Natan Last’s New York Times crossword, “Lane Changes”—Amy’s write-up
Which way do you want to go? 67a. [1916 Frost verse … or, diverged: Start of a saying about meaning well] clues THE ROAD NOT TAKEN … or THE ROAD TO HELL, which is paved with good intentions. The Frost verse is THE ROAD NOT TAKEN, and if the answer diverges with a 135° veer to the south, you’ve “diverged” to THE ROAD TO HELL. The other theme answer pairs start with synonyms for road:
- 22a. [1992 movie based on an “S.N.L.” sketch … or, diverged: Modus vivendi], WAYNE’S WORLD / WAY OF LIFE.
- 39a. [Computer mouse action … or, diverged: Event for RuPaul], DRAG AND DROP / DRAG SHOW. I cost myself plenty of time by filling in DOUBLE CLICK here. (Drag as in “the main drag.”)
- 97a. [Bring someone home … or, diverged: Common high school offering], DRIVE IN A RUN / DRIVER’S ED.
- 117a. [Nissan S.U.V.s … or, diverged: Emotional appeal], PATHFINDERS / PATHOS.
With all this diagonal answer business, you might well expect crappy fill. And yet! Natan has deftly woven those diagonals amid colorful entries and managed to avoid a crapfest. Huzzah! The chap has skills. Highlights in the fill include BIG TALK, MEDIA BIAS, “GOD HELP US” (plus LAWD and YAHWEH for more theism) ATTACK ADS, BELOW ZERO (please … not till late January at least), I AM LEGEND, “NO YOU DIDN’T” (obligatory pronunciation is “di-[glottal stop]-n’t”), UPSELL, SEAN PENN, STUBHUB, BELLAGIO, “AH, WELL,” BUZZED, and THE BEE GEES. Even that little EGOT towards the end pleased me.
Granted, there are little clunkers here and there, as there are in nearly any 21×21 puzzle—plural TSKS, ACR, TEMA, maybe a few others. Nothing I found scowlworthy while solving.
- 45a. [Blue-roofed eatery], IHOP. Now I’m hankering for pancakes. No use going Sunday morning—I hate waiting in crowds. Maybe Monday dinner.
- 14d. [Armless coats that may bear coats of arms], TABARDS.Two sorts of coats, two sorts of arms. Cute clue for a medievalist sort of answer.
- 56a. [Freudian “will to live”], EROS. Not the same as libido, apparently. I never did pay much mind to Freud.
- 63a. [Italian novelist Morante], ELSA. I had never heard of the late author. I am glad Wikipedia tells us her mother’s surname was Poggibonsi, because that is one amazing name. It’s also a 900-year-old Italian town.
- 115a. [Artist with the third most Top 40 hits in the 1960s, behind Elvis and the Beatles], BRENDA LEE. I would not have guessed! Thank you, crossings.
4.5 stars from me, despite the complete lack of any Nathan Lane angle here. (Only a Natan “Lane” angle.)
Mike Peluso’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “Gridiron Glossary”—Jenni’s write-up
Any given Sunday … we have a football theme! Grab some chips or a brat and settle in. The theme answers are football terms clued as if they weren’t football terms.
- 23a [Goose’s medical concern?] would be LOSS OF DOWN.
- 25a [F?] is FALSE START. “F” starts the word “false,” in case you were wondering.
- 45a [Ginger cookie factory statistic?] is SNAP COUNT. Mmm, gingersnaps….
- 69a [What results from failure to stop at a deer crossing?] is DELAY OF GAME. I guess this suggests that the deer are waiting for the cars to go by, so the GAME is DELAYed…..in my experience the deer just keep right on going as if you weren’t there at all.
- 91a [So-so haul in the fishing industry?] is a FAIR CATCH.
- 110a [Home security system at no cost?] is FREE SAFETY.
- 114a [“Hamlet” in progress?] is PLAY ACTION.
I know absolutely nothing about football, so if any of those are not actually football terms, feel free to explain in comments. They all look OK to me, which means nothing.
A few other things, most of them unappealing:
- 5d [Friday creator] is DEFOE; the Friday in question is a character in “Robinson Crusoe.”
- 11d [Chan portrayer] is OLAND. According to IMDB, Warner OLAND made his last Charlie Chan move in 1937. That’s a full eighty years ago. Given the obscurity and the racism – Oland was not Asian and Chan was played in yellowface – I’d be perfectly happy to not see either the actor or character in a crossword again.
- 29d [Court defendant: Abbr.] is RESP. I presume this stands for “respondent,” which is not really obvious.
- 63d [Discuss in detail] is HASH OVER. Google Ngram supports my sense that “hash out” is far more common. I’ve never heard HASH OVER.
- 73a [Equally irate] is AS MAD, which is true, but pretty random.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that ARRID makes a product called “Invigorate Dry Spray.”
Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Person of the Year”—Jim Q’s write-up
First of all, congrats to Evan for reaching his 100th milestone last week for the number of puzzles he’s written as the Washington Post Sunday constructor. And the quality streak continues with today’s offering, “Person of the Year.” This one comes with a meta puzzle, which asks the solver to find a Time’s Person of the Year in the past 30 years who completes the theme. If, for some reason, you were unaware that this was a meta puzzle, then it’s likely the theme would be lost on you.
There seem to be 11 symmetrically placed answers could possibly be theme related. They are:
23-Across: [“Persuasion” author] JANE AUSTEN (Hate to admit that I’ve never heard of that book.)
