Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle (Week 350), “Songs of the Heart”—Janie’s take
“OH, GOODY!” A valentine from Liz by way of grid art—and a grid filled with valentine goodies to boot. Where to begin? Okay, for starters, we get an occasion-appropriate title that also tips us off to what will unify the themers. And then there’s that unmistakable graphic element at grid-center: a heart, shaped by circles. But this is not a connect-the-dots puzzle. Instead, as AcrossLite solvers learn in the Notepad (and pdf solvers on other apps learn from an introductory note): “Shape of My Heart” was a hit single by a popular band. The circled letters reveal the band’s name! And whether or not you’ve read this hint, who should so gloriously emerge (starting at the square numbered 25 and working clockwise) but BACKSTREET BOYS. That’s just terrific. And then we get four more musical themers: two female soloists (full names, gridded horizontally) and two male groups (gridded vertically), all clued with reference to song titles containing the word heart. This is great multi-layered and elegant theme development in my book, and it’s comprised of:
- 3D. [“Hold On My Heart” band] GENESIS.
- 21A. [“My Heart Will Go On” singer] CELINE DION.
- 46D. [“Heart-Shaped Box” band] NIRVANA. Um, not your everyday valentine…
- 59A. [“Cold Cold Heart“] singer] NORAH JONES. Covering the Hank Williams song.
But wait—there’s more, as we get related hit-parade bonuses with [“Love Man” singer Redding] for OTIS and there in the deep south, underscoring the point of the heart (so to speak…), [“A Change Of Heart” composer Jule] STYNE. (This last song is from the film Hit Parade of 1943, winning Styne an Oscar nom for best song [with lyricist Harold Adamson]. And, depending on the source, the song title is sometimes noted as “Change of Heart.” For today’s purposes, it makes no nevermind. The clue reflects the way the song is listed on the official Jule Styne website.) On the dark side of bonus territory, now on literary turf, there’s also the cautionary tale of love-gone-way-wrong by way of Flaubert’s [“MADAME Bovary”] (pointedly anagrammed as O, VERY BAD MAMA!). “The course of true love never did run smooth” and all that jazz…
This puzz gets added MUSCLE with the (additional) likes of LEAN INTO, NOSE JOBS, THE BOMB, TACITLY, INVOKES, SAINTS (or TACITLY INVOKES SAINTS…or… prays), [Run out of town ON A RAIL], SENSES, URSINE, ROLL BAR, and perennial heart-throb/SNL “Celebrity Jeopardy” target and [Knighted “Dr. No” actor Sean] CONNERY.
Is there some less-than-ideal fill? Yeah. The constraints imposed by the grid’s big heart will do that. Whence, among the short fill, the number of fitb partials (e.g., [Getting ON IN years], [“AT NO extra charge”], [“The Book OF ELI” (2010 Denzel Washington film)]), abbreviations (e.g., BSMT, MTG, SYNS) and other expediencies (e.g., Roman numeral CCVI and [Gerund suffix] -ING). I’m also someone who’s not in love with seeing lotso proper names in a grid—and this one’s loaded with ’em. But ya know what? Today, I find that all of this serves the big picture without genuine distraction. Because that’s how good all of the good stuff is.
So, happy Valentine’s Day, one and all. And if there’s no main squeeze in your life, do something nice for yourself. Just because it feels good to feel good! (When all else fails, a little humor goes a long way…) Thx for stopping by, and as always: keep solving!
Bruce Haight’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Two Tuesday NYTs in a row with the same byline? Odd.
The theme is BOXED / ROSES, with the word ROSE appearing in four 2×2 boxes. HAVE A HEART and STEAL A KISS also get Valentine’s Day–related clues. But Valentine’s Day is Wednesday, not Tuesday, so I don’t get the scheduling here.
Listen. If you’re going to get someone roses for Valentine’s Day, they may or may not be delivered in a box, but nobody would call them BOXED ROSES, as opposed to, say, “a dozen roses (in a box).” (So the theme rationale, that BOXED ROSES are a thing and you can reinterpret it as ROSEs in boxes, feels a tad sketchy.) And if you’re going to spring for roses, don’t provide just four of them. Everyone can do the math, and that’s only a third of a dozen, cheapskate.
