Tom McCoy’s New York Times crossword—Erin’s write-up
This Wednesday puzzle takes us back to school, with different areas of study hidden (well, semi-hidden but circled) in the long entries.
- 17a. [Seize the reins] TAKE CONTROL
- 22a. [Female lead in “Gattaca” and “Kill Bill”] UMA THURMAN
- 47a. [In eager anticipation] ALL A-TINGLE (ALL ATINGLE?)
- 60a. [Followers of Lord Voldemort] DEATH EATERS
Two revealers also tie up the theme:
- 31a. [Bourgeoisie … or a description of each group of circled letters?] MIDDLE CLASS
- 42a. [Baseball position … or a description of each group of circled letters?] CENTER FIELD
The revealers bring joy to another “hidden word across multiple-word entries” theme, although if I want to be nitpicky, I would argue that the academic subjects are not technically in the center of the theme entries. It’s nice to see UMA THURMAN‘s full name, and I love seeing DEATH EATERS‘ NYT debut. It’s an entry that people not really familiar with Harry Potter might not know, but the crossings are fair. ALL A-TINGLE is not a familiar phrase to me. The top Google hit is a quote from Lemony Snicket using “all a-tingle,” but online dictionaries show “atingle” without the hyphen.
The fill is squeaky clean, other than MSS as an abbreviation for “manuscripts,” and seemed easier than usual…I can’t remember solving a Wednesday this quickly before. There are some nice pairings scattered around, such as GECKO and CACTI for a little desert flair, ELI Whitney with the cotton GIN, and the little trip around the world with KOREA, ARUBA, and IRAN. I did not know that Kofi Annan’s middle name is ATTA, but I appreciate a different clue for the entry. Anyway, here’s a gecko!
Samuel A. Donaldson’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Tailor Swifties” — Jim’s review
For a few moments, I thought this puzzle was going to channel BuzzFeed with its penchant for Taylor Swift themes. But that isn’t the case.
Samuel A. Donaldson melds the pop star’s name with the venerable Tom Swifty—you know, those one-liners in which a quoted bit of dialog is linked by pun to how it is delivered.
If you don’t know the Tom Swifty, here are a few examples from Wikipedia.
- “Happy Birthday,” Tom said presently.
- “I have no flowers,” Tom said lackadaisically.
- “I wonder if this radium is radioactive?” asked Marie curiously.
- “I dropped my toothpaste,” Tom said, crestfallen.
Samuel narrows the theme so that the little vignettes in our puzzle take place in a tailor’s shop.
- 19A [“That customer could be a model,” the tailor noted ___] FIGURATIVELY. Hmm. I felt this one was a little off. I would think the dialog should mention something about the customer’s shape or measurements (i.e. figures). As it is, the clue leads me to envision the customer’s beauty.
- 23A [“Fine, I’ll remove the lining from your coat,” the tailor ___] DEFERRED. My favorite one.
- 37A [“I can sew them back together” was the tailor’s ___] REJOINDER. This one is the victim of the crossword puzzle’s limitations. It would be better if it was [“I can sew them back together” the tailor ___] REJOINED, but Samuel needed a word with an odd number of letters to go in the center of the grid.
- 53A [“I’ve torn the pants” was the tailor’s ___ confession] UNSEEMLY. I like this, but a tear doesn’t always occur at the seam. Maybe [“I was so mad I just ripped out the stitching” was the tailor’s ___ outburst] or something similar.
- 57A [“That’s exactly one yard of colored fabric,” said the tailor in a ___] MEASURED TONE. Very good.
All in all, this was a fun theme. I’m a sucker for a good pun, and Tom Swifties can be quite elegant (e.g. the crestfallen one above). At first, I felt Samuel was playing fast and loose with the format using nouns, verbs, and adjectives for the puns instead of just the classic adverb, but in combing the Internet, I found similar examples. And the more I look at this puzzle, the more I like the themers.
