Kathy Wienberg’s New York Times crossword—Jenni’s write-up
I really enjoyed this puzzle. While it may have seemed more enjoyable because the Tuesday puzzle was so bad, I think it would stand on its own. It’s a nice midweek puzzle with some zippy fill and a wordplay theme that made me smile. Each theme answer is a common word or phrase with AT appended at the end. Wackiness results.
- 20a [Big “but”?] is MAMMOTH CAVEAT (Mammoth Cave). I like big caveats and I cannot lie…. if you haven’t been to Mammoth Cave National Park, it’s worth the trip. It’s even more fun if you bring along your own geologist.
- 27a [Small diamond handed down to an heir?] is an ESTATE CARAT (estate car). “Estate car” is another term for “station wagon.” I think of “estate car” as a Britishism. Wikipedia confirms. Apparently “station wagon” is used in the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and African English. Gareth?
- 44a [Fight between two lovers?] is HONEY COMBAT (honeycomb). Now I have this song in my head.
- 55a [Futuristic Volkswagen?] is a FORWARD PASSAT (forward pass). This may be my favorite.
Consistent, amusing, solvable. A solid Wednesday theme.
A few other things:
- 1a [Menaces that name other menaces if you put a “w” at the start] is ASPS, which transforms into WASPS. I wonder if that’s Kathy’s clue or Will’s. It reminds me of the Sunday puzzles he presents on NPR.
- 2d [It comes a quarter of the way into the day] is SIX AM. I beg to differ. That is the beginning of the day. Prior to SIX AM, it is night, not day.
- 6d [What an oatmeal bath alleviates] is ITCH. This time they got the medical clue right. Oatmeal baths with tepid water are a wonderful itch remedy. There are commercial products, or you can do what my mother did: put oatmeal in an old sock and run the bath water over it, leaving the sock in the tub. It works like a tea bag and you don’t have to clean oatmeal out of the tub. Cornstarch will also work but you need to use a whole box for each bath.
- 18a [Subject of a parent’s restriction for a child] is SCREEN TIME. This is a hot topic among my parent friends. True confessions: Emma is currently in her room using a desktop computer as a TV while she does homework on her laptop and Snapchats on her phone.
- 45d [Bullies] is COWS. I stared at that for a minute wondering how bovines could be bullies. Then the light dawned.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that most elements ending in -ium are METALS. I suppose I would have realized it if I’d ever thought about it, and David (who memorized the periodic table in high school because he’s just that kind of nerd) was surprised that I didn’t know.
Speaking of the periodic table:
Samuel A. Donaldson’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Impressive!” — Jim’s review
Theme: Two-word phrases in which the first word can be a slangy synonym for “epic!” The second word does not appear to change meaning.
- 17a [Amazing mammoth?] KILLER WHALE. This one confuses me. How is a mammoth a whale? If both words are metaphoric, then this is inconsistent with the rest of the entries.
- 24a [Great enthusiast?] DOPE FIEND. Each of us here, e.g.
- 36a [Excellent wages?] SICK PAY. Nice. I like this one.
- 49a [Well-done finales?] TIGHT ENDS. Do people still say “tight”? I feel like we said that in the early ’80s but I haven’t heard it recently.
- 57a [Awesome speller?] WICKED WITCH. I love this use of the word “wicked.” I feel like it’s a Britishism we adopted. Ah, I think I was right, according to this site. However, the use of “wicked” as an adverb, as in “wicked awesome,” comes from New England, and Boston, specifically.
Fairly standard but fun theme set nonetheless.
Also good: The stacked-eights in the NE and SW corners, especially O SOLE MIO, MADE NICE, GOOD DEED, CLUTCHES, and HOT IRONS. More good stuff: PULL TAB, CRAYOLA, and YAPPING. I wasn’t sure about OF A KIND at first, but it’s growing on me. Favorite clue: [Sugar substitute?] for HON.
There’s kind of a lot of DRECK, though: SAO, ODO, ENC, SSE, ETH, ARI, AMIE, KAN, ERG, ATRA, ELS, etc., but nothing we’ve never seen before.
Maybe it’s all the subliminal messaging in the grid (aside from the themers, there’s GOOD, NICE, and ELEGANCE), but this puzzle gave me a positive vibe. Maybe not epic, but just NOICE. (Use your Cockney accent for that one.)
Nate Cardin and Paolo Pasco’s AVCX, “Nevertheless, He Persisted” — Ben’s Review
This week’s AVCX is a team up from Nate Cardin and Paolo Pasco. I generally like both of their crosswords when writing solo, and this definitely seems to be a Reese’s-type situation as a collaboration. Plus, I learned that a thing that felt very word-ish in fact dates back to 2015! More on that in a sec:
- 21A: Tasty pastries tha–COVER SEWER OPENINGS. I SAW THEM WHEN I WAS IN CANDY LAND — DONUT MANHOLES
- 28A:Asking for chang–ACTUALLY THIS REFERS TO BEING RECKLESS WITH COOKWARE — PANMANHANDLING
- 47A:Romantic arrangement for fou–NO, THIS HAS TO DO WITH OBAMACARE WHICH IS REALLY CALLED THE ACA LET ME EXPLAIN … — DOUBLE MANDATE
- 70A:Biblical story wher–A SERIAL KILLER RETURNS AFTER AN ABSENCE; A LOT OF PEOPLE DON’T KNOW IT’S REALLY ABOUT THAT — PRODIGAL MANSON
- 78A: What each of the theme answers in this puzzle suffers from — MANTERRUPTION
You may say that MANTERRUPTION isn’t a word, and I’ma let you finish, but it dates back to at least 2015, when multiple news articles talked about the trend. I’ll give you that it’s a terrible portmanteau, though.
I dug the unusual grid size on this and the theme entries – these were all fairly clever additions, and PRODIGAL MANSON reminded me of the excellent biography by Jeff Guinn I read a few years ago (side note: if you’re reading a biography of a serial killer UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES can you tell the prospective person you’re dating how much you enjoyed it when they ask you what you’re reading. Especially if that comment is in context of mentioned that you’re reading the author’s current book on Jim Jones. Learn from my mistakes!)
Please GAF about manterrupting!
Other fill notes:
- Going to use 40A’s “Upstate New York engineering sch.” clue for RPI to make another pitch to crossword constructors: RHIT is an engineering school in Terre Haute, IN, on the WABASH river. It’s a very good engineering school. It has crossword potential. Thank you for your consideration.
- ATLANTA is back in March! I am very excited because season 1 was very good.
- “Excited about measles, I guess” is a v. good clue for ANTIVAX
- 3D: remember when ASHANTI was more of a thing? Ah, the halcyon days of the early ’00s
- Going to take a quick moment to note that 79D’s Pizza RAT video might have been faked.
Roland Huget’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up
Just three theme answers today. They are each an ADJECTIVE+NOUN that means very fast: BREAKNECKSPEED and BLISTERINGPACE go together idiomatically. DIZZYINGVELOCITY… doesn’t. It’s completely arbitrary green paint.
ONELOT and ECAR seem similarly contrived.