Kameron Austin Collins’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Oh! A Kam crossword, always welcome. (If you haven’t been doing the New Yorker themelesses on Mondays, you’ve missed some more of his gems—he comes up in the rotation every five weeks, I think.) A surprisingly quick Saturday solve, given the inclusion of some things I just plain did not know, two of which crossed. I blithely filled in APSES instead of APSIS for 19a. [Either of two extremes in an orbit], since ARRES looked vaguely plausible for the crossing, 4d. [“Mrs. ___ Goes to Paris” (Paul Gallico novel)], ARRIS. Apparently that’s ‘Arris, short for Harris, and Gallico also wrote the non-rhyming Mrs. ‘Arris Goes to New York, which disappoints me because I’d hoped he had a whole series of name/city rhymes.
FYI, the plural of APSIS is apsides. #TheMoreYouKnow
My other “Huh?” spot was the inferrable 28a. [City license once needed to work in an establishment serving alcohol], CABARET CARD. Never heard the term before.
Highlights: BEER NUTS, SEND REGRETS (Regrets? I’ve had a few—if you’re asking if some people have RSVPed no for my kid’s graduation party), Richard ROEPER in place of SISKEL, “OH, BABY,” GERMANE, CANDY-COAT, MORAL CENTER (I wanted it to be one letter longer, MORAL COMPASS), STEEL CAGE (for shark diving!), and the BIG LEADS you don’t want to blow.
Pretty 64-worder, no?
Five more things:
- 34d. [Style of Southern hip-hop], CRUNK. Think Lil Jon. Apparently crunk’s heyday has come and gone. (Nobody better complain that they couldn’t get this answer. The crossings give it to you!)
- 33a. [Part of what makes you you], GENETIC CODE. I did the 23andme ancestry testing, and they recently sent a most intriguing addition. So now I’ve got to do the Ancestry.com test and see whether it agrees.
- 41a. [Royal Catherine], PARR. Also the surname of the Incredibles family. Have you seen Incredibles 2 yet? Is it bad that I covet the hairdo of the Evelyn character, and she’s animated?
- 53a. [Piano trio?], PEDALS. Three of those pedals down there for … honestly, I couldn’t tell you what piano pedals do.
- 43d. [Strain of potent marijuana] KUSH. We would also have accepted a reference here to the book, A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush, or the mountain range itself. Both are probably less broadly familiar among Americans than the herb.
4.2 stars from me. How’d the puzzle treat you?
Randolph Ross’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Movie Trailer” — Jim’s review
Theme: One-word movie titles go through the patented Crossword Wackamator 9000 to create wacky movie-themed entries.
- 22a [Admission to a 2000 Steen Soderbergh movie?] TRAFFIC TICKET
- 27a [Admirers of a 1956 James Dean movie?] GIANT FANS
- 29a [The Beatles, in a 1965 movie?] HELPMATES
- 45a [Clip from an Oscar-winning 2005 movie?] CRASH SCENE
- 91a [Opening of an Oscar-winning 1976 movie?] ROCKY START
- 101a [Audition for a 1994 Keanu Reeves movie?] SPEED TEST
- 104a [Where to watch a 1988 Tom Hanks movie?] BIG SCREEN
- 115a [Sound engineer on a 1988 Tom Cruise movie?] COCKTAIL MIXER
- 13d [Supervisor of a 1995 Pacino/De Niro movie?] HEAT PRODUCER
- 37d [P.R. firm for a 2008 Sean Penn movie?] MILK PITCHER
- 41d [Camera equipment for a 1997 Jodie Foster movie?] CONTACT LENS
- 61d [Workers on a 1980 comedy movie?] AIRPLANE CREW
Holy theme overload, Batman! That’s 12 full-sized theme entries. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that many before.
And I like the theme. It’s fun in a why-didn’t-I-think-of-that kind of way.
And I like how each entry is clued with respect to the production of the movie. That’s a nice point of consistency. For example, ROCKY START could’ve been clued regarding the content of the film — perhaps [Drinking raw eggs in the morning?]. While that may be a fun/gross-out kind of clue, it’s not consistent with the others. Or consider HEAT PRODUCER. A stronger base entry might be something like HEAT PUMP, HEAT EXHAUSTION, or HEAT SIGNATURE. But it would be harder to clue those with respect to film production.
That said, this approach results in a couple of blah base entries, specifically GIANT FANS and the aforementioned HEAT PRODUCER. The latter is passable, but GIANT FANS is not an in-the-language phrase I recognize.
Still, I’m thumbs-up on the theme. And considering there’s 12 of them, I’m impressed.
With all that theme, there isn’t much long non-theme fill. I’m looking at EPITAPH (with a great clue [Inscription that may contain “lies”]), SPORE SAC, CREOLES, REFEREED, and HERB TEA (which sounds odd to me, sans -AL).
I was ready to cry foul on two particular crossings, but once I realized how much theme there was, my mood softened. Still, 68d TELIC [Tending toward a definite goal] crossing LOW-SET [Short and stocky] strikes me as on the unfair side. The other one was 108d ECGS [Ticker tapes, for short] crossing GREER [“The Female Eunuch” writer]. I just now grokked the ECGS clue, and I like it, but crossing an acronym (with its ambiguous clue) with a proper name is also on the unfair side.
