Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “It Takes Two” – Jim Q’s writeup
Currently on a train to Lollapuzzoola and trying to balance a cup of coffee while typing on my Mac. Doesn’t BODE well.
Add a double letter theme today! And there are quite a few of those themers.
23a. [High school calculus whiz who may be crowned queen?] PROM MATHLETE. M-M has been added to PRO ATHLETE.
25a. [Little devils who love spiced tea?] CHAI IMPS. From CHAMPS. Get it?
31a. [Images of a cunning creature’s skeleton?] FOX X-RAYS.
35a. [Exquisite African antelope?] FINE ELAND.
49a. [Macho one’s bar game?] STUD DARTS. For some reason, I kept reading “Macho” as a verb instead of an adjective.
59a. [Doing the hairless hustle, say?] BALD DANCING. Hah!
70a. [Choir member’s crew tool?] ALTO OAR.
79a. [“Mr. Gehrig, exert some strength”?] LOU, USE POWER!
91a. [Cut back on flashy jewelry?] CURB BLING.
105a. [Have fewer sword fights than everyone else?] DUEL LEAST.
108a. [Period of composure that lasts a long time?] POISE EON.
116a. [Ms. Gardner’s marker on the Hollywood Walk of Fame?] AVA’S STAR.
119a. [Type of tennis match, and what’s spelled out by the pairs of letters added to 12 phrases in this puzzle] MIXED DOUBLES.
I have a tendency to jump around a grid when solving- not sure if that’s a good thing, but I usually can’t help it (I’m very easily distracted by shiny objects too). However, this time I solved consistently from North to South, and after entering the first three theme answers, I noticed the added letters were going to spell something.
In a way, I was sorta bummed when I got to the revealer because I had felt like I was in on a secret.
While certainly consistent, the sheer number of themers requires them to be relatively short. Also, with the constraint of keeping them in order and with the added letter in the center, the result is that sometimes the base word/phrase or the resulting phrase isn’t all that exciting. For example, while I love STUD DARTS (I mean love the entry… I’ve never played STUD DARTS, but it’s on my bucket list), the base phrase STUARTS doesn’t mean much to me. On the other hand, POISON seems a solid enough base, but POISE EON feels a bit off.
PROM MATHLETE (from PRO ATHLETE) is an example of one that lands for me because both the base phrase and the alteration are more than one word. See also DUEL LEAST and LOU, USE POWER! And while BALANCING is indeed a one-word base, the imagery of BALD DANCING is delightful. So that one gets a pass.
14a. [Manhattan station?] PUB. Manhattan the drink as opposed to my current destination. Good one.
53a. [Ruler who may be depicted with an ankh] PHARAOH. I am forever destined to question my spelling of this word thanks to that darned horse from a few years back.
22a. [Thurman of “Jennifer 8”] UMA. Never heard of this movie! But love me some UMA trivia!
68a. [Messing around in Hollywood?] DEBRA. I’m currently solving a variety puzzle series and got very stuck on one specifically because I wasn’t sure how her name was spelled. This clears it up for me AND I don’t feel like I cheated! Thanks!
TOUGH STUFF: (And by “tough” I mean I just didn’t know it- Evan is always good at avoiding the dreaded Natick square)
20a. [Felipe VI’s wife Letizia of España, e.g.]. REINA. Who?
77a. [A neutral one is called a neutrino] LEPTON. I must’ve been absent on the day they went over this in science class.
Were there a lot of basketball references for a tennis themed puzzle? Or is that just me?
Fun and ambitious puzzle- even if I wasn’t thrilled by all the theme answers. 3.5 Stars from me.
Jacob Stulberg’s New York Times crossword, “Let’s Change the Subject”—Derek’s write-up
This theme wasn’t clear to me at first, but thankfully there is a revealer at the end to make things clear.
- 23A [Classic film narrated by Spencer Tracy] HOW THEY WON THE WEST – Original phrase: How the West Was Won.
- 36A [Remark commonly attributed to Queen Victoria] THAT DOES NOT AMUSE US – “We are not amused”.
