Jacob Stulberg’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
The theme is STAND-UP GUYS, 28d. [Honest sorts … or what the circled squares contain?]. The circled words spell GENT, FELLA, and DUDE when you read them from bottom to top. The chaps are in these phrases:
- 4d. [Outcome that’s overall unfavorable], NET NEGATIVE. Not sure I’ve ever encountered that term before. A Google search suggests it is mostly used as a modifier rather than as a noun.
- 26d. [Socialist Workers Party’s ideology], RADICAL LEFT. Uh, “left” is either an adjective or a noun for a group of people on that part of the spectrum. How is RADICAL LEFT itself an ideology?
- 9d. [Infamous prison featured in the 1969 best seller “Papillon”], ILE DU DIABLE. I’m guessing the 1973 film adaptation is far more familiar to most of us than the book.
Today’s collection of “Really, in a Tuesday puzzle?” fill: URSINE, AMIGA, BRIG clued as [Two-masted vessel], and OLEO. And what’s with that OLEO clue, [Topping in kosher restaurants]? Members of the Tribe, please tell me: Is margarine actually called OLEO in kosher restaurants? Or is it margarine, as it is in the rest of the country?
Three more things:
- 25a. [Muffed one], ERRED. Muffed as a verb here. I was thinking “person who is muffed.”
- 53a. [Munchkins], ELVES. Mmm, donut holes …
- 21d. [Sheepish look], GRIN. I think the most sheepish look you can have does not involve any grin at all.
3.2 stars from me.
Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle (Week 300), “On the Right Track”—Janie’s take
One of the many things I like about this puzzle is that, other than the hint in the title, it comes to us with no stated “reveal.” It’s our job as solvers to find the tie-in between themers and title. This is not an unreasonable ask and, for my money, considerably sweetens the “aha” moment. Which, with those four, very strong grid-spanners, makes for one pleasing solve. You’re “on the right track” when you see that the last word of each theme phrase can be combined with the last word of the title to produce yet another phrase, itself very strong. This makes for a well-executed, multi-layered, satisfying theme indeed. Let’s have a look.
- 16A. [That’s ridiculous!”] “DON’T MAKE ME LAUGH!” –> laugh track. Sweet. And see how this works? One of the great sources for the canned laughter in the ’60s and ’70s, btw, were the recordings of the genuine laughter from live audiences in the ’50s, at shows like I Love Lucy and The Red Skelton Show (see #20).
- 26A. [Sugarland album with the hit song “Already Gone”] LOVE ON THE INSIDE –> inside track. Apparently I’m the one livin’ under a rock this week, having never heard of the country duo (sometimes trio…) Sugarland (now on hiatus), or their 2008 album, or the hit song. That said: this was gettable and made for terrific theme fill.
- 46A. [Tidal estuary near Stamford, Connecticut] LONG ISLAND SOUND –> sound track. Did someone say Stamford? ACPT, anyone? Yup. Startin’ to be that time of the year again.
- 61A. [Two-person running contest] THREE-LEGGED RACE –> race track. I really like the two-three punch this one delivers.
I also like those tens that run vertically, just left and right of center: TIMELINESS and LIMITED RUN. Not only do they anchor things at center, each runs through three themers—and neither is remotely compromised in the process. And continuing to work our way out, those entries are firmly flanked by OBTUSE and NEGATES to the west and JAVA SEA and OVERDO to the east.
Speaking of OVERDO, I didn’t adore [Act inappropriately?] for EMOTE. I can see the joke Liz was going for, but I’m not convinced it’s a good match for this particular word, and feel it draws too much attention to itself. Then again, OVERDO was already in the grid, so far better that it not appear in the clue…
I will get back to the puzzle’s strong points (a/k/a my “likes”), but will first mention what I see as soft spots in the grid. Once again (like last week…) we get a run of letters, RST [Trio after Q], and we also get the roman numeral LII [Half of CIV]. Not the most interesting of fill, that. And speaking of “that,” we get two finger-pointy clue/fill combos for more-functional-than-fun pronoun fill: [That lady] SHE and [That guy’s] HIS. Although by cluing these words this way, I suspect Liz was trying to liven them up, tying them together stylistically.
Looks to me like she’s done that more successfully/evocatively with [Test the waters] WADE and [Water testers] TOES. And, if not in the JAVA SEA, what better places to test the waters than on the ISLE of Capri or MAUI, perhaps? And if the latter, ADORNed perhaps with LEIS. “AAHS” would be appropriate responses for either scenario (with or without the sauna).
