David Kwong’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
The theme feels a little dated to me, but that could be because so many of the Daily Celebrity Crossword puzzles I work on skew more current. The theme revealer is BIRDMAN, the 2014 movie that won Best Picture, and the remaining theme answers are male names in which the surname is also a kind of bird:
- 18a. [Longtime Orioles manager in the Baseball Hall of Fame], EARL WEAVER. Wasn’t fully aware that “weaver” was a specific bird, and it’s a little distracting to have Orioles in the clue when the rest of the theme clues are non-avian. Weavers are mainly African and Asian, which would explain why I’ve never seen one of their distinctive nests. Gareth, how many Ploceidae species have you seen?
- 23a. [Co-author of the Federalist Papers], JOHN JAY. Surprised he’s not clued as the nation’s first Chief Justice.
- 28a. [Big name in skateboarding], TONY HAWK.
- 34a. [“The Broken Tower” poet], HART CRANE. Have never read him, I don’t think.
- 46a. [Boy genius of old teen fiction], TOM SWIFT. Would rather have all real people, or else a 50/50 split, rather than five real and one fictional.
- 56a. [“Network” Oscar winner], PETER FINCH.
Two more things:
- 3d. [Georgia county of which 4-Down is the seat], CHATHAM. Raise your hand if you’re not up on your Georgia counties. Chatham’s also a Chicago neighborhood with two CTA stops in it.
- 23d. [Brown or Rice], JIM. There are also (less famous) people out there named Jim White and Jim Fried.
Not loving the fill in this puzzle, or all the strangulated connections between sections of the grid. One wonders how much crisper the fill could have been without HART CRANE—you’d still have 50 theme squares and six theme answers, which is plenty. SKED INANER ENS ILEA SADO AHS NSW … these are not particularly smooth, and many are on the difficult side for a Tuesday puzzle.
3.33 stars from me.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “Stick With Me, Kid” – Derek’s write-up
The flavor text says to “adhere to the rules.” So we shall! Each theme entry has something “sticky” added to a familiar phrase. I feel like I need to wash my hands! Here are the theme entries:
- 20A [Party drink for a woodpecker?] SAP SUCKER PUNCH
- 39A [Result of a giant cheddar spill at the airport?] TARMAC AND CHEESE
- 55A [Leader of the ship Jolly Literacy?] GOO DREAD PIRATE
Interestingly, all three added “substances” are all three letters. Nice and neat! How about 4.2 stars for a nice tidy puzzle!
Just a few observations:
- 43A [Candy bar made with toffee] SKOR – Amazingly enough, even with my world class sweet tooth, I am not a big fan of toffee!
- 3D [Corrupt ruler of sorts] KLEPTOCRAT – Wow! Probably one of the few words that would fit here, but what an entry!
- 9D [Iron-fisted ruler] DESPOT – No doubt one type of “kleptocrat!”
- 30D [Do some major damage] WREAK HAVOC – Alternate definition: [What my 3 year old can easily do]
- 41D [Ivies, particularly] CREEPERS – Best clue of the puzzle! Yes, I was thinking of the colleges!
Matt is still the best. Until next week’s Jonesin’!
Janice Luttrell’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
Getting pretty quick with these Tuesday puzzles! Well under four minutes! Maybe I should start solving them on paper first even now to get used to solving on paper for the crossword tournament! My goal remains a top-50 finish; after many score recalculations I finished 58th this past April at ACPT; my one error cost me about 20 spots! (Jon Cryer….!)
Theme is explained in the final across entry:
- 17A [“Peanuts” outburst] GOOD GRIEF
- 26A [Distress call at sea] MAN OVERBOARD
- 45A [Off-the-cuff comment] CASUAL REMARK
- 60A [Oil metaphor] BLACK GOLD
- 67A [Pre-weekend shout … and a hint to the first word of 17-, 26-, 45-, and 60-Across] TGIF
As in Thank God It’s Friday! We are all familiar with Good Friday, Man Friday, casual Friday, and Black Friday. Very nicely done. I remember when I first started working during the day Monday through Friday, and I finally learned what this phrase really meant! Great puzzle worth a solid 3.9 starts today.
A few notes:
- 15A [Samoan capital] APIA – Could be construed as Samoan money. Nice clue! But know your capitals!
- 53A [Regular on the slopes] SKI BUM – I don’t ski! Been called a bum, though!
