Ian Livengood’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Breezy puzzle if you like the “younger vibe” in crossword fill. Ian’s got a lot of spoken dialogue—THAT SAID, SAME HERE, I’M UP FOR WHATEVER, and NO BIG DEAL—and I like that when it doesn’t feel contrived. (It doesn’t here.) FALSE ALARM is also clued as a spoken phrase.
I also liked the PRILOSEC and SPEEDOS trade names, the ANGRY CURDS row in the grid, TETHERBALL, NEW YEAR’S, FOREIGNER clued as the band and not in reference to WORK VISA, The LEGO MOVIE, and BULWARK.
Did not know: 49a. [Word derived from another that has a related meaning, like “wisdom” from “wise”], PARONYM. I also didn’t watch 24, so 50d. [___ Myers, “24” character], NINA, that was just “random 4-letter name.” Question about CAR BARN/27d. [Bus and trolley shelter]—is that a British thing, or is it solidly American? Chicago has “bus barns.”
I’ll ding the grid for crosswordese ORIEL and YSER. I don’t love TSPS, IRES as a verb, or MR. ED (the show and character were spelled out at Mister Ed), but they didn’t menace my solving experience by actively annoying me.
I like the flexible clue for AMIE, 3d. [French date, often]. It’s not expressing a heteronormative expectation that our AMIE is dating a guy. She could have a girlfriend as well as being a girlfriend.
Andrew Ries’ BuzzFeed crossword — Jim’s write-up
Themeless Friday at BuzzFeed! Today’s offering comes from Andrew Ries whose first initial and last name combine serendipitously into ARIES. (Wonder what his sign is.) And quite coincidentally, that’s the url for his own puzzle website (www.ariespuzzles.com). If you like today’s BuzzFeed crossword, have a look at at today’s CHE puzzle (below) and Andrew’s website.
We have two marquee entries in the center of the grid: 27A‘s SUN’S OUT GUNS OUT is clued as [Motto on a muscle shirt] and 45A‘s VAMPIRE WEEKEND [“Contra” band]. I love the shirt motto though I’d never heard it before. Very colorful and evocative though I expect anyone who wears one must be extraordinarily self-centered.
[“Contra” band] is a great clue for the indie rockers whose second album is called “Contra.” I didn’t know the album (I’d barely heard of the band) before this puzzle, but I have since bought it and am enjoying listening to it. Fun and breezy tunes with Ezra Koenig’s warbling falsettos. The album was nominated for the Best Alternative Music Album Grammy for 2010. Its follow-up, “Modern Vampires in the City,” did win that Grammy in 2014 and is currently #6 on Pitchfork Media’s 100 Best Albums of the Decade So Far.
Vertically in the center we have the odd but awesome pairing of UKULELE at 29D (a gimme for me with the clue [Instrument for Israel Kamakawiwo’ole]) and BAGPIPE at 20D (with the tough clue [Drone holder]). Would love to hear a UKULELE / BAGPIPE duet! Oh, wait! I found one!
The NW and SE corners have some nice entries with CHEAT DAY at 1A and OUTSHINE at 14A as well as FOR REALS, FREE RIDE, and TEXAS TEA at 61A, 64A, and 66A.
While all of that is nice, I had the feeling that there was too much reliance on short, crutchy stuff like DIS, ETAT, ASTER crossing ASTERN, IPO / LBO /AMO, OER, ACL, REI, PFFT, and what looks to be future crosswordese: CAIT. A themeless should have vast swaths of open white space and loads of interesting fill (see today’s NYT by Ian Livengood, for example). This one just didn’t quite make it. I got DEX thanks to my 7-year-old currently binge-watching all the old Pokémon shows on Netflix, but that’s not great fill, either.
So, some good stuff, but a bit too much reliance and lousy fill. 3.8 stars.
Let’s close it out with Iz’s famous song.
Andrew Ries’ Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “U. Can Have It Both Ways” — pannonica’s write-up
Another theme in the Chronicle’s sweet spot. Team/student representatives of colleges and universities paired with carefully chosen descriptors to create superficial oxymorons.
- 17a. [Surprise! Harvey Mudd student found with a date!] ACCOMPANIED STAG.
- 28a. [Surprise! Tennessee student found with a stipend check!] PAID VOLUNTEER.
- 49a. [Surprise! Michigan State student found living the high life!] LAVISH SPARTAN.
- 64a. [Surprise! Ole Miss student found dressed like everyone else!] CONFORMING REBEL.
Clever and entertaining theme. Harvey Mudd College strikes me as an institution with less—but still sufficient—recognizability than the others. Preceding 64-across with 60a [Ole Miss rival] BAMA may be deft, but I’m not dissuaded in my distaste for theme peas being touched by ballast mashed potatoes and gravy. nb: 56a [Old __ Bucket (Purdue–Indiana football prize] OAKEN does not impinge the same way, as it doesn’t reiterate a key element of a theme clue. Perhaps 23a NAG should have been clued so as not to evoke the University of Wisconsin [Badger]?
Speaking of which, how about IDAHO [State with a panhandle] and YUKON [Whitehorse’s territory] laid symmetrically in the center? That’s spiffy.
- More Higher Education flavor: 26d [Org. opposed to school vouchers] NEA, 16a [College town bordering Bangor] ORONO, 62d [Lead-in to data or physics] META-, 50d [Stereotypical name for lab assistants] IGOR – okay, maybe not that one. … and probably not 14a [First circle on nine in Dante] LIMBO, either.
