Jim Holland’s New York Times crossword
This is sort of a “Before and After” theme, where “T-___” phrases meld with other phrases that begin with the T’s accompanying word. Each phrase is clued as if the T-___ phrase is central to its meaning.
- 16a. [Major telecom’s corporate headquarters?], T-MOBILE HOME. T-Mobile meets mobile home.
- 26a. [Early history of a drafting tool?], T-SQUARE ROOTS.
- 42a. [Demeanor during a kid’s outdoor game?], T-BALL BEARING.
- 56a. [Sending of invoices for removable car roofs?], T-TOP BILLING. You’d never know it from crossword puzzles, but the T-top has never been very common, and most of the car models made with T-tops were discontinued years ago. Feels like a lackluster thing to base a theme answer on.
This puzzle befuddled me. It’s running on a Tuesday, and yet it contains the following litany of fill: AGAR, LEAS, SABOT (!), ETUI, ADEN, BIG A, INEZ. SABOT and ETUI jumped out at me the most.
Five more things:
- 36a. [Dutch shoe], SABOT. You know what? The SABOT is a French/Belgian shoe, a French word. The Dutch wooden shoe is apparently a klomp. Crosswords have insisted for years that the SABOT is Dutch. Go figure.
- 52d. [Nickname for New York’s Aqueduct Racetrack], BIG A. Never, ever heard of this.
- 43d. [Reductive film trope for a blonde], BIMBO. And I’d still rather not see this reductive, sexist word in a crossword grid.
- 7d. [All set], GOOD TO GO. I really like this answer.
- 2d. [Not cool, informally], LAME. Sigh. Again? Come on. We know damn well that there are people with disabilities who find this word, well, reductive. And insulting, and dehumanizing. You’ve got “lame duck,” you’ve got gold lamé … there are alternatives for the clue that won’t be hurtful to anyone.
A middling 3 stars from me.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “Let Free Entertain You” – Derek’s write-up
We have another themeless Jonesin’ this week. And a slightly harder one, at least by my solving time. Or maybe I am just sleepy! There are a couple of entries I was slightly unfamiliar with, or maybe just rusty with, but overall it was a good puzzle. Not quite Saturday tough, but still a bit of a challenge. I counted 68 words, so a pretty wide open grid. Matt is good at this, so there is plenty of lively fill and great clues.
I cannot mention all the great ones, but here are some of the ones I enjoyed:
- 16A [“Taken” guy] LIAM NEESON – I haven’t seen Taken 3. Taken 2 was so much worse than the first one, and if the Rotten Tomatoes score is accurate, this one is looking even worse!
- 22A [They may be collateral when buying new wheels] AUTO TRADE-INS – Great clue. I was wondering what this was at first, so I admit I was fooled! (Did I mention I was tired…?)
- 39A [Chuck an attempted three-pointer into the stands, e.g.] MISS BY A MILE – Favorite of the puzzle! Paints a hilarious mental picture!
- 53A [Cheat] VICTIMIZER – Those one-word clues that can be either verbs or nouns always get me…
- 62A [Summer dress uniform component, maybe] SHORT PANTS – I am thankful I never had to wear anything like this….!
- 5D [Half of the ’80s synth-pop duo Yaz] ALISON MOYET – Who?
- 6D [Comedian Minchin] TIM – Who?? (These are the people I referred to earlier as “slightly unfamiliar!”
- 9D [___ START (Tobias’s oft-misinterpreted license plate on “Arrested Development”)] A NU – This looks like a funny, if not a little off-color, joke here. Never seen the show, but it is on Netflix! (It’s on my List!)
- 24D [“Mrs. Murphy Mysteries” author ___ Brown] RITA MAE – Also “slightly unfamiliar.” I need to read more…
- 33D [Full of memorable lines] OFT-QUOTED – This was good. I, on the other hand, am NOT oft-quoted.
- 35D [Paul of “Anchorman’] RUDD – Haven’t seen Ant-Man yet either, but my boys LOVE these Anchorman movies. These will have to wait until I am bedridden and have nothing else to watch!
Another awesome Jonesin’! 4.2 stars! Until next week!
Tom Uttormark & C.C. Burnikel’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
We have a puzzle with left-to-right symmetry this Tuesday, no doubt to accommodate the lengths of the theme answers. Each theme answer is a phrase that begins with a long “a” sound, and then they are clued in a punny way, as if the “a” was an actual article. I’ll stop explaining and just list them!
