Registration is now open for Boswords, the Boston Crossword Tournament, Sunday, July 29 in West Roxbury, Massachusetts. Hope to see you there!
Amanda Chung, Karl Ni, and Erik Agard’s New York Times crossword, “Tricky Trios” — Laura’s review
When Amy mentioned that she’d be out of town and needed coverage for the Sunday NYT, I was all [19a: “Pick me!”]: OOH OOH! It’s always fun to help out others on the Fiend team, and I am super thrilled to blog a debut while sitting on my porch this fine evening. You may remember Amanda and/or Karl from such puzzle outlets as last year’s MGWCC guest constructor month, Will Nediger’s blog, and the Women of Letters collection. As well, Amanda has her own indie puzzle blog where she regularly posts solo work and collaborations. Props to Erik for taking concrete, visible action to diversify crossword construction in continuing to support new constructors, particularly women, with collaborations — this makes at least the third published in the last year or so.
So, what does this tricky trio have in store for us? A handful of famous trios, with the third standing upward, and hidden in longer down entries, thusly:
- [23a: Breakfast trio]: SNAP CRACKLE AND ↑POP
- [38a: Puppet show trio]: KUKLA FRAN AND ↑OLLIE
- [64a: Sailing trio]: WYNKEN BLYNKEN AND ↑NOD
- [87a: Folk trio]: PETER PAUL AND ↑MARY
- [105a: Survivor of an all-out brawl … or a hint to 23-, 38-, 64- and 87-Across]: LAST ONE STANDING. Counting down to a commenter mansplaining that the phrase is more commonly last man standing, and that making the revealer gender-neutral was a Natick since he hasn’t seen Mad Max: Fury Road. Thank you, Fran Allison and Mary Travers!
Grid is full of good stuff, fill-wise, like:
- Fresh cluing — [56a: Youngest daughter on “Black-ish”]: DIANE; debut names — [98a: Director Taika ___]: WAITITI (who directed Thor: Ragnarok, now available on Netflix); kickass female characters — [84d: Charlize Theron’s role in 2015’s “Mad Max” reboot]: FURIOSA.
- Lovely pun in [63d: Nursing facility?]: MAMMARY GLAND (which hides the aforesaid MARY). As an aside, Idaho is the only state that does not have a law explicitly guaranteeing women the right to breastfeed in public. Facebook continues to take down photos of breastfeeding mothers on the grounds that an exposed breast violates rules against “pornography”; this group was started while my daughter was still an infant and nursing.
- Had you not heard of [48a: ___ Aldridge, pioneering Shakespeare actor]: IRA? He was born in the early 19th century in New York City and was part of the group that built the first African American theater in the United States. He emigrated to Britain and became wildly famous in Europe, performing in many Shakespeare plays.
- Regarding that [26a: Classic song]: OLDIE [69a: “Little Latin ___ Lu” (1960s hit)]: LUPE, I’m with Barry. You tell me, right now, what’s wrong with the Righteous Brothers!
Mark McClain’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “Audible Sighs”—Jenni’s write-up
The title says it all: the theme answers all have a sound that mimics the word “sigh.”
- 23a [Therapeutic specialty] is CHILD PSYCHOLOGY.
- 36d [Span before a spin] is the RINSE CYCLE.
- 41a [Geology, for one] is an EARTH SCIENCE.
- 46d [Musical based on “Madama Butterfly”] is MISS SAIGON.
- 68a [Antique tool hung on some pub walls] is an ENGLISH SCYTHE. Never let it be said I don’t work to educate you all (and myself). It turns out that ENGLISH SCYTHEs are distinct from European (or Austrian) scythes, and that the English variety is more difficult to use. The Austrian scythe has thus come into the forefront of the British scythe resurgence. This article from The Scythe Association even notes that the English scythes have “become a bygone curiosity relegated to being an ornament on pub walls.” So there you go. If you want to know more, you can sign up for a workshop from the Association.
- 94a [Clapboard] is WOODEN SIDING.
- 118a [Result of too much speed, perhaps] is a TRAFFIC CITATION.
All the answers are in the language and all the clues are fair. I didn’t think it was much fun to solve. I like an “aha” moment and/or something that makes me smile, especially in a 21×21 crossword. Without that liveliness, it feels like a slog.
A few other things:
- 4d [Capital near the Great Divide] is HELENA, Montana. I assumed this referred to the Continental Divide, which runs just west of the city. Turns out there’s also a ski area by that name.
