Note: The Washington Post puzzle is best solved on paper this Sunday and next. Click here to download the PDF for today’s puzzle.
Lynn Lempel’s New York Times crossword, “Do the Splits”—Amy’s write-up
Lynn’s theme takes familiar phrases and splits one word into two:
- 23a. [Berate some guy for getting too much sun?], GO OFF ON A TAN GENT. If he’s white, then yes, he ought to use sunscreen and avoid tanning so much! Edited to add (with thanks to e.a. for the link): And people with more melanin, while less likely to get skin cancer in the first place, are more likely to die from skin cancer. So everyone be careful about sun exposure, use sunscreen, and check with your doctor about any weird spots on your skin.
- 37a. [Suggestion to a bored short story writer?], “POE, TRY READING.” Cute.
- 55a. [Result of a serious wardrobe malfunction at the beach?], BRA IN WAVES. Yikes!
- 74a. [Scientist’s dilemma regarding work vs. play?], LAB OR PARTY? Are there many Labor Party entities out there rather than Labour? I guess Israel is among the countries that have had a Labor Party.
- 86a. [Dismaying announcement about disaster aid?], JUST ICE FOR ALL. That’s a weird clue and now I’m thinking about the dismal response to Hurricane Katrina. Would be better if clued in relation to, say, what a lousy orthopedist prescribes, or a dreadful calorie-free party.
- 106a. [Roker’s appeal before gastric bypass surgery?], FAT AL ATTRACTION. Would Al Roker like this, or would it bum him out?
- 16d. [“That villain in comics has sure gotta be sore!”?], FU MANCHU MUST ACHE. This one amused me.
- 36d. [What a cash-strapped beau might take you on?], UNFUNDED-MAN DATES. I’d also be good with “man dates” that are unfunded.
Mostly a good theme, and a few of them amused me. Any time a theme gives me at least one funny themer, it’s better than the norm.
Seven more things:
- 45a. [Swinging Ernie], ELS. As I understand it, Ernie and his wife were keen on key parties.
- 61a. [Turbid], CLOUDY. Every time I get a urinalysis (which is at least monthly at this point, 18 months post-transplant), I note my turbidity. “Clear”! Gareth once inquired about my specific gravity as well (I am quite well hydrated and the numbers prove it).
- 69a. [March movement], GOOSESTEP. “March” these days evokes the big Women’s March on Washington and across the world. This clue … could use a qualifier. Like “North Korean army’s marching movement.”
- 97a. [Bit of cushioning], PEANUT. As in those “styrofoam” peanuts used as packing material.
- 14d. [Pacific island wrap], SARONG. Bizarre clue, since the original wearers of the SARONG (by that name) aren’t so Pacific at all. Indonesia and Malaysia are just as much in the Indian Ocean, and what we call “the Pacific islands” have their own words for the garment.
- 33d. [Those who need sound memories, per Montaigne], LIARS. Didn’t Oscar Wilde or someone have a similar quote?
- 99d. [Sobel who wrote the Pulitzer-nominated “Galileo’s Daughter”], DAVA. Couldn’t remember the name so I needed the crossings. Have definitely heard of her, though.
Four stars from me.
Ed Sessa’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “First Things First”—Amy’s write-up
The theme is apparently nothing more than a bunch of phrases whose first words can follow the word first to form phrases of varying familiarity:
- 23a. [Trust builder?], ESTATE PLANNER. The Fourth Estate gets a lot more press than the First.
- 31a. [Result of losing two points, perhaps], LOVE-THIRTY. First love is fine, but a tennis score is mighty arbitrary.
- 52a. [Concern for gardeners], FROST WARNING. First frost is a thing?
- 75a. [Wriggler on a hook], NIGHTCRAWLER. I forget what first night is. Some sort of English observance?
- 92a. [Teacher’s bane, at times], CLASS CLOWN. First class. Hey! Both terms are super-familiar.
- 104a. [Mozart’s “The Hunt,” for one], STRING QUARTET. First string on a sports team. I had not heard of this Mozart piece, though.
- 37d. [Any one of the NFL’s top 25 career scoring leaders], PLACEKICKER. I did not know that! Did not get first place in NFL trivia.
