Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle (Week 319), “What a Royal Mess!”—Janie’s take
Aha. That “mess” in the title tells the tale. It’s code for “anagrams” and today’s are “royal” because we’re
messing up rearranging the letters specified in the reveal at 60A. [Play title whose second word is anagrammed at the ends of the asterisked answers], or KING LEAR, second word LEAR. And here’s the neat way that royal name gets messed with:
*16A. THE PEARL [1947 Steinbeck novella]. Oh, the interwebs [sic]. Here ’tis, if you’ve never read it.
*24A. COLD CEREAL [Count Chocula, for one]. And look—another noble title, if not full out royalty.
*37A. INTIMATE APPAREL [Victoria’s Secret product line]. Here’s a little backgrounder on how the store’s name does relate to full out royalty, HRH Queen V. And here’s one about her own intimate apparel. Intimate Apparel, btw, is also the name of a superb play by recent Pulitzer Prize-winner Lynn Nottage (for Sweat [a lesser work, imo, but she’s eminently Pulitzer-worthy!]).
*39A. COIN DEALER [Silver Eagle seller]. And here’s what the seller sells.
In addition to the fact that the anagrammed letters always appear in different sequences, look at the diverse range of ideas the themers they’re part of draw from: literature, kitschy breakfast food, sexy skivvies (not to mention the RETAIL store that aimed to make men comfortable buying it for the women in their lives) and numismatics. All by way of Shakespeare’s mad and marvelous LEAR.
The remainder of the fill is solid, and among the mid-range entries especially, sparkly at times. We also get a host of lively clues that give the brain a decent workout. The fill first, where “PROMISE ME…” and YIELDED TO are the longest verticals. I’m particularly partial to the former. I was surprised by the IRISH TEA [Dublin brew] pair—because I was sure the answer had to be IRISH ALE. But no. And then I was thinking that the correct answer should be IRISH BREAKFAST TEA, and that IRISH TEA was a made-up phrase. Wrong again. Not only is it a very real thing, Google Ngram also showed me the error of my ways. I stand corrected! ;-) Among the mid-range fill, ENAMOR, BEIRUT, OPIATE, the music-related […”Space ODDITY“], PRESTO and Tito PUENTE all shine.
As do these clues:
- [De-tension centers?] for SPAS. Pun alert: detention centers… Ditto
- [Pop in the fridge?] for COLA, where pop is a noun and not a verb; and the same principle is at work with
- [Seeing things, slangily] for SPECS. So this is about eyeglasses and not about having hallucinations…
- In [Two-time bridge] for AT A, we’re looking at the figurative bridge in the phrase “two AT A time” and not a literal bridge that only gets used twice.
- With [Sect leader?] for INTER-, the “leader” here is code for “prefix” and not an imam or a rabbi or a priest…
- Otoh… I feel like the [Mobile resident?] clue for ALABAMAN is pushing its luck. Who lives in a cell phone or on a suspended piece of art? I’m probably being too literal. And, as always, ymmv. (But if you’re in the NYC area, you may want to pay a visit to the Whitney for the Calder exhibit.)
If today’s puzz doesn’t have the same obvious wow-factor as last week’s, this one still has much to recommend it, as the quality of the fill and vitality of the cluing extend far beyond what I’ve discussed here. Liz has a real knack for covering a wide range of interesting interests in her grids, which is one of the reasons the work is so good. The lively cluing style don’t hurt none either!
Have a great week, all. Sure do love these long summer days and hope you’re enjoying them where you are. Keep solving and thx for stopping by!
Zhouqin Burnikel’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Seeing Zhouqin’s byline greatly alleviates the typical sense of foreboding with a Tuesday puzzle. Is the puzzle gonna Tuez? Not much! We get a 74-worder with a well-executed theme (but the fill does Tuez a bit, with some answers that are too hard for newbies).
The central [Victoria and David Beckham, e.g. … or what 17-, 26-, 47- and 57-Across each have, in a way] clues POWER COUPLE, and those four entries all have an AC and a DC (as in AC/DC power) within them.
- 17a. [Hunky-dory], PEACHES AND CREAM? I love the tasty phrase, but the clue threw me. I’ve only heard the phrase applied to a dewy complexion. (Do not ever tell someone “Wow, your complexion is hunky-dory.”) Google is showing me some idyllic noun usage, but hunky-dory is clearly an adjective, no?
