Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle (Week 375), “Record Highs”—Ade’s take
Good day, fellow crossword solvers! I hope you’re doing well as well as staying cool in the heat (if in the event it is pretty toasty where you are right now – as it is on my part of the world)!
Today’s crossword has all of the theme entries going down the grid, with those four longest entries in the grid being two-word answers in which the first word, located in the higher part of the grid, being one that also could come before the word “record.”
- BROKEN HEART (3D: [Inspiration for many a sad song])
- CRIMINAL MINDS (13D: [Long-running police procedural drama on CBS])
- WORLD CAPITALS (14D: [Havana and Moscow, for example])
- DRIVING IRON (24D: [Golfer’s club choice])
Some of the entries might have been tougher to solve for some, highlighted by the odd-looking YREKA (49D: [Northern California city]). That did not throw me off so much, especially since I once saw an episode of “How the States Got Their Shapes” on History Channel and the fact that a section of Northern California and Southern Oregon really wants to secede from those states to create their own state called Jefferson. Yreka was, essentially, the place where this sentiment really gained steam back in the early 1940s. By the way, that series (How the States Got Their Shapes) is AMAZING!
Though it appears in crosswords from time to time, SAMOVAR might have been tricky without its crossings as well (39A: [Russian tea urn]). Same goes for CILIUM, though that’s probably in part because I’m much more used to seeing that in its plural form, cilia, especially when learning about cells, protozoa and the like in elementary and high school (18D: [Eyelash]). So I’m guessing that it’s Scott Joplin that’s being referred to in the clue to RAG than Janis (41D: [Joplin piece]). If in the event it is Janis referenced, then I need to go back through her songs once more!!!! Since we’re one the topic of music, what are your favorite BALLADS (23A: [Story-telling songs])? However, if music like that composed by VIVALDI is more up your alley, that’s more than fine also (28A: [“The Four Seasons” composer])!
Definitely loved seeing visually-appealing RHINOCEROS in the grid, which was my highlight of solving (17A: [Horned herbivore]). Thankfully, I’m working out more and more, and my body mass is less resembling that of a rhino with each passing day!
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: CAREW (13A: [Baseball Hall-of-Famer Rod _____]) – Here’s what you might have already known about Rod Carew, other than that his last name is popular in crosswords; He is one of the few players in Major League history with over 3,000 hits (3,053 hits). What you might not have known is that, starting in his Rookie of the Year campaign in 1967, Carew was elected to the All-Star Game in every season except his last season, in 1985. Also, Carew was one of a number of players who was awarded financial compensation in 1995, 10 years after his retirement, by an arbitrator who ruled that collusion by Major League Baseball owners against a number of free agents in the 1980s had occurred. Collusion by owners to keep a player from employment in their sports teams and leagues?!?! No way!! *Cough.* Colin Kaepernick!! *Cough.*
Thank you much for your time today! Have a wonderful rest of your Tuesday and, as always, keep solving!!
Dan Fisher’s Wall Street Journal crossword—Nate’s write-up
When you were a kid, did you ever play with Plato? (Zing!) It seems that today’s constructor did:
17a: ALL I FEEL [2008 album from R&B singer Ray J]
25a: LITMUS TEST [Evaluation based on a single deciding issue]
31a: CRAB EATER [Antarctic seal]
38a: OLIVE DRAB [Color of WWII army uniforms]
47a: HULA SKIRTS [Grassy garments]
55a: TOP LAYER [Earth’s crust, e.g.]
52a: PLATO [Speaker of the quote found in this puzzle’s circled letters]
My thoughts on the theme:
- I don’t enjoy quote puzzles, but this is certainly a way to pull it off that I hadn’t seen before. There didn’t seem to be a reason for it, though? For me, it’s just … there.
- The quote chosen is awkwardly phrased. While solving, I had LIFE MUST BE LIVED __ PLAY and I instinctively entered TO instead of AS … and took a while to correct my mistake. This puzzle did not encapsulate the quote for me.
