John Lampkin’s New York Times crossword, “Ring Out The Old, Ring In The New”—Amy’s write-up
The theme answers either add an O (“ring”) or remove an O from a familiar phrase. The “ring out” theme answers are in the top half of the puzzle, and the “ring in” ones are in the bottom. Chronological order, of a sort.
- 22a. [Result of a French powdered drink shortage?], LAST TANG IN PARIS. I’m still angry at Marlon Brando and his director for essentially “surprising” Maria Schneider with a gross sexual assault and filming her very real reaction for their fictional movie, Last Tango in Paris. It’s wrong now and it was wrong in the ’70s.
- 35a. [List of things said by Siri?], CELL RECITAL. I guess cello recital is a thing, if you play the cello, but CELL RECITAL feels awkward.
- 55a. [Washington, D.C.?], POL GROUNDS. Polo Grounds is a thing. POL feels like a word that gets used far more in crosswords than elsewhere.
- 15d. [One having trouble with basic arithmetic?], SUM WRESTLER. Sumo.
- 76a. [Struggling sci-fi writer’s plea for recognition?], I NEED A HUGO. Cute.
- 96a. [Treat that gives a glowing complexion?], URANIUM OREO. Uh, I’m pretty sure that eating uranium doesn’t make one look radiant.
- 113a. [Weeklong Irish vacation?], SEVEN DAYS IN MAYO. No idea what “Seven Days in May” is. Definitely a trip to Ireland is better than spending a week in a tub of mayonnaise.
- 64d. [Some loose dancing?] FLOPPY DISCO. I guess DISCO is also a verb, so that works. However, floppy disk is by far the more common spelling.
I’d like the theme better if more of the entries had been amusing.
Oh, wait, there were also 7-letter Down theme answers. It is remarkably easy to not notice short themers in a 21x grid.
- 34d. [Photog’s bagful?], CAM GEAR. Camo gear is a thing, I guess?
- 65d. [Godfather after being double-crossed?], MAD CAPO.
When I started working this puzzle, my first two answers in the grid were CWT and SMEE—not a good sign. I expect that a lot of solvers got stuck where 4d. [1/20 of a ton: Abbr.], CWT (that’s 100 lb, or the abbreviation for hundredweight) meets 4a. [New Deal org.], CCC. Off the top of my head, I have no idea what CCC stands for.
Felt like more verb + preposition answers than usual, no? LIE TO, FELL TO, BLAME ON, OPTED IN, LAP UP, SEAL UP, DINES ON … meh.
Five more things:
- 51d. [Historic Mesopotamian city], EDESSA / 67d. [Kyrgyz city], OSH. Adjacent crosswordese cities crossing a theme answer? Good gravy. If you don’t know the Hugo Award or the cities, you’re looking at I NEED **UGO and wondering where you went wrong. And you’d need to know that 66a. [Cobbler, at times] is a SOLER if you don’t know EDESSA and OSH. Oof.
- 59d. [Grow feathers], FLEDGE. Oh! So a fledgling is a young bird that’s grown its feathers and not merely one that’s maturing and can leave the nest. I see the cognate in fletch and fletcher, feather-related terms from archery and arrow-making. Learned something I didn’t know.
- 76d. [“The Last Days of Pompeii” heroine], IONE. That doesn’t ring a bell in terms of IONE clues I’ve seen before.
- 54a. [___ Conference], TED. Oh! Did you know that there are lots of regional TEDx conferences? Team Fiend’s own Dr. Jenni gave a talk this fall. “Jenni, a physician and palliative care advocate, discusses the conversations that people need to have with their loved ones about end-of-life issues. She makes a strong case for having conversations about individual values and wishes so that family members and medical professionals can act accordingly.” Here’s the YouTube video of her talk.
- 78d. [Legitimate business practices], FAIR TRADE. That’s a really weird clue. People usually use fair trade to mean (as the Oxford dictionary folks say) “trade in which fair prices are paid to producers in developing countries.” More exploitative business practices are plenty common and “legitimate.”
Three stars from me. Would’ve enjoyed a funnier theme and crisper fill.
Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “End Game” – Jenni’s writeup
I’m filling in for Erin this week, and I was a bit concerned when I saw this was a meta puzzle – but either I’m getting better at metas or this was a really, really obvious one.
The meta says “Use the clues to help you win this puzzle’s game.” Each theme answer contains a game, helpfully circled (I don’t mind the circles in this one, for some reason).
- 22a [Oddly titled first book in Michael Scott’s fantasy series about Nicholas Flamel (computer game)] is THE ALCHEMYST.
- 24a [Star of some sports records (board game)] is ASTERISK. I mis-read this as “start of some sports records” and was confused.
- 37a [Place for storing fine plates (card game)] is the CHINA CLOSET. If you’re not familiar with SET, it’s great fun. There’s an electronic version on the Times puzzle page every day.
