Alex Bajcz’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
I don’t know, people. Was this puzzle uncommonly hard or weird for a Thursday, or am I just distracted and out of sorts? Took me forever, and I found the whole venture not very fun. (Puzzles that are easier than I’m expecting feel more fun, while those that are harder than expected feel less fun.) Took me till the third theme answer to see what the theme was, took me even longer to realize some of the 7-letter Downs were theme answers (despite there also being 9-letter Downs and 8-letter Acrosses), grr.
The theme takes two-word phrases whose first word ends with an S or Z sound and whose second word starts with ST-, and changes the second word to a D-word (because the new fake phrases sound very roughly the same):
- 19a. [Romantic night in Kentucky?], BLUEGRASS DATE. From Bluegrass State, this works.
- 34a. [“Come on, Doris”?], “PLEASE, DAY.” “Please stay,” doesn’t work as well because you might say “pleez stay” with distinct Z and S sounds, or maybe “pleez tay,” whereas in “Bluegrass State,” the adjacent S’s blend.
- 41a. [Counterfeit Dodge?], FALSE DART. False start. Eh. I’m not hearing this one, either.
- 57a. [Fishing boat at summer camp?], CHILDREN’S DORY. Children’s story. No, no. It might sound like “children’s Tory” but I’m not hearing DORY.
- 4d. [Failure to sneeze?], NOSE DUD. Nose stud. Nah.
- 45d. [Student housing in Fairbanks?], ICE DORM. Ice storm. Again, nah.
Yeah, so this theme did not work for me. Maybe if some of the made-up phrases were funny, but none of them hit the spot for me. Your mileage may vary.
Having six theme entries instead of four limits the breathing room in the grid, and we end up with SKYEY (which dictionaries actually include as an adjective derived from sky), SYSTS, T. BOONE, EL-HI, and sport UTE (who uses that? anyone?). And if you weren’t watching The Walking Dead during HERSHEL’s seasons, you were probably looking askance at every crossing and wondering if the answer was right. (Don’t shout at me about spoilers: a zillion characters are killed off on that show! And if you’re more than two years behind, well, it’s on you to stop caring about spoilers for the show.) Also not keen on IN STORES or SEE HOME.
Three more things:
- 33d. [David or Charles Koch], OIL TYCOON. Given that they are much better known for their political spending, and given that their dad was more of an oil man and their business is quite diversified, I call foul on this clue.
- 23a. [Savory and sage], HERBS. We had pumpkin tortellini tonight, and I browned fresh sage and pine nuts in a half stick of butter for a sauce. So good!
- 64a. [Alternative to Wi-Fi], ETHERNET. My husband disputes their equivalence. Also, he says the sage brown butter sauce was just okay. So you can feel free to disagree with him.
Three irked stars from me. I’m sure many of you enjoyed it more than I did.
Mark McClain’s and Victor Fleming’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Missing Masterpiece” — Jim’s review
Happy Birthday to QEII! It’s the big 9-0! What will you be doing when you’re 90? Probably not reigning over your own Queendom.
What’s this have to do with today’s puzzle? Not a thing.
It’s two-fer Thursday—two constructors for the price of one! Let’s check out the central revealer at 39a: [Apt alternative title for this puzzle] which turns out to be LOST ART.
So that means we get phrases in which the letter string ART has been removed.
- 17a [Those in-flight Stoli bottles?] VODKA MINIS. Vodka martinis. Great clue and answer!
- 57a [High-quality paving goo?] CREAM OF TAR. Cream of Tartar. This was the first themer I uncovered, so I thought it was just that one of the TARs had been lopped off. Nope.
- 11d [Bake sale items showing signs of damage?] INJURED PIES. Injured parties. I liked this one the least. Injured parties just doesn’t seem as strong a lexical phrase as the others.
- 25d [How poets drive onto interstates?] O’ER THE RAMPS. O’er the ramparts… Cute. Though normally people drive on or off the ramps. “O’ER” makes it sound like they’re somehow flying above the ramps. Still, though, I like this entry best for its wackiness.
Lovely theme, well executed. It strikes me that because that letter string is so common, this theme might have numerous more possibilities.
