Kelsey Boes’s New York Times crossword
Today’s puzzle was created by an 18-year-old woman, the youngest woman/girl to have a crossword published in the New York Times. Congrats on your debut, Kelsey!
The theme inverts familiar verb+the+noun phrases in which both key words can play the part of a verb or a noun, and concocts a clue for the newly fashioned phrase. I recently read a Visual Thesaurus column by Orin Hargraves called “Auspicious Pairs” (subscription required); Hargraves discussed collocations, which are word combos that often appear together (e.g., “maiden voyage” is infinitely more common than “first voyage” or “maiden trip”). Keep this idea in mind as we review this theme:
- 20a. CONTROLS THE JAM echoes “jam the controls.” I’m not sure that this base phrase really rises to the level of a collocation.
- 25a. FLAMES THE FAN flips “fan the flames,” which sounds mighty collocative to me.
- 43a. Similarly, “crack the whip” is a natural-sounding combo. It flips to WHIP THE CRACK, which has the odd clue [Blend an illegal street drug?]. I don’t know how rock cocaine is made, but is there any whipping with a mixer or whisk? At least we were spared a clue about a butt crack being flayed.
- 52a. Another good collocation is “pop the question” (QUESTION THE POP).
Since the flipped phrases are all verb+the+noun, it would be ideal if the original nouns were either all singular or all plural—we end up with two +S verbs and two plain verbs. Better 2/2 than 3/1, at least.
Highlights in the fill include SHEESH, Jimi Hendrix’s “HEY JOE” (not that I’ve heard of the song before), SWIMSUITS, and a SOAP OPERA. I could do without entries like URAL, APSES, and ADZE, but in general the fill is within the realm of Tuesday-puzzle expectations. There’s one weird clue, 8d: [Airplane wing component]. I went with FLAP, as ailerons are flap-like things, but the answer is SLAT. Plane wings have slats??
Matt Jones’ Jonesin’ crossword, “That’s So Money”
The theme here is four two-word phrases that start with words that refer to dollars, but are used here in entirely different contexts:
- 19a. [Without a gosh-dang thing on] clues the slangy BUCK NEKKID. Love it!
- 27a. BILL MURRAY is the [Actor who played himself in “Zombieland”].
- 45a. BONE MARROW is a [Substance that may be donated]. I would likely never say that something cost “50 bones.” This is, I think, the least widely used of the money words here.
- 51a. [Chewy fried seafood dish] is CLAM STRIPS. Eww. That doesn’t sound appetizing to me.
The theme’s solid, but the themeless-grade grid (just 70 words) forces some unfortunate compromises in the fill. Among the tough-‘n’ ugly bits are these:
- 5d. TMS is clued as [Symbols after brand names]. Does anyone really pluralize the symbol for trademark?
- 6d. [Hoops group until 2009] clues CBA. I don’t even know what this stands for. Continental or Canadian Basketball Association? Wikipedia confirms Continental, a minor league.
- 20d. [“This is only a test” gp.] clues EBS, Emergency Broadcast System. We just saw one of those screechy test alerts on TV the other day. My son asked me, “What does EAS stand for?” It’s Emergency Alert System, which superseded EBS in 1997. So EBS clues should have some hint of the past tense to them.
- 24d. [Ethnomusicologist’s deg., maybe] clues D.M.A. Doctor of…Musical Arts? Yes, exactly. I believe the ethnomusicology degree Ben Tausig is working on is a Ph.D., though.
- 41d. [Blood vessel imaging machine] clues MRA. I am a medical editor, but this abbreviation isn’t familiar to me. I’m guessing magnetic resonance angiography. Yep, that’s what it is. MRA also stands for “men’s rights activist.”
- 54d. [Trebek’s “High Rollers” costar Lee] is RUTA. Hey! She was just in another recent puzzle blogged by one of the guys here, Sam or Neville. I bet she got teased a lot as a kid. “Rutabaga.”
Oof. In the plus column, we have CHURROS, GALACTIC, the conversation “SO SUE ME” and “I’D LIKE TO“…and the punctuation mark ELLIPSIS.
