Kurt Mengel and Jan-Michele Gianette’s New York Times crossword
Cute theme—various phrases that mean “not feeling so hot” are clued with relevant occupations:
- 17a. [The ailing postal worker was …] OUT OF SORTS.
- 24a. [The ailing rock star was …], FEELING PUNK. Yes!! This was the phrase my grandma always used when she had some bug. Never heard anyone else say it.
- 38a. [The ailing meteorologist was …], UNDER THE WEATHER.
- 47a. [The ailing golfer was …] WAY BELOW PAR. Never heard anyone use that for feeling sick, just for not meeting expectations.
- 59a. [The ailing trash collector was …] IN THE DUMPS. That one’s for emotional ailments. So is 17a.
FEELING PUNK won me over with grandmotherly nostalgia but really, the theme doesn’t feel like it’s five phrases that mean “ailing.”
- 50d. [George who signed the Declaration of Independence], WYTHE. Is it safe to say that we didn’t all learn his name in school? Tough fill for a Tuesday.
- 58a. [British gun], STEN. I wager that a sizable majority of people who have not been doing a lot of crosswords don’t know this word.
- 60d, 61d. [With 61-Down, what “dis” is?], NOT / DAT. What a weird little x-ref.
- 10d. [Where umpires umpire], HOME PLATES. This plural made my husband laugh.
- 35d. [Typical western], SHOOT ‘-EM-UP. Lively (if violent) answer.
- 12d. [Half of humanity, to some feminists], WOMYN. I’m not 100% sure on this, but I feel like there ought to be a temporal angle in the clue, a reference to the ’70s and ’80s.
- 10a. [Turns left, as a plow horse], HAWS. Almost put in GEES, which is your farm animal turning right. This puzzle might be coming to us from the 1800s, before the advent of the crossword.
Got distracted watching Better Call Saul during the blogging. 4.75 stars for the TV show, 3.33 for the puzzle. The unevenly wrought theme and some Tuesday-unfriendly fill knocked it down some.
Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle (Week 193), “Fintastic!”—Janie’s review
Sneaky puzzle! See that title? Well, the theme takes its meaning not from “fin” in the aquatic sense but from “fin” in the numismatic sense, where it’s slang for FIVE DOLLARS. And that’s the reveal at 59A. [Words on Abraham Lincoln’s bill and a hint to the puzzle theme]. (Btw, 2/12: “Happy Birthday, Abie, Baby!”). So the fantastic/fintastic wordplay in the title is one of the sneaky elements, leading to a theme set of two-word phrases, the first word of which can be followed by the word DOLLAR—giving us FIVE kinds of DOLLARS all told. I always enjoy this sort of two-for-one kinda theme. Sneakier by far, though, is the placement of the themers in the grid. How long did it take you to find ’em all? I had trouble believing that Liz would promise us five examples and only deliver on three. But I’d totally missed the two that are placed vertically (supporting [camouflaged by?] those hefty triple columns of eight SW and NE), and simply enjoyed them as “lively fill.” Can you say “AIRHEAD“? Here’s what we get then:
- 16A. [Richie Rich‘s baby accessory] SILVER SPOON and silver dollar. Hmm. Did not know until just looking it up that a silver dollar is not only a coin or type of pancake—but it’s also a fish. Hah! So maybe that aquatic IDEA isn’t totally off the wall…
- 23A. [Beach house?] SAND CASTLE and sand dollar. But for the fact that this is the sole themer that doesn’t yield or refer to actual $$, I love everything about this one. Great clue for image-evoking fill and a most poetic/symbolic kind of (yep, it’s here again) aquatic specimen.
- 51A. [Company that runs a Mickey Mouse operation] EURO DISNEY and euro dollar. Love that literal, non-ironic clue. Any snark is of your own (eurown…) making!
- 10D. [Henry Hudson’s ship] HALF MOON and half dollar. Colorful fill and colorful history here as well.
