Joel Fagliano and Byron Walden’s New York Times crossword, “‘Stellar Work”—Amy’s write-up
Took me a long time to notice how the theme clues were working, since I was eavesdropping on a family conversation at the same time. The asterisks at the start of the theme clues aren’t there to mark the theme clues—they stand in for the letters Star.
- 22a. [*Z, for one], CABLE CHANNEL. Starz.
- 38a. [*Board], RIGHT SIDE. Starboard.
- 42a. [*Alliance member], UNITED AIRLINES. Star Alliance.
- 60a. [*Ted talks, say], BROKERED A SETTLEMENT. This one should have poked me more, since TED Talks has capital letters.
- 87a. [*Crossed pair], ROMEO AND JULIET. Yes, this one finally made it obvious, and I wasn’t just filling things in via the crossings.
- 89a. [*Search party], ED MCMAHON. Host of Star Search.
- 110a. [*Let’s hope], ACTING CAREER. I hate the word starlet.
Nice play on that “let’s mark the theme clues with an asterisk because using bold or italics won’t work for all formats or syndication markets” convention.
Eight more things:
- 28a. [Language descended from Old Norse], FAROESE. Raise your hand if you had FRISIAN first.
- 34a. [God whose name sounds like a word meaning “understated”], LOKI. Well, with a different syllable stress.
- 83a. [Good friend, informally], HOMIE. Hey! Look: a HOMIE clue that just goes the “informally” route instead of using some awful way to signal blackness or a “hood” setting.
- 3d. [Clicker for Dorothy], RUBY SLIPPER. Hang on. Just one? This is an answer that really wants to appear only in the plural.
- 15d. [Labor pain], UNION STRIKE. I was thinking the UNION part was superfluous, but non-unionized fast food workers have held walkouts so maybe this works.
- 35d. [Casino offering, derived from the Latin for “five each”], KENO. The Oxford folks say it derives from French, but then, French is derived from Latin. The French cinq looks closer.
- 58d. [When golden goals happen in the N.H.L.], OTS. With OWN GOAL at 8d, we could have used a different OTS clue here. (See also: [Labor pain] cluing UNION STRIKE when TAKE PAINS is in the grid. I mean, KENO was clued as a “casino offering” rather than a “casino game,” presumably because GAME TIME in the grid.)
- 66d. [What rugged individualists seldom admit to], NEEDING HELP. You could say this is a shoddy crossword phrase, but I like it. Everyone needs help at times.
Lots of longish fill in this grid, mostly solid fill (SMEE-meets-SPEE, dated NEET, meh). **** from me.
Kathleen Fay O’Brien’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “Floss”—Andy’s review
The title of this one, “Floss,” can also be parsed “F-loss.” Nine phrases lose an F and get a spelling change:
- 23a, GOLDEN LEASE [Perfect apartment deal?]. Golden Fleece.
- 25a, STAGE RITE [Saying “Break a leg,” say?]. Stage fright.
- 46a, WRENCH LESSON [Plumbing school basic?]. French lesson.
- 71a, DANCE LORE [Traditional wisdom about hustlers?]. Dance floor.
- 95a, ORBS MAGAZINE [Astronomers’ monthly reading?]. Forbes Magazine.
- 119a, OAK BALLAD [Song about a yellow ribbon?]. Folk ballad. This is the only one that doesn’t 100% work for me, since I (and I assume many others) pronounce a little bit of the “l” when saying “folk.” But I don’t really mind here; I know that “folk” can properly be pronounced to rhyme with “oak” and that’s good enough for me.
- 123a, OWL LANGUAGE [Hooting, mostly?]. Foul language.
- 35d, READY MERCURY [Supply at the thermometer factory?]. Freddy Mercury.
- 40d, ROOT COCKTAIL [Beet-flavored drink?]. Fruit cocktail.
Nine themers, and they’re all really nice. Broke into the theme with WRENCH LESSON, and it was mostly smooth sailing from there. ROOT COCKTAIL fooled me — I had ROOT SMOOTHIE for a while, which slowed me down quite a bit.
The fill was relatively smooth, which is saying something given how many theme answers there are. SO RARE and NERTS didn’t tickle me, and there were a few odd abbreviations and partials (including IS SO, a very minor dupe on SO RARE), but nothing out of the ordinary. I wanted the KEANU clue to reference the upcoming Key & Peele movie, but it might just be too soon for that.
