Alan Arbesfeld’s New York Times crossword, “Adding Insult”—Amy’s write-up
The theme adds DIS to the start of a word in each familiar phrase, cluing the resulting negation whimsy accordingly:
- 22a. [Damage a St. Louis team’s reputation?], DISCREDIT CARDS.
- 29a. [Ones giving the waiter a hard time?], TABLE OF DISCONTENTS.
- 48a. [Harlequin exhibitions?], DISPLAYS FOR A FOOL.
- 63a. [Flee in separate directions?], DISBAND ON THE RUN.
- 86a. [Result of the Queen of Scat’s backup group messing up?], ELLA DISENCHANTED. Louis Armstrong probably wasn’t the one messing up there.
- 101a. [Jewel heist outcome?], CAMEO DISAPPEARANCE.
- 113a. [Question harshly after not allowing to practice?], DISBAR AND GRILL.
I like the theme well enough. It’s mildly amusing, which is better than a lot of added-letters themes, and the base phrases are all rock-solid.
In the fill, however, I encountered too many 44a: HURTERS (is that a word you have ever used in that -ERS form??). Lots and lots of names that I learned from the crosswords of 30 years ago, like MESTA and ABOU, that seldom pop up in today’s puzzles. Plural FMS, meaning radio stations on the FM dial? Seems awkward. Crosswordese, and lots of names, period—lots of intersecting proper nouns that probably are vexing any number of solvers. They even tripped me up—I’m never quite certain if the moon goddess is SELENE (yes) or SELENA (no), and I misremembered the Italian director as Vittorio DA SICA (nope) instead of DE SICA, so I had one wrong square.
I do like MIXED MEDIA, HOTHOUSE, TAILFIN, and PROBOSCIS, but the 10-letter BE IN NEED OF lost me.
The theme worked much better for me than the fill, so between a 4-star theme and the 2-star fill, we end up with a 15d: THREE-STAR rating.
Donna S. Levin’s Sunday Challenge CrosSynergy crossword —Ade’s write-up
Good morning, everyone! Whether it’s because that it’s Super Bowl Sunday or the eve of the Chinese New Year, I know you’re all excited, right?!
Our challenge for today was brought to us by Ms. Donna S. Levin, and it had a fair bit of 15-letter entries (three to be exact) for me to sink my teeth into. Unfortunately, one of those 15-letter entries almost made me chip all of my teeth: THE AGE OF ADALINE (11D: [2015 Blake Lively fantasy]). Not only was I totally unfamiliar with that, the entry also happened to abut another entry that gave me fits, RAFFI (32D: [Canadian maestro of children’s song]). Throw in taking longer than I should have to get ADITS, and I was taking stabs in that area of the grid for a while (48D: [Miners’ portals]). It’s very fitting that DOWAGER COUNTESS is in today’s grid, given that the success and overwhelming popularity of the show that the character is featured in is in part because of the many people who tuned into watch the show a few years ago, in its first season, during the Super Bowl, allowing viewers an entertaining alternative to football (4D: [Title for Maggie Smith’s “Downton Abbey” character]). Sure enough, there’s a new episode of Downton Abbey airing at 9 PM Eastern, competing with the big game…and probably winning a whole lot of eyeballs in the process! This grid was trying to be hip in the worst way, with both I DIG (25A: [“Understood, daddy-o”]) and NEATO making appearances (40D: [“Cool!”]). Not only was the grid trying to be hip, the grid also has HIPS in it to boot (12D: [Fruit of the rose]). Ms. Levin made it tough of me with today’s grid in trying to find a clue for the “sports…smarter” moment, especially since I don’t want to use A-ROD because of its prevalence in grids, as well as having used that clue previously (3D: [Certain pin-striped infielder, to his fans]). But, at the last second, I found a good one!
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: SAGE (56D: [Poultry seasoning]) – Television journalist SAGE Steele is currently an on-air personality at ESPN, and is the current studio host for NBA Countdown, ESPN’s NBA pre-game show which features former NBA players Jalen Rose and Doug Collins. Steele is one of the few (if not only) women who are hosts of a flagship studio show for one of the four major American professional sports.
Enjoy the Super Bowl…or the Puppy Bowl…or Downton Abbey!
Alan Olschwang’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “Presidential Firsts”—Andy’s review
Three-word phrases that share their initials with some of our more famously three-initialed U.S. Presidents. Helpfully, the president’s number is included parenthetically in each theme clue:
- 23a, HIGH SPEED TRAIN [Austria’s Railjet, for one (#33)]. Harry S. Truman.
- 45a, CALLS AN AUDIBLE [Changes the play at the line of scrimmage (#21)]. Chester A. Arthur.
- 74a, GUESS WHO’S BACK? [Words from a returning traveler (#43)]. George W. Bush.
- 102a, WHITE HOUSE TOUR [D.C. trip highlight (#27)]. William Howard Taft.
- 130a, LITTLE BROWN JUG [Drinking song popularized by the Glenn Miller Orchestra (#36)]. LBJ. The Little Brown Jug is also the trophy awarded to the winner of the annual college football game between Michigan and Minnesota.
- 17d, JUST FOR KICKS [On a lark (#35)]. JFK.
- 67d, DON’T DO ENOUGH [Could be more productive (#34)]. Dwight D. Eisenhower. Probably my least favorite of the theme answers (with no judgment w/r/t Eisenhower’s presidency).
Honestly, the highlights of this solve for me were (a) solving in 4:37, which is close to a Sunday record for me, and (b) MOOSE JAW! Both a [Saskatchewan city] and an outdoorsy retailer. Sad to see AEREO in the grid; reminds me of the tech company that almost was. Strange to have TVA in the grid with no FDR themer. Put your best FDR phrases in the comments!
