Ruth Bloomfield Margolin’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
We’ve got a geographic rhyming theme:
- 15a. [Commercial symbols in Lomé?], TOGO’S LOGOS. Know your African capitals! (I missed 15 of 54 on this quiz.) This is the only themer clued by way of a city because, really, what do most Americans know about Togo? (The vast majority don’t know its capital city either, mind you.)
- 19a. [Basis of a refreshing Mideast beverage?], YEMEN’S LEMONS. Apparently Yemen is known for a different citrus fruit, the esrog. This one’s got a spelling variance beyond the initial letter.
- 36a. [Gavotte, minuet and cancan?], FRANCE’S DANCES. I tend to get garotte and gavotte mixed up.
- 52a. [Far Eastern mimics?], CHINA’S MYNAHS. Much bigger spelling variance. Do people who don’t solve a lot of crosswords have any idea that mynah birds are mimics?
- 60a. [Providers of low notes for rumbas?], CUBA’S TUBAS. And back to no spelling variance.
I like that the theme includes Africa, Europe, North America, and both the Middle and Far Easts. I don’t like that there are also two 10-letter Acrosses that aren’t theme answers, and I wish that FRANCE’S DANCES had been left on the cutting room floor because too much of the fill felt hard for a Tuesday. (Having 44 theme squares lets a grid breathe much better than opting for 57 squares does.)
What’s hard for a Tuesday? Crosswordese ANIL; stale STENO; plural OYS; the Ethan Frome character ZEENA; probably-unfamiliar-to-most 36d. [David ___, comic with a famous Richard Nixon impression], FRYE (Frye Boots have got to be more familiar); and crosswordese “AN E” from Wheel of Fortune. Too many people think it’s easy to make an easy crossword, but it’s actually quite difficult to combine an easy theme with fill that’s accesssible.
Three more things:
- Three phrasal answers rubbed me the wrong way. I SAY SO feels inferior to “(because) I said so.” Not sure that NOT ONE is enough of a lexical chunk to merit crossword answer status. And either clue INHERE as the uncommon verb related to inherent or don’t use it, because it’s just weird to keep putting this in crosswords as a two-word phrase with a clue like [Cry after “Psst!”].
- 14a. [“Your majesty”], SIRE. I wonder if there are English-speaking countries that have kings. The United Kingdom (That name is a lie! Over the past two centuries, it’s been a United Queendom more than a Kingdom.) has a Ma’am and not a Sire. Though technically, you’d call a British king “Sir.” Maybe the clue should reference “The Wizard of Id.”
- 41a. [What a cyclops has in common with a cyclone], EYE. Although the etymological connection is the cyclo- part, meaning “circle.”
- 23d. [What kindness and graceful aging reveal], INNER BEAUTY. I really don’t think aging has the slightest thing to do with that.
2.9 stars from me. And constructors! Do play around with a lighter theme density and see if you like the fill better.
Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle (Week 283), “Crossover Artist”—Janie’s take
Today we get a tribute (of sorts) not to a musical “crossover artist” (someone like Pharrell Williams, say), but to an [Art Deco master featured in five horizontal answers]. And that would be none other than the crossword-friendly (and Long-Lived [11/23/1892 – 4/21/1990]) ERTÉ, whose name happens to span/cross over two words in each of the themers. The END RESULTS of this approach are pretty good, too, and I enjoyed the solve. Once I was finally able to get A TOEhold… But that took some doing as the NW corner had me stymied for a bit. I never seem to remember NCR, all I could think of for [NASA scrub] was ABORT—but only had four spaces to work with (so NO-GO was a NO-GO)—and I plunked in TAR where GOB lives. Uh, not a great start. How about you?
But back to the puzz. Let’s “DO IT!” [“Get cracking!]
- 17A. ROBERT E. LEE [Appomattox figure]. So rare that we get his full name. Love seeing it re-purposed for this particular thematic use.
- 27A. GUNPOWDER TEA [Chinese brew that’s a blast from the past?] Great punny clue for an all-around lively entry. This green tea has been served since the Tang Dynasty (no, not space-age Tang…), 618-907 A.D. Whence that “blast from the past” descriptor.
- 36A. BORDER TERRIER [Herding dog]. And adorable to boot.
- 45A. “I’LL NEVER TELL!” [“My lips are sealed!”]. If you do tell, well then: “TUT-TUT!”
- 60A. SOCCER TEAM [Squad that’s goal-oriented?]. Another punny clue. Especially welcome here as the fill is more middlin’ relative to the others in the theme set. Though I do like the variety it adds to the mix.
As you may know, ERTÉ was a Russian-born Frenchman, Romaine de Tirtoff by birth. Use the French pronunciation of his initials and you can see how he got the name we know him by (E=air; T=tay).
