Timothy Polin’s New York Times crossword—Jenni’s write-up
I really like this theme. The fill…well, I’ll get there.
We’re traveling the globe today. 1a immediately alerted me that there’s a gimmick. The clue is [Home to Santa’s workshop] and the answer in the grid is POLE. Clearly we need to add NORTH, and that’s true all along the top row:
- 5a [Popular outdoor clothing brand, with “The”] is (North) FACE.
- 9a [Minnesota N.H.L. team from 1967 to 1993] is the (North) STARS.
Looking at the Down clues, we have
- 1d [Affluent Connecticut town] can’t just be PORT – must be WestPORT. And that’s the west side of the puzzle, of course.
- 27d [Interstate 5’s locale] is the (west) COAST.
- 53d [Area of longtime contention] is the (West) BANK.
That brings us to the bottom.
- 67a [Country hosting the 2018 Winter Olympics] is (South) KOREA.
- 68a [Lefties] are (south)PAWS.
- 69a [Notre Dame setting] is (South) BEND.
And, finally, the right-hand downs.
- 60d [Eurus, in Greek mythology] is the (East) WIND. Very tough for a mid-week puzzle. The themes give you East, but who knew this was any kind of wind? Luckily, it’s very gettable from crossings.
- 32d [Resident of China or Japan, but not India or Iran] is an (east) ASIAN.
- 13d [U.N.’s location in Manhattan] is the (East) SIDE.
We have three additional theme answers in the middle, helpfully circled and appropriately placed: CANCER, EQUATOR, and CAPRICORN.
The theme is great. It’s lots of fun, not particularly difficult, and it felt very fresh to me. It’s a lot of theme material, which places constraints on the fill, so we end up with things like CIV for a type of engineer, ENOW, ALOIS Alzheimer, the aforementioned Eurus, the awkward RIP ON for [make fun of], and N-TILE. And do non-medical people know that the MEDULLA is part of the brainstem? That was a gimme for Gareth, Erin, and me, but I suspect it was a challenge for other folks.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that SUET was used to make candles. Soap, yes. Christmas pudding, sure. Candles? Did not know that.
Alex Eaton-Salners’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Remains of the Day” — Jim’s review
With the Thanksgiving-themed puzzles we’ve been seeing this week and with the title of this one, the revealer should come as no surprise: LEFTOVERS [What many have after Thanksgiving, and a description of the starred answers’ gimmick]. What is said gimmick? I will try to explain.
Each starred entry is what’s leftover from the answer above it. Each one stands on its own as a real word or phrase, but that portion is unclued. Instead, the clue refers to the word above + the leftover.
- 9a [Component of Einstein’s equation] MASS + 15a [*Kneading work?] AGING = Massaging.
- 13a [Coach line] REIN + 17a [*Second go-around] CARNATION = Reincarnation.
- 25a [Seasonal worker] TEMP + 29a [*In a worldly way] ORALLY = Temporally.
- 31a [Choice] PLUM + 36a [*Dropped like a rock] METED = Plummeted.
- 48a [Bazaar] MART + 53a [*”Three Amigos!” star] IN SHORT = Martin Short.
That’s pretty nifty! I’m impressed with its creativity and ambitiousness. Not only did Alex have to find words/phrases that could be split into two separate words/phrases, but he stacked them upon each other. In this type of situation, theme symmetry is a pipe dream, but I have no problem with that when a puzzle is fresh and interesting.
That being said, I felt the implementation was a little too confusing. The theme clues are given to the LEFTOVERS, which feels odd to me. My instinct would be to put them with the first entry and then clue the leftover as a stand-alone phrase (though asterisked). You might then clue the revealer as [What often remains after Thanksgiving day, or what the starred answers are vis-a-vis the answers directly above them]. So then, the first one would be: 9a [Kneading work?] MASS + [*Getting on in years] AGING = Massaging. I don’t know; maybe that gives too much away. But it feels a little more intuitive to me.
