Emanuel Ax and Brad Wilber’s New York Times crossword—Jenni’s write-up
This is another in the series of Celebrity Crossword Collaborations celebrating the 75th anniversary of the New York Times Crossword. I was delighted to open the puzzle and see the byline for Emanuel Ax and Brad Wilber. Emanuel Ax is a master pianist who loves crossword puzzles, and Brad Wilber is a master cruciverbalist who loves the piano. A perfect match. This is also Brad’s 50th crossword for the Times – mazel tov, Brad!
Pop on over to Wordplay to read the story of the puzzle. Will was the matchmaker, and he and Joel provided grid tweaking, along with Brad’s frequent collaborator Doug Peterson. Not surprisingly, we have a musical theme and a grid to match.
- 20a [Classic song with the lyric “Whatever happened to my Transylvania Twist?”]. I’d love to hear Emanuel Ax play MONSTER MASH.
- 4d [Drink often garnished with a cherry] is a WHISKEY SOUR. I love whiskey sours. I know, not hip. But yum.
- 54a [Like some magicians’ assistants, apparently] would be SAWED IN HALF. The key word is “apparently.”
- 26d [Exercise-induced euphoria] is a RUNNERS HIGH.
And the revealer at 52d: [Word that can follow the ends of 20- and 54-Across and 4- and 26-Down] is NOTE. We also have an eighth NOTE in the middle of the grid to tie everything together in a lovely, musical bow.
I like the way the theme answers cross. They’re all solidly in the language and MONSTER MASH and SAWED IN HALF made me giggle. Very nice.
A few other things:
- If everything is [Hunky-dory], you could also say it’s JAKE. If you’re in the 1920s. I love old slang.
- I am married to a geologist, and the Richter scale comes up in conversation fairly often. I’ve never heard him use the term SEISM to describe a tectonic event. I just asked David if geologists ever used this word, and he said “Yes, but usually with ‘micro’ in front of it.”
- 35a [Trattoria order?] is not the food; it’s what your Italian grandmother will order you to do. MANGIA!
- 44a [“La Cage aux Folles” enterprise] is a DRAG SHOW. Has this appeared in the NYT before?
- Speaking of old words and crossword-only words, we have AGLET. Haven’t seen that one in a while. See also ERE I and RONS.
- 34d [Not statistically based, as evidence] is ANECDOTAL. Repeat after me: anecdotes are not data. Thank you.
I really liked this puzzle, and not just because I’m a total Emanuel Ax fangirl. Hey, since I’ve met Brad (and I’m also a Brad Wilber fangirl), I’m now one degree of separation from Emanuel Ax! Squee! Oh, right, the puzzle. Sorry. Sometimes stunt grids constrain the puzzle so much that the solving suffers; not here. This is a fun puzzle with a great story and a very cool grid.
I leave you with Emanuel Ax bringing music to the people of Toronto.
Ned White’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Take a Bite Out of Crime” — Jim’s review
This just in! Crime spree at the supermarket!
- 17a [*Shoplifted spud, ready to be fenced?] HOT POTATO
- 22a [*Heisted Hershey’s treats?] STOLEN KISSES
- 38a [*Fish caught illegally?] POACHED FLOUNDER. Are flounders the most poachable fish? I went with salmon at first. This feels a little “green painty” to me, but what say you?
- 54a [*Illegal scheme to sell zucchini?] SQUASH RACKET. I prefer the other spelling (racquet) and so do most online vendors apparently, but obviously that wouldn’t work with the theme. This is still legit.
- 64a [Where those involved in the starred crimes may end up?] FOOD COURT. Ha!
The theme doesn’t need a revealer, so I wasn’t expecting it. I actually chortled when I uncovered it. It was either a chortle or a guffaw, not sure. Unfortunately, no one was around to hear it so I can’t tell you definitively, but thankfully, no one was around to hear it.
I love the consistency. Each theme answer is about one food item and one crime. Perfect title, too. What isn’t consistent is SQUASH RACKET. The others end in the pilfered food, this one doesn’t. But that’s a minor nit.
I really enjoy this type of theme where existing phrases are given re-imagined meanings. And if it’s done with humor, all the better. If you’ll forgive the self-indulgence, I’m really reminded of my Dude, Where’s My Car? puzzle from a couple years ago, except today’s offering has an added funny punch line. Bravo!
So, much love from me on the theme. How’s the fill? Pretty good, though nothing stellar since there are no long Downs. I do like AGHAST next to BRONTE and the jokey AHNOLD.
Oh, I missed the 9s in the Acrosses: GREENSPAN and ALL IS TRUE clued as [Original title of Shakespeare’s “Henry VIII”]. Whew! Another deep-digging Shakespeare reference. I’m glad olde Will changed the title.
Speaking of unusual entries: ICEFOGS clued as [Arctic weather phenomena]. Who knew this was a thing?
Cluing was quite good, but the SW seemed particularly tough for me, especially:
- 59d [Toro, e.g.]. TUNA. New to me. Apparently the fatty belly meat of the TUNA is called “toro.” Olé!
- 55d [Letter to an editor]. QUERY. I’m still not getting this. Feels like it should have a “maybe” or “perhaps” appended.
Other clues of note:
- 42d [Bust maker]. NARC. We’re not talking art here.
- 9d [Lose one’s shadow]. SHAVE. Clever. Is it 5 o’clock already?
- 34d [It can help you raise your voice]. HELIUM. Another nice one.
Overall, a fun and funny puzzle.
C.C. Burnikel’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up
FISHHEAD – eww! No thanks! Otherwise, it’s a straightforward theme: FISH are found at the HEAD of several answers: (BASS)ETHOUND [my colleague took a rubber ball out of one’s intestine this morning; let’s hope he has an uneventful recovery! Those dogs will swallow anything! They’re worse than labs, which is saying something!], (SOLE)MNOATH, (CARP)ORT, (SALMON)ELLA, and (SKATE)RDRESS (didn’t know that answer, but it seems “in”); the SKATE is the only one that is a member of Chondrichthyes…
Fill is well-polished. Look at BISCOTTI, MARSRED, THEWHO, and LESPAUL; all placed carefully, and not forced in with a hammer!
Liked the contemporary touch on the ARI clue, referencing Ariana Grande. If you are wondering about SIMIAN, Simiiformes includes all non-lemur primates.