- 26a. [Untouchable one], SACRED COW. Slightly jarring to see a phrase that’s related to Hinduism include the word untouchable, given its other application to the Dalits in India.
- 47a. [Stayed calm], ACTED COOL.
- 57a. [Pre-employment screening], BACKGROUND CHECK.
Fave fill: JDATE, ESSIE bringing the [Big name in nail polish] familiarity, PAPAYA with an interesting Thai clue ([Fruit in som tam salad]), PEAT BOG (Zhouqin, have you visited any of Minnesota’s PEAT BOGs? I had an awesome college field trip to one and we walked right on the bog, wet feet and all, rather than on a boardwalk), EL CHAPO, and quaintly colloquial “TIME WAS …”.
In the category of “Ooh, that’s kinda tough for a Tuesday,” we have these: ART I, AGA, OPTO-, OF OLD clued as if it’s a phrase we use all the time, OPE, and CARPI.
Three more things:
- 43a. [The Rolling Stones or Smashing Pumpkins], BAND. I like the “Blanking Things” band name concept.
- 52a. [Something that’s definite?], THE. I’m sure of it.
- 6d. [“Twister” or “San Andreas” film genre], DISASTER. When my kid was about 7 and home sick for a couple days, we binged on ’70s disaster movies. It was awesome. Plenty of Charlton Heston. Are there any good disaster flicks coming out this summer?
3.8 stars from me.
Paul Coulter’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Have a Wee Look” — Jim’s review
There’s a little bit more to this puzzle than you might see at first glance.
- 20a [Petty thief, say] SMALL TIME CROOK.
- 35a [Stereotypical bachelor’s record] LITTLE BLACK BOOK.
- 46a [Diner employee] SHORT ORDER COOK
My first glance told me we had three phrases that start with synonyms for “wee.” To me, the theme seemed rather light. But then I realized all the phrases rhymed, and I was suitably impressed that Paul made this find. All the phrases are legit and solid with no compromising plurals or anything weird. Very nice!
But then I found a New York Sun puzzle from 2002 in the cruciverb database with the exact same three themers. While I totally believe that constructors all work in the same realm and two constructors will inevitably come up with a similar theme and maybe even the same exact themers, it’s still worthwhile to check the databases at hand to see if a puzzle has been done before.
Of course, you could argue that this is a different publication, and if a constructor comes up with the theme completely independently, why shouldn’t the puzzle be made and run?
All that aside, how’s the rest of the grid? Nice and clean, I’d say, with long Downs GOALPOSTS and OBSTACLES. Not much else stands out, but there’s not much that triggers the scowl-o-meter.
I didn’t remember OLLA (34a, [Spicy Spanish stew]) nor did I know KINER (37d, [Ralph in Cooperstown]) but those seem like entries worth sticking in the memory banks.
Clues of note:
- 32a [The March King]. SOUSA. I didn’t know John Philip SOUSA had been given this moniker. According to Wikipedia, he is also known as “The American March King” since a Brit had previously been given “The March King” title. *Gasp!* I didn’t know he wrote this (which is entitled “The Liberty Bell”):
- 42d [King’s domain]. HORROR. This clue threw me until I got the last crossing (the H). Of course, it’s referring to Stephen King.
Construction-wise, this is a good grid. And I enjoyed the theme when I sorted it out and before I knew it had been done before. But even knowing that, I’m willing to give it the benefit of the doubt and give it a thumbs-up.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “Arrangement in Black and White” – Derek’s write-up
I thought the puzzle file had an error, and you can see in my image shot I had to reveal one square. I have NEVER put a Spanish alphabet Ñ in a puzzle! Someone will have to explain to me how Across Lite .puz files can handle pretty much anything except Italics!
A themeless by Matt today, and the title a neat play on James McNeill Whistler’s painting Arrangement in Grey and Black No. 1, otherwise known as Whistler’s Mother! A solid themeless, albeit with a few obscurities, but easily solvable, except for that foreign language crossing! Kudos for teaching me about a type of mole sauce! 4.3 stars.
