Ed Sessa’s New York Times crossword, “Cross References”—Amy’s write-up
My solve was untimed, because we were watching Very Semi-Serious, an HBO documentary about New Yorker cartoonists. Highly recommended!
The theme is famous historical/geographic crossings:
- 2d. [Famous crosser of the 39-Across], MAGELLAN / 39a. [See 2-Down], PACIFIC. Would have been epic if 2d’s clue had referenced the SLIP N SLIDE instead. (Also, while this got Magellan into the history books, it bears noting that it didn’t go so well for ol’ Ferdinand. Lapu-Lapu led the battle against Magellan and his crew, killing Magellan and repelling the Spaniards for another 40 years.)
- 43a. [Famous crosser of the 12-Down], LINDBERGH / 12d. [See 43-Across], ATLANTIC. Inelegantly, LINDBERGH also crosses (at one end of it) the RED SEA.
- 66a. [Famous crosser of the 45-Down], MOSES / 45d. [See 66-Across], RED SEA. Although if the water was gone, can he be said to have “crossed the sea”?
- 62d. [Famous crosser of the 70-Across], MAO / 70a. [See 62-Down], YANGTZE. Mao is famous, yes, but his crossing of that river is markedly less a part of the popular conception of the things he did.
- 86d. [Famous crosser of the 115-Across], NAPOLEON / 115a. [See 86-Down], BEREZINA. Never, ever heard of the river. It’s in Belarus, formerly under Russian control. Markedly less familiar to most solvers, I wager, than the rest of these “famous crossings.”
- 109a. [Famous crosser of the 90-Down], WASHINGTON / 90d. [See 109-Across], DELAWARE.
No symmetry to the theme, just wherever the answer pairs fit with the letter intersections. (A little off-putting, all those answers that are longer than the themers, like BEAUX GESTES.) Can you think of other suitable crossings that would have fit this theme? There’s HANNIBAL crossing THE ALPS, with the mountains’ A a perfect crossing spot.
Six more things:
- 98d. [Supports the Red Cross, say], DONATES. Eh, they’ve disappointed. I prefer donating to Partners in Health. They’ve had health-care facilities in Haiti for years, so if you’re looking to help the hurricane survivors down there (cholera is a huge threat), check out PIH.
- 21a. [Place for a home pool, maybe], LANAI. Tons of LANAIs with swimming pools in Florida! Not just a Hawaiian term anymore.
- 84d. [Write again], REPEN. No, no, no. Very much a roll-your-own word that is not in common use.
- Toughest crossing for me: 81a. [Abbr. seen in some dictionary definitions], ESP (short for especially) and 82d. [Something observed in church], PEW. Given the 80d RITE clue being the same as 82d, I see the attempt to be cute. However, you don’t so much “observe” objects that are present in a church. (Observe an apse! Observe a nave!) This clue is making me imagine someone sitting in the pews saying “I spy with my little brown eye …” Anyway, a clearer PEW clue was needed to offset the vagueness of the ESP clue, or else the ESP clue should have referenced telekinesis or something.
- 22a. [Comforting words], THERE, NOW. “There, there, now” is far more comforting.
- 89d. [Register, as for a class], ENROL. Bleah. This is not a spelling we use in America outside of crossword puzzles.
Didn’t love the theme’s spotty familiarity, and the fill didn’t wow me, either. 2.9 stars from me.
Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Square Dancing” – Jenni’s writeup
Good morning! For your Sunday pleasure, we have a straightforward and enjoyable puzzle. The theme is right there in the title: there are dances in the squares.
23a [Dance performed by an anchor?] = NEWSREEL.
- 25a [… by a nutritionist?] = PROTEIN SHAKE.
- 40a [… by the host of “The Late Show”?] = COLBERT BUMP. I had to look that one up (not the dance. I remember disco. The base phrase).
- 44a [… by a climber?] = ROCK SLIDE.
- 63a [… by a portable-music enthusiast?] = IPOD SHUFFLE.
- 83a [… by a timekeeper?] = MINUTE WALTZ. The only one where the phrase is actually a dance.
- 103a [… by a castaway?] = ISLAND HOP.
