Jacob Stulberg’s New York Times crossword—Erin’s write-up
Two literary Wednesdays in a row…last week was pseudonyms, this week a quote from a LONGFELLOW poem, “INTO EACH LIFE SOME RAIN MUST FALL.” Not a happy verse, but the line did inspire a song performed by Ella FITZGERALD and The Ink Spots.
I like how the the quote travels diagonally down the grid like windswept rain, evoking the imagery of the poem quite nicely. The symmetry of each word containing four letters is pleasing as well. It would be nicer if the construction of the grid did not lead to two partials (IN TOO and OF ALL), though.
The grid leads to some interesting long fill, including INFILTRATE, MANZANILLA, TEAR STAIN, ALTAMONTE, and RUMOR MILLS. The Professional Bowlers Association, or PBA, stumped me (but was gettable through crossings), and entering MARIA instead of ANITA for [“West Side Story” woman] threw me off for a bit. I’m not sure how many people would know steroid hormones are derived from cholesterol and thus get NONSTEROID from [Like hormones synthesized from amino acids]. Otherwise, the previously mentioned partials and AOUT were the only fill snags for me.
Until next week!
David J. Kahn’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Inner Voices” — Jim’s review
Lovely theme today from David J. Kahn who’s found phrases that hide various mononymous singers, then hints at them with a spot-on title. Let’s take a look.
- 18a [*Kindergarten and the like] GRADE LEVELS
- 24a [*Hamlet and Othello, for two] TRAGIC HEROES
- 34a [*1989-93 or 2001-09] BUSH ERA
- 50a [*1960 Terry-Thomas film about a gang of fur thieves] MAKE MINE MINK
- 62a [*Where the Orioles play, familiarly] CAMDEN YARDS
- 9d [With 45-Down, what each singer in the answers to the starred clues goes by] ONE / NAME
Yes, that’s a strangely-placed revealer, but the theme is so nice I barely noticed.
My criticism of yesterday’s WSJ puzzle was that it was too loose; there are many actors who’ve portrayed presidents, but only four were chosen for inclusion in the grid for no other apparent reason than that they fit.
Today, yes, there are many one-named singers from STING to PRINCE to MOBY to SHAKIRA to SEAL, but it’s a lot harder to find them hidden within an existing phrase. It would have been great if PRINCE was included here, but those letters are not crossword-friendly—not when you’re trying to break them up and span them across two words. Even STING can easily be hidden in something like WASTING AWAY, but try to span STING across two words and it suddenly becomes much harder.
So this theme feels much tighter, much more of an exhaustive list than yesterday’s.
I like the idea of ENYA hiding out in CAMDEN YARDS, but I think I like the barely-hidden USHER in BUSH ERA more (not sure if many people use the phrase “BUSH ERA“, but I love the fact it only takes two letters to hide USHER in another phrase, so I’m okay with it).
But my favorite is EMINEM hiding in MAKE MINE MINK. I have never heard of the film and I don’t know who Terry-Thomas is, but EMINEM was so well-hidden from my eyes, that I couldn’t see him even after I finished the puzzle and started googling one-named singers. Even after reading his name on a list, I still didn’t see him. I was expecting one of the Ks to be involved. Finally, when I saw the light and saw that it spanned three words instead of the usual two, I got to enjoy a great “Aha!” moment. A superb find!
The rest of the puzzle is solidly made as you’d expect. We get TIME LIMITS and PREVAILING as our long Downs. I think my favorite non-theme fill is JETSAM (34a, [Goods deliberately thrown overboard]). I have loved that word, along with its life partner “flotsam”, ever since I learned them as a chapter title in The Two Towers. Speaking of which, BILBO takes off the ring and makes an appearance at 8d [He bests Gollum in a riddle contest].
A few notes:
- RED SEA is good at 49d, but I was surprised by its grid counterpart, the clue for 4d DOGS IT. It’s clued as [Loafs], but I think I’ve only ever heard it used in its other sense, i.e. to move slowly or to run away.
- I don’t think I’ve ever seen a BOATEL (8a, [Waterfront lodging]), but I trust they exist.
- 16a gets a tough clue [Jawaharlal’s daughter] if you don’t know your Indian Prime Ministers. Jawaharlal Nehru was India’s first PM and father to INDIRA.
Finally, in the negative column, guess who shows up to take some attention away from the puzzle’s main stars. Yep, that’s KANYE at 51d. While he’s technically not a one-named singer, he nearly is. It would have been nicer if he could let other people have their due for once and not be so distracting. Or at least give him a funny clue like [Kim said of him “My husband needs a lot of attention”].
Oh! I just looked up MAKE MINE MINK and the hyphenatedly-named Terry-Thomas, the British comedic actor. I never knew his name but you can’t forget that gap-toothed smile. I know him best from the original It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. Here he is with Uncle Milty discussing the differences between the UK and the US.
Angela Olson Halsted’s AVCX crossword, “Dropping a Track” — Ben’s Review
Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to get through this thing called the AV Club Crossword Puzzle. It’s another guest puzzle week at the AV Club, with Angela Olson Halsted giving us a 1.5/5-difficulty puzzle that’s larger than usual at 16×21. I’m here to tell you, there’s something else…a tribute theme:
- 21A: Rangers slugger who’s played on six All-Star teams — PRINCE FIELDER
- 53A: Birthplace of Wal-Mart — ROGERS, ARKANSAS
- 80A: “Long Walk to Freedom” subject — NELSON MANDELA
In addition to these grid entries in honor of the Purple One, the circled squares in the grid give you some appropriate PURPLE Rain. As soon as I had a few of these filled in, I quickly got what was going on and filled all of them in, aiding with some of the trickier grid fill.
