Finn Vigeland’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Loved this puzzle! Super-quick, right in my wheelhouse. I could see some solvers struggling with that crossing of SXSW (South by Southwest) and NSFW (“not safe for work”), and the contemporary pop culture’s right up my alley but it is decidedly not up some folks’ alleys.
The theme is queens and where you find them:
- 18a. [Queen’s place], CHESSBOARD.
- 23a. [Queens’ place], NEW YORK CITY.
- 36a. [Queens’ place], RUPAUL’S DRAG RACE.
- 47a. [With 57-Across, Queen’s place], ROCK AND ROLL / HALL OF FAME.
If you’re keeping track, that’s one queen, the borough of Queens, plural queens of the drag variety, and the rock band Queen. Nice!
Favorite bits: ANTSY, BRUNO MARS, LATEX clued without embarrassment as [Condom material], MRS clued as [Title for two Clue characters], and RUDY clued as the Sean Astin movie (I’d be happier with the rare ARA Parseghian clue if it referenced Rudy).
Tough for Tuesday: the YALU River, RUBATO, ELBA clued as the island (bring me Idris!), and LAIC.
How do we feel about 44d. [Scorcher], HOT ONE? Not sure HOT ONE can stand alone apart from “It’s a …”
4.4 stars from me.
Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle (Week 297), “Possessed!”—Janie’s take
In what way is this puzzle “possessed”? As is made clear at 55D, each of the four fab themers is “possessed” of an [Inner DEMON (personal struggle … and a hint to the puzzle theme)]. I found this to be one smooth, sweet solve—rich with clever cluing, terrific non-theme fill and an overall integrity that just made me smile. By integrity, I’m talking about an inner connectivity between and among the grid entries. This is a well-made puzzle that is teeming with life. It’s long been evident on this site that when it comes to ratings, “haters gonna hate.” Some of you are just gonna be scratchin’ your heads trying to figure out what makes a puzzle like this such a good one (when you can point out everything that makes it weak, weak, weak). And so it goes… For the rest of you, allow me to, uh, DEMONstrate.
- 17A. CLAUDE MONET [He said, “I would like to paint the way a bird sings”]. First of all: great quote. But, omg, talk about a modest guy. Monet’s work, like a bird’s song, simply seems to pour out of him—naturally, effortlessly. Suspect it rarely felt that way to him, but this observer stands in awe of both the artist and his avian counterpart.
- 11D. MADE MONEY [Worked at a mint?]. First of all: fun clue. And on the subject of workers, we also get the PEON, the [Working stiff], who probably has a steady income but never MADE lotso MONEY—even as a mint worker… Note that with these first two examples, DEMON spans the two-word name/phrase. Liz switches up the game for the remaining pair, where the word is contained within a single name/word. And to great effect, let me add.
- 34D. DESDEMONA [Othello’s love]. First of all: that’s a name that seems apt for Amy’s logo gal… But then… We find the character not only in Shakespeare’s play, but also in Verdi’s opera, in which she sings a haunting AIR or two, embellished with a TRILL or two. But wait, there’s more to this classical-music interlude. Most prominently, OPERA ROLE [Tristan or Isolde, e.g.], and then [“ERO e Leandro” (Handel cantata)], and even ÉTUDE [Chopin’s “Ocean” or “Butterfly,” e.g.] and LENTO [Slow, in music]. I really love the specific references Liz brings to her cluing today. They put even the otherwise ordinary into high relief, which I take as a great plus. All this high-brow art stuff too artsy? How perfect, then, that the puzz also offers the equally prominent BALL GAMES [Wrigley Field events]—oh, and a tip of the hat to the NHL [Stanley Cup org.], and to the ROLEO, a [Logger’s competition], too..
- 61A. PANDEMONIUM [Total chaos]. First of all: great word. What I didn’t know before (thank you, Jenni…): when it’s capitalized, it’s the capital of Hell in Milton’s Paradise Lost. Given the population there, sure as hell makes sense! The clue gives us the lower case sense of the word.
In addition to the non-theme fill I’ve already called out, the hateful POP-UP AD POPs UP to enliven the grid; as does IGNITED, DADDY-O, and the NICETY / FINERY duo. There are also several clue/fill pairs that stood out for me today—like the “oh-that-sort-of-‘sentence'” [Sentence shortener?] for PAROLE, the evocative [Ready for a refill] for EMPTY and [Rummaged through, like a thief] for RIFLED. Along those lines, there’s also the punny [Takes the wrong way?] for ROBS. Also liked [Revealing photo?] for X-RAY and [Like a gossip column] for DISHY. And, albeit in kind of a macabre way, was similarly taken with seeing both [Stopped snoozing] AWOKE and [Regained consciousness] CAME TO. Hmm. Shades of Awakenings and L-DOPA use…
Yeah. Back to the musical aspect, but this time it’s more of the pop-culture variety—music you’re likely to hear on your RADIO [AM/FM device], like [“RUMOUR Has It” (hit single by Adele)] (British spelling because… she’s a Brit…) and anything by the Boss, whose voice, we learn, is insured by that most prestigious of firms, (the British) LLOYD’S of London. Ditto Rod Stewart. Ditto Bob Dylan. Read ’em and weep.