To test this, I tried the first word with ART in it that popped into my head to see if I could remove it and have something plausible left over. This turned out to be the name “Slartibartfast” which has the pleasure of enjoying not one, but two ARTs.
By the way, Slartibartfast is the name of a character from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Author Douglas Adams chose the name because it was the rudest sounding thing he could come up with that would make it past the BBC censors when the radio dramatization was produced. As such, it is one of the top three family-friendly curse words you’ll find, according to a survey which just took place in my brain mere moments ago. The other two being, of course, “Macchu Picchu” and “Shostakovich”.
Anyway, remove the ARTs from Slartibartfast and you get SLIBFAST which is…nothing, to be honest. But it is just one letter away from SLIMFAST, the dietary brand. Or, if you like, it is SLIMFAST, provided you have a cold.
This test, while not a bonafide success, proved to me that there are indeed probably a great many theme answers one could make using this approach, given the fact that I used such an outlandish starting word and came so close to making an actual thing. So I looked for other ART words. TARTAN becomes TAN, CARTOON becomes COON, RESTART becomes REST, SPARTAN becomes SPAN, and CHARTER becomes CHER. My favorite find was BARTENDER becoming BENDER. There’s something poetic going on there.
So there are probably plenty enough to make a Sunday-sized (er, I mean Saturday-sized—this is the WSJ after all) puzzle.
But be that as it may, we have what we have. And I see that I’ve used up my allotted blogging space rambling on about other things. So let’s wrap this up with a few bullets.
- Lots of great non-theme fill: TAKE ONE, MIATAS, STATURE, STOOD PAT, TORTURE, BUREAU, ECLIPSES, ON A LEAD, RIPOFFS, NO LESS.
- 47a CAROL: Shouldn’t the clue [Present-day music] have a question mark? I guess it doesn’t need one since it’s Thursday? Ah, but now I see its connection with…
- 61a RAP: Clued as [Future music]. Did not know the rapper Future. I think this should have a ? as well.
- PARS as a verb at 31d [Shoots a four on, perhaps] is grumblicious.
- 52a ON A LEAD [Way to walk Rover]. This strikes me as a British phrase. Americans would say “leash” not “LEAD“, right? So wouldn’t it be better if the clue had a particularly British dog’s name? Trouble is, what’s the UK equivalent to Fido, Rover, or Spot? I don’t know, but the most popular dog names in the UK are currently Alfie and Poppy.
That’s it from me. If you have a cold and are dieting, don’t forget your SLIBFAST. Peace!
Bruce Venzke’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Write Your Own Ticket?” —Ade’s write-up
Good morning, everybody. I hope you’re all doing well. Today’s grid, brought to us today by Mr. Bruce Venzke, made me think of the children’s game “red light, green light,” and playing that when I was (much) younger. Anyways, each of the first three theme entries starts with a word that’s a color on a traffic light. The fourth theme entry, STOP LIGHTS, acts as the reveal (62A: [Colloquial term for traffic controls featuring the colors in 18-, 26-, and 50-Across]).
- RED HERRING (18A: [Diversionary tactic])
- YELLOW DOGS (26A: [Contemptible, cowardly persons])
- GREEN THUMB (50A: [Gardening knack])
This grid must also double as a home security system, as there’s ALARM (32D: [Dream spoiler]), ALERT (67A: [Keenly attentive]), SENSORS (58A: [Detection devices]) and, if you get past all of those, ARMS that you have to deal with (69A: [Treaty concern, often]). Breaking into this grid may definitely cost you!! Just a couple letters shy of a pangram I believe (J, Z), but a couple of Xs getting some love in the grid. I always lose track of all of the terms for a group of animals, but FARROW wasn’t too hard to come up with, even without needing any of its crossings (5D: [Litter of pigs]). Again, extra points for an African reference, and we have that with ALGERIAN (39D: [Barbary Coast resident]). They don’t call it the Barbary Coast anymore, do they?! Oh, well. I’ll leave you with the picture of one of my favorite animated characters on one of my favorite animated television shoes, Futurama: the headless body of AGNEW (15A: [Vice president who resigned in 1973]).
