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!)