Prince is one of the cultural exports of my home state of Minnesota that makes me proud of my heritage (the others are Garrison Keillor and Mystery Science Theater 3000). I saw Purple Rain for the first time last week while it was in theater, and it was totally my kind of movie (again, MST3k. It’s not the best movie, but it’s entertaining as hell). This was a lovely tribute puzzle that didn’t get too bogged down in trying to shoehorn in too many references. Other fill/cluing of note:
- 1A: Format on which you might have purchased the “Batdance” single, say — TAPE (related story: I did radio in college, and one night I and my co-DJ decided to play “Batdance” off of the Batman soundtrack, since that was the only Prince LP we had in the studio. One of the lines at the beginning of “Batdance” is Prince shouting “GET THE FUNK UP”. We heard a different word, and began furiously Googling to make sure we hadn’t broken broadcast rules.)
- 38A: Guitarist Seacer Jr. of the original New Power Generation — LEVI
- 50D: “When Doves ___” — CRY
- 75D: “___ the Critics Love U in 45A York” — ALL/NEW
- 89D: “I wouldn’t ___ to you, baby/It’s mainly a physical thing” — LIE
- 78D: American Eagle’s lingerie brand — AERIE (A new twist on some old fill. Hooray!)
(Seriously, this is a weird song to have gone to #1 on the charts)
A nice tribute, and a nice puzzle.
Randolph Ross’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Class Is In Session” —Ade’s write-up
Good afternoon, everybody! Hope you’re well, and also hope that the weather by you is much better than what it is here in New York (cold, rainy, raw). Today’s crossword, brought to us by Mr. Randolph Ross, has an interesting theme, with the first few letters of the second word of the theme answer forming a word that is the antonym of the first word of the theme entry. Nice execution!
- POOR RICHARD (17A: [Ben Franklin’s alter ego])
- PRO CONTRACTS (27A: [Offers to play in the NBA, e.g.])
- OLD NEWSPAPER (42A: [Fish wrapper, perhaps])
- COLD HOT DOGS (56A: [Barbecue leftovers]) – I don’t think I’ve ever eaten a cold hot dog. Thank goodness!
I can definitely say that I couldn’t the first name of the most recent Second Lady, LYNNE, off the top of my head (61A: [Mrs. Dick Cheney]). Same can’t be said for the clue and entry of SATINS, as I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard “In the Still of the Night” on my dad’s reel-to-reel tape deck when growing up (26A: [The Five ______ (oldies group)]). I’m not too much of a fan of seeing “psst” anymore in a grid, so definitely PSSTS leave a lot to be desired (31A: [Calls for attention]). With that, the intersecting answer of PINOCCHIO was probably my favorite entry of the day (31D: [Storied liar]). Recently, I’ve been finding myself wanting SCALLIONS on different kinds of rice that I’ve had recently (32D: [Cream cheese additions, perhaps]). However, I’m definitely not a fan of cream cheese. Never have, never will!
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: NFC (43D: [Org. for Lions and Bears]) – The last time the Chicago Bears won the NFC, short for the National Football Conference, was in the 2006 season, as they ended up losing to the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLI in February of 2007. When was the last time the Detroit Lions won the NFC? Never! Though the Lions have won four league championships, their last one came in 1957, 13 years before the merger of the NFL and AFL, which in turn created the two conferences that are in existence today (AFC, NFC).
Thank you for your time and I’ll see you tomorrow!
Parikshit Sreedhara Bhat’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up
I don’t recognize this name, and I assume it’s Mr. Bhat’s debut. Well done on getting a puzzle published! The theme is fairly one-dimensional and contains three entries (the latter is usually advisable for starting constructor!). Three phrases end in a plural synonym of LEA. They mostly don’t (and to some extent couldn’t) venture far from their original senses. FLUSHINGMEADOWS – more famous for tennis than world’s fairs to me – is presumably named for MEADOWS. PADDYFIELDS are just a type of field – TOTIE could’ve worked here (or, +2 ELYSIAN). GREENERPASTURES is an idiom from agriculture. Any pasture dairy farmer can tell you that GREENERPASTURES aren’t always good – just after rains you have lush green pasture that has such high water content the cows fill their rumens without getting enough energy!
Even with three entries, a central 11 creates grid design problems for any constructor. They force you to divide your corners into either two or four sections instead of three. Here Mr. Bhat has gone for the two option, with big corners that are challenging to fill cleanly. Both have tricky geographical spelling errors. TIRANA is the English spelling (Albanians prefer Tiranë) whereas MENORCA is the Spanish spelling (as hinted at in the clue). I didn’t know the MENORCA/MINORCA variation and put FINGER not MONGER (which is also a reasonable answer!). I have no idea what ONSIDE (or INSIDE) kicks are, but luckily the voice legend is not Fil Blanc!
Whereas the corners are mostly under control, things give way a bit in the centre BEEGEES/PADDYFIELD/ANTARES section. OBAD/EDATE/GYNT/EFT/MDSE are probably over my limit for acceptable in one section.
Grid design is perhaps and under-emphasized element of crossword construction. A more experienced constructor may have approached the design of the grid differently (before even attempting filling). A quick fix for the middle is introducing a pair of squares at BEEGEES/GYNT and ANTARES/LEIA. The puzzle is still within the LAT limits of 43 black squares and 78 words, though it makes a lot more 3’s which is not to everyone’s taste either.
- [Periodontist’s deg.], DDS. This is always the deg. How familiar is medical slang DD’s for differential diagnoses in the outside world?
- [Pocket watch, to a hypnotist], PROP. Taking a very specific stand on hypnotism here!