Robert Cirillo’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Okay! I was watching the presidential debate and some of the post-debate coverage (and, more importantly, eyeballing my Twitter feed), so I got to the puzzle late and not interested. The theme is a word ladder going from SICK to WELL in six steps (… SILK SILT WILT WELT …), with AN APPLE A DAY and CHICKEN SOUP‘s supposed health-promoting effects cited. I like word ladders in general, but not often word-ladder crossword themes.
Most surprising word in the fill: 57a. [Dunk], SUBMERSE. Outside of perhaps scientific and technical corners, the word we use is submerGe. Thank goodness the crossing was a plural and not a proper noun!
I like “DON’T GO THERE” and ZIP LINES a lot, and reporters’ SCOOPS. There was an awful lot of fill, largely in the areas containing those two long and six short theme answers, that made me scowl. These are either not great fill or much too hard for a Tuesday puzzle (or both). THOS crossing TSETSE and OLIO. Italian ORA and DIO, Frenchy LESE, Irish AER. Proper names TSO, MORA, DORIA. Prefix XENO. Plural foreign abbrev STES. Crosswordese ERLE and IDYL (on top of the aforementioned OLIO). Dated MCI, plural IANS. Wait! I almost forgot AT. WT.
Most surprising clue: 32d. [The Mexica people ruled over them], AZTEC. It’s weird to clue AZTEC as a plural “them,” expecially on a Tuesday. It’s also weird to use the Mexica people in the clue, given that this is a people whose Wikipedia page is short and relies largely on a single source. But “Mexica” appears 19 times on the Aztec Wikipedia page, which makes me think the clue came straight from someone checking Wiki.
Did you think 29d. [Heading for Marco Polo] was cluing a directional word in medieval Italian? Nope, it’s just EAST.
2.9 stars from me.
Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle (Week 277), “Places in the Heart”—Janie’s take
Oh, boy—there’s such a nice idea here and for so long I was really enjoying this theme, but from where I sit, this puzzle’s reach ultimately exceeds its grasp. It delivers five themers with a title-related embedded word, a reveal of that word, a grid-spanner at center, and even overlapping themers north and south. What can I say? With the word ATRIA (whose presence is perhaps over-explained by 62A.[Places in the heart … or a hint to the puzzle theme hidden in five answers]) this puzzle’s got a lotta heart. But the word is embedded inconsistently, sometimes bridging two words, sometimes as a discrete unit in a single word. Most disappointingly, it appears in two root-related words. Yes, they’re different in many ways, but not to the eye. More on that later…
- 17A. MATRIARCH [Leading lady?]. Self-contained in a terrific word with a two-thumbs-up clue. And it overlaps
- 21A. “O, PATRIA MIA” [Leontyne Price hit a heavenly high “C” in this “Aida” aria]. First of all, Leontyne Price was one of the opera world’s classiest leading ladies. Then, “O, my fatherland…” the idea of which nicely balances that matriarch, no? Another example in which ATRIA is contained in one word. Not so in the next example, however, the grid-spanning
- 37A. BERMUDA TRIANGLE [Perilous expanse in the Atlantic]. Love the fill and prefer the word-crossing property of this one, too. But we’re dealing with a very limited number of theme possibilities here, so back we go to the fabulously clued, but root-word repeating
- 50A. EXPATRIATE [An American in Paris, e.g.]. So that would be like Hemingway or Fitzgerald in the ’20s—living in a foreign land—and not an un-italicized reference to the work by George Gershwin (whose 118th birthday was yesterday). But we’ve already seen ATRIA contained in 21A. An expatriate is someone who’s left behind his/her fatherland (that’s the PATRIA part, in Italian, in Latin, in English…). This is what takes the air out of the theme for me—even more than the inconsistent way ATRIA appears. It simply demonstrates how few choices Liz had when building her theme set. <sigh> And then, this themer overlaps the nautical
- 57A. SEA TRIALS [Naval tests of submarines]. In […”La MER”]? In the Bermuda Triangle? In ORCA territory? Another word-bridger this. And—it overlaps the ATRIA reveal.
So we have a construction with a lot of built-in challenges, but (as you can tell), I’m not convinced the very mixed results justify what took to try to make this one work. Your mileage may vary! ;-)
Where “other long fill” is concerned, ENTRY FORMS clued as [Tournament paper work] is okay if a tad dry, but all’s forgiven since its grid-opposite is MAGIC CHARM, clued as [Lucky talisman]. That’s one lovely combo. I also rather liked the thought of those GRAINY […vintage photos]. Digital pics—not unlike digital recording—may be too perfect. Whence, in the latter case, the renewed interest in vinyl. And probably why photos on film are likely to stay with us for a while longer.
The remainder of the fill runs from “perfectly fine” to “more functional than fun,” but I’m thinking that for newbies, this is a good way to get familiar with the threes-fours-and-fives that usually take up most of the real estate in an early week puzz.
And that, folks, is all I got. “Tomorrow is another day” and next week brings another puzzle. Hope you’ll have a great week and (you know the drill): Keep Solving!
Queena Mewers and Alex Eaton-Salners’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Empty Calories” — Jim’s review
Alex Eaton-Salners is back and he brought a friend this time.
