Alan Arbesfeld’s New York Times crossword, “State Lines”—Amy’s write-up
Well, when 1d and 3d dropped OPCIT and ESTER on me, I feared I was in for a long slog through the fill. The puzzle went fairly fast, but it did indeed feel sloggy.
The “State Lines” theme takes (somewhat) familiar phrases that include a 2-letter word and clues them as if that 2-letter word means the state whose abbreviation is the same 2 letters. Never mind the problem that we don’t write prose with state abbreviations standing in for state names.
- 23a. [“Try not to miss Bangor and Lewiston”?], CATCH ME IF YOU CAN. ME = Maine.
- 34a. [2:00 in New York vis-à-vis St. Louis?], ONE MO TIME. MO = Missouri. I … am not familiar with the base phrase one mo’ time as being something you could riff on for a crossword theme.
- 50a. [Whistler from two Eastern states?], MA AND PA KETTLE. Outlier with two, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania.
- 68a. [“We shouldn’t sell our Fort Wayne home”?], LET’S KEEP THIS IN HOUSE. Indiana. Feels a little iffy as theme fodder.
- 86a. [“Sooner this, Sooner that … can’t you talk about any other subject?”?], EVERYTHING’S OK. Oklahoma. Meh.
- 100a. [Deal another blackjack card to a young Salem woman?], HIT OR MISS. Oregon. Good lord, who would ever call a young woman from Oregon an “Oregon miss”?
- 117a. [Midwest state secedes and will join the United Kingdom?], OH TO BE IN ENGLAND. Ohio. Reads a little like a news headline, unlike the rest of the themers.
The grid was peppered with other stale fill—you’ve got your ENOL ETUI XKES EERO ROUE OSS TRESSED and so on. I finished the puzzle down in the southwest corner, where STALE crossed INERT. That amused me more than the theme, honestly.
Five other things:
- 52d. [First-rate, in British slang], TOP HOLE. Well! I checked with an Englishman and he’d never heard the term. (I presume this means he’s not as top-holy as one might have hoped.) He wondered if the opposite of first-rate, the very bottom rung of holiness, is asshole. Could be!
- 37d. [Walter ___, Dodgers owner who moved the team from Brooklyn to L.A.], O’MALLEY. Was he a bad man? Discuss amongst yourselves. This happened 60 years ago, and as a non-New Yorker, I could scarcely care less.
- 42d. [Part of a recovery effort], A.A. MEETING. Nice entry. See also: 65d IN REHAB.
- 72d. [In the 70s, say], WARM. That sounds delightfully cool! It’s been running about 90 these last few days in the Midwest.
- 5d. [Icelandic letter], EDH. I’d love to learn Icelandic, but I’m pretty sure my language acquisition days are over. (I’m hard of hearing. Consonants are easy to mix up!)
2.75 stars from me.
Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Commercial Breaks” – Erin’s writeup
This tricky crossword begins with a constructor note: “HINT: If you get stuck on this challenging puzzle, taking a break may be a good idea.” The “break” required is revealed at 125a. [What TiVo users may skip over … and what you must skip over to understand this puzzle’s theme], ADS. Evan inserts the letters AD into the theme entries. The clues match the theme entries before AD is, well, added, but the themers and their crosses are valid entries with the extra letters as well.
- 23a. [“To begin …”] FIRST LADY (FIRSTLY +AD), crossing LEANS and MUDD
- 25a. [Numbers game since 1992] POWER BALLAD (POWERBALL), crossing ERASE and SEDER
- 51a. [Gunsmith Henry whose namesake pistol is spelled with an extra R] DEAD RINGER (DERINGER – apparently his name was so often misspelled when referring to the pistol that “derringer” stuck), crossing GAPS and STOWED
- 53a. [Ranch, e.g] ADDRESSING (DRESSING), crossing ALOFT and EDDIE
- 85a. [Military activities] ADMISSIONS (MISSIONS), crossing MOAN and UNDO
- 87a. [Type of friendship once seen on “Entourage”] BAD ROMANCE (BROMANCE), crossing CAAN and SARDI’S
- 114a. [Mass communication figures?] ADMINISTERS (MINISTERS), crossing EMAIL and LED TO
- 116a. [Breaks one’s word] RENEGADES (RENEGES), crossing ANGELA and AUDRA
- 66a. [Red containers, perhaps] CARAFES. The wine in the container is red, not the container itself.
