Robyn Weintraub’s New York Times crossword
Cute theme! 26a. [With 40- and 48-Across, much-mocked ad phrase that could have been said by the answers to the four starred clues] clues “I’M NOT A DOCTOR / BUT / I PLAY ONE ON TV.” The phrase splits up into natural chunks (no “DOCTOR BUT I” entry here), which helps quip themes be less annoying. And it’s supplemented with four 7-letter surnames of actors who have played doctors on TV:
- 13a. [*"Grey's Anatomy" actor Patrick], DEMPSEY. I think he played (or plays?) the one known as McDreamy but I can’t be sure without Googling and I don’t care enough for that.
- 15a. [*Actress Jane who was a "Medicine Woman"], SEYMOUR. Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman.
- 68a. [*Actor Jack who was "Quincy"], KLUGMAN. Quincy, M.E., forensic pathologist.
- 69a. [*"ER" actor George], CLOONEY. He played Dr. Doug Ross, who was quickly promoted to Chief of Dreamboats.
NUTELLA is a great addition to the puzzle but not to your pantry. It is fine to love chocolate and it is fine to love hazelnuts, but Nutella’s 55% sugar and about 25% palm oil. Better to eat a candy bar with nuts for breakfast than to feast on Nutella.
Meh: NENE, ADZ, ARR, LYS, ON OR, ARA, ON CD, -ULE, T-MAN, ERTE, RYES, and POLED brought me no joy.
3.5 stars from me.
Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle, “Compromising Positions”—Janie’s review
Another solid and solidly amusing puzzle from Liz today—from the punny title and theme to the literal execution of the (abundant) theme fill. We get a modification of the quip puzzle—loathed by many, but not by me. A modification, because this particular quip is left open-ended. Here it is, all spelled out: “Let’s assume that ‘Shiver me timbers!,’ ‘name tag’ [and] ‘…Gruesome Twosome’ met in the middle…” Well, what then? Can’t say as I could say, but take a look at the placement of some strategic letters as they appear in the theme fill and in the grid. Pay special attention to the three that are sandwiched between the first and the last:
- 16A. LET’S ASSUME THAT [Start of a law school professor's statement of conjecture].
- 23A. “SHIVER ME TIMBERS!” [Pirate's "Holy Cow!"]. Also a terrific Tom Waits waltz-ballad.
- 38A. NAME TAG [Conventioneer's identifier].
- 51A. GRUESOME TWOSOME [With "The," 1967 gore film directed by Herschell Gordon Lewis]. Hmm. Between the gore and the porn, can’t say as I’ve heard of any of the titles in Lewis’s oeuvre… The sometimes apt phrase “gruesome twosome,” though—that’s been around for almost a century.
- 59A. MET IN THE MIDDLE [Compromised...or a hint to the puzzle theme]. And that’s the position where M-E-T is found in the three preceding answers. Right there in the middle of the grid. Sweet.
Some excellent longer fill and several clue/fill combos further sweeten the pot. Starting with ZEBRA MAN, the new-to-me [Striped DC Comics supervillain]. Aren’t football refs also called zebras? Oh, yes. If SECURELY is not as lively, “WHATEVER” ["It doesn't matter"]—there’s always DETHRONE to keep us alert. Or a strategically-placed (light!) jab with a HAT PIN [Fastener on a bonnet].
Did not DETEST the fact that I didn’t recall AYESHA, the [Gothic fantasy novel by H. Rider Haggard]. Aha. Victorian-era. Cool. Did know her grid-opposite, though, (shoe-fetishist…) IMELDA [Mrs. Ferdinand Marcos], subject of David Byrne and Fat Boy Slim’s engaging, off-Broadway immersive-musical Here Lies Love. Now if only the hook of the catchy title song didn’t immediately summon up “Sweet Caroline”…
Gotta give a shout-out, too, to POST-DOC and SERENA (and Venus Williams) and SEEDED. That last one being clued in connection with rye bread and not Serena (and Venus Williams). Oh—and (“if you say to-mah-to”) the consonant grid-opposites TOMATO [Vegan's "beefsteak"] and AMATIS [Rare Cremona viola]. Aah.
Among the clue/fill pairs that caught my eye:
- [Matt Damon's private part?] RYAN. The movie. His part in the movie Saving Private Ryan. What? You were thinkin’ this?
- [Big name in cosmetics] AVON. And just last week we had Avon in the clue for SALESLADY. Inter-puzzle connectivity!
- [Current location?] OUTLET. And not “I’m sitting at the computer in my apartment”…
- [Character seen in Kenya, but not Chad?] AN “E”. Sneaky. “Character” as in “letter” and not “eccentric person.” I like what the clue is going for, but am not entirely sold on it here because there’s also no “K” in Chad. Nor an “N” nor a “Y.” But I’ll happily concede that, given the options, an E is the best fill for those three squares. Also like the African-centricity of the clue—and the intra-puzzle connectivity we then get with ENTEBBE [International airport of Uganda].