I was gonna say that that’s wrap, but I’d be omitting one more favorite thing about this puzzle—that the four-letter [“Frozen” princess] who gets the shout-out today AIN’T ELSA, but her younger sister ANNA. Yay for the second banana!
And that is a wrap. Til next week, keep solving—thanks for reading and do stop by again!
Kurt Krauss’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Ere Now” — Jim’s review
We’re putting on AREs in this puzzle — more precisely, replacing AIR or EAR with ARE. All three trigrams are homophonic.
- 17a [Rabbit groomer’s boutique?] HARE SALON. I have to start with an “ugh” for this one. Replacing “hair” with “hare” is as old as Bugs Bunny.
- 25a [Cutlery for athletes?] SPORTSWARE. Ok. Not too bad.
- 35a [Naked forest predator?] GRIZZLY BARE. Isn’t a naked grizzly bear just a regular grizzly bear?
- 50a [Cooking magazine for snobs?] VANITY FARE. I like this one best, but I don’t think the clue needs to refer to a magazine.
- 59a [Trial for a serial ogler?] STARE CASE. Ew. Ending on a creepy note.
This was ok, but it didn’t get me too excited — especially with that hair/hare start. For the record we had two EAR-to-ARE phrases and three AIR-to-ARE phrases. It would have been more elegant if all five were the same or else all different. Are there six different ways to make that sound? AIR, EAR, AIRE, ERE (as in werewolf), ERR (as in Herr), and of course ARE. Whether or not five viable theme entries could be made from that set, I don’t know and don’t plan on checking.
Fill-wise, I’m AMICABLE with GAINED ON, but my favorite is UNIBROW. I will never not like UNIBROW. I also like “YEAH, BUT,” SEYMOUR [“Little Shop of Horrors” hero], and PLAXICO [Former NFL wide receiver Burress]. I will never not remember that name, which sounds like a plastics company.
It seemed like today’s crosswordese was a bit worse than usual: RTE I, EFS, TYE, TOPED, KLM, MTA. Some of those should have been cleaned up, I think.
I was going to embed the “Feed Me, Seymour” song from The Little Shop of Horrors movie, but I love Steve Martin’s dentist song so much more. It brings me back to my teenage years and avidly listening to the weekly Dr. Demento Show.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “Spellbound” – Derek’s write-up
I didn’t get the total impact of today’s theme until I was all finished, mainly because I thought the first theme entry began with the word “icy!” But after I finished, and was able to take a really hard look at what was going on, I was quite impressed. It’s not “icy,” but I-see-why!
- 17A [“Don’t point the finger … the freeze was an accident!”] I C Y YOU’RE MAD AT ME (I see why)
- 35A [“That coffee holder won’t work if it’s ginormous”] U R N BIG TROUBLE (You are in)
- 56A [“I was impervious to constant chatter”] G A B JUST FLEW BY ME (Gee, a bee)
Pretty clever, eh? Lots of letters sound like actual words (homophones?) like A, B, C, G, I, J, L, M, N, O, P, R, T, U, X, and Y. Notice all of the letters Matt used are in this list. But to find three coherent phrases is pretty good! I was totally amused by this brilliant idea. 4.3 stars from me.
A few notes:
- 15A Drama with the fictional firm McKenzie, Brackman, Chaney and Kuzak] L. A. LAW – A crossword famous TV show, that’s for sure! It’s also sure that I am old enough to remember watching this!
- 22A [Mitt Romney’s alma mater, for short] BYU – Not going to get political in my commentary, so let’s just say if you remember he is a Mormon, this clue would be that much easier for you!
- 42A [“Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret” author] BLUME – I have never read one of her books, I don’t believe, but lot of my old schoolmates way back in the 80s seem to always have one of her books in their hand.
- 2D [What the befuddled have] NO CLUE – I tried NO IDEA here. A tad tricky!
- 8D [Former pro wrestler Bigelow] BAM BAM – I don’t know wrestling at all. I DO know the Flintstones, but that would be Bamm Bamm!
- 9D [“Donnie Darko” actor Patrick] SWAYZE – Never saw this movie, but the late Patrick Swayze was quite talented.
- 11D [Stayed put] SAT STILL – Or [What my four-year-old has rarely done]!
- 26D [Dollar amount in a Western?] FISTFUL – I recommend all of the spaghetti westerns! They are really good.
- 36D [Like mechanical bulls and rocking horses] RIDEABLE – Not a word we use often, and I didn’t see it at first, but then one forehead slap later the puzzle was done!
Another awesome Matt puzzle! Good week to all!
