Meta junkies! The new year of Pete Muller’s Muller Monthly Music Meta begins Tuesday. If you haven’t checked it out before, it’s a monthly meta contest puzzle, and in December you can try to figure out the “mega meta” hidden across 2017’s twelve puzzles. Good luck to you!
John O’Brien’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
The theme is HIDDEN GEMS, 58a. [Masterpiece waiting to be found … or a hint to the words in the circled letters]. The other four long Acrosses—TOLL PLAZA, JEOPARDIZE, PAPER AIRPLANE, and PRESUMABLY—are a set of unrelated words that contain TOPAZ, JADE, PEARL, and RUBY in the circled squares. Theme works, though it’s not particularly zippy. I also wish that pearls weren’t called gems when they form in shellfish rather than via geological processes. It’s weird, right?
This week’s selection of “What is this doing in a Tuesday puzzle?” entries includes OTO, OLEO, RECTO, SRI clued as [Guru’s title], ERES TU, and ANZIO. And cluing GEO as a [Former G.M. compact], well—how memorable is a 1989-1997 make? And I don’t think GEO was a model, as the “compact” clue suggests—there was a whole family of not particularly inspiring Geos.
10d. [Part of the brain believed to control emotion], AMYGDALA. Hmm, maybe this is also rather tough for an early-week puzzle. But I just can’t hate a word that starts with my name. Hey-o, another hidden gem!
Early morning for me tomorrow, so I’ll just say 3.25 stars and SEE YA!
Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle (Week 295), “Sound Components”—Janie’s take
I’m ba-a-ack—and before I delve into today’s puzzle, let me first thank Angela here and now for the fab write-ups/analyses of Liz’s gems she provided in my absence. Puzzle Girl: you are the best and I thank you roundly! And yes, that was some bit of paradise I got to experience. If you have a glimmer of interest in birds, mammals, reptiles, insects, cloud v. rain v. dry forests—are HIKERS [Nature trail users] or “simply” love beautiful beaches and breathtaking sunsets for your “away” time, all I can say is Costa Rica awaits! <sigh> Pura vida!
And now to the puzz, whose “sound components” of title are revealed at 47D. HI–FIS [Platter players … and a hint to the puzzle theme]. Given the renewed interest in vinyl these days, this is rather a retro-chic concept to build a puzzle on. And Liz does it with four lively, varied themers. Each is a two-word entry whose first word begins with the letters H-I and whose second with F-I. It’s a solid, easy concept elegantly executed.
- 17A. HIGH-FIVED [Celebrated with a friendly slap]. The high-five looks to have originated (for all the world to see, at any rate) in baseball (L.A. Rams), but was then seen in basketball in no time. And other sports. And look: here’s L.A. Laker METTA World Peace (l) high-fiving teammate Pau Gasol (r).
- 28A. HITCHCOCK FILM [“Rebecca,” for one]. An oldie and a goodie.
- 42A. HIDDEN FIGURES [2016 film staring Octavia Spencer]. Wow. We’re right up to the minute with this one. A highly “Hollywoodized” telling of a genuinely great story. For that reason (and the topnotch performances by all), highly recommended.
- 57A. HISSY FITS [Childish tantrums]. Terrific fill and I particularly enjoyed the way it was crossed with the temperamentally related FUSSES.
Elsewhere in the grid we get four eight-letter entries, three of which are easily “in the language,” one of which…well, let’s just say AIGRETTE [Feathered head ornament] didn’t come trippingly off the pencil… Had I thought sooner of the way Kate Middleton’s headgear has kept style writers busy (and happy), perhaps I wouldn’t have needed all of the crosses in advance of that “d’oh” moment. But I KEPT AT it, and the adjacent FRISKIER and grid-opposites PARISIAN and “I MEANT IT!” put up no serious resistance—and make for fine fill to boot. On the topic of [City of Lights dweller], btw, “Bonjour” to [French president Jacques] CHIRAC.
Other strong fill? ARTFUL; ADULTS, because of the unexpected clue [Prom watchdogs]; the not-on-any-map UTOPIA; the genuinely geographical ARARAT and I’ll even let KANSAN slip in here (also OSLO). I also like SHINTO [Japanese faith], and the way it lives in proximity to KIRIN [Japanese beer].
[What’s in A NAME?”] You’ll have to take that up with JANET Yellen, HOVA (a/k/a Jay-Z), METTA World Peace, OPIE Taylor, DIDI Conn, MIKA Brzezinski, ST. PAT, Jacques CHIRAC, the TAFTS, COLIN [Firth or Farrell], Demi LOVATO, [“Krazy KAT“] and, by all means, jazzman Earl “FATHA” Hines.
