Gary Cee’s New York Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up
Now this is a tidy theme, and more interesting than the usual Monday fare.
58-across signals [“Bonnie and Clyde” and “Thelma & Louise” … or a hint to 18-, 26- and 44-Across] ROAD MOVIES.
- 18a. [Title locale in a 1987 Oliver Stone film] WALL STREET.
- 26a. [Title locale in a 1950 Billy Wilder film noir] SUNSET BOULEVARD.
- 44a. [Title locale in a 2001 David Lynch thriller] MULHOLLAND DRIVE.
Tight. ROAD MOVIE(S) is very much a common epithet. The three films are all well-known and even well regarded. There are no repeats of thoroughfare types. Each is simply two words, and two are 15-letter spanners. The revealing clue even features parallel film titles (two names linked by a conjunction).
Finally, the ballast fill has barely any compromises—seriously, what’s there?—ESE, maybe EIN, maybe SHUL? The possibly questionable CORA (14a) gets a contemporary clue referencing Downton Abbey rather than one of the old-guard crossword stand-bys such as the boss’ wife in the Blondie comic strip. Oh wait, here’s one: URU for Uruguay, that’s kind of weak. All right, maybe there are a few others … but not much at all, I swear.
I wouldn’t complain that the center section has a triple stack of three-letter words; those are all clean, and they come between those two spanners. Nothing shabby about those two 10-letter verticals, either: FREE ON BAIL, ALL-NIGHTER.
Kind of a weird clue for 38a BET: [“$500 on the roan nag,” e.g.] Some sort of in-joke, utilizing perennial crossword fill?
Anyway, a very very nice way to start the week.
Todd McClary’s Fireball contest crossword, “Pie Filling” – Jenni’s write-up
True confessions: I am not good at contest puzzles and I usually don’t bother with them (so I never get any better). The puzzle itself is straightforward and extremely easy for a Fireball. The contest…cracked my head into little tiny pieces and left it on the floor. The tiny pieces may have been appropriate, as we will see.
The contest: “With respect to the nickname of its sports team, which NCAA Division I school completes this puzzle’s theme?” OK.
The theme answers were evident – the longest across entries
- What geographical feature, whose beauty was the subject of a famous waltz, flow through 10 European nations? DANUBE RIVER
- What 2010 #1 hit was conceived by its singer as a way to toast her first decade as a musical entertainer? RAISE YOUR GLASS
- What historic US Army officer in 1901 helped establish that mosquitoes are transmitters of a certain hemorrhagic fever? MAJOR WALTER REED
- Paris’ Louvre art museum serves as both opening and closing locations in what 2003 novel? THE DA VINCI CODE
- The scientific formula C55H72O5N4Mg identifies what pigment that is essential to photosynthesis? CHLOROPHYLL
OK, so what do these things have in common? The Danube is blue; “Raise Your Glass” was written and sung by P!nk; the hemorrhagic fever in question is yellow fever; Dan Brown wrote “The Da Vinci Code”; chlorophyll is green. Colors. OK. Colors and sports….well, there’s the Blue Devils, but that’s not helpful. And pink? No college sports team has pink as a color or a nickname. Wouldn’t be prudent.
I pinged Amy, and we pondered together. The title is “Pie Filling.” Maybe fruit colors? So maybe the remaining one is Syracuse, which is nicknamed “Orange”? But again, what about pink. Pink doesn’t fit. Pink doesn’t make any sense at all.
At that point, Peter’s explanatory Email landed in my box. The “pie filling” alluded to in the title are the little wedges that you collect in Trivial Pursuit (which are about the size of the pieces my head exploded into when I read this Email). Each category has a color. For the Genus edition, we have
- Geography = blue
- Entertainment = pink
- History = yellow
- Arts and literature = brown (in the original game; apparently it’s now purple)
- Science and nature = green
- sports = ORANGE.
So the answer is Syracuse. I was right for all the wrong reasons. As Amy said, oof.
That’s a multilayered, complex, challenging puzzle. I appreciate and admire it. I remain not a big fan of contest puzzles.
A few more things:
- I always want to spell PAPAW with an extra “w” – PAWPAW. It’s never right, but I always want to.
- Personal pet peeve: why is that EMTS are always credited in puzzles as “CPR experts”? Us MDs are pretty good at it, too. Personal trivia: I learned CPR in 1974, at the age of 14, in a pilot program at Johns Hopkins because I happened to be visiting a family friend who was one of the investigators. I have strong feelings about when it should be used.
- I did not know Mr. Smee was Hook’s BOSUN.
- It was nice to be reminded that KALE is also slang for money (“moolah”), and not just a wildly fashionable vegetable (that contains a lot of Vitamin K and is dangerous for people who take warfarin).
