Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle (Week 346), “Side Show”—Janie’s take
Last week we gave our attention to the center of each themer; this week we’ve side action going on. In not so many words, the reveal at 63A. OUTER SPACE [Alien territory … or what the circled letters visually represent] tells us that the circled side letters form a word that can precede the word SPACE. In essence, this gives us two themers for the price of one, for each of the four (additional) theme entries. Like last week, too, this is a very straightforward kind of theme — good for newbs! — with (pretty much) straightforward cluing.
- 17A. [“The Car Doctor” subject] AUTO REPAIR. Airspace. Hmm. Seems like “The Car Doctor” may be heir to “Car Talk”…
24A. [Grain dish made with the world’s priciest spice]. SAFFRON RICE. Safe space.
- 40A. [Fluid that has no staying power?] DISAPPEARING INK. Disk space. I like this one a lot. It’s a grid-spanner and there’s some playfulness to the clue/fill combo. While I love the vivid color of—and produced by—SAFFRON, I also liked being reminded of the excitement that using DISAPPEARING INK generated among my friends when we were introduced to it in elementary school. Private messages–cool!
- 50A. [Very, very, very fast] AT WARP SPEED. Ad space. And this one may be the liveliest, because the idea of being able to travel at a rate that’s faster than the SPEED of light is, well, a pretty fantastic idea. It may not be possible, but the Star Trek franchise has made a fortune on it. (Quite the opposite, too, of SLOW [Unhurried].)
Now there wasn’t a lot in the remainder of the puzz to amp up my excitement, though it was not without its strong points and/or evocative clue-fill combos. RAMP UP, for example, makes for good fill, and so does BISTRO. Having recently watched the compelling Darkest Hour, I had a different appreciation for seeing ATTLEE [Prime Minister before Churchill] in the grid. Timing is everything. Which is especially true of the NW crossing of ME TOO [Social media hashtag sparked by revelations about Harvey Weinstein] with (Matt) LAUER [Today, he’s no longer on “Today”]. Talk about yer bold-faced names…
Otoh, names I didn’t know: [Emmy-winning “Orange is the New Black” actress Uzo ADUBA] and her grid-opposite ERIKA [“Parenthood” actress Christensen]. Even ROCCO [Celebrity chef DiSpirito]. What can I say? Not much of a TV watcher…
Was surprised to see PITAS clued as [Tasty pockets]. I love PITA bread, but about the last thing I associate with it is anything resembling a “tasty” culinary experience. The fillings? Yes. The pocket itself? Not imho.
But to END ON something a bit more upbeat—and yes, because I’m a sucker for good punny clue-fill combos—I did take delight in the [Private transportation?] JEEP pairing. So this has nothing to do with you, a limo and a driver, and all to do with the wheels for the lowest ranking members of the US Army. Cute.
And I am outta here. Have a great week, all. And when you find your own sanity being tested by, um, almost anything that seems to be a part of daily news-cycle these days: breathe. And keep solving!
Mae Woodard’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Uptempo” — Laura’s write-up
- [16a: Softball variety]: SLOW PITCH
- [28a: Item seen in Grant Wood’s “American Gothic”]: PITCHFORK
- [30a: Pay]: FORK OVER
- [41a: Company’s operating costs]: OVERHEAD
- [42a: Yoga practitioner’s shirshasana]: HEADSTAND (a pose that few TACKLE with EASE)
- [56a: Firmly maintain a position]: STAND FAST
Herewith, a fine old-fashioned phrase chain (is that the official term for this type of theme? I’ve extrapolated from word ladder), hopping diagonally down the grid from northwest to southeast, taking us from SLOW to FAST. With a title like “Uptempo,” it might’ve been cool if the chain went up, or if it were called “Downbeat” and it had gone from, say FAST TIMES [What might be had at Ridgemont High?] to … well, there aren’t too many 11-letter phrases or compound words that end with -SLOW, so we’ll leave it at that.
- Recluing to nerd it up: [3d: Billy Boyd had it, in the Lord of the Rings trilogy]: TOOK PART
- [54a: The Trammps’ music]: DISCO. As in Inferno. Now I’m imagining Dante’s Inferno, but each ring of Hell is inhabited by disco bands. The lowest circle is reserved for Rick Dees’s “Disco Duck.“
- [33d: Aircraft’s course]: VECTOR. “What’s our vector, Victor?”
David Steinberg’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
The theme hinges on a playful interpretation of FOUR-LETTER WORDS, [Curses … or what 18-, 20-, 26-, 48-, 57- and 63-Across are, literally?]. Those six entries are longer than 4 letters apiece, but each consists of just four different letters of the alphabet. SASSAFRAS has AFRS, SENESCENCE has CENS, LOLLIPOP has ILOP, NONSENSE has ENOS, TATTLETALE has AELT, and RECHERCHE has CEHR. So that’s that.
- 46a. [Accessory for a bad hair day], HAT. A tiny advantage of bitterly cold weather is that it doesn’t matter if your hair looks terrible because you’re not taking that hat off till you come back home.
