Mary Lou Guizzo’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Yesterday, I wrote about Jeff Chen’s welcome inclusion of more people of color in his grid. So today, I took a look at Mary Lou’s grid vs. last Friday’s puzzle. Last Friday’s had, if I counted right, 6 men and 3 women (one a mythological figure) in the grid. Mary Lou’s puzzle has two marquee names among the six 15s: SHAILENE WOODLEY and JESSICA CHASTAIN. Plus NAOMI, ANN, and a few entries that could have been clued as women: ANI Skywalker could have been Ani DiFranco; the MARSH wetland, Ngaio Marsh; [Mad] GAGA, Lady Gaga; DANO from Hawaii Five-O, old soap actress Linda Dano. Guy entries were UNGER, ANI, DANO, PHIL, and DEXTER (all short answers). 38 squares of women in the grid (and clued as such), 22 of men. I’ll take it. And I’m delighted to see Mary Lou regularly publishing themeless puzzles in a variety of venues (she had themelesses in the LA Times and BuzzFeed last month). I hope to see more themelesses by women moving forward. (Do you think this paragraph has too many parentheticals? I think yes.)
Favorite fill, in addition to the 15-letter actresses: Swift’s delicious satire A MODEST PROPOSAL; “WHAT MORE CAN I SAY?”; GO AT A SNAIL’S PACE; CANNERY ROW; TAKEN ABACK. Oh! And “I’LL BITE,” which I almost forgot but is delightful.
Among the short filler material, we had the blah ODIC, ENOLA, PREV, ABAFT (I’ve been reading Moby Dick, and so far I’ve encountered only aft), NEBO, SFC, OHS, ELEC, IRAE, NAE, and T-NUT. JESSICA CHASTAIN is a good bit more memorable than these.
- I like the layout of four Across 15s intersecting with two Down 15s. The Down 10s each cross three of the four Across 15s. Tight matrix of long fill here.
- 1a. [Stare in astonishment], GAWP. Sometimes these “could be this, could be that” pairs are annoying. Is it AVOW or the duller AVER? SEETHE or SEE RED? Here, you need to crossings to distinguish between GAPE, GAWK, and the less common GAWP. This is a 1-Across that says “you’re not ripping through this puzzle so fast, buckaroo.”
- 37d. [Number on a grandfather clock], VIII / 54d. [37-Down, to Diego], OCHO. Cute. Hey, you don’t often get asked to translate Roman to Spanish if you’re an English speaker.
- 27d. [Grp. behind the Oscars], AMPAS. I figure February is the ideal time to drop an AMPAS into the grid—when the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences is reaching a fever peak of familiarity. Does anyone call them AMPAS, or is it just “the Academy”? “I’d like to thank AMPAS” never seems to come up in acceptance speeches.
- 44d. [They join teams], YOKES. Teams of oxen, not teams of athletes or coworkers. I like the clue. Are teams of oxen always just two? Is this like Olympic beach volleyball?
4.2 stars from me.
Jacob Zantinge’s BuzzFeed crossword, “Themeless”—Derek’s write-up
This is a somewhat difficult themeless puzzle, but it does have the characteristic longer BuzzFeed puzzle clues, in the also characteristically irreverent manner to boot! I had one tiny error, which I would have caught without checking if I had scanned the down answers first. I had SPICE instead of SPICY at 5A. I should have known EEP was not a correct entry! It’s usually mistakes like this that doom me at Stamford; I am certain I have never finished all 7 puzzles clean, even while solving at home.
But enough about the upcoming tournament! This was a fun themeless to solve, and has lots of the rarer letters and great entries. A few observations:
- 1A [Creator of Barney and Moe] MATT – I guessed this was referring to Simpsons characters, and for once I guessed right! Matt Groening is the creator of the long-running cartoon show.
- 40A [Gallic character of comix who takes a performance enhancing substance to fight against the Romans] ASTERIX – Never heard of this cartoon character. Perhaps that is because he is French!
- 60A [They’re spotted at parlors] PEPPERONI PIZZAS – Nice clue!
- 63A [Light precipitation that ices over the ground] FREEZING DRIZZLE – Lots of Zs in these two long entries. Here in north central Indiana, there were actually two deaths on Thursday morning due to this very hazardous weather phenomenon
- 11D [It sees over seas] PERISCOPE – Another nice clue. And isn’t this the name of a new social media app that I don’t know how to use?
- 31D [Brits put them on their cars … ’cause that’s just how they roll] TYRES – I like the Chelsea football (soccer!) club unis with the distinct British spelling from their Japanese team sponsor!
- 34D [“Wouldn’t miss it for the world”, in modern lingo] I’M SO THERE – Favorite of the puzzle. Very nicely done.
- 48D [Whence to take rips of 43-Down] BONGS – This should be 43-Across; I assumed it’s fixed by now.
- 51D [Calvino who is an author of many crosswords?] ITALO – The only crossword-y entry, at least to me, in the grid. I have never seen this fellow in anything BUT puzzles!
Winston Emmons’ Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Levitation Trick Part 2” — pannonica’s write-UP
Whellp, as promised this theme is not only similar to last week’s, but exactly the same. Merely more of it. As this seems to be a début, I can see why editor Brad Wilber would be reluctant to nix a perfectly decent theme from a new (?) constructor just because there’s already one in the pipeline. Why not simply yoke the two? So here we are, phrases with the bigram U-P inserted.
