Jim Holland and Jeff Chen’s New York Times crossword, “Adding On”—Amy’s write-up
The theme is to “add ING on” to the end of a word in a familiar phrase to creating a new, mildly whimsical phrase:
- 29a. [Hoopster observing Ramadan?], FASTING FORWARD. Hall-of-Famer Hakeem Olajuwon fasted during Ramadan when playing in the NBA, and his stats were actually better during those times. He was a center and not a forward, however.
- 46a. [Gangster Luciano performing a risqué prank?], LUCKY STREAKING.
- 68a. [Hobo at the wheel?], BUM STEERING. Although usually we say “driving” for the person at the wheel and not just “steering.”
- 88a. [Where to buy certain Christmas decorations?], STOCKING MARKET.
- 105a. [Mild form of corporal punishment?], LIGHT SWITCHING. That form of the verb switch is archaic, says Oxford.
- 15d. [Cheering done in a plaza?], SQUARE ROOTING. Feels awkward to me. Nobody would say “stadium rooting.”
- 57d. [Big fan of the “Lord of the Flies” author?] GOLDING DIGGER. Have never once heard digger used for anything other than a piece of construction equipment that digs. You never, ever say that someone who really digs something is a digger. Awkward.
I much prefer a letters-added/dropped/changed theme when the results are funny, but this one fell short for me.
Five more things:
- 91d. [Sound of a pebble hitting water], KERPLOP. Kerplunk is, judging from Google hits, 20 times more common.
- 79d. [75-Down around a saint], NIMBUS / 75d. [See 79-Down], AURA. Meh. Would have preferred a cloud or Harry Potter clue for NIMBUS.
- 61d. [Dangerous backyard projectile], LAWN DART. I suppose there may be countries where these are still legal, but they’ve been banned in the US and Canada since the late ’80s. If you’re under 30 years of age, you probably have no idea what this is. (See also: MS-DOS, TONE-LOC, Milo O’SHEA.)
- 35a. [River through Seoul], HAN. I needed the crossings here. Kind of nice to get a short river that’s not in Europe for a change. Much more familiar, though, are the Han people of China.
- 76a. [Bridge words], I PASS. Hey! The EZ-Pass that is nonexistent in my world but shows up in crosswords? It’s the I-Pass in Illinois.
I liked AU GRATIN, DEAD LAST, “DON’T ASK,” PRELIMS, and IN SPIRIT. I also liked “MANEATER,” the Hall & Oates [1982 #1 hit with the line “Watch out boy she’ll chew you up”], though I acknowledge that the lyrics are pretty awful. ’80s nostalgia, catchy beat, melody, horns …
3.5 stars from me.
Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Show Stoppers” – Jenni’s writeup
I started timing it. Then I realized that I’d forgotten I was supposed to be at the selichot service – singing at the choir at the selichot service. So I ran over there, and left the timer running. Oh, well. And speaking of singing – Happy birthday to Evan….
Evan nobly refrained from making himself a birthday crossword, and he gave us a little present in the form of a very do-able meta. The notepad says “Which popular TV show is spelled out in this challenging puzzle?” There are only four theme answers; the meta takes up most of the puzzle. The theme declares itself in the upper third of the puzzle:
- 33a [With 108 Across, show stopper?] = SERIES/FINALE
- 34a [With 104 Across, show-stopping phrase?] = WE INTERRUPT/THIS PROGRAM
Not much of a theme. But…those are clues! First you have to notice that some of the across answers don’t make sense. For example, 1a [Super Bowl XLIII locale] is TAMP in the grid, and the answer should be TAMPA. And 21a [Classics class subject] should be HOMER, not HOME. Hmmm. Turns out there are 19 of these in the grid. I’m not going to list them all. Each one is a word, but not the word that matches the clue. If you take all the last letters that have been removed (the FINALE of the SERIES) and put them together in order, it spells ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT, or an INTERRUPTED PROGRAM. Ta-da! Pretty impressive to come up with 19 words that can have their last letter removed and make other words, and then arrange them in order in the grid to make this work. Only one was a plural. The most challenging section for me was in the top middle, where I entered ROME for 21a before I figured out the meta. I thought this was a very enjoyable and, as I said, do-able puzzle.
A few other things:
- 5a [Down-under work site?] is not in Australia. It’s SEALAB.
- I loved seeing BEESWAX in the grid for [Slangy business] at 10d.
- MADAM, I’M ADAM puts in an appearance, cross-referenced at 65a and 50d. The equally palindromic rejoinder (EVE) is not present.
- RAVES have fog machines? According to 57d, they do. It’s not confusing enough to be stoned?
- I have never thought of a GNOME as a “diminutive spirit.” I guess that’s what they were before they were immortalized as garden statues (cf Molly Weasley’s garden.)
