Patrick Berry’s New York Times crossword, “Exhibit A”—Amy’s write-up
Take words that start with an A (mostly), or maybe with a schwa sound, and convert that into the indefinite article A so that you are exhibiting the A:
- 23a. [Repeatedly cried “Land ho!” with no land in sight, maybe?], AGGRAVATED A SALT. (Assault.) I’m reading Moby Dick, but the people perched up high are looking for whales rather than land.
- 28a. [Fighting off drowsiness?], RESISTING A REST. (Arrest.) Me, most nights.
- 46a. [“Conger eel? Au contraire!”], THAT’S A MORAY. (Amore.) Ha!
- 50a. [Stuck to the corkboard?], UNDER A TACK. (Attack.)
- 65a. [Whirlybird whose paint job is flaking off?], A PATCHY HELICOPTER. (Apache.)
- 85a. [Adversary who shows up at romantic dinners?], A RIVAL DATE. (Arrival.)
- 87a. [“Finally, I can buy that house!”], A LOAN AT LAST. (Alone.)
- 107a. [What Carrie needed after the prom?], CHANGE OF A DRESS. (Address.)
- 114a. [“Major shopping centers aren’t among the prizes!”], YOU CAN’T WIN A MALL. (‘Em all.)
That last one is the only one where the “A + word” thing isn’t formed by breaking up a word that starts with A. The original and theme phrases all sound alike to my mind’s ear, though, so the theme feels pretty consistent.
Fill’s smooth, of course. TESTEE is really blah, but that’s all that jumped out at me.
- 113a. [Maker of Caplio cameras], RICOH. Never heard of the Caplio brand.
- 37a. [“Peanuts” girl], EUDORA. What?? Really? Not ringing a bell. I do remember a ’90s email program, and of course Eudora Welty.
- 31a. [One of the “cities of the plain”], SODOM. I was thinking OMAHA.
- 11d. [Poet who wrote “I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart. I am, I am, I am”], PLATH. It’s a lovely clue, but apparently the editors either didn’t notice the 32a crossing, HEART, or didn’t care about the duplication.
- 64d. [It often contains “lies”], EPITAPH. As in “Here lies ….”
4.25 stars from me.
Melissa Brown and C.C. Burnikel’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “Secret Retreat”—Andy’s review
Each of this puzzle’s theme answers includes a “secret retreat”–namely, the letters SPA, as explained at 125d [Retreat hidden in nine puzzle answers]):
- 23a, LET’S PARTY [“Time for a shindig!”].
- 25a, THOMAS PAINE [“Common Sense” pamphleteer].
- 37a, CAT’S PAJAMAS [Remarkable thing, in old slang].
- 54a, SPORTS PAGE [Where to get the score].
- 71a, CAESARS PALACE [Resort with a Forum Tower].
- 89a, SNAIL’S PACE [Very slow motion].
- 105a, BASS PALE ALE [Brewery product since 1777].
- 120a, LITMUS PAPER [Acid test substance].
- 123a, PRESS PASS [Reporter’s entrée].
All the themers have the S on one side and the PA on the other, which is nice. Not a lot to say about this one. Fill was clean and interesting: BUT ALSO, PANDA CAM, ART CINEMA, GRIST MILL, BALSA TREE, CAESARS PALACE, NICE TRY, CANDY MAN, and AT IT AGAIN all felt new and looked good in the grid. Fun clue for 67a, ABSENTIA [Some might vote in it]. Hard not to parse SNAIL’S PACE as SNAIL SPACE, isn’t it?
Really fun stuff. Not an overly exciting theme, but still one of my favorite LAT Sundays in a long time. Until next time!
Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “The Word is Out” – Jenni’s writeup
It took me a long time to figure out the theme in this one. It’s all cross-referenced, and I generally don’t like cross-references. This time, though, Evan makes it worth our while to look from one place to another in the grid.
Half the theme entries are identified with an asterisk. They’re perfectly normal phrases that don’t seem to match the clues.
- 24a [“Don’t move; I’ll be right back”] = OVER HERE. I thought we were headed for a rebus based on WAIT RIGHT HERE. Nope. Eventually I found 98a [Phrase that explains 24 Across], and from crossings I realized the answer was THE WAIT IS OVER. If you use WAIT instead of OVER in 24a, you get WAIT HERE, which is pretty close to what I thought it was. And that’s the game: each clue has a cross-reference which explains the substitution. Clever Evan.
- 38a [Clue, for example] = BOARD UP. That’s not right. That’s not right at all. We have to go to 65a [Phrase that explains 38 Across] which is THE GAME IS UP. This was actually the clue that gave me the theme.
- 63a [Sci-fi hero for Orson Card] = NEARER. Now we all know that should be ENDER. Sure enough, down at 117a, we have THE END IS NEAR.
- 77a [In the wings, in the theater] = OFFSET and should clearly be OFFSTAGE. at 40a, we have THE STAGE IS SET.
- 103a [Motor speedway, eg] = ON TRACK. 74a is THE RACE IS ON, which gives us RACETRACK.
- 114a [Lose steam] = CAST DOWN. Up at 22a, we have THE DIE IS CAST so LOSE STEAM = DIE DOWN.
I don’t remember seeing this kind of theme before. I really like it. All the asterisked answers and all the explanatory phrases are solidly in the language. It felt a little like a treasure hunt with words and each time I found one, it made me happy. Fun fun fun.
