David Steinberg’s New York Times crossword, “Vowel Play”—Amy’s write-up
The title is … a pun on “foul play”? Either a pun or just weird. Anyway, the grid calls out a bunch of squares, and those work like a 2-letter rebus square in the theme entries’ crossings, but each theme answer has two clues, for two distinct answers that share the same consonants but differ in their vowels:
- 22a. [Richard Simmons diet regimen / London tabloid], DEAL-A-MEAL / DAILY MAIL.
- 29a. [What a red pepper on a menu may signal / Made clear], SPICY FOOD / SPECIFIED. And yes, the Y is playing the role of a vowel where it appears in the theme.
- 43a. [Preceder of free throws / Juice container?], FOUL CALL / FUEL CELL.
- 69a. [Fooler / Summer Olympics standout], TRICKSTER / TRACK STAR.
- 94a. [Harry Potter’s ex-girlfriend / Register sound], CHO CHANG / CHA-CHING.
- 110a. [“He’s so lame!” / Deer variety], “WHAT A TOOL!” / WHITETAIL.
- 118a. [Thin neckwear / Assam or Earl Grey], STRING TIE / STRONG TEA.
- 42d. [Cookies filled with green creme / Flattish sea creatures], MINT OREOS / MANTA RAYS.
- 47d. [Risky / Denim attire], DANGEROUS / DUNGAREES.
Really neat theme! And executed well, without crappy fill surrounding the rebus zones. CHO CHANG/CHA-CHING is my favorite of the set. You know, if Wheel of Fortune didn’t include spaces and punctuation on its game board, these could all mess with a player’s head before somebody’s bought a vowel.
I assume David assembled the theme set via an automated dragging of a word list or corpus, as I think he has the comp SCI (computer science, not comparative science) know-how.
- 114d. [Only N.F.L. team ever to go 0-16 for a season], LIONS. That’s an old fact, and this clue’s apparently updated in online versions. It appeared in the .puz file when I downloaded it. Cleveland has tied Detroit’s sad achievement.
- 60a. [Really bothered], TORE AT. Now, this is the counterpart to the verb + preposition entries I liked in Wentz’s Saturday puzzle. “That just tore at me!” Who says that? Hardly anybody. I did the “sold off” and “tore at” test on my husband—define this, use it in a sentence. “I tore at an apple pie” was what he came up with. It’s really not a familiar usage, this “really bothered.”
- 76a. [SoCal-based sneaker brand], L.A. GEAR. In the grid, I was parsing that as LAG EAR. Like a lop-eared rabbit.
- 23d. [Moscow landmark], LENIN’S TOMB. Great entry.
- 13d. [Flare-ups in the hood?], CAR FIRES. My eyebrow went up, way up, till I realized “the hood” referred to the metal hinged thing above a car engine and not a city neighborhood.
4.5 stars from me.
Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Hybrids” – Jenni’s writeup
We’re not talking about cars in this puzzle. Each theme answer combines an animal and a person.
- 23a [Hybrid of an aquarium fish and a jazz legend?] is BETTA JAMES (betta fish, Etta James).
- 25a [… a deer and a “Harry and Tonto” actor?] gives us HART CARNEY (hart, Art Carney).
- 15d [… a small finch and an environmental activist?] is the most obscure of the lot with SERIN BROCKOVICH (serin, Erin Brockovich).
- 48d [… a stingray relative and an “Underworld” actress?] is SKATE BECKINSALE (skate, Kate Beckinsale).
- 58a [… a mountain lion and a “Kill Bill” actress?] is PUMA THURMAN (puma, Uma Thurman).
- 72a [… a marine mammal and a Revolutionary War spy?] switches it up and puts the animal second. NATHAN WHALE (Nathan Hale, whale). I regret that I have only one blowhole to give for my country.
- 86a [… a big cat and a Disney executive?] ROBERT TIGER (Robert Iger, tiger).
- 123a [… a ewe and a Dickens villain?] is URIAH SHEEP (Uriah Heep, sheep).
