Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Throwing Shade” – Erin’s writeup
We have a nice multifaceted theme this week. The central third of the grid contains the pair of 15s [Throws] for DISCOMBOBULATES and [Shade] for WINDOW TREATMENT. Furthermore, five black (or shaded) squares in the grid must contain synonyms for throw in order for the surrounding entries to make sense. In the upper right corner, 15a. [Rodent in a famous tongue twister] is not WOOD but WOODCHUCK, and 22d. [Betrays amusement] is not LES but CHUCKLES. The other terms are PITCH at the end of 33a., TOSS finishing 66a., CAST completing 98a., and SLING at the beginning of 121a.
Here is an article that explains the history of “throwing shade.” A Youtube search brings up some video clips from the documentary Paris Is Burning in which drag queen Dorian Corey defines “read” and “shade.”
Grids like these take me longer to solve, especially when all the entries completed by the black squares are valid crossword entries on their own. Figuring out the theme from SLOW and FORK was a great aha moment, and I enjoyed making the rest of the grid fall into place from there.
- 55a. [“Aww”-inspiring sort] CUTIE. Awwwww.
- 54d. [Mameluke sword wielder] MARINE. This sword is worn by officers to commemorate the sabre awarded to First Lieutenant Presley O’Bannon by the Ottoman Empire during the First Barbary War.
- 89a. [Early rival of Tide] RINSO. This laundry detergent became Surf in many markets, but is still sold as Rinso in some countries.
- 24a. [Rapper who sang “If I’m Gonna Eat Somebody (It Might as Well Be You)” in “FernGully: The Last Rainforest”] TONE LOC. You may remember Tone Lōc from his hits “Wild Thing” and “Funky Cold Medina.” Can’t believe this movie is 25 years old; I’m still a big fan of the soundtrack.
Until next week.
Caleb Madison’s New York Times crossword, “Back on the Charts”—Amy’s write-up
Well, I finished the whole dang puzzle and checked with pannonica, and nope, neither of us had a clue what the theme was. Had to peek at Deb’s Wordplay column! I’m thinking if a pair of savvy crossword bloggers couldn’t see the theme, this puzzle might have benefited from a clearer, give-it-away title, or a notepad entry. (I seldom look at the notepad when there is one, and here I actually checked for one and there was none!) I predict lots of frustrated solvers.
The “theme” answers are words, names, and phrases whose ends are also the names of recording artists. The number in parentheses at the end of those clues tells you how many letters from the end make up the name. 30a LITTLE PRINCE has Prince. 47a HONOLULU, Lulu. 66a PRO BONO, Bono. 86a WHAT’D I DO, Dido. 100a FIRST CRUSADE, Sade. 3d MOUNT KENYA, Enya. 5d HEAT-SEAL, Seal. 10d IN THE PINK, Pink (or P!nk, if you will). 12d MANDRAKE, Drake. 13d CROWN JEWEL, Jewel. 26d PEN-PUSHER, Usher. 51d BRUBECK, Beck. 63d P.E. TEACHER, Cher. 70d PEAR BRANDY, Brandy. 73d PRIMA DONNA, Madonna. 77d ACCORDION, Dion. 82d FANTASIA, Sia. 87d HEISTING, Sting.
I prefer the ones where the artist’s name isn’t a full word within its theme answer (so not Prince, Bono, Seal, Pink, Jewel, Brandy). Feels more elegant to hide the names better, doesn’t it?
So … the folks who struggled with the pop culture in Paolo’s Friday puzzle might be mystified by this theme. The singers cover a range of decades, but if you haven’t paid attention to pop music in the last few years, you may not know Sia at all. The “Chandelier” video has 1.6 billion views, mind you, so certainly she’s famous enough for her crossword immortality. Remember the name! You will probably be seeing it for decades of crossword puzzles. Enjoy the video.
There’s another non-theme bit of pop culture to show you. 61a. [Dance craze of the 2010s], the DOUGIE? That’s the one where Michelle Obama out-mom-danced Jimmy Fallon. I mean, she out-danced him in that entire video, but that was the one Jimmy wasn’t equipped to do.
I’ll ding the fill in this puzzle for some unfortunate crossings. There’s I ME crossing LET ME, I’M IN crossing AS AM I (with none of these being exciting fill to begin with, but then they cross the same word…).
