Evan Mahnken’s New York Times crossword—Jenni’s write-up
I blame the Yankees for the extra minute this took me over my usual Wednesday time. I’m also listening to the wild card playoff game. Aaron Judge! Sorry. Where were we?
We have an appropriately word-centric theme today, and it’s new to me. So is the constructor; this is his NYT debut. I liked this puzzle a lot. The theme clues all describe dictionary locations, and the answers are familiar phrases. It wasn’t until I started writing this that I realized the phrases are also appropriate to the clues, which makes me like the theme even more. Nice.
- 17a [Where “house party” is in the dictionary?] is AFTER HOURS.
- 10d [Where “flanked” is in the dictionary?] is UNDER FIRE.
- 23a [Where “new” is in the dictionary? NEAR MINT, of course.
- 31d [Where “menial” is in the dictionary?] is BENEATH ME.
- 50a [Where “isolated” is in the dictionary?] is BY ITSELF.
- 56a [Where “midday” and “one” are in the dictionary?] is AROUND NOON.
Clever, consistent, and solid. All the answer phrases are in the language. I like this more and more as I look at it. I look forward to more from Evan!
A few other things:
- 2d [Put more gas in the tank] slowed my down a bit because I put in REFILL instead of the correct REFUEL.
- ARI from “Exodus” and ORI from “The Hobbit.” Just struck me funny.
- 30a [Manumit] is a not a word you see every day, unless you’re a Confederate-era historian. It means SET FREE, and was often applied to the release of slaves.
- 35d [“After this, it’s my turn”] is the awkward I GOT NEXT, which was unfamiliar to me but is apparently well-know in hip-hop and gaming.
- 60a [Malcolm X facial feature] is GOATEE. I had the G and tried GLASSES at first. Didn’t fit. Obviously.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that SONIC YOUTH was featured in a documentary called “1991: The Year Punk Broke.”
I will not leave you with an Aaron Judge home run montage.
Alex Eaton-Salners’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Multidimensional” — Jim’s review
Whew! This one put up a fight for me, and it’s only Wednesday. I struggled in the NW mostly because I had AVOW for AVER at 6d, and I wasn’t grokking the theme.
With all those extra long Across answers, it was pretty difficult to tell what was thematic and what wasn’t. And there was no revealer to help a solver out.
So what’s the theme? As usual, the title is the key. Each of the four longest Across answers starts with a word that represents a geometric dimension (0, 1, 2, and 3).
- 17a [One in charge] POINT PERSON
- 29a [Activity at a country western bar] LINE DANCING
- 47a [Fly paper?] PLANE TICKET
- 63a [Seattle sight] SPACE NEEDLE
I really like this theme, and the fact that I had to think about it and work for it made it all the more rewarding. That said, I’ll admit that all the additional long answers felt like they were purposefully muddying the waters. Same with what felt like a reliance on trivia-cluing (like [American Eagle’s lingerie chain] for AERIE). Maybe if these things were adjusted down a notch, I would’ve enjoyed it more.
But that being said, what an amazing glut of good fill! INAUGURAL, EVANDER, SPAMALOT, ILL-SPENT, CABINET, and SATIRICAL in the Across direction and the outstanding pair of WALT DISNEY and PANDA BEARS in the Down direction. Wow! Also colorful: “IT’S A GO,” SANTANA, MOONIE, and MET GALA.
Sometimes Alex resorts to a real curveball of an entry to bring you a good theme and fill, but not today. There isn’t anything here beyond the standard crosswordese (like ACMES, LLB, NOS, and TUTEE). The good stuff easily outweighs such substandard fill.
Clues of note:
- 36a [“That’s what ___ said!”]. SHE. Ick. Bro humor I could do without.
- 47a [Fly paper?] for PLANE TICKET, 25d [Small sucker?] for VAC, and 45d [Red head?] for LENIN. That’s better.
- 34a [Father and brother of Billy Ripken]. CALS. No, CALS Ripken is not both the father and brother of Billy Ripken; this is not some Oedipal tragedy taking place on the diamond. The clue is of course referring to Cal Ripken Jr and Cal Ripken Sr.
