Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle (Week 323), “Do Me a Solid, Will You?”—Janie’s take
Did you know this title phrase? It was new to me—but then again, I was never a major watcher of Seinfeld, where it makes an appearance in “The Jacket” at 6:48. But apparently, it first came into the vernacular a few decades earlier. The exact how and why I don’t know, but it’s a colorful little phrase that gets used instead of “Do me a favor.” Today, however, “solid” is used not in that sense, but as the common denominator of the four themers (each clued straight-forwardly), where the first word of each (including two grid-spanners) can be preceded by that word. The result? Four solid (and peppy!) themers and four solid “solid” phrases.
- 17A. STATE THE OBVIOUS [Say something like “You’re solving a crossword puzzle now”]. A straight-forward clue, and a funny one as well, “IMHO…” Solid state. As in electronics, or as opposed to liquid or gas.
- 27A. GOLD STANDARD [Model of excellence]. Takes its metaphorical meaning from the one related to currency. Solid gold. As in, well The Solid Gold Cadillac, for one.
- 47A. CHOCOLATE LAB [Popular brown dog]. How popular? Right up there at the top, along with its black and yellow cousins. Solid chocolate. Make mine 73%, please.
- 62A. “COLORS OF THE WIND” [Oscar-winning song from Disney’s “Pocahontas”]. And deservedly so. Solid colors. As opposed to, say, Madras or the pattern of a print fabric.
Not only a happy-making theme set but so much non-theme fill that’s equally happy-making—because of the fill itself and sometimes the cluing and sometimes the combo. This is “simply” a beautifully-filled and beautifully-clued grid (quotes, because if it were genuinely simple, everyone’d be doin’ it!). And here are some of the highlights:
- PIANO LEGS clued as [Grand trio]. Now The Supremes and Destiny’s Child are grand trios, ditto the Oberlin Trio and the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio, or the Act III trio from Der Rosenkavalier, or, or, or… So for the breadth of associations it evokes, this is one terrific clue/fill pair.
- APPLETINI with its visually appletizing [Vodka cocktail garnished with a Granny Smith slice] clue.
- GROUPIE [Starstruck fan]. A friendly one, one hopes. No ENEMIES needed.
- MANDELA, clued by way of his book Long Walk to Freedom.
- ADJUSTS, which comes to us by way of [Fine tunes].
- ELOPED, by way of the rhyming [Fled to wed].
- SABINA, which was [Lena Olin’s role in “The Unbearable Lightness of Being”]—and Tallulah Bankhead’s in The Skin of Our Teeth.
- CAJOLE, a kinda quaint word that’s delivered with [Wheedle], a kinda quaint clue.
- OLD SAW, delivered by example with [“You get what you pay for,” e.g.].
- OMEGAS [Certain sorority women], TASERS [Guns that stun], HEALTH (thank you very much) that critical [Part of HMO] and TRITON—clued not as Poseidon’s son or moon of Neptune, but as a [Spiral seashell]. Because I’m not particularly shell-literate or up on all my mythology allusions (it seems Triton used a triton [conch shell] as his sea trumpet…), I pretty much needed all the crossings on that one. Now I know. Now I hope I remember! ;-)
That is a lotta wide-ranging, lively stuff (most of which crosses two themers to boot) in the “mid-range and longer” category—and among the shorter entries, fill like FLUTE, “NATCH!,“ […Grandma MOSES] and AMORE (among others) does its share to make solving this puzzle such a satisfying experience.
Yeah. I liked this one. As always, am hoping that your solve was as enjoyable as mine. And hey, if not: there’ll be another XWord Nation puzz next week! In the meantime: keep solving and thx for stopping by!
Dan Flanagan’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
The theme is things that can be clued with sets of slashed numbers, where the numbers before and after each slash are the same:
- 17a. [4/4], COMMON TIME. Not a term I knew. Musical terminology is not my bag.
- 27a. [11/11], VETERANS DAY. November 11.
- 44a. [20/20], GREAT VISION. No, no, no. 20/20 is called perfect vision. GREAT VISION is not remotely as “in the language.”
- 60a. [50/50], EVEN STEVEN. Halfsies.
The theme is okay for a Tuesday except for that GREAT VISION issue.
NAME-DROP, QUICKSAND, and DECATHLON are wonderful fill, but there were shorter entries that left me cold. Your ENE ESE OPEL ARAL ERES AMIES bits are either tough for newbie solvers or blah fill (or both!).
Favorite clue: 10a. [The Kleenex of cotton swabs], Q-TIP. Really, Q-TIP is hardly legitimate fill since the brand name is Q-tips, plural—but just as Kleenex has been genericized in everyday usage, so has Q-tip. If you’re a Johnson Swabs household, tell me you don’t think one of those swabs is just a Q-tip.
3.25 stars from me.
