Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle (Week 373), “Flipping Out!”—Ade’s take
Hello, hello crossword fans! I hope you all have a wonderful start to your Tuesday!
Here is hoping that you have a sweet tooth because today’s crossword has a slick theme for those who love a certain savory food! There are five theme entries in the grid, all going down, that feature circles bunched consecutively within the entry and, when filled in, appear to make no sense when read from top to bottom. But, au contraire! When those letters in the circles are read from the bottom on up, they all form a word that is also a type of CAKE, which acts as the reveal (57D: [Upside-down ____ (bakery item that hints at the puzzle theme revealed by the circled letters)]).
- MURPHY BROWN (3D: [Candice Bergen won five Emmys for her portrayal of this journalist ]) – RUM cake.
- PUCCINI OPERA (9D: [“Tosca” or “Madama Butterfly,” e.g.) – CUPcake.
- THE GREY ALBUM (21D: [Danger Mouse’s mashup recording that samples a legendary Beatles compilation) – LAYER cake. The mashup also mixes in lyrics from Jay-Z’s The Black Album, hence where the “grey” comes in with the title.
- TRACTOR RACE (25D: [Rural competition between two Caterpillars, say]) – CARROT cake. Initially had typed in “tractor pull” in that space in the grid.
- AETNA (32D: [State Farm competitor]) – TEAcake.
There’s still about a month left until many college-bound students head to school, but I definitely felt like I was back in school when solving a few entries; Answers like ALMA (1A: [“____ Mater” (bronze sculpture on the Columbia University campus)]), SATS (37D: [Coll. entrance exams]), ORU (12D: [Tulsa sch. named after an evangelist]) and AUBURN all had me in the school spirit (26D: [Reddish-brown]). Props to Liz for putting in my favorite type of beer that I drink, a PALE ALE (5D: [Brewpub order]). I know that’s probably too bitter for most beer drinkers, but something about it definitely hits the spot with my tastebuds. Maybe I should have an IPA later on today while listening to some cabaret from PIAF on YouTube (5A: [Chanteuse Édith]). Loved the fill with the paralleling answers of LEPRECHAUN (18A: [Sprite featured on a St. Patrick’s Day card]) and SELL-BY DATE (61A: [Time-sensitive stamp on a food product]). So how many Rs is too many when GRRR is an entry in a crossword puzzle (54A: [Watchdog’s warning]). I’m guessing three is the threshold for now. The only entry that I was confused with when filling it in was PLAN C, which I had read/sounded it out as “planc” and thought it was French or Latin word (56A: [Third course?]). Thank goodness I snapped out of that faulty line of thinking quickly enough to not feel like a fool for that long.
The first Super Bowl that I have a working memory of seeing was Super Bowl XX, when the Chicago Bears crushed the New England Patriots and defensive end Richard DENT was named the game’s Most Valuable Player (70A: [Fender bender]). Speaking of Chicago sports, let’s end the blog with some more Windy City sports minutiae…
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: ELIA (30A: [Director Kazan]) – From 1982 to 1983, former Major League Baseball player Lee ELIA was the manager of the Chicago Cubs, and, after a loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers in April of 1983 that dropped the team’s record to 5-14, Elia went on one of the more-famous postgame rants by any person in the history of sports. His vitriol was aimed at the Chicago Cubs fans who booed the team during the game. This was during a time when the Cubs exclusively played all of their home games during the day (the first night game at Wrigley Field did not take place until 1988), and that fact plays a big role in some of these now (in)famous comments! Here you go… (Warning: explicit/NSFW language…lots of it!)
Apologies for the salty language in the video above, especially for those who come on here during the morning and expect some easy listening/reading. But I do thank you for making it this far in reading today’s blog, and I hope you have a wonderful rest of your Tuesday. Oh, and as always, keep solving!!
Jonathan Kaye’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Whoa, whoa, whoa. This ain’t a Tuesday puzzle. Why is this running on a Tuesday? The theme is more of a Wednesday-to-Thursday level, and there’s too much hard fill and rampant cross-referencing to pass muster for Tuesday.