- PC exchanges are not politically correct. Well, they might be (although I hate that term), but for the purposes of the puzzle they’re IMS.
Something I learned from this puzzle:
- That Galileo said “Doubt is the father of invention.” Doubt must be married to “necessity,” because isn’t necessity the mother of invention?
I don’t know how many stars to give it. I am simultaneously impressed and annoyed.
Dan Fisher’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Snap Time” — Jim’s review
Happy New Month! Dan Fisher is leading us off with a simple theme to start the week.
- 16A [Failure when trying to look contemptuous?] SNEER MISS. Near miss.
- 25A [Any of the Z’s in “Zzzzzzzz”?] SNOOZE LETTER. Newsletter.
- 41A [Home for Frosty?] SNOWMAN’S LAND. No-man’s land.
- 55A [Dossier on escargots?] SNAIL FILE. Nail file.
Yup, you guessed it. Phrases starting with an N have an S affixed to the beginning. Spelling may or may not be altered, as needed.
This is about as basic a theme as you can get, but in my mind, it’s better than a simple list or synonyms, because at least you have the opportunity for wordplay and humor. Since add-a-letter themes could go on forever, it’s important to tighten it up a little. Dan does this by limiting his base phrases to ones starting with an N.
It would have been a touch more elegant if each of the phrases was altered in the same way. The first three have spelling changes while the last one does not.
Aside from that, the puzzle is pretty clean and well-kept. Look at that path of 5s and 6s starting in the NE and going all the way to the SW — a nice collection of interesting fill. It starts off with IN ECSTASY and FAR OUT and moves along with SCORED, VERBAL, ZOOMS, OBLONG, GRANT and ends with WHOOPI and THROTTLES. And that’s just the Downs. Did you notice that MOO COW is one letter away from MOSCOW? There’s also VIRUS, GLOBS, and THONG. Other good fill I liked: ROMANO and VESPAS.
Not a lot else to say, but this is a solid, clean puzzle with a simple theme that’s perfect for a newcomer.
Janice Luttrell’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up
Another word-can-go-before theme, as explained by 59-across: [Secondary business venue, as for auto accessories … and, literally, where the starts of the starred clues can go] AFTERMARKET.
- 20a. [*Football player using a tee] PLACEKICKER (marketplace).
- 11d. [*Split the taxi fare] SHARE A CAB (market share). Or just ride in one together, but the clue is fine.
- 35d. [*Travel website pitched by William Shatner] PRICELINE (market price).
Very ho-hum theme, but it’s handled fairly well.
Just four themers, including the revealer, yet this Monday grid still sports ESAI and LINC (alongside each other, no less!), -ERO, EELED, SASS (at 1-across!), ENYO, PAGO, IONIA, CALE, UTEP. Wow.
- Got fooled by 22d [Cowboy’s home] RAN–– for RANGE, not RANCH. But that doesn’t fly because RANGEERO is nonsense, as is director GECIL B DeMille. Not to mention a parsley GARNISE. Garni, conceivably, but not GARNISE. (21d, 38a, 40a)
- Nice long entries: BAD KARMA, SOULMATE. Plus SNO-CONE, BEAR CUB.
- I will give credit on the clue for that EELED: 55d [Sought morays], which is followed by 56d [Arthur Murray moves] STEPS. Moray/Murray.
Nothing else of much note. Unexciting Monday.
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”
What I liked best here was actually a few of the clues:
- 33a. [You might get one to go], EXIT VISA. Not “to-go” carryout food. Also not the kind of “going” seen in 58d. [Leak], PEE.
- 51a. [Defensive line?], “I’M JUST SAYING.” The question mark says “this isn’t really about football,” and yet I still thought it would end with STRING.
- 57a. [Members of a family], SPECIES. Not your relatives.
- 11d. [Bridgework event?], NOSE JOB. Not dental work, civil-engineering bridges (that’s 29-Down), or the card game.
- 13d. [Born this way?], NEE. Well played.
Not keen on the clue for TOPICAL: 41d. [Like some lotions]. What other lotions are there that aren’t applied topically? Do not eat your lotion, people. Do not insert it into any orifices.
Top fill: AWESOMESAUCE (even if that’s dated by now), RAMONES, EXIT VISA, TAX YEAR, I’M JUST SAYING, EGOMANIAC, STRAY CATS, ‘SALEM’S LOT, NOSE JOB, ARMY MOM.
Ungreat fill in this 72-worder: ORA, ESS, ENS, V-TEN, TASS with a spelled-out number … not a bad ratio, with 10 longer juicy answers that I liked a lot offsetting five boring little answers.
Four stars from me.
