Tracy Bennett’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
The Tuesday theme is complicated desserts:
- 20a. [Layers of sherry-soaked torte, homemade custard and fruit served chilled in a giant stem glass], ENGLISH TRIFLE. My aunt and cousin make an American trifle that’s to die for—cubes of cake (vanilla or chocolate), lots of fresh berries, and assorted custard/pudding/whipped cream components. Served in a ginormous stemmed glass, spooned into individual dishes. (Sherry? Gross.)
- 35a. [Ice cream and sponge topped with meringue and placed in a very hot oven for a few minutes], BAKED ALASKA. That sponge, of course, is sponge cake. But “cake” can’t appear in the clue because of the theme revealer.
- 42a. [Steamed-for-hours, aged-for-months concoction of treacle, brandy, fruit and spices, set afire and served at Christmas], PLUM PUDDING. I tell you, those English desserts … I’ll pass.
- 59a. [What a chef might call each dessert featured in this puzzle, literally or figuratively], NO PIECE OF CAKE.
Yesterday, my husband ordered bread pudding for dessert, at a restaurant that describes it as made with croissants, chocolate chips, and powdered sugar. $7!
The clue for 15a. RUCHE seemed weird. [Strip of fabric used for trimming]? We usually use the forms ruching or ruched, and a dictionary defines the root noun as “a frill or pleat of fabric as decoration on a garment or home furnishing.” Certainly all of us who have dresses, tops, skirts, or swimsuits with ruching are seeing pleats and folds rather than “strips” of fabric.
Four more things:
- 5d. [German kingdom of old], PRUSSIA. Hey! Some of my ethnically Polish and German ancestors came from Prussia. It doesn’t make it so easy to track down the genealogy, since there are no Prussian authorities with centralized info. European borders have changed an awful lot since the mid-1800s.
- 11d. [“Hesitating to mention it, but …”], “DARE WE SAY.” Not sure I’ve ever heard this with the first person plural rather than “dare I say.”
- 21d. [da-DAH], IAMB. Boy, I was not understanding this clue at all. I moved on and let the crossings fill it in.
- 34d. [Sam Cooke’s first #1 hit], “YOU SEND ME.” Here, go have a listen at YouTube. And also Sam Cooke’s great “Cupid,” which I’m much more familiar with.
The desserts in the theme are not super-familiar to American home bakers … but presumably that’s because they’re all a lot more of a hassle to make than a standard cake or a pan of brownies. Four stars from me.
Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle (Week 277), “Livin’ LIFE on the Edge”—Janie’s take
Quoting my colleague Jeff Chen (at XWord Info) on the subject of Dan Schoenholz’s NYT puzzle last Wednesday: “Great gridwork. It’s so hard to build around perimeter themers, since they immediately make the four corners so inflexible.” Oh—and for the same reasons, ditto to Mz. Liz on today’s Crossword Nation offering. In addition to the central reveal, this gem has 12 themers “on the edge,” each of which can precede the word “life,” either as a phrase or as a compound word. As you see, the title pulls everything together. Working our way around the grid clockwise:
- 1A. HALF [Super Bowl segment]. Half-Life. My Dictionary of Scientific Literacy reminds me that a half-life is “the time it takes for HALF of a given quantity of radioactive material to decay (release energy).” But you all knew that, right? ;-)
- 5A. NIGHT [Dark hours]. Nightlife.
- 10A. REAL [Authentic]. Real life. What you start living when you leave your parent’s place, say…
- 13D. LOVE [Cupid’s realm]. Lovelife. Or even Love Life, a 1948 Kurt Weill-Alan Jay Lerner collaboration that, because of a musicians’ strike, never received an “original Broadway cast” recording.
- 34D. SHELF [Book keeper]. Shelf-life. Here’s more than you ever wanted to know…
- 62D. HARD [Fast partner]. Hard life. A tough row to hoe. Or Queen’s “It’s a Hard Life.” Love that clue…
- 73A. “GOOD!” [“Well done!”]. Good life. As in “The Good Life“… As for the clue/fill combo, I’d say at least the same of this puzz.
- 72A. AFTER [Thought leader?]. Afterlife. Another fave clue today.
- 71A. TRUE [Loyal]. True Life. An MTV staple since 1998. And have I ever seen it even once?… (Did I even know it existed before writing this post? [Rhetorical.])
- 56D. PAST [Bygone]. Past life. Paging Shirley MacLaine..
- 27D. STILL [Moonshiner’s contraption]. Still life. Art genre. Just about any medium.
- 1D. HOME [Base runner’s goal]. Homelife. Goings-on on the domestic front.
And at the center of it all:
- 41A. SIDES [Borders … or where to find the puzzle theme].