The 66d. [Subject of this puzzle] is DNA, and there’s the bland BIOCHEMICAL (20a. [What 7-Down is]), HUMAN BEINGS (11d. [Creatures with 23 pairs of 25-Down]—is it not weird to call us “creatures”?), CHROMOSOMES (25d. [Genetic bundles]), DOUBLE HELIX (58a. [Shape of 7-Down]), and then the clusterf*ck of 7d. [When the ends of each of its letters are connected to those above and below, a simplified schematic of a famous structure], a vertical HXHHXHHXHHXHHXH that needs you to mentally extend each H’s uprights to touch the X’s and the other H’s (and that needs a 22-word clue to explain itself).
With four 11s, a 15, and a 3, that’s a tight 62 theme squares clamping down on the grid. And so you have the initialism collision of NLRB AFL-CIO OSHA. The star RIGEL. Crosswordese ODEA, DITS, ALEE (that one’s so obscure, it isn’t accepted as an answer in the NYT’s Spelling Bee puzzle!), OLLAS, EL AL, and EOS.
Three more things:
- 5d. [Lucy Ricardo, to Ricky], TV WIFE. What? No. A “TV wife” is, say, what Julie Bowen is to Ty Burrell on Modern Family. Fictional character Lucy Ricardo is Ricky Ricardo’s wife (not “TV wife”). And Lucille Ball was Desi Arnaz’s real-life wife. This is a terrible example and framing for TV WIFE.
- 36a. [Condition that causes fidgeting, informally], ADHD. This clue is probably terribly simplistic and overly reductive.
- 29d. [Brand of dry-erase markers], EXPO. Maybe save the fresh angles for somewhere other than a Tuesday puzzle that plays more like a Weds/Thurs.
Star rating: 2.5 Rigels. This puzzle stirred up some definite ANIMUS (52d. [Ill will]).
Samuel A. Donaldson’s Wall Street Journal crossword—Nate’s write-up
Move over, Farmers Only! We have a whole new crop of dating apps to try out:
17a: FOOD COURT [Romance app for chefs?] – This fill/clue pairing would have meshed better for me if it were clued for mall employees.
24a: CRICKET MATCH [Romance app for entomologists?] – This took me an extra second to grok, but I liked it!
41a: BRIEF ENCOUNTERS [Romance app for lawyers?]
52a: CARBON DATING [Romance app for chemists?] – I reckon people will find out how old you are on this app!
66a: TRACK MEET [Romance app for racing enthusiasts?] – Why not for runners or cross country athletes?
I generally enjoyed this theme, though I had a sense of deja vu while solving it. Haven’t we had a dating app pun theme somewhat recently? ::Searches via Fiend’s awesome search engine:: Yes, in fact, we did! Fogarty and Agard presented this Sunday puzzle just two months ago. Thankfully, there were no duplicate themers.
To fit in five themers, there was a bit of compromise in the fill, including APATH LAHR LINC DOTHE NCO AURAE ONEK MINN HEATH, but I did enjoy some of the longer downs like TERABYTES and POLKA DOTS (though I didn’t understand the [Spots on skirts] clue – it seemed a bit of a stretch to me). I also got messed up by VOGUE for [Prevailing fashion]. In fact, it took over a minute for just the full NE corner to click. Overall, an enjoyable solving experience and not too much groaning at puns!
#includemorewomen: Who do we have represented in the grid this week? We have ELSA, ESTEE Lauder, and Irene CARA, though I want to spend a minute with ELENA Kagan. She is only the 4th (!) and most recently-appointed female in the history of 113 (to date) people to serve as Supreme Court justices. In more than just that aspect, she has been a true trailblazer through much of her life. One anecdote I appreciated from her Wikipedia page: “[Kagan] had strong opinions about what a bat mitzvah should be like, which didn’t parallel the wishes of the rabbi … Elena Kagan felt very strongly that there should be ritual bat mitzvah in the synagogue, no less important than the ritual bar mitzvah.” Awesome!
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “Bounce Back” – Derek’s write-up
Is the theme Big Sean, the rapper? He had a hit with the same title, but that is not what is happening here! This theme IS, however, extremely clever. The seemingly nonsensical theme entries actually “fold” on themselves. Let me show you; read backwards from the red letter, then forwards again:
- 17A [Good deeds] FLESS ACTS (selfless acts)
- 24A [Its subtitle is “Day-O’] ANA BOAT SONG (Banana Boat Song)
- 37A [DeVry or University of Phoenix] PROFIT COLLEGE (for-profit college)
- 50A [Latkes and boxties, e.g.] ATO PANCAKES (potato pancakes)
- 61A [Manned crafts involved in atmospheric reentry] E CAPSULES (space capsules)
I told you it was clever! It took me a minute to figure out what was going on as I was solving. I thought I had made a mistake of some sort! I don’t have an official time for you; I forgot to make sure the timer in Across Lite was running. But my time was around 6 minutes or so, if I had to guess, since I was stumped a bit by what was happening. Extremely enjoyable solve; 4.7 stars for this week’s Jonesin’.
