Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle (Week 358), “Relay Game”—Janie’s take
Ooh—what a well-devised and multidimensional puzzle this is. Once again, we get a meta-like “game” that’s woven into the themers, and today those themers run to six two-word phrases (or compounds). The second word of each gets passed on, relay-like, to become the first word of the next, until we circle round again to…
- 16A. SQUARE ONE [Place to go back to (after solving-65-Across)].
- 25A. ONE-STEP [Quick-movement dance]. While (in their day… [now genuinely “back in the day”…]) they were perhaps best known for popularizing the foxtrot, Vernon and (xword fave) Irene Castle also devised the Castle Walk, which was incorporated into the ONE-STEP.
- 34A. STEP BACK [Move to the rear].
- 45A. BACKFIRE [Boomerang].
- 51A. FIRE RED [Attention-getting color choice for a sports car]. What? Not FIRE ENGINE RED? Nupe. Live and learn. With upwards of 10M Google hits, who am I to argue?
- 65A. RED SQUARE [Where you’ll find Lenin’s Mausoleum]. “And that brings us back to…”
So we’ve got this terrific word chain: [SQUARE (ONE] [STEP) (BACK][FIRE)(RED] [SQUARE) ONE]… and then, we’ve also got a SLEW of long, strong fill that provides added FUEL to the solve. You’ll note that the themers aren’t the longest fill in the grid (two nines, two eights, two sevens), all running horizontally. This has left room for two sets of paired 10s, running vertically—one in the SW, one in the NE. Beautiful. And beautifully filled: the former with the gloriously defiant “STILL I RISE” [Maya Angelou poem with the line: “Does my sassiness upset you?”] and METEORITES [Shower units]; the latter with ROAD TO RUIN [Path of destruction] and MOVIEGOERS [They’re interested in looking at the big picture?]. This is gold. All of it. But wow—woulda used a question mark with [Shower units]. For the n00bs. Because so much of this puzzle plays to far more experienced solvers. Imho.
Among the sixes, the real standouts are Curb Your Enthusiasm‘s foul-mouthedly defiant Susie ESSMAN [be warned: this ESSMAN link is Not Even Remotely SFW; and… a little goes a long way], Daedalus’s winged son ICARUS, MUU-MUU and “SO TRUE!” (Seeing MUU-MUU got me thinking that Liz hadn’t quite returned from last week’s cruciverbal …ISLAND HOPPING.)
While the number of words in the grid and the number of blocks put this puzz SQUAREly in early-week territory, here’s what (else) I thought might be difficult for new solvers: AEGIS, INCOG (short for INCOGnito), SOROS, USE ON (because of the not-so-easy-to-parse clue [Try to charm with, as a pick up line]), and VESTA, though I do like the way this [Roman goddess of the hearth] is poised atop that watery CREST. And while I’m at it, also liked the euphonious [Oaxaca water] for AGUA, and the ballpark-centric [Diamond corner] for BASE. Where I went off: SCORN before SCOFF, and ROAD TO HELL before ROAD TO RUIN. Was also completely unfamiliar with [Peace Nobelist Kim DAE-jung]. At this particular time, in this particular day and age, I was very glad to make his acquaintance.
Crossword glue of the enjoyable sort (i.e., not the crosswordese our Xword Info colleague Jeff Chen refers to, but the connected clues and fill that work to tighten everything up): seeing the soothing SPA [Retreat with mineral springs] and [Massage] RUB in the same grid (“Aah…”); ditto the more colloquially insistent [“Am-scray!”] “SCOOT!” and “SHOO!” [“Scram!”]. Okay, okay. I can take the hint!
So, adios for today. As always: thanks for stopping by, don’t be shy about offering your pov and (all together now:) keep solving!
Zhouqin Burnikel’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “In Good Company” — Laura’s review
- [16a: “Homeland” star Claire, to fans?]: GREAT DANES
- [23a: “Hart to Hart” star Stefanie, to fans?]: SUPER POWERS
- [44a: Singer Neil, to fans?]: FINE DIAMOND
- [55a: TV chef Julia, to fans?]: GRAND CHILD
Nice little Tuesday theme; I like how the plural phrases match the celebrities’ names and are themselves the appropriate base phrases (i.e. nothing is awkwardly pluralized as you see sometimes). ZB herself was the marquee entry in yesterday’s BEQ themeless; also known as “C.C.,” she started the L.A. Times Crossword Corner blog about ten years ago, inspired by Amy and this here Fiend blog.
