Jules Markey’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
It’s not Talk Like a Pirate Day till the fall, but Jules brings us a TREASURE MAP/pirate theme with three themers that start with things that sound like “X marks the spot” plus two themers relating to pirates.
- 17a. [Retroactively, at law], EX POST FACTO. This is the “X” in our phrase.
- 29a. [Red giants], MARX AND LENIN. Contrived phrase, but it gets us “marks” sound-alike MARX. (Clue seems awfully tricky for a Tuesday theme answer, no?)
- 44a. [How Ivan the Terrible ruled], DESPOTICALLY. We don’t get a lot of 12-letter adverbs as theme answers. This starts with something that sort of sounds like “the spot.”
- 59a. [Pirate’s guide that’s hinted at phonetically by the starts of 17-, 29- and 44-Across], TREASURE MAP.
- 11d. [Pirate], BUCCANEER.
- 35d. [Pirate, informally], OLD SEA DOG. This … is not so commonly used.
- 67a. [Pirate’s interjection], ARRR. Meh.
I’d have preferred a cleaner theme without the two Down pirate synonyms and ARRR, which distract from the primary theme action. The fill could be more assertively Tuesday-easy with four themers instead of seven, too.
Favorite fill: The double-A NAAN, EARVIN “Magic” Johnson, a car ON EMPTY (that reminds me … I need to fill up the tank), Carl REINER, A-LISTERS, and the delicious GROVEL. Fill that didn’t do much for me: UKE, IRENA (tough for a Tuesday), plural ATS, SPELT, ROUE, ANON, RDA (Can you find this abbreviation on a food label now? If so, please show me. Expired food from the back of your cabinet doesn’t count), and UNS.
3.4 stars from me.
Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle (Week 266), “Trivial Pursuit”—Janie’s review
Playing on the meaning of “trivial,” today’s theme set gives us four two-word phrases or names in which PART ONE is a synonym for this word. Such a straight-forward theme (with its straight-forward clues) may feel like a bit of a letdown after the fireworks of the Fourth of July, but … the themers cover a nice range of fields and the quality of the remainder of the fill definitely gives the solve some added “oomph.” With only four themers, Liz has made great use of the opportunity to populate the grid with many longer, livelier entries. First things first:
- 17A. BANTAM BOOKS [Random House imprint].
- 27A. TINY ALICE [Edward Albee three-act play]. With six 1965 Tony noms and a Best Actress in a Play win for Irene Worth.
- 51A. PETTY CASH [Fund for minor expenses].
- 64A. PEEWEE REESE [Brooklyn Dodgers legend]. Enjoyed this one especially in combo with the nearby BERRA [Most quoted Yankee] pairing.
BANTAM, TINY, PETTY, PEEWEE—a perfectly fine set o’ synonyms. Taking things up a notch, though, say “how-do” to that colorful CAT’S EYE marble, to the almost onomatopoetic SCREEDS (clued with the noun [Harangues] and not the verb), to the expansive ARABIAN SEA and to the web-based (and fabulous) portmanteau NETIQUETTE—something a web-troll definitely lacks, turning that person into a BOOR.
KABUKI, CRYPTS and MYSTIC are also first-rate (each with its “K” or “hard C” sound [is this why I also like KILIM and CUTIE so much?]); and MAIL OUT [Send via the post], DUST PAN and the previously mentioned PART ONE ain’t too shabby neither. I don’t RESENT either AVEENO or TB TEST, though that last one does strike me as clinical and more functional than fun…
More fun is acknowledging the nod to the Eastern Hemisphere with the evocative likes of KILIM [Turkish rug], RAND [Cape Town cash], ARABIAN SEA [Expanse between Oman and India], ASIA [Silk Road locale], TET [Vietnamese holiday], TIBET [Lhasa’s land], EMP. [Hirohito for one (Abbr.)] and KABUKI [Japanese drama form].
Fave clues? The visual/aural [Swamp snappers] for CROCS, the rhyming [Crude dude] for BOOR and the unexpected combo of [Knish seller] and DELI (because I also think of it as street food…).
And that’s about all I have to say today—“NO MAS!” Well, “NO MAS” besides the reminder to keep solving and come back again next week. Til then, folks: “TA-TA!”
Mae Woodard’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Making Waves” — Jim’s review
I’m back from my holiday in Malta. Thanks to those who filled in for me. If you happened to be jealous of me scuba diving in the Mediterranean Sea, don’t worry; I’ll get mine. The next two months promise to be grueling as we pack up our belongings and move across an ocean and a continent from the UK to Tacoma, as well as find a new home to live in and new schools for the kids, start new jobs, get the oldest off to college for the first time, etc, etc. Such is military life.
