Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle (Week 345), “Center of Attention”—Janie’s take
This is one of those puzzles I solved without looking first at the title. And guess what? This is one of those puzzle where the title isn’t a big help to uncovering the theme. But that reveal at 63D.? Well, now we’re talkin’! [Smack DAB in the middle (it’s the puzzle theme!)]. Attention, please: at the very center of each of the five themers are the letters D-A-B; and in three of the five, the letters are divided between two words. In one instance the sequence is found within a decidedly no-nonsense word. In the other, it occurs in its own nonsense word, but as part of a phrase that’s so iconic, I think we can more than forgive it. Yeah—the fill is that good. And it’s in good company to boot.
- 17A. [“Fantastic party!”] “I HAD A BALL!” Which is also the title of a not-particularly-distinguished Broadway musical from the 1964-65 season. It ran for about half a year and its main claim-to-fame is that it starred not only Richard Kiley (whose very next show was Man of La Mancha) but also comedian Buddy Hackett, who was very popular at the time. Also interesting (and astonishing to theatre nerds like me…), it was directed by Lloyd Richards, who, in his highly distinguished career (no exaggeration), was not only the dean of Yale School of Drama, but was also a Tony-winning and/or -nominated director of many of the plays by August Wilson. Impressive.
- 24A. [Fred Flintstone’s quitting time cry] “YABBA-DABBA-DOO!” About iconic a cry as there is—and decidedly peppy fill, too. Need a refresher? Here ’tis. (Another “cry” in the puzz? [“YEE-haw!” (oater cry)].)
- 40A. [Fixed expenditure, in accounting lingo] UNAVOIDABLE COST. You know—like real estate taxes. Money that’s never coming back to you. A grid-spanner, and not particularly “exciting” fill—but, perhaps, UNAVOIDABLE fill?… Also, accountants gotta get a little cruciverbal love some time!
- 52A. [“Grey’s Anatomy” Chief of Surgery who’s played by Chandra Wilson] MIRANDA BAILEY. Terrific. Because of all that Chandra Wilson embodies in the role and has accomplished for women of color who are performing artists, because ditto for Shonda Rimes, the show’s creator and producer. Also, because for about the first three seasons, I was a devoted follower. Can you say “guilty pleasure”? ;-)
- 65A. [Crazy for] WILD ABOUT. As in the Eubie Blake/Noble Sissle standard “I’m Just WILD ABOUT Harry,” for example, written for the 1921 B’way revue Shuffle Along.
There’s a genre of mystery novels known as the “cozy.” Cozies have a good underlying story, a satisfying outcome that you may not have been able to predict, and no grim or overly graphic descriptions of violence. Gateway books of a sort. Cozies aren’t edgy like The Alienist, another book by [“Killing Time” novelist Carr] CALEB. They are well-written, however, and great when you need a little mystery-story getaway. I’d describe today’s puzzle as a crossword “cozy,” which is both a great entryway for newbies and a swift getaway for more experienced solvers. The theme is accessible (and I didn’t see it coming), it’s presented with a wide range of interesting and evocative fill, and it was satisfying to solve.
Non-theme fill like SCHOOLBOY and MADE MONEY (with its punny [Succeeded as a counterfeiter?] clue) also made it satisfying to solve and kept things lively. You won’t find a lot of longer fill today (SWEDEN and MAPLES complete the complement), but give me pairs like LOONY [Bonkers], DAILY clued in connection with the fifth estate [The Boston Globe, for one], or the pucker-inducing LEMON [Tart sorbet flavor] combo and I’m a happy camper. Oh—and FLYBY and [Thrilling Blue Angels maneuver], too. Thrilling indeed!
Prefixes and suffixes: newbies—note the markers in the clues. For the former there’s “up front,” as in [50 percent, up front] for DEMI- (as in DEMIquaver); for the latter, “back,” as in the doubly delightful [Cash back?] for -IER (i.e., cashIER).