- 54A [Statement at the end of some trailers] NO ONE HAS RATED THIS FILM – “This film has not been rated”
- 77A [Toy manufacturers disclaimer] WE INCLUDED NO BATTERIES – Batteries not included.
- 91A [Non-apology associated with several U.S. presidents] PEOPLE MADE MISTAKES – I believe the original phrase referenced here is “Mistakes were made.”
- 111A [Protest tactic … as suggested by 23-, 36-, 77- and 91-Across?] PASSIVE RESISTANCE
I am not a grammar instructor, but the original phrases I think are all in the active tense, whereas the phrases in the grid are all in the passive tense. The subject of the sentence is changed, so in How the West Was Won, “West” is the subject, but in the grid phrase “they” is the subject of the sentence. This is pretty clever, even if you’re not an expert in grammar usage, like I am not! (Amendment: see Ethan’s comment below!) But that doesn’t detract from the great solving experience. This played a tad tougher than a normal Sunday to me, but still cracked it in under 15 min. Had a slight issue with the upper right corner, since I had ME instead of US at the end of 36A! A solid 4.3 stars from me for this one.
Lotsa good stuff to talk about:
- 20A [Bluesman Willie] LOMAX – I am not a big blues aficionado, but I like blues music. Therefore, I am not that familiar with this dude.
- 29A [Searched without sight] GROPED – This described what I had to do this morning, and every morning, to find my eyeglasses!
- 62A [Tool that it takes two to operate] PIT SAW – This is similar to the big saw that you see on those lumberjack competitions, but for this saw one man is below the other. Or am I the only one who enjoys watching them? I don’t actively hunt them down, but I think they are on CBS Sports Network now after years of wallowing on ESPN 2.
- 69A [Mexican marinade] ADOBO – I have used adobo seasoning quite a bit. (Hint: try it in your eggs!) Never heard of it as a marinade.
- 104A [City known for its cheese] GOUDA – I confess ignorance here: I didn’t know this was a town!
- 116A [Operatic baritone Pasquale ___ ] AMATO – There are not many famous AMATOs, so this will be hard any way you choose to clue it.
- 6D [Soviet author Ehrenburg] ILYA – Like AMATO, there are not many famous ILYAs either. So this one will be tough as well. The figure skater Kulik spells his name ILIA.
- 12D [Founder of a major appliance chain] LOWE – Is this referring to Lowe’s the home improvement store? Is the store referenced here as an appliance chain? If not, what appliance chain did he “found?”
- 18D [Old-fashioned weaponry] SABERS – You can understand how this would be tough if you’re staring at ??BERE!
- 31D [What might follow me?] MYSELF – Where is the “I”? ;-)
- 35D [Cinephile’s guilty pleasure, perhaps] B MOVIE – We all watch them!
- 42D [Ill-fated NASA mission of 1967] APOLLO I – Just didn’t know which Roman numeral to put in here!
- 49D [One singing at the end?] FAT LADY – Best clue of the puzzle!
- 66D [When middle watch ends] FOUR AM – I believe you.
- 75D [Like Vivaldi’s “Spring”] IN E – This one had me for a while too. I, of course, know Vivaldi is a composer. I forgot that they often reference the key the music is composed in.
- 86D [Word hitting two Triple Word Scores in Scrabble] NONUPLE – Nice entry! Straight definition: “consisting of nine.” A nine-letter word is the only way to hit two Triple Word Scores in Scrabble.
- 95D [Peninsula shared by Croatia and Slovenia] ISTRIA – Again, I believe you. Not familiar with eastern European geography at all!
- 96D [Humphries of the N.B.A.] KRIS – This was Kim Kardashian’s husband for a red-hot New York minute.
I will stop there. How did you all like this one?
Emily Cox & Henry Rathvon’s CRooked Crossword, “Red, White, and Blue Anagrams”—Laura’s review
I have the privilege of blogging a puzzle by Cox and Rathvon this morning! I often mention lists of my favorite constructors, and this duo is always on my short list. I have been enjoying their puzzles for literally 25+ years now, and they just keep on coming. They churn out so many good puzzles of a wide variety, I am not sure how they do it. Apologies if I seem like I am geeking out a little, but I am!