The rest of the grid is good, too, with solid long Downs and 3×7 sections in the NW and SE. The NW corner feels decidedly stronger with THE FIRM, RETINUE, and IMAGING. Other great fill includes DRIVEN SNOW, PALE ALE, LEO TOLSTOY, WHOPPER, BRONX, ODD LOT (good entry for the WSJ), and ARMPIT with its great clue [Secret location?]. CLARKE (4D) gets an updated clue [Emilia of “Game of Thrones”], and OCULO (66A) seems poised for a comeback with all the hype around Oculus Rift.
I grumbled (deeply) at 27A RUN WELL which seems rather arbitrary, and I still haven’t figured out the clue for 9A SEAT [House position] (ah, just got it…think Congress), and I didn’t know its crosser TOT was a [Small drink].
Overall, good theme and fun puzzle. If puns are a base form of humor, let’s class it up with PABLO Casals.
Francis Heaney’s AVCX crossword, “Couples Swap” — Ben’s Review
It’s a new puzzle from Francis Heaney in this week’s AVCX puzzle. “Couples Swap” had a 3.5/5 difficulty rating, and I think that’s about right for this nice twist on a typical crossword theme:
- 17A: Confuse the editor of the New York Times crossword and the star of “Concussion”? — BAFFLE WILLS (WIFFLE BALLS)
- 23A: Started building trucks in the UK? — BEGAN LORRIES (LOGAN BERRIES)
- 30A: Place to recharge your jewelry? — BAUBLE DOCK (DOUBLE BACK)
- 39A: Sloppily rearrange some fine soil? — MANGLE SILT (SINGLE MALT)
- 44A: Paternal rants censored from “Leave It to Beaver” episodes? — WARD BITCHING (BIRD WATCHING)
- 56A: Movies of anodes rubbing sensually against cathodes, e.g.? — BATTERY PORN (POTTERY BARN)
All fun entries, although I think figuring out 44A‘s answer brought the biggest smile to my face when I figured it out as I was getting through the puzzle. It was interesting to learn that gummy bears aren’t HALAL (8D), and nice to see “A Mighty Wind” (one of my favorite Christopher Guest movies) get a shout out in the form of the failed sitcom from the film “WHA Happened?” (18A). I managed to trip myself up at 13D by trying to make the “Costume piece for Jeffrey Tambor’s Emmy-winning role” a MUMUU rather than the correct DRESS, but that’s probably what I get for having yet to check out Transparent on Amazon. Finally, even though I’m not the biggest fan of the game, I loved 47D’s sneaky clue for CATAN (“Home of many settlers?”).
Any thoughts on what entry Ben Tausig noted “whose opposite has never appeared in a mainstream crossword, and rarely in any others, despite being both short and grid-friendly”?
A fun theme with some really nice fill from Francis. 4/5 stars.
Howard Barkin’s BuzzFeed crossword, “Kitchen Confidential”—Amy’s write-up
Howard’s theme has both a title and a revealer to explain it. 55a. [Things like the In-N-Out “Animal Style” burger…or what’s hidden in 16-, 22-, 36-, and 45-Across] clues SECRET MENU ITEMS, and there are restaurant menu items sort of hidden (but really easy to find, given the circled letters) in these entries:
- 16a. [White wine order at a German restaurant (it’s a phrase, I swear, I said it once at a German restaurant)], GLASS OF RIESLING hiding FRIES across a word break. The parenthetical hints that this is a contrived phrase, but you know what? You can get Riesling at non-German joints too, and it’s my go-to wine. So I’ll allow it. (Where my Gewürztraminer peeps at?)
- 22a. [Mall security member, not-so-nicely], RENT-A-COP. TACO lurking.
- 36a. [Lionel Richie ballad sung at a funeral in “Garden State” and in a dream in “The Sopranos”], THREE TIMES A LADY, and SALAD. Boy, I know the song but not from movies and TV.