- 17a. [Industrial espionage involving Teflon or Kevlar?] DUPONT WORRY (don’t worry).
- 28a. [Recipients of divine intervention?] MIRACLE GROUP (Miracle-Gro).
- 44a. [List of donors in a theater program?] SUPPORTS PAGE (sports page). Had trouble completing this one, as it was tough to shake the idea that it ended in STAGE.
- 59a. [Celebration with many self-important guests?] UPPITY PARTY (pity party). See also 8d SORRY LOT.
Last week’s had themers of 12-11-11-12 letters, today’s quartet is 11-12-12-11—with the bonus of a pair of eight-letter entries stacked along the central pair. Last week’s featured ‘long’ verticals of 8 and 6 letters, this week’s has four sevens as well as eights and sixes, so it’s definitely a denser grid. I should probably do a relative word count, but I’m running on empty as it is.
Biggest complaint with the fill is 26a [It’s tested to determine paternal lineage] Y DNA (or yDNA). The DNA is tested and the Y-chromosome is the focus, but this just isn’t good fill in my opinion. Yes, Wikipedia obligingly redirects ‘Y DNA’ to its Y chromosome page, and a Google search seems to return a respectable amount of sites for “y dna” (even if some of them seem to be Hindi fragments), but I’m basically not too thrilled with it as crossword fill. … Oh, this is interesting: if Wikipedia is searched with ‘ydna’ rather than ‘y dna’ it redirects to the Human Y-chromosome DNA haplogroup page. I guess that makes the clue more stringently correct. Still looks weird in-grid.
Going to keep the rest very brief, as it’s alread 5pm Eastern. Just a few notes:
- 57a, Romeo and Juliet quote crossed by not explicitly linked TRYST (51d).
- Nice to see NAN clued as photographer Goldin. (5d)
- 30a [“That gently, ___ a perfumed sea …”: Poe] O’ER A. Ouch, ouch, ouch. Ouch.
- PTA and PSAS. Hmph. (61d, 32d)
- 22a [Where “A Room With a View” opens] ITALY. But I ventured INDIA at first, because I am an ignoramus. See also 3d [Country on the south side of Everest] NEPAL. I did mention Hindi before, yes?
Solid crossword. Oh look, that’s the same thing I said last week.
Alex S. Vratsanos’ LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up
OUTSKIRTSOFTOWN is a punchy 15. As a revealer for “add TOWN to all peripheral answers in the grid to make their clues make sense”, it’s a little stretchy, but I’ll take it.
The biggest and most frequent, sin in this theme trope is where the clue makes sense both with and without the missing part. Here [Tourism hub] is a RESORT(TOWN), but the clue works just as well for RESORT. This isn’t the same for the other the clues. CHINA(TOWN) in Frisco (as none of the locals call it), HOME(TOWN), BOOM(TOWN), MILL(TOWN), TINSEL(TOWN), OUR(TOWN), WATER(TOWN), YORK(TOWN), SKIP(TOWN). I’d have tried to lose SKIP(TOWN) as the only verb phrase in the set. If you keep BOYS(TOWN) then the classic Killers album SAMS(TOWN) is about your only option (the Live song is spelt towne…)
The MARVY (Eh?), VCRS, TEXACO (vague clue), BASSSAX (wanted BASSOON/BASSSON), RAGU area gave me fits.
I didn’t know [Tennessee team, briefly] was VOLS. Only Tennessee team I could name was the TITANS, but was fairly sure the answer wasn’t TITS. Apparently this is U. of Tennessee and is short for Volunteers.
ILLTELL is my favourite answer in this puzzle.
[Cultural opening?], AGRI. Cliched veterinary quip – “The only culture we have is agri-culture”. Hur-hur.
[Search casually, as for a bar pickup], TROLL. Anyone else want to dissect this clue including its implications to the greater sphere of crossword culture? We await your comment-essays!
[Scott of “NCIS: New Orleans”], BAKULA. This NCIS is new to me… Also, how many TV Series has this guy been in???
Leaving you with a classic rock song about the OUTSKIRTSOFTOWN…
Jeffrey Harris’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Foreign Exchange”—Amy’s write-up
Jeffrey, among the CrosSynergy team’s newest members, transposes two letters in various phrases borrowed from foreign languages. The resulting loco phrases are clued accordingly:
- 17a. [Having skipped ahead in school? (French)], AVANT GRADE. Avant garde.
- 26a. [Club fees obtained from an ATM? (Latin)], DUES EX MACHINA. Deus ex machina.
- 42a. [Defining traits of an emo guitarist? (German)], STRUM UND DRANG. Sturm und Drang.
- 56a. [Good podium? (Spanish)], BUENOS DAIS. Buenos dias.
Neat theme, smart bit of wordplay.
The fill is excellent and so smooth overall, with ZSA ZSA (in the hospital this month, at age 99), TAMPA BAY, and CARFAX bringing sparkle.
Jeffrey’s a talented addition to the CS squad. Those of you who also do Matt Gaffney’s Weekly Crossword Contest likely know of Jeffrey as “Jangler,” the solver who perennially gets the toughest metas faster than just about anyone else.
4.5 stars from me.