Julie Bérubé’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Cute theme! I had the circled SUPER in place and when I hit the circled FRAGI, I knew exactly how to fill in the remaining circled squares. It’s Mary Poppins’ made-up word, SUPER/ CALI/ FRAGI/ LISTIC/ EXPI/ ALID/ OCIOUS. Here’s the song from the movie. I don’t see a theme revealer in the puzzle, but wonder if the constructor originally had an “even though the sound of it is really quite ATROCIOUS” clue at 60-Across. The theme’s a little unusual in that the circled chunks don’t come close to appearing in symmetrical spots, but how many words are going to cooperate in terms of length and hidden supercali-etc. chunks in the right places?
- 55a. [Band frontman, often], GUITARIST. “Frontman” is an unfortunate term, as it isn’t properly descriptive of rockers like Chrissie Hynde, Corin Tucker, Joan Jett, and so forth. At least the puzzle gives us Jessica LANGE, ERICA Jong, Betty GRABLE, DARA Torres, Golda MEIR, ARTEMIS, and Saoirse RONAN.
- 14a. [Source of supposed extraordinary health benefits], SUPERFOOD. Nice to get SUPERFOOD in the grid instead of in yet another clue for ACAI.
- Did not know: 32a. [Spanish soccer star Sergio ___], RAMOS. Husband informs me Ramos plays for Real Madrid.
I didn’t love fill like plural AQUAS, NURMI and SAULT (not so Tuesdayish), AGT, SLO, ABAB, plural abbrev PSS, STENOS, and TSE.
3.5 stars from me.
Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle (Week 264), “Here, FIDO!”—Janie’s review
If you think the title is telling you that you’re in for a canine-based theme, think again. No, the theme actually reflects the two syllables of that generic (yet historic, in fact) dog name, as each of the four themers is a two-word phrase whose first word starts with “FI-” and whose second with “DO-.” A groundbreaking theme? Nah. But an impeccably executed one? You betcha! The themers are rangy and fresh; the remainder of the fill and cluing adds some luster as well. “Who could ASK FOR anything more?” (so to speak…). Things get off to an especially good start with
- 17A. FISHING DOCK [Walk on water?]. Love this clue, as “walk” proves to be a noun and not a verb—which is a kind of misdirection I usually enjoy. Today was no exception.
- 27A. FIFTY DOLLARS [Words under a paper portrait of Ulysses S. Grant]. If you don’t happen to have any of these lying around, check it out:
- 48A. FIREHOUSE DOG [Dalmatian, often]. Oho! We do get an actual canine after all. In fact, we get two, what with [Nick and Nora’s pet] ASTA in the mix as well.
- 62A. FINDING DORY [2016 Pixar film about a forgetful blue tang]. Um. The movie was released this weekend (to whopping success). Can you say “fresh fill”?
I’d say much the same about LEAD STORY (which I like a lot more than its long grid-opposite, the kinda clinical DISINFECT), IN A FOG and also the jubilant and congratulatory “WE DID IT!”
And I like what I see as mini-themes, too. There’s one that’s a little alphabet-soupy as it gives a nod to the financial industry, with the [Broker’s gp.] NASD, NYSE [Wall St.’s Big Board] and those NYSE […debuts], IPOS.
There’s another that’s musical in nature with Maurice RAVEL [“Bolero” composer] crossing CLARA [Pianist/composer Schumann] down there in the SW and GIGS [Musician’s bookings] in the NE corner. (Somehow, though, I’m not convinced either Maurice or CLARA [both classical musicians] played GIGS as we know them in the modern vernacular…) Still, JUG [Moonshine vessel] is also in that corner and I gotta tell ya—that put me in a very musical frame of mind (see below…).
And it’s there, too, we get that [“The Mikado” setting] JAPAN pair. Oh—and not only does the NW offer up EVITA, the [“Rainbow Tour” musical], notice how the SE contains [Buenos AIRES], which is the title of another song from the same show. Fill and/or clues that generate associations always make for a dynamic solving experience. With or without “mini-themes,” Liz always fills her puzzles with loads of varied association-touchstones. This I like!
[Tools for duels] is a peppy clue for EPÉES; ditto [Beetle juice?] for GAS (think VW Beetle…); and what with all the recent (and ongoing…) upheaval in our day-to-day lives, I liked learning that N. DAK. is the [Peace Garden St.]. It’s had several , but this has been the official nickname since 1957.
