Byron Walden’s New York Times crossword, “Having Nothing On”—Jim Q’s write-up
Love me a Byron Walden puzzle… but this is not at the top of my favorites of his. I feel like I’m missing something. The title “Having Nothing On” with -OON added to common phrases doesn’t really evoke much excitement. In fact, I confess that I’m not quite sure how the title relates to the theme… but I’m a couple of beverages deep as I’m about to go see “Groundhog Day: The Musical,” so perhaps I’m not on my A Game.
28a. [The ladies-only Western-themed bar I own?] MY GAL SALOON. It’s right across from Byron Walden Pond.
30a. [Inspector Clouseau or Borat?] MOVIE BUFFOON. I’d venture to say that “Borat” satirically labelled Americans as buffoons more so than that particular title character.
39a. [Decoration in a deli case?] SAUSAGE FESTOON. This made me giggle. Then again I was a fan of OPIE (111-across of Opie and Anthony) in my early twenties. I’ve grown out of that phase. But hey… Still willing to giggle. That being said, I don’t think Opie has the same longevity as other shock jocks.
57a. [Product of a stable comic strip artists?] HORSE DRAWN CARTOON. Put this in when I realized CARRIAGEOON wasn’t gonna fit.
65a. [Scaled-down woodwind?] SMALL MOUTH BASSOON. This was the first themer I figured out. And it’s an adorable visual.
85a. [Audibly upset Belgian francophone?] WAILING WALLOON. Please excuse my ignorance as I look up the definition of “walloon”: (n.) a member of a people who speak a French dialect and live in southern and eastern Belgium and neighboring parts of France.
97a. [Satirical depiction of the story of Noah?] FLOOD LAMPOON.
100a. [Most important mounted cavalryman?] MAIN DRAGOON. Not overly familiar with the term “Dragoon” either.
28d: [Something seen at Frankenstein’s birthday party?] MONSTERS BALLOON. Not only is this the funniest of the answers, but it (impressively) manages to bisect all of the other theme answers. That’s no small feat of construction.
This was pretty tough for me, and the realization that MONSTERS BALLOON cut through all themers wasn’t fully realized or appreciated until- well- just now. Instead I was caught up on some hard-to-swallow fill.
I’m just starting to get a friend of mine into crosswords, and she solved this with me. It’s kind of a turn-off to tell someone “That’s a word you’ll come to learn if you keep solving…” over and over and over. SUPE, ERTE, ADAIR, AGAR, ASTR, ECRU, ODEON, ACTA, ARGOS, IMAMS, UPDO, ARON, CDT just to name a few. And then there’s tough-to-infer entries that I can’t even say I’m used to seeing such as ULA, INDA, KENDO, SPLEENY, AEREO, and VACUA (which sounds like a cleaning machine invented by a certain legendary vampire).
Heck, I bicycled through BEREA, Kentucky last summer on a cross country tour (the first populous town after a week of struggling through rural Appalachia), and I still couldn’t parse that easily.
So imagine you’re new at solving crosswords, and you have someone coaching you through it and justifying fill like this, and the payoff is -OON at the end of entries. Is that person likely to appreciate the impressive layout of MONSTERS BALLOON? I’ve surveyed one person… and the answer is “no.”
Still, it wasn’t without some highlights:
23d. [Quick series of social media posts] TWEET STORM. Hmm… I can’t think of anybody who is foolish enough to start a TWEET STORM and risk the chance of looking a bit silly and juvenile. Can you?
62d. [Apt to go Democratic] BLUE LEANING. Nicely juxtaposed with TWEET STORM.
61d. [2004 Scarlett Johansson film adapted from “Lady Windermere’s Fan”] A GOOD WOMAN. Part of me can’t help but think this is also juxtaposed with TWEET STORM. Yes. I realize I’m looking a bit too deep.
22a. [Home for Bilbo Baggins] HOBBIT HOLE. Had HOBBIT TREE. I’ve neither seen nor read any of The Hobbit series (or Star Wars for that matter)- and I’m fully aware that I may be ostracized from Crossworld for such a bold confession. But I feel like I’ve gotten the gist of both movie/book series from solving.
