Brendan Quigley’s New York Times crossword
Ooh, I really liked this one a lot. There were a few wildly unfamiliar entries, but also some terrific answers and great clues. Like these ones:
- 1a. [Modern traffic director?], CLICKBAIT. The zippiest entry of the week, perhaps. Everything on Upworthy, with the ridiculous headlines (dissected by the Guardian in that link), is clickbait, as is much of what the Huffington Post puts up (“LOOK: 11 Of Broadway’s Hottest Hunks To Drop Trou For Steamy Benefit“).
- 17a. [One who's not out all night?], INSOMNIAC. Quite fond of this clue.
- 20a. [Time's 1963 Man of the Year, informally], MLK JR. Nary a vowel.
- 31a. [Ship captained by Vicente Yáñez Pinzón], NINA. One of Columbus’s ships. Sure, you’ve never heard of Pinzón. Four-letter famous ship with a Spanish vibe? What else is it gonna be?
- 35a. [Silver screen name?], FIVETHIRTYEIGHT. Statistician Nate Silver’s site. Hot answer.
- 4d. [Strabismus], CROSSED EYES. Also misaligned in other ways, like my eyes were before I had surgery at age 1. The result: I can’t see those damnable 3D Magic Eye pictures.
- 13d. [Southern city that's the setting for "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil"], SAVANNAH.
- 14d. [Beauty's partner], THE BEAST. Humorist Mallory Ortberg tells us how the story should have played out, with Belle letting the Beast die and then assuming control of his castle and all its magic things. Go read it and giggle.
- 27d. [Messiah], ANOINTED ONE.
- 35d. [Goes head to head], FACES OFF.
- 45d. [Sooner or later], ADVERB. These clues trick me a lot of the time.
- 53d. [It's by no means a long shot], PUTT.
In my “Who? What?” category, we have these:
- 15a. [London's ___ Barnett School], HENRIETTA. For me, Henrietta Lacks and Henrietta Hippo are more familiar.
- 26a. [Fashion designer Marshall], LEANNE. Apparently the designer won Project Runway.
- 34a. ["Martin Chuzzlewit" villain], JONAS. Not one of the core Dickens books.
- 39a. ["___ Pleasure" (Charlie Chaplin movie)], A DAY’S.
- 60a. [Female lead in "Brigadoon"], FIONA.
- 33d. [Kind of pump], TIRE. Say what? Is this one of those “sea anemone” clues (example: [Kind of anemone] for SEA, when a sea is not any kind of anemone at all)? I guess a tire pump is a thing but I can’t say I call it that.
I suspect that a number of solvers had big “Who?” categories in this puzzle, given the profusion of names. More than 20! That’s a lot. It doesn’t impede my enjoyment of a puzzle but it drives some of you bonkers.
Solid fill overall in this 70-worder, aside from the name density. So many juicy parts to win us over. Four stars from me.
Alan Arbesfeld’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Catch the El”—Ade’s write-up
Hello there, and welcome to Friday!
A straightforward puzzle for the end of the work week, as Mr. Arbesfeld just wants us to take an “L” and shove it…into each of the four theme answers, creating chaos to normal phrases and nouns.
- KNOCKS BLACK: (18A: [Criticizes comic actor Jack?])- Don’t know why, but the first comic named Jack that I thought of was Jack Benny, especially now that I’ve been catching reruns of The Jack Benny Program recently. From “knocks back.”
- WORRIED SLICK: (27A: [Made rocker Grace anxious?]) - From “worried sick.”
- FUTURE SHLOCK: (45A: [Item destined for the junkyard?]) - From “future shock.”
- HOCKEY PLUCK: (58A: [Determination on the ice]?)- A shout out to the Los Angeles Kings hockey team, as it showed incredible hockey pluck by coming back from a 3-0 series deficit to defeat the San Jose Sharks in the Western Conference first-round series. From “hockey puck.”
Nothing too special to write about here, although there weren’t too many TURNOFFS to the grid (21D: [Mood killers]). Liked the three-word shoehorn in a six-letter entry with I GOT IT (20A: [Fielder’s cry]). Loved the clue for ANCHOR (8A: [Coveted news job]), as that was going to be me right out of journalism school many moons ago, only to be turned off by the “if it bleeds, it leads” nature to news. If you’re into presidential candidate monograms, this puzzle was for you, with DDE (25D: [Monogram in two ‘50s presidential elections]) for Dwight Eisenhower, and AES (43D: [Monogram in two ‘50s presidential elections]) for Adlai Stevenson. Best fill by far, at least in my opinion, was HONOR ROLL (3D: [Academic recognition]), a place that I resided while I was in school regularly, but only because I was a good guesser for most of my academic career!
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: MACHO (50D: [Like a manly man])- “Macho” was the nickname of the late boxer Héctor “Macho” Camacho, one of the most successful – and one of the most flamboyant – boxers of the 80s and 90s. He, along with Manny Pacquiao, are the only two boxers in history to win titles in seven different weight categories.
