Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Jonesin' 4:35 (Derek) 


LAT 5:52 (Derek) 


NYT 3:34 (Amy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim) 


Xword Nation untimed (janie) 


Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Crsswrd Nation puzzle (Week 359), “Weather Channel Favorites”—Janie’s take

Crossword Nation 4/17 (No. 359)

I’d like to think that an observation of mine from a few weeks ago triggered the idea for today’s puzzle, but more likely, this is a case great-minds-same-gutter. Yes, we also recently had the “Weathering Heights” puzz, in which non-meteorological theme phrases featuring the words WINDY, RAINY, STEAMY and SUNNY played an important role. But today, instead of these more general themers-with-weather-conditions, we get a playful and very carefully honed theme-set: a quartet of women, each strong in her own way, whose first name also describes a [Meteorologist’s favorite … ]. Like this:

  • 20A. [Meteorologists favorite principal dancer of the American Ballet Theatre?] MISTY COPELAND. If you don’t know her, she’s not only a brilliant dancer, she’s a veritable rock star. No joke.
  • 28A. [… Glenn Close film role?] SUNNY VON BÜLOW. Reversal of Fortune. The story of one seriously, um, fatal attraction for the wealthy socialite…
  • 47A. [… alpine skier at the 2018 Olympics?] BREEZY JOHNSON. New to me (didn’t catch any of this year’s competition). Born Breanna, at age 22, this was her first Olympics, and she looks to be a real comer.
  • 54A. [… “60 Minutes” interviewee of 2018?] STORMY DANIELS. And if you don’t know her name, you’ve been livin’ under a rock! (This entry is, of course, the one I was referring to at the top of the post.) Love this right-up-to-the-minute fill—and am amused by the grid proximity Ms. DANIELS (born Stephanie Clifford) has to Israeli strong-women Golda MEIR and YAEL Dayan (daughter of Moshe).

So we’ve an easy-BREEZY kind of theme, and one that is decidedly elevated by a sparkling theme set that gives us the full names of four remarkable femmes connected by their weather-related first names. Works fer me. Ditto what I see as bonus-like fill, namely that TSUNAMI—as lethal a STORMY weather-event as there can be—and, on the lighter, more whimsical/gender-parity side, [“It’s Raining MEN” (hit song by The Weather Girls)] (and here’s your link to the earworm and beloved gay anthem [hadn’t known that Paul Schaeffer wrote it with Paul Jabara…wow]).

Then there’s that solid, longer fill that crosses three themers (that’s a lotta territory, folks): STREET SIGN, which gets a lift from its lively, Beatles-centric clue [It will help you locate Penny Lane or Abbey Road] and BRIDAL GOWN. I’m not convinced that its clue, [Dress for a wedding?] needed the question mark, however. Yes, “dress” can be a noun or a verb, but this seems easy enough to figure out here. Now [Season opener?], otoh, for WET… Which I perhaps should’ve included with the “Bonus” entries. But didn’t because “WET season” feels so forced to me. “DRY season”? Check. “RAINY season”? Check. But compared to “RAINY season,” “WET season” doesn’t even make a particularly strong showing in Google Ngram. Strictly fwiw.

Getting back on track… there’s quite a lot good mid-range fill that crosses two themers, too. Lookin’ at you, ARMY ANT and TSUNAMI; YORICK and “JUMBLE“; Rita MORENO and Josef STALIN (here’s the scoop on the über-talented and perennially-chic Ms. MORENO’s re-vamped Oscar dress, btw); [PORT AU Prince (Haitian capital)] and “OMIGOD!” [Texter’s “Amazing!”]. Had to smile, too, at the heightened emotions that are part of the crossing of “OMIGOD!” and [“Get A GRIP!” (“Calm down!”)]. Okay, okay! ;-)

Fave clues? I’m back to MORENO and STALIN: [Ravishing Rita who wore the same dress to the 1962 and 2018 Oscars] for her, and [Soviet leader who said: “I trust no one, not even myself”] for him. They’re focused, specific, demonstrative and flat-out terrific—well-written, and appealing to the breadth of knowledge solvers need to draw on.

So how did today’s solve go for you? SWEET? Or, as perhaps Italian opera singer and [“South Pacific” star EZIO Pinza] might say, “SOAVE“? Just hope you found it fun and to your liking. And if not? Well, there’s always a new one next week! See you back here then, and in the meantime: keep solving!

The leaping and lithe MISTY COPELAND. How does she do it?

Zhouqin Burnikel’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “What’s the Point?” — Jim’s review

Jim here sitting in for Laura who’s on holiday.

I finished the grid without sensing the theme, but in less than a minute post-solve, I saw it. Each phrase contains one hidden cardinal direction.