- 40d. [They’re spoken in anger], CHOICE WORDS. First choice.
Theme feels rather uneven, and a bit of a snooze.
Five other things:
- 100d. [My way], AT ME. As in “It was coming my way”/”It was coming AT ME”? No, no, no. Awkward. Better to clue it as a FITB partial.
- 106d. [Potato source: Abbr.], IDA. Did you know that a great many of those Idaho potatoes are farmed by incarcerated people? I learned this from Ava DuVernay’s important Netflix documentary, 13th.
- 45a. [Get online shopping help, say], HAVE A CHAT. Uh, no. That’s not a crosswordable phrase. And when I use the online chat form of customer service, I do not ever consider us to be “having a chat.” That’s better suited to casual conversation.
- 74a. [Gremlins, e.g.], AMCS. A plural alphabet soup clued by way of a 40-year-old car? Bleh.
- 4d. [Nebraska city named for a Native American tribe], OGALLALA. I knew it was some form of Oglala after I had the first two letters, but the location of the double-L vexed me.
Overall, the fill felt rather dated and/or clunky. ORMOND, TELEXED, DOOS, E-BOND, IN A FLAP, ROONE…. I did like seeing SMARTCAR and a river OXBOW and recent BREXIT, though.
2.75 stars from me.
Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Think Big” – Erin’s writeup
The link to the PDF for this puzzle is above, because it’s one that doesn’t translate over to Across Lite-type solving. The reason is pretty obvious: there are some ginormous white areas (four squares in one!) throughout the grid. These large squares are shared by two adjacent across entries and two adjacent down entries (for example, the large S in the NW corner is shared by 1a. MASKS and 17a. ALTOS), and the entries composed only of large squares make sense when preceded by the word “big.”
- 21a. [Septet of stars called the Plough in the United Kingdom] (BIG) DIPPER
- 23a. [Subject of creation science?] (BIG) BANG
- 58a. [General Motors, Ford and Chrysler, collectively] (BIG) THREE
- 63a. [Major commotion] (BIG) SCENE
- 98a. [“Nobody cares”] (BIG) DEAL
- 101a. [Top dog] (BIG) CHEESE
- 5d. [One lacking in frugality] (BIG) SPENDER
- 13d. [Fast-food staple invented by Jim Delligatti in 1967] (BIG) MAC
- 46d. [Literary symbol of mass surveillance] (BIG) BROTHER
- 87d. [Feline that roars] (BIG) CAT
Respect to Evan for adding some variety to the Sunday crossword. The theme was apparent to me after filling in DIPPER, which made getting the other theme entries a lot easier. Solving the rest of the grid becomes easier in a way once the gimmick is understood, too, as filling in a large letter for one entry gives you a free letter for an adjacent entry. The best part for me, though, was writing out huge letters. It was immensely satisfying to take a break from solving almost exclusively online (my kids destroy all paper) and just go wild with my 0.7 mechanical pencil. It was fun to mix things up, and needing to visually follow entries through the larger squares held my attention longer than other 21×21 puzzles sometimes do.
Fill was solid despite the constraints of shared squares, which cut the longest entry down to eight letters. Evan will scrap a section of a grid, or an entire puzzle, before he will let a dreadful entry go to print, and this crossword keeps with his commitment to clean fill. I especially enjoy HOMBRES, KEN DOLL, and BRAINY, and OTTERS are always welcome. Favorite clue is 69d. [Tool for an ax wielder?] for CAPO, which I had never heard of until my husband started learning the guitar. Another lovely one is 97d. [Opening set?] for KEYS. Also, I appreciate that if B CUP has to be in a grid, it is clued as a generic [Lingerie specification] instead of something cutesy or with a modifier like “small” or “medium.” Thank you for that. Finally, here is a photo of my (not so big) CAT rifling through the medicine cabinet in our kitchen this morning. Not sure what Blooper was trying to find, but I hope he enjoyed the encounter.
