Alex Vratsanos’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
I hope you’re not creeped out by spiders, because they’re all over this puzzle. In addition to the eight LEGs splayed out, we have a matrix of interlocked 9s that are spider-related: E.B. White’s CHARLOTTE, the class ARACHNIDA, horrifying BITE MARKS, and a SPINNERET.
Somehow, despite the triple-checked letters in circles restricting the constructor’s leeway, I zipped through this puzzle. I am good at names, and this puzzle is jam-packed with them. Sure, I know ULM, EDA, DER ALTE, and OMOO from crosswords, but they’re in my head now. (Woe to the beginner working this puzzle.)
Five more things:
- 16a. [Mathematician whose name sounds like a ship], EULER. German pronunciation sounds like “oiler.”
- 21a. [Not slippery at all, as a winter road], ICELESS. What? No. I think you’d be more likely to say it was ice-free than ICELESS.
- 27a. [Not gendered, as a noun], EPICENE. So … like basically all nouns in English?
- 68a. [Niece’s counterpart, in French], NEVEU. Whoa … this is not often seen in crosswords, and I didn’t remember the word from French 1–3.
- 51a. [Actress Angela of “American Horror Story”], BASSETT. Ooh, I loved her in the “Coven” season.
3.5 stars from me.
Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle (Week 265), “Blame Game”—Janie’s review
If this puzzle feels a little like déjà vû all over again, that’s because it was only three weeks ago that today’s 37A. [Wordplay used in this puzzle] ANAGRAM was the wordplay used then. Last time out, however, it was the title that tipped off the gimmick. Today’s title also plays into the gimmick, but more subtly than the coded “Earth-Shaking Fun” did, where the (“earth”) letters F-I-E-L-D were “shaken” (ANAGRAMmed”) into different configurations. No, today Liz puns on the phrase “blame game” by making a “game” of rearranging the letters “B-L-A-M-E” and saving the ANAGRAM-reveal for the grid itself. I find this to be a very strong tie between title and theme execution, especially as those letters are always the first five of the theme fill. How does this play out? Take a look.
- 17A. MELBA TOAST [Crunchy rectangle]. Sometimes even a [Crunchy circle]—or square or triangle… But “classic” MELBA TOAST looks to be rectangular.
- 10D. MABEL MERCER [Cabaret singer whose interpretive style influenced Frank Sinatra]. Ooh. Nice piece o’ musical trivia.
- 24D. EMBLAZONING [Decorating with a coat of arms]. Great word. Not often ya meet up with it in the puzzles!
- 56A. LAMEBRAINS [Chuckleheads]. My inner-ten-year-old gets a smile from both the clue and the fill.
Then, my adult self really appreciates a lot of the longer (mid-range) fill as well: CABANAS, ITALIAN, “BON SOIR,” the smooth LIAISE and the crunchy IVANKA, ISABEL, ART SALE, “LENORE,” GENEVA, the current BESTIE and especially the alliterative, symmetrically-placed, celestially-referencing STARLETS and SUN SPOTS.
“ALAS…” I’m far less fond of some of the old-school crosswordese that makes its way into the grid. IMAM and IMAN, ERMA, OLIO, and that cruciverbal [Diving duck] the SMEW (!!). But… not only do constructors rely on such fill, solvers ignore it at their own risk. They’re not “fresh” or “lively,” but they come with the territory.
Ditto the use of proper nouns. As I’ve said on other occasions, I don’t object to the use of names and places in puzzles, but I do feel let down when there’re more than a small handful. The air goes out of the solve for me. It’s always a question of balance, and from where I sit, we simply get too many today. As varied and evocative as the number of fields/interests they represent are, the guilty parties include AHAB, ALTA, “LENORE,” IMAN, RAMIS, GENEVA, ISABEL, BEZOS, ALERO, [ÎLE-de-France], ST. L., STAN, AVON, ROREM, ERMA, IVANKA, AESOP, NOLA, [ULAN Bator], NOV., SMU and SNL. <sigh> Your mileage may vary!!