In addition to the main
exhibit event, there’s also [Art in a wheat field] or CROP CIRCLE. Nice one. And we get quite a bit of strong, mid-range fill as well, with the likes of that elusive X-FACTOR, DEITIES [Venus and Mars], the truly remarkable [1956 World Series hero Don] LARSEN, FLEXOR, SEE FIT, the imperative “OPEN UP!” [“I know you’re in there!”] and possibly, in response, the [Repeated denial] “NO, NO, NO!”
While I’m not wild for three-letter abbreviations and initialisms, I do like the way some of today’s pull the puzzle together. F’rinstance, those [Pub. house submissions], your MSS (manuscripts), if not sent as a PDF, are likely to enclosed in an ENV. And it hadn’t occurred to me (“D’oh…”), but your local ATM [$ dispenser] is likely made by, yep, NCR.
Wish the puzz had fewer partials altogether and specifically, the “A” partials: A TOE, A TEAR, A-TAT, A RULE. A LEC [joke]. But the others are for real. This kind of fill is often the result of construction restraints (we have a theme-rich grid today), and (as always) YMMV.
Still, like the KIROV [Soviet ballet company], I like the way this puzzle keeps us on our toes. Which is something a well-rounded puzzle should do. Happy November, have a great week and keep solvin’!
Seth Geltman & Jeff Chen’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “The Four P’s of Marketing” — Jim’s review
Geltman and Chen team up once again to provide tips on sales approaches. We’re given four two-word phrases in which the first word’s meaning is changed to mean “to promote.” It just so happens that those four words all start with P. The second word’s meaning is changed also (well, in three cases, anyway).
- 23a [Directive to a campaign supplier?] PUSH BUTTONS. Timely, whereas promoting funnyman Red would be old-timely.
- 34a [Directive to a Geritol salesman?] PUMP IRON. I’m not too familiar with PUMP used as a synonym for sell. To me, its non-literal meaning is more commonly used as a synonym for ask. But it checks out over at The Free Dictionary (albeit as the 11th definition in the list).
- 38a [Directive to director John’s agent?] PITCH WOO. He of the over-the-top action sequences.
- 46a [Directive to a Parliament booster?] PLUG TOBACCO. I was in double trouble on this one. I’d never heard of this phrase, nor did I recognize Parliament as a brand of cigarettes.
Solid, clever, and tightly defined. The only nit, as I said above, is that the second word’s meaning is also changed in all but one entry (PLUG TOBACCO). Otherwise, a good theme.
And good fill all around: ROUGH PATCH, FLAT TIRES, VIGILANTES, MODULATE, HAT HEAD, MEATLOAF, STEINEM, WALTZES, and ÁNDALE [Cry from Speedy Gonzales]. That’s great stuff!
A few entries had me scratching my head though:
- A [Sizzling Mexican dish], to me, is fajitas, plural, not a singular FAJITA.
- I had always heard of the [Strait separating Europe from Asia] as the Bosphorus, with an F sound. I had no idea it could also be spelled as BOSPORUS and with a P sound.
- DITTO MARK [“] sounded iffy to me, but it checks out. I had only ever referred to those as double quotation marks or double quotes for short.
Other than those hiccups, this was a really enjoyable puzzle, with clean fill, and a smattering of good clues (e.g. [Newfoundland greeting, perhaps] for WOOF).
Janice Luttrell’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
My post is late, and I am going to blame the Cubs. They have me stressed out!! I could have typed this up earlier, but my mind is frazzled! I am in decent enough shape to solve a few puzzles, though, and if you’re like me, solving crosswords are pretty much a calming activity. A constant in a storm of emotions!
Today’s theme is, well, “powdery!”
- 20A [Shake off one’s daydreams] FACE REALITY
- 39A [Cause of chubby cheeks, perhaps] BABY FAT
- 11D [Ingratiate oneself (with)] CURRY FAVOR – I always wonder why that extra parenthetical part is added …
- 29D [Bargain hunter’s venue] FLEA MARKET
- 55A [Leave hurriedly … and, literally, what the first words of the starred clues can do] TAKE A POWDER
Face powder, baby powder, curry powder and flea powder. Flea powder? Oh yeah: you sprinkle that on man’s best friend! Very clever. Let’s go 4.2 stars today.
- 18A [Actor Bana of “Closed Circuit”] ERIC – And that horrible version of Hulk!
- 34A [“Born Free” lioness] ELSA – No Frozen reference! (Except by me!) :-o
- 1D [High hair style] POUF – I have no hair, so I put in AFRO mistakenly! Slightly hard word. When you don’t have hair.
- 5D [Sugary brewed drink] SWEET TEA – Now I am thirsty for one of the few things I enjoy at McDonalds!
- 9D [Kid in a military family] ARMY BRAT – Ironically, I don’t know anybody who is/was one of these! At least not that I know of.
