Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle (Week 327), “The Inner Game of Tennis”—Janie’s take
Sometimes I’m flat-out amazed at the dense story-telling that can be accomplished within confines of a 15x crossword grid—and not necessarily by way of them density. Such is the case with today’s puzz. The U.S. Open has opened, and what better way to celebrate the event than with a timely shout-out to one of its shining stars. There are “only” two grid-spanning themers plus a central three-letter complement. But then… but then… let us not overlook the additional 12-letter fill that’s found in those strategically placed circles (or tennis balls, as I like to think of them today). What a coup of construction—and what an entertaining puzzle to boot!
- 16A. FLICK OF THE WRIST [Our puzzle honoree may use this to execute a 38-Across]. Also a great turn of phrase.
- 38A. LOB [Arced tennis shot suggested by the path of the grid circles].
- 64A. GRAND SLAM TITLES [In singles tennis, our honoree has 19 of these accolades (solve the puzzle to reveal this tennis star’s name in the 12 circles!)]. Making him the singles grand-slam leader among the men. And, of course, that honoree would be none other than Switzerland’s own:
- ROGER FEDERER. Not to mention the fact that he’s the father of two sets of identical twins—two girls, two BOYs. Doubles, anyone? Mixed doubles?
In addition to this cohesive, lively and artistically-rendered, um, set, we’re also treated to two impressive vertical 10s: EGO MASSAGE [Flattery that may calm down a diva] (in almost any kind of arena) and the once futuristic-sounding (but we’ve been seeing this in procedurals for years now) VOICE PRINT [“Spoken” form of personal identification].
Before I call out the stronger mid-range fill, lemme first cite the grid’s overall sporting feel. It’s not just tennis today. There’s the more generic, with SAIL [Go yachting], OUTRAN [Sprinted faster than] and HELMET [Head protection at a roller derby]. But there’s also the very specific in a whole range of games, starting with field- or ice hockey’s GOALIES [Hockey players who make saves] and the latter’s [Bruin great Bobby] ORR; football’s REF [NFL official] and (this one made me laugh) AIR [Football filler]; baseball’s NLE [Atlanta Braves’ div.], ASTROS [Houston baseball team] (our hearts go out to Houston!!), and ALOU [Matty of baseball]; and finally, [Basketball’s METTA World Peace (Ron Artest, once)]. Oh, and I suspect more than one pro athlete (ditto the amateurs) know first-hand that their HIPS are [Joints that may eventually need to be replaced]. May they only [Mend medically] HEAL well in time!
As for those sevens and sixes, the likes of SCOOTER, TAPROOM, WRONGED, SERAPES, GOALIES, EIGHT P.M. (because of the specificity of its [When TV’s “prime time” begins] clue), ASTROS, GORGES, HELMET, MODERN and OUTRAN all pull their weight to ENSURE a well-filled grid. I don’t DETEST any of ’em. Not even [“In ONE EAR and out the other”]. Oh, and I almost failed to include the avian grid opposites of HERONS and EAGLET.
The only clue/fill combo that felt a bit off to me was the [Wooden leg?] STILT pairing. Somehow the humor feels forced and eludes me. And the singular STILT draws too much attention to the fact that we usually talk about a pair of STILTs. But am I gonna lose any sleep over this? Nah. Too much here to like!
Hope you were able to enjoy the (unofficial) last blast of summer—perhaps with a BBQ, perhaps with a good read, or watching any of the Open matches—or maybe even playing some tennis yourself. Regardless, just hope you were able to get in some time doing what you love to do. Did someone say “solving puzzles”? Well, then: keep solving, and maybe share your thoughts about today’s puzz. “The ball’s in your court!”
Alice Long’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Not School Supplies”—Laura’s write-up
- [20a: Pocketknives, humorously]: FROG STICKERS
- [27a: Dictators]: ABSOLUTE RULERS
- [42a: Identifiable DNA sequences]: GENETIC MARKERS
- [48a: Powerful speakers]: SPELL BINDERS
- [64aR: Obligation]: NEED. Not really a revealer, but kids NEED school supplies, and you can donate to Houston schools that are recovering in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.
Here we have compound plural nouns whereby the second words are things that could also be considered school supplies: STICKERS, RULERS, MARKERS, BINDERS. Don’t think I’ve ever sent my kids to school with stickers, at least not since kindergarten. I’ve never heard pocketknives referred to as FROG STICKERS (which, ewww), but this may be a function of my (sub)urban upbringing. And SPELL BINDERS doesn’t quite feel as idiomatic as the other phrases (spellbinding is more familiar). Related to ABSOLUTE RULERS, we’ve also got [36d: German emperors]: KAISERS and [22d: Cuba’s Castro]: RAUL.
Fill-wise, apparently a BONG is a [32d: Big Ben sound] and RAISES are [45d: Pot fillers]. For pop culture, there’s [3d: Kojak’s first name]: THEO and the [27d: Butler at Wayne Manor], ALFRED, plus a nod to contemporary politics with [7d: Donald Trump’s second son]: ERIC, who is still under investigation by the NY State Attorney General. Spoiler alert: a [53d: “Citizen Kane” prop] is a SLED. Charles Schulz notoriously spoiled Citizen Kane for a generation with a 1973 Sunday strip where Lucy tells Linus that “[redacted] was his [redacted],” and subsequent Peanuts strips continued the in-joke for years.