25-Across: [Procter & Gamble spray product that debuted in 2017] FEBREZE ONE (or as I like to call it… cologne.)
37-Across: [Sources of orange fruit] APRICOT TREES
49-Across: [“Family Guy” politico] MAYOR WEST (one letter longer than ADAM WEST… which screwed me up a tad)
52-Across: [Research involving flawed analysis] JUNK SCIENCE
66-Across: [Helena Bonham Carter’s co-star in the 1985 adaptation of “A Room with a View”] JULIAN SANDS
84-Across: [Hanna-Barbera pooch with a rhyming name] AUGGIE DOGGIE
88-Across: [Feature of an old photograph] SEPIA TONE
95-Across: [91, e.g. at a pump] OCTANE RATING (I’ve never tasted 91. 87 is more my palette)
113-Across: [Sydney’s province] NOVA SCOTIA (Not Australia. They have states.)
117-Across: [Pronounce hostilities] DECLARE WAR
On the outset, there doesn’t seem to be much connecting this set as theme answers. The first thing I noticed was that they were all two words. I briefly tried making something at of the initial letter of each word, but gave up on that idea somewhere around MAYOR WEST. Instead, I glanced at the title: Person of the Year, and things quickly fell into place. Although only two are actually people… well I guess three if we count MAYOR WEST (does that count as a person?), each of the 11 answers starts with the first three letters of a month.
Jane Austen = JAN = January, Febreze One = FEB = February, etc.
But wait a second… there are only eleven theme answers, and unless you bought your calendar “as is” from a dollar store due to a misprint, I’m pretty sure there are twelve months in a year.
Sure enough, MARCH is missing in action, and a quick Wikipedia search will tell you that MARK ZUCKERBERG is the Time’s Person of the Year who completes the puzzle. If you’re wondering why he narrowed it down to a specific timeframe, I’d assume it’s because Martin Luther King, Jr. (1963) would complicate the meta.
This was a smooth solve from start to finish for me. Although I’ve never heard of JULIAN SANDS (needed every cross), intersecting answers were fair. I co-constructed a quirky puzzle with Evan some years ago, and I know how much pride he puts into making sure his theme answers are consistent, his fill is as junk-free as possible (I guarantee you will never find ALER or NLER in one of his grids), and his clues are fresh. You’re likely to encounter video game trivia and sub-culture pop references, but not in a self-indulgent way. The focus is always on the solver’s experience. I learned a ton from him.
10-Across: [Skirt things]. I put in EVADE (makes sense, right?). Which led to DNA LAB for 13-Down [Forensic pathologist’s workplace]. Which let to a hot mess.
12-Down: [Liturgical vestment]. ALB. I always mix-up ALBS and ALMS. Forgot to fix my obvious typo though. So I guess technically I have a DNF since I didn’t feel like searching for it when Mr. Happy Pencil failed to appear.
Not much to complain about here. I guess if you forced me to nitpick, I’d wonder why it wasn’t published in March… or in correlation with Time Magazine’s selection as Person of the Year. But who cares?
Thanks, Evan! And here’s to 100 more <literally cracks open a beer>!
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s CRooked crossword, “Job Site” — Jenni’s write-up
A late addition to our Sunday lineup, by request. BEQ gives us this week’s CRooked Crossword. I figured something was up with the ININ repetitions in the theme answers, but I couldn’t figure out what. The revealer explains all.
- 23a [Big name in tea] is TWININGS.
- 27a [“Everybody Plays the Fool” band, with “the”] is MAIN INGREDIENT. Now that’s stuck in my head. Thanks, Brendan.
- 37a [Woman’s means of persuasion, it’s said] is FEMININE WILES. Ugh. Just – ugh.
- 50a [Becoming unbelievable] is STRAINING CREDULITY. Some of the them entries are not really in-the-language. This is one of those.
- 66a [Concussion, e.g.] is a BRAIN INJURY.
- 78a [Become enlightened] is GAIN INSIGHT.
- 87a [Get the facts wrong while teaching] is EXPLAIN INCORRECTLY. It’s not wrong – it fits the clue – but it’s also not a recognizable phrase.
- 102a [Homeowner’s spring coverage, perhaps] is RAIN INSURANCE. I have never heard of this, so I looked it up. It appears that RAIN INSURANCE is indeed a thing, but not something a homeowner would buy. It provides insurance against event cancellation due to severe weather. This one is actually wrong.
- 113a [Some rashes] are SKIN INFECTIONS.
- And, finally, the revealer: 123a [Job hunter’s site … and this puzzle’s theme] is LINKED IN. Each theme answer has IN IN. Linked INs!
Um, OK. I guess. This was les of an “aha” moment and more of a “oh, come ON” moment. This puzzle lacked the tricky clues, interesting pop culture, and amusing wordplay that I love about Brendan’s puzzles.
A few other things:
- 19a [Mrs. McFly] is LORRAINE. One of the local theaters has monthly “Cult Classic” shows. This month is “Back to the Future.” BYOB.
- 24a [Cleaner that comes with wings] is a WETNAP. Took me a while to parse this – chicken wings.
- 16d [Diva’s quality] is a BIG EGO. Or so people say. Perhaps it looks like a big ego in a woman when in a man it’s drive, ambition, and devotion to craft. I mean, it’s not the “divas” who are hiding from allegations of sexual abuse. Just saying.
- 60d [In favor of big government, say] is PRO-TAX. I am not convinced those things go together.
- 76d [Startup worth $1B] is a UNICORN. Because it doesn’t exist.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that a CRENEL is an open space in a castle wall to shoot arrows through.