Caleb Emmons’s New York Times crossword
Hi everyone! This is Andy — I’ll be filling in for Amy for the next few Tuesdays while she’s out for surgery & recovery.
The theme revealer is AEIOU, 47d [Noteworthy features of rows 1-5, 6-10 and 11-15, in that order]. While I was solving, I noticed that the long answers (TIGHT KNIT, THE CREEPS, SHOT HOOPS, and PHILIP III) all had only a single vowel, but it took a while for me to realize that every entry in the grid is a theme entry because Row 1 contains only As, Row 2 contains only Es, 3 Is, 4 Os, 5 Us, and then that pattern repeats twice. It’s a really clever conceit, especially given that none of the long entries have to contain only Us if you set the grid up in a certain way (as Caleb has done here).
As someone who sorts his M&Ms by color before eating them, I really like this idea. There’s something beautiful and satisfying about the vowel-striated grid. I also realize that this was probably a challenging grid to fill, and TIGHT-KNIT and THE CREEPS are nice finds. I also liked PHILIP III, though I suspect some will have quibbles re: using Roman numeral Is as letter Is when the whole gimmick is one-vowel-per-row (see also OOO, though that particular corner is very constrained if you want to have the AEIOU revealer there).
FRAS, SISS(?!) and FRESHETS stand out as suboptimal fill, and I’m not a huge fan of ARIL, TKT, RRR, and TWO-UP.
A few more notes:
- 20a, [Utter coward], POLTROON. Not a word you hear every day. Is this related to the word “poultry”? Seems possible, since both are chickens!
- 63a, [Unlikely juggler], KLUTZ. I’m pretty sure my brother used to own a book called Juggling for the Complete Klutz, complete with juggling bean bags that said KLUTZ on them.
- 50d, [Hand ball?], FIST. Really clever clue.
- 57d, [Promissory note], IOU. Putting this right next to AEIOU felt a bit odd.
- 62a, [Nashville sch.], TSU. Finally, something for the Tigers to celebrate!
Not a lot else to say about this one. Felt like a fair Tuesday test to me. A very ambitious construction that fell a few hairs short of superb. 4.5 stars for the idea, minus 1.2 for execution.
An arbitrary 3.3 stars from me.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “Make it Your Priority” – Derek’s write-up
Me like puzzle! I’m pretty sure Matt has young children! The theme here is common phrases that end in “it” with the “it” moved to the beginning, and the resulting wording does sound a lot like how Cookie Monster would talk! Or maybe Yoda?! Here are the theme answers:
- 20A [Cookie Monster, why do you like playing fetch with your dog?] IT COME AND GET
- 35A [Cookie, what’s that picture of the Cheshire Cat with Winnie the Pooh?] IT GRIN AND BEAR
- 51A [Cookie, I don’t like this blindfold, but is that … aluminum?] IT CAN YOU FEEL
Ok, maybe not Yoda-like. But I can hear Cookie Monster saying these phrases, and it made me laugh! And that is what you want. Sesame Street started the same year I was born, so we have a “connection,” if you will. I don’t like that Elmo, though … never did!
A very clever themed puzzle that makes you laugh. What more could one ask for? A few more notes:
- 18A [Former picnic game that should’ve been titled “The Most Dangerous Game”] LAWN DARTS – I would have added the word “ever” to the clue, but that distinction probably belongs to Russian Roulette. Lawn darts were featured on a recent episode of Fresh Off the Boat, which is really funny if you’ve never seen it. The kid Eddie gets skewered by a lawn dart. Yes, he survives!
- 55A [Entree where you eat the bowl] TACO SALAD – I was thinking something along the lines of a bread bowl. Haven’t had a taco salad in years; maybe I will go get some Mexican food this week!
- 2D [Party reminders with a “Maybe” status] E-VITES – Are all party e-vites like this? Or just Facebook ones? Nobody invites me to anything, so I don’t know!
- 10D [Humidity factors into it] HEAT INDEX – Good old heat index; one of the reasons Derek is moving out west! Lower humidity!!
- 32D [Beyond bad] EGREGIOUS – I listen to Stephen A. Smith a lot on his sports radio show; he uses this word a lot it seems. He has a very large vocabulary, which is nice coming from a sports journalist. I suppose a lot of sports personalities DO commit a lot of egregious acts these days!
- 37D [Film colleague of Morpheus and Trinity] NEO – Of The Matrix, of course. Is it just me, or is there a Matrix trilogy on TV every weekend?