Fave clue today would be [Appointed leader?] for DIS-. Newbies: “leader” is code for “prefix.”
“TADA!” That’s it for today. Hope you enjoyed this (basically) smoothly-solved puzzle as much as I did. Keep solving—and do come back next week!
Samuel A. Donaldson’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Good Things Come in Threes” — Jim’s review
Sam Donaldson brings us phrases where certain letters are repeated three times (technically, only two times, but you know what I mean).
- 18a [“Presumed Innocent” writer] SCOTT TUROW. Knew this one even though I never read the book.
- 23a [Investigative account of 1998] STARR REPORT. Digging a bit deep, but okay.
- 36a [Former AAA club that played in Honolulu Stadium] HAWAII ISLANDERS. Did you notice the AAA reference?
- 53a [More frequently than desired] ALL TOO OFTEN
- 59a [Brooks Brothers buy] DRESS SHIRTS. At first I thought it said “Brooks Brothers guy” and so my mind went to the only men’s clothing store pitchman I could recall, but it turns out I was thinking of Men’s Wearhouse. (It further turns out that George Zimmer, founder of Men’s Wearhouse, was fired from his own company back in 2013.)
I’m certain I’ve seen this theme before so I was a bit underwhelmed. Still, it works, and the grid is clean, and I really like the HAWAII entry since you’re not going to find too many phrases with a triple-I and have them be grid-spanners to boot.
Then, on a whim, as I’m writing up this post, I decided to look at the letters that were tripled, just to see if there was anything to them. T. R. I. O. S. Boom! OH YEAH! That’s what I’m talkin’ bout! Did you notice it? That’s the kind of thing that really elevates a puzzle — when you know the constructor took that extra step for sheer elegance. And I love that it’s unannounced, like an Easter Egg just waiting to be found.
This makes the choice of themers much more impressive since they have to be in the correct order, still be commonly-known phrases, and be of symmetric length.
So, muchos kudos on the theme.
Given those constraints, the rest of the grid is quite good. The entries aren’t as lively as yesterday, but we still get things like WARHORSE, WINGLESS, AMNESIA, and ROOF RAT. (This last one is new to me and I hope never to encounter one, being a new homeowner.)
Not so keen on TYRO (19d, [Newbie]) which I only know from crosswords, and DECLAW (3d, [Keep from scratching]) which has previously been lambasted on this site as animal abuse.
Lastly, a couple clues of note:
- 33a [Claire Dunphy or Rainbow Johnson, e.g.]. TV MOM. Modern Family and Black-ish, respectively.
- 67a [Gloria Gaynor genre]. DISCO. Best known for “I Will Survive.”
- 13d [Drops in the end zone?] DEW. Assuming said end zone is not in a domed stadium.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “Stuck on You” – Derek’s write-up
We used to call this stuff Scotch Tape or invisible tape!
- 17A [Slow reaction to making tears?] DUCT DELAY
- 25A [Voracious “readers” of old audiobooks, slangily?] CASSETTE WORMS
- 41A [Three fingers from the bartender, for instance?] SCOTCH MEASURE
- 55A [What the three longest answers are actually held together by] CLEAR TAPE
Get it? DUCT TAPE DELAY is what is meant here. Likewise, you can have a CASSETTE TAPE and TAPE WORMS, and of course there is SCOTCH TAPE and you might own a TAPE MEASURE. Had no idea what the theme was until the very end, so this puzzle had a decent “a-ha!” moment for sure. 4.3 stars.
A few notes:
- 24A [Red-sweatered Ken from a 2016 presidential debate] BONE – Ah, we all remember this guy!
- 31A [Responsibility shirker’s cry] NOT IT – This doesn’t seem to read correctly. I actually wrote I CAN’T in there at first. NOT I would be more of a phrase the clue describes.
- 46A [Montana moniker] BIG SKY – I would love to visit Big Sky country one of these days. I’ve been to Colorado, and if the sky is any bigger and bluer than there, it must be breathtaking!
- 57A [XTC’s “Making Plans for __”] NIGEL – Never heard of this song or group. Have you?
11D [“Bang a Gong” (Get It On)” rockers] T. REX – I HAVE heard this song! Although I am more familiar with the version by The Power Station!
- 30D [Nickelodeon’s green substance in trade] SLIME – When I was younger, they were sliming something every ten minutes on that channel. Do they still do that I wonder?
