Tom McCoy’s New York Times crossword, “We Hold These Truths To Be Self-Evident”
Fun batch of theme answers—I’m not sure if they count as tautologies or if there’s another term for such phrases.
- 23a. [Classic excuse for some misdemeanors], BOYS WILL BE BOYS. Certainly in the language, but I would love for it to work its way out of the language soon. Gender essentialism, excusing poor behavior by pretending it’s destiny.
- 35a. [Declaration from Popeye], I YAM WHAT I YAM. The most tuberous of all declarations.
- 43a. [Doubt-dispelling words from Lady Macbeth], WHAT’S DONE IS DONE. Is it, now? Are you sure, ma’am?
- 72a. [Famous Yogiism], IT AIN’T OVER TILL ITS OVER.
- 97a. [Words dismissive of detractors], HATERS GONNA HATE. I love this one for its contemporariness. It fairly screams “This constructor’s not old.” (In the constructor’s notes at Wordplay, he mentions that he’d also considered Ke$ha’s “We R Who We R,” but WERWHOWER looks bonkers in a grid.
- 105a. [Expression of resignation], IT IS WHAT IT IS.
- 121a. [“We will tolerate this no more!”], ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. And Once Is Not Enough, Jacqueline Susann taught us. So “enough” is defined as “more than once but not too much.”
- In the circle of circled letters, we have the never-ending circular statement from Gertrude Stein, “a rose is a rose is a rose …” and it just might never come to an end.
I like the diversity of language in these phrases—WILL BE, YAM, IS, AIN’T, GONNA, and some more ISes. Far fresher vibe than if they were all “X is Y” phrases.
Five more things:
- 19d. [Bonding molecule], LIGAND. Science! I needed to lean on the crossings here. Forgot my chem. (ENTROPY, TITRATES, and the [World’s largest particle physics lab, in Switzerland], CERN, were easier for me.)
- 73d. [Colorful, pebble-like candies], NERDS.
- 48d. [Some wrestlers], SUMOS. Always looks bogus to me, but I checked a dictionary and it’s got “(pl. sumos)” right in the entry.
- Top fill includes GOLD MINE, WEST WING, CHEWS OUT, and WEEVIL above SWIVELS (would you not enjoy a carnival ride called Weevil Swivels?).
- 38a. [___ Anne’s (popular pretzel purveyor)], AUNTIE. Yum. Greasy, sugary, messy.
4.33 stars from me. Wasn’t wild about all of the fill (EEW, RETROD, EARED, a bunch of dull 3s) but overall I enjoyed the puzzle because the theme phrases were such a crackling bunch.
Trip Payne’s Washington Post crossword, “The Post Puzzler No. 223” — Janie’s review
Here’s a solid puzzle from Trip—a 70/29 with lots and lots of open space but not lots and lots of long fill. The longest entries we encounter are of the nine-letter variety, and we get triple stacks of ’em in the NE and SW corners. Nor do we get lots and lots of sparkle. But maybe because of the way the open corners shore up the puzzle as a whole, this feels like a particularly muscular grid. One that gave me a reasonably smooth solve, too. And there’s a good bit of play in the cluing to keep things interesting.
So lemme start there, with:
- [The sky, perhaps] for LIMIT. As in, “The sky’s the limit!”
- [Where you could get blitzed during a football game] for SPORTS BAR. “Blitzed” as in “stewed” and not “caught in an air attack.”
- [Punchbowl alternative] for EVITE. So not VENDING MACHINE or FLASK, but this (new-to-me) site.
- [Blades for cutting, often] for GRASS. That is, blades (of grass that are ready) for cutting, and not lawnmower blades.
- [G as in Gershwin?] for SOL. Sneaky. Do-re-mi-fa-sol. Which, in a C-major scale, corresponds to C-D-E-F-G. Gershwin was a composer, ergo, “G as in (a piece by) Gershwin…” Hey. It’s the Sunday WaPo. Yer gonna see some ellipses in the clues.
- [Items with handles on the front] for NAME TAGS, where handles=names or nicknames and not hand-grips…
- [“Wanna put money on it?”] for “ANY TAKERS?” Good talking clues and fill like this are always welcome! Ditto the succinct [“Oh?”] “REALLY?” pairing.
