Joe DiPietro’s New York Times crossword, “It’s All an Elision”—Amy’s write-up
Was this puzzle harder than you were expecting? Or am I just sleep-deprived and not cogitating optimally?
The theme takes phrases, not all so firmly established, that start with “it’s ___” and elide the “it” so that the S is joined to the following word. The resulting new phrase gets a silly clue:
- 23a. [“Do your taxidermy on the patio instead!”?] STUFF OUT THERE. “It’s tough out there.”
- 40a. [A foot on the ground in Phoenix?], SNOW SURPRISE. “It’s no surprise.”
- 68a. [Comfort food causing oral discomfort?], STEW DAMN HOT. Wouldn’t you say “stew’s too damn hot” or “damn hot stew,” though? “It’s too damn hot” also doesn’t feel as firmly anchored in something that’s commonly said.
- 92a. [Crazy Horse, Sitting Bull and that’s probably it?], SIOUX YOU KNOW. “It’s who you know.” The day after that TONTO clue, do we really need to tell any indigenous solvers that “you” would only plausibly know two long-dead Sioux people? I mean, people from all over the Americas have headed to North Dakota to help the Standing Rock Sioux try to stave off a new oil pipeline that threatens their access to clean water and ancestral lands. The water protectors may be too busy to be doing crossword puzzles right now, but the Sioux are real people living in the United States today. (Disclosure: I don’t personally know anyone whom I know to be Sioux. But if I lived in the Dakotas? I very well would.)
- 113a. [Slogan for wine geeks?], SIP TO BE SQUARE. “It’s hip to be square” is a line from the Huey Lewis and the News song, “Hip to Be Square.” Would be better to base a theme answer on the title rather than a lyric, no?
- 17d. [Mystery ingredient in SweeTarts?], SOUR LITTLE SECRET. I feel like “it’ll be our little secret” is more commonly heard than “it’s our little secret,” but I really loved this theme answer and its clue. (Exposé! It’s malic acid that makes SweeTarts sour. Or is it?)
- 37d. [Always putting up my entry fees?], STAKING ME FOREVER. “It’s taking me forever.” I have never heard the verb to stake used with a direct object that’s a person … unless you’re talking about Buffy the Vampire Slayer, in which case plenty of big bads got staked.
I’m mostly neutral on the theme. Not a stale concept, and I really liked the SweeTarts bit, but some of the other themers were less successful.
Five more things:
- 6a. [Terms of service], TENURES. As in the length of time you’ve served in a position, as opposed to the fine-print terms of service you have to click “Agree” on in order to use an app, a website, etc. One of many clues that weren’t what they seemed at first glance.
- 32a. [Discipline for paper tigers?], ORIGAMI. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen an origami tiger! Not the easiest or most popular of the origami animals.
- 35d. [Communication devices for commuters, once], CAR PHONES. Oh! Nostalgia. I was not one of those fancy people with a car antenna stuck to my trunk. Anyone know what movie Alan Alda was in as an affluent guy talking on a giant old mobile phone in Central Park?
- 10d. [Small semicircular grooves on a column], REEDING. I only know of reeding as the grooves on a dime or a quarter. Apparently when you’re talking about columns, reeding is synonymous with gadrooning, which is a weird-looking word!
- 39d. [1960s TV show whose star weighed 650 pounds], GENTLE BEN. I could only think of Mister Ed. Never did see Gentle Ben (which features a black bear and Clint Howard) in the U.S., but I caught an episode on Austrian TV in 1997.
The fill’s quite good overall, if I recall correctly. (What? I’m overtired.) 3.8 stars from me.
Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Themeless No. 3″—Jenni’s write-up
A nice smooth 21×21 themeless to usher in Standard Time. You did remember to change your clock, didn’t you? And the thermostat? And the microwave? Good.
There’s a bit of misdirection in this puzzle that had to unraveled, so it wasn’t my fastest solve. No complaints. I enjoy a good misdirection.
- 5d [Should the situation warrant it] is IF NEED BE, not IF NEEDED.
- 12d [Exhibits disdain] is SNORTS, not SNEERS. Admittedly, I wouldn’t have been misdirected if I’d remembered how Madelyn Murray O’HAIR spelled her name. Pro tip: not like the Chicago airport.