Overall, this is an outstanding puzzle with a clever, thoughtful theme and gorgeous fill to go with it.
Claire Muscat’s AVCX, “Streamlines” — Ben’s Review
This week’s AVCX looks like a guest puzzle from Claire Muscat, whose name I don’t immediately recognize, but given that she’s also written for venues like the NYT, I’ve probably solved one of her puzzles before. With a name like “Streamlines”, there’s probably something with water going on, so let’s dig in to this larger-than-usual grid:
- 26A:1960s folk-rock group with the debut album “If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears” — THE MAMAS AND THE PAPAS
- 33A:1966 hit for the Supremes — YOU KEEP ME HANGIN ON
- 48A:What one might lament on seeing a Starbucks abroad, e.g. — AMERICANIZATION
- 67A:1984 Scorpions single — ROCK YOU LIKE A HURRICANE
- 86A: Brad Pitt title of 1995 and 2000 — SEXIEST MAN ALIVE
- 98A: Lindt specialty — CHOCOLATE TRUFFLES
- 107A: Redford drama with a 25th anniversary on October 9, 2017 … and one way to describe each of this puzzle’s theme answers — A RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT
I was flying through some of the longer answers on this puzzle – all of the music clues were right on my wavelength, and A RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT had a prominent spot on my parents’ VHS rack as a kid, so that was right at the forfront of my brain when I saw how much answer space I had. This was a pretty nice theme, with some lovely long fill. As you can see in my highlighting above (and from the title/revealer), each of those answers contains the name of a river (THAMES, YUKON, AMAZON, RHINE, SEINE, and CHARLES) running through it. Pretty straightforward stuff.
- NECCO WAFERS (24A): the candy no one likes. You’re eating chalk!
- BAI may be the “Antioxidant drink brand promoted by Justin Timberlake and Christopher Walken”, but I mostly know them as the drink I get from CVS when they have them 5 for $5 when they’re trying to clear stock
- I’m going to assume THE ASP is the “‘Little Orphan Annie’ henchman”, given that my only knowledge of the comic is the movie/musical based on it, but it could just as easily be T.H. EASP, noted tycoon and rival of Daddy Warbucks or THEA S.P., the person who takes over the orphanage after Ms. Hannigan who turns out to be even worse at providing adequate care for orphans.
- I love that in addition to ELO being a very crossword-friendly band, their compilation album OLE ELO seems to be referenced most in crossword grids.
- My brain didn’t love EXAM PAPER as “What might be turned in at the terminus of a term”. It’s a TERM PAPER or an EXAM.
4/5 stars. Clean theme, fun fill, nice cluing.
C.C. Burnikel’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up
Very simple theme. LP is a (type of) record, and, per BROKENRECORD, those letters are at the beginning and end of several asterisked answers: LOCATORMAP, LIQUOREDUP, LAMBCHOP, LEMONDROP, LABORCAMP and LAVALAMP. It’s a pretty broad theme, so C.C. has gone for quantity here…
- [OutKast rapper Big __], BOI. One half of, the other being Andre 3000. Speakerboxxx/The Love Below being their commercial zenith. In fact, it is more two solo albums released together; Speakerboxxx is Big Boi’s half. The package is certified diamond (>10x platinum).
- [NFLer again in 2016], LARAM. And cruciverbalists everywhere rejoiced!
- [Oft-injured knee part, for short], ACL. The (quadrupedal) animal equivalent is CCL (cranial), FWIW.
- [Bit of texting tact], PLS. Not yet ubiquitous in crosswords, but bound to gather momentum…
- [“Paper Moon” girl], ADDIE. We all just saw Paper Moon and typed/wrote ONEAL yes?
- [*Shari Lewis puppet], LAMBCHOP. A little before my time, but I inherited the puppet from older siblings…
- [Cry from a sheep], BLAT. That’s not a word you see much IRL…
- [Manipulative health care practitioner], OSTEOPATH. Pseudoscientific claptrap, but recognized in the US for some reason (with courses partly grounded in reality, and part in aforementioned claptrap). It’s all very mystifying.