- 52D [“Going Back to ___’ (LL Cool J single)] CALI – This is straight from my BET and MTV video watching days. Got this one immediately. I could post an mp3 of it, but I’m lazy and I have to go to work!
I’ll give this one 4 stars for originality. Can’t wait for next week’s puzzle!
George Simpson and C.C. Burnikel’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
Another clean puzzle. I wonder, in these collaborations, who does what? Does someone come up with the theme, and then the other person write the puzzle? Does someone do the theme and grid, and the other person write the clues? Is it different every time? Does anybody care other than me?
As stated, nice little puzzle. It is fun solving a puzzle and trying to figure out how the seemingly unrelated theme answers fit together, then having the payoff at the end. This puzzle does that nicely:
- 17A [“American Gothic” artist] GRANT WOOD
- 21A [Equitable transaction] EVEN TRADE
- 38A [“Now!”] RIGHT THIS SECOND
- 55A [Award for seagoing heroes] NAVY CROSS
- 61A [Flying speed boosters … or, literally, what the ends of 17-, 21-, 38-, and 55-Across can have] TAIL WINDS
So you can have WOODWINDS, TRADEWINDS, SECOND WINDS, or CROSSWINDS. Nicely done. Tradewinds and crosswinds are both kinda weather related, but other than that they are all differing “types” of winds. I’m not sure there is another wind type that could have been used. Sometimes either term is used metaphorically, so in that sense they can all be viewed as slightly different. I’m rambling … here are some other entries I liked!
- 14A [Somewhat surprised greeting] OH HI! – I don’t remember seeing this too often. Clued well.
- 49A [Retired boxer with a perfect 24-0-0 record] LAILA ALI – Were you thinking of a MALE boxer?? I just saw here on some episode of Chopped All-Stars, and she mentioned her record. She could cook, too!
- 60A [Cheri of “SNL”] OTERI – Is she still alive?? Does she still perform?? Haven’t seen here in quite a long time. I always thought she was extremely talented and funny.
- 3D [Protective enclosures for divers] SHARK CAGES – Ian Ziering could have used one of these last Wednesday…..
- 7D [“Keep still!”] DON’T MOVE – Or words said when there is a huge spider on you…
- 50D [Yoga pose] ASANA – Did not know this one. Also don’t do yoga.
Again, a nice clean puzzle. Solid three stars. A pleasurable solve!
Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle (Week 217), “Chop Houses”—Janie’s review
Cutting right to the chase, this puzzle put me in solver heaven. The so-called “chop houses” live at the ends and at the beginnings of the “theme words,” and are contained in the circles. When the circles are connected left and right, they spell out a kind of abode—be it ever so humble or perhaps more than a tad grander. So, get it? The names of five kinds of houses have been chopped up between two different words and are separated only by one black square. Nice. Really nice. Especially because the range of dwelling places is, well, so rangy, and because the circle-holding fill words tend to be soooo very good. Now you can see:
- where a BUNGALOW emerges from 17A. & 18A., the [Surfer’s yell] “COWABUNGA!” and LOWE‘S [Home Depot rival].
- where that CABIN is the by-product of 27A. & 28A., that [New York city on the Mohawk] UTICA and [BINGE-watching (marathon “House of Cards” viewing)].
- a COTTAGE born of 39A. & 41A., [Consumer protest] BOYCOTT and AGES AGO [In the distant past]. Re: the latter—see also (or listen to also…) Ol’ Blue Eyes’s rendition of the Arlen-Harburg classic “Last Night When We Were Young” with its classic words of 20-20 hindsight, “ages ago last night.”
- how a PALACE comes forth from 47A. & 49A., [Kathmandu’s land] NEPAL and ACERS [Laptops from Taiwan].
- a CHALET rise up at 62A. & 63A., between sips of our [Java house order] of MOCHA and the strains of “LET‘S DANCE” [David Bowie hit that suggests you “put on your red shoes”].
A theme set that starts with “COWABUNGA!” and ends with “LET’S DANCE”? That’s pretty darned sweet in my book. And when that kind of “lively fill” can be found so prominently in what remains, well, it’s not only the right of the roulette-wheel winner to boast “I’M ON A ROLL!” but Liz’s as well. In addition to that animated exclamation, we also get “AYE-AYE, SIR!” (which I made first to be “AYE-AYE, CAP!”…), UPSTART (with its attitudinous [Whippersnapper] clue), ABSOLVE, SURMISE and NUDISTS. The clue for that last one left me a bit bemused. [Folks who aren’t well-dressed?]. Punctuation is everything. Me, I think I’da made it [Folks who aren’t, well, dressed]… A shout-out, too, to the sad BALD TIRE and Pisa’s Tower, which remains ON A SLANT.
