No Wall Street Journal puzzle (or paper) on holidays. If you crave more, you can always visit the WSJ puzzle page and scroll back to some of the Saturday variety puzzles. I (Amy) personally am not an acrostic fan, but this past Saturday’s offering was an acrostic. The other weeks offer variety puzzles by Berry and Shenk, and variety cryptic crosswords by Cox & Rathvon. Always highly recommended!
Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle (Week 318), “Rock Stars!”—Janie’s take
Wow. What a glorious way to commemorate the country’s 241st birthday this tribute puzzle is. When you string together the grid’s circled letters in order (top to bottom), you see that our “rock” is none other than MOUNT RUSHMORE. And its four “stars” are the presidents carved into granite. They appear by first name only (fittingly) atop each of the four vertical themers (attached to other famous surnames). Oh—and the sequence of names in the puzz matches the sequence of the mens’ appearance on the monument. In addition to that perfect punny title, this is the way to make a theme set that is lively and coheres: it’s both complex and accessible, and flatout fab. Im(v)ho… The non-presidential “rock stars” are:
- 3D. GEORGE GERSHWIN [“An American in Paris” composer]. Just the right piece of music to highlight, what with Bastille Day right around the corner… not to mention how France’s critical contributions to the cause factored into the success of the American Revolution…
- 5D. THOMAS BLANCHARD [American inventor who developed a steam-powered car in 1825]. Okay. This guy was totally new to me, but happily, the crosses (of the last name in particular) helped reveal his identity to me sans tears. And what an inventor he was, too. Not only the “horseless carriage,” but also a pre-railroad “steam wagon” and assembly-line production among many, many other innovations. How have I not known his name til now?
- 8D. THEODORE CLEAVER [TV character nicknames “the Beaver]. Pop culture! And here’s some “how ‘the Beave’ got his nickname” pop culture trivia to “go with.” Leave it to Beaver ran from 1957 – 1963. It’s still around, on cable, but face it: its six seasons make it a veritable pop culture pup when up against the show that gave us Abe or (to be more formal…)
- 14D. ABRAHAM SIMPSON [Bart’s “Grampa”], namely The Simpsons, which has been with us since 1989 and is still runnin’ strong. “OMG!” [3-letter “Wow!”].
It’s my fond HOPE that (somewhere out there…) Messrs. Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt and Lincoln (and you, too, solvers—you, too!) are as entertained as I am by this homage, with its first-rate higher- and lower-brow theme material—all in service of rock stars of the highest order.
Adding greatly to my enjoyment of this puzzle is the depth and breadth of mid-range fill. We get a dozen sevens with only two being (relatively) more functional than fun, STARTED and OVERSEE. But given the company they keep, I don’t make this a crime and have only good to say of: SHEATHS, THE CAPE [Massachusetts vacation spot, to residents] (and to visitors! I’ll have a few days there in the third week of August), ROOF TOP clued with whimsical specificity via [Santa’s landing strip], the green-friendly SEED BED, PEA PODS and EMERALD, the classic [Shakespearean fairy queen] TITANIA (A Midsummer Night’s Dream), the classic and classy Ingrid BERGMAN, (what I read as) the gymnastic and not the emotional sense of CONTORT and [Get all bent out of shape], and the puzzle-referencing ENIGMAS. That is a lot of vibrant fill with some fine cluing as well.
Speaking of fine cluing… Here are three little three-letter words: ORE, “SIT!” and NIT. Brilliant fill? Nah. That’s a tall order for three-letter words. But look again at the specificity of the clues, which add some “oomph” to the enterprise and keep the puzzle light as air with the punny [Mined-over matter], the friendly [“Take a load off!”] and the playful [Petty peeve] respectively. Hell, even the dreaded EEE gets the visual treatment with [Clodhopper width]. I’ll take it. (Btw, on the subject of coal, another “mined-over matter”—and if your time permits—here’s “Undermined,” a most enlightening article from the 7/3/17 New Yorker about the current state of SW Pennsylvania’s coal industry.)
Nice, too, as we’re in Wimbledon season, to see SERENA Williams in the grid. Given that her baby is due in about two months or so, I suspect we’ll see her only in the stands and not decimating any opponents on the grass. But as the clue for her reminds us: holy moly, what a player—[She has 23 Grand Slam singles titles (16 more that John McEnroe)]. For perspective, also five more than Roger Federer and one less than Margaret Court. Still—wow. Yet again.
And yet again, I take my leave. As you ponder the American Revolution, take heart for today. The in-fighting, back-biting, decidedly treacherous dynamics among the founding fathers was as shocking as anything we’ve witnessed of late. Which doesn’t excuse what’s going on in DC by any stretch. But it does speak to the resilience of kind of government that was put in place back then—flawed as it was from the get-go. Compromises up one side and down the other. It’s part of the democratic way. Hang in there, everyone, and have a safe and festive Fourth. (And oh, yeah: keep solvin’!)
Mangesh Ghogre & Brendan Quigley’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
The theme is (the Fourth of) JULY: 59a. [What the beginnings of 17-, 25-, 40- and 52-Across are each a fourth of, phonetically]. Those four answers are JAY GATSBY, “YOU ARE NOT ALONE,” ELLE MACPHERSON, and “WHY BOTHER?” Jay, you, elle, why spells out J-U-L-Y.
Because this is a Tuesday puzzle—even though I finished it in a Monday amount of time (let it never be said that I don’t know my crosswordese), I feel compelled to point out the fill that’s not so Tuesday-friendly for newer solvers. You’ve got your EL AL, IDYL, ROOS (does anybody use that generically?), MASSE, AROAR, MODISH, and SEA EEL. Ask the average beginning solver any of those clues, and I rather doubt they’d come up with these answers before they had any crossings.