- Trickiness right at the get-go: 1a [Presidential loser in ’96, ’00, and ’08] BRYAN. That’s William Jennings BRYAN, at the turn of the 20th century.
- Further tricks that I fell for: 9a [Salmon also known as “silvers”] COHOS – despite the plural in the alternative name, I resolutely interpreted salmon as singular. 25a [Wound] INJURY – noun, not a verb; only by seeing the curious SOGGE at 13d was I able to uncover the solving error. At least for once I wasn’t fooled by the stalwart [Flight units] STEPS at 71a; it was probably the use of ‘unit’ rather than a more deceptive or ambiguous word, such as ‘parts’. On the other hand, I guilelessly filled in DAMP for 7d [Clammy], neglecting to realize that DANK also works. At 29d I thought [Jim-dandy] might also be a rustic epithet and filled in PONE rather than A-ONE.
- 55a [Suffix with harlequin] -ADE. Now that’s some highfalutin cluin’.
- 43a [Immaculate] PURE, 52a [Not immaculate, maybe] RAGTAG. Interesting that ‘parity’ appears in the clue immediately following PURE; is it intended to be a subliminal hint via ‘purity’?
- Long downs are [What Keystone Kops are often seen in] HOT PURSUIT and [Purchase made with mad money, say] INDULGENCE.
nb: Not Keystone Cops
Very solid crossword puzzle.
Bruce Venzke’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Prime Time”—Ade’s write-up
Good morning and a happy Friday to you, everyone! Today’s crossword puzzle, brought to us by Mr. Bruce Venzke, takes us to math class, as each of the four theme answers are all 15-letter entries that start with numbers, which all happen to be the first four prime numbers in order. Not bad. Wouldn’t it have been something, however, if one of the entries was “SIXTY-SEVEN CHEVY”?
- TWO FOR THE SEE SAW (17A: [1962 MacLaine/Mitchum film])
- THREE MILE ISLAND (29A: [1979 nuclear accident location])
- FIVE O’CLOCK WORLD (45A: [1966 Vogues hit tune about working])
- SEVEN DEADLY SINS (57A: [Lust, envy, etc.]) – There was a time I could remember all seven and recite them like nothing. My quickly-eroding memory might not be able to do so right now!
Seeing CORSAGE, and its clue, reminded me that I never went to my high school prom (43D: [Prom night item]). It was tough being a nerd with strict parents who didn’t want me out any later than 10 PM, I tell you! Maybe, one day, I’ll make up for missing that once-in-a-lifetime experience. Umm, probably not! Was pretty much UNFAZED by all of the clues here, though the solve took a little slower than I first thought after I finished up (4D: [Not worried at all]). I had gotten familiar with the sailing terminology of “tack” when I had worked on a couple of sailing/yachting stories and met with boaters, and that knowledge made ZIGZAGS not too much of a problem at all (22A: [Tacks, at sea]). The four three-letter entries bisecting the grid going across makes for an interesting sight, with none of those answers really standing out. So, on Thanksgiving, the movie Creed is coming out, with Sylvester Stallone reprising the role of Rocky Balboa and training Adonis Creed, the son of the late rival of Rocky, Apollo Creed. So how long before the son (or other descendant) of MR. T‘s character, Clubber Lang, be part of this saga as well (6D: [“Rocky III” actor])? Been hearing some good things about Creed so far, so maybe I’ll give it a look after I’m stuffed with Thanksgiving turkey.
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: SNOW (55D: [Winter coat]) – Former National Hockey League goaltender Garth SNOW is the current general manager of the New York Islanders. I always remember Snow from his days with the Philadelphia Flyers in the 1990s, when he would routinely wear the biggest shoulder pads of any goaltender in the league by far. It was almost as if he was wearing football shoulder pads on top of his hockey shoulder pads. Here’s just one example…
Thank you all for the time, and have a good weekend!! See you tomorrow!
Victor Barocas’ LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up
Figured the answer and thus most of the theme out after staring at the first clue for a few seconds. Clues are alphabetical (is this the Commonwealth standard word? ALPHABETIZED sounds weird to me, and it was the last thing I had to change to complete the puzzle!) lists of the letters in the second word of the theme phrases. The first part is one of three synonyms: ARRANGED, ORDERED and SORTED. The revealer further clarifies that the lists of letters are ALPHABETIZED.
Furthermore, the answers, all 16’s, themselves make a top-notch set:
- [AAEGIMRR], ARRANGEDMARRIAGE
- [AACDEINNV], ORDEREDINADVANCE
- [ADEHLNRTUY], SORTEDTHELAUNDRY. Yes this leans slightly down the “green paint” spectrum (which is of course a continuum rather than a Boolean classification), but only slightly.
Good choices in the longer fill too: STAYONHOLD, DAYTRIPPER, BEEFCAKE, SHARIA. BEREAVED though I’m not sure I’d use in a puzzle myself!
Fun fact in the clues: [___ Plantation, site of the world’s largest maze]. How high can pineapples grow??? Olaf clue of the day: [Heavyweight champ between Buster and Riddick], EVANDER. Don’t recognize either name, but with an E in place, it was only going to be that! [Paige of British musical theatre], ELAINE was also a singularly unhelpful clue for me. Any fans of hers? I only saw the ‘theatre’ spelling now – it just looked correct when I was solving!