Mark McClain’s New York Times crossword—Jenni’s write-up
I really liked this puzzle. I figured out the theme about halfway through. Even though I didn’t need the revealer, I still enjoyed it. Very smooth and well-pitched for a Wednesday and still fun.
We have five answers that appear to have been censored.
- 20a [M####] = EXCHANGES
- 10d [T####] = PASTRIES
- 11d [P####] = MOVIE ROLES. That’s where I figured out that the #### stood for ARTS, which makes 20a [Marts,] 10d [Tarts,] and 11d [Parts.] The first aha moment.
- 28d [D####] = PUB PASTIME (darts)
- 51a[ W####] = BLEMISHES (warts)
And the revealer at 38d [What sorcerers practice … or a hint to interpreting five clues in this puzzle] = DARK ARTS and the second aha moment. Fresh, accessible, solid. Nicely done.
Not a lot of crosswordese to get in the way of the fun, either. MAJ and ANNO and OHM, and I’m OK with those.
A few other things:
- 29a [Like much of Montana] = SEMI-ARID. If you think of lush mountains and lakes when you think of Montana, this will confuse you. Travel a bit east in the state and it looks completely different.
- A bit of an MOT vibe with 13 d [Seder celebrants] and 34d [Holy text] without cross-referencing JEWS and TORAH.
- The Froot Loops TOUCAN makes an appearance at 61a. I would still eat Froot Loops straight from the box if I weren’t a grown-up. And if we had any in the house.
- 53a [Hangover feeling] is HAZE. Purple haze? Or is that only if you get hungover doing grape Jell-O shots?
- I liked TOEHOLD at 4d.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that EDSELS were introduced on “E Day.”
Alice Long’s (Mike Shenk’s) Wall Street Journal crossword, “Network Premieres” — Jim’s review
Descriptions of fictional TV shows actually identify the starting letters of the answer phrases.
- 17a [“Ruthless real estate agents compete, tonight on ABC”?] ALWAYS BE CLOSING
- 26a [“Who has what it takes to be a swabbie, tonight on NBC”?] NAVY BOOT CAMP
- 45a [“Store owners vie for return shoppers, tonight on CBS”?] COME BACK SOON
- 58a [“Legal eagles help the poor, tonight on PBS”?] PRO BONO SERVICES
Cute theme if maybe a bit forced (PRO BONO SERVICES just isn’t as strong as the others). It certainly did its job in helping me nail down some of the entries after I’d figured out what was going on.
Apart from the theme I like GOING AWOL (especially as it’s crossing NAVY BOOT CAMP) and “SEEMS TO ME…” Also, “STOP IT!,” IN LABOR, LAYAWAY, BAD KNEE, HOWEVER, and BACONY.
I really struggled in the NW with the proper names at 14a [Massey of the Marx Brothers movie “Love Happy”] (ILONA) crossing 3d [Oscar-winning screenwriter Robert] (TOWNE). Seems a tad unfair to me. Combined with the unexpected FIATS [Arbitrary orders] and the harder-than-usual clue for TAN [Camel’s kin] meant this corner was last to fall. Is that a duplication I see between TOWNE and TOWN CAR? I guess that explains the proper name clue for TOWNE.
Plus there’s some dreck in OSS, ILER, EEE, and WOOER. And I don’t think I’ve ever heard the phrase IN A MESS (60d, [With 29-Down, jumbled]). I’ve heard of “in a pile” or “in a heap,” but not IN A MESS.
Clues of note:
- Nice bit of trivia at 27d. [Singer whose last name is Gumundsdottir] is BJÖRK. Didn’t have any crossings nor any knowledge of this fact, but I guessed correctly. What a great surname! She should use that as her stage name! Seems to me that I saw a similar surname while watching the Olympics. Ah yes, Iceland has several “dottirs” in the Track & Field and swimming events.
- 31a. [Lamb pieces] is ESSAYS. That’s English writer Charles Lamb.
- Fave clue is [Pen knives?] for SHIVS. Also good: [Lamb tenders] for EWES. The clue conjures up what would probably be a flop of a McDonald’s offering.
Overall, a solid puzzle with some good fill but also a few rough spots.
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s AVCX crossword, “Clue Me In” — Ben’s Review
Hope you’re having a good Wednesday, everyone! I had a blast at last weekend’s Lollapuzzoola 9, including getting a chance to talk with BEQ beforehand about all the various indie rock stuff we’ve been listening to in the past few weeks.