A few more things:
- 1A [Chamillionaire hit parodied by Weird Al] RIDIN’ – I actually heard the Weird Al song BEFORE I heard the rap song! This is one of my favorite videos from him, and you have to watch the original to make sense of the parody!
- 9A [Air Force One occupant, for short] POTUS – I first remember seeing this acronym in Tom Clancy novels. I got a chance to actually meet him at Notre Dame years ago. Clever guy, but not too likable, is what I remember!
- 30A [“Children of a Lesser God” Oscar winner] MATLIN – I, believe it or not, have never seen this movie either. No surprise, I know! Is it any good?
- 65A [“Chasing Pavements” singer] ADELE – A welcome change from the usual references to her numbered albums. And there should be a new
- 2D [“If you do that… see you in court!”] “I’LL SUE!” – Ah yes, it’s the American Way: litigation!
- 4D [“Insecure” star Rae] ISSA – I think this is the obscure pop culture reference this week, but I actually HAVE seen her show. It’s good, but I now have two seasons to catch up on!
- 10D [Conor of Bright Eyes] OBERST – OK, THIS is that obscure pop culture reference! Never heard of this band!
- 48D [Bassett of “Black Panther”] ANGELA – I HAVE seen this! Actually saw it in a theater!!
Enjoy your Tuesday!
Jeff Eddings’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
In typical LAT fashion, the theme is not readily evident in this puzzle until you get to the revealer at 57A. And if you’re like me, you go back through the puzzle and see if it works! (Yes, I am that OCD sometimes!)
- 20A [Opposes in an election] RUNS AGAINST
- 39A [Welcome news for potential borrowers] RATE CUT
- 11D [Brit’s traffic circle] ROUNDABOUT – We call them “roundabouts” here in Indiana!
- 29D [“Word on the street is …”] “RUMOR HAS IT …”
- 57A [Trapped by mundanity … and hint to the answers to starred clues] STUCK IN A RUT
OK, pretend the first four above have stars in front of them! They obviously do in the actual puzzle. Nice and neat for a Tuesday. Not too hard, and minimal crosswordese, although there is some. Sometimes it’s unavoidable, I suppose! 4.3 stars this week.
Just a couple more things:
- 35A [Boy band *N __ ] SYNC – This clue is getting dated! That was almost 20 years ago! I still wouldn’t recognize Chris or JC (I looked that up!), but Timberlake, Bass and Fatone are still famous
- 51A [“Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel” network] HBO – Did you see the feature on crosswords yet? If you look carefully when they are interviewing Will Shortz in the ballroom, you can see me in the background recording it!
- 69A [Fiddle with] FUTZ – No, PUTZ! Nobody says futz here!
- 1D [App that arranges a lift but not a Lyft] UBER – Best clue in the puzzle!
- 7D [Jazz great Blake] EUBIE – I think I first heard of this dude in the fourth grade! And I couldn’t name one song he is famous for!
- 35D [Order lots of] STUCK UP ON – Like what you do when you go to Costco!
- 55D [Court great Steffi] GRAF – I think she was better than Serena, but Serena has been dominant for two decades. For that matter, Navratilova was better than both of them, and Hingis is STILL dominant in doubles!
- 63D [Toon devil] TAZ – The only thing Tasmania seems to be known for, although there is a comic special on Netflix by Tasmanian native Hannah Gadsby that is pretty good.
OK, so that was more than a couple. Have a great week!
If you solve the puzzle on the NYTimes phone app you are presented with an animation in 7D, showing the rotating double helix. This is both cool, and serves to show exactly how inappropriate the HHXHHXHHX… is, as a helix would be HXHXHX…
If you solved this in a platform (say paper, older apps) you missed the selling point of the puzzle. The selling point of this puzzle is not why I pay for the puzzles.
I agree that 7-D was a lot more fun if you got to see the animation. But I also think the double Hs are more appropriate than just alternating Hs and Xs – just about any image you see of the double helix shows more than one “crossbar” between twists.
