Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Cold Cuts” – Erin’s writeup
The “cold cuts” in this puzzle are chilly terms broken across two consecutive long entries:
- ELECTRIC ARC / TIC TAC TOE
- IDENTICAL TWIN / TRY IT ON
- BRAD RENFRO / ZEN GARDENS
- PARSNIP / PYRAMID SCHEME
- MIKE CRAPO / LARRY LEGEND
The theme is timely, given the snowy mess winter decided to toss at the northeastern part of the country before it gives way to spring. Senator Crapo and Larry Bird’s nickname are new to me, which made 20% of the theme material less than IDEAL in my eyes. I also didn’t know what a Jacob’s ladder was, but was able to backsolve from ARCTIC to figure out ELECTRIC ARC. ZEN GARDEN is always welcome (see last Sunday’s koi pond video). Overall the theme is somewhat underwhelming compared to Evan’s usual work.
Fill is solid as usual. Favorites include TETRIS, Amelia BEDELIA, and BLEEP. Did not know ZEENA or MCLAREN.
- 20a. [Saturate] IMBRUE. Sounds like a term used by someone playing D&D, which leads to 62a. [Dungeons and Dragons fan, sterotypically], NERD. ♥
- 45d. [Cape Cod resort town] TRURO. Edward Hopper apparently had a summer house here.
- 89d. [Cardinal sin?] SPITBALL. St. Louis Cardinal.
Hope to see some of you next weekend at the ACPT. I’ll be camped out in the lobby with a seven-month-old for a few hours on Saturday. Good luck to everyone who plans to compete!
Grant Thackray’s New York Times crossword, “111-Across!”—Amy’s write-up
Listen, if you’ve haven’t seen the movies in this puzzle, that’s on you. 111-Across is SPOILER ALERT, and I’m here to tell you that the movies whose plot twists are spoiled in the theme are from 1941 through 2009. You’ve had plenty of time to see them, and I’m not hiding any spoilers.
When I encountered the first incomplete and cross-referenced theme clue, I was prepared to hate the puzzle. Turns out I had fun with the theme, though!
- 22a. [It’s actually made of 55-Down], SOYLENT GREEN / 55d. [See 22-Across], PEOPLE. Here’s the classic denouement scene (I’ve never seen the movie).
- 30a. Who 93-Down was all along], LUKE’S FATHER. That’s Darth VADER in the Star Wars saga.
- 45a. [It turns out to be 99-Down], PLANET OF THE APES is really EARTH. Our second Charlton Heston movie here! In PotA, he plays an astronaut who, I guess, thought he was on some other planet where human-sized apes wear clothes and speak English. Sure, that makes sense.
- 66a. [It really is an 8-Down], ROSEBUD, it’s Charles Foster Kane’s SLED in Citizen Kane.
- 83a. [What 11-Down does, shockingly], KILLS DUMBLEDORE. But SNAPE had a good reason, honest. This was in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.
- 100a. [To whom the title “45-Down” was referring the whole time], NORMAN BATES. I guess he could be considered PSYCHO if you want to use that term (which psychosis does the character have?). Did you hear they’re doing another remake? I believe Rihanna will play Janet Leigh’s character.
This was an entertaining movie-trivia theme, and it does not spoil any really recent movies. (I won’t spoil Get Out, but boy, I didn’t see that coming. I should have put it together, the hints were all there, but it’s definitely more fun to be shocked than to figure out the plot twist before it hits. Go see it before you encounter spoilers!)
- Unusual word: 90a. [Relating to the sun], HELIACAL. Not sure I’ve seen that form of the word root before. I knew it would be related to helio- but … it feels like a cross between helical and maniacal.
- 116a. [Plant that’s the source of a caffeine-free tea], RED BUSH. I only know this by its South African name, rooibos.
- 2d. [Tomboy], HOYDEN. Dictionary labels this dated, unsurprisingly. Interesting etymology: Per Oxford, it’s probably from the Middle Dutch heiden, meaning “heathen.” (At least the other wildly dated term is clued as such: 53a. [Bad luck, old-style], UNHAP.)
- SET THE TONE, ASKED AFTER, and TAKE A BREAK are excellent verb-phrase entries. Way better than, say, a PAN IN or LAP AT.
- 79a. [Indonesia’s ___ Islands], ARU. Very, very faintly familiar to me. I let all the crossings do the heavy lifting here.
- 73d. [Penguin and others], PUBLISHERS. My first thoughts were of Batman villain Oswald Cobblepot and seabird.
- 81d. [Player of Nelson Mandela in “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom”], IDRIS ELBA. I want to watch his not-really-released-in-the-U.S. action movie, The Take, which is available on demand or via streaming, and I don’t know Stephen King’s Dark Tower at all, but Elba stars in that too (movie out this July). Here’s hoping the James Bond folks will see fit to cast Elba as the next Bond!
Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s CRooked crossword, “Ahoy!” — pannonica’s write-up
Just an inventory of ships, all from fiction.
- 23a. [Jack Sparrow’s pirate ship] BLACK PEARL.
- 25a. [Sub hunted by Jack Ryan] RED OCTOBER.
- 42a. [Dragon-headed ship of Narnia] DAWN TREADER.
- 60a. [Boat of Billy Budd] INDOMITABLE.
- 63a. [Longfellow’s wreck] HESPERUS.
- 77a. [Sub of Verne’s Nemo] NAUTILUS.
- 80a. [Ship in a Kipling poem] MARY GLOSTER.
- 98a. [Boat of Mr. Burns on “The Simpsons”] GONE FISSION.
- 117a. [Schooner in “Treasure Island”] HISPANIOLA.