- 20A [One hospital celebration?] A WARD CEREMONY
- 25A [One mug from the boxing ring?] A BOUT FACE
- 46A [One news magazine managing editor?] A HEAD OF TIME
- 52A [One adorable romantic threesome?] A CUTE TRIANGLE
I guess I didn’t notice that the thematic clues all start with the word “one” and not the article “a.” I like this theme! It’s different, and if even if it has been done before, this seems fresh. Well done! A few notes:
- 23A [The blahs] ENNUI – One of my favorite words. Which is ironic because I am rarely bored!
- 2D [Heavenly glows] AURAE – I don’t really like these plurals that end in “e”, but I am sure they are necessary in the constructing world. I never know which plural will be used!!
- 31D [“Contents under pressure” containers] SPRAY CANS – A bland clue, but accurate!
- 34D [Plumbing problem] WATER LEAK – This and the previously mentioned SPRAY CANS are nice long crossings that seem unforced. Quite smooth!
- 56D [Network home to “A Prairie Home Companion”] NPR – I am behind on my NPR puzzle podcasts. And Ask Me Another. And Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me!
Not much else to say, since the fill is pretty good! I will give this one 4 stars! Nice Tuesday puzzle!
Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle (Week 240), “Stirring Rendition (complete the puzzle to reveal the theme in the circled letters)”—Janie’s review
It’s a new year aaaaand Xword Nation is off and runnin’, starting with one of the longest titles I ever remember seeing above a crossword puzzle. Well, truth be told it’s a two-word title with an 11-word instruction/additional clue to the solver. Because, if we hadn’t noticed while solving (and it took me three themers in to catch on [I hadn’t read the title in advance]), we learn from reading those circled letters (top to bottom) that we’re lookin’ at ANAGRAMS. Liz has chosen a strong six-letter set and by “stirring” it up, presents us with four very strong and widely varied themers (two of which are grid-spanners). “NICE!”
- 16A. VICTORIAN CORSET [Strait-laced middle manager?]. Great, punny clue here. But is this a “roll your own” or is there really such a thing? Folk, there is. I confirmed this first with our friend Ngram and then with Wiki. Nothing in the latter leads me to believe it was even remotely pleasant to wear one of these things! (And because it, too, had the feel of a “roll your own,” I also consulted these sources on the subject of ICE RAIN or [Sleet’s cousin]—though we know it (faaaar) better as “freezing rain.” But no matter what you call it, it’s for real!)
- 26A. HERNÁN CORTÉS [Spanish conquistador]. Not HERNANDO (though not always…); and not CORTEZ… This guy took down the Aztec Empire. (Wonder if he enjoyed [Bottled “fire”] TABASCO on the foods at his victory feasts. [Nupe. Wrong, Jane. Wrong, wrong, wrong.])
- 42A. POLICE ESCORT [Presidential motorcade leader]. Cops at work. Not to be confused with COPSE [Tree thicket]…
- 56A. FINANCIAL SECTOR [Investment category that includes banks and investment services]. Not the sexiest, but really, a great complement to the theme set as a whole. Strong, ANAGRAMable six-letter words that are part of “in the language,” puzzle-worthy phases and names are always welcome!
Also welcome? Lively fill like “IT’S A STEAL!” [Bargain shopper’s cry], “WOO-HOO!” [Joyful shout] and the quieter, natural-history-museum-evoking DIORAMA . And especially, the abundant and fresh cluing like [Compact disc?] for MIRROR; [House of Dior?] for the French word (for “house”…) MAISON; [White collar worker?] for the theological (and not “professional” or “mangerial”) CLERIC; [Medieval grunt] for the non-sound-based SERF; [Surgeon who said, “Your genetics load the gun. Your lifestyle pulls the trigger.”] for DR. OZ; [Marriage partner] for the non-corporeal LOVE; and my fave: [Where the buoys are?] for OCEANS. Because I enjoyed being reminded of this—and hope you felt the same way (or will enjoy discovering the reference). (INFLUENZA is also very good long fill, but do I “welcome” it? That’s why I got my shot!)