- The two thematic 10s run Down, while the long Acrosses (pairs of 9s and 10s) have nothing whatsoever to do with the theme. Odd.
- 38a. [Lived like a single guy], BATCHED IT. That spelling is just plain weird. This term, I think, is like the short form of “casual” with one syllable. You can say it, but it doesn’t work in writing because there’s no agreed-upon spelling for it. Bach’ing it? The past tense feels maybe a little off, too.
- 35d. [Greek peak, briefly], MT. OSSA / 48a. [North Africa’s ___ Mountains], ATLAS. If you’ve got these crossing, it would be nice not to include “mountains” in the 48a clue. Better still, don’t put MT OSSA in your Tuesday grid at all. It’s not a name any educated American really has any reason to know.
- 31d. [Pilot], STEERER. Roll-your-own noun! Heck, REROLL it! (Or don’t. In Yahtzee, you roll again, you don’t REROLL. I just rerolled my eyes.)
- 61a. [Enthusiastic], RARING. Does this work without “to go” immediately following? I vote no.
- 25d. [Big source of omega-3 fatty acids], FLAXSEED. That’s one of the seeds in my Brownberry 12-Grain bread and I must say, I don’t care for it. Flaxseeds look like dark little ticks and they don’t chew well. Also! The dictionary tells me that another meaning of flaxseed is the pupa of the Hessian fly, which looks like the seed.
2.75 stars from me. Happy Valentine’s Eve?
Ethan Cooper’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Four Aces” — Jim’s review
Jim here sitting in for Laura.
I didn’t recognize the byline, but Mr. Cooper has had a string of puzzles in the NYT dating back to 1999. This appears to be his first in the WSJ.
The title is “Four Aces,” so you’d be forgiven for thinking each theme entry hides the word ACE. But that’s not the case. Each entry is a common phrase where the first word can also slangily mean “excel at.” The second word also changes meaning.
- 17a [Do a great job as a U.S. Mint employee?] RULE CHANGE. This one gave me a chuckle. A good start.
- 26a [Do a great job as a three-card monte dealer?] KILL SWITCHES. I was confused by this one. Referring to the act of moving cards around a la three-card monte as “switches”? Doesn’t quite work for me.
- 42a [Do a great job as a glassware manufacturer?] ROCK TUMBLERS. That works.
- 56a [Do a great job as an attack dog?] NAIL BITING. I suppose that works, too, although the second word’s meaning is little changed.
Nice, lively entries, and I definitely appreciate the wordplay. I only have a problem with the second entry, and maybe that’s just me.
I really love the two large corners with PIE CRUSTS, MODEL HOME, and especially the modern “I CAN’T EVEN.” But I’m not such a fan of the center with A TEST crossing LA RAM, and proper names STAUB and WEILL. B-TENS (22a, [1930s bombers]) also gets the side-eye from me since it would normally be written “B-10s.”
OH HELL is colorful and fun, but its clue threw me; [Card game that’s also a complaint]. I’d never heard of the game which apparently also goes by many other names.
A number of good, fresh-feeling clues were peppered throughout the grid. Here are some that stuck with me:
- 15a [Popular thing for seniors to play]. The word OLDER sits right above this one and is clued simply as [Senior]. So this clue gets you to think it’s looking for BRIDGE or something similar. Nope, the answer is HOOKY.
- 20a [School hallway prohibition, for short]. Keeping things in high school, the answer here is PDA.
- 40a [Business where you might get hitched]. U-HAUL.
- 63a [Proof you have a lot]. DEED.
- 22d [Camel remnant]. BUTT.
