Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Crash Test” – Erin’s writeup
The unfortunate theme entries in today’s grid are all cars involved in fender benders; the second half of each entry has collided with the first, leaving their ends collapsed together in a rebus square. The clues provide the make of each car model.
- 22a. [Isolated community where Thor, the Hulk and Captain America live? (Dodge/Buick)] AVENGER ENCLAVE
- 31a. [Outlaw who’s adept at playing Beethoven piano pieces? (Hyundai/Jeep)] SONATA RENEGADE
- 47a. [Get away from a Rhode Island resort city? (Ford/Chrysler)] ESCAPE NEWPORT
- 63a. [Fearless puma? (Dodge/Mercury)] INTREPID COUGAR
- 72a. [Tale of a mythical city? (Cadillac/Acura)] ELDORADO LEGEND
- 88a. [Plotting against a king? (Buick/Oldsmobile)] REGAL INTRIGUE
- 104a. [Deep understanding of the first Bible book? (Hyundai/Honda)] GENESIS INSIGHT
- 118a. [ Person giving directions in D.C.’s public transit system? (Geo/Lincoln)] METRO NAVIGATOR
Now it’s time to make sense of the constructor’s note: “When this puzzle is completed, an apt two-word phrase will be revealed.” Looking at the rebus square reveals, from top to bottom, a description of the theme: REAR END COLLISION. Neat!
- 42a. [Puggle, e.g.] MUTT. It feels weird to call a deliberately crossbred dog a mutt, but technically it is correct. Regardless, they’re good dogs, Brent.
- 101d. [Jon’s successor on late-night TV] TREVOR Noah, who replaced Jon Stewart on The Daily Show in 2015.
- 71a. [French novelist Frégni] RENÉ. He has written 15 novels. I’d go into more detail, but out of the first few pages of the 92,000 Google search hits on him, only two are in something other than French.
- 24d. [John in the House of Lords] LOO. John as in a toilet, not a person. I skipped over this one because I know no one in the House of Lords, filled in the crossings, and got a good laugh when I was done the grid.
Until next week!
Robert Fisher’s New York Times crossword, “That’s One Way To Put It”—Amy’s write-up
I can’t really explain this theme. I think the theme entries are supposed to amuse you as a goofy euphemism for the clue phrase, but they left me cold. One of the theme entries sounded familiar, like it’s an existing phrase, but the rest felt foreign to me.
- 24a. [Falling down], TESTING GRAVITY.
- 32a. [Speeding ticket], AWARD FOR FAST DRIVING. A thing that costs you money is not any sort of award.
- 61a. [Lying], ECONOMICAL WITH THE TRUTH. People say this one already, in exactly that sense.
- 87a. [Layoff], CAREER SHIFT OPPORTUNITY. Pardon me, but what is “career shift”? That doesn’t feel in-the-language at all. (This and 61a are both 22 letters long, making the puzzle wider than the standard 21×21. Maybe SHIFT was wedged in there to craft a 22-letter phrase?)
- 114a. [Tax increase], BUDGET REINFORCEMENT. Yawn.
- 130a. [Dead], POST-RETIREMENT. That answer sounds like a legit term as well, but what the hell does death have to do with it? I mean, some people die before they retire from work. Some people leave retirement to go back to work. This whole theme is perplexing.
The best thing I can say about this theme is that at least there were only six theme entries to contend with.
Moving on to the rest of the puzzle, well, there isn’t much to say. The fill didn’t distinguish itself with zippy stuff, nor did it torment me with terrible entries. Just kind of a slog (which, honestly, a great many 21x puzzles are). A few notes:
- 18d. [Charlotte ___, Virgin Islands], AMALIE. Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands really got hammered by dreadful Hurricane Maria. Please donate whatever you can to help with Maria rescues and recovery. People are dying, and they need so, so much help. Here’s a collection of links to orgs you can donate to:
- 9d. [Spermatozoa targets], OVA. Actually, I know a lot of guys whose sperm have never once been aimed at eggs near a uterus.
45a. [Be Kind to Editors and Writers Mo. [for real!]], SEPT. Oh, come on! Why am I finding this out only when the month’s got a few short hours left in it? Better mark your calendars for September 1 next year, people.
- 111d. [Lamb, e.g.], MEAT. If you were grossed out by that DOG MEAT answer some days back, I hope you’re also upset about this one.
- 92d. [Where to accent “Laotian”], THE O. No. No, no, no. When there are notable people named Theo, you should never create an arbitrary class of crossword answers like this. What’s in the middle of labor? THE B. You see? It’s garbage.
- 99d. [Store blowout], BIG SALE. This doesn’t feel quite crossword-worthy to me.
- 138a. LET’S NOT. Indeed.
2.25 stars from me. The fill is mostly competent, but the theme feels so vacant.
Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s CRooked crossword, “Rural Refrain” — penninecio’s write-up
Sing along with me.
- 66aR [Refrain found in eight of this puzzle’s entries] E-I-E-I-O.