Sorry for the short write-up, but a long day awaits today. But for sure, I will see you guys here tomorrow!
Gareth Bain’s L.A. Times crossword — Matt’s review
Matt Gaffney filling in for Gareth, who wrote today’s LAT instead of reviewing it.
This theme is close to my heart: four phrases have an EM added, revealed in the SW corner as [Poker variety ... and what the four longest across answers do?] = HOLD ‘EM! Love that game, can play it (or watch it on TV) for hours and hours.
The EM holders are:
19-A [Organized group of female monarchs?] = EMPRESS CORPS, from “press corps.”
30-A [Ingredient in a concrete American flag?] = RED CEMENT, from “red cent.” But “ingredient” instead of “component” seems a little off.
40-A [Plastic leg bone?] = FAKE FEMUR, from “fake fur.” Good one.
53-A [Line of hunky monarchs?] = HE-MAN DYNASTY, from “Han Dynasty.” For variety, the EM does some holding here, too (a hyphen).
And then the revealer mentioned above. I prefer it when, as here, letter(s) are added/removed to base phrases via a logical reveal rather than randomly, since it adds another layer to the mix. Very slight ding (like .05 on the Fiend scale) for the EM in EMPRESS CORPS not being contained within (“hold ‘em”), but overall an easy thumbs-up on this one.
***At 1-A we had [It comes from goats] in six letters and I almost took a chance on BAA BAA (which I’m realizing only now should have been MAA MAA). But then I saw that 1-D had to be MET and figured out MOHAIR (but if I’d remembered that MAA MAA is the goat sound I might have put it in since it works with MET!). OK, enough about 1-A/1-D.
***Dodged that bullet, but got hit at 21-A by putting WAVES for [Waterskiing challenges] instead of the correct WAKES. Only realized I was wrong when the long 23-D clues as [Ideal time to snap?] led to VOD????????. Figured it had to be VODKA something, then had the aha moment (not to be confused with a KODAK MOMENT).
***Nice wide-open sections in the N and S, with a lot of good fill scattered around the grid: TRUE LIES, DAIRY FARMER, the aforementioned KODAK MOMENT, the great Gary LARSON, and side-by-side geography with ALEPPO and WESSEX. The W there might be a tough crossing for non-Brits, though, as DAW [Margery of nursery rhyme] is unfamiliar to me.
Tom McCoy’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Word Problems” — pannonica’s write-up
A mélange of vocabulary and arithmetic. The theme answers run vertically in this 15×16 grid. Unannotated list, commentary after:
- 3d. [Mole × spy?] PLANT PRODUCT.
- 9d.[-Twin?] DOUBLE NEGATIVE.
- 18d. [Identical - indistinguishable?] SAME DIFFERENCE.
- 26d. [Remaining ^ lingering?] STAYING POWER.
- 31d. [Faint + ill-lit?] DIM SUM.
While I liked this theme in a hypothetical sense, I found the execution to be problematic in a number of regards. First, editorially: the entities should have been in parenthesis for clarity. This is most notable in the two clues with what are ostensibly a minus signs but are actually hyphens. Typographically, hyphens, minus signs, and en dashes—not to mention em dashes and other near-doppelgängers—are different symbols. There was a time when computers character sets were more constrained and a dual-purpose hyphen-minus sign was used, but that has no place these days in a legitimate venue. Particularly in 18-down the confusion is palpable, as there is no space between symbol and word. Second, categorical consistency: four of the five theme entries are operations involving two items, and the fifth (18-down, again) repeats one of those symbols as a unary modifier, on a single entity. So where is ÷? Plus, minus, times, but not divided by? That’s the basic tetrumvirate of arithmetic; instead we include that unary modifier and an exponent (but no root function). Third, syntactical consistency: setting aside 18d once again, the clues are comprised of two elements plus an operation, and the answer describes the notional yield of the operation. Hence, plus gives SUM, times PRODUCT, and minus DIFFERENCE. But I don’t think it holds for staying POWER; that partially describes the operation, but not the result.
In sum: concept good, practice suboptimal.
- The expanded grid creates opportunities for some savory fill (as opposed to 33d [Fluff] FILLER) such as the symmetrical partners GLASSIEST and CHASE AWAY. In Row 12 there’s the fetching RETORTS | CRISPLY, but I’m less enamored of Row 5′s duo of AT TIMES | SELLS TO.
- Okay, GLASSIEST isn’t the most amazing of fill, especially crossed with the similar 6d GUESS AT. Mention of which, however, allows me to address 48d [Takes points off?] DECLAWS. I’ve soapboxed it before, and I’ll soapbox it again. If we’re talking about house cats—and it’s difficult to see how we aren’t—declawing is much more than simply removing the animal’s nails; it’s wholesale amputation of the distal phalange, equivalent to removing the ‘last’ segment of each of your fingers. So, clue-conventional question mark notwithstanding, this is far too glib for my liking.
- 36a ["I've got it!"] AHA, 61a ["Well, well, well!"] OHO. 70a [Pasta whose name means "quills"] PENNE, 11d [Pen point] NIB.
