Caleb Madison’s New York Times crossword, “Updates”—Amy’s write-up
Okay, yet another NYT puzzle that feels like it’s been lying fallow for quite some time. The theme answers are phrases that start with big cats that are also the names of MAC OPERATING SYSTEMS. Cheetah is version 10.0; Puma, 10.1; Jaguar, 10.2; Tiger, 10.4; Leopard, 10.5; and Lion, 10.7. We’re five versions beyond that now, as Lion was released in 2011 and Apple has long since moved on to non-cat OS names. I can’t imagine Caleb conceived of this puzzle in the Mavericks/Yosemite/beyond era. He’s young, he’s one of those millennial hipster types (gonna kill me for saying that), and he’s not gonna think an obsolete software theme is fun to do.
Further evidence: The last of the CHEETAH GIRLS Disney Channel movies came out in 2008. The other theme answers don’t scream “this puzzle is from 2011.” PUMA SNEAKERS gets an old Pelé clue but the shoes still exist. The JAGUAR XKE is a decades-old car model, but fine, whatever, XKE keeps showing up in crosswords for some reason. TIGER LILY is timeless, as is LEOPARD PRINT. “The LION IN WINTER” is about the same age as the Jaguar, but has Oscar cred.
Five more things:
- 31a. [Woman of whom it’s begged “Please don’t take my man,” in a 1973 hit], JOLENE. Listen. If a man in a relationship cheats, it’s not The Other Woman who deserves the blame. It’s the man who’s betraying his partner’s trust. (And the same goes for a woman cheating on her man, or same-sex cheaters. The “home-wrecker” is coming from inside the house.) Anyway—here’s a performance where Dolly Parton is joined by Miley Cyrus to sing her classic, “Jolene.”
- 15d. Tech help station], GENIUS BAR. Additional Apple plug.
- 36d. Godzilla foe], MOTHRA. Oh! There was a giant Atlas moth at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum here in Chicago. A moth with a 9″ wingspan: the stuff of nightmares or a thing of beauty?
- 83a. Some acids], AMINOS. Constructors! Please stop pluralizing AMINO. That’s not really a thing.
- 64a. [Acronym for an outdoor fantasy game], LARP. Live-action role-playing, I believe. Players dress in fantasy costumes (perhaps period attire) and may romp about in the forest with, I dunno, swords? An immersive experience.
- 114a. Annual California music festival], COACHELLA. Terrific and contemporary entry.
The grid, like most but not all 21×21 grids, is peppered with blah fill like OLEO OCTA SMEE ETON ALER RILL ESTE ILSA. Hope you all navigated those crossings if you’re newer to crosswords and were thrown by some of those.
Three stars from me. I’d have rated it higher five years ago.
Joe Schewe’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “Eekology 101″—Andy’s review
- 23a, SHEET BELTS [Ghosts’ car safety devices?]. Seat belts. I don’t think ghosts have much to worry about w/r/t car crashes, though.
- 25a, BROOM MATES [Witches living together?]. Roommates. Are they all living on the same broom? That seems uncomfortable at best.
- 51a, STAKE SANDWICH [Dracula’s least favorite lunch?] Steak sandwich. My least favorite lunch too.
- 70a, SCREAM OF WHEAT [Monster’s favorite cereal?]. Cream of Wheat.
- 98a, NECKTARINE [Dracula’s favorite fruit?]. Nectarine.
- 102a, HOWLLYWOOD [Where werewolves seek stardom?]. Hollywood.
- 32d, HORRORSCOPE [Monster’s daily newspaper reading?]. Horoscope.
- 43d, GHOUL SCOUTS [Monsters’ cookie-selling group?]. Girl Scouts.
Had POD at 14d [Whale group] before arriving at the correct answer, GAM. That terminal D gives BROOD MATES for [Witches living together?], which, while not particularly punny, does more accurately describe a group of witches living together, I think.
I was a little disappointed that the theme clues had three “monster”s and no other repeats. Maybe SCREAM OF WHEAT could’ve been [Banshee’s favorite cereal?], and GHOUL SCOUTS could’ve been [Demons’/Spirits’ cookie-selling group?].
Not much else to say about this one. The puns were okay. There weren’t any bright spots in the surrounding fill, and a smattering of less than ideal entries like OCA, HANNAS, NOT OF, NENE, and UNCA.
