James Mulhern’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
The Cubs beat the Mets tonight, and baseball’s the name of the game. A FULL COUNT is 63a. [3-2 … or what’s represented by the answers to this puzzle’s starred clues?]. That’s three balls and two strikes, as represented by three phrases with BALL and two with STRIKE:
- 17a. [*Car part that works in a similar manner to the human hip], BALL JOINT. Uh, never heard of the car part, but anatomically speaking, the hip is a ball joint.
- 37a. [*Retaliate], STRIKE BACK.
- 42a. [*Tenants’ protest], RENT STRIKE.
- 11d. [*Children’s toy that tests dexterity], BALL IN A CUP. That thing is actually called that?
- 29d. [*Cry just before hitting the pool], CANNONBALL.
The theme breaks the standard rule against repeating words in the puzzle (and in the theme entries), but intentionally, and I’m OK with it. The varying BALL and STRIKE locations are … well, are they problematic for you? Would you have preferred the BALLs and STRIKEs all appearing at the beginning or at the end of their phrases? And do you like 9a: AT BAT appearing here, thematic but not explicitly linked to the theme, and not paired with a symmetrical thematic answer?
Best fill: “I’M LOVIN’ IT.” Worst fill: The ASSAI/NANU crossing, and on a Tuesday. V-TEN with its numeral spelled out. AREEL, NAE, and URAL, in a Tuesday grid.
Four more things:
- 36a. [Indian bread], NAAN. I had some great naan last night at a Nepalese/Indian restaurant. The steamed chicken momo dumplings were also great … but everything else was a disappointment. #hoorayforbread
- 38d. [Attractive, informally], BODACIOUS. I checked two dictionaries, and neither one included the word “attractive” among the definitions.
- 47d. [Multivitamin ingredient], ZINC. Well, only if it’s a multivitamin that also contains minerals. Zinc’s a mineral.
- 55d. [Spherical locks], AFRO. This is mathematically wrong.
3.4 stars from me.
Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle (Week 268), “The Old Boy Network”—Janie’s take
In a deft use of wordplay, the title tells the tale. We’re not looking at the classic meaning of the phrase. Instead, while all of today’s five themers are indeed the first and last names of men—three of whom are flesh and blood (okay, one is now deceased…); two of whom are fictional — what these “boys” have in common is the word “OLD.” You’ll find it embedded in either the first or last part of their names. What’s especially nice about the names (okay, 4 outta 5 of ’em…) is how high-profile they are—and all of ’em come from the arts, too: film (two actors; one role), literature and drama. Works fer me!
- 17A. GARY OLDMAN [Actor who’s played Dracula, Sid Vicious and Beethoven]. Now there’s an actor with some range!
- 23A. RYAN REYNOLDS [Green Lantern portrayer in a 2011 film]. Range is yet to be fully explored, but I thought he was terrific (deadpan funny, even kind of moving) in the more recent Deadpool.
- 36A. HOLDEN CAULFIELD [Salinger protagonist who said, “I’m quite illiterate, but I read a lot”]. Good thing this was a grid-spanner because I remembered him as HOLDEN CAUFIELD. Wrong.
- 51A. HAROLD PINTER [“The Homecoming” playwright]. Whose early work especially had such style-defining moments of communicative/weighted non-speaking that the term “Pinter pause” was coined to define it.
- 61A. STEVEN GOLD [Tom Hanks role in “Punchline”]. Yikes. With approximately no frame of reference here, I really needed the crosses to make this one happen. If Punchline had been a better known (or simply better) film, I wouldn’t have any complaint with its being a nearly 30-year-old pic. But it came out in 1988, same year as Hanks’s Big. Which one do you remember?…
So I was a tad let down by the final themer, as I was by encountering (in addition to these five full names) some 15 more names, place names or product names elsewhere in the grid. Your mileage may vary—and all of those proper nouns may have made the solve easier for you—but, well, I tend to be LEERY of name-heavy fill. I can see how the themers constrain the grid (and the constructor’s ability to fill it in a fresher way), but “HEAR YE!” and HERBAL, “SAYS ME!” and EERILY make me far happier than the likes of ULAN and ERBE, SEGER and ELOI…
And what they lack in sparkle, LITURGIES and RURAL AREA make up for in length. FENG SHUI and DIE HARDS, on the other hand, are solid beauties both and get two thumbs up from me. Where the former is concerned, I especially loved learning that the term is [Chinese for “wind and water”]. Don’t know how long I’ll retain that info, but with luck, it’ll fix itself somewhere on my brain’s hard drive.
