Freddie Cheng’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
A little surprising to see a Tuesday anagram theme without a revealer clue that explains it. Anagrams of the AELST letters appear at the end of various phrases:
- 17a. [Famously unfinished 14th-century literary work, with “The”], CANTERBURY TALES.
- 24a. [“How cheap!”], THAT’S A STEAL. “What a steal” feels maybe more in-the-language to me, not sure.
- 30a. [What one might start over with], CLEAN SLATE.
- 43a. [Losing crunchiness, as chips], GOING STALE. Meh. Phrase doesn’t feel crossword-worthy to me.
- 48a. [Historical figure played by David Bowie in “The Prestige”], NIKOLA TESLA.
- 60a. [“Finally …”], LAST BUT NOT LEAST. Aptly in the last theme position.
Such a common and familiar set of TALES/STEAL/SLATE/STALE/LEAST anagrams seemed to be likely fodder for a crossword theme, and indeed, the 6/22/06 LA Times puzzle had CANTERBURY TALES, PARTY SLATE (meh), GROWS STALE, and LAST BUT NOT LEAST, along with a STEAL revealer.
The inclusion here of 72 theme squares means that it’s hard to avoid distinctly Tuesday-unfriendly fill like KEPI, T-BAR, oddball plural MICRA (in all my years of medical editing, I never encountered that plural of micron, or µm), unfamiliar verb form NULLS, LAO, IZAAK Walton, Max ERNST (I wonder if legislator Jodi Ernst is more broadly familiar these days), OSSA, and Mikhail TAL.
Fill highlights are the long downs, “DON’T SPEAK” (immortalized by Dianne Wiest in Bullets Over Broadway) and STAND BACK (immortalized by Stevie Nicks in her 1983 song).
9d. [It’s just for openers] clues a KEY CASE, which I had to Google to understand. I get that openers = keys, but KEY CASE? It’s one of these dudely accessories that I’m not sure I’ve ever seen someone use in real life.
3.4 stars from me.
Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle (Week 301), “Same Difference”—Janie’s take
“HMMM…” Homophones. Words with same sound and a difference in their spelling. Today’s puzz gives us a fine foursome of phrases, each featuring a variation on the spelling of the sound of the letter between “P” and “R.” Could be any one of these that follow.
- 17A. RIGHT ON CUE [At the scheduled time].
- 26A. Q IS FOR QUARRY [17th in a Grafton series]. 24 down and two to go…
- 42A. NETFLIX QUEUE [Movie line that you don’t have to stand in]. Sharp clue, that.
- 56A. KEW GARDENS [Queens neighborhood named after a royal botanical attraction]. The New York-y vibe here resonates in the [Long Island village where some “Blue Jasmine” scenes were filmed] QUOGUE pairing (B.J. being the film for which Ms. Blanchett received her “Best Actress” Oscar). On another tangent, I suspect this particular video was actually shot at England’s KEW GARDENS, but… see that [Lake trumpeter] SWAN pairing at 51D? Well, when I googled “kew gardens & trumpeter swan,” look what I got. And this is why I love the interwebs [sic].
Several aspects of the remainder of the puzzle MERIT our attention as well. PLEASURE, for instance, is a lovely word to encounter in the grid. Its opposite, ONLOOKER, proved to be a little thorny for me as I initially (and confidently… oops) entered OBSERVER. “Never mind…” Then there’s the breakfast- or tea-time-ready [How marmalade may be eaten] ON TOAST combo, which, to be honest, took me to memories of the author Dawn Powell and the first book of hers I read, the superb Angels on Toast. Ahead of her time, that Dawn. Highly recommended.
