Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Number Theory” – Erin’s writeup
This week’s crossword comes with a hint: “METAPUZZLE: Which famous mathematician is hinted at by this challenging puzzle?” We’re warned that things could get tricky, and rightfully so. Solving the grid proves a bit difficult until one realizes the longest entries include numbers.
- 23a. [Mars bar] 3 MUSKETEERS
- 42a. [Rice squad, once] SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
- 58a. [Academy Awardwinning film directed by Steve McQueen] 12 YEARS A SLAVE
- 83a. [1996 live-action remake of a Disney animated film] 101 DALMATIANS
- 98a. [Franchise that was once based in Syracuse] PHILADELPHIA 76ERS
- 122a. [Big computer of the 1980s] COMMODORE 64
Furthermore, the crossing entries use the written-out form of the numbers, sometimes as the number itself, sometimes as part of a word in the entry. For example, 31d. [Greyhound, e.g.] CA9, or CANINE, and 78d. [Blakley of “Nashville”] R1E, or RONEE, use the letters as part of another word. On the other hand, 1d. [Phrase of agreement following a second], ME 3 (ME THREE) and 33d. [Second half of a cassette], SIDE 2 (SIDE TWO) use the numbers as numbers.
So we have a completed grid with six numbers (3 49 12 101 76 64), and we need to somehow transform that into a mathematician’s name. I first tried looking for a pattern in the numbers, but that did not get me far. They do not make the Fibonacci sequence or the first digits of pi. 49 and 64 are squares, but the others are not. I took a break because I was getting nowhere and my daughter was running around screaming. Later on, when I had a few minutes of quiet, it hit me. We have to find the corresponding squares in the grid for each number; the letter in square 3 is E, 49 is U, etc., to provide the mathematician EUCLID, who is our meta answer.
Random things about the fill:
- 63a. [Saccharine] SYRUPY. Kept trying to get SUGARY to fit here.
- 68a. [2000 role for Julia] ERIN. No comment.
- 132a. [Words exchanged on the small screen?] TEXTS. I really enjoy this clue.
- 72a. [Bread box?] AMP and 70d. [Bread box?] OVEN. I kept trying to get ATM to fit for the former until I realized it was Bread the band. Very nice!
- 67d. [American quarters?] DORM. American in this case is American University.
Natan Last, Finn Vigeland, and the JASA Crossword Class’s New York Times crossword, “Duality Quality”—Amy’s write-up
Neat theme concocted by crossword con- and instructors Finn and Natan together with a group of older adults in New York. As seen in the title and throughout the theme, there are a zillion word pairs where only the initial letter differs but the pronunciation of the overlapping letters is not the same. (English, you’re so crazy.) The oddball verse clues look like they rhyme, but they too feature non-rhyming words with the same letters!
- 22a. [“I know my girl enjoys her youth / When this fine sound escapes her mouth”], DAUGHTER LAUGHTER. Yowth, mooth. These words all sound bizarre when you swap the sounds, don’t they?
- 37a. [“Right now, it’s fine, no five-star food, / But this dessert will soon be good!”], BUDDING PUDDING.
- 57a. [“This mensch looks up and shouts ‘Delish!’ / While downing snacks with real relish”], KOSHER NOSHER.
- 76a. [“Your will to serve must be mature / To be this keeper of nature”], GARDEN WARDEN. May-cher, nuh-chure?
- 92a. [“Go down this hallway: There’s a couch / If what you seek’s relaxing touch”], MASSAGE PASSAGE.
- 109a. [“This may have been the umpire’s doing; / Now sliding home is easy going”], BASELINE VASELINE.
- 15d. [“Kate Upton strikes an alpine pose / And belts this out, with naught to lose”], MODEL YODEL.
- 69d. [“I have this duty on my farm / To look as chickens keep eggs warm”], HATCH WATCH.
The clues and answers themselves don’t amuse me much, but saying the words with the wrong sounds does. (What? It’s been a long week.)
3d and 73d are a little off-putting since they’re opposite theme answers of the same length, but I’ve been loving Pine Bros. COUGH DROPS so much lately, I’ll forgive it. (I was half expecting a TOUGH or ROUGH COUGH or a COUGH BOUGH here.)
Seven more things:
- 90a. [Hooter or honker], SCHNOZ. I really wanted this to be something avian. Owls, geese …
- 32d. [___ of Solomon], ODES. I feel like this is new to me.
- 38d. [___ studies (college major)], URBAN. This clue screams Finn Vigeland. Finn’s heading to grad school this fall to continue being academically urbane. (What? Is that not how this works?)
- 74d. [Rapper topper], DO-RAG. Ugh. You know that plenty of people wear do-rags (or du-rags, or durags, etc.) without being recording artists, right? Quit sending the message to black solvers that the crossword’s not meant for them.
- 75d. [Bulked up, in modern lingo], SWOLE. This might just be my favorite word in the whole puzzle.
- 83d. [Wasted], ICED. In what sense of the word wasted, exactly? Drunk, or thrown away unused, or what?
- 108d. [Jones of CNN], VAN. I’m about 80% a fan of Van Jones. His style is more conciliatory than mine.
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s CRooked crossword, “What’s the Ketch?” — pannonica’s write-up
The catch is, we’re laden with nautical puns. Specifically, types of boats. Come aboard.
