Paolo Pasco’s New York Times crossword, “The First Shall Be Last”—Amy’s write-up
No knock on Paolo, but I don’t like seeing the same bylines repeated twice in a month (in an open-submission venue), much less twice in nine days. Space ’em out! Anyway—Paolo’s theme takes the first or last word in various phrases, moves the first letter to the end to make a new word, and clues the altered phrase accordingly. Whether the altered word is at the start or end follows no pattern.
- 22a. [Reason to scream “Why won’t this damn thing locate airplanes!”?], RADAR ANGER. Not sure how much radar range is a familiar phrase. The old Amana microwaves were called Radarange.
- 23a. [Honorary title in Wisconsin?], DAME CHEESE. Edam, which is not one of your primary cheeses in America, crosswords be damned.
- 42a. [“Hey, let’s gather 100 people to enact laws and ratify treaties”?], SENATE IDEA. When I got here, I’d only seen themers where the first word changed, and deleted SENATE because ESENAT is nothing. Senate aide, which feels not particularly in-the-language as a lexical chunk.
- 50a. [Listen to violinist Itzhak’s music?], HEAR PERLMAN. Rhea Perlman.
- 65a. [Soft drink favored by the Marines?], SPRITE DE CORPS. Esprit.
- 79a. [Church response that’s taken as a given?], ASSUMED AMEN. Name.
- 87a. [Newspaper essay on why not to go outdoors?], INSIDE OP-ED. Dope. No, no, no. Not when 82d is DOPE-SLAP.
- 108a. [Woody playing a medieval baron?], THANE ALLEN. Ethan.
- 110a. [Books written entirely in chat rooms?], IMED NOVELS. Dime. “Chat rooms,” LOL. When is the last time anyone was actually messaging anyone in an actual chat room? Has young constructor Paolo ever even seen such a thing online in his lifetime? I presume this is a Shortz clue.
The theme’s decent, but a little uneven. The ASSUMED AMEN was my favorite theme answer, but none of them really amused me. I always hope that a wordplay theme will have comical results, but it so seldom seems to work out that way.
The chunk in the middle with all the 7-letter-long white space is nice, as are the longer answers like GIRL GROUPS (though I deride the distaff equivalent of “boy band,” given how few of the members of those “bands” are playing instruments as opposed to just singing), THE FORUM, OPERA MAN, ABSINTHE, and SANTA HAT (though I don’t think those are often made of felt).
Four more things:
- 54a. [California missionary Junípero ___], SERRA. Yeah, he was involved in a lot of missions that enslaved the indigenous Indians who were there before the Spaniards arrived. Really a brutal chapter in American history.
- 9d. [Home remedy drink], HERB TEA. Pass! Don’t want any herbal remedies. Did not care for “tea” in the ASSAM clue, 57d. [Noted tea locale]. See also: 39d: SEA RACE (is that a thing?) and the STP clue, 53d. [Racer’s brand]. Also see also: 64a: ONE clued as the two-word ON E because the contrived 93a: ITEM ONE is also in the grid not far away. (This one is three things.)
3.5 stars from me. How’d it treat you?
Edited to add: Also, the relocated letters, taken in order from top to bottom, left to right, spell out REAR-ENDED. I couldn’t tell you why there’s no note/hint with the puzzle to tip solvers off to look for that. It would have been nice to have it, rather than discovering via crossword Twitter that there’s more to the theme.
Don Gagliardo and C.C. Burnikel’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “Warm Reception”—Andy’s review
Many thanks to Jenni for filling in for me last Sunday. Quick review from me this week. The theme is explained at 119a, WELCOME ADDITION [Breath of fresh air … or, literally, what the last word of eight long Across answers can be]. In practice, this means that the word “welcome” can precede the last word of each theme answer to form a common phrase. Behold:
- 23a, COMMUNITY CENTER [Town gathering place]. Welcome center.
- 29a, SHOWER MAT [Bathroom safety feature]. Welcome mat.
- 45a, SEED PACKET [Gardener’s purchase]. Welcome packet.
- 55a, CHUCK WAGON [Fixture on many a cattle drive]. Welcome wagon.
- 70a, TAX RELIEF [Purpose of some government credits]. Welcome relief.
- 84a, ZODIAC SIGN [Astrological sector]. Welcome sign.
- 93a, OUT OF SIGHT [Hidden]. Welcome sight.
- 109a, YAHOO NEWS [Source of many breaking stories]. Welcome news.