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s CRooked crossword, “Little Help Please” — pannonica’s write-up
Sometimes the six-week delay between the Boston Globe’s crossword publish date and its appearance on-line is inconsequential, sometimes it’s mildly notable, but occasionally it’s especially deleterious. This case of a Christmas-themed puzzle is of that last ilk, because Christmas fatigue for many starts to set in around late November. We’re on afterburners here.
- 114dR [Little help found in the 10 long across answers] ELF.
- 22a. [Electrolysis scientist] MICHAEL FARADAY.
- 36a. [Truck stop purchase] DIESEL FUEL.
- 38a. [Venezuelan natural wonder] ANGEL FALLS.
- 50a. [1984 Chaka Khan hit] I FEEL FOR YOU.
- 55a. [Star-crossed lovers’ downfall] CRUEL FATE. ANGEL FALLS, downfall. 19d [Improve from a fall] HEAL.
- 77a. [Car exec whose name appeared on a big bomb] EDSEL FORD.
- 80a. [Brexit figure] NIGEL #$%^! FARAGE.
- 94a. [Sturdy building skeleton] STEEL FRAME.
- 96a. [Moving picture?] TRAVEL FILM.
- 112a. [Strait of Magellan archipelago] TIERRA DEL FUEGO.
So. Run-of-the-mill consecutive-letter theme, with mostly relatively short entries, appearing well past its sell-by date. Not the greatest recipe. I think I’m in need of a pumpkin spice enema.
This was a very fast solve, with practically zero resistance. The only snag—and it was a minor one—was in the third of four blocks in the top section. Instead of SAY and LIRE for 12d [“Here’s another thought …”] and 20a [Turkish bread] I had HEY and the appropriate-to-Italy-but-not-Turkey LIRE.
- 1d [Popped the clutch to start] JUMPED. Really? Isn’t that a push or rolling start? Jumping involves cables and an infusion of electricity, no?
- 87a [“Correct!” sound] DING, 49d [Manure] DUNG. Nudge, nudge, say no more.
- 5a [TA’s boss] PROF, 90d [Dorm party disrupters (abbr.)] RAS.
- 9d [Garbage bag closer] CLASP. Not sure about this. Cinch, yes. Twist-tie, yes. Even zip-tie. Clip, maybe. But a clasp? How does that work?
- Here are all the people I didn’t know: 14d [Moreno who owns the Los Angeles Angels (hey! I mean, say! Remember themer 38-across?) ARTE. 48d [Columnist Charen] MONA. 33a [Actress Fisher] ISLA. 71a [Celebrity chef Redzepi] RENÉ (he’s a DANE of partial Albanian extraction (Redxepi is a common surname there) and his restaurant is called NOMA). But I knew all the others! EVA Mendes, ESTÉE Lauder, BRET Easton Ellis, Larry CSONKA, Bobby ORR, et al.
- Christmas crossword, don’t forget! 44a [“Deck the Halls” syllables] LA LAS.
- Quite a bunch of ‘clever’ and questionmarked clues. Most are at least pretty good—e.g., 38d [Ship for a couples cruise?] ARK, 39d [Go down in History?] FAIL, even 81d [Buggy baby?] LARVA and 66d [Big stink?] ODOR—but a couple fell flat for me: 69d [Body lang.?] ANAT and 85a [Lift provider] STILT.
Okay, all done. And glad of it.
Lynn Lempel’s Sunday Challenge CrosSynergy crossword —Ade’s write-up
Good afternoon, everyone! Hope you’re all doing very well today.
We have Ms. Lynn Lempel stepping up to the plate for this Sunday’s Challenge, and though I can’t say that I TORE through the grid, this was a nice, easy solve for a Sunday (45A: [Raced]). Who am I kidding? I never tear through a crossword, as I almost always drive the speed limit when doing grids. I’m going to turn DEEP SNOW into a euphemism to replace the two-word phrase that most people say (starting with the same word, deep) to describe being in big trouble (15A: [Shoveler’s challenge]). Seeing BANGOR afforded me the chance to pronounce, out loud, of my favorite words (and Native American tribes) that I’ve come across (28A: [Maine city on the Penobscot River]). The only real hangup I had was in the Northeast portion of the grid, as REMOTE didn’t come quickly to me at all, as I was thinking about bus/train depots more than television for a while (16A: [It gets you to the station]). But, after getting that, everything else up there went down. I liked seeing BRUITS even though that’s a word that’s barely used in regular conversation (41D: [Spreads news of]). Maybe I have to bring it back when doing my sports reporting. On the other hand, I don’t want to have sports fans write to me and say, “Are you saying ‘brutes?'” This grid was definitely fun to do on a lazy Sunday.