Queena Mewers appears to be brand new constructor making a crosswording debut. She might also have the inside track on the entirely fictional Most Interesting New Name in Crosswords Award.
They’ve brought us a list theme but with a humorous revealer. 56a is a [High-end market, or a punny hint to the starred answers]. Answer? WHOLE FOODS. Ergo, we are looking for foods with holes in them.
- 17a [*Cereal whose green pieces were added in 1998] APPLE JACKS. I initially wrote FROOT LOOPS which surprisingly fit in the grid as well as satisfied the theme (though I didn’t know it at the time). I guess they could’ve gone with either one (but not both).
- 23a [*Brand with an “Uh-Oh!” jingle] SPAGHETTIOS. I don’t know that I’ve ever had these. And I hope never to do so.
- 35a [*Hybrid pastries created by Dominique Ansel] CRONUTS. A croissant/donut mash-up. Again, not something I’ve ever tried. Can anyone give us a review?
- 47a [*Reuben ingredient] SWISS CHEESE
- 26d [*Girl Scout cookies also called Caramel de Lites] SAMOAS. Mmmm. My favorite GS cookie!
- 27d [*They may be topped with schmears] BAGELS. Having lived in the UK for the past four years we’ve been severely bagel-deprived. But now we’re back to the land of bagel shops. #GBA
Cute theme. I’m sure there are other holey foods out there: Cheerios, Life Savers, pineapple rings, onion rings, waffle fries, pretzels. Too bad a hole or a circle couldn’t have been worked into the grid design, but I guess that’s asking a lot when you already have seven theme answers.
Ok, CHENNAI (29a, [Indian city formerly known as Madras])?! Whew! I know Madras curry and sauce, but I didn’t know it was an Indian city nor that it had changed its name to CHENNAI. This seems way out of place in a Tuesday puzzle, but the crossings were pretty simple and I certainly don’t mind learning something new, so it’s okay by me. But if you don’t know SAMOAS (not to be confused with Indian samosas), then that might be a tough crossing.
On the plus side, the puzzle is otherwise very clean. And I liked HARMONIZED, ABOVE WATER, DRUIDS, TWANGS, and VISINE.
Clues of note:
- 1a. [Kind of frenzy] for MEDIA. I really dislike this type of clue. If someone asked you to define MEDIA, would you ever say, “It’s a kind of frenzy.”? Kind is a noun here, but MEDIA in “MEDIA frenzy” is an adjective.
- 48d. [App for “Game of Thrones” watchers] is HBO GO. Sure, if you just want to watch the show. But if you want in-depth descriptions of people, places, and events, check out A World of Ice and Fire.
- 8d. [Craft built from gopher wood] is ARK. Really? What the heck is gopher wood? According to Wikipedia, “gopher wood” is a term used only once in the Bible to describe the material from which the ARK should be made. Apparently, God said, “Make thee an ARK of gopher wood.” But nobody today knows what gopher wood is. Personally, I think it was a mistranslation and God actually said, “Go fer wood and build me an ARK.”
And there you have it. CHENNAI notwithstanding, a solid grid from Alex Eaton-Salners, and a nice, clean debut for Queena Mewers.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “Movies on the Cheap” – Derek’s write-up
Well, it is the season for haunted houses, corn mazes, and overall general spookiness. Those kinds of thoughts are invoked by this week’s Jonesin’ Crossword, which describes in a funny way some “cheap” movie special effects that may be used for horror or sci-fi movies. Most were hard to guess until you had a lot of crossings! Here they are:
- 20A [“We couldn’t get alien blood, so we just sprayed plants with ___”] GLOW-STICK JUICE – Never cracked on of these open! Does it still glow out of the container?
- 28A [“Of course, we can’t have a monster destroy buildings, so we built entire ___”] LEGO CITIES
- 47A [“Instead of alien spacecraft, we got fishing line and dangled ___”] TWO PIE PANS
- 55A [“Fake blood was too expensive, so we just used ___”] KETCHUP PACKETS – But of course!
Also seems to invoke images of really bad B-movies! It made me smile, and that’s all that matters! 4.1 stars today!
A few notes:
- 1A [Flower’s friend] BAMBI – Sadly, I got this Disney reference immediately!
- 10A [ ___ Punk] DAFT – Popular band in the last few years. They always wear those crazy helmets!
- 23A [2016 U.S. Open winner Wawrinka] STAN – Real name is Stanislas. I would go by “Stan” too!
- 11D [“Match Game” host Baldwin] ALEC – I thoroughly enjoyed this show this past summer. Partly because it invokes memories of Gene Rayburn back in the day; partly because Alec does a masterful job and the show is really entertaining. We need more game shows!
- 35D [Kind of issues aggravated by gluten] CELIAC – I sympathize with the people who have issues with this kind of thing; it does seem like another one of those ailments that didn’t exist when I was younger. Or they called it something else. Or its a by-product of too much fast food!! Sorry, that was a rant …
- 46D [Unsatisfactorily watered-down argument, in slang] WEAK TEA – Not in my slang! This a West coast thing, Matt J? ;-)
- 48D [Hot tub maintenance task, often] PH TEST – Great entry. Hardly any vowels, so it looks as if you made a mistake somewhere while solving!
