Priscilla Clark & Jeff Chen’s New York Times crossword, “Surprise Endings”—Amy’s write-up
I’m really bummed. In this theme featuring movie titles revamped with a new last letter creating a “surprise ending,” the first two theme answers feature prostitution. In one of the movies, the prostitute character was played by a 12-year-old actress. Just dismal. Here’s the theme:
- 23a. [Pimp launches career in rap … BUT HAS AN EPIC FAIL!], HUSTLE AND FLOP. Hustle & Flow (note that the movie title uses an ampersand, which is another demerit for including this one).
- 30a. [Cabby saves prostitute … WITH HIS BLATHERING!], TAXI DRIVEL. Taxi Driver.
- 43a. [Guy makes a new best friend … WHO TURNS OUT TO BE A COMMUNIST!], I LOVE YOU, MAO. I Love You, Man. Mao, it bears noting, is linked to 40 to 70 million deaths. Why, Idi Amin only racked up maybe 500,000. You know what Idi Amin needed? A trademark jacket that would make his name practically a brand name.
- 56a. [Retired pool shark returns … TO WIN FRENCH IMPRESSIONIST PAINTING!], THE COLOR OF MONET. The Color of Money.
- 65a. [Chap gets life lessons from kid … WHO’S REALLY AN ANDROID!], ABOUT A BOT. About a Boy.
- 81a. [West Coast officers track wisecracking detective … TO A BOVINE!], BEVERLY HILLS COW. Beverly Hills Cop. 10/10 would watch movie about a Beverly Hills cow.
- 90a. [Friends gather for a funeral … AND COOK UP AN ENORMOUS STEW!], THE BIG CHILI. The Big Chill.
- 107a. [Bog monster emerges … WITH A NEW LINE OF SNACK CRACKERS!], SWAMP THINS. Swamp Thing.
- 118a. [007 gets fired … AND LANDS A JOB AS A SCOTTISH TAILOR!], LICENCE TO KILT. Licence to Kill. Raise your hand if you’d watch a Bond movie starring Idris Elba even if he stopped spy work and picked up the pins, scissors, and sewing machine.
The circled letters spell out PLOT TWIST, as an elegant addition to the change-a-letter theme.
Enjoyable fill includes EAR CANDY, SPEED DATE, ERIC IDLE, and MUSCLE CAR. SPEED DATE reminds me of an old blog post I just read about one woman’s experience of speed dating while in the throes of a terrible Crohn’s disease flare-up. (I also recommend Samantha Irby’s prior post explaining what Crohn’s entails in all its awfulness. As far as I know, she’s the only person out there wracked by inflammatory bowel disease who has the guts to write candidly about this actual shit and make it funny as hell. And she writes books.)
12d. [Force on earth, in brief], ONE G. Blurgh, spelled-out numeral. Will these entries ever become anathema to all constructors? *fingers crossed*
3.5 stars from me.
Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Downsizing” – Erin’s writeup
Real companies become humorous fictional companies by removing a letter from somewhere in the name.
- 22a. [Private equity firm that, after downsizing, becomes a supplier of recycling containers?] BIN CAPITAL (Bain Capital)
- 28a. [Film studio that, after downsizing, becomes a paper mill?] REAMWORKS (DreamWorks)
- 37a. [Financial services giant that, after downsizing, becomes an auto dealership for chess experts?] MASTERCAR (MasterCard)
- 53a. [Electronics and lifestyle products retailer that, after downsizing, becomes a retailer of more intelligent sorcery products?] THE SHARPER MAGE (The Sharper Image). Below is a video for one of the real company’s products, but it might work for the new company too. What is the mana cost to cast Toast Bacon?
- 88a. [Movie-themed restaurant that, after downsizing, becomes a manufacturer of movie aircraft?] PLANE HOLLYWOOD (Planet Hollywood)
- 104a. [Classified ads website that, after downsizing, becomes a website about rugged cliffs?] CRAGSLIST (craigslist)
- 113a. [Plumbing repair company that, after downsizing, becomes a company whose employees cheer for decay?] ROT-ROOTER (Roto-Rooter)
- 124a. [Atlas publisher that, after downsizing, becomes basically the same company but way cool?] RAD MCNALLY (Rand McNally)
- Revealer at 71a. [Strategy for improving a business through downsizing … and a literal description of the letters dropped from this puzzle’s businesses] ADDITION BY SUBTRACTION
- 21a. [“Riverdale” bandleader] JOSIE, of Josie and the Pussycats.
- 122a. [Heat coach Spoelstra] ERIK. Spoelstra is the first Asian-American coach in any of the four major North American sports leagues.
