Victor Barocas & Andy Kravis’s New York Times crossword, “Substitutes”—Amy’s write-up
Yay, two of my faves have teamed up for a Sunday puzzle! (Andy also had the Newsday “Saturday Stumper” this weekend.) The theme is two-pronged. First you’ve got four “X for Y” phrases. Then you’ve got four theme answers where you need to do an “X for Y” substitution in the clue to figure out what sort of answer you need. And! The clues make good sense before the substitution, but the answers have nothing to do with the unaltered clues.
- 23a. [Stall], PLAY FOR TIME / 95a. [Play of Shakespeare (remember 23-Across)], ELIZABETHAN ERA. That would be the [Time of Shakespeare].
- 33a. [At risk of being offensive], NOT SAFE FOR WORK / 111a. [Not safe at home (remember 33-Across)], TELECOMMUTE. That would be [Work at home], which is what I do. It’s so awesome in the winter.
- 43a. [Subtle sign from the distressed], CRY FOR HELP / 73a. [Seasonal cry (remember 43-Across)], TEMPORARY EMPLOYEE. [Seasonal help]. What is the seasonal cry for late January? Is it “Brrr!”?
- 56a. [Very bad plan], RECIPE FOR DISASTER / 87a. [Recipe that entails a lot of shaking (remember 56-Across)], EARTHQUAKE. [Disaster that entails …]. First off, RECIPE FOR DISASTER is a great phrase to plunk into a crossword. Second, I want to know your favorite recipe that entails a lot of shaking.
It would definitely have been a more challenging puzzle without those “(remember X-Across)” hints in the clues. It might have been fun, though! In a tear-your-hair-out, really-satisfying-“a-ha” sort of way.
With a solid set of eight theme answers, Vic and Andy somehow found the space for all sorts of juicy fill. Good stuff: CARE BEARS, CANARDS ([Fake news items]), BOYS’ LIFE, ACE OF HEARTS, GAYBORHOODS (I love Chicago’s Boystown and Andersonville), NFL GAME, WALK ON WATER, PET GOAT (did you know that Team Fiend’s Dave has a trio of goats?), and the NAE NAE.
I am giving the side-eye to that SHEDFUL at 65-Down, though.
Five more things:
- 1a. [Enjoy some rays?], SCUBA (as in manta rays) / 61a. [Enjoys some rays], BASKS (the sun). Cute gambit.
- 18d. [End of days?], ESS. Don’t get cute with clues for lifeless fill like ESS, people. Especially with REAR END just below in the grid.
- 15a. [Affectedly quaint], TWEE. In my game of Lexulous against Ben Zimmer, he played ETWEE the other day. Can you believe there’s another spelling for ETUI, and that it’s so … twee? (If you want to get your 36-Down handed to you, play Scrabble-type games against lexicographers.)
- 45d. [Ancient land where the Olympics began], ELIS. I needed all the crossings and it’s not familiar, but I actually appreciate a break from Yale clue hegemony.
- 67a. [“Vacation” band], GO-GOS. Ah, a highlight of ’80s pop. Enjoy “We Got the Beat,” why don’t you? It rocks.
4.2 stars from me. Enjoy the weekend!
Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Buyer Beware” – Erin’s writeup
Hi everyone! This week’s puzzle humorously spins two-word phrases into some regrettable purchases:
- 23a. [Bad thing for a Dodge driver to buy?] TOXIC AVENGER. There is a remake of this 1986 movie in the works. At one point, Arnold Schwarzenegger was offered a part, and at another point Kevin Smith was asked to direct.
- 29a. [Bad things for a bar patron to buy?] CHEAP SHOTS.
- 44a. [Bad things for an underwear shopper to buy?] JUNK DRAWERS. This one got a laugh out of me.
- 59a. [Bad thing for a computer user to buy?] ROTTEN APPLE
- 66a. [Bad thing for a fisherman to buy?] OFFENSIVE TACKLE. My favorite of the bunch. Isn’t all tackle offensive after a day of getting fish all over it, though?
- 79a. [Bad things for a liquor store customer to buy?] EVIL SPIRITS
- 92a. [Bad thing for a magazine reader to buy? ] GARBAGE TIME. Did not know this as either a sports term or the Fox Sports show with Katie Nolan.
- 108a. [Bad thing for an equestrian to buy?] NASTY HABIT. This could have also worked for 7d. NUNS.
