Andrew Zhou’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
If you’ve got to have a theme centered on pork, well, at least the revealer acknowledges that not everyone eats pork. 57a. [Like the four things named in the circled squares] clues NON-KOSHER, and AHA MOMENT, POPULAR DEMAND, SPORK, and NBA CONFERENCE include HAM, LARD, PORK, and BACON. I also like the extra HALAL, 65a. [Opposite of 57-Across, to Muslims]. (Yes, vegetarians also don’t eat pig products.) My favorite taco place and a new fried chicken joint in the neighborhood both serve only halal meat. Also! It’s Thanksgiving week, which means today I went to Whole Foods to pick up frozen pie crusts made without lard. (Coming Thursday: pecan pies with double the nuts!)
Five more things:
- 33d. [Old radio show set in Harlem], AMOS ‘N ANDY. Uh, yeah. With white men writing the show and doing the voices for black characters. Do you still call it blackface when it’s on the radio? I vote yes.
- 63a. [Word before and after “will be”], BOYS. Ugh, a loathsome phrase, “boys will be boys.” Used far too often to excuse poor behavior by suggesting that it’s innate. It’s an insult to men and boys who can (somehow!) manage to control themselves and not ogle their classmates and coworkers, keep their hands to themselves, etc.
- 40a. [Scent], ODOR. “Jacqueline, what’s that odor you’re wearing?”
- 35d. [Garrison Keillor’s home state], MINNESOTA. I never did really listen to A Prairie Home Companion. Was Keillor political on that? The post-radio writing I’ve seen has all been political.
- No actual duplicative fill here, but in addition to BOYS we’ve got MALES, MARKSMEN, AMEN, AMMAN, OMAN, MANO, POPPA, and MR. ED. It exudes a dudely vibe. (Not even counting AMOS ‘N ANDY, HARPO, JOE, SAM, ARES, and CAPRA…)
The fill seems a little tough for Tuesdays, perhaps. 3.3 stars from me.
Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle (Week 286), “End Zone”—Janie’s take
Now this is my idea of a really well-made puzzle. Tight, well-executed theme and a grid filled with lively, lovely, smartly-clued entries. And, it was one of the smoothest Crossword Nation solves I can recall. Not a hitch and still surprising. Just an all-around example of what a really good “early week” solve can be. Brava.
The first word of each of the four two-word-phrase themers can be followed by/end with the centrally placed CANAL [Type of zone that hints at the puzzle theme] (italics mine…), giving us two sets of phrases for the price of one. We’ve seen this type of puzz before; we’ll see it again. As long as the results keep things fresh, count me in. Today’s results? Here ya go:
- 16A. [Underlying reason] ROOT CAUSE –> root canal. Dental procedure. Owie!
- 23A. [Orange liqueur often paired with vanilla ice cream] GRAND MARNIER –> Grand Canal. Love this pair. The liqueur goes down easily (maybe even after that root canal), and pairing it with the Grand Canal legitimizes my giving you a link to the glorious “Grand Canal” sequence from Maury Yeston’s Nine. The chorus kicks in at about 1:12 and goes to 3:48. Have at!
- 42A. [Painfully loud] EAR-SPLITTING –> ear canal. Anatomy 101. Protect your hearing and ix-nay on the stuff that’s ear-splitting.
- 56A. [Straw topper] PANAMA HAT –> Panama Canal. Which just opened its expanded lanes in June (two years after the Canal’s Centennial) to accommodate more and larger shipping and cruise vessels. It’s the territory around the Panama Canal (also the Suez Canal) that you may hear referred to as the “Canal Zone.”
And there ya have it. A good, solid theme set that has some breadth and some sparkle. What really enhances this puzzle’s entertainment value, though, is the remaining fill. So many highlights, so lemme get started. First of all, there are some nice symmetrical pairings of longer entries: the geography-based, climate opposites MONGOLIA and CORAL SEA, for one; and the possible correlation (okay, myth…) of that FAT GENE being triggered by one who ATE LATE. How do you feel about that wry fat gene clue: [Inheritance that may be the start of something big?]. It’s the wryness that helps to take the curse off. No shaming here.
Oh—and [Handel’s “ISRAEL in Egypt”] is the grid opposite of a word you hear often in Israel, SHALOM, clued here as [Aloha’s cousin]. They’re cousins because both of them can be used to mean “hello” or “good-bye.” (Additionally, shalom is also the Hebrew word for “peace,” making it one handy word—and look: it’s crossed by HORA, an ISRAELi folk dance.) And there’s another example in the proper name (starting with “L” yet) pairing of [LOUISA May Alcott] and LIONEL, punnily clued as [Train line?], where “line”=”brand” and not “route.”