Five more things:
- 38a. [The Hindu “Ramayana” and others], EPICS. I’m going to hazard a guess that this clue came from Mumbai resident Mangesh.
- 2d. [Fancy stone], OPAL. Fancy? Well, it’s surely no fancier than your typical cut precious gemstone. Fancy compared to a gray rock, maybe.
- 41d. [Drops a few G’s, say?], ELIDES. Although sayin’ sayin’ rather saying isn’t technically “dropping a G.” It’s changing from the “ŋ” sound to the “n” sound.
- 5d. [President, at times], VETOER. Nobody really much uses this form of the word.
- 39d. [___ code (discount provider)], PROMO. I really like this clue for PROMO. Who among us hasn’t been glad to have a promo code when placing an order online?
3.5 stars from me. PLUM TOMATO (the term I prefer to Roma tomato) and ON ALL FOURS are good fill.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “Bo Knows” – Derek’s write-up
The Bo that made the title of this puzzle famous in Nike ads thirty years ago appears as the last “Bo” in this puzzle. We are asked if we know five “Bo”s, but I challenge you to come up with MORE than the five here! Let’s list those:
- 19A [Musical subgenera for Waylon Jennings and Merle Haggard] OUTLAW COUNTRY – A long way to go for this entry that I have never heard of. I don’t listen to much country music, though.
- 27A [2000 World Series MVP] DEREK JETER – I love seeing my name in a puzzle!
- 36A [Exhibitions seen through a small hole] PEEP SHOWS – A little risqué, but it works.
- 48A [Gene Chandler doo-wop hit that starts with a solo bass voice] DUKE OF EARL – You know this song. I will get it embedded in your head anyway!
- 56A [“Running on Empty” singer] JACKSON BROWNE
So other than Bo Outlaw (retired NBA player), Bo Derek (famous actress), Bo Peep (nursery rhyme hero!), Bo Duke (of The Dukes of Hazzard), and Bo Jackson (multi-sport star from the 80s), what other Bo’s do you know? I can only think of Bo Brady from Days of our Lives. It seems like there should be more! 4.5 stars.
A few mentions:
- 13A [When some night owls go to bed] THREE A.M. – I haven’t seen 3:00 am in years. Either staying up OR getting up early!
- 63A [Beryl __, head cook on “Downton Abbey”] PATMORE – imdb.com just calls her “Mrs. Patmore.” I don’t watch this show, but I hear it is quite good.
- 8D [“Life of Pi” author Martel] YANN – The book is always better, and this was a great movie, so I should read the book!
- 24D [Spider-Man co-creator Stan] LEE – The new Spider-Man movie comes out this Friday, so watch for the Stan Lee cameo! He has been in every Marvel movie for years now.
- 30D [Marvel shapeshifting super villain, leader of the Deviants] KRO – Speaking of Marvel, here is a character from their vast universe I don’t know. But my comic book reading days are long past.
- 42D [Winter Olympics structure] SKI JUMP – NBC and Comcast launch the Olympic Channel later this month. I assume to drum up interest in sports we only watch once every four years, like, say, ski jumping!
- 47D [Jodie of “Full House”] SWEETIN – And of Fuller House, now on Netflix!
Hope everyone is still enjoying their holiday! Until next week’s Jonesin’, have a great one!
James P. Sharp’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
I am not sure who this constructor is, but it is a name that is not in Amy’s database, and I don’t think this is a pseudonym. One of this person’s first puzzles? Who knows, but regardless, the revealer confused me for a bit, but it has been a lazy, relaxing weekend, and my brain still isn’t turned back on yet. Let me explain the theme then explain my stupidity:
- 18A [Vodka brand with flying birds on the bottle] GREY GOOSE
- 23A [Racing bike] TEN-SPEED – This is wildly inaccurate, as I think a ten-speed is now rare. My road bike is a cheap one, and it has 16 gear combos. Most bikes you see in the current Tour de France have 22.
- 35A [One “there on the sand,” in a 1974 hit by The First Class] BEACH BABY – Obscure! Here it is:
- 49A [Symbol of absolute rule] IRON FIST
- 55A [Disagree … or, literally, what the last words of 18-, 23-, 35-, and 49-Across can be] BUMP HEADS
At first I thought that goose, speed, baby, and fist were all supposed to match up with HEADS, but it makes much more sense to match them with BUMP! Goose bump, speed bump, baby bump, and fist bump are all common phrases, and makes for a clever puzzle. A solid 4.2 stars.
A few more notes:
- 15A [Jar Jar Binks’ planet] NABOO – I didn’t need to know that.
- 51A [Dallas home of the NCAA’s Mustangs] SMU – They have a decent basketball program under famed and traveled coach Larry Brown, but it is due in part to cheating. SMU still carries a stigma from the early 80s Death Penalty for their football program for rampant violations.
- 61A [Hawaiian veranda] LANAI – We have a nice front porch now to enjoy, but I am sure a porch anywhere on the Hawaiian islands would be far superior. Someday!
- 5D [“No more seats” Broadway sign] S.R.O. – I have never seen this sign EVER other than in puzzles. I have also never seen a Broadway play!
- 21D [Maker of the first electric sports car] TESLA – A friend of mine has one of these, and they are nice. And yes, it does drive itself, at least out on the open highway. A Hyundai Genesis, and I am sure a few other cars, do the same thing. Are driver-less cars far off? I think not!
- 26D [One whose star has faded] HAS-BEEN – Or [Any contestant on Dancing With the Stars]!
- 39D [Latched (onto)] GLOMMED – My five-year-old GLOMs onto me all the time …
- 41D [Journalist Huffington] ARIANNA – She is quite famous now, and probably the most famous Arianna spelled with two Ns!
Again, have a safe holiday! Back to the grind on Wednesday!