Megan Amram and David Kwong’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
You’ve probably seen puzzles by David Kwong before, but I think this is comedian/TV writer Megan Amram’s debut. (Congrats!) You may know her work from Parks and Recreation or the heartwarming comedy, Childrens Hospital. On Twitter, she has the single best profile photo of anyone in social media. I mean, anyone could pose that way, but most people would delete the photo rather than emblazoning their Twitter page with it. Huge respect.
The theme is formality: Take familiar phrases that include common words that double as nicknames, and expand the names to their more formal versions.
- 17a. [Play a game on Halloween, formally?], ROBERT FOR APPLES.
- 25a. [Be exceedingly frugal, formally?], PENELOPE-PINCH.
- 40a. [Kind of printer, formally?], DOROTHY MATRIX.
- 52a. [Very cunning, formally?], SYLVESTER AS A FOX.
- 36d. [Treats since 1932], MARS BARS. I don’t think anything by that name is still sold for the U.S. market, but it exists in other countries. Really getting tired of how often the Mars Bar still pops up in crosswords … but then, it appears IPANA toothpaste is never leaving, either.
- 23d. [Winner of the Triple Crown of Acting (Oscar, Tony and Emmy)], HELEN MIRREN. You can put her in any crossword. First name, last name, roles, whatever. She’s golden. (Maybe don’t include ELLEN in the same grid, though, as that’s a closely related name.)
- 26d. [One of a mythological nonet], ERATO, one of the nine Muses. My initial reaction was that this clue was much too hard for a Tuesday puzzle. Then I realized it was a Thursday puzzle and that the theme is too easy for a Thursday puzzle.
- 7d. [French colony until 1953], LAOS. I’m far more interested in what’s gone on with Laotians there than with the French.
- 12d. [Jon who wrote and illustrated “Go Hang a Salami! I’m a Lasagna Hog!”], AGEE. Hey! I’m game for a fresher AGEE than we usually see in clues. This Agee’s written kids’ books on palindromes, oxymorons, spoonerisms, anagrams, and other forms of wordplay. I’m betting a lot of you have kids, grandchildren, nieces or nephews, students, etc., who would be enchanted by these books.
INGA, ERST, and SAL clued as [Lab compound, to a chemist] were blah, but the POBOY was tasty. Favorite clue: 48a. [Where many grunts may be heard?], ARMY BASE.
3.9 stars from me.
Peter Gordon’s Fireball crossword, “Continental Breakfast” – Jenni’s write-up
The contents of this puzzle are unappetizing, and that’s deliberate.
Today’s theme involves breakfast dishes named after countries with ingredients that shouldn’t be there, by culinary standards.
- 20a [Ingredient in the bad chef’s French toast?] = DIJON MUSTARD.
- 32a [Ingredient in the bad chef’s Spanish omelet?] = VALENCIA ORANGES.
- 40a [Ingredient in the bad chef’s Belgian waffles?] = BRUSSELS SPROUTS
and a suggestion that the bad chef might be in the wrong field:
- 54a [Occupation that the bad chef might be better at?] = CARTOGRAPHER
And we get an extra serving of non-breakfast food at 61a with ONION RING [Side circle.]
This theme is not a brain buster; it’s consistent and amusing and I haven’t seen it before. I’ll take it. I won’t eat it, but I’ll take it.
A few other things:
- I’m surprised we don’t see AHAB more often, and I like the clue at 5a [‘Thus, I give up the spear!” are his last words.] Perhaps I’ll actually read Moby Dick someday.
- Connected crossings at 24a, [Bridge from a gate] JETWAY and 21a [Not ready for takeoff, say] AJAR.
- [Percussion instrument] at 32d is VIBES, which looks like a plural but isn’t. Sneaky.
- More culinary fun at 33d [Splash guard] for APRON.
- Obscure auto reference of the week: 52d [Toyota introduced in model year 2009] = VENZA.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that Jesse Owens was nicknamed the Buckeye Bullet. I learned that from Peter Gordon’s trademark long, convoluted clue for FLOJO at 3d [Olympic gold medalist in the 100m, 200m and 4x100m races 52 years after the Buckeye Bullet.]
