Andrew Ries has blogged Erik Agard’s latest Glutton for Pun themeless crossword. He loved it so much, he couldn’t not write about it. Check it out here.
Gary Whitehead’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Not sure how accurate my solving time is—my mom called midway through the puzzle, and I needed to get through blogging quickly so I solved some of it while also carrying on a conversation, and I barely paid attention to the theme or the puzzle, and …
The theme revealer is 71a. [There’s no place like it … or a word that can precede either half of the answer to each starred clue], HOME. Those answers include BODYGUARD (I have no idea what a “home guard” is), GAMEBOY, COMPUTER PORT (dull), MOVIE THEATER, ICELAND, and FRONT PAGE.
Six themers plus a revealer squeezes the fill, alas. What the hell HELOT is doing in a Tuesday puzzle, I’ll never know. (As some folks say about the Tuesday NYT puzzles, “Tuesdays gonna tuez.”) URI, ONER, ERTE, a dated ANDIE clue ([Love interest of Pacey on “Dawson’s Creek”]? Dang, that character wasn’t even a regular for four of the six seasons), STEN, PAH, DEGUM … blurgh. PRIORY is fairly tough vocab, too.
Apparently, I learned from Wordplay, the constructor barely remembers the puzzle because he submitted it seven (!) years ago.
2.8 stars from me. Over and out.
Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle (Week 308), “Key Locations”—Janie’s take
Love that title, which summons up thoughts of, oh, Florida, no? Yes. But, where the puzzle is concerned, nuh-uh. Instead, as is confirmed at the reveal, we’re talkin’ about the PIANO here [Chopin’s instrument … and the puzzle theme]. How does this theme work? The first word of each of the four non-musical phrases (including two grid-spanners) also describes a type of piano. We’ve seen this kind of theme before. Many times. What keeps it fresh is the quality of the phrases in the grid. And, to no small extent, the quality of the “results.” Like Irving Berlin, “I love a piano.” Wanna guess where I stand on the success of the theme execution?
- 17A. [Honest folk in the community] UPRIGHT CITIZENS –> upright piano. A real space saver. I’ll give you a link with more specifics when we get to 41A… In the meantime, where [Satirical folk in the community] go, hafta love that the fill summoned up thoughts of the UPRIGHT CITIZENS Brigade…
- 34A. [Snaky sea dweller] ELECTRIC EEL –> electric piano. Wow. Didn’t know they’d been around since the late 1920s. Happily, they’ve become a bit lighter and more compact since then.
- 41A. [Big kahuna] GRAND POOBAH –> grand piano. As promised, here’s a link that will give you a terrific introductory into the differences between an upright and a grand (and it’s not merely the $everal grand…). As for the clue and the fill: poifect. If you’re not familiar with the origins of the latter, read here and/or scour up a copy of Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado. As for the former… (but Gidget? Wow.)
- 59A. [Football season honoree] PLAYER OF THE WEEK –> player piano. Self-playing. With music rolls. A/k/a pianola. (Also the title of Kurt Vonnegut’s 1952 first novel, whose depiction of a dystopian society set the tone for many of his later works.) And you’ll also find that that POTW title is not unique to the NFL, but is conferred by the NBA and MLB as well. Regardless: yet another example of strong, fresh thematic fill.
And this strong theme set, I’m pleased to say, is met with a lot of strong fill in the remainder of the grid. Lookin’ at you especially, SWEET DEAL and LEAD ROLE; VOODOO and ANDRÉS (Segovia); and IN-FLIGHT and TRANSLATE stand up well, too. The clue for IN-FLIGHT did make me laugh, though. [Like most meals served by Delta]. Have you flown Delta recently? Please define “meal.” ;-) And in this pay-fer-what-ya-want world, why is it that OVER-PRICED wasn’t an option? (Too many letters. I know…)
UP TO PAR is definitely UP TO PAR and, because there’re other grid entries to give it some extra context, got a good smile from the [Fizzled (out)] PETERED pairing. The “go-withs”? I’d include “PF-F-T” [Fizzled out firecracker sound] and also, at the other end of the spectrum, TNT, that peppily clued [Stick with a kick]. And “PS-S-T!,“ where expressive, aural entries go, “PF-F-T” finds a happy complement (appropriately frustrated response to a dud?) in “AARGH!”
Completely new to me? [“Hello, MOTO” (cell phone ad phrase)]. Did surmise that MOTO was ad-speak for Motorola. Not bad for someone still using a Nokia dumbphone… Also didn’t know that SALADA tea has been on store shelves since 1892. So, where the learning curve is concerned: something old(er), something new(er).
Hope your experience of this puzz was as enjoyable as mine, and that you might check in with a post below to add what did/didn’t work for you. Always interesting to have more than one p.o.v.! Even with the “April showers,” every day it’s more and more beautiful in these parts. Hope spring is blooming—or soon to be blooming—in your neck of the woods. Have a great week, all, and keep solving!
Judy ‘n’ Fred love a piano, too:
Zhouqin Burnikel’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “The Unknown” — Jim’s review
The title made me think algebra—you know, where you have to solve for the unknown (typically x). Turns out I was partially right.
