Michael Ashley’s New York Times crossword, “Movie Doubles”—Amy’s write-up
The theme answers are made by doubling one letter in a movie title and cluing the altered phrase accordingly:
- 23a. [One working for Supercuts?], AMERICAN SNIPPER.
- 35a. [Barista’s big reveal?], THE LATTE SHOW. The Late Show? I had to look this one up. 1977 movie with Art Carney and Lily Tomlin. It’s not one people mention much.
- 64a. [Search for a really funny person?], HOOT PURSUIT.
- 96a. [Declaration at Ringo’s birth?], A STARR IS BORN. Although, of course, when Ringo was born, he was a Starkey and not a Starr.
- 114a. [Photographer’s impossible task?], A SHOOT IN THE DARK. No idea which of these five old movies is intended here.
- 43d. [French bachelor?], HOMME ALONE. Er, that should be Homme Seul.
- 38d. [Money in Oregon state coffers?], SALEM’S LOOT. The original book, of course, is ‘Salem’s Lot, contraction of Jerusalem’s.
The theme’s okay, but none of the theme answers made me crack a smile.
- 116d. [Crank], NUT. Can we stop calling people NUTs and, I dunno, call nuts NUTs? Corn Nuts. Cashews. Pecans. Walnuts. Almonds. Filberts. Banana-nut bread. Or hardware. A hard nut to crack. Metaphorical nuts and bolts. Heck, even a kick in the NUTS would work.
- 18a. [___ land], LA-LA. Do you like movie musicals? If so, you’re in luck—La La Land, starring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, opens in December. There’s whistling in the trailer, so I simply CANNOT.
- 78a. [Nickname for DiMaggio], JOLTIN’ JOE. What current athletes have alliterative nicknames?
- 109a. [Singer LaBelle], PATTI. You can put LaBelle in my crossword any day! Here’s her 1975 “Lady Marmalade.”
- 120a. [“This I Promise You” band, 2000], N’SYNC. No, no, no. They’re not a “band.” They’re a group of singing guys. If a group of female vocalists is a “girl group,” it’s certainly not right to go with “boy band,” alliteration be damned.
- 122a. [Divisions of office bldgs.], STES. You know what? It makes a helluva lot more sense to clue this as office suites than as French female saints. I feel like we usually see the saint abbrev rather than suite.
- 44d. [“Goodness!”]. “OH, ME.” Raise your hand if you have ever said this. “Oh, my!” is far, far more common. And yet OHME and AHME persist in crosswords because editors don’t tell constructors that they’re junk fill that needs to be removed.
- 82d. [“Truly”], “IT’S SO.” Really? Cluing this as a stand-alone phrase? I call foul.
3.4 stars from me.
Matt Skoczen’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “Big Time”—Andy’s review
It took me an embarrassingly long time post-solve to figure out what the theme of this puzzle was. The seemingly unrelated theme answers do share one thing in common: their first words can be preceded by “big” to make standalone phrases (a fact that’s vaguely alluded to in the title but never revealed explicitly in the grid or clues, to my knowledge). Themers:
- 23a, CHEESE OMELETTE [Breakfast order]. Big cheese.
- 36a, APPLE TURNOVER [Fruity pastry shop purchase]. Big Apple.
- 51a, BAND TOGETHER [Unite]. Big band.
- 78a, BROTHER-IN-LAW [Wedding acquisition, perhaps?]. Big Brother.
- 95a, SHOT IN THE DARK [Stab]. Big shot.
- 111a, TOP O’ THE MORNING [1949 Crosby film set in Ireland]. Big top. If IMDB is to be believed, this movie is about “A singing insurance investigator [who] comes to Ireland to recover the stolen Blarney Stone…and romance the local policeman’s daughter.”
- 17d, WHEEL WATCHER [Fan of Pat and Vanna, familiarly]. Big wheel (keeps on turning). There is a thing called the “Wheel Watchers Club” whereby fans can register to win prizes by watching Wheel of Fortune. I don’t know that I’ve heard the term used by anyone other than Sony Pictures Studios, but if someone asked whether I was a “Wheel watcher,” I’d certainly know they didn’t mean the early-2000s dating show The 5th Wheel.
- 60d, CITY SLICKER [Ones not at home on the range]. Big city.
The theme is really well done. If I’m nitpicking, I would have liked a revealer in the grid, but the title got me there eventually (and I’m willing to accept the possibility that I’m just particularly dense this afternoon). I really liked those big corners in the NW and SE with (essentially) intersecting 8-letter triple stacks. Top to bottom, I thought the fill was really very good, with the small exception of a minor dupe between ST. HELENS and STES. Could’ve been fixed with STEM/TAMER instead of STES/TASER, I think. Loved seeing both ETHOS and PATHOS in the grid.
Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post Crossword, “Oh, it’s You” — Jenni’s writeup
Evan gives us a straightforward sound replacement theme today. As the title suggest, “O” is “U.”
23a [Where a student can major in English, banking and masse?] = CUE COLLEGE (Coe College.) “English, banking and masse” are all terms you would hear in a pool hall
- 25a [Caustic circuit part?] = BITTER FUSE (bitter foes.)