Finally, it may seem a bit incongruous to think of brassy Ethel Merman singing a lullaby, but I hope you’ll enjoy the one below—in which her brass is balanced by the close harmonies of a smooth male trio. This is where that JUG [Moonshine vessel] “association touchstone” comes into play. Take a listen, keep solving and come by again next week!
Matthew Sewell’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Back and Forth” — Jim’s review
Things that oscillate!
- 17a [Arm with a blade] WINDSHIELD WIPER
- 29a [Notre-Dame’s 14-ton “Emmanuel,” for one] CHURCH BELL
- 49a [Fetched item, at times] TENNIS BALL
- 61a [Entrancing instrument] HYPNOTIST’S WATCH
I kept going back and forth (haha) on whether AL UNSER and CYCLONE are thematic, but I don’t suppose they are. But it’s strange to have those two entries that move in a circular pattern (or elliptical for AL UNSER) in the center of a grid where the theme answers move left to right. Is it just coincidence?
This theme is just a simple list, so it’s not really my cup of tea. But what really is troublesome for me is the last entry. The other three are actual phrases that name things. Not so the last one. To check, I turned to Google. The phrases in quotes get these numbers of hits: WINDSHIELD WIPER ~500k, CHURCH BELL ~400k, TENNIS BALL ~4M, HYPNOTIST’S WATCH…~1k. When they’re that different, it’s time for a replacement themer. I mean, conceptually, I get it; a HYPNOTIST’S WATCH is the ultimate oscillating thing because it’s shiny and it makes…you…want…to watch it…untilzzzzzz.
But it’s just not a phrase like the others. How about UNDECIDED VOTERS as a replacement? Yes, you have to resort to a plural for it to fit, but at least it gets around ~400k hits.
Anyhow, the rest of the puzzle is fairly standard WSJ, meaning mostly solid with minor gluey bits of crosswordese. Favorites for me are CASTAWAY which doesn’t get a film clue [Figure in many a New Yorker cartoon] and BESTIE [Closest pal, in slang], which I debuted over at the NYT a couple years ago, thank you very much.
- BAMBI crossing MINX somehow feels right. Yes, I know BAMBI is a boy.
- Mini-theme with POINT B and SHORT E.
- Nice to see EDDIE Redmayne get some crossword love at 52a.
- Best clue: [Young rocker?] for CRADLE
- Oddest clue: [Like many gym memberships] for UNUSED. Anyone want to admit to this?
Overall, a solidly-constructed puzzle, but I feel that the one themer is an outlier. Others might not object to it, but it was distracting to me.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “”Get Up! (Get On Up)” – Derek’s write-up
Feel like dancing after reading that title?
Yeah, now that tune is indelibly stuck in your head! You’re welcome! Matt’s theme today is actually kind of clever. The letters G-E-T literally go “on up!” In the circled squares, anyway! Note the circles in the grid compared to the theme entries below:
- 20A [Southern city and production site for the Manhattan Project] OAK RIDGE, TENNESSEE
- 39A [“Please keep in touch!”, somewhat quaintly] DON’T FORGET TO WRITE
- 55A [Hajj] PILGRIMAGE TO MECCA
The circled letters appear in red above, and are literally read going up in the grid. The most clever part of this puzzle, to me, is finding three entries that had the consecutive letters T-E-G!
- 6D [FC Barcelona goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter ___] STEGEN – Not a gimme, even for this sports buff!
- 29D [Twin sister and bandmate of 6-Across] TEGAN – Of the duo Tegan & Sara, whose biggest hit was Closer. At least it had the most downloads on Spotify!
- 48D [Bygone medicated shampoo brand] TEGRIN – I remember commercials for this shampoo! Does that make me old??
I am wondering if there are any other entries that contain *TEG*. A search with one of my anagram apps lists tons of words that are 12-letters or longer, but other than PROTEGE and INTEGER, everything 7-letters and shorter is quite obscure. 4.5 stars for executing what seems like a hard feat!
Just a few notes:
- 23A [Kermit sipping tea with the caption “But that’s none of my business,” e.g.] MEME – Hilarious! Some of these actually get a tad raunchy!