And all that said, we do get some thoughtful and lively clues for some of those entries. Kudos to [Poe poem that begins: “Ah, broken is the golden bowl!”] for “LENORE,” [Trump who’s a Wharton graduate] for IVANKA, and [Man of morals?] for AESOP. And, of course, the foodie in me loved that (the adjective) ITALIAN was clued as [Like tiramisu]. Like it? I love it! ;-)
And with that, I leave you til next week. Keep solving—and I’ll do the same!
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “You’re Getting Sleepy” – Derek’s write-up
Yes, I am getting sleepy! Back to work this week, and I am feeling it already! Nothing like a crossword puzzle to soothe a tired mind! As you might surmise, the title of the puzzle alludes to the plethora of Zs in the grid, specifically each theme answer having three Zs in a row!
- 17A [Vegetable designed to stick in your nose?] SCHNOZ ZUCCHINI
- 35A [Worst score ever from Salt Lake City’s team?] UTAH JAZZ ZERO
- 43A [Places where you can only order sloe drinks?] GIN FIZZ ZONES
- 63A [Wild coffee shop where everyone’s had 10+ shots?] CAFFEINE BUZZ ZOO
A little nonsensical, but admit it: you laughed! Matt is always good for some nice sunny theme answers. A solid 3.9 stars for this one! Just a few notes:
- 1A [FitBit unit] STEP – These wearables are all the rage anymore. I don’t want to know how many steps I do in a day; it is usually well over 10,000! Perhaps when I don’t deliver packages anymore I will be more aware of being sedentary!
- 29A [Official who sings in Hebrew] CANTOR – A new term to me. I checked though: it IS in the dictionary!
- 39A [“Here Comes the Hotstepper” singer Kamoze] INI – For your annoyance, I will post the video. Now that song will be stuck in your head!
- 2D [“Tic ___ Dough” (TV game show)] TAC – Was I the only one who enjoyed the game shows on ABC Sunday night? Brought back fond memories. Didn’t need to be three hours long, though! Three 1/2 hour shows may have sufficed for me!
- 14D [Palme ___ (Cannes Film Festival award)] D’OR – Translates to “golden palm” from French. One of these days I will attend this festival. Or maybe not! I’ll shoot for maybe the Sundance Festival first!
- 33D [Comedian Ansari] AZIZ – A funny guy, and a dude with a lot of Zs in his name so he is useful in this puzzle! He has at least three comedy specials on Netflix and stars in Master of None, a Netflix series I have yet to watch.
- 49D [$2 to get $20, perhaps] ATM FEE – Perhaps the best clue of the puzzle, even though it seems as if I have seen it before.
- 61D [The 40 in a “40,” for short] OZS – Or maybe this one is the best clue! Both very clever!
Gotta keep it short since we are back to work! Enjoy your week!
Jeffrey Wechsler & Jason M. Chapnick’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
A co-constructor effort this Tuesday, neither of which I am too familiar with, but nonetheless this is a fun puzzle dealing with a famous zany movie maker!
- 17A [1977 Hitchcock parody] HIGH ANXIETY
- 60A [1976 parody of pre-talkies] SILENT MOVIE
- 3D [With “The,’ 1968 parody of dishonest Broadway financiers] PRODUCERS
- 23D & 25D [1974 Western parody] BLAZING SADDLES
- 35D [Born 6/28/1926, director of the answers to starred clues] MEL BROOKS
And Mel Brooks is still kicking at 89 years young! Too bad they couldn’t squeeze Spaceballs into the grid! Nice commemorative puzzle; 3.7 stars.
A couple of notes:
- 4A [“Cheers” mixologist] WOODY – As in Woody Harrelson’s character, in a role that launched him to super stardom! Yes, I am old enough to remember him in this popular show!
- 42A [Suburb of Phoenix] MESA – An old schoolmate of mine just moved to the Phoenix area. Lucky dog!
- 46A [Journalist Chung] CONNIE – Is she still married to Maury Povich?
- 57A [Green Giant’s “Little Green” buddy] SPROUT – This one took me a minute; it’s been a while since I have seen these commercials!
- 51D [Island in “Jaws”] AMITY – All I can think of when I see the word AMITY in a geographical sense is The Amityville Horror!
- 52D [Strikeout king Ryan] NOLAN – It will be a long time before someone touches his records. Everybody in baseball is made of glass now and has elbow surgery before they are 25!
Until this weekend!