Perhaps wishing to cling to the last wisps of Wimbledon, Liz is definitely showing her Anglophile colours [sic] today—starting with the title. “Chop houses” (steak houses, places known for serving meat) started appearing in the British Isles, in the 17th century, according to this source. Then at 1A., she clues MAPS most specifically (though certainly not uniquely) as [London tour guides] and follows up with CHAP at 5A. clued as an [Oxford fellow].
Although she clues PINT not in connection to a pub offering but to a quantity of “Chubby Hubby” ice cream (see also “dad bod“…), I submit that “LUV” (one of two [Sugar substitute?] responses) had its profile raised by the long-running British comic strip, Andy Capp. Me, I’m from Baltimore, where “HON“ is the “sugar substitute” of choice!
While ordinarily I’m on the same page with Liz’s cluing style, today some clues felt forced, or drew attention to themselves in a way that took me out of my solving (though only briefly). Like the aforementioned [London tour guides]; but also [Wedding veil problem] for SNAG. I do appreciate specificity in cluing, but I had to think about this one far more than I thought was necessary. Is this a real “problem”—meaning “does this snagging happen a lot?” Whose long fingernails are doing the damage—or is the bride walking through a bower of rose bushes? Just not getting how this is the best clue for this word. Ditto [Main course?] and PLAN A. I get it, but the “main course of action,” twisty approach is not workin’ for me today. As always, your mileage may vary. [Kid that’s all grown up?] and GOAT on the other hand, or the vivid, pitch-perfect [“Your tongue piercing IS SO not happening!” (parent’s order)]? All is forgiven!
And that, folks, is a wrap for today. Though we’re almost six weeks past Midsummer, here we are, practically at midsummer… Be well, enjoy it all and see you next week!
Bruce Venzke’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Senior Pride”—Ade’s write-up
Good morning, everyone! Today’s crossword puzzle, brought to us by Mr. Bruce Venzke, is for all the seniors out there who still have many more great years ahead…and for the seniors that don’t like being called “seniors.” Each of the first three theme answers are entries relating to the stages in life of a person who has lived a long life, with the fourth entry, SEASONED CITIZEN being the reveal (61A: [Recently-coined term for a member of society who’s experienced 17-, 28-, and 46-Across]). To be honest, I had never heard of that term (seasoned citizen) until completing this grid today.
- ONE’S GOLDEN YEARS (17A: [Retirement time, so they say])
- THE PRIME OF LIFE (28A: [Peak period of existence])
- GETTING UP THERE (46A: [Advanced in age, idiomatically])
Although WIFI does come in handy in the coffee shops I stop at with my laptop in tow, I pretty much get slow to near non-existent Internet speed almost every time, including when I’m location blogging these reviews for Fiend (1A: [Internet coffee shop convenience]). Maybe I need to find better coffee shops. Does anyone else get hung up when having to spell MACAU, leaving the last letter blank until its intersecting entry confirms whether it’s an “O” or a “U” (30D: [Prominent Asian gambling mecca])? There’s a few other popular travel destinations in the grid, with TAHOE (28D: [Carson City-area lake]) and TAOS making appearances in the grid (54D: [New Mexico tourist mecca]). Would have loved for the clue to CHEESE to be, “Something “served” to someone who whines, perhaps.” (8D: [Crackers go-with]). Well, I guess I need to create my own puzzle to make sure that happens, huh?! (Was that a subtle hint that I just dropped there? Who knows!)
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: HORN (14A: [Danger to a matador]) – Growing up and watching baseball in the 1980s, I was always intrigued every time Sam HORN, former Major League Baseball first baseman and designated hitter, came up to the plate. He either hit a home run or struck out, it seemed. (That seems like most hitters nowadays, but not so much back then.) Horn, drafted by the Red Sox in the first round of the 1982 Draft, is most known for his time with the Baltimore Orioles, for whom he hit a career-high 23 homers back in 1991. Horn went on to become a local cable TV analyst for the Red Sox after his playing days ended.
See you all on Wednesday!