Note: Like last week, the Washington Post puzzle is best solved on paper. Click here to download the PDF for today’s puzzle.
Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “What Goes Around” – Erin’s writeup
Today’s puzzle can be solved in PUZ format or on the website just fine, but it flows better when solved in print. On first glance it’s evident that the constructor has broken a cardinal rule of crosswords: there is a column of black squares splitting the grid in half. Furthermore, some of the leftmost across squares are not numbered. Huh?
It turns out that some of the rightmost entries start at their numbered squares, then loop around and continue in the same row over on the left side of the grid (as indicated by my softly curving arrows). For example, the answer 75a. [Linen closet supply] appears to be SHE, which does not make sense. To complete the entry, you must continue with the unnumbered three squares at the left side of the row, ETS, to get SHEETS as the complete answer. 1a. is numbered so that 1d. has a number, but the other looping entries continue at unnumbered squares. We also have five starred long entries which contain travel or change-type words and give a hint to the theme:
- 27a. [*20th-century exodus of African Americans from the South] GREAT MIGRATION
- 48a. [*Job change that often does not involve changes in salary or place of work] LATERAL MOVE
- 66a. [*Theme park attraction] WATER SLIDE
- 80a. [*Apple product that is currently the smallest one of its kind] IPOD SHUFFLE
- 99a. [*Work period for somebody who sleeps all day, perhaps] GRAVEYARD SHIFT
I had so much fun with this. It took a couple mistakes before I got the idea, but the puzzle really kept me engaged, and the long entries were a lovely touch. The icing on the cake is that each separate half of the wraparound entries is an acceptable crossword answer by itself. I worry a bit that the casual solver may not catch on if they have not met a puzzle like this before, but personally, I found the experience to be quite yummy.
General ramblings about the fill…I like ALAKAZAM next to RUMINATE. The kid in me wishes the former could have been clued as the final evolution of the Pokémon Abra (it evolves from Abra to Kadabra to Alakazam! I love it!), but these are two long entries I have not seen in some time. The counterpart entries are also less common and nicely clued: [Greek salad throwaway] for OLIVE PIT and [Lotus locations] for YOGA MATS. Finally, Evan and I are pretty close in age and childhood pop culture experiences, so NITRO [Explosive “American Gladiators” stage name] was a gimme. It turns out that Dan “Nitro” Clark now runs a muddy obstacle course called the Gladiator Rock ‘N Run. Who knew?
This happy camper is done. Until next week!
Bruce Haight’s New York Times crossword, “Uh-Oh!”—Amy’s write-up
The theme takes familiar phrases with a short U (“uh” sound) and changes that to a long O (“oh”):
- 23a. [Office for decoding messages?], NOTE-CRACKER SUITE. Nutcracker Suite.
- 33a. [What one might sit in at a Cheech & Chong movie?], STONED SILENCE. Stunned silence.
- 46a. [Herder’s mantra?], NO GOATS, NO GLORY. No guts, no glory. Speaking of goats, my favorite goat video is posted below.
- 61a. [Quality control problem at Oscar Mayer?], HOT DOG BONE. Hot dog bun. Gross!
- 63a. [Title of a book about Southern Reconstruction?], DIXIE COPES. Dixie Cups. Eww.
- 75a. [Two sights in a yacht’s galley?], BREAD AND BOATER. Bread and butter is way better, BREAD AND BOATER is just awkward, not clever.
- 86a. [Helpful things for killing time nowadays?], PHONE AND GAMES. Fun and games. Solid! I took a Pokémon Go walk late this afternoon.
- 100a. [Pigeon trainer, at times?], HOMING BIRD FEEDER. Hummingbird feeder. Does anyone call homing pigeons “homing birds,” though?
Answer of the day: 1d. [Of poor quality, in modern slang], JANKY. I love that word! I really only see black people using the term (it originated in African-American slang), but I wish everyone were using it. It has a certain vibe to it that “junky” doesn’t capture. Also, don’t anyone complain that the crossing with JABBA is unfair, as Jabba the Hutt should be an inescapable name to anyone who was around in the 1980s or who read some of those Carrie Fisher tributes in December.
16d. [Rousing], WAKING UP. I bought a greeting card last week that says “If the best part of waking up is the Folger’s in your cup … then you are extremely depressed.”