I thought maybe there was a Biblical/Holy Land mini-theme, what with ESAU and HAIFA and EL AL and MOSES. Oh, wait—that’s [Grandma MOSES (“Sugaring Off” painter)] and not the man purported to have parted the Red Sea. “Never mind.” ;-)
While the puzzle may not be “perfect,” there’s a lot to like here, by virtue of that lively theme fill and the solid longer- and mid-range fill that bolster it. Hope it was a satisfying solve for you as well, and also hope you’ll keep solving and drop by again next week! This is me signing off with “Sugaring Off.”
Matt Skoczen’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Street Smart” — Jim’s review
This puzzle is filled with a lot of blah, plain words. And that’s the point. Matt has painstakingly constructed a puzzle in which synonyms for “plain” cross each other. Our main revealer is at 61a: [Lacking excitement, and with 40-Down, what the starred answers create]. The two entries together are PEDESTRIAN CROSSING and describe the four other crossings in the grid. Every starred answer gets the clue [*See 61-Across].
- 17a UNINSPIRED crossing 4d VANILLA
- 19a DRAB crossing 11d BORING
- 38a MUNDANE crossing 26d HUMDRUM
- 60a FLAT crossing 48a DREARY
This is a pretty impressive feat of construction, and it’s oh-so-desperately-close to being symmetrical. The only bit that’s off is the VANILLA and CROSSING pairing, but they’re so close, a lot of people may not even notice.
I love the central crossing of MUNDANE and HUMDRUM — two lovely words that both mean “plain,” and they serendipitously cross at the middle letter. Very nice.
Of all the theme entries I felt only one word was a little stretched: DREARY. To me, DREARY has a more negative connotation than just “plain” or PEDESTRIAN.
That little nit aside, I thought, thematically, this was really well done. When you fill your grid with lackluster words (here, literally), you run the risk that people will throw them back in your face and describe your grid with those same words. But I don’t think that will happen here. With so much fill and the impressive layout, this is certainly not UNINSPIRED work.
But this did play tough — much tougher than a normal Tuesday. With eight theme clues that basically said nothing, and some other late-week-level clues, it felt like a slog at times.
And as if there wasn’t enough cross-referencing going on in the theme, we get more in the fill. 9d is [Creation of some 32-Across: Abbr.] while 32a is [Applied sci. professionals]. ENGRS are the latter and BLDG is the former. That’s some really unfortunate cross-referencing. If you’re going to have solvers search the grid for another clue, the effort should give a reward, not two ugly abbreviations. 22a ONE CENT cross-referencing 70a COST is better, but still too much when the theme clues give so little help to the puzzle (at least in the early stages).
With the high theme density, there’s bound to be a COST. I’m okay with SPRATS at 33a [Small herrings], but ENDLINE at 10d [Gridiron marking] really got my eyebrows raised. Apparently, it’s the line that marks the back of the end zone. Okay, so I guess it’s a real thing. But then there’s 47d OUTLIE [Surpass in deception] (ouch) crossing 69a DEYS [Old Algerian governors] (double-ouch). And at 25a [Science fiction writer Frderik] POHL is another toughie. He certainly seems crossword-worthy, but he’s hardly a household name.
Matt does manage to fit in some good fill though in WOODROW, ST MARYS, AS IT WERE, and GO LIVE.
So despite the negatives, this is a good puzzle, and Matt delivers on an ambitious theme that’s anything but BORING.
Have you heard of the “Sleep With Me Podcast?” It’s not what it sounds like. It’s the podcast that is so BORING it will help you go to sleep. The creator, Drew Ackerman, purposefully fills each show with over an hour of DRAB, rambling monotone. You will struggle to stay awake. If you have trouble with insomnia, check it out. Here’s the 500th episode:
Bruce Venzke’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post Crossword, “Cracking Up” —Ade’s write-up
Good morning, everyone! Well, this is it. Today marks the last day of the amazing 20-year run of the CrosSynergy crossword puzzle. I can only hope, for those who made it a habit of regularly doing the CrosSynergy puzzles, that you had as much fun as I have had in the 35 months I was tasked with blogging about the grids on a daily basis. It has been such an honor being a part of CrosSynergy, being a part of DOACF and being welcomed in an amazing community filled with cruciverbalists and all of their amazing and unique personalities. Some of you may have liked reading my blogs. I’m also sure many others might not have appreciated them and/or preferred reading blogs on here by the other amazing and insightful writers on here and/or blogs on different puzzles other than CrosSynergy. I’m sure enough might have thought the “Sports will make you smarter” section to be superfluous, but I assure you that it was an attempt at giving my blog a personal touch while providing something that you might not have known before that could come in useful at a later time. Regardless, I can’t thank you enough for any and all attention you paid to the CrosSynergy puzzles as well as the blogs about them during my tenure as the chief reviewer of them. Thank you. Thank you! THANK YOU!
