David Poole’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
I feel like it’s been at least a couple years since I liked a word-ladder crossword theme, and that streak continues. Here, the angle is a word ladder that goes from BLACK to WHITE in nine words, along with OTHELLO and REVERSI, two names for a board game in which discs are flipped from black to white. The concept is solid, and the BLACK SLACK STACK STALK STALE SHALE WHALE WHILE WHITE ladder is solid. But placing 11 thematic entries in the grid fairly wrecks the chances of nailing down solver-friendly and smooth Tuesday fill.
I could have done without REBAG, AMERCES, LOCOS (I’m not seeing any dictionaries that give a noun sense of the slangy adjective loco, just nouns that are short for locomotive or locoweed—not to mention I’m so tired of seeing clues like [Nut jobs]), APING, ERN, AGA, LEK, STENOS, EPH, plural TSKS, TEY, weird abbreviation SEV (who abbreviates several?), ENIAC, and STOAT. That’s more entries than were in the whole theme, meaning a lot of answers that are going to make a newer solver hit the skids. People! If you struggled with some of those words, it’s not you, it’s the puzzle.
Interesting (if rather challenging) historical term: 42d. [Rules in force in England before the Norman conquest], DANE LAW. “Is that Jude Law’s brother?”
ELSINORE, CAL STATE, and SLAPDASH are quite nice, but they didn’t make up for the minuses here. I give this puzzle 2.25 stars and AMERCE it $10.
Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle (Week 293), “First Families”—PuzzleGirl’s take
Happy Tuesday, everyone. It’s PuzzleGirl sitting in for Janie while she’s off in paradise. It’s like 12 degrees here where I am. Not that I’m bitter.
The theme answers in this smooth and easy offering all start with words that can describe various types of families:
- 17a. [Ingredients for hot toddies and Old Fashioned cocktails] BLENDED WHISKEYS
- 27a. [Visit that requires long-term housing] EXTENDED STAY
- 37a. [Majestic pronoun] ROYAL WE
- 47a. [Sunglasses endorsed by Cindy Crawford and Woody Allen] FOSTER GRANTS
- 62a. [Controversial power sources] NUCLEAR REACTORS
Now, I said it was smooth and easy, but I was not without my missteps. I tried DIRTIER for DINGIER [4d. More grimy, say] and SERENE for SEDATE [21a. Tranquil]. And I didn’t know OCHO Rios [60d. Jamaican resort], because I’m not well-traveled, or PSALTER [46d. Church songbook], because I’m a heathen. But other than that, absolute silk.
I think my favorite entries are FLIRTY [56a. Coquettish] and TROLLEY [59a. San Francisco streetcar]. For favorite clues, I’m going with the trio of clever question marks:
- 20a. [Falls for a newlywed?] NIAGARA
- 36a. [Fire proof?] ASH
- 70a. [Law partner?] ORDER
All in all, an enjoyable romp with Ms. Liz. See you next week — because Janie will still be in paradise and I will still be here. Hrumph.
Craig Stowe’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Endgame” — Jim’s review
I didn’t recognize the byline, so as usual, I did a little research. Is it another Mike Shenk pseudonym? Among the anagrams of “Craig Stowe” is “Cagiest Row” which might describe part of the grid. Looking further, I found related terms “Gastric Woe” and “Corgi Waste.” On the upside, it could also mean “Erotic Swag.”
But in truth, it’s not a pseudonym. Craig Stowe has had puzzles published in the Chronicle of Higher Education and the L.A. Times. Congrats on making your debut at the WSJ!
The title of this puzzle makes it pretty clear what we’re looking for: games at the ends of phrases.
- 16a [Seriously impressive] LARGER THAN LIFE
- 28a [Play with fire] ASK FOR TROUBLE
- 35a [It’s hard to say] TONGUE TWISTER
- 53a [It’s considered worth taking] CALCULATED RISK
Good choices for theme entries although I’m not used to seeing ASK FOR TROUBLE in its non-gerund form.
This could certainly be a wide open theme with all different kinds of games, but Craig does well to limit the entries to a specific genre (popular board games, if you count TWISTER as a board game).
I’m certain this theme has been done before, but this is a fine example of it. For one, the grid is unusually wide open. Just look at those great big corners. Most of it is solidly filled, although there are a few groaners in there (GOERS, ADANO, ELATING, LLBS, IMIT (clued as an abbr. for “imitation”). But I do like BLOTTO, MESMER, PARAGON, DAMAGES, IRON ORE, MORTALS, and SELLS OUT.
Clues of note:
- 33a [Punch lines?]. Cute clue which partially redeems the oddly plural OOFS.
