target], the ONE PERCENT.
- 4d. ["Holy cow!"], YOWZAH, crossing YAZOO, 4a. ["Only You" new wave duo, as known in the U.K.]. We called them Yaz here in the States, and I love that song (though the synthesizer is starting to sound silly). Love Alison Moyet’s singing voice.
- 40d. [Hobby vehicle for Donald Rumsfeld (seriously)], UNICYCLE. The best trivia clue!
- 10d. [Instruction next to an X], SIGN HERE.
- 7d. [How fewer and fewer albums are released], ON CD. Newspaper crossword clues for ON CD tend to pretend that ON CD is entirely au courant.
Least broadly familiar word: 62d. [Powdery mineral residue], CALX. Etymologically related to calcium via the lime meaning.
Jacob Stulberg’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s review
A sparse theme today: 10, 13, 10 with a 5 letter revealer. I’m impressed that Mr. Stulberg came up with 3 phrases both parts of which can be completed by OUTOF! I like 36a, [Voice coach's concern], BREATHCONTROL a lot as an answer as well. The other pair are 18a, [Mandate from the bench], COURTORDER and 56a, [Shared shares], JOINTSTOCK.
The them was brief, but sweet. However, there’s a lot of blank puzzle left… What does one do then? Mr. Stulberg seems to have gone for the cram lots of high-value letters approach. That’s fine when the answers themselves are interesting and don’t compromise the surrounding fill. I’m not sure HERTZ/ZEBRA justifies ITBE/ETHENE/PES. JUSTSO is my favourite answer the grid, giving a nod to Kipling even if not mentioned in the clue. SKYDIVE is also a great answer, and the crossing OZZY looks neat too… It does indirectly result in the weird partial IFI though. TRANQ is an interesting case, it’s in the dictionary, and widely used in scrabble, but I’ve never seen or heard it in regular life before. Is this common Stateside? Last remark – SPREADERS - I’m so amused by the clue [Farming implements], as it carefully avoids mentioning what these implements spread!
3 Stars. Liked the theme, wish the rest of the puzzle was a little more controlled.