Andrew Zhou’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s writeup
The theme in this puzzle is summed up by AUTO-COMPLETE: 48a. [Search engine feature … or what you literally need to do to answer the six starred clues]. Each of the starred entries is truncated in the grid, and the part that’s omitted spells out a car make or model. (Hey! No fair mixing both makes and models. Pick one and go with it.)
- 20a. [*TV celebrity who has owned both a clothing line and a wine brand], KATHIE LEE GIF(Ford).
- 27a. [*Nerve center in the abdomen that’s strongly affected by a punch], SOLAR P(Lexus).
- 30a. [*1965 #1 Beach Boys hit], HELP ME R(Honda).
- 37a. [*Have membership in], BELON(GTO). After three makes, it’s jarring to hit a dead car model here. Who made the GTO, Pontiac?
- 42a. [*Classical ensemble], STRING T(Rio). The Kia Rio.
- 44a. [*In the year of our Lord], ANNO DO(Mini).
It’s important that the theme clues are marked with asterisks, because we’ve got 5-, 6-, and 7-letter theme entries in a grid with the long Acrosses SPONGEBOB and WHILE AWAY. Can be confusing!
I liked seeing 58a. [Hindu festival of colors], HOLI in the puzzle just as much as SPONGEBOB. Also liked TOPIARY, BEEF UP, and FAN CLUBS.
In the debit column, we have EELED, -ERN, and ENIAC, most notably.
Five more things:
- 10a. [Sibs … or Sigs, maybe], BROS. Familial brothers, with that only-in-crosswords “sibs,” and frat brothers. A decided “meh” from me.
- 2d. [Kett of old comics], ETTA. How old? It started in 1925 and ended a mere 41 years ago, but I’m almost positive the strip wasn’t carried in the newspapers we received when I was a kid.
- 21d. [Pickup artist’s skill, for short?], ESP. The question mark is because the clue is playing on the gross term “pickup artist.” A PUA, for those who don’t know, specializes in tearing women down so that they might be vulnerable to his advances, and embodies a slew of anti-woman attitudes.
- 30d. [Bit of attire at an initiation ceremony], HOOD. Is this about frats again, or the Ku Klux Klan? I have never attended any initiation rites with hoods, so…
- 37d. [Seek change?], BEG. There are so many ways to clue this word that don’t rely on wordplay at the expense of the homeless and destitute.
A note on clue critiques: Unless the editor or constructor tells us, it’s impossible for the solver to know who wrote a particular clue. The ultimate responsibility, of course, lies with the editor. The constructor has very little input on cluing changes in NYT puzzles. (Some crossword editors are more collaborative, some editors are not. In my work, we collaborate at the theme and grid stages, but constructors don’t see the edited puzzle till it comes out.)
3.4 stars from me.
Peter Gordon’s Fireball crossword—Dave Sullivan’s write-up
Welcome to what appears to be the 90th themeless editor Peter Gordon has challenged us with during the six years of Fireball puzzles. (Subscriptions for 2016 are now open and well worth the $25 annual fee!) Though it might appear otherwise, 19 minutes is a pretty good showing for me when doing battle with Peter’s themelesses, which tend to skew toward a lot of names I’m not familiar with. Here were my highlights:
- 17a. [Italian for “pick me up”], TIRAMISU – is the origin from the idea that enjoying this scrumptious dessert (which contains caffeine) “picks someone up” or is it from how alluring they look under glass in a dessert case?
- 9d. [Soul food?], CHICKEN SOUP – see image below
- 24d. [“Tommy” tune], SEE ME FEEL ME – is it possible that this rock opera from “The Who” came out over 45 years ago? Talk about feeling old…
- 11d. [New York hamlet where IBM is headquartered], ARMONK – a gimme for me as an engineering grad from RPI
- Another gimme was 54d. [Either of the two subjects of the documentary “Grey Gardens”] – referring to either “Big” or “Little” EDIE
- 37a. [Power saw], MIGHT MAKES RIGHT – I wasn’t fooled by this clue, particularly given its central position in the grid
I had less success with the following entries:
- My last square was the M shared between two names (my Achilles heel!): 40a. [Betty Boop voicer Questel] (talk about feeling old!) for MAE and [Best Director between Costner and Eastwood] for DEMME (for 1992’s The Silence of the Lambs)
- 57a. [Southern pronoun], YOU ALL – I declare foul, it’s Y’ALL (or ALL Y’ALL in the plural). Never YOU ALL spelled out.
- I also had trouble conjuring up Belinda Carlisle’s 1988 hit, I GET WEAK.
I’ve never heard of an ice bucket referred to as an ICER (or am I missing something in that clue?). Also ASHIER isn’t a word I’ve run across in a recent conversation; luckily I’m not in the position to compare the pallidness of objects (or faces?) Finally, I enjoyed the anagrams HETERO and HERETO in the grid and wonder if this was intentional.
Ethan Erickson’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Capital Gains” — Jim’s write-up
Apologies for the lateness and brevity of this post; I am traveling today.
If ever there was a crossword theme suited for the WSJ, this is the one! Invest just a bit of your time and it will pay off.
