Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Divide and Conquer” – Erin’s writeup
This week we have a cross-reference-heavy puzzle which is easier to explain through example than summarization:
- 23a. [Go different ways, and what you must do to understand 19 Down] PART COMPANY
- 19d. [*Stage crew] COAST. What? A coast is not a stage crew. But a CAST is. Another synonym for CAST is COMPANY. So to create the entry COAST, you must PART the word CAST (the synonym for COMPANY) with the letter O.
- 25a. [Have a balance between income and expenditures, and what you must do to understand 11 Down] BREAK EVEN
- 11d. [*All square] TIRED. TIED, a synonym for EVEN, is “broken” with an R to make TIRED.
- 109a. [Exhibit sarcasm, and what you must do to understand 97 Down] CRACK WISE
- 97d. [*Learned] SARGE. SAGE is cracked up by an R.
- 111a. [Ballot featuring a vote for more than one party, and what you must do to understand 95 Down] SPLIT TICKET
- 95d. [*Free admission need] PASTS. A T splits up PASS.
- 33d. [Factional offshoot, and what you must do to understand 67 Across and 81 Across] SPLINTER GROUP
- 67a. [*Family] CLEAN. The letter E splinters CLAN.
- 81a. [*Wedding expense, for some] BRAND. An R splinters BAND.
- 37d. [Delivery with side spin, and what you must do to understand 55 Across] SLICE SERVE
- 55a. [*Assist] ACID. AID is sliced by C.
- 47d. [Things ripped out of a magazine, and what you must do to understand 64 Across] TEAR SHEETS
- 64a. [*Periodical elements] PAGERS. G tears up the word PAGES.
This is by no means my favorite Washington Post puzzle. Needing to cross-reference 7.5 pairs of entries was a bit of a slog for me. The theme is clever enough, but the effort to bounce around the grid looking for five-letter theme entries was more than I wanted to exert. Also, having two entries tied to 33 Down breaks symmetry. Maybe BRAND should not have been a theme entry? Overall, it’s just not my cup of tea.
- 28a. [Bread morsel, maybe] RAISIN. Blech.
- 58a. [French painter Derain] ANDRE. I was not familiar with him until now, but he is one of the founders of Fauvism, and here is one of his better-known works, The Dance.
- 100d. [Surveyed rudely] OGLED. Thank you, Evan, for cluing this word in a disapproving fashion instead of a cutesy permissive one.
- 76a. [Stock Halloween outfit] GHOUL. Had GHOST here for quite a while.
- 56d. [“Diablo” villains] DEMONS. Some people I knew in college played a lot of “Diablo II.” So much fun! “Diablo III” was great too, but then I had to abandon it for games such as “Why won’t you sleep?!” and “What is in your mouth now, small crawling child?!” and “How did so much come out of someone so little?!”
Until next week!
Jacob Stulberg’s New York Times crossword, “Cropped”—Amy’s write-up
Well, VEGETABLE SHORTENING ([Canful in a cupboard … or a hint to parts of six answers in this puzzle]) is pretty gross (of course, I grew up baking with Crisco) but it makes for a nice theme concept: You shorten the names of vegetables via squeezing them into boxes 2 letters at a time.
- 27a. [Tree-damaging pest accidentally introduced to the U.S. in 1996], ASIAN LONG-HORNED BEETLE, with a BE/ET rebus. Chicago has moved on to battling the emerald ash borer. A zillion ash trees are part dead and won’t survive.
- 44a. [Southwest tourist destination], FOUR CORNERS, with CO/RN.
- 48a. [Having a variegated, changing pattern], KALEIDOSCOPIC, with KA/LE.
- 68a. [Constitution holder], NATIONAL ARCHIVES, with CH/IV/ES. I group chives with the herbs, not vegetables. Their cousins the onions qualify as vegetables since you can top a burger with them, make onion rings, and so on. I think garlic also falls out of the vegetable category and into herbs.
- 90a. [MCAT subject], SYMPTOMATOLOGY, with TO/MA/TO. Whoa! I never noticed the tomato in symptomatology. “Allergies to the edible fruit in the nightshade family really put the tomato in symptomatology.”
- 93a. [“Seinfeld” character], COSMO KRAMER, with OK/RA. This is the only one where the veggie crosses a word break. (Just pointing that out—it didn’t bother me.)
Aside from the CHIVES issue, I liked the theme pretty well.
Five more things:
4d. [Lion in “The Lion King”], NALA. I appreciate NALA being clued as a lion rather than a lioness. I bet most of us, without crossings already in place, started filling in SCAR first, just because crosswords and the English language have trained us to default to male too often.
