Alan Arbesfeld’s New York Times crossword, “State Lines”—Amy’s write-up
Well, when 1d and 3d dropped OPCIT and ESTER on me, I feared I was in for a long slog through the fill. The puzzle went fairly fast, but it did indeed feel sloggy.
The “State Lines” theme takes (somewhat) familiar phrases that include a 2-letter word and clues them as if that 2-letter word means the state whose abbreviation is the same 2 letters. Never mind the problem that we don’t write prose with state abbreviations standing in for state names.
- 23a. [“Try not to miss Bangor and Lewiston”?], CATCH ME IF YOU CAN. ME = Maine.
- 34a. [2:00 in New York vis-à-vis St. Louis?], ONE MO TIME. MO = Missouri. I … am not familiar with the base phrase one mo’ time as being something you could riff on for a crossword theme.
- 50a. [Whistler from two Eastern states?], MA AND PA KETTLE. Outlier with two, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania.
- 68a. [“We shouldn’t sell our Fort Wayne home”?], LET’S KEEP THIS IN HOUSE. Indiana. Feels a little iffy as theme fodder.
- 86a. [“Sooner this, Sooner that … can’t you talk about any other subject?”?], EVERYTHING’S OK. Oklahoma. Meh.
- 100a. [Deal another blackjack card to a young Salem woman?], HIT OR MISS. Oregon. Good lord, who would ever call a young woman from Oregon an “Oregon miss”?
- 117a. [Midwest state secedes and will join the United Kingdom?], OH TO BE IN ENGLAND. Ohio. Reads a little like a news headline, unlike the rest of the themers.
The grid was peppered with other stale fill—you’ve got your ENOL ETUI XKES EERO ROUE OSS TRESSED and so on. I finished the puzzle down in the southwest corner, where STALE crossed INERT. That amused me more than the theme, honestly.
Five other things:
- 52d. [First-rate, in British slang], TOP HOLE. Well! I checked with an Englishman and he’d never heard the term. (I presume this means he’s not as top-holy as one might have hoped.) He wondered if the opposite of first-rate, the very bottom rung of holiness, is asshole. Could be!
- 37d. [Walter ___, Dodgers owner who moved the team from Brooklyn to L.A.], O’MALLEY. Was he a bad man? Discuss amongst yourselves. This happened 60 years ago, and as a non-New Yorker, I could scarcely care less.
- 42d. [Part of a recovery effort], A.A. MEETING. Nice entry. See also: 65d IN REHAB.
- 72d. [In the 70s, say], WARM. That sounds delightfully cool! It’s been running about 90 these last few days in the Midwest.
- 5d. [Icelandic letter], EDH. I’d love to learn Icelandic, but I’m pretty sure my language acquisition days are over. (I’m hard of hearing. Consonants are easy to mix up!)
2.75 stars from me.
Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Commercial Breaks” – Erin’s writeup
This tricky crossword begins with a constructor note: “HINT: If you get stuck on this challenging puzzle, taking a break may be a good idea.” The “break” required is revealed at 125a. [What TiVo users may skip over … and what you must skip over to understand this puzzle’s theme], ADS. Evan inserts the letters AD into the theme entries. The clues match the theme entries before AD is, well, added, but the themers and their crosses are valid entries with the extra letters as well.
- 23a. [“To begin …”] FIRST LADY (FIRSTLY +AD), crossing LEANS and MUDD
- 25a. [Numbers game since 1992] POWER BALLAD (POWERBALL), crossing ERASE and SEDER
- 51a. [Gunsmith Henry whose namesake pistol is spelled with an extra R] DEAD RINGER (DERINGER – apparently his name was so often misspelled when referring to the pistol that “derringer” stuck), crossing GAPS and STOWED
- 53a. [Ranch, e.g] ADDRESSING (DRESSING), crossing ALOFT and EDDIE
- 85a. [Military activities] ADMISSIONS (MISSIONS), crossing MOAN and UNDO
- 87a. [Type of friendship once seen on “Entourage”] BAD ROMANCE (BROMANCE), crossing CAAN and SARDI’S
- 114a. [Mass communication figures?] ADMINISTERS (MINISTERS), crossing EMAIL and LED TO
- 116a. [Breaks one’s word] RENEGADES (RENEGES), crossing ANGELA and AUDRA
- 66a. [Red containers, perhaps] CARAFES. The wine in the container is red, not the container itself.