Until next time!
Martin Ashwood-Smith’s Sunday Challenge CrosSynergy crossword —Ade’s write-up
Good morning, everyone! If you got your Halloween partying out of the way yesterday, I hope you had a fun time and/or won a prize for best costume at the get-together you might have gone to!
Today’s crossword puzzle is brought to us by one of our favorite Canadian residents, Mr. Martin Ashwood-Smith, and, in the grid, there’s a shout-out to the Great White North with OTTAWA, a beautiful city that I had the honor of setting foot in about a decade ago (47D: [Home of the NHL Senators]). Speaking of honor and Canada, I might be the only one who found it humorous that a Canadian constructor, who would usually spell the word as “honour,” would have the American spelling of it inside of the grid, seen within the entry ON ONE’S HONOR (15A: [Accepting personal responsibility]). Thank you for catering to your largely American audience!
For those who are fans of CSI, this was the perfect grid for you, with the star of CSI: Miami, DAVID CARUSO (1A: [Lieutenant Horatio Caine portrayer]) and CSIS, with the entries intersecting each other (6D: [Some CBS forensics spinoffs]). Really liked that entire northwest corner (outside of the “CSIS” entry), which included the nice long fill of RETALIATION (17A: [Vengeance]) and SARGASSO SEA (19A: [Calm waters northeast of the West Indies]). That area also contains DORS, and I had just read about her interesting life as an actress – and host to sex parties – in Great Britain (1D: [Diana of “I Married a Woman”]). There’s also another Brit in the grid, as ALISTAIR MACLEAN is the 15-letter entry that holds the grid together in the middle (37A: [“Puppet on a Chain” novelist]). I’m far from the most die-hard of Scrabble players, but I knew Y TILES off the bat and wasn’t deterred by putting in the successive “YT” letters in the grid (22A: [They’re worth four points in Scrabble]). Fun solve.
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: SOOEY (10D: [“Here, piggies!”]) – Of all of the cheers I’ve heard from fan bases at college venues I’ve been to, which cheer is my favorite? Well, after hearing it in person while covering the 2008 Southeastern Conference Men’s Basketball Tournament in Atlanta, it has to be the cheer performed by supporters of the University of Arkansas Razorbacks sports teams. The cheer goes like this…
“Wooooooooooooooo….PIG! SOOEY! RAZORBACKS!
Don’t believe me? Well, take a listen…
Have a great rest of your Sunday, everyone!
Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Freaky Fashion” — Jenni’s writeup
I tried to solve this theme backwards. Didn’t work. Thanks to pannonica for straightening me out. No excuse, except that we’re still recovering from Friday night’s teenage Halloween extravaganza. (Me on Saturday morning: How many girls slept here last night? Emma: I don’t know. Was I supposed to count? Plus leftover candy corn….)
The theme answers are all names, and all the names have circles in them. The notepad says “The 93 Across for this puzzle is spelled out in the circled letters.” 93 A is DRESS CODE and the circled letters spell COSTUME. So…now what? Let’s see.
29a is [“Operator” singer Jim or, with some changes, his outfit for 33 Across]. This is my era of music, so I knew it was Jim CROCE. 33a is HALLOWEEN…so we’re looking for Jim’s HALLOWEEN COSTUME. “With some changes” suggests we need to change some letters. Anagram? Nope. Change the circled letters? Nope. Change the non-circled letters? Aha! Now we’re on to something. But change them to what? This was the piece I missed because I didn’t think to check the crossings. Sugar overload, I tell you. In this case, the R comes from 30d [Word before “Ding Dong” in a 1961 hit by the Edsels] – even older than “Operator.” There are two words before “Ding Dong” – RAMA LAMA. The R from RAMA gives us CROCE. The L from LAMA gives us – something else. The other non-circled crossings can be CAR or WAR and BORE or BORN. If we sub the other letters, we go from CROCE to CLOWN. Very clever! I like this.
55a [*One-named Guns N’ Roses guitarist or, with some changes, his outfit for 33 Across]. The second S in SLASH is circled; the other letters crosses SLOP/GLOP, CLIP/CHIP, HERA/HERO, and GUSH/GUST. SLASH is dressing as a GHOST.
