Brendan Emmett Quigley’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Okay, I cheated. I was staring at 19a. [Event where kids ask lots of questions, informally], TEEN J—, and wondering what sort of bogus TEEN JAMBOREE nonsense this was going to be, and read the clue to my husband, who nailed TEEN JEOPARDY in a trice. Great answer! So are JELL-O SHOT/JIGGLED, WRITHES, and NUNCHAKUS. I also like FLAGRANT FOUL … but I’m feeling like this grid overall has too many flagrant fouls. RIA, SOLI, plural DUCES, RUG-LIKE, ARE TOO, AGHA, STENOS, LESE, UTEP (although! UTEP has some newbie constructors interning with my company), AIR ACE, and AN I don’t feel worth it for the smattering of juicy entries and plenty of just ordinary stuff. I know Brendan reserves his zippiest material for his own site, where “this fill still needs to work in a puzzle book 20 years from now” is not a consideration (it is for the NYT), but I’m sometimes disappointed by the contrast between Brendan’s indie fun and what happens in the confines of the newspaper. And we do see plenty of zippy themelesses here too, so I just wanted more.
My son critiqued this one: 21d. [Some mixtapes]. RAP CDS. He assures me that people just download the mixtapes (this is a specific term in hip-hop, for a collection of songs that I think are typically from a single artist, vs. a random collection of songs you liked and recorded on a Maxell cassette back in the ’80s), and he’s never seen a RAP CD in his life. I mean, his Auntie Kristin is old-school and she’s certainly got a collection of hardcore rap CDs, but …
Three more things:
- 50a. [Frustrated cry], GAH. This is actually another thing I like a lot in this puzzle. I use this, both in writing and speech. Probably more in writing, truth be told. It captures what other 3-letter interjections don’t.
- 60a. [Resembling a heavy curtain, say], RUG-LIKE. Or! Resembling a carpet, say. I don’t see a lot of rug-like curtains. (Not that there’s really any way to clue this and make me like the answer.)
- 30a. [Home of Charlie Chan], OAHU. Maybe in another 20 years, we can move past this character as something crossword solvers are expected to be familiar with.
3.25 stars from me.
Patrick Blindauer’s website puzzle, August — “Star-Crossed Losers”
Best Picture-nominated-but-not-winning movies cross in this month’s grid:
17-A [Best Picture nominee that lost to “12 Years a Slave” (2013)] = NEBRASKA. Didn’t see it. Crosses 4-D [Best Picture nominee that lost to “The English Patient” (1996)] = FARGO. Saw it. Really good but more violent than necessary.
19-A [Best Picture nominee that lost to “Marty” (1955)] = PICNIC. Didn’t see it, never heard of it in fact. Looks fairly interesting. Crosses 9-D [Best Picture nominee that also lost to “The English Patient” (1996)] = SHINE. Didn’t see it.
40-A [Best Picture nominee that lost to “Schindler’s List” (1993)] = THE FUGITIVE. Seen it maybe 10 times. Awesome movie. Crosses 31-D [Best Picture nominee that lost to “The Silence of the Lambs” (1991)] = BUGSY. I think I saw it.
60-A [Best Picture nominee that lost to “My Fair Lady” (1964)] = BECKET. Haven’t seen it. Crosses 52-D [Best Picture nominee that lost to “The Departed,” with “The” (2006)] = QUEEN. Never saw it. Ding of .1 for dropping the “The” here but using it for “The Fugitive.”
63-A [Best Picture nominee that lost to “Braveheart” (1995)] = APOLLO 13. Saw it, remember liking it. Also dig the Hookian numerals here (note that the downs are (ONE)IL and (THREE) RS.)Crosses 57-D, [Best Picture nominee that lost to “Birdman” (2014)] = SELMA. Didn’t see it.
Notice the pattern? I haven’t seen any of the movies that came out pre-1985 (not born / too young) or post-2000 (attention span destroyed by internet).
