Patrick Merrell’s New York Times crossword
Fun theme today, too: Words that end with -less are reimagined as if the first part of the word has an entirely different meaning than usual. These words are paired with nouns that go well with them, and then there’s a clue pointing to the altered meaning:
- 20a. [Goodyear employees when they're on strike?], TIRELESS WORKERS. Workers without Goodyear tires.
- 39a. [Result of Santa misplacing his papers?], LISTLESS FEELING.
- 56a. [What the Red Sox had to start using in 1920?], RUTHLESS TACTICS.
With a solid three-part theme, the grid has room for great fill like GREEK MYTH; LEGOLAND; THE DUDE who abides, I’m told (have never seen The Big Lebowski); BUS ROUTE; SLAPSTICK; “OH, BOY!”; and the interesting but unfamiliar MRS. WHO (8d. [Woman in "A Wrinkle in Time"]). The only fill that felt at all clunky to me was ENGS, OST, and R AND D (where is my ampersand?).
Lots of playful clues considering it’s only Wednesday. Top clues:
- 7d. [Round one], FATSO. It’s a mean word, but a clever clue. I wanted to fit PRELIMINARY HEATS in there.
- 17a. [Where there's smoke], not FIRE but FLUE.
- 1a. [Breather], LUNG. Not REST.
- 68a. [Drop when one is down?], TEAR.
- 12d. [Traditional meat in a humble pie], DEER. Eww. I didn’t know humble pie had an actual recipe.
4.33 stars from me.
Ben Tausig’s Ink Well crossword, “Bugs in the Program”
We bid farewell to the Ink Well crossword with this final puzzle, which impresses with a zig-zag theme. If you don’t know the classic arcade game Centipede, this video demonstrates the player shooting centipede segments (and spiders), a field full of mushrooms (new ones form where a centipede piece is shot). Oh! And you can play the game yourself right here.
- 65a. [Noted arcade classic, and this puzzle's theme], CENTIPEDE. The CEN appears in 65a, the TIP runs backwards in the row below, and the centipede works its way back to the right with 72a: EDE. The other theme answers work the same way, with the first portion clued as the full answer and the row(s) below clued as if they were stand-alone entries.
- 14a. [Genre of 65-Across], SHOOT-’EM-UP. ETO is long-standing crossword filler; MUP is clued as 20a. [Deg. for a city developer], master’s of urban planning. Never heard of it, but the crossings and SHOOT-’EM-UP confirmed the letters.
- 16a. [Obstacle in 65-Across that causes the titular enemy to 21-Across/61-Across], MUSHROOM, with MUSH atop a backwards ROOM.
- 21a, 61a. [With 61-Across, slowly come to an end, and what this puzzle's theme answers do], WIND / DOWN. I assume Ben intended this to be elegiac as well, signaling the finality of the last Ink Well crossword.
- 66a. [Popular post-arcade version of 65-Across], HOME GAME. The dreadful E-MAG, [Web periodical, I guess], is improved by really being GAME backwards. I like the “… I guess” part of that clue—it’s one of Ben’s hallmarks as a clue writer, the winking “you and I both know that this is a bogus/sexist/woefully outdated/really lame answer, so let’s not pretend otherwise.” I’ve always appreciated that, and will continue to enjoy it in the American Values Club crosswords he edits.
- 71a. [Consoles on which to play 65-Across], ATARIS.
- 63d. [Consoles on which to play newer versions of 65-Across], WIIS.
The crunchiest fill includes SHTUPS, SIR DUKE, SHIH-TZU, WEDGIE, P. DIDDY, I DUNNO, THE MAMBO, TMZ, and BIC PEN. Oh, and SRI LANKA. And RASSLE, I always enjoy a good RASSLE. Overall, the fill is pretty smooth, which is impressive given the inclusion of the centipeding answers in all four corners. (This theme made possible by SHTUPS and BIC PEN.)
Did not know: 55d. [Black Flag's second album], MY WAR.
In addition to the winking clues I talked about in the 66a remarks, Ben has also always brought us clues that reflect his worldview, which is that of a thoughtful young academic who loves music and is a staunch ally in the battles against sexism, racism, and homophobia. 26a. URBAN is clued as [Strained euphemism for "black"], as borne out by definitions 2 and 3 at Urban Dictionary and things like the “urban contemporary” radio format. (Note: Urban Dictionary’s name isn’t using the word to connote blackness without mentioning blackness.)
4.5 stars for the puzzle, and a warm 5 stars for Ben’s terrific decade of puzzles (including his Mad Tausig puzzle book for kids), his thoughtful writing (farewell post, The Awl articles, and the excellent book Curious History of the Crossword), and his thoughtful editing (in addition to AVX, a book of literary-themed crosswords). I’ve always appreciated his feminist-ally work—in addition to making sure AV Club never excludes female constructors or repels female solvers, Ben also reached out to women constructors for the Penguin Classics puzzle book. Ben’s a great guy, and we wish him a fruitful and rewarding academic career (and are glad he’s still running AVX).
Donna S. Levin’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Leaving on a Jet Plane”—Ade’s write-up
Hello there, and Happy Hump Day to you all!