I love that there’s nothing in the clues that connects the fill to the final phrases, which become their own discrete unit. And I’m also really happy with much of the remaining fill, which gives us some very strong longer and mid-range entries. So “huzzah” to the exemplary “MY MISTAKE…,” REMARRIES (along with its misdirecting clue, [Ties a new knot?]), the shout-out to Supreme Court justice Sonia SOTOMAYOR and (my fave) SEASHELLS (punnily clued as [Shore things]). MASTICATED and CALIFORNIA are perfectly fine 10s, but just don’t “pop” the way those nines do. (Although I do like the factlet that comes with the clue for the latter: [Its motto is “Eureka”].)
PATTERNS and MAD DASH and NATALIE make for a GOOD set of sevens—and enjoyed the throwback to old Hollywood (and the wordplay…), with NATALIE being clued as [Wood in Hollywood] and then coming upon LANA [Actress Turner] three clues later. Seems the only time these women’re credited with appearing together professionally, however, was at some Academy Award shows.
LOPING is lovely and while, when I think of the clue [Plays a mandolin], my mind runs to PLUCKS, in fact the correct answer is STRUMS. And yes—you do play the mandolin by STRUMming it (in addition to picking/plucking). GARCIA comes to us by way of [Cherry ___ (ice cream flavor)]. Oh, Ben & Jerry’s: how do I thank thee? Especially for the frozen yogurt option. Talk about somethin’ I’ve been known to SNARF down… and is a more “solid state” confection (and probably more additive-free) than TODAY’S suggestion of FRO-YO and [Self-serve dessert, for short].
And with that, m’friends, I leave you. Really, I’m not thinking (much…) of gelato as I say [“Arrivederci!”] “CIAO!” Keep solving—and do return next week. Hope this’ll be a fine one for you!
Howard Barkin’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “A Few Extra Squares” — Jim’s review
Whoa! Talk about coincidence. Just yesterday we saw a very similar theme by Zhouqin Burnikel in the NYT with her HOLLYWOOD SQUARES puzzle. Today, Howard gives us phrases that feature the squares of the first four ordinal numbers: 12, 22, 32, and 42. These result in:
- 20a [Superficial] ONE-DIMENSIONAL
- 33a [Dinger] FOUR-BAGGER
- 40a [Length of a certain term] NINE MONTHS
- 50a [John Hughes’s directorial debut] SIXTEEN CANDLES
(The latter two are also theme entries in Zhouqin’s puzzle.) Howard’s puzzle has the nice feature that the four entries are in numerical order. But I feel I have to give the nod to Zhouqin’s puzzle because of its increased thematic material and the difficulty in getting big-name films that fit the theme and fit symmetrically.
Of course, with the added theme material yesterday, there’s more crosswordese as pointed out by pannonica. Today, there’s a bit less of that stuff, but still some: the worst of it being A CARE and the awkward A FAN OF. Conversely, I do really like LONDON EYE, EARMUFF, DELOREAN, and GIVE A DARN. Plus there’s OINTMENTS, SETS FORTH, and SMARTEST.
I had the most trouble in the West with A FAN OF, clued simply as [Into], crossing [Model whose last name is Lanzoni] which turned out to be FABIO. And that crosses [Alanis Morissette’s role in “Dogma”] which turned out to be GOD. I’ve never seen the film, ergo I never knew Morissette ever did any acting. See the film clip below for Morissette’s turn as GOD, a dopey Ben Affleck, a brilliant Alan Rickman, Chris Rock, Selma Hayek, and well, Jay. Warning: numerous F-bombs at the end of the clip.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “It’s the Five-O!” – Derek’s write-up
I want to mention right away that there still seem to be issues with the Google Group that gets these puzzles by e-mail. If you want the puzzle, it is available through this link: http://www.fleetingimage.com/wij/xyzzy/16-jz.html . Hopefully this helps.
A clever theme this week! Matt has found four phrases that each have five occurrences of the letter “O!”
- 17A [First #1 hit for the Black Eyed Peas] BOOM BOOM POW
- 59A [Band with the 1998 #1 hit “Iris”] GOO GOO DOLLS
- 11D [Befit, like clothes] LOOK GOOD ON
- 29D [Salesman’s selling style, way back when] DOOR TO DOOR
I could be wrong, but it seems as if there would not be that many phrases that fit the bill. I am horrible at brainstorming things like this, so there may be many more for all I know. I will just give kudos to the constructor for a smooth job! 4.1 stars today.
A few notes:
- 14A [GE competitor] AMANA – Do they still make appliances?
- 23A [Charges] SETS AT – Not my favorite, since nobody says this. Phrase is obviously great for crosswords!
- 44A [Certain Sooner Stater] TULSAN – Never considered Oklahoma in my desire to move west; preference is west of the Rocky Mountains! But I have never been to Oklahoma, so I cannot say if I would like it or not!