- 41d. [Cheese that’s made up?] EDAM. Reading EDAM from the bottom up spells MADE.
- 21a. [Nickname of an old Eagles stadium … or a person who could examine a pet eagle] THE VET. Philadelphia’s Veterans Stadium, demolished in 2004 to make room for Citizens Bank Park and Lincoln Financial Field. No comment on the teams that play there.
- 62a. [Sci-fi character found in Detroit?] From “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” Deanna TROI.
- 100d. [Character in the 1951 cartoon “Rabbit Fire”] ELMER Fudd. This is the Warner Brothers cartoon where Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck argue whether it’s duck season or “wabbit season” for hunting. Looney Tunes/Merrie Melodies shorts seem to have a lot of cartoon characters trying to kill each other.
- 39a. [Takes sides, say] EATS. Short, simple, lovely wordplay.
Until next week!
Matt McKinley’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “Encapsulating”—Amy’s write-up
In this theme, (semi-)familiar phrases encapsulate an extra N, and the resulting phrase is clued accordingly:
- 23a. [Designated meditation area?], CHANT ROOM.
- 25a. [Key to a discography including “Purple Rain”?], PRINCE INDEX. Based on price index, which isn’t super-familiar, and it’s got an extra N that’s isn’t thematic.
- 46a. [Vacant look, e.g.?], TRANCE ELEMENT. Extra N.
- 69a. [Tirade from an underground worker?], SEWER RANT. My favorite of the themers. Marred by the nearby non-thematic TIME ZONES and LATECOMER being the same length as this themer.
- 90a. [Elegant knight’s accoutrement?], SATIN AND LANCE. Two extra N’s, and satin and lace doesn’t feel quite familiar enough to base wordplay on it.
- 112a. [New Englander from Lhasa?], TIBETAN YANK. Boston does have some Tibetan restaurants, so this is legit. Extra N, though.
- 114a. [Viper’s bar order?], SNAKE PINT. Extra N.
- 32d. [What to click in response to an offensive tweet?], RESENT BUTTON. Extra N made it slightly harder to spot reset button as the basis here. I do wish there were a resent button sometimes!
- 42d. [Insufficient medley?], SCANT SINGING. Two extra N’s.
If I were constructing a puzzle with an added-N theme, I’d fight hard to find workable phrases that didn’t contain an N, to produce a more elegant theme.
This puzzle fought me harder than the usual LAT Sunday crossword. In the top right corner, dull MSEC (which would generally be abbreviated as ms outside of a crossword puzzle that can’t take a 2-letter answer) and the assorted other options for fill in that corner stymied me. ACE could be PRO, ADDAMS could be AL CAPP, and there are other 6-letter vacation options beside CRUISE. I was also slowed down by 98a. [“Me too”], SO HAVE I. Not a common crossword answer, that. The crossers WAV and DHS didn’t help me much.
Five more things:
- 10d. [Aggressive marketing], HARD SELL. Good fill.
- 92d. [Cold War protest sign slogan], NO NUKES. Can … can we bring this one back?
- 35d. [Writers], PENMEN. Good gravy, who uses this term?
- 51a. [High school phase for many], ANGST. Isn’t ANGST more a mood than a “phase”?
- 48d. [From A __], TO Z. Ha! Usually the related fill-in-the-blank is A TO. Not sure I’ve seen TO Z before. Looks bonkers in the grid.
2.8 stars from me.
