Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle (Week 365), “Sly Formations”—Janie’s take
Today’s puzz has one of my favorite kinds of themes: the word manipulation sort. In this iteration, the letters “S-L” (as in SLy...) become prefix-like formations added to the opening sound of the last word of a well-known base-phrase (or base-name). New phrases follow—and with some humorous results at times. These new phrases rhyme with the originals, but spellings do change to accommodate what’s been promised in the question-marked clues.
- 16A. [Lowlife’s breakfast order?] “EGGS OVER SLEAZY!” “Eggs over easy!” a/k/a a “Flop two!” in diner-speak (#26). (I’ll pass on the theme answer…)
- 36A. [“Totally awesome” high-five sound?] KILLER SLAP. Killer app.
- 41A. [Noisy sip by actress Jane?] WYATT SLURP. Wyatt Earp.
- 63A. [Quantity of Oreos that’s eaten on January 1?] NEW YEAR’S SLEEVE. New Year’s Eve. This one’s my fave. Funny concept. But oh, gosh—hope that’s a shared SLEEVE, so nobody ODS on a sugar-high!
But not only do we get this well-executed, word-playful theme set, the grid itself has those lovely wide-open corners in the NW and SE, with room for triple seven-columns; and double descending eights in the SW and NE. (It’s those 14-letter themers that force the black squares into those two corners.) But what good are said wide-open spaces if they’re not filled well? Have no fear. The opportunity for wide-ranging, strong ‘n’ lively fill has been optimized with the likes of SEED POD (and its culinary-friendly clue [Vanilla bean container]), “EN GARDE!,“ ENGROSS (no, not “EN GROSS!”), RAPPERS [Gucci Mane and Childish Gambino, e.g.] (the latter being the ubiquitous Donald Glover), author John CHEEVER, AIRLESS, YOU AND I, ANTLERS, COZUMEL and OLYMPIA Dukakis. Good stuff all. Liked the way, too, that COZUMEL [Mexican resort south of Cancún] dropped down from the “C” of [PICO de gallo, Mexican menu staple]. Oh—and right smack dab in the center, running horizontally, is the nine-letter TOOL BOXES, ambiguously and wittily clued as [Handled things for a handyman?], where handled is an adjective and not a verb. Nice.
Whether it’s there by choice or by chance, I see a marine-life mini-theme running through this one as well, with ORCA [Star of a whale-watching cruise] (ever been on one? When you’re lucky enough to have any sightings, it can be a humbling kind of experience because they are soooooo big…); AHI [Sashimi fish] (which occupies squares just below ORCA, kinda “food-chain” style); MAKOS [Some sharks] (dangerous waters here…); and finally a place that pulls them all together, the SEA [Salty expanse].
One combo that felt off to me was the [Singer Sills, to pals] BEV pair. Now BEV is absolutely a nickname for Beverly, but from childhood, Ms. Sills was known as Bubbles (which is also the title of her autobiography). Maybe her pals called her BEV. Hard to know for sure, but it’s that iffiness that makes this pair feel arbitrary to me—merely a way of dropping Ms. Sills’s name into the puzz. But what a name. If you get a chance, do try out that first link. It’ll take you to her obit in the NYT. And then, read thru to the end. What A Life.
And that’ll be a wrap for today. It’s almost like we skipped spring and went directly to an erratic summer weather pattern here in NYC. More (consistently) temperate where you are? Here’s hopin’! In the meantime, stay cool—grab a SLEEVE or two, pour yourself a glass of milk and keep solving!
Ethan Erickson’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Chopping Spree” — Laura’s review
Before I get to my review, I’d like to thank the men of the Internet, collectively and in advance, for never failing to point out in public whenever women make minor errors in things like tweets and blog posts. Keep it up, dudes! Women love that kind of thing! If you ever meet in person, she’ll definitely be your friend!
We’ve got ourselves a same-clue-for-five-different-entries theme-type. Here goes:
[17a: Choppers]: AX MURDERERS. Here comes a candle to light you to bed; here comes a chopper to chop off your head.
[25a: Choppers]: MOTORCYCLES. Here’s a crossword version of the American Chopper meme.
[39a: Choppers]: TEETH
[47a: Choppers]: GROUND BALLS. A bit of baseball terminology with which I was unfamiliar.
[57a: Choppers]: HELICOPTERS
We also have [22d: Wheat whackers]: SCYTHES, which makes me think that the term of venery for AX MURDERERS must a be SCYTHE. Had not before seen the spelling of [1d: Tea in China]: CHA. Here’s the character: 茶.
I have a dispute with [64a: “It’s ___!” (crook’s cry)]: A TRAP. Although Admiral Ackbar may bear some resemblance to Richard Nixon, he is not a crook. Also, do yourself a favor and don’t Google-image-search “admiral ackbar meme.” There is some weird, weird shit on the internet.
John Lieb’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
The theme revealer is TRIDENTS, 66a. [Certain spears … or a curious spelling feature of 1-, 20-, 26-, 45- and 53-Across?]. Each of those other five themers contains a tripled letter, tripling D, E, N, T, and S, in order.
- 1a. [Idiosyncratic sorts], ODD DUCKS. I like this one.
- 20a. [Google or Yahoo offering], FREE EMAIL. I don’t much care for this entry. The birds called BEE-EATERS would have been cool here.