- 4D [Closest] NEARMOST – Not a common word, especially here in the Midwest, but it is in my unabridged dictionary!
- 10D [“Blueberry Hill” singer] FATS DOMINO – Smooth!
- 27D [Tommy Lee Jones/Will Smith movie of 1997] MEN IN BLACK – These last two entries are long down crosses, and seem effortless! Matt is a pro at this!
- 40D [Cap’n O.G. ___ (literacy-promoting cat and host of 1908s “ABC Weekend Specials”)] READMORE – I had to look this cat up! Pun intended!
- 41D [Chuck Connor TV western, with “The”] RIFLEMAN – Another nice long crossing down. These were so good that maybe that is why the puzzles seemed a little easier than normal.
Until next week’s Jonesin’!
Janice Luttrell’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
I usually race through these Tuesday puzzles; this one a tad slower than normal, but still a quick time right around 4 minutes. What are all the circles for??
- 21A [“Let’s say we’re even”] CALL IT A WASH
- 54A [It’s all in your mind] MENTAL IMAGE
- 3D [Off-ramps] EXIT LANES
- 34D [Sudden downturns, and a literal hint to this puzzle’s circles] TAILSPINS
The circled letters appear above in red. All are mixtures of the letters T-A-I-L. Not bad for a Tuesday puzzle! 3.6 rating. My reasons follow:
- 32A [Tuneful] ARIOSE – Maybe a tad tough for a Tuesday puzzle?
- 10D [Green Monster ballpark] FENWAY – Easy for me, and probably for most people. Perhaps less so on the West Coast? Fenway Park is on my bucket list of places I need to go!
- 29D [Intolerant sort] BIGOT – Not the nicest of words for a puzzle, in my opinion. It just doesn’t have a pleasant connotation.
- 38D [Deadly African virus] EBOLA – More negativity! Although as sick as I was about three weeks ago, I would have sworn I had ebola!!
- 50D [City name famously used by Peyton Manning when calling signals] OMAHA – This actually got annoying after awhile! And towards the end, I think it was more of a red herring to keep defenses off balance. Anyway, sports is my strong suit, and this was easy for me. Might stump many non-sports fans.
Overall a good puzzle. See you this weekend for the toughies!
Bruce Venzke’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Canine Honesty” —Ade’s write-up
Good morning, everyone. Today’s crossword, brought to us by Mr. Bruce Venzke, is another theme in which a quote is used – and broken up in sections in the puzzle – as the theme today. Far from my cup of tea in terms of the type of puzzles I like to solve, but this one involves dogs and Andy Rooney, so I’ll give this one a pass.
- IF DOGS COULD TALK, IT WOULD TAKE A LOT OF THE FUN OUT OF OWNING ONE (18A: [Andy Rooney quote about man’s best friends, part 1]…continues at 29-, 46-, and 59-Across)
As I said before, doing a puzzle with this type of theme (quotes broken up into chunks) doesn’t suit me at all, unless I’ve heard of the quote and can just recall it almost immediately…and that rarely happens. So, more than anything, I hope to get some chunks of the quote so I can take my best guess at what the rest would say. Either that, or just rely on the crosses. Either way, it’s time consuming for my little brain, probably more so than for others. Oh, and for those who love biplanes with their puzzle entries, we have SPAD, something I’m sure I’ve never come across in a puzzle until today (35A: [Early French fighter plane]). I have to give a shout out to the man who, for all intents and purposes, signs most of my paychecks, IGER (56D: [Disney head Bob]). Can’t say there were too many great MOMENTS in solving the puzzle, but it’ll do for a Tuesday (43D: [Brief time periods]).
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: OLE (59A: [Barcelona bravo]) – Though Manchester United FC was already one of the most popular soccer teams in the world before the turn of the century, probably the game that launched them into the international force that it is today occurred in 1999, when they won the UEFA Champions League Final, 3-2, over Bayern Munich. The game took place in Barcelona (fitting with the clue) and the man who scored the winning goal was a substitute, Norwegian striker OLE Gunnar Solskjær, whose tally with virtually the last kick of the game gave Manchester United a 2-1 victory as they won the world’s premier soccer club competition in one of the most memorable games in the sport’s history. (Both of Manchester United’s goals came in second-half stoppage, erasing a 1-0 deficit.)
See you at the top of the hump on Wednesday!