- 127a [… a long-nosed fish and a Kings of Rhythm musician?] is PIKE TURNER (pike, Ike Turner). I know Ike Turner’s violent acts toward Tina were a long time ago. Let’s remember what he did.
At first I thought all the answers in the bottom half of the puzzle had the animal last, but PIKE TURNER broke that pattern. Still a really nice and amusing theme. Thumbs up.
A few more things:
- 10a [Small pest] is a MIDGE. She was always tagging along after Barbie.
- 43d [Five-time all-star catcher Jorge] POSADA. Jorge was one of the Core Four – homegrown players who anchored the great Yankees teams of the 1990s. The other three were Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, and Andy Pettite. Ah, those were the days.
- 62a [___ Field (Mets’ home)] gives the NY NLers equal time. The answer is CITI.
- 63d [Any crossword clue’s number] is an INTEGER. Leopold Kronecker wrote “God created the integers. All the rest is the work of man.” A story circulated when I was in college that someone wrote that on the front page of their math final and added “I lead a holy life.”
- 119a [Smart of “Get Smart”] is MAXWELL. Alternate clue: possessor of a silver hammer.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that Brian ENO wrote something called “Neroli,” which is apparently “thinking music.” It was still a gimme; a three-letter answer clued with a musician? Always try ENO first.
Here’s Leslie Odom, Jr singing the blues.
Pancho Harrison’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “According to Your Résumé …”—Amy’s write-up
The theme takes familiar phrases and reinterprets them as if the first word is a verb:
- 22a. [“… you’ve repaired planes for civilian pilots, but can you __?”], SERVICE ACES. I don’t think mechanics service the customers, do they? They service the vehicles?
- 34a. [“… you’ve made indie films, but can you __?”], DIRECT HITS. I assume all fans of Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time know that the movie’s coming out this spring, directed by Ava DuVernay. She’s the first black female director to land a movie with a ≥$100 million budget. The cast looks terrific.
- 40a. [“… you’ve made decorative bowls, but can you __?”], FASHION PLATES.
- 69a. [“… you’ve conned small-time dealers with your forgeries, but can you __?”], SNOW FENCES.
- 74a. [“… you’ve monitored planets with your telescope, but can you __?”], TRACK STARS. Ha! This answer appears in the same area of the grid in the NYT puzzle. (See also: MRS. C in a Down answer in the top middle of the grid. Also see also: “Mrs. de Winter” in the 13d clue, just four clues after MRS. C was an answer.)
- 100a. [“… you’ve coached gymnasts, but can you __?”], TRAIN SPOTTERS.
- 107a. [“… you’ve run dining rooms, but can you __?”], HANDLE BARS.
- 125a. [“… you’ve written non-theatrical prose, but can you __?”], SUPPLY LINES. This one feels sort of iffy. Theatrical prose is what we call a play, not “lines.”
Theme is decent, mildly amusing.
The fill, though, felt like a parade of dusty crosswordese and clunky entries. When THEDA Bara crosses I’D’VE in the 1-Across corner, you know you’re in for things like AGER, MT. IDA, ESSO, ASSAI, OTTO I, DONEE, SAONE, SAHIB, N-TEST, ELEVE, and ITAL. If the constructor’s using the autofill function to fill his grids, perhaps his word list is in need of polishing. Just about all of these answers should be given a very low score so they don’t pop up in grids unless a section is extremely difficult to fill any more cleanly.
Five more things:
- 52a. [Latin clarifier], ID EST / 119d. [In __: existing], ESSE. Latin dupe! EST and ESSE are two forms of the Latin verb “to be,” yes? Neither one is great fill by itself.
- 58d. [Exxon, formerly]. ESSO. Hey! There is a electronic pop duo called Sylvan Esso whose 2017 album is nominated for a Grammy. I’d never heard of them till seeing that Best Dance/Electronic Album nomination, though.
- 27a. [Trendy greeting], CIAO. Whaaat?? How is this “trendy”?
