It is June 13 and you know what that means! Or maybe you don’t. Not only is it my sister’s birthday, but it’s also Diary of a Crossword Fiend’s 11th blogiversary! The traditional gift for an 11th anniversary is steel, so you know what to do.
Tracy Gray’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
EASY DOES IT is the theme revealer, and there are four theme entries with E.Z. initials:
- 17a. [Dangerous virus strain named for its original outbreak location], EBOLA ZAIRE. “Zaire ebolavirus” seems to be more common, but this 1999 source used the theme answer’s version.
- 23a. [Mexican revolutionary], EMILIANO ZAPATA. ¡Viva Zapata!
- 35a. [“Legends of the Fall” director, informally], ED ZWICK. He was also behind the 1987-’91 show thirtysomething.
- 48a. [Sensual areas], EROGENOUS ZONES. Not to be confused with orogenous zones, which are rock-hard and full of uplift.
This puzzle flowed pretty smoothly for me, even with those fat, wide-open corners with stacked 9s. I liked OVULATION with its unembarrassed clue, [Part of the menstrual cycle]. I looked up “menstrual” as a clue word in the Cruciverb database—zero hits. It is time to quit being afraid of a basic thing that is part of life for half of the solvers. KATE, TINA, Santa ANA, and ELSAS flesh out the womanly vibe here. And while most plural-name answers draw my scorn, [Many “Frozen”-inspired Halloween costumes] works perfectly for ELSAS. I’ll wager that there were far more ELSAS out trick-or-treating the last couple Halloweens than there were witches or Cinderellas. What else would you call a roving pack of preteen girls dressed as the Snow Queen?
I also like the colloquial MIX IT UP clued as [Engage in a brawl] (though I think of “mixing it up” more as verbal, not physical, scraps), along with FINE-TUNES and CANOODLES. Oh, and NANS. At dinner Sunday night at Tiffin, there were a few naans (my preferred spelling) on the menu, and I tried the cheese naan along with the yummy paratha. My entree was the murg shahi korma (so good! almonds and raisins in the sauce!), and samosas (of course) and ragara patties were our appetizers.
I’m less enamored of a Tuesday puzzle having OLAV, MOC, ERES, ESSEN, -ZOIC, and ETON.
Four stars from me.
Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle (Week 263), “Puzzle of the Month”—Janie’s review
With two more Crossword Nation contenders in the mix (6/21 and 6/28), it remains to be seen if today’s puzz does, in fact, take the title in the title. That said, oh boy, does it beautifully develop that idea, especially as it relates to the reveal at 59A. [Julia Glass debut novel that won the 2002 National Book Award … and a hint to the puzzle theme] THREE JUNES. With that title as her inspiration, Liz delivers up three lively and varied supporting themers. The pot is sweetened as the second word of each free-standing base-phrase can be preceded by the word JUNE to create a whole new entity—and, literally, THREE JUNES. Hey—two fer the price of one! Here’s how it plays out:
- 17A. [1995 novel by Dorothy West] THE WEDDING. A superb read this, about mixed-race marriage on Martha’s Vineyard in the early 1950s… I read it when it came out, but had forgotten that though it was written by an iconic member of the Harlem Renaissance—which flourished in the 1920s and mid ’30s—this was published only near the end of West’s most creative and productive life. (He may be your favorite or guilty pleasure author, but thank you, Liz, for not cluing this in connection with Nicholas Sparks’s book of the same name.) JUNE WEDDING. And here are some WEDDING stats for you to chew on.
- 10D. [Programmer’s headache] SOFTWARE BUG. Some are “merely” headache-inducing; some are serious in the extreme. Check it out. Far less destructive is the scarab-related JUNE BUG. (Also JUNEBUG, which got Amy Adams a whole mess of film award noms and wins.)
