Gary Whitehead’s New York Times crossword
I do like the theme concept here, but the fill’s a bit of a mess. The theme centers on “I HEAR YA,” which is slangily synonymous with “Amen to that,” so the grid’s got a word ladder that travels from AMEN to THAT: AMEN, OMEN, OVEN, EVEN, EVES, EYES, DYES, DEES, TEES, TEAS, TEAT, THAT.
There are a few sparkly bits in the fill. The football POSTSEASON, KNAVERY, HOLES UP, NITWITS, and ULTRASOUND are all good. However…. That “however” is a doozy. It been decades since the AEDES [Dreaded mosquito] was routine crossword fill (at least in good puzzles—it may well appear daily in low-octane puzzles). The only way to go more old-school in your crosswordese is to be an ESNE riding an ANOA and getting malaria from the AEDES—but these things are from different continents so that’s a tall order.
We also see the variant spelling APPAL, unsavory LESIONS and a STYE, the AER and ZSA danglers, and the ugly plural chemical suffix ENES leading a pack of four-letter E-words ERSE, EWER, and EPEE (plus five-letter ELSA’S). I don’t quite know what to make of the word SODDY. [Like golf course greens]? Hmm. Apparently it’s also a word for the sod houses built in pioneer days.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “Mix Masters”
As Usher might sing if he did this crossword, DJ got us fallin’ in love with this puzzle. A mix master is an emcee or DJ, and Matt’s five theme entries begin with the consonant combo DJ:
- 1a. [Magic spirit] clues DJINNI. Scrabble aficionados know that this cousin of genie can also be spelled jinn, djinn, and jinni.
- 17a. The DJIBOUTIAN FRANC is a form of [Currency in the Horn of Africa].
- 37a. DJIMON HOUNSOU is the [Star of “Amistad” and “The Tempest”]. He’s got two Best Supporting Actor Oscar nominations, for In America and Blood Diamond.
- 60a. [Pioneering “hot” jazz guitarist] is DJANGO REINHARDT.
- 69a. The DJEMBE is a [Squeezable African drum]. It’s a goblet-shaped instrument and I’m pretty sure my friend Jenni has played it with her drumming group.
I love this theme, and I’m fine with not having the variant Djakarta in the puzzle because these five work so nicely together, and there’s lots of cool fill. I like DIRTY JOB‘s extra theme echo, with its D.J. initials.
Clues and answers of note:
- 2d. [Fruity concession stand bit] is a sticky JUJUBE, which makes the placement of the theme entries possible. How many other J*J*** options are there?
- 20a. [Seahawks safety ___ Scott] is named GUSS, apparently. The Seahawks, of course, just lost to the Chicago Bears in Sunday’s playoff game. The Bears and Packers face each other this weekend in their first NFC championship battle since 1941.
- 6d. The phrase “I SUCK” does indeed constitute [Self-defeating words].
- 30d. [Prefix before musicologist] clues ETHNO. Matt’s got two regular editors—Matt Gaffney for Jonesin’ and Ben Tausig for the Onion puzzles. Ben is on a Fulbright fellowship in Thailand. Studying what? Ethnomusicology, of course!
- 10d. [Home of the Tar Heels, as sometimes abbreviated] clues U OF NC. Never seen that one before. U OF I(llinois) and U OF M(innesota) and U OF C(hicago) should be in every constructor’s database—they’re all major schools and all are familiarly known by these abbreviations.
- 55a. [Lutelike instrument] clues OUD. Lute and oud are etymological cousins, I see. The oud’s played in North Africa and the Middle East.
Gareth Bain’s Los Angeles Times crossword
What a perky theme! I don’t recall seeing one along these lines before:
- 51a. [2001 Spielberg WWII miniseries, and what 20-, 32- or 41-Across is] clues BAND OF BROTHERS, and those other three theme entries are musical groups composed of brothers. Gareth was born after these bands’ heydays in the ’70s, and I appreciate that he’s evoked the music of my childhood in his crossword.
- 20a. THE JACKSON FIVE is the [Group with the #1 hit “ABC”], of course. Baby Michael, Tito, Marlon, Jermaine…who am I missing?
