Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle (Week 370), “The Path to Independence”—Ade’s take
Good day, everybody! As you might have heard by now, the wonderful Janie Smulyan called time on her Crossword Nation blogging duties after an amazing five years, and, before starting on my take on today’s puzzle, I just want to express how grateful I am for taking over for such a stalwart in the crossword puzzle community. It’s an absolute honor to follow in her footsteps on this space and, if you haven’t already, thank Janie for her dedication and her lively write-ups every week for five years! Bravo, Janie!
I am thrilled beyond measure to share my take on the Crossword Nation puzzles, and Liz (Gorski) has been someone that I have admired from afar for a while now as each and every crossword always brings a great level of enjoyment. Today’s puzzle had its own FLAIR (10D: [Talent]) as well, as a word ladder helps to execute the theme, as one letter is changed within the circled boxes for each successive theme entry. Normally, the first word formed in the circles ends up having the complete opposite meaning of the final word in the latter, and that’s the case today with HELD eventually morphing into the word FREE.
- HELD TIGHT (17A: [Grasped firmly])
- WELDING TORCH (24A: [Metalworker’s tool])
- MILKWEED (32A: [Caterpillars munch on this sticky plant]) – By chance (via Facebook), I actually saw a video of a caterpillar chowing down on milkweed not too long after finishing this grid. Love how those sorts of things happen, when you come across an entry in a crossword not too long before or after seeing it somewhere else!
- FEEDBACK (46A: [Questionnaire response])
- DROP DEAD FRED (53A: [1991 Phoebe Cates comedy])
- BREAK FREE (65A: [Achieve independence (the circled letters depict a fitting word ladder — from incarceration to liberation!)])
There definitely is a good chance that a sub theme was intended with this grid (especially with the last theme clue and entry), given that we are just a couple of days from Independence Day. If in the event that you are hosting a barbecue for the Fourth and are doing some cooking, let me know if you have some special RUB that you use on your meats – and what you put in it to create that specific rub of yours (58A: [Barbecuer’s spice application]). I’ve been watching the Cooking Channel a lot over the past couple of weeks, which probably will help my ability to create a good rub when being in charge of the grill next time. Oh, and maybe ROOFTOP completes the sub theme, given that a number of people will head up the elevator and onto the roof to catch some Fourth of July fireworks (8D: [Santa’s parking place]). What are your plans for the Fourth? (Well, outside of trying not to bake during this heatwave that’s gripping a good part of the country, of course.)
Speaking of rooftops, how many people have ever experienced watching a CUBS game in Chicago from the rooftops of the buildings that are across the street from Wrigley Field on Waveland and/or Sheffield Aves. (60A: [Mama bear’s babies])? I think the recent renovations at the stadium, including adding a couple of video boards in the outfield, might have taken away that vantage point from those people watching the games inside of those buildings, but that would be something really cool to experience.
Not sure I’ve come across the “I” in a crossword clue dealing with the series of Sue Grafton novels until today’s IIS (23A: [Sue Grafton’s “____ for Innocent”]). We have a number of women represented in the grid, led by LAHTI (7D: [Christine of “Chicago Hope”]) and SELA (62D: [TV actress Ward]), let alone the Phoebe Cates reference in one of the the clues to one of the theme entries. Love that aspect, and, overall, it was a fun solve!
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: POOH (20A: [Milne’s “hunny” bear]) – For those not familiar with my blogs, I end each of them by selecting an entry in the grid that, normally, does not have a sports connotation in its clue and reimagine it through the lens of sports. For today, we can talk about Jerome “Pooh” Richardson, the former NBA basketball player who was the first-ever draft pick of the then-expansion Minnesota Timberwolves franchise in 1989. Pooh played his college basketball at UCLA and was a three-time All-Pac-10 First Team selection, from 1987-1989. In 10 seasons in the NBA, Pooh averaged 11.1 points and 6.5 assists, with his best professional season coming in 1990-1991, when he averaged 17.1 points and 9.0 assists while starting all 82 games.
Thank you so much for your time, everyone! I definitely hope to see you all here next week, and, as our intrepid blogger Janie would always say, keep solving!!
Lewis Porter’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Putting America Last” — Laura’s review
Do we get an anti-patriotic theme for July 3? (Better that than America First.) The constructor’s name isn’t in our tag library, so we either have a debut (in which case, congrats, Lewis!) or a new pseudonym.