- 63a. [Exotic], RECHERCHÉ. This is a word I don’t think I have ever spoken … and may also not have used it in writing. Too hard for a Tuesday puzzle?
- 67a. [Expressways with tolls], PIKES. Meh. The Chicago area lacks “pikes.” We have tollways, tollroads. And in the suburbs, there’s a street called Midlothian Turnpike that has no tolls whatsoever. Which states have these PIKES?
- 25d. [Popular D.I.Y. website], EHOW. eWhat? (Just kidding. I’ve seen those eHow pages.)
- 27d. [1847 Melville novel], OMOO. Oh my. This is way too obscure an entry for any beginning solver to know.
- 41d. [Exam with logic games, in brief], LSAT. In the ’80s, the GRE also had a section with logic puzzles that were way easier than the ones I cut my teeth on in the Dell puzzle magazines. So if you’re prepping for the LSAT, head to the drugstore magazine aisle and load up on Dells.
- 59d. [Word repeated during a mic check], TEST. Say what? No. “Testing, 1, 2, 3, check.” Who says “test, test”?
Four stars from me, though the theme didn’t really do all that much for me.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “Portrayed-Off” – Derek’s write-up
Something definitely got lost from this puzzle all right, and the revealer at 51A confirms what you probably had figured out by the time you got to the lower corner!
- 17A [Hanging around, being a particle, losing its charge, catching up on reading, etc.?] PLANS OF ION
- 26A [Anticipating a little devil?] BRACING FOR IMP – Like when that bad grandchild comes over!
- 45A [Nonexistent grades like “G+”?] ALTERNATIVE F’S – Nice!
- 61A [“Give it up!” (or what the theme answers do)] DROP THE ACT
This is another puzzle theme where I am sure all the fun is in clueing! Groan-worthy puns are always fun, and this one hit high on the fun meter. 4.4 stars.
A few more notes:
- 14A [Racecar driver Luyendyk whose sone is currently “The Bachelor”] ARIE – A much more fun clue than [India.__].
- 34A [Leachman of “Young Frankenstein”] CLORIS – She’s still alive! Google says she’ll be 92 in April.
- 41A [Tennis player Wawrinka] STAN – Who won his opening match at the Aussie Open on Tuesday! I am having fun watching this on ESPN3. No commercials!!!
- 48A [“Westworld” network] HBO – This is coming back for a second season, I do believe. It is weird, but very good. Lots of surprises!
- 65A [Spiced tea beverage] CHAI – I like chai! I think I will go make a cup right now!
- 12D [Kazakhstan border “Sea” that’s really a lake] ARAL – Ah, the famous Aral Sea is a crossword staple. And most of us will never ever visit there!
- 24D [__ Tuesday (“Voices Carry” group)] ‘TIL – This duo had Aimee Mann as one half, I believe. She was also a star in one of the early episodes of Portlandia, which I also recommend!
- 54D [“Freak on a Leash” band] KORN – This song:
That is all for this week! It’s still snowy here!!
Roger & Kathy Wienberg’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
I wonder if I would ever make a puzzle with my wife? I suppose it is possible! And I am assuming this is a hubby and wife team; I am not sure because I don’t believe we have met before. A nice theme with a now customary revealer as the last theme entry:
- 17A [Delayed show of surprise] DOUBLE TAKE
- 23A [“Frumious” beast in “Jabberwocky”] BANDERSNATCH
- 38A [Cosmetic surgery that removes bags] EYE LIFT
- 48A [Eight-ball call] CORNER POCKET
- 60A [Indicate willingness to date someone, on Tinder … and an apt hint to the last part of 17-, 23-, 38- and 48-Across] SWIPE RIGHT
A nice play on the popular Tinder app, which I have never used. I hope I never have to! But even this husband knows what is going in in that app. Take, snatch, lift and pocket are all appropriate synonyms for swipe, so this one works quite well. Nice and simple! 4.3 stars.
A few more things:
- 14A [Cry during a winning streak] I’M HOT! – Nobody says this. Unless it is 100 degrees. Or you’re bragging!
- 20A [“Happy Motoring” company] ESSO – I know you should know this defunct/Canadian gas station name, but I actually am getting little weary of it, since I am nearly 50 and I don’t think I have EVER seen one of these stations. Is it just me?
- 30A [“Rock-a-bye Baby” tree limb] BOUGH – Is “bough” ever used other than this song??
- 42A [Graphic showing 50 sts.] U.S. MAP – This is actually a clever entry. This drew only one NYT hit on xwordinfo.com. And this is a common phrase! (At least more common than “I’m hot!” while describing a winning streak!)
- 4D [Large, bindle-shaped purse] HOBO BAG – This is a new term to me. But I don’t carry purses.
- 11D [Beef often used in stir-fry] SKIRT STEAK – This doesn’t even sound good to me anymore! One’s palate DOES change after going meatless …
- 26D [Lyft competitor] UBER – I should get a Lyft permit just to see how it is. Uber driving was actually fun when I did it!
- 44D [__ seat: advantageous spot] CATBIRD – This one is really good as well. It also got very few NYT hits (6 to be exact).
- 49D [Wild West film] OATER – Nobody says this either. Except crossworders!
