Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Captain Obvious Goes to the Zoo” – Erin’s writeup
Captain Obvious has left the theater to take a trip to the zoo. Please enjoy some literal takes on animal idioms:
- 24a. [“___? It’s right there, on that big cat’s face”] EYE OF THE TIGER. (Thanks for getting that song in my head, Evan.)
- 31a. [“___ if one of my siblings adopts that baboon as their own child”] I’LL BE A MONKEY’S UNCLE
- 56a. [“___; we’ll meet again when I revisit the reptile pit”] SEE YOU LATER, ALLIGATOR
- 66a. [“___ happen when zookeepers frantically run after that bird”] WILD GOOSE CHASES. (I’m not sure if I’ve ever heard the plural used before.)
- 78a. [“___ takes up a lot of building space, as big pachyderms tend to do”] THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM
- 101a. [ “___, and those mallards will be neatly aligned”] GET YOUR DUCKS IN A ROW
- 113a. [“___ is a bit of stock that big cat would purchase”] THE LION’S SHARE
- 55a. [Last name among dinosaurs] REX. “Mr. Rex, would you like me to reach that triceratops jerky on the top shelf for you?” “No, thank you, I can do it myself! (hops up and down and stretches tiny arms as far as they can go for a few moments, then deflates) Yes, please.”
- 18d. [Film critic James] AGEE. I knew of him as an author, but did not know he was a film critic.
- 33d. [Giant of fantasy fiction] ENT. Phew. It seemed like a few weeks went by without a Lord of the Rings reference. I was getting worried.
- 43a. [Like every character in the original “Grand Theft Auto” video game] ADULT. Even if there were newborns in the game, they’d all be legal adults now; the game debuted in 1997.
I can’t think of any good music videos, so here is my son today with his walker. Until next week!
Mark MacLachlan’s New York Times crossword, “Super Looper”—Amy’s write-up
I could swear we had a very similar theme within the last two or three months. Anyone recall another puzzle with a theme like this? The circled 2×2 boxes of letters are included in the long Across answers that go through their bottom half, with the answer looping up on the right and going counterclockwise around to complete the entry, which has a 6-letter chunk with an ABCDAB pattern. So:
- 23a. [Fancy French shellfish dish], LOBSTER THERMIDOR, with a TH up above to expand LOBSTERMIDOR, with a repeating ER interrupted by the TH.
- 25a. [Beer parlor], BEVEROOM into BEVERAGE ROOM, which is not a term I’ve encountered before. (Nor is “beer parlor.”)
- 49a. [All together, as a family], UNDEROOF into UNDER ONE ROOF.
- 51a. [Classroom item], BLACKBOARDER into BLACKBOARD ERASER.
- 69a. [Central Park’s SummerStage, e.g.], CONCERIES into CONCERT SERIES.
- 86a. [Tech overseer], COMPUTERATOR into COMPUTER OPERATOR.
- 91a. [Reason to stop reading], SPOILERT into SPOILER ALERT.
- 116a. [Premise of the film “Freaky Friday”], ROLERSAL into ROLE REVERSAL.
- 118a. [Some positives and negatives], BATTERMINALS into BATTERY TERMINALS.
With the exception of SPOILER ALERT, these theme answers were fairly dull creatures. No humor, no wordplay, just a twist in how the long answers are presented.
Top fill: SCORSESE, LOOSEN UP, UT-AUSTIN.
- 1a. [Naval engagements], SEA WARS. What are the odds of the U.S. engaging in a SEA WAR by 2020?
- 122a. [Singer India.___], ARIE. Crossworders! The new bachelor for The Bachelor is Arie Luyendyk, Jr., the race-car driver son of the Indy 500 champ. An actual name that doesn’t need that period squeezed up against the blank space!
- 45d. [“Don’t mind ___!”], IF I DO. What a terrible partial. You could instead clue this as the potential autobiography title of a dog with the stalest name ever.
- 71d. [1428 ___ (horror film address): Abbr.], ELM ST. Eww. Not a good entry.
- 38d. [Speed skater Karin who won eight Olympic medals], ENKE. Who? She had three golds in the ’80s. Her Wikipedia article makes me wish I’d kept my last name when I got married, but this excerpt is hilariously bonkers:
Born as Karin Enke, she married in 1981 and competed as Karin Busch during the 1981–82 winter. The marriage did not last long and during the 1982–83 and 1983–84 winters, she competed as Karin Enke again. After marrying her longtime former trainer Rudolf Kania in 1984, she competed as Karin Kania for the rest of her speed skating career. After her career had ended, she divorced and married again and became Karin Enke-Richter.