But on to the puzzle! It’s a fine one on this Tuesday after the 4th of July. We have a second puzzle from Mae Woodard (the first was about a month ago) which I believe to be another pseudonym for editor Mike Shenk.
- 17a. [*Headmaster of Hogwarts] DUMBLEDORE
- 21a. [*Score keeper?] CONDUCTOR
- 37a. [*One offering travelers’ checks?] AIRPORT SCREENER
- 56a. [*It may give you a fortune] TAROT DECK
- 60a. [*Pan accompanier] TINKERBELL
- 68a. [What all of the answers to the starred clues have] WANDS
Hand up if you put AMERICAN EXPRESS in at 37a. I totally missed the ? in the clue, and because my answer fit in that grid-spanning space, I was mildly shocked when it turned out to be wrong. (You can put your hand down now.)
Minor demerit for DUMBLEDORE and TINKERBELL both using their wands for magic, but that’s about the only problem I could find with the theme, or in fact, the whole puzzle. It’s beautifully constructed.
I don’t know much about tarot, but apparently WANDS is one of the four suits (along with Pentacles, Cups, and Swords). Did you know that tarot cards have been used for innocuous trick-taking games in Italy, France, and Germany since the 1400s? It wasn’t until much later that they became used for divination purposes.
Aside from the theme, ARGONAUTS just gets edged out as my favorite entry by SIMOLEONS. Lovely stuff. REGATTAS is good also, as is ONE UNDER. We even get a mini-theme in the Downs at the bottom of the grid. If you POKE a hole in your SOCKED, you might have to DARN IT.
The rest of the puzzle is clean, clean, clean. We get a couple partials (IT ON and AS A) and a roll-your-own UNITER, but really, nothing questionable at all. The only thing that threw me was 6d‘s clue [Lay low]. “Lay” here is the past tense of “lie,” so the answer is the past tense HID OUT, not HIDE OUT as I was trying to force in there.
Simple theme but professionally constructed. Good puzzle.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “They Took Their Vitamins” – Derek’s write-up
Had so much fun solving this I forgot there is actually a theme! The starred clues all have something in common; the blurb states that “all six are represented,” so we must be mentioning all of the vitamins that are named by letter! Here are the starred entries:
- 16A [“Do the Right Thing” actress] RUBY DEE
- 17A [Singer/percussionist who collaborated with Prince on “Purple Rain”] SHEILA E.
- 35A [“Full Frontal” host] SAMANTHA BEE – Who??
- 57A [Arsenio Hall’s rapper alter ego with the song “Owwww!”] CHUNKY A – I remember this, though!
- 59A [Two-time Grammy winner for Best Comedy Album] LOUIS C.K. – Thinking of purchasing Horace and Pete!
So all of the vitamins A, B, C, D, E, and K are all represented phonetically. I won’t quibble that some are spelled out and some are not. Still a clever construction. And as mentioned: the grid appears to be a themeless! Maybe it felt that way to me because I solve so many of those! Always enjoyable when the theme sneaks up on you. And in a 72-worder? Even better! 4.5 stars!
A few notes:
- 51A [LPGA star ___ Pak] SE RI – There was a host of Asian golfers at the Women’s PGA Championship I was watching a few weeks ago! Koreans seem to dominate. That particular tournament was won by Brooke Henderson – a Canadian! An interesting thing to note: to date, only one American has won a women’s LPGA tournament this year! Except for the aforementioned Canuck, all were won by women from the other side of the Pacific. Your sports rant for today!
- 3D [Internet enthusiasts, in 1990s slang] WEBHEADS – If this weren’t plural, the clue could have referenced a nickname given to Spiderman!
- 8D [Reacted with pleasure] AAHED – I will be doing this when I retire from UPS in a few months!
- 42D [Message on a dirty vehicle] WASH ME – Sadly, this appears on UPS vehicles all the time! They used to, with great pride, wash their cars DAILY. Obviously, not anymore!
- 45D [Cover in the kitchen] POT LID – Who calls a “lid” a POT LID? Must be just me! My wife says its good. Remember: we live in Indiana!
- 47D [Hammer mate, in old flags] SICKLE – The “hammer & sickle” symbol is quite well known; it is easy to forget that that flag doesn’t exist anymore! (Former USSR had this on their flag!)
