Meta crossword fans, a new year of the Muller Monthly Music Meta begins on Tuesday, January 16. Answers are due by next Sunday, and subsequent puzzles are released on the first Tuesday of each month. As before, there’s a mega-meta involving all 12 of the year’s crosswords and their metas. Good luck to you all!
Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “A Real Stretch” – Erin’s writeup
The constructor recommended that this puzzle be solved on paper because the trick is lost in the electronic format. Six entries are elongated so that each letter takes up three squares and is shared by the crossing down entries. These entries also include an implied “STRETCH” in the answers.
- 23a. [What people may get from weightlifting] (STRETCH) MARKS
- 33a. [Final stages of baseball seasons] (STRETCH) RUNS
- 49a. [Plastic film used for protecting furniture] STRETCH WRAP
- 67a. [Kickstarter targets that go beyond the original funding level] (STRETCH) GOALS
- 90a. [Minibar site] (STRETCH) LIMO
- 104a. [Term for a power forward with a good outside jump shot] (STRETCH) FOUR. Out of the five positions, the power forward is called the four and usually makes close to mid-range shots. Some are just awesome and can make three-pointers too, hence “stretch.”
- 118a. [Certain Spandex garment, say] (STRETCH) PANTS
- 3d. [This image, e.g.] MEME. Grumpy Cat gets me.
- 83a. [Prime in Pisa] TRE and 95a. [Prime in Pamplona] SIETE. Nice multilingual symmetry.
- 109d. [Union station?] ALTAR. Love this clue!
- 17d. [Like those celebrated during an awareness week in November, briefly] TRANS. Transgender Awareness Week is the second week of the month and leads up to the Transgender Day of Remembrance, which honors the memory of those lost to anti-trans violence.
- 4d. [Agiad dynasty’s domain] SPARTA. Sparta had two kings, each descending from either the Agiads or the Eurypontids.
- 107a. [“Somewhere Only We Know” band, 2004] KEANE. Two of Keane’s songs from their 2010 album Night Train feature musical artist K’naan, who is featured in “Immigrants (We Get the Job Done)” from The Hamilton Mixtape.
Until next week!
Joel Fagliano’s New York Times crossword, “Supreme Intelligence”—Amy’s write-up
I was all set to dislike this puzzle when 1a DANTONI ([Mike who was the 2017 N.B.A. Coach of the Year]? I … don’t recognize the name) crossed crosswordese NEBS at 6d. But then! I continued on through the middle of the puzzle, where the revealer appeared: 67a. [Illegal interference … or what can be found in this puzzle’s 1st, 3rd, 7th, 15th, 19th and 21st rows?]. That phrase is the 20-letter OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE, and those rows contain the names of five Supreme Court justices: Abe Fortas, Earl Warren, Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor, and Stephen Breyer. Nifty! I didn’t like the not-well-known ANSONIA at 110a, but I forgave it once I saw that it facilitated SONIA’s appearance.
Overall, the puzzle plays like a themeless. There are even enough sections of stacked 7s to provide a the chunkiness of a themeless grid. And there’s some sparkle: NEW WAVE, Steinbeck’s THE PEARL, HENRY VI, “CALLED IT,” THE BOSS, HELLBOY (the Hellboy movie was directed by Guillermo del Toro, who is sure to get an Oscar nomination for The Shape of Water), “GAME ON,” and TAJ MAHAL.
Five more things:
115a. [Dum-dums], STUPIDS. With the *****DS in place, I confidently filled in DOTARDS. Alas, not only is the noun STUPIDS a lesser word, but STUPOR is at 20d. (See also: A HAIR in the same corner as NAIR with its [Hair removal brand] clue.)
- 86d. [Italian castle town], OTRANTO. I know this place name only from crosswords, but I know a crossword constructor who’s been there.
- 106d. [Kids’ character who says “People say nothing is impossible, but I do nothing every day”], POOH. Winnie the Pooh was, of course, the inspiration for the sitcom Seinfeld.
- 94a. [Reasons for sneezin’], COLDS. I had MOLDS! Totally legit, but I just couldn’t make MOCOON work for 94d: [Wrap tightly].