70d. [Greek city mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles], BEREA? No idea. The BEREA I know is the free liberal arts college in Kentucky. Students work on campus in exchange for not paying tuition. The school has a $1 billion endowment! Also, Wikipedia tells me, the country’s first non-segregated college, founded in 1855.
Didn’t love the theme, found chunks of the fill to be janky. 3.25 stars from me. Bob and Ed, take it away—
Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s CRooked crossword, “By the Numbers” — pannonica’s write-up
Numbers, numbers everywhere. Mainly, there are long across clues in the form
[digit] [blank]. Their values increase, though it isn’t a regular sequence.
- 23a. [1 __ ] NIGHT STAND.
- 25a. [2 __ ] CENTS’ WORTH.
- 38a. 3 BLIND MICE.
- 56a. 7 DAYS IN MAY.
- 58a. 9 INCH NAILS.
- 76a. 20 QUESTIONS.
- 78a. 21 GUN SALUTE.
- 91a. 76 TROMBONES.
- 109a. 101 DALMATIANS.
- 111a. 1,000,000 DOLLAR BABY.
But wait there is more.
- 13d [8, in Italy] OTTO, 18d [8, in Germany] ACHT, 120a [Beaufort scale 8] GALE. 43d [Of element No. 5] BORIC, 67d [Greek letter No. 5] EPSILON.
- 5d [One of five Greats] ERIE. 64d [Antennaed six-legger] ANT, 117a [Global septet] SEAS.
- 1a [Numerical suffix] -TEEN.
- 67a [Half the integers] EVENS—this is the central across entry. 29d [Off the beaten path] ODD—this is the first down entry in the center column; its symmetrical partner is the by-no-stretch-of-the-imagination-related 92d [W.S. Gilbert’s “__ Ballads”] BAB.
See, the crossword has a lot of number stuff in it.
Here are some other things that are in the puzzle:
- 20a [Instant noodles] RAMEN. If that’s your only experience, you owe it to yourself to try the real thing. Also, I highly recommend the 1985 film Tampopo.
- 84a [Pigeonhole] NICHE, 12d [Mailroom containers] BINS.
- With U–ER in place for 116a [ __-friendly] I reflexively put in B for ÜBER and never looked back. Certainly took a while to suss that out, but, inexorably, 106d [“Gravity” gp.] could not be “NABA” (despite the quasi-existence of the North American Bungee Association). So those were USER and NASA. I also blame 81a [Autobahn autos] AUDI.
- 6d [“All the Things She Said” duo] TATU, styled t.A.T.u.
- 72d [Lightweight netting] TULLE, 99d [Doily material] LACE.
- 41d [Idle in showbiz] ERIC, 95d [Erik of the avant-garde] SATIE. Ouch.
- 51d [Manhattan buyer] MINUIT.
- Greenpaintiest fill: 83d [Flawed brainwork] POOR IDEA.
- 32a [Make a ball of] WAD UP. I am so surprised this wasn’t clued as the song by Wizkid feat. D’Prince & Ice Prince. Okay I’m not surprised. WARNING: extreme auto-tune abuse.
- Hey there are some baseball things in there too. 35a [An Alou brother] MATTY, 98a [Umpire’s cry] PLAY BALL, 103a [Hitter’s stat] RBI, 4d [Games pitchers dream of] NO-HITTERS. Not so many as it felt during the solve, but a couple of them are among the grid’s longest non-theme fill.
- Affixes! 1a [Numerical suffix] -TEEN, 90a [Prefix meaning “wing”] PTERO- (see also—ouch!—26d [First Best Picture] WINGS), 97a [Secret ending?] -IVE, 11d [Suffix on meth] -ANE, 101d [Duck tail?] -LING. Honorable mention to 100d [Mater’s lead-in] ALMA.
- Favorite clue/answer: 27a [Hungry, in a way] DESIROUS.
All that said, I liked the way 101d [Duck tail?] preceded 102d [Luck’s title] LADY. The longest downs were very nice: GOOD COMPANY and BUSTA RHYMES.
Number of videos in this write-up: 4.
Derek Bowman’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “Between the Covers”—Jim Q’s write-up
Derek Bowman gives us MAGAZINE INSERTS today. All theme answers are standard two word phrases with the name of a popular magazine inserted to give us a new, wacky three word phrase.
- 23a. [Some pool English?], SIDE SPIN EFFECTS. Clue seems a bit awkward to me and answer seems forced. But I only ever play pool in the occasional dive bar, where no English is required since the table is inevitably warped to favor one of the corner pockets.