- [Puddy dater] for (Elaine) BENES. Okay, my first thought was “puddy tat,” but Tweety and Sylvester this ain’t. Hello, Seinfeld.
- [Offal stuff] for ORGANS. Playing on the word “awful.”
- [What comes before the night before Christmas] for ‘TWAS. You know: “‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house…”
- [Landscapers often find them hard to handle]. Not WEEDS but CACTI. Ouch.
- [Do after dusk] for SOIRÉE, where “do” is a noun and not a verb.
- [Big cheese] for NABOB. Cheese of the non-dairy variety. Spiro Agnew gets this one!
Only clue/fill pairing that felt forced/stretched was [Extract graphite] for ERASE. Omma don’ know about that one. My dictionaries don’t support this sense of “extract.” The closest I get to “erasing” anything is “to treat with a solvent so as to remove a soluble substance” (M-W). But graphite is a solid; no solvents involved, so that still misses the mark in my book.
Although this is a themeless, I do detect a bit of a not-altogether-“soft-core” mini-theme. And for me it has real “your-mileage-may-vary” overtones: the (not-so-subtle double entendre) [Nipple rings] AREOLAS combo + the (a-little-goes-a-long-way but not un-puzzle-worthy) genre-[Director Meyer known as “King of the Nudies”] RUSS + the (not-so-subtle double entendre) [Message containing junk?] SEXT combo. (Serious “eew” for that last clue. In the AVCX? You betcha. [I may not even “love” seeing it there, but in that venue it goes with the territory so is decidedly fairer game.]) We see areolas and sext in the puzzles all the time—that part’s a non-issue; but as clued today and on a Sunday morning in a non-indie?… Not happy-making for this solver.
As I said: your mileage may vary. Last week we had F-BOMB in the fill. I kinda liked that. But it sure did raise a flag for me. As always, credit/”blame” goes to both the constructor and the editor; that said, apparently it’s all copacetic with the higher-ups at the WaPo. Still, I do wonder how the general solving population (and not those of us who are the tiny percentage of multiple-puzzle-solving, blog-reading, “insider”-types) enjoys this in-your-face “edginess.” Ultimately, this is a rhetorical ask, of course. (And make no mistake: I am a huge fan of the WaPo Sunday puzzles. The challenge I expect and get from them is a highlight of the solving week. So thank you for that, construction team and editor!)
Given my (perhaps too-narrow?) presumptions about the venue, though, I’m happier by far seeing a mini-theme involving [Duchamp movement] DADA + [“The Sphinx of Delft] VERMEER + [Where “The Night Café” was painted] ARLES. (Oops. My first thought was of Hopper’s “Nighthawks“… “Nevermind.”) Also liked seeing “HERE WE ARE” in the grid. Not only is this a [Top 10 hit for Gloria Estefan], it’s also a famous short-story by Dorothy Parker. A bit of a cautionary about the transience of the first flush of marriage. And while we’re in literary territory, liked meeting up with [Dr. Seuss’s oobleck, e.g.] for SLIME. This was new to me, but look: you can make your own. Have fun!
Merl Reagle’s syndicated Sunday crossword, “Sunday in the Park with …”
The starred theme answers end with things that might be found in a park:
- 23a. [Spoof specialist *], MEL BROOKS.
- 25a. [He’s the president in “The Contender” *], JEFF BRIDGES.
- 31a. [Tiffany Trump’s mom *], MARLA MAPLES.
- 49a. [Green great *], TIGER WOODS.
- 88a. [Longtime “SNL” star *], TIM MEADOWS.
- 102a. [1999 Nobelist in literature *], GUNTER GRASS. This is the only one whose final word doesn’t double as a plural noun, but I say GRASS can also be a mass noun.
- 113a. [Sullivan-era comedienne *], TOTIE FIELDS. Is that an Ed Sullivan reference? Before my time.
- 115a. [Presidential family *], THE BUSHES. The first theme answer that isn’t first name/last name.
- 36d. [Main menu items *], ENTREES. The first one where it’s not a name at all, but a part of a shorter word.
- 41d. [People worth citing, jocularly *], QUOTABLES. The second one that’s not a name.
- 46d. [Ousts from the clergy *], DEFROCKS. The ROCKS portion isn’t a stand-alone syllable here.