Things that make me go “Hmmm”: today that would be TEAM B [Second squad in a game, perhaps]. Darned if I can find any real support for this combo. TEAM B makes an appearance in this standardized test question as a hypothetical, but them’s pretty slim pickins. B TEAM, “YES!” TEAM B as clued? Nah. A legit clue for this unusual entry would reference this CIA analysis from the 1970s that was focused on security threats to the U.S. from the Soviet Union. Plus ça change… No, it may not be well known, but it’s a real thing, and the crosses make it easy enough to suss out.
And that’s a wrap for today. Stay warm, folks. Keep solving. And come back next week. In parting—though it’s highly unlikely that this (or almost any of their “classic” ads) could get made today—you didn’t think I’d omit a shout-out to “a little DAB’ll do ya!,” didja?
Freddie Cheng’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Pop Culture” — Laura’s write-up
- [17a: Recipe for heavy losses?]: DIET PLAN
- [24a: Sundae bonus?]: CHERRY ON TOP
- [31a: Robert Matthew Van Winkle’s rap name]: VANILLA ICE
- [42a: Pierce-Arrow convertible, e.g.]: CLASSIC CAR
- [47a: I win/you lose situation]: ZERO SUM GAME
- [61aR: Pop slogan of 1982, and a hint to the starts of the starred answers]: COKE IS IT. (That is, pop as in what people in the Midwest call soda.)
Nice work, Freddie — especially fitting six theme entries in the grid — but I will never forgive you for reintroducing an earworm that I thought my brain had forgotten 30 years ago. For other brains that haven’t deleted that particularly indelible audible pathway (or are too young to remember), here are some well-scrubbed young people who are taking a break from rehearsing for a community theater production of A Chorus Line:
Not much fill that’s OF NOTE [19a: Distinguished], but I haven’t seen BIOTYPE [8d: Genetically similar group], RIGHTO [29d: “You betcha!”], and APLOMB [32d: Poise under duress] very often in grids before. Apotheosis of Crosswordese: ERIE crossing OREO.
Peter Collins’ New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
The theme is pretty gross for vegetarians: 39a. [Compromise … or a phonetic hint to this puzzle’s circled squares] clues MEET IN THE MIDDLE, and the circled squares within the other four longest Across answers contain HAM (which is a kind of pork), VEAL (which is baby beef), LAMB, and BEEF (which is adult veal). Only two of the meats are actually centered within their answers. The long entries are decent on their own: NORTH AMERICA, LIVE A LIE, CLAMBAKE, and STROBE EFFECT.
The first clue ([Perennial campaign issue]) wasn’t specific enough to point to just one possible answer. So many solvers then glance at 1-Down to get a toehold. [Donald ___ Trump]? Oh, right, that’s JOHN. On Twitter, @rollickster commented, “I just looked at it, remembered that John is another term for a toilet and then it wasn’t so bad.”
Unexpected in a Tuesday grid: S-STAR (can we ban all of these *-STAR terms from crosswords that aren’t in astronomy publications?), ILE, KHZ, SDS, SANAA, ARPEL ([Big name in beauty products], ha—I haven’t seen that name in stores in eons, though apparently her products are sold on the Home Shopping Network), EOS and IOS, C-FLAT, and ESME. That’s a lot of tough/unfamiliar sort of stuff for a newer solver to tackle.
Three more things:
- 17a. [Grinder], HERO. If you’re a Chicagoan, or anyone else who lives in places where sandwiches served on long rolls are called subs, this grinder = HERO clue may be mystifying.
- 63d. [Operator’s org.?], AMA. American Medical Association, the “operator” in the question-marked clue referring to a surgeon.
- 12d. [Nativity scene figure], ASS. Hey, who are you calling an ass?
