Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Skip Town”—Erin’s write-up
Our theme entries this week add a city name to each answer, creating a new word or phrase. Sometimes the city is at the end of the entry, sometimes in the middle.
- 23a. [Like a certain wolf (Utah)] PROVOLONE (LONE + PROVO)
- 33a. [Water carriers, at times (Pennsylvania)] READING GLASSES (GLASSES + READING)
- 42a. [Things created by moths (Arizona)] HOMESALES (HOLES + MESA)
- 51a. [The first 20 of 20-20, say (Pennsylvania)] WINERIES (WINS + ERIE)
- 65a. [Small colony member (New Hampshire)] CONCORDANT (ANT + CONCORD)
- 69a. [Fleece (Montana)] SHEA BUTTER (SHEAR + BUTTE)
- 86a. [Spa treatment (Nevada)] PERE NOEL (PEEL + RENO)
- 94a. [“___ up?” (Iowa)] WHAT A MESS (WHAT’S + AMES)
- 100a. [“Paint It Black” band, informally (Michigan)] THE FLINTSTONES (THE STONES + FLINT).
- 116a. [Assign stars to (Arizona)] TEMPERATE (RATE + TEMPE)
- 4a. [Squircle, e.g.] SHAPE. Apparently there is a narrow definition of what constitutes a squircle. There is only one Squirtle, though.
- 10d. [“O’ Sanity” singer] ONO. Props for a new clue for her.
- 66d. [Site of Bears touchdowns?] O’HARE. Love it.
- 53a. [January woe] FLU. Influenza activity is waning, but it’s still out there.
- 69d. [Silverstein with two Grammy Awards] SHEL. He won Best Country Song in 1969 for writing Johnny Cash’s hit “A Boy Named Sue,” and Best Recording for Children in 1984 for Where the Sidewalk Ends.
Hope to see a lot of you next weekend at ACPT!
Daniel Raymon’s New York Times crossword, “Taking Your Q”—Amy’s quick write-up
Am on my way out in a few minutes, so this’ll be short. Theme answers change a word with a K sound to one starting with a Q, cluing the resulting phrase accordingly.
- 24a. [Interrogate a founding father?], QUERY WASHINGTON. Kerry Washington.
- 39a. [“There are no atheists in foxholes”?], TRENCH QUOTE. Trench coat. Not true, though.
- 46a. [Tremors?], BABY QUAKES. Babycakes.
- 72a. [Comment by a Brit down to his last coin?], HERE’S LOOKING AT YOU, QUID. … kid.
- 93a. [One knocking out an opponent in the first round?], QUICK BOXER. Kick boxer.
- 105a. [Monarch who’s fine and dandy?], PEACHY QUEEN. … keen.
- 122a. [Have a little ice cream delivered?], ORDER IN THE QUART. … court.
Cute enough, theme works. I liked having Kerry Washington as a base phrase—was confused at first, trying to remember who Carrie Washington might be.
Not wild about the fill overall—ANNOYER and MENDERS, U.S. TEN with its spelled-out number, weird plural abbrev SEQS, and so on. Some nice bits like RAT PACK, CUBISTS, QUAHOGS, C’EST LA VIE.
Two more things:
- 46d. [Sentient ones], BEINGS. Except there are also BEINGS of the non-sentient variety, no? Dictionary suggests the noun usually connotes some intelligence, which I wasn’t fully sentient about.
- 85d. [Term for a hole in Swiss cheese], EYE. Did I know that? I kinda think I did not.
- 17d. [Bishop’s group, once], RAT PACK. Favorite clue! Joey Bishop, not a clergyman or chess piece.
3.4 stars from me.
Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s CRooked crossword, “AAA” — Laura’s write-up
- [24a: Bird ballad?]: GRAY JAY LAY
- [44a: Crack up “King Kong” actress?]: SLAY FAY WRAY
- [52a: Devilfish wandering the harbor?]: STRAY BAY RAY
- [71a: Roland Garros occasion?]: CLAY PLAY DAY
- [79a: Fight over a Motown star’s earnings?]: GAYE PAY FRAY
- [100a: What negative people do?]: THEY SAY NAY
- [37d: Tina can horse around?]: FEY MAY NEIGH
- [40d: Be Charlotte’s guest?]: STAY CHEZ RAE
Let’s hear it for a simple theme, expertly executed. No byzantine word acrobatics here. I liked that the across themers kept the same orthography, while the downs played with it a bit. And so many options!