- 26a. [Crept furtively], SLUNK. I had SNUCK first (and yes it is too a word—just an informal one).
- 58d. [Bricklaying or pipefitting], TRADE. I feel like this sense of the word doesn’t get used much in crosswords, but I like it. My mom’s dad, and the generations before him, were bricklayers. Pictured here is the house he built for his family when my mom was a kid.
- Many of the long Down answers crossing the rebus squares are crisp, aren’t they? TRENCHCOAT, TOOK IT EASY, NO PROBLEMO. I like non-rebused VILLANOVA and TREKKIE, too.
- 80d. [Do House work], LEGISLATE. Man, don’t get me started on House legislation. Or Senate.
Four stars from me.
Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s CRooked crossword, “Business Report” — pannonica’s write-up
Bit of a cheesy quote theme here.
• 33a/52a/74a/80a. [Business report …] XEROX AND WURLITZER | ARE GOING TO MERGE | AND MANUFACTURE A | REPRODUCTIVE ORGAN.
But what I really did enjoy in this crossword was the unusual mid-length vocabulary. Talking about 39a [Garden belvederes] GAZEBOS, 77d [Off-and-on] SPORADIC, 68a [Collecting] GARNERING, 9d [Mammal built like a tank] ARMADILLO, 10d [Noisy commotion] RUCKUS, 75d [Fed] NOURISHED. Heck, even 36a BHUTAN doesn’t get as much crossword play as those other [High Asian land]s NEPAL and TIBET.
- 105a [Hero’s opposite] GOAT, 56a [“It’s a Wonderful Life” director] CAPRA.
- Not thrilled with super-strong cognates 73a [“Les femmes”] ELLES and 64d [“Estas muchachas”] ELLAS crossing each other; the parallel French and Spanish clues tell me that this was recognized and quite intentional. Weird.
- Other long answers: 3d [Half of Neil Simon’s odd couple] is full-name FELIX UNGER, 16d RADAR BLIPS, 65d [ATV’s AT] ALL-TERRAIN, 70d [Smoothing over] IRONING OUT. Good stuff.
- 30d [Like a wise bird] OWLY. Not sure about this one. I suppose it has a different shade of meaning than the more familiar owlish. Also, I’m tired of the owl=wise trope, which isn’t particularly accurate. I say this as a strigophile of sorts.
- 56a [Mark like a wedge] CARET. 109a [Mark’s replacement] EURO. Poor Mark.
- 37d [Chest beater] HEART. Didn’t initially notice the lack of hyphenation so I was fooled into filling this in as HE-MAN (which also happens to be hyphenated).
- 44d [“Animal Farm” bosses] PIGS. People are reading both Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four in record numbers lately.
- 51d [Capital of Lesotho] MASERU, which seems fairly obscure. Rather crossword-friendly, though.
Definitely appreciated the quality ballast fill more than the SILLY (49d) theme.
C.C./Zhouqin Burnikel’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “Scuse Me”—Amy’s write-up
After filling in the first theme answer, SECOND QUARTER ([It begins in April]), I looked at the puzzle title, “Scuse Me.” The initials of that themer are S.Q.—”S Q’s me”, so I moved to the next long Across clue. [Yahoo! Finance offering] could well be STOCK QUOTE. Then I filled in 49a. [Jamie Lee Curtis or Fay Wray], SCREAM QUEEN, and 100a. [California prison town], SAN QUENTIN, with no crossings. 86a. [Test for trivia fans] had to be S****** QUIZ, wasn’t sure what went in there without some crossings. Imagine my surprise when it turned out to be SPORCLE QUIZ! Man oh man, am I hooked on Sporcle’s online quizzes. (If you sign up for a Sporcle account, tell ’em Amy_Rey sent you—I can earn a badge if I get enough referrals. You’ll love it. If you hate pop culture, there are thousands of history and literature quizzes to entertain you. If you love sports, you can test your knowledge endlessly.) 117a. [Pielike veggie dish], SPINACH QUICHE was also a little slow to fall. And then I realized while solving the puzzle that there are also two Down themers, 15d, [What screen icons exude], STAR QUALITY (nicely crossing the 33a themer at the Q) and 67d. [Granite excavation site], STONE QUARRY. (Are there non-stone quarries?)
