Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle (Week 348), “It’s Just a Matter of Time”—Janie’s take
What we have today is a very straightforward kind of theme and execution. If, because of that, the theme plays as less than fully-satisfying for the experienced solver, it’s pretty much spot on for newbies. Each of the four themers gives us a two-word phrase in which one word is also a measure of time—but used here in a non-time-measurement context. There’s some humor to be enjoyed in the clues, all of which end with a question mark, because of the punny use of “timely” appearing in each. Comme ça:
- 17A. [Timely purchases by some vacationers?] SECOND HOMES.
- 28A. [With “The,” timely play by Lillian Hellman?] CHILDREN’S HOUR.
- 48A. [Timely acquisition by a luxury car driver?] TOYOTA CENTURY.
- 63A. [Timely chophouse order?] MINUTE STEAK. Hmmm. This one may not be completely kosher. Yes, MINUTE STEAK is a particular (thin-sliced) cut of beef, but it takes its name from the brief cooking time required before serving.
Thus we get a second, an hour, a century and a minute. I wish… the theme set were tighter/more consistent, that (for the sake of internal elegance) the “time” elements appeared from shortest to longest (or vice-versa), and that century were swapped out for day—because that big leap from hour to century is hard for me to make sense of in this short sequence. So. Not a most exemplary theme set. Imho. But: I found there was a lot to like in the remainder of the puzzle, and this is where the real gold is today. Imho.
For starters, those two long downs: the vernacular and colorful IDIOT-PROOF, clued self-deprecatingly with [Simple to use (even a crossword constructor can figure it out)]; and its grid-opposite, the high-dudgeon and equally colorful [Cry of indignation] “HOW DARE YOU!”
Then, there were a lot of clue/fill combos that kept the solve a lively one—because of the associations they produce or the evocative vocab they present, or the way they made me think twice, or just because they felt so right.
- [Elvis Presley’s birthplace] TUPELO. Mississippi. Love that name. Also, not only do we get to reflect on Elvis, but also Van Morrison’s “Tupelo Honey.” Sweet.
- [Messy forecast] SLEET. It’s winter. Dry right now (here—and as I write anyway…), but given that it’s still winter, this remains a timely kind of entry…
- [Playful sea creatures] OTTERS. Some fun facts and film footage.
- [Alpine air?] YODEL. Pun.
- [Tousle] MUSS. Love both words. Enjoy seeing them in combination.
- [Gumshoe] SLEUTH. A little gumshoe etymology.
- [Elders and alders] TREES. Elders may be religious officers; and aldermen (or –women), local magistrates. The latter, however, are never “alders.” Still, I liked that this clue made me have to think about whether or not this was so.
- [“The Good Dinosaur” dino] ARLO. New to me. Nice addition to the arsenal of ARLO Guthrie clues. Check it out.
- [Bundle of energy] DYNAMO. Muscular combo.
- [Went a-courting?] SUED. No Froggie here. Saving the best for last:
- [Declaration from a poker-playing origami artist?] “I FOLD” Worth the price of admission. And finally,
- [Albino giraffe, e.g.] ODDITY. Once again, can you say “timely”? Great piece from just this past September (with some terrific video footage, too).
Again, if the execution of the theme missed the mark for me, the remainder of the puzz more than made up for it—and there are more gems to be mined there as well. Hope your solve was a good one—and that you’ll keep solving. Until next week, I bid you a fond “ADIEU”!
Ross Trudeau’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “School Mascots” — Laura’s write-up
- [18a: Apt 36-Across in shop class?]: SAW HORSE
- [23a: Apt 36-Across in health class?]: SEX KITTEN
- [49a: Apt 36-Across in gym class?]: POOL SHARK
- [56a: Apt 36-Across in English class?]: BOOK WORM
- [36aR: Apple polisher?]: TEACHER’S PET
I feel like there’s some slippage — as we used to say when I was a BOOKWORM in English class — between literal and metaphorical in these themers. A SAWHORSE is something that you would literally see in a shop class; the suggestion of a SEX KITTEN, even though this one’s metaphorical (or rather, literalizing a metaphor), being a TEACHER’S PET, in, say, a high-school health class seems insensitive, to put it mildly, at this (or any) cultural moment; in POOL SHARK, POOL here means billiards, not the thing in which one is NATANT [58a: Floating or swimming], so it’s the only truly metaphorical one; and finally BOOK WORM — ok that one works for me.
Three things about fill:
- [14a: Brosnahan of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”]: RACHEL. If you haven’t seen this show (on Amazon Prime), drop everything and watch. If you don’t have Amazon Prime, find a friend who does and bring them some brisket or a pastrami sandwich or an egg cream and watch it at their house.
- [7d: L’Oréal nail polish brand]: ESSIE. Their quality has gone down since they were bought (much like with the Body Shop). I prefer OPI these days.
- [51d: Critic, in modern lingo]: HATER. Now, wait a minute. Criticism, as a practice, is about assessment and taste. I like to think that we at Fiend aren’t haters. Haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate; critics gonna critique, ique, ique, ique, ique….
Emily Carroll’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
What?! How is the theme revealer not SPLIT-LEVEL? I saw four kinds of houses split (A-FRAME, RANCH, DUPLEX, CHALET) into staggered levels in those circled squares, but the revealer is 57a. [Like most pet dogs … or a hint to this puzzle’s circled letters], HOUSE-BROKEN. I guess it would be an architectural violation to have that RAN/CH house be called SPLIT-LEVEL.