- 39D [Carmichael who coined the phrase “black power”] STOKELY – Only vaguely familiar with this guy. A tad before my time!
- 47D [Unreal: abbr.] IMIT. – I tried IMAG. at first, since that is more of an opposite to “unreal” to me. I guess it works …
- 55D [“Weekend Update’ cohost Michael] CHE – He has a Netflix comedy special as well!
Fun times! Until next week’s Jonesin’!
Agnes Davidson & C.C. Burnikel’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
A fun puzzle from this pair today. I have seen Mt. Rushmore in South Dakota, but I have never seen the Crazy Horse Monument, which is also in South Dakota, and happens to be the theme of this puzzle. The circled letters are shown in red:
- 17A [Golf stroke played from sand] BUNKER SHOT
- 40A [Tire-inflating aid] AIR HOSE
- 11D [“Wish me luck!”] HERE’S HOPING
- 25D [Historic educational center of Paris’ Latin Quarter] THE SORBONNE
- 60A [Lakota chief at Little Bighorn, and what’s literally found in this puzzle’s circles] CRAZY HORSE
So we have the letters in HORSE acting “crazy” in that they are jumbled into the circled squares. Lots of ways to anagram HORSE; mildly surprised we don’t see the sequence HOSER! (Which made me think of the following skit!)
Also for your edification, the Crazy Horse Monument has been in progress since 1948, and is nowhere near done. Hopefully it will be finished in my lifetime, but I doubt it!
Anyway, as mentioned, a fun puzzle. Nothing even remotely difficult in here, I don’t think. A friend of mine thinks he wants to start to do puzzles; maybe I will print this one for him! 4.1 stars today.
A few more notes:
- 31A [Jerry of “Law & Order”] ORBACH – He will be missed, but he will live on in syndication! I remember when he passed away them mentioning he was actually a skilled baritone singer.
- 69A [Classic Jaguars] XKE – Wonder what these look like? I did too!
- 24D [Dried chili pepper] ANCHO – This is a little tough, if you’re not a foodie!
- 27D [“Neener neener!”] SO THERE! – They definitely don’t say “Neener neener!” in Indiana! Still gettable.
- 46D [Brewski] COLD ONE – Nice entry! No NYT entries in over 6 years!
Speaking of a cold one … I’m off to do just that! Have a great week!
Bruce Venzke’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post Crossword, “Staying in Shape” —Ade’s write-up
Good morning, everyone! Here’s hoping today’s crossword, brought to us by Mr. Bruce Venzke, isn’t an omen of what’s about to happen to me today, as I have a 1 PM bus to catch to Washington. Quotes/sayings as themes aren’t my thing, but didn’t mind this one in particular.
- MY PRIMARY SOURCE OF EXERCISE COMES FROM RUNNING LATE (17A: [Bumper sticker message, part 1], [39A: Bumper sticker message, part 2], [61A: Conclusion of the bumper sticker message])
Loved seeing ALICE in the grid, as it reminded me of all of the episodes of The Honeymooners that I watched late at night when I was a kid (5D: [One of the Kramdens]). Oh, and the clue to MILK made me think of the “Got Milk?” campaigns with many celebrities posing with the milk mustaches on their faces (18D: [Mustache maker?]). Oh, the good ol’ days…of the 1980s and early 1990s (as far as I’m concerned). My dad thought about buying a MERC when he went shopping for a car around the time I was a kid (49A: [Lynx or Cougar, for short]). Instead, at the time, he went with a brown Oldsmobile Cutlass Cruiser. Now, looking back at it, I probably would have been embarrassed by my family having that car to drive around, but, to my 10-year-old self, it was awesome! And it was roomy! Maybe my next car will be something like that, or a station wagon. Umm, OK, maybe not. Would talk more about the grid, but, alas, I’m starting to run a little late.
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: KERR (4D: [Deborah of “The King and I”]) – Former NBA player – and five-time champion as a player – Steve Kerr, who has the highest three-point shooting percentage in NBA history (45.4%), is currently the head coach of the NBA’s “it” team, the Golden State Warriors. In his first season in the Bay Area, in 2014-15, he led the Warriors to the NBA Championship. Last season, led by Kerr, the Warriors won more games in a regular season (73) than any other team in NBA history, though they lost in the NBA Finals to the Cleveland Cavaliers in seven games. Kerr’s father, Malcolm, was a professor at the American University in Beirut. Malcolm was assassinated in 1984, when Steve was a freshman at Arizona, by members of the Islamic Jihad Organization. (Sorry for the somber end to this graph.)
See you all at the top of the hump on Wednesday.