- 55a [Aboard, for a Mariner]. Verrrry tricksy, this one. I guess I didn’t notice the capital M and went with ON DECK at first. But we’re really talking baseball with the answer ON BASE.
- 9d [Bald boy of the comics]. This one is new to me, but the answer is HENRY. (I was thinking of Charlie Brown.) HENRY debuted in 1932 and featured a bald boy who was mute and communicated with pantomime.
Overall, a solidly executed theme with a wide open interesting grid. Nicely done.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “Sweet!” – Derek’s write-up
This puzzle is right up my alley, since I have an enormous “sweet” tooth! I actually prefer cakes and pies to candy, but you can never go wrong with chocolate! What am I talking about? The words formed in the circled letters!
- 16A [Considered only in terms of money] DOLLARS AND CENTS
- 19A [Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America bestowals] NEBULA AWARDS
- 36A [Number sometimes decoded as “Z”] TWENTY-SIX
- 56A [It’s provided by guild members] SKILLED LABOR
- 60A [Advice that the four long entries with circles failed to follow] DON’T SUGAR COAT IT
Nice payoff at the end, and between DOTS, NERDS, TWIX, and SKOR, I will take the Twix! Untimed today; the timer on my Across Lite solver failed to start, but this was a quick time for this one. Probably in the 4-5 minute range. What can I say: I like candy! 4 stars today.
A few notes:
- 26A [Like “The Polar Express”] RATED G – I am of the belief that they need more Rated G movies. They tend to make money because everybody takes their kids!
- 28A [“Ain’t happenin”] NO SOAP – They don’t say this in Indiana!
- 63A [Baby garment with snaps] ONESIE – Always liked this word. And they aren’t just for babies! Search “adult onesie” on Amazon!
- 3D [Brownie ingredients, sometimes] WALNUTS – Not in my brownies!
- 8D [Cheese companion] MACARONI – Pretty sure this is an American invention, even though the pasta is definitely of Italian origin. Kind of like American Chinese food or pizza!
- 18D [“Born on the Fourth of July” locale, briefly] NAM – Just got through Untold History of the United States, also by Oliver Stone. It’s on Netflix, and discusses “Nam” in detail. Highly recommended!
- 45D [“I’d like to buy __” (request to Pat Sajak)] AN E – I don’t care for this clue, but you see it all the time. Oh well!
That’s all for today! Have a great week!
Janice Luttrell’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
Becoming a big fan of Janice’s puzzles! We have a lot of circles in this one, but the theme is certainly not over the “top!”
- 17A [Dice roller’s exhortation] COME TO PAPA
- 40A [Actor with near-synonymous first and last names] RIP TORN
- 11D [Pretty darn simple] IDIOT PROOF
- 25D [Toaster snack] POP-TART – This is a food group, by the way!
- 29D [Verses by Allen Ginsberg, e.g.] BEAT POETRY
- 61A [Cause trouble … and a hint to this puzzle’s circled letters] STIR THE POT
Nice and simple, and there are six ways to arrange three letters, and every possibility is represented in this puzzle. Awesome execution of a relatively non-complicated theme, especially for a Tuesday easy-ish puzzle. Someone I know wanted an intro to crosswords; I may use this very puzzle to illustrate a few points! 4.4 stars from me today.
- 19A [Scrabble piece] TILE – It is time to renew my NASPA membership. Still haven’t played in a tournament! Mainly because there are never any close to north central Indiana; usually the closest ones are a two hour or more drive away!
- 26A [Margarita glass rim coating] SALT – I go with the sugar rim all the way!
- 67A [Slow Churned ice cream brand] EDY’S – This answer is making me hungry! And yes, they do have Edy’s ice cream here in Indiana!
- 5D [Soup mix brand] KNORR – Not as familiar with this brand, but unless it says Chunky on it, I usually don’t eat that type of soup!
- 10D [Stovetop whistler] KETTLE – Been on a bit of a tea jag since I cut down my coffee intake drastically. No kettle though; Keurig!
- 31D [Shake it on the dance floor] BOOGIE – This almost sounds like a typo, but if one is “shaking it” as is said, they could be described as boogie-ing. Maybe I had KC and the Sunshine Band on my mind, as they were shaking something else!
- 53D [Mention in a footnote] CITE – Or get written up for a ticket!
Again, lots of fun! Have a great week!
Doug Peterson’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post Crossword, “Working Like a Dog” —Ade’s write-up
Good day, everybody! Today’s crossword, brought to us by Mr. Doug Peterson, features hypothetical occupations or activities that dogs might participate in, given that the actual phrases, which have had their meanings altered due to the puns, end with a word that is a common name for a pooch. Or something like that.
