Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Themeless #5” – Erin’s writeup
Solving this 128 word themeless was a pleasure. Love the central stack with CIRCUS MAXIMUS, CODE OF SILENCE, and CENTER FIELDER. PLAYOFF BEARD is particularly fantastic. I assumed this originated in baseball, but research gave me some hot knowledge of the NHL instead. Recently GQ published an article, “Bro Flows and Playoff Beards,” in which every player mentioned Jaromir Jagr’s classic mullet. Apparently many articles have chronicled the evolution of Jagr’s hair over the years, including this one which provides the picture seen below.
So many lovely entries! HAPLESS, SWAN DIVE, MALAPROP, MCRIB [Fast-food offering seen in many promotional farewell tours since 2005], LANA DEL REY in her entirety, ESCAPE ROOM with the great clue [Breakout session?]. No major clunkers for me, either. I knew KID A [2000 Radiohead album that features “The National Anthem”], but I’m guessing a lot of solvers did not. In general, though, the fill is smooth as SILK.
Time to go look up more photos of Jaromir Jagr’s hair!
Patrick Berry’s New York Times crossword, “Anchors Away!”—Amy’s write-up
I exclaimed “What?!” when I finished this puzzle, because I’m not sure I’ve ever cracked 6 minutes on a Sunday NYT before. I tuned into Patrick’s pun wavelength and everything was so smooth. (Or else there was some technical glitch in the puzzle’s timer and it actually took me 8:30 or something.)
The title changes anchors aweigh, which hints at the theme: Each theme entry is a boat-related pun made by changing some vowel sounds in familiar phrases. (There’s a hint of consonant shifts, but it’s mainly the vowels.) The puns provided a modicum of amusement, which is all you can ask of a set of puns. (And your mileage may vary—I read these all to my husband and he made faces.)
- 24a. [Sailing vessels that Cap’n Crunch might commandeer?], GALLEONS OF MILK. Gallons, with the addition of a vowel syllable and not just a vowel change. Mmm, I do like Cap’n Crunch. Shame about all its sugar, and the risk of palatal abrasions.
- 31a. [Heavily armored vessels getting married?], WARSHIPS AT THE ALTAR. Worships.
- 54a. [Kids’ game in which small vessels attack each other?], ROCK ‘EM SOCK ‘EM ROWBOATS. Robots.
- 66a. [Fishing vessel that can pull only half a net behind it?], SEMI-TRAWLER. Semi-trailer.
- 76a. [Recreational vessel that’s never left the harbor?], AIN’T SEEN NOTHING YACHT. Yet.
- 100a. [Luxury vessel with a pair of decks, both of which need swabbing?], DIRTY DOUBLE CRUISER. Crosser, with the S sound becoming a Z sound along with the vowel shift.
- 111a. [Cargo vessel full of iPads?], APPLE FREIGHTER. Fritter.
Along with the crisp fill—HANGS IT UP, NUMERO UNO, TAPE DELAY, and SWIRLY popped out, and nothing made me scowl—I enjoyed a number of the clues. Let’s see if I can find them in this Sunday-sized puzzle:
- 120a. [Second story?], SEQUEL. Fresh.
- 49a. [Fruit mentioned in the “Odyssey”], LOTUS. So they weren’t eating flowers? Gotcha. I think somebody slipped some lotus fruit into my ice cream because I’m sleepy.
- 9a. [Walk on the edge?], CURB. I had to work to suss out this answer.
- 30a. [Testing times], ORDEALS. Doesn’t have to relate to final exams, but it can!
- 14d. [It may end on a high note], ARIA. A literal high note.
- 20d. [They hang around the rain forest], SLOTHS. “Oh, this is gonna be a terrible plural of that crosswordese vine, LIANAS, isn’t it?” Pleasant surprise! And who doesn’t like sloths?
- 25d. [Return from a trip to the Alps?], ECHO. Not hard, but fresh.
- 48d. [Under goer?], SUB. As in a submarine or, I suppose, a submissive.
- 64d. [Like soubise sauce], ONIONY. Not sure I’d ever heard of soubise, so I learned something here. (What I learned is: Don’t order something with soubise sauce.)
- 77d. [It may help remove a curse], TAPE DELAY. Curse word, not a hex. I was thinking the answer would relate to Hogwarts, but no.
Sam COOKE is in the puzzle, clued by way of “You Send Me.” I’ll leave you with the soothing tones of Sam Cooke, and a 4.2-star rating.
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s CRooked crossword, “Themeless Challenger” — pannonica’s write-up
I’m liking these occasional large-scale themelesses. Very chewy.
Big stacked slabs in the corners and flanks. Some unusual words, names, formulations to GNAW (38d) on, strategically slowing the solver down, prolonging the puzzle’s pleasures.
32a [“You’ll enjoy yourself!”] IT’S FUN.
Conversely, 94d [Hard puzzle maker, to some] SADIST.
Nevertheless, 32d (105d [“I swear it’s true!”] NO LIE).
Clive Probert’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “Something’s Fishy”—Amy’s write-up
Another marine-related puns theme this weekend, this time fish. I NEVER TOLD A SOLE, soul. PICK A COD, ANY COD, card (I liked this one best). PIANO TUNA, tuner. PLATFORM EEL, heel (67a. [Fish on stage?] really doesn’t work, because never do you call something on stage “platform X”). DON’T BE KOI, coy. EMOTIONAL SHARK, shock (less successful because it adds an R rather than using a homophone or dropping a letter sound). GOOD CARP, BAD CARP, cop (same issue as with SHARK/shock).
The Scowl-o-Meter was on high alert when the opening corner of the puzzle sandwiched ADEN and SERE in there. RIATAS, plural AHOYS and ALOHAS, E-DATE, OLAV, ORT, IN AT, TNPK … other fill left me cold too, but most of the fill was fine, if unexciting.
3.4 stars from me.
I liked the WaPo but I didn’t understand the ESCAPEROOM clue — because I didn’t know what an escape room was, but then google made it all clear.
Not a fan of the NYT today, because not a fan of puns unless they’re unusually clever, and these were not, IMO. Took me a while to figure out the base phrase for SEMITRAWLER and APPLEFREIGHTER — the vowel changes are so large that the one word doesn’t make the other pop into my head.
I always think of a COTE as a shelter for birds, doves and pigeons in particular, so WOOL didn’t make much sense to me. Once again, though, google comes to the rescue, informing me that other creatures, eg sheep, can live in COTES.
I’m assuming Evan is a fan of the Minnesota Wild hockey team.
‘Hawks. But I’ve never been a die-hard hockey fan.