The theme isn’t particularly exciting, as these initial themes don’t allow for whimsy, but SCREAM QUEEN and SPORCLE QUIZ were fresh and lively. The rest of the grid fell pretty quickly, what with most of the theme answers already in place for ample toeholds. A breezy Sunday puzzle, always welcome (because who wants to spend all of a summer day working on a giant grid?).
Four more things:
- 5d. [Taylor of fashion], ANN. The clue sort of suggests that there is such a person as Ann Taylor in fashion. There is not. Would you clue FOREVER as [21 of fashion], or OLD as [Navy of fashion]? No, you would not.
- 22a. [Tin mints], ALTOIDS. I’m pretty sure one of my grandmas (78-Down) would have pronounced the Girl Scout cookies Thin Mints as “tin mints.”
- 101d. [“Far from Heaven” actor], Dennis QUAID. Playing Julianne Moore’s closeted husband in Todd Haynes’ retro-style melodrama. If you haven’t seen it already, do check it out.
- 98a. [Golf phenom Jordan], SPIETH. Zhouqin, you’re a golf aficionado, aren’t you?
3.75 stars from me.
NYT – Getting the Sunday puzzle here on Saturday, it still took me two days to solve it. Hard to imagine how long it took to construct this. Amazing tour de force… Bravo!
Crouching OKRA, hidden KALE! Great puzzle. Now I’m all hungry.
I hated this NYT more than any in a long time, starting with the theme. Of the six, I’d never so much as heard of Four Corners or symtomatology, didn’t remember Kramer’s first name (for a show I didn’t watch), and got the BEET rebus all the way at the end of the entry but then took forever to find three words to round out its length.
Trivia for me included ACLU’s slogan (and I’m a member!), Eddie Rabbitt, Dell’s first name, the Japanese imperial resideence, the Vermont city, Rimes, anything to do with “The Lion King” or “The Big Bang Theory,” Brenda, Shamus, a hockey player, etc., etc. So glad this is over.
JohnH, I agreed with you to a moderate extent about a puzzle from one of my favorite constructors. Trivia certainly is in the eye of the beholder, as one of the things I like in Stulberg’s puzzles is a usually reliable nod to Judaism and to music, subjects that will sometimes not appeal to other people. Today, there was just a measly SEDER, but I think there were one or two Bible and/or church items to somewhat satisfy my expectations. The items you cite, JohnH, were the very ones that bothered me, in addition to a couple of other items — and I’ve seen both the play and animated versions of The Lion King. After I worked for a long time, however, the theme was rather satisfying — although I didn’t think Stulberg would consider a TOMATO to be a VEGETABLE.
I thought the WaPo was very cleverly constructed but, as you say, a bit of a slog to solve. And to be honest I still don’t entirely understand the logic of the theme answers — that last one, for example, with TEARSHEETS crossing PAGERS. How does taking the R out of PAGERS equate to ‘tearing’ sheets? Many of the others were similarly awkward.
PAGES are SHEETS, and TEARING was another way of DIVIDING. Awkward, yes.
NYT: Terrific theme, well executed. A rebus that was worth the effort, which is no small feat. Fill went from very good to very bad, with both AGUE & AARE making an appearance. ILYA Kovalchuk is a very good player but best remembered for a controversial contract whose details are too tiresome to relate.
I see the WaPo as a cluing exercise more than a construction feat. The grid is good and could have stood on its own. It’s the clues that introduce the challenge/amusement.
Or lack of amusement. Not one of Evan’s finest puzzles, in my opinion.
Man, I can’t figure y’all out. My test-solvers really liked this one, and last year when I did a “some clues don’t make sense but there are revealer clues that cross-reference and explain them” theme, people seemed to enjoy that too. Plus I figured the cross-referencing would at least be made a tad easier by the fact that the divided words all cross their revealer answers, and the point of division is always in the long entry.
*Insert “shrug” emoticon*
I didn’t mean to imply I didn’t enjoy it.
Here’s the thing, Evan: Did your testers solve in Across Lite? Do they have weak eyes that demand that the grid be larger than the viewing screen? That’s what some of us have to deal with when there’s cross-referencing. Not your fault, but there it is.
The truth is, I nearly quit this puzzle (not having noticed the proximity of the cross-referenced clues), but I slogged on, ignoring the cross references and, lo and behold, I was able to finish this cumbersome challenge. I’ve learned that many puzzles like this one, with all the hopscotch across the grid, can just as easily be conquered without all the hassle.
My anecdotal surveys have the opposite result from yours. On the whole, solvers do not like cross-referencing or quotations. Both seem to inspire wide spread division among solvers. (Check out the results in your star rating above.) I thought that’s been made quite plain, actually, yet constructors continue to make both.
