James Mulhern’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Wow, this puzzle depressed me. First I hit 37d. [One handling an OD], ER DOCTOR. This made me think about Prince and other people who have died of overdoses. I wish the clue had cited a broken foot or a kitchen injury, something less likely to end in tragedy and broken-hearted families. Then I hit 41d. [Teases, in older usage], LOLITAS. Memo to constructors: Do not ever put this gross word in a grid. Conceivably, you could clue it awkwardly as [Classroom stack of Nabokov novels] or something, but this particular clue is absolutely awful. “Teases”? No, no, no. I’ve heard too many true stories recently of adolescents being sexually assaulted by grown men, including by their fathers, so any hint of “tease” and the title character Lolita appalls me. (Children cannot consent to sex. It doesn’t matter in the slightest if their behavior could be construed by an adult as “teasing.” It’s incumbent on the adult to keep the child safe, and not commit sexual assault.) In 2016, I don’t know how an editor accepts a grid with LOLITAS in it.
Okay. Moving on (which I can do because I was fortunate enough not to have been assaulted as a child, and thus am not beset by traumatic memories evoked by the crossword). (And because I’m not a Japanese person for whom NAGASAKI‘s appearance here might be triggering.) Favorite fill: The SQUARE BRACKET that I use to set off clues. “DOUBT IT.” CANBERRA, Australia’s capital. TOTE BAG appearing instead of the more common TOTE. TEXAS BBQ. SULU SEA. EPIDURAL (Public service alert! If you ever have an epidural and find yourself with a horrible headache afterwards whenever you aren’t lying flat, tell your doctor you have a spinal headache. They can fix it!). FANTASY BASEBALL (which was created, as Rotisserie Baseball, by crossworder Daniel Okrent). The Jim Carrey movie LIAR, LIAR (though it’s a tad dated now, we did enjoy the movie). TAILGATE.
Four more things:
- 7a. [Driver’s hazards], FLASHERS. I call the hazard lights blinkers.
- 15a. [Not divisible, as a job], ONE-MAN. Wait. What is there about someone doing a job that is specifically male? Maybe the clue should be [Not divisible, as a sperm donor’s job].
- 44a. [One-on-one basketball play, slangily], ISO. Had to ask my family what the heck this means. It’s short for isolation, they tell me.
- 2d. [Brazilian city name that sounds like a U.S. state capital], ANAPOLIS. You don’t say. Never heard of this place. Brazil has 66 cities that are bigger. Can you even name 10 of them?
2.5 stars from me, because of all the unpleasantnesses taking the puzzle out of the “diverting leisure activity” realm.
Alan Arbesfeld’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Picture Frames” —Ade’s write-up
Welcome to July, everyone! Man, one half of the year is officially over. Today’s crossword puzzle, brought to us by Mr. Alan Arbesfeld, loads up on theme entries. Four long theme entries going across are multiple-word answers in which the beginning and ending letters can combine to form a word related synonymous with motion pictures, while four other shorter theme entries – a pair of intersecting answers – let us in on the gimmick.
- MOVING SALE (17A: [It may be used to clean out before clearing out]), (49D: [Picture “framing” the answer to 17-Across]).
- CREDIT LINE (32A: [Borrower’s limit]), (64A: [Picture “framing” the answer to 32-Across])
- FIRST PSALM (40A: [Old Testament poem that begins Blessed is the man that walketh…”]), (10A: [Picture “framing” the answer to 40-Across])
- FLIGHT DECK (59A: [Top of a flattop]), (10D: [Picture “framing” the answer to 40-Across])
A while back, I read an article as to why SPITBALLS, commonly used in the dead ball era of baseball (and still surreptitiously used despite its illegality), went away (4D: [Illegal pitches]). It was interesting to read a quote from a former Major League pitcher, Mike Maddux (brother of Hall of Famer Greg Maddux), in which he said that the split-finger fastball that was mastered by Bruce Sutter (pronounced SOO-ter) in the 1980s mimicked the same sinking/disappearing action that a doctored baseball would have when throwing it. If you’re interested in reading about the history of the spitball, here you go. Besides, it’s better to think about this version of a spitball than the one you might have been hit with in the back of the head when sitting in class in elementary school. Straightforward solve, as per usual, but now the grid has made me hungry with LASAGNA (43D: [Trattoria offering]). Time for lunch.
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: NORI (35D: [“Me, neither”]) – Let’s turn crosswordese into legitimate fill, shall we?! Major League Baseball player Norichika “NORI” Aoki is currently an outfielder for the Seattle Mariners. After playing in the Japanese League (NPB) from 2004 to 2011, Aoki was signed by the Milwaukee Brewers before the beginning of the 2012 season. Aoki’s first year in the Majors (2012) saw him steal 30 bases with the Brewers, and he was an integral member of the Kansas City Royals’ 2014 pennant-winning team.
Have a great rest of your Friday everyone! See you tomorrow!
Jeff Chen’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up
Really loved the way Jeff Chen executed today what is, at its heart, a pretty basic theme. There are four themers that all begin with the pattern “?OVER”. The over is missing, and the first letter sits about the theme entry, and is probably circled in your grid. At first blush, the theme answers made no sense, which forces one to dig deeper and uncover the gimmick – creating I think a pleasing “a-ha” moment.
- (SOVER)EIGNSTATE, […Self-ruled entity]
- (POVER)TYREDUCTION, […Huminatarian goal]
- (COVER)TOPERATIONS, […Undercover mission]
- (GOVER)NMENTDEBT, […Concern of the Fed]
The theme is not that dense, but I think the single letter caps created additional design challenges. There are paired 9-letter downs in the top-right and bottom-left. Of those, LEOPARDESS is an off-beat feminine form for sure! Going across from the bottom pair is the 8 letter TELEPATH, clued as [One who really gets in your head?], TELEPATH. Are we sure about that “really”? Really??
- [Where many kids squirm], PEW is a very evocative clue!
- [Mercyhurst University city], ERIE. My crossword-ese reflex to E?I? was ENID not ERIE here…
- [2007 Acer acquisition], GATEWAY is a peculiarly esoteric clue for that. I know it because I know my computer brands, but given I’ve had for example AMD rejected as too obscure, it’s a surprising clue choice…
- [Dead man walking], GONER. Veterinary case notes black humour – for a case with a poor prognosis – “don’t buy the big bag of pet food”.
- [Home run ___], TROT. Don’t know this phrase, but I imagine it’s similar to in cricket when you know the ball is headed for the boundary and you half shuffle forward out of habit?