Gordon Johnson’s New York Times crossword—Erin’s write-up
Today’s theme is actors who were couples in real life and on screen:
- 22a. [11-Down’s partner in life and in “To Have and Have Not”] Lauren BACALL, crossing Humphrey BOGART
- 23a. [5-Down’s partner in life and in “The Taming of the Shrew”] Elizabeth TAYLOR, crossing Richard BURTON
- 51a. [47-Down’s partner in life and in “Bugsy”] Annette BENING, crossing Warren BEATTY
- 57a. [54-Down’s partner in life and in “Mr. and Mrs. Smith”] Angelina JOLIE, crossing Brad PITT
- 34a, [Relationship doomed from the start … or something found in this puzzle four times?] STAR-CROSSED LOVE
Clever theme, with four almost symmetrically-placed pairs of movie stars crossing each other. I feel like the pairs are all pretty famous and from different eras, creating a nice mix. STAR-CROSSED LOVE threw me, though, as I got the idea fairly quickly and started to enter STAR-CROSSED LOVERS before realizing it did not fit in the grid. The phrase used in the grid is one I have not heard, and it produces about 1/10 the Google hits as the latter. It leaves me wishing the revealer added another layer of greatness to this original-feeling theme, instead of detracting a little from a solid theme concept. Overall, though, I find the entire concept pleasing.
The fill is pretty solid, too, considering the constraints from the crossing entries and revealer. I’m not in love with partials like A BITE and A RUN, and ENSOUL is a little strange, but not bad. Lots of FOOD entries, including OREO, KEBAB, and WASABI (I probably would not try combining the three for a meal). The SW corner was particularly interesting, with the longer spelling of DEEJAY coupled with AEROBE and MOULIN Rouge.
I leave you with Nat King Cole, the original recording artist behind “Nature Boy.” The song was performed by several actors and artists in the 2001 film MOULIN Rouge! and its soundtrack. Now I’m going to go sing a bunch of songs from the film to myself. Until next time!
John Lieb’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “The Big Chill” — Jim’s review
John Lieb is giving us the cold shoulder today as evidenced by 67a: [Succinct version of the combined final words of the starred answers], i.e. NEVER!
- 17a. [*A long time ago] WAY BACK WHEN. There probably aren’t many phrases that end in “WHEN“, so this is a good find.
- 28a. [*Metaphorical location of a stalled film project] DEVELOPMENT HELL. Really nice, modern grid-spanner, this.
- 44a. [*Belt-tightening measures] SPENDING FREEZES. Interesting. A plural noun becomes a singular verb.
- 58a. [*”Chew on that”] THINK IT OVER. Not quite the same to my ear. “Chew on that” sounds insubordinate whereas THINK IT OVER is more genteel.
Solid theme. I wonder if puzzle constructors are running out of four-word phrases that don’t include “the,” though.
On the non-theme front, we get a healthy handful of interesting 7s and 8s: ON A ROLL, JOHN DOES, BEECH-NUT, EMBARGO, MEGATON, and ERNESTO which I’ve seen more than once with a Che Guevara clue. Here it’s [One of the auto-making Maserati brothers]. Plus, we get TEJANO and BO-PEEP who gets a denigrating clue: [Careless shepherdess]. How do we know she was careless? Maybe something happened. Maybe there were extenuating circumstances. Maybe the sheep willfully ran away.
There are a few less enjoyable entries like DAS, ETH, ALAI, RANI, HALER and ODILE, but nothing egregious.
We also get a few challenging names: [Poet Marianne] is MOORE, [Pianist Rubinstein] is ARTUR, [Cartoonist Chast] is ROZ, [Jonathan of “Star Trek: The Next Generation”] is FRAKES, and the aforementioned ERNESTO Maserati. But all the crossings are fair, so none of them posed much of a problem.
In the end, this is a well-built puzzle with a solid theme and plenty of interesting fill.