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: IAN (42A: [Golf broadcaster Baker-Finch]) – Aside from being a commentator, former pro golfer IAN Baker-Finch has one of the more interesting playing careers in golf (and sports) history. After being one of the elite golfers in the late 1980s, Baker-Finch had his breakthrough at the 1991 British Open, winning his one and only major by two strokes. Almost immediately after that triumph, Baker-Finch never was the same golfer, as he suffered from an admitted crisis in confidence. Between 1995 and 1996, he missed the cut (or withdrew) in all 29 events he entered. After shooting an opening-round 92 (21 shots over par) at the 1997 British Open, Ian withdrew from the tournament and subsequently retired from the sport altogether.
TGIF tomorrow! Have a great rest of your Thursday!
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword – “I’m With The Banned” — Ben’s Review
Given yesterday’s date (and the incessant jokes that were everywhere on the internet because of it), it seems somewhat appropriate that today’s BEQ puzzle feels a little half-baked. A music-heavy theme is usually good to go with me, but something just felt off this week:
- 17A: Unwanted “One Sweet Day” singer? — PARIAH CAREY
- 24A: Unwanted “Whole Wide World” singer? — RECLUSE ERIC
- 30A: Unwanted “Pour Some Sugar On Me” band? — DEF LEPER
- 44A: Unwanted “Working For The Weekend” band? — LONERBOY
- 50A: Unwanted “Minnie the Moocher” singer? — CAB CASTAWAY
- 61A: Unwanted “Laura” big band leader? — WOODY HERMIT
I love the concept behind this theme, but I wish it was a bit more consistent in its application across theme entries. Either all one-letter changes, or all phonetic changes, but having both going on at once made it hard to figure out the correct “banned” names; I had LOSERBOY instead of LONERBOY for most of the puzzle, and that felt equally valid without knowing the down crossing was NEA. A few of the musicians used (Wreckless Eric and bandleader Woody Herman) felt a bit too obscure for my liking as well.
Okay, enough griping (temporarily). Have a mashup of Rihanna’s “Work” and NSYNC’s (13D) “It’s Gonna Be Me”:
More clues/fill of note this week:
- 28A: Cabbage for tacos? — PESO (I want fish tacos now.)
- 56A: Chawbacon — LOUT (I legit thought this was a typo, but it’s an actual word)
- 9D: (a,b) but not [a,b], e.g., in math class — OPEN SET (I have a math minor and knew what this was right away and I still really didn’t like this clue/fill.)
- 11D: Fancy place for a beer and a burger — GASTROPUB (Note to self: don’t solve crosswords before lunch when you’re really hungry…)
- 32D: Daps — FISTBUMPS
- 39D: Movie theater name — LOEW (I have a Loew’s theater near me, but I have no clue how national that chain is, and therefore how accessible this clue is)
Okay, maybe I wasn’t done complaining about this one. This felt okay, but still needed a little more polish/unification in the theme.
Gerry Wildenberg’s LA Times crossword – Gareths write-up
Neat theme: MIXEDFRUIT is the concealed title. You can take the first part of several other answers and unscramble them to make various fruits. So: LUMP (PLUM) OF SUGAR, CHEAP (PEACH) SKATE, MILE (LIME) A MINUTE and WIKI (KIWI) HOW. Stars are used because otherwise the central 7 would be likely overlooked.
[Tour de France, e.g.], BIKERACE – technically correct, but a BIKERACE sounds a lot more humble affair…
[Family with several notable composers], BACHS – contemporaneously, but only one has really retained his level of fame til the present day.
[Fall noisemakers], BLOWERS – in areas where deciduous trees are the norm…
The MFAS/MORAN/AANDE/UNE/IDE/TER corner is dire. It looks innocuous to fill, but the letters in FRUIT are all in the wrong places: ?F?? is limiting, and with 3-letter U?? and I??s in place, it seems that’s what we got. I’d have got with SLOAN, but I don’t think it’s a big improvement. Redoing the entire grid design and refilling would certainly be a consideration here…
Enjoyed the simple theme, fill was mostly fill, with one ugly corner sticking out.