Peter Broda and Erik Agard’s New York Times crossword, “The Downsizing of Nathaniel Ames”—Amy’s write-up
Many of you noticed that the .puz file and some of the online/mobile solving options were fubar for an hour or so this evening. Oh, well. Nobody was harmed as a result. I gave up and printed out the newspaper version. Such wee clues! And so inconveniently refusing to pop up in larger print to reflect which answer space I was looking at. (I’m considering this ACPT training, even though I wasn’t remotely aiming for speed.)
Anyway, the puzzle’s title playfully points at “downsizing” Nathaniel Ames to N. Ames, which crunches up to be NAMES. Each theme answer clues a familiar term after splitting the first word up into first initial and last name:
- 20a. [Things smoked by singer Courtney?], CLOVE CIGARETTES. Courtney Love of Hole. I was introduced to clove cigarettes in college. The bohemian hipsters smoked them and they smelled better than tobacco.
- 31a. [“Charlie Hustle is my name / I am banned from Hall of Fame,” e.g.?], PROSE POETRY. Pete Rose.
- 56a. [Hoopster Steph not playing at home?], SCURRY AWAY. Stephen Curry.
73a. [The sport of boxing in the 1960s and ’70s, essentially?], MALI EMPIRE. Muhammad Ali meets African history. If you were engraving Ali’s name in stone, do you think you’d check the spelling?
- 100a. [Hat for pop singer Corey?], CHART TOPPER. Corey Hart.
- 112a. [Two-time Best Actor winner arriving early?], THANKS IN ADVANCE. Tom Hanks.
- 3d. [Something smoked by comic Chris?], CROCK POT. Chris Rock.
- 8d. [Photo of Canada’s former prime minister Stephen?], SHARPER IMAGE. Stephen Harper.
- 61d. Cherry for talk show host Chelsea?], CHANDLER BING. Chelsea Handler meets a Friends character meets my favorite cherry. Favorite theme answer!
- 86d. [Entourage of a 1990s white rapper?], VICE UNIT. Vanilla Ice!
I like this theme. It’s fresh and interesting, and gives the solver some of those “Oh! That’s neat” moments.
Things I circled while solving:
- 26a. BEER DARTS? That’s a thing now? This seems like a bad idea.
- 83a. MIX CDS. Yes! I received one from a friend along with a holiday card. The CD includes “Aquarius” by the 5th Dimension, “Blame Canada,” Christmas and Hanukkah songs (by Nina Simone! The Who! Queen!), a little David Bowie/Prince/Leonard Cohen action, and Rage Against the Machine’s “Renegades of Funk.” Gonna listen to it one of these weeks, I swear to you. (My computer no longer has a CD slot, though.)
- 89a. NU JAZZ? That’s a thing? Is it good stuff or terrible?
- 99a. [El operator in the Windy City, briefly], CTA. Except that the CTA calls it the “L.” Also, we call it the “L” even when it’s running on subway tracks. That’s just the way it is, people.
- 104a. [“Uhh …”], ERM. This needs a British hint in the clue, because this is not an American thing. We say “um” here. I have an Irish doctor who says “erm,” and please note that the R is not actually pronounced (it’s a gentle short E-ish sound), it’s just the R people include in the spelling to tell people how to pronounce the vowel sound across the Atlantic. Do you call the “Smooth Operator” singer Sadé “shar-day” because you once read that this was the correct pronunciation? No. It’s “shah-day,” because we are Americans and we don’t mess around with dumb unpronounced R’s in our words. The Brits aren’t calling her Sharday.
- 27d. [Literary device used to address plot inconsistencies], RETCON. Retcon means retroactive con … something. Retroactive continuity. Books or movies with sequels often need to do some retconning to make the pieces fit together.
- 30d. [Nephrologists study them], KIDNEYS. Ask me about my nephrologists! I have one regular one, one transplant neph, a variety of transplant nephs who’ve done my kidney biopsies, and assorted fellows in training to become nephrologists. They all do an awful lot besides studying the kidney.
- 70d. [Genius], WHIZ. People! Go see the movie Hidden Figures, which brings us the story of a few African-American women who were geniuses in math and computing at NASA beginning in the early ’60s. The movie’s beautifully acted, moving, incisive, and funny.