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s CRooked crossword, “Noises Off” — pannonica’s write-up
“Off” here means that there’s something a little ‘wrong’ with them, rather than sound coming from offstage in a theater production. That is, we have puns.
“Sound off! One, two… one, two…”
- 24a. [Places that only display the hits?] THWACKS MUSEUM (wax …).
- 3d [Noisy drink in Tijuana?] GULP OF MEXICO (Gulf …). I thought this was going be something like GULF OF AGUABA. Hey, it was early in the solve!
- 6d. [Fall guy’s bell sound?] PATSY CLANG (… Cline).
- 33a. [Insult St. Louis’s hockey team?] ZING THE BLUES (sing …).
- 52a. [Stifle a gun sound?] HOLD UP A BANG (… bank).
- 82a. [Jumpy folks?] HUMAN BOINGS (… beings).
- 76d. [Nuke dupes?] ZAP SUCKERS (sapsuckers). Genus Sphyrapicus, indigenous to North America. Here in the East it’s S. varius, the yellow-bellied sapsucker.
- 66d. [Engine noise that takes a moment to start?] WAITING VROOM (… room).
- 101a. [Ram two bins into each other?] CRASH HOPPERS (grasshoppers).
- 110a. [Does a belly flop that hits everybody?] SPLATS ALL FOLKS (that’s all, folks).
I felt that some of these were too farfetched and not amusing enough. Stretched too thin, frayn around the edges. (My awful pun in the comment section below notwithstanding.)
- More awkward constructions among the ballast fill: 1a [Enclose behind bars] CAGE UP … I, uh, thought there more. Excusable UP dupe with 99d, though.
- Super-straightforward clues/answers: 7a [Relating to the moon] LUNAR, 30a [Sunlit period] DAY … I thought there were more of these too. Maybe there are and I’m not being rigorous enough.
- 89a [Ques.’s opposite] ANS. That orthography! >sucks teeth<
- 109a [Cockney’s steed] ’ORSE. Thought for sure this was going to be HACK.
- 69a [Instrument with stops] REED ORGAN, 118a [Marsh reeds] CATTAILS. Um.
- Less egregious, but still easily avoidable: 4d [Put out] EMIT, 120a [Be exhausted] RUN OUT.
- 119a [Sari state?] INDIA. Cute. I suppose that since the country is divided into states it’s more technically correct for the clue to be [Sari states?] but I can see how that’d be confusing. Correct editorial decision in my estimation.
- 1d [“The die is cast” speaker] CAESAR. This is foundry stuff, not gambling. Just in case you didn’t know.
- 16d [“__ soon discover”] THEY’LL. That’s … kind of random.
- 17d [Busted person’s letters] IOU. Liked the gentle misdirection here. Also liked 100d [Powerful demos] N TESTS—I mean, in the abstract.
- 33d [Some Italian pies, briefly] ZAS. As in, [piz]ZA. It’s legitimate in Scrabble-type games and I have no compunctions using it in that context, but if I ever heard anyone say this out loud I would probably laugh in their face.
- 40d [Baby joey] ROO. Huh? A joey is a baby kangaroo. Roo is short for kangaroo. In the Winnie-the-Pooh books there’s a mama kangaroo named Kanga whose baby is named Roo. This clue makes no sense, even though the answer is easily understood.
- 52d [Knee-slappers] HOT ONES. I’ve never heard this usage.
- 62d [Cleaning sponge] LOOFA. More of an exfoliator, but okay.
- I’m really taking issue and nitpicking a lot, am I not? Sorry.
- 72d [Shinty player] SCOT. Learned something new here. Shinty is a team sport superficially similar to field hockey.
- 82d/83d [Red Scare org.]/[Sputnik’s launcher] HUAC, USSR. Well that’s a fine how-do-you-do.
- 114d [Drug in microdots] LSD, 115d Mormons, initially] LDS.
- … and fittingly … 117d [“That’s a wrap!”] CUT.