- 113a [Jordan, but not Pippen] is NATION.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that AL GORE said “You win some, you lose some, and then there’s that little-known third category.”
C.C. Burnikel’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “Brand Recognition”—Andy’s review
It’s been a while (a) since I’ve solved a Sunday puzzle this fast [maybe never before, in fact], and (b) since the LAT Sunday puzzle has had a “phrases with the same initials” theme. This one was inspired by ™, the TRADEMARK symbol (108a, [Corporate identifier whose symbol is common to nine other puzzle answers]). Themers with the initials “T.M.”:
- 23a, THIN MINTS [Alternative to Samoas].
- 25a, TESLA MOTORS [Model S automaker].
- 36a, TRACK MEET [Where many races are run].
- 54a, TREASURE MAP [Hunting guide of a sort].
- 73a, TENNIS MATCH [It starts at love].
- 90a, TIGER MOTH [Flier with striped wings].
- 105a, TEXT MESSAGE [Place for emoji].
- 38d, THOMAS MORE [“Utopia” author].
- 43d, THIS MINUTE [“Now!”].
For a theme this light, having nine themers + the TRADEMARK revealer felt necessary. I feel like a broken record, but as always with C.C., the surrounding fill was interesting and impeccable. GOES AT IT, ICY STARE, BIRD DOG, “SPARE ME,” WTA TOUR, TALMUD/TORAH, FREE WIFI, MALALA, the weird but completely reasonable “GOT YA,” CAIT at 1a, FROYO, “NO HURRY,” MAITRE D’, T.S. ELIOT, JOCKEYS, OLD MEDIA, MAFIOSI. That’s basically the whole puzzle. Without the great surrounding fill, this could’ve been a wholly lackluster solve. Instead, I give it TOP MARKS.
Until next time!
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s CRooked crossword, “Temperature Shift” — pannonica’s write-up
The temperature shift of the title refers to the word ladder composed of the first words in the longest across answers, from HEAT to WAVE. The sesquimensal delay involved between paper publication and on-line appearance makes it a little odd now. In mid-August heat wave would certainly have had more piquancy; as it is, coming so soon after the autumnal equinox (yes, I’m continuing to be boreaspherist) one’s thoughts turn to cooling conditions at the mention of “temperature shift”.
- 24a. [1982 Asia hit] HEAT OF THE MOMENT. This was a popular song, kids.
- 40a. [Big smashup] HEAD-ON COLLISION.
- 50a. [Conformity] HERD MENTALITY.
- 68a. [Short-lived] HERE TODAY, GONE TOMORROW.
- 81a. [Winners’ chant] WE’RE NUMBER ONE.
- 94a. [“You look familiar”] WE’VE MET, HAVEN’T WE? Great colloquial phrase and cluing. See also 2d [“Above you!”] UP HERE.
- 110a. [Request from one making a home movie, say] WAVE TO THE CAMERA.
Those phrases are all really good. Anyway, to spell it out the sequence is HEAT → HEAD → HERD → HERE → WERE → WEVE → WAVE. Ta-da!
That bottom-center section was a bear for me to finish, culminating with the crossing of the unnecessarily vague 106a [Bank letters] NSF (non-sufficient funds) and the unknown (to me) 95d [Iron range of Minnesota] MESABI; seriously, clue it with reference to a check bouncing or something a bit more direct—better yet as far as I’m concerned, the National Science Foundation. The nearby clues and fill didn’t help in the approach to the gravity-suck of that ultimate square: 96d [Actress Jenna] ELFMAN, 106d [Bowl overseer (abbr.)] NCAA, 113d [Beating chart (abbr.)] ECG (despite the implied pun of “beating [c+]heart”), 121a [Certain dives] GAINERS, 118a [“Money” musical] CABARET, 108d [[grumble grumble]] RATS, 92d [Rowdy supporter] CHEERER. Honestly, it’s as if a Newsday Stumper had bee parachuted into that area.
- 55a [Crate diggers’ finds] LPS, 65a [Some crate diggers] DJS. Heard this catchy gem from Kon & Amir’s (with DJ Muro) 2006 compilation Kings of Diggin’ :
See also, I guess, 78a [Rap battlers] MCS.
- 52d [Ristorante side dish] RISOTTO, sometimes it’s an entrée, entrata. 76a [ Burrito filling] RICE.
- 38d [They’re sometimes in mules] FEET, 101a [Shoe insert] TREE.
- 23a [Oakland nine] THE A’S, 103a [Band of Cowboys?] ELEVEN.
- 47d [Treasure trove] CACHE, 120a [Hides away] STASHES.
- [I’m kind of on autopilot here. Ca you tell?]
- 10d [“Jersey Shore” star] SNOOKI. Ugh, can we be done with her as viable crossword fodder?
- 42d [Drink with lunch] SODA. What a strange clue. Another: 64d [Reporter’s filing] ITEM.