Recently binge-watched the first season of Transparent, so did a (happy) double take with [Maria, aka “La Divina”] and CALLAS, because I still had the character of Davina in mind (who I also think could easily be made up to more strongly resemble La D.). And I’m currently reading Erik Larson’s Dead Wake (about the sinking of the Lusitania and WWI submarine warfare), so that [Periscope part] LENS combo resonated. Ditto the reference to [Gershwin’s “Concerto IN F“] because it’s a piece of music that I love and that, at 90 years of age, seems as timeless as ever. Here’s George himself at the piano. See if you don’t agree.
Things I learned: MILO is the first name of [TV actor Ventimiglia]. Never hearda the guy. Evidently I don’t watch enough TV… And—were you familiar with the city in ISRAEL called Netanya? When I saw the clue [Netanya’s land] my first thought was that there was a typo, that it should have read [Netanyahu’s land]. Once again, wrong, Jane. There’s an interesting history there. Take a look.
Did I love the likes of OMOO and AARE, NIS and -CIDE? Nah. But they come with the territory. And when most of the territory has been filled so well, the big picture wins. SEAFOOD, HARBOR, CIRCLE clued (visually—with a nod to history—) as [Defensive wagon formation]? Nuthin’ AMISS there!
So, welcome to 2016, y’all. Keep solving and come back again next week!
Matthew Sewell’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Piece Offerings” — Jim’s review
Matthew Sewell is back. Last time he was here, he was making butt jokes. Let’s see what he has this time.
- 20A [Something curated by a gallery head] MUSEUM EXHIBIT
- 26A [Something curated by a designer] FASHION SHOW
- 44A [Something curated by a chef] TASTING MENU
- 53A [Something curated by a bard] SELECTED POEMS
A bit headier than butt jokes. It took me a few minutes of thinking afterward to fully comprehend the theme, but it’s essentially just a list of things that can be curated, i.e. selected from a larger collection for presentation to an audience.
I can’t say the theme does a lot for me. For example, I don’t normally think of a FASHION SHOW as something needing curating, but I suppose it does. The job of curating a MUSEUM EXHIBIT seems much bigger than curating a TASTING MENU. And SELECTED POEMS seems like the odd one out. You can have a MUSEUM EXHIBIT, you can have a FASHION SHOW, and you can have a TASTING MENU. But you can’t really have a SELECTED POEMS. You can have a book of SELECTED POEMS, but SELECTED POEMS is more just a title of the book than the actual book itself. Wouldn’t an ANTHOLOGY be the appropriate analogue? Ah, yes, my dictionary says an ANTHOLOGY is “a collection of literary pieces, such as poems, short stories, or plays.” But then, you know, symmetry.
I want to like it. It’s nice that Matthew chose examples from art, fashion, gastronomy, and poetry—a diverse selection. And the puzzle is well made with a number of strong non-theme entries.
Here’s another interesting choice our constructor made: Putting the 13-letter themers first and last rather than the 11-letter ones. Normally, if you have 11-letter themers, you would put them in the 3rd and 13th rows. This would allow you to spread the themers out vertically resulting in fewer constraints and limitations. Instead Matthew put the 13-letter themers first and last (perhaps the X in EXHIBIT was causing problems otherwise); they can’t go in the 3rd and 13th rows because you’d end up with large black blocks in the NW and SE corners. Therefore all the themers get pushed together; the first and second themers are one row apart as are the last two.
And yet, this doesn’t seem to cause too many problems. The shared words between themers are handled deftly and we even get things like PAYMASTER, SLUSHIE, DIVERSITY, and HG WELLS. I imagine Matthew toiled over this grid, and you can tell by its cleanliness.
Another interesting choice is to have long Acrosses that aren’t part of the theme: LATE START, COOLIDGE, TIRES OUT, and STINKEROO. Having four 8- and 9-letter Across entries is highly unusual when all your themers go Across as well. This might be distracting to some solvers, but I think overall it’s pretty clear which ones are theme entries and which are not. Plus, these are all colorful, strong choices, so I think it’s a net gain to the puzzle.
I have to say I was completely distracted by the clue for 22A ASA [Free-bird joiner]. I am not a Lynyrd Skynyyrd fan, nor did I even know that “Free Bird” is a Lynyrd Skynyrd song. But I did know there is a song called “Free Bird” that has achieved some sort of cult-like status and is called for by audience members at many concerts (regardless of performer or style of music). So that’s what I was thinking of when I saw the clue, and I could not suss it out until I had all the crosses. I love it when a clue misleads you so totally and then brings you back with an “Aha!”. Well done!
