Emily Carroll’s New York Times crossword—Ade’s write-up
*Taps microphone.* Is this thing on?!?!?!?
Hello there, my fellow crossword friends! How are you today? This is Ade, rising from the crossword puzzle ashes to pinch-hit for Jenni in talking about today’s crossword, brought to us by Ms. Emily Carroll. The grid features circles on each end of each theme entry, which, when filled in and put together, happen to form the last names of famous people with the first name of “Bill.” The fifth theme entry, SPLIT THE BILL, acts as the reveal (54A: [Go Dutch…or a hint to 20-, 28-, 37- and 44-Across]).
- GUESSTIMATES (20A: [Ballpark figures]) – Bill Gates.
- HOME INVADER (28A: [Unwanted guest]) – Bill Hader.
- WALL STREET CRASH (37A: [Black Tuesday event]) – Bill Walsh. If you don’t know who Bill Walsh was, then the sports reporter in me has to say “shame on you!” The crossword lover in me will politely tell you that he was the great head football coach of the San Francisco 49ers who led the franchise to three Super Bowl wins in the 1980s (XVI, XIX, XXIII) and is known as the person who perfected the West Coast Offense, a strategy of offensive football which relies on a series of short to intermediate passes.
- MARX BROTHER (44A: [Any one of the stars of “Duck Soup”]) – Bill Maher. I’m sure you all know who Bill Maher is.
Let me tell you a true, funny and somewhat heart-breaking story. In seventh grade,
I participated in the school spelling bee at St. Rita Elementary School in Brooklyn (now closed), and I ended up finishing second place overall. The person who ended up winning, Tiffany McGuire, and I went into, I guess, overtime, as she and I spelled words well past the projected time to have the competition end. One of our teachers/hosts announced that she and I would get one more word to spell, and if we both got it right, we would be co-winners. I went first. The word I got? DYNAMITE (8A: [“Awesome!”]).
I spelled it wrong.
I #$@$!# spelled “dynamite” wrong!!! What?!?!
Because I had watched Good Times in syndication over and over again when growing up, I spelled it the way Jimmie Walker would say it: dyn-o-mite. When I heard the bell ring to signify a misspelled word, and then heard Tiffany spell it right, my heart sunk. And I mean SUNK! I played it off with my friends as if it was nothing, joking that I spelled it like it sounded from Jimmie Walker’s mouth (which I did), but that moment scarred me for a long while. To this day, I avoid watching more than a couple of minutes of the Scripps National Spelling Bee because it always reminds me of my stupid, brainless gaffe back in seventh grade that cost me a spelling bee title.
You can commence laughing hysterically now.
Now that I got that out of the way, I can ask the rest of you whether you actually still use the word “dynamite” in the way that it is referenced in the clue. If someone does, then the more power to you! This was a fun grid to do, though I hesitated at MAN UP at the beginning because I thought something else might fit better than that (1A: [“Don’t be such a baby!”]). It also didn’t help that I thought about the Greek poet instead of The Simpsons character when seeing the clue for MARGE (1D: [Homer’s love]). Actually, I now just noticed that we have two animated women in the grid with the addition of WILMA (51D: [One of the Flintstones]). With Scott Pruitt now leading the EPA, I thought about different ways in how to rewrite the clue that was in the grid today (12D: [Org. concerned with ecology]). My best effort was “Org. that once gave a damn about ecology and its well-being.” You give it a try now!
Can’t say that I was too familiar with the slang for CAR SEATS, but I know I have heard that (“bucket seat”) in passing a couple of times, so I wasn’t too concerned in filling that in once the entry started to take shape (40D: [Buckets, perhaps]). As it pertains to cars, getting PORSCHES from the clue was a cinch (5D: [Cayman and Cayenne]). It doesn’t hurt that I used to – and sometimes still do – work in LIVE TV, but that’s not the reason that I liked that fill as well (9D: [Broadcast shown as it happens]). Probably my biggest gripe I have with the grid is the spelled-out “and” in ATANDT (19D: [T-Mobile rival]). I saw the “A” at the beginning and the “T” at the end and first said, “I thought I knew how to spell ‘Sprint.'” Overall, a lot of fun solving the grid, and the theme, while not complicated, was executed very nicely.