Todays puzzle does not have a tricky theme at all: there are six theme answers that only contain the letters found in the phrase RED WHITE AND BLUE:
- 23A [Like a waterproof flag?] DURABLE IN THE DEW
- 37A [Be a good citizen?] BIDE UNDER THE LAW
- 55A [Tale of a fireworks miscue?] A DUD BLEW IN THERE
- 75A [Anthem singer’s accomplishment?] HE DID WARBLE TUNE
- 90A [Didn’t like booms on the 4th?] BEWAILED THUNDER
- 108A [How long our banner may wave?] ‘TIL WE BE A HUNDRED
It’s so straightforward that I was a little confused at first! There are no puns, other than the clues, which all have a patriotic bent to them. Very clever. And slightly untimely; perhaps this would play well near Memorial Day or July 4? Maybe it wasn’t ready yet then? This puzzle was also a little tough in some spots; there are a few answers in here I am totally unfamiliar with, and I will try to mention a few of these below. All in all, a fun CRooked Sunday puzzle. 4.3 stars from me.
- 28A [Baptist headhunter?] SALOME – Best clue in the puzzle!
- 52A [Sports arenas] STADIA – This is a Roman unit of measure as well. Was the singular measure a “stadium” as well?
- 66A [“Chemin de fer” stop] GARE – This is French for “station.” This was deep in my brain recesses!
- 81A [Latvian, e.g.] BALT – I have not heard this term. Baltic, yes; Balt, no. Always learning new words!
- 113A [Jaegerlike bird] SKUA – A little tough for some perhaps. I have heard of this bird, but it has been a while.
- 14D [Small carriage] CALASH – I tried CALAIS in here when I had all but the last two letters. Oops.
- 39D [Pop star Lovato] DEMI – The morning news shows made a big deal about her apparent drug overdose a week or so ago. I have only one question: why wasn’t she in trouble with the law??
- 43D [Erich __ (Houdini)] WEISS – I read a book about him years ago, and I never forgot is real name. This was a gimme for me.
- 46D [Empathize] RELATE – This is not one of my strong points!
- 80D [ __-foot jelly (aspic)] CALF’S – My wife has heard of this; I have not.
- 88D [Warm alpine wind] FOEHN – This must be a German term. That I just now learned.
- 92D [Active hostilities] HOT WAR – As opposed to the oft used “cold war?” Nice. Not the war part, I mean.
That is all for this morning. Emily and Henry, thank you for literally decades of enjoyable solving!
Mike Torch’s LA Times crossword, “Loaf Affair” – Jenni’s write-up
Lots of driving, lots of puzzles, lots of fun. Lollapuzzoola #11 is in the books and I am TIRED. This puzzle was a good before-bed treat. For the theme, we take a well-known base phrase or title and substitute a sound-alike type of bread. Wackiness results.
- 16d [Bread that only appears for a short time?] is a CAMEO ROLL (cameo role).
- 27a [Bread worshipers?] are NAAN BELIEVERS (nonbelievers). Mmm, naan.
- 41a [Musical composition about a bread-loving pack animal?] is PITA AND THE WOLF (Peter and the Wolf). This evening the role of Pita will be played by a bass saxophone.
- 51a [Bread joke-teller’s trait?] is a RYE SENSE OF HUMOR (wry sense of humor).
- 66d [Bread with a winelike aroma?] is a NOSE SCONE (nosecone).
- 73a [Celebratory wish over Jewish bread?] is HAPPY CHALLAH DAY. As much as I love challah, this was the weakest theme answer, because the base phrase is much more commonly heard as Happy Holidays.
- 81a [Ibsen title character’s bread?] is PEER GYNT’S WHEAT (Peer Gynt Suite). Bonus points if you can find a place for bread in that old crossword favorite, Anitra’s Dance.
- 96a [“Sorry, I meant to give you a plain burger”?] is my favorite answer: NO BUN INTENDED (no pun intended).
