Erik Agard and Alex Briñas’s New York Times crossword, “Power Ballads”—Amy’s write-up
Today’s theme is musical artists whose names relate to assorted superheroes’ key traits (or names, or accoutrements), and you have to know a little bit about some of the superheroes because their names don’t always give everything away, and the clues don’t include any songs by the artists. You also need to be familiar with the names of musical artists (I am—it’s my job). Here are the themers:
- 23a. [Aquaman’s favorite singer?], BILLY OCEAN. Oceans, water, etc. Aquaman will be played by Jason Momoa in next month’s Justice League movie. Looking forward to that … though I’ve skipped the other recent DC movies.
- 25a. [The Human Torch’s favorite band?], ARCADE FIRE. The Torch is a fire guy.
- 35a. [The Hulk’s favorite band?], GREEN DAY. You’d have to know that Hulk is green.
- 44a. [Iceman’s favorite band?], COLDPLAY. Never heard of Iceman, but ice is cold.
- 55a. [The Flash’s favorite singer?], TAYLOR SWIFT. The Flash moves super-swiftly.
- 68a. [Magneto’s favorite band?], METALLICA. Magnets stick to certain metals.
- 78a. [Spider-Man’s favorite band?], THE SPINNERS. Spidey spins webs from a dispenser on his hand. The Spinners aren’t technically a band, though—they’re a vocal group. Band members generally play instruments.
- 89a. [Batman’s favorite rapper?], LIL WAYNE. You’d have to know that Batman’s real name is Bruce Wayne.
- 99a. [Thor’s favorite rapper?], MC HAMMER. Thor’s hammer is Mjölnir.
- 112a. [Electro’s favorite singer?], FRANK ZAPPA. Electricity can zap things.
- 114a. [What the musical artists in this puzzle would form if they all performed together?], SUPERGROUP. Akin to the Traveling Wilburys, a supergroup that lost a member this week. Neat way to reinterpret the term,
Fun theme, provided you are not one to grumble at pop culture. Following pop culture is part of my Crosswords With Friends job, and Erik is one of our constructors, so I dug this a lot.
Favorite fill: GOING PLACES, SACRED COW, PREGGERS, FREEZE POP, SAN FRAN (stand down, San Frannies! you are powerless to stop this), ETYMOLOGY, COIN TOSS, and the GPS’s RECALCULATE. There’s space for lots of interesting longer fill despite the inclusion of seven (shortish) themers.
Seven more things:
- 32a. [Feminine hygiene product], PAD. I love the unembarrassed clue. If this grosses you out, please undo your existence on earth because none of us would be here without the female reproductive cycle. (No dis to those who use assisted reproductive methods to achieve a baby. We are legion.) Have you seen the new Fitbit pendant accessory? It would appear to have been designed by men because it looks an awful lot like a shiny tampon.
- 8d. [“Stay in your ___!”], LANE. This feels like an Agard clue! If you really don’t know a topic, if you don’t have a personal stake in it, it’s good to stand down and let the stakeholders talk.
- 71a. [Comment advising you to set your sights a little lower?], SEE NOTE. As in “see footnote”? Meh.
- 9d. [Approximately], AT A GUESS. This is an awkward, stilted phrase that doesn’t sound remotely familiar to me.
- 94d. [“Feel me?”], “YA DIG?” Colloquialism, complete with colloquial spelling.
- 51d. [Boo-boo], OWIE. I could swear that I saw a mention of OWIE being added to the Scrabble dictionary, or to the Words With Friends dictionary, but I’m not seeing this online.
- 63d. [Song with the lyric “A loko e hana nei”], ALOHA OE. If this one caught you unawares in the Saturday puzzle, I hope you were ready for it today.
4.25 stars from me.
Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Role Reversal” – Erin’s writeup
Actor’s parts in films, hidden backwards in the longer entries:
- 23a. [Baggy garment that bears the name of the rapper who wore them in his music videos (Gwyneth Paltrow)] HAMMER PANTS, concealing the title role in EMMA.
- 25a. [Chef’s vessels (Alan Rickman)] SAUCEPANS, SNAPE from the Harry Potter series.
- 40a. [Becky Hammon’s basketball squad from 2007 to 2014 (Dustin Hoffman)] SAN ANTONIO STARS, RATSO Rizzo from Midnight Cowboy.
- 56a. [Subject of “The XFiles” (Tom Hardy)] ALIEN ABDUCTION, BANE in The Dark Knight Rises.
- 83a. [Compact car that debuted in 1990 (Carrie Fisher)] HYUNDAI ELANTRA, LEIA from the Star Wars films.
- 98a. [Queen’s “Queen” of 1973, e.g. (Wesley Snipes)] SELF-TITLED ALBUM, BLADE.
- 116a. [“Stir It Up” singer (Sylvester Stallone)] BOB MARLEY, RAMBO.
