Ed Sessa’s New York Times crossword
Dagnabbit, I had a typo in my solution and it took me 30 seconds to root it out. I had UNDULENT for UNDULANT ([Like a wave], weird word for a Monday, or a Sunday or Thursday for that matter) crossing UNITED WEST END in place of UNITED WE STAND ([Words of solidarity]). Yes, I had WE STAND in my head, but that’s not what was in my grid.
Anyway! Moving on. The theme is phrases with the cardinal directions hiding within them, spanning words: PHINEAS T. BARNUM, UNITED WE STAND, GROSS-OUT HUMOR, and HONOR THY FATHER. Those theme answers are great, aren’t they? GROSS-OUT HUMOR is a particularly fresh crossword answer. I don’t care for the theme-revealing 64a: NSEW at all. Yes, people say “north, south, east, west,” but when they spell out all four single-letter abbreviations, don’t they tend to go with the more memorable NEWS? And NSEW, which I really think I haven’t seen before, doesn’t reflect the order of the directions in the theme entries. If you can’t lay out the theme answers in NSEW order, then ditch the NSEW revealer.
Highlights in the fill:
- “HEY, MAN,” PRO BOWLS, AQUATICS and SPORTS sharing a clue (though who really considers synchronized swimming to be a sport?), and BUS FARE. Good stuff.
Most astonishing crosswordese appearance in a Monday puzzle:
- 25a. ORIEL, a [Bay window] term seen primarily in crosswords. If you don’t know this word, then you’d better know that an L goes in the middle of UNDULANT.
Angela Halsted and Doug Peterson’s Los Angeles Times crossword
I didn’t quite know where we were heading with this YOUTH/ARTIST theme, but then I saw the clue for 71a and it mentioned that “the first word” of the theme entries was in play. FOUNTAIN, BEST—aha, famous PETEs, skulking about in disguise. I wonder how hard it would be to concoct a variation on this theme with a different first name and multiple people with last names that double as common words. Here is the PETEapalooza:
- 17a. [Legendary spring that creates spring chickens?] is a cute clue for the FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH. Pete Fountain is a jazz clarinetist in New Orleans.
- 38a. [Grammy revoked from Milli Vanilli] is BEST NEW ARTIST. First off, what were the Grammy voters smoking that year? Second, this year’s Best New Artist Grammy just went to jazz bassist/vocalist Esperanza Spalding, who is cool. (I love Google: You look for “Esmeralda Spalding” and it understands that you really meant Esperanza.) Anyway, Pete Best was the Beatles’ first drummer. Man, does he look a lot older than McCartney! I guess having a billion bucks lets one buy the services of the finest dermatologists and hair colorists money can buy.
- 60a. [Portland Trail Blazers’ home] clues the ROSE GARDEN ARENA. I don’t know about you, but I find the ever-changing names of sports arenas and stadiums and ball parks to be one of the most useless areas of trivia. Who cares what the place is called? Why should we ever be expected to know the name of a joint in another city? Especially if it’s not particularly historic or charming. Heck, I still think the White Sox play at Comiskey. Pete Rose, of course, is the ballplayer who bet on baseball and had a dorky hairstyle in the ’70s.
- 71a. PETE ties it all together: [Name that can precede the first word of 17-, 38- or 60-Across].
- 31a. T-BIRDS are [Ford classics]. All the modern-day Thunderbirds look dorky to me.
- 42a. “SHALL WE?” is a [Polite “Ready to go?”]. Lovely.
- 52a. Hey-o! In America, a FANNY is a [Rear end]. In the British Commonwealth, the FANNY is more frontal and specifically female.
- 19d. “YES, BUT…” is clued [“I agree, however …”]. I would like the clue to have a semicolon in place of that comma, personally.
- 30d. Ah, yes. From the Milli Vanilli era. BANANARAMA is the [Girl group with the 1986 #1 hit “Venus”].
- 37d. [Like a lion’s coat] clues TAWNY, which is just a beautiful word, isn’t it?
- 54d. With less hesitation than a “YES, BUT,” we have “NO DUH!”—[“Obviously!”]. A few months back, lexicographer Grant Barrett was polling people on what they say: duh, no duh, no doy, no der?
I like it when the puzzle talks to me, and this one had a lot to say (42a, 19d, 54d). Fun stuff!
Raymond Hamel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Luck of the Irish”—Evad’s review
Looks like St. Patrick’s Day arrives a bit early this year; today we have four theme entries which feature a common Irish surname:
- [Jersey color formerly used by the Eagles and the A’s] is also the color I’ve chosen for today’s commentary, KELLY GREEN. I find it hard to believe no current professional sports team wears uniforms with this color, I guess it was so 90’s, eh? The Eagles are still in green, but now it’s a darker shade called “Midnight Green.” I wish it were my job to pick team colors; I think I remember a recent NCAA title game where USC or Oregon played some other team in pretty wild attire (pink socks that came up their shins maybe?).
- Ah, a [Carefree existence] is something we all strive for, THE LIFE OF RILEY epitomizes it. The Riley here isn’t Pat Riley is it?
- Not sure I’ve heard of POTATOES O’BRIEN, which are [Fried side that includes peppers and onions]. Sounds like home fries or hash browns to me. Are y’all familiar with how Waffle Houses in the south prepare them? Scattered, smothered and covered anyone?
