Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Jonesin' 4:53 (Derek) 


LAT 2:40 (Derek) 


NYT 3:53 (Amy) 


WSJ 6:35 (Laura) 


Xword Nation untimed (janie) 


Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Crsswrd Nation puzzle (Week 338), “A Feast for the Eyes”—Janie’s take

Crossword Nation 11/21 (No. 336)
(Graphic by Gorski)

Wow. Another 21x from Liz, and as you can see from the outline of that plump bird in the solution grid, this truly is a “feast for the eyes.” Not to mention those “autumn leaf” black squares. But wait—there’s more, as this holiday tribute puzzle excels not only for its great connect-the-dots component, but also by providing (at the central 71A.) a gridded shout-out to the bird itself—a TOM—as well as six others (humans…) who share the name TOM [Thanksgiving Day VIP and puzzle honoree]. You’ll find those additional TOMs (each clued in reference to an association particular to him) running vertically and placed symmetrically throughout the grid, namely Messrs. CRUISE, PETTY, SWIFT (the only fictional character), JONES, BRADY and ARNOLD. Sweet.

And should you also be interested in the type of feast you can INGEST, the puzzle provides a mini-smorgasbord of foodstuffs. While not T’giving-specific—or necessarily what you’d like to see in combination on one plate— you can certainly fill up on: an APERITIF (for starters), some RISOTTO (which you might want to SOP up with a slice of RYE bread), some SALSAS on the side (or maybe AIOLI), and, oh, a slice of BUNDT cake topped with some Reddi-WIP (because it’s not just for pumpkin pie!).

I was actually a bit concerned about the overall tone of the fill as there are a lot of words and/or clues with negative or dark connotations. Lookin’ at you: DEVIANTS [Creepy, eccentric people], ALIENATE [Drive off, as one’s friends], AVALANCHE [Alpine danger], MAUNA LOA [Hawaiian volcano], UROLOGY [Surgical specialty that deals with kidney stones], TURMOIL [Uproar], FRAUD [Charlatan], AT LARGE [On the loose]. And there’s that bellicosity underlying ARES [War god], SARATOGA [Famed battle site of 1777], [“DAMN the torpedos!”], ABOLISH [Put a stop to] (I know… context is very important to this word), and THUG [Hoodlum].

But then, but then… there’s also a lot to lighten the picture—lively and/or evocative fill and clues that add some beauty and balance. Among my faves: SOULMATE [Match made in heaven?]; FOSSIL [Dinosaur remnant]; HOTRODS [Souped-up cars]; ESSAYIST [Ralph Waldo Emerson, notably] because I loved reading him in high school; SQUIRMS [Doesn’t sit still]; APERITIF [Pre-Thanksgiving drink]; TENANT [Payer of a flat fee?], where “flat” is an apartment; OTTOMAN [Stuffed footrest]; ORIGINAL [Master copy]; MATADORS [Bull session participants?] good pun!; EUGENIA [Virtuoso flutist Zukerman] (here she is playing “Heigh-Ho!” in the style of Mozart…); POLAND [Chopin’s birthplace]; RESIDENT [Doctor-in-training]; RISOTTO [Trattoria rice dish]; RETORTS [Snappy answers]; and (bringing it back to that place [On high] ABOVE) where the SOULMATE clue took us), [JACOB‘S Ladder (biblical path to heaven)].

In other words, words and clues that connect in a positive way. Not unlike the shorter AURA [Mystique] or [“The Nude MAJA” (Goya painting)] or [Tchaikovsky’s “SWAN Lake”].

Completely new to me today were EMS [German river] and [Olympic gymnast NASTIA Liukin], a Russian-born athlete who grew up in Texas and brought home five medals for the young women of Team USA. Clue/fill pair that missed the mark: [RCA product in a sports bar] TV SET. To me, a TV SET is one of those heavy, boxy, 20th-century things and not a sleek, 21st-century LCD SCREEN that a (competitive) sports bar would more likely to have these days. Probably several of them, in fact.

But [“LET’S BE reasonable”]. That’s a pretty small nit to pick. Especially when the big picture has been rendered in so masterful a way. Am I thankful for the pleasure of solving this puzzle? You betcha! The RATERS [Critics who make the grade?] out there will put their 2¢ in—and post their thoughts, too, I hope. Regardless—just hope that you, too, took pleasure in today’s puzz. And that you’ll take pleasure in your Thanksgiving, however you celebrate the holiday. And omg, folks, in just a few more weeks we’ll be singin’ [“Auld Lang SYNE“] and “ringing in the new.” But lemme not get ahead of myself here. Let me instead take my leave til next week; and remember: between football games or challenging family dynamics or turkey legs or helping to feed others, keep solving!