- 26a. [Betty White’s role on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show”], SUE ANN NIVENS. One of the all-time great characters! I’ll bet a lot of younger solvers had to work all the crossings here.
- 45a. [Moniker of an 18th-century British statesman]. PITT THE ELDER. Tough one. Americans don’t typically know many British prime ministers besides Chamberlain, Churchill, and some of the more recent ones. William Pitt the Elder and his son, WP the Younger, were both PMs.
- 53a. [Sorting criterion at the women’s department], DRESS SIZE. I’d say “in” rather than “at” a clothing department.
I wonder if the constructor started out with a TRI-DELTS sorority angle. And I am a sugarless gum fan, so I’d have liked to see singular TRIDENT and ODD DUCK, drop a DRESS SIZE.
Four more things:
- ABRAMS plus LEIA is a lot of Star Wars content—but I just saw Solo: A Star Wars Story and noted a couple echoes of classic Han Solo/Leia dialogue bits.
- 32a. [Knight’s steed], WARHORSE. I filled it in, but I never associated a WARHORSE with medieval knights.
- 65a. [Indulges in too much Netflix, say], BINGES. Whoa, whoa, whoa! What’s up with the value judgment here? Sometimes you just want to finish up a season so you’re caught up before the next one, or finish a show because it’s so damn good. [Watches Netflix shows for hours on end, say] is less judgy. (Speaking of judges—Friend of mine saw the Ruth Bader Ginsburg documentary, RBG, this weekend, and loved it. I need to see this!)
- Maybe on the hard side for a Tuesday puzzle: ALAI, KID FLASH (7d. [Speedy DC Comics sidekick]—who??), SAAR, EMI, the godforsaken ERN, ALOU.
3.5 stars from me. I can’t go higher with SAAR, ALAI, and an ERN in the mix.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “Uh…” – Derek’s write-up
This week’s Jonesin’ has interesting phrases for theme answers that all have the letters UH in order. Before we discuss my opinion of these, here they are:
- 17A [Question from one possibly out or earshot?] DO YOU HEAR ME?
- 33A [“Taxi” actress with a series of health and wellness books] MARILU HENNER – I hear she is in bad health now, but maybe that was just tabloid headlines while waiting in line at the grocery store. Could not verify.
- 40A [2004 Stephen Chow comedy-martial arts film] KUNG FU HUSTLE – I believe you!
- 58A [Requesting versions of items at a restaurant that aren’t on the list] MENU HACKING – Nice! Like the secret menu at In ‘N’ Out Burger! (I think.)
Lots of fun. I have one minor gripe: I would not have any other instances of UH in the puzzle. The HU in HUME at 52D is easily changeable, the HU in HUM at 36D, not so much, with 35A sandwiched between two theme entries. I may be nitpicking, but that is one of the first things I checked upon finishing. It doesn’t detract from the puzzle at all; it just tweaks my minor OCD! Still a solid 4.3 stars for another fun Jonesin’.
A few things:
- 14A [“Rocky IV” nemesis Ivan] DRAGO – This entry is getting dated. Rocky IV was from 1985!
- 15A [“What the Butler Saw” playwright Joe] ORTON – I still think of ex-Bear and Purdue grad QB Kyle Orton first. But I am a sports fan!
- 21A [Sammy Hagar album with “I Can’t Drive 55”] VOA – This is also old! 1984!!
- 62A [Piñata part] TILDE – This clue always fools me.
- 42A [Endeavoring to, much less formally] TRYNA – Gettable, and any objections I may have are offset by the fact that I have likely said exactly this!
- 46A [Key disciple of Buddha] ĀNANDA – Again, I believe you.
Have a great week!
Ed Sessa’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
I didn’t get this theme at first. I must be stressed out, because it isn’t that difficult. It took me a beat or two to find the HANDS hidden in the them answers!
- 20A [Basic cocktail with Dewar’s] SCOTCH AND SODA
- 24A [Live frugally] PINCH AND SCRAPE
- 42A [Political entities subject to Constitutional separation] CHURCH AND STATE
- 48A [Exhortation to come together … and a hint to 20-, 24- and 42-Across] LET’S JOIN HANDS
I thought the theme was just dealing with the AND aspect, until I realized each entry’s first word ended in H and the second started with S. Genius! Or maybe I am easily impressed! Or sleepy. I am almost done with my Masters in Accounting, and I can get back to my life once it is done! A solid 4.4 stars for this Tuesday puzzle.
A few things:
- 14A [Oscar winner Marisa] TOMEI – She is now Aunt May in the Spider Man movies. That Oscar was nearly 30 years ago! (My Cousin Vinny came out in ’92.)
- 41A [Most of Wile E. Coyote’s gadgets, brand-wise] ACMES – No. I don’t care for this pluralization. It seems forced.
- 5D [Youngest-ever Best Supporting Actor Oscar winner Hutton] TIMOTHY – Maybe too much Oscar trivia in these clues? Timothy Hutton was 20 years old when he won in 1980 for Ordinary People.
- 30D [Ron Darling or Tom Seaver] EX-MET – This entry shows up a lot, but why not EC-CUB? It seems as if most everyone in the majors used to be on the Northsiders!
- 44D [Indian political family] NEHRUS – I don’t care for this plural either, but at least it’s plausible. There are tons of them, I am sure!
Not much else to say. Back to my studies!