Susan Gelfand’s New York Times crossword
What a treat—a smooth and entertaining Tuesday puzzle. Too often Tuesday puzzles are a let-down, not as breezy as a Monday, and carrying on a “there’s no ‘there’ there” vibe. I like this theme, and there’s lots of crisp fill and hardly any blah fill. The theme is phrases re-parsed as “last name + verb”:
- 17a. [Comedian cultivates flowers?], ROCK GARDENS. Chris Rock.
- 23a. [Poet inks a contract?], POUND SIGNS. Ezra Pound.
- 33a. [Opera singer scrawls graffiti?], PRICE TAGS. Leontyne Price. Not sure if that kind of “tagging” wants an object, grammatically. This one made me smile, though.
- 48a. [Actress stumbles?], FIELD TRIPS. Sally Field.
- 53a. [Philosopher removes his clothes?], BACON STRIPS. Wait, not Kevin Bacon? Who wants to see Francis Bacon naked? I had enough crossings to fill in BACON without really reading the clue and I was picturing the actor.
I like that the theme set is 40% women and 40% African-Americans.
Highlights in the fill: OBELISK, MANATEE, GROBAN, BOLSTERS in the east; ACROBAT, BRAVADO, SNIPPETS in the west. Graceful GAZELLE in the middle.
Clunkiest bits: Plural abbreviation ARRS, SLO, A MOI, maybe OPE and RAO. Nothing deadly. And the fill is very low in crossword repeaters made of super-common letters—your ERA ALA ERIE ARIA AREA type stuff that can dry a puzzle out.
Anyone else slow themselves down in the lower left by filling in BETAMAX instead of the less-familiar BETACAM? That nudged me towards TEXTS in place of TOMES, oof.
Four stars from me.
I tried to look and see if I missed any hidden gems in this week’s puzzle, since I missed the depth of last week’s at first, and there doesn’t seem to be anything here but a smoothly written puzzle! The theme, while not complicated, caused me to think a little bit to get the long answer puns. Each theme answer takes a common phrase and switches around the letters AT to TA, hinted at nicely by the title, “Back AT Ya.” The theme entries are:
- 17A [Device that reads other temperature-taking devices?] META THERMOMETER
- 36A & 41A [Hip-hop producer’s foray into Greek typography?] BETAS BY DRE
- 60A [Overly pungent cheeses?] FETAS OF STRENGTH
Nicely done. And with only three theme entries, the fill is solid. I don’t know how you feel about partials or phrases, but I don’t mind them. They can make a puzzle seem fresh when there are those that you use often, but don’t often see in puzzles. This puzzle seemed to have a lot to me. But that isn’t a complaint; it, to me, shows Matt’s skill as a constructor. They all seem to flow naturally. This puzzle contains ARE SO, HUGE FAN, I MIGHT, TO COME, AT LEAST, FAT LIP, EKE OUT, LET’S GO, I MEANT IT, FLASH MOBS, DO BATTLE, TELL OFF, RANG UP, IS IT ME?, AT THAT, and SO FAR. Did I miss any? Again, other than EKE, I don’t consider any of these “trite” or, to borrow Amy’s phrase again, Scowl-O-Meter worthy. The only entry I was totally unfamiliar with was 7D [Ex-Smiths guitarist Johnny] MARR. I didn’t have to look it up, but I don’t know him at all. Am I the only one who learned him from this puzzle?
After all that, I still rate this at 4 stars. Solid once again!
C.C. Burnikel’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
- 20A [Coastal storm concern] BEACH EROSION
- 34A [Follow local conventions, metaphorically] DO AS THE ROMANS DO
- 41A [Get rich illicitly] FEATHER ONE’S NEST
- 55A [Deli lunch…or, based on a word hidden in 20-, 34-, and 41-Across, what each of those answers is?] HERO SANDWICH
Nice, clean theme. The word “HERO” is hidden nicely in the first three phrases. 55A seems a little wordy, but that’s no big deal. I liked PAPAL PALACE and KOSHER DILLS as non-theme long down entries. Other notes:
- 1A [Cereal aisle regular ___ Crunch] CAP’N – I know its not the healthiest option, but who doesn’t like these? They’ve been around since I was little, so they must be doing something right…
- 18A [Website for handmade goods] ETSY – I’m not crafty, but I have seen this quite a lot in crosswords since its inception in 2005.
