Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Flip on the Telly” – Jim Q’s writeup
**Clues referenced in this writeup reflect the clue numbers from the print version. The AcrossLite grid numbering is somewhat different.**
I suppose this one plays much easier for fans of the BBC/Netflix series Black Mirror. Luckily for me, I’m a fan. Bigly. It’s going to be hard to write this post and stay focused on the crossword since I’m so tempted to sing the praises of this show. Suffice it to say that if you’ve never watched an episode, and you’re a fan of dark irony, you’re missing out. Get on it.
And I’m sure CHARLIE BROOKER would approve of this clever grid.
THEME: BLACK MIRROR
Part I of Theme: Entries that Relate to the Series Itself
23a. [Actress who directed an episode of 125 Across called “Arkangel”] JODIE FOSTER. You can jump into Black Mirror at any point. Like The Twilight Zone, the episodes stand alone. But if you’re new to the series, Arkangel (a take on the perils of helicopter parenting) is a great starting point.
35a. [Screenwriter who created 125 Across] CHARLIE BROOKER.
108a. [Genre for 125 Across] SCIENCE FICTION. This is a broad genre. Some episodes are more “Science Fiction-y” than others. You need not be a fan of stereotypical Sci-Fi to get into this show.
120a. [British TV series that’s illustrated literally in this puzzle] BLACK MIRROR.
Part II of Theme: Entries that Illustrate the Title, Literally
57a. [Former prime minister Tony, when he spends money in Iran?] RIAL (B)LAIR. Insert a “B” into the black square in the middle, and it serves as the “Mirror” in this entry. RIAL/LAIR are mirror images of one another. Get it?
64a. [Part of a city where people talk with a Southern accent?] DRAW(L) WARD.
70a. [Scent from a love god?] AMOR (A)ROMA.
76a. [Actress Bow, when she swam in a shrinking body of water?] ARAL (C)LARA
82a. [Hip-hop performances inspired by a flash?] SPAR(K) RAPS
And, of course, the “Mirror” blocks spell out BLACK.
Loved this one. But again, I’m admittedly biased. I filled in Part I of the theme entries with no crossings whatsoever, and (as I’ve learned from that Kevin Bacon puzzle a few weeks back) I read the whole clue for 120a, so grokking the theme was a cinch.
Also liked the symmetry of the central themers, and the staircase formed by BLACK.
Add to the mix a great title, which references both the mirroring aspect of the puzzle and the British-ness of the series, and you have another tightly spun WaPo Sunday.
13d. [Devices made for fast and heavy drinking] BEER BONGS. Love me my beer, but I’m sad to say that I missed out on the BEER BONG phase of my life. I think it’s because I commuted to college rather than living on campus. Sigh.
18d. [Needle holder] FIR TREE. I thought we all agreed that anything in a clue having to do with the holding of needles yields an answer of ETUI.
81d. [Beat reporter?] SNARE DRUM. Great clue.
112a. [See what I mean?] LIP READ. Fun use of the question mark here- very MISLEADing.
WHAT I LEARNED:
99a. [European capital that hosted the 2014 World Choir Games] RIGA. I had no clue this event existed, but it sounds amazing. Field trip anyone?
63d. [Former NBA star Allen Iverson’s nickname] THE ANSWER. Wow. That is quite the nickname. If I were on the team, I’m sure my moniker would be “The Problem.”
30d. [GOP center?] OLD. I’m super embarrassed to say this, but I had no idea what GOP stood for. Grand Old Party. Who knew? Everyone besides me, I’m guessing.
11d. [Informal term for an adviser of the 43rd president] BUSHIE. Awww. That’s cute. In retrospect.
9d. [Randomizer in “Mario Party” games] DIE. I depend on the WaPo to build my gaming knowledge base.
I’m interested to hear if this one didn’t sit well with non-viewers (a.k.a. future fans) of Black Mirror. While some of the Part II theme answers felt a tad forced (particularly ARAL (C)LARA), it was right in my wheelhouse. 4.5 stars from me and a SLOW CLAP.
Alison Ohringer and Erik Agard’s New York Times crossword—Laura’s review
Amy is heading out on vacation, and once again I get to blog a debut — which is another collaboration with Erik Agard. Erik has done more, single-handedly, to bring new constructors into the New York Times constructor roster than anyone else in the past couple of years (if there is indeed someone else who has collaborated lately with more new constructors, particularly women and people of color, I’d be interested to know). (Full disclosure: I am also one who has benefited from his guidance and collaboration.) But let’s celebrate Alison, who must be thrilled this evening to see her name there, in the app, and in that glossy magazine, above that grid. Let’s hope these debuts continue to inspire more new constructors, both in collaboration with mentors and those striking out on their own.
The puzzle! Let’s get there!