- 38a [Movie star Grant when he’s Hollywood-bound?] = WESTWARD HUGH (westward, ho!) I hadn’t yet figured out the theme when I got to this one and I was expecting Cary Grant to appear.
- 59a [Postal service that delivers weakly?] = PUNY EXPRESS (Pony Express.)
- 66a [“David, my precious philosopher David …”?] = HUME, SWEET HUME (home, sweet home.) My favorite theme answer.
- 79a [“What adorable pool holes!”?] = CUTE POCKETS (coat pockets.) Not a dupe, precisely, but two references to pool without a larger theme connection is – odd.
- 99a [Steep hill where sparks fly?] = THE LOVE BUTTE (The Love Boat.)
- 114a [Ferris topper?] = BUELLER HAT (bowler hat.) Does anyone say “bowler hat,” or is it just “bowler?” Does anyone wear a bowler these days?
- 116a [Where to find a plastered Polyhymnia?] = MUSE TAVERN (Moe’s Tavern.) Nice to see Polyhymnia getting some ink rather than her over-exposed sister Erato.
The theme is solid and consistent and just a smidgen too easy for me, although if you don’t know Coe College, it could be hard to get an early foothold. I didn’t find most of the answers all that funny, with the exception of “Hume, Sweet Hume.”
Perhaps to make up for the relatively easy theme, some of the fill is more obscure than usual.
- 9d [Substitute English teachers?] = THESAURI. No one ever uses this plural, even if it’s technically correct, and the clue is tricky and difficult to parse.
- 14d [Immediate impression] = APERCU. It’s a lovely word, and not widely used.
- 17d [Fibonacci’s birthplace] is a more challenging way to clue PISA.
- 39d [Daisy with a Tony] = EAGAN. Daisy won her Tony in 1991 for “The Secret Garden.” Obscure, and crossed with RACHEL clued as “Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power” writer Maddow” which at least gives us the last name, because the book is not particularly well-known.
You get the idea.
A few other things:
- Scottish geography with 61a [“Monstrous” loch] NESS and 120a [Scot’s slope] for BRAE, plus a bonus appearance for 126a [Clan member, perhaps] for LASS.
- [I’ll take NCAA mascots for $200, Alex – South Carolina’s GAMECOCKS and the UTAH UTES crossing at the T and clued with reference to BYU’s Cougars.
- Another book clue for someone who is better-known for other things: 10a [Subject of the book “Renegade: The Making of a President”] is OBAMA.
- 88d [Advertising mascot retired in 1997] is JOE CAMEL. I’m appalled (but not surprised) that it took that long.
- 83d [Cheesy Welsh dish] = RAREBIT. We all know there’s no rabbit in it, right?
- I enjoyed the juxtaposition of RAVEL and NAVELS.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that Jerry ORBACH voiced Lumiere in “Beauty and the Beast.” We didn’t do Disney movies when my kid was little.
With thousands if not tens of thousands of possible theme entries, I would expect at least really good theme answers, or an immaculate grid. Big fail here.
I’ve been working with paralegals for years, and yet I’ve never once heard of PARAS. And yet that’s still not as junky as EMALL, which is one of the worst fake E-words I’ve seen in quite a while.
Agree on both scores. I expect our paralegal would take great offense at being referred to as a “para” and “emall” is, was, and always will be dreck.
Perhaps it’s regional. Paralegals were referred to as “paras” all the time at the law firm(s) where I worked, even by the paras themselves.
Yes my wife’s an attorney here in NYC & she says “paras” gets used all the time, including the paras themselves.
Even when there’s but two?
How about [Little mushroomy Pokemon who shows up way too often] ?
Sunday Times – Growing up a Roy Rogers fan, I was always taken by the scarves he wore around his neck. I could never find scarves that size to “dress-up” like his kind of cowboy. He never wore a bolo tie. I object to the clue (more correctly the answer) on principle.
I just found a pic of him wearing a bolo tie playing Jesse (not JESSI) James in a 1941 movie. Which is digging pretty deep.
And of course he was a Richard and not a Ringo.
Enjoyable puzzle, consistent level of challenge and punning edge to edge, my speed. Thumbs up.
Minor quibble, never heard of Coe College, except from…ah, yes, another crossword puzzle. And concerning the same clue at 23a, isn’t the trailing word more commonly spelled massé? Hmm, p’raps not. That confused me through completion.
Em…3 stars from me? I dunno, somewhere in there.
(In the write-up above, the paraphrasing ‘As the title suggest, “O” is “U.”’ of the theme clue is not accurate: long O sound is swapped with long U sound. And yes, ‘bowler hat’ is proper, see part 3, chapter 2, para 4, end, of “Unbearable Lightness,” for example. Just reread it, which sprang to mind that reference, Heim’s is only English translation with which I’m acquainted. Also, for me, after lower crosses filled, ‘thesauri’ came quickly, as did ‘apercu’–I believe I recall a talking head once use the word during a PBS NewsHour segment, ha! I may’ve learned it myself from a crossword, ages ago.)