- 49A [“The Family Circle” cartoonist Bil] KEANE – Got this one quickly, thanks to many years of comic strip consumption. I especially liked his Sunday comics where it showed one of the kid’s path through the yard or the house and all the mischief that they got into. He passed away in 2011, and his son Jeff draws the cartoon now, I believe.
- 6D [Freakish] OUTRE – First of several French down entries. Or derived from the French. This is not too common a word, but a little more common in puzzles. I, for one, like it.
- 9D [Pierre’s “And there you have it!”] ET VOILA – More Français! I like this entry, too.
- 10D [Mali currency] FRANC – I nice clue to not make you realize there are quite a few French entries!
- 34D [Fanny] DUFF – I am familiar with the pastry chef Duff Goldman. Where we live he markets some gourmet ice cream flavors. Yum!!
- 35D [Hoover rival] ORECK – Are these still popular? I haven’t seen an Oreck store or a QVC promo for them in years.
- 44D [Cable station for game highlights] ESPNEWS – As big of a sports fan that I am, I rarely watch this channel. But it is practically 24 hour sports highlights. I didn’t say I NEVER watch it…!
- 53D [Flashy display] ECLAT – Another French term. All of them are actually good. All common enough to not present too hard of a challenge.
- 54D [Self-pitying lament] WHY ME? – Love this entry! Very nicely done.
Hopefully I will get to meet C.C. someday soon. I have done a few of her puzzles now, and I like her style. 3.5 stars!
Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle (Week 213), “Special Ops”—Janie’s review
I love a “wordplay” puzzle. I especially love a wordplay puzzle that makes me laugh out loud—or even (as was the case today) also groan out loud. I simply hope you found it to be as entertaining a solve as I did. Where pleasure-taking in puns (and cryptic-like, punny cluing) is concerned, your mileage may vary…
The “special ops” of title does not refer to the military’s special forces, but tips us off to the gimmick in the themers. Here, one word ending in “-IP”—in each of the four very lively, in-the-language two-word base-phrases [a mouthful—sorry!]—receives a makeover, and now ends in “-OP.” Additionally, the meaning of the base phrase is referenced in the clue—which leads not only to that cryptic-like, punny cluing I mentioned, but makes the resulting fill wickedly groan-inducing as well. These are some very “special -OPS” indeed.
- 17A. CLOP JOINTS [Shady places for horses?]. No, not THE STABLES. Clip joints are places where “shady” deals may be taking place. Horses go clip-clop. See how this works?
- 23A. ABANDONS SHOP [Quits minding the store?], instead of hastily removing oneself from a sailing vessel (ship –> shop…).
- 50A. FREUDIAN SLOP [Unintentional mess caused by a psychoanalyst]. If s/he does slip up so egregiously, find yourself another therapist!
- 61A. STROP POKER [High stakes game for barbers?]. Now that’s just a thing of beauty. High concept and highly successful in the process.
The substitution concept is a mainstay of wordplay puzzles. So it’s all about the execution. Looking at this set of base phrases and themers, I’d say today’s example is right up there at the top. And the puzzle’s additional assets don’t hurt none either, “YOU KNOW?” [“Get what I’m saying?”].
That last example finds itself in great company with: BARISTA and its visually suggestive [Latte art specialist] clue; POPCORN, which is less like a [Movie snack] and more like a [Food group] in my house (I know… tmi…); the [Crybaby’s cry] of “WOE IS ME!” (self-pitiers just don’t get no respect); the poetry-/literary-derived DANTEAN [Having a hellish or bizarre quality]; NEONATAL [Hospital unit for newborns], where—in neonatal ICUs—music therapists are doing some truly amazing work with the most vulnerable infants; APPLE PIE clued in a timely way with [Dessert at a July 4th picnic]; and the non-comestible VIP PASS [Celeb’s entrée?], which, when I picture a red-carpet scenario (perhaps for a special screening of [“A STAR is Born”]), teams up perfectly with that [Lipstick-preserving smooch], the AIR KISS. “Mwah!”
