Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Initial Impressions” – Erin’s writeup
Names and phrases containing three-letter initialisms that also spell words:
- 23a. [Composer George, as a member of a European militant group?] IRA GERSHWIN (Irish Republican Army)
- 25a. [Old communications giant that employed extended family members?] COUSIN ITT (International Telephone & Telegraph)
- 47a. [“You must give that to the U.N.’s disease-tracking agency”?] WHO NEEDS IT (World Health Organization)
- 50a. [“Mad Men” star Jon, when he portrays a lost soldier?] MIA HAMM (missing in action)
- 69a. [Doped-up pitcher’s stat?] STEROID ERA (earned run average)
- 72a. [Comment one might make if MGM drops its cinematic lion intro?] RIP ROARING (requiescat in pace / rest in peace)
- 91a. [Response to “Is there a network that airs a Hip Hop Awards show?”] SURE BET (Black Entertainment Television)
- 93a. [Forgiving exam for high school seniors?] ACT OF MERCY (American College Test, although now the letters of the ACT or the SAT do not stand for anything)
- 118a. [Person choosing teams for an annual college basketball event?] NIT PICKER (National Invitation Tournament)
- 121a. [Dirigible that uses energy-efficient bulbs?] LED ZEPPELIN (light-emitting diode)
- 27a. [Game show featuring unsuspecting taxi passengers] CASH CAB. This fun trivia show aired 2005-2012 on Discovery Channel, and just returned with original host Ben Bailey. I was planning on mentioning that constructor Tony Orbach and his son were on an episode, but apparently that’s been brought up on Fiend before, and the Youtube video was removed.
- Several baseball entries: INFIELD, AT BAT, STRIKE TWO, plus the theme entry.
- 113a. [Org. supporting greater access to birth control] NARAL. NARAL Pro-Choice America was seen in two Jonesin’ grids, but no mainstream crosswords until now, according to my search.
- 120d. [“Superhuman” host Penn] KAL. Three crossword constructors have been on this show! Zoe Wheeler (Cannot find a video, does anyone have it?) was in the pilot in January, and Tyler Hinman (segment starts at 15:52) and Aimee Lucido (segment starts at 17:03) showed their stuff in July.
- 52a. OBVIOUS sits atop 58a. PLANET, Both of these are fictional captains. Not sure if this was intentional, but I enjoyed it.
Until next week!
Andrew Zhou’s New York Times crossword, “United Kingdom”—Amy’s write-up
The title hints at the animal kingdom, as the circled letters in each (sometimes) familiar phrase spell out two animals smushed together:
- 23a. [*Law enforcer with the Coast Guard], BOARDING OFFICER. Boar, dingo. Have never, ever seen the term boarding officer but I’ll bet my friend whose husband is in the Coast Guard filled this one without having to plod through crossings like ILO, ORRERY, and DCI.
- 33a. [*It passes on some bits of information], INTERNET ROUTER. Erne, trout. If your animal theme hinges on the crosswordese erne, I dunno—maybe start over?
- 48a. [*Philosopher who wrote “Out of the crooked timber of humanity, no straight thing was ever made”], IMMANUEL KANT. Elk, ant.
- 66a. [*Celebrities working for the U.N., perhaps], GOOD WILL AMBASSADORS. Lamb, ass. A lamb isn’t an animal the way those other ones are, though—it’s a young sheep.
- 85a. [*Certain photo poster], INSTAGRAMMER. Stag, ram. Also not generic members of their species—we’ve got a male deer sort of animal, and a male goat sort of animal.
- 99a. [*Business bigwigs], CORPORATE ELITE. Rat, eel. Not sure I see “corporate elite” much as a lexical chunk.
The theme’s awkward and not fun, since some of the theme answers are awfully blah and not all the animals really pass muster as the sort of animals you’d have fun with in a puzzle. Eel, ram, ass, erne … those ones are in crosswords all the dang time and they’re boring.
The whole puzzle took me a good bit longer than I’d expected. Was it slow going for you, too?
Favorite fill: SWAROVSKI, STAGE NAME. Not much else is popping out at me.
Six more things:
- 76a. [Low-quality bank offerings whose acronym suggests stealthiness], NINJA LOANS. Never heard of this. NINJA is a fun word, but when you append bank loans, the joy is sucked right out of it.
- 98d. [Big bang creator]. AMATOL. Not a common word. I reckon I’ve only really seen it in crosswords, since I don’t mess with explosives in my daily life.
- 19a. [Really happening], ULTRACOOL. Ha. Who says this? Is it the same person who describes things as “really happening”?
- 55a. [Presidents Taft, Ford, Clinton and both Bushes], YALE ALUMNI. Feels a little green-paintish to me. Can we also have UOFIALUMNI, LSUALUMNI, HOWARDALUMNI, etc.? Also, Yale gets far too much play in crosswords as it is. You’ve got your short YALE and your ELIS.
