Finn Vigeland’s New York Times crossword, “Follow the Sun”—Amy’s write-up
How to sum up the theme? The theme answers go on a bender, zigging up or down to “follow the SUN” and then zigging back across to finish the phrase.
- 26a. [Catastrophic event that can be caused by a gigantic earthquake], MEGA-TSUNAMI. Looks like the answer ins MEGATS, but it drops down in the circled S-U-N and then continues through the end of MON AMI.
- 29a. [Folds, as a business], GOES UNDER.
- 56a. [Hollywood labor groups], ACTORS’ UNIONS. Small ding for ONE-ACT also being in the grid. (See also: AIRILY and AIR FLOW.)
- 68a. [How someone in awe might describe himself], MONKEY’S UNCLE. Incomplete without “I’ll be” before it, no?
- 98a. [Amérique], ETATS UNIS.
- 102a. [Only words on the front of the Great Seal of the United States], E PLURIBUS UNUM.
The SUNs going up and down (from our geocentric perspective here on earth, that’s just what the sun does) appear in some lively fill—SUNK COST, SAMSUNG, and T MINUS ZERO.
Favorite fill: REAL TALK (with I HEART in the grid, would have preferred a clue other than [Preface to a heart-to-heart conversation]—ignore that circled R in REAL TALK, that was my reminder to mention it here), TIN HATS, MIC DROP, AS SEEN ON TV, PEDUNCLE (also a word in medical terminology!), Tony KUSHNER, and FRENZY (I had FRACAS first but prefer the word FRENZY).
What else? I don’t know. But! Erik Agard is in 1st place tonight at the ACPT, after the first six puzzles. And it’s a commanding lead—4 minutes ahead of multi-year champion Dan Feyer and 7 minutes ahead of multi-year champion Tyler Hinman. That sort of lead is astonishing—last year, Dan had just a 2-minute lead over his fellow finalists, Joon and Tyler. Team Fiend wishes Erik a smooth, clean puzzle 7 and being in the zone during the finals tomorrow.
4 stars from me.
Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Designated Critters” — Jim’s review
Jim P. here filling in for Erin who I’m sure is crushing/crushed it in Stamford.
This puzzle was made for someone like me who enjoys re-parsing themes. Evan’s found words and phrases where the last few letters are a type of animal. The whole phrase is then given the wacky treatment in the cluing
- 23a [Amazing night hunter?] SUPERB OWL. Super Bowl. A nice start to the set.
- 30a [Drones employed by a tech giant?] APPLE BEES. Applebee’s.
- 42a [“The View” co-host Behar’s collection of little bloodsuckers?] JOY’S TICKS. Joysticks.
- 68a [Hard-working colonists marching for political reasons?] PROTEST ANTS. Protestants. Nice. I wonder if they joined the “March for Our Lives” movement yesterday.
- 94a [Donkeys that give people free tickets?] COMP ASSES. Compasses. “Comp” as in short for “complimentary.” I think I would clue this one as a verb: [Give your casino guests free donkeys?]
- 110a [Grizzlies that alert others that they’re about to drive?] “FORE!” BEARS. Forebears.
- 119a [Rooster in possession of an opium source?] POPPY COCK. Poppycock.
- 9d [Actress Betty’s draft animal?] WHITE’S OX. White Sox.
- 16d [Rabbit relative working for a New York daily news publication?] TIMES HARE. Time-share.
- 80d [Rodents featured on an old Fox TV show set in Southern California?] “THE O.C.” RATS. Theocrats. Whew! This one required the most mental gymnastics. You had to remember that The O.C. was a teen soap about privileged kids in Orange County, CA. Honestly, though, I never saw an episode. I like this entry, though.
- 88d [Fowls on Miami’s basketball team?] HEAT HENS. Heathens. Ha! Cute.
As you can see, there’s some inconsistency in how each theme answer is formed: some have a letter taken from one word and given to the other (a la SUPERB OWL) and some are just split in two (a la COMP ASSES). The least interesting are the ones where the animal is already obviously present (FOREBEARS, POPPYCOCK). (Curious. The internets tell me that POPPYCOCK comes to us from the Dutch “pap” meaning “soft” and “kak” meaning “dung” resulting in “pappekak.”)
But the inconsistency only bugged me a little bit. I thoroughly enjoyed the theme as a whole.
Plenty of fun, solid fill despite all that theme material: LOW-RISK, CANAPES, “ONE LOVE,” SIDE CAR, ODD JOB, PROCTOR, AUTHORS, FOOT RUB, “SEE THAT?”, JORTS (jeans shorts). Warning in case you’re thinking of running out and buying a pair of JORTS: Urban Dictionary says, “Worn mostly by children and douchebags. JORTS are perhaps the easiest way to recognize people you will not like.” See also: this.
A few things:
- Boy, that 104a entry (DESTINE clued as [Preordain]) sure looks weird to me, and I don’t know why. Maybe because you rarely see it in the present tense. Also, there is a Destin, Florida, pronounced the same way. DESTINE looks like it should be pronounced “dest-een” or perhaps “de-Stine,” as in [Remove all references to author R.L.].
- 74a [John Jacob ___, optical industry pioneer]. BAUSCH. We would also have accepted JINGLEHEIMER SCHMIDT as a rebus answer. Feel free to scar your kids by having them watch this.
- 86a [Merman with a powerful singing voice]. ETHEL. Could not stop thinking of Mermaid Man from Spongebob Squarepants (played by Ernest Borgnine). One gets the sense that I watch a lot of kids’ TV.