Okay, it’s Friday night as I write this, and I want to do Friday night things, like go to bed, so I shall bid you adieu. I’ll give this grid 3.5 stars. I like the theme, and there’s a lot of it, but some of the fill held it back.
Andrew J. Ries’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
I subscribe to his weekly themeless puzzle, as I think I have mentioned on this blog before. He also experiments with alternate grid sizes, like the one we have today that is 16×15. It still checks in at 71 words, and the wide-open center no doubt helps in keeping the count low. The odd shape allows for four stacked 10s in the middle, but the feat here is this puzzle is actually pretty easy! Once I got a few answers in the upper left corner, everything seemed to click quite rapidly. I finished where the cursor is, and I admit I tried to finish in under 5 minutes once I saw how far I got in 4 minutes. But to make a wide-open puzzle that has virtually nothing difficult deserves kudos in my book. Andrew is also becoming a constructing force, and he is not to old either. If you like a challenge, subscribe to his offerings at ariespuzzles.com. And I need to buy his book! 4.6 stars today.
Some grid mentionables:
- 26A [Old fad items packed in boxes with breathing holes] PET ROCKS – He must have read about this, because I barely remember these things. Although I am sure you can still find them at some tourist trap somewhere!
- 36A [Macabre rock genre] DEATH METAL – I haven’t heard this term in years. I am not a fan of this type of music, but it is great for your clock radio alarm!
- 41A [Modern capture?] SCREEN GRAB – Excellent! A nice, fairly freshly coined term.
- 15D [Golfing groups] THREESOMES – This is common enough in golf; usually scrambles use foursomes. But this is still good. This entry, as well as 41A, have zero NYT hits at xwordinfo.com.
- 28D [Smallest Battleship pieces] DESTROYERS – I believe you. I solve the logic Battleship puzzles all the time, and I have no idea what “names” they use for the “ships” in those things! If this is also from the actual board game, I still believe you!
- 42D [First artist whose first six albums debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200] BEYONCÉ – With that BE?????, one would think BEATLES, but this asked for a specific artist. Say what you want about her (Illuminati perhaps?), but she does have talent.
- 44D [Genetic variant] ALLELE – Probably the only fairly difficult word in the puzzle. I put MUTANT in here at first. I read too many comic books when I was younger!
Have a great weekend!
Erik Agard’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up
Here’s hoping that Erik is added to the regular rotation of Stumper constructors. There aren’t many, for several reasons, one of which I assume is payment, but that is not Stan’s fault. But Erik is one of my favorite constructors, and I cannot wait to see what he cranks out when he actually gets into his prime constructing age! I think I have mentioned his book before. Go buy it here!
Yes, I have several error marks in this grid, and I will discuss a few of these in the comments below. Suffice it to say I went down some extremely wrong paths. And there are some toughies in here that I’m not sure I know even after solving. Perhaps that is why this was submitted as a Stumper! But this is still a very low 64-word grid, and a wide-open construction feat. 4.5 stars from me.
Those promised notes:
- 1A [Added to a written exchange] CC’ED – I had PS’ED.
- 15A [Philosopher analyzed by Aristotle] ZENO OF ELEA – I guess I am familiar with Zeno’s Paradoxes, but not with where he was from. This seemed extremely tough to me, but I am highly uncultured.
- 21A [www.__.com/Top_News] UPI – Not a news source I hit often. Ok, never. But it does exist!
- 34A [CW star in the 2018 film “Annihilation”] GINA RODRIGUEZ – I was thinking of renting this. The funny thing about this movie is I don’t remember seeing it in the theater listings! This entry was the key that allowed me to break into the puzzle. I was highly stuck until I figured this had to be her. (She stars in Jane the Virgin)
- 36A [Highly variable] ALL OVER THE MAP – This is another great entry. Also describes my solving technique.
- 57A [Penetrating] TRENCHANT – This is another tough word. At least I don’t use it often!
- 1D [Dental scrapings] CALCULI – I am ashamed to say I had a misspelling of PLAQUE in here somehow. I also mistakenly thought the Nashville cable channel at 18A was QVC! (It’s in West Chester, PA!)
- 2D [Wood-shop safety measure] CLAMPING – Since I am still being honest, I literally had SAW VISOR or something in here. Wow.
- 15D [Organ with limited circulation] ZINE – This seems to be missing an abbreviation indicator. Or is it just me?
- 25D [Topic of much debate of late] GUN LAW – If asked, I would say “gun laws,” since they vary so much from place to place, but definitely a hot-button topic. So much so that a recent NYT puzzle was under criticism for guns being the theme.
- 35D [Nutty nature] ZANINESS – Once 34A was found, this was easy, and further led to breakthroughs in the grid.
- 52D [Fay Wray’s best-remembered role] ANN – Specifically, Ann Darrow, the role reprised by Naomi Watts in the unwatchable remake from 2005. I wouldn’t have known all that if I didn’t look it up!
Watching tennis this morning. Probably tomorrow morning too!