- 117a. [Bad things for a seamstress to buy?] ROUGH PATCHES
- 31a. [Home improvement chain based in the Midwest] MENARDS. They have 305 stores between Ohio and Wyoming east-west and between the US-Canada border and Missouri north-south.
- 101d. [Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia, e.g.] CHOIR. The constructor may or may not sing with this chorus.
- Lots of Star Wars material this week: OBI-Wan Kenobi, ANI for [Luke’s dad, informally], Kylo REN.
- [Big blue expanse] for both 115a. SEA and 124a. SKY makes for some lovely symmetry.
- 87d. [Patient quality that may be measured by a facial analogue scale] PAIN. The FACES pain rating scale was created by Donna Wong and Connie Baker to assess pain in pediatric patients. Here’s a link to their foundation’s website, since I do not have a license to use their scale.
Until next week!
Paul Coulter’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “Bit Parts”—Amy’s write-up
The theme answers are formed by adding one letter (circled) to a movie title and cluing the resulting goofy phrase accordingly. The circled letters spell out CAMEOS, which are bit parts (see puzzle title).
- 22a. [Film about a convict’s lame claims of innocence?], JAILHOUSE CROCK. (1) I don’t care for the use of “lame” as a pejorative. (2) There are far too many cases in which a convict’s claims of innocence are entirely true, and injustice has been served. You can support the Innocence Project to help lawyers obtain justice for wrongly convicted people.
- 39a. [Film about St. Peter’s favorite striped stone?], HEAVEN’S AGATE. Heaven’s Gate is best known for its bombing at the box office and the squabbling between the director and studio.
- 60a. [Film about the last of the old-time schoolteachers?], A FAREWELL TO MARMS. The Hemingway book was adapted into 1932 and 1957 movies, neither of which I’ve seen.
- 70a. [Film about dealing with a class of five-year-olds?], KINDERGARTEN COPE. That … is not how the word cope works. Surely some other movie title with 15 letters could become a plausible phrase by adding an E?
- 91a. [Film about yet another complaint?], THE THIRD MOAN.
- 112a. [Film about a devastating blizzard?], APOCALYPSE SNOW. Cute, but we all know the term for that is snowpocalypse.
So the theme didn’t particularly grab me. In the fill, I kinda like INVEIGH, HEIGH-HO, and SKATE BY but there is far more fill that had the old Scowl-o-Meter beeping like mad. When your opening corner has crosswordese STIPES and the next section over has OSIER, SCENA, and SAPOR, you’re in trouble. Elsewhere, STENO crosses YSER, and French SENAT and ANGE cross Latin TE AMO. ENNEAD, roll-your-own LEERERS, EL-HI, EERILY, MYOPES, plural EDNAS … this stuff was popping up all over the grid. Much of it felt like a puzzle from the 1990s.
2.5 stars from me.
Emily Cox & Henry Rathvon’s CRooked crossword, “Trans Pairings” — Laura’s write-up
Animals of one gender have been switched with their counterparts, like so:
- [24a: Trans pol on the way out?]: LAME DRAKE
- [26a: Trans explorer]: FRANCIS DUCK
- [47a: Trans warrior?]: SITTING COW
- [51a: Unquestioned trans icon?]: SACRED BULL
- [86a: Trans way of marching?]: GANDER STEP
- [88a: Look, in trans fashion?]: TAKE A GOOSE
- [112a: Ohio, to trans residents?]: DOE EYE STATE
- [116a: Anonymous trans court figures?]: JANE BUCKS
My favorite is FRANCIS DUCK. (One of my personal theories of comedy is that anything is funny if it has a duck.) Regarding [112a: Ohio, to trans residents]: the lawsuit that became the landmark Obergefell Supreme Court case originated in Ohio, and the ACLU of Ohio is currently suing a Cleveland Family Dollar store for refusing to serve two trans women. Hey, if you liked this puzzle and you want more with LGBT themes, keep an eye out for Queer Qrosswords, from editor Nate Cardin and a team of fantastic constructors (a few of whom will be published for the first time), likely dropping in March.
Fill felt fairly smooth; didn’t know [53d: Montmartre painter]: UTRILLO — and there seemed to be plenty of proper names overall — AMELIA URSULA DOTTIE EVERT SADAT ETHAN GUNTER ALUNSER IACOCCA LORNE CAREW TRISTAN OSCAR ELECTRA AMENRA ALLENDE.