If BEDPOST and “NICE TRY!” don’t make the cut for grid-symmetry-with-a-tie-in, they sure as shootin’ make the cut for “colorful fill.” Ditto the elegant EPITOME and the more homespun (also kinda precious) SMIDGEN. And observe what happens down in the SW. First we get SMIDGEN clued as [Jot] and at the bottom of the stack we get A LOT [Oodles]—with a stop en route for the rhyming HOT POT, a/k/a [Chinese stew].
Details like these are my idea of “crossword glue.” They’re what tight construction is about and contribute mightily to the pleasure to be found in solving. Even something like seeing Jeremy SISTO directly above the word ACTOR. Or encountering the word STEAM, but seeing it clued with the image-inducing, memory-sparking [Button on an iron]. Can I tell you, one of my high-school graduation / going-away-to-college gifts was a STEAM iron with a red “Up for Steam” button? And that to this day, it still works? Holy moly.
I could go on: why at this time in our history it’s such a relief to see SLUR clued in connection with its meaning as a marking in music; why NOSH and SPIEL and SHEBA and SATIE delight, making this puzzle an AGONY-free zone. But I won’t. You know how I feel about this one and I only hope you took as much pleasure in solving as I did. Regardless: we’ll do this again next week, so keep solving—and see you then!
Pancho Harrison’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Vowel Play” — Jim’s review
Wow. A straight-up vowel progression theme. I haven’t seen one of these in a while.
- 18a [Sites of some wedding receptions] BALLROOMS
- 24a [Pair with a flare] BELL BOTTOMS. I first read the clue as “Pair with flair.” Nice misdirection.
- 37a [Fashion designer born in Fort Wayne] BILL BLASS. Is Fort Wayne significant to this entry in some way?
- 53a [Plantation pests] BOLL WEEVILS. What a fun but unlikely pairing of words. I’ve heard of these, of course, but wasn’t totally sure what a boll is. Per the Interwebs, it’s “the rounded seed capsule of plants such as cotton or flax.” You’re welcome.
- 60a [Member of 1912’s Progressive Party] BULL MOOSE. New to me. Named after something its founder, Teddy Roosevelt said, i.e. that he felt “fit as a BULL MOOSE.” He formed this third party after failing to secure the Republican nomination. In the general election, he therefore took votes away from the Republican nominee (Taft) and allowed Democrat Woodrow Wilson to cruise to a landslide.
Note also that the second half of the theme answers also contain a double letter. In order, they are O, T, S, E, and O, which can be rearranged to spell OSTEO. Why? Just ‘cuz, I guess.
I don’t mind a simple vowel progression theme early in the week as long as it’s cleanly done. And this one is (mostly). The long Downs aren’t that long, but the 7s in the corners are where it’s at. I especially like SUNBURN, BLONDIE, OKINAWA, and WALKS IN. Plus there’s NO SOAP and I’M A BUM clued as [“Hallelujah, ___” (Jolson classic)].
Speaking of BLONDIE (it’s clued as the comics character, but I prefer Debbie Harry’s band), I recently bought the Best of Blondie album. The most surprising track is “In the Flesh,” which sounds like something straight from the 50s, not from the same band that gave us the classic “Rapture.” “Rapture,” by the way, was the first song to reach #1 while featuring rap. Its lyrics are so horrifically bad that you can’t help love them.
Cutest clue goes to 36a [Ten below?] for TOES.
In the minus column, OLEAN STINKS, but that’s as bad as it gets.
Finally, I didn’t know 56d [Lionel Hampton’s instrument] was VIBES (nor did I know that the vibraphone is slangily called that). So, for edification purposes, I will close it out with some Lionel Hampton. See you tomorrow.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “No Money” – Derek’s write-up
I got 99 problems but a lack of puzzles to solve is definitely not one of them! Usually one of my issues, like many I believe, is going short stints without enough pennies! And that is the theme of this puzzle: the letters in the circled letters all denote synonyms for being “penniless”
- 21A [Actor who played the game show host in “Slumdog Millionaire”] ANIL KAPOOR – I didn’t see this movie, and I don’t know him, but how else to get POOR in the puzzle?
- 38A [Popular ’50s haircut (with help on the theme from 54-Across)] FLAT
- 54A [Infidelity can signal them (with help on the theme from 38-Across)] BROKE – flat broke, get it?
- 3D [Like time that’s used productively] WELL SPENT
- 34D [Greyhound station purchase] BUS TICKET
Not too complicated, which is a good thing because it is a hectic short holiday week, and I don’t know about you but my week has actually been a bit busy! But it’s OK, I have Thursday and Friday to veg and chill! 4.1 stars.