Gerry Wildenberg’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
Another crossword by a constructor I am not that familiar with! Cute little puzzle, with a nice reveal in the center at 29-Down:
- 17A [Zero or one] BINARY DIGIT
- 52A [July 14, in France] BASTILLE DAY
- 11D [Thirteen] BAKER’S DOZEN
- 25D [Performer who shimmies and uses finger cymbals] BELLY DANCER
- 29D [Like little, glittering eyes … and a phonetic hint to this puzzle’s four longest answers] BEADY
BEADY, which sounds like “B” “D!” Get it? Those are the initials of the four theme answers. Nicely done, and all interesting phrases that otherwise are almost totally unrelated. Makes me want to construct another puzzle myself! A solid 3.9 stars for this fairly easy puzzle.
A few more notes:
- 27A [Good Housekeeping publisher since 1911] HEARST – I don’t think I knew this, because I don’t look this closely at these magazines in the checkout aisle at the grocery store or Wal-Mart! I was hoping there was an indication of this on the cover, but I didn’t see one. So maybe a tad tough?
- 45A [Sports venues] STADIA – Or a Roman unit of measurement! Would that have been easier or harder, since I nearly wrote in ARENAS?!
- 62A [Graphs’ horizontal reference lines] X-AXES – This is also slightly difficult, if you don’t know higher math. A rarely seen entry, but good to include lots of X’s!
- 13D [Jefferson, religiously] DEIST – Wasn’t he in Hamilton?
- 23D [Light bulb units] WATTS – There are a lot of famous people surnamed Watts, but this is probably easiest.
- 49D [Powerful engine] V-SIX – I beg to differ! A V-8 or V-10 maybe!
Here’s hoping I see more puzzles from this guy! Have a great week!
NXNW crossing NSFW! I don’t think so. Not inferrable. Reduced to running the alphabet.
Same! Irritating end to an otherwise enjoyable Tuesday puzzle.
Agreed Rupaul’s Drag race was another complete unknown to me.
The little corner that lacked a letter (W). DNF on that one and I see I wasn’t the only one. And what happened to the breakfast test? If anything goes, then everything should, I think. I have no objections.
Chopster, keep running the alphabet until you get to SXSW.
Thought NSFW was standard terminology for any computer user – no trouble with that one.
That obscure TV show, on the other hand…
WSJ: RTE. I should go on the “never to be seen again” list!
RUPAUL’S DRAG RACE cable show plays on obscure Logo TV channel?! Never heard of show or channel. This should not be admissible in puzzle.
this comment is too political
I liked the NYT — the pop culture element slowed it down for me, but (speaking as an oldish guy who doesn’t watch cable tv) I don’t think any of the answers were all that obscure. If you glance at the Arts section of the newspaper that publishes the crossword you will have come across all of them.
That was a beautiful NYT. Surprised you didn’t mention SXSW or NSFW — both in-the-language terms and nice pieces of fill.
Just a blast to solve.
Surprised at people who don’t see RUPAULSDRAGRACE as being an acceptable answer — I’ve never watched a single episode but it’s a pop culture milestone that’s constantly referenced in media. As Will always says, anything from elsewhere in the paper is fair game and that one seems more than so (you’d find it in the Arts section for sure).
And like Amy was delighted to see LATEX clued as it was, in a straightforward way.
I did mention SXSW and NSFW, in my third sentence! Didn’t single them out as answers I liked, though I did like both of them.
Many people have probably heard the term “throwing shade” in recent years without knowing that it’s spread out from the world of drag/gay/black slang. RuPaul’s show has really mainstreamed “shade.”
NYT was OK at best, and as far as I’m concerned SXS? crossing NSF? should have disqualified the puzzle.
Jonesin’: 59d [Lobster wearer’s clothing] BIB.
Looks like an instance of cerebrobombulum. Also, ‘clothing’?
I just googled “cerebrobombulum” and the only three hits were from you, pannonica! Little help?
Apologies for the blooper – Matt J had BAL in that slot, and I suggested at the last minute that Matt G change it.
WSJ: STARECASE is somewhat less nonsensical than the other themers as it’s part of the title of the group that did the catchy-as-hell, but good nonetheless, “More Today Than Yesterday”, Spiral Starecase.
Has anyone solved or seen a Fireball by Doug Peterson entitled “fitting in with”? It appears to have some gimmick involving squares left blank and the letters ‘OR’ and/or the letter ‘W’, but obviously I haven’t figured it out, despite considerable effort. I do much better with straightforward, non-gimmicky puzzles, even difficult ones.
this may help, bruce!
Yes! Thanks Janie
Was going to single out SXSW and NSFW as the most hip and liveliest four-letter crossing of the year. Then read the blog and saw many dissenting opinions. I don’t know, the NEWT/SHOW fill variety has its place, but every now and then you want an unexpected punch in your puzzle and Finn delivered the knock-out.
I am bothered by the clue for 4D in the NYT. “Pointy stone used in early Native American weaponry” clued ARROWHEAD. An arrowhead is a work of patience, skill and engineering. Not just some rock someone picked up off the ground. The process is now called flint knapping.
Yes, this is late but perhaps someone at NYT will see it. I don’t assume this was the constructor’s clue.