Let’s look at the grid and see how it plays out. No entries stand out immediately as theme entries, but look more closely and you see a number of them are clued ?-style.
- 18A [Hootenanny held onshore?] LAND SING
- 24A [Announcer’s call at a hotel staff’s softball game?] MAID IS ON
- 35A [Shuttle from one end of a portico to the other?] COLUMN BUS
- 40A [Shallow place where you can cross a ventricle?] HEART FORD
- 50A [Feature of an electrified maize field?] CORN CORD
- 58A [The Grinch?] SANTA FOE
- 68A [Put together, what all those capital gains give you] DINERO
So what’s happening? Each of those entries is a state capital with an added letter (a “capital gain”). In order, we have the capitals of Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, Connecticut, New Hampshire, and New Mexico. Take those added letters in order and you get the final word, DINERO.
I really enjoyed this theme. It must have taken a good deal of work to find capitals to add the right letters to in order to make something coherent. And six themers plus a revealer is a lot of material, even if they aren’t very long entries.
That being said, I felt the theme clues were tortured and without a lot of surface sense. DINERO was also an odd choice for the final answer. I felt PROFIT would’ve been better, but maybe it was impossible to work. Given the constraints, I’m willing to let these things slide.
Away from the theme, 34D DEAD ZONES is a great entry with a great clue [Areas with no bars?]. There were a number of other wonderful clues including 63A [One for all, say] for TIE. Any others that you liked?
Max Carpenter’s BuzzFeed crossword, “Mosquito Season”—Derek’s write-up
This puzzle was fun. At least it was fun after I figured out what was going on! Answers weren’t matching up, entries weren’t the right length, but then after about 5 minutes of floundering, the gimmick was apparent! The thematic answers all include the letters ITCH, and the crossing downs all skip over the ITCH letters! Here are the long answers:
- 20A [Hogwarts sporting event] QUIDDITCH MATCH
- 28A [Commercial spiel] SALES PITCH
- 45A [Trick like Rickrolling] SWITCHEROO – I had never heard of this. I had to Google it to see what it meant!
- 51A [Give in to a nagging desire, or how to make sense of many of this puzzle’s down entries] SCRATCH THE ITCH
So it seems as if the completed grid is as the constructor intended if the ITCH squares are left blank. Cleverly done! Across Lite made me fill them in to get a correct answer. I added a screen shot without the ITCH words to illustrate. And the title ties it together nicely, as well. Once you get the gimmick, the puzzle actually didn’t seem that tough at all. Just a few comments:
- 24A [Surplus ___ (economic concept of Karl Marx)] VALUE – Another new one on me. Never studied economics or Communism!
- 40A [Tease falling] TEETER – This took me a minute because I though “tease” was a noun in this clue, but as a verb it’s a lot easier!
- 1D [“___ and the Beanstalk: And Other Very Tall Tales” (1999 children’s book)] SHAQ – A great clue for a common crossword celeb!
- 7D [“Take On Me” synthpoppers] A-HA – Back in my MTV heyday, I saw this video, I don’t know, about 1,000 times!
- 26D [Untender part of a chicken tender] SINEW – Eww! I though chicken tenders were just processed paste? Oh wait, that’s Chicken Nuggets from McDonald’s!
- 41D [Krysten who plays Jessica Jones in the upcoming Netflix series “Jessica Jones”] RITTER – I LOVED Daredevil, and I think this is in the same vein. I also liked Ritter in Don’t Trust the B**** in Apartment 23. That show was funny, and is on Netflix too!
- 43D [Lennox who recorded the EP “Crosswords” as Panda Bear] NOAH – Really? I guess he does exist. This EP is on Spotify. Check it out! It is … different….
4 stars from me. Tough gimmick; easy puzzle. Until next week!
Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Tom and Jerry”—Ade’s write-up
Good morning, everybody! We’re one week away from Thanksgiving, another sign that the year, like almost all of them before it, is moving too fast! Today’s crossword puzzle, brought to us by Mr. Randall J. Hartman, is far from a game of cat and mouse, but his theme includes four puns – multiple-word entries in which the first word is also a famous “Tom” (real or fictional) and the second word is also a famous “Jerry.” Not only are all the Jerrys real, three of the four referenced are also Hall of Fame athletes in the sports that they played in professionally.
- THUMB WEST (17A: [Catch a ride to California?]) – Tom Thumb, Jerry West (Hall of Fame basketball player).
- CRUISE PARIS (28A: [Explore the City of Light?]) – Tom Cruise, Jerry Paris. If there was a The Dick Van Dyke Show Hall of Fame, Jerry Paris would definitely be in it.
- SWIFT QUARRY (48A: [Fast prey?]) – Tom Swift, Jerry Quarry (Hall of Fame boxer).
- DELAY RICE (66A: [Put the pilaf on the back burner?]) – Tom DeLay, Jerry Rice (Hall of Fame football player).