- Finally, we have [Some concealed furniture] or MURPHY BEDS. I bet the Murphy who invented these wasn’t Murphy Brown. Just a guess.
Pretty appropriate that today’s CS assignment comes to a blogger with the last name of Sullivan, huh? Liked the throwback to late 80’s TV with the show featuring the Tanner family, FULL HOUSE. Wasn’t familiar with actor SEANN William Scott, I see here his big role was Steve Stifler in American Pie and was also in Dude, Where’s My Car? aside a young Mr. Demi Moore, Ashton Kutcher.
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”
People cry foul when Matt Gaffney includes German words in his crosswords but don’t pout nearly as much about the Romance languages. I protest that there’s too much of those in this puzzle! EL POLLO LOCO, “OUI, MONSIEUR,” and FRA DIAVOLO hit the big three Romance languages, there’s a little DIX, ILE comes from French, . Sure, they’re all great answers, but there’s no room left for AUSGEZEICHNET (that’s German for “excellent” and yes, the appropriate reply is “Gesundheit”). Well, actually, 26d’s clue has German, but “Bach” is the key part of that clue, not the German words.
Love the HOVER CAR and the DECENT WAGE (which I think is higher than a mere “living wage”), the SLAVE DRIVER at the FASHION SHOW (right on the heels of New York Fashion Week), and of course, les SEX SCANDALS.
Today’s puzzle is highly aspirational for young women. You can be a MILKMAID, PARVENUE, or an OLD BAT as well as being an author or singer. Such terrific career options! The men in today’s puzzle, mind you, include a designer, president, politician, TV host, jazz musician, famous novelist, classical composer, philosopher, and baseball player. Such is life.
I think the NYT tends toward a bridge too far on theme revealers, and on theme quantity for that matter. However, this one needs the revealer, or a revealer of some sort. A lot of creative opportunity is wasted with the refusal to use titles.
There’s no order to the entries, so I don’t mind NSEW (which is the order that I would use).
Surprisingly, not too much junk in today’s NYT – outside of perhaps “DTS” and “ERS”.
I did the exact same thing as Amy with the “UNITED WEST END” answer, trying to figure out what this meant….then changing it to “UNITED WEST AND” and getting confirmation that the puzzle was correct….and still trying to figure out what it meant. LOL
I did like “HEY MAN”, and will be happy when someone uses “YO DOG”.
With the exception of “Gross-out humor,” in which the direction was actually spread across all three words, I didn’t care for the other theme entries, since there were extra words that had nothing to do with enabling the direction. Then again, I didn’t much care for the puzzle itself; probably why I finished it so quickly.
The losers to Milli Vanilli for Best New Artist were Neneh Cherry, Soul II Soul
Tone Lōc and your Wordplay co-stars Indigo Girls.
Milli Vanilli (or rather the real singers) did have some great, catchy songs. Try to keep “Blame It On The Rain”out of your head today.
@Jeffrey: I am impressed that you even included the diacritical symbol in Tone Lōc. That is all I can say on my knowledge of that group of nominees.
In the CS I put SCAR for SCAB. No wonder I hadn’t heard of POTATO ESORRIEN. I’ll take mine scattered and chunked, please.
I share Amy’s opinion of the NYT–some really great fill compromised to some extent by NSEW as a “theme revealer.” This might have been one of those rare occasions to use circles in the grid.
An alternative would be to place something like DIRECTION in the grid’s center, with a clue along the lines of [Compass heading (four of which are hidden in the answers to this puzzle’s longest entries)]. I don’t know if this is better than circles, but I’m pretty sure this alternative would take the puzzle into late Tuesday/early Wednesday territory, which may not have been the constructor’s intent.
@D_Blackwell: Interesting observation that the NYT may rely too heavily on revealers. This may be inherent in any daily puzzle published without a title, as you mention.
I’d rather have the descriptive Portland-themed Rose Garden name (which is actually a pretty nice arena) than their previous Memorial Coliseum (blah). At least it’s not a company name (the Tropicana Mountain Dew Staples Valvoline Ex-Lax Field, etc.)
agreed. while stadium name changes can be a nuisance, the rose garden has never been called anything else and does not include a corporate sponsor in its name (like, say, wrigley field :P), but instead has a name connected to the city. what’s not to like?
i’m totally flummoxed by the raison d’être, if there is one, of the CS theme. why irish? why now? why two theme entries i’ve neeeeever heard of?
Joon, Wrigley Field didn’t sell naming rights to the gum company. In the 1920s, the gum magnate owned the Cubs and the park was named after him. The team has kept the ballpark name for 30 years despite being owned by the Tribune Company and now the Ricketts family. See? Not a tawdry sponsorship deal. Wrigley, the gum company, retains its Chicago connection with its landmark Wrigley Building on Michigan Avenue still serving as corporate headquarters.
And Joon, don’t tell me you’ve never heard of Murphy beds? The ones that fold up into the wall? Classic!
Speaking of Murphy beds, quite by coincidence I came across this video of a Hong Kong architect’s apartment (just 330 sq ft), which uses moving walls and a Murphy bed to allow various rooms to be in use. Slide closed the bedroom, open up the kitchen. Close the kitchen, activate the home theater. Really cool!