Ned White’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
The revealer is “DROP THE ‘THE’,” [Sean Parker’s famous advice to Mark Zuckerberg in naming The Facebook … or a hint to 17-, 24-, 36- and 46-Across]. Each of those themers is made by removing THE from a familiar phrase:
- 17a. [Early “Saturday Night Live” camera command?], CUT TO CHASE. Chevy Chase.
- 24a. [“You want Pepsi or Coke?,” e.g.?], POP QUESTION. Thumbs-up for POP with nary an apology to the “soda” faction. And the answer is Diet Coke.
- 36a. [Chauffeurs the actor Kevin to his house?], BRINGS HOME BACON.
- 46a. [Basic query to a physicist?], WHAT’S MATTER? Nice one.
I like the theme okay, though the revealer feels a bit dated. Would have felt more vibrant when The Social Network was in theaters.
The theme was smoother than the fill. When unusual LATE LATIN is in the grid, you probably don’t want Latina in the clue for SRTA. EENIE, IS IN, ACK, plural-we-rarely-actually-use UTERI, ALCOA, awkward ISN’T IT TIME (crossing IS IN, to boot), S-SHAPE, TRANQ, singular EAVE, ESTAB, ETO, IRANI, SERIO-, EOE, OCHRE … these triggered the Scowl-o-Meter.
Three more things:
- 47d. [Capital once ruled by France], HANOI. Ah, colonialism. The reason banh mi sandwiches are served on French bread. If you’re curious to know how brutal and venal the French were, read up.
- 44d. [Result of a lashing], WELT. I’d have gone with CELT crossing SCATS, personally, or PELT/SPATS, or WEST or PEST crossing HAST, or PERT/HART. Whipping and welts are not pleasant to me.
- 10d. [Durable], MADE TO LAST. My favorite entry here. I just wish it had more company.
3.25 stars from me. The theme needed better support, and perhaps the grid would have benefited from breaking up a pair of long Downs.
Herre Schouwerwou’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Sex Symbol” — Jim’s review
It’s hard to view this puzzle without comparing it to last Thursday’s NYT grid by David Steinberg and Milo Beckman which I felt was masterful. But let’s try to look at this on its own merits.
We’re given phrases that each start with a color. The revealer at 62a is clued [LGBTQ symbol celebrating its 40th anniversary hinted at by the starts of the starred answers]. The answer is of course FLAG.
- 17a [*They’re seen under the stars] RED CARPETS. Nice clue, but it’s unfortunate this had to be pluralized to fit symmetrically. This is a noun you rarely ever see in plural form.
- 24a [*Stadium that once housed a live dolphin] ORANGE BOWL
- 29a [*Directory with a “walking fingers” logo] YELLOW PAGES
- 41a [*Special effects background] GREEN SCREEN
- 45a [*Film in which Elvis sang “Rock-A-Hula Baby”] BLUE HAWAII
- 57a [*Elizabeth Taylor trademark] VIOLET EYES. I did not know this, and while it may be true, this isn’t an in-the-language phrase any more than “green paint” is.
A fine set, but regarding the last entry, combining indigo and violet into purple would have been a reasonable alternative and would have given more options.
I was surprised to learn the rainbow FLAG has been a symbol of the LGBTQ movement for 40 years. I had no idea it was around that long. But according to Wikipedia, as a symbol, it goes back much further than that. The German reformer Thomas Müntzer used it to symbolize a new era and a new covenant with God in the 15th century. And “American Revolutionary War writer Thomas Paine had proposed that the rainbow flag be used as a maritime flag, to signify neutral ships in time of war.” Imagine that! A sea full of sailors flying the rainbow flag! Delicious!
It’s tough to fill a grid with six longish themers and a revealer, even if it is short. But we get lovely corners with THE LATEST, RADIO PLAY, FREESTYLE, TIES ONE ON, “BAD DOG,” and BUM LEG. The downside is that we also get ALIS, TPED, OSAY, YMA, ODO, YOS, and EEOC. In the end, I think they all cancel each other out.
