Ed Sessa’s New York Times crossword
This puzzle is crying out for a title: “Metronome”! We’ve got the rhythmic TICK, TOCK rocking from left to right, but the NYT dailies don’t include titles and there’s no revealer answer providing a rationale for the TICK, TOCKs.
So yes: The theme is three phrases that start with TICK and three that end with TOCK, placed just so:
- 17a. [___ pink], TICKLED.
- 23a. [Itâ€™s not preferred for investors], COMMON STOCK. If you downloaded the .puz file, yes, each apostrophe came out as “â€™” instead, and the clue should read [It's not preferred for investors]. The quotation marks are also out of whack.
- 32a. [Peeved], TICKED OFF.
- 42a. [1963 John Wayne comedy western], MCLINTOCK. Needed a lot of crossings on this one.
- 48a. [Spot at the front of a theater], TICKET BOOTH.
- 62a. [Half moon?], BUTTOCK. When the last four letters are circled, it makes me want to put the stress on the second syllable … which I sometimes do for the hell of it anyway. Highlight of the puzzle, this answer. Great clue, too.
There’s a fair amount of crosswordese and whatnot in this grid, most strikingly at 2d. I did enough puzzles in the ’80s to know that 2d. [Foreign exchange fee] is AGIO, but I’m convinced the word has no place in a Tuesday puzzle. Even in a tight spot in a Saturday puzzle, I wouldn’t be pleased with it—but in an early-week puzzle, the word is so far beyond the pale of “words educated Americans know.” Lining up behind AGIO in the queue of “words I don’t love finding in a Tuesday puzzle,” we have: ESSO, plural A-OKS (how is that possible?), MOCS, CLARO, ETES, RATA, AROO, plural EEKS, and UTNE (the Utne Reader was down to a circulation of 45,000 two years ago—it may be time to remove UTNE from constructors’ word lists). That’s 41 letters of “bleh.” The fill I liked best is NUTCASE, BUTTOCK, and MOBSTER, but that only provides 21 letters of zippiness. This might be my new metric: the ratio of the number of letters in juicy fill to the number of letters on my Scowl-o-Meter list. In yesterday’s BEQ Themeless Monday, the good stuff filled more squares than the stuff I disliked, but here the ratio’s about 2:1 in favor of the “bleh” stuff. (The uncounted squares are neutral, neither bothersome nor worth singling out for special praise.)
I like the accidental meta-ness of the .puz-format clue for I GOOFED: [âWhoops!â]. I’m reading that as “awhoopsia.” And ELI, [Peytonâ€™s QB brother], I’m pronouncing as “Peytonactms.” Don’t mind me.
2.5 stars from me, with a half-point deduction for AGIO alone.
Gail Grabowski and Bruce Venzke’s Los Angeles Times crossword
The theme answers have a hidden “LAST”:
- 20a. [Fictional legal secretary], DELLA STREET. Perry Mason’s secretary. I believe I have never seen nor read any Perry Mason stories.
- 34a. [The 1969 Mets, e.g.], CINDERELLA STORY. This is a great theme answer, welcome in any puzzle.
- 43a. [Cheesy appetizer], MOZZARELLA STICK. This is that rare thing: a singular crossword answer that would rather appear in the plural. The appetizer serving is never just one stick of fried cheese, is it?
- 58a. [Constructed for endurance, and a hint for the word hidden in 20-, 34- and 43-Across], BUILT TO LAST. Um, this isn’t much of a theme revealer. The phrases that contain a hidden LAST could be said to be “built to hide last” or “built around last” but not BUILT TO LAST.
I feel like 16a. [Bro] has morphed into more of a frat-dude sort of term, while HOMIE has “urban” connotations (and, I think, is heard markedly less often than it used to be). I’d consult my household expert on urban youth slang except that it’s a school night and he’s already asleep.
ID BADGE feels fresh but the rest of the fill ranges from ordinary/unremarkable to a few “bleh” bits like SSA, ELIA crossing OLIO, ESSEN, SINO-, OBIES, and TSGT. I’m glad that AM AT was played as a partial—46d. ["I __ my wit's end!"]—rather than crosswordese Latin. Some folks loathe partials but I generally prefer them to crosswordese.
