Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Brand New” – Jim Q’s writeup
Another fun offering from Evan today as common phrases are reimagined as a company’s latest offering.
Theme Answers: (all of which start with the phrase “Now introducing our newest product” as indicated by the …)
23A. [… ___, the perfect software for scanning PDFs onto building blocks”] ADOBE BRICKS. Actual bricks brought to you by your favorite giant in PDF files.
25A. [“… ___, a motor that gives you the power to watch the ‘Positively Entertaining’ channel”] ION ENGINE. Hmmm. I’ve never heard of an ION ENGINE. Google seems to think it’s synonymous with ION THRUSTER, but I’ve never heard of that either. It’s been a while since I’ve needed to repair the one on my DeLorean.
40A. [“… ___: What better way to enjoy our electronics than with our homemade cheese?”] SHARP CHEDDAR. Batteries not included.
57A [“… ___, a refreshing drink for when you’re refreshing pages on your iPad”] APPLE JUICE. Maybe a tad of an outlier because Apple (the company) is so commonly associated with an actual apple.
70A [“… ___: Tasteful kitchen flooring to go with our tasty sandwiches”] SUBWAY TILES. When iceberg lettuce just doesn’t give you that satisfying crunch…
87A [“… ___, our fashionable line of kilts for British auto drivers”] MINI SKIRTS. This one took me the longest to suss out and (embarrassingly) I needed almost all the crosses. Forgot the MINI Cooper was British and had trouble associating kilts with SKIRTS. Facepalm.
100A [“… ___: Because you deserve treats for driving our fuel-efficient vehicles”] SMART COOKIES. They must be competing with MINI SKIRTS.
122A [“… ___: Fill up a tank with gas, then fill up another tank with bass”] SHELL FISH. Ha! I found the clue for this to be a hilarious visual.
124A [“… ___. Need to move your belongings but can’t afford to rent a van or a truck? Here’s our inexpensive alternative: Birds!”]. BUDGET HAWKS. No clue what the base phrase means. When I looked it up, Google didn’t want to autofill until I hit the “W”- but I guess when the first word is “Budget” that’s an unfair assessment of its common usage. Seems to be the same thing as a Deficit Hawk.
A bit more on “not knowing” an answer: There seem to be two mindsets for solvers- those who enjoy learning new things from crosswords and those who get frustrated when they’ve never heard of an entry. I am firmly in the former camp (even when I’m “Naticked”). I enjoyed uncovering ION ENGINE and BUDGET HAWKS (neither of which took me as long as MINI SKIRTS). They were clued and crossed fairly. Same goes for CHERI [1920 Colette work].
96D. [Bumper sticker word featured alongside symbols of religion and peace] CO-EXIST. I love that this was clued as the iconic bumper sticker- my generation’s version of the smiley face inadvertently invented by Forrest Gump.
53D. [Facial spots] SPAS. I saw this one before the I saw the same clue at 35A. I entered ACNE for both. Whoops. Fun clue/s!
8D. [“Get the intruder, Fido!”] For some reason, the idea of a dog named Fido being vicious is very, very funny. Fidos tend to go more for 9-Downs, no?
79A. [Word uttered when a player runs out of letters in Bananagrams] PEEL. I guess that must be on the rule sheet. It’s probably more polite than what I usually yell: “Take that, sucker!”
78D. [Pieces of meet?] EVENTS. Good clue.
Figured out the theme prior to solving by reading the title- “Brand New” (Evan’s titles are always spot on)- the real fun was in the clues rather than the grid. 3.6 stars from me.
Olivia Mitra Framke’s New York Times crossword, “To the Point”—Amy’s write-up
The theme is THE US OPEN (59a. [Annual sporting event that is this puzzle’s theme]) tennis tournament, and my first hint of that came when my husband saw the grid from across the room and said, “What is that? Is that a tennis racket?” Indeed it is. He’s watching the US Open on TV at the moment. That tennis racket in the grid has just hit, or is about to hit, the tennis BALL in the circled squares.
Other tennis content: 13a. [One of four on the annual tennis calendar], MAJOR (no symmetrical partner in the theme). 23a. [Follower of deuce], ADVANTAGE. 25a. [Lot of back and forth?], LONG RALLY. 27a. [Alternative to grass], HARD COURT. 31a. [Point of no return?], ACE. 43a. [Lead-in to line], BASE (no symmetry partner). 94a. [Stadium name near Citi Field], ARTHUR ASHE. 96a. [Spectators’ area], GRANDSTAND (a tad generic). 109a. [Location of 59-Across], QUEENS, NEW YORK. 121a. [Part of U.S.T.A.: Abbr.], ASSN (no symmetry partner, frightfully lifeless). 43d. [One way to answer a server?], BACKHAND SHOT. 46d. [Winning words], GAME, SET, MATCH.
