Will Nediger’s New York Times crossword, “Letter Recycling”—Amy’s write-up
This week’s Sunday theme circles around the “letter bank” concept (devised by Will Shortz, Wikipedia tells me), where the word IMPS’s letters can be used (in multiples as needed) to spell MISSISSIPPI; the letter bank will of necessity be an isogram (word in which each letter appears just once). Will’s theme pairs two isograms with longer words/phrases made from their letter banks, where the two answers can be clued the same, and also includes, under the broader theme concept of “Letter Recycling,” four other semantic pairs made from shared letter banks. Is this description foggy enough?
- 22a. [Historical period spelled using only the letters of 2-Down], GEORGIAN ERA / 2d. [Historical period], IRON AGE. Iron Age is an isogram.
- 28a. [Revolutionary War hero spelled using only the letters of 13-Down], NATHAN HALE / 13d. [Revolutionary War hero], ETHAN ALLEN.
- 36a. [Snack items spelled using only the letters of 36-Down], PISTACHIOS / 36d. [Snack items], POTATO CHIPS.
- 95a. [Really impressive, spelled using only the letters of 39-Down], ASTOUNDING / 39d. [Really impressive], OUTSTANDING.
- 104a. [No-good, spelled using only the letters of 71-Down], DAD-BLASTED / 71d. [No-good], DETESTABLE.
- 111a. [Bagel topping spelled using only the letters of 89-Down], CREAM CHEESE / 89d. [Bagel topping], SCHMEAR. Oh! Saved the best for last. Who knew that the isogram/letter bank of SCHMEAR could yield CREAM CHEESE? (Answer: Probably everyone in the National Puzzlers’ League. I’m not a member myself, but if you could see yourself grooving on arcane and challenging sorts of wordplay and puzzles, check out the NPL site. Will S. revived the group some decades ago, I believe.)
The theme is far more elegant than a mere “here are two things from the same letter bank” one, since your PISTACHIOS and POTATO CHIPS, for example, can share a clue. The DETESTABLE and GEORGIAN ERA bits were a bit duller, but the SCHMEAR won me over in the end.
- 91d. [Gets back together], REUNES / 86a. [Word that might be helpful on a class reunion name tag], NEE. Don’t care for the reunion/REUNES overlap, and I’m skeptical that any school would still be using née in 2018. I mean, really. Either the alum is using their birth name, or they’ve changed their surname and might have their college-era surname included before the current surname on the name tag. Not sure what they do for the hyphenated folks. I suppose the person who hyphenated a name upon marriage would usually have their original name included there, so it would be redundant to mention his maiden name. (What? Do we not call it a maiden name when it’s a man who changes his name upon marriage?)
19a. [Energize], KEY UP. Feels weird in this form. Keyed up sounds better to me. “The team is really keyed up for the finals this weekend.” Not sure how or where you’d use KEY UP in that form.
- 26a. [Unlikely to be talked out of], BENT ON. As in hell-bent on, which sounds much more natural to me.
- 28d. [Sarcastic response to a fail], NAILED IT. I always appreciate the genre of Nailed It memes. One could actually apply the concept to terrible Tuesday puzzles that aimed high but failed.
- 70a. [Jewel case holder], CD TOWER. Let’s take a poll: How many of you actually own a shelving rack that can be called a CD tower, and have it filled with compact discs? If you’ve got this, you are probably over 40. And your CD tower is probably in need of dusting, because how often are you really popping a CD into a player when there’s streaming and iTunes and whatnot?
- Did not know: 47d. [Seaweed in Japanese cuisine], KOMBU. Is this fermented to make kombucha, by any chance? I’ve assiduously avoided learning about kombucha.
Four stars from me.
Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Déjà Vu” – Erin’s writeup
Metapuzzle this week! Constructor note: “Which song from a famous Broadway musical is hinted at by this puzzle’s theme?”
At first glance, the one thing standing out as likely theme material is the central entry at 67a. [Those who may do time a second time] REPEAT OFFENDERS. Solving reveals that there are ten pairs of duplicate entries with different clues throughout the grid. From top to bottom, they are:
- 3d. / 71a. MOPED
- 6d. / 78d. AXES
- 12d. / 86a. TEAR
- 16d. / 91d. CLOSE
- 18d. / 94a. HOUSE
- 32a. / 103a. MORES
- 40d. / 111d. ALLY
- 43d. / 113d. KOCH
- 50a. / 119a. ECO
- 61a. / 122a. ROSE
The first letter of each entry spells out MATCHMAKER from Fiddler on the Roof, our meta answer. After noticing a repeat and getting past the disbelief that a constructor and editor would miss such a glaring error, this was a really fun solve.
