Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle (Week 328), “Hump Day”—Janie’s take
If you’re a fan of Liz’s puzzles, then you may already know that she’s fond of PUNS. And today’s title proves to be a prime example. “Hump Day” is not a shout-out to Wednesday, but is instead tied into the reveal at
- 63A. CAMEL [Beast of burden who’s hiding in the four longest horizontal answers]. And sure enough, you will find the letters for this four-legged within
- 17A. SCRAMBLED SIGNAL [Encryption that prevents unauthorized cable TV use]
- 27A. CHARM BRACELETS [“Sweet 16” gifts from Tiffany & Co.]
- 43A. ICE CREAM SELLER [Good Humor Man, for one] (though in my puzzle he was a VENDER for a little while…oops) and
- 58A. CHAMPAGNE BOTTLE [One that gets smashed at a ship’s christening] (and look: another PUN, since this is about a BOTTLE that gets broken at an event and not an attendee who overindulges in the bubbly stuff).
Now I like this theme set a lot—for the range of images and associations they summon up, for their “in the language”-ness, for the way two of them are grid-spanners. But… I don’t particularly like the inconsistent way they contain those dromedaries. That’s because I think it’s dicey to repeat any of the letters in CAMEL within the theme phrase: the L of SCRAMBLED and A in SIGNAL, the second A and E in BRACELETS, the multiple Es, C and L in ICE CREAM SELLER, the second A in CHAMPAGNE and E in BOTTLE. I think these repeats muddy the waters. When I went back to circle the letters myself, I initially ended up with a CAMLE at 17A… Not good. I love that each CAMEL is hidden in plain sight—sans circles—but wish the letters were clearly in sequence. By appearing only once in each phrase.
That said, Huzzah for those four, fabulous vertical eights: NPR’s IRA GLASS, IN DEMAND, “WHAT A GUY!” and FILM STAR. I leave it to you to construct your own scenario with this word list. I will say that “WHAT A GUY!” happily brought to mind FILM STAR Madeline Kahn as Lili Von Shtupp after her first, um, encounter with Sheriff Bart (Cleavon Little) in Mel Brooks’s Blazing Saddles.
For my money, the grid was bolstered as well by APLOMB and the baseball pairing of MOISES Alou and MIGUEL Cabrera. Enjoyed, too, the made-me-think-twice clue of [Simple insect repellent] for SCREEN. D’oh. All I could think of was SKIN SO SOFT… (“It’s a beauty product!” “It’s a bug repellent!” “Stop—you’re both right!”)
And did you know about the Sargasso Sea and its identity as a breeding ground for EELS? Seems it’s a major migration stop for the creatures, too. Learn somethin’ new every day. One of the reasons we do puzzles, no? Also for the entertainment—like the kind of PUNny cluing we get with [Swinging joint?], [Scratch the surface] and [They throw shade on things] for HINGE, ETCH and TREES, or the alliterative approach with [Pulverize potatoes] for MASH. I won’t RAIL ON this for long, but gee I wish that instead of [AIR A grievance (complain)], a truly weak partial—where the I of AIR A crosses INCA—that we’d seen AURA, with the crossing U leading to Huey, Dewey and Louie’s UNCA Donald Duck. But I may be alone here…
Still, far more here to like than not. Hope you enjoyed the puzzle’s high points and learned a thing or two along the way, too. Til next week, folks: keep solving. And if our friends in Florida and Texas are even able to read this: our thoughts are with you!!
David Poole’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Super Dupers”—Laura’s write-up
- [20a: Superhero whose power is putting together IKEA furniture?]: ASSEMBLY MAN
- [59a: Superhero whose power is keeping ships from drifting?]: ANCHOR WOMAN
- [11d: Superhero whose power is getting a Microsoft suite to run?]: OFFICE BOY
- [33d: Superhero whose power is mixing vodka cocktails?]: COSMO GIRL
These are all superheroes that, to paraphrase Commissioner Gordon, I both deserve and need right now. While I enjoy putting together IKEA furniture, that damned allen wrench is always so flimsy; help me, ASSEMBLY MAN! Last time I went sailing, the current was so strong we could’ve used an ANCHOR WOMAN; just today I cried out in vain for OFFICE BOY to export CSV files from Excel; and dammit, COSMO GIRL, where are you with my postprandial drink?
Faster than a rolling O, stronger than silent E, able to leap capital T in a single bound, it’s a word, it’s a plan, it’s LETTERMAN!
Fill-wise, we’ve got many traditionally female first names: NORMA crossing MABEL, ELIZA, HELOISE, ADA (though clued as an Oklahoma city), MATA (Hari), VERA, ELLE. Misdirectiest clue: [5d: Pressing needs?] for BARBELLS. Head-scratchiest clue: [8d: Baylor buildings] for DORMS. Why Baylor? Alliteration? Shout-out to the constructor’s alma mater? True-but-that’s-not-the-pointiest clue: [56d: Like Bob Dylan’s singing] for NASAL.
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Bruce Haight’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Roman numeral theme here, with words that start with MI, CI, LI, VI, or DI (but not XI, because the options are so limited), and the rest of the word can stand alone as a word unto itself.
- 17a. [1,001 causes of anxiety?], MI STRESSES. Great, now I’ll be up all night tallying my stresses. I might have exactly that many.
- 26a. [101 rear ends?], CI STERNS.
- 37a. [51 cats?], LI FELINES.