- 32a. [Group with the #1 hit “One Bad Apple”] is THE OSMONDS. I don’t recall the song, but boy, did I watch the Donny & Marie show as a tween. Even had the Donny Osmond three-ring binder. All the older Osmond brothers were not remotely of any interest to me at that age. I can name more Jacksons and Gibbs than Osmonds. I think there was a Jimmy who was the baby in the family and maybe an older Ken.
- 41a. [Group with the #1 hit “Jive Talkin'”] is THE BEE GEES, the brothers Gibb. Barry the handsome, and twins Robin and Maurice. Bonus credit for knowing their baby brother Andy Gibb, the solo artist. Question: Do you count as a “band” if you’re all vocalists? And did any of the Osmonds play an instrument? Tito and Jermaine played guitar and bass.
I like the consistency of having the definite article THE in each theme entry, and the variety of presentations the brothers chose for their last names. Hanson and the Jonas Brothers are other all-brother bands, but Hanson lacks a THE and the Jonases duplicate the word BROTHERS that’s in 51a.
- 4d. [“Flowers for __”: story from which the film “Charly” was adapted] clues ALGERNON. Read the book in high school; never saw the movie.
- 39d. [Highbrows] can be EGGHEADS.
- 61a. [Present moment] clues NONCE, as in “for the nonce” and “nonce words.”
- 65a. VENN is your [Eponymous logical diagram creator]. There are plenty of Venn diagrams drawn on index cards at this site, usually for humorous effect.
Edited to add: Whoops! Guess who forgot that Jeffrey’s been blogging the Tuesday LAT puzzles? Me, that’s who. Here’s what he had to say:
One-line review for those in a hurry: Gareth brings the fraternal beat in this rockin’ puzzle.
- 1A. [Lin or Angelou] – MAYA. Name a third MAYA. I dare you.
- 36A. [Lena who played Glinda in the movie version of “The Wiz“] – HORNE. Theme tie-in alert: Also starring Michael Jackson.
- 37A. [Epi center?] – PEE. Don’t knock the clue. This is a family puzzle.
- 38A. [Nez __, Native Americans who breed their own horses] – PERCE. You had me at Nez ___.
- 58A. [Cosecant’s reciprocal] – SINE. It isn’t secant?
- 65A. [Eponymous logical diagram creator] – VENN. Shout out to PuzzleGirl!
- 6D. [Big cheese associated with Big Macs?] – KROC. Ray Kroc. It was all about milkshakes.
- 11D. [Doughnut shapes] – TORI. I do like the doughnut spelling. I wouldn’t call TORI Spelling doughnut shaped.
- 21D. [Wrestler Ventura] – JESSE
- 29D. [What double-checked totals should do] – AGREE. Take it from an accountant; they never do. So you have to triple-check.
- 30D. [Runs through a sieve] – RICES
- 31D. [Jeanne d’Arc et al.: Abbr.] – STE’S. Mais oui.
Tyler Hinman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Five Fingers”—Evad’s review
ACPT phenom Tyler Hinman brings us today’s CS/WaPo puzzle, where five phrases end with a word that can also follow the word finger:
- A “finger bowl” (Madge: “You’re soaking in it!”) becomes the FIESTA BOWL. I get all confused with the BCS bowls these days, I know the championship game between Auburn and Oregon was this bowl (prefaced now with Frito-Lay’s Tostito’s brand I think) held in Glendale, Arizona. What I don’t follow is which bowl is chosen for the championship game–is there a rotational schedule? I seem to remember the Cotton Bowl always being the championship game, but then I wouldn’t trust any of my recollections when it comes to college sports.
- A “Chocolaty chew” is indeed a TOOTSIE ROLL. I think “finger rolls” are an oblong dinner roll, but they may also be those infuriating contraptions that bind two index fingers together when inserted on either side and pulled.
- “Finger paint” becomes WATERCOLOR PAINT. My mother paints beautiful watercolors; sadly, I have none of her drawing talent.
- I’d say much of CHINESE FOOD is “finger food”; my favorites are appropriately chicken fingers in duck sauce.
- The HOMES mnemonic shows up a lot in puzzle clues, here it references the GREAT LAKES as a whole, instead of just one of them. The “Finger Lakes” are the beautiful long and narrow lakes north of Ithaca, NY.
