Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle (Week 351), “Halfpipe Competition”—Janie’s take
The Olympics are on, but today’s puzzle is not about this kind of halfpipe competition. Instead it calls out two-word names and phrases whose first word begins with the letters P-I (half “PIPE”) and whose second begins with… the other half. Because of all that plosiveness going on with the alliterative Ps, these themers really pop. Doesn’t mean they all make for great fill, but if you need a set of words to warm up with in advance of, say, some public speaking appearance, this’d be a fine place to start.
- 16A. [Comestibles featured in a tongue twister] PICKLED PEPPERS. As in “Peter Piper picked a peck of…”
- 23A. [Nickname of Hall of Fame hoopster Maravich] PISTOL PETE. Died too young! At age 40 in 1988, not long after his 1987 induction in the HOF. Superior player; peppy nickname.
- 36A. [“Lo’s Diary” author] PIA PERA. Here’s a name that absolutely fulfills the requirements of the theme set. But did it register with you? Does it seem like a name that might be well-known to new solvers? Did the title of the book register? Only by googling the author did I have a vague recollection of the book, which was published 1995 and is the Lolita story told from her pov. Also had a vague recollection of the ruckus it stirred in the publishing world, as the Nabokov estate wasn’t in love with what Ms. PERA’d done with the characters. She was an Italian author (another early-ish death… age 60…) and the English translation wasn’t released here until 1999. To poor/scathing reviews to judge from the New York Times’ Michiko Kakutani. It’s kind of fun to say her name, but given her questionable place in the pantheon, I don’t find her a worthy contender in this particular competition.
- 52A. [Legumes used in Goya recipes] PIGEON PEAS. Always see them at the supermarket, but have never eaten them. I think I’m gonna have to give ’em a try as they’re a staple in some wonderful Indian, Caribbean and African recipes. And it’s not like I have to go foraging very far to find ’em!
- 59A. [1997 rom-com with Jennifer Aniston and Kevin Bacon] PICTURE PERFECT. Hmmm. Looks like a “must-miss” to me… Not Jen’s week, eh?, what with the announcement of her impending divorce from Justin Theroux (I know, a simply shocking development, right?…). “Hello, Brad?…”
Of our five themers, I’m definitely on (snow) board with all but the third one, which never genuinely gets out of the gate for my money. The gold? Why to PISTOL PETE—and I don’t really follow basketball all that regularly, but I’m lovin’ his nickname. And his story.
There’s a lot more medal-worthy fill in this puzzle and it comes to us not only through the two eight-letter entries—the curiously satisfying ODDITIES [They’re weird], and MISSOURI with its enlivening clue [Mark Twain’s birthplace]—but also through the healthy number of sevens. And sevens that run in columns of two and three no less, giving us OPINION and PICASSO; A WEE BIT, MARCONI and ASSANGE; “IT’S OPEN!,“ SHAPIRO and SOUP CAN; and “SEE HERE…” and TRAM CAR. Plus, there’s some nice cluing for these, meaning clues that made me think more in depth about the fill, such as [Leader leader?] for OPINION, [“Violin and Grapes” painter] for PICASSO, [Wireless pioneer] for MARCONI (because I was thinking of the internet and not radio technology…), and the ripped-from-the-headlines feel of [WikiLeaks founder Julian] ASSANGE and [Simpson trial attorney Robert] SHAPIRO. Oh, and the descending ELOPING [Activity that hurts a wedding planner’s business] pair at center also sings to me. This kind of fill, and the way it’s placed within the grid itself, really girds the puzz as a whole and gives it some muscle.
I also rather enjoyed the assonance cum alliteration of the POPE, OPIE, POP-UPS, PICASSO pile-up in the NW (not to mention the thought of POPE OPIE…). And clue/fill pairs like [“Kooky” name for a bird] and LOON (my first response was DODO…), and the rhyming [Ocean motion] for TIDE.