- 84d. [Michael Jackson compilation album], KING OF POP. Great entry—it’s also Jackson’s nickname, of course.
- In general, though, the fill was 43d. [Party-pooperish], NO FUN.
2.5 stars from me. The fill dragged down what would’ve been a fun puzzle with smoother fill.
Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s CRooked crossword, “Off the Menu” — pannonica’s write-up
Non-food items deliberately misconstrued as comestibles.
- 24a. [Toast topper for Uber drivers?] TRAFFIC JAM.
- 26a. [Buns for bongo players?] DRUM ROLLS.
- 45a. [Drink for the harebrained?] RABBIT PUNCH.
- 56a. [Pecans for pilots?] WING NUTS.
- 65a. [Spread for hunters?] GAME PRESERVES. I’m tired of seeing this lighthearted-seeming term for a cruel and archaic practice.
- 73a. [Candy for beach bums?] SAND BARS.
- 81a. [Snack for an arsonist?] FIRE CRACKERS.
- 103a. [Pie topping for equestrians?] HORSE WHIP. That’s cruel and unnecessary too. Also, ‘WHIP’ as a designation for such a topping isn’t in my lexicon. It’s whipped cream. I’m guessing regionalism. F’rinstance, m-w.com lists prune whip as a thing.
- 106a. [Dessert for launderers?] CAKE OF SOAP. Ooh, three-word entry.
Not part of the theme: 1d [Salad or soup] COURSE, 11d [Brit’s sour candy] ACID DROP—that doesn’t sound appetizing at all, 60d [Gooey concoction] S’MORE, 65d [Chicken heart, e.g.] GIBLET, 82d [French pancake] CRÊPE, 94d [Garlicky mayos] AÏOLIS, and more.
- 42a [Cable box’s spot] SET TOP. Even in the age of flat-screen televisions everywhere?
- 49a [K-Cup disposable] POD. Not environmentally friendly at all. I feel there should be limited applications for such drink makers.
- 41d/63a [Morse unit] DIT, DOT. Referring to the same thing. Dit/dah (spoken) = dot/dash (written).
- 70a [Key material] IVORY. “Onetime” type qualifier, please? This seems a particularly environmentally-hostile/animal-cruel crossword.
- 8d [Cool and collected] CALM.
- 3d [Unwelcome bunk] GUFF, 97d [Steam engine sound] CHUFF.
- 27d [180-degree turn] UEY. The proper spelling.
- 36d [Bully] HECTOR. These are verbs. To hector someone is to bully them. In the Iliad, Achilles abused Hector, Paris’ older brother.
- With nothing yet filled in, I took a flyer on 2d [Mental grasp] and tried ACUITY, but soon learned from crossings it was to be UPTAKE.
- 64a [Show sum sense?] ADD. *groan*
- 34d [Buffalo NHLer] SABRE, 23a [Edmonton team] OILERS, 117a [Rink users] SKATERS.
- 46d [Word giving us “Cajun”] ACADIAN.
- 80d [Lingo in an Orwell book] NEWSPEAK. Stay on your toes.
Thirteen o’clock, time for lunch!
NYT: OK so before people start tearing their hair out, the app totally screwed up 14D & 44D. I had to reverse the rebus on 44D & omit the “O” from OPIOID (which makes no sense & creates a rare single-letter rebus) to “finish.”
This may have been fixed since I downloaded it. But wow. A new low for an already pretty awful app.
As of a little after 8 a.m. on Sunday it still isn’t fixed. How on earth did you figure that out? I spent (wasted?) at least 20 minutes checking and double checking my answers. Thank you!!!
Rex Parker’s Twitter blew up about this. Apparently just removing a letter from some rebi also worked. No idea.
But at least the app puzzle corrected the 0-16 error Amy noted above. So, yay? This happened a week ago, guys. And it wasn’t a surprise.
The fact that the puzzle itself was good (albeit a little obscure, particularly in the SW) only makes it more frustrating.