3 stars from me.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “Sounds Like It’s ’18” – Derek’s write-up
It has been hectic at work for the start of the new year, so I am a little late getting this up. This theme seemed arbitrary at first, but now I realize the “18” we are referring to is 2018! I am a little dense, and I have been thinking it was 2018 for about 4 months now, so maybe it is just me. In an extremely clever idea, the phonetic sound for “18” is hidden in each theme entry:
- 17A [Port-au-Prince or Fort-Liberté, as an example of what to call cities?] HAITI NAME
- 21A [Just the right amount of stellar?] GREAT ENOUGH
- 38A [Oscar news about “Reds” or “Bulworth” (or “Network”)?] BEATTY NOMINATED
- 55A [Much, much smaller?] WAY TEENSIER
- 62A [Go out with Carrie Ann of “Dancing With the Stars?”] DATE INABA
That last one is really clever! And sure enough, they all have that ATE-EEN sound in the middle somewhere. As is usually the case, I can only imagine the brainstorming session that went into finding five symmetrical and humorous entries. Bravo! 4.6 stars.
A few notes:
- 1A [Mature insect stage] IMAGO – I put ADULT. I think this is a word they made up after I graduated!
- 43A [Journalist Cokie who appears on ABC and NPR] ROBERTS – Is she still around?? I looked her up, and she is now 74 years old! (That’s older than my parents!)
- 9D [“__ Unchained” (Tarantino movie)] DJANGO – I enjoyed this more than I thought I would. It is coarse, like most Tarantino movies, but well made.
- 11D [Chicken Cordon __] BLEU – This literally means “blue ribbon,” as in this was a blue ribbon winning dish at some point. Going to be a while before I have another sandwich like this!
- 13D [Late-night host Meyers] SETH – I am never up this late, but I am addicted to his YouTube channel, especially his A Closer Look segment. Look it up!
- 51D [“August: __ County” (2013 Streep film)] OSAGE – Haven’t seen it, but it appears in puzzles so much, I feel I must! I DO want to see Streep in The Post coming out soon.
See you next week for another Jonesin!
Bruce Venzke & Gail Grabowski’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
A nice collaboration puzzle today by Bruce and Gail. They certainly mean business!
- 17A [Crimes of violence, e.g.] SERIOUS OFFENSES
- 23A [Jungle gym] MONKEY BARS
- 37A [Not-so-humorous humerus spot] FUNNY BONE
- 54A [Young boy’s role model] BIG BROTHER
- 61A [Fledgling enterprise … and what the first word of the answers to starred clues can literally do] START UP BUSINESS
Of course! We are all familiar with the phrases serious business, monkey business, funny business, and big business. Clever yet simple; just how I like it. A solid 4.3 stars.
Just a few faves and notes:
- 14A [Scott Turow memoir] ONE L – Often clued with a reference to Ogden Nash and his “one-l lama” phrase in one of his poems. I like Turow’s works, but I have not read this yet. It’s on my bucket list!
- 28A [Patriotic org. since 1890] DAR – We had a D.A.R. award given out each year when I was in elementary school, but other than that I am not sure what they did. Any members out there?
- 6D [Astronaut Grissom] GUS – I was a big fan of Psych when it was on, and I am not sure why. I did thoroughly enjoy Shawn and GUS in the recent made-for-TV movie. Find it on demand!
- 13D [Steel wool scrubbers] S.O.S. PADS – I don’t think I have used one of these since I was a kid, but I instantly knew what this was. I will have to look for these the next time I am at the grocery store!
- 49D [“__ Ben Adhem”] ABOU – It has been ages since I have seen this clue, so I will admit I blanked on it! That won’t fly with the ACPT coming up soon!
- 59D [NBA big men: Abbr.] CTRS – There are very few true centers in the NBA anymore, and even when they dominated the league, there was still a need for a true ball-handling guard for a team to be effective. The best teams now have 5 excellent ball-handlers and shooters, including the “center.”
- 62D [Whistler between baskets] REF – As much as I like basketball, as evidenced by my mini-rant for the last entry, two basketball clues right next to each other seems like a bit much. Another clue for REF would have been better here, IMHO.
The snow is melting here! Just in time for the 10 inches coming Friday night!