- 9d [Reason for an R rating] is VIOLENCE. Wikipedia reports the MPAA standard as “violence that is both intense and persistent generally requires at least an R rating.” A study from the Harvard School of Public Health in 2013 documented an increase in the frequency and intensity of violence in PG and PG-13 movies. One of the many ways in which David and I were parental outliers in our community was that we were far more comfortable with the idea of Emma being exposed to sexual content and “foul language” than to violence. “The Dark Knight” was PG-13 – check out the first thirty second of that clip. The original cut of “The King’s Speech” was R because the King’s speech therapy included too many iterations of the word “fuck.” Something is wrong with the way we think about this.
- 25d [MLB’s Angels, in sportscasts] have remained the HALOS even though they are no longer the California Angels.
- 79d [Overhead expense?] is at least an attempt at wordplay. The answer is ROOF.
- 98d [Full moon and terrible twos] was my favorite clue in this puzzle. They are both PHASES. I actually found three much more difficult than two, as PHASES go. Two happened to her, like the weather. Three was on purpose and directed at me.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: see above re: scythes. I also didn’t know that GLAMOUR Magazine was founded in 1939.
Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Corporate Ladder” – Erin’s writeup
So, after Thursday’s NYT word ladder debacle, we open the Washington Post puzzle to get…a word ladder puzzle. A 15×26 word ladder puzzle, to be exact. Eight ten-letter entries either begin or end with a step in the ladder, which begins at the bottom of the grid as a TEMP, changes one letter at a time and finally rises to the top as the BOSS.
Two entries towards the center, HARD WORK and NEPOTISM, are both clued as [Reason why some move up the corporate ladder]. If only PRIVILEGE had eight letters. Being related to the BOSS gets some people jobs they would have not gotten on merit, but sharing certain characteristics with the majority of executives is a huge help, too.
I generally don’t love word ladders. but I like this one. The steps of the ladder are part of larger entries instead of boring standalone words, they actually have clues instead of [Part of word ladder], and the fill is up to its usual high standards. Not sure if it was worth losing over eight percent of the usual Sunday size, though.
- 16a. [Lois Lane portrayer Durance] ERICA. She played Lane in Smallville and now has a role on Supergirl, not unlike her Lois Lane predecessor Teri Hatcher.
- 77a. [WNBA star Jewell ___] LOYD. Bleacher Report came up with a trailer for a sequel to Spike Lee’s He Got Game, starring Jewell.
“He Got Game” dropped 20 years ago. Here’s the sequel that needs to happen: “She Got Game” ? #BRMovies pic.twitter.com/Z0wDaZV2eW
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) May 1, 2018
- 101a. [North American fiberbearing plant that may be mistaken for an Asian form of cannabis] INDIAN HEMP. Several plants are called Indian hemp, including Apocynum cannabinum (a North American plant which can be used to make string) and Cannabis indica (a plant found in South Asia which contains high levels of THC).
- 84d. [Miss Scarlett of film] OHARA. Nice redirect from the movie Clue. Try as I might, LESLEY ANN WARREN does not fit.
Until next time.
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s CRooked Crossword, “Inside the NBA”—Laura’s review
First of all, let me say that I might be the wrong person to blog this puzzle, since I know very little about basketball players and their nicknames/catchphrases/what-have-you. I’ve heard of most of these players, but I don’t watch enough sports shows or listen to enough very excellent sports podcasts with people talking a lot about sports to be familiar with their nicknames.
- [26a: Putting Hakeem Olajuwon on a
support system?]: KEEPING THE DREAM ALIVE
- [32a: Is familiar with Allen Iverson?]: KNOWS THE ANSWER
- [50a: Paul Pierce aches?]: THE TRUTH HURTS
- [67a: George Gervin approacheth?]: THE ICEMAN COMETH
- [82a: Get a whiff of Gary Payton?]: SMELL THE GLOVE. There’s an Easter Egg here if you know that Smell the Glove is Spinal Tap’s second album.
- [96a: LeBron James’s monologue?]: THE KING’S SPEECH
- [105a: First-in-line understands Dennis Rodman?]: EARLY BIRD GETS THE WORM
This is a cool theme concept since all of these players’ nicknames begin with the and they are common words that are found in familiar titles and idioms. I was apprehensive, but overall I’m glad to have learned all of this — there’s even an entire Wikipedia entry to help! Thank you, LeBron, for helping me meme my opinion on this matter.