- 53a. [Six members of a “Dallas” family?] VI EWINGS. Yeah, that’s about how many Ewings they had. I know it’s Times style to spell out smaller numbers, but the theme clues would look more consistent with a “6” here instead.
- 61a. [501 renditions?], DI VERSIONS.
Solid theme, not one I’ve seen rehashed again and again.
Welcome to the latest edition of What’s This Doing in a Tuesday Crossword: OMRI HOAR UTAHN GYNT RETAG. And there’s the duplication of PRIVY TO/ATE INTO/ON TO/ON EDGE/I’M IN AWE/I’M HIT. Lotta IN/ON/TO/I’M action here.
Sketchy fill: HOME LAB, CREEPO, HOT IRON, “AW, NUTS.”
Favorite fill: P.R. STUNT. I had some crossings in place and was freaking out when I thought the answer to [Cheap way to get media attention] was PROTEST. Whew!
Four more things:
- 70a. [He loved Lucy], DESI. I wonder how many Americans have learned the word desi, which means a person of Indian, Pakistani, or Bangladeshi descent who lives abroad. It’s certainly familiar to me, and I wonder if younger solvers are more likely to know lowercase desi than Desi Arnaz, whose career heyday was in the 1950s.
- 7d. [H.M.O. V.I.P.s], DRS. I wonder how many physicians with HMO contracts feel like VIPs. I’ll wager the percentage is on the small side.
- 10d. [You might run to get in it], SHAPE / 35a. Charged toward], RAN AT. I hate the entry RAN AT—so overused in crosswords, far out of proportion to how often people actually write or say it—even more so when there’s “run” in a clue.
- 29d. [Beach bottle letters], SPF. “Beach bottle,” ha. That … is not a thing.
3.25 stars from me.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “Outsider Knowledge” – Derek’s write-up
I don’t know if I see the “appeal,” but I do see the “a-peel” of this puzzle!
- 20A [Puts the past behind with fond memories] RINGS OUT THE OLD
- 28A [Curve in the water?] RIVERBEND
- 43A [It’s usually used to cross your heart] RIGHT HAND
- 48A [Hightail it] RUN LIKE THE WIND
As you can see in the grid and by the red letter above, each theme answer has a “peel,” or, more specifically, a “RIND.” It seems like there should be more to it, and maybe I am missing something. It wouldn’t be the first time! Usual Matt cleverness in this one, especially as regards popular culture, although there is no reference to an obscure punk band this week! 4.3 stars.
A few more things:
- 17A [Burn-soothing plant] ALOE – I actually have an aloe vera plant in my office now! I am ready for some 2nd degree burns!
- 37A [“Who is John __?” (“Atlas Shrugged” opener)] GALT – I need to read this book. I suffered through the movie (part 1) that was recently on Netflix, and it was horrifically bad. But I believe this book tackles issues with capitalism, if I am not mistaken.
- 63A [“Siddhartha” author Hermann] HESSE – This German writer is certainly crossword famous! I only know him through puzzles.
- 1D [“The Wire” character Little] OMAR – I need to binge watch this series someday. It certainly gets enough mentions in certain areas of social media and such, but I don’t get what they are talking about!
- 27D [1983 Woody Allen mockumentary] ZELIG – As is usually the case with me: I haven’t seen this movie!
- 38D [“Well, ain’t that just something!”] “LAH-DI-DAH!” – If you know me, you know I love slang phrases!
- 39D [Ice Age canid that shows up on “Game of Thrones”] DIREWOLF – Game of Thrones is over for now, but it’s possible that last season won’t be around until 2019! Maybe that’s enough time to read all of the books …
See you next week for another Jonesin!
Jeffrey Wechsler’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
This puzzle strikes me as quite a fresh idea. It is entirely possible that some theme similar to this has been attempted before, and probably true, but this one seems like it is done very smartly. What am I talking about? The theme answers all have that “x” factor!
- 17A & 61A [Dubious tabloid image] UNIDENTIFIED FLYING OBJECT
- 25A [Call to a police hotline, possibly] ANONYMOUS TIP
- 36A [1972 chart-topper for the band America] A HORSE WITH NO NAME
- 51A [Emmy-winning travel and cuisine show hosted by Anthony Bourdain] PARTS UNKNOWN
I will be merciful and not post a clip of the America song, because it would be stuck in your head for hours! This is a 16×15 grid, enabling the unique answer at 36A, eliminating the need for a tag “With ‘A'”, which can be awkward. A solid 4.7 stars for a tightly executed puzzle.
A few more things:
- 14A [Dry-eyes solution] SALINE – Or [Contact lens solution]. I don’t think I ever use Visine or anything like that. Am I alone in that?
- 43A [Storyteller __ Christian Andersen] HANS – I have seen his statue in Copenhagen. Denmark is actually really neat; I don’t know how I would like the 4 hours of daylight in the winter, though!
- 59A [Like this crossword ans.] ACR. – I thought this answer would be ABBR. Didn’t you?
- 2D [She plays Dr. Cristina Yang in “Grey’s Anatomy”] SANDRA OH – She has a great crossword name, but too bad there aren’t two-letter words allowed!
- 3D [ Stirred up a cloud of dust at, as a base] SLID INTO – A nice, politically correct and highly ethical way to clue this. Well done!
- 35D [Capital of Belarus] MINSK – I got this immediately. Know your capitals!
- 46D [Beer gut] PAUNCH – This makes me think of the fast food franchise Paunch Burger frequently featured in the sitcom Parks and Recreation. Hilarious stuff!
That is it for a mellow Tuesday. Happy solving!