- 49a [Locale of Pakistan’s Mahabat Khan Mosque (card game)] is PESHAWAR. This brings back memories of summer camp, where we’d each take our cards home each day and pick up the game again. WAR never ended. Sort of like these days.
- 90a [Breakfast cereal option from General Mills (board game)] is RICE CHEX. I hadn’t heard of HEX before. It looks intriguing.
- 99a [Like some KFC orders (guessing game)] would be EXTRA CRISPY. I SPY a puzzle…
- 117a [Didn’t have a date (playground game)] is WENT STAG.
- 119a [TV executive who created “20/20” (app game)] is ROONE ARLEDGE. EDGE is also new to me. Apparently it’s been the subject of a trademark dispute.
In the middle of the puzzle, we have some more information.
- 67a [With 71 Across, something you’ll find in this puzzle’s corners] gives us MURDER WEAPON.
- 68a [Person you’ll find in the first letters of this puzzle’s circled words] is the SUSPECT.
- 57a [Place you’ll find in one of this puzzle’s clues] is the ROOM.
So clearly we’re talking about the game of Clue. The first letters of the circled words spell out MRS WHITE and the corner letters spell ROPE. I think this happened in the LIBRARY – see 82a [Agatha Christie’s “The ___ in the Library”] which also gives us BODY.
Very well-done and very satisfying to solve. Thanks, Evan!
A few more things:
- 27a [Artistic creation that may have a biomechanical design] took me a while to figure out. I thought we were looking for some avant-garde art/robot thing. Nope. It’s TATTOO.
- 41a and 104a are both [Vending machine drink]; COLA and SODA, respectively.
- It appears to be the day for references to TED talks. This time it’s 81d [Series of lecture events focusing on local communities], or TEDX. If you have the chance to participate in or attend a TEDX event, do it. It’s a great experience.
- 69d [Sanction] is a word that holds two opposite meanings. This time it’s ENDORSE.
- 75a [Wouldn’t stand for it?] is SAT. That made me giggle.
What I didn’t know before I solved this puzzle: see above for the two games I’d never heard of. I also didn’t know that Apocalypse and the X-MEN are enemies.
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s CRooked crossword, “Dug Life” — pannonica’s write-up
Th- sound starting a word in an existing phrase is changed to d- sound. No further spelling alterations are made.
- 24a. [Alien engine noises?] STRANGER DINGS (Stranger Things). Not pings?
- 26a. [Dentist-themed amusement park feature?] DRILL RIDES (thrill rides).
- 47a. [Government led by the stupid?] RULE OF DUMB (rule of thumb).
- 55a. [“Tell us your story, Charles!”?] THE PLOT, DICKENS (the plot thickens). Additional punctuation necessary for this one. Not an issue.
- 77a. [Actress Barrymore immediately after a shower?] DREW IN THE TOWEL (threw in the towel).
- 88a. [Humming salons?] DRONE ROOMS (throne rooms).
- 107a. [Music with some R-rated content?] DIRTY ROCK (Thirty Rock).
- 112a. [Dangles using one single Rasta lock?] HANGS BY A DREAD (hangs by a thread).
Theme was serviceable, but there were enough nits spread around the rest of the grid to result in the overall solving experience being annoying. Hope you’ll excuse my not running through them today.
Robert E. Lee Morris’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “Alien Nation”—Amy’s recap
The theme revealer is 113a. [Remote region … and what literally ends each answer to a starred clue], WILD COUNTRY. (Not that wild country sounds super-familiar to me as a phrase—could just be that I’m a city person.) Of course, that does not literally end each theme answer. It ends each theme answer in the loose, backwards way you see in cryptic crossword clues. Wild = anagram, and the themers end with anagrams of country names. PUBLIC ENEMY, Yemen. SNAIL MAIL, Mali (extra credit for also being an anagram of world capital Lima). MANGO TANGO, Tonga (MANGO TANGO is a cocktail, though?!). GOLD CHAIN, China. MODEL PLANE, Nepal. HEAVY RAIN, Iran. DAYTIME SERIAL, Israel. ACHES AND PAINS, Spain.
Favorite fill: WAY AHEAD, DON’T STOP, GAME OVER. Worst: ALER, MOTET, RATEL.
Three more things:
- 64d. [Tree with long beanlike pods], CATALPA. Also, large, heart-shaped, yellow-green leaves.
- 59d. [Tradesperson], PLIER. As in one who plies a trade? No. Nobody would call that person a PLIER.
- 94d. [Wine choice], CARAFE. Weird clue, as it’s not a “choice” but a container, and one that could also contain, say, orange juice or mimosas.
Might’ve been fun if the scrambled-country angle could have been hinted at a bit in the theme clues prior to WILD COUNTRY. I, for one, solved nearly the entire puzzle without having any idea what the theme was. “Alien Nation” had me thinking of the following: (1) doubling a letter to split a word (alienation) in two; (2) something with ET added; and (3) based on SNAIL MAIL and MANGO TANGO, some rhyming action. All of those were derailments. 3.5 stars from me.
Happy New Year!