- 98d. [Dude, in British lingo], BRUV. Inferrable (along the lines of “bovvered”), but I’m not sure I’ve seen this word before.
Things I didn’t like in the puzzle: Didn’t really notice anything. 4.5 stars from me. Stay tuned for more from Erik and Peter at the Indie 500 crossword tournament on June 3 in Washington, DC!
Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Lost and Found” – Erin’s writeup
Hello again! Erin here, filling in for Jenni as she’s been doing for me the past, er, five months. This week Evan takes away AND from phrases to create the theme entries on the left side of the grid, then adds it to others to form the entries on the right:
- 23a. [Bank employee with an Ivy League education?] PENN (and) TELLER
- 26a. [Actor Quaid, when he’s an Eastern European nobleman?] COUNT RANDY (country)
- 44a. [Creep who isn’t dirty?] CLEAN (and) JERK
- 46a. [Extreme emotion from Commander Data, say?] ANDROID RAGE (roid rage)
- 66a. [“PLEASE SIR, I WANT SOME MORE!,” e.g.?] TWIST (and) SHOUT
- 69a. [Sweet, tasty version of songwriter Neil?] CANDY YOUNG (Cy Young)
- 85a. [Pain in the neck for actress Emma?] WATSON (and) CRICK
- 89a. [Camp shelter with a giant bear inside?] PANDA TENT (patent)
- 110a. [Unbiased, unhip guy?] FAIR (and) SQUARE
- 113a. [Gigantic villain in old westerns?] MEGA BANDIT (megabit)
Love the left-sided entries, especially the clue for TWIST SHOUT. The right-sided entries are clever, but inconsistent; some are formed from single words, and some from phrases. This bothers me a tiny bit, but not enough to keep me from enjoying the puzzle. I caught onto the theme at ANDROID RAGE, probably because Data has been a longtime crush of mine. “Fully functional, programmed in multiple techniques,” no emotional baggage? Sign me up.
Other random things:
- 33a. [Modern facetious term for the White House correspondents’ dinner] NERD PROM. Nerd Prom sounds like so much fun. Come to think of it, I made every prom I went to Nerd Prom.
- 75a. [Kvass, etc.] RYE BEER. Had RYE SEED for a while, but I don’t know of any crossword-worthy singers named CHED.
- 69d. CASS Sunstein and 118a. Billy BEANE were learning moments for me.
That’s it for today. Thanks for letting me play with you again!
Paul Coulter’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “Dine Out”—Andy’s review
My favorite part of this puzzle was figuring out the title. Each theme answer replaces an E with a D — thus, D in, E out!
Usually with a replace-a-letter theme like this one, constructors take care to choose base phrases that don’t contain any of the new letter, and only one of the replaced letter. My instinct, though, is that there probably aren’t seven decent base phrases that have only one E and no Ds, such that every E goes out and only one D goes in. Taking that into account, I liked most of these theme answers:
- 23a, EARNINGS PER SHARD [Basis for evaluating an archaeology dig?]. Probably not a widely used metric, though.
- 35a, HERD‘S LOOKING AT YOU, KID [Warning to Bo Peep that her sheep are really hiding nearby?].
- 58a, SAND ADVICE [“When leaving the beach, hose off your feet before putting on your shoes”?]. I don’t think “sane advice” is a particularly in-the-language phrase (“sage advice” seems more natural to me), but it’s at least fairly inferable.
- 68a, HAVE A BOND TO PICK [Must choose among less volatile investment options?].
- 81a, BABY BOOTED [Infant dressed for rain?]. Like Girl, Interrupted. Baby, Booted.
- 100a, FIND FEATHERED FRIENDS [Have a good day birding?]. Cute!
- 119a, DUD PROCESS CLAUSE [Paragraph in a lemon law?].
Dear readers: if you’ve ever chosen this point in the post to stop reading before, please make an exception today. There were a couple of things in this puzzle that I just cannot believe are still making it past editors in 2017. One was the entry GIMPY [Nursing a sprain, perhaps]. This word has derogatory connotations, but it keeps showing up in grids for some reason. Constructors: take it out of your word lists. Editors: please send grids back for revision when they have this word. Here, when it’s localized to a fairly small corner, the fix is so easy, and as a bonus you can replace the rare AGUE and EDER with fresher fill [see right].