I’d say this puzzle is pretty unremarkable weekday fare–these type of themes work better for me when the theme phrases have little to do with the “finger” phrase they were derived from. Here food, lakes, paint, etc. all have the same meaning in their base and theme phrases. Only bowl stands out as much different. New to me was the hip-hop group DE LA Soul. Here’s one of their recent tracks, Saturdays:
Malaria is spread by Anopheles mosquitos. Yellow fever and dengue are spread by Aedes. No tropical medicine lately?
Sockeroo?!? I’m all for ‘in the language’ in puzzles, but this word from the 40s was out of my ken. I’d be less upset if the crossing with goCart weren’t at the always ambiguous letter. I mean, if it’s slang, can’t it be soKkeroo? I supose not, but still, it’s not my preferred fill. Beats aedes, but Amy’s done a fine job of bashing it :D
Amy, you’re missing Jackie, the eldest Jackson.
The singing Osmonds were (from eldest to youngest) Alan, Wayne, Merrill, Jay, Donny, Marie and Jimmy. Their two older brothers, Verl and Tom, were born deaf.
Dang, Martin. It’s been too long since AEDES was a regular denizen of the crossword. (Which is to say, not long enough.) Lately I’ve gotten my tropical medicine from family parties. (I think it’s so cool that my cousin’s doing her molecular biology dissertation on receptors for Ebola and flu viruses. Especially the Ebola part!)
I got hung up on GOKART too; somewhere I learned that that “wrong” spelling was korrect. Not sure how I feel about the Djonesin’
Wow, Amy. Ebola! Not your favorite cousin?
You know I have a soft spot in my heart for good binomials. Aedes aegypti of the Culicidae is one of the best. All those ligatures would look so exotic, but I don’t know if Ædes will work on your Mac. But isn’t Aedes Aegypti a great name for a fan dancer?
Vicia pannonica is a pretty good one too.
Third MAYA: Maya Rudolph (SNL actress and Minnie Riperton’s daughter)
In no particular order:
Zootoca vivipara p.
Carabus soluta p.
It’s enough to make one exclaim Ia io!
(Put together a gallery of sorts a while ago on my blog-cum-crypt.)
And now back to our regularly scheduled commenting…
I’m soddy, but the fill in this one was just appaling.
And the song links for completeness
One Bad Apple
I dunno, the Times had some very rough fill, but I have a soft spot for word ladders, and I did like the central entry tying it all together. Good long answers too. So a little rough around the edges, but it was fun to try and guess the next rungs in the ladder as I solved. (might have been better overall with a couple less rungs to reduce the constraints on the grid).
I thought the word ladder and “Amen to That” was pretty spiffy. I do wish the “I hear ya” clue had made a little more sense — maybe we could have been told it was “slangy” or something.
Ditto Evad. This one struck me as an idea gone wrong. Amen to that is not a bad idea, but go cart (kart), soddy?!?, sockeroo, enes next to nons, ewe crossing ewer take all of the wind out of this puzzle’s sails.
Gareth saved the day with a clever, well-executed puzzle. Good fill up to and including “git.” But that one led me to wonder if the constructor has been watching oaters! I thought Tyler Hinman’s “Five Fingers” was also well put together.
In Re the NYT puzzle 30D [Sport with lunges] = EPEE—–Isn’t an epee merely the sword or weapon in the sport of fencing and not the sport itself? Count me amongst the NITWITS, but I can’t twig – after playing around w/ the meanings of “Sport” for some time – how to make this clue work. Help!
A few fill entries aside, I thought the AMEN TO THAT theme wasn’t bad, and a better puzzle than its star rating.
Seems that I’ve seen EWER called out a few times and not sure why. Common answer, yeah, but we have a couple around the house. It’s a real thing. (I was going to say we don’t have a DJEMBE, but looking it up, I think we do.)
Fwiw, GO-CART dates back three centuries, GO-KART a few decades.
