Zhouqin Burnikel’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Migraine-afflicted write-up ahead! The intersecting embedded words pair up as things that come in 68a: PAIRS. Two TONGs, two SOCKs, two PANTs, two SKIs, all in longer answers (which include the colorful TONGUE-LASH, which works best with an -ing ending, BREWSKI, and HAS KITTENS). It bears noting that you can easily hold one SKI or one SOCK, but a pair of tongs or pants is a single unit.
Toughish fill for a Tuesday includes OBIE, REMO, “I’M IN AWE”/”I BEEN HAD”/”I DO, I DO,” OTROS, -EME, EOE, ALGA, not commonly seen RWY., MAA, and ENO.
3.25 stars from me. Perhaps a theme that locks down this much real estate should run later than Tuesday, so the rougher fill is less jarring to newbies?
Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle (Week 312), “Gee Whiz”—Janie’s take
Today’s puzzle is one of my favorite types. It’s a tried-and-true wordplay puzz that hinges on adding a letter to a familiar phrase to create a new and entertaininly off-the-wall variation. Looking at the title, it should come as no great surprise that the letter in question is “G.” (Imagine that!) The success of this type of theme, depends to no small extent on the strength of the base phrase as well as the humor generated by the new one—be it sly, smart or laugh-out-loud funny. There are four themers today, and they mostly worked for me. How did they strike you?
- 17A. [Outcome of an exploding cigar?] SMOKING “BANG!” Funny concept and a fine way to give a shout-out to those exploding cigars, which have been with us for some time. Pranksters everywhere are thrilled… Me, I’ll take a smoking ban any day! Nice change of phrase.
- 10D. [Sonar signal for a danger-free zone] SAFETY PING. (Not to be confused with a radar BLIP…) Another goodie, especially since the idea of the new phrase—which sounds like it really could be a thing—is so far afield of anything resembling a safety pin.
- 28D. [Cultivated person who has gone to pot?] BONG VIVANT. My fave of the lot. New phrase is not that far away from the bon vivant base phrase, but the punniness, in combination with the visual that this one conjures up, makes it aces in my book. So, I’m picturing The New Yorker‘s “cultivated” bon vivant, the iconic Eustace Tilley with a BONG… but the closest I could get to finding a “cultivated person” with a BONG (in Google Images anyway) was:
- 64A. [Performed unenthusiastically in a bell choir?] RANG ON EMPTY. Dang. This one, alas, misses the mark for me. A great idea and one that evokes a very humorous picture. But… ran on empty feels like one very weak base phrase. Don’t we usually say [something was] running on empty? Google Ngram sez we do… And not that it’s the be-all-and-end-all, but it simply confirms my gut feeling about the minimal love this phrase gets. So this last one, with its ambitious, high-concept approach, left me disappointed. YMMV!!
Elsewhere around the grid there’s a lotta good fill: SUKIYAKI and BEDTIMES; DEADENS and REVEALS; ANNETTE (Bening), ENCLAVE and ANDROID (excellent in combination with its eerie [Programmed “person”] clue); VALISES and ID BADGES. And I enjoyed a lot of the shorter fill as well, like BRAVE and (“You get the license, I’ll get the) LENOX,” ([Maker of fine china] see 1955), SUDSY, INNIE, GLOP and KOOK (those last two for the crunchy sound of ’em).
Coulda lived nicely without “S-S-S” [Snake’s sound]. Again, ymmv, but I’m not in love with repeated-letter fill when it can be avoided. If the constructor has no other choice, believe me: I get it. But with very few changes, it could have been avoided. See what happens when you swap out SPANS for OPENS, though I’ll confess to very much liking the [Wing measures] clue for the former. (And yes, I prefer an abbreviation [or song title] like “SOS” to “S-S-S”…)
Other clues that kept things lively? Well, those for the themers, for starters. Each is spot on and sends us in the right direction for sussing out the “add-a-‘G'” theme. The humor there is echoed in [Early birds?] for EGGS, and also [Retirement periods?] for BEDTIMES. GLOP gets the alliterative treatment with [Gooey gunk], and the colorful [Oddball] and [Goof-off] make grid-pals of KOOK and IDLER.
So it’s not all NEG. from me today. I take my solving entertainment where I find it and hope/trust you’re doing the same. And there’s a lot to be enjoyed here. Keep solving, folks—and come on back again next week!
Tracey Gordimer’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Out of the Woods” — Jim’s review
Welcome to the WSJ edition of TGT (that’s “Tuesday’s Gonna Tuez”) wherein forest animals get punnified.
- 16a [Amicable forest creatures?] DEER FRIENDS. Dear…
- 24a [Food and a den, for a forest creature?] BEAR ESSENTIALS. Bare…
- 39a [Dark brown forest creature?] CHOCOLATE MOOSE. …mousse.