- 1D [Old-fashioned “How about that!”] BY GUM – More familiar with “dad gum!” They don’t really say either of these in Indiana. Most people just swear!
- 9D [Beatles title after “Speaking words of wisdom”] LET IT BE – I believe most of their music is now available on streaming services. Now if only Prince’s music can be found on Spotify…
- 25D [“The Shining” mantra] RED RUM – I know this is “murder” spelled backwards. But I have never seen this movie. It is NOT on Netflix!
- 41D [Hall of Fame manager Tony] LA RUSSA – Manager of several teams, including the White Sox of the early 80s! Probably best known for his World Series teams with the A’s and the Cardinals. Third all-time in wins by a manager. Ironically, second in total losses!
- 43D [Common swimmer’s ailment] EARACHE – Not only do I not ski, I don’t swim well either! Gonna have to take lessons to fulfill my triathlon dreams!
That’s all for now. See you on Saturday!
Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle (Week 258), “Blowing Off Steam”—Janie’s review
No—today’s title does not lead us to a gridded shout-out to anger-management, but is instead a perfectly crafted tribute to a famous example of geothermal activity in one of our country’s most iconic national treasures. And I flat-out love the way Liz has captured the phenomenon in her grid. Those “steam”-surrounded 11 central letters make for a directionally-correct rendering of one of nature’s most reliable occurrences. And it’s flanked by two grid-spanning, north-south running themers, making them the perfect complement to the main event. You may say, “Three themers? That’s pretty slim.” But this is no ORDINARY puzzle, so the “less is more” approach gets my whole-hearted APPROVAL.
- 3D. [With 10-Down, puzzle theme that’s a real blast] punnily leads to the creation of a new clue: POPULAR GEYSER IN / YELLOWSTONE PARK. And that GEYSER (pronounced “geezer” in Iceland [where they also know a thing or two about geothermal activity…]) would, of course, be
- 18D (or maybe 62-Up).
LUFHTIAFDLO. Erm… OLD FAITHFUL [Attraction that erupts several times daily (…read this clue’s answer from bottom to top)]. If you’ve never been to YELLOWSTONE, trust me, seeing OLD FAITHFUL (among the myriad of other GEYSERs there) is not high-kitsch (so don’t knock it if ya haven’t tried it!). Like the PARK itself, it’s awesome—filling me with reverence (in the conventional sense of the word) and incredibly cool (in the contemporary).
Now I’ve already mentioned the two lively and longest of the non-theme fill. After that? A lotta sixes (many of them quite good). “YES, YES,” I (still) hear you say. “But shouldn’t a puzzle with three themers have more long-fill examples?” Sometimes. But (again), the visual surround of the central fill—that plume of steam, if you will—pretty much puts the kibosh on sevens, nines and tens. To my mind, the benefits of this strong graphic element far outweigh the “need” for more longer, possibly juicier fill. It’s a puzzle-to-puzzle thang. This week I’m a decidedly contented solver.
As I said, AMPLE six-letter entries, in no small part thanks to those open NE and SW corners. In the SW, I kinda SENSED a mini medical theme, what with the junction of AORTAS with TRIAGE and MORTAL. Oh—and that corner also gives us the connecting EMTS. That’s a relief. See? I haven’t LED you astray with this idea. (But you’ll have to enroll in the NW’s HMO for an actual physician…).
ADHERE and DIVIDE, SOUSED and SHRUNK—also good. CANDID is well-clued as [Not mincing words] and, appropriately, [Frenchman who wrote of madeleines] resonates for PROUST. (Wonder if there was an ENTRÉE that ever triggered any memories for him…) As for FRESNO—why that’s a well-situated stopping off point en route to Yosemite, another spectacular National PARK.
Finally, by my reckoning, we get two YELLLOWSTONE-related bonus entries: CHASM and OHIOAN. The former because of the breathtaking Grand Canyon of the YELLOWSTONE (no MULES there, however—but a great bird population …);the latter because it was an OHIOAN who, in 1872, signed into being the bill that created YELLOWSTONE, the country’s first national PARK. Or make that the world’s first national PARK. And that, folks, was President Ulysses S. Grant. If his was a “below average” presidency, he definitely got something very right where preserving the country’s natural beauty was concerned. So props for that!
Hope you enjoyed this puzz, too, and that you have a good week ahead as you keep solving!
