Jesse Eisenberg and Patrick Blindauer’s New York Times crossword—Jenni’s write-up
This is a banner week for constructors. Yesterday we had the youngest constructor ever published in the NYT and today we have Patrick Blindauer co-constructing with Jesse Eisenberg, who is best-known for playing Mark Zuckerberg in “The Social Network.” Nice puzzle, boys!
Our theme is food used in unorthodox ways (and I don’t mean treyf). It was not particularly challenging but it was lots of fun.
- 17a [“We used some food to make a snowman. Under his arms we put ____”] CHERRY PITS.
- 27a [“Then we gave him ___”] BUTTERFINGERS
- 44a [“On top we put a ___”] HEAD OF LETTUCE
- 58a [“Finally, we stuck in two ___. Yum!”] EARS OF CORN.
No carrot nose, so this isn’t Frosty.
A few other things:
- Am I the only one who dropped in NEMO for 6a [Captain of literature]? The actual answer is AHAB.
- It’s nice to see ALTO clued without reference to a choir. I am an alto and I sing in a choir and I’m still tired of those clues.
- 35a [Half a kisser] is LIP. Cute.
- 49d [Grammy category] is JAZZ. If you watched a lot of Grammy coverage, you may have seen my brother.
- Valentine’s shoutout at 32a with [Touch of love]. Hope some of you had a nice CARESS today.
- My other misstep was at 63a [Counterfeiter, e.g.] where I entered FAKER. The correct answer is FELON.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that ACAI berries came from Brazil.
Samuel A. Donaldson’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Memo-rable Beginnings” — Jim’s review
Common phrases starting IN RE___ are re-parsed for wacky results.
- 17a [Tennis pro’s memo opener?] IN RE SERVE
- 21a [Driving instructor’s memo opener?] IN RE TURN
- 27a [Optometrist’s memo opener?] IN RE VIEW
- 43a [Hitting coach’s memo opener?] IN RE RUNS
- 52a [Photographer’s memo opener?] IN RE POSE
- 58a [Odist’s memo opener?] IN RE VERSE
In general I like re-parsing themes. They cause you to look at old things in new ways. Hopefully, in funny ways. And these aren’t bad. All the original base phrases are solid, and all the re-parsed ones are unexpected. Not exactly funny, but clever enough.
But basing your theme on, in my opinion, one of the ugliest bits of crosswordese doesn’t really do much to redeem it. Do people actually use the term IN RE? I know I never have, but then, I don’t do much memo writing.
Still, I would have been okay with this puzzle, but there is a crushing weight of sub-par fill. When the puzzle starts IDENT, AFUSE, and CESTA, you know there will be challenges ahead. ALAS, there’s OEIL, ADATE, EARTO, and ENDO, plus UNWON (when the clue [Not yet taken] really wants UNWED) and OBESE (clued jocularly as [Too big for one’s britches?]). This last one just depressed me. There are other ways to clue that word without making fun. And then there’s plural SEDIMENTS and weird adverb SLENDERLY [How Little Susie was fashioned in a Michael Jackson song].
All that just sucked the fun out of the puzzle. So while the theme wasn’t really all that bad, it wasn’t nearly enough to overcome the fill. And I will leave it at that.
The one highlight for me was 44d [Rhyming Russell]. Do people remember NIPSEY Russell? We watched a lot of game shows while I was growing up in the 70s, and there were certain recurring celebrities that I always admired. NIPSEY was one of them.
Byron Walden’s AV crossword puzzle, “Moving Right Along” – Jenni’s writeup
I’m filling in for Ben (Smith) today. Ben (Tausig) billed this as a 4/5 in difficulty, and either I missed something (not unprecedented) or it wasn’t as hard as I expected.
We have three theme answers, the ends of which tell us we’re “Moving Right Along.”
- 16a [Diamond gift?] is an INTENTIONAL WALK. Pitchers and catchers, y’all! This week!
- 33a [Outing atop a double-decker bus, say] is a SIGHTSEEING TRIP. I initially had TOUR instead of TRIP and I still prefer it. I think you take a TRIP to New York (or London, or wherever) and then you take a TOUR on a double-decker bus to see the sights.
- 51a [Outfit that inspires giggles] is RIDICULOUS GETUP. This is also an answer that inspires giggles, at least to me.
So you WALK, you TRIP, and you GET UP, thereby “Moving Right Along.” I’m sure someone will let me know if I missed something. If I didn’t, the theme is a bit underwhelming, especially after I was expecting a nice chewy Byron Walden puzzle. It’s still nice – just not quite as chewy as I might have liked. EDITED TO ADD: Ben Tausig comments below and points out that there are five theme entries. And of course, once I knew they were there, I found them immediately:
- 20a [Proof of purchase] is SALES SLIP.