- 41d. [Cheese that’s made up?] EDAM. Reading EDAM from the bottom up spells MADE.
- 21a. [Nickname of an old Eagles stadium … or a person who could examine a pet eagle] THE VET. Philadelphia’s Veterans Stadium, demolished in 2004 to make room for Citizens Bank Park and Lincoln Financial Field. No comment on the teams that play there.
- 62a. [Sci-fi character found in Detroit?] From “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” Deanna TROI.
- 100d. [Character in the 1951 cartoon “Rabbit Fire”] ELMER Fudd. This is the Warner Brothers cartoon where Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck argue whether it’s duck season or “wabbit season” for hunting. Looney Tunes/Merrie Melodies shorts seem to have a lot of cartoon characters trying to kill each other.
- 39a. [Takes sides, say] EATS. Short, simple, lovely wordplay.
Until next week!
Matt McKinley’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “Encapsulating”—Amy’s write-up
In this theme, (semi-)familiar phrases encapsulate an extra N, and the resulting phrase is clued accordingly:
- 23a. [Designated meditation area?], CHANT ROOM.
- 25a. [Key to a discography including “Purple Rain”?], PRINCE INDEX. Based on price index, which isn’t super-familiar, and it’s got an extra N that’s isn’t thematic.
- 46a. [Vacant look, e.g.?], TRANCE ELEMENT. Extra N.
- 69a. [Tirade from an underground worker?], SEWER RANT. My favorite of the themers. Marred by the nearby non-thematic TIME ZONES and LATECOMER being the same length as this themer.
- 90a. [Elegant knight’s accoutrement?], SATIN AND LANCE. Two extra N’s, and satin and lace doesn’t feel quite familiar enough to base wordplay on it.
- 112a. [New Englander from Lhasa?], TIBETAN YANK. Boston does have some Tibetan restaurants, so this is legit. Extra N, though.
- 114a. [Viper’s bar order?], SNAKE PINT. Extra N.
- 32d. [What to click in response to an offensive tweet?], RESENT BUTTON. Extra N made it slightly harder to spot reset button as the basis here. I do wish there were a resent button sometimes!
- 42d. [Insufficient medley?], SCANT SINGING. Two extra N’s.
If I were constructing a puzzle with an added-N theme, I’d fight hard to find workable phrases that didn’t contain an N, to produce a more elegant theme.
This puzzle fought me harder than the usual LAT Sunday crossword. In the top right corner, dull MSEC (which would generally be abbreviated as ms outside of a crossword puzzle that can’t take a 2-letter answer) and the assorted other options for fill in that corner stymied me. ACE could be PRO, ADDAMS could be AL CAPP, and there are other 6-letter vacation options beside CRUISE. I was also slowed down by 98a. [“Me too”], SO HAVE I. Not a common crossword answer, that. The crossers WAV and DHS didn’t help me much.
Five more things:
- 10d. [Aggressive marketing], HARD SELL. Good fill.
- 92d. [Cold War protest sign slogan], NO NUKES. Can … can we bring this one back?
- 35d. [Writers], PENMEN. Good gravy, who uses this term?
- 51a. [High school phase for many], ANGST. Isn’t ANGST more a mood than a “phase”?
- 48d. [From A __], TO Z. Ha! Usually the related fill-in-the-blank is A TO. Not sure I’ve seen TO Z before. Looks bonkers in the grid.
2.8 stars from me.
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s CRooked crossword, “Noises Off” — pannonica’s write-up
“Off” here means that there’s something a little ‘wrong’ with them, rather than sound coming from offstage in a theater production. That is, we have puns.
“Sound off! One, two… one, two…”
- 24a. [Places that only display the hits?] THWACKS MUSEUM (wax …).
- 3d [Noisy drink in Tijuana?] GULP OF MEXICO (Gulf …). I thought this was going be something like GULF OF AGUABA. Hey, it was early in the solve!
- 6d. [Fall guy’s bell sound?] PATSY CLANG (… Cline).
- 33a. [Insult St. Louis’s hockey team?] ZING THE BLUES (sing …).
- 52a. [Stifle a gun sound?] HOLD UP A BANG (… bank).
- 82a. [Jumpy folks?] HUMAN BOINGS (… beings).
- 76d. [Nuke dupes?] ZAP SUCKERS (sapsuckers). Genus Sphyrapicus, indigenous to North America. Here in the East it’s S. varius, the yellow-bellied sapsucker.