Julian Thorne’s (Mike Shenk’s) Wall Street Journal crossword, “Middleweights” — Jim’s review
“Julian Thorne” = “The ‘In’ Journal” = “Journal Thine,” ergo, probably another Mike Shenk cruciverbonym (<– world’s first use of a new word, right there).
Fairly straightforward theme again today, but done very cleanly and professionally. This specific theme has been done in various venues over the years, so it’s not particularly original, but it’s rock solid.
The title gives it away. The only question is, what form will the weights take?
- 16a [Gauzy material] MOSQUITO NETTING
- 23a [Varieties of them include Vidalia and Bermuda] SWEET ONIONS
- 41a [Perfectly punctual] RIGHT ON TIME
- 53a [Construction typifying pork barrel spending] BRIDGE TO NOWHERE
- 60a [Weight in the middle of the four longest Across answers] TON
Note that TON spans more than one word in each themer and is exactly in the middle of each phrase. That’s a nice touch.
Favorite fill? Gotta be WEIRDO (4d, [Oddball]). Hands down. This word got a lot of use in our household when I was a kid. Especially by me. Especially about me.
We also get COLOSSAL, QUIETER, VOIGHT, and TWISTER. And GOATISH (33d, [Lecherous]. The poor goat. I knew a goat is thought to be sinister, but hadn’t heard of one being lecherous before. I suppose it must be the devilish horns, beady eyes, narrow face and the negative comparison to meek sheep and innocent lambs.
A few bullets:
- We get O’CLOCK at 42d. Seems like a long partial, but I like it with its clue [Hour follower].
- SEAT at 50d gets a good clue: [United assignment]
- [Favorable to mold] at 59a had me thinking something malleable, like clay. But it’s the other kind of mold and the answer is DANK.
- 33a [London lockup] is GAOL. I know this as a British literary spelling of the word, but the clue seems to indicate that it is still the current spelling used in England. I will check with my neighbour later today.
And I will leave you with a final anecdote: 1a DIM [None too brainy] reminds me of one of my wittier moments in life. (You must understand, these are very few and far between.) I was volunteering at my kids’ school and enjoying a cup of tea with some teachers in the teachers’ lounge. My daughter’s teacher (grandmotherly, colorful, kind, but with a sharp sense of humor; in short, we all adored her) was telling us of a picture a young child had drawn of her. She lovingly described the picture in detail and quoted its caption wistfully, “You’re like the moon and stars.” Then in chimes snarky me, “What, DIM?” I think I got a scoff and a slap on the knee for that.
Gail Grabowski’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Lost Connection” —Ade’s write-up
Hello everyone! Like yesterday’s crossword, today’s crossword, brought to us by Ms. Gail Grabowski, has a pretty clever theme. Each of the theme entries are puns, as common phrases are altered by removing the “and” from the phrase to make the puns complete.
- SHORT SWEET (17A: [Bite-size Butterfingers bar?])
- ONE ONLY (40A: [“Just a single slice of pizza will do, thanks”?])
- TWIST SHOUT (64A: [“Ouch! Just sprained my ankle!”?])
- FINE DANDY (11D: [Dapper dude?])
- TIME LABOR (34D: [Work done at a weekly news magazine?])
Outside of the theme, to have both DON HO (15A: [Beloved Hawaiian crooner]) and UKULELE in the grid together, and in close proximity to each other, definitely makes this grid a winner (10D: [Instrument that usually has four strings]). Probably my favorite way to clue OTIS was featured in the grid today, as I don’t have to hear about elevators and can have some Temptations tunes in my head to boot (12D: [Williams of the Temptations]). I think that I’ll have a MARTINI after the day is over, as it’s been a while since I’ve had one (4D: [It may be served with an olive]). The apple martini from Russian Vodka Room in midtown Manhattan (52nd Street) is beyond sumptuous.
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: TENOR (38A: [Pavarotti, e.g.]) – Here’s where I can take Turandot and give it a sports spin. Last week in Leicester, England, world famous TENOR Andrea Bocelli performed “Nessun Dorma” at the King Power Stadium as part of the celebration of Leicester City winning the Barclays Premier League. I’m not sure if Bocelli personally knew Leicester City manager (and fellow Italian) Claudio Ranieri beforehand, but what resulted last Saturday was amazingness. Here’s the video…
See you all at the top of the hump on Wednesday!