- 25D. [Steakhouse cut-up] MEAT CLEAVER. First of all, love the punny clue. A delightful BON MOT (in the pun sense, not in the [QUIP] sense). But then, this is the one that made me laugh out loud once I completed 59A. I can’t stop seeing the sweet-natured, pearl-necklace-accessorized JUNE CLEAVER wielding a serious piece of cutlery (not unlike “the farmer’s wife” vis-à-vis the “three blind mice”…) Couldn’t find such an image on line, so will have to settle for the accessory at left, a clutch bag JUNE could be proud of. Then, just for fun, and because of the culinary tie-in, here’s a link to “The JUNE CLEAVER Cooking Club.” There must be some recipe in there that calls for a MEAT CLEAVER. (Well, a girl can dream, can’t she?)
But wait! There’s more to ADORE!
First of all, I love the literary/literate connection we get with THE WEDDING and THREE JUNES. DAPHNE [“Rebecca” author du Maurier] (not to mention recollections of the severe, AUSTERE Mrs. Danvers) PLAYS UP [Emphasizes] that quality. It’s hard to give this puzz too much BAD PRESS with (additional) strong fill like PERGOLA, NEAR-TERM and MAHATMA to be savored; and with strong, second-thought-producing clues like [Trims] for DRESSES (think culinarily here) or [Cone head?] for HARD “C.“ The visual [Thumbs a ride] naturally brings us to HITCHES, as the similarly visual (and kinda visceral) [Disfigured, like Capone’s mug] brings us to SCARRED. Even the NUCLEAR [Kind of power plant] pair elicited a wistful wince from me, triggering memories of “W” and “nuc-u-lar.” (I know there are plenty of folks who have always pronounced it that way, but in this particular election season, thoughts of “W” and even [H. ROSS Perot] make me nostalgic for what now feels like the not-so-distant “good old days.” <sigh>)
Not a lot here that makes me go “G-R-R!” Not in love with “S-S-S,“ although it was nice to get this one clued in connection with the kitchen [Sound from a fryer] and not with any [Killer reptiles], like ASPS.
SITAR vertically above RAGA? Cute. EAVE stacked atop EAVES? CUTER.
And with that, I leave you for the week. Hope this one was the smile-maker for you that it was for me. Could be this one really EARNS the CN “Puzzle of the Month” title after all. Keep solving and “we’ll soon find out”! (Or soon-enough, at any rate…)
Alice Long’s (Mike Shenk’s) Wall Street Journal crossword, “On Staff” — Jim’s review
Self-explanatory theme from editor Mike Shenk using one of his cruciverbonyms.
- 17a [*Site of the National Statuary Hall] CAPITOL BUILDING
- 34a [*Pin setting] GOLF GREEN
- 39a [*Distant communication system] SEMAPHORE
- 55a [*Site of an annual February race] DAYTONA SPEEDWAY
- 49d [What the answers to all of the starred clues have] FLAGS
It’s FLAG Day everybody! Does that mean we all walk around with our shoulders drooped and panting? Or waving down people as they drive by?
Each of our theme answers refers to cloth FLAGS, so the puzzle is consistent in that. But I would’ve found it more interesting if there were different uses of the word FLAG. In computing, a FLAG is a Boolean variable, set to true or false, to cause something (or not cause something) to happen in the program. According to The Free Dictionary, it’s also another word for a newspaper’s masthead, and it’s the part of a taxi’s meter to show that it’s for hire (and similarly I should think, a mailbox).
But today we honor the American FLAG, nicely placed as the first themer in the puzzle with the grid-spanning CAPITOL BUILDING. The FLAG we all know was adopted on June 14, 1777, and FLAG Day was officially established by Woodrow Wilson in 1916.
Ok. Back to our puzzle. I’m not a golfer, but the phrase GOLF GREEN doesn’t sit well with me. I don’t think there’s a good alternative, but it really sticks out as a non-phrase. Sure, it’s a thing, but the phrase is not a commonly accepted one. I may be absolutely wrong on that, so please correct me if so. Plus, I really wanted BLOBS at 34d [Amorphous lumps], so this was the very last section for me to fill in.
I like CLICK HERE, HOMESTYLE, and CHESTNUT. Never saw Sons of Anarchy, so I didn’t know the theme song THIS LIFE (with the F crossing GOLF GREEN in that same section). The rest is all pretty standard. Oh, I do like the word HALTING, and PRISONS gets a good clue [Con federations?]. And of course, there’s little to no dreck in a Mike Shenk production, so the grid is very, very clean.