- [What Fonzie impersonators do?]: THEY SAY “AYYYYY!”
- [What taxidermists do?]: THEY FLAY PREY
- [What Phish cover bands do?]: PLAY TREY WAY
- [What elf longshoremen do on Christmas eve?]: THEY WEIGH SLEIGH
- [High-end espresso drink for actor George?]: GOURMET TAKEI LATTE
- [That’s Beyonce’s private dock in Paris?]: C’EST BEY QUAI
- [Lawn game in Queens with Spiderman’s aunt?]: SHEA MAY CROQUET
That’s an array of As and Ys to display in the fill, so let’s see how they handled it:
- Proper names: CAREY DYLAN CRYER MAYER DAYNE
- Combinations that didn’t look right out of context but okay: ARANTXA YREKA and maybe YPRES if you aren’t already a WWI buff.
- When an eel bites your thigh like a big piece of pie, that’s a MORAY
Matt McKinley’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “PT Exercise”—Amy’s write-up
“PT exercise” is, what, physical training exercise? Or physical therapy? The theme changes a P sound to a T, tweaking the spelling as needed to make a word, and clues the oddball phrase accordingly.
- 23a. [Most highly regarded seasoning?], TARRAGON OF VIRTUE. Paragon.
- 46a. [Brusque orchestral violinists?], TERSE STRINGS. Pursestrings. Wait, no no no. You can’t have two words in which a T might have been changed from a P. It’s muddled. I had the STRINGS portion and assumed it was a something-SPRINGS base phrase.
- 67a. [Actress Helen with her personal programmer?], HUNT AND TECH. Hunt and peck. This one’s less of a violation since HUNP is not also a word.
- 91a. [Kids responsible for breakfast bread?], TOASTER GIRLS. “Poster girls,” is that a thing? I know “poster child.” I Googled with some trepidation but was pleased to find that there’s a current “Poster Girls” exhibit at the London Transit Museum of transit posters created by female artists. If the term also means pinup “girls,” then eww.
- 114a. [Well-ventilated chef’s hat?], TOQUE FULL OF HOLES. Poke—verb changes to a noun.
- 36d. [Chocolate-loving gang?], COCOA TOUGHS. Cocoa Puffs. Cute. What do you have to do to be initiated into the Cocoa Toughs?
- 42d. [Measurement for meat rotating on a spit?], ROAST TORQUE. Pork.
That TERSE STRINGS really needed to be swapped out for this theme to pass muster with me.
A bunch of things pulled my attention while I was working through this puzzle:
- Plural ACMES (1a) and roll-your-own AXER (18d) both felt stilted.
- 8d. [High time], BOOM. Took me forever to make sense out of this. Maybe I needed more sleep? Boom and bust, the high and low. Really wanted NOON but that wasn’t working on the consonant front.
- 11d. [Put on], HIRE. I … don’t know that I’ve ever seen that equivalency. Put on some new staff? Put on a taxi? I don’t get it.
- 74d. [Randy Johnson and Aroldis Chapman], LEFTIES. baseball pitchers. When Chapman was the Cubs’ reliever, some Cubs fans made peace with his domestic violence history by donating to a Chicago fund for providing free legal services to victims of domestic violence each time Chapman notched another save.
- 96d. [Animated], SPARKY. Say what? I’ve never seen that. Surprised the crossing isn’t just SPARKS/OAKS.
- 104a. [Lunch with fish], TUNA SUB. Gross. (Not a canned tuna fan at all. Smells like cat food, people!)
- 116d. [Where some pounds are spent: Abbr.], LEB. Dang, really?? Of all the countries where the unit of currency is the pound, Lebanon is not the first one most Americans will think of. And then they’d be asking, “Wait, so people go around abbreviating that country as LEB?”
- 30d. NEW SNOW. My condolences to those of you in the Northeast who are blanketed with snow, unless your livelihood comes from the ski industry or you operate a snowplow. The ground has been bare for weeks in Chicago and I am just fine with that (though any proper Midwesterner will note that the farmers probably wanted more snow for the moisture).
Three stars from me.