Tom McCoy’s New York Times Crossword, “Word Search” — Jenni’s writeup
Next year I hope to join the Indie 500 crowd in DC. Since that wasn’t possible this time, I’m filling in for Amy on the Sunday NYT.
I rolled my eyes at the title of this one since I really don’t like word search puzzles. Luckily, this wasn’t literal. Each theme answer tells us where we can find the words in the clue.
- 23a [Where you can find…”jacket” or “yourself”?] = FOLLOWING SUIT (suit jacket, suit yourself)
- 31a […”go” or “so”?] = BEFORE LONG (go long, so long)
- 37a […”anybody” or “cooking”?] = CLOSE TO HOME (anybody home?, home cooking)
- 65a […”got” or “tell”?] = BETWEEN YOU AND ME (you got me, you tell me)
- 93a […”two” or “face”?] = AHEAD OF TIME (two-time, FaceTime)
- 95a […”building” or “hours”?] = POST OFFICE (office building, office hours)
- 113a […”that’s” or “special”?] = NEXT TO NOTHING (that’s nothing, nothing special)
I like this theme – it’s clever and consistent and not something I remember seeing recently, if ever. All the phrases are in the language and it was fun to solve.
A few other things:
- 20a [Ones with good poker faces?] = RHINOS. Took me a minute to figure out how that fit.
- 47a and 55d are both [“Aww”-inspiring] = ADORABLE and CUTESY.
- 49d [Certain racy magazines] = MAXIMS. This is strained and unnecessary. As clued, it’s a roll-your-own plural that sounds absurd. A MAXIM is also a proverb or adage and that’s a plural I can imagine someone actually using in a sentence; still a bit clangy but not ridiculous. Is it really that important to have a wink-wink-nudge-nudge moment about “racy” magazines? I won’t say any more about the magazine in case my brother reads this (he was editor-in-chief of Maxim for a few years.) It’s a bad entry, no matter what you think of lad mags.
- 82a [Like the installments of “A Tale of Two Cities] = WEEKLY. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times….and tune in next week to find out why.”
- 100a [Flames that have gone out?] = EXES. Nice. Well, break-ups aren’t nice. The clue is nice.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that a POSTERN is a back entrance.
Paul Coulter’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “Hybrid Crossings”—Andy’s review
Yesterday was the second annual Indie 500 crossword tournament, and I am wiped out! I’m so glad I got to see as many people as I did yesterday, and my sincere apologies that I didn’t get a chance to have a proper conversation with so many people who were there. Thanks a ton to everyone for coming; thanks to the volunteers and test-solvers who were critical to the tournament running smoothly; thanks to the co-constructors for having great ideas and putting in a lot of hours on the puzzles; and thanks especially to Erik, Peter, and Angela for working ridiculously hard to put the tournament together.
Maybe I was just in an exceptionally good mood w/r/t crosswords in the Indie 500 afterglow, but I thought this was one of the best LAT Sunday offerings in quite some time. I feel like I have to have seen this idea somewhere before, but I have no idea where. The base phrases here all have some element that can combine with some similar thing to make a hybrid thing, thus forming the theme answers. Probably best explained by example:
- 22a, SMOG AND MIRRORS [Without 3-Down, artful deception]. 3d is FOG [Driving hazard]; SMOG without FOG is SMOKE, which leads back to the base phrase SMOKE AND MIRRORS.
- 37a, ORANGE JACKETS [Without 32-Down, stinging insect]. 32d
is RED [___ alert], and ORANGE without RED is YELLOW, giving us YELLOW JACKETS.
- 52a, MULE OF A DIFFERENT COLOR [Without 30-Down, separate matter altogether]. 30d is DONKEY [Critter orchestrally imitated in Grofé’s “Grand Canyon Suite”], and to get a MULE, you have to cross a DONKEY with a HORSE — thus, HORSE OF A DIFFERENT COLOR.
