No WSJ puzzle today due to the holiday. Enjoy not doing the puzzle, if that even makes sense.
Tracy Gray’s New York Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up
- 58dR [Article of apparel with styles found at the starts of 17-, 26-, 41-, 51- and 66-Across] JEANS. As a bonus, there’s apparel again in the first across clue, for GARB.
- 17a. [Facial sign of sleep deprivation] BAGGY EYES. And a good Monday morning to you too!
- 26a. [Bathe in the buff] SKINNY DIP.
- 41a. [It has only a few stories] LOW RISE BUILDING.
- 51a. [Distress signal producers] FLARE GUNS. Distressed jeans are also a thing.
- 66a. [Tool for severing a steel cable, maybe] CUT OFF SAW. This is new information to me, but it’s definitely a Thing.
5.1 surround theme, a lot for a Monday. For the record: baggy jeans, skinny jeans, low rise jeans, flare jeans (this locution registers more results than either ‘flared jeans’ ‘flare leg jeans’), cut-off jeans. “Bootleg” (whiskey, movie, fireworks, etc.) would have added some more panache, but there’s only so much one crossword can do.
Let’s see what else we can find to take up some blogspace:
- 11d [Energetically starting one’s day] UP AND AT IT. BAGGY EYES notwithstanding, presumably. Also, this is a phrase I can’t say I’ve heard. “Up and at ’em”, yes. But this one, barely if at all. The weirdness of the pronoun is highlighted by a duplication with 64a [Break off a relationship] END IT; this is a low-level dupe but is more noticeable under the circumstances.
- Aside from that one, there are some other unmondayish entries lurking about the grid: 55d [Celestial cool red giant] S-STAR, 61a [Romanian composer Georges] ENESCO, the aforementioned CUT OFF SAW, and maybe 2d [Counting devices] ABACI.
- 24a [Like outfits with ruffles and lace] GIRLY. Sure, we may give the NYT and other puzzles grief for not being as progressively gender-friendly as we’d like to see, but there’s simply no reason to play so strongly into tropes here. There are other was to clue this. And while we’re at it, 5d [Thorn’s site on a rose] STEM—here’s an article from The Atlantic: “The Complex Data on Girls in STEM“, and another from the Harvard Business Review: “The 5 Biases Pushing Women Out of STEM“.
- 36d [He’s next to Teddy on Mount Rushmore] ABE, 39d [Bill with Washington’s face] ONE.
Is it my imagination or did the cluing seem ever-so slightly elevated in difficulty compared to a typical Monday? It was still a breeze to solve, but perhaps a tiny bit more challenging for newer solvers?
68-across [“And … __!” ) director’s cry)] SCENE.
Patrick Blindauer’s September website puzzle, “Dropping F-Bombs” — Matt’s review
Note: Patrick’s monthly puzzle can be found here under “Play.”
Provocative title, so let’s see what our highly creative cruciverbalist has in store this month.
We start off at 1-Across, which is JET clued as [Flying machine that’s dropping 3-Downs in this puzzle]. 3-Down is [It’s the bomb], and the answer is the T in JET followed by eight F’s.
This affects the long entry at 20-A, where the clue is [Country-time combat?] = FARM WRESTLING. I don’t get what this puns on; someone tell me in comments please. But I do see that we added an F to arm wrestling.
And then the same thing happens again in the lower half of the grid: 41-D is [Flying machine that’s dropping 42-Downs in this puzzle] and the answer is PLANE. 42-D is [It’s the bomb] and the answer is NFFFFFFF.
Once again, this affects the long Across: 62-A is [Gown for a Pilgrim?] and the answer is not Plymouth Rock but PLYMOUTH FROCK.
So now I was puzzled. There’s no Notepad text that there’s a meta answer, but Patrick has been known to feature unannounced metas in the past, and this one seemed a little thin. What’s the point of all those F’s in the grid when only two of them get used?
After a few perplexed moments, I e-mailed the author to see if I was overlooking something. And then I of course saw it right after hitting send, and then wrote him again to say so.
The answer to the unannounced meta is F-15, one of the most famous fighter planes there is. Note that those 15 F’s dropped by the JET and PLANE are the only F’s in the grid, a detail you would expect from a master like Patrick but it’s still worth pointing out.
This is very nice work — novel, logical, amusing, and with a classic “I should’ve seen that quicker” aha moment.
No one knows what the rest of September holds but I’ll be surprised if this doesn’t get a Crossword of the Month nomination. 4.55 stars.
Gail Grabowski and Bruce Venzke’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up
Not sure what this one is precisely about. Here’s the list:
- 17a. [Chronological documentation in a court case] CHAIN OF EVIDENCE. I’m more familiar with “chain of custody” but that seems to be a more recent coinage. Both locutions are becoming more prevalent in Our Litigious Society™. Speaking of which …
- 27a. [Point an accusing finger at] PIN THE BLAME ON. I initially went with PUT…
- 48a. [“Be careful on that icy sidewalk”] WATCH YOUR STEP.
- 62a. [Brief film role] CAMEO APPEARANCE.
Quite obviously the thematic elements are CHAIN, PIN, WATCH, and CAMEO. With the absence of a revealer to massage the grouping or put what coheres them in stark relief, I’m going to go with the simplest and broadest explanation – that they’re types of jewelry, fashion accessories. Mostly I’m distracted by partial connections and differences. A WATCH is the only one that has a pragmatic rather than merely decorative function, though there are some watches that are primarily fashion or status objects. Both a CAMEO and a WATCH can be attached to a CHAIN, and for that matter both can be made into a PIN though it’s more likely for a CAMEO rather than a WATCH. Pressing further, a traditional nurse’s WATCH is connected to a CHAIN connected to a PIN.
