David Steinberg’s New York Times crossword
This is a terrific theme. SIX FLAGS, the chain of amusement parks, is clued as 59a. [Popular day trip destination ... or a hint to the starts of the answers to the starred clues], and there are six theme answers that begin with words that commonly precede “flag”:
- 13a. [*Kind of affair], BLACK TIE.
- 19a. [*1971 song with the lyric "Helter skelter in a summer swelter"], AMERICAN PIE.
- 25a. [*Creator of Sheriff Deadeye and Cauliflower McPugg], RED SKELTON.
- 33a. [*Sketchy history], CHECKERED PAST.
- 40a. [*January events], WHITE SALES.
- 48a. [*Some illegal transmissions], PIRATE RADIO.
Black Flag is both a punk band (the one with Henry Rollins) and a bug spray brand. The American flag, you all know. Red flag, something alarming. Checkered flag, it means … something at the Indy 500, I think. White flag, sign of surrender. Pirate flag, the Jolly Roger, skull and crossbones. All six theme answers are on the lively side, and the “flag” phrases are zippy too.
This 72-worder with seven theme entries will have horrible fill by virtue of those numbers, right? You’d think so. And yet the fill ranges from flat (that little -OSE and ASTA are about it) to solid (vast swaths) to excellent (CSI MIAMI, MOPPET, MONOGRAM, PAISAN).
- 4a. [Hardly 100%], feeling ILL. I’m at about 85% right now.
- 17a. [Alma mater for Toni Morrison and Zora Neale Hurston], HOWARD.
- 30a. [Bench warmer?], REAR. Also considered RUMP off of that first R.
- 39a. [It might come with a bill], MINT. Or, at a neighborhood Thai restaurant, you get guava hard candies.
- 2d. [Made it?], TAGGED in the game of tag. Whereas 10d. [Hide seekers] is not about a childhood game—it’s about fur TRAPPERS.
- 33d. [CBS spinoff that was filmed mostly in California], CSI MIAMI. Ha!
- 40d. [Word often redundantly preceded by "from"], WHENCE.
4.5 stars. Well played, David—in an era of overstuffed themes with grids that suffer greatly, you’ve combined an ambitious theme with good fill.
(P.S. There are, I think, four squares that could be called “cheaters,” the corner blocks and the ones after 32a and before 37a. Who cares? Is anyone honestly going to say that David should have gone for fewer blocks and probably markedly worse fill?)
Byron Walden’s American Values Club crossword, “Equal Say”
This punny homophone theme plays out well some of the time:
- 17a. [Sparkly leatherworking tool?], AWL THAT GLITTERS. Would you believe you can buy glittery awls in a pack with five colors? (All that glitters is not gold.)
- 31a. [Pea-sized satellites?], MINI MOONS. Wait, what? Is this nail artist Minnie Moons? If it’s supposed to be “many moons,” those are two entirely distinct vowel sounds.
- 37a. [Mathematicians?], SUM PEOPLE. “Some people! Hmph.”
- 48a. [Expressions of relief?], PHEW WORDS. I get that it plays on “few words” but I’m not sure how solidly stand-alone that phrase is.
- 61a. [Carmelite I hired?], NUN OF MY BUSINESS.
Okay, so I’m a fan of 39 squares of theme material, but the other 18 in 31a and 48a kinda lost me. Just me? Or did you share my questions?
Fave fill: 25a. ["L'chaim," in English], TO LIFE; “I’M YOUR MAN“; tangy LIMEADE; shoddy ONE-PLY TP; doggie CHEW TOY; and Eugene IONESCO.
- 1a. [Toponym that's a bogus Shoshone word invented by a lobbyist], IDAHO. Toponym = place name.
- 60a. [Bit modifier], WEE. As in “a wee bit.”
- 50d. [Voyager discovered its hexagonal cloud pattern], SATURN. Wait, Saturn has a hexagonal cloud pattern? Am I the last to hear this?
Not so much a household name: 9d. [Boxer knocking Jack Dempsey out of the ring in an iconic painting], LUIS FIRPO. Here’s the painting, with Firpo knocking Dempsey clear through the ropes.
I liked this puzzle but didn’t love it. 3.66 stars.
Peter Collins’ Fireball crossword, “Social Climbers”
Okay, I solved this puzzle late last night and when I started to blog it, my internet went down and I went to bed. Let’s see how much I remember this morning!