- 51a. [Military term of address], SIR. Or “ma’am,” you know. Women have been officers in the U.S. military since World War I (don’t pretend that the Army Corps of Nurses doesn’t count), so why we have this clue in 2018 is beyond me.
4.2 stars from me.
Brendan Emmettt Quigey’s CRooked crosswords, “Hole Foods” — pannonica’s write-up
Riffing off the name of the upscale supermarket chain.
- 21a. [Hole food No. 1] POPPY SEED BAGEL.
- 39a. [Hole food No. 2] SWISS CHEESE.
- 44a. [Hole food No. 3] LIFE SAVERS.
- 67a. [Hole food No. 4] FRIED CALAMARI.
- 91a. [Hole food No. 5] ONION RINGS.
- 93a. [Hole food No. 6] GLAZED DONUT.
- 115a. [Hole food No. 7] SOURDOUGH BREAD.
Most of these are toroids. Two refer to a more general characteristic rather than the overall shape, with the eyes of swiss cheese being more distinctive than the pneumatization of a yeast bread. Which brings me to another observation, that the inconsistent adjectives—when present—serve merely to pad the entry to an appropriate length. This is all right, I suppose, for POPPY SEED BAGEL and GLAZED DONUT, for instance, but further weakens SOURDOUGH BREAD, as it’s far from the most distinctively hole-textured variety; ciabatta comes to mind as an exemplar.
Less relevant, more subjective: since I prefer the tentacles of squid—not to mention sautéed—my first association isn’t of those laterally-sliced ribbonlike loops so characteristic of the breaded and deep-fried version. Further, even when I do encounter mantle, it’s usually as flat segments with sliced, crosshatched grooves. More of an Asian approach, I believe,
- 57a [Travel aid that’s usually locked] CANAL. Tricky, clever.
- 74a [Turncoat] RAT, 40d [Dirty trickster] WEASEL. I find so tiresome the gratuitous cluing of animals as disparaging metaphors for human behaviors. I’m sure many consider it a relatively minor infraction as far as crosswords and public discourse goes, but I feel it’s still worthy of criticism. At least there’s only two in this big 21×21 grid. Heck, even 103d [Impersonators] APERS is annoying me now.
- 113a [Highway strip] MEDIAN. This is what I call it, but I know the name varies regionally. Can’t elucidate beyond that without having to >gasp< look things up.
- 15d [Not effective] FUTILE, 76d [Effortless] FACILE. File under ‘F—ILE’
- 22d [’70s space station] SKYLAB, With the S and Y in place I, uh, tried SOYUZ I, which was neither a space station nor from the 1970s.
- 32d [Metal marble] STEELIE. Seemingly an oxymoron, but not really.
- 51a [Mil. mail drops] APOS. Army Post Offices. Plural abbrevs. This, when the perfectly reasonable apos, Greek for ‘aqueous solution’ is available!
- That was a joke, people. There’s really no good was to clue APOS. Blood type? Eh, possibly.
- 97a [First in the five stages of grief] DENIAL. In the Kübler-Ross model. The order, however, may vary.
- 84d [Gunpowder holder?] CADDY. Tea. The Chinese name translates to the less violent ‘pearl tea’. On the other hand, actual gunpowder was invented in China.
- 117d [Number of Z’s in this grid] ONE. In GLAZED DONUT, crossed by 78d [From __ (the lot)] A TO Z.
Good place to END AT (101d).
Matt McKinley’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “Plush Material”—Amy’s write-up
The theme material is “plus H”: an H is added to familiar phrases and the resulting phrase is clued accordingly. 23a. [Tolerate shrubland?] clues STAND THE HEATH, though “stand the heat” feels incomplete to me without “if you can’t ___, get out of the kitchen” and HEATH is not a North American’s go-to shrubland. The other themers are CIRCUS TENTH, [.3 rings?]; COWBOY BOOTH, [Texas team’s fair exhibit?]; TURKEY TROTH, [Loyalty from a farm bird?]; FAITH ACCOMPLI, [Successful religious conversion?]; HEARTH MURMUR, [Sound from a dying fire?]; and my particular favorite, a SLOTH MACHINE, or [Apparatus that breeds laziness?].
