Zhouqin Burnikel’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Long day/week for me, or tougher than the standard Friday NYT for you, too? A lot of the fill was on the uncommon side, phrases that we don’t often encounter in crosswords. There are four “I” phrases: AS IF I CARE, I NEED A RIDE, I FORGOT, and I CAN WAIT. DO NOT IRON, a [Pressing warning]—I like this! STOP AHEAD, weird FRET AT, awkward TESLA CARS (we say Teslas, Fords, Subarus, not “Subaru cars,” etc.), plural INNER EARS, unfamiliar-to-me TOKYODOME, IS OK, SENT HOME (rock-solid, but not commonly seen in the grid). I feel like these things all slowed me down a good bit.
- 4d. [Lame excuse], “I FORGOT.” Rude use of “lame” as an insult. [Pathetic excuse] or [Flimsy excuse] would work without being remotely ableist.
- 36a. [Aetna rival, informally], PRU. On what planet?? Aetna sells health insurance. Prudential sells life insurance. These are not competing products.
- 12d. [Android app store], GOOGLE PLAY. This is a great entry. So is 1a. [Wheels for rent in the Big Apple], CITIBIKES (thank you, Dan Chall, for telling your FB friends about your CitiBike adventures so this was easier!). Here in Chicago, they’re called Divvy Bikes.
- 44d. [Source of updated news and blog postings], RSS FEED. I haven’t used an RSS feed/reader in at least five years. How many of you are still using one?
- Crosswordese! OGEE and SMEW appear in symmetrical spots in the grid.
- 63a. [Chain unit, maybe], ATOLL / 7d. [Chain units, maybe], KARATS. I tried STORE and STORES, then KIOSKS. Dang it! Duped twice.
- 28d. [Pen name], ERASERMATE. I used to use those, but then I switched to nice mechanical pencils for my erasable solving needs. Pentel TwistErase III, 0.9 mm leads! Accept no substitutes.
3.3 stars from me for this 70-worder. Not my favorite themeless from Zhouqin—usually I like her Fri/Sat offerings a lot more, and I look forward to the next one.
Kurt Krauss’ Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Grecian Formula” — pannonika’s write-up
Names of Greek letters replace their homophones in familiar phrases. Helping to harmonize the theme, insinuation of the Greek elements are signalled by evoking a more or less relevant deity.
- 17a. [Dessert invented by Athena?] PI À LA MODE (pie …). Hmm, Hestia is goddess of the hearth, Dionysus included in his purview decadence in food and drink. Athene embodied among other things wisdom and knowledge, which could arguably include mathematics. But I don’t think that’s how the relationships in the other theme answers shake out. Let’s see:
- 25a. [Favorite Steinbeck novel of Apollo?] CANNERY RHO (… Row). Apollo’s domain claimed poetry, which seems appropriate as I doubt there was much prose literature in classical Greece.
- 36a. [Sneaker brand preferred by Hermes?] NU BALANCE (New…). Hermes the messenger, he of the winged sandals.This is … this is … uhm, quite possibly the most Eighties thing that’s ever been Eightied:
- 52a. [Sports car driven be Eros?] ALPHA ROMEO (Alfa…). Hmm, I guess the “Romeo” part evokes romantic love. So I guess the relationship between the deity and the theme element isn’t so rigidly prescribed. I hereby rescind the speculation over 17-across. Incidentally, Eros is the only deity here who isn’t one of the twelve main Olympians (the Dodekatheon).
- 62a. [Military motto for Ares?] SEMPER PHI (… Fi). This comports with the Marines’ pronunciation (long i), but in my opinion that’s incorrect. However, I’m not going to be the one to tell them that. Oh, and crossword-common ARES is of course the god of war, often described in clues as belligerent.
So that’s a fine little theme, one befitting the Higher Education Vibe™.
- 15a [Tapped-out character] DIT. Morse code. Dit and dah are the spoken equivalents of the transcribed dots and dashes. Fitting in crossword featuring a phonetic theme.
- 30a [Pal of Karen and Cubby, on an old TV “Club”] DOREEN. Is this the Mickey Mouse Club? I know that Annette and Frankie were famous personalities in it. Not going to look it up, so maybe this’ll be comment fodder.
- 58a [How-to presentations] DEMOS. Also, Greek for ‘people’.
- 64d [Penn or Pitt, e.g.] ACTORS Sean and Brad, not Colonial Williams.
- 66a [Pondered] MUSED. Ya, the nine Muses, uh-huh.
- 5d [Coal-rich region of Germany] SAAR. I auto-filled RUHR here. That was a mistake.
- 9d [Eddie who is the only jockey with two Triple Crowns] ARCARO. As I’m writing this well in advance on Tuesday, I’ll note that today’s NYT theme referenced “triple-doubles” of different sorts.
- 10d [Self-sacrificing type] MARTYR. You’d better believe that’s a very Greek word. Originally meant ‘witness’.
- 41d [Golden quality?] SILENCE. Aphoristically.
- 49d [“Wondrous” Egyptian lighthouse] PHAROS. One of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world, the lighthouse at Alexandria. You got it, Greek word. Mediterranean Egypt was lousy with Greeks back then.
There’s plenty more Greek etymology lurking among this crossword, but that’s the nature of English, isn’t it?
Anyway, a solid puzzle though not an astounding one.
Alex Eaton-Salners’ LA Times – Gareth
Theme entries in a ring encircling a puzzle are hard to fill around. It’s not a favourite trope of mine. Today’s ring is a GREATWALL – a ring of answers with an implied GREAT needed for their clues to make sense. I’ll run through them quickly and annotate if necessary: SCOTT, JOB, MINDS; SUCCESS (the clue answers SUCCESS just as effectively, a big weakness in this theme trope), BRITAIN; DANES, APE (see SUCCESS), BASIN (the Great Basin is an area, centred on Nevada, where water flows not into the ocean, but internally; the Okavango in Southern Africa exhibits a similar phenomenon); SMOKIES (more – unknown to me – US Geography, a Southern part of the Appalachians; the clue had me singing John Denver, of course) and PYRAMID (I thought all 3 were the Wonder? Antipater of Sidon seems to agree).
- [Arkansas’ __ National Forest], OZARK. Carries on the US geography![Kit__ bar], KAT. Weird lack of space in that clue? Also bar is not part of the name and bar is not referred to in that manner?
- [Comedian Rogan], JOE. Not familiar, though I’ve apparently watched, incidentally at least, shows he is the star of.
- [__ Island: NYC prison site], RIKERS. I know this basically from Law and Order; anyone else?
- [Gumby’s pony], POKEY. I think this is children’s TV, late 80’s? Like a bendy plasticine man type thing?
- [Workers’ rights org.], NLRB. National Labor Relations Board, I’m told. Was just letters while solving.
- [Line score initials], RHE. More letters. Apparently separated R. H. E. and found in baseball scores.
- [Train syst. across Russia], TSR. Trans-Siberian Railroad. Wanted an E, influenced by Trans-Europan Express…
- [Tragic heroine], DEIRDRE… Also unfamiliar, to the Wikipedia machine!
- [“You’re safe with me”], IWONTBITE. Shoe-horn – if you bring your dog to me (or another vet), and he says “I’m going to bite you”, and you interject with “He won’t bite” we believe the dog, not you…
- [Some field starters], RYESEEDS. Vague clue for a slightly awkward entry.