You know I love my “internal glue” fill, so I was also happy about some other connected fill. Want something stronger than a chocolaty [Yoo-HOO] or what your local barista can provide? Without joining the SOTS, perhaps kick back with a Beige Russian, made (as the clue tells us) with [TIA Maria…] or a Vodka-based COSMO. Need some background music with that? Today you’ll have a choice of some KANYE [West who’s married to Kim Kardashian], [“Live ON TWO Legs”(1998 Pearl Jam album)], or [New Age star who performed at the Taj Mahal] YANNI. Oh! About Ms. K. Did you happen to catch her appearance on “Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me!” No, I’ve never kept up with her or her sisters, but (unlike many other listeners…) I was delighted by this particular “glimpse” of her. (Tangentially… I also like the way AS ONE abuts ON TWO.)
Final likes? The un-musical HARP ON [Belabor] (though I love this as an imperative to a stringed-instrument-playing Garth…); the literal [Years in ancient Rome] for ANNI and the twisty [Totally off base?] for AWOL; the non-attire-holding [Band box?] for AMP; and the wistful [“Wouldn’t that be nice”] for “I WISH.” And while I’m not deeply keen for either EOCENE [Mammalian epoch] or Pliocene-epoch OOP [Alley from Moo] (check out those character names and wow—had no idea this strip first appeared in the 1930s…), I like that these prehistoric timeline markers cross each other.
And that, as they say, is that. Why not [Make a critical decision?] and RATE this puzzle yourself. Or join in the conversation by posting below. Or not. ;-) Regardless, will be back next week—and in the meantime…
Jeff Chen’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Endgame”—Ade’s write-up
And all of a sudden, half the year is officially done! Hope you’re doing well, crossword lovers, and hope you had some fun (and games) with today’s crossword, brought to us by Mr. Jeff Chen. In it, each of the first three theme answers ended with words that are also the names of fictional/animated birds. The connection between those first three answers is tied together with the final theme answer, DUCK, DUCK, GOOSE (53A: [Children’s game hinted at by the ends of 20-, 34- and 40-Across]). Number of times I’ve played duck, duck, goose in my lifetime? Zero. I know, I know…I didn’t have fun as a child at all!
- FRESH AS A DAISY (20A: [Cleaned up and ready to go])
- THE DONALD (34A: [Nickname of Trump Entertainment Resorts’ founder])
- DEN MOTHER (40A: [Cubs’ manager?])
From the clue itself, HEIST FILM wasn’t the hardest answer to figure out, but it’s a term that I hadn’t heard before, to be honest (4D: [“Ocean’s Eleven” or “The Thomas Crown Affair”]). The grid was pretty much a smooth sail until encountering the middle-left portion of the grid, when A DEUX (32D: [Like many a candlelit dinner]) and the ‘bongo’ part of BONGO DRUM didn’t come too quickly for me (33D: [Beatnik’s accessory]). Thank goodness EXOTIC emerged in my mind, revealing that ‘X” I needed to clean up the rest of the grid from there (47A: [Strikingly unusual]). Also didn’t help that I first put in APE (13D: [Troglodyte]) where LUG should have been, soon realize that that would be a problem (43A: [Big galoot]). Somehow, I’m not using BOZ as my “sports…smarter” moment, the nickname of former University of Oklahoma All-America linebacker Brian Bosworth (12D: [Charles Dickens pseudonym]). Probably did that because explaining him in a few lines is next to impossible. But you should look up the ESPN “30 for 30” documentary called “Brian and The Boz” to get to know more about the man…and the legend of “The Boz.”
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: WEISS (52D: [Name replaced by “Houdini”]) – Former Major League shortstop Walt WEISS is the current manager of the Colorado Rockies. As a member of the Oakland Athletics, Weiss won the American League Rookie of the Year award in 1988, becoming the third consecutive A’s player to win the award. Weiss made his one and only All-Star Game appearance in 1998, as a member of the Atlanta Braves.
Have a great day, and I’ll see you in July!