- 31a. [Aquatic invertebrates bearing the name of a many-headed monster] HYDRAS. They can regenerate, reproduce both sexually and asexually, and do not show signs of deteriorating or losing fertility as they age.
- 114a. [Trouble spot?] GAME TABLE. Clever!
- 82d. [Gold medal-winning long jumper Bob] BEAMON. He set a new world record as well as a still-standing Olympic record for the long jump in 1968, at 29 feet 2 1/2 inches. He broke the old record by 21 3/4 inches, and his world record was not broken until 1991.
99d. [Covered in quills] SPINY. Spiny things are very dangerous. Look how scary this spiny is.
Until next week.
Jeffrey Wechsler’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “Kinda Sorta”—Amy’s write-up
Cute theme, as add-a-___ themes go. An ISH (which is added to various words to suggest they’re “kinda sorta” like that) is added to familiar phrases to change the meaning, and the resulting phrases are clued accordingly.
- 23a. [Snow in southwest England?], CORNISH FLAKES.
- 36a. [Golf-loving priest’s dream?], PARISH FOR THE COURSE. (Overall, there was too much golf stuff throughout this puzzle. And also too much sickly-related fill.)
- 48a. [Pastry with a metallic taste?], STEELY DANISH. Yuck. Don’t eat baked goods with a metallic taste to them.
66a. [Result of certain radar screens conking out?], WEATHER VANISHES. Well, the weather’s still happening, you just can’t see it one technical way.
- 86a. [Media outlet in Pennsylvania Dutch country?], AMISH FM RADIO. Fun!
- 94a. [General-use gesture?], ALL-PURPOSE FLOURISH. I like this one too.
- 112a. [Cause of an origami flaw?], FOLDING MISHAP. Folding map feels a little iffy as a base phrase.
The theme was actually more entertaining than most of this type. That was offset by the dryness of the fill, which had so little sparkle. When your longer fill is things like SALLOWER and ALPHA RAY … zzzz.
- 100a. [Unresponsive (to)], DEAF. Gross. Would it be that hard to clue this with relation to actual deaf or Deaf people? I have a deaf Facebook friend, and he’s not at all unresponsive! He writes detective novels set in the Upper Peninsula, used to be the books editor for a major metropolitan newspaper, and is working on a book about traveling with a service animal. Can we stop with the clues that color deafness or blindness as negative traits, as obtuseness?
- 96d. [Part of a telemarketer’s gear], EARSET. I think headset is the far more common term here.
- 73a. [“M*A*S*H” roller], JEEP / 57d. [Mayflower roller], VAN. What? Since when do we refer to cars and trucks as “rollers”? This is just weird.
4 stars for the theme, 2.5 stars for the fill.
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s CRooked crossword, “Chest Bumps” — Jenni’s write-up
Jenni checking in for pannonica. Sorry for the posting delay.
I finished this easily and had no idea what the theme was. It took me a few minutes of inspection to suss it out. We have PECs, as in pectoral muscles, stacked on top of each other all over the puzzle.
- 17a [Tiny bit] is SPECK, bumping into 22a [Classic Halloween get-up], APE COSTUME. I know this scene took place on New Year’s Eve, not Halloween, but it’s still really funny.
- 20a [Quiet outside, angry inside personality is] TYPE C. I thought there were only two types; there are four. This bumps 24a [The British seized it in 1795], which turns out to be CAPE COLONY. I have never heard of this, and I fancy myself well-read in American history. This happened in South Africa, so Gareth is laughing at me right now, but I feel better.
- 38a [Blueprint data] SPECS bumps 47a [Materials in a tot’s art project], PIPE CLEANERS. When my daughter was little, I tried to buy some and couldn’t find any. They are now called “chenille stems” in many stores (although Google will still find them under the old name).
- 64a [Mideast grp.] is OPEC, bumping 69a [Hybrid juice flavor], which turns out to be GRAPE CHERRY. Really? A Google search says yes, it’s a thing. News to me.
- 86a [Pie nuts] are PECANS, bumping 91a [Waiver words?], ESCAPE CLAUSE.
- 110a [Character] is ASPECT, bumping into 116a [VIP level], TOP ECHELON.
- The clue for 110a is echoed amusingly in 113a [Clue character]. The answer is SUSPECT, and that bumps 121a [Linen boxes], HOPE CHESTS. I don’t like having CHESTS in an answer.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: see above re: CAPE COLONY and TYPE C. I also did not know that the state of KOSOVO has a city called Pristina.