- 35D. [Gold medal or blue ribbon] TOP PRIZE and top dollar. And sometimes the top prize pays top dollar (okay, maybe not at the Sudoku or Scrabble level, but still, the not-too-shabby…ACPT)!
A lotta strong fill and thoughtful (knowledge-base expanding or twisty) cluing throughout the grid—which always ups the ante of a puzzle’s challenge. And this one challenged me. Drew several blanks right from the get-go: alternative rock singer-songwriter Rob Thomas and “HER Diamonds”? Nupe. Russian-born diva Anna Netrebko and ADINA? Nyet to the former [I know: “Philistine!”]; da to the latter. ZX Flux shoes, NAE; ADIDAS, aye. SILENT [Mum] was a big help in the NW corner; and I was relieved that HALF MOON, ET CETERA and RED ROSES (2/14: Valentine’s Day…) easily went into the NE. The corresponding corner was a little tougher, but yielded the other triple eights: AFRICANS (from the not-so-easy-to-parse [Chad chaps]), PRESUMES and TOP PRIZE.
Other solid, longer fill comes to us by way of INVADES, PIPETTE, AVOCET, AIRHEAD, CANOLA, (the rather amazing when you think about it) DESILU, (the rhyming) SOLD TO, (the rhyming) ABSOLUT. (Mini vodka motif today, as we also get the PEAR [Grey Goose “La Poire” flavoring] pair—which, no doubt, gets competition from Absolut Pears…) A personal paired fave? “READ ON” and [“The next chapter is even juicier”]. Something so delicious and almost conspiratorial about that one. Maybe because there’s no punctuation mark. No visual imperative. Nice. [Also simply appreciate the reference to books. After a run of mysteries, just finished the harrowing Unbroken and am now onto The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. (What’s on your e-reader?…)]
Some other sly, happy-making clues that haven’t been mentioned:
- [Gives a damn?] for CURSES
- [Home extension?] for STEAD (homestead…)
- [Processed food?] for ATE (processed being a verb here and not an adjective)
- [Civic center?] for VEE (one of those very literal clues)
There’s nothing particularly sly about the [Italian diminutive ending] -INI combo, but it’s definitely a happy-making one, conjuring up Breaking Away as it does, and Paul Dooley’s “eenie”-food diatribe. And I also like the pair of canine clues: [Dog days of Dijon] and [Dog in astronomy], for ÉTÉ and CANIS respectively. As you well know if you’ve been reading this column for any time, I loves me my crossword glue—and also picture-making language, like [Flour de-clumper] for SIEVE and [Lily pad travelers] for FROGS. This puzzle is LADEN with lovely language, and that always floats my boat!
Til we meet again: Happy Valingtine’s [sic]!
Patrick Jordan’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Washington Insiders”—Ade’s write-up
Good morning, everyone! How’s everything?! If you’re in the New England area, I hope you’re braving the elements once again and making it out OK with another snowstorm in the area. If you’re in the state of Washington, I hope it’s dry and not raining. Washington, or at least its postal code, is the subject of today’s crossword, offered up to us by Mr. Patrick Jordan. In it, common phrases are altered by adding “WA” into each of them, creating puns.
- BUNGEE COWARD (20A: [One who’s scared to try a popular jumping sport?]) – From “bungee cord.” I’m definitely a bungee coward then! Also, is bungee jumping popular still? About 10-15 years ago, it was, but not sure it is now. Maybe I’m hanging with the wrong, non thrill-seeking crowd.
- DEADLY SWAIN (35A: [Suitor who can be lethal?]) – From “deadly sin.”
- FAIRWAY TALE (42A: [“I drove that golf ball 500 yards,” for example?]) – From “fairy tale.” Anyone ever wonder if those long-drive experts who mash the ball in upwards to 500 yards for a living can actually play real rounds of golf with skill?
- GAWAIN GROUND (59A: [Land on which Camelot was located?]) – From “gain ground.”