Here we go, one final time. Today’s crossword, brought to us by Mr. Bruce Venzke, has four phrases as the theme entries, with the first words of each being synonyms, all dealing with some form of damage and how that damage is done.
- SMASHING SUCCESS (17A: [Wildly popular theatrical hit, say])
- BUSTING VEGAS (27A: [Bankrupting all the casinos, colloquially])
- BREAKING CAMP (44A: [Packing up the tents and gear to leave])
- CRASHING PARTIES (59A: [Attending galas uninvited]) – The last time I did something like that? Last July, when I entered an end-of-tournament volunteers/staff-only party in Montréal after a tennis tournament. Despite the lack of an invitation, I was received pretty well. Canadians are so friendly!
Of course, I started my last CS puzzle with a slip-up, putting in “plie” instead of PRIE (1A: [____-dieu (kneeling bench)]). Thank goodness ROMAN was a layup or I would have had that error there for a pretty long time (2D: [Kind of candle]). I’m glad that, in the final grid, I got to fill in the name of a character, NATASHA, from one of my favorite cartoons growing up (53A: [Boris’s cartoon partner]). I mean, what else was going to inspire me to do a semi-decent Russian accent for fun? Didn’t really get the clue to NANAS and its relation to the entry, but at least the crossings weren’t too hard, so I just assumed that it was OK (38A: [Spoilers, often]). As much as I’ve tried out playing video games with PlayStation and, to a certain extent, Nintendo Wii, I’ve never played anything on an XBOX before (24D: [PlayStation competitor]). Actually, I did, and it was in a Best Buy store playing a demo that was on display in the store. But that’s it. Once again, I’m very sad that CrosSynergy EASES OUT now, though I say we should throw some sort of party for all of those who helped to make it such a special offering (49A: [Departs unobtrusively]). How about throwing the party, say, in Stamford, Conn.? How about holding it sometime late in March? Would many of you travel there for it? I heard that it’s a happening time for crossword puzzle lovers at that time. It’ll be a perfect time to do just that, don’t you think?!
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: SLAY (31D: [Kill, as a dragon]) – Standing at 6-foot-8, former NBA player Tamar SLAY was drafted in the second round (54th overall selection) of the 2002 NBA Draft by the New Jersey Nets. Slay was a three-time All-Mid American Conference selection in his career, making the First Team as a sophomore after the 2000 season and the Second Team in 2001. Slay was a member of the 2002-03 New Jersey Nets team that reached the NBA Finals for a second consecutive year, losing to the San Antonio Spurs in six games. Slay appeared in 66 games in his NBA career with the Nets and Charlotte Bobcats.
Before signing off, I just want to thank every person who constructed a puzzle for CrosSynergy during the time I’ve been a part of this blog (since Apr. 8, 2014). You should thank them as well! In alphabetical order, here they are: Alan Arbesfeld, Martin Ashwood-Smith, Patrick Blindauer, Jeff Chen, Gail Grabowski, Raymond Hamel, Jeffrey Harris, Randall J. Hartman, Patrick Jordan, Sarah Keller, Bob Klahn (the man!), Lynn Lempel, Donna S. Levin, Ian Livengood, Todd McClary, Tony Orbach, Doug Peterson, Randolph Ross, Patti Varol, Bruze Venzke and Brad Wilber. If I missed anyone on this list, please accept my apologies and correct me, as I’m working from my (very faulty) memory!
I can’t thank the great Amy Reynaldo enough for offering me the invitation to blog the CrosSynergy/WaPo grids on here in 2014. Much love also goes to my CS/WaPo blogging predecessors as well (Dave Sullivan, Sam Donaldson, et al.). Thank you to pannonica, who filled in for me on a number of occasions when I wasn’t able to get to the blog yet was covered on those certain days. Most importantly, if you’re reading this (and have gotten this far in reading today’s blog), I thank you. From the bottom of my heart, I thank you.
This isn’t a goodbye for me from Fiend, as I still plan on blogging puzzles when those opportunities arise. But it is a goodbye to CrosSynergy. It’s bittersweet, but, as has been said many times over, the only constant in this world is change. Speaking of change, I better have enough change to buy a sandwich for my trip to DC later on today! *Checks wallet now.*
Again, thank you so much for all of the time and attention that you’ve given to CrosSynergy, and thank you for the interactions that you’ve had with me for the time I’ve been writing about it. It’s time to collect. My one month vacation from blogging crosswords – a.k.a. running around like a madman for March Madness (NCAA Men’s and Women’s Basketball Tournament) – begins now!
Take care, everyone! I love you all.
Adesina Omotayo Koiki (For whose who may have wondered what AOK stood for and/or what Ade was short for, the mystery is no more. Now don’t try to pronounce it, though, as you might get your tongue hurt in the process!!)
