Zachary Spitz and Diane Roseman’s New York Times crossword—Ben’s write-up
I can’t quite put my finger on it, but something about today’s NYT felt familiar. Deja vu-ey, even. I have the distinct feeling I’ve solved a puzzle with this theme (or a very similar one, with the same revealer punchline) before. Maybe it’s just the case that this simply feels like something that should have already been done, even if it techincally hasn’t. With that said, let’s actually cover what’s going on here:
- 20A: Indian Ocean bloc? — PAKISTANZANIA
- 24A: Central American bloc? — NICARAGUATEMALA
- 44A: Western European bloc? — SWITZERLANDORRA
- 49A: Organization founded in 1945…or a literal description of 20A, 24A, and 44A? — UNITED NATIONS
Yep, it’s some international mashups. This was clever enough, but I will note that I needed a LOT of the down crossings to figure out just what nations were getting united. Most of what slowed me down here was trying to remember my music theory terms (LENTANDO, anyone?) and adding extra E’s to things like DOMINOS pizza. Other fill I liked: REBAR, GENTILE, BE AN ANGEL, LAST NAME, SIGN HERE, and EBAY
All in all, it’s well-executed, if oddly familiar. 4/5 stars.
Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle (Week 306), “Upwardly Mobile”—Janie’s take
“Upwardly Mobile” gives us a visually appealing grid with its series of circled entries (colorized in the adjacent grid) that move diagonally from SW to NE in a 16×15 grid, expanded to accommodate the placement of those words in a literal way. It’s an elegant touch in a puzzle that is loaded with ’em, by virtue of the support the rich non-theme fill lends to the perfect theme set. Behold:
- 14A. “SANTA BABY” [Holiday song made famous by Eartha Kitt]. Or, in my case, by Tracy Ullman…
- 26A. CRY LIKE A BABY [Sob unabashedly]. At this point, I was fairly certain that the remaining circles would also be filled with the word BABY and so I went with my instincts and entered them.
- 46A. “BABY COME BACK” [1977 hit by Player]. Good thing I had the first word, because I don’t recall ever knowing of Player by name. Needed the crosses to complete the title, and while I vaguely recall the song, it never registered strongly with me. Yep. A lotta holes in my (already under-stocked) store of pop culture knowledge. (Listening now, I definitely remember the song. But definitely not Player. If I heard it on the radio, I’d assume I was listening to the Bee Gees…)
- 63A. BABY STEPS [Slow-and-steady progress … or a “flight pattern” suggested by the circled words]. Well, could this be a better reveal? I think not. Our eye moves upward on that flight of STEPS created by the placement of the word BABY.
This is the stuff of good (and imaginative) puzzle construction. With all the BABY talk in the puzz, it seems most appropriate that it also delivered the [Lullaby lyrics] “…GO TO SLEEP…” (as in “When at night I GO TO SLEEP/Fourteen angels watch do keep…,” or in the variation of the Brahms lullaby sung in our house, “Lullaby and goodnight, GO TO SLEEP now, my BABY…”). That [Wee woolly one] LAMB combo felt like bonus BABY fill as well.
This taut (and tender) theme is complemented by loads of excellent long fill. We get six additional nine-letter entries, not one of ’em a LIABILITY. That word is joined by “…GO TO SLEEP…,” LANDSLIDE (clued a little suggestively as [Earth-moving event]), RICE-A-RONI, PEACE PIPE and the reminder to “HANG LOOSE” [“Take it easy”].
The clue for PEACE PIPE actually gave me a little difficulty as [It’s smoked to seal a treaty] conjured up sealing wax being warmed with a small flame and emitting a small plume of smoke (I know—too complicated by half…). So I vainly tried to enter PARAFFIN. Wrong… I even tried PEACH… until seeing that ABASHS was never gonna cut it where [Mortifies] is concerned. Which is why ABASES is the correct fill… Ditto PEACE PIPE.So. Eight nines, plus two eights: ANNOTATE and WOBBLIER (nuthin’ wobbly about either one); plus two lovely sevens: CERAMIC and TRELLIS; plus ten solid sixes, my faves being: those gymnastic VAULTS, the beautiful ACADIA National Park, the agrarian SCYTHE (an implement that has certainly stood the test of time), the ART-full TITIAN and C MINOR, since it’s classically referenced with [Key of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5].
Among my favorite clues today, there’s [Determined leader?] for PRE- (as in PREdetermined) and [Organizer of a famed couples cruise] for NOAH (see Genesis 7…).
Am hoping you derived as much entertainment and pleasure from this one as I did. Of course, any puzzle that brings to mind this Stax classic from Carla Thomas is a smile-maker for me. If you’re so inclined, do weigh in. And whether or not that’s the case: do keep solving and stop by again next week!
P.S. Been missing Ade’s voice of late? As of today (and on a weekly basis), he’ll be posting his thoughts about Patrick Blindauer’s Piece of Cake puzzles. Like Liz’s Crossword Nation gems, these are once-a-week, thoughtfully-crafted, “early-week” puzzles and are available by subscription. Check out “Patrick’s Puzzles” here.
Maxine Cantor’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Internal Medicine” — Jim’s review
61a tells us that the [Medicine internal to the four longest Across answers] is DOSE. And sure enough, DOSE can be found straddling the two words in each theme answer.