[16a: Dancewear for cross-dressing monarchs?]: KING TUTUS
[27a: Blond Brahmans?]: GOLDEN HINDUS (shoudn’t that be Brahmins? Brahman is the principle; Brahmins are the caste)
[34a: Observation following a diner explosion?]: IT’S RAINING MENUS
[42a: Sleuth on the case of the missing cushion?]: PILLOW SHAMUS
[57a: What congressional bills do, for signing or vetoing?]: GO TO POTUS
Many possibilities here for this theme-type; IT’S RAINING MENUS is my fave and likely the seed. Fill notes that pertain to weird intellectual comedy:
[5a: Like some networks]: NEURAL. There is a community of information scientists who experiment with training neural networks on text corpora, to hilarious results. I particularly like the work of Janelle Shane; warning: do not drink coffee while reading her results or you will end up spraying it all over your screen.
- [18a: Seller of the Smokehouse Brisket sandwich]: ARBY’S. There is only despair, despair!, to be found from Nihilist Arby’s.
- This grid contains both [33a: “Before and After Science” musician]: ENO and [58d: “Between My Head and the Sky” musician]: ONO.
Christopher Adams’ New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
We’ve got left/right symmetry here to facilitate the inclusion of the BOSTON / RED SOX. It’s a red-white-and-blue baseball theme:
- 19a. [With 21-Across, A.L. team with a patriotic color], BOSTON / RED SOX.
- 32a. [A.L. team with a patriotic color], CHICAGO WHITE SOX.
- 45a. [A.L. team with a patriotic color], TORONTO BLUE JAYS. It’s hilarious that one of the three “patriotic color” teams is … Canadian.
- 58a. [Baseball, colloquially], NATIONAL PASTIME.
Cute, crisp theme (except for the inapt inclusion of a Canadian team—though it was just Canada Day on July 1, and that’s as patriotic as Independence Day but without the color BLUE being featured).
The puzzle fell quickly, so the grid is pretty smooth—but there are a few entries that might give pause to newbies. Maya LIN, Jean ARP, ANODE, MEW, ECLAT, OLIO. I could see the ECLAT/LIN/ANODE crossings snagging some folks.
Highlights: ISSA RAE, GOOD EGG. Really weird clue for ISSA RAE: [Co-starring actress on HBO’s “Insecure”]. She is the lead actor on the show, co-created the series, and writes some of the episodes. “Co-starring actress” downgrades her centrality to the show.
I liked these clues:
- 30d. [Word before and after “not”], SORRY.
- 34d. [Fetal position?], WOMB.
- 47d. [Slow on the __] UPTAKE.
I could’ve done without all the extra baseball clues for those eight or nine filler entries, but I suppose baseball junkies appreciated them.
Four stars from me.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “You Are Correct” – Derek’s write-up
Another fun Jonesin’ to start this holiday week. With the revealer at the end, that makes it slightly harder to get what is happening, but in the end I found it clever:
- 21A [Classic Nickelodeon game show with a 2018 reboot] DOUBLE DARE – How did I not hear about this? Oh yeah: I don’t watch Nickelodeon any more!
- 26A & 44A [Getting punished for one’s actions] SUFFERING THE CONSEQUENCES
- 50A [Fleetwood Mac’s last Top 10 song] LITTLE LIES
- 65A [Word that’s considered an alternative to the last word of each theme phrase] TRUTH
The first two instances are derived from familiar phrases (truth or dare, truth or consequences), while the last instance is more of just an opposite form. Still a clever gimmick, and it adds to the challenge when one long entry spans two theme slots, although with “consequences” weighing in at 12 letters, you have no choice! 4.5 stars today.
Just a couple more things:
- 1A [“Silicon Valley” co-creator Mike] JUDGE – Or current Yankee star Aaron. I have not seen this show yet; perhaps I will binge it this winter.
- 19A [Film spool, back when that was still a thing] REEL – I remember, while I was at UPS, when the trailers started coming digitally and not in a reel. They were so much lighter!!
- 33A [Z, in New Zealand] ZED – Why do they do this? Or a better question could be why DON’T we call a Z this here??
- 9D [Language instruction company with a “Method”] BERLITZ – I assume they have adapted to today’s app mentality, but there is now Duolingo, Rosetta Stone, and Babbel, among many other options, for learning new languages.