Re Jonesin: So I’m guessing OUDs and DJEMBEs are studied in ethnomusicology then? Veering off into the NYT – I bet as many people know about OUDs as AEDES’… We covered them in parasitology, they carry several veterinary diseases here too! (Rift Valley Fever, for one)
LAT: Thought you’d be amused to know I sat with THEJACKSONFIVE clued as “Band of brothers?” in my cute clue file for more than a year before noticing it could be a theme! Doh! Oh, and ditto to reading “Flowers for Algernon” in high school but never seeing the film… Oh and Jeffrey – Maya the Bee of course! Classic cartoon!
Good puzzle from Gareth today.
The Osmonds are multi-talented and, yes, they do play their own instruments from guitar to bass to keyboard instruments to saxophones to trumpets to drums to banjos…you name it, they probably can play it. They may not have been the best rock ‘n roll dancers but ice skating and tap dancing are also amongst their many talents. And singing…well, that goes without saying. Its just sad that they (especially Donny) doesn’t get the respect they truly deserve from the recording industry and much of Joe Public simply because they are respectable, clean living people who are Mormon. You have to have scandal following you, it seems, to be respected. What a joke. But they’re happy with what they have…family, friends and their loyal fans…whom they treat as family! Ooopsss….its one of those days when I just had to defend the Osmonds….who got on my nerves??? LOL!
Gareth: glad you had an “aha” moment and worked to construct the band of brothers. Am eager to see what else has been hiding in your files.
i’m late, but i think i’m now all caught up with puzzles.
gareth’s puzzle was great. BAND OF BROTHERS is a terrific theme reveal. i don’t know much about pop music, so i was left wondering if janet and/or latoya and/or marie were in those bands. i guess not? anyway, fantastic theme and squeaky-clean fill. MAYA could also have been MAYA moore, the superstar player on the most dominant college basketball team ever. if MAYA had been in tyler’s CS puzzle today, i can pretty much guarantee that’s how he would’ve clued it. :)
speaking of which, i’m glad tyler’s puzzle wasn’t the theme i was convinced from the title it was going to be (INDEX, MIDDLE RING, etc.), because that one feels very played-out to me, and this was refreshingly … um … fresh, to anticlimactically and pleonastically complete my sentence.
the jonesin puzzle was … what’s beyond outrageous? nutrageous? anyway, i loved it. i almost laughed when i realized the theme. didn’t know DJEMBE, but there was a manchester united midfielder named eric djemba-djemba. it’s only a shame novak djokovic couldn’t be in this puzzle, but i guess he’s busy with the australian open.
bad fill is a funny thing. i agreed with the general consensus today that the fill in the NYT was decidedly below-par. (evad’s “appaling” gag had me laughing.) and yet, everything in it was familiar crossword vocabulary, whereas the jonesin’ had GUSS, EBN, OUD, and of course DJEMBE, none of which i’ve ever seen before. throw in U OF NC, HIJ, and the usual crosswordese suspects (LANI, ILE, SIE, ORT, OLEO, SAO, REA, OBE, etc.) and you might be thinking, “yikes.” and yet, i never thought that. maybe it’s because the theme was so fresh, or maybe it’s because there was also PUNK’D and DIRTY JOB and JUJUBE and I SUCK. i have nothing but admiration for matt j’s fearlessness when it comes to packing the good stuff into his puzzles, while managing to always keep the “mystery meat” gettable through fair crosses.
Ah well, no help forthcoming re EPEE. I can only suppose that I’m missing something rather obvious to all here.
Dan, I know that épée is an event within the sport of fencing, along with sabre and foil. I suppose the distinctions have to do with design, weights, and techniques. This, as you suggest, makes it confusing, but I think it’s defensible to call it a sport. Could really get mired in semantics, making analogies with skiing (slalom, downhill, cross-country), horse racing (thoroughbred, harness, steeplechase), or conversely with boxing or wrestling and the weight divisions.
I really have no idea, none.
Thank you very much indeed! I’d no idea that épée is an EVENT within the sport. I’ve never heard it used so. That makes quite a difference. It’s still, as you point out, a tad strained, but not something that would have so nonplussed me as to ask for help here. Again, je vous remercie pour l’ aide avec cette épée idée. :-)
I finally got around to this puzzle and didn’t care for SODDY either. Especially when it could have easily been replaced by the NODDY tern. It might not be that familiar of a bird to everyone but I for one would have liked it better.