Jamey Smith’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Five-Step Program”—Laura’s writeup
- [13a Mottled mount] APPALOOSA
- [23a Show billed as “The Ultimate Job Interview”] THE APPRENTICE
- [39a Celebrates with abandon] DOES A HAPPY DANCE
- [51a Hilarious] THIGH SLAPPING
- [68aR Software for your phone, and a clue to four other Across answers] MOBILE APP
What we have here: The string APP takes five steps (hence the title) diagonally through the grid in a perfectly formatted feat of mobility (hence the revealer). (I wonder: in Mobile, Alabama, do they have a local version of Yelp or whatever called “The Mobile App”? If they don’t, someone should develop one.) We’ve seen plenty of “stairstep” themes before, with a word/phrase/string ambling down the grid; this is a nice twist. Constructor Jamey Smith doesn’t appear to be in the Fiend’s tag library — so I gather that this is a debut. If that is so, congrats Jamey, and BEEN THERE [34d: “I know just how you feel!”].
What else is going on: longer fill, like CRICKETER [17a: Bowler or batsman, e.g.] and ROAD ATLAS [63a: Book containing lots of legends?] parallels two theme entries, which can be confusing giving that they’re the same length as the themers, but it was necessary for the layout to work. When something is IN THE BANK, it is [10d: Safe and sound, theoretically], unless there’s a run on the ol’ building and loan.
What I didn’t know before solving this puzzle: I’d seen tantric as an adjective, but I did not know that TANTRA is the term for a [46a: Hindu text regarding rituals]. The literal meaning of the term is loom or weave, and can refer to any systematic practice.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “Schooled” – Derek’s write-up
Well, this week’s Jonesin’ theme is nothing if not timely! Some schools in this area (North Central Indiana) have already started their school years. My youngest starts kindergarten next week on Thursday! What does the phrase “back to school” have with this puzzle? Let us see:
- 17A [Activist org. that can’t decide?] TORN ACLU
- 19A [Soccer team whose players are scarecrows?] STRAW MAN U.
- 32A [Fail to ever mention God in France?] NEVER SAY DIE
- 42A [Food list with amortized appetizers and beveraged buyouts?] BUSINESS MENU – My favorite clue of the bunch!
- 58A [Spaghetti sauce brand you can only get in one place?] LOCAL RAGU
- 62A [Megastore for all your ballet accessory needs?] KING TUTU
So we have several common phrases with their “back to school,” or rather with a “U” added to the end, or the “back.” Clever, timely as mentioned, and some of these are downright funny. Usually you want the funniest pun at the end, and I think that was accomplished with the KING TUTU entry. Another smooth product from Matt. 4.5 stars today.
A few more things:
- 13A [“Please continue”] “DO GO ON …” – No, dogoon is not a word!
- 45A [Classic 1981 Galaxian follow-up with tractor beams] GALAGA – I would have never guessed Galaga was a follow-up to anything, what with how old it is! It isn’t much older than Pong!
- 65A [Compound with a hydroxyl group] ENOL – C’mon, Matt! OK, there is only one of these in the grid, so I’ll let it slide! (And I can’t figure out anything better, either!)
- 10D [“Everything Now” group __ Fire] ARCADE – Matt always references at least one rock group I am not totally familiar with!
- 11D [“The Wizard of Oz” scarecrow portrayer] BOLGER – Surprisingly, I remembered Ray Bolger’s name rather quickly!
- 20D [Aziz of “Parks and Recreation”] ANSARI – This dude is funny. He has a couple of Netflix comedy specials, and also stars in Master of None on there as well. Talented kid!
- 41D [Taco Bell’s parent company __! Brands, Inc.] YUM – Does this company make anything healthy? Let’s see: KFC, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, A & W, … I guess not!
It’s a beautiful week here! Everyone have a great week. See you next week for another Jonesin’!
Susan Gelfand’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
My time on today’s puzzle is a little slow for me, but only by coincidence it is quite similar to a certain recent album … ! This was a fun puzzle, especially for the crossword crowd and the seeming, if not real, obsession with writing implements. Yes, many solvers DO work in pen, including myself for many years, so the writing implements mentioned in today’s theme entries are certainly familiar, I would assume:
- 20A [Spider-Man’s alter ego] PETER PARKER
- 58A [Striped African equine] PLAINS ZEBRA
- 11D [Midsize SUV] HONDA PILOT
- 29D [Hellenic religious symbol] GREEK CROSS
- 41A [Pseudonym … and what the end of each answer to a starred clue is] PEN NAME
The Cross and Parker pens are both higher end, while the Pilot and Zebra I can actually afford. As much as I like writing utensils, I am not buying this! 4 stars even today.
Just a couple of things:
- 19A [Number after dix] ONZE – There seems to be a few foreign language clues in this puzzle, when you couple this with 71A, 10D, and 26D (although this is borrowed from the French and would appear in any dictionary). I actually don’t mind this at all, as it slightly irks me that the US is one of the few countries in the world where the majority speak only one language.
- 46A [A __: based on deduction rather than experience] PRIORI – Grateful for the definition here!
- 6D [Mercedes line of autos] C-CLASS – Slightly tough, as there is also an E-Class and an S-Class, all of which I cannot afford!
- 53D [WWII hero Murphy] AUDIE – Another crossword famous individual, since there is no one else I can think of with this name!
That’s all for today. See you on Saturday.