- 117d. [“Hot Water” co-author Brockovich] ERIN, which intersects the above ERIK at the R. Two names with the same first three letters crossing each other. Coincidence? Coincidence.
- 126a. [Like a tasty cake] MOIST. Is moistness part of a food’s taste, or is it a component of mouthfeel?
- 45d. [Actor Riz] AHMED. British actor and rapper who played pilot Bodhi Rook in Rogue One and raps as Riz MC in “Immigrants (We Get The Job Done)” from The Hamilton Mixtape.
- 1a. [Fancy Feast consumer] CAT. Obligatory photo of Luma!
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s CRookeed crossword, “Boomer, Dude” — pannoonica’s write-up
Schwas become long-o sounds. So the implied phrase of the title is “bummer, dud”—er, I mean, ‘bummer, dude”.
113a. [Bummer] SO SAD. Suh sad!
- 23a. [Bounding French dog?] POODLE JUMPER (puddle joomper—I mean, puddle jumper).
- 34a. [Vacuum company execs?] HOOVER BOARD (hoverboard).
- 53a. [Oe who takes pictures of oriels?] WINDOW SHOOTER (window shutter).
- 65a. [“The building manager’s available now”?] SUPER’S READY (supper’s ready).
- 74a. [The Islam sect is ahead?] SUNNI SIDE UP (sunny side up).
- 91a. [Main Igloo?] PRIMARY COOLER (primary color). Note capitalization in clue.
- 105a. [Check the backwoods for fingerprints?] DUST BOONIES (dust bunnies).
- 123a. [Lush on a Quidditch team?] BOOZER BEATER (buzzer beater). Presuming ‘beater’ is the name of one of the sport’s positions.
- 25a [Offseason, in baseball slang] HOT STOVE. This is for most team sports, yes? Certainly ice hockey, at least.
- 43a [West Coast beer, informally] OLY. Though I know of Olympic beer I’ve never encountered this shortened form. For whatever that’s worth.
- 29d [It is human, so they say] TO ERR. >looks leerily at quasi-random infinitive<
- 104d [Polio virologist, formally] DR SALK. Yeesh.
- 47d [Cals. counterparts] BTUS. Calories, British Thermal Units. Took me a bit to dredge that one out. This segueing to …
- 55d [Dragged in] HALED. This verb definition had been unfamiliar to me.
- 10d [Former FBI chief Louis[ FREEH crossed by 7a [Warm and cozy] COMFY. Ooh, foiled!
- 12d [“Ditto”] SO HAVE I, yet 16d [“___Sexy”] I’M TOO.
- Fine crossword, but nothing too exciting going on here.
Matt Skoczen’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “On the Road”—Amy’s write-up
I had a hard time predicting what the theme revealer would be since a few of the themers contained a scrambled GREASE and not just a scrambled GEARS. 130a. [Unexpectedly changing one’s attitude … and what’s literally hidden in six long puzzle answers] clues SHIFTING GEARS. JAMES GARFIELD, ROSE GARDEN, CHEESE GRATER, STOCKHOLDER’S AGREEMENT (that’s a thing?), STAR WARS GEEK (now, that really doesn’t feel like a phrase that’s established enough to be a crossword answer), and THAT’S GREAT all have shifted around the letters in GEARS.
The overriding vibe in this puzzle is one of fusty old fill. I rarely see ENATE in grids anymore, and that’s a good thing. Here, it’s just one of many blah answers. O-LAN -STER VERE ‘ERE’S ESAU/ESAI ASTR SORER SRO SSR OSH ATCHA AKIND TEC SETBY AGAR FAS ERSE ESSENES SERGE MANSE -COSM? Pass.
Five more things:
- 27a. [Joke closing?], -STER. There are words with that ending, yes. Mobster, gangster. But jokester? Fairly obscure.
- 79a. [Some bar food], SUSHI. I was thinking of the bar food served at places that don’t have Asahi beer. Chicken wings, nachos, burgers!
- 91a. [Stop one’s horse, in England], DRAW REIN. Huh. Can’t see ever needing to know this particular phrase. Is that the equivalent of pulling the reins?
- 46d. [Heart doc’s readout], EKG. This one’s vexing because electrocardiogram is also abbreviated as ECG. I think ECG is more standard in medical writing, but EKG seems to be what doctors use when talking to patients.
- 55d. [Complete, in law], CHOATE. Legalese! I wonder if cluing this as the prep school Choate Rosemary Hall would be more or less accessible for solvers. CHOATE as an adjective is a zillion times less common than inchoate.
2.75 stars from me, owing to the fill.