Also, the LEFTOVERS revealer had me thinking something would be off to the left of the grid. Also also, there’s no real reason as to why the LEFTOVERS have to appear directly beneath the beginning entry. They could appear across from the first answer, after a block, as editor Mike Shenk is wont to do. However, Alex’s approach does make the grid more interesting and impressive.
But it comes at a price. I’m talking about CETE, LAL, and DOX specifically. They’re clued respectively as [Group of badgers], [Staples Center team, on scoreboards], and [Publish identifying information about someone online]. Perhaps I’ve seen LAL before, but I think I may have actively tried to forget it. I certainly hope none of those becomes standard crosswordese.
But still, the challenge of building this grid was not small. And yet Alex delivers some nice fill in IN NO TIME, MINI MALL, and SEA LEVEL. I’m not sure about LET IT LIE [“Don’t stir that up”]. You let sleeping dogs lie, but you let it be or go.
Overall, an impressive grid. Some questionable fill is almost inevitable, but thankfully there’s not much of it. A fine Thanksgiving outing.
One final housekeeping note. The WSJ does not publish on holidays, so there will be no puzzle tomorrow, Thanksgiving Day. If you are spending time with friends and family, please enjoy the day. And don’t eat too much. It’s okay to have LEFTOVERS.
Johanna Fenimore ‘s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up
The theme stands on solid ground. We get five answers that begin with words that can describe a bad smell, to which we should go YECCH to. There is as much separation between original and thematic meaning as one could reasonably expect. So: ROTTENEGG, SOURNOTE, GROSSNEGLIGENCE, RANKLAST and FOULMOUTH.
The design of the grid is very segmented, with several areas connected to each other by only or two squares. I feel like this is a bigger issue in harder puzzles, but this may be a harder puzzle for some folks so it is worth noting.
- [“In the __”: Elvis hit], GHETTO. Always felt an incongruous song for Elvis to sing. Me, I’m fond of Cave‘s version.
- [Bible transl., e.g.], VER. You don’t see things like NIV or ASV in puzzles, and I find that odd. I’m sure they’re familiar to more Americans than say Depression-era bail out packages…
- [Sailor’s jacket], REEFER. Yeah, that’s the common usage. For sure.
- [Half a rhyming “easy to do” phrase], NOMUSS. Remembered the U this time. Around here it’s “mess”.
Byron Walden’s AVCX, “Thanksgiving Breaks” — Ben’s Review
Today was a Thanksgiving travel day for me (BOS->MSP with a detour into WI to pick up my sister, for those playing along at home), so today’s solve was in the airport and tonight’s review is going up better late than never. Byron Walden has this week’s puzzle, which was given a 5/5 on the difficulty scale, though I wonder about that having seen the PDF vs the PUZ file.
Taking the title “Thanksgiving Breaks” super literally is the key to cracking some of the odd fill choices here:
- ASANTE is split between 15A‘s OPERAS and 16A‘s ANTENAVE
- GRACIAS is between 17A‘s VIAGRA and 18A‘s somewhat clunky CIA SPIES
- MERCI splits 32A‘s ORGASMER and 34A‘s CIVICS
- DANKE goes between 40A‘s ABADAN and 42A‘s KETEL ONE
- SPASIBO in in between 61A‘s FOOT SPAS and 63A‘s IBOOKS
- and finally, ARIGATO appears between 64A‘s ON SAFARI and 65A‘s GATORS
From a fill perspective, other than some quirkiness likely due to the constraints of the fill, this was pretty standard and even on the easier side, I’d say. The only reason I can see for the 5/5 rating is if testsolvers got the paper version (like I did today in the airport) – with no bubbles around the various thankful phrases. I spotted that after getting the grid, and having the bubbles definitely would have given me some footholds on trickier clues.
No additional notes today since I’m late and traveling, but let’s do some crossword review “office hours” – if there was a clue that tripped you up that you’re just not getting, ask in the comments and I’ll try to follow up.