Hey you, conversational fill: BEEN THERE, GODSPEED, SURE THING, GET A GRIP, HIT ME. In case you didn’t know, or had only heard of the TV show, [6a: Letters on country letters]: RFD stands for rural free delivery, a service that began some 100 years ago to deliver mail directly to rural addresses (rather than compel such country dwellers to pick up mail at the post office in town). Where I live, many people actually still prefer to pick up mail in town, because it gives them a chance to check in at the country store/post office/town hall/gas station. (Yes, this still happens in Vermont and New Hampshire.)
Here’s [43d: Jazz saxophonist Rollins]: SONNY in 1965 playing the most crossword-esque of jazz compositions:
Alan Arbesfeld’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Sigh. The theme is words and phrases that start with that syllable, spelled in six different ways: CYBERSPACE, SILENT NIGHT, SAYONARA, CITATION, SCIENCE FAIR, and PSYCHED OUT. I find myself wishing that the 8s had been dropped from the theme, because cramming all six themers into the grid has left us with a bunch of junky fill.
Tough things for a Tuesday include KIROV, AD IN, A-ONE with its numeral spelled out, ISL, crosswordese RIATA, does-anyone-much-really-know-about ICE AX, HERSEY (can scarecely believe he’s not clued via A Bell for Adano, which gave the world ADANO as crosswordese), ATRI (more bell-related Italian place names in literature!), and seldom-seen-in-the-wild S.DAK. Not necessarily hard, but not great fill: ERN ATTY TISH EENIE AERIE UKE ITAL CIO. And maybe SNOOT, which is indeed a word but is so much less used, if you ask me, than snooty.
URBAN MYTH and GO IT ALONE are nice bits in the longer range, but they weren’t enough to make me forgive the clunkers.
If you shrieked at 5a. [Opinion pieces] as the clue for OP-EDS because it’s got the OP of opinion in it, stand down. It’s short for the page opposite editorial.
2.75 stars from me. I wish the Monday and Tuesday NYTs would focus on smaller theme square counts so the fill could be smoother and easier.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “Hue Knew?” – Derek’s write-up
Yes, who knew?? Interesting piece of wordplay in this week’s Jonesin’, nicely laid out in a quote:
- 17A, 23, 39A, 53A and 61A [A wordplay challenge (the answer is spelled out in the circles)] TAKE FIVE LETTERS FROM THE MNEMONIC ROY G BIV; REARRANGE THEM TO CREATE A NEW COLOR
The circles letters form the color IVORY. Very nice and a lot of fun! And isn’t that the whole point? Interesting word trick, and one I never noticed before. This is the type of wordplay someone in the National Puzzler’s League would appreciate … but wait, Matt is a member! Also the kind of wordplay I appreciate as well! A solid 4.5 stars this week.
A few more fun things:
- 11A [Langley or Lackland (abbr.)] A.F.B. – Langley AFB is in Hampton, VA, while Lackland AFB is near San Antonio, TX. Not sure I have heard of either of these. We live near Grissom AFB, but it is technically listed as an Air Reserve Base. Nice museum there, though!
- 21A [Hamton, on “Tiny Toon Adventures”] PIG – I am showing my age, because I have no idea who this is. Not uncommon in a Jonesin’ for me!
- 71A [“Sophie’s Choice” novelist William] STYRON – I have actually started reading this book. It’s pretty good. I may finish it one of these days!
- 9D [Robert who stepped down from “All Things Considered’ in January 2018] SIEGEL – I don’t know who this is, either!
- 24D [Designer Oscar de la __ ] RENTA – I wanted to write HOYA in there immediately until I saw it was the designer and not the boxer!
- 51D [“Le Freak” disco group] CHIC – Nile Rodgers was in this group, and he is still producing lots of good music, including recent hits by Daft Punk.
- 62D [ __-80 (old Radio Shack computer)] TRS – I learned some basic computing skills on a “Trash-80” computer in high school!
Have a great week!
Gail Grabowski & Bruce Venzke’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
Took me a second to grasp the theme on this relatively easy puzzle! I must have been tired! Maybe I was looking for something more than what was there. I am “sure” there is nothing more to this theme!
