Joel Fagliano’s New York Times crossword, “Double-Crossed”—Amy’s write-up
I enjoyed the hell out of this puzzle, with the contemporary vibe in its fill and the way everything fell firmly into my wheelhouse (can things fall into a wheelhouse?). Can’t remember the last time I finished a 21×21 puzzle in under 7 minutes. Just flew through it.
… Although I couldn’t for the life of me figure out the theme, and wasn’t expecting a meta challenge. So I checked to see if there was a solving note, and indeed there was: “When this puzzle is completed, take the answer to each starred clue and cross out all the letters used twice. The leftover letters will spell an appropriate word, reading top to bottom.” So after you knock out the H’s, I’s, P’s, O’s, C’s, T’s, and A’s in 27a HIPPOCRATIC OATH, you have an R left over. Go through the answers to all the starred clues to highlight the odd-man-out letters, and they spell out REMAINDERS. Cute.
Not counting wrangling with the theme after solving, this played like an easy, oversized themeless puzzle. Which is kinda fun for me! Favorite fill (including the theme answers, which, after all, have no inherent wordplay in them): MIMOSA, PRIDE PARADE, PRETTY PENNY, B-SCHOOL, painter Maurice UTRILLO, NICOTINE PATCH, FAULTLINES, FEARSOME, “UP TO YOU,” EMO BANDS, SPEECH BUBBLES, and DOWN-LOW. I could have done without the UNDER duplication in themers 70a and 103a, though.
Four stars from me.
Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “I’m Positive”—Jenni’s write-up
I would have done it faster except I was distracted by the culinary goings-on in my kitchen as David and Emma improvised a mac’n’cheese recipe. Fun puzzle! For us medical folk, “I’m positive” isn’t always a good thing. For Evan, it definitely is. The theme is kind of Tom Swiftian – phrases and titles that incorporate a proper name, clued in way that references someone who bears that name. I just made that sound way more complicated than it is. See for yourself:
- Positive response to “Charles in Charge” star Baio for his expression of shock? GREAT SCOTT
- Positive response to Robinson Crusoe’s companion for his piety before Easter? GOOD FRIDAY
- Positive response to “High Society” star Grace Kelly for her hymnal performance? AMAZING GRACE
- Positive response to singer Furtado for her prudishness? NICE NELLY
- Positive response to JFK’s daughter for her cover of a Neil Diamond tune? SWEET CAROLINE
- Positive response to composer Ellington for becoming the leader of Luxembourg?GRAND DUKE
- Positive response to a weather-controlling “X-men”character for conjuring a rare and powerful tempest? PERFECT STORM
- Positive response to author Puzo for his skill at Nintendo games? SUPER MARIO
- Positive response to singer Coolidge for her rendition of a Beatles hit? LOVELY RITA
Evan gives us a nice range of positive terms and a solid, consistent theme. AMAZING GRACE is my favorite. I love singing that song, and “High Society” is one of my favorite movies.
A few more things:
- “Alexandria resident” at 6A is not in Virginia, but in Egypt – the answer is ARAB.
- YVONNE De Carlo showed up in some other puzzle this weekend in the role I’m more familiar with, Lily Munster. Here we have the reference to “The Ten Commandments”. Wikipedia tells me she played “Sephora, wife of Moses”. I thought “huh? Sephora?” and then realized that must be the anglicization of Tziporah, the name I’m familiar with.
- “Made a mess, say?” is nice misdirection for COOKED.
- I also enjoyed LALALA for [I’m not listening!]
- I’m glad to see an ANI Difranco reference instead of the blasted cuckoo.
- TAXICAB is now the “Uber or Lyft alternative” instead of the other way around. How times do change.
- Instead of Jane Eyre, today’s Bronte references is AGNES Grey.
Something I didn’t know before I did this crossword: ORCS fought the Battle of Helm’s Deep. How did I survive without reading Tolkien?
Overall a very good start to my Sunday puzzling. 4 stars from me. And if the only “High Society” you know is the Cheech and Chong variety, take a look at this.
Rebecca Durant’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “Border Pairs”—Andy’s review
This appears to be the debut puzzle for Ms. Durant–congratulations!
This puzzle has a built-in semi-revealer (unusually for a Sunday): the themers are all VOWEL LANGUAGE [Answers to starred clues, as hinted by the title of this puzzle?]. The title, “Border Pairs,” suggests we’re looking at the outermost pairs of letters, and–wouldn’t you know it–there are two vowels at the front and back of every theme answer:
- 23a, OATMEAL COOKIE [*Part of a Quaker recipe batch].
- 37a, EUCALYPTUS TREE [*It attracts koalas].
- 56a, OOLONG TEA [*Beverage made from sun-withered leaves].
- 79a, AEGEAN SEA [*Cyclades setting]. The Ionian Sea would have done just as nicely.
- 94a, AUDIT COMMITTEE [*Financial oversight group]. I like the word “oversight” because it’s a perfect example of an auto-antonym–a word that can have two completely opposite meanings. Here, “oversight” means “the act of overseeing something,” but it can also mean “a mistake caused by the failure to pay attention to something.” “Sanction” is another one of my favorites, as it can mean “to prohibit” or “to give one’s imprimatur to.”
- 17d, OUT OF ONE’S LEAGUE [*Too much to handle]. This clue is straining the substitution test, I think. The closest I could come is “This task is too much to handle” and “This task is out of one’s league,” but I think the use of “one’s” makes it difficult to find a suitable clue.
