Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle (Week 331), “Deli Dally”—Janie’s take
Once again, Liz has raised the challenge for newbie solvers. This week’s puzz employs a drop-a-letter theme, but she gives us no unqualified hint of this in the title, which has its own charms but not one—imho—of shedding real light on how the theme works. Instead, everything becomes clear in the reveal at 60A. “HOLD THE MAYO!” [Deli sandwich order demonstrated by the answers to the starred clues]. To wit: the last letter of each of the starred themers has been withheld, in the sequence M–A–Y–O. Additionally, those themers are all well-known names/phrases, clued in a literal/humorously image-evoking way to reflect the letter loss—whence their also being question-marked clues. The result: a terrific theme set, executed deliciously. Here’s how:
- 17A. *[What a tenor ghost must do to sing a bass part?] LOWER THE “BOO!” For anyone who’s ever performed or listened to any choral singing, this is a very silly and very funny concept. Lower the booM (see #10, “Idiom”).
- 24A. *[Policy expert who owns a chocolate factory?] WILLY WONK. Willy WonkA.
- 36A. *[Musical in which Eli Doolittle takes lessons from Professor Higgins?] MY FAIR LAD. Another very high-concept combo, eliciting a real “Hah!” from yours truly. Yes, we’re actually talking about two letters here, but I liked that the drop-a-letter idea was extended into the clue. Just in case the game of the theme hadn’t become clear. Of course, that’s Eliza Doolittle of My Fair LadY.
- 51A. *[Embrace from a French author?] VICTOR HUG. By this time, I’d figured out the reveal and knew we were headed for “HOLD THE MAYO!” But for the life of me, I couldn’t think of a French author with a name ending in “O,” so really needed some of the crosses to get my brain in gear. D’oh. Victor HugO.
As you can tell, I had fun solving this, and especially watching the theme letters EMERGE. But… did the title help you? For this boomer (and although I’d completely forgotten what he looked like), what it brought to mind was the (more memorable) alliterative name of Howdy Doody’s friend Dilly Dally. I know that “dally” can mean “dawdle” or “lag behind”—but because the word has other meanings related to “amuse,” I missed finding a clear-cut connection to the theme and ended up understanding “Deli Dally” as “amuse oneself at the deli”… Your mileage may vary! ;-)
If the rewards of successfully sussing out the theme were not enough, the puzzle also rewards us with the assets delivered by the non-theme fill. Opinions may DIFFER (they always do…), but I was particularly taken with those triple columns in the NE and SW corners: TAILORS, VIKINGS and SLEEKER, and DIVERGE, UNICORN and ETCHERS. GOULASH and NEW HIGH, INITIAL and “HAVE ONE!” add to that strong showing of seven-letter entries.
Kudos, too, to the inclusion of IDEALISM and WISDOM (virtues both), DAY CAMPS and DAWN ON, YO YO MA and YOKO Ono (musicians both, but [understatement alert]: widely DIVERGEnt where genre is concerned), and the lively IMPISH and “SMILE!” Because the word doesn’t get a lot of play in modern day usage, I thought the poetic ENGIRD [Wrap around] pairing was a bit tough (though I think there’s a tie-in to that VICTOR HUG lurking here…).
How did the puzz play out for you? Feel free to weigh in. Here in the middle-Atlantic area of the east coast, summer seems once again to have made an exit, bringing us to sweatshirt/sweater weather. Cool temps for cool solving. Til next week, and whatever the weather where you are: keep solving!
Zhouqin Burnikel’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Troublesome”—Laura’s write-up
- [17a: Place for bulls and bears]: STOCK MARKET
- [28a: Airport carry-on, often]: LAPTOP COMPUTER
- [42a: Many a party animal]: UNINVITED GUEST
- [56a: Action movie stand-in]: STUNT DRIVER
- [50dR: Sound of cymbals, and what the starred answers might do]: CRASH
… because the STOCK MARKET might experience a sudden decline of prices (CRASH), a program on your LAPTOP COMPUTER might suddenly cease functioning and close (CRASH), an UNINVITED GUEST might show up at your social event, uh, uninvited (CRASH), and a STUNT DRIVER might suddenly, dramatically, and with a magnificent! explosion! collide his or her car into another car or object (CRASH). These all work well except as noted above: computers themselves don’t CRASH but programs and operating systems do. Senses of crash not used in this puzzle: cardiac arrest, when a heart stops beating (and medical personnel might use a CRASH CART to attempt to restart it); what Wikipedia delicately calls “sleeping at an impromptu location,” as in “Yo, my roommate is being a jerk, can I CRASH at your pad, my dude?”; and various other forms of vehicular accidents. Note to self: in the future, refrain from running a Google Image Search for crash.
EASY [19a: “Child’s play!”] was this puzzle, and it had lots of prepositional phrases — [5d: Eventually]: LATER ON, [15d: Showed sudden interest]: SAT UP, [11d: Arm waver’s shout]: OVER HERE, [46d: Associates with]: TIES TO, [46d: “Uncle!”]: I GIVE UP. I wanted [18d: Playground call] to be ARE SO or some such taunt, but no: MOMMY. Not DADDY, or in some communities, NANNY? EKE EWE ERA EON. This post [52d: Wraps up]: ENDS with a video of this lovely song from one of my fave forgotten indie/post-punk bands of the late 80s/early 90s:
I’ve had enough enough of you
You know to last a lifetime through.