After getting the 1s, the so-so fill of IS A (1A: [“Happiness ___ Warm Gun” (1968 Beatles song)]) and INTER, had some issue in really getting a full head of steam on this grid (1D: [Bury]). Maybe it’s because I’m not at my best doing crosswords when it’s the first thing I’m doing while waking up, which is what happened today. (Knocking those cobwebs off definitely is needed as far as I’m concerned.) I don’t think I hear too many people say AS IF I CARE as opposed to “See if I care” (36D: [“Whatever!”]). Adjacent to that was my favorite fill of the day, the incomparable BO DIDDLEY (35D: [Rock and Roll Hall of Fame singer known as The Originator]). As I mentioned when talking about the theme, there are a few PROS (39A: [Heat and Thunder]) in this grid, and there’s another pro lurking in the Southeast with SABRE (63A: [Buffalo skater]). I’m more than content that the temperatures have been above normal here in New York City lately, but it’s definitely not like being in ARUBA, a place we all wouldn’t mind being at to spend a few days (3D: [Caribbean Sea nation]). If I take a vacation for a few days from work and/or this blog, here’s hoping that’s where you’ll find me.
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: REESE (26A: [Witherspoon of “Wild”]) – Speaking of famous Jerrys, today’s entry is very apropos! Football administrator Jerry REESE is the current general manager of the New York Giants, assuming the role in 2007. In his first season as GM, the Giants, influenced heavily by the moves and draft picks that Reese made prior to the season, ended up winning Super Bowl XLII over the previously unbeaten New England Patriots. Along with that historic feat, Reese, upon the Giants winning the game, became the first black general manager of a Super Bowl champion. (He also was the first black GM to appear in the Super Bowl.) Four years later, Big Blue would again beat the Patriots and Reese had his second Super Bowl triumph.
TGIF tomorrow! I’ll see you then, and maybe with an ALE in hand (9D: [Happy hour order, often])! If it’s a Lagunitas IPA, then I’ll definitely have a drink in hand!
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword – “Seance” — Ben’s Review
I think I got a little spoiled by yesterday’s BEQ puzzle for the AV Club, but today’s Thursday felt like a step down after how great that puzzle was. There’s still some fun stuff going on with the theme clues of “Seance”, though:
- 18A: Measurement of powerful rain? — MONSOON UNIT
- 27A: Person who tells you when the mosh pit is going to break out? — CONCERT WARNER
- 43A: Diplomatic successes nobody sees? — BLIND DETENTES
- 56A: Question that elicits the response “It’s a shade of meaning?” — WHAT’S NUANCE
The base answers that were modified don’t quite feel common enough – it took me a second after solving to process what kind of wordplay was going on. I knew that Moon Unit is one of Frank Zappa’s kids, but I couldn’t mentally process that CONCERT WARNER parses down to football player Kurt Warner. Mostly because I don’t follow pro football, but whatever – one step at a time with these things.
(We somehow got a new ELO album in 2015. And it’s half-decent. Check that out.)
A bit of a sparse week for music tie-ins in the BEQ puzzle, but I found a lot of other things to like. I’m a math nerd (not a DWEEB, as 39D points out), so I liked seeing i (or, rather, LOWERCASE I) get mentioned in 3D. I thought the clue for 20A’s otherwise commonplace OREO was nice as well – there was just enough misdirection in “Blizzard component” to make me think snow and not Dairy Queen. The TV show “Wicked City” (and its star [?], EVAN Ross) lasted just long enough to get a crossword mention – it’s the first casualty of the fall 2015 season. A recent batch of takeout meant that my brain leaned towards DOSA as the answer for “Indian wrap” at 52D instead of the much more frequently seen (and correct) SARI. Luckily I had AUSSIE (“Barbie fan?”) at 50A to point me in the correct direction.
I couldn’t find anything that felt like a misstep in this week’s grid – some solid construction and solid cluing led to a nice solving experience. A few points off for theme answer choices, but otherwise a nice showing from BEQ.
Ed Sessa’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s writeup
Today’s common theme trope is “disguised mixed-up letters”. The letters are SLEEP, and they’re in the middle of phrases. The revealer is SLEEPDISORDER, with DISORDER the “anagram” indicator.
The theme answers make for a good set, with the phrases of variable parts of speech. The clue for BREAKTH(ESPEL)L – [Kiss a frog, so it’s said] – seems oddly specific and a little jarring? Just me? The rest are [All out], ATFUL(LSPEE)D; and [Evasive language], DOUB(LESPE)AK.
There was a lot to smile about in the longer answers. AFFLUENZA crossing PRETZEL at the Z was a particularly nice touch! However, it felt like a lot of the fun fill came at a price. The area with TECHSAVVY, SPIDERY and TRYME brought along a trio of awkward fours: contrived suffix EROO and foreign bits DIEM and ALLE. The RULEOUT, LIMBOPOLE, HEMEN area also had contrived SANDL and the Do-Americans-still-remember-it? OEO.
Query time. As a moderately TECHSAVVY type, I always turn file extensions on in my Windows, the way it was in DOS. That isn’t on by default. So, how many of you still notice that you’re running EXE files?
Anyway… 3.25 Stars
Gareth, leaving you with…