Ellen Leuschner and Jeff Chen’s New York Times crossword, “Over/Under”—Amy’s write-up
Brief write-up, because (a) I didn’t get home from dinner till 3+ hours after puzzle release, (b) the Cubs game was finishing up, (c) the postgame celebrations are still on TV, and (d) it’s late. The “Over/Under” theme takes long phrases that are synonymous with other phrases that start with “over” or “under,” and plunks those long phrases over or under the nouns in the synonymous phrases. 22a NO SPRING CHICKEN is over the HILL at 27a. FACING A DEADLINE, under the GUN. BEYOND BELIEF, over the TOP. ON THE DOWN-LOW, under the TABLE. IN SEVENTH HEAVEN, over the MOON. (Hey! Don’t clue the moon as [Sky light], because anyone with a fourth-grade knowledge of astronomy is going to fill in STAR.) AT THE LAST MINUTE, under the WIRE. Really a neat theme. The one with LAST in it appears last, and the overs/unders alternate in the grid—elegant layout.
The fill’s pretty good, but there were a few groaners in the mix.
Four stars from me. Cleveland Indians, the Cubs are going to have to take this World Series. If you guys can win one in less than 40 years, you won’t have equaled the Cubs’ drought.
Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “The Ballad of Johnny One Note” – Jenni’s writeup
My high school voice teacher would make Evan paint the floor of the theater as pun-ishment for this puzzle.
“Johnny One-Note” is getting married, and he wants to commemorate the occasion. The theme answers tell the story, with some very long and meandering clues.
23a [Johnny One Note said to his fiancee, Lisa, “I’m composing a ballad to celebrate our wedding, called ‘The ___.'”] = BRIDAL SUITE.
- 25a [“But I can’t decide on the last note!” said Johnny, pointing at his score. “Everything I try sounds like it has a _____. It’s not even close being on target.”] = WILD PITCH.
- 37a [He stared into a mirror. “___, handsome,” said Lisa playfully. Inspired, Johnny raised the note by a semitone. “Awful!” he yelled] = LOOKING SHARP.
- 53a. Johnny lowered the note by a semitone. [“That sounds bad, too!” he cried. “It’s ___ like a bad comic’s jokes.”] = FALLING FLAT.
- 67a [“This calls for ___,” Johnny said. “I’ll throw in a couple of bars in 17/4 time.”] = EXTREME MEASURES.
- 85a [“Maybe I’ll add a bright, cheerful chord just before the last note,” said Johnny, playing a C-E-G triad on the piano. He frowned. “Terrible! I’d be committing ___ with that E in there.”] = MAJOR CRIMES.
- 98a [“Let’s try something more melancholy,” said Johnny, lowering the E by a semitone. He shook his head. “That’s no good either! It would be a ___ if that worked.”] = MINOR MIRACLE.
- 115a [“I just can’t get the right note,” said Johnny. “Maybe I should scale back and make ___ by removing whole bars of music.”] = STAFF CUTS.
- 117a [“What should I do? This score is tearing me apart, Lisa!” Johnny cried. Exasperated, Lisa said, “Johnny, just ___.”] = GIVE IT A REST.
I enjoyed this. It’s good, clean, consistent, fun. All the answers are in the language and all the puns work for me. It’s an amusing diversion for a rainy Saturday evening.
A few other things:
- I bollixed myself up in the NW corner by dropping ASHES in for 1a [Fire proof?] Then I saw 2d [Eve’s counterpart] and thought that was ADAM. Wrong on both counts. The answers are EMBER and MORN.
- [Let me check] clues I’LL SEE at 13d and I MIGHT at 99d.
- I’m not sure why a TRESS is specifically clued as [Lock up?] aside from the misdirection. I think of TRESS and lock as synonyms.
- 44a [Stir-fry veggie] is PEA. As long as the clue didn’t specify guacamole, we’re safe.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that FIJI is near the Koro Sea. To be honest, I’d never heard of the Koro Sea.
I leave you with the original Johnny One-Note, as described by Rodgers and Hart. The song is from Babes in Arms; this version comes from Words and Music, the 1947 biopic about the duo, because I love Judy Garland.
C.C. Burnikel’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “Possession”—Andy’s review
I’m not sure I loved this theme, but I definitely found it clever. The theme is revealed at 54d, IT’S MINE [Ownership claim … and a hint to the relationship of each answer to a starred clue to a word it intersects]. How this works is that there are six starred clues. The answers to those words are all names that can be the first half of common possessive phrases, and each of those answers shares a crossing with the word that completes said phrase. Like so:
- *5d, VICTORIA [*Second-longest reigning British monarch] / 22a, OPEN SECRET [Ill-kept confidence]. Victoria’s Secret. In case you didn’t know, the “Victoria” in Victoria’s Secret does in fact refer to Queen Victoria.
- *9d, ADAM [*First of all?] / 24a, APPLE CIDER [Seasonal drink]. Adam’s apple.
- *42a, GRAY [*English surgeon Henry] / 44d, ANATOMY LAB [Vet student’s workplace]. Gray’s Anatomy. Cluing ANATOMY LAB with [Vet student’s workplace] as opposed to, say [Med student’s workplace] does, exceedingly slightly, alleviate the morbidity of a clue that evokes the dissection of corpses. I think a more Maleska-esque editor might have been put off of their breakfast, but I hardly ever mind stuff like this, and I found this entry perfectly cromulent.
