Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle (Week 368), “MP2 Players”—Janie’s take
“MP2 Players”? Are these the betas of mp3s? Not to my knowledge. No, no. Instead the title is hinting at the FACT that each of the themers (or major players in the grid) contains a pair of M-P bigrams. M ‘n’ P sequentially, two times—with no N-O between ’em. ;-) What makes this easy kind of theme work well, especially for more experienced solvers, is the quality and variety of those theme phrases. Today they’re spot on. My only complaint (if you can even call it that) is that the solve was so smooth that it felt like it ended too quickly. And perhaps that’s a good indicator of why this is such an attractive puzz for beginning solvers. Or more experienced ones who just need something easy ‘n’ breezy for an early summer-like day. The themers:
- 17A. LUMP-SUM PAYMENTS [Cash-distribution options for certain lottery winners]. Why, thank you. I’d love some! Ah, well. Lovely to contemplate, in any case.
- 28A. OOMPA-LOOMPAS [Wonka’s employees in “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”]. Classic Dahl with quite a backstory to it—not all of it pretty. Apparently, however, Dahl could and did hear the early criticism, and rewrote accordingly.
- 45A. SHRIMP SCAMPI [Garlicky seafood dish that’s often served over pasta]. Why, thank you. That sounds lovely!
- 59A. PUMPKIN EMPANADA [Traditional Mexican turnover that may be served at Thanksgiving dinner]. Now that sounds like a welcome addition to the conventional Amurrican fare. And if anyone’s interested, here’s a recipe for a little incentive. (How many PESOS for one of them, I wonder.) (It’s not traditional T’giving fare, but while we’re in Mexican-food territory, let’s note that the puzzle also serves up NACHOS [Cheesy, jalapeño-topped snacks].)
Two tasty edibles, one kid-lit classic and visions of “if-I-had-money-to-burn” make for a lively “MP2” theme set indeed. Only other long fill today comes to us through the potent (if laid-back-sounding) [SINGAPORE Sling (cocktail that’s served in a hurricane glass)] and the computer-centric USER NAMES [Log-in identifiers], conveniently located right beside [TECH support (computer help)] (and who sez there’s never help around when ya need it?). Seafaring literary hero HORATIO [Admiral Hornblower], cinema’s timeless SOPHIA Loren, the quaint and colorful EMPORIA [Large retail stores] and the viscerally-clued SWOONS [Goes weak in the knees] all contribute a fine array of mid-range fill. Ditto TRUISM, MUPPET and NACHOS. SPRAIN was clued as [Minor wrist injury]. Kinda wish it had been clued in conjunction with the ankle, just so it could pair up (well, in my mind anyway…) with “MY FOOT!” Love that this last one is clued ambiguously as [“Yeah, sure!”]. I.e., “LOVE TO!” is not the right response… (Along those tricky lines, [Person with convictions, perhaps] does not lead us to MODEL or IDEAL, but to FELON. Nice.)
And among your mp3s, you may have the soulful [“TRY A Little Tenderness”] (best Mondegreen scene with this song: Bull Durham—give the first 40 seconds a go); songs by ICE-T [Rapper with a cool sounding name] (pun certainly intended); rock ‘n’ roll doo-wop group [SHA Na Na]; or classic rock’s “LAYLA” [Eric Clapton hit]. Something for everyone.
And on that inclusive note, I’ll bow out for the day. Whatever extremes the weather may be putting you through, hope you’re staying warm enough/cool enough. Longest day/shortest night of the year comin’ up on Thursday. Happy summer, all—and keep solving!
Martin Leechman’s (Mike Shenk’s) Wall Street Journal crossword, “Upgrading” — Laura’s review
The word chain, a variation of the word ladder, is what we’ve got here, upgrading from FAIL to PASS.
- [17a: 1964 Cold War thriller starring Henry Fonda]: FAIL SAFE
[21a: Harassment-free campus spot]: SAFE SPACE
[32a: Flighty fellow]: SPACE CASE
- [44a: Medical journal piece]: CASE STUDY
- [55a: Quiet period]: STUDY HALL
- [61a: A monitor may check one]: HALL PASS
Namey fill: ERTE, ESAU, ELLERY, LARA, WES, MEYERS, CRUSOE, PAT CASH, ED MEESE; flowery fill: TULIP, LILAC, PETUNIA; acronym watch: CSA, SFPD, WAAC, AWOL; unexpected confluence: CHANGE SEXIER ASIANS.
Never heard of it, and now I know: [33a: Fairy of Persian myth]: PERI. The figure of the peri was popular among the Georgians and Victorians when they started mining Islamic and Persian folklore for their Orientalist fantasies; Gilbert and Sullivan’s Iolanthe (1882) is subtitled “The Peer and the Peri.”
My second favorite credits sequence of 1970s TV is from [56a: Shout heard on New York streets]: TAXI.
Peter Gordon’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
The theme might have played well before Aurora. That mass shooting was about 6 years ago. Ever since, there’s been an unending stream of gun massacres that make a gun theme rather unsavory—and then there’s the addition of the two-part revealer, TRIGGER / WARNING ([With 25-Down, caution before a potentially upsetting lecture … or a hint to 19- and 59-Across and 7-Down?]). Basically, this whole puzzle needed a content warning.
