Joe DiPietro’s New York Times crossword, “To Put It Differently”—Amy’s write-up
Took me a good long while to see how the theme entries worked. Take the two capitalized words in the clue, find synonyms for each, and plunk a word or phrase that sort of means “before” or “after” in between them, and have that new phrase be a familiar and natural phrase. Like so:
- 21a. [COMPLETE PLAN], FINISH AHEAD OF SCHEDULE. Complete = finish, plan = schedule, and in “complete plan,” the word that means “finish” appears AHEAD OF the “schedule” synonym.
- 34a. [GRAY FOX], AGE BEFORE BEAUTY. To gray is to age, and a fox is a beauty.
- 50a. [BIG DEALS], GRAND OPENING SALES. Big = grand and it “opens” for deals = sales.
- 75a. [NEWSPAPER ROUTE], WAY BEHIND THE TIMES. This one’s got a location/perspective switcheroo. Route = way, and it’s behind a newspaper = the Times. Particularly apt given what paper this puzzle’s in. The three themers in the bottom of the grid use the “behind” angle.
- 88a. [MORE UNITED], ONE AFTER ANOTHER. United = one, more = another. This is the weakest of the theme entries, as the clue is much less of a cohesive unit of meaning.
- 106a. [GO FIGURE], FORM FOLLOWING FUNCTION. That’s quite nice! Figure = form, to go is to function. I do not at all mind that GRAY/AGE and GO/FUNCTION are verbs. Most of the key words in the theme are nouns, but there’s also the adjective BIG.
I like that Joe includes a number of long Downs—TWIST AN ANKLE, “I’M AN IDIOT,” ACTIVE ROSTER, and KIDS AROUND are my favorites here. I appreciated the inclusion of BARF in the grid (your mileage may vary). Could have done without 1a: “IT’S TIME” given that THE TIMES is in a theme answer. Most of the fill’s quite solid, though most of us probably never encounter ROLEO, HONER, or EMAG outside of a crossword. A small handful of scowlers in a 21×21 grid ain’t shabby.
Never heard of 69d. [Nutrition bar introduced in the 1960s], TIGER’S MILK.
4.2 stars from me. Neat theme.
Anton Shurpik’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “Dual Personalities”—Andy’s review
This appears to be Mr. Shurpik’s debut puzzle. Congratulations!
Themers are phrases that also happen to consist of two celebrities’ last names, clued humorously so as to suggest that those celebrities have/want those things:
- 23a, STONEMASON [Builder hired by Sharon and James?]. Sharon Stone and James Mason’s stonemason.
- 25a, SUMMER LOVE [Tender reminiscence for Donna and Courtney?]. Donna Summer and Courtney Love’s summer love.
- 36a, GALWAY, IRELAND [European destination for James and Jill?]. James Galway and Jill Ireland’s Galway, Ireland.
- 56a, BALL FIELD [Play area for Lucille and Sally?]. Lucille Ball and Sally Field’s ball field.
- 58a, SAINT MARTIN [Favorite island for Eva Marie and Ricky?]. Eva Marie Saint and Ricky Martin’s Saint Martin.
- 75a, FISHER-PRICE [Brand for Carrie and Vincent?]. Weird choice, since Fisher-Price is a combination of its founders last names. Doesn’t really feel like much of a pun.
- 77a, SNOW BANKS [Roadside accumulation for Hank and Tyra?]. Hank Snow and Tyra Banks’s snow banks.
- 91a, HOLIDAY CRUISE [Vacation for Billie and Tom?]. Billie Holiday and Tom Cruise’s holiday cruise.
- 111a, SHORT SALES [Financial strategy for Martin and Soupy?]. Martin Short and Soupy Sales’s short sales. Didn’t love that Martin appeared in this clue and in SAINT MARTIN, but not too many people care about that kind of clue/answer duplication.
- 113a, PAGE TURNER [Book for Ellen and Ted?]. Ellen Page and Ted Turner’s page turner.
Theme cluing was slightly more sophisticated than this similar Harvey Estes NYT puzzle from 1994. But the mash-up-two-last-names-to-make-a-phrase idea was executed masterfully already in this Francis Heaney AV Club puzzle from 2013 (which you can download and solve for free here in honor of Obergefell). Hard not to compare the two, and nigh impossible not to come down in the Heaney camp.
That said, ten theme answers is a lot (it helps that these are mostly on the shorter side). They’re mostly stuff I haven’t seen in crosswords before, which is nice. Sometimes when Sunday theme answers that are regular phrases under 15 letters long, the puzzle starts to feel like a big themeless. Whether that’s a plus or a minus is in the eye of the beholder, I guess.
I expect terse, straightforward clues from the LAT, but these clues seem somehow even more terse and straightforward than usual. Only post-2007 reference is Ellen PAGE(TURNER), and there’s a smattering of ’80s and ’90s-iana as well (Tyra BANKS, Ricky MARTIN, Sharon [not Emma] STONE, Courtney LOVE, Martin SHORT). Nothing egregious in the fill (or at least nothing we haven’t seen before). To get rid of SEG in the bottom center, you could change it to SEC/CLASS. Or to get rid of SEG and ANISES, you could use SAY/MALE/ITALIA/DIRECT/ARISES. But as Robert Frost once said, this fill is also great and would suffice.
Until next week.