- 121a. [Ship made “to boldly go”] ENTERPRISE. Whoa! All of a sudden, we’re out of the ocean and in outer space. I guess this can be couched as the theme heading into “the final frontier”?
Factette: The central entry, 68a [Fixture for 5/1] MAYPOLE, happens to be the name of a real ship (possibly called the Maypo) that in 1855 was wrecked off King Island in the Bass Strait, which separates Tasmania from mainland Australia. Three lives were lost.
Here also is “BLS Barbados Landship performing the ‘maypole’ manoeuvre in National Heroes Square, Bridgetown, in the early 2000s”:
Not part of the theme: 48a [Ship stowaway] RAT. 57a [“Peter Pan” pirate] SMEE (Captain Hook’s ship was called, not particularly originally, the Jolly Roger), 85a [Went down at sea] SANK, 88a [Had the helm] STEERED, 4d [Went sailing] YACHTED, 13d [Stringy puzzle] KNOT, 18d [Sea, to the French] MER, 37d [Disney mermaid] ARIEL. And a few more that are even greater stretches.
Other random jottings:
- 10a [Otter relative] MINK, 56d [Ermine in summer] STOAT. They all belong to the same family, Mustelidae. Yay for spear-mice!
- 17d [Lauding poem] ODE, 64d [Doleful poem] ELEGY. Plus the two among the themers.
- 125a [Dismal turnout?] NO ONE, 26d [Shows up] COMES.
- Fool me once: 31a [Nursery items] TREES. Fool me twice: 52a [Readied a bed?] MULCHED. Damn! There wasn’t a third cultivation misdirection clue, which I would have been ready for. That means I was faked out again. (Am not considering 14a [Close, as buds] BOSOM, whose wordplay completely escaped me during the solve.)
- 84a [Tanguy in art] YVES. He was a surrealist whose style was often similar to that of his contemporary, Salvador Dalí; 47d [Like Dali works] SURREAL.
- 8d [Raw silk’s hue] ECRU. In fact the etymology derives, through French, from Latin crudus, ‘raw’.
- Favorite clues: 128a [50 Cent pieces] RAPS, 69d [Self starter?] AUTO-.
- 113a [Music of Java and Bali] GAMELAN.
Cheri Kedrowski and Victor Barocas’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “Big Appetite”—Amy’s write-up
The theme centers on 107a. [Song that inspired this puzzle], I KNOW AN OLD LADY. Now, that throws me off, because many of us know it as “There Was an Old Lady.” There are a bunch of picture books that use the familiar title rather than this “I Know…” version. (This one’s my favorite.) She swallowed a fly, then swallowed a spider to eat the fly, then ate a bird to eat the spider, and on through a cat, dog, cow (scientific fail! cows do not eat dogs!), and horse (another herbivore!) Here, newcomer Cheri and veteran Victor have each critter “eat” its prey in a familiar phrase, altering the phrase accordingly:
- 22a. [Practice good web courtesy?], NOT HURT A SPIDER. “He wouldn’t hurt a fly.” The NOT HURT A … wording feels a little weird to me.
- 30a. [Description of the start of some Road Runner cartoons?], ALONG CAME A BIRD. (Cue Wile E. Coyote cursing his life.) “Along came a spider,” part of a nursery rhyme and the name of a novel and its movie.
- 53a. [Nibbles on Friskies?], EATS LIKE A CAT. “Eats like a bird.”
- 61a. [Warning for a snoopy Snoopy?], CURIOSITY KILLED THE DOG. “… the cat.”
- 73a. [Treatment for a milk hangover?], HAIR OF THE COW. “Hair of the dog that bit you.”
- 95a. [Line that might not calm down Richard III?], DON’T HAVE A HORSE. Now, is that telling him “I don’t have a horse,” or advising him not to have the horse that he needs? “Don’t have a cow, man.”
Cute theme with a fresh predatory angle in crafting the theme answers.
Four other things:
- 28d. [Port-au-Prince pal], AMI. That’s a French word. “Friend” in Haitian Creole, Google Translate tells me, is zanmi. Can we stop obliterating the majority of Haitians? Just 42% of Haitians speak French, whereas nearly everyone who speaks French there also knows Haitian Creole.
- 57d. [First book of the New Testament], MATTHEW. I just started reading the King James Version last night, via a scrambled-letters app. The IBBLE app is from the same folks at Counterwave who brought us OMBY, which finally coaxed me to finish Moby-Dick after two incompletes. May I just say that I’m delighted to see that the books of the New Testament are mostly as long as short to medium Moby-Dick chapters (unlike those Bible books that have nearly 2,000 unscrambling puzzles apiece). I predict it will take me about a year (of mostly bedtime reading/unscrambling) to finish.
- 50d. [Sitcom with the episode “Stable for Three”], MR. ED. People! Mr. Ed is the horse character. The show that featured him was called Mister Ed. You can’t just abbreviate words in titles willy-nilly.
- 108d. [Soul seller], KIA. I love this clue! Car make, not someone making a deal with the devil.
The highlights in the longer fill include MAKE-BELIEVE, CATAPULTS, HELD AT BAY, ACTIVISTS, INSIDE TRACK, REHNQUIST, TWINKIE, and Mary CASSATT. These were unfortunately offset by a preponderance of crosswordese-type fill and other clunkers. Entries like ERSE, ALAE, SLA, EOE, INITIO, TARE, ALII, K-CAR, REDIG, ENNA, –ERY, and so on. I used to complain about ASTI too, but someone gave us a bottle of Asti Spumante for Christmas and man, it was tasty.
Three stars from me.