Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Spin Doctoring” – Erin’s writeup
Take a phrase, add “SP” to the beginning of a word, let hilarity ensue:
- 23a. [Divorce between little birds?] CHICK SPLIT (chick lit)
- 25a. [Hurricane of the seasoning, say?] SPICE STORM (ice storm)
- 40a. [Drench the Prince of Wales with a fire hose?] SPRAY CHARLES (Ray Charles)
- 54a. [Surprise giveaways in Alberta’s capital?] EDMONTON SPOILERS (Edmonton Oilers)
- 70a. [Motherboards for the USS Enterprise’s computer, e.g.?] SPACE HARDWARE (Ace Hardware)
- 92a. [Mattress master?] LORD OF THE SPRINGS (Lord of the Rings)
- 103a. [Rhythmic rituals that result in ankle injuries?] SPRAIN DANCES (rain dances)
- 121a. [“Our ejected saliva’s got zero value”?] SPIT’S NO USE (“It’s no use”)
- 124a. [“The Daily Show” host Trevor’s fire starter?] NOAH’S SPARK (Noah’s ark)
Nice set of themers here. Either the first or last word is transformed in each entry, no pronunciation changes to the original letters after adding SP.
Random musings about the fill:
- 73d. [He asked Boutros Boutros-Ghali, “Is Disneyland a member of the U.N.?”] ALI G. This made me laugh out loud.
- 110d. [Parliamentary seats?] ARSES. I snorted here too.
- 91d. [2015 WNBA MVP ___ Delle Donne] ELENA. She went to the other all-girls Catholic high school in Delaware but still turned out okay (apparently I’m still holding on to high school rivalries; who knew?). Elena is an amazing athlete, a great person, and got engaged to her now-fiancée last year, so congrats to her!
- 80a. [What a Manx cat lacks] TAIL. Unless you’re Charlie, the Manx born with a tail. Please enjoy this Animal Planet clip about Charlie and his tailless siblings.
Happy Easter and/or Pesach Sameach if you celebrate; otherwise, enjoy the half-price candy starting Monday! Have a lovely week!
Timothy Polin’s New York Times crossword, “Saddle Up!”—Amy’s write-up
Hello, friends! I am back from a week in New York and New England and it would appear my crossword-solving skills atrophied during that time. The theme—famous cinematic or fictional horse riders parked atop answers that include the name of their horses—was not up my alley.
- 22a. [Figure seen on [circled letters below]], ZORRO atop TORNADO in 24a. [1976 blaxploitation film that was a sequel to “Dolemite”], THE HUMAN TORNADO. Didn’t know Zorro had a specific horse, never heard of this movie.
- 35a. CISCO KID (no with “the” here?) atop DIABLO in 42a. [Made-for-TV western co-starring Travis Tritt], RIO DIABLO. Never heard of the horse or the TV western.
- 50a. LONE RANGER on SILVER in 58a. [Detroit-area stadium that hosted Super Bowl XVI], SILVERDOME. A stadium that is no more, and another character missing his the.
- 74a. ROY ROGERS on TRIGGER in 81a. [Setting off], TRIGGERING.
- 93a. TONTO on SCOUT in 96a. [Brownie, e.g.], GIRL SCOUT.
- 110a. DALE EVANS atop BUTTERMILK in 119a. [Rich breakfast item], BUTTERMILK DONUT. Not entirely sure what a buttermilk donut is.
However! I was reminded of one of my favorite Ren & Stimpy episodes from the ’90s, the “Save my horse!” one, and was delighted to find it on YouTube.
There’s some fill I liked: PLOWS INTO, SO IT SEEMS, a classic BAR MAGNET, FLIP A COIN, and LOCOMOTED. There’s also fill I didn’t care for:
- 16d. [White-bearded sort], GRANPA. What?? No. Who on earth spells it that way? If you’re not using grand-, then it’s gram-. That GRANPA/PAH crossing, blurgh.
- The BIG A ballpark, whatever it stands for, crossing AX HEAD. When you don’t know the ballpark or the Dolemite sequel, that tricky [Something getting stuck in a trunk?] clue for AX HEAD is not welcome.
- Plural EZRAS, though I’m fine with a singular EZRA Klein clue.
- O GOD crossing apostrophe-S-less EDY.
Clues to discuss:
- 41d. [Pea nut?], MENDEL. He worked out the basics of genetics with pea plants. Cute, I guess.
- 37d. [Is Greek?], IOTAS. Although it’s standard to pluralize a single letter with apostrophe-S, not just an S, and [I’s Greek?] would raise eyebrows.
- 46d. [Crew crew], OARS. Wait. Are these OARS the people rowing crew, or are we supposed to read crew as referring to a group of inanimate objects?
A flat 3-ish stars from me.
C.C. Burnikel’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “Action Figures”—Amy’s write-up
What a smooth and breezy Sunday puzzle Zhouqin has brought us this week! The theme answers are familiar phrases reimagined as gerund + celebrity’s last name:
- 23a. [Doris during a workout?], TRAINING DAY. I briefly hoped that all the theme entries would be movie titles, but there probably are not eight workable movies that take the form ___ing + common noun that doubles as celeb surname.
- 29a. [Director Oliver working on pizza dough?], ROLLING STONE. I’d rather have Oliver hurtling down a hill. It’s been decades since I rolled down the hill … and I think it would hurt now.
- 59a. [Comical Samantha busy stitching?], QUILTING BEE. I love Samantha Bee’s show, Full Frontal.
- 78a. [Nicolas taking a swing?], BATTING CAGE.
- 106a. [Singer Al making a strike?], BOWLING GREEN. Never forget.
- 115a. [Nathan at quarterback?], PASSING LANE. How come we’ve never seen Nathan Lane cast as an athlete? I got slowed down here by thinking of history’s Nathan Hale first.
- 3d. [Sally having fun?], PLAYING FIELD.
- 65d. [Lucille on a trampoline?], BOUNCING BALL.
None of these feel like a way you’d actually refer to a person, but there’s a consistency to the vibe. They’re not supposed to be things you’d call someone. I do wonder why only three of the eight have a descriptor in the clues—why not “actress Doris,” “actor Nicolas,” and so on?
The fill and clues are smooth throughout, and I more or less zipped through the puzzle without a hitch. Always a nice feeling!
- 96d. [One of 18 on a disc golf course], TEE PAD. Didn’t know the term, but the golf aspect points towards the TEE part so it was gettable.
- 88d. [“16 and Pregnant” spin-off], TEEN MOM. Lively fill.
- 16d. [“He Was Despised,” in Handel’s “Messiah”], ALTO SOLO. Is “alto solo” a distinct thing that rises to the level of crosswordable language? Music isn’t my strong suit and I don’t think I’ve encountered ALTO SOLO before.
- 15d. [Spicy steamed Mexican food], HOT TAMALE. Not sure anyone uses that term to refer to a food item, but it’s nice to have an alternative to the traditional sexism.
- 12d. [Canines with corded coats], PULIS. A Google image search shows just how often a puli looks like a string mop or a flying fuzzball.
4.25 stars from me.