Nothing else is thematic, and with those houses split across entries and not clued, the whole thing played like an unthemed puzzle.
- 1d. [Juvenile retort], AM NOT. Man, I hate this sort of entry. This one could equally plausibly be ARE SO or AM TOO. Or, if you haven’t filled in ASU at 1-Across, you could be thinking “DO NOT!” or “DO TOO!” or “NUH-UH!” (Just once, I’d like to see one of these [Playground retort] answers be NUHUH.)
- 18a. [Japanese soup tidbit], RAMEN NOODLE. I defy you to isolate a single ramen noodle and ponder it as a “tidbit” worthy of consideration.
- 34d. [“Mad Men” type, informally], AD REP. HANG ON. Don’t AD REPs sell advertising? Whereas the Mad Men characters were the creative types who designed ads, no? (Disclaimer: I never did watch Mad Men.)
- 34a. [Wisconsin city that’s home to Lawrence University], APPLETON. My sister-in-law went to Lawrence, and yet I still blanked on this for too long. Sorry, Lee!
- 3d. [Growing problem in cities?], URBAN SPRAWL. I feel like this is more of a problem in the suburbs. Maybe cities like Phoenix have sprawling development within their borders? Chicago’s borders have been pretty well fixed for decades, and the sprawl is mainly in the collar counties and beyond.
Favorite bits: Multiple-Oscar nominee Jordan PEELE, the word Llwynywermod in the WELSH clue.
3.4 stars from me.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “The Jokers” – Derek’s write-up
Took me a hot second, but I had this theme figured out after just a couple of long answers filled in, and I even had an idea of what the revealer is at 56A! I wish I had remembered to have the timer on in Across Lite (sometimes it just doesn’t start when I am on my MacBook), since I think I had a really fast time! Here is what is going on with these ”jokers”:
- 16A [“Super Freak” singer] RICK JAMES
- 22A [Tree with an extract that purportedly helps memory] GINKGO BILOBA
- 34A [Worth a “meh” response] OF NO CONSEQUENCE
- 46A [He was assassinated on the Ides of March] JULIUS CAESAR
- 56A [Jokers, usually (or what the circled letters represent)] WILD CARDS
The jumbled letters in the circles are all of the face cards from a deck. My only quibble is they are out of order, but then I guess that makes them even more wild! Nice execution, even if the theme has been done before, which it seems as if it has, but perhaps not quite like this. 4.3 stars.
A few more notes:
- 62A [“__ Kommissar” (1983 pop hit)] DER – Is that really THAT old???
- 1D [Irish comedian __ Ó Briain] DARA – Leave it to Matt to clue an obscure celebrity! I don’t know him at all. I don’t think.
- 7D [Duane Allman’s brother] GREGG – Crossword famous, and I just saw his name on the Grammys in the anthology of who passed away in 2017
- 10D [“The Princess Bride” character __ Montoya] INIGO – Got this one immediately. Still one of the best movies to rewatch of all time!
- 52D [Cheese that goes with red wine] BRIE – I prefer clues referencing the actress! Mainly because I rarely have brie!
See you next week for another Jonesin’!
David Liben-Nowell’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
This theme didn’t appear to me until after I finished solving. I think I must have solved a lot of the bottom section by the down answers, because I don’t even remember seeing the revealer!
- 20A [Played the Samaritan] DID A GOOD DEED
- 33A [Ones who once shared quarters] FORMER ROOMMATES
- 43A [Love sugary snacks, say] HAVE A SWEET TOOTH – Guilty!
- 54A [Ten of more points, rebounds, and assists in one game, in hoops lingo … and a literal feature of 20-, 33- and 43-Across] TRIPLE DOUBLE – Technically, a triple double in basketball is double digits of ANY stat. A quadruple double would be the three mentioned plus at least 10 steals, or blocked shots. Sadly, sometimes that stat is turnovers!
I knew there was something odd about this puzzle: it is 15×16! Always nice to see a slight variation in the size, especially if that is the only way to fit your theme entries in. Not sure if that is the case here, but again, when you solve tons of 15×15 puzzles, one or two with a different size are more than welcome. Still jammed through this in under 4 minutes, so maybe that is why I didn’t notice the final theme answer! Even though my time was quick, this still played just a tad tougher than a normal Tuesday. 4.1 stars for this one.
A few more things:
- 18A [Harmless garden slitherer] GREEN SNAKE – This seems random. We call them garter snakes around here. Is there not a venomous snake that is green?
- 22A [Italian automaker] FIAT – Aren’t they like practically bankrupt?
- 66A [Thomas __, 9/11 Commission chairman] KEAN – This one was hard. I don’t remember this name at all.
- 3D [Collection of energy-producing turbines] WIND FARM – Why isn’t this more prevalent yet? It’s virtually non-polluting and it’s always windy!
- 4D [Avant-garde art movement] DADAISM – I had a liberal arts class as part of my online degree, and I actually learned quite a bit, especially seeing as I had very little art instruction in school. My personality is not really moved much by art, so works by Jackson Pollock and such make no sense to me.
- 10D [Baker’s ring-shaped mold] BUNDT PAN – A bundt cake sounds good right about now …
- 27D [2016 film based on a Roald Dahl novel, with “The”] BFG – For Big Friendly Giant I believe, and no I haven’t seen this either!
- 40D [1969 Woodstock folk singer] JOAN BAEZ – These Woodstock references are getting dated!
That is all for today! Have a great week.