- 53D [R&B singer with the five-album project “Stadium”] AKON – Nice piece of trivia. I’ve heard of him, but usually from him appearing on other artists songs!
Hope everyone enjoyed the long weekend!
Janice Luttrell’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
I am not a cook, so this theme was not readily evident. I DO however, watch the Food Network all the time, so I got it! All of the theme entries describe something you could do, say, a potato, but in the theme entry it means something totally different. Let me show you:
- 20A [Martial arts wood-breaking move] KARATE CHOP
- 53A [Shady advantage for a craps shooter] LOADED DICE
- 10D [Fail to advance to a subsequent round] MISS THE CUT
- 29D [Six-faced puzzle] RUBIK’S CUBE
Yes, I am getting hungry! Nice puzzle for a Tuesday. 3.8 stars. Just a couple of comments:
- 1A [Like a three-dollar bill] BOGUS – Don’t say this too loud; President Trump may enact legislation to create one!
- 44A [Language of ancient Carthage] PUNIC – I remember the Punic Wars from school; I didn’t realize this was a language spoken!
- 6D [Pasta cook’s potful] SAUCE – No tie-in with 60A [Prego rival] RAGU? Seems like it could have easily been done.
- 28D [Tablet with a Smart Keyboard attachment] IPAD – I don’t have one of these. Still using my thumbs!
- 50D [Popeye’s creator] SEGAR – E. C. Segar, to be exact. As familiar as I am with Popeye, I don’t believe I have ever heard of this man. Nice trivia!
Enjoy your week!
Gail Grabowski’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Down in Front” —Ade’s write-up
Hello everyone! Hope you’re doing well on the day after your activity-filled Fourth! Today’s crossword, brought to us by Ms. Gail Grabowski, can be described as being “down for the cause,” as each of the theme answers starts with a word that can also come after the word “down.”
- CAST MEMBER (17A: [Comrade at a curtain call])
- HILL OF BEANS (28A: [Something of negligible importance])
- PLAY FOR TIME (43A: [Use delaying tactics])
- FALL ASLEEP (58A: [Drop off])
Am I the only person I know that not only prefers unsalted SALTINES, but devours them like there’s no tomorrow (53A: [Restaurant freebies, often])?!? It’s probably because those were the first type of saltines I ever had when I was a kid, and I just got used to having crackers without salted tops. I know, I’m a weirdo! Speaking of being a weirdo, seeing NEPAL made me think of the Eddie Murphy movie The Golden Child, a movie I’ve seen way more times than I really should have seen it (26D: [Himalayan nation]). Say it with me now: “N-E-P-A-L! Viva Nepal!” (Honestly, that movie was sooooo bad, even with Eddie Murphy still at the top of his game at the time.)
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: POMMEL (6D: [Saddle feature]) – In just one month, those who are fans of men’s gymnastics will love seeing the POMMEL horse event at the Rio Olympics. It’s believed that the pommel was created more than 20 centuries ago as a way for soldiers, including Alexander the Great, to practice mounting and dismounting from horses quickly. Not bad to be using a piece of equipment that is supposedly the same that Alexander the Great used at one point.
See you at the top of the hump on Wednesday!
NYT: Points for originality and DESPOT standing in for The Spot. Very silly, in a good way!
I thought ENEMY, GROVEL and OMEN added to the atmosphere. And that mixed pirate/Russian vibe is interesting! Are there any famous Russian pirates?
Wow, I just looked it up: The Ushkuiniks!!! When they get annoyed, they demand apologies or else! Can’t you just hear it? ARRRR with a Russian accent! We need to see them in a puzzle!
The more I looked at it, the more it grew on me…
There was a Russian/Polish pirate named Maurycy Beniowski for whom the island of Mauritius was named. Poland was divided into three parts at one time, one of which was Russian. I find it interesting that many of the very famous pirates such as Blackbeard (Edward Teach) had fairly short careers and that those who survived for any length usually did so because they were offered and accepted amnesty.
I liked today’s puzzle a lot.
Yeah, I imagine being a famous pirate has a short shelf life…
I don’t usually care for pun themes but this one’s so contrived and clunky that I liked it, especially with the equally groan-worthy YOLKS clue as a bonus.
I don’t think of OLD SEA DOG as having any particular piratical connection — it refers to any wizened old fellow who has spent his life at sea.
NYT puzzle really tickled me. One of my favorites in the last while.
Fun NYT puzzle. My only quibble was Joe as a clue for Mud. Mud is bad coffee, but Joe is slang for any coffee.