Opposite that phrase in the grid, is SEAGRAM, decidedly a [Big name in liquor]. But looking at the first syllable only, see (homophone…) if you don’t agree that there’s kind of a watery mini-theme goin’ on here. Not only is there ASEA clued as [Cruising], there’s “LAND-HO!” that [Cry from a crow’s-nest], [Debussy’s “La MER“] (“sea” in French), and also SONAR, the [Underwater detector]. If you’ve been reading me for any time here, you know I love my “internal crossword glue.” I’d say this qualifies and I’d say it’s all for the good. (With homophone bonuses “I SEE” and ABC’S…)
Other examples in today’s grid? It may simply be serendipity, but (again in grid-opposite positions) we get ORION and ARIES (both constellations [and yes, I see that the latter is clued as a sign of the zodiac, but that puts it in the sky…]), and also ABEL and ESAU (both brothers, both in the Bible, both of whom have less-than-perfect relationships with their fraternal relations).
Oh—they’re not placed symmetrically, but OLDS and REOS both hearken to the start of the automotive industry. Although… we’re kinda lookin’ at a redundancy here, as Ransom E. OLDS is the man behind both the OLDSmobile and the REO… Mighta been better to have tied the two together in the cluing. Maybe nest time. (And if neither of those names feel like the freshest of fill, they’re names every solver needs to have in her/his arsenal.)
Some fave clue/fill combos today would have to include the folksy [Not up to snuff] for SUBPAR, [Uneven?] for ODD, the terrifically tongue-twisty (and alliterative) [Ritzy wrist piece] for ROLEX, and (saving the best for last) [Berlin air?] for SONG. Huh? Irving Berlin. Who wrote (probably a little more than) 1,000 SONGs (“White Christmas,” “God Bless America” anyone?), the scores for 17 Broadway shows and revues, and lived to be 101. NICE.
So. CUE, Q, QUEUE and KEW. Cute. Kinda makes me wanna say, “Cue up Avenue Q,” but really, that’s so obvious. So I won’t. ;-) Well-executed theme, lotto “Q” words, some non-theme fill that’s QUITE strong and a lotto internal integrity. All of which adds up to a well-made puzzle. Hope you enjoyed the solve (because that’s the real goal), and that you’ll keep solving and check in again next week!
Samuel A. Donaldson’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Happy Campers” — Jim’s review
Phrases generally meaning “elated” are applied, somewhat literally, to appropriate people.
- 17a [Like a happy meteorologist?] ON CLOUD NINE
- 23a [Like a happy golfer?] CHIPPER
- 39a [Like a happy Sherpa?] ON TOP OF THE WORLD. I wondered why Sherpa was capitalized; I thought it was just a word roughly meaning “guide.” But actually, per various dictionaries, the word refers to “a member of a Himalayan people living on the borders of Nepal and Tibet.” The more you know…
- 55a [Like a happy sailor?] BUOYANT
- 61a [Like a happy astronaut?] OVER THE MOON
Nice enough theme. I much prefer the phrasal entries versus those that are singular words. Seems like it should have been possible to include one or two more phrasal entries in place of the words. IN SEVENTH HEAVEN is another grid-spanner ([Like a happy saint?]). TICKLED PINK ([Like a happy Alecia Beth Moore?]) is 11-letters long like the first and last entries. Perhaps a left/right symmetrical grid could’ve been used?
Oh, and there’s a bonus anti-theme entry: 26d [Like cheeks of somebody who’s decidedly not happy] TEAR-STAINED.
Best fill includes VENTILATORS, FREE MEAL, and GOODRICH. Also, CALDERA [Volcanic crater]. TWO DAYS [Standard weekend] feels a bit iffy. If you’re wondering about 54d SMH, it’s short for “shaking my head.” I always forget that one.
Clues of note:
- 34a [“Match Game” host Baldwin] ALEC. Has anyone seen this new version of the show?
- 46a [Calhoun and McIlroy]. RORYS. Alternative clue: [Calhoun, McIlroy, and girl Jim had a crush on in 8th grade]
- 69a [Percussion-based theater troupe]. STOMP. We saw this show a few years ago and really enjoyed it. Fun for all ages.
- 2d [Column that’s beside the point?]. TENTHS. Good clue.
- 25a [Ham’s surroundings?]. RYE. Good clue #2.