- 51a [Forest creature that’s unaccounted for?] MISSING LYNX. …links.
I don’t know about you, but to me, these puns seem about as old as the forest in which these animals live. My Groan-ometer blew a gasket by the time I got to the bottom of the grid.
For veteran solvers like us, these might not be too exciting, but to someone new to crosswords, maybe this hits the sweet spot. Let’s hope so, because I hate to think that my Groan-ometer bit the dust for no reason.
Yes, it’s hard to get past such a staid theme, but let’s see what else we get. LIFE SAVERS is great as is EAST OF EDEN. I like WELL NIGH, HYDRANTS, and NO LIMIT as well. But FIORELLO crossing ONTO could’ve easily been FIORELLI and INTO to non-New Yorkers, though the clue [Aboard] makes it mostly clear what it should be. And EARLY AGE doesn’t seem lexically strong enough without “from an…” to start it off.
We also get partials A RULE, A-DEE, and A YEN from best (if there is such a thing as a best partial) to worst.
Oh, I did like the complementing Joans at 12d (JETT) and 44d (BAEZ) as well as the clue for DIRTY [Like some jokes and some cops].
But otherwise, there just wasn’t much to get excited about here. I hope others enjoyed it more.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “Snappy Comebacks” – Derek’s write-up
In “Snappy Comebacks,” Matt says we can get a “return on investment.” In the way of some palindromes!
- 18A [Grab a belief?] TAKE TENET
- 27A [“M*A*S*H” character’s cutesy Disney Channel series?] TOTALLY RADAR – I have never heard of this show; it looks like it used to be a YouTube thing?
- 46A [Brothel owner on a pogo stick?] HOPPING MADAM – Funniest one!
- 60A [Queen of paddled boats] MARY KAYAK
Unfamiliarity with the 27A did not hamper solving experience at all; especially with the clues clearly pointing to Radar. Tons of fun stuff in this puzzle as well, as usual for Matt. Skill like this is how one garners a loyal following for all of these years! I believe it is 18 or 19 years the Jonesin’ has been going on? Incredible. 4.3 stars for this one.
A few notes:
- 56A [ __ District (Lima, Peru beach resort area)] ANCON – In my local area, there is an Ancon Construction that is quite well known for industrial building. Too bad they aren’t national!
- 1D [Lyft competitor, in most places] UBER – As you may know, I drove for Uber for a hot minute. There is now Lyft in this area as well. I have never ridden in either, but then again I own a car!
- 5D [Stanley Cup org.] THE N.H.L. – This partial may benefit from a fill-in-the-blank clue, like [Wayne Gretzky was the best player ever in __ ]. Yes, that was terrible, but you get the idea. Maybe a quote from a promo?
- 7D [“A Little Respect” synthpop band] ERASURE – Matt always has a band reference in his puzzles, and here is one I know! This is probably the only song of theirs I know too!
- 30D [“Snatched” star Schumer] AMY – She is getting verrrry popular. Or just in more stuff!
- 34D [“Let It Go” singer] ELSA – Disney. Ugh.
- 37D [“Learn to Fly” band __ Fighters] FOO – Dave Grohl is one of the most talented musicians out there still. He is just a few months older than I am!
Have a great week all!
Ed Sessa’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
How many phrases can you think of that are two words with the initials L.L? There are a few in this grid, along with a revealer at 41D that tells us what is REALLY going on:
- 20A [Teaching aid for learning foreign tongues] LANGUAGE LAB
- 59A [Deep blue gemstone] LAPIS LAZULI
- 5D [Superboy’s girlfriend] LANA LANG
- 11D [Satisfaction after setbacks] LAST LAUGH
- 35D [Cowboy star with a bullwhip] LASH LARUE
- 41D [2016 Best Picture (no, wait; it wasn’t!) … and a fitting place for the answers to starred clues?] LA-LA LAND
So we have two-word phrases that actually have both words starting with LA. Very clever, and also timely with the Oscar flub still fairly fresh in our minds! I still haven’t seen this movie; my son says it was awesome, while others have had a more lukewarm reaction. It is rentable, so maybe … we will see! 4 stars today.
- 15A [Plant used in tequila productions] AGAVE – I am not a big fan of tequila, but I do like margaritas! Perhaps I will get some Patrón this weekend and experiment!
- 16A [Spencer of “Good Morning America”] LARA – Also hosts an antique show on the HGTV channel.
- 39A [Spy org. created under Truman] CIA – Seems like it is older, doesn’t it? Also, not the best reputation depending on which spy novel you read …
- 28D [Sonic the Hedgehog game company] SEGA – Are they still in business???
It is still not that warm!! June is next week!!