- 45a. [It’s pushed on a playground to get kids really high], SWING SET and WINGS. I don’t get the point of wings. Just get wing sauce and a spoon and be done with it. Quit slurping on your fingers.
Solid theme, provided you forgive (as I do) that GLASS OF RIESLING.
Five more things:
- 17d. [Megafan’s space dedicated to their team, say] is a fresh clue for SHRINE. I can only assume Howard’s got some sort of hockey shrine set up.
- 11d. [“Do you have a map? Because I’m getting lost in your eyes,” for one afwul example], LINE. Good clue, except that “awful” is misspelled and EYE is in the grid so close by, at 8-Down. And the cross-referenced clue at 34d, [Use a 11-Down], cries out for “an,” no?
- 29d. [Liketh a Shoppe from Longe Agoe], OLDE. Ouch. “Liketh” with an archaic verb ending when it’s not a verb here? And “Longe Agoe” hurts—although! Longe was a legit spelling in Old English, unlike (as far as I can tell) olde, shoppe, or agoe.
- 7d. [Series that’s set in Miami, New York, Las Vegas and Cyber (so far)], CSI. Cyber has the best all-inclusive resorts, and the prices are really quite reasonable in the off-season. (CSI: Cyber is also the only remaining CSI show still being made, so “that’s been set” would have been better in the clue.)
- 38d. [Del ___ (90’s alternative band with the hit “Roll to Me”)], AMITRI. My husband bought the cassette, possibly in Greenwich Village that day our feet froze. Here’s a video of a performance of the song. They don’t sound so Scottish. Fakers! (Editing note: I can’t help it since I’m an editor, so I’ve got to point out that ’90s is correct.)
Fun solve. Four stars from me.
C.W. Stewart’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up
The weird, shortened American spellings of DOH RAY ME FAH SOH LAH TE DOH are featured at the beginnings of 8 theme answers, for 9 shorter theme entries including central SCALE. That’s impressive density, even with the lowered bar of just initial bigrams. doORSTEP, reNTACAR, miDISKIRT, faNNYPACK (and all the Commonwealth English speakers began, as one, to snigger; the reverse occurred at 5d SCATTY), soLIDFOOD, laSTSTRAW, tiMELINE and doNTDOIT.
There won’t be a lot of space for other flashiness with nine theme answers, and sure enough there wasn’t! INSITU always makes me think of carcinomas, but that’s probably ideosyncratic. I was expecting the [Weather condition in the final scene of “Casablanca”], FOG to be something more exotic like say a HABOOB.
I’ve never seen or heard of the abbrs. TOC (table of contents?) or ATC (air-traffic control, one presumes), but at least they’re inferrable. A good thing when ATC crosses the vaguely clued [NFC South team], ATL!
Leaving you, inevitably, with this song…
Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “A Tension Getter”—Ade’s write-up
Hello there, everyone! Interesting fun with puns with today’s grid, which was brought to us by Mr. Randall J. Hartman. Common terms and phrases get a different SPIN, though still maintaining the same pronunciation (48D: [Short drive]).
- AGGRAVATED A SALT (17A: [Ticked off Popeye?]) – Aggravated assault.
- LEAVES A LOAN (25A: [Defaults?]) – Leaves alone.
- THAT’S A MORAY (43A: [Eeler’s cry of discovery?]) – “That’s Amore”.
- POWER OF A TOURNEY (55A: [March Madness allure?]) – Power of attorney.