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: TNT (24A: [Provider of a bang-up job? (abbr.)]) – Since 1989, the National Basketball Association has partnered with TNT to air NBA games on the network, the league’s longest current relationship with an American television network.
Have a great rest of your Sunday!
Rated the NYT a 3 when I intended a 4.5.
WaPo: Cute idea but (as I predicted yesterday after looking at the grid for about 10 seconds) WAY too easy (6A + 6D + 21A gave it away). One write-over: had BABY for “subject of creation science?” at 23A but that was it. And, it’s almost Valentine’s Day, Evan. Where’s <3 ?
Oh, edited at the last minute to add snaps for 69D. Fantastic clue.
Don’t know why I went from Norm to undefined [not a bad moniker, actually] when I tried to add a final edit. Sigh.
NYT: Apparently Australia dropped the “u” in LABOR PARTY a century ago. No idea. This was a pretty good puzzle but a few themers seemed a bit tortured. Also there were a couple (BRAINWAVES & POETRY READING) I just did without even fussing about the theme.
The Australian Labor Party uses the -or spelling even though the -our spelling is favoured for the regular word.
Any idea why? Seems odd. Almost wonder if it hinders their appeal.
The spelling was adopted in 1912, both to recognize the influence of the American labor movement and to support a progressive movement for modernizing Australian spellings at that time. The spelling reform never happened but the name stuck.
Thanks for the knowledge, Martin. We have such a great relationship with Australia now that surely Labor won’t be bringing back the “u” anytime soon.
NYT: had BRAIN DRAIN before BRAIN WAVES. We have a Brain Waves Cafe at our research institute. Since it has no windows, we’ve painted a mural all the way around with a water scene. LAB OR PARTY? …not mutually exclusive in our neighborhood!
Are you saying white people are the only ones who should use sunscreen?
Goosestep not the best word to see these days with this bunch in the WH.
Fair-skinned people have much less protection against skin cancer because of their dearth of melanin, and the risk is much lower in people of color. https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/skin/statistics/race.htm
J GONNA LEAVE THIS HERE !!
Oh, thank you! Post updated.
NYT: In Lynn’s liner notes over at xwordinfo she quotes Shortz on a recent blog topic here, clue/grid dupes. She says he says “My rule is: No answer word in its entirety can be part of a clue, and no clue in its entirety can be part of an answer.” [I’m not going to comment because I don’t want to nurse an opinion on this issue.]
Re: NYT 33d. [Those who need sound memories, per Montaigne], LIARS. Didn’t Oscar Wilde or someone have a similar quote?
A proverb I learned in French 101: “Pour bien mentir, it fault avoir une bonne mémoire.”
Wilde said, “The aim of the liar is simply to charm, to delight, to give pleasure. He is the very basis of civilized society.”
Yes, I remember that French proverb too.
I found this to be a difficult, but an excellent and amusing Sunday, as one would expect from Ms. Lempel. (e.g. bra in waves, Just ice for all). My solving curve was very uneven — slow at first, but then picking up steam. I have heard of Weber (pronounced Weeber) State University. Ultimately an enjoyable and rewarding solve.
On a darker topic, as someone who has contracted metastasized melanoma, well controlled by Nivolumab so far, I reiterate Amy’s warning with even more urgency. The cause for me was not sun exposure, because I don’t like the sun, and don’t even like sitting on a beach, unless it’s under a big umbrella reading or watching and listening to the waves. I enjoy walking on the beach when the sun is very low, either early morning or late afternoon.
If you live in the four season zones of the country and suffer from pollen allergies, FIRST FROST is something you await. A hard freeze generally halts pollen production. This is so much a thing that TV weather forecasters mention it.