- Nice cross-reference between 24a. [He destroyed the second Death Star] and 81a [Ruin, as a plot (like telling someone who’s never seen a “Star Wars” film that 24 Across destroyed the second Death Star)].
- 25a [Spike] is UPSURGE. That’s not misdirection, really, but it did make me wonder if there’s such a thing as a DOWNSURGE. And what’s the difference between an upsurge and a surge?
- 44a [Accord halter] has nothing to do with Honda. It’s a DEAL BREAKER.
- I remember HOT PANTS, clued at 69a as [Revealing garment with a “short but happy career,” per Life magazine in 1971]. These days Emma just calls them “shorts.”
- More 1970s references with Chris EVERT.
- I don’t suppose that the timing of 111a [No ___ (bridge specification)] is accidental. The answer, of course, is TRUMP.
EDITED TO ADD: Not only do we have TRUMP in the grid, but we have CLINTON, JOHNSON, STEIN and GENERAL ELECTION. So this is not so much a themeless. Very sneaky, very good, and I missed it because I was very tired. Thanks to Martin and AK47 for cluing me in.
What I did not know before I did this puzzle: that TETLEYS makes ale in the UK.
Kevin Donovan’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “Following Up”—Andy’s review
“UP” added to the front end of normal phrases to make them wacky phrases. The results:
- 23a, UPRIGHT FIELD [Profession for the principled?]. Right field.
- 29a, UPBEAT POET [Dr. Seuss, e.g.?]. Beat poet.
- 40a, UPTURN SIGNALS [Promising market indicators?] Turn signals.
- 69a, UPSCALE MODEL RAILROADS [Toy trains for tycoons?]. Scale model railroads. Model railroad enthusiasts — is “scale model railroads” a common phrase? I think I’ve only ever heard “model railroads.”
- 91a, UPHOLD THE FORT [What pillows may do, in a kids’ room?]. Hold the fort.
- 107a, UPSET TIMES [Periods of distress?]. Set times.
- 113a, UPSTAGE HANDS [Outperform crew members in the ship play?]. Stagehands.
I liked some of these theme answers more than others, but they were all at least okay. The fill was actually pretty good throughout this one. Fun clue for WASHTUB [Resonator for a jug band bass]. Interesting use of the British verb TWIGGED [Suddenly caught on]; I liked learning it. The four open corners were pretty clean, and I especially liked seeing FAN PALM and COPPERY. The inclusion of HERSHEL [“The Walking Dead” veterinarian], now in both the NYT and LAT crosswords, seems to presage mainstream editors’ acceptance for characters from that franchise (or at least this particularly grid-friendly name).
Just a couple of weird entries: first, the partial GO GENTLE [Exit quietly, in a Dylan Thomas poem], which I’ve only ever seen in the Thomas poem, and which “exit quietly” seems to understate significantly; and second, BIG BAD, which a hipper outlet might have clued this way, but which instead we get as an unnatural compound adjective, [Like a storied wolf].
Until next time!
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s CRooked crossword, “Gridiron Groaners” — pannonica’s write-up
Established phrases (mostly) unchanged, but punnily contextualized as relating to American football.
- 24a. [QB’s whimsies?] PASSING FANCIES.
- 30a. [Places to learn about the backfields?] SECONDARY SCHOOLS. Offensive backfield = “backfield”, defensive backfield = “secondary”.
- 41a. [Hiker decides his hand is weak?] CENTER FOLDS (from centerfolds).
- 47a. [A+ for a successful Hail Mary?] DOWN GRADE (from downgrade).
- 57a. [Command to a radio host to run with the ball?] RUSH, LIMBAUGH (from Rush Limbaugh).
- 73a. [When to hike, say?] SNAP DECISION.
- 87a. [Competitions among those trying to get to the QB?] SACK RACES.
- 89a [Jig done after scoring two?] SAFETY DANCE.
- 97a. [“Intercept whatever ’Zona player you like”?] PICK A CARD, ANY CARD. ’Zona? Not whichever?
- 111a. [Two things linesmen do?] BLOCK AND TACKLE.
No further commentary from me. This has nothing to do with the quality of the crossword.