Andrew Ries’s New York Times crossword, “Oh, One Last Thing”—Amy’s write-up
If you missed the announcement atop the Thursday post, here’s a good place to learn that Andrew is swapping out his Aries XWord subscription line for a new freestyle/themeless subscription, a new themeless every other Wednesday. Those and his Rows Garden puzzles are available here.
The phonetically based theme here entails taking a familiar phrase, adding an “oh” sound, tweaking the spelling as needed to create a real work, and cluing the goofball phrase accordingly. Andrew is a Midwesterner, as am I, and Will Shortz grew up in Indiana. So for us three, I presume, the phonetics work out perfectly fine. East Coasters and others who don’t pronounce merry/Mary/marry with identical vowel sounds may find some of the switcheroos to be off base. Here they are:
- 24a. [Comparatively strong, like some French wine?], STIFF AS A BORDEAUX. Stiff as a board.
- 40a. [Egyptian leader obsessed with his appearance?], VANITY PHARAOH. Vanity Fair.
- 43a. [Certain Lincoln Center soprano?], NEW YORK MEZZO. New York Mets.
- 63a. [Shooting craps while waiting for one’s train?], ROLLING IN THE DEPOT. Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep.”
- 85a. [Comment from a cook who cools the cheese sauce before serving?], I REST MY QUESO. Fun! I rest my case.
- 89a. [Woodwind that’s O.K. to play?], KOSHER PICCOLO. Kosher pickle.
- 104a. [Cupid’s catchphrase?], LOVE IS IN THE ARROW. Love is in the air.
I like the variety in the spelling shifts, and I like the humor that resides in at least some of the themers. (Some is better than none! Too often, an entire wordplay theme leaves me unmoved.) And as I said, the phonetics work fine for me.
Andrew exercises his themeless-building muscles in this expansive grid, dropping highlights like ADULT SWIM, MIRA NAIR (if you never saw Mississippi Masala, check it out—Sarita Choudhury and Denzel Washington in a steamy love story), a 7-Eleven BIG GULP, PETE BEST, METHINKS, PERFIDY, PHEROMONE, OMNIVORE, ICE SHOW, and the intersection of LOOK AT ME and HERE I AM.
Oh, five last things:
- 58d. [Topic at the Kinsey Institute], G-SPOT. Ha! For a significant percentage of the population, this is just a body part and not a research “topic.”
- 30a. [Fearful], TREPID. A relatively rare form of the word. Intrepid and trepidation are perfectly ordinary, but not so TREPID.
- 103d. [1979 Roman Polanski film], TESS. Roman Polanski? Gross.
- 83a. [Inits. for getting around the Loop], CTA. And literally “around,” as the train tracks do indeed loop around the Loop.
- 116a. [Egg-shaped Hasbro toys introduced in 1971], WEEBLES! “Weebles wobble but they don’t fall down.” Is there a more perfect name for a toy? I suppose SLINKY is pretty great too. What other toy names are equally spot-on?
4.5 stars from me. A little bit less of a delight than last Sunday’s puzzle by Laura and Erik, but mighty close. Both of these puzzles are far above the usual Sunday NYT, if you ask me.
Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Places Please” – Erin’s writeup
Several entries are literal representations of the circled words:
- 40a. [Abandoned, and a description of one of this puzzle’s circled words] LEFT BEHIND, describing the circled BUM in 22a‘s BUMPER CROP. Bum is a synonym for behind, and it is found at the left edge of the grid.
- 93a. [Feature opposite the hypotenuse, and a description of one of this puzzle’s circled words] RIGHT ANGLE, describing the FISH at the and of 111a. STANDOFFISH. This took me forever to get, as I was thinking of angle as a noun, not as a verb.
- 11d. [Arcade game listings…] TOP SCORES, describing Arcade game listings, and a description of one of this puzzle’s circled words TONS at the beginning of 15d. TONSILLITIS.
- 80d. [Reach the low point…] BOTTOM OUT, describing the circled AWAY completing 64d. FAYE DUNAWAY.
- 50d/52d. [With 52 Down, Paul Lynde’s longtime place in a TV game show…] CENTER SQUARE of the tic-toe-board in Hollywood Squares, describing the rebus NERD square in 65a. WIENER DOG crossing DINNER DATE. This is my favorite of the group.
- 37a. [Genre for Eiichiro Oda] MANGA. Oda created One Piece, the best-selling manga series of all time. It’s been running since 2007 in monthly, then weekly manga anthologies.
- 6d. [Curveball ace Blyleven] BERT. He was inducted into the MLB Hall of Fame in 2011. In more recent news, his son Todd was praised for running back into the Route 91 Harvest music festival in Las Vegas in October to help others escape.
- 93d. [Whoop it up] ROISTER. There is a Chicago restaurant named Roister that makes a foie gras candy bar. Never thought I would string those words together in my life. If anyone has tried such a dessert, please let us know what you thought.
- 55a. [Shirley of “Goldfinger”] EATON. She played Jill Masterson, who was killed by the title character by his painting her entire body gold, because according to James Bond the body breathes through the skin, so covering a person completely in paint will cause asphyxiation. Maybe if you paint the inside of the lungs gold too.
Until next week!