- 73a, COME TO A SPORK IN THE ROAD [Without 76-Down, arrive where one must decide between options]. 76d is SPOON [Aid in a stirring experience] (good clue); a SPORK is a hybrid SPOON/FORK; thus, the base phrase COME TO A FORK IN THE ROAD.
- 90a, SKORT THE ISSUE [Without 90-Down, be evasive]. 90d is SHORTS [Golfer’s garb]; a SKORT is a hybrid of SHORTS and a SKIRT, so the base phrase is SKIRT THE ISSUE.
- 110a, CHARLOTTE’S BLOG [Without 100-Down, classic children’s novel]. 100d is LOG [Shipboard account]; a BLOG is a WEB LOG, so the base phrase is CHARLOTTE’S WEB. This one doesn’t work quite as well as the others for me; I don’t think I’d call a BLOG a hybrid between a WEB and a LOG, where as the other five mostly work that way. Still, I find the idea of a modern children’s book called Charlotte’s Blog in which a spider takes to the Internet to try to save a pig simultaneously wacky and endearing. I’m inclined to give it a bit of a pass; “hybrid” in the title of the puzzle could, I guess, refer to actual hybrids and/or to portmanteaux in the style of SKORT, SMOG, and SPORK.
Six theme answers would generally be on the low end for a 21×21; however, (a) two of these span the entire grid, so we get almost as many theme squares as we normally would; (b) getting the six down entries to cross one letter of the appropriate word in the across entries is really challenging.
The theme is absolutely the star of this puzzle; there’s a few standouts in the surrounding fill, like ARCHETYPE, ROMCOM, MARS BAR, BACKLESS, and IT’S LATE. I hadn’t seen OTC DRUG in a puzzle before; not sure I love it, but it’s definitely inferable. There’s also the standard ALAE and ENDE and ACR and INSTR that make a puzzle like this possible, but I didn’t really mind. This puzzle taught me that there’s a PETR I should know about besides [Tennis player Korda]; there’s also [Czech hockey player Nedved].
I have absolutely no idea how I knew about SHMOO, but I confidently plopped it in at 1d [Stubby-legged Capp critter] to start the puzzle. I must have learned the name from crosswords, but I don’t remember seeing it recently.
Okay, I’m off to enjoy the splendors of DC! Until next time!
Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Team-Building Exercise” – Jenni’s writeup
Yet another meta. I think the universe is trying to tell me something. Evan was kind enough to give me a heads-up to look at the notepad and then pannonica and I team-solved the meta, by which I mean that pannonica solved it and I helped. A little.
The puzzle itself is straightforward.
- 23a [*Daily since 1851] = NEW YORK TIMES.
- 25a [*Hollwood-based alternative newspaper] = LA WEEKLY.
- 41a [*Southwest menagerie with an Arizona Trail] = PHOENIX ZOO.
- 51a [*Annual race often run in October] = CHICAGO MARATHON.
- 70a [*With “The”, 1965 film about high-stakes poker] = CINCINNATI KID.
- 87a [*Waterway that runs near the Alamo] = SAN ANTONIO RIVER.
- 96a [*First-ever professional bridge team] = DALLAS ACES. Say what? Professional bridge? Team?
- 114a [*Former TLC reality show about Florida-based tattoo artists] = MIAMI INK.
- 116a [*2014 Lana Del Rey song about hipster life in a Big Apple borough] = BROOKLYN BABY.
