Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Group Think” – Erin’s writeup
Clever alternative descriptions of sets of people:
- 25a. [Peer group?] HOUSE OF LORDS
- 31a. [Focus group?] PHOTOGRAPHERS
- 54a. [Core group?] NUCLEAR ENGINEERS
- 61a. [Interest group?] CREDIT UNION
- 77a. [Rock group?] STRIP MINERS
- 87a. [Control group?] BOARD OF DIRECTORS
- 105a. [Splinter group (with 118 Across)?] TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES
- 130a. [Foes of Sauron] X-MEN. I was expecting something The Lord of the Rings-related. I was wrong. Say hello to Sauron!
- 60a. [SNL star Jones] LESLIE. She is one talented human being. Her Twitter feed is hilarious, and her photos at the gym almost inspire me to go myself.
- Two pugilistic entries near each other: 104d. [Works on one’s rights, say] SPARS and 106d. [Boxers’ targets] NOSES.
- 115d. [Big prize on “The Price Is Right”] TRIP. Nope. Kept trying to make A NEW CAR fit, or THE OPPORTUNITY TO PLAY PLINKO EVEN IF YOU DON’T HIT THE $10,000 SPOT.
Until next week!
Tracy Gray’s New York Times crossword, “Selfies”—Amy’s write-up
The theme is tourist sites where you might take a selfie, and they all contain a circled ME in their midst. Each is clued via an imaginary Facebook caption:
- 23a. [Facebook Status: “2016 Summer Olympics and a day trip to one of the new Seven Wonders of the World!”], CHRIST THE REDEEMER. When this is the answer in a Sporcle quiz, I save time by typing Cristo Redentor.
- 31a. [Facebook Status: “Across the pond! And front-row seats to the Henley Royal Regatta!”], RIVER THAMES.
- 51a. [Facebook Status: “Yes! Retail therapy at the largest shopping spot in the U.S.!”], MALL OF AMERICA. I had a little Tim Hortons treat when I was in MoA in August. The parking ramp was a slog, I tell ya. (A friend and I were meeting a couple other friends who wanted to meet somewhere near the airport, so a 20-minute parking odyssey ensued.)
- 70a. [Facebook Status: “Ahhhh … Sun and surf in Cancún, Mexico! Bring on the unlimited piña coladas!”], CLUB MED. I think Club Med is a chain of resorts, no? Feels a bit different qualitatively from the other themers.
- 86a. [Facebook Status: “Hej from København! This statue turned 100 years old in 2013 but is still a beauty!”], LITTLE MERMAID. Hej! I’m assuming that’s Danish for “hi” and I’m pleased to learn it.
- 106a. [Facebook Status: “10-9-8-7 … Ringing in the New Year with 1,000,000 of my newest, closest friends!”], TIMES SQUARE. I would never. Spending hours jammed in the middle of crowds, far from the nearest bathroom? Pass.
- 116a. [Facebook Status: “History abounds! Neo-Classical architecture surrounded by gorgeous cherry blossom trees. Next stop … the White House!”], JEFFERSON MEMORIAL.
- 16d. [Facebook Status: “Vegas, baby! And who would believe I’m standing next to Beyoncé and Katy Perry!”], MADAME TUSSAUDS.
- 50d. [Facebook Status: “Nosebleed seats – but home-field advantage! GO GIANTS!!!”], METLIFE STADIUM. I think this is the football Giants of New York and/or New Jersey rather than the baseball Giants of San Fran, but what do I know?
Theme’s kinda playful, and it’s certainly not one that I’ve seen before.
New to me: 29a. [Valuable china, e.g.], ARTWARE. I’d not seen this term before.
Favorite fill: CAPTCHA, THE FED, “HELL, NO,” MORTICIA, QDOBA, CAMI, ADORBS, and Lily TOMLIN. Also, the staggered-by-one-square, 5-letter overlap of 96d/97d MORELS and OR ELSE is neat.
Unfavorites: ORANT, LEFT AJAR, SERGES.
Two clues I liked:
- 11d. [Dingy part of a kitchen?], OVEN TIMER. As in “thing that goes ding,” with a hard G, and not dingy with a soft G. Enjoyed this clue.
- 73d. [Alabama and Kansas, for two], BANDS. Alabama is a country band whose work I don’t know at all, while Kansas is an old rock band whose hits I do remember.
3.8 stars from me. I’ll leave you with this Kansas video.
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s CRooked crossword, “Surplus” — pannonica’s write-up
Well this is turning out to be a busy day. Started writing this this morning and it’s already well into the afternoon as I return to it.
So, cursory write-up.