- 52d [“___ No Sunshine”]. AIN’T.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “En Vacation” – Derek’s write-up
Yeah! Vacation! Something I sorely need!! Looking forward to traveling to Stamford, and that is coming up next month! I should book my room …
… anyway, the theme has the sound “EN” on vacation, as that sound is missing from the theme answers. Here they are:
- 20A [Furniture to display cheesy stuff?] KITSCH TABLE (kitchen table)
- 53A [Tiny mythical creatures on patrol?] GUARD GNOMES (garden gnomes)
- 11D [Body of water that’s surrounded?] WALLED POND (Walden Pond)
- 28D [Is totally up for nestling in bed?] WOULD SPOON (wooden spoon)
As is the hope, the last one is the funniest! My times for this and the LAT puzzle are well under 4 minutes, so I hope I am in ACPT form. If Amy isn’t going, I may be able to place in the Midwest Region!! ;-) How about 4.4 stars today for this one.
A few more things:
- 8A [Came down softly?] SNOW – Yes, that 12 inches came down nice and softly last Friday. And I got stuck twice in three days. In my own driveway! I’m sick of winter!!
- 47A [Inca’s mountains] ANDES – I was hearing during Olympics coverage that some US skiers travel to the Andes during our summer to train. I could never be a skier; I am trying to AVOID snow, not find more!!
- 64A [Armitage who plays “Young Sheldon”] IAIN – Leave it to Matt to find the obscure, although timely and relevant, pop culture reference!
- 4D [Competition for toys?] DOG SHOW – It’s dog show season, meaning there are no major other sports championships for a few months to put on TV! Perhaps the dog lover’s get the TV remote in the football hangover after the Super Bowl!
- 27D [“Sesame Street” character voiced by Ryan Dillon since 2013] ELMO – Since the original dude was caught doing God-knows-what! I never trusted that Elmo …
- 33D [“Science Friday” airer] NPR – Is is just me, or is NPR synonymous with news? In YouTube videos reviewing the new Apple HomePod, when you ask these types of speakers for news, you get NPR news. Interesting, since there are literally dozens of news outlets these days. Perhaps NPR is the most respected, at least from a radio perspective?
- 38D [Viciousness] SAVAGERY – Even this word seems to harsh for a nice easy puzzle!
As mentioned, still snowy here. Spring can come any day …
Brian Gubin’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
Another constructor I am not familiar with today, but that is OK, since this was a nice easy puzzle. Kind of in my wheelhouse; my father was a draftsman and we were always exposed to architecture and drawing books. So when there was a reference to Frank Lloyd Wright in the revealer this week, I immediately knew what they were talking about!
- 4D [Baseball overtime] EXTRA INNINGS
- 8D [Bellyache] STOMACH AILMENT
- 14D [“We’re trapped in here!”] “THERE’S NO WAY OUT!”
- 22D [Frank Lloyd Wright house built around multiple cascades, and what’s literally found in this puzzle’s circles] FALLING WATER
He (Wright) was a great designer, and if you have ever tried to design a house, you know how hard this can be. I am more into a functional design than esthetic appeal, but that is just me. This is still a stunning design:
I would love to visit this someday. I’ll put it on my bucket list! But we literally have “falling water” in the circles letters, as rain, snow, and hail are literally found reading down. Clever idea, and nicely done in a fairly accessible puzzle. A solid 4.3 stars today.
Some more notables:
- 5A [1980 Dom DeLuise film] FATSO – No, I haven’t seen it!
- 19A [Trick-taking game] ÉCARTÉ – Never played this. Familiar with bridge, whist, gin, and others, though. Is this a crossword-only game in this country?
- 29A [World’s largest cognac producer] HENNESSY – Getting thirsty …
- 48A [BBC TV series about cars] TOP GEAR – I think this is on Amazon now. Never seen it!
- 65A [The “E” in the HOMES mnemonic] ERIE – This is a gimme in the upper midwest! I think I have gotten wet by water from all 5!
- 36D [Musical Brian] ENO – BRIAN ENO is an entry in today’s Jonesin’ too! Crossword famous alright!
- 57D [“The Wizard of Oz” farmhand] ZEKE – How many know this immediately? I didn’t!
Still snowy here, but they are calling for rain this week. Which means flash flooding … is it spring yet???