Mostly good puzzle, but in my opinion the single-word theme entries should have been replaced with at least one more colorful phrasal entry.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “Indiana Jones: A Day in the Life” – Derek’s write-up
Not sure why Indiana Jones is referenced, as any qualified person who is always running from stuff; oh wait: I guess he IS the perfect person! Makes the clues nice and humorous anyway!
- 17A [Indy gets in his __ and drives, only to miss a stray blowgun missile …] DODGE DART
- 31A [Indy turns on his car radio to hear “Wild Wild West” band __, narrowly avoiding being bludgeoned by a nearby motorist …] ESCAPE CLUB
- 50A [Indy orders __ at the restaurant, only to avoid servers flinging meat … (and why’d if have to be THIS meat?)] SKIRT STEAK
- 68A [Finally, Indy’s ready to come home, turn on some cartoons, and watch __, only to avoid his neighbor who won’t stop with the stories …] DUCK TALES
Yes, dodge, escape, skirt, and duck are all words denoting running away or avoiding something. Very nice, and perhaps a little easier of a theme compared to some of the more complex numbers Matt has conjured up over the years. I also found the puzzles a little easier, boosting my confidence for the ACPT! 4.2 stars.
Some interesting points:
- 1A [His treehouse inspired the “Treehouse of Horror”] BART – This evidently is referring to a comic book that comes out annually. (?) I have never heard of it. But I am old …
- 37A [ __ Bator (Mongolia’s capital)] ULAN – I need to brush up on some of my world capitals. But not this one!
- 38A [ __ wall (“American Ninja Warrior” fixture)] WARPED – I watched a lot of this last season. They got all the way to the end, and NOBODY could finish the course! I hope they make it at least slightly easier this coming summer.
- 56A [“Jeopardy!” creator Griffin] MERV – We always love Jeopardy! references!
- 4D [Girl Scout Cookie with peanut butter and chocolate] TAGALONG – These are known as Peanut Butter Patties here in Indiana. This page explains that there are two different bakeries the Girl Scouts use. And mentions some of my favorites that you cannot get anymore, like the Strawberries and Creme variety!
- 32D [Fix a bad situation, superhero-style] SAVE THE DAY – Well done!
- 56D [“The Wrong __” (James Corden BBC series)] MANS – I am not familiar with this either. I do like Corden, though, and his Carpool Karaoke series that is a hit on YouTube. And he also showed some humorous chops while hosting the recent Grammy Awards show.
Until next week’s Jonesin!
Ray Hedrick & Mark McClain’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
This one took a few minutes to figure out the theme, but once the final revealer was solved, it all made sense. Maybe I am just a little slow; maybe I was solving too fast! But we have to get a little practice in for the ACPT! Here are the theme entries:
- 17A [Source of money for medicare] PAYROLL TAX
- 24A [Serving-mom-breakfast-in-bed occasion] MOTHER’S DAY
- 37A [Asian plant named for the shape of its pink and white flowers] BLEEDING HEART
- 50A [Local hoosegow] COUNTY JAIL
- 61A [Rest … or, literally, what the last word of the answers to starred clues can do] TAKE A BREAK
So you might get a tax break, get out of bed at daybreak, experience a heartbreak, or, although I hope not, take part in a jail break! Very clever, and high on the fun meter for an early week puzzle. 4.0 stars.
A few notes:
- 6A [Aptly named Olympic sprinter Usain __ ] BOLT – He was stripped of one of his Rio gold medals a while back, leaving him with only 8 total for his Olympic career. One of the sprinters on the 4×100 relay team failed a doping test.
- 15A [Slushy drink brand] ICEE – These are available around here, but when we talk about slushy drinks in this area, we are usually talking about Slurpees from 7-11. Not as crossword friendly!
- 43A [Ready if needed] ON CALL – I have never had a job where I am on call. Thank goodness.
- 10D [“Seven Samurai” director Akira] KUROSAWA – I believe The Magnificent Seven movies were based on this original. I haven’t seen any of them! It is NOT on Netflix, so I will have to rent it!