Not my favorite theme, but the execution was fine. Fill was roughly average for a Sunday LAT, which you’d expect given the (relatively) high word count (144) with seven theme answers.
Until next time!
Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Super Bowl Shuffle”
I’ve got some work to do before heading to my sister’s for the Super Bowl, so I didn’t spend much time on the meta—instead, I glanced at a thumbnail picture from Evan’s own WaPo write-up that highlighted the key parts in green, and that gave me a big boost. The title suggested anagramming, so I eyeballed the green letters in a couple entries and anagrammed them. Each long (8+ letters) Across answer contains a scrambled name of an NFL team (that has won the big game) in its midst:
- 23a. [Kicker who became Green Bay’s all-time leading scorer in 2015 (XXXIII, 7)], MASON CROSBY. The BRONCOS are hidden within masONCROSBy. Don’t ask me what the significance of the parenthetical numbers is—the Roman numerals presumably match up with Super Bowl iterations, don’t know (or care) what the smaller Arabic numbers mean. Number of S.B. victories, maybe? Not the sort of sports info I take an interest in. Also? The name Mason Crosby was not at all familiar to me.
- 25a. [Andy Warhol, for one (XLIX, 1)], POP ARTIST. Patriots.
- 33a. [Touches on some sore subject (XLVII, 4)], HITS A NERVE. Ravens.
- 43a. [Lady of “Lady and the Tramp,” e.g. (XLV, 3)], COCKER SPANIEL. Packers.
- 55a. [Arctic angling (IV, 3)], ICE FISHING. The Fiches … no, wait, the Chiefs.
- 59a. [“No problem!” (XLIV, 2)], IT’S A SNAP. Saints.
- 72a. [Toys on tracks (XLI, 3)], SLOT CARS. Colts.
- 76a. [Sly fox in “Pinocchio” (III, 3)], HONEST JOHN. Jets.
- 90a. [Fashion magazine founded in 1867 (XX, 2)], HARPER’S BAZAAR. The, uh, Pazbers? Oh, wait. The Bears. Of course Evan would not omit his beloved Bears, who are hibernating for the winter.
- 96a. [Stumping site, often (XLVI, 3)], SWING STATE. Giants.
- 109a. [The Little Dipper’s location (XXXIV, 3)], URSA MINOR. Rams.
- 113a. [Epidemiologist’s focus, at times (XV, 7)], RARE DISEASE. Raiders, I think.
Solid theme and a neat and timely meta, particularly for football fans.
Three more things:
- 36d. [Clamping securely], VISING. The first dictionary I checked has vise only as a noun, but MWCD-11 also includes it as a verb.
- 64a. [Like a low-key bar atmosphere], LOUNGY. *ahem* Most dictionaries, if onelook.com is to be believed, don’t include this form of the word. I don’t know that I’ve encountered it before.
- 35d. [“Ant” on the treat “ants on a log”], RAISIN. Actually my favorite clue here. Ants on a log = a celery stalk filled with peanut butter and adorned with bug-looking raisins. I’ll pass. Raw celery is gross.
Overall assessment: Smooth fill and crisp clues throughout, good meta theme execution. Four stars from me.
Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s CRooked crossword, “Gag Gifts” — pannonica’s write-up
A collection of seemingly impractical, nonsensical, and/or self-negating items.
- 23a. [Gag gift for a videophile?] DVD REWINDER.
- 34a. [Gag gift for a kid?] CORDLESS YO-YO.
- 50a. [Gag gift for a cook?] FIREPROOF GRILL.
- 69a. [Gag gift for a pub owner?] INFLATABLE DARTBOARD.
- 87a. [Gag gift appliance?] WIND-POWERED FAN.
- 103a. [Gag gift for a meteorologist?] MESH UMBRELLA.
- 119a. [Gag party gift?] STEEL PIÑATA.
Now, some of these aren’t as far-fetched as others, and arguments of varying degrees of tortuosity can be made for a few, but, sure, superficially these all hit the mark. They remind me a little of Katerina Kamprani’s series of “Uncomfortable” objects. Also, consider the notion of ‘oxymoronic machines‘.
Anyway, these are kind of fun.
- 55a [Indian territory] DELHI. Knew the trick, but I was inclined to finish it as DECCA.
- 47a [Ray’s partner] BOB Elliott, very recently deceased.
- 59a [Thames, to Oxford rowers] ISIS. New information for me, and a non-terrorist, not-directly mythological clue for this crosswordy staple.
- Speaking of which, however: 15d [Any of the Furies] ERINYS. Oh, and 92d [Persephone’s mother] DEMETER.
- 63a, 65a [ … some wistful words] I WISH | I HAD. I’d have gone with ‘rueful’, but that’s obviated by the nearby 79a [Not happy about] RUING.
- 20a [Folk songwriter John] PRINE.
- 46d [Valli of “The Third Man”] ALIDA. “Who”, you may ask? Why, ALIDA Maria Laura Altenburger von Marckenstein und Frauenberg, that’s who!
- 98d [“Into the Wild” setting] for ALASKA dupes 72d [Acted like animals] RAN WILD. Why not write a clue paralleling 37d [Canton’s state] OHIO and 80d [Sioux City’s state] IOWA?
- Refreshing to see WOE IS ME complete and not as a partial. As a bonus, ALAS and ALACK—in the clue—are relegated to non-grid duty. In a similar inversion ECO is recruited for 93d UMBERTO.
- 8d [South of France] MIDI. Huh? … Oh, le Midi.
Cute theme, decent fill, good cluing. Some of the answers may be obscure, but the crossings are always fair. Okay, over and out.