Jeff Chen’s New York Times crossword, “Twisting One’s Words”—Amy’s write-up
We’ve got a swirly theme here. Just as the 33d: CORIOLIS FORCE (or Coriolis effect, more familiarly) makes storms spin in opposite directions in the northern vs. southern hemisphere, the theme answers in the “northern” half of the grid take one and a half turns counterclockwise around a black square, while the “southern” themers go clockwise (I’ve added arrows to my grid). Here are the theme answers:
- 4d. [Question asked while tapping a microphone], “IS THIS THING ON?” with the repeated THI in the swirl zone.
- 6d. [Experiences fame], HAS THE LIMELIGHT. The ELI appears twice.
- 13d. [Drink for Hercule Poirot], CREME DE MENTHE.
- 14d. [Spreading belief?], MANIFEST DESTINY. Spreading geographically in an imperialist colonization fashion.
- 66d. [Plus or minus thing], BATTERY TERMINAL.
- 84d. [[This is how it might have happened]], DRAMATIZATION.
- 69d. [Crawling, say], ON HANDS AND KNEES.
- 88d. [Texas], LONE STAR STATE.
After I finished the puzzle, I checked the NYT’s online rendering of the puzzle. What?? They put the clockwise and counterclockwise arrows in the grid to make things way more obvious? I appreciated the extra challenge of having to figure out what the gimmick was. The printed Sunday Magazine also includes the helper arrows. Pass!
I could imagine some solvers have forgotten 1a DEBI Thomas and don’t know about Vietnamese 3d BANH MI sandwiches, thus finding that a tough crossing (the DEBI spelling is a bit unusual). Thomas was the first black athlete to medal at the Winter Olympics (see 22a WINTER SPORT), and went on to finish her premed studies at Stanford and become an orthopedist. And if you don’t know Asian cuisine, well, that is too bad.
Favorite fill: THE MIKADO, PETARD (a [Castle-breaching explosive] as well as part of “hoist by your own petard”), NEON DEION (ever notice that his name’s at the start of deionization?), MALFEASANCE, POLAR BEAR, BANH MI, ETYMOLOGY, MPEG FILE, HOLODECK, and ASIAN FLU. Lots of colorful vocab here.
Four more things:
- 94d. [Tasting like lamb], MUTTONY. Eww.
- 126a. [Benzene derivative, for one], ARYL. Dang! That’s markedly more obscure to non-chemists than ENOL.
- 105d. [GPS, e.g.], SATNAV. Short for satellite navigation. Isn’t it bonkers that your car can send a signal up to a satellite that figures out the car’s location and conveys that location to the navigation system?
- 7d. [State capital in a mailing address], ST. PAUL, MN. Hey! ERIE is in the grid, but not as ERIE PA, and for that, we are grateful.
Despite the intricate theme and a goodly amount of interesting fill, there’s little in the way of unfortunate fill—and I know that is not easy to pull off. 4.5 stars for Jeff’s latest.
Joseph Groat’s L.A. Times Puzzle, “Sh!” — Matt’s review
Matt here, filling in for Andy.
At three characters, this might be the shortest-titled crossword I’ve ever seen. SH replaces CH sounds, with wacky results:
23-A [Score for Hawkeye’s team?] = MASH POINT. From “match point.”
25-A [With 70-Across, clothing magnate David posing with a bass?] = ABERCROMBIE / AND FISH. From “Abercrombie and Fitch.”
39-A [Convenient snack?] = NOSH IN ONE’S BELT. This entry was my downfall, as I had ON instead of IN there. “Notch in my belt” outGoogles “notch in my belt” about 4 to 3, though, so that’s ON ME (41-D).
99-A [Money for fast-food fries?] = SHOESTRING CASH. Shoestring catch.
115-A [Outback outlaw?] = BUSH CASSIDY. Butch Cassidy.
118-A [Self-cleaning laundry?] = SMART WASH. Smart watch. I know Apple wants to start this craze, but I’ve never seen someone wearing a “smart watch” in the wild, nor even heard someone speak the phrase.
33-D [Avoid diner dishes?] = ESCAPE HASH. Escape hatch.
53-D [Spell?] = WICKED WISH. Wicked witch.
That’s a reasonably good theme, though not too sparkly.
DIONYSUS, SCHMALTZ, HOOKAH, ONE-LINERS, YAZOO, side-by-side NEVADA and OREGON, RISK IT, SPEEDWAY, NOT SURE, WHAT THE…?, LA-LA-LAND, and MOON SHOT.
I think the southwest corner is going to be a problem for many solvers: SKI BIB was new to me, HECUBA and OLESON are tough proper names, and all three cross KEL, another tough proper name. And then BANGS is toughly clued as [Beatles trademark].
3.50 stars from me.
Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s CRooked crossword, “Dinner Theater” — pannonica’s write-up
Film titles + food (as) puns.
- 23a. [Sauce for prison cuisine?] THE SHAWSHANK REDUCTION ( …Redemption).
- 40a. [Cheese in many flavors?] 50 SHADES OF GRUYERE (… Grey).
- 66a. [Adventurous salad chef?] LAWRENCE OF ARUGULA (… Arabia).
- 90a. [Guy with a complete spice rack?] A MAN FOR ALL SEASONINGS (… Seasons).
- 114a. [Where nostalgia for asparagus might take you?] HOME FOR THE HOLLANDAISE (… Holidays).
Only five entries, but they’re all quite lengthy. The wordplay consistently affects only the last element of each. Of the group, only 90-across’ seasons/seasonings strikes me as weak sauce, due to the etymological affinities that are ‘baked in‘.
Also on the menu: 49a [Option on tap] ALE, 88a [Sushi fish] EEL, 10d [Chutney fruits] MANGOES, 34d [Reuben bread] RYE, 65d [Menu words] À LA, 68d [Espresso foam] CREMA, 89d [Edible tubes] ZITI, 112d [Blackthorn fruit] SLOE. Tangential: 11a SABLE (not Martes zibellina, as clued, but Anoplopoma fimbria), 71a [Sharpens] WHETS, 113a [Broke a fast] ATE, 3d [Italian for “country”] PAESE, 75d [Piquancy] TANG, 103d [1980 Dom DeLuise picture] FATSO, 117d [“Bad” cholesterol] LDL.
- 27a [“Rosy-fingered deity”] EOS, 11d [Goddess of discord] ERIS, 72d [Mother of Ares] HERA.
- 56d [Bounding main] OCEAN, 107d [On the 56 Down] AT SEA, 74a [race on waves] REGATTA, 30a [Key] ISLE, 105a [Fleet runner?] ADMIRAL.
- 118d [Dentists’ org.] ADA. >scowl<
- 77a [Magical spell] HEX. Oh, hello.
- Lesser-known vocabulary: 11d [Icy pinnacle] SERAC, French sérac, literally, a kind of white cheese, from Medieval Latin seracium whey, from Latin serum whey. 43d [Medieval guild] HANSE, namesake of the Hanseatic League.
- Long downs, spanning the two centermost themers: FINAL EXAM, RADIATION. Elsewhere are LOUDMOUTH and LIFE STORY.
- 62a [Non-payer, it’s said] CRIME. Huh?
Solid construction, solid cluing, nothing too exciting. Average Sunday fare.