- 106a [… by a famous Stone?] = OLIVER TWIST.
- 120a [… by a guacamole lover?] = AVOCADO SALSA.
- 125a [… by a safecracker?] = LOCK STEP.
With the exception of AVOCADO SALSA, all the theme answers are in the language. Nice, solid, fun puzzle.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: Anything about Mike COLTER.
It’s Sunday morning and there’s French toast downstairs. I’m out.
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s CRooked crossword, “Disgruntled” — pannonica’s write-up
Another worthy title for this crossword might have been “AWOL”. As the revealer at 111-across has it, [What happens in the making of each theme answer] PRIVATE PARTS. To wit, the bigram GI is removed—parts [ways]—from phrases and names to create new ones; in that sense, it’s more like “private departs”, but that isn’t a phrase in use. As the colloquial ‘grunt’ is more strictly synonymous with ‘private’ while any soldier can be absent without leave, I can see why—with the proviso of using that particular revealer—the one title would be preferable to the other.
- 24a. [“Flaneur” will cast a ballot?] RESTER TO VOTE (register to vote). ‘Rester’ isn’t equivalent to flaneur (or flaneuse) in my estimation.
- 31a. [Answer to “Who’s the main character in “As You Like It,” bub?”] ORLANDO, MAC (Orlando Magic).
- 37a. [Gotham bugs?] NEW YORK ANTS (New York Giants).
- 45a. [Wizard might?] MAGE MAY (“Maggie May“).
- 64a. [Last stop for a subway that makes all stops?] LOCAL CONCLUSION (logical conclusion).
- 86a. [Mortal enemies?] OLD FOES (old fogies).
- 93a. [Expat Panetta?] FOREIGN LEON (Foreign Legion).
- 100a. [I’s in Morse code?] DOUBLE DITS (double digits).
- 118a [Resembling a litchi] NUTLIKE. Uh, no. See Martin’s comment from a couple of weeks ago when LITCHI in the NYT Sunday crossword spurred a discussion here.
- 10d [“Park it”] SIT, 37d [“This second”] NOW.
- 71a [Singleton] ONE. Easily duplicated in the clues or elsewhere in the grid, but it’s egregious appearing in the immediately preceding clue, 68a [One in charge] BOSS.
- 38a [He attained Nirvana] KURT. No question mark? “Attained”? 79d [In kicks] for SHOED would’ve beneffited similarly. Ditto 105d [Hard rain] and SLEET. Perhaps also 106a [Transfer station (abbr.)] ATM.
- Nifty that the blah abbrevs. REV and VER are reversals of each other and appear symmetrically in the grid. 13d [Al Sharpton’s title (abbr.)], 112d [Software release no.].
- 23d [God of ridicule] MOMUS.
C.C. Burnikel’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “Melee”—Andy’s review
First of all, thanks very much to Angela for filling in for me last week! This week, we have regular two-word* phrases where both words can be preceded by “FREE” to make new phrases. Themers:
- 23a, TRIAL OFFER [*Retail enticement]. Free trial / free offer. The whole phrase could have been preceded by “free” and still have made sense.
- 29a, SILVER STATE [*Western nickname]. Free silver / free state.
- 47a, PRESS PASS [*Reporter’s credential]. Free press (or Free Press) / free pass.
- 54a, PARKING SPACE [*Mall rarity at Christmas]. Free parking / free space. Of all the themers, this one and the next one work the best, I think.
- 76a, COUNTRY STYLE [*Like much farm decor]. Free country / freestyle.
- *83a, LUNCHTIME [*Many sandwiches are made for it]. Free lunch / free time. I thought there was no such thing as a free lunch? Also, I’m not sure you would say that sandwiches are made “for” lunchtime; rather, they’re made “for” lunch or “during” lunchtime. Also also, this is the only theme answer that isn’t regularly written as two words.
- 100a, TICKET AGENT [*Airport employee]. Free ticket (?) / Free agent. “Free ticket” is right at the edge of “common phrases beginning with “free” for me. It’s not so roll-your-own as, say, “green paint,” but it’s not as in-the-language as almost all the other phrases in the set.
- 111a, FREE-FOR-ALL [Fracas, and a hint to both words in the answers to starred clues]. Very nice revealer for this theme.