A few notes:
- 6A [Model who married David Bowie] IMAN – Who is now a widow. Didn’t get too into Bowie’s last album; perhaps I will play it on the way to work!
- 15A [Broccoli __ ] RABE – Getting hungry!
- 30A [“__ Pretty” (“West Side Story” song)] I FEEL – Haven’t seen this musical in ages. Maybe when Chase is a tad older I’ll watch the classics with him!
- 10D [Bitter Italian aperitif] CAMPARI – Still getting hungry!
- 26D [“Mystery!” host Diana] RIGG – She was big in the ’60s; she’s nearly 80 years old now!
- 49D [Marathoner’s time unites, for short] HRS – For sure! I used well over six of them earlier this month!
- 54D [Hot Pitt] BRAD – Soon to be single; may he will call Iman! (too soon?)
Hope everyone has a safe and happy holiday!
Janice Luttrell’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
Let’s talk tools!
- 17A [One of a daily three at the table] SQUARE MEAL
- 41A [Ten-spot] SAWBUCK
- 64A [Reality show hosed by rapper M.C.] HAMMER TIME
- 11D [Military marching unit] DRILL TEAM
- 34D [Utmost effort] LEVEL BEST
A regular tool box! All we need is a measuring tape and a pencil! (And maybe some nails, screws, lumber, … !) This actually took me a minute to find the common thread. But that is more from plowing through it pretty quickly than due to it being complicated. As usual, fairly free of dreck, so 3.9 stars today.
A few comments:
- 14A [Golfer Aoki] ISAO – There are other Aokis; sadly no other ISAOs!
- 35A [Jinx] HOODOO – Not a common word, but cool to see in a puzzle. I thought it might be VOODOO at first!
- 68A [Salinger title girl] ESME – Not my favorite, but it IS in a title of a book!
- 10D [Girl with a missing flock] BO PEEP – I had to actually think about this for a second! I must be getting old …
- 12D [Gambling town northeast of Sacramento] RENO – I think I would fit in nicely in Northern California …
- 52D [SeaWorld orca] SHAMU – They are phasing orcas out of SeaWorld, as announced earlier this year. I am sure the Blackfish documentary helped raise awareness about these animals.
It’s a holiday week! Don’t get trampled in a shopping stampede!
Patti Varol’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post Crossword, “Holding Court” —Ade’s write-up
Good morning, everyone! Wow, so this is what it’s like to blog in the morning! Refreshing! Today’s crossword puzzle, brought to us by Ms. Patti Varol, is a hidden nod to one of the major sports organizations in the world, as the letters NBA appear consecutively in each of the theme entries and span multiple words in it (62A: [Sports org. hidden in each of this puzzle’s longest entries]).
- NORMAN BATES (17A: [Role for Perkins and Highmore])
- PROTEIN BAR (29A: [Quick energy source])
- SUSAN B. ANTHONY (36A: [Pioneer in women’s rights]) – This entry, smack dab in the middle, really made the theme pop, with the three “hidden” letters all in different parts of her name.
- PLAIN BAGEL (44A: [Deli order])
- ELLEN BARKIN (59A: [“Sea of Love” costar])
Lots of fun doing this grid, but was absolutely shocked that our New York Mets- supporting constructor did not have anything referring to the Metropolitans but had NY YANKEE as fill in the grid today (39D: [Derek Jeter, until the end of 2014, for short]). Absolutely loved the clue to ACCEPT, as that threw me for a loop for a couple of seconds (20A: [Decline to decline]). The paralleling entries of LAST NIGHT (10D: [“Before I went to bed…”]) and MAIN EVENT were also fun, as I just recently went to my first boxing main event as a journalist a few months back (34D: [Top-billing boxing match]). Not to spoil anything for any future constructor, but I would love to see “undercard” as fill in a grid. If you’re a fan of snakes, then this grid was for you as well, with both BOA (38A: [Feathery scarf]) and ASP (53A: [Sarcophagus snake]). I’m always appreciative of Patti’s grids in that I get to know about an author that I had not heard about before, and today’s grid was no exception with AIMEE (50A: [“The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake” novelist Bender]). Again, a fun solve.
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: LEN (1D: [Deighton of spy-fi]) – With the theme being about the NBA, it’s fitting that I talk about an NBA player in this space. Professional basketball player Alex LEN currently is the starting center for the Phoenix Suns, drafted by the team with the fifth overall selection of the 2013 NBA Draft. Born and raised in the Ukraine, Len starred at the University of Maryland before declaring for the NBA Draft after his sophomore season.
See you all at the top of the hump on Wednesday!