A few other things:
- 1a [Ingredient in a French dessert] fooled me. I had C as the first letter and confidently put in CREPE. I was almost right. It’s CREME.
- 32a [Morning fare, perhaps] also threw me – I wanted OMELET and it turns out to be OATMEAL. I’d prefer an omelet, actually.
- A pair of wizards at 45a and 41d, both clued [Wizard of fiction]. We have GANDALF crossing SNAPE, which I would pay to see.
- We also have DUMDUMS crossing IDIOTS at 61a and 52d, respectively, both clued as [Dolts].
- Shoutout to MAE Jemison at 93d, the first Black woman American astronaut. She’s also a doctor.
Excellent theme and solid fill with a minimum of crud. Thanks, Evan.
Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s CRooked crossword, “Lines From a Punfest” — pannonica’s write-up
Pun themes in my opinion always need a caveat, some more than others. So, for the circumspect: set phasers to pun, and for the rash: just barge through the underbrush with you punderbuss. You’re welcome.
- 24a. [“I took my camera to the cheese shop just to ___”] SHOOT THE BRIES.
- 38a. [“Two clowns split; there was quite a ___”] CUSTARDY BATTLE.
- 60a. [“Vultures travel light; they only need ___”] CARRION LUGGAGE.
- 78a. [“I sold my old vacuum; it was just ___”] COLLECTING DUST.
- 94a. [With 115 Across, how Picasso portrayed voters?] EYES TO THE RIGHT | NOSE TO THE LEFT.
Kind of a smorgasbord here. The first bunch are presented as fill-in-the-blank quotations, the final two are linked phrases. Some of them relate to food, all but one have humans as the subject, and so on. It’s scattershot, to keep the random weaponry metaphor going (for no good reason).
The biggest impediment during the rather swift solve was 117d [Algonquin wit] FPA. No signal for a monogram (Franklin Pierce Adams). Not a major impediment, just a curious hiccup, and I don’t feel the cross-referencing 75d [117 Down’s last name] ADAMS exonerates.
- Boston reminders: 50d [Logan runways] TARMAC, 116d [Fenway’s Williams] TED. And just for fun, 1a [Stockpiled] AMASSED.
- 100a [Lauding verse] ODE, 101a [Lauder of cosmetics] ESTÉE. 105a [Leonine blast] ROAR, 106a [Leon of letters] URIS. 67a [Pressing item] IRON, 68a [Waffling reply] MAYBE.
- Dupey stuff: 113d [Gridiron gain] YARD, 67a IRON. 87d [Starting drive] TEE SHOT, themer 24-across.
- Least favorite fill: 72d [Spinner in action] CYCLER, and the even worse 36d [Spaded freshly] REDUG. Wow, I just need to repeat that: spaded. freshly. redug.
- “Prefix on …” meter, pod = CENTI-, TRI-. Collocation seems odd to my ear, though I’ll note that they’re both down clues (60d, 96d).
- New vocabulary for me: 34d [Saddle horse for a lady] PALFREY. m-w.com sayeth: archaic : a saddle horse other than a warhorse; especially : a lady’s light easy-gaited horse. Middle English, from Anglo-French palefrei, from Medieval Latin palafredus, from Late Latin paraveredus post-horse for secondary roads, from Greek para- beside, subsidiary + Late Latin veredus post-horse, from a Gaulish word akin to Welsh gorwydd horse; akin to Old Irish réidid he rides — more at para-, ride. First Known Use: 13th century. I mean, obviously.The only other common English word ending in -frey that isn’t a proper noun is comfrey, and its ending has a very different etymology.
- 91d [Rubber-topped hills?] MOUNDS. Not understanding this one. Oh wait, it’s baseball, isn’t it?
Brad Wilber’s Sunday Challenge CrosSynergy crossword —Ade’s write-up
“I’m not going to be ignored, DAN (59: [“Fatal Attraction” husband])!!
That’s what I have in mind at the end of finishing today’s Sunday Challenge, brought to us by Mr. Brad Wilber. A whole lot of fun doing the grid, though the Northwest was the area that gave me the most trouble. Clearly was FAZED that I couldn’t get fazed immediately, which would have make some of the across entries up there easier (1D: [Nonplussed]). Also get annoyed when I get tripped up by misleads that refer to sports, and, even though I knew that one of the clues was referring to golf, I kept thinking PGA or LPGA for the entry that ended up being USGA (6D: [Org. handing down rules for clubs]). But, outside of untangling myself there, there’s was so much great fill and didn’t have too much trouble outside of that. Outside of thinking about Fatal Attraction, I’ll be thinking about the voice of Robin Leach after reading the clue for HIGH LIFE (39D: [State of “champagne wishes and caviar dreams”]). Oh, and how diplomatic is our constructor for not only having both LEFTISTS (28A: [Liberals]) and GOP in the grid, but both sharing the same line in the grid (31A: [Pol. affiliation of Teddy Roosevelt])?! Very smooth indeed. Vote Wilber 2016!!
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: UCLA (41A: [Where Troy Aikman was a quarterback]) – Most people who are sports fans know that Troy Aikman was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys out of UCLA, but some forget that he started his collegiate career at the University of Oklahoma. Unfortunately for Aikman, the triple-option offense being run at Oklahoma under Barry Switzer wasn’t going to let Troy showcase his talent of throwing the ball too much (or at all).
Thank you for the time, and I’ll see you tomorrow!