Neil deGrasse Tyson and Andrea Carla Michaels’s New York Times crossword — Amy’s write-up
The newest in the series of celebrity constructor partnerships features astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, and the theme seems right up his alley. The theme answers are various celestial bodies and entities, clued as if they’ve got nothing to do with astronomy:
- 20a. [Toe testing the waters?], LITTLE DIPPER. I might’ve gone with an inadequately sized spoon in a punch bowl or soup tureen.
- 24a. [ExxonMobil?], GAS GIANT. With ExxonMobil in the news of late (Russia! Tillerson!), I might have preferred a [BP or Shell?] clue, though certainly the company in the clue can’t be confused with anything else.
- 37a. [Oscar nominees’ gathering?], STAR CLUSTER. I’m envisioning that group selfie with past Oscar host Ellen DeGeneres with Lupita Nyong’o et al.
- 52a. [Bashful?], RED DWARF. Snow White’s housemate who was perhaps prone to blushing.
- 57a. [Total hottie?], HEAVENLY BODY. No, the total hottie has a heavenly body, you don’t say that they are a heavenly body. [What a total hottie has?] is not as crisp but it feels more workable to me.
I like the theme concept—it feels fresh. I’m not convinced that HEAVENLY BODY is a term used in astronomy, but maybe it is. Ask Dr. Tyson—he’s the one with four degrees in physics, astronomy, and astrophysics, not me.
Six more things:
- 63a. [“Me as well”], “I, TOO.” This could also have referenced the Langston Hughes poem. “Besides, / They’ll see how beautiful I am / And be ashamed— / I, too, am America.”
- 1d. [Wore an upside-down frown], SMILED. Cute clue.
- 8d. [E-commerce site formerly owned by eBay], PAYPAL. Hmm, I’m not sure about that. I feel like PayPal facilitates the use of e-commerce sites by offering ways to move money around, but that e-commerce connotes the buying and selling of goods and services. PayPal is selling only the movement of money, no?
- 21d. [“The Scales” constellation], LIBRA. Bonus astronomy with a hint of astrology! (Sorry, Neil.)
- 40d. [Having an aftertaste, as some barbecue sauce], TANGY. Say what? Tanginess is about having a certain bite to it, not about the flavor lingering after you’ve swallowed the food.
- 45d. [140-character messages], TWEETS. Here’s the @neiltyson Twitter page. A couple weeks ago, he tweeted this: “If one evening you feel sad enough to cry, look up. Your tears will not fall and the starry night may bring joy to your soul.” That only works, this cynic points on, if it’s not a cloudy night. And if you live in a bright city, you won’t see many of the stars in the firmament.
The fill is smooth and while the RED DWARF, STAR CLUSTER, and GAS GIANT are rather scientific, the puzzle feels pretty darned accessible. Four stars from me.
Bruce Haight’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Bruce takes a different angle from the usual “first or last word in each theme answer can precede/follow X” theme by making the key words part of longer words rather than stand-alone units of meaning. The GRAND FINALE revealer (59a. [Climactic show ending, and a literal hint to this puzzle’s circled letters]) points to the way the circled words can be “finales” that follow the word GRAND:
- 17a. [Change one’s route to avoid heavy traffic, say], TAKE A DETOUR. Grand tour.
- 23a. [Likely successor to the throne], HEIR APPARENT. Grandparent.
- 37a. [“You’re confusing me”], I DON’T UNDERSTAND. Grandstand.
- 48a. [Sprained ankle, often], SPORTS INJURY. Grand jury.
I like this riff on an all-too-common theme variety, and I like that the “grand___” terms are evenly split between one- and two-word phrases.
POOL NOODLE and HUNGER PANG are colorful 10s in the fill, and they offset the unsavoriness of a singular DRIB. (Too many constructors fall back on the DRIB. Don’t do it!)