- 113a“R2“ [“Old MacDonald Had a Farm” description?] NEIGH NEIGH SONG.
- 23a. [Vietnamese noodle dish] VERMICELLI BOWL. Or, y’know, bún. Yum! Oh wait, that’s Thai.
- 36a. [Taking place south of the border] SET IN MEXICO.
- 56a. [Justice Ginsburg’s appointer] PRESIDENT CLINTON.
- 78a. [“Al Jazeera” show on media] THE LISTENING POST.
- 93a. [URL-connected symbol] WEBSITE ICON.
Liked the theme, despite some of the answers being iffy (93a, 113a (forgivably)) or blah (36a). Not explicitly part of theme: 20a [What roosters do] CROW (it’d be—in English*— cock-a-doodle-doo, anyway), 52a [What cows go] MOO.
- Gotta start with the easiest part. The easiest one for me to complain about, that is. Because it was the most difficult to get. Two crossing NBA (to me) obscurities: 74d [Vlade of the NBA] DIVAC and 84a [Dirk Nowitzki, e.g.] MAV as in Dallas Mavericks. Unless you know that Herr Nowitzki is a basketball player or are familiar with Gospòdin Divac this one is rather opaque. I was able to guess it fairly quickly because I kind of know what Serbian names look like. May have tried DIRAC/MAR first; can’t remember because I solved this last night and was sleepy. On the other hand, perhaps the basketball crossing was intentional, with the Divac clue explicitly mentioning the NBA to subconsciously nudge the (uninitiated) solver into considering that MA– also has something to do with basketball?
- 1a/1d [Use a strop on] / [Tornado aftermath] HONE, HAVOC and not WHET, WASTE. 50a [Homer king after Ruth] MARIS, not AARON. 120a [Sox-covering section] SPORTS, not ANKLE. So many of my instincts were wrong during this solve.
- 61a [Bryce Canyon spires] HOODOOS. Haven’t heard or thought about that word in a long while. Unrelated to 110a [Source of dread] BUGABOO.
- 11d [Kipling stripling] MOWGLI. It rhymes!
- 12d [Reactor] PILE. This is a specifically nuclear sense.
- 16d [Bandleader Arnaz’s given name] DESIDERIO. That is, his full given name. happy to have learned this.
- Favorite clue: 25d [Caller ID?] IT’S ME.
- 44d [Procedural lead-in] PRE-OP. That was a little bit tough.
- 48d [Liver?] DENIZEN.
- 54d [Low score, casually] ONE-0. *sucks teeth*
- 68d [Peter of Herman’s Hermits] NOONE. Nice to see it clued this way on occasion.
- 104d [Word after “hey” in a ballad] NONNY. Would’ve liked the clue to say repeated.
Gail Grabowski’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “Dispirited Away”—Amy’s write-up
The title is to be read as “DI, spirited away,” as each theme answer is formed by spiriting away the DI that begins the first word in assorted familiar phrases. The altered phrases are clued accordingly.
- 24a. [Software update strategies?], VERSION TACTICS. Instead of diversion tactics. Since my puzzle-editing work is for an app that releases new versions periodically (we just released an update for Crosswords With Friends, this resonates with me.
- 36a. [Counsel offered by Carlo Rossi?], VINE GUIDANCE. Carlo Rossi wines.
- 54a. [Dream about childbirth?], VISION OF LABOR.
- 67a. [Views about poetry?], VERSE OPINIONS.
- 86a. [Reminded guests that certain casual attire is required?], STRESSED JEANS.
- 99a. [Uncompromising boss?], STRICT LEADER. STRICT MANAGER would also have worked if Gail needed a different letter count.
- 118a. [Mastering a basic golf lesson?], STANCE LEARNING.
I like that all the di-less words begin their phrases, and that most of the themers almost sound like actual things. They have a consistent vibe to them.
Five more things:
- 47a. [State secrets?], RAT. “State” as a verb here. Tricky clue!
- 7d. [“The Four Seasons” composer], VIVALDI. Lovely fill. I also liked seeing SLAM-BANG, EMPTY LOT, VIP PASS, and Earl SCRUGGS. Less keen on OTTER POP since that’s a regional brand name (and one I learned from crosswords)—we have Fla•vor•ice here.
- 1a. [Financial smartphone download], ATM APP. I remain perplexed as to how this can be a thing. Given that the primary use of an ATM is to withdraw cash, and I don’t have a cash-removal slot on my phone …
- 89d. [Railing feature], BALUSTER. Banister and balustrade are much more familiar words for me.
- 72d. [Google successes], HITS. This is a weird clue. You can Google something and get a bunch of entirely irrelevant HITS in your search results. I was trying to learn where yesterday’s fire was—I saw a miles-long stretch of smoke in the South Suburbs, and I couldn’t find a single Google HIT that was pertinent.
The grid was peppered with flat fill, such as ATRA ETON ITAL AGTS RCAS, but nothing flagrantly terrible.
3.9 stars from me.