Norma Steinberg’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Neville’s review
Norma Steinberg has given us a good number of puzzles over the years. Do you think the young David Steinberg, who debuted in the NYT last week is related? We’ve got a question mark theme on a Tuesday, but there’s not alteration in the answers – just some reinterpretation of cash-related phrases:
- 3d. [Trawler’s income?] – NET PROFIT
- 21a. [Honky-tonk owner’s income?] – JOINT RETURN
- 36d. [Librarian’s income?] – HUSH MONEY
- 56a. [Actor’s income?] – PART PAYMENT
Brendan Emmett Quigley once posted a list of ten themes that he’d rather not see again; number seven on that list included “words-are-synonyms puzzles where the words are not used in any sort of alternate sense.” I think that this puzzle subverts this, though, by using clever cluing to put a little extra zing on these entries, making it a much more interesting Tuesday solve.
No fill more than six letters long – that’s a bit disappointing to me, even if there are only two three-letter entries. And none of the fill really sparkles for me, which is a little sad. Here’s some stuff that jumped out at me during my solve:
- 6a. [City in Peru or Ohio] – LIMA. Hands up if you’ve only heard of Lima, Ohio because it’s the setting for Glee.
- 11d. [Remove from text] – EX OUT. I thing this should just be X OUT – the answer as written seems to reference when you kick your deadbeat former lover off your couch and into the street.
- 59a. [Org. that advises the president in financial planning] – OMB, orOffice of Management and Budget. Heck, I thought this had something to do with an ombudsman.
- When [Political commentator] RACHEL [Maddow] went on the air on MSNBC back in 2008, she didn’t own a television! Someone explain to me how that works.
I’ll give it three and a half stars – a solid theme, but nothing to write home about otherwise.
William I. Johnston’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Encore! Encore!” – Sam Donaldson’s review
Today’s theme features five songs with titles so nice they named them thrice; that is, each song title is a single word twice repeated:
- 18-Across: The [Song recorded by Johnny Cash in 1955] is CRY CRY CRY. It’s an old ballad from the late 1800s that served as an instruction manual for paperboys.
- 24-Across: The [Song recorded by B2K and P. Diddy in 2003] is BUMP BUMP BUMP. It’s a sad folksong about pinball machine manufacturers.
- 40-Across: The [Song recorded by Jackie Wilson in 1963] is SHAKE SHAKE SHAKE. The tune was modified for a Shake ‘n’ Bake commercial from the 1970s: “Shake shake shake! Bake bake bake! Shake ‘n’ Bake chicken! Shake ‘n’ Bake chicken!“
- 50-Across: The [Song recorded by Andrea True Connection in 1976] is MORE MORE MORE. It tells the story of a nymphomaniac trying to give up both smoking and dessert at the same time.
- 62-Across: The [Song recorded by ‘N Sync in 2000] is BYE BYE BYE. It’s about a tournament tennis player who laments the fact she must now play against an opponent instead of having a free pass to the next round.
Once you crack one of the theme entries, you’re in for an expedited solve, as just one word gives you from six to ten free squares that you can fill in with Feyer-like speed. Of course, there are about 110 other squares that have to be filled in too, and those may not come quite as easily.
Random observation time:
- It was interesting to see both the A-BOMB and the N-TEST in the same grid. By “interesting,” I mean, “I wonder if any solvers will find this a little too violent for his or her taste.”
- Anyone else try MAMMA for [Roger and Dee’s mother on “What’s Happening!!”]? I remember her only being addressed as such on the show. But the answer’s MABEL.
- [Pencil box top, sometimes] was a wonderfully nostalgic clue for RULER. I remember how the boxes used to have rulers printed on their tops, and I also remember using them as straight-edges for many an art project in elementary school.
- I can’t say I’m familiar with the work of this artist, but I liked [Source of illumination Harold Edgerton used for photographs of milk drops and bursting balloons] as a clue for STROBE. I think the milk drop photo is the one appearing to the right.
- I had to look up why [Place close to Sundance?] clued ETTA. Turns out one Etta Place was a companion of the famous outlaw, the Sundance Kid. With that extra knowledge, that’s a fun clue! Without it, though, I was left to mutter “Huh?” during the solve.