Simple theme, good execution. All the themers worked well, and there were a lot of them (8, plus the long revealer). Not a lot to say about this one, really. It had the flair I’ve come to expect from this constructing pair in the surrounding fill: ACID ROCK, LARA LOGAN (full name!), GAME SHOWS, SNES, “IT’S A DEAL,” DR. MARTENS (though admittedly it’s weird to see the brand name spelled correctly), FLY PAPER, BLEH(!), SIBELIUS (Maxim Vengerov’s performance of the Sibelius Violin Concerto is required listening), POLKA DOT. For as densely packed as the theme material was, there was surprisingly little junk in the grid: maybe ERN, a reasonable number of abbreviations and partials (including MAN ON, which I assume was originally supposed to be clued as Manon), and that’s about it.
OK, I’m out. Enjoy the rest of your Sunday. Until next time!
Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Back to School”- Jenni’s writeup
My Facebook feed has been full of first-day pictures for a couple of weeks now. First day of kindergarten; first day of high school; first day of college. Emma goes back to school on Monday, so I’ll join the first-day parade (if she allows me to) as she starts her junior year of high school. Evan gives us a pretty easy puzzle to make the transition go more smoothly.
“Easy” is not a criticism. I liked this puzzle a lot. “Back to School” tells us that we have the name of a schools going backward in each theme answer; there are circles to help you see that. I figured out the theme pretty quickly and then I had fun filling in the names with as few crossings as possible. There’s an added bonus; more about that later. First, the themers.
- 23a [Where people take notes on notes] = PIANO LESSONS (Elon.)
- 32a [Dramatic air show maneuver] = POWER DIVE (Drew.)
- 51a [Wiener schnitzel, essentially] = VEAL CUTLET (UCLA. Emma’s dream school.)
- 55a [Metropolitan divisions] = CITY BLOCKS (Colby)
- 73a [“Whataya Want From Me” singer] = ADAM LAMBERT (Alma. Not familiar to me; seems to be “a private college in Michigan that highlights personalized education, social responsibility and extraordinary achievements.”)
- 92a [Little sister of a Superman villain] = LENA LUTHOR (Tulane.)
- 95a [Fry cook’s option] = SOYBEAN OIL. (Iona. I grew up not far from Iona, and it was nice to see it here. It was not nice to see SOYBEAN OIL. Who says that?)
- 112a [Presented falsely (as)] = PASSED OFF. (Odessa. Also unfamiliar to me. Their website doesn’t give their location; I’ll hazard a guess it’s Odessa, Texas.)
- 128a [1943 Spencer Tracy-Irene Dunne film] = A GUY NAMED JOE. (NYU.)
The notepad says “The ‘backs’ of this puzzle’s schools, in order, will spell something you gain from going back to school.” The “back” of the puzzle is the letter in “back” if you’re reading left-to-right, or actually the first letter of each college name. Put them all together and they spell EDUCATION.
On the one hand, the theme is consistent, in that each college name spans two words in the theme answer. On the other hand, two of the colleges are relatively obscure (three, if you count Iona, which may be obscure if you didn’t grow up ten miles away from campus.) The obscurity was necessary to make the meta work out; the puzzle overall might have been better without the meta and with more well-known schools. There’s also the matter of SOYBEAN OIL, which is technically correct but not in the language. I’ve never heard of A GUY NAMED JOE, which is OK with me; it’s gettable from crossings, it’s the last theme answer and so most folks have probably figured out the gimmick and can use that to help, and I’m sure some people don’t know who ADAM LAMBERT and LENA LUTHOR are, either. I won’t complain about “pop culture” content just because it’s not my era. On balance, the pros outweigh the cons and I enjoyed the theme.
A few other things:
- 2oa [Chow lines] = ARF ARF. Nice.
- 22a [Knucklehead] = PEABRAIN. Good word. Should be used more often. Heaven knows American politics gives us ample opportunity.
- Obscurities: [Poet John Godfrey ___] SAXE and [Silents star Markey] ENID. I know I said I wouldn’t complain about pop culture just because it wasn’t my era…but were they actually pop, as in popular, culture? Then again, I imagine someone will say the same thing about [“Paper Planes” rapper] MIA, and I knew that one.
- 60a [Words heard at first, maybe] has “maybe” to tell us that we’re looking for, shall we say, a variant. The answer is YER OUT.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that Popeye’s Pappy was named POOPDECK. Apparently the old man was something of a reprobate.
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s CRooked crossword, “Drink Holders” — pannonica’s write-up
The drink in question is ALE, every time.
