Damon Gulczynski’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
(The middle initial is back!)
The theme is SALAD DAYS, or 58a. [Youthful time in one’s life … which this puzzle might harken solvers back to?], and the four themers end with famous men’s last names that are types of salad:
- 20a. [*”It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” actor, 1963], SID CAESAR.
- 24a. [*”12 Angry Men” actor, 1957], LEE J COBB.
- 36a. [*”Anatomy of a Murder” actor, 1959], ORSON BEAN. I know him mostly from the Match Game TV game show when I was a kid.
- 53a. [*”Road Trip” actor, 2000], TOM GREEN. What?? That is not the movie Tom Green is best remembered for. That’d be the unsavorily named Freddy Got Fingered, which he wrote and directed as well as starred in. In his zero-star review, Roger Ebert remarked, “This movie doesn’t scrape the bottom of the barrel. This movie isn’t the bottom of the barrel. This movie isn’t below the bottom of the barrel. This movie doesn’t deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence with barrels.”
I don’t like the salad mix here. Three of these are lettuce/greens-based salads, whereas bean salad is hardly what I consider “salad.” (Potato salad, egg salad, tuna salad, chicken salad, pasta salad, and the only-in-crosswords ham salad are also not what I consider salads. Also, my husband cracks up each time I mention ham salad.)
Favorite fill: MIC DROP, MOOCHER, APATOW.
Least Tuesday-friendly fill: EWERS NEC NGAIO AMATI ESAS DEY SERE EPEE BLY. Nellie Bly was terrific, though, and should indeed be a household name.
- 55d. [April, May and June, for example], NAMES.
- 48a. [Like a toasted marshmallow vis-à-vis a non-toasted one], GOOIER. “Vis-à-vis a non-toasted marshmallow” is going to be my go-to comparison.
3.6 stars from me. The fill and the bean salad tug this one downwards.
Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle (Week 302), “Start Spreading the News”—Janie’s take
Today’s puzzle is a tribute not to the song “New York, New York,” nor to journalism. Instead it’s a shout-out to spreadable edibles. I love the idea for this, but oh, I fear for the execution. Because oh, I wish there had been some consistency (so to speak…), some genuine agreement, in the generally strong if straight-forwardly clued themers. Alas. It didn’t happen, and the puzzle suffers for it, alas. Ditto the fact that the central, theme-related “across” entry is a phrase that was featured just last week. Additionally, the remaining fill all falls in the seven-letter-or-less category, but unfortunately, it’s not of the particularly sparkly variety. So today’s solve was kind of a SO-SO experience for me and, for the reasons stated (and more that I’ll address later), made me wish Liz (a consummate professional) had scrutinized this one more critically before publishing it.
- 17A. [Gooey substance that removes rust on ships] NAVAL JELLY. Okay. So I see what the game is. JELLY is spreadable and edible. NAVAL JELLY is spreadable. Period. I read here (scroll down to #7) that it’s both runny and viscous. Like “’80s hair gel.” (And Liz would know from ships, btw, as she’s a long-time volunteer on the U.S.S. Intrepid.)
- 23A. [2015 bestseller by feminist author Rupi Kaur] MILK AND HONEY. Okay. HONEY is spreadable and edible. But MILK AND HONEY are both edible—and there’s no change in the sense of the meaning of HONEY—so I’m not seeing parallel construction here—which is something a well-made theme set wants.
- 37A. [How some spreads are served] ON TOAST. Last week this same high-profile phrase was clued as [How marmalade may be eaten]. Too soon to repeat it, imho.
- 50A. [HBO’s spoken-word television series] DEF POETRY JAM. Okay. JAM is spreadable and edible. DPJ (also a Broadway show, btw) is neither. So, yet another themer that does its own thing. I’m not feeling the love for this mixed-bag approach.
- 60A. [Hand cream ingredient that’s extracted from nuts] SHEA BUTTER. Okay. Back to the template. BUTTER is spreadable and edible. SHEA BUTTER is spreadable. Period. Though it does have a myriad of applications beyond moisturizing and softening the skin.