- [Day of rest: Abbr.] SAB. For Sabbath. Hands up for SAT (Saturday…). That was my first entry anyway…
And that, folks, is a wrap for today. A lot to like in this puzzle. Hope you enjoyed the solve as well!
Ellen Leuschner and Jeff Chen’s Los Angeles Times crossword
The theme is a CIRCLE OF FRIENDS (39a. [Close associates, and a hint to this puzzle's highlighted squares]), and the circled letters spell out PAISANO COMRADE BRO AMI. 1d and 57d provide the synonyms PEEPS and POSSE.
Now, it would have been nice if the “friend” words had been gender-neutral—AMI, PAISANO, and BRO are all specifically male, and these are not words I have ever used to refer to my friends. (Not that COMRADE gets any action in my circles either, but at least it’s not gendered.)
I don’t know that the PEEPS/POSSE pair was worth the price of admission. When your 1a is PRATT and you’ve got ENOLA, SERA, AROAR, and TILT AT in the same corner, where’s the fun? Meh. The POSSE corner is great, but that 1-Across corner is always so important to setting a puzzle’s tone.
There’s sparkle in the long fill—VANILLA ICE, EL DORADO, BALDERDASH, and CABERNET are lovely, full of VERVE. But ADAM’S ALE does duplicate the “A” of 18a: IPA (that’s India pale ale), and I’m never excited about seeing ADAM’S ALE in a puzzle since crosswords are the only place I’ve ever seen the phrase.
3.25 stars from me.
Lynn Lempel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Open the Lock”—Ade’s write-up
Good morning everybody! Hope you’re all doing well on this Tuesday!
Today, Ms. Lynn Lempel gave us the challenge of finding the key to unlock the puzzle, in that each of the five themes ended with words that could also precede the word “lock.”
- POWER GRID: (17A: [Area's electrical system]) – (Gridlock).
- GRATEFUL DEAD: (24A: [Lifeless-sounding band with lifeless-sounding fans]) – Bill Walton, the NBA Hall of Famer who is one of the biggest Deadheads, is far from lifeless-sounding, if you’ve ever heard him do basketball commentary. (Deadlock.)
- TURF WAR: (40A: [Conflict over territory or influence]) – (Warlock).
- LAUNCHING PAD: (51A: [Starting point for a space traveler]) – (Padlock).
- EDITH HEAD: (64A: [She won a record eight Oscars for costume design]) – (Headlock).
So the theme dealt with types of “locks,” and one of the other entries in the grid was STOCK (66A: [Merchandise]), so was very disappointed that “barrel” couldn’t be fit anywhere in the puzzle!!!! I’m kidding, of course. There was some great fill on the downs, including CIVIL UNION (29D: [Nonmarital option for some same-sex couples]), MADE HAY (46D: [Seized an opportunity to gain advantage]) and RANSACK (44D: [Plunder]). Very slick cluing to APPLE, and one of the types of apples (9A: [Delicious snack?]). LIBRA was good cluing as well (12D: [Fall guy?]), though, once I read the clue, I had the theme song to The Fall Guy stuck in my head almost throughout the rest of the solve. Is there any cable channel that currently runs episodes of The Fall Guy? There’s has to be a channel that does, right?
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: OWL (35D: [Winged night stalker]) – So you were probably expecting me to talk about Rafael Nadal here, huh? Well, two things: First, I’m pretty sure I used this space before to talk about Rafa a couple of months ago. And second, this gives me the opportunity to talk about Bill Mlkvy, the former Temple University Owls star who led the NCAA in scoring in 1951 as a (29.2 points per game). What was Mlkvy’s nickname? “The OWL without a vowel.”
See you all on Wednesday, and thanks for the time once again!
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “Any Questions?–save them until the end.”
Phrases that end with question words are the name of the game:
- 17a. [2013 single from DJ Snake and Lil Jon], TURN DOWN FOR WHAT.
- 33a. [Long, long ago], WAY BACK WHEN.
- 42a. [Norah Jones ballad], DON’T KNOW WHY.
- 63a. [Dr. Seuss book made into a 2008 movie], HORTON HEARS A WHO.
I really wish all four theme answers had been songs, or at least titles. Three titles and an idiomatic phrase? Feels imbalanced.
Six more things:
- 49a. ["Let me clean up first..."], “I’M A MESS.” Possibly a hot mess.
- 51a. [Speed's mysterious nemesis, in cartoons], RACER X. Didn’t know this one till about 5 years ago.
- 71a. ["Good Will Hunting" director Gus Van ___], SANT. One of Robin Williams’ well-received dramatic performances.
- 4d. [He plays Dr. John Watson], JUDE LAW. Full name, I like.
- 8d. [Highly nauseous?], AIR-SICK. Turbulence!
- 44d. [He claimed not to be a crook], NIXON. He really was not a good man; George Will outlines one reason why.
3.33 stars from me.