- 23a. [Broadcast hosted by author Carr?] CALEB RADIO (CB radio).
- 25a. [Comic Corden with no new ideas?] STALE JAMES (St James).
- 34a. [Least-fictional spot?] REALEST AREA (rest area).
- 51a. [Trebek shows where things will take place?] ALEX MARKS THE SPOT (X marks the spot).
- 68a. [Fulfilling book orders that haven’t been published yet?] PRINTING PRE-SALES (printing press).
- 82a. [Ordered in by phone?] DIALED LUNCH (did lunch). This one seems the most awkward of the lot, in all respects.
- 93a. [Caveman diet containers?] PALEO BOXES (PO boxes).
- 95a. [Part of Dorothy’s kite?\ GALE STRING (g string).
Fully half of these explicitly reference people’s names, which suggests that the original idea might have been to have all of the themers relate to individuals. Hard to say.
Couple of extraneous ALEs lurking among the downs: 37d [Town in County Kerry] TRALEE (in tre, if you want it), 48d right in the center [“Femmes __” (wicked women)] FATALES (in fats, or maybe this is intentional, “fat ales”?). And then there’s the at-least-it’s-aware 8d [Women, in a dated phrase] FAIRER SEX. Moving on…
- 33a [Homer’s sorceress] CIRCE, 71d [Plant that caused drowsiness in “The Odyssey”] LOTUS TREE. One of the candidates for the later is Ziziphus lotus, the jujube. Zizi–, juju–. By the way, Ziziphus is unrelated to Sisyphus, and jujube is unrelated to juju.
- 42a [On the outs (with)] IN BAD. Can’t say I’ve heard this much or at all, but there’s more than adequate internet support for it, even accounting for possible “in bed” typos and auto-corrects away from “in bed”.
- 63a [ __ Henry (cookware brand)] EMILE. I prefer their stuff to the similar but more well-known Chantal.
- 77a [Angry] STERN. No.
78d [Stores farm fodder] SILAGES. That’s a noun, not a verb. As far as I know, the verb form is ensile (ensilage is also a noun; the verb sile may also be applicable here, but I’m not sure).
- 6d [Printer job] SCAN. Part of a printer job?
- 9d [Couple of bucks] TWO ONES. Entry-worthy? Dubious. At least it wasn’t TWO DEER.
- Appreciated the reach for less-common references for names, even if wasn’t familiar with them. 71a [Actress Headey] LENA (vs Horne or Dunham), 33d [“The Big Gay Musical” writer Fred] CARUSO (vs Enrico or David).
Felt kind of blah about this one, but maybe that’s JUST ME (90a).
Patrick Jordan’s Sunday Challenge CrosSynergy crossword —Ade’s write-up
Good afternoon, everyone! It’s the last weekend in August. How did that happen?!?
We have a real fun puzzle for our Sunday Challenge today, a puzzle brought to us by Mr. Patrick Jordan. Unless I’m missing something, like an anniversary or some other celebration, the sub theme was definitely WEST SIDE STORY (20A: [1957 Broadway musical debut]), with that fill being accompanied by the paralleling OFFICER KRUPKE (52A: [Musical character who is told in absentia, “Our mothers are all junkies”]). Had my moments in solving the grid, but definitely was a stop-and-start experience today for me. The intersection of DAMONE (60A: [Vic whose first hit was “I Have But One Heart”]) and AKINS was a pretty tough one when first coming across it (50D: [Zoe who cowrote the script for “Camille”]). I know I saw the latter in a grid not too long ago, but wasn’t able to recall it and use it to help me that much today. So I definitely had a couple of other thoughts in mind initially when seeing the clue for SEXY VOICE, something which, I guess, she had (32D: [Trait of Roger Rabbit’s wife Jessica]). See, now I can’t get that movie out of my head. Brother! I remember being initially shocked when I found out that the (human) lead in the movie, the late Bob Hoskins, was British. He pulled off the tough, gruff American detective (Eddie Valiant) so very well in the movie! Alright, time to head out and do some more work before a long couple of weeks covering the U.S. Open main draw.
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: TAI (33D: [Randy’s rink partner]) – Wow, this took me back a few years! In the late 1970s and 1980s, TAI Babilonia partnered with Randy Gardner to form probably the most popular pairs figure skating team in the world. The team that became known as “Tai and Randy” won the U.S. national championship five times and won the gold medal at the 1979 World Championships in Vienna.
Have a great rest of your Sunday, everybody!