Michelle Kenney and Jeff Chen’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
INTERMISSION is the theme in this 16×15 puzzle, and the circled letters spell out the names of 4- and 6-letter musicals. HAWAIIAN AIR has Hair, the possibly green-paintish GREEK VASE is mostly Grease, the slightly iffy CAMO PANTS has Cats, and WISE-CRACKED has Wicked. Only the last one doesn’t split the musical in half; it would be amazing if it turned out that Wicked‘s intermission came after a third of the show and the others were at halftime. I have seen exactly one of these musicals, and only in movie form, so I sure don’t know if that’s the case.
Most surprising fill in a Tuesday puzzle: 63a. [Rose petal oil], ATTAR. I suspect 99% of non-crossworders do not know that word. Maybe more than 99%.
The puzzle’s sure chatty. There’s “GOD, NO,” the iffy “I ADMIT IT,” huffy “BE THAT WAY,” “I TRY,” and “IT’D be my pleasure.” (Two I’s, two IT’s. There’s also ENDS IT and I SWEAR. Surprised a biblical IS IT I didn’t join the party!)
Not sure I like MAFIA DON, DID A SET, ABC TV, and NO TIPS as crossword entries. What say you?
Three more things:
- 22a. [Like caves with streams running through them], DANK. Lotta folks get creeped out by the word moist. They’re wrong. Good cake and brownies are moist! Is anything DANK in a good way, though? No. Dank is way worse.
- 35a. [Ike’s monogram], DDE. I hereby vote to ban all political monograms other than JFK, LBJ, and FDR from crosswords. HST, DDE, RMN? No. Real people don’t use those. (Waiver granted for HRC, though that can also be clued as the Human Rights Campaign.)
- 12d. [Stops from slipping], PROPS UP. Like a ladder, I guess? As opposed to putting cleats on shoes or sand on ice?
3.25 stars from me.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “A Creepy Game” – Derek’s write-up
Yikes! Matt is trying to scare the you-know-what out of me with this week’s theme! I have never heard of this “Charlie Charlie” game, but remember: I am old. After looking on a quick YouTube search, I have decided not to post a link or watch any of the vids on there! That demonic occult stuff freaks me out!
Having said all that, the theme is clever, as it’s all about people named “Charlie”:
- 20A [Valet for Red Scare proponent Eugene?] MCCARTHY PARKER
- 28A [The amount of electricity needed to power a fried chicken container?] BUCKET WATTS
- 47A [Candice Bergen TV comedy with … hey, wait, that’s an actual thing!] MURPHY BROWN – Extremely clever!
- 54A [Creepy pencil-and-paper “game” popularized in 2015 via YouTube and Twitter (and basis of the theme answers)] CHARLIE CHARLIE
Like I said, you are free to look this up for yourself. My son informed me that this is old, and the clue does state that this is SO 2015. Again, I am anything but hip. I’m nearly 50!! But from a crossword standpoint, this is another solid Matt effort. 4.3 stars.
A few more notes:
- 5A [“Baywatch” actress Bingham] TRACI – I think I have encountered this lady in a puzzle before. And I didn’t know who it was then either!
- 43A [Geologic age meaning “without life”] AZOIC – Really … ?
- 50A [2000s Chinese premier __ Jiabao] WEN – How about the hair care line frequently seen in early morning infoemercials?
- 65A [__ Linda, Calif.] LOMA – Home to a high percentage of SDA vegetarians. More on the vegetarian lifestyle in coming posts. Suffice it to say for now that Derek has changed his eating habits drastically!
- 70A [He sometimes talks over Teller] PENN – I don’t think I have ever seen Teller talk! Penn Jilette talks enough for both of them!
- 2D [“Double Dare” host Summers] MARC – This takes me back! He is also often seen on the Unwrapped shows on the Food Network.
- 29D [“Treat ‘Em Right” 1990s rapper __ Rock] CHUBB – Matt has an obscure music ref that I actually know!!
We shall stop there. Have a great week!
Robert E. Lee Morris’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
Jammed through this one; I am likely still in my holiday weekend semi-relaxed mode, so that helps! OK, I will say it: I hope that this constructor doesn’t work for ESPN!
Simple theme this Tuesday, and we have what is becoming a trademark revealer at 63A:
- 17A [Fishing gear holder] TACKLE BOX
- 38A [Final part of a chess match] END GAME
- 11D [Site of many face-offs] CENTER ICE
- 34D [Sentry’s job] GUARD DUTY
- 63A [In jeopardy … and where the first words of the answers to starred clues can be found] ON THE LINE
As we transition to football season (Go Blue!), we have a tackle, end, center and a guard, all of which are found on the line of scrimmage at the beginning of a play. Did you know only seven players are allowed to line up there? Keep your eyes peeled next time you watch a game. Since Michigan won this week, I am able to rate this a robust 4.4 stars!
A few more things:
- 9A [1983 taxi comedy starring Mr. T] D.C. CAB – Is this movie that old?? It seems to live on in crosswords fame, since it was pretty bad!
- 22A [Pickled-pepper picker] PETER – We just made some pickles this weekend! Cucumbers are coming out of gardens as we speak!
- 29A [’60s sci-fi series created by Gene Roddenberry] STAR TREK – He passed away in ’91, but I think Trekkie conventions were a thing even then. What is it about this universe, as well as Star Wars that seem to make people go crazy?
- 61A [“Avatar” actress Saldana] ZOE – Also in the Guardians of the Galaxy flicks. I saw the first one; will see the second one soon. I hope.
- 70A [Jacob’s first wife] LEAH – The Bible does it discreetly, but it basically calls her ugly! Read Genesis 29:17.
- 29D [“Night Moves” singer Bob] SEGER – Unless I am mistaken, he never made a music video. I think he was against them.
- 33D [“¿Cómo __ usted?”] ESTA – “I’m fine, thanks!”
Have a great week everyone. See you on Saturday for the challenger puzzle.