Wish I could explain why, but am less a fan of the prepositional phrase ON DOPE. Even in combination with [Like a member of high society?], a clue that seems like it’s trying to leaven the fill with some wit. So maybe it’s that the fill sounds fustier than the clue and I’m uncomfortable with the dissonance. I’ll think about that tomorrow, Scarlett.
As for right now, that’s a wrap. Oh—for the next two weeks, Puzzlegirl will be sharing her thoughts about the Crossword Nation puzzle while I spend some time playing in Nevada (Las Vegas…) and hiking in California (Death Valley [!]). Thank You, Puzzlegirl!! Ciao for now, all—and keep solving!
Joel Fagliano’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Adorable theme. LEXICOGRAPHERS are clued as 51a. [Ones who produced the clues for 20-, 25- and 45-Across], and those three clues and answers playfully evoke dictionary action. Aside: If you had told adolescent me that I would know multiple lexicographers as an adult, I might well have swooned. Ben Zimmer, Grant Barrett, Erin McKean … these are delightful people who have so much interesting stuff to say about words. (And at some point, I need to get Kory Stamper’s book. I don’t know her, but she’s among Twitter’s coolest lexicographers.)
- 20a. [adj. under the influence of a drug] clues a HIGH DEFINITION, as in a definition of the word high.
- 25a. [adv. across a barrier or intervening space] clues OVER EXPLAINED, playing on over-explained with an explanation of the word over.
- 45a. [n. spirit, animation], MEANING OF LIFE.
A nice touch to have three different parts of speech. HIGH can also be a noun, but it’s cleaner to go with adjective for the purposes of the theme.
- Dang, I was just not getting the cursor and the letters to cooperate. Kept typing things in the wrong places and whatnot. So I don’t think the puzzle’s necessarily Wednesdayish-hard; it’s probably just me.
- 16a. [French author who said “An intellectual is someone whose mind watches itself”], CAMUS. Had some letters and waited for crossings to make sure it wasn’t a DUMAS quote. I like the quote. Either the quote clues in the NYT puzzles over the last year or so have gotten more interesting, or I just paid them no mind before.
- 17a. [Alabama senator Jones], DOUG. We would also have accepted [“The Shape of Water” actor Jones] here.
- 66a. [Energy units], ERGS. Technically, the erg in the middle of energy is the same word, derived from the Greek for “work,” but I suspect rather few solvers would view this as a troublesome dupe. (They’d be more troubled by the presence of ERGS itself, since it’s not one of the physics units that most people learned in—and remember from—school.)
- 58a. [Big name in in-flight internet], GOGO. I needed some crossings here, but it’s good to have this option for cluing that entry.
- SNO-CAPS, BLUDGEON, EDNA FERBER, BARTENDS, HUFFPOST (which many of us call HuffPo, no matter how much the publisher pushes HuffPost), ACTIVIA yogurt (I believe this will help you poop), Ali’s LOUISVILLE, a PLATINUM card—lots of sparkle here.
4.5 stars from me. A nice surprise from a Tuesday puzzle to not, as some say, Tuez.
Agnes Davidson and Zhouqin Burnikel’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Going Around in Circles” — Laura’s write-up
If you solved it, then you should’ve put a ring on it:
- [17a: Group suit]: CLASS ACTION
- [38a: Site of Harry Truman’s winter White House]: KEY WEST. Having a “winter White House” is actually a thing? Why do I not remember this from other presidents between Truman and the present one? (not that I have been alive since Truman lol) Why do they need a “winter White House”? Like it’s so bad in DC in the winter?
- [11d: Saint Basil’s Cathedral feature]: ONION DOME
- [33d: Teddy Roosevelt’s party]: BULL MOOSE. I don’t know why, but BULL RING doesn’t sound right to me, even though I know that’s what the arena is called, and I’ve read The Story of Ferdinand to my daughter dozens of times.
- [61aR: Crime bosses, or what the first words of the starred answers can be]: RINGLEADERS
Ring my fill:
- [39d: Musk of Tesla]: ELON. Someone tweeted “Elon Musk’s full name is actually Elongated Muskrat” and now I can’t unsee it.
