Joel Fagliano and Sam Ezersky’s New York Times crossword—Jenni’s write-up
I figured the theme out halfway while I was solving and had to go back and look at it to get the rest.
- 19a [Midas, Agamemnon, Richard] are MARKINGS. OK, they’re all kings, but what are MAR KINGS? Aha! The first initials of each king – M, A, R.
- 15d [Arkansas, Pennsylvania, Ohio] are APOSTATES.
- 32a [Polo, archery, soccer] are PASSPORTS.
- 27d [Dakota, Iroquois, Arapaho] are DIATRIBES.
- 51a [Heart, U2, Slayer] are HUSBANDS.
This is not my favorite theme. It seems simultaneously obvious and obscure, and figuring it out was more of an “oh, that” moment than an “aha!” moment. I enjoyed the rest of the puzzle more. There’s a bit of crosswordese in the three-letter answers and some obscurity elsewhere (ARS NOVA?), but otherwise the fill was fun.
A few other things:
- 6d [Hetero, say] is one answer I did not enjoy. NONGAY? Who says that? Nobody, that’s who.
- On the plus side, I did appreciate the juxtaposition of ENTROPY and RAN AMOK.
- 30a [Actor George with over 10 million Facebook followers] is TAKEI, a man who is thoroughly enjoying his second? third? fourth? act.
- 20d is [Patella protector]. I had KNEE and dropped in CAP at the end, rolling my eyes, because the patella is the kneecap. Of course it is, and Joel and Sam know that. The correct answer is KNEEPAD.
- They get self-referential with 40d [In this puzzle it starts B-E-L]. That would be ONE DOWN, which is BELMONT.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that Pan ruled over ARCADIA.
Peter Gordon’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Singular Hoopsters” — Jim’s review
Theme: Well-known phrases are clued as if the first word is one of the current NBA teams to, hopefully, humorous effect. The theme is limited to only those four teams which use singular (unpluralizable) nouns as their team name.
- 18a [What the Orlando team’s announcer speaks into?] MAGIC MIKE. I didn’t know this phrase. It looks like it’s the title of a 2012 Channing Tatum film.
- 28a [What Miami players experience at the end of a triple overtime game?] HEAT EXHAUSTION
- 45a [What Oklahoma City players hit after the game?] THUNDER SHOWERS
- 56a [Rounds of applause for the Utah players?] JAZZ HANDS. How much you want to bet this was the seed answer?
I like the team limitation as it makes the theme tighter, and I like the overall wordplay. But coming from Peter Gordon, who of course has his own Fireball crosswords which are challenging and creative, this seemed rather sedate. Maybe that’s why it’s appearing in the WSJ and not through Fireball.
The long fill is quite good of course. ABRAHAM and TEETOTAL are nice, but my favorites are “IT’S A TRAP,” LIP BALM, MR. WARMTH [Don Rickles nickname], “I DECLARE,” and SPIT CURL [Superman feature]. That last one is another new one to me, but I’m glad to learn it.
The Scrabble-friendly T.J. MAXX [Sister chain of Marshalls] is also a nice entry. (Fun fact: In the UK, the store is known as T.K. Maxx but with the same stylized logo and color scheme. Apparently this is to avoid confusion with British retailer T.J. Hughes.)
On the down side, there seemed to be a far greater amount of crosswordese than we’re used to seeing, either in the WSJ or from Peter Gordon. We get both JAI and ALAI (but they’re not together) plus ETDS, ORR, EEG, RVERS, ESL, EVEL, and IN B (crossing ERBIUM which could easily be ERDIUM if you’re not up on your elements). A few of these aren’t so bad on their own, but this amount became distracting, especially knowing that the grid comes from one of cruciverbalism’s elites.
Favorite clue goes to 7d REAP for [Cut the mustard?]. Clue that made me ponder the most goes to 64a IPOD with [It comes with earbuds]. I pondered whether Apple still sells iPods (they do, but only the iPod Touch) and whether they still come with earbuds or ear pods or air pods or none of the above. The website doesn’t say, so I will assume earbuds is correct.
Overall, a solid theme and nice, long fill make the puzzle sparkle, but the amount of crosswordese tarnished its luster.
Laura Braunstein’s AVCX, “EU Trade Policy” — Ben’s Review
Our own Laura Braunstein has today’s AVCX! It’s been rated 2/5 in difficulty by editor Ben Tausig, and I’d agree with that assessment – this was a breezy solve for me (4:49, which might be a record for me?), but definitely had some references/fill that could slow you down if it’s not your sphere of expertise.
With a title like “EU Trade Policy”, I had a pretty good hunch what was going to be going on with the theme clues:
- 17A: Family-run outdoor furniture empire? — DECK DYNASTY
- 25A: What might be seen at Prince William’s private beach? — ROYAL FLESH
- 35A: Druidic fanbase? — CELT FOLLOWING
- 48A: Barista’s fanatical mission to keep all the grounds out of your coffee? — WAR ON DREGS
- 56A: Entitlements opposed by Skeletor and his lobbyists? — HE-MAN RIGHTS
And yea, the Es shall be Us and the Us shall be Es. This was a nice little set of themers, and I got a kick out of CELT FOLLOWING and HE-MAN RIGHTS.
(I don’t have a thematically-appropriate or fill-related song for this week’s puzzle, so enjoy another edition of “what indie pop/dance thing is Ben listening to this week?”. I would square dance to the 4/4 beat on this in a heartbeat.)
- “The Orchid Thief” makes me think of Adaptation makes me think of Susan ORLEAN, who actually wrote “The Orchid Thief”
- You can’t make an aspic without cracking open a package of GELATIN. (I assume. If you can, in fact, make an aspic without cracking open a package of GELATIN, please keep it to yourself, I have no desire to suspend veggies/etc. in a mold)
- TED talks seem to be popping up in crossword fill everywhere, including this week’s puzzle. Bonus fact: TED stands for Technology, Education, and Design
- The LEGO Guggenheim Museum set has 744 pieces. I would like this for Christmas, please and thanks, I promise I have been a good boy this year.
- I’m going to use this puzzle’s mention of PAWNEE to note that if you liked Parks & Rec, you should get on the The Good Place train ASAP because it’s just as delightful. You have to watch it from the beginning, though, there’s only 20 or so episodes right now and it’s so good and so funny.
4.5/5 stars. This was cleanly executed and fun to solve. Well done, Laura!
Zhouqin Burnikel’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Amy’s summary
The theme revealer is 38d. Popular mobile app … and, as shown by circles, what the inner parts of the answers to starred clues do], SNAPCHAT, and four 3-letter words that can mean chat or talk are “snapped” in two in the circled letters at the beginning and end of the theme answers. YAK is in YARDAGE BOOK (which I’ve never heard of), RAP is in RARE STAMP (not sure people have used the conversational sense of “rap” since the 1970s), GAB is in GOLDEN LAB, and JAW is in JANUARY THAW (also not commonly seen in the conversational sense).