Those are the themers, and as I said, there are a bunch of sevens. But with plurals PLASMAS and BISHOPS, scholarly SAPIENT and SEMITIC, even NBC stalwart AL ROKER, there’s not a lot to write home about. NORIEGA is not a delight to encounter and I don’t particularly wanna give the ONE STAR hater-rater(s) around these parts (troll[s], perhaps?) fuel for the fire. As always, ymmv. Sixers “DE NADA,” “KISS ME” and DYNAMO are welcome, and add some well-needed oomph here.
Then, to my disappointment, there’s THIRTY, clued as [Tennis score]. No. It’s one part of a tennis score. During a tennis match, the answer to the question,”What’s the score?,” would never be “THIRTY.” It would be “THIRTY-love” or “Fifteen-THIRTY,” or some combination of two scores, at least one of which is “THIRTY.” As clued, THIRTY is no more a tennis score per se than it is, say, a golf score or a football score or a basketball score.
The other clue/fill combo that misses the mark for me is [Took the bait] for BIT AT. I don’t think so. [Tried to take the bait] would work because there’s nothing about that that says, “Did it!” [Took the bait] has a “mission accomplished” sense to it that BIT IN delivers but that hits my ear as mismatched with BIT AT.
And that’s about it from me for today. Next week we’ll have a new puzzle—and that’s the beauty part. I think my response to today’s puzz is the rare exception of not finding more to like rather than less in a Crossword Nation puzzle. And that’s the way it goes. Will I keep solving? Oh, yes. And I encourage you to do the same. Have a great week and see you again in the not too distant! And to all of you in the storm track: stay warm and stay safe!
Debbie Ellerin’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “PI Day” — Jim’s review
It is, of course, Pi Day, that day in the U.S. (and few other countries) where the month and day are written as 3.14.
If you’ve been doing crosswords for a while, you’ve seen numerous Pi Day puzzles represented in just as many ways. But this one’s pretty straightforward. Note the capitalization in the title. We’re simply looking for two-word phrases with the initials P.I. (Is it also Private Investigator Day? That would be most fortuitous!)
- 17a [Utterance after deliberate wordplay] PUN INTENDED
- 25a [Justin Timberlake, e.g.] POP IDOL
- 36a [Irritating vine] POISON IVY
- 45a [Polar seas sight] PACK ICE. Who else put in ICEBERG first?
- 58a [Gym activity] PUMPING IRON. Also, the film that put Schwarzenegger on the map.
A very nice set of themers. The solve was so quick that I really didn’t slow down to suss out the theme until I was nearly done. At that point, I was already pleased with the fill that the simplicity of the theme wasn’t a factor to me. I enjoyed both the fill and the theme answers.
All four corners are lovely; each one has at least two 7-letter Downs stacked together. I can’t decide which one I like more, the one with NAPTIME and SUNLAMP, the one with HUMOR ME and ONEROUS, the one with JANE DOE and ONE LOVE, or the one with SHARPIE and PICK AXE. All very good. There aren’t any other longer Downs, but those corners make up for it.
The only thing that irked me was the clue for 36d PINKS, [Carnations’ cousins]. Can you pluralize distinct colors? Sure, you can pluralize reds and blues and greens, but carnation doesn’t seem to me to be a range of colors like those others. I guess you can have a range of PINKS, but not so much carnation, I think.
But I did like the clue for old standby EPEE. [Foil alternative] had me thinking food storage the whole time, and I had WRAP there for much of the solve.
There’s just a simple theme to this puzzle, but it’s so cleanly filled with fun entries that it was a pleasure to solve.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “Change of Key” – Derek’s write-up
It took me a minute to figure out the exact reasons why the puns worked in this one, and that may be because I am too focused on trying to solve it fast. But in review, it is a fairly clever and cute theme. The “key” referred to in the title is on of the keys on a computer!
