Patrick Blindauer’s American Values Club crossword, “Subtleties”
The “subtleties” in this puzzle are that all the answers in the grid have incredibly subtle T’s: Each entry has had one or more T’s removed before it’s placed in the grid. The resulting entries are legitimate crossword fill. Not always great fill (OMB POU AXA ELE SAR RAI!) but not things that have never been seen.
The highlights are the longer words: BELL TOWERS becomes BELLOWERS; TEMPTRESSES are EMPRESSES; a DEDUCTIBLE is DEDUCIBLE; a SALTINE becomes SALINE; BASEMENT turns into BASEMEN; and SLEIGHT of hand (52d. [Handy maneuver?]) becomes SLEIGH.
It didn’t take me long at all to COON (9d. cotton) on to the gimmick, but it still took a while to work through the grid, sussing out the with-a-T-or-two words and getting everything to fit.
You know what? I’m not sure how some of these answers could be clued in their T-less form. POU is French for “louse” and it’s the name of some sort of app. And AXA, Googling didn’t help me much there. OMB = Office of Management and Budget, RAI = Aishwarya Rai’s last name … ELE is an extinction-level event (learned that one from some movie), and SAR … I don’t know. Cruciverb tells me it’s the Sons of the American Revolution or an abbreviation for Sardinia. I’m just glad that we didn’t have to contend with [Louse in Lyons] and [Mediterranean isl.].
Four stars. A nifty gimmick but the resulting fill isn’t particularly fun.
Matthew Lees’ New York Times crossword
Simple, fun theme here:
- 3d. [Statement #1], NINE-DOWN IS FALSE.
- 9d. [Statement #2], THREE-DOWN IS TRUE.
- 34a. [What 3- and 9-Down are an example of], PARADOX. If 9d is false, then 3d must also be false, but if 3d is false, then 9d is true.
With just 37 theme squares, you would expect plenty of sparkle in the fill. We do have UNDERDOG, LOST SOUL, ZORRO, SO-AND-SO, and COWGIRL, but we also have two abbreviations (one plural) in the top row, a couple partials (UP IN, A DEAL), an ERN and a ROUE. The fill is decent but not “wow,” despite the inclusion of four “cheater” squares and not a lot of thematic material.
I’ve just learned that this theme was also done 9 years ago in the NYT, by David Liben-Nowell. PARADOXICAL PAIR supplemented 3d and 9d instead of the shorter PARADOX. (DLN teaches computer science at my alma mater, Carleton College. I Googled to see if he was still there and discovered that at the site academics all hate, ratemyprofessors.com, his students all rave about what a great teacher he is.
Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “What’s In Your Wallet?”—Ade’s write-up
Hello once again everybody!
It’s time to wake up and make that money, right? Well, this puzzle by Randall J. Hartman is a nice reminder of what will fill up your leather wallet if you put in the time in the office – or with your own business that you might be running at home. The puzzle features four theme answers in which the first word of the answer is also the last name of a U.S. President who appears on American currency. Sorry, Benjamin Franklin! Thomas Jefferson can be overheard saying, “Can’t the $2 bill and its president get some love, too?”
- LINCOLN, NEBRASKA: (17A: [Home of the Cornhuskers])
- JACKSON POLLOCK: (28A: [20th century abstract impressionist])
- WASHINGTON POST: (49A: [Employer of Woodward and Bernstein])
- HAMILTON, ONTARIO: (64A: [Birthplace of Eugene Levy and Martin Short])
Although GRANT wasn’t an answer (or part of one), he did show up in the clue for GEN (48A: [Ulysses S. Grant or Robert E. Lee (abbr.)]). The grid was a breeze once I was able to get Lincoln, Nebraska in a cinch and saw the title. Immediately filled in the other three answers immediately after competing 17A. Any time THE BLOB can be part of a grid to increase the fear factor of the grid, I’m all for it (45D: [1958 sci-fi movie remade in 1988]). And when The Blob consumed you, it was hard to BAIL out of its grasp (19D: [Eighth Amendment topic]). Never heard of a shot used as a measure for alcohol as a SNORT (47D: [Shot of liquor]). Snorting other drugs? Absolutely. A snort of liquor? Nope. Who knows how many pants I wore out at the KNEES in my lifetime (33D: [Places where pants are usually worn?]), but let’s just say that it was A LOT!.
A good number of crosswordese in the grid, with IRA, AHAS, ADA, and ONO. ONO (66D: Plastic ___ Band]) is rivaling Oreo in terms of the different number of ways to clue it in a puzzle. Even though it looks odd, really like it when SIDE B is an entry, especially when you’re able to reminisce about good music (71A: “God Only Knows,” to “Wouldn’t It Be Nice”]), and in this case, that would be The Beach Boys.
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: LEAP (13D: [Lambeau ____ (Green Bay Packer celebration])- Probably the most well-known touchdown celebration outside of the good, old-fashioned spike, the Lambeau Leap started in 1993 in Lambeau Field, home of the Green Bay Packers football team. The first leap is credited to former Packers safety Leroy Butler, who scored a defensive touchdown on a lateral after future Hall-of-Fame defensive end Reggie White picked up a fumble. Since then, the celebration caught on like wildfire, as almost every player wearing green and gold that scores a touchdown at home vaults into the first row on stands. Here’s visual evidence of Lambeau Leap numero uno.
Thank you so much for your time, and will see you all on Friday! And when Friday comes, hopefully you can jump into the waiting arms of kind strangers to celebrate!
Jacob Stulberg’s Fireball crossword, “Same As It Ever Was”
You might think there’s a Talking Heads angle to the puzzle based on the title, but no. What it is is aphorisms where something is something:
- 60a. [Pithy sayings (four well-known ones containing the circled word are the keys to unlocking this puzzle's theme)], APHORISMS with IS circled.
