David Kahn’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Easy puzzle if you’re a Cubs fan and if you know your crosswordese, probably not so easy if you don’t know crosswordese and don’t follow the Cubs. David’s theme commemorates the November 3 World Series win with assorted Cubs trivia and terms and names in the five longest entries and assorted shorter fill: TOWN, EVERS, GOAT, ERNIE BANKS, WORLD SERIES RING, NIGHT GAMES (some friends of mine took turns wearing a hat from the first Cubs night game as a good-luck attempt—and hey, it worked!), MOP UP (baseball clue, not specifically Cubbian), the Steroid Era’s SOSA, NATIONAL LEAGUER, IVY-COVERED WALLS, Jon Lester’s E.R.A., loathed rivals STL, Harry CARAY, and a hot DOG and RAMP given ballpark clues.
Yay, Cubbies! I’m irked that the conservatives in the Ricketts family (the Cubs’ owners) donated $1 million to a pro-Trump super-PAC, though.
Tough fill for newbies might include UTES, Spanish ALTA, EL AL, GAOL, SCOW, PAREE, CLIO, INGE, and spelling variant SANA.
Not keen on the GO duplication in GO PRO and GO UP, or the UP dupe in GO UP and MOP UP.
Three more things:
- 9a. [The former Mrs. McCartney], LINDA. Yes, I know Paul has remarried since Linda died, but “the former Mrs.” usually means “before they divorced,” not “before he was widowed.”
- 5d. [Targets of close shaves?], STUBBLES. No matter how many different men’s stubble you’re talking about, it’s still just STUBBLE. STUBBLES is not good.
- 50d. [Internet finance firm], E-LOAN. It’s an actual company name! Just … not one that actually offers loans anymore. Apparently, they have CDs and savings accounts. Guys! You need to do some serious rebranding. Your name sucks.
Over at Daily Celebrity Crossword, we ran our Cubs World Series puzzle last Friday. What other crossword venues have marked the occasion?
3.5 stars from me. Might have liked to see fewer of the “bonus” thematic answers and smoother fill overall.
Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle (Week 285), “Why Not?”—Janie’s take
Lemme just say this from the start: I know I’m gonna sound like a PETTY INGRATE today [Nit-picking] [Thankless person], but hey—it comes with the territory. The idea for today’s theme is just fine: swap out a word’s final “Y” for an “I” in familiar phrases (creating homophones), and clue them with the altered meaning. The clues are (mostly) terrific; the results are mixed, erratic. Of the four themers, I actively enjoyed two and was actively let down by the others. So then we have to look at the remaining fill, where, “GUESS WHAT?” There’s some great stuff. In addition to that phrase, we find WINGSPANS, TWIN BED, INGRATE, DOOFUS. I’ll take it!
But what takes the air out of the solve for me, bigtime—and your mileage may vary—is (once again) the sheer number of proper nouns in the the remainder. Names of people (MONROE, ARCHIE, EVERT…), places (ARLES, FENWAY..) and things (ATARI, ETSY…). 25 in the grid + 2 more in the theme fill. 27 entries out of a total of 76, so a little over a third. As I’ve said before, I’m not anti-name, but I am FER using them far more judiciously. It’s a crossword puzzle, after all. No doubt they’re a boon to newbies, but why not bring them on board with fill that’s more language-based? What can I say. For me there’s nothing inherently WITTY [Amusingly clever] in falling back on the name game. And as we all know, Liz can definitely be WITTY, which we’ll see when we look at some of her cluing a little later on. But now, to the main event.
- 19A. [Straight dope about citrus fruit?] THE UGLI TRUTH. Love this clue/fill pair. Good word play. UGLI and ugly are homophones, so they have different meanings.
- 27A. [Nickname for actress LuPone who’s constantly kvetching?] ALL-BEEF PATTI. Another winner. And oh boy, does she make her feelings known when it comes to texting and cell-phones sounding during performances. Love her for that!
- 44A. [Heavenly ATM provider?] CITI OF ANGELS. Making sense of this one leaves me flummoxed. I know the base phrase both as a descriptor of Los Angeles and as the title of a Broadway musical. So that part’s fine. But having CITI stand in for CITI Bank isn’t. It doesn’t substitute properly to my ear; and I have to spend too much time trying to justify why it might be okay. Or not. Isn’t the clue really hinting at a CITI (Bank ATM) FOR ANGELS? See why I’m confused? The best themers are the clearest and shouldn’t require the solver to rationalize the clue/fill connection…imho.
- 54A. [Fruit juice ad campaign that stars actress Dench?] PUNCH AND JUDI. Another fine base phrase—and a funny clue/fill pairing when ya think about it. But here the “Y”-to-“I” swap-out produces no change in meaning. JUDI is simply a spelling variation of Judy. Here it’s the meaning of PUNCH that changes, from the character name to the beverage. I don’t care for this pattern-breaker, which feels less like a WITTY innovation and more like an out-and-out outlier.
As for the cluing I alluded to earlier…I’ll admit it: I’m a sucker for the punch a little alliteration or simple rhyming adds to a clue, so I enjoyed getting to FENWAY by way of [Beantown ballpark], and to KEY with [Thing on a ring]. [Squelch] is such a great word, one that gives a real lift to basic fill like END. [Noodlehead] for DOOFUS was very happy-making, ditto the lively [Puck slapper] for (ice hockey) STICK and the non-human [Single sleeper] for that TWIN BED. I say this and [It comes from the heart]: AORTA. AORTA add, I really like the punny way that clue gets to its answer. But I guess you may have known that already!