Nuts and bolts: RAI next to ARN in the NW isn’t great. GO VIRAL at 1a was fun to see, though having it cross GOER at 1d seems like a pretty obvious dupe. Didn’t like seeing AS I, ODE TO, A LOST, AGUE, OUSE, EDER, MOA. Basically everything else in the puzzle was fine. [South Dakota, to Pierre] was clever misdirection for ÉTAT.
Thank you for your time. Go solve Peter Broda and Erik Agard’s NYT puzzle today, which should be on 2017 Puzzle of the Year lists. See you all next week!
Martin Ashwood-Smith’s Sunday Challenge CrosSynergy crossword —Ade’s write-up
Good morning, everyone! Here’s hoping that, if you’re in the East Coast, that you’ve dug out of the snow OK and that you hadn’t wiped out and slipped on the snow/ice in the process. I also did that a couple of times walking around yesterday.
I have to thank today’s creator of the Sunday Challenge, Mr. Martin Ashwood-Smith, for proving me the fastest time I’ve ever posted on a CrosSynergy Sunday, though my initial hesitance on putting in SCHUSS cost me a sub 10-minute solve (52A: [Go downhill quickly]). All of the 15-letter entries brought the heat today, with JUMPIN JACK FLASH starting things off and giving us a nice earworm to start the solving experience (1A: [Rolling Stones hit of 1968]). But, if the Stones aren’t down your alley, AS AN ALTERNATIVE (68A: [Choice words]), there’s also BARENAKED LADIES, who are one of those bands that, despite not having many (or any) of their songs on my playlist, I’ve always appreciated and liked their music (17A: [“The Big Bang Theory” theme song band]). Oh, and if we change the pronoun to “our,” we have another musical 15-letter theme in MY LIPS ARE SEALED, as I heard this song – and lip-synched to it demonstrably – at the Verizon Store as I was getting my first iPhone this past Tuesday (69A: [Secret assurance]). Oh, and guess what was thrown in with my purchase of my iPhone? Of course, an IPAD MINI (40D: [Apple debut of 2012]). I feel like I’m officially “hip” now that I have these devices in my possession for the first time. OK, I don’t think I’ll ever be hip, but at least this is a start, right?.
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: STAVE (54D: [Avert, with “off”]) – Seeing this word made me think of one of my sports broadcasting pet peeves, which is only hearing the phrase “STAVE off” during one particular time of the year: the playoffs. You always hear broadcasters say, when a team wins a game in a series in which a loss would see them eliminated, that that particular team “staved off elimination,” though I never hear it in any other context at any other point in the year. Maybe I just need to hang out in wineries and with people who handle barrels and talk about the staves of the barrels keeping wine aged perfectly.
Thank you for the time, and I hope you have a great rest of your Sunday.
Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s CRooked crossword, “Q and A” — pannonica’s write-up
It’s a quote thing, in four 21-letter segments.
26a/50a/81a/101a [Our query …] DON’T YOU JUST HATE IT WHEN | PEOPLE ASK YOU A QUESTION | AND THEN PROMPTLY ANSWER | THE QUESTION THEMSELVES?
And then, inevitably, in the last across spot: 122a [Our reply] WE DO.
I know, right?
Okay fine. I’ll write a little more. Just so you realize how tempting it had been to remain so succinct.
- 55d [“Now you __…”] SEE IT, 77a [Where vanished things go] THIN AIR.
Damn! That’d be a great place to stop, too. *sigh*
- 40d [Spanish for 48 Down] AGUA, 41d [48 Down nymph] NAIAD, so of course 48d is [Diner amenity] WATER. And then, 7d [Diner’s card] MENU.
What? Okay, fine. I’ll write some more.
- A little triangulation. 27d [Sing like Jimmie Rodgers] YODEL. He was active as a recording artist from 1927 to his death in 1933. This overlapped with the administration of President Calvin ‘Silent CAL‘ [76a] Coolidge (1923–1929), known for his 72a [Acerbity] TARTNESS. Coolidge also died in 1933, for what it’s worth.
So that’s a good place to end, don’t you think so?