Theme is SUR– prefixed to existing phrases, making wackified new ones. Remade versions all contain legitimate sur–words, spelling has been altered from the originals as necessary.Standard caveat about regional pronunciation issues.
- 23a. [Stun boxer?] SURPRISE FIGHTER (prize fighter).
- 35a. [Wall Street guy who catches waves?] SURFER TRADER (fur trader). This one definitely doesn’t work for me, phonetically.
- 96a. [Bulge that’s suddenly showing?] SURFACED BUMP (fist bump).
- 110a. [Do some spy work in Denver?] SURVEIL COLORADO (Vail, Colorado).
- 3d. [Superfluity till death?] SURFEIT FOR LIFE (fit for life, I think). Another phonetic issue, unless I have it wrong.
- 34d. [Doctor’s task?] SURGERY DUTY (jury duty). Not a perfect phonetic match for me, but close.
- 45d. [Unpleasant college concentrations?] SURLY MAJORS (Lee Majors). Not good for me here either. This and its predecessor suffer—for me—because a previously stressed syllable becomes unstressed in the new version, even if the pronunciations are essentially the same. Ditto on 96a ad 35a, but the former definitely also features a different vowel sound for me. Strangely, 3d seems okay.
- 54d. [Forfeits?] SURRENDERS GAME (Ender’s Game). Hey, guess what? Forfeit and SURFEIT share the same root etymology.
It’s a theme.
- 116a [Hobbles] LAMES. 110d [Like lame excuses] SAD. Aside from the duplication, I suspect regular readers of the blog will be able to surmise the criticism here. Wow.
- 91a [ATM number] PIN. In which the N stands for … ‘number’.
- 92a [Apple gizmo] CORER. Fooled me; was definitely thinking of the
technologylifestyle cultcompany. Sort of a double-fake masked capital.
- 4d [Deli receipt line] TIP. Deli? Okay, sure, some delis are sit-down places. But I think this is a weird choice in the clue.
- 47d [Fitting puzzles] JIGSAWS. Cute.
That’s it, got to run.
Garry Morse’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “Mending Things”—Amy’s write-up
The theme is “M endings” on “things”—add an M to a word that ends with a vowel sound, adjust the spelling as needed to make an actual word, and clue the resulting goofball phrase accordingly.
- 23a. [Result of failing to catch a wascally wabbit?], ELMER’S GLOOM. Elmer’s Glue meets Elmer Fudd.
- 25a. [Viral video about Dre’s headphones?], BEATS MEME. “Beats me” meets Beats by Dre.
- 56a. [“I’m the best on the runway,” e.g.?], MODELING CLAIM. Clay. This one’s my favorite of the themers.
- 78a. [Herb served only on trains?], RAILROAD THYME. Railroad tie.
- 113a. [Floral stench?], BLOOM FUNK. Blue funk.
- 115a. [Poor prompt to a friend who’s been asked what the capital of Alaska is?], JUST SAY “NOME.” No.
- 43d. [Some “Ghostbusters” jokes?], SLIME HUMOR. Is “sly humor” really enough of a thing to base wordplay on it? I vote no.
- 38d. [British cop’s heartthrob?], BOBBY FLAME. Bobby Flay, celebrity chef.
Theme works fairly well, as these things go.
- 101d. [__ man], LADY’S. Ladies’ man is much more commonly used.
- 1d. [Suit material], TWEED. Raise your hand if you’ve ever owned a tweed suit (as opposed to just a tweed jacket, or nothing at all in tweed). Anyone?
- 76a. [Soccer phenom Freddy], ADU. Heh. He was a phenom when he was 14 or 15, but now he’s 28 and he hasn’t been a phenom for quite some time.
- 29d. [Eye-opener at the gym], HUNK. I was not expecting this answer here!
- 93d. [Day or nail follower], SPA. I’ve never seen a nail salon called a nail spa, I don’t think, but I wouldn’t put it past the industry to have plenty of places with that designation.
Fill like OBLA, plural AHAS and UMS and YULES, plural abbrevs LEMS and OEDS, the AX MEN/AW MAN overlap, UIE, ULAN … not entirely beyond the pale, but it felt like there was a bit more of this stuff than I like to see in a grid.
3.4 stars from me.
Great Sunday puzzle with difficult spots that came together somewhat organically.