The last time I was at my parents’ place, my mother could not stop watching the DECOR and other things featured on many of the HGTV shows that were on (7D: [Frequent topic on HGTV]). I think her favorite show is House Hunters International, but I’ll have to confirm that with her. In a case of overthinking, I momentarily was tripped up by HEARSE, as I thought that the car actually had a name on the show, even though I knew it was a type of hearse (30A: [“The Addams Family” car]). Was slightly confused by WEDGIE, as I thought those shoes were called wedges, and I initially filled that in (55A: [Thick-heeled shoe]). That, and I also thought about the childhood underpants prank when I saw that as well. If you’re hungry right now, that’s probably because of the intersection of LAMBS (1D: [Youngsters in petting zoos]) and STEAKS (23A: [Some Texas Roadhouse entrées]). As much as steaks sound like a dream right now, not sure how to feel about GUAVA-flavored jelly (56A: [Exotic jelly flavor]). Anyone who has tried that who can give me a verdict?
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: ABEL (14A: [Biblical second son]) – Former National Hockey League player Sid ABEL spent most of his career with the Detroit Red Wings during his Hall-of-Fame, 14-year NHL career. In the late 1940s, he was one-third of the “Production Line,” one of the most famous line combinations in NHL history, along with Gordie Howe and Ted Lindsay. Abel , a member of three Stanley Cup-winning teams, won the Hart Memorial Trophy as the NHL’s Most Valuable Player in 1949.
See you on Wednesday, and have a good rest of your Tuesday!
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “It’s a Trap!”
The LINT in three familiar phrases has been sucked down into the LINT trap in the bottom row.
- 16a. [Swindling of a UK football club?], CHELSEA CON. Chelsea Clinton. Hey, someone should send this puzzle to her dad.
- 37a. [Grade alongside the review “These Mick Jagger chewables are the worst”?], F / STONES’ VITAMINS. Flintstones vitamins.
- 61a. [Group including only elements number #13 and #2?], AL-HE FAMILY. All in the Family.
- 66a, 67a, 68a. [Stuff in the trap], LINT, LINT, LINT.
So, I’ve been using Tide powdered laundry detergent, Original scent, for a few years. Those bastards changed the scent. (Do they have no idea what “Original” means? Come on! “Original” is sacrosanct!) The new heavily perfumed product leaves the clean clothes smelling like a fresh ‘n’ clean bordello, and and gives me a damn rash. So I’ve been doing a lot of laundry to rewash my clothes in a fragrance-free detergent. The lint trap and I have grown very close.
Because it’s late, I’m putting everything else in this paragraph. Like TYLENOL and MR. CUB. Love DEATH WISH. Didn’t know TERM LOAN was a thing. Don’t care for plural AKAS, or for OHH, FBS, WCW, SST. Lotsa names from pop culture, which works for me but is not a universal like (I mean, I never even watched Perfect Strangers, but it still amuses me to see the name BALKI here, and it’s a useless little piece of pop culture but I know it). 3.9 stars from me.
Kevin Christian’s Los Angeles Times crossword
Whoops, forgot to blog this on Tuesday! Now it’s Wednesday. Theme is [Computer user’s combination], and the three answers are CUT AND PASTE, POINT AND CLICK, and DRAG AND DROP. After I filled in the middle one, I pretty much knew what the other two would be. Quick solve.
The 6- to 8-letter Down fill is terrific (particularly OH COME ON, PIANO BAR, FACEBOOK, BLONDIE), but of course stacks of longer fill often come with some ugly short fill. Things that might be tougher for newer solvers include UTO crossing OTOE, IOS as the island (vs. the IPHONE‘s operating system), OHM, RANI, and ESAI. In the underwhelming-fill category, we also have AN IN, -INI, -ULE, TELCO, and O-NINE. Given the lightness of the theme (just 35 squares), I’m surprised there’s that much in my “no” list. But that central 13 forces the corner stacks of longer fill, and the rest follows.
3.33 stars from me.