One clue that got me was 43a [Computer-controlled game character]. In gamer parlance (at least when I was more active), the answer to this should be NPC (non-player character). The grid wants BOT which doesn’t feel right to me. A BOT is either an actual robot or a computer program that can run autonomously without human intervention. I don’t know that I’ve ever heard of a game character called a BOT, unless things have changed recently.
On the whole, the last theme entry notwithstanding, and the Steinberg/Beckman grid notwithstanding, this was a solid grid with theme entries that were, er, colorful. Three and half stars from me.
Laura Braunstein and Brendan Emmett Quigley’s AVCX, “The Constructors Taketh Away” — Ben’s Review
This week in AVCX land, the constructors (BEQ and Laura Braunstein) giveth, and “The Constructors Taketh Away”. No, literally, that’s what’s going on here:
- 23A: Prepare, as for a drive? — SINK ONE’S TEE INTO
- 29A: Restaurant row? — EATER DISTRICT
- 46A: Flame who you mostly just text with? — TELEPHONE BOO
- 54A: Dude who’s too afraid to rage or get swole? — CHICKEN BRO
- 72A: Mythical aquatic creature who can also shock people? — EEL MERMAN
- 85A: Fine for violating the Controlled Substances Act? — DEA PENALTY
- 94A: Local colonial history impersonator? — AREA FRANKLIN
- 108A: The pursuit of an overly ambitious tattoo design? — WISHFUL INKING
- 118A: Professor who studies ambient composition? — ENO MUSICOLOGIST
Sorry, forgot to add a space in the puzzle title – the constructors take TH away from each of the theme entries – SINK ONE’S TEETH INTO, THEATER DISTRICT, TELEPHONE BOOTH, CHICKEN BROTH, ETHEL MERMAL, DEATH PENALTY, ARETHA FRANKLIN, WISHFUL THINKING, and ETHNO-MUSICOLOGIST all get the same treatment. This was a nice, meaty theme and I’m glad we got the expanded grid size for all of these entries.
While I liked the theme, there were a few patches of fill in the grid that I didn’t love as much, though that may have been part and parcel of this many theme entries spread throughout:
- DEPAUL took me a while, since my brain was locked on LOYOLA, another Catholic university in Chicago with relatively nice crossword letters
- Shubert’s the ERL-king seems to be one of those older trivia things that only pops up in crosswords these days, like ARIOSTO and AON.
- I didn’t love seeing both A TO (as in A TO B or A TO Z) and another letter run clued as a letter run (RST, “Q-U connection”) in the grid
- This is likely just a me thing, but when expressing extreme grossness, I choose EWW over EEW.
- I loved seeing a shoutout to ROXANNE Shante in the lower right of the grid.
- NPH (That’s Neil Patrick Harris, “Doogie portrayer” and recent Tonys beef with Rachel Bloom haver) recent solicited birthday gifts on his Twitter, which is kind of gross! Don’t do that, celebrities!
Bill Zagozewski’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up
EASYDOESIT is the somewhat vague revealing answer in today’s puzzle. The bigram EZ is split between the two parts of three long across answers: ORANG(EZ)EST, DRUGFRE(EZ)ONE (guessing these signs are an American thing?) & ABSOLUT(EZ)ERO.
Crossing Z’s are the dull DOZ, unknown-to-me ZAGNUT (American again, sounds like a lesser-known Superman villain), and fun-to-say ZYDECO.
There aren’t a lot of showstoppers outside of the theme. SORREL was tricky for me, despite my profession, as those are CHESTNUTs here; apparently SORREL is a regional US thing. SORREL is a ubiquitous weed in my world. A crossword name I have trouble remembering was waiting at 1D – EVO Morales; not to be confused with IVO Andric or IVA Majoli…