2.75 stars. The theme revealer lost me, and there wasn’t much zing in the fill to make up for it.
Patrick Jordan’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “The Bleat Goes On”—Ade’s write-up
Good morning, all!
Just getting done with today’s puzzle by Mr. Patrick Jordan, and now I’m about to walk around my place to make sure I didn’t lose anything before heading out for the day. A nice little tribute to the nursery rhyme, Little Bo Peep, and types of sheep are “lost” within the middle of the puzzle’s theme answers:
- LAMB, RAM, EWE: (19A, 57D, 58D: [Animal “lost” inside the answer at 36A, 20A, 41A])
- STAR AMETHYST: (20A: [Purple jewelry stone]) – Isn’t Amethyst Star a name of a character on My Little Pony??? YES, it is!!! (Click here.) Don’t ask me how I guessed/knew that!! JUST. DON’T. ASK!
- CLAM BROTH: (36A: [Chowder base])
- KANYE WEST: (41A: [“Good Life” hip-hop artist])- So in Kanye’s song “Gold Digger,” when he utters, “But when you get on, he leaves your a** for a white girl,” was he meaning to leave his girl for a ewe with white wool??? Ok, maybe not…
- LITTLE BO PEEP: (50A: This puzzle’s honoree])
SKOR one for me figuring out the complete theme this time around, as opposed to yesterday (32A: Hershey’s toffee bar]). When it comes to a Hanna-Barbera BOSS (1D: [Mr. Slate, to Fred Flinstone]), give me Mr. Slate over Mr. Spacely any day of the week! On just one of those episodes on The Jetsons, I wish George Jetson would respond to being fired by Mr. Spacely by saying, “No, YOU’RE fired!” Speaking of animated characters, our favorite crossword canine, ODIE, makes another appearance (14A: [Drooling dog of the funnies]).
There’s no way that I could fill out SWAT TEAM (39D: [Police unit for high-risk operations]) without thinking of the theme song from S.W.A.T. Best opening theme song in television history! HANDS DOWN! If you don’t like what I just said, then TOO BAD (25D: [“That’s a shame”]), because you’re living in the ICE AGE (29D: [Animated film series with the mammoth Manny]). I kid, I kid. Honestly, I would love to hear what your favorite opening theme song to a show is.
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: RAM (57D: [Animal “lost” inside the answer at 20-Across])- Quick question: the Rams NFL franchise started in what city? Los Angeles…I knew it! Umm, that’s incorrect. The Cleveland Rams started play in 1936, named after the mascot of Fordham University. They moved to Los Angeles in 1946, then to St. Louis, their current home, in 1995.
Thanks for the time, everyone! And remember; tell me what your favorite opening theme to a television (or radio) show is! Go!
Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle, “Hip to be Square”—Janie’s review
Sorry, no tribute to Huey Louis and the News, this. But given what we get instead, there’s no deep reason to apologize either since the “square” in the title refers to the delicious perimeter of theme fill that borders the grid. How “hip” is that? This framing device, as we learn at 39A. forms a cruciverbal CAKE BOX [Torte holder...or a hint to ten answers in this puzzle]. That’s right—this makes for a total of eleven themers in the grid. A tastier, better executed set than this doesn’t come around every day—one where, at every turn, you’ll find a word that describes (but has not been clued as) a kind of cake. Beautemous! Looking at that theme fill and working clockwise, we get:
- 1A. CHEESE [Word said with a smile].
- 7A. LAYER [Brick worker or hen].
- 11D. RICE [Former Secretary of State Condoleezza]. Oh, look: “healthy” cake…
- 31D. PLUM [Choice, as an assignment].
- 55D. SHEET [Bed cover that's fit for a king]. Nice, twisty clue, too.
- 69A. CARROT [Dangler on a stick]. One of my cake faves. And what with the carrot content, ever so healthy, too, right?
- 68A. FRUIT [Colorful slot machine symbol].
- 56D. BEEF [Complaint]. No complaint about this entry. In its way, a fitting complement to 1A., and a nice way to mix things up a bit.