- 10D [Fast-food chain founder Wilber] HARDEE – Delicious and extremely unhealthy! And who is Carl, Jr?
- 38D [“Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” extra] DINOSAUR – No desire to see this movie either. Each one has the same exact plot!!
- 41D [Away for a while] ON LEAVE – I need to be “on leave” soon. I need a vacation!!!
- 47D [Overly sedimental?] SILTY – Yes, I was fooled here and read this as “sentimental”, which I am sure what was intended. Oops!
- 55D [ __ Farm (clothing line founded by Russell Simmons] PHAT – This is out of style, isn’t it?
Maybe that’s more than a couple. Be careful in this heat!
Jeff Stillman’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
This theme took me a minute to understand once I was done! I will highlight what is going on, but I am sure you all figured this out faster than me:
- 21A [In good spirits] FEELING GOOD
- 31A [Natural source of paper or rope] FIBER PLANT
- 42A [Center of attention] FOCAL POINT
- 54A [Gridiron goof] FUMBLED BALL
- 67A [N.Y. or S.F. athlete known for the beginnings of 21-, 31-, 42-, and 54-Across?] GIANT
Does this remind you of Jack and the Beanstalk, where the giant says this all the time? I don’t know why it took me so long to see the fee-fi-fo-fum letters in the them answers; I will again blame it on a lack of sleep. I didn’t get my weekend nap! Man, I am sounding old. 4.4 stars today.
Some more stuff:
- 14A [Susan’s “All My Children” role] ERICA – Is this show finally over? I don’t watch soaps (do they even still have a soap opera cable channel?), but imdb.com says this show ran from 1970-2011. For context, she is older than my MOM.
- 49A [Read a clock] TELL TIME – Is it still a lost art, reading an analog clock? I am under the impression kids have trouble with this.
- 8D [Obi-Wan, for one] JEDI – I have not seen Solo: A Star Wars Story yet, and since I hear it is not great, I am really in no hurry now. It will play fine on Netflix!
- 10D [Shortly, informally] IN A FEW – This only gets 4 NYT hits, and one of those is a diagramless!
- 11D [1960s ecumenical council of the Catholic Church] VATICAN II – I vaguely remember this term, as I am not Catholic, but this is gettable if you think for a second.
- 28D [Connecticut Sun’s org.] WNBA – It is currently WNBA season! I think I would rather watch them than the NBA Summer League games. Or maybe just GO OUTSIDE instead!
- 52D [Runners occupying bases] MEN ON – A familiar phrase by baseball announcers, albeit usually preceded by “two” or “three.”
Enjoy your day off tomorrow! (If you HAVE Wednesday off!)
Today’s NYT was awfully similar to this one:
That puzzle actually hung a lampshade on the inapt inclusion of a Toronto team by using “ironically” in the clue.
WSJ: Two thumbs up for IT’S RAINING MENUS. Nearly coffee-spewing funny. I read the neural network rock-climbing routes – I would definitely go for Master In Your Tea – and would love to see this process applied to horse names, which can be a little weird to start with.
Also, that’s an iconic photo, and not just as a source of crossword answers :-)
Crossword Nation: “Love how those sorts of things happen, when you come across an entry in a crossword not too long before or after seeing it somewhere else!”
This frequently seems to happen when my husband and I watch Jeopardy!. I get a lot of cred for having learned from puzzles, and Jeopardy! also provides me with crossword entries.
Nice review, Ade, and welcome.
Also, I really enjoyed the puzzle. I may be in the minority here but I love word ladders. It’s a challenge to come up with that one change that will set me in the right direction. Plus, in this case, all the words were part of a longer entry, as separate words. It must have taken quite some effort to make that work.
The well-documented frequency illusion, aka Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon.
pannonica, you’re right as usual, but we all need our beliefs, even if illusory. Like Lise, I love it when it happens, though some part of my brain knows that Baader and Meinhof are telling me otherwise… This false belief is pretty harmless in comparison to many other deductions we make.
Actually, I have a sports-related superstition that I know for sure is total bunk, but I hold onto it regardless. That whole area relating to how we make sense of the world around us is really interesting to me, so I allow my brain to fool me and like to watch how that works out.
Right, and I realize that it’s merely an illusion, but I love it anyway.
Didn’t mean to diminish the experience. As Huda suggests—to be in a way metaphysical—we can be of two mental states simultaneously.
