Howard Barkin’s New York Times crossword, “Expanded Worldview”—Amy’s write-up
Hooooward! Two weeks ago, he emerged triumphant at the ACPT, and now he’s got the Sunday puzzle (maybe his first published Sunday puzzle?). I enjoyed the puzzle—neat theme, smooth fill, pretty much everything in my wheelhouse, no sticking points. The theme expands from specific (house) to general (Earth):
- 23a. [*1978 movie in which Kevin Bacon made his film debut], ANIMAL HOUSE.
- 32a. [*Having it made], ON EASY STREET. 25a is ONE-SEATER, and if you add a STY to that and anagram it, you get 32a.
- 48a. [*Progress preventer], STUMBLING BLOCK. Waaaait a minute. I consider a block to be a segment of a longer street, so I’d want 32a and 48a swapped. What’s the context for the block being bigger than the street? Is that one of those bizarro New York things?
- 68a. [*1990s-2000s HBO hit], SEX AND THE CITY.
- 84a. [*Laos or Vietnam], COMMUNIST STATE.
- 101a. [*Sobriquet for ardent Boston fans], RED SOX NATION. Go, Cubs!
- 113a. [*Popular app that can view any of the places named at the ends of the answers to the starred clues], GOOGLE EARTH.
Did not notice the weird street/block order while solving since the puzzle fell relatively quickly.
First answer in the grid: 6a. [Novelist Tillie who wrote “Tell Me a Riddle”], OLSEN. Needed the crossings to know if it was Olsen or Olson. Read up on Olsen if you don’t know about her—I really didn’t. I think my mom had an Olsen book on the living room shelves when I was growing up.
Fill I liked and that we don’t see all too often in crosswords: CHINUA Achebe, SUNBURN, BELT OUT, “I’M A MESS,” AU JUS (“with au jus” is one of the best menu phrases you can find), TIME-LAPSE, PUTSCH, the IBEXES/IBISES combo, Tippi HEDREN (The Birds in the clue dupes the grid’s T-BIRDS, but I like a good Birds reference better than citing a less familiar movie or her parenting of Melanie Griffith), and BLOWTORCH. I’m torn on BIG GUN—feels like it works best in the plural, maybe.
Three more things:
- 22a. [Modern movement inits.], LGBT. “Movement”? Eh. Like the answer, not loving the clue.
- 69d. [Poetic shades], EBONS. Plural archaic/poetic color name? Meh. My pick for least favorite answer here. Or maybe 44d. [Broadly smiling], A-GRIN. Is there a decent way to clue that as a partial?
- 102d. [“Calvin and Hobbes” girl], SUSIE. If I get my hair bobbed shorter than usual, my husband calls me Susie Derkins.
Four stars from me.
Matt McKinley’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “A Storm is Brewing”—Andy’s review
Quick review. Theme here is phrases whose first words are in some way related to thunder/lightning storms:
- 23a, STREAK OF LUCK [*Vegas visitor’s hope].
- 25a, FLASH MOB [*Seemingly impromptu public performance]. These were really popular when I was in college. Now, not as much. Or maybe I’m just not in a setting where I’m exposed to as many flash mobs.
- 45a, RUMBLE IN THE JUNGLE [*Classic 1974 sports contest]. Ali vs. Foreman, Kinshasa.
- 68a, BOLT CUTTERS [*Solution for a forgotten combination].
- 92a, CRASH OF TWENTY-NINE [*Historic 20th-century disaster]. I really wanted CRASH OF THE … here.
- 115a, ROLL TIDE [*Bama rallying cry].
- 118a, CLAP TOGETHER [Arrange hastily]. This is a new one to me. I’ve certainly clapped together my fair share of chalkboard erasers, but I didn’t realize you could “clap together” a party, say. I guess this is a synonym of “slap together”? Maybe the difference is regional?
Solid theme, solid execution. After the kerfuffle over ON A AND E on Friday, I chuckled a little at seeing ON NBC so soon. Some good long stuff, like I MISSED OUT, TEAM SPIRIT, A STUDENT, TRASH CAN, BEN HOGAN, ARTICLE I, VISUAL AID, and TOWN CRIER. I even liked ALGICIDE and TEA CHEST, neither of which I remember having seen before in crosswords.
Until next time!
Martin Ashwood-Smith’s Sunday Challenge CrosSynergy crossword —Ade’s write-up
Good morning, people! Hope you’re all doing great today!
Today’s Challenge, brought to us by Mr. Martin Ashwood-Smith, is one full of long entries, which is always a whole lot of fun for me. I actually was thrown off for a little bit with the clue for CANNONBALL RUN, especially since, until this morning, I didn’t think “the” was part of the title (12A: [Burt Reynolds movie, with “The”]). Didn’t take too long figuring that out, but initially thought of other movies that he did with “The” to start the title. With that said, it’s time for me to re-watch another Burt movie with “The,” The Longest Yard. I guess NORTH CAROLINA is a timely enough entry, given everything that’s been going down with HB2 and the continuing fallout from that legislation (13D: [Charlotte’s place]). I only learned about the tradition of MANDARIN ORANGES being a Yuletide staple about a couple of years ago, from a friend who had jut bought some oranges when meeting up with her not too long before Christmas Day (1D: [Stocking stuffers]). Was debating for a bit, at the very end of the solve, if SNICKS was an actual word, as I know “nicks” would have been a perfect fit, if it were a five-letter entry (5D: [Small cuts]). Am I missing out that I’ve never had food from a MONGOLIAN HOT POT, or any other hot pot from an Asian country that can attach its name to “hot pot” (14A: [Spicy Asian meat dish])? I think almost all of the stews feature some fish in it, so I think I’ll have to pass, sadly. Also, somewhat sadly, I’ll be thinking about mustaches now that GERALDO RIVERA is on the brain right now (62A: [Big name in TV talk and mustaches]). Or, I’ll be thinking about fights on a talk show where the host ends up with a broken nose.