The puzzle did seem a little more difficult than a typical Tuesday, but I thought it was fun. My solving time was only a little slower than average for Tuesday (probably owing to getting HUMAN BEINGS and CHROMOSOMES off just the “H” from CHEW).
NYT: Well, it’s certainly a worthy subject! Points for a scientific theme. You don’t see that in the NYT everyday. It’s also the 50th year anniversary of the publication of the book The Double Helix by Jim Watson– against some strenuous objections, including by his collaborator, Francis Crick: https://profiles.nlm.nih.gov/ps/access/SCBBKN.pdf
That said, rendering the helix is tricky, the letters have nothing to do with the bases that make up the real helix and as Amy noted, that clue was really convoluted.
Also, the cost of that helix on the puzzle was very high– so many abbreviations. I was trying to guess if today was special in some way, driving the publication on this date as opposed to later in the week?
so agree about the Lucy/Desi clue. it threw me off, i kept thinking maybe there was a rebus or something in that corner because i didn’t know the horror movie and thought, maybe it’s a spanish language pet name that Desi called her in the show? maybe they mean Ricky Ricardo junior and it’s supposed to be Mi Mami or something? bad clue for those actors/characters.
the gif is neat when you finish the puzzle in the app. that’s about all i liked here. may have liked it better on a different day, but like many i found it innappropriately placed on a Tuesday.
I think it’s OK to refer to humans as creatures. I’ve never heard anybody object to the phrase “creature of habit”, for instance.
Biggest issue with the puzzle besides the fill (which is boring to talk about) is “biochemical.” It’s just such an arbitrary thing to point out when your puzzle is trying to be all Hey This Is The DNA Hall Of Fame
Agree with most of the comments. I would add the “lll will” threw me a bit due to the capital “i” and lower case “l” combo looking the same. Not sure if that was meant to be clever.
Crossword Nation: I, too, initially had trouble parsing PLAN C; my solution was to write CAKE in the puzzle upside-down. In ink. Pink ink. Oh, well. Nice theme, very smooth solve.
I liked the NYT pretty well. The clues were easy enough for a Tuesday and like Huda, I am happy to see a science theme.
In Jonesin’, RIDIN crossing DEITER and ISSA is guessable but still a double natick for anyone who’s never heard of Chamillionaire or “Insecure” and is not that familiar with Mike Myers’s oeuvre.
Yeah, I felt like this iteration was a little too proud of its complex theme, and shit the bed on the fill. 28a – what the hell is a ‘Ren Faire’? I know now, but come on. And ‘POTUS’ is an initialism, and not ‘for short’.
@Amy – Very Good NYTPuz review, but did U really mean to say ALEE was “obscure”? Been used hundreds of times in that there crossword series, includin several pings by Patrick Berry. Surely I misunderstand (as usual).
Well, ALEE is not a word that most educated Americans would have any reason to know, unless they work on boats or do a lot of crosswords. Just because it’s been used in the NYT crossword a ton doesn’t make it common vocab! And that would be why Sam Ezersky opted to exclude ALEE from the word list for the Spelling Bee puzzle—it isn’t common vocab.
Just curious – aren’t the Spelling Bee puzzles a minimum of five letters long? Apologies if the new version is different as I’m not a current Times subscriber; I do remember the Longo-edited Sunday variety-section Spelling Bee puzzles were always 5+ letters.
The newer on-line version accepts four-letter words (one point each, where longer words score points equal to their letter count).
Given the words that are accepted for Spelling Bee (e.g., YOUNGLY in yesterday’s puzzle) and those that aren’t (e.g., ENEMA from several days back), I would hesitate to consider it the arbiter of what is and isn’t “in the language.” (And lest we argue that ENEMA fails a “breakfast test,” a couple of days ago, Spelling Bee liked FELLATE.)
Thanks for the info!
@Amy: OK, I see. But … ALEE is in the Official M&A Help Desk dictionary, and ain’t rated “obscure” or somesuch.
Still … that Spellin Bee puz sure has a right to make up its own “legit word” list, separate from whatever the crossword may or may not allow. (Seems kinda like a slippery slope, to exclude some of the words found in the dictionary, tho. It could go too far, and exclude some words with U’s in em!)
I notice the Spellin Bee fine print rules do allow U to score a point for ALEE, since it is found in the dictionary, yes?
Yes. Certainly the paper version states that.