- 27a. [Ballet phenom?], BREAKOUT DANCER. This strikes me a bit of an outlier since the addition of OUT does not create a three word phrase, like the others.
- 40a. [Regular stockings, as opposed to fishnets?], GARDEN VARIETY HOSE. Got a smile from me.
- 63a. [8 or 9, e.g.?], PRIME TIME NUMBER. As in 8:00 PM or 9:00 PM being prime TV slots.
- 70a. [Snowfall during the Olympics?], WINTER GAMES COAT.
- 94a. [Doghouses and scratching posts?], PET PEOPLE PROJECTS. I’m struggling to understand how scratching posts are PET PEOPLE PROJECTS. I mean, I guess you can build a doghouse… so that’s a project. But when’s the last time you built a scratching post? By the way, cardboard boxes glued together so that the surface is corrugated makes for a great scratching pad.
- 112a. [Goal for a teacher’s pet?], GOLD STAR RECORD. I’ve been teaching in a public middle school for over a decade. No teacher’s pet that I’ve ever had wants a GOLD STAR RECORD. They want good grades. Pats on the back. And Dum-Dum lollipops.
- 119a. [Subscription deal promos… and a hint to this puzzle’s seven other longest answers], MAGAZINE INSERTS. Not sure if this revealer was necessary…
Without a doubt, I’ve seen this theme done- and done well- several times. Perhaps the revealer is new, but the concept of using magazine names in theme answers is not. And of course, repeated themes are inevitable in crosswords, but the only answer that really landed for me was GARDEN VARIETY HOSE.
In addition to rather bland, forced answers, there is another inconsistency that nags at me which deals with the final word of each themer: HOSE, COAT, and RECORD change definitions after their magazine inserts, but the rest do not.
On the bright side, the fill isn’t all that bad for a Sunday. Nothing fresh, but nothing awful. I’m not entirely sure I’ve ever asked for a slice of LEMON PIE, but I’d eat it if it were in front of me. Hold the meringue please.
Two tiny things that gave me some enjoyment:
- 2d. [Tatted covering], DOILY. I needed every cross. I could not get the idea of a tattoo out of my mind. Nice Aha!
- 17d. [Defense attorney’s challenge], LIAR. I had L ____ and assumed it was a test an attorney had to take. I hate those test clues (Med student’s hurdle, Future atty.’s ordeal, etc.) because I always forget which test is for which profession. So this was fun to uncover.
I typically avoid negativity when solving crosswords and try to give each the benefit of the doubt. But this one irked me.
2.3 stars from me.
Martin Ashwood-Smith’s Sunday Challenge CrosSynergy crossword —Ade’s write-up
Good afternoon, everyone! How’s your day going? It’s over 60 degrees here in NYC, so things aren’t all too bad here.
Today’s crossword, brought to us by Mr. Martin Ashwood-Smith, might have been released after Valentine’s Day, but definitely has a shape of a heart right in the heart of the grid, so that’s pretty nice. The grid and the fill was fine as well, though, unlike most puzzles I do from MAS, I left the stacked portion of the grid until the end. (I can usually come up with a pretty good guess on his 15-letter entries once even one letter is filled in.) All of those 15s were good, though I probably liked TELEVISION PILOT the most (16A: [This may start a series]). What also stood out, in a very positive way, was the anagram action at the bottom of the grid with STRAITS (58A: [Dire ______]) and TSARIST (60A: [Bolshevik opponent]). I’m pretty sure that I am just one of a few people in my inner circle that does not download RINGTONES onto my phone (6D: [Some downloaded ditties]). Tried it once years ago, didn’t like it, realized I just liked the one programmed on the phone better and never did it again. Maybe, as far as I’m concerned, downloading ringtones is DÉCLASSÉ (33D: [No longer chic]). Or, maybe, I’m just a fuddy-duddy. That’s it.
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: WES (35A: [Unseld of basketball fame]) – Though undersized for his position (6’7″), Basketball Hall of Famer WES Unseld was a two-time All American at Louisville who went on to become one of the greatest centers of all time. His crowning achievement came in the 1978 NBA Finals, when he capped off his MVP regular season by winning Finals MVP in leading the Washington Bullets to a seven-game NBA Finals series win over the Seattle SuperSonics.
Have a great rest of your Sunday!