Another solid entry this week. Have a great rest of the week!
Lonnie Burton & Nadine Anderton’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
We have two constructor names I am totally unfamiliar with today. I don’t believe these are pseudonyms, and unless the WordPress is acting wonky again, these names aren’t in Amy’s database. If this is one of their first puzzles, congrats to the two! Theme was actually obvious after the first theme entry with circles was filled in, and the revealer was in the middle as opposed to being near the end of the puzzle. This type of puzzle, years ago, when there were rarely circled squares, would never have happened. This particular theme type almost DEMANDS that they be included. Also, its always fun to guess, “What’s in the circles?”
The theme entries:
- 18A [Churchgoer’s “If it’s meant to be”] LORD WILLING
- 26A [Another name for the gladiolus] SWORD LILY
- 51A [Out-of-the-office assignment] FIELD WORK
- 60A [They’re often passed on the road] SLOW DRIVERS
And the revealer at 38-Across:
- 38A [Post-Cold War hierarchy … and what is literally contained in the circled squares] NEW WORLD ORDER
Very nicely done. Minimal dreck, but there is some. With theme constraints, though, I’m sure I couldn’t do much better. A solid Tuesday puzzle. 3.9 stars.
- 22A [Kitchy-__ ] KOO – Is this in the dictionary? Perhaps a tag [words a tickler may use] or something similar?
- 30A [Cable box display] TEEVEE – This doesn’t make sense to me. Why not [Willy Wonka character Mike]?
- 56A [Peau de __: satin-weave cloth] SOIE – A new one on me! But I don’t sew, and I am not into fashion that much. People who know me can attest to that just by how I dress!
- 6D [Copter predecessors] GIROS – Makes me think of the Greek gyros, and I am getting hungry …
- 10D [Judaism : kosher :: Islam : __ ] HALAL – Muslim food, particularly, that is OK to eat. I remember reading there was a butcher in Indianapolis that specifically catered to Muslims by allowing them to pray over and then slaughter their own goat. I don’t believe they eat pork, either, so I am not sure I could convert! BACON!!!
- 21D [Reporter’s quintet of questions] FIVE W’S – Great entry! Who, what, where, when, and why are the questions. And don’t forget How!
- 38D [“Me neither”] NOR I – Also a type of seaweed, I believe, that is used in sushi, and I am getting hungrier … !
- 52D [Acid test outcome, possibly] LOW PH – Jonesin’ puzzle had a PH TEST, and here is the outcome! Add some chlorine to the pool!
- 54D [Nancy Drew creator Carolyn] KEENE – I read most every Hardy Boys mystery back in the day, and I even read several of these as well. My wife loves the Nancy Drew mystery games available online. I should play one of those with my new found free time … !
I’ll stop there and go eat something! Have a great week!
Alan Arbesfeld’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post Crossword, “Now Hear This!” —Ade’s write-up
Good morning, everybody! It’s fun with homophones with today’s crossword puzzle that was brought to us by Mr. Alan Arbesfeld. In the grid, common phrases altered through the use of puns, and one of the words in the phrase is replaced by a homophone.
- RIGHT TO BARE ARMS (17A: [Constitutional justification of sleeveless garments?]) – Right to bear arms.
- IT ISN’T FARE (26A: [“That slug won’t get you on the subway!”?]) – It isn’t fair.
- SPORTS WARE (44A: [Hockey pucks and golf balls, say?]) – Sportswear.
- HARE REPLACEMENT (58A: [Getting some new jackrabbits?]) – Hair replacement.
Loved the fill of MAE WEST, not only because of the clue-entry combination pairing but because I was reminded of that dated terminology and first coming across it many, many years ago (38A: [Inflatable life jacket]). When I had only the consecutive letters “AE” filled in, I thought I had done something wrong, but then, the “W” was next to fall and it totally jarred my mind and I remembered it. The long across fill in the corners were pretty good, though I think, since the time I started traveling for work to cover games, I’ve only taken a CAB RIDE in New York City to go to the airport about once or twice (1A: [Trip to the airport, perhaps]). Most of the cab rides happen in the city I’m flying into, but I now usually research all of the public transportation options in the cities I travel to. Have to save money when I can, right?! First time I’ve ever come across/heard the team HORSE OPERA (12D: [Western]). Now I have images of horses hitting high notes on an opera stage. Make it stop, please!
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: PEPPER (45D: [Mill contents]) – For all of the times the word “Osage” has appeared in a grid, I always wished it referred to the former St. Louis Cardinals player PEPPER Martin, nicknamed The Wild Horse of the Osage. (I once researched players throughout history who possessed nicknames that had geographic locations in the nickname.) The four-time All-Star was a part of two World Series winning teams with the Redbirds, in 1931 and 1934. If there was a World Series MVP awarded back in ’31, Martin clearly would have won it, as he hit .500 (12-24) in the series with four doubles, five RBI, a home run and five stolen bases in the Cardinals’ win over the Philadelphia Athletics in seven games.
See you all at the top of the hump on Wednesday!