Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle (Week 337), “Trading Places”—Janie’s take
Loosely based on Mark Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper, Trading Places was released in 1983 and was quite a hit for Eddie Murphy and Dan Ackroyd. But for title-sharing, it also has nothing to do with today’s puzzle. Except… for the fact that each provides one reliably high level of entertainment. Works fer me! The game today starts with four three-word, highly recognizable base phrases, three with the pattern [verb] THE [noun] and one, [preposition] THE [noun]. Swapping out the last word for the first, all of the themers now become new [verb] THE [noun] phrases of the humorous and/or high-concept variety. And all are clued with question marks, letting us know that something’s just a tad off-kilter. Watch especially for what happens with the [preposition] THE [noun] example. Worth the price of admission!
- 16A. [Assigns identification codes to chocolate treats?] NUMBERS THE FUDGE. Fudge the numbers. Nifty grid-spanner, too.
- 25A. [Eric Clapton album inspired by a mooning beachgoer?] SUN THE BEHIND. Behind the Sun. Well, this combo is hard to beat in my book. Gave me a good laugh. Had no familiarity with the album, but did learn that Clapton released it in 1985 and that he produced it in collaboration with Phil Collins (an early production credit for him). “Oh, the times…,” so to speak. Even if this is the only entry where the base phrase follows the [preposition] THE [noun] pattern, still have to wonder if it was maybe the seed entry…
- 42A. [Point the finger at a windbag?] BLAME THE BORE. Bore the blame.
- 56A. [Show a preference for April filings?] FAVOR THE RETURNS. Returns the favor. (Always a nice thing to be able to do.)
Such a terrific theme idea and execution, this. And I love how it underscores the complex and flexible nature of the English language. How a noun can be a verb and take on a whole new meaning. In this theme set, I think the most striking example of that is the word “bore” in the BLAME THE BORE/Bore the blame pair. Your thoughts on this?
The remainder of the fill is on the shorter side, with some notable exceptions, namely AUDITIONS and SEDATIVES. Especially like the specificity in the clue for the former: [Tryouts for “A Chorus Line”]. (Btw: best not to take a SEDATIVE before your AUDITION. Just breathe.) MERLIN [Arthurian wizard] and OUTEAT [Devour more than] are the only sixes. Gimme MERLIN anytime. What with retailers everywhere gearing up for “holiday season,” already don’t want to think about the OUTEATing that will soon be embarked upon…
Everything else is three-, four- or five-letter fill. But… there’re still some nice finds to be enjoyed—like ARGOT and QUASH and QUIP—or connections to be made, like the (perhaps unintentional) tie-in between IDRIS [“The Wire” actor Elba] and [“Bird on A WIRE” (Gibson/Hawn comedy)]. Some solvers don’t care for this kind of duplication; most editors don’t object; today’s example somehow feels playful to me and doesn’t rankle a bit. Your mileage may vary.
Also like the baseball triumvirate of METS [Citifield players], MITT [Catcher’s glove] and UMP with its veritably audible clue, [“Steee-rike!” caller]. Spring training‘s only three months away, folks. This sports angle makes for a nice balance to the more high-brow (but hardly unwelcome) PLATO [Student of Socrates] and [Beethoven’s “MISSA Solemnis”].
A clue/fill pair I found a bit uncomfortable-making: [No-brainer?] MORON. Because I can’t tell what the tone is. Even with the question mark. A clue/fill pair that made me smile? [Ewes’ guys] RAMS. Because the “youse guys” pun jumped right out at me. In a good way!
So that’s it for today. The language wordplay in this puzzle’s theme is so strong, and made the solve a winner for me. Hope you derived the same level of entertainment from it that I did—and that win, lose or draw, you’ll keep solving. See ya next week, youse guys!
Zhouqin Burnikel’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Here’s to You!” — Laura’s write-up
- [17a: Here’s the scoop]: VANILLA ICE CREAM
- [23a: Here’s the catch]: RED SNAPPER
- [50a: Here’s the pitch]: ROOFING TAR
- [60a: Here’s the deal]: LIQUIDATION SALE
Not to ASSAIL [46a: Criticize strongly] the work of a master puzzlecrafter, but there’s not much else going on with this theme except that idioms beginning with here’s the are interpreted literally. Many possibilities with this one, but here’s the trick: finding symmetrical entries. Here’s the other ones I came up with: [Here’s the thing]: BEN GRIMM; [Here’s the rub]: SHIATSU MASSAGE; [Here’s the kicker]: GOSTKOWSKI; [Here’s the skinny]: GREYHOUND; [Here’s the situation]: MY PARENTS WENT AWAY ON A WEEK’S VACATION — you get the idea. Here’s the bullets:
- Here’s the crossing I liked best: CMON [36a: “Let’s get going!”] and I’M NOT READY [29d: “Give me a few more minutes!”].
- Here’s the piece of random trivia I learned: Apparently there is a minor Star Wars character named Garris SHRIKE [27a: Screeching bird] who will be played by Woody Harrelson in the Han Solo biopic. He’s not a SITH [54d: Enemy of the Jedi], but some kind of space-Fagin who led a petty-crime gang of orphans, of whom the young Solo was one.
- Here’s the drink I prefer to COORS [30d: Brewer with a “Banquet Beer”]: KIR [34d: Cocktail with a blackcurrant flavor].