WSJ – Tue, 4.17.18 – “What’s the Point?” by Zhouqin Burnikel

  • 18a [One Direction’s favorite kind of challenge?MINOR THREAT
  • 24a [One Direction’s favorite slogan?UNITED WE STAND
  • 51a [One Direction’s favorite comedy?GROSS OUT HUMOR. Bonus points for spanning three words.
  • 60a [One Direction’s favorite ballpark?SHEA STADIUM

A nifty little theme that took (me) a little bit to sort out. In my defense, the first entry I solved was UNITED WE STAND, so I thought perhaps the initial words would be synonyms for “one.” I tried to force this idea onto MINOR and GROSS (which is an amount, but far more than one), but the idea certainly fell apart at SHEA. Anyhoo, I was relieved to have my a-ha moment so I could regale you with this story. Are you not regaled?

Leave it to Zhouqin to pepper her grid with lively fill. “I NEED A NAP” and “NO BIG DEAL” are fantastic examples of the ease with which she makes a grid sparkle. Other goodies I liked seeing: AIRBNB, LATVIA, and CICADA.

The first time this California boy ever heard a CICADA was walking on campus my first year at Notre Dame. I had never encountered such a thing, and no one ever warned me. And when I discovered the source of the noise, evidenced by a squished dead one on the sidewalk, well, I was amazed, repulsed, and fascinated all at once. But since then I have loved that sound that marks the lazy heat of summer.

Malta’s Azure Window before it collapsed in 2017

I also liked seeing MALTA (54d, [Smallest nation in the European Union]) in the grid. We were fortunate enough to visit it a couple years ago, before the Azure Window collapsed last year.

One other thing: HEROS gets a tricky clue: [Subway fare]. Delicious misdirection there. But…the plural of the hero is HEROS? Did we know this? I don’t think I did. Hmm. This gives me an idea for my family for Halloween. We could be HEROS, just for one day.

Overall, this was a smooth and lively grid. Great fun for a Tuesday. And now…bugs! Lots of ’em! Not for the squeamish.

Wren Schultz’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap

NY Times crossword solution, 4 17 18, no. 0417

65a: VOWEL is clued with [Every other letter in this puzzle’s grid(!)], and indeed, if you tilt your head 45°, you’ll see the grid’s diagonals are either all vowels or all consonants. So everything and nothing else is thematic.

The fill includes zippy bits like AVOCADOS, POPEMOBILE, and “I VOTED” stickers, but also crosswordese bits like ODER NAGAT AGAR ONED OBI, and dry things like ORE DEPOSIT, LOCATOR, and abbrevs ELEC and ELEV. The overlap between biblical EVE and EVA GABOR is also a little undesirable—surprised EVE wasn’t clued as the night before a holiday instead.

Thought SALAMI was bogus as a pizza topping, but I checked a local pizza joint and it does indeed offer Genoa salami as a topping. Not at all common here, I don’t think.

I’m generally not too keen on puzzles where every single entry fits some particular restriction for the theme. They must be a bear to construct, but the payoff isn’t there for me. 3.25 stars.

Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “Duty: Free” – Derek’s write-up

A totally fun freestyle crossword by Matt this week.  70 lively entries are intertwined in this one. As is usually the case with a Jonesin’, this one was fun. I got this solved in well under 5, but that is OK, because I am still in tournament mode! I did bring home a trophy this year for the first time in over 20 years, but I still did not meet my goal of top 50. Next year! 4.5 stars today.

Lots to mention:

  • 1A [Cart food served in a soft corn tortilla] STREET TACO – Some of the best food on this planet comes from food carts!
  • 14A [Phone-based games where quizzers often play for cash prizes] TRIVIA APPS – Yes, I play HQ Trivia sometimes, as well as Cash Show. I am up $0.33!
  • 24A [“I’d like to speak to your supervisor,” e.g.] ESCALATION – Like that “escalation” at the Philly Starbucks last week?!
  • 47A [Cave __ (“Beward of dog,” to Caesar)] CANEM – I vaguely remember this phrase from crosswords. I only had a smattering of Latin in school.
  • 1D [Island where Napoleon died] ST. HELENA – I can never remember this island. I always think of Elba first when thinking of Napoleonic exile locations.
  • 8D [ __.de.ap (Black Eyed Peas member)] APL – … and I have no idea why I remember this.
  • 32D [TV host Bee and blues singer Fish, for two] SAMANTHAS – I know Samantha Bee, and I enjoy her edgy show on TBS. Not familiar with Samantha Fish.
  • 37D [Golf club brand] TITLEIST – I live literally around the corner from a golf course now. I should play again! It has only been like 15 years …
  • 38D [Connection to a power supply] AC OUTLET – As expected, no NYT entries for this one!
  • 48D [Be way off the mark] MISAIM – This seems contrived, but gettable.
  • 56D [Investigation Discovery host Paula] ZAHN – She is still, like 58A, crossword famous!
  • 61D [Open-reel tape precursor to VCRs (and similar, except for the letter for “tape”)] VTR – I am old and I never heard this abbreviation. There does seem to be an affinity for three-letter ones these days. At UPS alone, they have nearly 100 of them!