- 18A [Genre for bands like Wilco and Uncle Tupelo, in the wrong key?] CTRL-COUNTRY (alt-country)
- 38A [Metallica hit, in the wrong key?] CAPS LOCK SANDMAN (Enter Sandman)
- 60A [“Runaway” singer, in the wrong key?] PG UP SHANNON (Del Shannon)
Hope you didn’t think we were talking about key signatures! We also have a genre, a song title, and a singer as the three theme entries, so it keeps it interesting. There is also a fair amount of music references in the clues; perhaps this could pass as a Pete Muller puzzle! A solid 4.3 stars for this one.
- 35A [Corkscrew-shaped pasta] ROTINI – I should n=know this immediately, but I am not that good with my pasta types!
- 45A [Cookie with a Peeps-flavored 2017 variety] OREO – Um, no. I don’t care for Peeps in the first place! Too marshmallowy!
- 66A [“Eso __” (Paul Anka hit)] BESO – I don’t think I have ever heard this crossword-famous song! Here it is here!
- 4D [The King of Pop, in tabloids] JACK-O – Haven’t seen this “tabloid” name in a while! Time to go listen to the Thriller album again!
- 9D [“Hit ‘Em Up Style (Oops!)” singer Cantrell] BLU – How about some more music?
- 31D [Melbourne is its capital] VICTORIA – This is slightly difficult. Unless you’re from Australia!
- 32D [Comic book line artist] INKER – I was a comic book fiend in my younger days, and there is always an inker and a letterer. My closet dream was to be a letterer! It is truly an art form, and I know some crossworders are also interested in calligraphy, as am I!
- 38D [Mixed-breed dog that sounds like a bird] COCKAPOO – Is this a real breed? Sounds like a cross between an cocker spaniel and a poodle. My relationship with dogs is still scarred after 25+ years of delivery driving!
Its snowing again! Everybody be careful in the lingering days of winter!
Roger & Kathy Weinberg’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
I am not too familiar with this couple, but this puzzle has an extremely tight theme. Very pleasing, and crammed with six theme answers to boot! These types of themes always amaze me, but I suppose if one brainstormed a little it is possible. Again, I am not a very creative person, so maybe that’s why it amazes me so. Working on constructing some puzzles again soon, so maybe the theme muse will strike me as well as it did for this puzzle! Here are the theme answers:
- 17A [Performers exit] STAGE RIGHT
- 24A [Immediately] FIRST OFF
- 30A [High stadium tier] UPPER DECK
- 43A [Sports bet based on total points scored] OVER/UNDER
- 50A [Like most TV dramas] HOUR-LONG
- 60A [In advance, and where you might find both parts of the answers to starred clues] BEFOREHAND
(Pretend the first five clues are starred!) I told you it was a good theme! The theme refers to phrases like stage hand, right hand, first hand, and, well, you get the idea. To make all of these into workable phrases and still work symmetrically is still amazing to me. And to make it into an easy puzzle, which is also more difficult! 4.5 stars for the early week gem.
Some more observations:
- 19A [Award for “Game of Thrones”] EMMY – They have tons of them. And Game of Thrones is back next month!
- 36A [Form 1099 ID] SSN – This reminds me I need to start on my taxes!
- 56A [Almond or cashew] NUT TREE – The only entry I don’t care for. Not difficult; just not used often. If this is the worst thing to be said about this puzzle, then you know it is stellar!
- 30D [“Yup”] UH-HUH – Sounds like my son mumbling!
- 38D [Crossword solver’s smudges] ERASURES – No! We solve in pen!! Actually, I use mechanical pencils primarily now. I used to solve in pen when I was younger because they are darker and easier to see; now I just use brighter lights!
- 54D [Reddish-orange dye] HENNA – As in a henna tattoo, which I have never gotten. Maybe on my next cruise …. !
Awesome puzzle! Hopefully they are all this easy at Stamford!!