- 45a, EATING HUMBLE PIE [*Forced to apologize]. Not my favorite clue/answer combination, but this substitution feels much closer than the previous one.
Seven theme entries, plus the sort-of revealer makes eight. The theme doesn’t knock my socks off, but I do have to give it points because I don’t remember ever having seen anything quite like it. The execution is solid; it does what it set out to do, which is begin and end with two vowels.
The fill has a few bright spots: I’M COOL, GAMECOCK, FACTOID, TOY PIANO with the Schroeder clue. ZACH with a Good Wife reference! ICE COLD and REST EASY are nice, though I just noticed that there’s both COOL and COLD.
The center section is the roughest part of the grid. It’s constrained by OOLONG TEA and AEGEAN SEA, and in particular by that nasty T—G entry (especially since THONGS appears elsewhere in the puzzle, further limiting what can go there). I tried to see to what extent TELEG/EZEK was a necessary evil; my best replacement fill was OH MY/ASICS/RENE in place of LEVY/HALOS/EZEK, but even that leaves the partial A RAT. Replacing AEGEAN with IONIAN yielded some halfway decent results as well, but it’s not like there’s an obvious perfect fix. I think the grid might’ve worked out better had the constructor switched OOLONG TEA and AEGEAN SEA, but it would require ripping out a lot of what’s already there, so that’s pure speculation.
CASSINO and CHAPLET are both completely new to me. Lots of SAGOs and TARNs and –IUMs and SYSTS, etc. etc. The NE and NW, overall, were shining lights. [Maui ciao] for ALOHA tickled me, especially in light of the vowelliness of the puzzle.
Hey, ACPT is in less than two weeks! I hope to see many of you there!
Until next time!
Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s CRooked crossword, “Charades” — Jenni’s write-up
pannonica is a bit under the weather so here I am with my second Sunday puzzle of the day. Feel better, pannonica!
Today’s Crooked Crossword is from Hex, and it features one of my favorite games, Charades. As always, you play by breaking a word or phrase into component parts that can be acted out, or clued independently, and then putting them together thusly:
- $5+bug+boat = smudge – FIN/GERM/ARK = FINGER MARK.
- Pick+grain+OK = sensors – ELECT/RICE/YES = ELECTRIC EYES.
- Bug+rock+odor = shining – FLU/ORE/SCENT = FLUORESCENT (this was where I realized “bug” didn’t mean “insect” and went back to the first one and filled in “germ”.)
- Truck+mom+part = RIG/MA/ROLE = RIGMAROLE.
- Deed+weed+fall = ninny – FEAT/HERB/BRAIN = FEATHERBRAIN. Love that word.
- Plug+truck+sticks = AD/VAN/CEMENTS = ADVANCEMENTS (“sticks” as a verb.)
- Corral+label+sheep = star – PEN/TAG/RAMS = PENTAGRAMS. Your daily dose of Satanism in crosswords.
- Mom or pop+male+fam member = mark – PARENT/HE/SIS = PARENTHESIS
- Record+playing+very+tardily = sad – DISC/ON/SO/LATE = DISCONSOLATE
- For+myself+our land = Titan – PRO/ME/THE US = PROMETHEUS. Not all of US are in THE US; Emily and Henry are, so they speak for themselves.
That’s lots of theme action even for a Sunday-sized grid. I got the trick at ELECTRIC EYES and the rest fell easily and with great satisfaction. I haven’t seen this theme before and I really enjoyed it.
A few other things before I return to the kitchen to finish the first batch of hamantaschen:
- There’s an OMELETTE in this puzzle. I know both OMELETTE and OMELET are acceptable; is one a variant? Just made me wonder.
- We get [Opposite of home] and [Opposite of here] right next to each other (AWAY and GONE). I like that apposition.
- FLO-JO Griffiths makes an appearance. Gone too soon.
- Has anyone seen or used the word EMAG outside of crosswords? ([Online ‘zine”].) I have not.
- NANCI Griffith! We love her music and saw her in concert twice in the halcyon days before Emma’s birth, when we did such things.
- [Williams-Sonoma item] could be almost anything. It turns out to be a quotidian CAKE PAN. Probably a top-of-the-line, heavy-duty, imported cake pan costing over $100.00.
- If Williams-Sonoma isn’t enough high-end retail, we also have NEIMAN-Marcus
Things I did not know before I did this crossword: that those hats marching band members wear are SHAKO hats, and that there was a soul singer named OLETA Adams. I’ve heard this song, but never knew the artist. I’ve been missing out.
And, for good measure, Nanci Griffiths singing one of my favorites.
Alan Arbesfeld’s Sunday Challenge CrosSynergy crossword —Ade’s write-up
Good day, everyone! Hope you’re all well. Another abbreviated post, as I continue to deal with Madness.
Fun grid from Mr. Alan Arbesfeld, as I definitely wanted to put “war song” or some sort of hymn as I read the clue for AZTECAN, even though only Montezuma was capitalized (1A: [From the halls of Montezuma, say]). Was totally on the mislead for TERAWATT, though I’m not pretty sure how I got that with only one letter filled in beforehand (11D: [Huge amount of juice]). Uh oh, have to get interviews done ASAP now, as one of the teams (Notre Dame) is ready to do their postgame press conference. See ya…
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: TSU (24A: [Nashvile sch.]) – TSU stands for Tennessee State University, and one of the great basketball coaches of all time coached at the Historically Black College/University, John McClendon. He’s in the Basketball Hall of Fame, along with one of the great basketball players that he coached, NBA champions Dick Barnett (who also went to TSU).
Have a great rest of your weekend, everyone!