- Generally, word-hidden-in-theme-entry puzzles are best when each hidden word spans one or more words in a theme entry. The constructor indeed pulled that off in this puzzle, but the compromise was a mix of solid and meh entries. If you’re only hiding a 2- or 4-letter word, I think it’d make for a much stronger puzzle to find the most interesting theme entry that hides that word, regardless of whether the hidden word spans multiple themer words or not. That way you avoid things like CRAB EATER.
- If you’re going to use unrelated theme entries that only hide very small words (such that there are likely many, many theme entries that could do the same job), it would alternatively strengthen/unify the puzzle to relate the themers to, well, the theme. If PLAY is the theme, make all the themers playful or play-related. As it is now, I was left with a ??? feeling after solving. Is there more that I’m missing.
Biggest yay of the puzzle: ELEMENT crossing LITMUS TEST. I’m always excited to see chemistry represented in CrossWorld.
Biggest ?!?!?! of the puzzle: The SE corner. OLIVE DRAB crossing BEGORRA (!??!) crossing DMA is not friendly to early-week solvers. I lost at least a minute trying to figure out that corner since I’d vaguely heard of the color and had certainly never heard of the [Irish exclamation]. I was also not excited to see LA MESA, III, or IRT, but a total of 59 theme-related squares certainly explains some of the ickier fill.
#includemorewomen: The bottom half of the grid has some nice female representation: CATE Blanchett (clued for her accomplishment = yay!), ELAINE from “The Graduate”, Phyllis DILLER (clued for her humor = yay!), Elizabeth Warren D-MA, BELLA from “Twilight”, and [Obama attorney general] LORETTA Lynch, the first African-American woman to serve as U.S. Attorney General. Represent!
Alex Eaton-Salners’s New York Times crossword — Jim’s review
Jim P. Here filling in for Amy who’s off getting Floridated.
The central revealer (37a, [What’s found hidden inside 16-, 23-, 47- and 59-Across]) tells us we’re looking for BEER INGREDIENTS in the other entries.
- 16a [Union representative] SHOP STEWARD. Hops.
- 23a [Louisiana Purchase region from 1838 to 1846] IOWA TERRITORY. Water.
- 57a [Job at a circus] ANIMAL TRAINER. Malt.
- 59a [Spring greeting] HAPPY EASTER. Yeast.
Solid entries all.
But I really get an overall Tuesday vibe here, meaning I just didn’t get too turned on by it. I certainly like beer and have taken tours of breweries, learning about different kinds of hops and their origins and how they impact the flavor of the beer. But does that make for interesting crossword fare? (I for one am not a hops/IPA guy; they make it taste like you’re drinking flowers.)
I guess what feels off here is that the revealer is so plain-speaking in telling you what’s hidden in the theme answers. Usually there’s some cute wordplay going on (as in HIDDEN “this” or SECRET “that”) which just hints at what to look for. This tells you straight out, and it feels less fun. I know such punny revealers can sometimes be groaners, but I like the wink-wink aspect of them.
One feature I do like here is the fact that the hidden word is different in each answer. That gives the solver just that little bit more uncertainty about what’s coming next. And the fact that the words aren’t circled means the solver must do the work of actually locating and discerning each one. I guess that’s why it makes sense to go with a straightforward revealer and clue on a Tuesday.
Beyond the theme, I love, love, love the word BLOVIATES (3d, [Goes on and on about nothing]); such a fancy word which still somehow manages to be onomatopoeic. UNMERITED isn’t as fun, but it does the job.
Tough for Tuesday:
- OTHO (2d, [Roman emperor of A.D. 69])
- MORIA (14a, [Middle-earth area under the Misty Mountains]). I’m going to have to turn in my LotR card; I entered ROHAN first.
- ENGEL (32d, [Georgia of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show”]). I know who this is and I know the character from the show, but couldn’t remember the last name.
- ARYA (51a, [___ Stark, “Game of Thrones” protagonist]). There are a lot of Stark protagonists on the show, but the ones gaining traction in crosswords are sisters ARYA and Sansa.
- UMAMI (28a, [Savory taste of MSG]). Unless I have the 2nd or 4th letters via crosses, I can never remember when to use UMAMI and when to use unagi.
Two more things for Tuesday:
- 39d. The clue [“Victory is mine!”] feels like it needs a present-tense answer. Hence, I put in I WIN. This led to me thinking briefly that IRONS were [Fixtures in Pillsbury facilities], not OVENS.