Straightforward and amusing, though it seems a tad harsh to call these movies “losers” but it’s with a wink and a nod so all good. This puzzle is a semi-spoof on this July NYT puzzle, BTW.
Patrick puts more effort than most into his clues, so let’s highlight a few:
48-A [3-letter body part that isn’t arm, leg, lip, hip, gum, rib, toe, jaw, or 61-Down]. 61-D is EAR, so this must be EYE. “Name the ten three-letter body parts” is an old riddle, if you haven’t heard. Everyone forgets rib and gum, the way everyone forgets Bashful when trying to name the Seven Dwarfs.
35-D [Standing on the street?] = REP.
55-D [Cinnabon attraction] = AROMA. Mmm. Cinnabon.
UPDATED: I missed that there’s a meta to this! Notepad instructions read: “This puzzle’s final answer is a constellation.” The five squares where these total loser movies cross spell out RIGEL, which is the brightest star in meta answer ORION. Not random, since Orion was a well-known movie studio (“Dances With Wolves,” “Amadeus,” etc.) back in the day.
There’s always another layer in a Blindauer. Rating bumps from a 3.85 to a 4.25.
Gail Grabowski’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post Crossword, “Get Ready for Bed” —Ade’s write-up
Happy Friday, everybody! Hope you’re all doing well and have a good weekend in store. Today’s crossword, brought to us by Ms. Gail Grabowski, definitely didn’t make us feel somnolent even though it deals with beds. Each of the theme entries is a multiple-word entry in which the last word is also a type of bed or bedding setup.
- UP IN THE AIR (17A: [Undecided])
- A LOAD OF BUNK (30A: [Nonsense])
- EDDIE MURPHY (49A: [He starred with Jamie Foxx in “Dreamgirls”]) – Please tell me that someone on here has had a Murphy bed in their place or have seen it in someone else’s house before.
- BODY DOUBLE (65A: [Filmmaker’s stand-in])
That intersection of MAW (27A: [Gaping hole]) and MOIRE was pretty tough for me, hence why that was the last thing that went down before completion of the grid (27D: [Ripply fabric pattern]). This definitely was the first time that I ever came across CONSOMMÉ in a grid before, and I liked it a lot (56A: [Clear broth]). I once got berated by a couple of friends for never watching the movie Elf, so I have yet to see ASNER in action in that movie (69A: [Santa’s portrayer in “Elf”]). I think I haven’t watched because I’m not much of a fan of Will Ferrell in movies. Well, except for the first Ron Burgundy movie. That movie was funny. Not much else to say about today other than it was a fun, easy solve, which is never a bad thing to say about a puzzle.
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: UTICA (32D: [Mohawk Valley city]) – Did you know that the National Distance Running Hall of Fame, established in July of 1998, is located in UTICA, New York? I remember that was one of the first things I learned in my broadcast news writing journalism class, when my professor mentioned that there’s more than one sport’s hall of fame location in Central New York other than baseball (Cooperstown). Also, the International Boxing Hall of Fame is located in Canastota, NY.
Have a great weekend, everybody! See you tomorrow.
Arnold Katinsky’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Drawn and Quartered” — pannonica’s write-up
A theme subject we’ve seen before, most recently in Matt Gaffney’s final meta of this past May. Fairly certain there was at least one other instance, but haven’t had luck locating it.
So. Depictions gracing the reverses of the current batch of US 25¢ coins.
- 19a. [ALABAMA (minted 2003)] HELEN KELLER.
- 27a. [NEBRASKA (minted 2006)] CHIMNEY ROCK.
- 42a. [IOWA (minted 2004)] SCHOOLHOUSE.
- 53a. [NORTH CAROLINA (minted 2001)] FIRST FLIGHT.
Dunno why it’s those four states—just a workable combination of letter lengths? Dunno why the clues present them in ALL CAPS—editorial whim?