- 23a. [Question of when to get on a boat?] SCHOONER OR LATER (sooner …).
- 33a. [Go round a boat?] LOOP THE SLOOP (… loop).
- 51a. [Boat you can only take one way?] PUNT OF NO RETURN (point …).
- 63a. [Reason for a dockside photo shoot?] YACHT TO BE IN PICTURES (yet …). This isn’t a phrase that has much resonance for me, whereas “yet to be determined” seems much more common. This unfamiliarity is enhanced by the marquee center location.
- 81a. [Boat’s guiding spirit?] FERRY GODMOTHER (fairy …).
- 93a. [Boats made of yarn, glue, a couple of pipe cleaners, etc.?] ARKS AND RAFTS (arts / crafts). ‘Craft’ can also be a word for boat, but more of a generic one.
- 108a. [Request for a boat’s prompt return?] YAWL COME BACK NOW (y’all …). Clue significantly dupes 51-across answer.
OH WAIT, just realized that the original phrase for 63-across is you ought to be in pictures! That’s much better, though I suspect the more colloquial you oughta be is more prevalent. To the Ngrams! Annnd… they prove me wrong.
Last part of the grid to fall was the top center, as the confluence of less familiar (to me) entries conspired to thwart. 7a [Some poker winnings] SIDE POTS, 9d [Corp. VIP] DIR (not, say, CEO), 10d ELLIOT Easton of The Cars, 11d [“Laws” philosopher] PLATO (didn’t know it was he), 14d [“GMA” host] Michael STRAHAN. Even 12d [Ready to pour] ON TAP proved elusive without enough crossing letters.
Other clues/answers that didn’t hit strongly for me (even after understanding them): 28a [Call __ career] IT A, 85d [Forlorn face feature] SAD EYES – not enough of a standalone phrase. Hm, fewer than my impression. Guess I can’t fault those that I simply didn’t know, such as the sportsy 55a [UFC star Justino] CRIS, 89a [Towers’ grp.] AAA, 111d [Toronto FC org.] MLS.
More stuff to pad this write-up:
- Here are a couple tricky sportsy ones that were obvious in retrospect: 41a [Bear’s gripper?] CLEAT, 43a [Ball club] BAT.
- 48a [Pest control brand] D-CON, 31d [Zapper’s targets] PESTS. Oh, come on. 109d [Bother big time] BUG.
- 50a [Womb figure] FETUS crossed by 36d [Fertilized egg] OVULE. 56a [Swampy lands] FENS followed by 57a [Swamp plant] REED. 70a [Menorca, e.g.] ISLA crossed by 61d [Leave stranded] DESERT.
- 44a [Hot rock] LAVA.
- 54a [Buildings near airports] HOTELS. I definitely wanted this to be MOTELS.
- Undisclosed brand names: 77a [Frozen treat] ICEE, 117a [Waffle choices] EGGOS.
- Ha-ha. 86a [That’s a moray] EEL, 92a [Dreaded dude] RASTA, masking capital in 119a [Young Turks] ASIANS, 76d [Baby bird?] STORK.
- 105d [NYC hwy.] BQE. I feel BEQ shows admirable restraint by not employing this fill noticeably more often than other constructors.
- Longdowns: 16d [Vatican bull] PAPAL LETTER, 64d [Drawing technique with light lights and dark darks] CHIAROSCURO.
- Not part of the theme: 83d [Rowboat pivots] OARLOCKS.
- Favorite clue: [Not black and white] IN COLOR.
Paul Coulter’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “French Connection”—Amy’s write-up
When I started to find the theme answers on the left side of the grid, I girded myself for a dull slog through a handful of the many English words borrowed from French. The theme turned out to be better than that, though, with non-French equivalents to the right of each French term—directly to the right, the very next clue, and with the same exact clue, and also with the same letter count. So that’s kinda neat.
- 22a/23a. [Outcome], DENOUEMENT / RESOLUTION.
- 38a/41a. [“Win some, lose some”], C’EST LA VIE / THAT’S LIFE. Direct translation.
- 65a/68a. [Bare], AU NATUREL / BUCK NAKED.
- 91a/94a. [“Confidentially … “], ENTRE NOUS / BETWEEN US. Direct translation here, too.
- 110a/113a. [Fine dining aficionados], BON VIVANTS / EPICUREANS. I feel like there’s less of a direct correspondence here, as your Epicureans are focused on food and drink while your bon vivants may be luxuriating in a posh setting with charming company.
With the theme layout, we end up with a weird-looking grid. That black worm in the middle of the grid splits the midsection into two distinct areas, but the synonymous themers in the center help bridge the gap.
Didn’t love much of the fill, with the opening corner giving us LCDS and TONG and TWO ACTS and the chunk right below it having EERO and SAAR. In the opposite corner, we see EEN SSTS ANI DELE, same sort of crosswordese vibe.
Three more things:
- 72a. [Elegantly, to Vivaldi], GRAZIOSO. Didn’t know this, but it’s kinda pretty.
- 7d. [Autobiographical subtitle], A MEMOIR. You might think this feels contrived, but I was writing an ALEC Baldwin clue yesterday and looked up the title of his new (and best-selling) memoir: It’s called Nevertheless: A Memoir.
- 15d. [Whole alternative, in Nottingham], SKIMMED MILK. Come to think of it, the British term makes more sense than the American one.
3.4 stars from me.