The revealer is in the middle of the grid: X MARKS THE SPOT, clued as [Treasure-indicating phrase, and a hint to the first words of the starred answers]. So what exactly does this mean? Each first word in the theme entries is sometimes (depending on context) represented by the letter X.
- 17a [*Crowded place on New Year’s Eve] TIMES SQUARE. Math.
- 19a [*First down distance] TEN YARDS. Roman numeral.
- 55a [*Fans of Gene Simmons’s band] KISS ARMY. As in “hugs and kisses.” Great entry.
- 58a [*Ready-to-attack unit] STRIKE FORCE. Bowling.
This is a really nice theme with solid theme entries, but sadly for it, it’s thunder was stolen by this puzzle by Damon Gulczynski a couple of weeks ago in the NYT. Damon actually used the X in his entries as well as O’s in a sparkly grid.
Zhouqin uses three of the same representations (TIMES, TEN, and KISS) but adds STRIKE as well.
So what’s the takeaway? Great minds think alike…with slightly different interpretations. Both of these are very nice variations on the same theme. Kudos to both constructors.
As is her wont, Zhouqin adds plenty of interesting fill like GESTALT, AMARETTO, STAMPEDE, ALKALINE, TIN CAN, DIM SUM, and MISTER ED (no MRED here, thank you very much). But I don’t see many colloquial phrases which seems to have become her trademark of late.
Also, I encountered more sub-par fill than usual—things like ASCAP, AMI, IS SO, AMS, A REST, PTS, and MTN. Perhaps this is due to the rather high amount of theme material and a 13-letter central entry which puts stress on the corners.
Fair or not, it’s hard to look at this puzzle without comparing it to Damon’s. But if you judge it on its own merits, this is still a winner of a puzzle.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “Mic Drop” – Derek’s write-up
The title of this one is not too misleading. Let’s drop the letters MIC from a few phrases. Usual Matt Jones hilarity ensues!
- 18A [Highly important cloak?] KEY MANTLE (Mickey Mantle)
- 32A [Salad dressing with a light, woody taste?] BALSA VINEGAR (balsamic vinegar)
- 41A [Business course that draws heavily on Julius Caesar?] ROMANAGEMENT (micromanagement)
- 59A [Rip on one type of lettuce?] INSULT COS (insult cosmic?)
Not sure on that last one; I am sure someone can correct me in the comments. I didn’t know cos lettuce, but evidently it is the same as romaine lettuce. I feel like I am missing the “a-ha!” moment with the last one, but the other three are quite good. Still worth 4 stars in my book.
- 49A [Batman foe] BANE – He wasn’t in the comics when I was a kid!
- 68A [Representative Devin in 2017 news] NUNES – In the news a lot! Are there any politicians who are NOT corrupt? ;-)
- 6D [Ledger role, with “The”] JOKER – Dare I say, too many Batman references in one puzzle!?
- 24D [“QI” regular Davies] ALAN – Who?? A Brit, evidently. I have never seen this show. Will have to examine my BBC channel feed that I get!
- 47D [Thomas of “Reno 911!”] LENNON – Who?? The dude with the ‘stache!
- 60D [Ft. Worth campus] TCU – Texas Christian University is just outside Dallas. They’re pretty good at football. But of course they are; they’re in Texas!
It should be a great week! Until next week’s Jonesin’!
C.C. Burnikel’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
The prolific Ms. Burnikel has the WSJ puzzle today, too. Why am I not surprised? She has been cranking them out recently, and her themes continue to remain tight and clever. This one is no exception. The revealer is at 61D in this one:
- 18A [Increases homeowner levies, say] RAISES TAXES
- 24A [EMS group] RESCUE TEAM
- 41A [Meaty barbecued pork dish] RIB TIPS – Going to try some BBQ from a buddy I went to school with this weekend! Very likely to get the rib tips!!
- 50A [Marinara sauce ingredient] ROMA TOMATO
- 62A [Restaurant chain named for a Rolling Stones hit] RUBY TUESDAY – The closest one to me is an hour away!
- 61D [Pretentiously cultured, and a phonetic hint to the answers to starred clues] ARTY
As in “R-T” when it is spoken aloud. And, as usual, pretend I put stars next to the first five clues! 4.3 stars for another fairly clever easy puzzle.
A few comments:
- 27A [2015 FedExCup champ Jordan] SPIETH – This kid has accomplished a lot and he isn’t even 24 years old yet!
- 7D [Borden spokescow] ELSIE – Is this mascot still in use? According to my Google search, this character was created in 1936!
- 19D [Sault __ Marie] STE – I have been to the locks up here to watch the ships make the elevation change. It is more interesting to watch than it sounds!
- 30D [Chant for D.C.’s baseball club] LET’S GO NATS! – I am sure they say this. And it is provable!
- 36D [Alfa Romeo sports cars] GTS – Lots of makes and models have GT in them. I’d rather have an Alfa, though!
- 54D [Nash who rhymed “grackle” with “debacle”] OGDEN – I have said it before, and I will repeat it: my favorite poet!
Have a great week!