- *75a, SCHINDLER [*Noted WWII lifesaver] / 39d, NO CALL LIST [Consequence of the telemarketing boom]. Schindler’s List. I want to give “no call list” the benefit of the doubt, but (1) “do not call list” seems much more in the language, and (2) “no call list” Googles poorly. I think this one’s a bit forced to make the theme answers roughly symmetrical.
- *85d, ROSEMARY [*Memorable 1968 role for Mia] / 115a, ICE ICE BABY [1990 #1 rap hit]. Rosemary’s Baby. My favorite combo.
- *93d, PANDORA [*First human woman, in Greek myth] / 117a, BOX CUTTERS [Specialized slicing tools]. Pandora’s box.
My favorite part of this execution is that all the starred answers are clued using the person in the possessive phrase (that is, the clue for GRAY refers to the Gray who wrote Gray’s Anatomy rather than, say, the color of slate). I also appreciated that the thing-being-possessed was consistently part of another two-word phrase (rather than inconsistently so, I mean). I understand that using two-word phrases is probably the best way to fill a Sunday grid, but I think I would liked the theme better as a 15×15 Thursday NYT in which the person always crossed the thing as a standalone entry (e.g., GRAY crossing ANATOMY, PANDORA crossing BOX, etc.).
There’s some fun non-theme fill in this puzzle (as in all of C.C.’s puzzles), like COLD CASH (which I’ve never used before; for me, it’s “hard cash” or “cold, hard cash,” but Google Ngrams bears this usage out), O SOLE MIO (refreshing to see the full phrase rather than the partial O SOLE), IN-N-OUT!, YA THINK?, THE DEEP, POPSICLE, DAPS. The usual smattering of crosswordese, abbreviations, partials, etc., but nothing outlandish. Solid Sunday — I’d say above average for Sunday LAT, but maybe ever so slightly below C.C.’s usual high standards.
Until next time!
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s CRooked crossword, “Polished Off” — pannonica’s write-up
In which E·A·T becomes A·T·E within phrases. The title is a nod to the trope of frequently cluing the verb and its predicate—both of which appear regularly in crosswords—with [Polish off] and [Polished off].
- 23a. [Muscular mythical goddesses?] FATES OF STRENGTH (feats …).
- 31a. [Sticker on a fireplace?] GRATE SEAL (Great …). Sticker, not poker.
- 45a. [Statistician Silver’s podiatry rub?] NATE’S FOOT OIL (neatsfoot …). Was unfamiliar with the original version. DUPE (61a) with the rather clever crossing 45d [Some oils] NUDES.
- 62a. [What you see when looking at the Stooges from overhead?] THREE PATES (threepeats). Pluralized for purposes of length, and the Three Stooges are only relevant as a threesome, so the clue is rather weak.
- 64a. [Rap producer’s spooky hotel] BATES BY DRE (Beats …). >ahem< Motel.
- 77a. [Personally fill the bill?] SATE YOURSELF (seat …). Weak original phrase. Also should acknowledge the non-risqué clue. See also 41a [“No more for me”] I’M FINE.
- 87a. [Southern Florida city dislike?] MIAMI HATE (… Heat).
- 101a. [Bro’s temperature taker?] MATE THERMOMETER (meat …).
Reasonable enough theme.
- 19a [Ladder for salmon] FISH LIFT. No. Different designs, different mechanisms for achieving the same result.
- Some notable mis-fills: 72a [Museum employee] GUARD ere GUIDE. 81a [Neck line?] REIN ere VEIN (I blame 67a [Pard’s mount] HOSS). 90a [Like bygone stars] FADED before D-LIST (had no letters in place). 99a [Liar in some logic puzzles] SLAVE afore KNAVE. 4d [Safari sight?] THE WEB before THE NET (how many make that distinction nowadays?). 8d [Oscar winner Colin] HANKS before FIRTH (that’s a joke, people! nobody’s reading this anyway). On the other hand, I was correct with no crossing letters on 3d [Belonging to summer] ESTIVATE, pausing only to verify by checking on the V (31a [Roof part] EAVE).
- Favorite clue: 86a [Twee instruments] UKES.
- 93a [“Floride”, e.g.] ETAT. Nothing to do with dental hygiene.
- 71d [Cryptanalyst’s help] KEYS. Unexpected plural.
- Is-this-the-WSJ? 55d [CPA’s job] AUDIT, 102d [One’s duty?] TAX, 79d [102 Down extreme] TOP RATE, 97d [IRS shamus] T-MAN.
- Shall I list occurrences of ATE and EAT outside the theme? Sure, why not? There are only a handful, so they stand out. 37d [Real __ ] ESTATE, 79d TOP RATE, plus the nihilistic duo of 80d [Destroy] RUINATE and 111a [Canceled] NEGATED.
That’s probably a good place to stop listing things.
In sum, despite my personal experience of feeling wrongfooted throughout the solve, never really getting a good flow, I think that objectively it’s a solid crossword. It’s difficult to tell.