Fill left me wanting. Two wrong squares for me on LARUSSA / AEREO cross (thought it was
LARUSSO) and VACUA / ACTA cross (assumed it was ACTS). 3.6 stars from me on the theme layout. 2.4 stars for fill. Nonetheless, continued respect for Walden.
Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Making a Change” – Erin’s writeup
Change a vowel sound theme here, from long A to a short A:
- 23a. [Shop that only sells merchandise of martial artist Jackie?] CHAN STORE (chain store)
- 25a. [Digital article of clothing?] FINGER PANTS (finger paints)
- 41a. [Donkey that enjoys the nightlife?] ASS OF CLUBS (ace of clubs)
- 55a. [Enlightened bigmouth, e.g.?] KNOWLEDGE BASS (knowledge base)
- 65a. [“Those making boaters will keep doing what they do no matter what I do?’] HATTERS GONNA HAT (haters gonna hate)
- 79a. [Way of saying “Wow!” to a “Shakespeare in Love” Oscar winner?] DAMN JUDI DENCH (Dame Judi Dench)
- 99a. [Ones doing public relations for a wet blanket?] SNOW FLACKS (snowflakes)
- 114a. [One cutting up muffin stuff?] BRAN SURGEON (brain surgeon)
- 118a. [Command to your feline to give you a smooch?] KISS ME CAT (“Kiss Me, Kate”)
Most of these are pretty clever. ASS OF CLUBS and “DAMN, JUDI DENCH!” elicited full-out laughter from me. Then there’s HATTERS GONNA HAT. Evan used this phrase once before, in a 2015 Something Different puzzle (a type of crossword where a lot of the entries are made up but plausible) on his Devil Cross site. I totally fangirl-flailed over it back then, and I’m still flailing over it now. It’s ridiculous and I love it.
- 33a. [Having pointed ends] CUSPED. I had to spend an extra minute finding my error because I had CUSPID.
- 111a. [French writer France] ANATOLE. Probably should have heard of him before. He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1921.
- 46a. [“Between the World and Me” author Ta-Nehisi ___] COATES. Absolutely a book worth reading.
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s CRooked crossword, “Get Over It” — pannonica’s write-up
Long and longish entries proffer the letter sequence GET and, below each instance, the letters IT.
- 22a. [Grove plant] ORANGE TREE.
27a. [Thingies] ITEMS.
- 24a. [All-out effort] COLLEGE TRY.
29a. [Gives 10 percent] TITHES. Cute pairing.
- 47a. [Town collector] GARBAGE TRUCK.
53a. [Drummer’s drums] KIT.
- 61a. [“Star Trek” star] GEORGE TAKEI.
69a. [How cafe may be served] AU LAIT.
- 75a. [It might be taken overseas] PACKAGE TOUR.
81a. [Quicker with puns] WITTIER. Debatable.
- 89a. [It starts after the 45th minute in soccer] STOPPAGE TIME.
95a. [Lance on the bench] ITO.
- 116a. [Book you can’t put down] PAGE-TURNER.
120a. [Condo, e.g.] UNIT.
- 118a. [Bag ID] LUGGAGE TAG.
123a. [Writer Calvino] ITALO.
- 59d [Certain magnolia] SWEETBAY.
- 55d [Some golf championships, casually (abbr.)] PGAS, wherein PGA stands for … Professional Golfers’ Association. 106d [arts.gov grp.] NEA, which stands for … National Endowment for the Arts.
- 72d [“Darby __ and the Little People” (’59 Disney film)] O’GILL. I think this is the one where Sean Connery sings. Or maybe he doesn’t sing and I’m thinking of Paint Your Wagon, where Clint Eastwood and Lee Marvin, among others, sing.
- 37a [Hades river] LETHE. Did you forget this one? It’s the river of oblivion. Styx: hate, Acheron: sorrow, Phlegethon: fire, Cocytus: lamentation. Cheerful, no? By the way, I recommend Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next books.
- 94a [“Space is the Place” jazzman] SUN RA. But let’s go with something more conventional this Sunday morning:
- Favorite clue: 5d [Catcher of malaprops?] YOGI.
- 10d [Massage technique] FOOT RUB. Is that a ‘technique’?
- 42d [Blu-ray’s granddad] VCR. My first instinct was to ponder if there was a three-letter rendering for LaserDisc.
- 79a [Painter Franz] KLINE.