- 97a [Sole-stirring performance, say]. FOOT RUB. Not sure that “stirring” is the best word here, but a fun clue nonetheless.
- 128a [Bunch of Rose’s, once?] REDS. Ohh! I just got this. Pete Rose played for the REDS, therefore the REDS are Rose’s bunch.
- 43d [Magic giant of the ’90s]. O’NEAL. Love this clue!
- 59d [Brown and Rice, e.g.] AUTHORS. Double misdirection! For the tiniest of nanoseconds your brain was thinking food, but obviously Brown is not a food. Then, you savvy solver, you thought of universities. But nope. Wrong again. Eventually, the crossings led you to the correct answer. AUTHORS Dan Brown and Anne Rice, presumably, but I’m sure there are others who can fit the clue.
- 64d [Cuban byproduct]. ASH. I was thinking of Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban for much too long. Is he perhaps an arsonist?
Fun puzzle. I’ll put it in the 3.8 range.
Zhouqin Burnikel’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “Word for Words”—Amy’s write-up
A classic sort of theme: Redefine a familiar term as something else. With so many English words having a multiplicity of meanings, there’s ample fodder for the theme—but here, the riff is that the original term starts with a three-letter, all-caps entity (acronyms or initialisms), and Zhouqin reinterprets each as a three-letter word. (The “Word for Words” title is apt: One word replaces multiple words that the abbrevs connote.)
- 23a. [Pet Airways security device?], CAT SCANNER. Cats vs. computerized axial tomography.
- 25a. [Narrative from novelist Levin?], IRA ACCOUNT. Ira Levin vs. individual retirement account.
- 37a. [The Yankees during the Babe Ruth era?], SWAT TEAM. I never remember what SWAT is short for.
- 45a. [Wine glass-making component?], STEM EDUCATION. Science, technology, engineering, and math.
- 69a. [Alley designation?], PIN NUMBER. Bowling pin vs. personal identification number. Bowling pins are referred to with numbers, though the numbers aren’t printed on them.
- 90a. [Seminar on Hughes’ poetry?], TED CONFERENCE. Ted Hughes (husband of Sylvia Plath), TED Talks. I forget what TED stands for. Looking it up … “technology, entertainment, and design.” They’ve expanded their ambit since coining that.
- 99a. [Hockey contract negotiator?], ICE AGENT. Ice vs. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
- 115a. [Association of gamblers?], BET NETWORK. Betting vs. Black Entertainment Television. This themer is broken, though, because “BET Network” in the singular doesn’t appear to be a thing. The BET channel is part of Viacom’s “BET Networks” along with various BET music channels. And for an “association of gamblers,” bet network would be an awkward phrasing.
- 117a. [Injury treatment for a top pitcher?], ACE BANDAGE. A pitching ace vs. ACE brand bandages. Apparently the brand began 100 years ago as “All Cotton Elastic” bandages. Who knew??
I’m OK with the theme including Ted and Ira as names along with seven common nouns.
Five more things:
- I like “AW, C’MON,” a pretty PANSY (Chicago’s spring flowers have not come out yet, but it’ll be soon!), TO-DO LIST, “NO BIGGIE,” ATOM ANT, and KATHMANDU (many of us grew up without the H, I think, but that’s not correct now). I want to like STRESS-ATE, 82d. [Took a course under duress?], but I’m not sure stress-eating takes the past tense like that. “I was stress-eating” sounds better to me.
- Some old crosswordese-type stuff popped up here: AMAIN, ARECA. I’ll bet ARECA is a more familiar word to Asians (particularly in India and Southeast Asia) than among white Americans, though. Does it count as crosswordese to you? Words I was first exposed to in crosswords of yore always trigger my crosswordese sensors, but the sensors can be recalibrated.
- 124a. [Dover souls], BRITS. I’ve probably seen this clue before, but I still enjoyed it.
- 59a. [Dress policy at some fancy restaurants], NO DENIM / 49d. [City in southern France], NIMES. Well, that’s an awkward duplication. Denim gets its name from de Nimes. Particularly glaring since these entries cross at the M.
- 111d. [eBay competitor], UBID. Ha. I just edited an EBAY clue that called it a uBid rival, because I looked up uBid and it appears to be low-rent trash (the site/business, not the things people auction on it).
Four stars from me.
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s CRooked Crossword, “Internal Reflection” — Jim’s review
I sailed through this puzzle in a speedy (for me) time of 14:11. Not a lot of trickery or wordplay which is what I expected. Things were mostly straightforward.
The theme is two-word phrases where the final three letters of the first word start the second word but in reverse order, hence the title.
- 23a [1967 medical achievement] HEART TRANSPLANT
- 39a [Chinese and Thai, e.g.] TONAL LANGUAGES
- 49a [Cambridge theater arts program, casually] HARVARD DRAMA
- 65a [Stat for UPS] SCHEDULED DELIVERY
- 83a [Monopoly setting] ATLANTIC CITY
- 92a [Cause of some swelling] WATER RETENTION
- 110a [Current path] ELECTRIC CIRCUIT
This seems like a theme that might have been done before, but that doesn’t matter. It’s very well done here with plenty of sparkly surrounding fill: RAPHAEL, SCREEN CAP, INTRINSIC, HELSINKI, NO LIMITS, GNARLY, a Burnsian “EXCELLENT!,” and a HAND GUN, which is nice to see in a puzzle but not in real life.
And with that, I’m going to bring this to a close. I’m blogged out. Time for a much needed break…until tonight. See you tomorrow!