Jules Markey’s New York Times crossword
Vertical theme this week for thematic reasons. 11d. [Place to express an opinion … or a literal description of 3-, 7-, 9- and 21-Down?] clues NEWSPAPER COLUMN, and those four answers occupy columns in the grid, but they start with standard newspaper names:
- 3d. [Multiplication aid], TIMES TABLE CHART. Pardon me, but don’t table and chart mean the same thing? I’ve never heard “the times tables” called a “table chart,” which just sounds redundant to me. It’s found via Google, sure, and apparently Google Drive has a generic “table chart” concept, but it sounds goofy to me. Los Angeles Times.
- 21d. [Basketball showman], GLOBETROTTER. The clue feels oddly generic, when the Harlem Globetrotters are a specific exhibition team. Boston Globe.
- 7d. [Mail holders], POST OFFICE BOXES. Washington Post.
- 9d. [Ardent beachgoer], SUN WORSHIPER. Baltimore Sun—home of my favorite newspaper editor-cum-blogger, John McIntyre. He writes wry, level-headed discourses on grammar and usage issues like agreement and antecedents.
What is it about Tuesday puzzles that brings out all the fill like AMIE, OSA, AVANT, ESSE, ARTE, ERAT (six foreign words in a single puzzle?!); HIERO-, IRREG., -OSE, ASSNS. (prefixes, suffixes, abbrevs, plural abbrevs); and ESTER (straight-up crosswordese that non-chemists rarely encounter in the wild). You can throw three or four such answers at me and I’ll overlook them, but when there are this many, it distracts me while solving.
Three stars, because having 11 entries that I view as clunky feels like par for the course with the Tuesday newspaper puzzles. (Sigh.)
Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle, “Climate Change”—Janie’s review
To give myself a tad more of a challenge today, I decided to conceal the puzzle’s title, and truly (because all but the first two themers eluded me for so long), it took completing the reveal for it to all come together. But what a sweet “aha” followed. Because completing the puzzle let me appreciate what a well-wrought theme and theme set this puzzle presents. How does the “climate change“? The reveal’s FIVE-DAY FORECAST at 61A. [Weather Channel feature…] spells it out:
- 17A. A RAISIN IN THE SUN [1959 Tony-nominated play whose 2014 Broadway production stars Denzel Washington]. Saw the previous revival, with Sean Combs. He wasn’t brilliant, but did no harm to this play that time itself has done nothing to wither. If you’ve never seen it (there’s a film version with Sidney Poitier) or read it, whaddaya waitin’ for? Sadly, playwright Lorraine Hansberry died so very young (34). Oh—and should that sun start feeling too strong, don’t forget to block the damaging rays. Be sure to check the SPFS [Stats on sunscreen bottles] and apply liberally!
- 23A. PURPLE RAIN [“When Doves Cry” is the lead single on this Prince album]. Which may lead to hearing many a purple PLOP (Large raindrop sound]…
- 29A. BRAIN FOG [Mental fatigue]. Never heard of it! Much…
- 44A. TONY SNOW [White House Press Secretary in 2006-2007 who had a radio talk show]. And who also appeared as a guest on a radio show. Here he is, seven years ago, on the “Not My Job” segment of “Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me.” So this is a man who is very familiar with MEDIA [Word with news or mass].
- 49A. SECOND WIND [Renewed energy]. This clue is a tricky one, no? Thought it would somehow be about sustainability and natural resources—on the global level, that is. Which would make it an apt tie-in to the crossing SWAYS [Moves in the breeze]. Or perhaps harnessing the power beneath the earth, from say, MAGMA [Below the surface molten rock] (or is that even possible? Though the existence of geothermal power makes me think so…). Still, between that wind and the “breeze,” there is an internal tie-in here that I like.