- 28D [Gangster Frank in “Road to Perdition”] NITTI – Add this to the long list of movies that I wish I had seen but haven’t. Yet. Not on Netflix, so it doesn’t look good!
- 39D [Temporary Oktoberfest structure] BEER TENT – Why wait for a special occasion to erect a tent for beer?!
- 45D [Drink pourer’s words] SAY WHEN! – My favorite entry of the grid!
As of now, Game 6 of the World Series has not begun. Go Cubbies!!!
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “It’s a Barbecue” – Derek’s write-up
This theme snuck up on me, even though the puzzle didn’t play that hard at all. Probably one of my fastest Jonesin’ times since I began blogging this puzzle. Perhaps it is the lack of longer entries, even among the FIVE thematic ones! Nothing else longer than 8 letters, but the interlock is impressive, with a few downs crossing three of the theme answers!
What does this puzzle have to do with barbecue?
- 17A [Open some champagne] POP THE CORK
- 25A [Freebie with many takeout orders] PLASTIC FORK
- 37A [Where ships dock in the Big Apple] PORT OF NEW YORK
- 49A [One whose work involves moving letters around] POSTAL CLERK
- 60A [Barbecue menu item, or what’s going on with the theme answers] PULLED PORK
It doesn’t jump out at you, but then again I am not in a good mental state with the Cubs still in the World Series. My nerves are shot! I like this one, and a mercifully slightly easier puzzle this week! 4.0 stars.
- 1A [Ebsen costar on “The Beverly Hillbillies”] BAER – As in Max Baer, Jr, who played good old Jethro Bodine. Yes, the son of heavyweight champ Max Baer!
- 9A [“America’s Got Talent” judge Heidi] KLUM – I’ll just say it: she is still stunning! (I will definitely find out soon if my wife is reading my blog regularly!)
- 22A [“SportsCenter” source] ESPN – A gimme! I literally used to watch daily. Now I am down to, oh, six days a week!
- 33A [Fabric named for a Mideast capital] DAMASK – After Damascus, I believe. I learned this in Learned League!
- 42A [World’s largest cosmetics company] L’OREAL – I guess I didn’t realize they were the largest. I did learn from them that “I’m worth it!”
- 63A [Almond __ (candy in a canister)] ROCA – I have never heard of these. I am not a fan of almond flavor, though. I’ll get some for my wife, especially if she reads this post!
- 9D [Book publisher Alfred A. __] KNOPF – Is there another Knopf??
- 27D [Morty’s mate in animated adventures] RICK – If you say so …
- 38D [Brand with ‘The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” ads] OLD SPICE – These ads are hilarious! I’ll let you Google it yourself!
- 45D [__ cog (blunder)] SLIP A – If you say so … I don’t think I have ever heard this idiom.
- 52D [Oprah’s “Epic Rap Battles of History” foe] ELLEN – I WILL Google this one for you!
- 58D [“American Idiot” drummer Cool] TRÉ – The drummer from Green Day. Whose name I can never remember!
Not knowing Zeena, I put in Zeema, thinking “I’m here!” could as easily follow PSST… I agree the fill in this one made it much harder than a typical Tuesday offering.
Also, isn’t it a flaw that this puzzle has LESOTHO as a separate entry — a non-theme country?
I thought the fill was pretty darn good for 72 words and 5 theme entries. Yes, you can make the argument that there should have only been 4 themers, but keep in mind we have The Other Crossword Blogger saying that the theme is too loose and open-ended, a criticism which would only be exacerbated by reducing the theme entries. You can also say that the grid should not have been 72 words, but we would have missed out on ALLOSAURUS, CRIMESPREES, and INNERBEAUTY, plus a whole bunch of pretty good sixes like TINEAR, TOPHAT, SNEEZY, and WONOUT. It’s too bad about WONOUT, otherwise the OUS/ASAN crossing could have been the more palatable OUT/ATAN. Regardless, I would have been proud to have accomplished this fill if it were my grid, #sorrynotsorry.
The Other Crossword Blogger: Jeff Chen, right? Not Rex? For me, Jeff is the Other Crossword Blogger, who did indeed say something about looseness, but I don’t know what others think. The way I read them, Jeff said that, not Rex.
NYT: I guess we’re using the auténtico Spanish pronunciation of Cuba rather than the presumably-more-pervasive-among-solvers-of-this-crossword anglicized version?
edit: I see that there are alternative pronunciations for TUBA which allow it to rhyme with the more common Cuba pronunciation mentioned above. I only checked because it seemed a remote possibility, but am rather surprised.
What I found really confusing was that 3/4 theme answers had P at the beginning and “ORK” at the end. Thus, I finished with Postal clORK. Not that that makes any sense at all. I thought this was possibly poor fill/theme answer.
Had a hard time with Nehi, Biped, Lilts (can someone explain this fill?). Everything else was pretty good.
Thanks Matt for a good puzzle!