That’s about all from me. Very simple theme in honor of the day, but a clean grid overall. Don’t forget to caption the above painting in the comments below.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “Shell Games” – Derek’s write-up
Not too difficult a puzzle, but there are a couple of obscure entries in here, at least to me, that ramped up the difficulty just a tad. If not for solving on my computer, which tells you immediately once you have a correct grid, I otherwise wouldn’t know if it was right or not! Will discuss some of this entries in the comments in a moment, but let’s discuss the theme for a moment. As the title implies, the circled letters all form some sort of game, and they form the ends of the long entries, hence the reference to it being a “shell.” Here are the theme entries:
- 20A [Alternative rock band formed in 1984 that’s called Honolulu, Austin, and Chicago home] POI DOG PONDERING – OK, I haven’t heard of this band either! You are free to Google them, as I did, and the clue is totally accurate. I know I am embarrassingly uncultured, but this seems far from mainstream. Is it just me?
- 37A [Bovine Old Testament idol] GOLDEN CALF
- 43A [Races, like the heart] SKIPS A BEAT – SKAT is a card game I am sure I have never played, but at least it rings a bell!
- 55A [Schoolroom furniture with a surface shaped like a “7”] RIGHT-HANDED DESK – I am sure I sat in one of these in elementary school. Don’t think I knew it was called this! I need to read more!!
So the games formed (as shown in red above) are PONG, GOLF, SKAT, and RISK. A video game, an outdoor sport, a card game, and a board game. All different types of “games”; a nice touch! To be clear, I don’t mind the obscure refs. I feel like I am learning something when I solve puzzles like this; it can only help my pathetic Learned League performance! And the theme is still good in it’s relative simplicity, even though it took some slightly different answers to get the desired results. I am quite sure there aren’t many 15 letter entries that start in PO and end in LO! How many four-letter games are there, anyway? We will rate this one 3.9 stars.
Some of those obscure answers, among others:
- 1A [___ of Maine (toothpaste brand) TOM’S – Yeah, I don’t think they sell this in Indiana.
- 31A [Punk rocker with the backup band The Pharmacists] TED LEO – Who?? According to Wikipedia, this dude was actually born in South Bend, IN, right near where I live! I know I say I am uncultured, but I don’t listen to punk rock!
- 42A [Actor Killam of both “Mad TV” and “SNL”] TARAN – OK, I DO know this dude! Very talented comedian!
- 67A [Center square occupant Paul] LYNDE – I know this dude, too! Old enough to remember him vividly on Hollywood Squares, and he was always in the center square, which is what the clue is referring to. I am anxious to see the retreads of Match Game and Pyramid that are coming on ABC at the end of the month. Yes, I am a game show fan, but I don’t watch the Game Show Network that much, mostly because here on Comcast it isn’t in HD!
- 68A [Tony of “Veep”] HALE – This guy plays the veep’s personal aide on the show, which is hilariously funny!
- 10D [Prius, e.g.] HYBRID CAR – These cars are often a target of jokes, but I personally don’t laugh at 55 MPG!
- 11D [Memento ___] MORI – Translates from Latin to “remember that you have to die,” again according to Wikipedia. New one to me, but now I am smarter!
- 57D [Dig] GIBE – Another uncommon word, but it likely saved the lower right corner!
Matt’s puzzles are always fun! Until next week!
Agnes Davidson & C.C. Burnikel’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
OK, after a year or so of blogging, I finally confront a constructor that does not appear in the constructor database on this site! So it is safe to say I am not familiar with Agnes Davidson. This is a collaboration with C.C. Burnikel, so perhaps she (Agnes) came up with the theme idea? The theme is timely! Here are the theme entries:
- 16A [Where hockey transgressors cool their heels] PENALTY BOX
- 21A [Future attorney’s hurdle] STATE BAR
- 47A [Polite applause on the tee] GOLF CLAP
- 54A [Vessel for Captain Jack Sparrow] PIRATE SHIP
- 10D [Colorful sushi creation] RAINBOW ROLL
- 23D [“Drove my Chevy to the levee” Don McLean hit] AMERICAN PIE
- 37A [June 14th observance … and a hint to the first word in the answers to starred clues] FLAG DAY
I told you it was timely! Tuesday is indeed Flag Day! So we have PENALTY FLAG, STATE FLAG, GOLF FLAG, PIRATE FLAG, RAINBOW FLAG, and AMERICAN FLAG. Including the revealer that is seven theme entries crammed into a 15 x 15 puzzle. Very nice! A solid 4.2 stars for this Tuesday’s clean puzzle!