Until next week’s Jonesin’!

Roland Huget’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up

Solved this one on my iPhone this week, so while under 6 minutes is a fairly good time, it was probably a minute or two slower than otherwise would have been the case. Not a bad image, considering this if literally from my phone app, and a decent theme idea to boot. The revealer is the last thematic entry at 62A:

  • 17A [Welcome wind on a hot day] MILD BREEZE
  • 36A [Successful cryptographer] CODEBREAKER
  • 42A [“Best thing since” invention metaphor] SLICED BREAD
  • 62A [Pet without papers … or what is literally found in the circled letters] MIXED BREED

Very nicely done, especially since the theme entries seem quite unforced and smooth. Sometimes a theme answer seems a little contrived or is sometimes not commonly used in speech, but that is not the case at all here. Always a plus in an easier puzzle, which always serve to help novice solvers gain access to solving. And that is the goal, in the end! For that reason alone, a solid 4.7 stars.

There is not a whole lot else to mention here, since most everything is pretty straightforward, but:

  • 53A [Cigarette stimulant] NICOTINE – There are a large percentage of smokers here in Indiana, and I still don’t understand the allure of smoking.
  • 1D [O’Neill’s “Desire Under the __ ] ELMS – Why do I keep wanting to put SUN in this blank? I think I get this confused with Agatha Christie’s Evil Under the Sun. I think my version is, after a rudimentary Google search, a soft-core porn title!
  • 7D [Animal on XING signs] DEER – These are ubiquitous here. Are there large populations of deer out on the east coast?
  • 11D [Singing competition that returned in 2018, familiarly] IDOL – Why is this show still on? Do people still enjoy this?
  • 26D [Defensive basketball tactic] PRESS – The NBA playoffs started this past Saturday. You don’t often see a PRESS utilized at the pro level, since the ball handlers are just too good. This is much more effective at the college level and lower.
  • 63D [Collegian who roots for the Bulldogs] ELI – I don’t know anyone personally who went to Yale, other than a few of my crossword buddies or perhaps a LearnedLeague opponent or two. But after solving puzzles for 40 years, I sure do know what an Eli is!

Monday, it snowed here. Aarrghh!!

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9 Responses to Tuesday, April 17, 2018

  1. Scott says:

    I thought the construction was pretty cool.

    • Lise says:

      I liked the puzzle pretty well. I thought the fill was good, considering the constraints imposed by the theme, and I enjoyed solving it.

  2. Art Shapiro says:

    Haven’t seen the LAT for a couple days – is Martin’s process having some issues?

  3. Robert White says:

    NYT: You’d think with his first name of “Wren”, I’d be more favorably disposed toward this constructor’s puzzle, but no….still not really sure why 75 words fitting either a CVC… or a VCV… pattern is supposed to be such a challenging fill. [And what’s with the (!) at the end of the revealer clue?]

  4. Matthew G. says:

    Really enjoyed Jonesin’ today — probably my slowest ever of his, but I would lap up more themelesses. as I loved some of the fill.

    • Lise says:

      I loved this puzzle also. This was a family solve, at a bagel joint, Tuesday evening. I had trouble parsing AC OUTLET, since I put the letters in via the crosses before I had looked at the clue, and wondered aloud what an “acoutlet” was. This caused much merriment and mocking around the table.

      Thanks for a fun themeless. I’d love to see some more of those, too!

      • Brady says:

        Me too – I was stymied by ‘acoutlet’, thinking it was some foreign language term (unmentioned in the clue) for ‘plug-in’. Oh well.

  5. Burak says:

    That the NYT puzzle today and yesterday have almost the same rating makes me lose faith in humanity.

    The gimmick doesn’t justify anything about this puzzle. The corners are horrible. CARIB/OREL/PALOMA and KATO/ATAT on a Tuesday? Seriously?

    The clues tried, and the long entries were above par. The rest of this puzzle doesn’t even make par. On days like today NYT should offer its readers two puzzles, or maybe let’s have a monthly Gimmick Day where people who like this stuff will solve them and the rest of us will have a good old puzzle with good fill and an actual theme.

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