Caitlin Reid’s New York Times crossword—Jenni’s write-up
I finished the puzzle, found the typo, and had to look at it for a minute to fully understand the theme. It was worth the effort (well, it wasn’t a lot of effort, but still). It wasn’t obvious because I’d filled in two of the theme answers from crossings and didn’t look at them closely.
There are four answers that don’t make sense – or so it seems.
- 7d [Abandoned while there still might have been hope] is LEFT FOR.
- 33a [“Break a leg!”] is KNOCK EM.
- 35a [In any condition, as an outlaw] is OR ALIVE.
- 40d [Certain absentee parent] is a BEAT DAD. This one gave me the “aha!” moment.
We also have a revealer: 51a [Bull’s-eye … or a hint to this puzzle’s theme] is DEAD CENTER. The theme answers (highlighted in my grid) all touch the center square (which is not Paul Lynde. Kids, ask your parents). If we put DEAD in the CENTER, we get LEFT FOR DEAD, KNOCK ‘EM DEAD, DEAD OR ALIVE, and DEADBEAT DAD. Very nice! This is Caitlin Reid’s debut puzzle. Welcome, Caitlin! I look forward to seeing more of your work.
We have lots of three-letter answers because of the constraints of the grid. They’re not obscure, at least; just kind of tired, and the theme more than makes up for NTH, VEE, ENS, and ETA.
A few other things:
- I wasn’t sure if 1a [Very sore] was physical soreness. Nope. It’s IRATE.
- 8d [PBS Kids’ cartoon aardvark] is ARTHUR, who dates from Emma’s childhood. I couldn’t tell he was an aadvark from the TV show. See what I mean?
- 23a [Street clearer] is a SIREN. If only. Some days I want a bullhorn so I can yell at the people who don’t pull over for an ambulance or police car siren.
- 44d [Views from sea or land] are SCAPES. Alternate clue: Edible garlic flower.
- 45d [Half of a Spanish union] is SENORA. I thought it was something geographic at first. I do not think that was accidental.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that there’s a rifleman’s CREED, part of basic training for the US Marine Corps. It appears the creed has evolved over the years. I found this version from 2001:
This is my rifle. There are many like it, but this one is mine. It is my life. I must master it as I must master my life. Without me my rifle is useless. Without my rifle, I am useless. I must fire my rifle true. I must shoot straighter than the enemy who is trying to kill me. I must shoot him before he shoots me. I will. My rifle and I know that what counts in war is not the rounds we fire, the noise of our burst, or the smoke we make. We know that it is the hits that count. We will hit.
My rifle is human, even as I am human, because it is my life. Thus, I will learn it as a brother. I will learn its weaknesses, its strengths, its parts, its accessories, its sights and its barrel. I will keep my rifle clean and ready, even as I am clean and ready. We will become part of each other.
Before God I swear this creed. My rifle and I are the defenders of my country. We are the masters of our enemy. We are the saviors of my life.
So be it, until victory is America’s and there is no enemy.
Alice Long’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Splitsville” — Jim’s review
The theme eluded me for quite some time. Even though I’m accustomed to seeing this type of thing from editor Mike Shenk (Alice Long is one of his pseudonyms; see Monday’s discussion in the comments for more on pseudonyms), it caught me off guard.
But it works perfectly with the puzzle’s title, so I was pleased when I finally grokked what was going on. Each theme answer is a word or phrase whose beginning or end is a world capital city. This city is separated from the rest of the entry by a block and is clued simply as [Capital city of wherever].
- 20a [Old antiseptic] MERCUROCH / ROME where ROME is the [Capital city of Europe] at 22a.
- 26a [Capital city of Europe] PARIS / H PRIESTS where the latter entry is 28a [Flock leaders].
- 41a [Yellow fever transmitter] TIGER MOS / QUITO where QUITO is the [Capital city of South America] at 42a.
- 46a [Capital city of Europe] BERN / IE SANDERS where the latter entry is 48a [Longest-serving independent in congressional history].
Very nice entries, though I wasn’t familiar with TIGER MOSQUITO and wasn’t 100% on my spelling of MERCUROCHROME. But it was all gettable with crossings. My one gripe is the imbalance in world cities: three from Europe and one from South America. QUITO makes for a nice entry, but I wish it could be balanced out with something other than three European capitals. However, maybe this is just the best possible set to be found.
On the other hand, I consider myself one of the true BACONIANS. There’s nothing that can’t be made better with a little bit of that salty slice from heaven: sandwiches, eggs, ice cream…what? That’s not what it means? *Checks the clue* Oh, [Some authorship doubters] refers to those who believe some (many? most? all?) Shakespearean plays were written by philosopher Sir Francis Bacon. The theory is that his credibility as a thinker and writer of serious subjects would be damaged if it became known that he wrote plays for the (gasp!) public. (I will let you in on a little secret. All the puzzles you’ve solved that were credited to a certain “Patrick Berry” were in fact written by little ol’ me. Don’t tell anyone.)
Other goodies: CAJOLE, RAINDROP, QUAKER. Lowlights: REMAN and the crossing of proper names CORCORAN (4d, [Barbara on “Shark Tank”]) and RICO (14a, [Rodriguez of “Modern Family”]).
- 33a [Ostrich, e.g.]. BIPED. Nice. I guess you can clue just about all birds this way as well.
- 36a [Drew on the TV screen]. CAREY. This didn’t fool me for a second, but I still like it.
- 44a [Tough]. GOON. I like “Tough” used as a noun here.
- 45a [Insult, in slang]. I had BUST at first (as in “bust one’s chops”), but BURN is better, especially since it’s followed by BERNIE SANDERS. Feel it!
- 37a [Shower unit]. RAINDROP. That’s good misdirection, but I already had most of the crossings, so I was able to fill it in with little delay.
- 39d [I, e.g.: Abbr.]. PRON. This stymied me for a long time. I simply could not see it. I needed every single crossing to realize it wanted the abbreviation for “pronoun.”
- 45d [Hit’s back]. B-SIDE. Note the apostrophe.
Fun theme, good fill, creative cluing. Win-win-win!
Jeff Stillman’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up
What a perfect piece of idiomatic symmetry this little theme is: from ENTRYLEVEL up the CORPORATELADDER to EXECUTIVEOFFICE then down a GOLDENPARACHUTE to RETIREMENT.
This puzzle is mostly about the theme; you have to grit your teeth at DISPUTERS, which crosses three entries, but otherwise the rest is clean enough.