David Woolf’s New York Times crossword
Well! With BIG-BREASTED at 1-Across, I assume it won’t be long before we see WELL-HUNG in the crossword. In fact, I’m surprised that 13d: SHRINKAGE wasn’t clued as [Cold water’s effect on the penis, per “Seinfeld”].
These two stacked 11/11 phrases are something I don’t think I’ve seen in a crossword before, and they’re probably why Will accepted the puzzle for publication. They kinda gave things a quote-theme vibe, though, with the clues that were useless to me:
- 15a. [With 17-Across, the B-side to “A Hard Day’s Night”], I SHOULD HAVE / KNOWN BETTER. Never heard of it. Does it deserve 22 squares of this puzzle? With scores of Beatles songs (a hundred plus?) that we’ve all heard of, why include this?
- 60a. [With 64-Across, ignored], IN ONE EAR AND / OUT THE OTHER. That clue doesn’t work for me at all. If something gets or is ignored, it goes in one ear, etc. I’m not seeing the interchangeability here. Also, with crossings like OLIOS, PELOTA, and HEHE, and stacked atop the is-that-actually-a-thing? STAYED LOOSE, just … no.
The TRUE CRIME/RAT POISON pair is nice, but then the other corner has ACT NORMAL with SHRINKAGE and doesn’t carry out the “paired entries in each corner” thing.
Way too much subpar fill in this one. Suffix –EOUS! Whoa. STR, ANYA, LEHR, ADES, OLSIO, HEHE, jai alai’s PELOTA, French crosswordese ETAGE, and SNEE? As for SAME AGE (40a. [Like George W. Bush vis-à-vis Sylvester Stallone]), I don’t think that’s really a crosswordable phrase. And as clued, it doesn’t quite work. The clue feels like it’s looking for something more comparative. In fact, with the second letter in place, the first answer that popped into my head was MANLIER. (What?)
Top fill: APPLE ID, SHTICKS, TRUE CRIME, RAT POISON.
32d. [Critical unit?] clues STAR. 2.75 stars from me for this one. The best thing about the puzzle is that it motivated me to watch the shrinkage clip and that brought delight to my evening.
Alan Arbesfeld’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Folk Rock Foursome”—Ade’s write-up
Happy Friday, crossword solvers! Hope you’re all staying warm out there…or, if you are/were in Salt Lake City, hope you enjoyed your 60-degree weather anomaly from yesterday! Today’s crossword puzzle, brought to us by Mr. Alan Arbesfeld, honors the famous musical threesome and sometimes foursome, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. Each of the theme answers is a multiple-word entry in which the last name of one of the foursome is included in the answer, though unrelated to the actual music group.
- BING CROSBY (17A: [Oscar nominee for “The Country Girl” (1954)]) – I couldn’t imagine trying to clue Bing Crosby in a grid, given all of the options you could choose from in his career to use as a clue.
- MOVIE STILLS (28A: [Items in some studio press kits])
- NASH BRIDGES (45A: [’90s TV cop show starring Don Johnson]) – I got this before I saw the title of the grid and noticed its theme, and the name of the show was on the tip of my tongue for about a minute before the light clicked on. But all I had to do was read the grid’s title and the light would have clicked on much sooner. Oh well!
- YOUNG LIONS (60A: [’58 Brando film of an Irwin Shaw novel, with “The”])
Before I start, I want to ask if any of you have seen CSN (or CSNY) in concert before in person? If so, definitely share your experience(s) watching them live in the comments (or, if you haven’t seen them live, just share any memory you have listening to the artists). OK, back to the grid. The Northwest has the interesting intersection of APIA (14A: [Capital of Samoa]) and APIARY (2D: [Place with a lot of buzz]). Again, I’m not really flustered by those intersections where the first few letters of each word are the same. That just happens. (Not that I can speak from crossword constructing experience…well, not yet at least.) Probably the most unfortunate earworm comes from SAGET, and now I have the theme song to Full House in my head (4D: [Actor who played the dad on “Full House”]). Now I need to listen to some of his blue comedy that he does during his standup routines to make it go away. I’m sure I won’t be seeing anyone around my area wearing a BIKINI TOP anytime soon, unless they’re doing one of those Polar Bear runs where people jump into an ice cold body of water with just their swimwear on (10D: [Part of a two-piece suit]). Those people are cool…and insane!
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: ON BASE (8D: [Aboard, to a Dodger]) – Baseball season is around the corner, and our “moment” is about ON-BASE percentage, a major league statistic that was officially introduced in 1984. To get a players OBP, you take the sum of hits, walks and hit by pitches and divide it by the sum of at-bats, walks, hit by pitches and sacrifice flies (but not sacrifice bunts, as that as seen as an offensive strategy by the team more than it is a reflection on the hitter’s ability to get in base). Ted Williams is the career on-base percentage leader, at .4817…or, to put it another way, he reached base almost half the time he came up as a hitter.
Have a great weekend, everyone! See you all tomorrow!
Joon Pahk and Jeremy Horwitz’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Read Meat” — pannonica’s write-up
Kind of a random pairing: pun mashups of literary titles and cuts of steak. I’m assuming that the best of the three—and the literal centerpiece—was the inspiration for the theme.
- 17a. [Alice Sebold best seller extolling steaks?] THE LOVELY T-BONES (The Lovely Bones).