Jacob Stulberg’s BuzzFeed crossword, “Flower Power”—Andy’s review
Back in December, upon the publication of the second Taylor Swift-themed BuzzFeed puzzle in as many months, I half-jokingly worried that the puzzle was doomed to draw from the same 15-item cultural subset for all eternity. Among the examples I listed in that subset were “superheroes and their movies.”
Of course, Jacob Stulberg had probably already written and submitted this puzzle–which is really, really good by the way!–when I wrote that, but here we have Another Superhero Puzzle. Here, the last word of each theme answer is the name of a superhero minus “Green” (thus, GOING GREEN would allow them to become superheroes). They are:
- 17a, SKY LANTERN [Paper floater at Chinese festivals]. They’re essentially small, paper hot air balloons, and they’re awesome.
- 28a, CHARLOTTE HORNET [Member of a team owned by Michael Jordan (that also sounds like a character from “Bee Movie”)]. BuzzFeed puzzles tend to assume their solvers don’t know sports, and that could very well be true. In this case, it results in an always-appreciated-by-me reference to the unbelievably weird Bee Movie.
- 44a, FOLLOW YOUR ARROW [2013 Kacey Musgraves hit with the lyric “Roll up a joint, or don’t”]. I’ve heard of Kacey Musgraves, but I’ve never heard of the song, despite it being her biggest hit to date. I like her laissez-faire attitude toward marijuana preparation.
I’m sure everyone who solved this puzzle noticed the TV-MA entry… FUCK IT [“Eh, why not. YOLO.”]. Is this the first time “fuck” has appeared in the grid of a major crossword? I have to say I was surprised to see it in the puzzle. I’m no Puritan; I just wasn’t expecting that to be the right answer. You might say that entry exposes and subverts our expectations about what a crossword should be. Or, you might just say FUCK IT and move on.
BAR SCENE, QDOBA, MR. ROGERS, LAYS BARE… tons of really good stuff in this puzzle, and not a single iffy entry to be found! Oh, wait, forgot about RWE (and, if we’re being picky, maybe GTS and CSA). Besides that, though, exceedingly smooth fill.
Signature Caleb clue: NONET [“How can I catch that group of nine fish when I have ___?”]. Runner-up: PEN [Ironic writing implement for a pig to use!!]. Maybe a bit challenging for a Monday, but that’s been the BuzzFeed M.O. Fun theme, well conceived and executed. Overall, an excellent puzzle!
Until next time!
Patrick Jordan’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Tooterships”—Ade’s write-up
Hello there, everybody, and welcome to February! It’s also whistle-while-you-work Monday, at least from what we see with today’s crossword puzzle, brought to us by Mr. Patrick Jordan.
- FOOTBALL REFEREE (17A: [Worker who carries a whistle])
- POLICEMAN (31A: [Worker who carries a whistle])
- LIFEGUARD (39A: [Worker who carries a whistle])
- DRILL INSTRUCTOR (55A: [Worker who carries a whistle])
There’s timely clues, and then there’s IOWA, given the caucuses taking place today (14A: [Presidential caucus state]). Need to go back down to the BAYOU once again, as I haven’t been down in Louisiana since pre-hurricane Katrina (41D: [“Beasts of the Southern Wild” setting]). That’s all I really have for today, so it’s TA-TA for now (4D: [“I’m off, dear chap!”]). I’m pretty sure I’ve never used ta-ta ever in my life, and I don’t think, outside of right now, that I’ll ever say that again. So hokey!
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: BEAGLE (5D: [Snoopy, for one]) –Though undrafted out of college at the University of Alaska-Anchorage, Washington Capitals center Jay Beagle has been able to carve out a nice career in the pros. His best season in the NHL came last season, when he scored 10 goals and also had 10 assists (20 points) for the Caps. He’s currently sidelined due to a hand injury.
See you tomorrow!
Funny that you didn’t have to realize that the clue “color” represented the same category in Trivial Pursuit–I got the meta answer without making that connection. Nice additional layer to a well-crafted contest puzzle. Those of you who enjoyed this owe it to yourself to head over to the WSJ site and try his contest puzzle over there (for free!)
Despite not knowing that ROADMOVIES form their own distinct genre, I very much enjoyed today’s NYT. Admittedly this is in no small part because I like pretty much anything that evokes images of Naomi Watts in Mulholland Drive — stunning performance.
Jenni, this is really late. I don’t usually read reviews of puzzles I don’t do, but the Trivial Pursuit illustration caught my eye, so I read your Fireball contest post.
Anyway, just wanted to speak up on behalf of my son the RN as someone else who does CPR, albeit usually in a team.
Hats off to all RN’s, including the ones who took care of me recently post surgery. Successful, yay!