Loved that the “standing” part of the first themer is a palindrome… threw me off when I hit the next two.
Thought the NYT was probably “objectively good” but it felt a bit like a chore as a younger solver since I didn’t know Any Of The Trios besides, of course, snap crackle & pop.
Also it would have been cleaner if there was a clearly delineated point within puzzle where the name hidden in the down began, but I guess you can’t ask for everything.
Never in my 44 years heard of KUKLA FRAN AND OLLIE, and looking them up, I’m not surprised.
I had not heard of them, either, even though I gave one of those names to my first child. That entry made it much harder for me to pick up the theme. Other than that obscurity though, I really loved this puzzle. 4 stars from me.
No one under 50 can be blamed for not getting that reference. Puzzle was a weird mix of old & recent cultural references, many of them rather obscure.
KUKLA_FRAN_AND_OLLIE was a pioneering children’s TV program. I would guess it was on the air for a decade or so. It is definitely part of television lore. The only human on the show was Fran. The rest were all hand puppets.
Matthew: Please tell me you named your kid Kukla…
Erik Agard is 24.
I assumed the constructors were young when I saw “ass-backwards” in the fill. It’s a phrase that always makes me think of children using their first “bad words.”
FRAN was a cousin of my first piano teacher!
I admired the NYT theme quite a bit, both for its interest and as a feat of construction, but still: this puzzle was sure a chore. At some point I was asking myself whether anything in the fill WASN’T a proper name, and I sure didn’t know most of them (LUPE, CLINE, DIANE, WAITITI, TOK, VANESSA, AMAL, . . . the list goes on and on and on). I’m surprised I have never heard of the Shakespearean actor, as I’ve been rereading the plays (almost 30 so far), and today’s editions pretty much always include a performance history (the Cambridge editions a particularly long one). But nope, maybe because of his success largely in central and Eastern Europe, so I’ll count that as obscure.
Another question: is ASS really acceptable?
I’m old enough to recognize the theme fill, so that wasn’t my chief obstacle, although I didn’t remember that the child’s poem was about sailing or that it was spelled with Y’s rather than I’s, a setback for me for a while. Question, though: I assume MERCS are Mercedes. I recall that as a luxury European brand, not a Ford. I searched the Internet, but nothing changed my impression.
Oh, wait. Sorry! Something jogged a memory, and I think there’s a car called Mercury. (Being a New Yorker, I’ll never buy a car and dislike all the car and, yeah, golf clues.) Alas, though, I surfed again, and MERC got me hits only for a company, clothing, the meaning “mercenaries,” and (yes) Mercedes. So something not ideal here.
Mercs are Mercurys, a Ford offshoot. Loved the early 60s Comets and the late 60S Cougars!
I didn’t care for some of the proper name crosses, FURIOSA/ANI and LUPE/CLINE — but on the other hand, the obvious guess was the right one, so it wasn’t a big hassle.
(Is there an unwritten rule that crossword solvers are supposed to big SF movie fans? Because I’m not…)
Thought with SNAP CRACKLE AND POP it’d be a Father’s Day themed puzzle. Too bad.
+2 the second in a row where the “celebrated day” was ignored e.g. pi day
Unless I missed something the Sinai Penn. is not Asian. Poor editing.
Check again, golfballman. Although a part of Egypt, it is, in fact, in Asia.
I suggest a little google research before commenting on someone’s job performance.
Okay. From Wikipedia:
“The Sinai Peninsula or simply Sinai (now usually /ˈsaɪnaɪ/) is a peninsula in Egypt, and the only part of the country located in Asia.”
This is for Lise: I too print out the Sat. Stumper. I steam a strong cuppa & it’s part of my Club 72 from Friday pm & NYT Sat. morning brain triumvirate. I’ve noticed that occasionally the PDF omits the last down clue. I suggest checking your print against the screen & jot down the clue.
Thanks Brenda but it was not on the screen of the pdf either. I had to go to the online .puz (or whatever) version.
So all Egyptians are not arabic they are asians? B******T
From Yahoo Answers:
“Best Answer: Arabs are people who speak Arabic as a native language. Egyptians speak Arabic as a native language and thus they are considered Arabs. This does not mean they are ‘racially’ Arab however, because ‘Arab’ is not a race, they are native Egyptians who descend from the ancient Egyptians. Ancient Egyptians were the same race as today’s Egyptians.”
A few countries cross continental boundaries.