Gotta run, time to take the extended Filipino family to our favorite Filipino restaurant. Three stars from me. I’d have dug the theme a lot more if it hadn’t been so elusive. (Often, a single digit in parentheses at the end of a clue means that’s which letter to pull out for an extra level. Here, the “(4)” wasn’t about the 4th letter, it was about the last 4 letters—and that is not an angle I’d seen before. Would expect such a thing from one of the indie puzzle venues, like Fireball, AV Club, MGWCC, Erik Agard, and so on.)
Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s CRooked crossword, “At the Cannibal Cafe” — pannonica’s write-up
Food puns grafted onto celebrity names.
- 23a. [Cheesy bite at the Cannibal Cafe?] COLBY BRYANT (Kobe …).
- 25a. [Bread to put 23 Across on?] RYE COODER (Ry … (short for Ryland)).
- 42a. [Crunchy Cafe hors d’oeuvre?] CELERY FIELD (Sally …). Quite the phonetic stretch, change in vowel sound and number of syllables (the latter may not be true for all dialects). Can I label that anaptyxis?
- 50a. [Gumbo veggie at the Cafe?] OKRA WINFREY (Oprah …).
- 69a. [Bakery treat at the Cafe?] PASTRY CLINE (Patsy …). Another significant departure in pronunciation. This one is more of a visual pun, as the spellings are so close.
- 77a. [Cafe offering in a can?] SPAM SHRIVER (Pam …).
- 97a. [Pocket item at the Cafe?] PITA LORRE (Peter …).
- 35d. [Skewered Cafe dish?] KABOB MARLEY (Bob …). Another, uh, stretch.
- 38d. [Cafe cream puff?] ECLAIR DANES (Clare …). Okay, it’s a subtheme.
- And the payoff: 99a [“Enjoy your Cafe dinner!”] BONE APPÉTIT (bon …).
So. Consistency of the wordplay involving first names only. Primarily musicians and actors, but the clues have no provision for hinting at the punned individuals, which makes the whole affair feel gossamer. Further, the foods are often clued vaguely. I won’t say that theme left a bad taste in my mouth nor that it doesn’t sit well in my stomach, but it didn’t feel nourishing. In fact, it barely whet my appetite.
In the center: 60a [Bills of fare] MENUS.
Not part of the theme: ASTI, GELATO, BABAS, PEREZ Hilton, CHE Guevara, FLAN, MABEL, SELA Ward, TAYE Diggs, WHOOPI Goldberg, SHANE. I’ve not included surnames (not sure about the mononymous Shane) or names/foods that aren’t clued as such (e.g., 95d RICE University and 96d STEW). 1a, 2a, 32a, 36a, 44a, 48a, 59a, 73a, 12d, 15d, 39d
- 5d [Hawthorne septet] GABLES, 21a [Gutter location] EAVE.
- 7d [Ballads] LAYS. Not a sense that I’d known previously.
- 51d [“Escales” composer] IBERT.
- Favorite clue (because it’s just a little weird): 67d [Pluck-worthy] RIPE.
(Hard to say this is atypical, as Ry Cooder is an exceptionally eclectic musician, but it was a bit of a departure from his output at the time (1993). The mellowness seems appropriate for this Sunday morning, plus the title is super crosswordy.)
Mark McClain’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “It’s Just Not the Same”—Amy’s write-up
The theme is phrases that start with words that connote “not the same,” but it’s pretty uneven in terms of how established the theme phrases are:
- 23a. [Phrase of individuality], DIFFERENT STROKES. Perfect.
- 38a. [American flag component, e.g.], CONTRASTING COLORS. Okay, not sure that it’s a crosswordable phrase.
- 58a. [Plot device in TV’s “Fringe”], ALTERNATE UNIVERSE. Perfect.
- 87a. [Brainstorming process], DIVERGENT THINKING. Haven’t run into this one—I really don’t think it’s in the same category of in-the-languageness as 23a and 58a.
- 103a. [Fallback plans], OTHER ARRANGEMENTS. That’s rather weak, if you ask me.
- 123a. [They often follow “also” in dictionaries], VARIANT SPELLINGS. Perfect for word nerds, perhaps less broadly familiar than 23a and 58a.
The theme’s got no humor or surprise to it, so it felt rather dry. The rest of the grid should have room for plenty of sparkle, but the entire enterprise felt dry to me. The clues were also mostly just there. Three little question-mark clues:
- 9d. [Funny couple?], ENS. Plural spelled-out letter answers are so blah, the question mark promises more than it can deliver.
- 55d. [Know-it-all?], PSYCHIC.
- 89d. [Like a jaybird?], NAKED.
Three stars from me. Nothing jumped out at me to discuss here, so I’ll sign off now.