One minor inconsistency is that three of the four thematic phrases appear in the designs. The exception is the Iowa coin’s FOUNDATION IN EDUCATION. Incidentally, the majority of the series’ designs have a slogan or motto of some kind (described as either captions or banners with text). The exceptions are Maine, Arkansas, North Dakota, South Dakota, Oklahoma, and the territory of the Northern Marianas Islands.
Some commenters have already asserted that this crossword’s fill is esoteric and trivia-heavy. Reviewing it all, I can appreciate where they’re coming from, but my own experience was that enough crossings were fair to make the solve a bit challenging but not overwhelmingly daunting.
Non-thematic affairs of state: 13a [D-Day beach near Cherbourg] UTAH, 57a [Mascot of the Houston Texans] TORO, 2d [Surname of country-music brothers who sang “All the Gold in California”] GATLIN. Less directly: 21d [Grand Rapids-to-Ann Arbor dir.] ESE, 43d [accompaniment of many a Hilo hello] LEI. Still more remotely: 22a [Tasmania, e.g.: Abbr.] ISL.
- EAP twofer! 6d [Poe work declaring “These were days when my heart was volcanic”] ULALUME, 45d [Titular resurrected wife in a Poe story] LIGEIA.
- I’m going to pair those unusual names with 59a [Swiss city where Albert Einstein completed his secondary education] AARAU for the former, and for the latter 5d [Ornamental plant with tubular flowers] LOBELIA.
Interrupting the list to say that there are definitely a lot of people and place names, as well as a substantial helping of literary titles and quotations. But, hey, this is the CHE! It’s supposed to have that Higher Ed vibe.
- 1a [C. Everett Koop and others: Abbr.] SGS. Surgeonses Gerneralses. I certainly tried MDS first.
- 30a [Silent-film actresses Marsh and Murray] MAES. Wow, definitely didn’t know them.
- 28d [Abridgment on British bows] HMS. Can abridgment mean abbreviation? Can it apply to parts of words rather than whole words, or strings of words?
- 47a [Welsh equivalent of the given name “Jane”] SIÂN.
- 52a [12th-century London Bridge construction material] ELM. Interesting bit of, yes, trivia. Wonder if it’s in any way significant…? Hmm, not mentioned here. In fact, ‘elm’ isn’t mentioned at all in that entire Wikipedia page!
Here’s some information. “The bridge was actually built on nineteen piers in the river. Each pier was formed by driving a ring of elm piles into the riverbed, filling the area inside with rubble, and then laying a floor of oak beams over the result. Additional piles were driven in to surround the pier with a protective structure called a ‘starling’ or ‘sterling.'” And: “The bridge was possibly the strangest major bridge to be built in medieval times. It was completely asymmetrical. Of its twenty arches, no two were identical. Nobody knows why.” Lots more to read there.
- 61a [Punch or party follower] LINE. I liked this clue. Perhaps because there’s an additional resonance? One can follow a party LINE, and a punchLINE follows a joke’s set-up.
It’s already late afternoon, so I may as well wrap this up. Meh theme, a good deal of impressive vertical stacks (3×8 in the northeast and southwest, 3×7 in the center), some esoterica. All told I found it to be a decent CHE-worthy offering.
Jeffrey Wechsler’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s missing write-up
Today we get a clue reversal theme. The word taken from the dictionary today is [Slide]. On the plus side, all the answers are succinct and not strained, as they so often are. I use a light mike daily, so it’s in my vocab, I wonder though ow many laypeople are familiar with MOUNT as used in microscopy? Anyway a [Slide] is a MICROSCOPEMOUNT when it is mounted on the stage to be examined. A [Slide] is also a PLAYGROUNDCHUTE, a (baseball) RUNNERSMANEUVER, and a TROMBONESECTION. All meanings chosen are nouns.
- [Like the Godhead], TRIUNE. Very au courant in Evangelical circles, this word…
- [Org. for Sharapova and Kournikova], WTA. Yay for mention of WTA! I’d have gone with Kuznetsova if one wanted a 2nd Russian tennis -ova – at least she has singles Grand Slams, or Kvitova if one justed wanted the repeated “-ova” effect.