- VOLTAGE SPIKE (20A: [Dog who works as an electrician?])
- MARS ROVER (31A: [Dog who works as an astronaut?])
- OFFICE MAX (44A: [Dog who works as a secretary?])
- VACATION SPOT (56A: [Dog who takes some time off work?])
So I mentioned THE GO-GO’S on Sunday when blogging about MAS’s (Martin Ashwood-Smith) Sunday Challenge after hearing their hit song at a store last week, and now the band’s name appears in today’s grid (5D: [“Our Lips are Sealed” band]). The Baader-Meinhof phenomenon is out in full force right now, huh?! If I go out and hear We Got the Beat, then I might be a little freaked out. Wait, SPY KIDS had three sequels (9D: [2001 Antonio Banderas film with three sequels])? Goodness! Well, I didn’t watch any of those movies, but I can’t wait to watch Gal Godot play DIANA in the Wonder Woman movie that’s coming out this summer (64A: [_____ Prince (Wonder Woman’s secret identity]). To boot, seeing THEME SONG made me think of what my favorite TV show theme song is (37D: [“Love is All Around,” to “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” e,g.]). There were a lot of candidates that popped into my mind, but I think I have to go with what I embedded below. What’s your favorite TV show theme song?
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: CAIN (45D: [Genesis exile]) – Did you know that actor and television host Dean CAIN, co-star of Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman and host of Ripley’s Believe it or Not!, was a two-time first-team All-Ivy League defensive back while playing at Princeton? After being an All-Ivy League honorable mention selection as a sophomore, he was a first-team all-conference selection in 1986 and 1987. He also was a First Team All-America in 1987, when he set a Division I-AA record with 12 interceptions that season.
See you at the top of the hump on Wednesday!
I don’t give star ratings to puzzles but I thought your 2.25 was generous.
REBAG is not only a silly word, but the clue is absurd. Are we supposed to image a shopper letting the checkout person put all the purchases in plastic bags, only to say, hey, I’ve changed my mind, I want paper bags instead? Not if I’m standing next in line, you don’t…
Never heard of Paul LEMAT, and since I had KMS instead of KGS, it took me quite a while to finish the NW. On top of which, I don’t see VAST as a synonym for “widespread.” The universe is vast. The Pacific Ocean is vast. They’re not widespread.
I kinda liked the BLACK to WHITE word ladder, with the added OTHELLO/REVERSI tie-in. But the fill… oof! Sometimes a puzzle needs a page-one rewrite; this was one of those times.
Also, in his notes at XWordInfo, the constructor said that he set out to “create a ‘Schrödinger puzzle’ in which the central 5-letter entry could be either BLACK or WHITE”. Interestingly, somebody already did this.
PuzzleGirl – You win the Best Photo Attachment award for the week for your FOSTER GRANTS pic. One of my favorite movies!
LAT: I liked the theme a lot and nearly all of the grid’s execution, but IBAR and IBEAMS — isn’t this the ultimate dupe? IBAR seems to be mostly crosswordese for IBEAM.
I noticed this as well, and it really stuck out to me. Additionally, two Greek letters feels a bit much. And the grid doesn’t have a lot of room for long answers so it feels like a LOT of Crosswordese as well.
You are not mistaken.
“Please, sir, may I have some more?”
What was that? A train clue in today’s NYT!
Amy, you just know I gotta put on my “contrary cap” and say something about the fill word (plural) LOCOS.
If any solvers know me from my somewhat rambling FB page, they’ll know that I have several hobbies/interests/obsessions aside from crossword constructing… and Trump-bashing.
That said, I’m an unapologetic train buff… both real trains and model trains (like TV’s Sheldon Cooper, but without the wit and charm). That being the case, I can assure you that the word LOCOS is not a remotely obscure. When you think about it, a typical train enthusiast (or actual employee) is hardly going to be saying the 4 syllable word LOCOMOTIVES, when 2 is easier. So yes, it’s in wide usage. I guess you could argue that it is not in wide usage by the general public… I dunno, but neither are 99% of other common train terms (and I don’t mean super-obscure ones).
While I’m carping, since we have two ferrets, I have to stick up for their cousin the STOAT.
In my books, if a puzzle as a train reference and a ferret-like animal infesting the grid, then it’s fine by me. 6/5 stars :)
-MAS the contrarian
But it’s not clued as a train reference. I’m married to a railfan and a modeler and I agree with you that it’s in the language – but not as clued.
I’m certainly getting that ‘glazed over look’ with the Jonesin’ puzzle right about now.