Francis Heaney’s AVCX crossword, “Celebrity Jeopardy!” — Ben’s Review
After last week’s contest puzzle from BEQ (where getting the final meta took about a day of letting things process in the back of my mind), it was nice to have a straightforward theme in this week’s AVCX puzzle from Francis Heaney. This week’s theme entries get us some apt answers from a theoretical Celebrity Jeopardy! week:
- 20A: “Pick a category, Jerry Seinfeld.” “Games for $200, Alex” “Five cards per player, in draw poker.” “___?” — WHAT IS THE DEAL
- 27A: “Felix Buxton, I don’t actually know who you are.” “I’m in Basement Jaxx, and I’ll take Anatomy for $400.” “On top of the cervical vertebrae.” “___?” — WHERE’S YOUR HEAD AT
- 47A: “Pick a category, Winona Ryder.” “Dungeons & Dragons for $600, please.” “The amount by which hit points are reduced.” “___?” — WHAT IS YOUR DAMAGE
- 55A: “We’re back, and Enrico Colanoni of ‘Veronica Mars’ is in control.” “Let’s try All in the Family for $400.” “George Trebek.” “___?” — WHO’S YOUR DADDY
Your enjoyment of the puzzle may be dependent on your pop culture IQ here, but I loved it. Scanning through the clues on my first pass through the acrosses, I caught Jerry Seinfeld and Winona Ryder’s names and knew exactly what was going on. The exact phrasing of things tripped me up a little while solving. Jerry and Winona both had the WHAT’S from their original quotations (“What’s the deal…”, “What’s your damage…”) expanded to the traditional Jeopardy! WHAT IS, so I went into the other two clues expecting the same. That ended up not being the case.
Other solve notes:
- 15A: “how to erase ___ history” (tweet from @RikerGoogling) — HOLODECK (This got a solid chuckle out of me.)
- 46A: Show featuring commentary from Drunk Uncle, for short — SNL (It’s only right to have SNL show up in a Celebrity Jeopardy! crossword. BTW, Weekend Update is doing a few special RNC/DNC convention episodes tonight and next Wednesday on MSNBC at Midnight, if you’re into that sort of thing.)
- 60A: Filmmakers with distinctive styles — AUTEURS (Wes Anderson comes to mind when I think of modern auteurs. His movies feel very composed, and I mean that in a good way.)
- 68A: ___ lily (Utah’s state flower) — SEGO (I just got back from a trip to Salt Lake City a few weeks ago where I saw a bunch of these, so my brain seemed uniquely primed to answer this clue when it popped up today)
- 9D: Hath an orgasm — COMETH (Ew.)
- 38D: Stretchers may pass through them — ICU DOORS (I knew this was somehow hospital related, but it took me a few passes to resolve I?UDO?RS into two words rather than one)
- 51D: Certain NYC public transit vehicles — MTA BUS (This in combination with 54A’s INT almost Naticked me – I was trying to figure out if there was some sort of nickname for ferries when I realized M?A??S was probably pointing to MTA ___)
Theme clue consistency aside, I really liked this puzzle. Nicely done, Francis!
Janice Luttrell’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary
It’s a “words that follow” theme today; this one is running vertically to fit the HIGH of the revealer, HIGHEND. It’s pretty basic as a theme, but the entries are colourful: (HIGH-ROLLER)DERBY, (HIGH ROAD)RUNNER, (HIGH JUMP)THE GUN and (HIGH HORSE)COLLAR. A HIGH COLLAR is also a thing, which I guess might be a small demerit, but whatever…
The grid design is very closed off, with several distinct sections. It also facilitates the big across pairs of LOWBUDGET/CREAMSODA and ROBINCOOK/STATESIDE.
Bits and bobs:
- [“You Be ___”: 1986 Run-DMC hit], ILLIN. US #29 is stretching the definition of “hit”.
- [Dr. Brown’s classic drink], CREAMSODA. I assume this isn’t the dude from BTTF. Seems to be a brand of soft drink. Is it true your CREAMSODA isn’t all dyed bright green?
- [Prefix for “time”], CHRONO. Waiting for a CHRONO TRIGGER clue!
- [Only fair], SOSO. New clue to me, though in the database five times.
- [Neruda wrote one to salt], ODE... amongst other strange dedications!
Oh, here’s Bo Diddley:
Gail Grabowski’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Fused with Flavoring” —Ade’s write-up
Good day, everybody! Hope you’re all doing well on this hump day as the end of July rapidly approaches! Today’s crossword, brought to us by Ms. Gail Grabowski, adds the flavor, as each of the first four theme entries include the consecutive letters “HERB,” spanning two different words (59A: [Aromatic additive found within this puzzle’s four longest answers]).
- LEATHER BELT (18A: [Men’s department accessory])
- WEATHER BALLOON (28A: [Airborne data-gathering device])
- TEACHER BURNOUT (45A: [Why some educators leave the profession])
- BLEACHER BUM (60A: [Ardent grandstand baseball fan])
Hmm…should we have YO HO in a grid if we can’t throw in that extra “ho” in it (41A: [Pirate’s syllables])? Not sure about that. I might have heard of EAMES before, but probably only because I came across it in another grid in the past (36A: [Chair designer Charles]). Initially put in “u-boat” instead of E-BOAT, and that slowed me up for a little while in figuring out “weather balloon” (29D: [WWI vessel]). Hey, who hasn’t mixed up their submarines and torpedo boats at least once in a lifetime?! Also got tripped up when putting in “goad” instead of COAX, as I was able to fill in the middle letters in that entry first…but then went with the wrong word (39A: [Persuade gently]). Wait, there’s a few more screw-ups that I had in filling in entries initially. More than probably ever before in a non-Klahn puzzle. Also put in “layup” for TAP IN (16A: [Easy two-pointer]) and “expels” for EXILES (19D: [Banishes]). Whew! Just noticed the presence of both ABBY (50D: [Noted advisor with a column]) and ABBEY, which isn’t anything I’m sweating about too much (35A: [Monk’s home]). Alright, I think I was on point with every other entry while solving. Maybe.