- 33A [Jimmy Fallon asset] WIT – I don’t usually watch The Tonight Show as much as I did when I did not have cable, but Jimmy Fallon is incredibly talented, and has a knack for getting celebrities to make fools of themselves for comedic effect. He will likely go down as one the best late night hosts in history, in my opinion! I know he has only been there for 2 years, but his late night show before that was on for another 7. If you have never watched his show, I recommend it highly!
- 51A [Sandy or Roberto of baseball] ALOMAR – This is not obscure at all to me, but I am a big sports fan. Neither of these brothers have played for a few years, just as the ubiquitous ALOU family hasn’t had a member play in quite a while! Roberto is a Hall of Famer, which to me lends to the legitimacy of the entry.
- 53A [Catch sight of] ESPY – No reference to the sports awards show? Which comes on July 13 (during a dead zone in national sports)!?
- 5D [Organ associated with ill temper] SPLEEN – I have no spleen; no wonder I am so mild tempered! I am told my lack of a spleen contributed to my contracting meningitis recently. I may be snakebite for diseases like this for the rest of my days if I am not careful!
- 35D [Follower on Twitter, informally] TWEEP – A rather new slang word. I, personally, don’t have many “tweeps!”
- 48D [“Rubáiyát” poet] OMAR – This seems incomplete. The poet’s full name is Omar Khayyám. The clue should read [“Rubáiyát” poet Khayyám], shouldn’t it? A minor quibble.
Still love C.C.’s puzzles! Still hope to meet her soon! Have a great week!
Jeffrey Harris’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Like-Worded Trio” —Ade’s write-up
Good afternoon, everyone! Sorry to be the last one to the anniversary party, but I’ve always been one to be fashionably late. Today’s crossword is brought to us from our favorite Commodore, Mr. Jeffrey Harris, and each theme entry is show or movie with a three-word title with the L-W-T pattern.
- LOOK WHO’S TALKING (17A: [1989 John Travolta/Kirstie Alley film])
- LET’S WORK TOGETHER (44A, 34A: [With 44-Across, 1970 hit for Canned Heat])
- LAST WEEK TONIGHT (60A: [HBO comedy/news program hosted by John Oliver])
Was at a loss for a second seeing the clue to OAK LEAF, as I’m usually pretty good at remembering characteristics of sports logos (10D: [Part of Vanderbilt’s logo]). But I was thinking of the primary logo used in athletics, instead of the one seen for other university uses and functions, which I have also seen. Oh, and I’ve had the honor of stepping onto the Vanderbilt campus when I was in Nashville in 2014. I liked the mislead for the clue with TRAPEZE (26D: [Swinger’s bar?]) much more than the one used for NOBLE, which was the last clue I filled in on the day (9A: [Earl-y]). Time to head out, as I’ll be in MSG for the evening – the arena (Madison Square Garden), not the ingredient (1A: [Chinese food additive, for short]).
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: GLOVE (3D: [One of a boxer’s pair]) – Because of his near legendary defensive prowess, NBA Hall of Famer Gary Payton was nicknamed “The GLOVE.” Payton, best known for his time with the Seattle SuperSonics in the 1990s and winning and NBA championship with the Miami Heat in 2006, was the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year in 1996 and was a nine-time First Team All-Defensive selection.
See you at the top of the hump on Wednesday!
Odd choice not to replace OLAV/EVE with OLAY/EYE.
WSJ: Caption contest! Caption the painting “The Birth of Old Glory” by Percy Moran (pictured above) for your chance to win fabulous prizes (i.e. the right to brag as well as the right to remain silent).
Here’s my entry, but I’m sure you can do better: “No no no, Betsy. I said ‘Stairs and Snipes.'”