Just a few notes:
- 15A [Mole __ (sauce named for a Mexican state)] OAXAQUEÑO – No doubt named after the state of Oaxaca in Mexico. Did you know Mexico has 31 states?
- 19A [One of Sri Lanka’s official languages (besides Tamil and English)] SINHALESE – I try to not be too ignorant about other peoples native languages. This one is rarely talked about, but has millions of speakers. It is a pretty script, albeit totally foreign to us Westerners!
- 27A [U.S.-based Maoist group of the 1970s-80s (or an abbreviation for the thing you’re solving)] CWP – This stands for Communist Worker’s Party. Or CrossWord Puzzle, if you’re so inclined!
- 55A [University of South Carolina team [giggle]] GAMECOCKS – My father lives in South Carolina, and I bought my son a t-shirt from I think Cracker Barrel or something that said South Carolina Gamecocks on the front. My wife only let’s Chase sleep in it!
- 26D [Latin suffix after “bio” or “techno”] LOGIA – Raise your hand if you had LOGIC in the grid!
- 29D [Neologism paired with “embiggen” on a “Simpsons” episode] CROMULENT – Where does Matt find this stuff??
- 32D [Jordan Spieth’s org.] PGA – He seems like he isn’t as dominant as he was only a couple of years ago, but he is still only 23!
- 50D [“Rendezvous With __” (Arthur C. Clarke novel)] RAMA – I would never have known this, and I am sure I have seen it in a puzzle before. I need to read more …
See you next week for another Jonesin’!
Patti Varol’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
Ah, a theme close to my heart this Tuesday; words that prompt my favorite environment – silence!
- 20A [“Hush”] PLEASE BE QUIET
- 32A [“Hush”] DON’T SAY A WORD
- 41A [“Hush”] PUT A SOCK IN IT!
- 57A [“Hush”] BUTTON YOUR LIP!
I’m not sure I wouldn’t have simply used the clue [“Shut up!!”] for each of these. Yes, if you have children, you understand what I am talking about – the need for absolutely no noise. I am known to put my headphones on without even playing any music! I need to invest in a nice pair of noise-cancelling headphones, and again, I would just cancel the noise and not even play any tunes! I WAS able to solve this one in relative peace, and it was enjoyable although fairly easy. 4.2 stars for this puzzle that made me smile!
A few more notes:
- 1A [Like a rough winter] HARSH – Last winter, after December, wasn’t that bad, but it all pales in comparison to working out in it! Winter doesn’t bother me near as much anymore!
- 64A [Painter Chagall] MARC – Crossword famous as a painter! I don’t think I know anything about him other than his name, and there aren’t that many famous Marcs with a C instead of a K. But I am quite uncultured … !
- 68A [Olympian’s goal] GOLD – I thought MEDAL until I saw it was four letters! I need to set my aspirations higher!
- 6D [Photoshop software developer] ADOBE – I use this program daily. My son pays them some money for the full version of one of their graphic design programs. I have no idea how to do most of that stuff! I am uncultured AND unskilled!
- 22D [Where Grant Wood’s “American Gothic” house is] IOWA – I don’t know why I know this; perhaps because it isn’t too very far from where I live.
- 38D [Tough to budge] STUBBORN – Boy, this word makes me think of a few people, … but I will keep my thoughts to myself!
Off to find some of that peace and quiet I spoke about earlier! See you on Saturday.
PEATs in both NYT and WSJ – a two-PEAT! Three more puzzles yet to do – I see that it’s time to fetch the LAT from under the car – so potentially more PEATs :-)
GOALPOSTS and OBSTACLES were terrific long downs. Great Tuesday fare.
Nice NYT. The only trouble spot for me was the SE, where I had ESTEE and had to work out ESSIE from the crosses. I know nothing about lipstick, amazingly. No idea what tom sam salad is but PAPAYA was easy enough to figure out.
TIESCORE seems awkward to me. Wouldn’t you just say ‘tie’? And I think I would say ‘tied score.’ I notice in the sports pages they often refer to a ‘tie game,’ where I would say a ‘tied game.’
PS Speaking of lipsticks, here’s a funny clip of Tom Hanks on the BBC explaining where his Forrest Gump voice came from.