Alice Long’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Welcome the Family” — Laura’s write-up

Continuing this week’s holiday-related offerings, we’re “welcoming” the “family” by adding -KIN to phrases to make wacky new ones, like so:

WSJ - Long - 11.21.17 - Solution

WSJ – Long – 11.21.17 – Solution

  • [16a: Battery-operated mouth dabber?]: POWER NAPKIN
  • [26a: Messy fall catapulting, say?]: PUMPKIN ACTION
  • [40a: Giveaway from the “Eugene Onegin” author’s campaign?]: PUSHKIN BUTTON
  • [52a: Rube’s pride and joy?]: BABY BUMPKIN

What would a write-up be without an admiring compliment, a slight quibble, some hilarious alternatives, another bulleted list commenting on select entries in the fill, a video referring to something in the grid, and finally a silly sentence made up of three-letter fill words? Admiring Compliment: we have some nice symmetry with two themers that have the added letters at the end and two with the added letters in the middle; two are hyphenated adjectival phrases (push-button and pump-action), while two are compound nouns (power nap and baby bump). Slight Quibble: rube and bumpkin are somewhat derogatory to those of us who happen to live in rural areas. Hilarious Alternatives: [Nickname for Tampa during NFL season?]: BAY OF PIGSKIN; [Prequel to “Electric Boogaloo” set at an archeological site?]: LA BREAKIN’ TAR PITS; [Beatrix Potter’s retro swing band?]: THE SQUIRREL NUTKIN ZIPPERS. Another Bulleted List Commenting on Select Entries in the Fill:

  • [37a: Chestnut’s prickly husk]: BUR. An alternate spelling of burr, sir. (Give us a verse, drop some knowledge.)
  • [10d: Possible ingredient for a 56-Down]: ROMA TOMATO; [56d: Popular sandwich]: BLT. Really? Roma tomatoes are better for sauce than eating, IMHO. I like a nice beefsteak tomato in my BLT.
  • [31a: Instrument for Lionel Hampton]: VIBES. As in the vibraphone or vibraharp. He can be our Video Referring to Something in the Fill:

And finally, your Silly Sentence(s) Made up of Three-Letter Fill Words: OHO! BRA SAG? RIB PEP A NO. ETA ELI ILK, YOS. TAG OVA VIP.

Brian Thomas’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 11 21 17, no 1121

This theme is surprisingly inconsistent. It’s car race– related puns involving demonyms, but it’s so uneven:

  • 19a. [“The race has just begun, and it looks like the car from Warsaw will ___!”] POLE INTO FIRST. Pole and pull have entirely different vowel sounds.
  • 30a. [“Listen! You can hear the thundering roar as the car from Moscow goes ___!”] RUSSIAN PAST. “Rushin’ past.”
  • 39a. [“We’re getting close to the end as the car from Helsinki leads the way to the ___!”] FINNISH LINE. The equivalent of Finnish is Polish, not Pole. Pole is an outlier here.
  • 52a. [“Wow! The car from Prague ekes out the victory by a nose and takes the ___!”] CZECHERED FLAG. Czechered isn’t a word, and the other themers don’t wedge the demonym into a longer word, unless it’s FINN that’s wedged into finish.

Maybe if you love auto racing, the theme works better for you. It is interesting that the four countries are contiguous, but for that to make the most sense, the race should follow a course that’s possible. Czechia borders Poland but not Russia or Finland.

There’s some fill that’s a bit far afield of what I expect in an early-week puzzle. 22a. [Religious recluse], EREMITE? Definitely obscure outside of crosswordese or religious history circles. AD IN, maybe. SMEE, sure. UP ONE needs to stop being in so many constructors’ word lists. Roman numeral IIII. Perhaps also Currier & IVES.

Three more things:

  • 37d. [Switch positions], FLIP-FLOP. Dang! We see so many [Switch positions] clues for ONS, I wasn’t even thinking of the verb possibility here.
  • 10d. [Person with dreads], RASTAFARI. Never realized that this word could apply to an individual adherent. But boy, is it reductive to clue it by a hairstyle. I suspect the majority of people who wear their hair in dreads/dreadlocks/locs are not Rastas.
  • 8d. [Tubman of the Underground Railroad], HARRIET. Man, I really hope the current administration doesn’t backpedal on the $20 bill redesign. We want Harriet on the twenty! (Especially since my cousin’s baby girl has the name.)