The theme is a bit less elegant that it could be, since there are other H’s in some of the theme answers. The fill is also inelegant, with more cruft than I want to see. There are some nice bits, though, like FLOTSAM, SOFT TACO, SKID MARK, and YAMMER.
30a. [Sewer needs], PATTERNS. Now, nobody calls someone who sews a “sewer,” and I went with the “underground passages for waste water” version of the word and filled in CISTERNS based on the last several letters.
Noticed SEA HAG near DEEP with “sea” in its clue, and the OH MY/OH YES duplication. I really don’t view OH MY as a [Distress signal?], either, and filled in OH NO first.
2.8 stars from me.
5? Seems that you missed Antonin Scalia up top.
Ugh, what is he even doing in this puzzle?
I agree with you politically but this seems unfair. He was a great legal scholar whose perspective was just different from ours. Also a linguist; his dressing-down of a lawyer for using “choate” is legendary.
Let’s not forget that ABE FORTAS had to resign after just a few years on the bench due to an ethics violation. We all have our flaws.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg attends the Santa Fe Opera every summer and when she is here (I live in Santa Fe) she has a surprising high profile and speaks often at public engagements. Her closest friend on the Court was Scalia, and the question most often posed to her was to explain their friendship. As Christopher stated above, he was a brilliant legal scholar, thereby being one of the few matching her intelligence. They shared a love of opera, sense of humor, and other interests. She always acknowledged they were at opposite ends of the spectrum, but remained good friends till his death.
Your great at crosswords, but not very rational when it comes to politics. Stick to what you do best.
Because he is a Supreme Court justice. That’s what the puzzle is about….a damn good one too…. sheesh….
NYT: ambitious theme about a timely topic. Nice!
DANTONI also comes from OTRANTO, just where it intersects ANSONIA, a neighborhood AKA Natick. But, as Amy notes, SONIA makes it all worthwhile.
I didn’t know POOH was the inspiration for Seinfeld! Who says crosswords aren’t educational?
Pretty certain that was tongue-in-cheek.
I knew “The Castle of Otranto” as an 18th Century novel, considered the first Gothic thriller, by Horace Walpole; not that I’ve read it, but the name was familiar to this English major. And I didn’t know about the Supremes names till I came here, because I forgot to look at the rows so kindly indicated by the constructor. Totally my fault. An admirable achievement in this crossword.
I loved Joel’s NYT. Don’t know if it was intended, but I read the central line as a recommendation there’s ample evidence to impeach.
WaPo: Oddly, it did not occur to me that the theme entries had actual clues until I was nearly done, and then I stubbornly refused to look at them until after I had finished. Stretch FOUR was a stretch for me, but now I know. Also, I was a little Grumpy Cat about stretch MARKS but whatever. It’s fair, and I should just not think about them :-)
Thanks for the link to the .pdf. This was a clever construction and a fun solve.
5 star NYT design
I got the bottom half first, where in time I found three justices on the current court and reached the wrong conclusion. (I was even wondering if whichever three the puzzle had to omit would suggest a biased point of view!) Slowed me up.
I was sure I must have had a mistake with NEB (maybe for “nib”), so that slowed me up, too, rechecking crossings. Didn’t know, say, DANTONI or BIEL as well. Ditto on OTRANTE as more than a castle or ORIENTE. I might quibble on RAYS as lines, as distinct in math. The Connecticut town sounds obscure, and I’d have preferred the clue instead cite a NYC landmark, but Amy wouldn’t have liked that either. Anyhow, perfectly ok theme, clumsy fill in spots.
I agree with you on the Ansonia (on both counts). I’m biased because it’s two blocks from my apartment but Babe Ruth lived there his first year in NY & the Black Sox scandal was allegedly hatched there.
Best!! in a long time.
As for Scalia, he might have said that the original intent of the founders was to provide everyone with a good puzzle on a Sunday morn (pursuit of happiness).
Knowing your liberal bent I suppose I shouldn’t be shocked that you conveniently skipped over Antonio Scalia in the first row!