So we’ve got a strong, well-executed theme, a tightly integrated theme set of six (including two grid-spanners) that draws on a variety of fields, and more than respectable theme density (66 squares). In other words, the makings of a terrific, solid puzzle. And so much of the non-theme fill supports that supposition as well. “OK, I’LL BITE” for starters. That is peppy fill and with its conversational tone, in good company with the card table’s “I PASS” and the reassuring “I’M SET.” I initially entered IN ESSENCE where IPSO FACTO lives because [By its very nature] would seem to apply to either. I just let myself get misdirected… Not so with the cleverly clued POLKA DOTS [They’re spotted on dresses?] (and are not likely be UNSEEN), or SOCIETIES [Human bodies?] however!
[Dreamy sitcom hunk] makes for an imaginative way to clue TV IDOL (that is, because your mileage may vary, you have to use your imagination to visualize your own hunk-of-choice); and I like the quasi-ambiguous [Cash in coupon] for REDEEM. “Quasi-ambiguous” for me anyway, because I suppose some brain fog was preventing me from reading this as a verb phrase. Yep. I was lookin’ for the cash (noun) in the coupon…
Love the two ends of the spectrum we get by way of RANTS v. OPINE—which also sit opposite each other right in the middle of the grid. Yes, I know that, as clued, one’s a noun and one’s a verb. But the contrast remains. [Raving speeches] v. [Express a belief]. In keeping with the theme, the storm v. the calm.
Brand new to me today (but inferrable nonetheless): for the handyman-/DIY-solvers, T-SLOT [Groove for a letter-shaped bolt]; and for sports aficionados, [Double no-hit pitcher Johnny Vander MEER]. Vander Meer did this in 1938 and retired in ’54 at the age of 40 (which does go some way to explaining why he was new to me…). But he remains the only Major League pitcher to have thrown back-to-back no hitters. Pretty durned impressive.
And that’s it for today. In parting, a final VISTA [Panoramic view] or two, taking us coast-to-coast:
Peace out—whatever the climate (or weather…) where you are!
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “BRB”
In texting, “BRB” means “be right back.” Here, it signals that some two-word phrases with B and BR starts get spoonerized:
- 16a. [Creating a Pitt-shaped cake?], BAKING BRAD. Breaking Bad. When my parents were first dating, my grandma told my dad that my mom was “a great bed breaker.” She meant “bread baker,” of course, and yet my mother pretty much never baked a loaf of bread during my entire childhood.
- 32a. [Breakfast item that’s only around for a short time?], BRIEF BISCUIT. Great spoonerism of beef brisket!
- 39a. [1980’s Punky as an impediment?], BANE BREWSTER. “Brain booster” feels a wee bit iffy to me as a base phrase.
- 59a. [“I’m getting seasick in this jail,” e.g.?], BRIG BOTHER. “Big bother.” This one doesn’t quite work phonetically as bahther and bruther have different vowel sounds.
So a mixed bag in the theme, but overall decent.
Five more things:
- 35d. [Oscar-winning role for Meryl], MARGARET. Thinking … first noted Margarets that came to mind were Sanger and Atwood. I forgot about Thatcher (The Iron Lady), who was referred to far, far more by her last name than her first.
- 22a. [Periods of boredom], ENNUIS. I don’t think this takes a plural.
- 36d. [‘ neighbor], ENTER KEY. On Mac keyboards, it’s the return key, not “enter.” And I wish there were a little more space between the apostrophe and return because when I’m chatting online, I am continually posting prematurely when I end up hitting the return key after won when I mean to type won’t.
- 23d. [Big name in ’80s hair metal], SKID ROW. I couldn’t tell you a single one of their song titles or band members.
- 14a. [Demons that prey upon sleepers], INCUBI. I’d love to hear your incubus anecdotes, people.
Jack McInturff’s Los Angeles Times crossword
The first word of four theme answers can be followed by the end of the fifth theme answer to make familiar terms (storekeeper, gamekeeper, timekeeper, peacekeeper):
- 18a. [Generic product], STORE BRAND. I think the clue would work better without “product.”
- 26a. [Xbox One, for one], GAME CONSOLE.
- 37a. [Referee’s call], TIME OUT.