Samuel A. Donaldson’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Altered States” — Jim’s review
This is more like it. The past couple of days have felt a little off, theme-wise, but this one’s right on target. We get all solid and consistent theme answers in which the theme has been uniformly applied. Certain American cities are followed by their two-letter state abbreviation, however they are clued as if that abbreviation meant something different.
- 17a [Way of doing things in the Gateway to the West?] ST LOUIS M.O. Modus operandi.
- 27a [Willamette Valley surgery site?] SALEM O.R. Operating room.
- 38a [Charm City physician?] BALTIMORE M.D. Doctor of Medicine.
- 51a [License checked in the Gem State’s capital?] BOISE I.D. Identification.
- 63a [Military boss in the Rockies?] BOULDER C.O. Commanding Officer.
Actually, though, this theme played much easier than the typical WSJ Thursday. I uncovered the first two almost simultaneously (it helped to have driven I-5 from CA to WA multiple times, so I recognized Willamette Valley). Then, with the rest of the grid empty, I was able to fill in all the other themers cold. That’s even forgetting which one is Charm City and which is the Gem State. (“Physician” led to MD, and “license” led to ID.)
Grid highlights: BALL CLUB, ROBOCOP, KING ME, TOURISTY, PRY APART.
Unfortunately, there seemed to be a lot of lowlights: I TOO and NOT I, KBS, plural PAHS (with a clue [Disgusted outbursts] that really felt like BAHS), ABT, ONEL, NAOH, and GSO. This latter at 23a stands for General Staff Officer and is a British military term according to Wikipedia. Yikes! KING ME is so not worth GSO. With only SALEMOR anchoring that corner, GSO could’ve been removed without too much trouble. Checking cruciverb.com, GSO appeared once in one major publication: the NYT…in 1999. Double yikes!
And this is in addition to other less-objectionable 3-letters ORA, OHO, OOH, ISO, TPS. In total, it all just felt like too much, like some general housekeeping needed to happen.
A few clues of note:
- 11d [Tesla’s rival] for EDISON. Obviously this is referring to Nikola Tesla himself, not the car company. Great misdirection!
- 21a [Present] for POSE. This simple clue could have multiple meanings. I enjoyed sussing this one out.
- 36a [Local order] for ALE. Regulars at a pub refer to the pub as their “local.”
Despite the weight of the kludgy fill, I enjoyed the theme and the overall puzzle. But it would’ve been much more satisfying without all the dreck (GSO).
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword – “Split Decision?” — Ben’s Review
With a title like “Split Decision?”, I was expecting the possibility that Brendan had written something playing with the form of a Split Decision puzzle, but it turned out to be something a little timelier:
- 17A: Have a purse? — OWN BAG
- 18A: Butt-shaped pushpins? — ASS TACKS
- 28A: Shooter who just grazes a narcotics agent? — DEA WINGER
- 36A: French dessert on fire? — MADELEINE ALIGHT
- 44A: Pooch-in-a-blender dish? — PUREED DOG
- 57A: Home filled with stomach-churning stuff? — ICK HOUSE
- 61A: Vote in the news…and an alternate title for this puzzle — BREXIT
Okay, now that we’ve all reviewed what BREXIT is and why it seems like a bad idea at best, let’s talk about how this crossword was definitely a good thing to do with that name. The transformations of BROWN BAG, BRASS TACKS, DEBRA WINGER, MADELEINE ALBRIGHT, PUREBRED DOG, and BRICK HOUSE into their puzzle counterparts were funny and clever. I particularly liked PUREED DOG (although I would not like any pureed dog, thank you) and MADELEINE ALIGHT (if only for the thought of Marcel Proust freaking out at that and writing another 7-volume novel about it).
- 6D: Israeli desert — NEGEV (I read this clue as “Israeli dessert” for a good chunk of the puzzle and was absolutely stumped.)
- 7D: Congresswoman Love — MIA (I questioned how well known she was, at least compared to other potential MIAs that could be in the puzzle, but she’s the first Haitian-American representative AND a Mormon)
- 21D: ___ Rocknroll (Kate Winslet’s husband) — NED (Does Kate Winslet know her husband’s name is ridiculous? Her husband’s name is ridiculous.)
