Erik Agard’s New York Times crossword—Andy’s review
I didn’t see the theme of this puzzle until after I finished solving, even though it’s explained at 35a/37a:
- 35a, BIRDS [There are two, as the expression goes, in each of 16- and 55-Across]. Well, I guess we should look at 16a and 55a:
- 16a, MARTIN LAWRENCE [Will Smith’s co-star in 1995’s “Bad Boys”]. Indeed, MARTIN LAWRENCE contains the names of two birds: MARTIN and WREN.
- 55a, STEPHEN HAWKING [Physicist who won a 2009 Presidential Medal of Freedom]. STEPHEN HAWKING contains HEN and HAWK.
- 37a, STONE [There’s one, as the expression goes, in 5- and 27-Down]. Let’s look at 5d and 27d:
- 5d, SONY XPERIA [Line of Japanese smartphones]. SONY XPERIA contains the stone ONYX.
- 27d, BAMBOO PALM [Tropical houseplant]. BAMBOO PALM contains OPAL.
“The expression” referenced in 35a/37a is “killing two birds with one stone.” It’s a bit of a stretch to apply the verb “killing” here, but indeed, each of the entries containing one STONE intersects one of the entries containing two BIRDS: SONYXPERIA crosses MARTINLAWRENCE, and BAMBOOPALM crosses STEPHENHAWKING.
I tore through this one at the beginning, but then I stumbled at the finish. My guesses started off good: I plunked down RUM RAISIN for [Popular ice cream flavor] at 1d off of just the R, avoiding the equally plausible ROCKY ROAD. Conversely, at the end of my solve, with ?IB at 31d, I went with RIB for [Chest protector], which cleverly turned out to be BIB. I also struggled a bit in the SW, where Stumperish clues like [Stripe] for SORT and [Nursery item] for TREE abounded.
There were some real gems in the clues, a signature of Erik’s puzzles: I particularly liked [[Ask me what’s wrong]] for SIGH, [Figure whose wings melt in the sun] is a great misdirecting clue for SNOW ANGEL (not Icarus), and [Performance that requires a lot of upper body strength] for POLE DANCE. Plenty of really pretty long fill in this one too, especially for a 76-worder: besides the aforementioned SNOW ANGEL, RUM RAISIN, and POLE DANCE, there’s also ADOPT-A-PET and BEEF PATTY. KORN, UNTAG, and the conversational ARGH also make their NYT debuts today. I also see that Erik is, to no one’s surprise, experimenting with grid design, placing a triple-stack of black squares at the top of the first column. This is an interesting way to deal with the challenge of having 14-letter theme entries: the other option, which constrains the center of the grid much more, is to place them in the 4th and 12th rows rather than the 3rd and 13th rows.
An unusual and challenging Thursday offering. Until next week!
P.S. I have tomorrow’s (Friday’s) NYT puzzle, so be gentle, dear readers!
Peter Gordon’s Fireball Crossword, “Themeless 108” – Jenni’s writeup
Today’s puzzle is not particularly fiery. It does have some lively fill; I enjoyed it. I like this grid design. There’s one 13-letter entry crossing two 9-letter entries. Not too wide-open and not too closed-off. It was just right, Goldilocks. I also appreciated that most of the difficulty came from clever cluing rather than obscure answers.
The misdirection at 1a got me, even with the question mark. [Sites for log entries?] are not referring to sea captains or Starfleet captains. The answer is SAWMILLS.
I noticed that ALTER EGO showed up as [Trusted friend]. Didn’t we just have this recently? That’s not the meaning I think of – ALTER EGO is Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, not Calvin and Hobbes.
Speaking of clever cluing:
- 17a is the self-referential [Fireball]. Answer: LIVE WIRE.
- 20a [One who isn’t a party person] is INDEPENDENT. Where I went to college, that also meant you didn’t purchase a meal plan or join an eating club. Independents did go to fewer parties – or maybe just smaller parties.
- 34a [Writer with a poem that inspired an NFL team’s name] is trivia. I guess if I know it, I don’t consider it obscure. EDGAR ALLAN POE wrote the source material for the Baltimore Ravens. More football with 19a [Super Bowl MVP between Peyton and Santonio], and that’s ELI. Manning, of course.
- Double Bob Hoskins! 8d [Bob Hoskins role of 1991] and 55a [1986 Bob Hoskins film] are SMEE and MONA LISA, respectively.
- 44d is [“A tip that can take five strokes off anyone’s game,” according to Arnold Palmer]. The answer is ERASER, and I did not do the research to see if Arnie actually said that. I’ll take Peter’s word for it.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that an ARM WRESTLER may sometimes be called a “puller.”
David Alfred Bywaters’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Arriving” — Jim’s review
Fun re-parsing theme today. Instructions are at 62a: [Boundaries, and a hint to the puzzle’s starred answers], that is, DIVIDERS, or re-parsed as the imperative DIVIDE R’S.
Theme entries are standard words which feature a double-R. The word is split between the Rs and given a wacky clue.
- 17a [*Chair or stool, say?] REAR REST. Re-arrest. Cute answer, but really, how hard does your rear work that it needs a rest?
- 26a [*Bellicose speech?] WAR RANT. Warrant. “Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here! This is the war room!”
- 28a [*Undercarriage rust?] CAR ROT. Carrot. I’ve seen many instances of CAR ROT over the years.
- 39a [*Cause of some drunken brawls?] BAR RAGE. Barrage. Better than road rage, I suppose.
- 48a [*Coat closet array?] FUR ROW. Furrow. I’m guessing this is not the closet of a PETA member.
- 50a [*Bill from a kennel?] CUR RENT. Current. If the kennel considers your dog a cur, perhaps it’s time for some obedience training.