- [24a: Caterer’s platter]: PARTY TRAY
- [31a: Beat generation figure?]: HEART RATE
- [48: Oral examination?]: TASTE TEST
- [56a: Jazz singer who acted in the “Roots” miniseries]: CARMEN MCRAE
- [69a: Like this puzzle’s circled letters vis-à-vis their Across letters]: LOST IN THE SHUFFLE
- [86a: Talkative sort]: CHATTY CATHY
- [95a: It might take only seven digits]: LOCAL CALL
- [108a: Cause of a tossed joystick, maybe]: GAMER RAGE
- [121a: Some rustproof rails]: BRASS BARS
What’s going on here? We have two-word phrases, with circled letters. It took a bit of reflection after I’d finished the gird to fully grok the theme gimmick, which is: take out the circled letter, and the leftover letters are anagrams of each other. The circled letters are lost in the shuffle, in that shuffling/anagramming each word tosses them out. They are “Ghosted,” per the title, because add them up and they spell PHANTOMS.
Fill-wise, I AGREE this is a clean grid with some fun, lively entries: SERENA SLAM, LAMAZE, GRANITA, SHTETL, hiiiiiilllllarious comedian APARNA Nancherla (follow her on the tweeters), BBC ARABIC, 80s pop group BANANARAMA covering the 1969 Shocking Blue hit “Venus.” I was into this BUT GOOD. Let’s see more debuts, more women constructors, and more of you veteran constructors taking the time and energy to mentor new folks. She’s got it, baby, she’s got it!
Bruce Haight’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “Anabrands”—Jenni’s review
Anagrams. Why did it have to be anagrams?
I don’t actually mind anagrams, but my brain just would not kick into gear this morning and I couldn’t parse two of the theme answers. Thanks to Eric “Slicks” Agard for helping me out.
As you have probably surmised, the theme of this puzzle is anagrams, and as the title suggests they are anagrams of brand names.
- 24a [Company covering the ninth of Salinger’s “Nine Stories”?] is LAST TALE INSURANCE. I kept trying to make this STATE FARM and yet could not see ALLSTATE in there. Duh.
- 32a [Company providing stimulation before a round?] is GOLFER’S COFFEE. FOLGERS.
- 51a [Company for ones who love taking sides?] is I ADORE POTATOES. ORE-IDA. “Sides” refers to side dishes, not sides of an argument.
- 66a [Company that bugs people?] is NOSY ELECTRONICS. SONY. This one gave me the theme.
- 82a [Company that moves a lot of cash?] is LARGE FLOWS BANK. WELLS FARGO. And now, a musical interlude.
- 101a [Company named for its product container?] is IN A CARTON MILK. CARNATION.
- 110a [Company dealing “frankly” with campaign issues?] is MAYOR’S RACE WIENERS. Just leaving that riiiight there.
I liked this theme even though my brain froze up on me.
A few other things:
- 1a [Muppet chimp __ Minella] is SAL. Not a Muppet I’m familiar with. Not a muppet I want to meet.
- 33d [Silky-voiced crooners they are not]. They are RASPERS. The word feels like roll-your-own, but I immediately knew who they were talking about.
- 53d [Software details] are APP CODE. Is this is a thing? Enlighten me.
- For 96d [Cold outburst], I was looking for SLEET. Nope. It’s SNEEZE.
- 71d [Toast for Mrs. Robinson] is HERE’S TO YOU. Another musical interlude:
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that OTIOSE means “serving no purpose.” Okay. Now I know that.
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s CRooked Crossword, “Themeless Challenger”—Laura’s review
Today’s CRooked is a Sunday-sized themeless from BEQ. It’s chock full o’ names, which usually I do quite well with, but today the coffee has yet to kick in (even though it’s brunchtime) and I was struggling. Five interesting things that I did not know off the top of my head and I had to look up after completing the puzzle:
- [20a: Shot from downtown]: CORNER THREE. In basketball, a shot taken from the corner of the court, which is therefore more efficient than other places along (beyond?) the three-point line. Calling the zone of the court past the three-point line downtown is attributed to Brent Musberger. I am very glad to learn new sports terminology, and am not by any means complaining that I didn’t know this. Don’t @ me.
- [39a: Verdi opera]: ERNANI. First staged in 1844, this adaptation of Victor Hugo’s novella Hernani is about three rivals for a woman’s affection: two nobleman and that staple of 19th-century literature, a mysterious bandit. #TeamBandit
- [94d: Large jibs]: GENOAS. These extend beyond, and often overlap, the mast on single- and twin-masted boats. A hybrid genoa-spinnaker is called a gennaker. I like the cut of that jib.
- [51a: 2008-09 NL Cy Young winner]: LINCECUM. Pitcher Tim Lincecum started out this season with the Texas Rangers but was disabled due to a blister and released from his contract. Seems a bum deal that a blister knocks you off the team.
- [113a: Basement washtub]: SLOP SINK. This seems rather an antiquated term for what I’ve always called a utility sink. Could be a regionalism? I’d’ve though it’d gone the way of sculleries and mangles.
[17d: “See ya”]: I’M GONE. I’ll leave you with [92d: Texas border town]: EL PASO.