- 18A [“This Kiss” country singer] FAITH HILL
- 26A [Swindler’s swindle] CONFIDENCE GAME
- 47A [Important percentage to a prosecutor] CONVICTION RATE
- 61A [Heir’s financial security] TRUST FUND – I wish I had one of these …
“Certainly” you got the theme that the phrases above all start with a word meaning “surety,” I am SURE of it! Nicely done, especially since I fell prey to an unintended tricky motif! Again, I was tired. 4.1 stars.
A few more things:
- 14A [“The Chew” co-host Hall] CARLA – Who? Oh, Carla Hall! I know her from the Food Network, I just never knew her name!
- 33A [Pain-relieving drug] OPIATE – I never did understand the addiction to these, but I don’t understand drug use in general. I suppose puzzles are my drug!
- 63A [Scrabble 10-pointer] Z-TILE – It was either this or Q-TILE!
- 4D [“Our Gang” kid with spiky hair] ALFALFA – I wonder how he and Darla got along?
- 19D [Reagan’s first secretary of state] HAIG – Alexander HAIG is certainly crossword famous! Who else has this name??
- 54D [Award for Isaac Asimov] HUGO – This is an award for best science fiction novel, and Asimov has won three times. The most recent winner is N. K. Jemison in 2016 and 2017 for novels from her Broken Earth series. I may look into this!
It is supposed to warm up this week! I’ll believe it when I see it!
If it’s 2018, is there any reason to name-check Woody Allen in your puzzle if you don’t have to? I mean, if you need ZELIG in your grid to make it work, so be it, but that ANGST clue is just going to tick off a lot of people.
I agree. I find him upsetting…
What is Woody guilty of? Tell us!
NYT: I agree the fill was not great, but I liked the theme better than Amy. It’s kinda of remarkable to see how many different ways the English language can make the same sound. It’s not the case in Arabic, for example. So, to my mind it’s worth pausing long enough to think about that, and celebrate it in a puzzle. Also, the theme entries are pretty nice— Cyberspace and Silent Night somehow go together… And, as someone who thinks both about science and psychiatry, I liked the Science Fair/ Psych out combo. I’d add SIMCITY and COYOTE to the good fill.
KIROV was a gimme. As a child/teenager, I saw a lot of Russian ballet. The Soviet Union/Russia was already trying to spread its influence in Syria. They sent us a lot of clunky looking washing machines and tractors. But the one beautiful Russian thing we got to see was ballet. I’ve seen KIROV and the Bolshoi both in Damascus and in Baalbek, Lebanon.
I guess nowadays the Russian leadership is past the stage of trying to convince Syrians that the goal is to share their culture and ideals…
Huda, thank you for sharing that. I now like the puzzle better than when I finished it. This is why I come here. I usually learn things that I hadn’t thought of before I read the review or the comments. People with a wide range of experiences bring interesting things to the table.
As an aside: I played a lot of SIM CITY back in the day; I was good at it and I liked it a lot, so when The Sims appeared on the horizon, I played that too, and I was so bad at it that an entire day in the life of the Sims would pass before I could get them dressed, fed and out the door for work. That was the point when I decided that real life might be a better experience for me ;)
I was in Moscow in the mid 1980’s and recall lining up to see the embalmed Lenin in his glass casket… It was surprising to see how small he was!
Google, how tall was ___ ?
Lenin – 5’5″
Hitler – 5’9″
Mussolini – 5’7″
Hirohito – 5’5″
Stalin – 5’6″
Churchill – 5’6″
Roosevelt, F – 6’2″
Good short fill! (except for that last one ;) )
They all seem to fall into the parameters of the “Napoleon Complex”. The Little Corporal was 5’7″.
I also was in Moscow in the mid-80’s but skipped the Lenin casket. Did go to the opera, and to the ballet in St Petersburg (then Leningrad) .
Not a fan of the short fill either, Amy, but I don’t think KIROV is a subpar entry: maybe the most popular ballet company in the world. I think that’s actually a plus. SDAK, ITAL, ERN, TISH, ISL, ERN, TISH, ATRI — agree.
Although I did quite enjoy the theme — it is remarkable what a bizarre language English is.
The Jonesin’ puzzle was cool, but I believe that the clue at 57d is erroneous: ‘e-boat’ was an English NAME for a particular German fast attack craft of the era, the ‘Schnellboot’.