I see that ‘tied score’ is making a push for supremacy. Excellent!
Expanding the corpus through 2008 (most recent with reliable data) shows that more definitively.
I guess you never read the Archie comic where they sneak the phony name into the yearbook, “Ty Score.”
I was impressed with how C.C. had the DC consistently formed with the D the last letter and C the first letter of the last word. That attention to detail is great.
From the WSJ RALPH KINER was not only a HOF player but he was the voice of the METS from their beginning for 53 years until he died in 2014.
Be careful if you have not tried it. Papaya salad (som tam) is a signature dish but it is meant to be extra spicy. My wife who is Thai and a chef in a Thai restaurant makes fun of me for needing the spices toned down.
Question – how does one search all available databases (not just NYT) to check past puzzles over the years for theme duplication? It seems difficult to do this searching blog(s) by answer reliably.
Asking for a friend… aw, who am I kidding. I’m really curious. ;).
Personally, I check my theme entries on crosswordtracker.com Then I do a search here for theme descriptions, i.e. “AC and DC” – with various permutations – “an AC and a DC” etc., which would have brought up C.C.’s NYT today. Until Jim mentioned it, I didn’t know that cruciverb had a database. It’s hard to break my cheapskate habits, but I’ll have to pay the gold membership and also search there from now on.
Props to Sarah Keller for coming up with today’s WSJ theme first. I was not aware of this until yesterday evening when Peter Gordon told me he ran it fifteen years ago in the Sun. By then, it was too late to pull it from today’s WSJ, but frantically, I still asked if there was any way to do it. Not a chance, of course. I keep learning as I go along.
By the way, once I had the idea for this theme from the base phrase LITTLEBLACKBOOK, it turns out there are only two other workable theme entries. I imagine Sarah had the same experience. I searched hard for a fourth, which is where the title came from. It was no good as a matching entry at 12 letters, and its synonym for little came in the middle anyway. I also think the title Sarah and Peter came up with is fantastic. PETTY RHYMES is much better than mine.
Paul, that’s pretty much what I figured had happened.
Howard, the only real databases I know of are xwordinfo.com (for NYT only) and cruciverb.com (for a lot of other publications including many defunct ones). Other websites like crosswordtracker.com and crosswordnexus.com do exist, but they seem to be geared more toward the solver, not the constructor. Still, they may be worth checking.
Unfortunately, cruciverb isn’t always updated with the latest grids, and for whatever reason, WSJ puzzles haven’t been included since about 2011. For those, it seems like the best bet is googling this site (Crossword Fiend) with your proposed theme answers. Not very efficient, but I think it’s all that we have at this point until some hardy soul starts a xwordinfo for the WSJ.
Thanks for the information! I wanted to make sure that when I think up a theme idea at some point, that I have done due diligence.
Any insight as to the absence of the AcrossLite LAT the last couple of days?
A random question: Do most grids tend to be blogged on (reproduced) based on Fair Use? Got a blog space I started just to record my thoughts on playing with crosswords. While I don’t aim to blog specific grids regularly, just wondering in case I do want to talk about something specific…
Crossword Nation: Thank you, Janie, for mentioning Lynn Nottage in your write-up.
I also thought of her play when I saw the answer INTIMATE APPAREL but didn’t think many others had seen it. I’ve also seen Sweat (I actually liked it just as well) and Ruined (some very dark subject matter).
oh, you are more than welcome. i’m an unrepentant theatre geek have seen several of ms. nottage’s works since 1995 (crumbs from the table of joy) — and have been a fan since then.
and thank *you* for chiming in!
Honestly your take on Marc Chagall is unworthy of Amy’s blog.
idk man, i can’t name or picture any chagall paintings(?), and i love art
He’s famous and important, with at least a few titles people should know, and many that should be visually more than familiar.
NYT: OK, Amy, so you weren’t familiar with the phrase PEACHES AND CREAM meaning hunky-dory. The definition was somewhat familiar to me, though this citation says it’s chiefly US and informal:
The point I want to make, though I might be taking your comment about complexion too seriously or literally, is that the clue might indicate one answer, to be determined, but the answer doesn’t have to indicate the clue. Also, you can see that both PEACHES AND CREAM and “hunky-dory” work with the given example for definition 2.