“KITCHEN CONFIDENTIAL” by Howard Barkin
Belly up to the puzzle and solve
Constructor: Howard Barkin
Theme: Circled squares reveal food hidden inside each theme answer.
- 16A: GLASS OF RIESLING – White wine order at a German restaurant (it’s a phrase, I swear, I said it once at a German restaurant)
- 22A: RENT-A-COP – Mall security member, not-so-nicely
- 36A: THREE TIMES A LADY – Lionel Richie ballad sung at a funeral in “Garden State” and in a dream in “The Sopranos”
- 45A: SWING SET – It’s pushed on a playground to get kids really high
- 55A: SECRET MENU ITEMS – Things like the In-N-Out “Animal Style” burger… or what’s hidden in 16-, 22-, 36-, and 45-Across
Ben: This is all right. I wasn’t really feeling the individual themers, but the revealer pulls it all together in a satisfying way. I’ve never really understood the craze over SECRET MENU ITEMS, but they’re certainly a thing and modern enough to be satisfying here.
Max: Same. This got a big “meh” from me. Nothing too terribly exciting, but still OK. I liked SECRET MENU ITEMS a lot as a revealer, but the themers are old/boring.
Lena: The SECRET MENU ITEMS are pretty common foods– nothing worth hiding in a special menu. I understand that the play here on the foods being “hidden,” but with those circles I just don’t really consider them all that hidden. The themers are none too exciting either– I guess the theme falls kinda flat for me.
Ben: Not a thing: GLASS OF RIESLING. Now this is a “green paint” entry. When even the clue is defensive, that should probably be a warning sign.
Max: Yep, GLASS OF RIESLING wins my “Side-eye of the day” (SEOTD) award.
Lena: Who has two thumbs and immediately tried filling in GEWURZTRAMINER just off the G? This girl. And, yes, everything you just said about that fill/clue, Ben. It isn’t a “phrase” as its commonly defined and I hate that defensive nonsense.
Ben: This played harder than I expected it to at first — I kept dead-ending on themers and having to break into the grid in new spots. I don’t know German wine or Lionel Richie, so that’s probably the issue. Once I got on a roll, it turned into a pretty easy puzzle.
Ben: Fill is mostly fine, although TSR is only one step up from TER in my book, and I’d love to see them both banished from crosswords forever. I’ve never heard of DEL AMITRI, but all the crosses were fair, so I’m fine with that one.
Max: And NBAER was in that very same corner. Just….. ugh. Do people really say NBAER?
Lena: I can never, ever remember TSR. Same with the company that makes ATMS.
Ben: Not a lot of long fill to be entertained by, but I enjoyed a bunch of the clues. 14A: Adjective often used to demean assertive women is spot-on for BOSSY, and 20A: “FML” in Yiddish is a fun way to clue OY VEY.
Max: I liked the OYVEY clue too. I had IND. for ISR (6D: Country that isn’t pals with Pal.), because I read Pal. as Pak. for some reason. Slowed me down a bit. Also, MOAR (39A: Lolcat’s command for a second helping) is fun. But other than that, there isn’t too much in this puzzle that’s Buzzfeed-y. This puzzle could really run anywhere. And that’s fine. I just expected a little something more.
Ben: 7D: Series that’s set in Miami, New York, Las Vegas and Cyber (so far) (CSI) and 15A: Roman “Metamorphoses” poet who was exiled for no known reason (OVID) both made me laugh. I have much more patience for common entries when they’re clued with some sass.
Max: Overall, the puzzle is solid, if unexciting. 3.5/5 stars for me. maXWORD out!