- Like those two central longdowns: CARPE DIEM, NINOTCHKA. (41d, 52d)
Time to go.
today’s LAT the solving equivalent of diving into a hamper of pleasantly warm snuggies while a small robot lobs a toasted marshmallow safely into your mouth every 21 seconds and hums you songs from your childhood
This is basically correct, and probably the most interesting thing anyone has said about the LAT Sunday puzzle in quite some time.
NYT — Very amusing, but the commentary is a bit too nit-picky. Example: if you are at the WHEEL in a ship’s wheelhouse as the helmsman, you STEER, not DRIVE the boat.
I’m with you. Amy seemed a bit too much with her criticisms but, hey, that’s what she’s here for. I thought it was a okay puzzle, overall. I would have preferred more of a challenge, but the Sunday puzzles seem to be heading in the direction of easier solves. I suspect that’s to attract a larger audience.
Agree with the nit-picky assessment. The phrase “gold digger” is very common as someone looking for a sugar daddy. And “bum steer” was probably meant to be the slang phrase for bad information or misdirection.
To defend Amy on those specific criticisms, she was considering digger and steering exclusive of those collocations. As per the clues.
Yes, that’s correct. But I thought digger in the unusual sense, as one who digs an author, was very funny. We know the meaning of the -er suffix.
I just saw below that someone said the puzzle was not very funny. I wrote my phrase without seeing that, and I don’t agree.
I thought LIGHT SWITCHING was a reference to corporal punishment that’s used in some cultures, particularly in the south, which Adrian Peterson of the Vikings got into trouble for a few years ago. Wouldn’t be archaic in that instance.
NYT: Not very funny or entertaining.
WaPo: Dumb TV show; dumb puzzle.
Disagree wholeheartedly about “Arrested Development”. It is high art. If you are cool, creative, intelligent, and/or nonphilistine, you will like or love this show. Guaranteed.
Well, you sure burst my balloon. I’ve always considered myself to be many of the characteristics you listed but I, too, think it’s a dumb show. So, I’m not cool anymore? Bummer…
I never was cool or creative, but I’m pretty sure I’m intelligent and not a philistine. Fortunately, I also have a very thick skin.
To each his own, but I like the show very much too! (And the NYT puzzle, not relevant to this.)
“That form of the verb switch is archaic, says Oxford.”
Your citation is for “British and world English.” I haven’t found a dictionary of American English that agrees. In fact, I hear “switch” as an Americanism, especially Southern.
Incidentally, although WS uses the RHUD as his primary reference he will sometimes use an entry supported by a different dictionary, but never one supported solely by the OED without a “British” signal.
I was using the Mac’s dictionary widget, which is drawn from the New Oxford American Dictionary. There’s zero mention there of region, just “archaic beat or flick with or as if with a switch.”
“It has Southern corporal punishment ramifications” really isn’t an argument that makes me like the theme answer better. It makes it worse.
NYT was blah, I thought.
I liked the WaPo and I even figured out the meta this time. I realized that letters were being omitted and jotted them down around the edges of the puzzle. The only tricky thing was figuring out how to arrange them to spell out the TV show (which I watched a few episodes of, at a friend’s recommendation, but didn’t find entertaining enough to watch more).
I can’t say the two long theme answers in the puzzle helped me figure out the meta. In fact, I didn’t understand their significance until I saw the explanation here.
Thanks for the birthday wishes, Jenni.
David L: I sorta imagined the cross-referenced phrases as subtle callbacks to the theme concept, rather than direct hints about what to do for the meta. The series comes at the finales of 19 words, and the show title is related to the idea of interruptions, halting progress, etc.
NYT is definitely getting easier by the month. The two of us aren’t especially good solvers, so for us to finish the puzzle in a leisurely 15 minutes means it was very easy. We actually spent more time on Frank Longo’s “spelling bee” puzzle this week.
We found it mildly amusing, two, and did not have too many nits to pick with it, Though all of your criticisms are valid, Amy. One thing we particularly enjoyed was that there were very few “crosswordese” words
I didn’t find the Times puzzle funny either, but ok. I would most definitely not have wanted a Harry Potter clue, thank you!
Ditto about relief that there was no Harry Potter clue and that Jim and Jeff used something else. There was only one box I didn’t like: the crossing of 96a, NTSB, and 90d, GSN. I’m surprised that Jeff didn’t mention this crossing in his column, as he discusses Will’s dislike of abbreviations, and I thought before I read his column that Jeff didn’t like them either. I guess everyone knows NTSB but me. Perhaps I should have known GSN, but I don’t think anyone else has to know what obscure TV station specializes in game shows.
Re NYTimes Sunday, Sept 25 — I object to the definition of “LOCH” (87D) as “an arm of the sea.” Some lochs are sea lochs, and some are freshwater lochs, including the most famous, Loch Ness and Loch Lomond.