Jim Holland’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “Two for One”—Amy’s write-up
Pun theme this week, and not one I enjoyed. Here are the themers:
- 23a. [Athlete Jackson discusses immunization options?], BO TALKS INJECTIONS. The second vowel sounds in “Bo talks” and Botox are entirely different for me. Aw vs ah. Also, Bo Jackson retired 27 years ago—the whole puzzle felt about that old.
- 36a. [Spring spelling event could face cancellation?], MAY BEE MAYBE NOT. Ouch. There’s no verb in there. If you were going to say the event wouldn’t take place, using those same letters, it would be “May bee may not be” (stilted, but has a verb).
- 71a. [Seaman’s complete canvas expense?], WHOLE SAIL COST.
- 103a. [“2 + 2 = 5” problem?], SUM THING’S WRONG. What? Who would ever say “sum thing”? It’s so unnatural, I don’t think it works well as a pun.
- 122a. [Writer anticipates a vacation?], AUTHOR EYES TIME OFF. Hey! My department is off from December 21 till after New Year’s.
- 16d. [Situation when a frat room is empty?], NO BUDDY HOME. “Nobody’s home” feels far more natural than “nobody home.”
- 70d. [Average salary on a Detroit team?], PAY PER TIGER.
There’s nothing connecting these puns other than that they’re not funny and they mostly don’t work great, is there? Some commonality that unites them as a theme? How does the title tie into the theme? “Two for One” meaning “two pronunciations for one word and/or makeshift phrase”? It sounds like “2-4-1” but I’m not seeing anything that links this to the theme. It feels awfully random.
The fill was rather musty, with your ESTES and ENNEAD, your NAGS AT/A STAB/A GRIP, your ESSAY clued as a [Lamb piece] as if that resonates with anyone other than people who’ve been solving crosswords for decades and recognize an ELIA clue from a mile away. DONEE LECAR ENID REATA, ELMO Lincoln? ORSON clued as [Bean in Hollywood] rather than the far more famous Welles? SEATO, which ended in 1977? A Leslie Charteris clue?
2.25 stars from me.
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s CRooked crossword, “Genre Exercise” — pannonica’s write-up
Phrases repurposed to include puns on musical genres.
- 23a. [“Of course you’re playing Miles Davis!”?] JAZZ AS i SUSPECTED (just …). Seems as if we’re triangulating on the famous “So What”with 53a [“Who __?”] CARES and 62a [“So the what?”] AND, and even 79a [Light blues] AQUAS.
- 38a. [Street performance by Arlo Guthrie?] FOLK IN THE ROAD (fork …).
- 42a. [Item used by Toots when the Maytals make him cry?] SKA TISSUE (scar …). This one too me a while to parse. Guess it’s easier if you have a Boston accent. I found it even more of a phonetic stretch than the others (so far).
- 65a. [Advice to avoid playing DeadMau5 in response to something?] DON’T TECHNO FOR AN ANSWER (… take ‘no’ …).
- 89a. [Rhymes about Freud?] SHRINK RAP (… wrap).
- 91a. [See how “heavy” your music is?] TEST ONE’S METAL (… mettle).
- 110a. [Quantum mechanics song by Ella Fitzgerald?] SCHRÖDINGER’S SCAT (… cat).
As always, standard pun tolerance caveat applies.
Other relatively overt music bits in the puzzle: 46a [Vaughn and Vowell] SARAHS (I generally prefer Sarah Vaughn to Ella Fitzgerald), 114a [Karaoke selection] TUNES, 3d [“Carmen” composer] BIZET, 42d [Cuban singer Jon] SECADA, 57d [“Paul is dead,” e.g.] HOAX, 99d [Be quiet, in scores] TACET, 112d [Ice-T’s show, briefly] SVU.
- 107a [one who just squeaks by] EKER, 62d [Alarm or reveille, e.g.] AWAKER (not awakener?), 39d [One with a pressing task?] IRONER, 81d [Cinderella team, e,g,] UPSETTER, 84d [One making connections] LINKER, 90d [They take chances] RISKERS. There are entirely too many of these.
- We’ve got 54a [Paid servant] HIRELING and 59d [Lowly worker] PEON originating next to the same black square. Downer.
- 70a [Nam. neighbor] ANG. Two weeks ago BEQ clued ANG as [Neighbor of Zam.] and I was able to riff about Biaola in China. Alas, there’s no Olaibia or Ibiaola worth mentioning.
- 73a [Light unit] LUX. What, no Cramps clue? No, it’s better this way.
- 15d [ __-skiing] HELI-. Why not use the more natural helipad? Two reasons: first, it’s so much in the language that it’s an unhyphenated compound word; second, it’s directly preceded by 14d [Fluff (out)] PAD (which is what I often do in my write-ups here).
- 5d [Lined up sequentially] IN A LINE. Meh.
- 80d [Gets in line] QUEUES UP. Oh, that definitely makes 5d worse than meh.
Wow. I just went through all the clues twice in search of some way to close on a high note—since I’ve been rather negative here—with a ‘favorite clue’ item, but found nothing. It isn’t that the puzzle is at all bad, but I guess that means it’s uncharacteristically STAID (88d [No-nonsense]) for a BEQ offering.