Finally, I don’t adore partials, but there’s one today that makes me giggle and that’s [“Whose woods these ARE I think… (Frost)]. (I have the feeling I may have noted this on another occasion, still:) “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” is scarcely a laff riot, but do note how easily its meter matches (and its words can be sung to) the melody of “Hernando’s Hideaway” from The Pajama Game. Ah, well, nuthin’ like draggin’ the sublime down to the ridiculous… Must be the heat!
Keep cool, keep solvin’ and keep comin’ back. See you here next week!
Damien Peterson’s (Mike Shenk’s) Wall Street Journal crossword, “To a T” — Jim’s review
A “tee” sound is added to familiar phrases with wacky consequences.
- 17a. [Obligation to send mail?] POSTAGE DUTY. Postage due. Write your mother.
- 23a. [Accord reached after a domestic dispute?] FAMILY TREATY. Family tree. Good one.
- 47a. [Vertically challenged brown cow?] JERSEY SHORTY. Jersey Shore. My favorite of the lot.
- 57a. [Tasty tidbit deserving of a four-star rating?] GREAT DAINTY. Great Dane. This one threw me. Seems like an oxymoron. Never heard DAINTY used to refer to a “tasty tidbit.”
I love a good wackified sound-addition theme, and this one’s good. Note that none of the original words ends in a T sound; for example, there’s no PAT changed to PATTY. Each base word is etymologically different from the new word.
So the theme is solid, what else is there? Oh, you had me at SPEED RACER [Animated character who drives the Mach 5]! That was my absolute favorite show when I was a kid. He had the coolest car with all the gadgets and imitatable sound effects (chokchokchokchok) and the girlfriend and the annoying kid brother with a pet chimpanzee and the mysterious big brother. I think I was blown away when I learned that [spoiler alert!] Racer X was actually Speed’s brother! Whoa!
Okay. Sorry about that. At 11d we have [Complain loudly] which I took to mean MAKE A SCENE, but it turned out to be the equally lovely MAKE A STINK. We also get OPENING UP, BOYCOTTED, PLACATE, and OUTTAKE.
Clues of note:
- Never heard the word [Mawkish] at 41a. Answer: SOPPY.
- I thought I had our good constructor dead to rights when I saw the clue for GSA at 57d was [Govt. office supplier]. But it turns out the G stands for General not Government.
- 29a. The clue for HATS is [Bowlers’ league]. This was tricky, but I’ve finally decided “league” is being defined as “class” or “category,” not as some sort of counting measurement.
In the NE we get AGE crossing AGENT and PENN crossing PENNY. Hmmm. But other than that, there’s very little gunk to speak of. Nice puzzle.
Here is the original opening for “Mach Go, Go, Go!” (SPEED RACER in its original Japanese.) Enjoy!
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “Breaking Story” – Derek’s write-up
In “putting all the details back together,” Matt has a sort of tribute to a TV show I believe is either coming to an end or already has. Although I am sure it will live on forever in reruns. They have to fill content on these 800 channels somehow! Here are the theme entries, with circled letters shown in red:
- 17A [1967 hit by The Doors] LIGHT MY FIRE
- 28A [Part of one of the Ten Commandments] HONOR THY MOTHER
- 49A [T-Bone Walker’s genre] RHYTHM AND BLUES – This is the reference he came up with??!! ;-)
- 65A [Long-running TV science show that hints at the other long entries] MYTHBUSTERS
My son informs me that this show HAS ended. Still on in reruns, though! We will call it a tribute puzzle all the same! 3.9 stars!
A few things:
- 36A [Boutros-Boutros Ghalib’s birthplace] CAIRO – I don’t think I knew this!
- 69A [Caesar salad base] ROMAINE – This was a guess, as a Caesar salad has lots in it. All those years of watching the Food Network is paying off!
- 11D [Comic-strip girl who debuted in the 1930s] LITTLE LULU – Who? Oh, her:
- 30D [Well out of medal contention] NINTH PLACE – If the Russian team is banned, they might be ecstatic just to have a shot at ninth place!
- 32D [Northern California town that once had a palindromic bakery] YREKA – I wonder what the bakery was?? A Wikipedia search explains how this town got its name. Story unfamiliar to me; perhaps more so on the West coast?