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s CRooked crossword, “Puts on Airs” — pannonica’s write-up
A collection of names and phrases containing the letter sequence A-I-R.
- 23a. [Aspiring ambassador] CHARGE D’AFFAIRES.
- 34a. [Large providers of milk] DAIRY CATTLE.
- 55a. [“The Nutcracker” dancer] SUGAR PLUM FAIRY.
- 74a. [“God,”colloquially] THE MAN UPSTAIRS.
- 93a. [“Homeland” star] CLAIRE DANES.
- 111a. [British hunting dog] AIREDALE TERRIER.
Just those six, it would seem. 46-down, [Basic poker holding] A PAIR, without a complementary symmetrical partner, I believe to be an interloper. Inconsequential, but I’ll mention them to pump up the size of the write-up, are the reversed AIR in 16d ATRIA and the homophone ERE at 113-down.
With only six theme entries, you’d expect the fill as a whole to be super-solid. While it’s true that we get some nice stacking and hefty midsize entries—RASPUTIN, ALTRUISTS, FAKE TREES, PENAL CODE, PIONEERED—these aren’t drop-dead impressive, and there’s much more weak fill and sloppiness than would seem warranted.
Just look at the bottom rows to get a taste: 118a [See growth on interest] REEARN, 121a [Zogby respondant] POLLEE (that should be “respondent”, by the way), 122a [Get wet in the morning] BEDEW, 104a [Directionless] UNLED; awkward constructions, though at least BEDEW has a poetic flavor.
How about 95d [Swab test site] DNA LAB? In the same crossword as 2d [Spliced strands] RNA? No thank you.
- 83a [Start the day] COME TO, followed by 84a [Starts the day, business-wise] OPENS.
- Lots of French. In addition to themer 23a, 50a [Comic Gaul] ASTERIX crossing 35d [ __-in-Provence (French city)] AIX, 87a [As a friend in Quebec] EN AMI, 48d [French beings] ÊTRES, 53d [Lady of Fr.] MME, 67d [Alsace assents] OUIS.
- 96d [“That contract sounds good, partner”] I PASS; is this a bridge thing?
- 88a [Steakhead] PUTZ. Never heard of steakhead before, but it’s rather inferable.
- Favorite clue: 42d [Word that stops a stickball game] CAR.
About average CAP Quotient™ (crosswordese, abbrevs., partials). Middling crossword, and one that feels hastily produced.
addendum: It’s been pointed out to me that each AIR is surmounted by a PUT: literally PUTs on AIRs. This explains a lot, and obviates much of the negativity in my assessment.
Jeff Chen’s Sunday Challenge CrosSynergy crossword —Ade’s write-up
Good day, everybody, and for those who celebrate Rosh HASHANAH, L’shanah tovah (2D: [Rosh ______])! I hope you are doing well and enjoying all of the crossword puzzles in offer as you try to relax on this Sunday.
Last week, I had to print out the puzzle, constructed by Mr. Martin Ashwood-Smith, and do it on paper because I wasn’t going to be able have my laptop in front of me all day. It turned out that I breezed though the puzzle, and I then thought about printing out Sunday Challenges more often. Well, the same result occurred with today’s fun and challenging grid, offered up to us by Mr. Jeff Chen, and I was able to have things click much sooner doing it on paper than if I was doing it on a device. So it looks like I’ll be printing out Sunday Challenge puzzles from now on!
Usually there’s no theme associated with Sunday Challenges, and this one doesn’t have one…we think! But the two 15-letter entries that intersect each other are awesome, with IT’S THE TRUTH RUTH (7D” [“Ain’t no doubt about that”]) and THE NOTORIOUS R.B.G., one of the best nicknames of all time (32A: [Supreme Court Justice’s sobriquet, derived from a rapper’s stage name]). Here’s hoping you knew already that that nickname is taken from the late singer Christopher Wallace, a.k.a. The Notorious B.I.G. a.k.a. Biggie Smalls. If not, then learning this gets you one step closer to being pop culture hip! Oh, and these answers allow me to have you feast your eyes on this…
Ms. Ginsberg is definitely far from an anonymous, unlike both JANE (43A: [First name for an anonymous woman]) and DOE, which are both in this grid (37A: [Last name for an anonymous woman]). Over the past few years, I’ve seen the karate film cult classic referenced in the clue to BRUCE LEE about 10 times, and it never gets old seeing “Mantis” (Abdul-Jabbar) – all seven feet of him – perform karate (35D: [He battled Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in “Game of Death”]). It was a very enjoyable grid, and didn’t really get stuck in any location outside of the very end, where the intersection of DILLY (45D: [Humdinger]) and STYLET was a tricky one (56A: [Surgical device]). I do remember filling out “stylet” a couple of times before, so I was happy I could fish that one out to finish it off.
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: SHARKS (1A: [Mark Cuban and Daymond John, e.g.])– Short “sports…smarter” moment today, as I’ll just mention the San Jose SHARKS hockey team, and how they became the fourth team in NHL history – and fifth in the history of the four major American sports – to lose a 3-0 series lead in a playoff series when the Los Angeles Kings won four straight against the Sharks in the first round of the 2014 Western Conference playoffs. The Kings would go on to win the Stanley Cup in 2014.
Thank you so much for your time, and I’ll see you tomorrow!