A very solid theme with that one minor exception. Not too challenging (which is good in my current state) and still a lot of fun.
There was some blah fill, most notably ANAG, which is not really an abbreviation for ANAGRAM, and ICER which is never seen outside of crosswords.
Too tired for anything other than What I Didn’t Know Before I Did This Puzzle: that LANNY Wadkins is working for The Gold Channel.
Yawn. Good night.
Speaking of PROM MATHLETE, my prom date was state champ in the mathleague.com contest (and cheerleading captain, too!). We actually left prom early as we both had math contests the next day. Unfortunately, Yale only took her and not me as well. Seventeen years later, and I still haven’t managed to get another date with anyone.
Also, 20-Across in the WaPo: REINA is simply Spanish for “queen.”
Derek, you have it backwards: the base phrases are passive and the themers are active. “Change The Subject” is a pretty strained title, although narrowly accurate in a technical sense. To passivize a clause is to eliminate the subject and promote the object to subjecthood. Making a passive clause into an active clause is more like *reintroducing* the subject than changing it.
It was weird that AST was clued with reference to the Eastern time zone, and there was EST sitting above it clued in a different way.
Also these are moods, not tenses. No one really cares but the former Latin student in me needs to note this.
And by mood I mean voice, obvi. Need to finish my coffee.
This explains it much better. Thank you!
Just a tweak of the Nonuple deal – it doesn’t mean nine tiles, but nine times the score (triple score twice = 9 times = nonuple). The -ple ending means “so many times”: simple, duple, triple, quadruple, quintuple, sextuple, septuple, octuple, nonuple,…
Yes it seems the idea is that it’s 3 squared (triple word twice), making it a NUNUPLE.
I didn’t even think of this aspect! Yes, two triple word scores does triple your triple score. Thanks for the clarification.
. . . and it takes only eight letters to connect two triple-word-score squares (though it could also be done with a word of 9 or more letters).
Too many obscure references for my taste. In particular AME/AMATO sticks out. The grammar revealer of the theme wasn’t necessary to the solve fortunately. Had never heard of the term pitsaw but have used one without the frame a few times when I was younger and had no other choice.
I liked the idea of the NYT but there were some tough spots — AMATO, ISTRIA, ILYA/LOMAX — and a lot of icky short fill. It was more of a challenge than the typical Sunday NYT, so that was good.
I was going to say that Evan’s WaPo puzzle was not up to his usual high standard, but that was in large part because I didn’t notice that the theme answers had double letters added to a pre-existing word or phrase. Some were kind of random – STUARTS, LOSE POWER – but the construction was a lot cleverer than I had realized. Even so, I think it was not up to Evan’s usual high standard, but not by as much as I first thought!
Agree on the NYT, and let’s not forget the natick-y ESA/MTOSSA crossing. Ugh.
NYT: Here in New Mexico, chipotle peppers are mostly sold (note the passive voice here ?) canned in ADOBO sauce (marinated). Essential item in the pantry.
I try to make Hatch, New Mexico every year on my way to Tucson. Excellent chili peppers. I freeze them and use’m in soups. So many different types!
Enjoyed the WaPo puzzle, though I thought the themed answer might add up to something more. Could be adapted into a fun WSJ contest-style grid that did something with the doubled letters. Some of the answers were a little strained (POISE EON?), but impressive number of themers.
NYT… didn’t really dig the theme. Seemed like a decent idea that didn’t quite land. Especially because the original phrases didn’t really relate to each other, and had to be altered in some way to fit (like leaving the “yet” out of “this film is not yet rated.” But I’m biased toward themes that involve wordplay, hidden messages, etc. On top of that, the non-theme fill ended up pretty gluey.
panonnica: I’ve never had a face-to-face encounter with a hag fish but I did see Andrew Zimmerman cook one, I think. I don’t contend vigorously that flies are the worse critter on earth, only that they “probably” are. Hag fish are, indeed, nasty, but they don’t infest my house. Given the vast array of animals, it would be difficult to actually pronounce the most vilest. Still, maggots do live in shit, you know…