This 17×17 puzzle’s theme belongs in a Jonesin’ crossword by Matt Jones:
- 19a, 79a. [With 79-Across, participate in a neighborhood contest, in a way (and a hint to what's found inside the answers to the five asterisked clues)], KEEP UP WITH / THE JONESES.The five starred entries have first names of famous Joneses traveling upward, hidden within longer phrases/words.
- 3d. [*Features of many suburban homes], ONE-CAR GARAGES. Grace Jones. Singer/model/actress, still around.
- 44d. [*Beverly Hills Hotel watering hole], POLO LOUNGE. Lolo Jones, Olympian.
- 34d. [*Woman's name in a 1979 #1 hit], SHARONA. Norah Jones, singer/musician. The 1979 song was “My Sharona” by the Knack. True story: Knack singer/songwriter Doug Fieger’s brother Geoffrey Fieger was Jack Kevorkian’s lawyer.
- 10d. [*Do an extraction], PULL A TOOTH. No idea what Jones is in here. Toota? Tallu? Otal? Ah, football player Ed “Too Tall” Jones. Really not familiar to me.
- 29d. [*University of Virginia program managed by the Institute for Shipboard Education], SEMESTER AT SEA. AESTARETSEMES … looking … Star Jones, lawyer who was once on The View. I think Star has ceded her time in the spotlight and we’re not really expected to remember her name anymore.
Most confusing yet solid clue: 69a. [Mount Washington's on the left of], RUSHMORE. There is a Mt. Washington in New England, but this is about the mount that George Washington is carved on the left side of. Looks like Gutzon got tired of carving clothing details by the time he got past Washington.
Fun clue for a plain word: 61a. ["With fronds like ___, who needs anemones?" (punny joke punch line)], THESE.
Solid fill, good clues, challenging theme to work out, 4 stars.
Ray Hamel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Bar Food”—Ade’s write-up
Usually, I’m all about any conversation that relates to food, especially its preparation and/or consumption. Completing this theme with the different types of ways certain foods can be prepared/served won’t make me stop talking about it now, yet most of the answers here don’t usually agree with my taste buds.
- POTTED MEAT: (17A: [Spam cousin])- A constant in my diet as a tot was scrambled eggs mixed with Libby’s corned beef, made by my mother before school. Kept the eggs in the diet going forward, shelved the corned beef.
- STEWED PRUNES: (26A: [Fruity breakfast option])- Prunes, in and of itself, didn’t appeal to me. Stewed prunes proved not to be a game changer.
- FRIED CHICKEN: (44A: Soul-food entrée])- Um, yes! Though I’m almost positive that I have a recipe for chicken strips that would be more popular than most food chains/restaurants that offer them. It involves crushed corn flakes, and I’ll leave it at that…unless you ask. Then I might break down and tell you the details anyway.
- PICKLED EGG: (60A: [Fish-and-chips component])- Ever had a jalapeño pickled egg? I have, and surprisingly, I wanted more after the first bite.
Bonus theme answers, maybe?
- SOFT ROE: (21A: [Sushi ingredient])- Never had sushi in my life. Not even once. Let booing/hissing begin.
- LARGE OJ: (51A: [Breakfast order, briefly])- Or what a former Buffalo Bills running back looks like now. As for the drink, I’ll have a glass. No pulp!! (Again, let booing/hissing begin.)
Still not sure if there are four or six theme answers (my guess is four, with the past-tense pattern with the first four I mentioned), but very curious the SOFT ROE and LARGE OJ entries are symmetrical. Could be part of the theme, or could be a way to make me stop thinking about stewed prunes. (Note from Amy: The puzzle title provides a hint: “Bar Food” means these foods start with slangy synonyms for “drunk.” Mind you, I’ve never actually used any of the four words to mean “drunk.” They feel rather 1940s to me.)
As per usual, I ERRED (18D: [Committed a faux pas]) early while in the NW, putting in ONE-A instead of A-ONE (14A: [Top-grade]). Because of that, ended up having GALA where FETE should have been (4D: [Big bash]). Had the “meat” part of the first theme answer, once I saw the clue, knew it had to be some derivation of canned meat (it could have been exactly that, canned meat). “Potted” popped into my head just in time before frustration set in.
Going back to A-ONE (and for those who do eat meat), am I weird for not liking steak sauce when I eat steak?