- [Base or case closer], MENT. Not a real suffix!
- [Video game hero with a kart], MARIO. Heh – makes it sounds like he has the kart for the main games as well…
- [Looked for a school, perhaps], SEINED. Deja vu!
- [Bank smartphone offering], ATMAPP. I and my expert puzzle consultant couldn’t find anything with this name in use. Not in the Google, not in the app store. There are apps that find ATMs for you, but that’s hardly a notable and specific app!
- [Many a recent refugee], SYRIAN. A clue designed delightfully to rustle a few jimmies that need a good rustling.
- [Fair game], RINGTOSS. Best clue and answer in the puzzle!
- [Usually single-stranded molecule], RNA. If you were wondering about the qualifier… https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RNA#Double-stranded_RNA
NYT: I resisted RUG-LIKE with all my might, especially with that clue. That answer was dodgy and that curtained room felt stifling. I’d need a bunch of jiggly Jell-O shots to survive it. That part was fun.
We had fun with this one. Yes, there were some ugh moments, like CTA and AIR ACE, but they were in short supply. We loved EXPORT TAX / XANADU, TEEN JEOPARDY / JELLO SHOT, and JUDO MAT / DOJO. Can’t say I’ve seen that many Js in a puzzle before. I happened to know NUNCHAKUS as an alternative to … well, however you want to spell that word (nunchuck, or numchucks), but I figured I’d be in the majority there; my wife didn’t know it.
Fun puzzle. And now I’ll check out Brendan’s website to see what his even better puzzles are like.
NYT has so much good stuff but the triple cross of LUPE/EPHESUS/NUNCHAKUS is a major fail IMO.
CHE is one of the worst p̶u̶z̶z̶l̶e̶s̶ esoteric trivia quizzes I’ve ever seen IMO.
Regarding CHE: I couldn’t agree more. All I managed was a mere toehold before I gave up.
CHE write-up forthcoming, but I don’t recall it being particularly onerous.
I thought it was ok except where LOBELIA/ULALUME/MERLINS crossed IOLE and MAES. I finished thinking “wow I bet a lot of people really hated this section” and came here to confirm…
I rarely disappoint. :)
“…my own experience was that enough crossings were fair to make the solve a bit challenging but not overwhelmingly daunting.”
Well, I’d love to experience your experience because it’s clearly very exclusive.
Chacun à son goût.
Neither German nor germane.
Any particular reason for evoking German, or merely to enable a bit of consonance?
I try not to be an enabler but sometimes I can’t help myself.
Not convinced that self-enabling is “enabling”.
I wonder if it might make sense to put Blindauer in its own post like the only other monthly reviewed here AFAIK (Muller). Unlike other puzzles which fit into my weekly rhythm, I often only remember it’s time to do the puzzle when I accidentally scroll past its answer grid.
The symmetry of the Blindauer offering is spectacular. And then on top of that, the five crossing letters spell out the star’s name… wow. I mean, like, wow. Granted there’s a lot of theme-entry fodder in a list of Best Picture nonwinners, but still. Absolutely gorgeous work.
So where is the LAT?????
I have been away from home and PC since Wednesday; I made contingency plans to get the blogs posted, but obviously they weren’t concrete enough.
Joan and all, we apologize for dropping the ball. Gareth pulled his weight and we all forgot to publish his reviews!
Re: Blindauer. Wait, is no one going to mention what I thought was the cleverest aspect of the construction? The titles of the intersecting movies all have something in common: NEBRASKA and FARGO (American place names); THE FUGITIVE and BUGSY (criminals); QUEEN and BECKET (British history figures); APOLLO 13 and SELMA (American history); and (my favorite) PICNIC and SHINE! Throw in the symmetry of the entries and the fact that they all have to intersect at a shared letter, and you actually have an outrageously intricate construction… and that’s before you even get to the meta!
Always another level to a Blindauer puzzle, indeed!