- 33D [“___ Out” (musical based on Billy Joel songs)] MOVIN’ – Still a dream of mine to see Billy Joel in concert at MSG. It will happen!
- 42D [___ 500] INDY – A gimme here in the Midwest!
- 50D [“___ down?” (Joey Tribbiani greeting)] HOW YOU – My son confirms this is a Friends reference. Just never a show I got into!
Matt is still a genius! Have a great week!
Tony Caruso & C.C. Burnikel’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
In a good mood today; just found out my career at UPS may be ending sooner than I thought! More updates coming soon! But for now, we have a collaboration from Caruso and Burnikel with a theme that is clever in its simplicity. Explained by the entry at 58A:
- 17A [“The San Francisco Treat”] RICE-A-RONI – I grew up on this stuff! Every time I go to the grocery store, I am tempted to buy a box. It never tastes like it did when I was 10!
- 38A [Decor for part of a floor] AREA RUG
- 11D [Question to a stranded driver] WHERE ARE YOU?
- 26D [Confinement that might involve an ankle monitor] HOUSE ARREST
- 58A [Site of the hammer, anvil and stirrup … and a hint to the hidden word in the answers to starred clues] MIDDLE EAR
Sure enough, the letters E-A-R appear smack in the middle of the theme entries. Nice and tidy! I thought at first 58A might be INNER EAR, but of course that was too short to fit. I always like these puzzles where the theme is not at all evident until the end. I maybe should solve a little slower and try to figure it out! 4.2 stars.
- 9A [Nasty marketing campaign] AD WAR – I am sure we will see a bloodbath this fall in the ad war between the presidential candidates. Not looking forward to it!
- 24A [“Ouch!”] IT HURTS! – My 4 year old says this a lot. He’s a boy …
- 46A [“This bears repeating …”] AS I SAID – Or [Words said by a frustrated parent]!
- 22D [Take on a challenge] STEP UP – I like this one! Not that uncommon an entry, but clued in a different way. According to xwordinfo.com, no one has ever referenced the movie franchise!
- 47D [“I, Robot” author Isaac] ASIMOV – I believe I read this many moons ago. The Will Smith movie is always fun to watch; perhaps I will re-read the novel!
- 57D [Chicago team, for short] SOX – Or Boston!
Enjoy your week!
Randolph Ross’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Turn ‘Em Over” —Ade’s write-up
Hello there, everyone! Today’s crossword puzzle, brought to us by Mr. Randolph Ross, allows us to get the spatula out to alter theme entries. In the grid, celebrities – real and fictional – have their names altered, as the first letter in each, which usually is M, is literally turned upside down to create a W – as well as some clever puns.
- WAX VON SYDOW (17A: [Swedish actor featured at Madame Tussauds?]) – Max von Sydow.
- WITCH ALBOM (24A: [Best-selling author who casts a spell?]) – Mitch Albom.
- WARY POPPINS (35A: [Cautious nanny?]) – Mary Poppins.
- WARTY MCFLY (46A: [“Back to the Future” character who looks like a frog?]) – Marty McFly.
- WINDY KALING (55A: [Talkative sitcom star?]) – Mindy Kaling.
Ouch! There’s IN STORE (12D: [Coming up]) as an entry in the grid, yet there’s also the words “in store” in the clue for AWAITS (14A: [Has in store]). No bueno! Definitely got off to a show start in the grid, and the intersection of HAWAII (1D: [Michener classic]) and HALVAH provided me fits all solving long and I wasn’t able to get those correct until the very end (1A: [Turkish treat made with honey]). By the way, how is a halvah? Sounds like something I should try! Can’t say that I was a fan of ISTHMI, but it’s a good thing that I’ve seen that entry in grids before and wasn’t thrown off by the “HM” being consecutive letters, which normally would have caused me to second guess something (26A: [Panama and others]). The long down entries on the corners were good, but nothing really stood out there. Theme was what carried the day, with all of the puns being top-notch. The “in store” duplication definitely takes away from it, however.
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: PIA (11A: [___ mater (brain cover)]) – For almost five years, former women’s soccer player and Sweden international PIA Sundhage (pronounced SOOND-hah-guh) was the coach of the United States Women’s National Soccer Team, leading the USA to two Olympic gold medals (2008, 2012) and a second-place finish at the FIFA Women’s World Cup (2011). She’s currently the head coach of the Swedish women’s team.
See you at the top of the hump on Wednesday!