Favorite fill: SCRUNCHIE, BONE MASS, and the three entries in the clue list just above.

2.75 stars from me.

Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “Back-Billed” – Derek’s write-up

I didn’t even notice the title until after I solved. I quickly got that there were numbers in there backwards, but not that they were dollar denominations! Nicely done. Here are the theme answers, with the circled letters in red:

  • 17A [“No further detail is needed”] ENOUGH SAID
  • 33A [Statement after reporting something pleasant, maybe] NOW THE BAD NEWS – My favorite of the bunch.
  • 39A [Water-based tourist attraction in Rome] TREVI FOUNTAIN 
  • 58A [Implements first used in the Paleolithic Age] STONE TOOLS – I had STORE TOOLS because I had HORNS instead of HONKS at 48D. That led to some humorous mind games. (“They had “stores” back then!??)

Jammed through this one pretty quickly. I’ve gotten some decent sleep recently! Yes, I was confused at first as to why it was only 1, 2, 5 and 10 used, but as mentioned above, they are the lowest dollar denominations. Clever! How about 4.5 stars today!

A couple of things:

    • 62A [Word before bay, day, or pay] SICK – Great clue. I tried to solve it first without looking at the grid, but couldn’t get it.
    • 8D [Songwriter’s publishing gp.] BMI – This stands for Broadcast Music, Inc. I don’t think I knew that! More info here.
    • 56D [“The __ La La Song” (theme from “The Banana Splits”)] TRA – There is that obscure pop culture reference! I barely even remember this show!

That is all! I have a paper to work on today! Have a great week!

C.C. Burnikel’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up

We have five theme entries today, if you count the revealer at 40D. An interesting play on words! I didn’t catch what was going on until I got to 40D, and it did elicit little smile! Here are the theme entries:

  • 16A [Advocacy group descriptor] SPECIAL INTEREST
  • 22A [Decathlon event] JAVELIN THROW
  • 51A [Draw upon] CALL INTO PLAY
  • 60A [1999 Winona Ryder drama set in a mental hospital] GIRL, INTERRUPTED
  • 40D [Dryer screen used to “catch” a hidden word in 16-, 22-, 51- and 60-Across] LINT TRAP

Funny, but now I am reminded that I have to do some laundry! C.C. still is making good puzzles at a prolific rate. A solid 4.3 stars today.

A few more notes:

  • 15A [Florida senator Marco] RUBIO – I remember listening to a Bill Simmons podcast a little over a year ago, and they thought this guy was the front runner for president, I think even wagering to that effect. Wow, if you could only look ahead in time!
  • 33A [Actor Sharif] OMAR – Because you haven’t seen his face in a while:
  • 4D [Old-fashioned clothes presser] FLAT IRON – We had one of these when I was younger. Dangerous!
  • 8D [Coffee-mate competitor] CREMORA – This doesn’t look familiar to me. I wonder if they sell this around these parts? I will have to head to the grocery store and see!
  • 29D [“Anna Karenina” novelist] LEO TOLSTOY – A great down entry crossing a couple of themers. Well done.
  • 57D [First Bond movie] DR. NO – I re-watched this recently. It seemed quite, … tame. At least compared to the wild action flicks they have become!
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8 Responses to Tuesday, November 21, 2017

  1. Brian says:


    I was going for “people from each country”, so POLE, RUSSIAN, FINN, and CZECH…but yeah, no argument against the rest of the inconsistencies. Spent longer than I care to admit sounding out pole vs. pull this morning. Also, some commenters on Rex’s blog noticed 14A over 17A – that was unintentional.

    Glad some of the non-theme stuff hit though! Hope you like the next one better, Amy!

    • David L says:

      It didn’t even occur to me that POLE was supposed to be a punny version of PULL — I thought the phrase was supposed to be a play on ‘pole position,’ but then it’s not a pun at all.

      • Gareth says:

        Was also confused in that manner. The “pole” motor-racing connection was too strong for me to see anything else.

  2. Harry says:

    I loved C.C.’s cross of homophones at 63 down and 70 across, “ewe’ and “yew.”

  3. Gareth says:

    Cremora is ubiquitous in South Africa. Had no idea it was in the US too!

  4. Zef Wagner says:

    Pole and Pull are pronounced the same in much of the US, possibly most. So I think your criticism is a little off the mark.

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