- 10D [What traditionalists may be averse to] NEW IDEAS – I always say I hope I am ALWAYS open to new ideas and new ways to do things. I know I am set in my ways in a lot of areas, but I hope to always be at least a little adaptable!
- 45D [Much-aligned director ___ Boll] UWE – I have never heard of this dude. Evidently he is a terrible director! I do know there was a German basketball player for Indiana and later in the NBA named Uwe Blab.
- 47D [2016 “America’s Got Talent” winner VanderWaal] GRACE – This is the cute little girl you have likely seen in a Facebook video or two. She is $1 million dollars richer!
That’s all for this week! If you are a computer scientist, I am sure Matt Gaffney could use your help with getting the Google Group mail feature to work! Have a great week everybody!
Patti Varol’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
Another Tuesday puzzle in what is becoming a staple of LAT style: guess the common thread of the theme answers! As is usually the case, at least for me, I have no idea what the commonality is until we get to the revealer at 60-Across!
- 17A [Adjusted sales figure on which some royalties are based] NET RECEIPTS
- 28A [Wood-finishing tool] BELT SANDER
- 37A [Brass instrument played like a trumpet] VALVE TRUMPET – I think “like a trumpet” means you have to pucker to play both. I think?
- 45A [Long, narrow mollusks] RAZOR CLAMS – A common ingredient on Iron Chef and Chopped!
- 60A [Motto for the cautious … or a hint to the starts of 17-, 28-, 37- and 45-Across] SAFETY FIRST
I would argue that “safety first” should be a motto for everybody, not just cautious people! But for clue purposes, it fits the bill. 4 stars even for this one!
A few notes:
- 33A [Tennessee senator ___ Alexander] LAMAR – This is fair, but also there is LAMAR Hunt, a sportsman according to Wikipedia. The AFC champion of the NFL receives the Lamar Hunt Trophy!
- 52A [Place for meditation] YOGA MAT – Gotta do a better job of finding time for meditation. Might help my Learned League standings!
- 65A [Washington MLBer] NAT – For some reason, I read “NBAer” at first, and wrote in WIZ! The Washington Nationals are a shoo-in for the playoffs, and hopefully my beloved Cubs can get past them and get to the World Series!!
- 13D [“Marvelous” Marvin of boxing] HAGLER – Marvin Hagler had many prominent bouts with Sugar Ray Leonard, Thomas Hearns, and Roberto Durán back in the 80s.
- 22D [Yellow “Despicable Me” character] MINION – My son Chase is a big fan of these Minions!
- 25D [Shoe company with a cat in its logo] PUMA – Not quite as popular as Nike or Adidas in this country, but Usain Bolt wears Pumas!
- 39D [Shop ___ you drop] TIL – My sister’s motto!
- 47D [Mexican revolutionary played by Brando] ZAPATA – From the movie Viva Zapata! from 1952!!! No wonder I’ve never heard of it! Wonder if it’s on Netflix …
That’s all for today! Enjoy your week!
Patrick Jordan’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post Crossword, “Err Line” —Ade’s write-up
Good afternoon, everyone! We have a “quote as a theme” theme for today, this one brought to us by Mr. Patrick Jordan. Let’s just say that I’ve made the last mistake too many times in chess that I chose to give up the activity years and years ago.
- VICTORY OES TO THE PLAYER WHO MAKES THE NEXT TO LAST MISTAKE (20A, 28A, 45A, 56A: [Start of a quip by chess grand master Savielly Tartakower], [More of the quip], [More of the quip], [End of the quip])
There was some pretty good fill, with RAZOR WIRE catching my attention the most (11D: [Coiled barrier with cutting pieces]). Initially wanted to put in “barbed wire,” but, obviously, that wouldn’t fit. Actually chuckled a little bit putting in HISS AT, as I’m sure I’ve done that a couple of times when I’ve had to tell people off (47D: [Display hostility toward]). Wasn’t a fan of some of the short fill, especially XES (48D: [Crosses off]) and EKING (54D: [Barely squeezing (out)]). Oh, and then there’s the A AND E fill that you see a fair bit now, replacing the ampersand with the spelled-out “and.” (18A: [“The First 48” channel]). At first, I was totally ambivalent towards that, but I’m not sure I like putting in the “and” for terms and phrases that don’t spell out the word and use the ampersand instead. But I guess that’s nitpicking.
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: DEAF (32D: [Auto rental firm since 1974]) and ALOHA (42A: [Kahuna’s “Catch you later!” – We have intersecting college football bowl games in this puzzle. The ALAMO Bowl, now sponsored by Valero, is a year-ending bowl game in San Antonio that has been in the college football bowl rotation since 1993. The Aloha Bowl was the name of the year-ending college football game that took place in Hawaii between 1982 and 2000. It is now called the Hawai’i Bowl.
See you at the top of the hump on Wednesday!