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: BEARD (64A: [Charles Darwin wore one]) – Current WNBA player Alana BEARD is a guard/forward who plays for the Los Angeles Sparks. While at Duke University, Beard became the first player in NCAA women’s basketball history to record at least 2,600 points, 500 assists and 400 steals. In her professional career, Beard has been named a WNBA All-Star four times and was an All-WNBA second team selection in 2006 as a member of the Washington Mystics.
Thank you so much for the time, and I’ll see you all tomorrow.
NYT: I really like the theme. I think it might have been better if the revealer were shortened to “STAR CROSSED” and clued with “Lovers” in the clue itself.
I was on a long flight once with Annette BENING sitting across the aisle from me. She seemed like such a lovely and nice person, completely natural, understated and friendly to the staff without being affected in any way. She was reading/working on something quite intensely the entire time. It was refreshing not to see that odd, overly preserved look of plastic surgery. She felt like the kind of person you’d trust and like to have as a friend.
The fact that STARCROSSEDLOVE is not really a standalone phrase is the first thing I thought of when I filled it in. It is also mentioned here, at Rex Parker’s blog, and by Jeff Chen at XWordInfo. It is an obvious weakness to an otherwise well-done, clever puzzle and probably should have been fixed before publication.
I thought of going 16 x 15 and using STARCROSSEDLOVER, but I think your idea of just STARCROSSED with “lovers” in the clue is even better. I wish something would have been done, as it’s a big letdown to have the big reveal be something so iffy.
Erin, you liked this one a lot better than I did. I’ve never heard of “add-ins” as a computer term (ice cream, yes. Computers, no.) “Open fire” for [Order to a gun crew] doesn’t pass the breakfast test for me at all. Ugh. But mostly “star-crossed love” is just not a thing, and it’s a central part of the theme. Ick.
The AVCX, on the other hand, was brilliant, funny and a lovely antidote. I’ll be giggling about 9D all day, and not explaining that to anyone at work.
Jenni, I forgot about OPEN FIRE while I was filling in the grid because my memory is currently next to nothing. The juxtaposition with VENGEFUL is pretty bad.
Overall, I’m trying to keep my crankiness in check as much as possible, because I’m pretty darn cranky at this point. :-)
Agree totally with Jenni about the NYT crossword. The AVCX I did not work.
Hey, I’ll have you know I watched the opening scene from Heathers to confirm that “What is your damage” was correct.
came here to point this out, was overjoyed to see you’d already said it.
great movie, great crossword.
AVCX fell short IMO. No one says “What is the deal?” It’s “What’s the deal” [or “What’s the big deal?”]. And “What is your damage?” What? Who says that? “What’s the damage?” or “What are the damages?” are the only colloquial phrases I’ve heard that come close. And, you can’t have two of the themers with an ‘s rather than “is” and two not. It was an interesting stab at a theme, despite the very convoluted clues, but … no … it didn’t work for me.
They’re not colloquial phrases, but quotations. Not recognizing the quotations would, indeed, hinder one’s enjoyment of the puzzle, but so it goes.
WSJ – I looked at “chew on that” more from the pensive sense than as a command. For example, “Let me chew on that” is comparable to “Let me think it over.” From that perspective it seemed like a good clue and answer.
Regarding 40-Down in “Celebrity Jeopardy,” direct flights are not necessarily nonstop flights. But, overall, a fun puzzle, as to be expected from FH.
Totally did not understand AVX. Nada. Not hard but don’t get it.
You are not alone…
Loved the theme concept of the AVX, but the execution not so much. It’s good that the Seinfeld clue was the first one, because that was a familiar reference and got a big laugh from me. That set my hopes high for the rest of the theme entries, but unfortunately the pop culture references in the remaining themers were far too esoteric to work.
Re the LAT 65A: am I the only one to think of Hawaii as a state? Of course, I do live there. We tend to refer to California as “the Mainland”, or sometimes, “Big America”. I think the term “Stateside” is primarily a military usage, and only in foreign countries.