- 19a. I feel like [Car-pool lane designation] HOV is a regional thing. I know it stands for High-Occupancy Vehicle, but I’m doubtful that it’s in nationwide use.
Solid grid. The theme felt a little too straightforward for my tastes, but it makes a good step up for someone graduating from Mondays. 3.5 stars from me.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “Even Chances” – Derek’s write-up
2! 4! 6! 8! Who do we appreciate? Matt, for a seemingly endless stream of fun puzzle! Can you count by twos?
- 20A [Relative that might be “once removed”] SECOND COUSIN
- 35A [In-between feeding time invented for a Taco Bell ad] FOURTH MEAL
- 41A [Intuitive power] SIXTH SENSE
- 51A [Honorific for landmarks like the Great Wall of China, Taj Mahal, or Empire State Building] EIGHTH WONDER
Yes, this is similar to the chant above, but we are talking ordinal numbers, not cardinal numbers. Nice and simple, and yet a pleasure to solve. For what it’s worth, I have never seen the movie The Sixth Sense! No surprise coming from me, I am sure! 4.3 stars today.
A few more things:
- 5A [“M*A*S*H” actress Loretta] SWIT – She’s still kicking! 80 years young!
- 17A [2000 movie with the quote “What we do in life echoes in eternity”] GLADIATOR – I will never forget a story I read in the USA Today years ago about a family that watched movies in their minivan, and this was their NINE-YEAR-OLD’s favorite movie. I could barely handle the violence in this movie. I guess more kids watch these kinds of movies than I dare think is possible.
- 38A [Olympus __ ] MONS – This is also an anatomical term, I believe. I had not heard of this mountain. Perhaps one day, I can take a tourist trip to see it!!
- 66A [Actress Natalia of “Stranger Things”] DYER – The obscure pop culture ref! OK, this is not THAT obscure.
- 67A [“Undertale” character named for a derided font] SANS – OK, THIS is obscure! This is evidently a video game??
- 27D [Chinese restaurant style] DIM SUM – Don’t think I didn’t notice this is in the same puzzle as BENTO! Both are making me hungry …
- 49D [Mock-innocent reply] WHO ME? – Very nice. One of my favorite entries in this particular puzzle.
Have a wonderful week!
Jake Halperin’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
I am vaguely familiar with Jake Halperin’s byline, but his is not one I am used to seeing that often. This is a clever little theme the is perhaps even more fun if you’re a fan of the theater:
- 17A [Rare baseball event] TRIPLE PLAY
- 24A [Antiterrorism legislation of 2001] PATRIOT ACT
- 37A [Nightlife sphere of activity] CLUB SCENE
- 53A [Race terminus] FINISH LINE
- 62A [Theater direction … and a hint to 17-, 24-, 37- and 53-Across] STAGE RIGHT
Very well done! The terms play, act, scene and line are all on the “right” side of the theme answers. I am not a huge theater fan, but one of these days I will sneak over to Chicago to watch Hamilton! 4.3 stars today.
A few more things:
- 15A [Beer-brewing mixture] MASH – I don’t know why I couldn’t think of this. Perhaps because I haven’t had beer in a while!
- 23A [Falafel bread] PITA – I have been saying how I have eaten more vegan/vegetarian in the past year. One of my favorite cuisines is not Mediterranean. There are two or three restaurants near me that serve pitas and falafel, and I love that stuff. Hot tip: try jasmine rice!!
- 48A [Like a damaged atmospheric layer] OZONIC – This has ONE NYT hit since 1970. Not my favorite, but solvable.
- 5D [Magazine with the column “Ask E. Jean”] ELLE – I believe you. I don’t think I have EVER read this magazine. And I don’t plan to!
- 10D [Equal or Splenda] SWEETENER – All they have at work are these sweeteners instead of actual sugar. I will have to fix that …
- 25D [Limerick’s rhyme scheme] AABBA – Curiously, this only has two NYT hits! I would think this would have appeared more than that. Great entry.
- 46D [Flavored icy drink] SLUSHIE – Is this the generic name for Slurpees and Icees? They all sound good on a hot day!
Have a great week everyone!