- 66d. [Engine noise that takes a moment to start?] WAITING VROOM (… room).
- 101a. [Ram two bins into each other?] CRASH HOPPERS (grasshoppers).
- 110a. [Does a belly flop that hits everybody?] SPLATS ALL FOLKS (that’s all, folks).
I felt that some of these were too farfetched and not amusing enough. Stretched too thin, frayn around the edges. (My awful pun in the comment section below notwithstanding.)
- More awkward constructions among the ballast fill: 1a [Enclose behind bars] CAGE UP … I, uh, thought there more. Excusable UP dupe with 99d, though.
- Super-straightforward clues/answers: 7a [Relating to the moon] LUNAR, 30a [Sunlit period] DAY … I thought there were more of these too. Maybe there are and I’m not being rigorous enough.
- 89a [Ques.’s opposite] ANS. That orthography! >sucks teeth<
- 109a [Cockney’s steed] ’ORSE. Thought for sure this was going to be HACK.
- 69a [Instrument with stops] REED ORGAN, 118a [Marsh reeds] CATTAILS. Um.
- Less egregious, but still easily avoidable: 4d [Put out] EMIT, 120a [Be exhausted] RUN OUT.
- 119a [Sari state?] INDIA. Cute. I suppose that since the country is divided into states it’s more technically correct for the clue to be [Sari states?] but I can see how that’d be confusing. Correct editorial decision in my estimation.
- 1d [“The die is cast” speaker] CAESAR. This is foundry stuff, not gambling. Just in case you didn’t know.
- 16d [“__ soon discover”] THEY’LL. That’s … kind of random.
- 17d [Busted person’s letters] IOU. Liked the gentle misdirection here. Also liked 100d [Powerful demos] N TESTS—I mean, in the abstract.
- 33d [Some Italian pies, briefly] ZAS. As in, [piz]ZA. It’s legitimate in Scrabble-type games and I have no compunctions using it in that context, but if I ever heard anyone say this out loud I would probably laugh in their face.
- 40d [Baby joey] ROO. Huh? A joey is a baby kangaroo. Roo is short for kangaroo. In the Winnie-the-Pooh books there’s a mama kangaroo named Kanga whose baby is named Roo. This clue makes no sense, even though the answer is easily understood.
- 52d [Knee-slappers] HOT ONES. I’ve never heard this usage.
- 62d [Cleaning sponge] LOOFA. More of an exfoliator, but okay.
- I’m really taking issue and nitpicking a lot, am I not? Sorry.
- 72d [Shinty player] SCOT. Learned something new here. Shinty is a team sport superficially similar to field hockey.
- 82d/83d [Red Scare org.]/[Sputnik’s launcher] HUAC, USSR. Well that’s a fine how-do-you-do.
- 114d [Drug in microdots] LSD, 115d Mormons, initially] LDS.
- … and fittingly … 117d [“That’s a wrap!”] CUT.
i was surprised to see MOAN (43A) and MOANA(95A) in the same puzzle. seemed a bit lazy to me.
By any crossword construction/editing standards I’m familiar with, that’s not remotely an issue. They share letters, but are not remotely related in terms of etymology.
It could be an issue if they were crossing answers.
I still wouldn’t be bothered.
i’m not sure where i got the idea that duplicative words should be avoided in answers as well as clues. but i’m a new solver, and will absolutely defer to your expertise!
Never mess with Amy
But I should add that MOAN crossing MOANA would be a bit of an issue for me. Not that my crossword opinions matter.
sinking sands: Duplications should be avoided in answers; that’s even more fundamental than clue/answer dupes (unless it’s the same clue answer!). The explanation here is that although MOAN and MOANA look very similar, their etymologies—and equally significant but which Amy didn’t mention, their pronunciations—are distinct.
A crossing like MONA/MOANA would be so unusual it’d make you wonder if you’re answering correctly.
thank you for the further explanation!
WAPO: Evan strikes “Reagle” gold again on a Sunday. Is this any surprise? His ingenuity and sense of fun almost always outshine the generally drab New York Times Sunday puzzle. I avoid most commercial television–just can’t stand the advertising!–and generally am lost with puzzle answers based on television shows. But I loved fast forwarding through Evan’s “ads.” Charming work.
Really liked the WaPo as well. The note gave me a chuckle after I finished it.