- 42a [Prime time for leaf watchers] is EARLY FALL.
So now we have walk, slip, trip, fall, get up. This feels more complete, and since I didn’t totally get the theme, clearly was more difficult than I initially thought!
A few other things:
- 5a [Hank Aaron had 2,297 of them: Abbr.] is RBIS. If you don’t know baseball, you may not know that this is the most anyone has ever had in the history of the sport. Mickey Mantle once said that Aaron was the best baseball player of his generation, and the most underrated. Aaron started in the Negro Leagues and finished his career in Atlanta, breaking the most hallowed record in baseball despite horrifying racism. He remains a gentleman and an ambassador for the game.
- 14a [“Danse macabre” composer] is SAINT SAENS. I would have used an upper-case M for “Macabre,” and I would have been wrong.
- Recent events cluing at 23a [Word whose lookups spiked after the final Clinton-Trump debate]. It’s HOMBRE.
- 41a [Old slang for “square”] was the last answer I filled in and I had to look at it for a while before I understood it. The answer is L-SEVEN; if you hold the fingers of one hand in an L and the other hand in a 7, and put them together, they sort of look like a square. Sort of.
- I am glad that Byron clued SNOT as [Disrespectful twerp].
- Best clue in the puzzle: [Doctor who sold his soul to the devil (nope, BEN CARSON doesn’t fit)] at 43d. The answer is FAUST.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that APOCOPE is the Omission of terminal sounds that produces a new word, as in “obituary” becoming “obit.” Luckily gettable from crossings.
Ed Sessa’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up
Well, that was quirky, and got a snort out loud from me when I connected the dots. GOODBYES = “GOOD BUYS” and TO(TWO)AFAULT, FOUR(FOR)SEASONS, WON(ONE)BYALANDSLIDE and SAIL(SALE)THROUGH gives us TWO/FOR/ONE/DEAL. It’s different, and a bit of variety in our crossword themes is always good!
The FAST/FOOD and SEAN/PENN crossers are not thematic, they’re grace notes of a sort. You may have suspected FAST/FOOD of being a themer on its first presentation, I know I did! AXL/AXILLA crossing also amused me for some reason.
Anyone else here go to a primary school where caps were compulsory, and where DOFFing of said hats was enforced? I got expelled after four years, as it happens…
Bruce Venzke’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post Crossword, “Alchemy on Parade” —Ade’s write-up
Good afternoon, everybody! I hope you’re all doing well in the middle of the month of February. Today’s crossword, brought to us by Mr. Bruce Venzke, is a word ladder, something we haven’t seen on here for quite a while (unless there was one in one of the puzzles I wasn’t able to get to in the recent past). The transition starts with the first word of the first theme entry, which is lead, and ends with the first word of the last theme entry, which is gold.
- LEAD-FREE GAS (17A: [Fuel lacking a certain hazardous compound])
- LOAD THE BASES (27A: [Get three runners on])
- GOAD TO ACTION (48A: [Incite])
- GOLD RESERVE (64A: [Fort Knox holding])
The theme was OK, and the theme entries were good but nothing else really stood out. OK, maybe OBVERT, since I hadn’t come across that word in a good long while (15A: [Obvert]). One of the CRAIGS referenced, Kilborn, for about a little bit of time in the early-to-mid 1990s, was as popular of a show presenter as there was on cable television, and I definitely was a fan of his after he jumped the ship from ESPN to Comedy Central (9D: [Kilborn and Claiborne]). Initially put “poser” for HOSER, and that cost me a little bit of time in solving (22D: [Got a move-on, old style]). Oh, I actually did like G-FORCE (25A: [Liftoff sensation]). OK, time to skedaddle and head to the Garden State for an assignment.
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: TY COBB (51D: [Baseball Hall of Fame charter member]) – There were five greats who were inducted into the first Hall of Fame class back in 1936: TY COBB, Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Walter Johnson and Christy Mathewson. Oh, and just in case you come across a crossword in which one of these players are referenced, know that Cobb’s nickname was “The Georgia Peach,” Johnson’s was “Big Train,” and Mathewson’s was “Big Six.” Hey, you never know when some up-and-coming constructor, who happens to like sports, adds that sort of thing in a grid that you might be doing! *Wink, wink.*
Thank you so much for your time once again, and I’ll see you all tomorrow.