Keep on truckin’, but expect bumps in the road.
My testers solved in both Across Lite and on paper.
And for the record, I don’t find the star rating system to be a good metric for determining what’s a good puzzle and what isn’t.
“…I don’t find the star rating system to be a good metric…”
I wasn’t using it that way, but as a sign of how a puzzle is liked, not of its quality. You see the spread in today’s ratings? That’s what I was talking about.
I didn’t notice that the divided words cross their revealers. That’s more elegant and would have been an easier solve for me if I had seen that. Most times I can go somewhere for peace and quiet to solve but last night hubby was replacing a faucet so I was making sure my kids weren’t hurting themselves at the same time. That oversight is my fault.
S’aright. In general I’m not a huge cross-referencing theme fan myself so I can understand getting tripped up, but I hoped that this would be the most helpful way I could do it and still keep the puzzle hard.
I’m generally a big fan of your puzzles, Evan, as I hope prior comments (not that I do so very often) have indicated, but this was not one of my favorites with the cleverness mainly in the clues rather than the grid. The fact that each crossing pair was at a unique letter was a nice touch, but (for me) just emphasized that this was a nice piece of construction rather than a fun solve. And where does the “conquer” of the title come into play? Does that just mean “solve”?
I found that the theme of vegetables embedded in phrases was not compelling enough. Otherwise the fill was okay but lacked much sparkle.
To Evan Birnholz
I’m sure there are many others out there who enjoyed your puzzle today as much as I did.
It was very pleasant doing a puzzle that took much longer than usual and savoring it. I don’t beg for puzzles that I can race through and barely remember. I will remember this one for a long time. It was a challenge, but I felt very good when I conquered it. I usually don’t like cross referencing, but that’s not what was going on here. Each theme answer was just made up of cross pieces. Thank you.
Good point, Pat. It’s good to savor a puzzle and chase the answers around the grid, if necessary. It *is* a lot easier to do that on paper, though.
For the record, I like cross-referenced clues, and I thought that this puzzle was a slightly higher level of cross-referencing than normal. Looking forward to the next theme answer – and having to search for it (insert grin) – makes a puzzle enjoyable for me.
I like that there is so much variety among puzzle constructors. That way, there’s something for everyone.
Thanks, much appreciated.
I hated it until I liked it.
LAT was a quintessential easy sunday puzzle, 5 stars
For everyone’s information San Quentin is not a town. It is the name of the prison in the town of San Rafael, Marin County, just 20 minutes north of the Golden Gate Bridge.
Actually, I believe San Quentin is a “town” in its own right and is not within the boundaries of San Rafael. :)
Unincorporated community adjacent to the prison.
with its own post office :)
Took awhile to solve NYT, but a fun journey! Enough to wrestle a bit, but not so hard that it felt impossible. Agree with Amy on CHIVES, though — vegetation maybe, but not a vegetable.
In stopping by the see comments on the NYT, I noticed the large back and forth with Evan. While I haven’t actually read the review or comments (intentionally), it has me intrigued to see what the controversy is about, so I’ve printed the puzzle in hope of solving it.
Can I say, though, that as a newbie to that publication’s site I’m finding it hard to solve because it’s hard to read? I work from the print NYT, with a different page size, of course, but I do print out the Saturday WSJ, so I could use that for comparison. I don’t know if it’s the large top and bottom margins and more prominent puzzle title and author, or just a design choice, but the font for Evan is definitely smaller and tougher for me. I can’t swear that I’ll manage. I’m sure this isn’t in your hands, though.
I did finish it. Overall, more challenging for me than a Sunday NYT (more like a Friday puzzle), which was fine, although some of a slog here and there.
I liked the theme in principle, although “tear” didn’t have the right sense for me either. While I dislike x-ref clues as much as many (and the Nation cryptic is obsessed with them), they didn’t put me off as much as others. First, they had enough of a definition on their own, which isn’t usually how such clues work. Second, one didn’t have to hunt far using the x-refs, as they actually crossed. Third, there was a sufficient aha moment in seeing why an extra letter stood in the way of definitions matching entries for the shorter parts.
Still, I admit I wasn’t knocked out. Maybe the slog fill and there (song lyrics), but maybe I was expecting more. I was waiting for the superfluous crossed letters to come together to spell something. I guess that’s just overthinking.
I don’t know if this would get you where you want to go:
Maybe download the .puz file from the “Today’s Puzzles” page here and print it from AcrossLite. I see a 2-page option for printing from that app.