- 79a. [A little teary], MOIST. I love this because it’s so ridiculous. My husband was a Paul Molitor fan since he was from Milwaukee and Molitor had played for the Brewers. It was probably when Molitor won the World Series with the Expos that he was quoted on TV as saying something like, “I looked over at him, and his eyes were moist. And then my eyes were moist.” CRYING. He meant they were crying. I mean, the eyeball is naturally moistened by tears without you needing to be teary-eyed. Dude was afraid to say “He was crying and so was I.”
- 47d. [Wacky tobacky, in part], WEED. “In part”?? As far as I can tell, wacky tobacky = marijuana = weed.
2.75 stars from me. Too much flat fill in the NTH SEN SEGOS UMS INAPET category to maintain my interest as I worked my way through the grid.
Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s CRooked crossword, “VW Chaser” — pannonica’s write-up
V… W… X.
Hex have come up with six 21-letter phrases to describe what X may represent.
- 23a. WHERE TO DIG FOR TREASURE. X marks the spot.
- 35a. CONTESTANT IN TIC-TAC-TOE. One player plays X, the other O.
- 54a. RATING FOR AN ADULT MOVIE.
- 73a. DECADE IN ROMAN NUMERALS.
- 87a. STRIKE AT A BOWLING ALLEY.
- 106a. KISS AT THE END OF A LETTER.
Not quite the TRITEST (28a) theme, but it feels worn and familiar, not in a good way. X is a common and adaptable symbol, and has been exploited as such in crosswords for eons. What makes this iteration marginally impressive is how the authors were able to create all of those grid-spanning word arrangements, but I fear that accomplishment will be lost on many solvers. As a result this to me feels like a quasi-stunt crossword.
- 10a [Temp in December] SANTA. Sly “temperature” misdirection. Damn, and I was fooled by 111a [Stand for something] EASEL too.
- Final square filled: crossing of 69a [Booth Tarkington boy] PENROD and 69d [Houseplant a.k.a. aluminum plant] PILEA. Fortunately, my (educated) guess was correct, first try. I suspect I won’t be the only solver to have trouble there. Pilea at Wikipedia.
- 70a [Manatee’s Asian relative] DUGONG. Well, yes, but they also inhabit eastern Africa and northern Australia. Basically, tropical and subtropical coastal regions of the Pacific and Indian oceans.
- 79a [Like B.B.’s music] BLUESY. That’s Riley “Blues Boy” King.
- 116a [Cary in pictures] ELWES, not GRANT. 50a [Costello classic] ALISON; that’s Elvis, not Lou. Keep your aim true.
- 4d [Confession sessions] SHRIFTS. Didn’t know this sense of the word. As far as I was concerned, shrift is a fossil word. Oh! Lookie there. The Wikipedia page lists it. Turns out it’s responsible for Shrove Tuesday as well as short shrift.
- Boston, don’t forget! 7d [Fenway turf] SOD. 15d [River joining the Charles] MYSTIC. 105d [Boston singer Delp] BRAD. 107d [A Kennedy] TED.
- Okay, how about some Greek stuff? 45a [Son of Zeus] ARES, 36d [Echo or Oenone of myth] OREAD, 86d [Sister of Orestes] ELECTRA, 41a [Sigma follower] TAU.
- Lastly, and curiously, only one X in the grid itself. 63a [Forest feller] AXE, 56d [Given the kibosh] NIXED. You’d think there would be more, or none.
So: a mitigated six-x?
Don Gagliardo and C.C. Burnikel’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “First Things First”—Amy’s write-up
The title lays it out: Each theme answer’s first word is a thing that comes first in a familiar set.
- 21a. [Willie Mays won 12 in 12 consecutive years], GOLD GLOVE AWARDS. The gold medal is for first place.
- 39a. [“Mad Men” actress], JANUARY JONES. The first month.
- 68a. [Certain group leader], ALPHA MALE. First letter in the Greek alphabet.
- 94a. [Early ’60s group that included John Glenn], MERCURY SEVEN. The first planet from the sun.
- 116a. [1990 movie with a muscular teacher], KINDERGARTEN COP. The first year of school.
- 14d. [“Rip Van Winkle” author], WASHINGTON IRVING. George Washington was the first president.
- 36d. [Component of hair bleach], HYDROGEN PEROXIDE. First element on the periodic table.
The “firsts” are all playing pretty much the same role within their theme answer. Washington Irving was named for George Washington, and January Jones was born on January 5. The Gold Glove and gold medals both esteem gold. Now, you’d think that the NASA mission called Project Mercury would refer to the planet, but apparently it was named after the mythological figure. Close enough for government work.
As with most Burnikel(/Gagliardo) puzzles, the cluing is smooth and the solve doesn’t hit any hitches. The fill’s got plenty of the standard dull filler (ENDO OCTO OMANI ACAD EIRE etc.), but it’s hard to fill a 21×21 grid without a slew of that.
Four stars from me.