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: MAPLE LEAF (57A: [Toronto athlete]) – When I go down to Washington D.C. on Thursday to start covering the Washington Capitals in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, guess which team I will also see up close and in person? You guessed it, the Toronto MAPLE LEAFs! One of the “Original Six” franchises in the National Hockey League, the Maple Leafs have won the Stanley Cup on 13 occasions, the second-most Stanley Cup victories in league history. (The Montreal Canadiens have 23 Stanley Cup victories in the NHL era.) Unfortunately, for the die-hard Leafs fans, Toronto hasn’t won a Stanley Cup since 1967, a source of derision for many fans who just like to laugh at the Maple Leafs’ barren run. One of the great players to ever put on a Maple Leaf uniform is Hockey Hall of Famer Darryl Sittler, who remains the only person in NHL history to score 10 points in a single game. On Feb. 7, 1976, he scored six goals and had four assists in an 11-4 Maple Leaf victory over the Boston Bruins.
This blog went much, MUCH longer than I had originally expected. It’s probably (definitely) because I miss being here and I love the interaction that you guys have in talking about crossword puzzles and other things on here, even if I was relatively inactive in the comments section over the years here. I really do thank you so much for your time, even if it’s not the usual incisive commentary that you’re used to on Wednesdays with Jenni. I hope to see you guys once again down the road, if you’ll all have me back.
Take care, everyone!
Nancy Cole Stuart’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “More People” — Jim’s review
Occupations ending in an -er sound are given a rhyming comparative adjective.
- 17a [Court worker who’s more playfully shy?] COYER LAWYER
- 25a [Depot worker who’s more diminutive?] SHORTER PORTER
- 42a [Manor worker who’s more artful?] SUBTLER BUTLER
- 56a [Church worker who’s more unhealthy?] SICKER VICAR
I thought this was pretty cute and I appreciated the harder-to-rhyme LAWYER and the uncommon (in America) VICAR. That being said, SUBTLER BUTLER doesn’t work for me nor most of the pronunciation sites I’ve seen online which by and large use the 3-syllable pronunciation for SUBTLER. However, I’m sure I’ve heard the 2-syllable version in the past so I suppose it passes muster. But on the other hand, there is a pretty good 13-letter alternative (see my list two paragraphs down).
More subtly (see what I did there?), I appreciate that the occupations chosen aren’t ones where -er has been tacked on to a verb (as in baker, banker, painter, etc.). I don’t know why, but that makes it feel more elegant or at least consistent.
I thought this seemed like a fun idea, so I spent a few minutes looking for other potential theme entries. The search proved more difficult than I expected, but I came across several good ones: ranker banker, faker baker, elder welder, fainter painter, hipper skipper (or stripper), grayer mayor, and hotter potter. If you have any you’d like to add, post it in the comments.
Partials! A LOG, A PAIR, and ON A, along with AT A TIME which certainly feels like a partial without “one” or “one day” to lead it off. And since it’s crossing the depressing SHOOTING (50a, [Like some pains]), I’d rather see that corner re-worked.
LESSER EVIL almost feels like a partial as well since I more often see it as “the lesser of two evils,” but it can certainly stand on its own. I like OMAR SHARIF, ASHTRAY, PUTZ, and RUN OVER (clued [Go long]), but ONE TERM, NARRATE, RE-EMERGE, and SET ASIDE are all rather ho-hum.
There are a couple of unusual entries in the middle: 28d‘s RATTLY [Like a lemon’s engine] (which is decidedly NOT pronounced with only two syllables) and 24d‘s ROOKER [Michael of “Guardians of the Galaxy”]. I would never know this actor’s name, but I’ve certainly seen him many times over the years in many different roles.