“Oh dear! I told her we wanted it to be yellow, cyan and magenta.”
“Hmmm… Martha gave me a pair of smallclothes just like that last Christmas.”
“When I said stars and bars, I was thinking of drinks with the other officers…”
“Trim the hedges around the flagpole in the front yard”? Learn something new every day.
As to the WSJ puzzle, GOLF GREEN was one of my major rants in the old NYT forum. No golfer would ever call it anything other than a GREEN, nor can I imagine a situation that would require the addition of GOLF to clarify what type of GREEN is being referred to. I should add that most if not all golfers agreed with me and the non-golfing solvers thought that it was just fine.
There are lots of solvers who know more sports-related trivia than I do. I have always been concerned about the lack of respect for the idiom of sports. It has improved dramatically over the past 15 years.
I thought this was a harder than usual Tuesday in the NYT.
That’s what I suspected. But here’s a non-golfer who didn’t think it was just fine.
“It is time to quit being afraid of a basic thing that is part of life for half of the solvers.”
True. However, I think the issue is less about being afraid and more about passing the breakfast test, which, of course, itself is sooo subjective. VOMIT, URINATE, FECAL, FART or PASS GAS is part of life for 95+% of the solvers yet every single one of these is still awaiting its Times debut. It’s just not something you want to evoke when you’re having a piece of that juicy colorful veggie omelet. I’m also guessing the more graphic nature of SPERM (vs. ovum) is probably why it has never been clued as “Fertility clinic cell(s)” and why you will never see EJACULATE in a Times puzzle, which is essentially voluntary OVULATION equivalent in men.
For the record, I don’t mind seeing any of the above in a crossword, but I’m pretty sure I’m in the minority. This probably goes back to my days of (secretly) eating breakfast in the gross anatomy lab…
Me, I would argue that ovulation is an integral part of the lives of 100% of crossword solvers.
I like it, too, but it’s not necessarily true, what with in vitro fertilization and other procedures that take eggs directly from the ovary prior to OVULATION.
Yeah, but those developing follicles are so damn close to the point of ovulation!
I suppose egg retrieval and freezing probably skips the ovulation and follicle developing phases. It occurs to me that I have no idea how a previously frozen and unfertilized egg gets through the fertilization process.
I was going to hedge my 100%, but further research supports my claim, specifically the “crossword solvers”. It’s well known within the industry that gonadotropins have an unusual side effect – all children born via any IVF procedure which uses gonadotropins are exclusively Sudoku addicts, to the point where the FDA now places a black-label warning them. It’s estimated that 15-25% of potential parents opt either for adoption or to remain childless in the face of such a horror.
Now those are statistics I can get behind! (We so need ‘Like’ buttons on this site!)
My problem with the clue is that it’s human-chauvinist. Only some primates, elephant shrews and bats have menstrual cycles. All the rest of the mammals, birds, reptiles, amphipians, fish, snails, clams, etc., etc., etc. ovulate but don’t have a menstrual cycle. The tiny percentage of menstrual-related ovulation is important to us but it’s a pretty self-centered view.
Do you dispute that OVULATION is part of the menstrual cycle? The clue doesn’t insinuate that menstruation is an integral component of ovulation.
I frequently rail against anthropocentric cluing (among other places), so am potentially sympathetic, but your “problem” here seems quizzically quixotic and arbitrary. Also, you may want to attenuate the desultory Wikipedia pillaging; some might consider it unseemly.
Conversely, the purported “half of all solvers” probably includes girls who have yet to ovulate, and surely includes post-menopausal women who have long since lated their last ovum. . . Also, not that it matters for the present purpose, but I’d be somewhat surprised if solvers’ genders were exactly half-and-half — I can’t guess whether it’s females or males who are overrepresented, but I imagine the difference could easily exceed the small fraction of the population that does not self-identify as either male or female.
Good gravy. APPROXIMATELY half of solvers. The ones who haven’t had a period yet or are postmenopausal will still have dealt with ovulation at some point, most of them. And many transgender men will also have ovulated. (Transgender women, of course, will not have ovulated.)
I wouldn’t be surprised if the majority of American crossword solvers (not specifically NYT) are women.