- 118a. [Manipulative tactic designed to force someone to question their own sanity (Ingrid Bergman)] GASLIGHTING, ILSA from Casablanca.
- 46a. [Spade player] BOGART, as Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon, who also played Rick in Casablanca alongside Ingrid Bergman as discussed above.
- 106a. [Social breakdown] ANOMIE. According to merriam-webster.com, it means “social instability resulting from a breakdown of standards and values.” Hmm…
- 122a. [LGBT activist Windsor] EDIE. Her case against the federal government led to the Supreme Court ruling that gave same-sex marriages federal recognition and spousal benefits in 13 states and the District of Columbia for the first time. She passed away in September 2017.
- 59d. [Temple setting] CAMPUS. EDIE Windsor obtained her bachelor’s degree from Temple University. A certain crossword constructor was a graduate student there too, before getting his current gig.
- 62d. [Animal on Fruit Stripe gum packaging] ZEBRA. This commercial weirded me out as a child. It still does today.
Until next week!
Paul Coulter’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “Top This!”—Amy’s write-up
Quick write-up now, because I need to get to bed and then will be busy into the afternoon with the Chicago Marathon. My husband’s running, as is a dear friend’s kidney donor. Three cheers for the runners who are making it work with just one kidney!
Theme answers are long words/phrases that are foods, topped by the answers with circled letters. Your FOOT-LONG HOT DOG may be topped with ONIONS. Never seen a HAMBURGER topped with RELISH, though—bread and butter pickle chips, sure. TORTILLA CHIP is generally dipped in SALSA rather than “topped,” though. LIME on a GRILLED STEAK seems wildly arbitrary to me. The single OLIVE is already cooked into that COLD PIZZA, isn’t it? I would never put OREOS atop an ICE CREAM SUNDAE. My guys never miss an opportunity to put parmesan CHEESE on pasta, whether it’s SPAGHETTI AND MEATBALLS or another noodle.
Lots of tough and/or clunky fill here. When your 1-Across is GANNET and it crosses A NOTE, ENL, and TSO’S … you aren’t surprised to encounter ERLE ERSE UTNE OREM OREL OSIERS PSEUD SHR … and MR (?!) SMEE.
Theme is cute but not 100% successful, fill is rough. Three stars from me.
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s CRooked crossword, “Aye, Aye” — pannonica’s write-up
Theme answers share the trait of opening with a four-letter word with consonants as first and third letters, and a pair of is second and fourth.
- 23a. [Taveuni and Beqa, for two] FIJI ISLANDS.
- 25a. [Mets’ home] CITI FIELD.
- 35a. [California wine spot] SIMI VALLEY.
- 49a. [Putt-putt] MINI GOLF.
- 52a. [Opera singer from New Zealand] KIRI TE KANAWA.
- 67a. [Chinese gooseberry] KIWI FRUIT.
- 84a. [Piano that plugs into a computer] MIDI KEYBOARD.
- 87a. [Open-source reference entry] WIKI PAGE.
- 95a. [Web signal provider] WIFI ROUTER.
- 110a. [Luau lighting] TIKI TORCH.
- 112a. [“Purple Haze” guitarist] JIMI HENDRIX.
Hmm, distracting with 80d [“Absolutely, amigo”] SÍ SÍ crossing themers 87- and 95-across; plus, it shares space with 80a [Chip’s material] SILICON.
Not wowed by theme, but the puzzle on the whole was a pleasant enough solve. Wish there were more clues I could claim were cleverly entertaining or imparted some interesting trivia. Alas.
- 6a [Meat on a stick] KABOB. Rather unfair crossing 7d [Japanese carrier] ANA (All Nippon Airways. Why? I don’t believe ANA is as prominent as JAL (Japan Airlines)—despite apparently being a much bigger corporation, and kabob isn’t the most common spelling of a word that’s transliterated at least 5 different ways.
- 74a [Puncher’s weapon] FIST. Odd clue threw off my rhythm, had to consciously stop to process it.
- 88a [Shopping limitation] ONE PER [a customer] followed immediately by 89a [Secy.’s speed] WPM, words per minute. 78a [Gas hog, for short] UTE, 105a [Fuel line] GAS PIPE. 19a [ ___ directed] USE AS, 97d [Applied to] USED ON.
- 122a [Mean look] SNARL. Not seeing a definitional sense that conforms to this clue’s suggestion. Not at m-w, anyway.
- 36d [J. and K. of J.K. Rowling, e.g.] INIT. Clue suggests plural INITS, no? I’m definitely on a nitpicky streak here. Hey, the Men in Black movies have Agents J and K … crossover potential?
- 28a [“Gauntlet” elf] QUESTOR. Gauntlet was a 1980s arcade game made by ATARI (117a [Go term]).
- 32a [ ___ the chase] CUT TO. Cutto is not the violent Marx brother than no-one talks about.