I don’t have a lot to say about this puzzle. The theme is a standard one that’s been well executed, and the solve was a bit on the challenging side for me. I’m finding myself with less and less to say about the LAT Sunday, so I’m going to devote the rest of this post to looking at how many women constructed for various daily venues in April. Presented without comment:
NYT: Zhouqin (C.C.) Burnikel, Betty Keller, Janice Luttrell, Robyn Weintraub, and Kathy Wienberg. 5/32
LAT: Zhouqin (C.C.) Burnikel (5), Gail Grabowski (2), Patti Varol (2), Debbie Ellerin, Janice Luttrell, Nancy Salomon, Carolyn/C.W. Stewart, and MaryEllen Uthlaut. 14/34
Newsday: Gail Grabowski (5), Billie Truitt (4), and Carolyn/C.W. Stewart. One or two puzzles from confirmed female editor aliases, which are ignored in the count. 10/30
WSJ: Too many female editor aliases to be absolutely sure that I’ve counted correctly. Three confirmed puzzles from female constructors: Debbie Ellerin, Amy Johnson, and Ellen Leuschner. Two additional puzzles with bylines from Maxine Cantor and Tracey Gordimer, who are either new constructors or editor aliases. Several more with confirmed female editor aliases, which are ignored in the count. 3-5/32ish
CS (I was only able to survey the past two weeks’ puzzles): Gail Grabowski, Lynn Lempel, Donna S Levin, and Patti Varol. 4/14
Until next time!
Tony Orbach’s Sunday Challenge CrosSynergy crossword —Ade’s write-up
Hello there, everybody! I hope you’re doing very well today to begin the merry month of May!
Today’s Challenge was brought to us by the multitalented Mr. Tony Orbach, and it was a fun one to solve. I usually am on the lookout for music-related clues when doing a puzzle of Tony’s, and the ones today weren’t too hard for me this time, with EVELYN (40A: [“Champagne” King]) and CCR being the music entries of choice today (25A: [“Born on the Bayou” band, briefly]). Oh, and right down the middle, there’s LIP SYNC as well (24D: [Go through the motions, in a music video?]). I can’t tell you how many times, spending my college years and then some living in Central New York, I’ve seen the shirt referenced in the clue to ITHACA (1A: [“______ is gorges” (Cornell college town saying)]). There came a point where a t-shirt was created in Syracuse that mimicked it, and the message on the shirt was “Syracuse is Oranges.” Should have gotten one of the shirts before I left the Salt City. Literally LOLed when seeing the clue for SCARFACE, as a poster from that movie does seem like a prerequisite in the decor of a good number of celebrities’ homes (7A: [Pacino movie whose poster is displayed in many “MTV Cribs” homes]). A recent puzzle by Ms. Patti Varol centered on Irish counties, and that made KILDARE much easier for me to get today (21A: [County west of Dublin]). Speaking of Ireland, the latest clue for EURO references the Emerald Isle (23D: [Ireland’s features a Celtic harp design]). Let’s go from talking about one country to bringing up another…
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: PANAMA (46D: [Complement for a seersucker suit, perhaps]) – Do you know the first Hispanic to win a boxing championship? Well, it was a man named PANAMA Al Brown, who won the Bantamweight title in 1929 in a fight against Gregorio Vidal in New York. Brown, though born in Panama and spending a lot of time living in New York, eventually ended up making Paris his home, and, at one point, was a tap dancer in a show headlined by Josephine Baker. Panama Al Brown is a very interesting, yet heartbreaking story, if you want to take a few minutes and read about him.
Thank you for the time, and I’ll see you tomorrow!
Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Radical Changes” – Jenni’s write-up
If you downloaded the puzzle when it was first posted yesterday, you had an unintended assist when you solved it. There were a few strategically placed circles in that file that Evan placed as an explanation and didn’t remove before posting it. I was too busy yesterday to solve the puzzle, and he warned me, so I solved it the old-fashioned way. I’ve put the circles back in to my screenshot, and highlighted the revealer.
Life comes in stages, and today’s puzzle takes aim smack at the middle. The theme answers are all interrupted right in the middle of the word LIFE.