Overthinking this, yes? Fine. Back to where I started, before the exegesis. Jewelry/fashion accessories.
- Hey, there’s a BALL right on top of CHAIN, but since there’s no similar dynamic among the other theme answers, let’s chalk it up to coincidence. 14a [Formal affair]
- Also not part of the theme: 47a [Organs that may be pierced] EARS.
- 7d [Joan at Woodstock] BAEZ, 36d [Sing like Joe Cocker] RASP, 49d [Flower child, e.g.] HIPPIE.
- Initialisms: 12d [MLB postseason semifinal] ALCS, plurals 24d [Wall St. deals] LBOS, 61d [Classic cars] REOS. Those are the ones that seem least appropriate in a Monday crossword. Also present are 40a [Links org.] PGA, 56a [New Deal org.] WPA, 43d [LAX listing] ETA. And whatever the hell 28d Camaro’s IROC-Z signifies. Ah, “International Race of Champions”.
- Additionally, these two might be on the tough side early in the week: 33a [Great Lakes’ __ Canals] SOO, 68a [Cup, in Calais] TASSE.
- Some Latin down there in the bottom: 55d [Amo, __, amat] AMAS, 60d [Behold, to Caesar] ECCE. And the strongly latinate Spanish of 63d [Santana’s “__ Como Va”] OYE.
- 29d [“Not gonna happen”] NOHOW, 45a [Discouraging answers] NOS. No, no, no.
A problem with early-week puzzles is that in order to stand out they need to be carved, shined, and buffed to perfection. Any faults or blemishes stand out, while the good facets fade into unremarkableness. And a write-up, if it’s to have any substance, is going to spend more time reflecting and perhaps even distorting this imbalance.
THEMELESS MONDAY #379 by Brendan Emmett Quigley – Gareth’s summary
This felt much more resistant than BEQ themelesses of late, though in the end, my time was still typical.
The design is built around a showy central step-stack. The downside to that design is the top-left and the bottom-right are connected to the rest of the puzzle by a measly two squares. I see designs like this not infrequently – I don’t think they’re entirely fair to solvers, particularly in difficult puzzles.
- [Fall athlete?], BASEJUMPER – Great one across, clue and answer. I finished at the top, so it was a delayed reveal.
- [Big name in supercomputers], CRAY. Only rang a vague bell…
- [Vimeo selection], CLIP. I’m pretty sure that and Dailymotion are for things that were blocked on Youtube.
- [1979 Fleetwood Mac album…], TUSK. Not sure it’s as well-loved as Rumo(u)rs, though, and certainly didn’t sell quite so well. Have a soft spot for the title track, myself…
- [Rear area?], PROCTOLOGY. Saw that one coming…
- [Tight end Rob…], GRONKOWSKI with [Cardinals second baseman Kolten], WONG. Big 3 (4?) sports names! Luckily the N was inferrable.
- [“We Built This ___”…], CITY. Disowned by Grace Slick, though just a year before there that there was Agadoo by Black Lace, and that is considerably worse for a start…
- [The other thing], ELSE. I don’t get the equivalency here.
- [Vermin], RODENTS. Not sure I care for the pejorative clue…
Gail Grabowski’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post Crossword, “Free Riders” —Ade’s write-up
Hello, everyone! How’s your Labor Day going? Well, blogging about crossword puzzles is a labor of love for us, and hope you’re having a good holiday. Today’s crossword, brought to us by Ms. Gail Grabowski, is all about being free. Each theme entry is a multiple word answer in which the first word can also come after the word “free.”.
- COUNTRY HAM (17A: [It’s usually dry-cured and smoked])
- SPIRIT AWAY (57A: [Carry off secretly])
- WILL ROGERS (11D: [Political wit of the Progressive Era])
- PASS MUSTER (28D: [Measure up])
Seeing the clue for TEN made me think of the one time just after graduation where I thought I could make it as a professional poker player as the Internet poker boom was just starting (4D: [Jack’s value, sometimes]). That lasted all of a couple of nights after I was cleaned out of the little money that I had at the poker table. Funny enough, I LOSE is also in the grid, and that’s what I said enough times during those nights (41A: [Conceder’s words]). Haven’t really seen SPADER perform since the movie Stargate, but I hear he’s really good on the NBC show referenced in the clue (10D: [Reddington portrayer on “The Blacklist”]). Maybe I’ll watch, but probably not. Besides, he’ll always be Steff from Pretty in Pink to me!
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: AARON (49A: [Composer Copland]) – Everyone knows about Hammerin’ Hank, but did you know that he had a brother who also played in the Major Leagues? In a 10-year span, Tommie AARON played parts of seven seasons in the Majors, playing for the Milwaukee/Atlanta Braves. He was a teammate of his brother, Henry, and his best year in MLB came in his rookie season, when he hit eight home runs and had 36 RBI in 141 games played. In between his MLB stint, Tommie was the International League (Class AAA) MVP in 1967. Aaron passed away in 1984 after a battle with leukemia.
Thank you so much for the time today, and I’ll see you tomorrow! Hopefully a little sooner than today’s appearance.