Here’s a real “flighty” puzzle today from Ms. Donna S. Levin, and it’s a fun one. Each answer is a common phrase but clued as if it pertains to air travel, given that a word in each phrase could relate to what you would see at an airport.
- TERMINAL BOREDOM: (17A: [Affliction of those with a long layover at the airport?])
- RUNWAY MODEL: (31A: [Engineer's prop when designing the airport addition?]) – True or false: Yours truly had about a 10-minute conversation with a Victoria’s Secret runway model at a deli in Manhattan in 2009. Answer: True (Adriana Lima). Looking back, I’m almost certain I didn’t utter one complete and coherent full sentence to her.
- GATE CRASHER: (38A: [Clumsy passenger in the airport boarding area?]) – Number of times I’ve had to sprint to the gate like Usain Bolt to make sure I didn’t miss a flight (since I’ve been flying for work to attend sporting events): at least four.
- SECURITY DEPOSIT: (54A: [Keys dumped in the TSA agent's tray at the airport?])
This grid was FAB, and not just because of the cluing to that particular entry (8D: [It can follow "Ab" or precede "Four"]). And in terms of an entry that made my mouth water, CARAMEL wins the award for that, especially since I can attest to how good dulce de leche is (9D: [Dulce de leche flavor]). Drumroll please: so which ex of Donald Trump made it into a crossword grid today?…….It’s IVANA (18D: ["Don't get mad. Get everything!" advice giver])!! Also, it was kind of fun to see ODOR (34A: [Febreze target]) in the proximity of STANK (25A: [Smelled up the joint]). I initially typed in STUNK, and after I corrected it, I pondered whether people use the word STANK to describe a smell anymore? Most people use STANK to describe nasty, snobby attitudes instead of foul smells. Or maybe that’s just me. And this might also be just me, but I have never played Risk before in my life, so this clue for ASIA is over my head (36A: [Two-sevenths of the territories on a Risk board]).
I’ve never been a fan of cats, and there’s a chance that part of the reason for that is because of that FINICKY cat, Morris (5D: [Like Morris, in erstwhile 9Lives ads]). Maybe it was the elitist tone of voice attached to Morris that made me think that all cats, if they could speak, would talk to me and other humans in a snobby manner. I guess that’s not too far from the truth for a lot of cats, at least with their body language towards their owners. It’s a good thing that another orange feline, Garfield, restored my faith in cats when I was young, as I started reading the comics. All of this is the long way of saying two things: 1) FINICKY is an amazing entry, and 2) My seven-year-old mind was all sorts of screwed up!
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: ROMO (31D: [Cowboy Tony])- One of the most polarizing athletes in all of team sports, Tony ROMO is the current starting quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys, probably the most high-profile position of any in team sports. Undrafted out of college (Eastern Illinois University), Romo was signed by the Cowboys as a free agent in 2003, and, by 2006, became the starter for “America’s Team.” Despite his sterling regular-season numbers (208 TD, 101 INT, 95.8 passer rating), Romo is known for – whether it’s justified or not – coming up short in must-win games for the Cowboys and making the absolute wrong plays at the absolute wrong times in the game/season for Dallas. Romo also gets flak for his celebrity off the field, as he once dated Jessica Simpson and is now married to Candice Crawford, a former Miss Missouri. What a rough life, huh?!
Thanks for your time, and will see you all on Thursday!
Matt Skoczen’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s review
We have a beautifully creative theme today from Matt Skoczen. The revealer is BLOWIT and the first word of starred answers are all things that one can blow literally or metaphorically. I do love a theme that makes use of idiom!
- [*Bit of formalwear], TOPHAT. Blowing one’s top means losing one’s cool.
- [*Interrupt], HORNINON. Blowing one’s horn is boasting.
- [*Scandal management ploy], COVERUP. Nice way to slot in an extra themer! Blowing one’s cover is what a spy doesn’t want to do.
- [*Less intense workout after a workout], COOLDOWN. I’ve never heard of blowing one’s cool, only losing it, but I assume the principle is similar.
- [*Psychologically manipulative tactics], MINDGAMES. Having one’s mind blown occurs in response to something amazing.
- [*Snoop], NOSEABOUT. Blowing one’s nose.
While there was some nice stuff in the grid, there were plenty of iffy answers that struck me as unnecessary. A lot of them wouldn’t bother me if they were used in moderation and to hold up tricky parts of a grid. However, a small corner like the top right shouldn’t normally need to resort to SMIT. SMUG/MINI in place of SMIT/AIDA is one option.
Similarly, the top-middle section has RIN/REHEM/HMS. REHEM/IRONS/NERF could easily be MAHER/AXONS/NERF or similar, getting rid of two clunkers, although HRS is probably a bit worse than HMS. The top-left has NIA/GST (GMT’s less familiar astronomical counterpart)/AMOON/ENARM and leading from it the random Roman numeral MMCC. I would also do an awful lot to avoid ITWAS (DODO for SOME, EDWIN for ITWAS and RENEE for VENUE? There are probably many better options than that though) and in the bottom-right BBA/KATES.
4.5-star theme marred a lot by the fill: 3 stars.