- 1994 Oscar nominee for best song – CIRCLE OF LI(C)FE. I knew this song years before I actually saw “The Lion King” – we didn’t have a kid in 1994 and she was terrified of movies until she was about 9. I think the first time I ever saw it through was on Broadway when she was 12, four years ago.
- Extreme punishments – LI(R)FE SENTENCES.
- Science fiction staple – ALIEN LI(I)FEFORM. I had the ORM here before I’d sussed the theme and thought it was going to be some kind of worm.
- Nudism, e.g. – ALTERNATIVE LI(S)FESTYLE. Don’t they get cold?
- Survivor’s ring – LI(I)FE PRESERVER.
- “Things are just perfect!” – THIS IS THE LI(S)FE.
The letters that sit in the middle of LIFE are not random, and Evan explains at 113A:
Period when one may make radical changes – MIDLIFE CRISIS.
The interposed letters in the theme answers, reading down, spell CRISIS. Nice, tight, consistent theme with a grid-spanner in the middle for good measure. I can’t say I’ve thought of “midlife crisis” as a period, per se – I think of it more as an event – and that’s the very definition of an idiosyncratic nit, so I’ll let it go.
A few other things:
- “Underworld” is apparently a movie, and the protagonist is SELENE. I did know that. See above about being middle-aged.
- “Enjoys a date” is EATS, and at first I thought that was a dinner date, and then I thought maybe it was a palm date, and either way it works.
- LORI Singer played a student cellist on the TV series “Fame” before starring in the original “Footloose.” I know this because I am middle-aged.
- More old TV with “West outfit”. That’s Adam West, and he wore the BATSUIT. I’m currently listening to “The Caped Crusade: Batman and the Rise of Nerd Culture.” I really like it; probably would be better on paper or Kindle because pictures.
- Basketball crossreferences – LEBRON James beat Tim DUNCAN for the NBA title in 2013 and Duncan beat James (and their respective teams, of course) in 2014. ESPN ZONE sits in between them, appropriately enough.
- “Like atria, frequently” stumped me at first because “fibrillating” didn’t fit. Turn off the doctor mind, Jenni; it’s not those atria. It’s the SUNLIT kind.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that LISA Simpson likes crossword puzzles.
Emily Cox & Henry Rathvon’s CRooked crossword, “Shades of Green” – Jenni’s write-up
9-something to solve and the rest of the time looking for the typo. Sigh.
A colorful puzzle in more ways than one (sorry. Had to be said.) Emily and Henry serve us all sorts of greens, changing well-known names and phrases into delicately decorated nonsense by substituting a “shade of green” for the color itself.
- Special Forces specialist?= MINT BERET.
- Cold country, on some maps? = AVOCADO LAND. I always thought that was California.
- Aliens of a certain strain? = LITTLE SAGE MEN. Smart Martians who do not look like Matt Damon.
- Frozen-food mascot’s bro? = JOLLY JADE GIANT. More alliterative than the original.
- Fenway feature, in a certain light? = EMERALD MONSTER. No comment.
- Punk tribute band? = CHARTREUSE DAY. Chartreuse is one of those colors I can’t identify; I have no idea what it looks like. Or tastes like, in the form of the liqueur.
- Prison drama remake?= THE LIME MILE.
- Peculiar plant skill? = MOSS THUMB
Bonus color at 1A: Blue-green shade – AQUA.
A few other things:
- I sometimes work at NIGHT (42D) but I don’t call it the “graveyard shift.”
- I always thought a dogface was a Marine; 51D tells me he’s GI JOE, and a little searching shows that the term is most closely associated with the infantry. Shows you what I know.
- I do know that Nellie MELBA must have been quite something, since she has both toast (58D) and a peach concoction named after her. Take that, Maria Callas.
- 20D, SALUTE, is clued with “Tip of the hat.” Now I’ll have A Chorus Line in my head for the rest of the day…Janie knows why.
What I didn’t know before doing this crossword puzzle: that the Inca used knotted string called QUIPU to collect data and keep records, including “tax obligations, properly collecting census records, calendrical information, and military organization.” This is much prettier than any data collection I’ve seen these days.
And, finally, I leave you with the classic “Tonight Show” blooper starring ED AMES (93 D).