- 63a [*Midler of “Hocus Pocus” or, with some changes, her outfit for 33 Across] is BETTE. The first T is circled; the crossings are BALK/WALK, PENS/PINS, RATE/RACE, and CASE/CASH. BETTE will be a WITCH.
- 72a [*Stanley of “The Devil Wears Prada” or, with some changes, his outfit for 33 Across] is where I really should have figured this out on my own, because I didn’t know TUCCI offhand and I put in a bunch of the alternate answers before I figured him out. The U is circled; crossings are TARS/MARS, COPE/MOPE, LACE/LAME, and LILI/LILY. Mr. TUCCI will be dressed as a MUMMY.
- 95a [*Ex-CIA agent Valerie in 2003 headlines or, with some changes, her outfit for 33 Across] is, of course, Valerie PLAME. With the ME circled, the crossings are PAIN/GAIN, URL/URN, and MIA/MIO. Extra credit to Evan for the clue for URL/URN — [87d. devilcross.com/ornamental_vase.jpg, e.g.] Click on the URL and you’ll see an URN. It’s a mighty pretty urn, too
This is an astonishing feat of construction that was really fun to solve. That’s a lot of Schrödinger words, and very few of them were awkward; when I did hit the “costume” spelling first, I just thought it was misdirection. This is one of my favorites of the Birnholz era at the Post.
A few other things:
- The NW corner is satisfyingly Scrabbly, with AZALEA and AJAR.
- Thank you, Evan, for cluing PEPE as [Le Pew who stinks] and not as a hopeless romantic. He’s a stalker skunk, pure and simple. This is not romance.
- There will be some drinking at that Halloween costume party! We’ve got ALES and NOGS, to start with.
- You would think by now I would tumble to the use of flower in a clue to mean a river. Nope. I spent a while staring at BLUE NILE when I filled in [80d Flower originating in Ethiopia].
- Politics/not politics: [Big blue state?] at 36d is MISERY and [Big red state?] at 11d is IRE. Phew.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that the BLUE NILE originated in Ethiopia.
Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s CRooked crossword, “How About It?” — pannonica’s write-up
I guess this is indirectly referring to the Stephen King creepy clown story It. Anyway, familiar names and phrases have the bigram IT inserted to generate wackified versions. There’s even a revealer, 33d [Hip, like this puzzle’s theme entries?] WITH IT.
- 24a. [First toe or middle finger?] THE BIG DIGIT (The Big Dig). I case you forgot this was a Boston-based crossword. I would have been consistent and gone with thumb. Hallux and pollex.
- 38a. [Fruit with a sharp tang?] BITING CHERRIES (Bing cherries).
- 54a. [Dwarf flower?] PETIT ROSE (Pete Rose).
- 79a. [Limited skills?] FINITE ARTS (fine arts). Nice clue.
- 93a. [Musician everyone felt sorry for?] THE PITIED PIPER (The Pied Piper).
- 110a. [Decorous track jump?] POLITE VAULT (pole vault).
- 4d. [Hazard for base runners?] INFIELD TARPIT (infield tarp).
- 58d. [Unrealistic sermon?] PULPIT FICTION (pulp fiction).
Fun, right? Right?
It’d be nice to report that the non-theme material is elegantly devoid of ITs, but that isn’t so. Just one lonely exception: 49a [Jedi adversary] SITH.
With complaints about the NYT’s ERIK/XKE crossing (which I don’t feel merits contentiousness), I’d suggest this puzzle’s pair of 102d [UConn’s Auriemma] GENO and 114a [Scoop nest] CONE was more egregious. I finished the grid with GETO and COTE, and it took a very long while to suss out the error. Unfamiliar college athlete, plus cutesy clue. Fie!
- 40d [Free from taint] CHASTE, 62d [Roz of cartooning] CHAST. Was hoping to see pioneering graphic designer Seymour CHWAST, but … not to be.
- 72d [Put in writing] INKED. This one would have benefitted from a question mark, unless I’m missing something.
- 77d [Bill-ionaire?] GATES. That, dear reader(s), is a super-groanworthy clue. Yet, my favorite clue also involves a hoary pun: 105d [Edifice wreck] RUIN.
- 91d [Against the current] UPRIVER. Growing up at the beach as I did, it doesn’t naturally occur to me to think of rivers having a current, but I concede that it’s correct also. The word I’d use is flow.
- 17d [Tintinnabulated] RANG.