I don’t think all the themers worked equally well. Some of the “free” phrases were less in-the-language than others (e.g., “free offer” versus “free agent”). I would have loved to see this as a weekday puzzle, with only the three or four best themers (for me, they’re PARKING SPACE, COUNTRY STYLE, and maybe the symmetrical PRESS PASS and LUNCHTIME even though the latter isn’t two words), plus FREE-FOR-ALL as the revealer. Those five might not fit very well into a 15×15, so maybe there’s a 10-letter entry out there besides TRIAL OFFER that could sit opposite FREE-FOR-ALL (in a few minutes, the best I came up with was TRADE UNION).
As usual with C.C.’s puzzles, some of the non-theme fill was stellar. We have CLINTON ERA, KARAOKE BAR, FUNNEL CAKE, HELLIONS, SAMOSAS, JPEG, and NO DICE. In the “I’m not sure whether I liked it or not” category were “TRY ONE” (as in a FREE sample), “AM I TO BLAME?”, and “OH, FUN.” And, surprisingly, there was a fair bit of fill I didn’t like in this one. There was the quartet of I HEAR, I RAISE, I GIVE, and I KNOW, which are all fine separately but were noticeable in the aggregate; there was OSSO, E’ER, ECT, ERNE, NEE, LOA/KOA, NENE, OHOS, YNEZ, AMAS, and FMS. On top of that, the clue for IN OT [Tied, briefly] wasn’t right — many games that are tied are not IN OT, nor are all games that are IN OT tied.
Not up to C.C.’s usual high standards, but overall it clocks in at around average for an LAT Sunday. Until next time!
i was wondering where hannibal and the alps were; caesar and rubicon was my other theme idea
I couldn’t believe this puzzle didn’t include Caesar crossing the Rubicon. I kept looking and looking for it. And then came here to see if you were also incredulous (not so much :)
Crossing the Bar occurred to me: Tennyson wrote “Crossing the Bar” in 1889, three years before he died. The poem describes his placid and accepting attitude toward death. … Tennyson uses the metaphor of a sand bar to describe the barrier between life and death. (A sandbar is a ridge of sand built up by currents along a shore.) BEAUX GESTES was a favorite..
Really disliked this puzzle. Parts were too easy, other parts were impossible with esoteric knowledge word crossings. Particularly Yosarians tent mate and the Borgas clues but others as well.
With apologies to Kurt Vonnegut, Joseph Heller’s Catch 22 is for me the greatest comic novel of all time. ORR practiced crashing his plane so that he could eventually get out of the war with a final contrived crash. The book is set in WWII and was written in 1961, but it resonated especially for any young male of the Vietnam era.
A hearty amen to Steve’s view of Heller’s “Catch-22”.
And, with Bobby ORR’s knees acting up frequently, who better to give him a rest than Yossarian’s tentmate.
I read it many years ago along with thousands of other books. It likely didn’t have the same effect on me as it did for you as there were many heroes flying those missions that never complained… though no doubt it must have been horrible. Regardless remembering secondary character names even in novels I’ve loved is not my forte. One Hundred Years of Solitude and the Dark Tower 7 book set of Stephen King being exceptions.
It occurs to me now that my clue for 74A might be a tad ambiguous. I meant it as a reference to Pinterest, not the safety pins making the rounds on social media after the election. Maybe the clue works for both, though.
I liked how crossings worked out thrice over: as literal crossings of the geography, as cross-references between clues, and as crossings of the paired entries. Clever!
Still, the puzzle was far from a favorite. I can’t tell why, since the theme freed the setter from uniform length long answers, but so much of the fill felt way out there, including crossings. And I guess I come into it, as I suspect many others do as well, hating clues that depend on references to other clues. Thus, even with a great theme, the fill has the burden of being much tighter. I felt lucky to make it out of the SW.
I am one or those who hates so many clues referencing other clues, especially when BOTH clues are empty.
In fact, when I quickly look through the clues for my personal “gimmes” and am met repeatedly by “nothing to see here” I often set the puzzle aside until I have nothing better to do. Just not much fun pulling geographic features out of thin air based on the letter count.