I miss your devil crosswords
I mean, it is the New York Times crossword puzzle. I don’t want to live in a New York where people don’t start whenever Walter O’Malley is mentioned. However, Brooklyn seems to be doing just fine nowadays, thank you very much.
Actually enjoyed the theme more than Amy seemed to but the clue for OLES is just wrong. Soccer fans do not “ole” goals. Sometimes, when a team has an insurmountable lead & is passing the ball around, fans will “ole” each pass to taunt the opposition & their fans. Not the same thing.
For an outlet that likes to celebrate language, the NYT puzzle flunks grammar today. THAT is not a pronoun, it is a demonstrative.
Dictionaries don’t seem to agree. They also describe “demonstrative” as characteristic of a demonstrative pronoun.
I didn’t care for the NYT. Thinks like the torch crossing a film I’d never heard of (not that I’d heard of MOANA either), a sportscaster and football owner, the very odd Britishism, and so on. (I actually hadn’t heard “Let’s keep this in house” before either, but no doubt that’s me.) It wasn’t at all hard, but it’d still take a much funnier theme to make up for a lot of the fill.
“OH, TO BE IN ENGLAND now that spring is here…” is the first line of a classic robert browning poem. a little highbrow perhaps. [my fave of the themers, btw.]
a little lowbrow perhaps, ONE MO’ TIME. the nyt review is only remotely encouraging (great music, embarrassing “backstage” story) and yet w/ almost 1400 performances, this black vaudeville had a nice run indeed at the village gate *starting* in 1979. a broadway production in ’02 was very short-lived, however, w/ a total of 21 performances, 16 of which were previews… [probably my least fave…]
Odobenus: England …
taxonomy humor, sorry
I liked the NYT a lot more than WaPo today. The latter was rather boring once you figured out the gimmick (and Evan had to stretch for some rather obscure names like AUDRA and MUDD) to make the crosses work; the former allowed some thought, and I enjoyed trying to guess the theme answers with as few crosses as possible. But I really wanted the final one to be OH TO BE INDIANA, ENGLAND for “Hoosier state’s desire to change allegiances” or something like that.
Last year you seemed to like “Connection Problem” a lot even though that too had a skip-over-certain-letters theme.
I loved the WaPo; I was eager to discover each theme answer. Good fill too. Excellent all around.
You’re absolutely right, Evan. Maybe the three letters in that one appealed to me more than the two in this one. My journal (yeah, I’m nerdy enough to include my own puzzle solving) indicates that the prior one baffled me more than this one, which may have been why it pleased me more when I got it. Or maybe I’m just inconsistent. That’s possible too. Feel free to write me off as an aberration. Week in, week out, I tend to love your puzzles. Just not this one. Regards, Norm
MUDD is obscure? Roger Mudd? Harcourt Fenton Mudd? Harvey Mudd college?
AUDRA seems more obscure. There is an actress Audra McDonald who is unknown to me (I’m retired, so I don’t have time to watch very much TV); she’s the only reasonable AUDRA that I found. A new one for me to remember.
Audra McDonald has won six Tony awards, which are Broadway and not TV.
How does a retired person not have time to watch TV??
Because we now have time for our grandchildren and other things that give us amusement.
Well, in addition to doing crosswords and getting to read more of the books I have stashed in my unread pile, there’s hiking, geocaching, gardening/yardwork, hanging with friends, tai chi (finally have time for that!), cooking more, writing, fixing and remodeling our home, and trying to downsize because we have way too much stuff.
I’m glad to learn about Audra McDonald (when I quickly googled her it appeared that she has been on The Good Wife; that’s all the information I saw) – she sounds very talented and accomplished.
Right, the middle one appeared on and was the eponym of not one, but two episodes of Star Trek:TOS.
The middle MUDD, has mentioned by Lise, I mean. Also came to say the WaPo reminded me of https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Miracle_of_Morgan%27s_Creek
TOP HOLE is British slang, but very antiquated and only ever used in posh circles, as far as I know.
I finished with a silly mistake. I had SEITE for SETTE (seemed plausible), which left me trying to make sense of OHIOBEINENGLAND.
I like OHIOBEINENGLAND :)
These misspelled BEINgs were from OHIO and apparently started as a British Invasion cover band
The poem is “Home thoughts from abroad” by Robert Browning and begins “Oh, to be in England, now that April’s there”.
Audra McDonald has the most glorious soprano voice and is often seen on PBS programs.
This kind of discussion is the reason I love Amy’s blog. You can learn a lot!