- 26D [“It __ over till it’s over”: Berra] AIN’T – Baseball season is almost here! That means warm weather is on the way!
- 38D [Phrasing style] LOCUTION – Tough word for a Tuesday!
- 47D [“Murder on the Orient Express”] ORIENT – An episode of Poirot covers this story, and it IS on Netflix! A classic murder-mystery tale that never seems to get old.
That is all for today. See you on Saturday!
NYT: MICRA? It’s legit, but doesn’t seem like a Tuesday word. I have been an electrical engineer, and taught physics and math on the high school and college level, and this is my first encounter with that word. So I asked my husband, an electrical engineer for 38 years, and this was the first time he had heard of it. I imagine it won’t be familiar to many solvers.
I do like the TESLA rearrangement theme (I am given to understand that the constructor started with that). Also, I had a KEY CASE in a previous life. I didn’t actually use it, though. But I remember that it was leather and had little hooks for keys.
Ditto. It’s a ridiculous word for a Tuesday — or a Saturday, frankly. The fact that is has a dictionary definition doesn’t mean it has any kind of currency, even among specialists.
Nissan has a small car called the MICRA — that would have been far better as a clue.
Now, I could go for a car called MICRA. Sign me up!
Somewhat to my surprise, the OED says MICRA is an English word (in the MICRON entry)– although none of the citations in the MICRON entry use it. I’ve certainly never heard it or seen it, and I’ve been a physicist for… a long time.
NYT – I liked this better than Amy did. I think the last line IS the revealer, and a very clever one, at that. As she notes, LASTBUTNOTLEAST comes last. Additionally, all the other final word anagrams are “not least.” I do agree with Lise above about MICRA, though. I think I’ve seen it once or twice in forty years as a biologist.
Good call. I wasn’t thinking biology. I just now found it referenced in a book (on Project Gutenberg) called The Elements of Bacteriological Technique, by John William Henry Eyre, first published in 1902.
So look out – new clue for EYRE! Or maybe not.
But wouldn’t the revealer have to be “least but not last” since least is the anagram word but last is not?
To put my comment more clearly, LASTBUTNOTLEAST works nicely in the last spot since “last” tells us the last word of each theme answer is key, while “not least” is a revealer in the cryptic sense. “Not” is the anagram indicator and “least” is the fodder.
NYT: FWIW, a MICRA is a Nissan “supermini” car sold in other parts of the world (not the US). (Oops, missed the above comment by David L.)
I thought DON’T SPEAK was immortalized by No Doubt.
I have had the pleasure of driving a Micra in Iceland. They are amazing. Or the Icelandic terrain is amazing, one of the two.
Actually, I didn’t realize the Nissan Micra isn’t sold in the US. So it wouldn’t have been a good clue after all. One of my neighbors has a tiny neon green (and very cute) Nissan, which I think is a Versa.
And my car, a Honda Fit, is known in the UK as the Honda Jazz.
This has been another fascinating installment of “cars have funny names, don’t they?”
Different strokes!? I happened to like all the un-Tuesday-like entries.
Man, I couldn’t live without a key case. Now if you have a purse or briefcase or someplace to put your keys, that’s fine. But if they’re in your pocket, it’s a must to keep the keys from damaging fabric (or whatever body part is just inside that pocket). Go to Amazon.com and you’ll find a great selection of key cases.
I’m with you, Mark. I’ve been using a key case for decades. Beside the advantage you offered, it makes a less unsightly bulge.than keys on a ring, prevents any jingling and keeps your keys in order, so you’re not jumbling them around to find the right key. There’s a little pocket inside mine that has a mailing address and phone number, in case some good guy finds your lost keys and wants to return them.
I say, bravo, key cases!
… Or so that the guy who finds your keys knows what house he can unlock with the keys to steal your stuff? #cautiousurbanite
It’s a PO Box. I don’t keep my house keys in the case. They can steal my mail or my car.