Like several other female East German skaters who got married after the season had ended (and several of them more than once over the course of their careers), Enke caused some confusion among the speed skating public when she—a skater with a name unfamiliar to them—suddenly won major titles in her “first” season. To alleviate the confusion, Enke kept her maiden name as the first part of her last name after her third marriage, just like Gunda Kleemann (also known as Gunda Niemann and Gunda Niemann-Stirnemann) kept Niemann (the name of her first husband) as the first part of her last name even after her divorce and both before and after her second marriage, which is unusual in most Western European countries.
Three stars from me.
Kurt Krauss’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “Brrr!”—Amy’s write-up
I sure didn’t know what the theme was till I finally meandered down to the revealer, 111a. [It ushers in lower temperatures … and what the answers to starred clues can have], COLD FRONT. Each of the theme answers, clued utterly straightforwardly, begins with a word (or portion of a word, in the case of 68a, 15d, and 81d) that can follow “cold” in familiar phrases. So CREAM PUFF, SHOULDER PAD, SHOWER CURTAIN, TURKEY TROT, SNAPDRAGON, STORAGE LOCKER, SPELL-CHECKER, WARPAINT, and CASELOAD produce phrases like cold cream, cold shoulder, etc. Solid example of this sort of theme, and some of the theme answers themselves are crisp.
Overall, the solve wasn’t much fun since the grid’s got more crosswordese and foreign vocabulary than I deem ideal. 1-Across announced the puzzle’s intentions right off the bat: EPOS is the sort of word most people don’t encounter unless they do a ton of crossword puzzles. Constructors! If you make your 1-Across a familiar or fun word, the solver can start your puzzle on a high note. EPOS crossed 3-Down OTERI, a dated pop culture reference. The rest of the grid had such fill as the roll-your-own word APPLIER, crosswordese AGIO and ETAPES, foreign SALA NACHT ENERO SECO ENTRE, not-really-a-solid-phrase TRIED IT, awkward plural HEDDAS, prefix SEISMO-, place-name-I-know-only-from-crosswords RIO DE ORO, scarcely-used-in-real-life ALER, and so on.
On the plus side, I liked LADY DAY, REELED OFF, and NOSEBLEED seats. The clues were pretty smooth, judging from the quickness of my solve.
2.75 stars from me. Perhaps dropping the two 8-letter Down theme entries would have loosened up the grid a bit and allowed for better fill.
Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s CRooked crossword, “Prefixation” — pannonica’s write-up
This is just the sort of clever-but-silly theme that tickles my fancy. Existing phrases get a prefix that altersthe first word into another legitimate word but in the process creates a nonsensical—aka “wacky”—new phrase.
- 23a. [Bad-luck snack?] MISFORTUNE COOKIE. That’s the way it crumbles, apparently.
- 36a. [Parent’s you can’t understand?] CONFOUNDING FATHERS.
- 55a. [Diet-busting occasion?] TRANSFAT TUESDAY. I believe the item in question is typically rendered as trans fat, two words.
- 84a. [Lady coming down a staircase?] DESCENT OF A WOMAN. Well obviously this calls for the Duchamp.
- 98a. [The delusion that you know everything?] OMNISCIENCE FICTION. This one requires a significant pronunciation change.
- 116a. [Immune-system communications?[ ANTIBODY LANGUAGE.
See? Fun stuff.
- 1-across kind of sets the tone with a silly double-entendre, lets the solver know what she’s in for. [What’s put before Decartes?] RENÉ.
- 71a/76a [Cope] GET A GRIP, DEAL.
- 78a [Vandalize] DAMAGE. Stuck with DEFACE for longer than I care to admit.
- 109a [Slowly and surely, for two] ADVERBS. Come to think of it, the theme wordplay is reminiscent of Tom Swifties, especially the “double-swifties” variety. Remember “Take the prisoner to the dungeon”, Tom said, condescendingly.”?
- 122a. [Irma la __] DOUCE. This one’s missing quotes. It’s a film title. Just checked the pdf version: not in italics either.
- 40d [Egypt’s Nasser] GAMAL. I sure has heck didn’t remember the guy’s first name.
- 41d [On edge, as nerves] FRAYED. Tried for too long to figure out how to get a version of the eight-letter FRAZZLED in there. It got meta.
- 73d [What a caddy carries] TEA, 115a [Ready to be driven] TEED.
- 74d [Greek who had a bathtub brainstorm] ARCHIMEDES. Eureka! He was a displacement agent.
- 86d [Like a “can of corn” fly] CATCHABLE. I’m assuming this is a baseball term and not as I thought while solving some sort dipteran reference.
- 87d [Go without fare] FAST. Cute clue even if the wordplay is a little stilted without the indefinite article.
- 101d [Musician Cannon or Fender] FREDDY.