Filling in today’s AVCX was as easy as its 2.5/5 difficulty rating suggested it might be, but cracking the theme almost required me to heed the title and get clued in by someone else. Luckily, I saw what was going on after about 5 minutes of staring at the answers:
- 20A: With 1-A, a part of a home made from the cast of a future NBA Hall-of-Famer? — O’NEAL-SHAPED ROOM
- 25A: With 1-D, dropped trou in front of Metallica’s drummer? — MOONED LARS
- 46A: With 10-D, “Super Hermanos Mario” company? — EL NINTENDO
- 51A: With 10-A, a tireless electrician’s spirit? — CIRCUIT TENACITY
I spent too much time after filling in the grid trying to figure out how ICBM, INFO, SPORK, and SECT needed to be used with the answers to make new phrases when the phrases listed above already seemed to be pretty complete and answer the clues. Then I saw ONED inside MOLARS for 25A, and it all made sense. The rest of the original phrases modified are L-SHAPED ROOM, EL NINO, and CIRCUIT CITY
A few other clue notes from my solve:
- 15A: Swedish hash browns — ROSTI (There used to be a place called PotatoFreak in the particularly hipster section of my neighborhood that specialized in rosti and other tasty potato things. They are now closed. It’s sad.)
- 11D: Former “Sesame Street” section associated with an earworm — ELMO’S WORLD (Elmo’s world was the worst. The. Worst. The internet agrees with me.)
- 36A: Anti-buttlegging org. — ATF (I tried to make this PTA b/c “buttlegging” sounds like the kind of thing a PTA would be up in arms about, but as it turns out, that’s the term used for bootlegging cigarettes.)
- 64A: Creature that debatably ruined the “Star Wars” franchise forever — EWOK (I’d argue that the EWOKS ruined Star Wars about as much as the following video clip.)
I liked the fill here, even if cracking the theme was a bit elusive to me. All in all, pretty good.
Patricia Moran’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up
Ever have that strange moment when you’ve just completed the puzzle and realise you have no idea what the theme is? Even after staring at it, and parsing it in different ways I had no idea. Minimized the window and did some other things for a bit and came back. A dim light went on… “Cape Cod” is something American and architectural? The others sound like they could be too! Put “Colonial, Bungalow, Cape Cod, Ranch” into Google and that would be it… (First hit, doesn’t have them all…) All themers begin with traditional US home styles: COLONIALTIMES, BUNGALOWBILL, CAPECODCHIPS (another Americana answer I had no idea on!), and RANCHDRESSING.
- [Buf-___: facial sponge brand], PUF. Another answer I assume Americans know better than me. I know Stay-PUF thanks to Ghostbusters!
- [Doone of fiction and cookies], LORNA. Cookies??? Let me guess, another thing I won’t get because I’m for’n! Note, this is in no way a criticism, merely an observation.
- [Tic-tac-toe loser], OXO. Hate that clue. Tic-tac-toe sequences are equally as desperate as RRNs, yet this is a valid gadget-making brand; in South Africa, it’s also a beef-and-yeast-extract brand, though I think Americans aren’t really into beef or yeast extracts as a rule!
- [Los Angeles Angels, in sportscasts], HALOS. Really? That’s an unusually whimsical choice! Fun clue!
- [Shutterfly order: Abbr.], ENL appears a gratuitous abbr. caused by ramming a ‘Z’ in that corner. It’s only a minor blemish though.
Rating abstention due to unfamiliarity with the subject matter that is no fault of the puzzle maker’s.
Jeff Chen’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post Crossword, “Putting Two and Two Together” —Ade’s write-up
Good day, everyone! Today’s crossword puzzle, brought to us by Mr. Jeff Chen, involves a theme of providing alternative meanings to common phrases without changing the spelling. Instead, with those puns as clues changing the meaning of the entries, those phrases have to literally be read differently even though the spelling of it is not altered. Or something like that.
- RARIN’ TOGO (17A: [African country that’s ready for action?]) – Rarin’ to go.
- HAVE A GOAT (31A: [Give birth at the farm?]) – Have a go at.
- MAKE A GOOF (47A: [Err?]) – Make a go of.
- MUST I, GOON (64A: [“Please don’t force me to do that, mob enforcer!”?]) – Must I go on.
Not necessarily sure why this grid played a little tougher for me, but it didn’t help that the clue in reference to NAT was unfamiliar to me (27D: [Jazz writer Hentoff]). Though the crosses helped me out and didn’t cause me any trouble with it, OCCAM was pretty tough for me as well (28D: [English philosopher William of _____]). Not too many long entries in the grid, but the one I particularly liked was CROWN VIC, something I associate even more with taxi caps than with police cars (8D: [Ford used as some cop vehicles, in slang]). Not a big fan of the fill of ONE G, but that’s just a minor nit to pick at (20A: [Force felt of Earth, briefly]). But I DIGRESS, and I want to say that, despite the tough few entries, I still had some fun despite the slower time (4D: [“But let me get back to my point”]).