- 26A: Flavored like some turkey stuffing — SAGY (I don’t like this entry – if we’re going to say something tastes like sage, it should be SAGEY)
- 30D: 2003 bomb imdb.com described as “The violent story about how a…” — GIGLI (I like a good bad movie, y’all, but I refuse to see Gigli because it sounds awful)
- 33A: Cross leters — INRI (I thought this needed a question mark at the end of the clue)
- 50D: “The Life of ___” — PABLO (The new Kanye West album! That’s still being tweaked on services like Tidal and Spotify)
- 68A: Beck’s album with a Komondor on the cover — ODELAY (See above for a Komondor. I am told there is a dog in there somewhere.)
I liked this one! Hopefully you did too.
John Lampkin’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up
Curious choice for a Thursday theme, which I suppose is why all the theme clues have the vague [Subject for a >job description<]. It’s a fun, offbeat theme, with a cute revealer: CURRENTEVENTS. Each of the three relates to a different sort of current – SUMMERBREEZE (air), SPRINGTIDE (water), POWERSURGE (electrical).
It’s a not a meaty theme, only 44 squares, so despite some fairly chunky looking corners, this grid is actually well-balanced in design. I found the top half difficult to get into, with many opaque clues. I quickly decided to move to the bottom and solved from the bottom up, finishing in the top-right.
Bits and pieces:
- [Cliched currency], REDCENT. One of those opaque clues. I don’t understand the function of “cliched” here.
- [Cone site], VOLCANO. Vague and misleading too… It’s Friday! Wait, Thursday.
- [Butterflies on ankles, say], TATTOOS. Pretty clue, though I don’t claim to understand the attraction of tattoos.
- [Gift of the gifted], TALENT. Odd clue. Would work with just [Gift].
- [Chowderhead], DITZ. I proudly dropped PUTZ off the Z…
- [He was on deck when Blake was up], CASEY. Another of the top’s opaque clues! I assume this is a Mudville ref?
- [The way things stand], ASITIS. Or maybe another term for piles?
Enjoyably minimalist puzzle.
4 Stars, Gareth
Brad Wilber’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Character Analysis” —Ade’s write-up
Good day, everybody! I hope you’re doing well today. We have Mr. Brad Wilber up at bat for today’s crossword, and the theme was an absolute beauty! In it, the four theme entries were clued as letters, with the answers, which are all common phrases, also intending to be literal interpretations of the letter featured in the clue. Definitely a home run!
- MIDDLE OF NOWHERE (16A: [H]) – I know this isn’t the area for sports, but seeing the clue instantly reminded me of the former college basketball player in the 1990s who played for UNLV and Saint Louis University, H Waldman. “H” is his given first name. Really. I’m not kidding.
- PHOTO FINISH (27A: [O])
- UNITED FRONT (47A: [U])
- CENTER OF GRAVITY (58A: [V])
Absolute fun puzzle to solve today, and I have to mention that my recent lessons in French bailed me out of trouble in the Northeast, with both CES (30A: [These, in Toulouse] and ETOILE stacked one on top of the other (26A: [Twinkler in a Port-au-Prince sky]). Those two entries made me much more confident in NOETIC, which I had heard before but was far from sure that I was getting that right (10D: [Involving mental exercise]). Going back to the French theme, typing AVOCET made me think of one of the latest words I’ve learned in French, avocat, which means lawyer in French (44D: [Long-legged shorebird]). Oh, and then there’s the French-sounding MOREAU as well, so there might very well be an underlying French theme going on if you allow yourself to go that far, which I guess I have done already (45D: [Demented doctor in an H.G. Wells title]). Isn’t ECRU French as well (56A: [Shade akin to beige])? At least there’s the Italian RENI to balance things a little (8D: [Painter of the Louvre’s “David With the Head of Goliath”]) All in all, this grid was tres magnifique!
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: BIONDI (6D: [Swimming sensation at the Seoul Olympics]) – In those 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea, the California Condor, Matt BIONDI, won a total of seven medals, including setting the world record in the 50-meter freestyle. Biondi also won gold medals in the 1984 and 1992 Olympic games, both as part of relay teams.
TGIF tomorrow, everyone! Or, as I saw in a picture recently, it’s SLIF tomorrow (Sorry Liver, It’s Friday)!