Chuck Deodene’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Man, when your theme revealer is in a weird spot—two 6s in the center row—and you know enough crosswordese to fill in those 6s without even seeing their clues, well, you finish a puzzle entirely unaware that there is a theme at all. Turns out we’ve got 36a. [With 38-Across, feature of an upscale kitchen … or of 17-, 23-, 47- and 58-Across?], CENTER / ISLAND. The chunk of black squares in the grid’s center is isolated like an island in the center of a big ocean, very big. Those four x-reffed answers contain a hidden island embedded within:
- 17a. [One might stare at the Sun], BALTIMOREAN. The island is Timor, which is split between Indonesia and the newish country Timor-Leste, or East Timor. (And the Baltimore Sun is a newspaper. They’ve got a copy editor named John McIntyre who writes a language blog I like.
- 23a. [It holds four pecks], BUSHEL BASKET. Answer feels a little unnatural to me, being a city person who doesn’t handle bushel baskets. Island is Elba, which no longer occupies as much crossword space now that the lovely Idris Elba is famous.
- 47a. [Manager at a train depot], STATION AGENT. That’s a phrase I know only from that 2003 Peter Dinklage movie I never saw. The island is Iona, which is either near England or in the Ionian Sea. … Okay, it’s in the inner Hebrides off Scotland, population 177.
- 58a. [Discussions that might lead to a treaty], FORMAL TALKS. Malta is the only one of these islands that’s a sovereign nation.
This puzzle announced its intentions right off the bat with its first clue, [River to the Caspian Sea]. Nothing says “easy, accessible crossword” like a 1-Across calling for a European river! The VOLGA joins other non-Tuesday-beginner-friendly fill like –ITE, ELYSEE, weirdly spelled YAH (you know, the Minnesota accent they twitted in Fargo derives from Scandinavian immigrants … whose word for “yes” is ja, pronounced like YAH. So maybe they were saying “oh ja”? I recently met a Minnesotan who’s a Swedish immigrant, and I’ll be damned if the only accent I could pick up on was a Minnesota accent. Boy, this digression’s a long one), Julius LAROSA, plural OLES, hardcore crosswordese SNEE ([Old-fashioned dagger], yep), and the inexplicable E-TEXT. [Writing in digital format], E-TEXT! That’s really in this puzzle! Wow.
I like THINK SMALL, LINEBACKER, MYANMAR, and IN HELL. Overall, though, there was too much fill in the “decidedly meh” category for me to give a thumbs-up. 2.9 stars from me.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “Mighty Mo” – Derek’s write-up
I often think that brainstorming ideas for some of these thematic puzzles would be the most entertaining and fun part of constructing some of these puzzles. An argument could be made that it takes the most time. (Although clueing, I think, is usually viewed as the most tedious part!) I also often try to think of other examples of the theme. This week’s Jonesin’ theme entails adding the letters MO in front of a phrase, or, to put another way, searching for six letter words that start with MO that can have the MO removed and still be a word! Here is what Matt used; can you think of any others?
- 17A [Little google attachments stuck to a spiky hairdo?] MOHAWK EYES
- 62A [Formal dance full of angora fleece wearers?] MOHAIR BALL
- 11D [Stay on the lawn and don’t hit sprinklers, e.g.?] MOWING TIPS
- 27D [Emo place to roll some strikes?] MOROSE BOWL
Perhaps a phrase starting with Motown or Moving (Ving Rhames?) would also have worked. But Matt is able to, as usual, put his distinctive flair for humor int he clues, which always adds to the enjoyment of solving. Well done! A robust 4.4 stars today.
A few more things:
- 32A [Like universal blood recipients] TYPE AB – As I write this, the news is still raw of the bloodshed in Las Vegas late Sunday/early Monday morning. Crazy times these are. One can only think, “What will happen next?”
- 55A [Cocktail named for a Scottish hero] ROB ROY – This fella may or may not have been featured in a Panda Magazine puzzle recently! I am still working on a large section of the latest issue; it usually takes me the full two months, and I am really dead when the new Puzzle Boat comes out!
- 1D [__ Club (Wal-Mart offshoot)] SAM’S – Which is better: this place or Costco? There has only been a Costco here for the last couple of years or so, so I am not as familiar with their products.
- 36D [Tesla founder Musk] ELON – Before this guy rose to prominence, it was all about Elon University in NC!
- 44D [Professer McGonagall, in the Potterverse] MINERVA – I believe you. I have never seen these movies or read one of the books!
Everybody have a great week. It is fall! Great colors coming soon!
Roland Huget’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
We have another theme where it isn’t readily evident until you get to the revealer, which is in a slightly odd spot at 42D.
- 17A [Boot camp newbie] RAW RECRUIT
- 66A [Defensible alibi] GOOD EXCUSE
- 11D [Grand scheme of things] BIG PICTURE
- 29D [It may be rational, in math] REAL NUMBER
- 42D [“Agreed!” … and what can be said about the start of the answers to starred clues] “IT’S A DEAL!”
So we are of course familiar with the phrases raw deal, good deal, big deal and real deal. Nicely done, since I had no idea what was going on until I got near the end, and I always love a good “a-ha!” moment. 4.2 stars.
Just a couple more things:
- 14A [Preemptive rescue op] EVAC – This makes me think of all the people trying to “evac” Puerto Rico, but of course not everyone can leave. Let’s hope that beautiful island gets rebuilt sooner rather than later.
- 48A [Chinese menu promise] NO MSG – But isn’t that what makes it taste so good?
- 2D [Hall of Fame catcher Rodriguez] IVAN – Also known by the nickname “Pudge,” he was quite a player for the Texas Rangers, Detroit Tigers, and a handful of other teams. Tied for the sixth most home runs by a catcher in MLB history.
- 22D [Simba’s playmate] NALA – Disney!!
- 63D [Those, in Mexico] ESOS – Not my favorite. This answer, I believe, could also be ESAS. ESTS and ALTE isn’t any better, though, so we will deal with it!
Enjoy the rest of your week, and I will see you on Saturday!