- 47a. [Image on many tie-dyed shirts], PEACE SYMBOL.
- 62a. [Angler’s “I don’t have to throw this one back,” and hint to the first word of 18-, 26-, 37- and 47-Across], IT’S A KEEPER.
If this were a titled puzzle, “It’s a Keeper” could have been outside the grid and 62a could have been BOOK REVIEW or BOOK JACKET. As it stands, the theme is solidly conceived and executed.
Least familiar fill: 12d. [Old Finnish cent], PENNI. It ceased to circulate in 2002 when Finland adopted the euro.
Proper nouns abound! ULEE TAMIAMI ERNIE PACER RAV LOEBS ANDY POE LOLA ERIK LATINO NEIL MAC GENA KNIEVEL SOO BREA BREL and INCA—what is that, 19? Solvers who don’t know all the names were probably grousing today.
The theme’s better than the fill, and the puzzle averages out to a Tuesday 3 stars.
Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Aye Captain”—Ade’s write-up
Hello hello everyone!
Sadly, we can’t shout TGIF (26D: [End-of-the-week whoop]) just yet, but we have a very entertaining Tuesday puzzle on our hands, as Mr. Randall J. Hartman treats us to four theme answers where the last word in each answer can follow the word “Captain.” Each of the captains referenced are fictional captains, so you won’t see answers involving Kirk, Picard or Janeway anywhere. What??? They were all fictional, too?!?!?! YOU LIE!
- PROFESSOR MARVEL: (17A: [Character in “The Wizard of Oz”])
- AFTER MIDNIGHT: (27A: [1970 Eric Clapton hit])
- FLESH AND BLOOD: (48A: [Kin])
- GOD BLESS AMERICA: (64A: [Patriotic song written by Irving Berlin])
There was not much, if anything to HATE (49D: [Utterly detest]) about this puzzle at all. Lots of good fill, zippy long theme answers and slight with the crosswordese. Although I will say that a shellacking is more than just a DEFEAT (4D: [Shellacking]). That’s a rout, a whitewash, or as a lot of people now say these days, getting taken back to the woodshed. But definitely a very minor nit. You have very OLD (40D: [Long in the tooth]) with GRAIL 67A: [Last Supper cup]) sitting on top of the very new, in SKYPE (70A: [Internet communication service]). Although I never heard of “Eugene Onegin” nor “Boris Godunov,” knew immediately that OPERAS (51D: [“Eugene Onegin” and “Boris Godunov”]) had to be the answer, even without using any crossings. Oh, and FRED (42A: [“I’m Too Sexy” band Right Said ____]) either made you laugh or cringe as you thought about the tune to “I’m Too Sexy” as you were continuing your solving experience today. In fact, the song is still playing in my head as I type this. If you’re too sexy for your shirt, you either have perfect ABS (5D: [Six-pack muscles]) and/or, if you’re a lady, you’re a total BABE (15A: [Nickname of George Herman]). Don’t worry, ladies: I NEVER say “babe” to describe a female, since that would be just MEAN (19D: [Bell curve figure]).
Going back, if Right Said Fred isn’t your cup of tea, maybe EDD (54A: [Kookie portrayer on “77 Sunset Strip”]) was the answer that gave you a continuous tune in your head. Either way, you’ll have some song in your mind until at least dinner time:
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: WAR (10D: [Cabinet department until 1947])– In the baseball world, WAR is short for Wins Above Replacement, a statistic created by sabermetricians (people involved with the Society for American Baseball Research, or SABR) that calculates the number of additional wins a certain team has collected with a specific player in the lineup as opposed to what that team’s win total would be with a replacement-level player in his stead. In layman’s terms, how valuable is a player to his team as compared to if Average Joe was playing instead of him on a daily basis. If you looked up the equations for how to calculate WAR, you’ll soon realize that calculating the always-confusing NFL quarterback rating is 450 times easier!!
Thank you for your time, and will hear from you tomorrow! Be safe everyone!