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “Just Average” – Derek’s write-up
It took me a minute to go back through and see what was going on in all of the theme answers, but it is all very clever. The revealer at 39A helped a lot, and the phrases aren’t natural but are close, but all-in-all a fairly original idea. Let me show you what is going on:
- 17A [Picture that absolutely has to be seen?] VITAL IMAGE (VISUAL IMAGE)
- 23A [Denims kept clean during auction time?] BID-WASH JEANS (ACID-WASH JEANS)
- 56A [Author of “A Series of Unfortunate Kravitzes”?] LENNY SNICKET (LEMONY SNICKET)
- 67A [Long stories about hosting audio-visual dance parties?] V-JING SAGAS (VIKING SAGAS)
- 39A [What part of each theme answer has to do to fit] MEET IN THE MIDDLE
I marked the relevant letters in red to show a little easier what is going on. Each common phrase has two consecutive letters that are in alphabetical order but separated by one letter. Matt took out those two letters and replaced them with the letter in the middle, thus the phrase at 39A makes sense. I think this is pretty clever, and on the brainstorming theme ideas list it has to be fairly difficult. 4.4 stars!
A few notes:
- 14A [Like the sound of French vowels] NASAL – Is English one of the easiest languages to form sounds with? We don’t seem to be able to form a lot of sounds that are natural in other languages, including mastering a French accent!
- 30A [Dave Grohl band __ Fighters] FOO – A great musician. Also a former member of Nirvana! No wonder they made musical history.
- 37A [Actor James Van __ Beek] DER – I actually really enjoyed him in Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23! This show was pretty funny. It’s on Netflix!
- 70A [Plastic surgery procedure] TUCK – As in Nip/Tuck, another show I haven’t seen. It USED to be on Netflix …
- 1D [“__ Nagila”] HAVA – I don’t know how I remembered this. It is an Israeli folk song!
- 6D [Cuban sandwich ingredient] HAM – I have a guy that makes great sandwiches near where I work. His cuban hoagies are excellent!
- 42D [“Superstore” actor McKinney] MARK – Never heard of him. Although I have seen bits and pieces of this show, and it seems pretty funny as well. For those of us in the Midwest that live at Walmart, it makes the show that much MORE hilarious!
- 58D [Montoya who sought the six-fingered man] INIGO – A reference from The Princess Bride, everybody’s favorite feel good movie!
- 59D [Bingham of “Baywatch”] TRACI – Never heard of her either. I never watched Baywatch back in the day, so don’t laugh at me!
- 65D [“30 for 30” cable channel] ESPN – THIS I know!
It’s almost March! Have a great week!
C.C. Burnikel’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
Another fun puzzle by C.C.! In this one, each theme answer may “hurt” a bit!
- 18A [In Hades, euphemistically] DOWN BELOW
- 30A [Puffy Chinese dog] CHOW CHOW
- 49A [Bovine yogurt brand] BROWN COW
- 3D [Auto feature that doesn’t need a crank] POWER WINDOW
- 27D [Head rest on a sofa] THROW PILLOW
- 60A [Pained expression, and a hint to two cries hidden in each answer to a starred clue] THAT HURTS!
I see what she did there! All theme answers have two “OW”s in them, but instead of causing actual pain, we have a smooth and seamless solving experience. My time was a tick slow, but I wasn’t really racing. Is it time to get in full-on racing mode for Stamford? 4.1 stars.
A few notes:
- 14A [Three through nine, in many golf club sets] IRONS – I need to golf more, but I think I will just wait until I retire and I have time!
- 33A [Where to find a sleeper hit, perhaps] B-SIDE – They are selling a lot more vinyl these days, so this clue is not so obsolete. And it was in the Saturday Stumper as well!
- 53A [“Way to go, sister!”] ATTA GIRL! – I always love seeing this and the equally good ATTA BOY! It is a natural sounding phrase, especially with the accents in the Midwest!
- 5D [Per what was previously mentioned] AS STATED – It seems to me that one of C.C.’s strong points are casual conversation phrases. This is another example of one.
- 10D [Put back in office] REELECT – Too soon to joke about this subject on a presidential level? ;-)
- 11D [Rock singer Rose] AXL – From Indiana!
- 39D [Intolerably confident] COCKSURE – This is a solid entry, but juveniles will snicker. A similar entry that gets laughs is clued [“The __ mightier than the sword!”] Or maybe I’M the juvenile!
- 50D [Trio member with Crosby and Stills] NASH – Don’t forget Neil Young!
- 55D [Dodger Pee Wee] REESE – Playing for the LA crowd, no doubt. I would prefer homage to the candy bar!
See you all on Saturday for the LAT Saturday challenge!