- 17a [Line of video games including “Super Mario All-Stars”] NINTENDO SELECTS. I’ve never outgrown Nintendo and still play their games (the current Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is being hailed as one of the greatest games ever made), but this answer was hard even for me. NINTENDO SELECTS is a re-branding of sorts for some of their older games that were big hits back in the day. I don’t know that anyone would refer to this line of games collectively but rather the individual titles themselves, making this entry one of the tougher ones.
- 25a [“Gone With the Wind” producer] DAVID O. SELZNICK. Not a name at the front of my brain. Still, I must have heard it somewhere because I was able to fill it in with help from a lot of crossings. But the last name here plus the end of the previous theme entry combined to make the NE, the toughest corner. (Humorous aside: Not knowing this gentleman from Adam, I originally wrote up this post with his name as David O’Selznick. After a while, I looked at it and thought what an unusual Jewish/Irish name it was. Then I looked it up.)
- 40a [35-member body that convenes in Denver] COLORADO SENATE
- 52a [Central Florida paper] ORLANDO SENTINEL. Easily the most straightforward theme entry.
How did you do in that NE corner? In addition to what I mentioned above, Franz LISZT crosses both of the first two themers. By now, most solvers should know how to spell LISZT because it comes up often enough, but if you didn’t, that probably added to your woes. And another proper name is CELIE at 28d, [“The Color Purple” protagonist]. And finally, HACKTIVIST at 10d, while a fantastic entry, is new to me (though it was coined back in 1994).
Clues of note:
- 25d [Foe of Harry and Ron]. DRACO. What, no love for Hermione?
- 2d [Euclid setting]. OHIO. Tough clue. That’s the city of Euclid, pop. 48,920.
- 56a [Shoe strip]. WELT. Everything I know about shoemaking I learned from that clue.
- 44a [Oil container?]. FRAME. It took about 30 seconds of post-filling-in pondering to understand we were talking about oil paintings.
- 42d [They may get blanket coverage]. SHEETS. Nice clue.
Like yesterday, nothing new in the theme, but good fill abounds.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “They’re Getting Along Great” – Derek’s write-up
An interesting treatment of a common theme: A certain word follows all of the first words/last words of the theme answers. In this case, each word in the theme answers are used, and the revealers are at 1- and 73-Across:
- 17A [Group that gets called about illicit facsimiles?] COPY POLICE
- 36A [Animal who says “Baa, humbug”?] GRUMPY SHEEP
- 43A [Where to dispose of cooking grease and tropical oils?] FAT JUNKYARD
- 64A [Product of a between-buildings cook off?] ALLEY CHILI
- 1A [Animal that can follow the first word in each of this puzzle’s four theme entries] CAT
- 73A [Animal that can follow the second word in each of this puzzle’s four theme entries] DOG
So we have copy cat, grumpy cat (a phrase I am not familiar with; evidently he is internet famous!), fat cat, and alley cat. We also would have police dog, sheepdog, junkyard dog, and chili dog. Very clever, and a fresh idea, at least to me. Lots of fun, even though this took closer to the 7 minute mark to finish. I will blame a lack of sleep! 4.4 stars for this one.
Just a few mentions:
- 21A [Canines often metaphorically sacrificed] EYE TEETH – “I would give my eye teeth if I could …”
- 69A [Illinois city symbolizing Middle America] PEORIA – Where was Wayne’s World supposed to have taken place? That’s right: nearby Aurora, IL! Same connotation.
- 6D [Magic’s NBA team, on scoreboards] LAL – For Los Angeles Lakers, of course. Slightly confusing because there is an Orlando Magic team. (Scoreboard abbr. ORL)
- 24D [Three-letter “Squee!”] OMG – I had EEK in there because I have never “squee-ed” in my life!
- 28D [Does nothing] LOAFS – Or IDLES, LOLLS, RESTS. I know a lot about doing nothing!
- 62D [Illumination Entertainment’s other 2016 film (besides “The Secret Life of Pets”)] SING – I have seen this one, but not Pets. Maybe Chase and I will watch it this weekend!
Always fun! Now back to moving …
Lila Cherry’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
If I remember correctly, this is pseudonym Rich Norris uses for LAT puzzles (“really Rich” anagram!). Got this one in under 3 minutes! Already in training for next year’s ACPT! Great theme, if you know poker or similar gambling games:
- 17A [Pay for your online purchases, say] CHECK OUT
- 31A [Skip work because of illness] CALL IN SICK
- 37A [Cause a ruckus] RAISE CAIN
- 47A [Go out of business] FOLD UP SHOP
- 62A [“Care to wager?” … and a question answered, one way or the other, by the first words of the answers to starred clues] WANNA BET?!
Yes, pretend the first four clues have asterisks in front of them! I am not a big poker player, and because of that, I am not sure as to what makes a good poker player, other than being non-expressive. And that is the main reason I don’t play; I would freak out if I had a great hand! 4 stars even.
A few mentions:
- 24A [Ancients, for instance?] ANAGRAM – I have mentioned before how these clues always trip me up. This is one of the best of this kind I have seen!
- 67A [ __ Fáil: Irish coronation stone] LIA – A little tough/obscure for a Tuesday. Unless you’re from Ireland.
- 11D [Glove leather] KID SKIN – Is this two words? I don’t even know. Seems like not a very common phrase, but obviously this is what kid gloves are made of!
- 40D [Like some violets] AFRICAN – Interesting clue for a continent with literally thousands of clueing options!
- 41D [Spokane school with a strong basketball program] GONZAGA – So strong they just played in the NCAA title game, narrowly losing to blue-blood program North Carolina.
Still moving! Almost done. Have a great week!