Now adding OLD SOD (5D: [Ireland, affectionately]) to the list of nicknames/aliases of Ireland I have to remember, bringing that total to 26 unofficially. (Honestly, the number of alternate names for Ireland is astronomical!) The III’s don’t have it when seeing them in a grid together, especially when referencing a movie that I’m sure none of my friends, nor your friends, have ever seen, OMEN III (36D: [With 38-Down, movie subtitled “The Final Conflict”]).
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: EDGE (55D: [U2 member, with “The”])- This is more like where sports and music come together to create one of the most indelible moments of my life. I had the absolute honor to be in person at the Superdome in New Orleans in February 2002 for Super Bowl XXXVI (36). I thought the game was going to be the pièce de résistance, but U2, the halftime music entertainment, absolutely floored all of us in the stands when they projected the names of all of the people who lost their lives on 9-11 on a big screen behind their stage while they were performing “Where the Streets Have No Name.” There have been very few moments when I have felt in awe (IN AWE is also an answer in this grid), but that was surely one of those times.
Thank you for your time, and hope you all have a fine day! And also hope you’re asking the same question I’m asking myself now: would FIGARO (44D: [Rossini’s barber]) ever need a STROP (12D: [Barbershop item])?
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website puzzle, “A+” — Matt’s review
Brendan is coming off an A+ month of March, where he published a number of remarkable puzzles, two of which were nominated as (and one of which won) my pick as Crossword of the Month.
Only fitting, then, that he would add a long-A sound to five phrases, after which hilarity ensues:
17-A [Diploma only slightly more difficult than Underwater Basket Weaving?] = QUILTING B.A. I couldn’t quilt to save my life. From “quilting bee.”
20-A [Bribe a gin company?] = OIL TANQUERAY. From “oil tanker.”
38-A [Bring in a piece of steak?] = LAND FILET. From “landfill.”
58-A [Indecent suggestion to consider?] = RISQUE FACTOR. From “risk factor.”
64-A [Slang that's out of vogue?] = PASSE WORDS. From “passwords.”
We’ll give that a grade of “B.”
***59-A is an example of a novel (to me) clue enlivening a familiar entry: [Only sport where the entire body is a legal target area] = EPEE.
***5-D [Lake that never fails to make grade schoolers laugh] = TITICACA. Yes, I recall hearing about that lake and this one for the first time in Mr. Linkins’ geography class in 7th grade. Hilarity ensued.
***46-A [Group of Death team in the 2014 World Cup] = USA. Yes, our draw is about as difficult as it can be: perennial powerhouse Germany, Cristiano Ronaldo-led Portugal, and African superstar Ghana, who have knocked us out in the past two World Cups. I have a $20 bet with someone that we won’t make it out of the group stage. So if we do make it out I’m happy, and if we don’t, then $20.
***NE and SW corners are lovely and squeaky-clean. Elsewhere I liked HOFFA, TUCSON and KHAKI.
Jeffrey Wechsler’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s review
I had my usual experience with definition themes: even with 80%+ of the right letters and a general idea of where the definitions were going, I found them hard to complete; and when you do complete them, it’s not a very satisfying sort of a victory. Concept-wise this one’s solid: “-berry” answers get defined by their non-berry uses. In the end, barring [BLACKBERRY] WIRELESSDEVICE being frightfully vague, the theme definitions are pretty functional. The other three are [RASPBERRY], SOUNDOFDERISION; [HUCKLEBERRY], TWAINCHARACTER; [STRAWBERRY], REDDISHSKINMARK.
The most striking feature of this puzzle outside of the theme are the pairs of ten letters that intersect 3 theme answers apiece. That’s certainly ambitious! WIDOWSPEAK is nice, but IGOTANIDEA and ABITSIMPLE are on the cusp of being non-answers for me. Outside of that, it’s solidly-filled.
[Miniscule lake plant], ALGA is very awkwardly clued. Alga is more a morphological term than a taxonomic one, typically referring to microscopic water organisms that form coloured masses in their environment, plus organisms found to be closely related to them. Blue-green algae are bacteria, and most others are simple eukaryotes that are vexing for scientists to classify! In most modern classifications, no algae are placed within the Plantae, although some do consider green and red algae to be closely to plants. [Miniscule lake organism] would avoid most of the disputedness of the clue.
Anyway, 2.5 stars.