Not sure how many people were confused with the clue to ARENA, with the animals being referenced in the clue also being names of teams in the National Basketball Association – Atlanta Hawks and Toronto Raptors (46D: [Where Hawks play with Raptors]). In large part because of the success of Jurassic Park, the Toronto Raptors’ mascot is a dinosaur and not a bird. Outside of doing this puzzle daily, most of the puzzles that I do regularly have a high degree of difficulty, which means there’s been a few times where I’ve uttered I’M STUCK in the process of solving (41D: [Crossword puzzle solver’s lament]). More often than not though I just empty my mind for a few minutes, come back to the grid, and then I’m good after that. Currently at a basketball game now, and the choices of beverages are water and soda, and that’s a far cry from the times I’ve covered tennis, when you can actually have a PINOT, if it’s on offer (34D: [_____ noir]). I don’t know why alcohol is an option for the media covering tennis events, especially internationally, but I definitely don’t mind!
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: LAVER (29D: [Tennis Grand Slam winner Rod]) and SERB (53A: [Novak Djokovic, notably]) –The last man to win all four Grand Slams in a year was Australian Rod Laver, who pulled off the feat (for a second time) in 1969. It’s very possible, especially with the way he dominated in Melbourne last month, that the SERB, Novak Djokovic,will pull off the feat this year. Even the presence of players like Federer, Murray and Nadal, Nole is head and shoulders above the rest of the field.
Thank you for the time, and I’ll see you tomorrow!
NYT – very tidy! I also liked CANON — group of established works one might study in a class.
NYT: I think the theme and the first revealer are great. The second revealer felt redundant and, as Erin gently points out, not literally correct. It might have been better to not cross reference it with the theme and let solvers see it more as an echo of it. Somehow, Middle sounds less specific than Center, and Middle Class is a much more playful, indirect revealer. Center Field suffers by comparison– I guess Field is also meant to evoke a field of inquiry? but again feels less compelling.
ATTA or ATA as an Arabic name means Gift. But not sure whether there is much of an Arabic influence in Ghana. I just like the idea of a child being thought of as a gift.
Sipho is a common Xhosa name and also means Gift. These virtue names are frequently also applied in English, so, for example, Gift Kelehe is one of our top ultra-marathon runners…
In Africa, all twins have the name ATTA, usually as a middle name. What the derivation is I do not know.
Do not get 46 down ‘Totes’.
Modern-ish slang for “totally”.
That word Ben was referring to could be HARAM, which translates as “forbidden” where HALAL means “permissible.”
At the very least, I’m sure it’s not UNEELIER.
Either HARAM or MULDER … but a 6-letter answer doesn’t really qualify as “short.” I had none of the three guesses in the comment below.
Favorite AV clue: 49d. [Able was I ere I saw ___ Elba, but then he was so good in “Beasts of No Nation” I just couldn’t even handle it].
I don’t subscribe to AVCX, so I don’t really know what the puzzle was about or what the clue to 8d was, but I was intrigued by the discussion of whether gummi bears are HALAL or HARAM. I looked into the issue online, and found that at least one company produces some gummi bears that are halal and some that are haram. The halal ones are manufactured in Turkey and Pakistan and contain beef gelatin, and the company’s other factories in other countries use pork gelatin and so that candy is haram. There is a lot of discussion online about this issue regarding this kind of candy, including the question of whether all gelatin might be OK because it’s so far away from its original meat form. I have a kosher diet, so I found all of this quite interesting.
AVCX: Guess for the “opposite”:
1. POCO is the opposite of MOLTO
2.WNW is the opposite of ESE
3. Is ANAL the opposite of ORAL? Probably not, but I wanted to guess it anyway.
I’m gonna go with POCO.
Your #3 was my guess.
NYT: Boring and not centered/middle.
LAT: Hasn’t this theme been done to death?
ACVX: Really liked the theme but TEMPEH? Crossing CHENG? That’s a deduction of a full point. Added half back for WARD BITCHING, which was just too beautiful.
ALL A-TINGLE….really? a legit theme entry? [heavy, heavy sigh!]
Sigh or no sigh, it’s totes legit.
The opposite of a word that has never appeared in a mainstream crossword would be “nad” – opposite of “dan” at 38 across
Frances Heaney’s Couple Swap February 3, 2016
Alternative answer to 35 Down, Windsor half: Kate