And that, my friends, will do me for today. Last week was both SAD and tough for so many of us. Hope this week’ll be an improvement. Keep fighting the good fight, keep solving when you need a break and come back again next week!
Dan Fisher’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Crab Bag” — Jim’s review
The title signals our wordplay for the day. Words starting with GR- are changed to CR-.
- 15a [Bird model carved out of pine?] WOOD CRANE. Wood grain.
- 22a [Hole in a block of Swiss?] CHEESE CRATER. Cheese grater.
- 38a [Biblical brook?] ANCIENT CREEK. Ancient Greek.
- 51a [Children’s ailment going around the Post’s office?] NEWS CROUP. Newsgroup.
As is often the case, I don’t get much humor out of these. With a fairly wide open theme, there are so many possibilities. Maybe my sense of humor is off, but ANCIENT CREEK just doesn’t do much for me. I would prefer BEWARE OF CREEKS or CREEK PHILOSOPHY. Or maybe you could do something with NO CRATE SHAKES or CRATE DEPRESSION.
But despite my lack of thrill with the theme entries, the fill is strong as usual. Our long Downs are RESCUE DOG and HONEST MAN (9d: [Diogenes’s quest]). This last one is new to me. Diogenes of Sinope was a Greek philosopher (not a creek philosopher) who often challenged the people of his day. He was known to have slept in a large ceramic pot in the marketplace and would go around in the daytime with a lantern looking for an HONEST MAN.
Other good fill: VIKTOR, PRAVDA, SCYTHE, NECTAR, and EATS IT. But I could do without MOTION TO, IN ONE, and SEINES, which I know only from crosswords.
One final note. Of the 13 puzzles appearing in the WSJ this month so far, nine have carried known or suspected Mike Shenk pseudonyms. I am really wondering what is behind this. Are there truly not enough constructors submitting worthy puzzles? As someone who is solving these almost every day, I long for more voices and more variety.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “Go Completely Ad-Free” – Derek’s write-up
This puzzle gimmick seems like it would be fun to make! When Matt says this puzzle is AD-free, he means it. In addition to the theme answers listed below, there are several clues where you must remove the “ad” for it to make any sense! For instance, 5-Across’ clue is [They say “Nowaday!”] should read [They say “No way!”], with the answer being ANTIS. And 14A [Renegade on] should be [Renege on] which leads to BAIL. I count at least 30 such clues! Truly a feat of construction! Here are the theme clues:
- 17A [Guilty pleasure that’s difficult to accomplish?] EXPERT VICE (expert advice)
- 61A [Mornings in the world of bears?] GRIZZLY AMS (Grizzly Adams)
- 11D [Anonymous mud wallower?] SECRET MIRER (secret admirer)
- 25D [Garb for milling about the neighborhood?] STREET DRESS (street address)
I shall not list all of the altered clues, but you get the drift! I will mention a few of my faves in the list below, but you can understand why I liked this puzzle! A solid 4.6 stars!
A few mentions:
- 32A [Source of a meadow] KITTY – Or a “meow!”
- 36A [Orange sadpud] YAM – What’s a “sadpud,” Matt??!!
- 40A [Drink for the lactose intolerant] SOY MILK – My dad drinks this. My day is coming …
- 56A [Broad, in Spanish] HERMANO – “Bro” in Español! One of the better AD clues!
- 1D [Padres #16, familiarly] ABE – This is probably the best of the gimmick clues. Well done!
- 6D [Specialist assigned a marinade mission, maybe] NAVY SEAL – Another good gimmick clue that just made me hungry!
- 27D [“__ a Man of Constant Sorrow”] I AM – From the movie Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? which happens to be one of my favorite movies! The real singer of this song doesn’t look like George Clooney at all!
- 47D [Almost on the hour] ONE TIL – Matt is a master!
Matt will be hard-pressed to top this one, but I am sure he will!
Alex Eaton-Salners’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
OK, sometimes I don’t always remember if I have seen a particular name in a byline, but I am fairly certain this is a new name to me. My first impression of this constructor is a good one, though, as this is a pretty clever puzzle. I wonder if he lives in Colorado …
- 16A [Source of post-toilet training anxiety] BEDWETTING
- 22A [Surfer’s destination] WORLD WIDE WEB
- 36A [Great Depression recovery program] NEW DEAL
- 48A [Youngest son of Queen Elizabeth II] PRINCE EDWARD
- 58A [Desert plant suggested by this puzzle’s circles] TUMBLEWEED
I told you it was clever! Nice fill, not too difficult, and an enjoyable solve. 4.3 stars!
A couple of observations:
- 25A [Treat, as table salt] IODIZE – I slightly difficult clue, but we get a Z into the grid!
- 44A [Quick-as-lightning Bolt] USAIN – Great clue and entry! Actually seems as if this vowel-heavy name would appear more in puzzles!
- 54A [‘The Night Of” channel] HBO – I want to watch this show. I’ll put it on my “to-do” list!
- 61A [Dingbat] DITZ – I know none of YOU are “ditzy,” but we have another Z in the puzzle!
- 5D [Standard eggs purchase] ONE DOZEN – Or the number of donuts I bought this morning from the new Dunkin’ Donuts they just opened right around the corner from my house!
- 21D [Pres. who developed the 36-Across] FDR – Nice tie-in to a theme entry!
- 27D [Man of La Mancha] DON QUIXOTE – And we get an X in the grid! Yes, this puzzle is pangrammatic!
- 51D [Where to see the Sun, the Sky, and the Stars: Abbr.] WNBA – Best clue of the bunch! I am a sports fan, so it came rather quickly, but a neat clue nonetheless!
Here’s to hoping I see more puzzles from this constructor! Have a great week!