- 38a. [Kurt Vonnegut book about quintuplets’ regular diet of steak?] PORTERHOUSE FIVE (Slaughterhouse-Five). That reminds me. A few years ago, the New Yorker magazine had a small piece riffing on a perfume meant to evoke books, coming up with their own suggestions and encouraging readers to participate. My contribution was Charnel № 5.
- 60a. [Toni Morrison debut novel about Smurfs and their Steak-grilling competition?] THE BLUEST RIBEYE (The Bluest Eye). I don’t get it. Why make the clue so torturous and drag in the Smurfs when it’s right there, practically on a platter? A ‘blue steak’ is an extremely rare preparation. But not uncooked, that’d be TArTAre (1d). Smurfization isn’t outlandish enough to make it funny, and neither of the other two clues strive for humor.
So, three 15-letter themers. Three famous titles. Three unmistakably steaky cuts. Three pretty-good-or-above puns. Well done. Come on, you knew that was coming. At least I didn’t wait until the end of the write-up.
Favorite clue: 28a [Badger or hound] NAG. Saw the misdirection right away, but was thinking too generally and couldn’t shoehorn VERB into the three squares. See also 54d [Thorn in one’s side] PEST, and 57d [Atrium feeder] VEIN (cardiac misdirection).
Strong grid, good stacking, solid cluing. What I appreciated most in this puzzle—aside from the theme itself—was the parity of the clues. Not too much science, not too much sports, not too much arts, and so on. For instance, YOGI could have been clued as the Yankees catcher but it wasn’t, yet the innocuous and ubiquitous STEVE is given a sports reference. Conscientious constructing and editing.
Pancho Harrison’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “V-Eight” — pannonica’s write-up
- 23a. [Successful acquisition for collector of LPs?] VINYL SCORE (final …).
- 33a. [U or I, in text messages?] PERSONAL VOWEL (… foul).
- 39a. [How a modern bride might choose to walk down the aisle?] WITHOUT VEIL (… fail).
- 63a. [Result of a beer seller overindulging in his own wares?] VENDOR BENDER (fender …).
- 68a. [Swerve most severely?] VEER THE WORST (fear …).
- 90a. [Storage spot for a lab tech’s containers] VIAL CABINET (file …).
- 96a. [Not knowing which way the wind blows?] VANE IGNORANCE (feign …).
- 112a. [Op-ed pieces of fewer than 25 words, say?] SHORT VIEWS (… fuse).
As you can see, the theme trades on the replacement of an initial F-sound with a V one to create new phrases. The consistency is good: in each case the F-sound was first an F- (rather than a ph-) and in every instance the new V-word has a different spelling than the original. My two favorites among the clues are 33a and 96a. For the latter, I also appreciate the coincidence of the E-I-G-N letter sequence of the novel answer unrelatedly replicating the original spelling of feign.
The title refers to the eight instances of the V exchanges, and of course there are no extraneous Vs in the grid, so that’s the sum total. However, I feel like reversing the flow of the theme and will pronounce “V-Eight” as “fate”.
- Hefty long downs: RAIN OR SHINE, TRADE SECRET, BRAKE SHOE, STRAPLESS (nicely not cross-referenced (though crossing) 50a DRESS).
- Picking up the ball from today’s numerous comments regarding the NYT, 80d is [Literally, “merry festival”] JAI ALAI. That’s Basque, not Spanish.
- 24d [Some organs and motorcycles] YAMAHAS. The logo incorporates three tuning forks, though I suppose they also look like the front forks of a motorcycle. They’re definitely tuning forks, though, as the company began in 1897 making musical instruments and didn’t introduce their motorcycles until 1954.
- Did not know 117a [Food blogger Drummond] REE; nice to see a change from [Riddle-me-__ ].
Sure, there’s a fair share of crosswordese, abbrevs., partials, but I’m not going to provide a litany, and I won’t say they distract out of proportion. These things happen. It’s a good puzzle overall.
Frank Virzi’s Los Angeles Times crossword
Today’s puzzle is a straight-up letter swap: F for C. No cutesy revealer, just 3 x 15 + 2 x 13 = 71 letters of theme. Why F for C? I assume Mr. Virzi came up with one cute change that he liked and then found some more to match. This is quite a broadly-defined theme, so we’re expecting a very high standard of pun. I think these all land, and are colourful, so there we have it. Particularly good are the “themeless-grade” base phrases used. Specifically, we have:
- [Forgeries that are easy to spot?], UPSIDEDOWNFAKES. (CAKES)
- [Dude in the CIA?], UNDERCOVERFOP. (COP)
- [Trivial blunder?], MICKEYMOUSEFLUB. (CLUB)
- [Pancake cook in pinstripes?], YANKEEFLIPPER. (CLIPPER)
- [My fireplace is defective!”?], IHAVENTGOTAFLUE. (CLUE)
Non-theme answers are predominantly short. I decided to ignore the theme again and chip away at these short answers. There are signs of stress in places: LII (the full deck in the clue is 52 cards), LEOIV, ENSE, TOI, ABOO – but they’re at least well-distributed. The grid looks carefully constructed to balance out the inevitable problems of 71 theme squares.
- [“Snow White” character flaw], ENVY. The quotes mean the clue is referring to the story – it’s stepmom with the envy problem.
- [Team whose logo involves a “wishbone C”], REDS. I’m going to pretend that I know what this clues means.
- [Pan for Yan], WOK. A very 90’s clue! His “Yan Can Cook” was on Discovery Channel in South Africa, and I think PBS in the States. He may still be on Stateside.