The other themers are RIDES SHOTGUN, BAZOOKA BUBBLE GUM, and RIFLE THROUGH—all perfectly fine entries unto themselves, but when you add the WARNING about the gun TRIGGER, as opposed to a warning about content that might stress some people (for example, discussion of abuse or violence—not just in academic lectures but also in written materials and social media posts) … well, it stops being fun. We’ve had two gun massacres in American high schools in the past four months, and assorted other smaller mass shootings and school shootings. America, you’re breaking my heart.
In other crossword news at the NYT, constructor Kameron Austin Collins was profiled in Deb Amlen’s “Who Made My Puzzle?” feature. He comments, “I’ve removed most gun references from my word list — I don’t know that I care so much about other people using them, as they’re a part of everyday life (and for reasons that aren’t strictly fatal). But I’m not that into them and didn’t feel like debating with myself over them every time they came up. Most urgently, the thought of inadvertently publishing a gun reference in the midst of national mourning over a fresh tragedy is pretty mortifying to me. You can’t control that kind of thing.” Thank you, Kameron. I hope other constructors follow suit.
There’s some nice fill in here, like ZOOTOPIA and Henri ROUSSEAU. There’s also some stuff that feels like a reach for newbies trying the Tuesday puzzle: APSE, DDR (which was just in another recent puzzle), ERG, TUM, SAN REMO.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “A Changing Business” – Derek’s write-up
I got a very nice “a-ha!” moment with this puzzle today. I caught on pretty quickly to the gimmick of the Ps changing to Bs, but I didn’t get the current event significance of it until very end, where the revealer is!
- 17A [Gyro meat from a roadside cart?] STREET LAMB
- 63A [Like some mushrooms, ravioli, and wontons a la “Rangoon”?] FULL OF CRAB
- 11D [Be aware of unnecessary chatter?] MIND THE GAB
- 28D [Baby bear owned by a hardware company?] STANLEY CUB
- 71A [New restaurant logo in a June 2018 promotion (and inspiration for the theme answers)] IHOB
Yes, I have eaten at an IHOP once in the past 10 years. Not great food, but they DO have good pancakes. It is just that they seem to have terrible service. In our area, unemployment is ridiculously low, so restaurants have a lot of trouble finding help. Applebee’s also is a restaurant that I have found has notoriously bad service across the board. But that isn’t a commentary about people that work there: it’s that there isn’t anyone around to work! They recently closed an Applebee’s near my house. Probably was a mistake to have opened it anyway, because we don’t need THREE Applebee’s within 15 minutes of my house!
I forgot to set my timer, but this one went fairly quickly. My guess is 4ish minutes. I got plenty of sleep this weekend! 4.3 stars today.
Some notes, including a few obscure pop culture refs!
- 26A [The Tritons of the NCAA] UCSD – UC San Diego is a mascot I am not familiar with. I believe you!
- 30A [David __, founder and former CEO of Salon] TALBOT – Remember what I said about obscure pop refs?
- 70A [Big name in car racks] THULE – I actually knew this one. I looked at a roof rack for my bikes from this brand. I still get spam from them!
- 6D [“GET OUT” costar Lil __ Howery] REL – He was the funniest part of this movie. By far!
- 34D [Honda subdivisioni] ACURA – I believe this is actually not a subdivision but a separate entity now. I think.
- 57D [Actress Summer of “Firefly”] GLAU – She looks familiar. I’ve never seen Firefly. I HAVE seen … the episode of Castle she was in!?
It’s nice and hot here. I am not complaining! At least it isn’t snowing!
Joe Schewe’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
Is it Joe “Shoe” as the pronunciation? I don’t know this byline. Normally when I don’t know the constructor I struggle with the puzzle. Not the case with this one! As I mentioned in the Jonesin’ write-up, I had plenty of sleep! The revealer is in the middle, so you actually know what is going on halfway through the puzzle, but for some reason that didn’t make the other them answers any easier!
- 17A [Carry only a carry-on, say] TRAVEL LIGHT
- 24A [MLB’s National League nickname (because it was founded first)] SENIOR CIRCUIT
- 47A [Unscrupulous sales tactic] BAIT AND SWITCH
- 57A [Chaw in a cheek] TOBACCO PLUG
- 39A [Tense with excitement … and a hint to the ends of the four longest puzzle answers] WIRED
I work for an electrical contractor, and I actually start working for a DIFFERENT electrical contractor on July 2, so these terms (light, circuit, switch and plug) are all extremely familiar to me. Even though I am just the accountant! A solid 4.4 for a fun Tuesday puzzle.
A few more things:
- 11A [Clavell’s “__-Pan”] TAI – I remember watching Shōgun years ago, but I have never read either book. Both are part of a series called The Asian Saga, which consists of seven total novels.
- 15A [IRA-establishing legislation] ERISA – This is a little tough for a Tuesday, I think. I’ve only seen this a few times ever that I can remember.
- 44A [Martin of “Route 66”] MILNER – This is also a little tough. And dated! I don’t remember him, and I don’t think I watched this show much, even while it was in syndication. He was also in Adam-12, which I also only vaguely remember watching. This is him in the forefront of this image:
- 63A [Downloadable read] E-BOOK – Maybe I will download the e-book for Tai-Pan!
- 7D [Ocean State sch.] URI – I hear it is beautiful there, but I am still looking for someplace where it doesn’t snow!
- 26D [Loud crowds] ROARERS – Nobody says this! It seems more apt to say that lions would be “roarers,” but even then …
- 43D [Land a plane] SET DOWN – This could easily have been SIT DOWN, and the ZEN changed to ZIN. That seems easier to me. Just my opinion!
Have a great week!