Jerry Miccolis & Jeff Chen’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
I don’t understand why this puzzle exists (again). The concept was in two late-’90s NYT puzzles, but it doesn’t improve on either. The 8/12/98 Arbesfeld had TRIPLE DOUBLES anchoring SWEET TOOTH, BOOKKEEPER, GOOD DEEDS, and terrible LOTTO ODDS. The 10/28/99 Berry omitted the basketball revealer and added ON NO OCCASION and DID A GOOD DEED to the standard SWEET TOOTH and BOOKKEEPER. Here, we have TRIPLE and DOUBLE split in the center row, SWEET TOOTH, BOOKKEEPER, GOOD DEED, and three dull and entirely unfamiliar answers: WOOD DEER (I’d call it wooden, not wood), FEED DOOR, and HEEL LOOP. If any of those last three brought you joy, please explain how.
It’s fine to repeat a theme concept in a different venue, or after enough time has passed. But! It behooves the constructor(s) to find some fresh entries (but good ones—there’s a reason WOOD DEER wasn’t in those earlier puzzles), or some great new angle that expands the concept or brings an element of surprise. This puzzle expanded the theme to eight grid entries, but the fill suffered as a result. Among the answers that don’t feel very Tuesday-friendly are OZMA, GWB, SPOT AD, ILO, and OLD ELI.
- 43a. [Half of a colon], DOT. This one’s confusing when you know people with colostomies.
- 46a. [Website subscriber’s creation: Abbr.], ACCT. This clue feels weird. I … don’t know that I subscribe to any websites.
- 5d. [“O.K., understood”], NOTED. I do use noted that way. And you?
- 10d. [Russia’s seizure of Crimea, e.g.], LAND GRAB. No, I’m pretty sure that’s more an ACT OF WAR. Can one country do a LAND GRAB of another country’s territory? Near as I can tell, the term applies to land within one country being taken over by the government, corporations, etc. Not enemy nations.
- 11d. [Big name in skin care], AVEENO. Wasn’t I just telling you I like their moisturizer? If you listened, this one was a gimme for you.
- 23d. [Prez with the same initials as an N.Y.C. landmark], GWB. George W. Bush and the George Washington Bridge, I guess. Having never been to New Jersey, I have no need for the bridge. But! This is the famed span in Chris Christie’s Bridgegate.
- 51d. [“Ask about it at work” sloganeer, once], AFLAC. That doesn’t ring any sort of bell for me. Also, their duck ads are probably not really all that successful because I couldn’t tell you what sort of insurance they sell.
2.3 stars from me.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “Ate by Ate” – Derek’s write-up
This theme took me a second, but “Ate by Ate” refers to the fact that each theme answer has the letters ATE twice. I noticed the second instance in my initial review, but since the “eight” sound is not readily evident in each instance, it was a little hard to spot. Here are the three theme answers:
- 20A [Warring with words] IN A HEATED DEBATE
- 36A [Like some raisins and pretzels] CHOCOLATE COATED
- 47A [“Ignore the critics,” in modern parlance] “HATERS GONNA HATE!”
Truly a puzzle and NPLer would love! Again, the ending “ATE” sequences are easy to spot; the others, not so much. I suppose that lends a subtle cleverness to this puzzle, in addition to the nice fill. Well done! 4.3 stars.
Some more notes:
- 28A [Maggie’s big brother] BART – As in Bart and Lisa Simpson. Did this even need explanation?
- 55A [Pearl Jam’s debut single] ALIVE – This is a bit obscure, and, to be frank, I think I LIKE one reeeeaaaaaaly obscure pop culture reference. I feel like I learn something! Matt, where are those punk references?
- 59A [Suspense novelist Hoag] TAMI – I don’t recall if I have ever read one of here books. I bet I would enjoy them, as these are the types of books I enjoy reading.
- 12D [Work without __ (be daring)] A NET – Not the best, but it’ll do.
- 26D [“This __ We Do It” (1995 R&B hit)] IS HOW – An interesting partial. And a song I know you know!
Have a great week everybody!
Janice Luttrell’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
We have again the trademark technique of a few starred answers and a revealer at the end showing the common theme:
- 16A [2010 Grammy winner for Best Metal performance] IRON MAIDEN – They’re still around??
- 39A [TV cooking competition hosted by Padma Lakshmi] TOP CHEF
- 10D [Started a construction project] BROKE GROUND
- 24D [Money-saving investment] TAX SHELTER
- 59A [Paint choice … and what the first word of the answers to starred clues can literally be] FLAT FINISH
So that would mean we are referring to flat iron, flat top, flat broke and flat tax as the phrases that are being alluded to. Very simple, and yet I usually have no clue what the linking idea is until the very end. But I am getting old! 4.2 stars.
A few more things:
- 15A [“Alice’s Restaurant” singer Guthrie] ARLO – Talk about crossword famous! How many other “ARLO”s do you know? And this is an album, not a song!you
- 21A [__-Ball: midway game] SKEE – I haven’t played this in years! I will have to take Chase to an arcade and teach him how to play!
- 64A [Longfellow’s “The Bell of __”] ATRI – Yuk. But it does carry an air of literacy, and we all know I am severely uncultured!
- 2D [“Tell __ About It”: Billy Joel hit] HER – I need to go see him in concert before you can’t do it anymore! This song was one of my favorite videos from back in the day, and this is from arguably one of my favorite albums ever, An Innocent Man. And I don’t think this is the first time I have linked this video!
- 51D [__ Yello: soft drink] MELLO – I don’t drink this junk anymore. And not just because of my health choices; I am not a big fan of soda anyway.
See you on Saturday for another LAT puzzle!