- 71a [Org. with missions] NASA, 25d [ __ Institute (UFO-monitoring org.] SETI. That’s a bit disingenuous for the latter, no?
- 67a [First name in science or science fiction] ISAAC / 68a [Creature that can regenerate its limbs] NEWT. So close! Factette*: If you shaved off one of ISAAC Asimov’s muttonchops it would grow back with in 15 minutes. And he’d have new book written in the same amount of time.
- This I did not know. 56d [Many a speaker of Amharic] RASTA. “Many Rastafarians learn Amharic as a second language, as they consider it to be a sacred language.” (Wikipedia)
- 49a [Hall of fame?] Was misled, went with ANNAL before ANNIE.
- 35a [God parent?] TITAN. Yes, but the Titans were gods too. The Olympians were simply the second pantheon. So the clue is technically correct, but feels unintentionally misleading.
- 2d [Minor key?] ISLET. Probably an old clue, but I liked it.
The majority of the fill is solid, but the theme seemingly suffers from fuzzy logic and reduces the solving satisfaction mean.
*not a true factette
Dan Fisher’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Player Acquisitions” — pannonica’s write-up
This one’s all-baseball, all the time. Well, that’s a minor league exaggeration, but it’s all over the grid. The theme per se is items and phrases with an unpluralized baseball nomen inserted to form new, reimagined phrases.
- 23a. [Gauge on a hidden pipe, in New York?] WALL FLOW(MET)ER (wallflower).
- 32a. [Bunch of corporate directors who are never replaced, in Anaheim?] CH(ANGEL)ESS BOARD (chessboard).
- 50a. [Dice that weigh 1000 pounds each, in Chicago?] HALF-TON (CUB)ES (halftones).
- 66a. [Problem for a nursery entertainer, in Cincinnati?] BABY BO(RED)OM (baby boom).
- 84a. [Kid with a coloring book, in Tampa Bay?] C(RAY)ON ARTIST (con artist).
- 97a. [Vegetarian gourmet, in Houston?] GARDEN G(ASTRO)NOME (garden gnome). My favorite, for the original phrase, the resultant phrase, and the ‘Astrodome’ resonance.
- 112a. [Halloween decoration cutouts, in Minnesota?] PAPER BA(T WIN)GS (paper bags). Second favorite. Also, the only one in which the player spans two words.
But there is more. So much more. First up, riffing on the title, is 57a [One way to acquire a player] TRADE. 27a [Pitcher's stat] ERA. 30a [Blue Jays' prov.] ONT. 92a [Baseball team] NINE. 94a [Ran the bases on a homer, say] LOPED. 106a [Run for home, say] DASH. 119a [Mariners' home] SEATTLE. 6d [Braves, on sports tickers] ATL. 9d [Phillies pitcher Cliff] LEE. 18d [Like baseballs] ROUND. 22d ["__ play two!" (Ernie Banks catchphrase] LET’S. 35d [Baseball caps, e.g.] LIDS. 42d [ __ play (defense against a bunt)] WHEEL. 54d [LaRoche of the Nats] ADAM. 86d [1961 American League batting champ] NORM CASH.
Plus these winking clues: 28a [It has two runners on its base] LUGE, 31a [Cardinal base] NEST, 38a [Mariner's vessel] SLOOP, 46a [They rarely have hits] B SIDES, 68a [Struck the hour] RANG, 108a [Good, to Galarraga] BUENO, 120a [Players' positions?] STAGES, 5d [Steal] LIFT, 8d [Pitcher, of a sort] AD MAN, 13d [Some hits] SONGS, 16d [Tiger, e.g.] CAT, 17d [Immaculate] ERROR-FREE (winking answer this time), 29d [Walks all over] USES, 44d [Series opener] ALPHA, 48d ["__ only a game"] IT’S, 52d [Diamond makeup] CARBON, 61d [Brewers' units] CASES, 64d [Pitch, in a way] ERECT, 67d [Ball part] RICARDO (great clue, incidentally), 110d ["__ sport!"] BE A. Whew!
- 12d [Cary's "Blond Venus" co-star] MARLENE; 53d [Grant's "Father Goose" co-star] CARON. LESLIE, however, doesn’t appear in the puzzle.
- 94d LOPED underneath 88a [Clandestine affairs] AMOURS suggests ELOPES. See also, 76a [Words only ever spoken by a single person] I DO—NOT TRUE (25a), technically—and 91a [Formerly called] NÉE.
- 89d [Thrashing site] MOSH PIT; 122a [Rube] HAYSEED.
- 57d [Girl group with the 1965 #2 hit "A Lover's Concerto"] THE TOYS. Based on the melody of Bach’s Minuet in G major.
- 55a [Sparkling wit] ESPRIT. As in esprit de l’escalier.
As regular readers are aware, baseball is not among my favorite things to see in crosswords, but this puzzle won me over with both its solid theme execution and sheer over-the-topness. Good cluing and minimal frass help, too.