After coffee, sometimes more ;)
Chris is a friend of mine, so I might have some inherent positive bias, but this was a perfectly fine Tuesday. One thing that Chris always, always does is to ensure that his grid is smooth. There isn’t one made-up-for-Crossword-purposes word in today’s puzzle (maybe CALC), and even with a limited grid (the longest entries beyond the themers are 7-letter words), he made sure that the solver would get good entries like ISSARAE, GOODEGG, CAUSTIC. That’s impressive construction. Cute theme and some above-par clues for a Tuesday puzzle also don’t hurt. My only nitpick would be that it was too baseball-heavy at times, which is great for its structure but not-too-great for non-fans.
3.85 stars from me. (Given that my highest rating ever for a Tuesday puzzle is 4.05 and my median grade is 3.2, that’s a very good grade).
CALC is not crosswordese. Maybe it’s dated, because I was in college a looong time ago, but back in those days we definitely called our freshman math courses CALC.
I too thought it was a very fine Tuesday puzzle, and Chris is not a friend of mine, and I don’t know from baseball. I too noted the Toronto inclusion, but we’re all one big happy family, right?
Good point (about Toronto). And about the baseball-heaviness: I thought that was the point. NATIONAL PASTIME and all that. And so many expressions in our language with meanings unrelated to baseball, are baseball terms.
I thought this was a good Tuesday puzzle, as well. I enjoyed it all the way through.
Re: Toronto, I’m perfectly fine with a patriotic shout-out to our northern neighbors given recent events. This was lighthearted and fun!
That is precisely what I meant to say by “which is great for its structure but not-too-great for non-fans.” It makes the theme stronger, but non-fans might be overwhelmed by it. But they were not obscure terms or anything.
Jenni, we university math instructors still call it calc.
As a four-year math team alum, I second the motion that CALC be confirmed into the record of acceptable entries.
I have seen PRECALC in puzzles before too so it wasn’t a hard get for me, but my Crosswordese list tends to be more comprehensive than many people because I have been regularly solving crosswords for 1.5 years only.
But what I meant to say originally (and apparently I failed at it) was that Chris’s puzzle didn’t even have acronyms or anything like it and every single word -except for proper nouns and phrases obviously- was a legit dictionary entry.
Welcome back, Ade! Love reading your posts.
In the WSJ, everyone’s favorite answer didn’t make me smile, since I’d never heard of “It’s Raining Men.” I had to look it up to confirm I’d got it right.
Didn’t care at all for the NE. A chain restaurant (not how a NYer like me eats), two jewelers I’ve never heard of, Star Wars trivia, and the novelist. I keep thinking, given my interests, that I at least should have recognized her, but I don’t.
Is there an unwritten limit for the number of partials allowed in a grid? Today’s NYT had 7, which seems a little high to me.
I think 2 is the typical limit…I don’t see any in the NYT though, much less 7. What are you calling a partial?
I’m not sure what the term means, but there are seven dashes for fill-ins. They didn’t bother me, though I didn’t know all of them. “Co-starring” for ISSA RAE was odd — I wonder why the clue was written like that. The baseball wasn’t too obscure, I don’t think, but of course those things vary by solver. I’m no specialist, that’s for sure. The crosses made everything fine.
Good evening … Liz Gorski here, stopping by to say “thank you” to Janie and “welcome” to Ade.
I am ever grateful for Janie Smulyan’s five-year tenure as blogger of the Crossword Nation puzzle. What an amazing run! Trained in the theater world, Janie informed her weekly critiques with a can-do, positive, “show must go on” voice. For 260 weeks, she crafted thoughtful essays that helped me understand puzzles from the solver’s point of view.
Her deep knowledge of puzzlemaking often uncovered synergies that escaped my own eye!
I will always treasure Janie’s ability to constructively criticize my puzzles. Her graceful technique made me want to go back to the drawing board and do better the following week. That is the essence of theater: We do our best today, and strive to do better tomorrow. Thank you, Ms. Smulyan, for five years of superb work. Brava!
This week, Janie passes the blogging baton to our friend and colleague Adesina O. Koiki, sports journalist and founder of the webste, “A Lot of Sports Talk.” I am thrilled by this one-two blogger punch – Janie & Ade: two people whose opinions I respect and cherish.
And finally: thank you, Amy Reynaldo, for presiding over this remarkable venue which embraces and supports the indie crossword world.