Everyone have a great week!
Did anyone else find the description of STENGEL as a “Yankee great” unusual? A “great” in sports suggests a great player to me. Stengel was a mediocre player (I don’t think Stengel even played for the Yankees) and a famous manager.
While your technically correct, the clue works well because he won seven World Series as a Yankees manager – that’s a MLB record. So Yankee and great are both appropriate. His fame made the answer easy though the clue was off just a little. I’ve seen much worse clues. There were two recherche words that upped the difficulty way past Tuesday; Senescence and Recherche. Pesetas, Omoo, and Ktown and Roche were all harder than normal Tuesday fare.
Yeah, it’s not egregiously bad, just slightly off. I would never think to call Vince Lombardi a “Packers great” or John Wooden a “UCLA great.”
“Not egregiously bad, just slightly off” can describe a lot of sports clues in NYT puzzles. In this case, a word like “legend” or “luminary” sounds better than “great” even though they are all almost exact synonyms — language is weird!
Four letter words is clever
For the second time in less than two weeks David treats us to a pure letterplay type of theme. I know for a lot of folks on this blog it would often elicit a “meh” or a “so what?” kind of reaction. But I tend to enjoy these themes a lot because for me every theme answer induces a “what a cool find!” kind of moment. All of these really are great finds. David, did you also use a computer program to generate a list of possible theme answers, like you did with your 1/7 puzzle? (Even if you did, I don’t think it takes anything away from the end result.) And despite a preponderance of stale, overused fill in almost every section of the puzzle (IOTA, OMOO, ETAS and the like), David did a nice job adding some sparkle back with colorful answers like ZUMBA, K-TOWN, OH WELL, BAD PR and E-HOW as a counterweight.
Me too — Enjoyed this one: neat finds! I had a copy of “OMOO” once, but lost it and never read it.
Since you asked, these are toll roads:
Indiana Toll Road, often called “the Indiana Turnpike”
New Hampshire Turnpike
New Jersey Turnpike
Turnpikes of Oklahoma
West Virginia Turnpike
I’ve driven on all of them (I’m proud to say I’ve driven in all 50 states).
When I lived in New York, I also used the Connecticut Turnpike, but it’s now toll-free.
Eastern seaboard states are clearly the center of pikeness. Conversely, the West Coast is the land of the freeway. You can drive from San Diego to Seattle on high-speed roads and never have to take out your wallet (or transponder).
As Amy mentions, “Pike” is a common name for a local arterial. It invariably means that the road was historically privately owned, with a toll required to use.
My town, Saratoga, CA, was once named Toll Gate. There was a road from a sawmill in the Santa Cruz mountains into the Santa Clara Valley and the “pike” (the long pole blocking the road, which was “turned” or swung out of the way upon the toll being paid) was located in the center of what now is our business district.
My sister in the D.C. area lives near the Rockville Pike. George Washington paid to use that road, but I don’t think there’s been a toll since Colonial times. But the name tends to stick.
In high school, I lived on Watchung Avenue in NJ, but a few blocks down the name changed to Shunpike Road. It got the name because it was an alternate route to avoid a toll road. I’d never looked up the word before, but I see “shunpike” is a noun in many dictionaries.
Martin you always make such interesting comments. Thank you.
I liked this NYT today a lot. Good wordplay. SWEATER for a chihuahua (that’s hard to type!) reminds me of Missy, my brother’s sweet little dog who has an actual wardrobe of her own. My husband and I tended to have large dogs who wouldn’t be caught dead in a sweater, but Missy (“Hood Ornament”) wears hers with aplomb.
SASSAFRAS and LOLLIPOP also share a distinction if you’re a touch-typist.
Very cool, yes!
I once found a geocache titled “Left Misplaced”. I’ll leave it to you to figure that out (I doubt you’ll have any trouble).
That could be a theme in itself. Oh, wait.
And look who constructed it :-)
If you read the first letter of each clue, backwards starting with the last Down, you’ll find a message.
NYT: The operative term here is letter bank.
This is a comment about RECHERCHE. “Exotic” can be legitimately so, but RECHERCHE indicates something that was sought or worked out for effect. I have never used the word but have used the Spanish equivalent, “Rebuscado.”
I totally agree with you, Zulema. The clue bothered me. I realize that it is in one of the dictionaries, but I really feel that it misses the essential connotation. If you check out Thesaurus
you find a rather different set of synonyms– “phony, affected, elaborate”… Something has to be sought (cherche) and re-sought (recherche) to qualify, not simply exist as exotic or rare.
Huda, thank you. I usually feel that no one cares about my comments because most people care about other intricacies.
Most of us care, Zulema. But every dictionary supports the positive meaning of “rare.” Most also support “affected,” but usually after rare.
And Huda, that thesaurus link is set to a tab marked “as in contrived.” Click “as in deluxe,” “as in elegant,” “as in exquisite,” “as in rare” or “as in good” and you get other sets of synonyms.
This sounds like a good word to avoid, lest one be misunderstood. But I don’t see a problem with the clue.
A Tinder puzzle with SNATCH in it… [Gross male leer]