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: DARK KNIGHT (30D: [With “The,” 2008 thriller featuring the Joker]) – Because of both his heroic exploits on the baseball diamond and his very visible night life while living in New York City, New York Mets pitcher Matt Harvey has earned the nickname “The DARK KNIGHT.” If I remember correctly, a Sports Illustrated article on Harvey was titled that as well. Harvey has really taken that moniker to heart, so much so that he has a customized logo that resembles that of Batman. Want to see what that design is? Well, here it is, on the knob of his baseball bat…
Have a good rest of your Wednesday, everyone!
WSJ: Since I posted above, I did more digging into Icelandic naming conventions. It turns out they typically don’t use a family name at all (though they might). Instead, an individual’s surname is based on their father’s (or, since 1991, their mother’s) first name.
So, for example, the Icelandic Olympian surnames are:
Guonason (Men’s discus)
Hinriksdottir (Women’s 800m)
Hjalmsdottir (Women’s Javelin)
Sazonova (Women’s Gymnastics)
Jonsson (Mens’ Judo)
McKee (Men’s breaststroke)
Luthersdottir (Women’s breaststroke)
Gustafsdottir (Women’s backstroke)
-dottir for daughters, -son for sons.
And! I hear phone books in Iceland are in alpha order by first name.
Yeah, my son had an Icelandic classmate and I learnt this little tidbit about their naming system. It’s similar to the tribal naming in the old Arab world, at least for men… Bin means “son of” and it could go on citing multiple generations, father, grandfather, etc…
I think this usage of first names works well when it’s a small community.
I recall reading a few years ago about a phone app that had been developed for dating-age people in Iceland. Since the population is so small and, historically, the rate of immigration was low, there’s a very real chance that someone you meet is a relative. If I recall correctly, the app allows two people who think they might be interested in each other to bump their phones, at which point the app taps into a national genealogical data base, and tells them how closely they are related.
I wonder if the non-use of family names makes it more difficult to figure such things out without an app.
I learned about Icelandic naming conventions years ago reading “The Arctic Patrol Mystery,” book 48 in the original Hardy Boys series.
Thanks, Jenni, for the kind words about my NYT debut puzzle. It’s a shame that the AcrossLite version of the puzzle wasn’t able to properly render the “look” of the theme clues. It’s somewhat better on the NYT online solver app, but best in the print version that appeared in the paper, which has a big black blob covering part of the clues.
Yeah, I solved on AcrossLite and wondered if that were the case.
Very clever theme! I too enjoyed the Aha moment. In my case, the revealer made a big difference, since I had some initial difficulty in the NW and was able to return to it and complete it easily.
Ahhh. That would make it even more fun!
I agree with everything you said about the NYT crosword. Thank you and to the constructor and the editor.
I also enjoyed the theme in the NYT. There was a “note” in the AcrossLite version that explained how the clues looked in the print version, so that was helpful. But, as usual, I was about halfway through the puzzle before I noticed the “note” icon.
AVCX – I also tried to work ICBM, INFO, etc. into the theme answers before seeing TEND inside of EL NINO. Instead of an aha moment it felt more like realizing I had been had.
1A – I’d consider an ICBM part of a strategic strike, not a tactical one.
I think maybe Brendan’s a “gotcha” kinda guy. I liked the puzzle — and I didn’t catch on until CIRCUIT…CITY, which was pretty obvious, but I’m not always always the brightest bulb in the lamp.
Rösti are Swiss hashbrowns, not Swedish.
But you can buy them at IKEA, no? Yeah, you’re right. Swedish are pitt y patta or something like that. (It’s been years.)
I enjoyed the puzzles from Brendan and Jeff today. Both gave me a chuckle when the theme emerged. RARIN’ TOGO from Jeff and MOONEDLARS from Brendan in particular. I wonder if anything like Brandan’s trick has been done before?
BEQ with the MC Paul Barman reference out of nowhere.
(The song he refers to in the clue is incredibly, hilariously filthy.)
Today’s NY Times mini was a very cool little feat of construction. Not mind-blowing or anything, but quite pleasing. Made me smile. Nice job by Joel Fagliano.
Wow, the NYT is a rare example of clue/answer reversal done in a way that is interesting and playful!
RE: AVX: Explanation even more confusing than the puzzle which to my small brain is some sort of Cryptic Hybrid?
Indie rock references of no use to this senior solver.
Major DNF/not even started.
What does the phrase in your write up “MOT vibe” refer to please?
“Member of the tribe”, or possibly Ministry of Truth.
Thanks, pannonica. I’m glad Nietsnerem asked the question. All I found was “Marching On Together.” No good at all.
I wish the NYT could have been an AVC so we could have had F####. At least then I might have smiled rather than being somewhat bored.
AV: Wow, I spent a long time during and after this puzzle trying to understand the special extra meta level where some clues had the wrong words in them, like “buttlegging” for “bootlegging”, and “Hot in Herre” for “here”.
Then I looked them up.