The notepad says “This crossword contains a metapuzzle that leads to a unique answer suggested by the puzzle’s theme. The answer is an American professional sports team.” I was pretty sure it wasn’t another bridge team. The only major pro team in San Antonio is the Spurs, and the only major sports team in Brooklyn at the moment is the Nets, so perhaps we’re talking about the NBA? No, there’s no NBA team in Cincinnati. Hmm. Right under LA WEEKLY I see TRAMS at 30a. TRAMS contains the word RAMS and the RAMS are an NFL team once again located in LA. And then I notice SPURTS at 62a. SPURTS contains SPURS and that’s the San Antonio NBA team. That must mean something. pannonica spotted the rest of them:
- 84d – METAS = NEW YORK METS – A
- 30a – TRAMS = LA RAMS – T
- 69d – SHUNS = PHOENIX SUNS – H
- 67d – CLUBS = CHICAGO CUBS – L
- 130a – REEDS = CINCINNATI REDS – E
- 62a – SPURTS = SAN ANTONIO SPURS – T
- 37a – SITARS = DALLAS STARS – I
- 110a – CHEAT = MIAMI HEAT – C
- 50d – NESTS = BROOKLYN NETS – S
Put it all together and you get ATHLETICS as in the Oakland Athletics and also, generally, sports. No real anagram – you take the missing letters from the teams going down the grid in order. I asked Evan if there was an additional meta or theme about teams that have moved (the As used to be in Philly, the Rams have moved three times, etc) and he said no. So that’s the story. I probably could have figured it out on my own but it’s getting to be afternoon and Emma is impatiently waiting to go shopping for party supplies.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: professional bridge? Teams? Cue Steve Manion.
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s CRooked crossword, “Drone” — pannonica’s write-up
Was actually flummoxed a bit by this one. It was evident that the theme ADDS (1a) H-U-M to existing phrases, but between 27a HUMDRUM… and 64a HOTLINEHUM… I was absently led into thinking it had something to do with boredom. Even misinterpreted the title as referring to “droning on” rather than a mere drone. Just what it says on the box, eh?
- 22a. [Friend zones?] CHUM SECTIONS (C-sections).
- 27a. [Boring college concentration?] HUMDRUM MAJOR (drum major).
- 47a. [Hug ALF?] HOLD SHUMWAY (hold sway). I would never in a million years known that ALF (alien life form) from that silly ’80s puppet-based sitcom had another name, and that that name was Gordon Shumway. Never watched the show, even though I was more or less the right age for it. I have standards!
- 64a. [Causing deflation on a crisis phone call?] HOTLINE HUMBLING (“Hotline Bling”). A song by Drake, apparently.
- 84a. [Sweaty employee cards?] HUMID BADGES (ID badges). I don’t want those stinkin’ badges.
- 102a. [Superficial Fox anchor?] LITE BRIT HUME (Lite-Brite™).
- 109a. [Creeks with figurines?] HUMMEL BROOKS (Mel Brooks).
A capable theme, but not a particularly … >yawn< … exciting one. See? Perhaps my first impression is coloring my judgment.
- Favorite clue: 38a [Twee instrument] UKE. Runner-up: 63d [Stuck up?] GLUED.
- 14a [A Train?] BCD. Is the capitalized T overly transgressive, even with the question mark?
- 3d [Full of questions] DOUBTFULLY. Egregious dupe. In light of this, I’m moderately less upset by 93a [“Gravity” setting] SPACE and 45d [Space distances] PARSECS.
- 23d [Minus symbol] EN DASH. Well, 115a [“No. Way.”] IT ISN’T.
(Yes, for nearly all intents and purposes they seem the same, but …)
- And, 30d [Endorsed] CASHED. No, not the same, not quite. Check it out for yourself.
- 76a [Add to, with “out”] EKE. Tricky, but defensible.
- Stacks! BENJAMINITES / COLORATURA, EGOMANIACS / RAT-A-TAT-TAT. Benjaminite sounds like something nasty to put on toast. Really liked RAT-A-TAT-TAT, but is that the sound of an Uzi, per the clue?
- Here’s a bunch of fill I didn’t love: EOE, NLE, OREL, OREM, NASL, REATA, NON-U, LSU/MSU dual presence.
- Don’t feel too strongly about this, but seem compelled to mention because they’re one-after-the-other: 55a [Islamic chieftains] EMEERS (var. spelling), 58a [Old Turkish title] DEY.
- Enjoyed seeing DESI clued as [From India], thought it also refers to peoples from the other nations on the subcontinent. No offense to Mr Arnaz, but a change is nice.
- Okay, now I’m just desultorily casting about for padding—time to wrap up the write-up.
I’ll give this one a solid meh.