- 32D. CRAB [Grouchy person]. The type who’d beef about, well, just about anything. Crab cake. Yum! I’m from Maryland—home to the best crab cakes in the country (in my very humble opinion…). Lump meat, Old Bay seasoning and No Breading, thank you very much!
- 1D. CRUMB ["Mr. Natural" cartoonist R. ___]. Omg. Long time since I gave that fellow (or his creator) a thought. Those were the days, my friend (and apparently still are, given Mr. C.’s active career as a composer)!
And as if all that theme density weren’t enough, between the cluing and the fill in what remains, there’s a whole foodie-like/food-related group of sub-themers:
- [Side of spaghetti?] LETTER “I,“ which sits at the “side” of the word “spaghetti.” So this is one of those literal clues and as often as I’ve seen, ‘em, I hereby confess, this one caught me up short.
- [Like iced tea] BREWED. So lovely with a slice of carrot cake… Or if you prefer a hot beverage, perhaps a [Café au] LAIT [(bistro drink order)].
- [Removes from the stove] COOLS. If one is doing some stove-top baking, say…
- [Cuts into small pieces] DICES. Maybe some dates to put into the fruit cake.
- [“Element” of surprise in a murder mystery?] ARSENIC. Something one doesn’t wish to have added to any of their baked goods (or [alas] their rice…).
- [“Fudgie the Whale” ice cream franchise] CARVEL. Bonus fill: ice cream cake! Which would probably not have been served at ELAINE’S, that now-defunct [Eatery seen in "Manhattan"].
- And, as clued, I know this isn’t legit as “food-related” fill, but the words ATE INTO resonate differently in this particular grid. Because if you fully indulged in a menu like the one served up today, sooner or later, you’d find yourself having to EAT LESS [Drop a course?] (in the non-academic sense), and say, “Thanks, but no,” the next time someone tried to tempt you with, ["Try it,] YOU’LL [like it!"].
That’s all about as good as it gets in a themed 15×15. “But wait! There’s more!” Because I can’t neglect to mention the terrific fill we get with the ANIMAL-related BAMBI and RAPTORS and even the surprising and classy classic SWAN LAKE. That lengthy last one is the first in the strong descending swath that runs vertically at center, and is followed by LOANER CAR and ABSOLVES. And “swath” and “Swan Lake” remind me that SWAHILI is there, too, with its animal-referencing clue [Language in which "simba" means "lion"]. Love learning things like that. Also learned that EPICENE—a word I’ve seen but whose meaning I’ve never known…—means [Unisex]. And that the brand-new-to-me TATU is really t.A.T.u., the Russian duo who last appeared before the Sochi games. Ohhh. Now “I SEE.”
Ask anyone who constructs: creating a solid border of theme fill is no mean feat. Though it’s virtually impossible to tell from today’s example (where both the theme fill and the non-theme fill are exemplary), the constraints on the constructor are enormous. Creating this kind of puzzle is a real labor of love. If you have the NOTION that I both admire and enjoyed this puzzle immensely, you’d be correct. Hope your experience was similarly pleasurable—and see you next week!
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “I Take It Back”
“It” is taken back in each theme entry, turning a word with IT inside into a word with TI inside:
- 19a. [The result of turning dollar bill portraits into clouds?], GEORGE STRATI. Stratus clouds, George Strait.
- 27a. [Embarrassing reason that hospital gown won't stay put?], UNTIED FRONT. United front.
- 43a. [Where pigs meet potential partners?], DATING STIES. Cute! Dating sites.
- 52a. [24-hour marathon of Bruce Lee movies, for instance?], MARTIAL BLISS. Marital bliss.
Solidly wrought, mild amusement factor: yeah, that works.
Likes: IMBROGLIO, SNACK ON, NBA JAM, and the [Shiba Inu meme character], DOGE. Have you played Doge 2048? Favorite clue: 8a. [Like some phones or moves], SMART.
Toughest bits: 54d. [Agcy. that compiles the Occupational Outlook Handbook], BLS, Bureau of Labor Statistics. I feel the full name is markedly more familiar than the abbrev. 30a. [Actress Sue ___ Langdon], ANE—famous in crosswords only because her parents were weird spellers.
3.66 stars from me.