HUNGER PANG reminds me that I’m hungry for lunch—which I will be having with Team Fiend’s own Adesina Koiki! He’s been in town to cover the Milwaukee venue of March Madness, and we’re heading to a Costa Rican restaurant called Irazu (named after the volcano). Bon appétit!
Four stars from me.
Dan Fisher’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Inside Joke” — Jim’s review
The title had me thinking HAHA would be hidden in various phrases, until I uncovered 52a [Texting “ha-ha!”]. I wasn’t far off, though. 56d says we’re looking for GAG.
- 17a [18 years, in the U.S.] VOTING AGE
- 26a [Concert arranger] BOOKING AGENT
- 41a [Relatively recently] NOT SO LONG AGO
- 54a [T. Rex song subtitled “Get It On”] BANG A GONG
This puzzle was late in posting, so I didn’t solve it until after I’d done the NYT. While that one felt fresh and clean and fun, this one, well, didn’t.
Perhaps I’ve had enough of the “Inside X” trope, since there really is no wordplay about it. If what’s hidden inside is different in each themer (if say, in addition to GAG we also had JEST, PUN, and QUIP, say) then that would feel more varied and interesting.
Still, at 74 words, there’s some impressive fill here: KARAOKE BAR, HARD SELLS, and BOATSWAIN. And certainly that huge swath of white space from NE to SW is striking to behold. However, it results in some tough-for-Monday fill like TIGON and the ORRIN/ORKIN/ORLON triumvirate.
Overall, the fill is mostly good here, but the theme feels tired to me.
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword – “You’re Solving….With What?” — Jenni’s review
Brendan is getting us ready for ACPT this weekend by re-running some of his previous tournament puzzles, so we don’t have a themeless this week.
I’m not sure what the title has to do with the theme. Someone will undoubtedly enlighten me in comments. This is why you’ll never see me up on the stage. Was this a Puzzle 5?
- The first pair of theme answers are 19a [Go, with 76-Across]. 19a is CONFORM. 76a is THE FLOW. Go with THE FLOW is a loose synonym for CONFORM. We’re being literal here. We don’t put 19a and 76a together to get the answer; we use 76a to fill in the blank in the clue for 19a.
- 20a [Damn, with 52-Across] is PATRONIZE; 52a is FAINT PRAISE. Damn with FAINT PRAISE = PATRONIZE.
- 27a [Handle, with 74-Across]. 74a is KID GLOVES. Handle with KID GLOVES gives us USE GREAT CARE for 27a.
- 41a [Pass, with 61-Across] decodes to “pass with FLYING COLORS,” or SAIL THROUGH.
It took me a while to unravel the theme, and then I got bogged down with some of the fill. ISTLE at 10d for [Cord fiber] crossing 17a [“Exceed Your Vision” sloganeer] just did not look right to me. The “sloganeer” is EPSON. I also struggled with 73d [Mr. T’s last name], which is TERO. Who knew? I always thought it was T.
A few more things:
- 4d [Lowland created by platetechtonics] stopped me in my tracks; I wasn’t sure if that was a typo or a theme entry. It’s a typo; the answer is RIFT VALLEY. Living with a geologist for 35 years gives me some advantages.
- We get more geology at 71a [Time it takes mountains to form] which is AEONS. Subduction leads to orogeny.
- Obscurities: SLAV defense in chess, ANTAE in temples, the aforementioned ISTLE, and a weird abbreviation for [N.C.’s capital] – RAL.
- Names: William HANNA (of Hanna and Barbera, creators of Yogi Bear and Tom and Jerry), Curtis SLIWA, SUZIE Templeton, Buck OWENS, Buck ONEIL, the above-mentioned Mr TERO, AILEEN Stanley (apparently a “1920’s singer known as the Phonograph Girl”).
- Could have been clued as a name: RAINS. Instead of invoking Claude, Brendan makes it easier on us; it’s [Wet season].
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: see above re: Mr T and AILEEN Stanley. I also did not know that J. Willard Marriott came from Utah. Come to think of it, I didn’t know his name was J. Willard.
See you in Stamford!