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: ERE (19A: [Keatsian preposition]) – When the University of Oklahoma Sooners men’s basketball team reached the Final Four in the 2002 season, one of their best players was shooting guard Ebi ERE (pronounced EBB-e eh-RAH), who averaged 14.6 points and 5.8 rebounds in 2001-02, on his way to winning the Big 12 Conference’s Newcomer of the Year award. I don’t know if he’s noteworthy enough to be an alternate clue to this oft-used entry, but at least I gave it a shot!
Have a great rest of your weekend, everyone!
Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Mind the Gap” – Jenni’s writeup
Back to themed puzzles this week at the WaPo. I didn’t look at the title before I solved the puzzle and at first I thought we were in movie theme-land, with a great clue for RETURN OF THE JEDI at 3D – “Film whose working title was ‘Blue Harvest’.” Working titles of well-know films would be a fun theme. I had no idea what the circled letters were doing, though. Then Roger EBERT appears at 23A, cross-referenced with ISHTAR at 91A (“He called 91 Across ‘a lifeless, massive, lumbering exercise in failed comedy’.”) But ISHTAR only has one circled letter, and EBERT didn’t have any. Hmm.
Turns out movies have nothing to do with the theme. The title (helpful as always) is “Mind The Gap” and there’s a revealer at 52 D (highlighted in my screenshot). “Separate….and a hint to this puzzle’s theme.” The answer is SPLIT UP. And the theme is words that suggest a gap that are spelled going up and, in addition, leap a gap between two answers. The circled letters give us the themers and each has a black square somewhere in the word. I love that kind of multi-layered theme. Very cool. The themers are:
- DIVIDE from return of the jEDI/VIDal
- FISSURE from cerbERUS/SIFt through
- CRACK from sirloinsteaK/CAR Chase
- HOLE from herschEL/OH my goodness
- VOID from pirate raDIO/Venetian
- RIFT from am noT/FIRst responders
I didn’t realize until I typed those all out that each theme pair spans the whole grid. Really a masterful piece of construction. This kind of theme density and complexity puts a lot of constraints on the fill and often leads to compromises elsewhere in the grid. There are a few frequently seen words, but nothing that hits me as real crosswordese, and even the commonly occurring clues are well-clued, like these:
- “Actor Idris who, despite his name, was never exiled on a island with Napoleon” = ELBA
- “Jr’s jr” = III, which is the best Roman numeral clue I’ve ever seen. Thank you, Evan, for not making me do math in Roman numerals or guess at the year of some ancient events.
- “Like cranes” = AVIAN, which worked as a little misdirection for me, because I was thinking construction cranes and not flying cranes.
A few more things I noticed:
- “MLB star Prince who, despite his name, is a designated hitter” = FIELDER. That crossed ELBA and I enjoyed the matching clue styles.
- “People of great interest?” = USURERS. Not a word that comes up every often, and not crosswordese, either.
- “Milieu for un vice-admiral” sat at 1A and made me pause. For one thing, it could be either MER or EAU. For another, the mixture of French and English confused me. “Milieu”, of course, is an English word, but it comes straight from the French and so at first I thought it should be “Milieu pour un vice-admiral” and then I started to wonder if “vice-admiral” was French or English and then I just gave up, looked at 1D to get the first letter, and wrote MER. Still not sure what Evan was thinking. Evan?
- Loved seeing JUDY Blume appear. I was ten years old when she published “Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret” and my tattered paperback copy is probably still at my mother’s house. (And when I went to look up the year of publication, Google offered me “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret Deadpool”, which I don’t even want to think about and certainly didn’t click on.)
- Speaking of Google, the verb form is right there at 93 A for “Searches, in a way.” Does that mean their brand name is no longer a brand?
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that Krusty the Clown had a birth name and that he is, apparently, Jewish – HERSCHEL Krustofsky.
Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s CRooked crossword, “Outtakes” – Jenni’s writeup
I will not do justice to this puzzle because I need to run out the door – I’m going to see “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” in NYC with a friend. Anyway, here we go:
“Outtakes” are funny alterations to movie titles, and they were best left on the cutting room floor (which probably doesn’t even exist anymore in this day of digital movies.) Emily and Henry can always make me laugh.
- “Haley Joel Osment having visions in a bakery” = I SEE BREAD PEOPLE.
- “William Shatner getting a little kinky?” = BEAT ME UP SCOTTY. This I did not need to think about. Ick.
- “Bogie toasting some sheep?” = HERES LOOKING AT EWES KID. This one doesn’t scan as well as the others, but I’ll take it.
- “Judy Garland wishing for a snowy landing?” = THERES NO PLACE LIKE NOME.
- “Cuba Gooding doubting it’s Easter?” = SHOW ME THE BUNNY. My favorite.
- “Renee Zellweger in the cafeteria?” = YOU HAD ME AT JELLO. Two from “Jerry Maguire”, and this clue made me think of a celebrity form of “Clue” – Renee Zellwegger in the cafeteria with the Jello and Ryan Gosling in the gym with the lacrosse stick…
I liked “Tiptoe giveaway” for CREAK and “Where strikes occur” for ALLEY. Could have done without SORBIC acid, which is apparently antibacterial.
Told you I wasn’t going to do it justice. Oh, wait, one more thing:
What I didn’t know before I did this crossword: that cinquefoil was also called POTENTILLA.
Off to the city! Have a great Sunday!