I’m eternally grateful…had a 408 puzzle streak going into this one, and didn’t want to lose it over a puzzle that I was pretty sure I’d solved correctly.
Ah I remember 408 puzzles ago. It was a simpler time.
Found the Times a chore
…as in tedious and boring, with some really whoppers for fill — SAOIRSE, CAR_FIRE, RHENISH. I spent too much time double checking the tiny letters in the circles.Not my cup of tea.
I too cracked it quickly, then found it tedious to fill in (but I did it).
Not as Fun as usual.
I had to dig out my 0.3-mm Pentel pencil to be able to put two letters in each of the teeny tiny circles in the .pdf. I can’t remember when I used it last, because it’s cranky, and difficult to use, but it was perfect for today’s fill.
I loved solving this. I looked forward to sussing out each theme entry, and the fill was marvelous. CHO CHANG/CHA CHING was my favorite theme entry too.
I linked a few of the theme answers in sentences: “Come to the Tex-Mex potluck! SPICY FOOD SPECIFIED! Wear your DANGEROUS DUNGAREES!”
Good puzzle. I used Across Lite which has a somewhat painful way to do multiple letter insertions. Wish they had a hot key for it.
There are two:
Insertkey and also the
0of the Number Pad (with
NumLkoff). These are for PC, though there may be Mac equivalents.
Mac equivalent is the ESCape key.
Puzzazz handled the NYT very nicely. Great puzzle.
As did Black Ink for macOS.
NYT was rather confusing for me, but I eventually got it. Note that ‘tying’ the Lions’ 0-16 record is doing as badly as possible, so ‘matching’ might be a better word for it.
Glad Amy liked CHO CHANG. I’d just love a week without Harry Potter clues.
Quite generally, I found the SE full quarter a challenge, what with that, the brand of sneakers, the unlikely name SAOIRSE, SUBGUM (hmm, midwestern Chinese food?), National Spelling Bee (never heard of), and the to me not terribly idiomatic STRONG TEA and BRAIDED RUG. Took a while to dredge up Shaw from memory, too. Come to think of it, WHAT A TOOL took me a while as well, as WHAT A could have led to lots of things (including “fool”). But a challenge is fine, and the theme is quite clever.
Well, I’d love a week without The Simpsons, which I’ve never seen, but I’m not going to get it.
How on earth is there still an American wordy/puzzle person who didn’t know the annual Scripps spelling bee has been aired on an ESPN channel for years?
“Sub gum” refers to a mixture, usually meats as of beef, chicken and shrimp together, although it can also refer to a mixture of vegetables. It’s an American-Chinese food term that was, indeed, first recorded in Chicago around the turn of the twentieth-century, but is very common in New York. “Sub gum won ton soup” is the “fanciest” won ton in many New York Chinatown restaurants, for instance. It’s unheard of in the better West Coast restaurants, which tend to be more authentically Chinese and operated (and frequented) by recent immigrants from China and Taiwan, but has been spotted in older Cantonese-run restaurants in San Francisco’s Chinatown. Just last week I had lunch at Kau Kau in Seattle (best BBQ pork and duck in town) and noted a section of stir-fries on their menu simply called “Sub Gum,” so it survives in Cantonese-American cuisine in the Pacific Northwest as well.
NYT was so rubbish, I lost interest in finishing it despite figuring it out almost immediately and just losing interest at the utter tedium of filling it out. I did the puzzle in A-Lite before filling in the “rebus” circles, then started. I couldn’t care an IOTA more to finish it after filling in just a few.
That makes it bad to me. Paper would not have been any better. JAVA script – c’est le même chose as A-lite.
Well, I loved the NYTimes puzzle. I always open the puzzle in Across Lite and then print that out, since I much prefer doing a puzzle on paper. The copy provided by Across Lite was fine.
The LIONS clue in NYT was bad. The prospect of the Browns going winless this season has been a somewhat big story for months. Somebody should’ve noticed that in test solves.
Otherwise enjoyable puzzle though.