Oh, and I like the word FLAK. How many words end in a short vowel and a K? Not many. Okay there’s trek. And Shrek. And Dalek. But how about a short A and a K? Okay, there’s Kodak and anorak. And then there’s the island of Truk although that’s debatable since the natives spell it as Chuuk. And then there’s batik and beatnik. And wok and grok and Ragnarok. You know what? I like words that end in a short vowel and a K. They’re tough, ugly, and have attitude (kinda like Michael ROOKER). They break the rules and they don’t take no lip. “Yeah, I’m going to end in a short vowel and a K. Whaddya gonna do about it?”
Clues of note:
- 1a [Too-generous Shakespeare character]. TIMON. I’ve commented on this before in these pages. How much of a Shakespeare geek do you have to be to know the play Timon of Athens?
- 9d [Come out of hiding]. RE-EMERGE. Shouldn’t there be an “again” at the end of that clue?
- 32a [Flock holders]. PEWS. Did you try PENS in there at first like I did?
Overall, an enjoyable theme makes this a winner for me. Some of the fill wasn’t so sparkly, but I’m giving extra points just for the word FLAK. Whaddya gonna do about it?
Byron Walden’s AVCX crossword, “There Oughta Be a Law!” — Ben’s Review
After last week’s easy meta, this week’s AVCX puzzle was a nice step up, challenge-wise. Byron Walden’s “There Oughta Be a Law!” managed to stump me on what was going on with the theme clues until I was about 2/3 of the way through the puzzle:
- 21A: Senate bill to redo the chambers with earthtone furniture from Pier 1? (Sponsors: D-OH, R-MS) — BROWN WICKER
- 25A: Senate bill to provide underground habitats for masked critters? (D-DE, D-MA) — COONS WARREN
- 36A:Senate bill to formally recognize the president as distracted and incompetent?(D-RI, R-AZ)– WHITE HOUSE FLAKE
- 43A: Senate bill to authorize FDA clinical trials of joint alternatives? (R-MO, D-MT) — BLUNT TESTER
- 51A: Senate bill to lower the drinking age? (R-IN, R-SD) — YOUNG ROUNDS
Yes, each of these theme clues is made up of the names of two current members of Congress, which I didn’t figure out, even with the credits after each clue, until I finally cracked the one that contains my own Senator, Elizabeth Warren.
(As it turns out, if the crossword puzzle includes bills and/or laws, I have to include this clip with my review. Government!)
I don’t know, y’all – I thought this one was just okay. I think I’ve seen this theme before, or it at least feels like the sort of crossword that can be done on a semi-regular basis, given how senators and representatives turn over, and that takes away a certain freshness. Luckily, there was some other fill/cluing that caught my eye this time around
- 16A: “___ the Virgin” — JANE (this and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend are the two CW shows that I always mean to come around and watch and consistently forget to check out)
- 40A: IQ alternatives for MENSA qualification — SATS
- 58A: Vacuum — EMPTY SPACE (this and it’s partner PEREMPTORY in the upper left were odd outliers that seemed like they should have been another theme clue’s space)
- 59A: Luau serving — POI (A lifetime of seeing this stuff in crosswords and popular media references prepared me for it to be much more flavorful and much less grey than it actually turned out to be when I finally had it.
Neville Fogarty’s LA Times crossword Gareth’s write-up
ASTUDENTS and BVITAMINS in and I thought I was in for a dull letter progression. Turns out it’s a little more sophisticated with the other themers ABTESTING and OPIONEERS leading one to BLOODTYPE. In short, it’s a complete list theme.
The grid features laboured-over “big” corners that mostly pay off. BENNIFER is a curious entry, falling into an “uncanny valley” of recent datedness. GEORGIA / AZALEA / BEREA provide a Southern minitheme. HOTMESS is the most intriguing answer, even if its definition is rather eely.