So on the whole, this is a good, solid grid with strong non-theme fill, but the theme is just a list that didn’t do it for me (and one of the entries felt a little off). YMMV.
Heartfelt congratulations to Patrick, who became a father last month. Expect to start seeing “by Maggie Blindauer” bylines on crossword puzzles starting circa 2030.
This puzzle, “Baby Steps,” was inspired by the new addition to Patrick’s family. 13 rebus squares in the grid take music notes: there’s a DO up top, then further down a TI, then LA-LA, then SO-SO-SO-SO, then MI-MI-MI-MI-MI (note that I managed to miss that second MI; (MI)AS sounded good for [Actresses Hines and Rogers], but that’s (MI)(MI)S, and I didn’t look at the cross since I was sure it was right).
There must be a reason for these specific notes being included and others (RE and FA) not, but I can’t quite puzzle it out. My guess is that it’s a warm-up exercise for singers, though I can’t find Google support for this particular sequence. My knowledge of music theory is close to nil, so perhaps someone can elucidate in comments.
Lots of typically good fill: SET BAIL, (MI)X TAPES, PRY OPEN, (SO)BERS UP, and TEL AVIV. That was my first entry in the grid, and was proud to get it from ??????? clued as [Eastern Mediterranean city]. Verified it by seeing that [Quickly accelerate] at 35-A was REV.
Three best clues: [Coping mechanism?] for SAW, [Parton who my next-door neighbor is obsessed with] for DOLLY, and [Dey job] for L.A. LAW.
OK, just now I’m seeing the clue at 17-A: [Brahms’s ___ (song which inspired this puzzle’s theme)]. This is that song, so perhaps the 13 notes are the main motif of that short piece?
Congratulations again to our proud PAPA (40-D) for his new Blindauer (human), and I’ll see you here next month for the next Blindauer (crossword).
Jeffrey Harris’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “B-y and B-y”—Ade’s write-up
Hello there! Hope everyone is doing well and staying warm! Today’s crossword puzzle, brought to us today by Mr. Jeffrey Harris, has five theme entries – three across and two down – that all are two-word answers (or a compound word, as the down entries are) with each of the words starting with the letter B and ending in the letter Y. A couple of the entries are proper names that could have given people trouble in sussing them out. That was definitely the case with me!
- BILLY BARTY (16A: [3’9″ portrayer of High Aldwin in “Willow”])
- BUSBY BERKELEY (37A: [Prolific choreographer of early Hollywood])
- BOBBY BRADY (61A: [Younger brother of Greg and Peter, on 1970s TV])
- BUSYBODY (11D: [Meddlesome one])
- BAYBERRY (37D: [Shrub with wax-covered fruit])
Remember when MCBEAL was the “it” television character in the country (1D: “Ally ______”])? It seems like yesterday, but the debut of the show was in 1997…almost 20 years ago! Honestly, it really seemed like it was yesterday! For a time, Calista Flockhart was to American TV sitcom viewers what Loni Anderson was during her run at WKRP (23A: [“____ in Cincinnati”]). So EARBUD has officially replaced “headphones” and/or “earphones” as the headphones of choice with people, as well as the word used in describing that equipment (46D: [iPod user’s insert]). Personally, I call all of them headphones, which is definitely showing my inability to adapt lexically. Before the Beats by Dre line, who would have thought the traditional headphones look would make the comeback that it did? Well, part of that comeback is because, other than its quality, so many people were willing to pay in upwards of $200 to own one. With my propensity of losing and/or breaking headphones, I think I’ll continue to be economical with my selection(s) of ear wear.
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: MAYS (4D: [“The Say Hey Kid”]) and DOYLE (54D: [Holmes’s creator]) – These two entries made me immediately think of one of the best sports movies ever made, Major League. In the 1989 classic, Wesley Snipes plays outfielder Willie MAYS Hayes, the speed merchant who, at the very beginning of the movie, was much more valuable with his legs than with his bat. (Line from manager Lou Brown: “You may run like Mays, but you hit like like s*$%!”) Another memorable character in the movie was Harry DOYLE, the sarcastic yet lovable play-by-play announcer for the Cleveland Indians, played by Bob Uecker. Here’s Harry Doyle at his finest behind the mic…
See you all at the top of the hump tomorrow!