- 49d. [Clairvoyants *], TELEPATHS.
- 52d. [Writes back *], RESPONDS. Another where the PONDS aren’t their own syllable in the theme answer.
- 66d. [“The Newlywed Game” host *], EUBANKS. What BANKS are in a park? Is this assuming a river?
Honestly, I would have preferred the theme with just the eight Across themers that are all names, rather than having the theme muddled with six more Downs that aren’t names. The eight-pack would also have given the grid more breathing room. Just look at the area by 65a: OLEO—there’s OLEO, COULEES, and BESMEAR crossing such nonluminous fill as ELO, OLE, ESTER, EMIR, SEM, AMAIN, and RELET. With only TIM MEADOWS needed and not DEFROCKS and EUBANKS, we’d have been spared all that.
Four more things:
- 74d. [VIP on Al Jazeera], EMIR. I really wanted something like HOST or ANCHOR. I think of Al Jazeera English and Al Jazeera America as news venues like the BBC, focused on world news and not Middle Eastern news, so I wasn’t even thinking along the EMIR lines.
- 47d. [Navy capt.’s superior, once], CDRE. Good gravy! I have no idea what this is short for. Commander emeritus? Google tells me “commodore” can be abbreviated as Cdre, CDRE, or COMO. I don’t think this is common knowledge.
- 54a. [Big Gulp cousin], SLURPEE. Now, I think of Icees as Slurpees’ cousins, and plain old fountain drinks as the cousins of other non-frozen sodapops.
- 32d. [Humperdinck hit, “After the ___”], LOVIN’. It has been a while since I’ve encountered the phrase “Humperdinck hit.” Whoa. My husband says he knows only one Engelbert Humperdinck song, and it’s the one about my beautiful balloon.
Garry Morse’s syndicated Los Angeles Times Sunday crossword, “Lo and Behold!”
Each base phrase will be holding a LO:
- 23a. [Tango involving gates?], SLALOM DANCING. I can’t quite visualize that. (MOSH is at 85d, clued as [Dance in a pit], if you really wanted your slam dancing without a LO.)
- 33a. [Most shameful nonstudio films?], LOWEST INDIES. This one’s my favorite.
- 52a. [Opinion piece by a sot?], LOOPED COLUMN.
- 69a. [Song about a guy with his jug of wine?], FOR ME AND MY GALLO. Thought it was just “Me and My Gal” (probably thinking of “… Shadow”) so the FOR threw me.
- 90a. [Vivaldi’s styling business?], SALON ANTONIO.
- 104a. [Time for a weekly parade?], FLOAT TUESDAY.
- 122a. [Hit homers batting left- and right-handed?], CLOUT BOTH WAYS. CLOUT meaning “to hit hard” is, in my world, far less common than the noun referring to political influence.
In the fill, I was partial to LOLLIPOPS, TOP DRAWER, BRAND X, TRUE GRIT, ATE CROW, and TIDBITS. I would gladly lose TIDBITS and BRAND X from the northeast corner if it meant getting rid of the ISSEI/TASSE/STETS crosswordese vibe there.
A commenter has already noted the 25a: EN MASSE dupe with 44d: MOBS, [Surrounds en masse]. (Hey, at least 25a wasn’t clued [In a mob].) There’s also the TRY ONE/ONE-TIME duplication in the bottom rows.
Four more tidbits:
- 2d. [Smallest European Union country], MALTA. This tells us that Liechtenstein, San Marino, and teeny-tiny Monaco and Vatican City are all not EU members. Did you know Monaco is less than 1 square mile? With 36,000 people wedged in, presumably in high style.
- 10d. [“Egocentric little creep” of a detective, according to the author who created him], POIROT. Agatha Christie’s Belgian detective. The Belgians are dead to me after the World Cup.
- 116d. [Ruin Bond’s martini], STIR. We would also have accepted SPIT.
- 40a. [Typical Popstar! reader], TEEN. Never heard of Popstar! magazine. Magazine? Website? It’s both, plus a social media presence. Since 1998, published out of New Jersey. My teenager is a non-idol-obsessed boy who doesn’t know of this magazine either.
3.25 stars from me.
Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s CRooked crossword, “Initiation” — pannonica’s write-up
- 20a. [Milne’s expanded initials] ALAN ALEXANDER.
- 30a. [Wells’s expanded initials] HERBERT GEORGE.
- 36a. [Mencken’s expanded initials] HENRY LOUIS.
- 50a. [Cummings’s expanded initials] EDWARD ESTLIN.
- 57a. [Wodehouse’s expanded initials] PELHAM GRENVILLE.
- 71a. [Lewis’s expanded initials] CLIVE STAPLES.
- 85a. [Munro’s expanded initials] HECTOR HUGH.
- 91a. [Eliot’s expanded initials] THOMAS STEARNS.
- 104a. [Barnum’s expanded initials] PHINEAS TAYLOR.
Thought I knew the theme until that last answer. Obviously all these entries are famous PEOPLE (88d) who generally went by a pair of initials in lieu of their first name. An aid to solving was being aware of those initials; a further aid was knowing what they stand for, which I did for about half of them. Anyway, down the line we have: writer (children’s, etc.), writer (science fiction, etc.), writer (essays, etc.), writer (poetry, etc.), writer (novels, etc.), writer (novels, etc.), writer (short stories, etc.), writer (poetry, etc.), and … showman/entrepreneur?! What?
Also, all nine are men, all are from the United Kingdom or the United States (or both), all are white, all are dead.
I can’t imagine that the theme needed to hew to such constraints, all the more strange considering that one outlier. Would have appreciated this much more if there was true consistency and/or true variety. As it is, I’m mystified.
EDGAR LAWRENCE Doctorow is still alive. WINFRIED GEORG Sebald was German. But WILLIAM BUTLER Yeats fits the enumeration and the other qualities perfectly. None of these names duplicate components of other theme answers.
If the theme were expanded to women writers (including living ones), the grid could have been populated in part by the likes of AL Kennedy, AM Homes, SE Hinton, PD James, even VC Andrews, JK Rowling, and EL James.
And if the theme dispensed with the literary aspect, which it has with the inclusion of Barnum, despite the many quotes and aphorisms attributed to him—not to mention the justly famous phraseology “THIS WAY TO THE EGRESS”—then the possibilities are manifestly greater. I mean, the thing’s already blown, right?
For good measure, I experimented to see if the initials, AAHGHLEEPGCSHHTSPT, could be anagrammed to spell something apropos. No.
Elsewhere, the grid has just two long non-theme answers: SELLATHON and PERSEVERE, a few slightly shorter ones. It has two massive ziggurat-style blocks of ten squares. The rest is essentially nondescript: no impressive stacks, no excess of crosswordese, abbrevs, or partials. The cluing is solid and often entertaining.
Lack of discernible cohesion leads to confusion for this solver.
Tony Orbach’s Sunday Challenge CrosSynergy crossword —Ade’s write-up
Well hello hello hello!! You can tell who’s writing this review as we speak, huh?
My apologies for not being around for the better part of this past week, and I’m now just trying to get back into the swing of things after coming back to New York.
Sorry I can’t make this a super-long review (that will start on Monday), but I’m always a fan of Sunday Challenges, and this one was no different. Long answers that I loved were ACADEMIA (60A: [Ivory Tower setting]), and BASKET CASES (25D: [Wrecks]). DEAR SIR right in the middle makes the grid look a little regal (38A: [Formal letter opener]). Not that I want to go to red carpet events anytime soon, but it would be fun to have LIMO DRIVERS take me there and then open the door for me while I step out in a white suit, or a more garish outfit (3D: [Door openers on the red carpet, perhaps]).
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: RATS (58D: [“Dang!”])– How can the “sports moment” now be ZAMBONI, the ice-resurfacing vehicle (4D: [Equipment seen between periods])? Well, in 1996, the Florida Panthers hockey team made a run to the Stanley Cup Finals, and the fans, after each goal the team scored at home, threw plastic rats onto the ice. Why??? One of their players, Scott Mellanby, killed an actual rat with his hockey stick in the locker room before the season opener, then proceeded to score two goals in the game with that very same stick. The story spread, and the “rink rats” were born.
I’ll be back with you tomorrow for my normal-length reviews. Sorry once again, and hope you forgive me for being AWOL (for a good cause).