- 17a. [Complimentary window covering?], FREE BLIND. Love is blind, free love, swap in BLIND for “love.”
- 24a. ["Memoirs of a Geisha" author Arthur's farts and burps?], SOUNDS OF GOLDEN. Simon & Garfunkel’s “Sounds of Silence” meets “silence is golden” by way of Arthur Golden.
- 38a. [What the treasurer of the United States and the secretary of the Treasury supply?], MONEY SIGNATURES. Time is money. Time signatures are … something to do with music, yes?
- 50a. [Trusting one's horoscope?], BELIEVING STARS. Seeing is believing, seeing stars.
Now, these aphorisms don’t all have a parallel structure. The first two are “[noun] is [adjective]” while the other two are “[noun] is [other noun].” So the swappability isn’t the same in the first two. Saying “I am hungry” doesn’t mean that “hungry” can substitute for “I” in other sentences. “Hungry solved this crossword”? That only works with the noun swaps. “The Queen of All She Surveys solved this crossword.” It is vanishingly rare that I have a bone to pick with the way a theme is executed in a Fireball puzzle.
I got mired in a wrong answer that slowed down my finish. For 41d. [Charcoal seller], I had PET STORE, since I’m pretty sure we’ve bought charcoal for our old aquariums. It’s ART STORE, and that A finally allowed me to get MONEY SIGNATURES. Having —PTURES was in the way for so long. And then I had a DYNE instead of TORR for 43a. [Unit of pressure], based on what I thought was a final E and the likelihood of an initial D coming from the end of a 26d past tense answer. (Yes, I realize pressure ≠ force. Whatever.)
- 5d. Stake a claim], CALL DIBS. Good fill.
- 54d. Its first president took office in 2008], NEPAL. I like good trivia clues.
- 7d, 13d. [Self-titled 1973 rock album] pulls double duty for RINGO and DYLAN. Nice find!
No idea why 63d. [Key, e.g.] is MAR. Oh, the verb key? As in “keying a car,” MARring the surface by scratching the paint with a key?
3.75 stars. The theme’s adjective/noun issue knocks it down a bit in my estimation.
Brendan Quigley’s website puzzle, “Exterminations” — Matt’s review
Simple but amusing theme from Brendan today: form a cool-sounding phrase from two words that end in -EX. Like so:
18-A [Wing of a two-family house?] = DUPLEX ANNEX.
32-A [Book's end matter that's impossible to understand?] = COMPLEX INDEX.
41-A [Gag after having fajitas?] = TEX-MEX REFLEX. We get an extra EX in this one.
58-A [Liner for panties and boxers?] = UNISEX KOTEX.
***With nine X’s in the theme alone, this grid required some careful planning. Note the sweet symmetrically-placed XEROX and XANAX, each connecting two theme entries.
***Nice clues: [Sprint relay?] for TEXT and [Bolts together] for ELOPES.
***Your standard BEQ fill: NEXT UP, CAMARO, ROMCOM, BE A PAL, TOURISM, SCOOB, LES MIS, HOP ON and LLANERO. And so little to complain about in the fill. Compare this to yesterday’s NYT, which had SUER, ETUI, COHOE, EELER, E-MAG, and OCS. By comparison, the five worst entries in this puzzle are EIN, ANAT, STS, RES, and…I don’t even know what the fifth would be. A stark contrast.
3.75 stars from me.
David Poole’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s review
This looks to me like another case of a clever theme concept that suffers because of stretching for too many answers: 5 answers and 67 squares. The theme concept is very tight and unusual – two-word names/phrases which should be alliterative, but aren’t because the second word starts with a silent letter! Each silent letter is different too! Four of the answers are very nice: ["Atonement" actress], KEIRAKNIGHTLEY, [Aviation pioneer], WILBURWRIGHT, [Dr. Phil, e.g.], POPPSYCHOLOGIST (the clue’s suggestion that Mr. Phil is a psychologist is tenuous though…), and [Kitschy lawn decorations], GARDENGNOMES.
The last one is a big sticking point for me though: [Captains of industry], CORPORATECZARS is not a phrase I’ve heard. It’s easy enough to envisage, as the meaning of czar as an industry kingpin is well-established. I’ve just never heard it paired with corporate. Google is similarly skeptical, and most of the hits that are returned are Indian… Where it gets sticky though – to ditch that answer, David would have to lose KEIRAKNIGHTLEY unless he had another 14-letter answer lined up. I don’t think this puzzle theme has a lot of potential answers. That said, I’d have greatly preferred this with only the middle 3! I recognize in myself the urge to cling to KEIRAKNIGHTLEY - a very nice entry, but the downside more than cancels it out.
For a dense theme, this is nicely filled in the main – the interest is always going to be directed at the theme with 67 squares, but the longer answers like SWEETPEA, ALTEREGO, CREOLE and RHYTHM are solid. INIGO Jones is someone whose less famous outside of the UK than perhaps he should be – I consider him a positive in the grid, even though many won’t know him! I learnt about him first from an Eddie Izzard skit where he is mentioned as a name that UK history teachers like to drop into lessons as a random fact? Something like that anyway… I looked him up and realised what a major architect he was! Architectural history is a lacuna in my knowledge (and a lot of people’s!)
There will always be compromises; this puzzle had relatively few, given its constraints, but there were a couple of biggies for me:
- AMIR is a var. I’d fight like hell to avoid in a puzzle. It’d be pretty hard to excise where it is though!
- Even a taxonomy nerd (though one nowhere near is extreme as Pannonica!) can’t love OTA, especially crossing OTRA - again dictated by the constrained grid.
Outside of the one very weak entry an enjoyable theme & puzzle – that entry’s a big negative for me though, so…
2 1/2 Stars