I didn’t like the Times at all. For one thing, the theme clues really grated on me. I sure hope no one I know on Facebook ever sounds like that. For another, the theme sites were mostly foreign to me. I didn’t know that CHRIST THE REDEEMER was a tourist attraction rather than a religious term (which also grated on me as not a Christian) or that LITTLE MERMAID was not just a cartoon character, I don’t know sports arenas, and I sure hope I never think of or visit MALL OF AMERICA. I also didn’t enjoy many of the clues or answers, which I realize tried to give a more contemporary idiom to things, like CAMI, QDOBA (has that chain dared enter New York?), ARTWARE, ADORBS, and more. I also think of the second-largest city in Peru as unfortunate trivia.
But mostly the theme eluded me because I couldn’t believe it was that simple. You mean nothing’s connecting the long fill other than that it all has the two letters ME? That’s it? I couldn’t accept it so kept looking for more. Maybe if you read the across clues without the ME, they match the definitions more closely? (Not impossible given that, as I say, I didn’t know the first I got, the statue of Jesus.) But soon enough obviously no, and I just had to accept that I hated the puzzle.
I agreed with all that you said.
If you were a woman, CAMI would be everyday vocabulary. I do appreciate when male editors don’t insist on removing such things from puzzles, because it certainly feels more inclusive to me to encounter fill like CAMI in the puzzle.
I’m sure you’re right, but in my male enclave I don’t think I wear anything that’s not in RHUD.
NYT was very engaging & clever. Particularly the parodic tone of the posts in the theme clues & the subtle dig at what selfies are really all about, no matter where they’re taken. Admittedly wasn’t aware that LITTLE MERMAID was a place so that was the last to fall. Also happy that the New York Football Giants got a themed shoutout instead of just another ELI Manning (although that was in the offing too).
WaPo: Delightful. Extra-special bonus kudos for working in TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES. Turtle power! My son was into them, back in the day, and we both welcomed their resurgence.
NYT: I liked this much better than some. It was fun to figure out what attraction would be at which site stated in the clue, and the MEs added another layer of amusement, rather than being the thing which was surrounded by “fill”. And I love the fairy tales of Hans Christian Andersen. Excellent!
I saw a big NYC tourism ad at a bus stop in Chicago … and the ad featured TMNT. Was not expecting that as the angle for drawing Midwesterners to New York!
As a life-long left coast resident, Amy’s review was only the second time I had ever heard the term “parking ramp” (we say parking garage). The first time was from a co-worker who relocated from Michigan.
Also, since these are Facebook status postings, I assumed the circled letters were meant to be interpreted as “me in ……..”, although that doesn’t work with all of the answers, particularly River Thames unless front row seats are actually in the water.
I only use “parking ramp” in relation to Minnesota. Here in Chicago, I think everyone calls them “parking garages.”
Count me among those who felt the NYT was MEh. Though like JohnH I’m not religious, let alone Christian, this is the tune I’d have shared:
(Byrd’s serene, majestic trumpet doesn’t come in until nearly the two-minute mark.)
Re: John H –
Very witty. Taking the “Me, me, me” theme of the puzzle and applying it to your comment … nicely done.
Re: NYT – agree with John H., coming up with famous places in the world that have the letters “ME” in them doesn’t seem like much of a challenge.
Puzzle left me cold
Yeah, and I realize I was being as self-involved as a selfie in voicing objections, but that’s what this forum is for. Anyhow, I’d have thought it’d take as much ingenuity to find phrases (I won’t say “theme phrases” ) that DON’T contain ME!
Liked Eli (Manning) crossing with his team’s home stadium.
panonnica: I’m not sure that’s the implication in Hex’s 4 Down. My wife and I were at a Chinese restaurant, last night, and the hostess had a tip jar on her counter. I think they have similar tip jars in Starbucks, no? It’s even more brazen to include a blank tip line on a receipt for the same “service” at a counter deli. I don’t think it matters if the patrons are served sitting down. I wouldn’t be surprised if tip jars soon show up at Walmart check-out stands.
You say, “It’s a theme.” I would say, “It’s not much of a theme.” I’ve said it before, adding or subtracting letter combinations to arrive at nonsense phrases is nonsense and rarely humorous. (Is it easier for constructors to make up a theme this way rather than creating a challenging clue for an interesting and informed fill?)
Hi Papa John – just one comment about tips. I am assuming, and please correct me if I am wrong, that you have not been on the other side of the counter. Those people deserve tips. I have worked in a bookstore café and it can be crazy. It can also be wonderful.
Food service people work hard, even if they stay behind the counter. Please tip.
Chiming in late because I just got home and did the puzzle — and I’m with those who thought it was really a dud. I assumed some cleverness was going over my head, since having the letters ME in names of famous places didn’t seem interesting at all. But that’s all it was.
Not only everything that John wrote but a good way to get free lodging courtesy of the city would be to go up to a mother in Central Park and tell her that her kid is “adorbs”.