Cute, eh? I love a good re-parsing theme, and all of these seemed natural and humorous—a good selection of entries implemented well.
Our long fill consists of LEAKPROOF and HAIRPIECE. Or is that a LEAKPROOF HAIRPIECE? It’s joined by an ADVERSE ISRAELI.
Unfortunately, for the second day in a row, I’m going to have to award the Phelps DEATH STARE (see yesterday’s review) to an entry. Today’s recipient is GOOK (55a, [Viscous stuff]). I wanted GOOP, but that gave me SPIRT at 53d. I have only ever heard the word GOOK as an ethnic slur, so I was quite surprised to see it. When I google the word, the first page and half of hits are all with respect to this disparaging definition.
And I counted three verb/preposition entries in the grid (PRAY TO, LIVE TO, SWAT AT) plus an AS DEEP which all bring down the fun quotient a bit.
Mostly, the clues felt straightforward, more so than usual for a Thursday, perhaps because of the wacky theme clues. A couple clues rubbed me the wrong way though:
- 4a [Domestic disturbance]. TIFF. To me, this felt like it was making light of domestic abuse.
- 6d [Punch ingredients?]. FISTS. Cute clue, but I don’t think you can have more than one fist in a punch. Technically, I think it’s one first per punch.
Really though, those are mostly nits. I quite enjoyed the puzzle and its wordplay.
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword, “Backup Singers”—Ade’s write-up
Good day, crossword lovers! Ben is off doing some neato things in Boston for the National Puzzlers League convention, so I hope you don’t mind me (Ade) filling in this week in talking about BEQ’s puzzle. It’s always a great feeling when you take a stab at what you might think the theme/gimmick of the grid will be before putting in a letter and then finding out that you’re exactly on-point. That’s what happened with this puzzle today, as all of the theme entries contained a string of letters which, when read backwards, constitutes the name of a famous singer. The circles in each theme entry highlighted those letters/musicians.
- PICKING NITS (18A: [Criticizing trivial faults]) – Sting.
- MANELESS ZEBRA (24A: [Black-and-white equine lacking some hair]) – Selena. Jennifer Lopez’s portrayal of Selena in the eponymous movie might still be my favorite role that J-Lo has played in a movie.
- KHLOÉ KARDASHIAN (39A: [Socialite dating Tristan Thompson]) – Drake. Who in the heck is Tristan Thompson, you ask? He’s a professional basketball player, currently a teammate of LeBron James with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
- POPPYSEED ROLL (48A: [Kaiser’s alternative]) – Lorde. From the “Sports also inspires great music” category: Did you know that Lorde’s biggest musical hit to date, “Royals,” was titled as such in part because the singer once saw a photo in National Geographic of Kansas City Royals Hall of Fame infielder George Brett and was fascinated by the “Royals” cursive font across the uniform?! It’s a true story! Look it up!
- CHISELED ABS (58A: [Some six packs]) – Adele.
Not only did the theme have a musical connection, a couple non-theme entries also had a musical flavor, with CARLY (36D: [Singer _____ Rae Jepsen]) and ELLA both intersecting with the 15-word theme entry across the middle of the grid (27D: [First lady of scat]). There’s also ERMA as well (43A: [Singing sister of Aretha Franklin]). I once covered a kids’ day event before the start of the US Open tennis tournament, and the featured musical act was Carly Rae Jepsen and Owl City, and when Jepsen sang her hit single, “Call Me Maybe,” I swear that I couldn’t get that song out of my head for about three months afterward. Yes, that was a nightmare! I’m much more disciplined now, so I can talk about this without having a earworm relapse.
As per usual with BEQ grids, the longer entries that did not pertain to the theme were high quality, especially the cluing and entry of SLEEP WITH (35D: [Make a personal connection?]). The only real hangup I had when solving was putting in “slew” for SCAD, as the theme that entry crossed, Poppyseed Roll, took a longer for me to get than it should have (41D: [Large amount]). As a kid, I definitely played a lot of Nintendo, but I did not play The Legend of ZELDA at all (26D: [Nintendo princess]). Was too busy with the sports games, Super Mario Bros. and Contra. Here’s hoping you all know by now that YOLO stands for “You only live once,” an acronym and expression that caught fire about a couple of years back (57A: [Daredevil’s initialism]). “YO-LO!!!” was something I heard way too many times, especially since I work with teenagers on a regular basis. But it’s cute as well, so let the young lads have it!
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: ANTS (12D: [Line at a picnic, maybe]) – What was one of the biggest storylines that emerged at Wimbledon yesterday? Flying ANTS! Yes, flying ants. I won’t be mixed up for an entomologist any time soon, and I hope one who is better at talking about this can clear up any confusion or mislabeling, but a number of these flying ants, as described by the BBC, made its way onto the many courts during the third day of Wimbledon, disrupting many matches. According to the report, this phenomenon occurs when the queen leaves her nest and starts a new colony. Hmm! Here’s a short video of the disruption at the All England Club.
Thank you so much once again for the time, and I hope to see you all again on here sometime soon!
Pawel Fludzinski’s Los Anageles Times crossword—Gareth’s summary
I had a rather ambivalent up-and-down solving experience. I liked the intrigue created by the vague theme clues. When I realised it was “just” states overlapping by two letters I was a touch disappointed. The extra wrinkle that they are bordering in reality too is nice, but using up one of your four theme slots to explain that is less than elegant…
Stop reinforcing the pseudoscientific marketing of ACAIBERRY‘s as a “superfood” based on antioxidant properties that are biologically inconsequential. I feel like I’ve said this before…
Anyone forget ANTA and RYA were still used in crosswords? Given they’re in areas already replete with wonky stuff, that’s kind of pushing things!