Zhouqin Burnikel’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “The Great Divide” — Jenni’s write-up
I hope Jim is having a good time on vacation!
It’s Tuesday and the crosswordin’ is easy – in a good way. Our theme:
- 18a [*Frequent collaborator of Mel Brooks] = GENE WILDER. In my ongoing quest to provide my daughter with a strong cultural foundation, I showed her “Blazing Saddles” last year. I had completely forgotten the liberal use of the N-word, and she was horrified, since I have a firm stance against that word in her music. Oops.
- 24a [*Carouse] = GO ON A BENDER.
- 55a [*Rearrange electoral districts] = GERRYMANDER. An unfortunately timely entry.
- 63a [*Masked athlete] = GOALTENDER. Are they only called “goaltenders” in hockey? I guess in soccer they’re “keepers.”
And the revealer at 39a [Equal-pay issue, and what the answers to the starred clues all have] = GENDER GAP. GENDER shows up at the beginning and end of each themer with a GAP in the middle. This strikes me as a smidgen subversive for the WSJ. The gender gap is more striking for women with children. Men with children are likely to earn more money; women with children are likely to earn less. A solid and consistent theme.
A few other things:
- I’m glad AZTEC was in the grid and Quetzalcoatl was in the clue. Has Quetzalcoatl ever appeared as an answer?
- Love GEEK OUT at 12d [Talk enthusiastically about tech topics].
- Do all POTPIES have peas? (36d)
- I like [Deputized group] for POSSE at 62a. Nice to see that clued without reference to Westerns.
- [Had supper] for EATEN at 4d and [Stay home for supper] for DINE IN at 48a make for somewhat strained cluing in the interests of cuteness. Not terrible. Not worth it, in my opinion.
Not a lot of crosswordese. Nice, smooth Tuesday.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that ANDORRA’s official language was Catalan.
Donna S. Levin’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “This Puzzle May Be Monitored” —Ade’s write-up
Hello there, everyone! Today’s crossword puzzle, brought to us by Ms. Donna S. Levin, features theme entries in which the first word in each theme can also precede the word “monitor.” As of this moment, I have an old CRT computer monitor in my bedroom. Why? I have no idea exactly.
- HALL OF MIRRORS (20A: [Central gallery at Versailles])
- ANKLE BITER (34A: [Rug rat])
- BABY IT’S YOU (41A: [Burt Bacharach sing that was a hit for both the Beatles and the Shirelles])
- COMPUTER VIRUS (55A: [Malwarebytes quarry])
My goodness, Donna, did you have to ruin it for me with the clue to RABID (31D: [Spoiler alert: like Old Yeller, at the end])?!?!? Nah, totally kidding. I’ve seen Old Yeller before, and, not too long ago, saw the ending of the movie when channel surfing. I’m sure there will be other Disney movies coming up where a young boy has to shoot his dog at the end of the film, right?!? Oh, guess not. Always have used NICHE in relation to one’s bailiwick or interest, so the clue to it sent me for a loop temporarily (1D: [Place to stash a bibelot]). Of course, genius me put in “skid mark” initially for TIRE MARK, even though “skid” was in the clue (38D: [Evidence of a skid]). Though I don’t engage in PHILATELY at all, seeing that lovely fill in the grid may make me want to be more passionate in collecting stamps (4D: [Hobby of one who goes gaga over an Inverted Jenny]). Sometimes, going for speed in solving really throws me out of whack. It’s a good thing I watch European soccer on the regular, as seeing the premier team in the Czech Republic in the Champions League and Europa League, Sparta PRAHA, made it easy for me in solving that clue (52D: [Czech Republic capital, to a native]). But the team I mentioned isn’t the “sports” clue of the day, with the winner being a doozy, given the accomplishment I’m about to outline.
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: ASSIST (24A: [One of 1,963 for Wayne Gretzky]) – On Oct. 26, 1997, then New York Ranger Wayne Gretzky recorded his 1,851st career assist in a game against the Anaheim Mighty Ducks, giving him the remarkable achievement of amassing more assists than any other player in NHL history had total points (goals plus assists). Gordie Howe, who at the time was second in league history in total points, had amassed 1,850 career points in his career.
Thank you for the time and I’ll see you tomorrow!