- [48a: Museum workers]: GUARDS. Okay, first I had DOCENT, then I had GUIDES. When I think of people who work in museums, I think about interpreting art and artifacts for visitors, not policing them.
- [68a: Emulate Nathan Chen]: SKATE. Timely clue. Chen just attempted six quadruple jumps (and landed five of them) in one routine. [55a: “In your face!”]: BOOYA!
John Lampkin’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
What happened to HOW??
- 17A [“Never!”] WHEN PIGS FLY!
- 37A [“Not another problem!”] WHAT NOW!
- 58A [“I don’t need a second opinion!”] WHO ASKED YOU!
- 11D [“Happenin’ scene, man!”] WHERE IT’S AT!
- 28D [“Cool your heels!”] WHY THE RUSH!
- 46D [Journalism’s traditional set of questions, obliquely addressed by the answers to starred clues] FIVE W’S
Yes, the journalist questions are evidently referred to as “The 5 Ws”, but you also should ask “how”, shouldn’t you? Interestingly, the 5 Ws here are all used in a non-question form; specifically they are all exclamations! Nicely done. A solid 4.1 stars.
A few notes:
- 29A [“‘Is this a good move for me?”] SHOULD I? – Odd looking arrangement of letters, but it works!
- 61A [Sporty Chevy] ‘VETTE – Shouldn’t there be a slangy indicator here? Never wanted one of these; they ride too rough!
- 8D [Seattle’s __ Field] SAFECO – Baseball season is almost here!
- 26D [“There oughta be __!”] A LAW! – Not my favorite partial, but easy enough to get.
- 49D [“__ War”: Shatner novel] TEK – One of these days I will read this (or these; its a series!)
- 54D [“Stoned Soul Picnic” songwriter Laura] NYRO – Who??!!
The snow is melting. Now it’s flooding!!
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “It’s All Downhill” – Derek’s write-up
Quick solve this week. Then I used the paper as a scratch pad to solve Gaffney’s contest puzzle! I have never gotten all 4 (or 5) right in a month, and this month I am 3 for 3! I will be downloading and solving this Friday’s edition as soon as I can!
But I digress: Matt JONES has a puzzle that I am sure is at least a slight nod to the current Winter Olympics, in which the USA, with the largest team ever sent to the Winter Games, is only 5th or 6th in medal count as of this post. The Norwegians are cleaning up! The theme is common phrases with SKI added to the front:
- 17A [Poet who excels at short comedy scenes?] SKITS ELIOT
- 34A [Just briefly reads the rules to a classic arcade game”] SKIMS PAC-MAN
- 42A [Someone who’s an expert at sliding out?] SKID NATURAL
- 59A [Request to a supervisor to avoid something?] SKIP IT, BOSS
Did I miss any? Cleverly done, as it is not always easy to do this type of theme, especially in this case where there are initials and abbreviations at play here. Enjoyable, even though perhaps a tad easy for a Jonesin’. 4.3 stars.
A few more things:
- 19A [Queen abandoned by Aeneas, in myth] DIDO – I am not strong in mythology. Is this Greek or Roman?
- 47A [“There Will Be Blood” actor Paul] DANO – I don’t know this actor. Mainly because I never saw this movie!
- 58A [Julia of “Addams Family Values”] RAUL – I believe I have discussed his crossword fame before in this very blog!
- 65A [“__ Burr, Sir” (song from “Hamilton”)] AARON – Great clue. I DO want to see this, but it may be a while before it hits South Bend!
- 4D [Jim Carrey movie with the catchphrase “Smokin!”] THE MASK – I might re-watch this; this was a funny movie, and I love Jim Carrey. He is arguably one of the best physical comedians I have ever seen.
- 18D [35mm camera option] SLR – Still haven’t bought that $2,000 camera yet!
- 30D [Hotelier Conrad, or his great-granddaughter Paris] HILTON – Whatever happened to Paris Hilton? On a side note, my boss’ name is Paris, but he is male!
See you all this weekend for the Stumper!