With all the thematic content and the black squares depicting a tennis racket, the fill got squished. While I did like “CALL ME LATER,” EXEMPLAR, and SHOEHORN, we also get things like LBO/YSL, NONMEAT, ECTO, ATTA, CINERAMA, and so on.
Three more things:
- 47a. [Food with an unfortunate-sounding last two syllables], FALAFEL. Depends on your pronunciation. The dictionary I’m checking gives aw-fel and ah-fel pronunciations for offal and just an aw-fel pronunciation for awful. Not sure which this clue is getting at.
- 28d. [Square dance maneuver], DO-SI-DO. Still mad at Henry Ford for foisting square dancing on generations of American schoolchildren for racist, anti-Semitic, jazz-fearing reasons. I hated the square dancing segment of high-school P.E.
- 44a. [Rod who was the 1977 A.L. M.V.P.], CAREW. Did you know Rod Carew received a heart and kidney transplant from an NFL player who died from an aneurysm? True story. (The link goes to a really touching news story.)
3.4 stars from me.
Robin Stears’s LA Times crossword, “AmazeBalls*” – Jim Q’s write-up
If you’re anything like me, you might’ve stared blankly at a finished grid for a while before the theme clicked on this one. The starred title is the key- Both parts of the theme answers are words that can precede “BALL“:
23A. [*Convenient carrier] HAND BASKET. HAND(BALL) and BASKET(BALL).
25A. [*Small, flat legume] BUTTER BEAN. I initially wrote in BUTTER LEAF. Duh.
44A. [*Octal system] BASE EIGHT.
47A. [*Item found in a parlor] CUE STICK. Hmmm. Just saw EIGHT BALL in the previous theme answer. Now CUE BALL (clued via CUE STICK)… Seems like pool is getting the most attention!
64A. [*Pneumatic silo declogger] AIR CANNON. I have a silo on my property. I want to clean it and make it shiny. Where can I rent an AIR CANNON?
74A. [*Fund for fun] PIN MONEY. I’ve never heard of this. Looking forward to using the term, which I’ll do as soon as I have some PIN MONEY.
77A. [*Path for a promising young exec] FAST TRACK. TRACK BALL? Ah! The gizmo on a mouse!
99A. [*It covers the Batmobile] BLACK PAINT. This entry seems a little… errr… GREEN PAINTish, no?
101A. [*Brie, e.g.] SOFT CHEESE.
I think of crosswords kind of like I think of beer. I pretty much like them all. It’s only when you start comparing one to another that preferences develop… and this one played more on the Budweiser side of that spectrum for me. While I appreciate the time and effort that went in to finding so many answers that work, from the solving perspective it didn’t quite land. Also, with the absence of a solid revealer (I had been looking forward to one as I tried to figure out the connection between the themers during the solve) and a title that doesn’t really suggest that BALL can precede both parts of the answer, it was a bit of a let down to discover the gimmick.
But I digress. Let me get to some of the fun missteps I made and things I did like.
34A. [Many a text writer] SCHOLAR. I was really thinking “text message” rather than “academic text.” Times have changed!
89A. [“Les Misérables” girl] COSETTE. Well I’ll be darned. EPONINE has the same number of letters. That’s who I went with. Her songs are better.
96A. [Old copiers] SCRIBES. A job I would absolutely abhor. Fun clue!
86A. [“The Star-Spangled Banner” quartet] STANZAS. Does anyone know that latter three? I think it would be fun if someone sang the WHOLE thing on a widely televised baseball game.
84D. [Budget bin record] REISSUE. I stared and stared at this, only missing the U. And not knowing UDINE, I was prepared to declare a Natick. Don’t know why I didn’t see it sooner.
Overall this was really an exercise in filling in blanks- nothing too amusing or notable. Even the title AMAZE BALLS seemed a bit bland as that phrase made a brief appearance some 6 or 7 years ago and fell to the wayside soon thereafter (although I believe it did make it into the O.E.D. or some other official dictionary). Perhaps BALL OFFSIDES! would’ve tied the theme together for me from the onset.
2.4 stars from me- again, I enjoyed it like I enjoy all puzzles… but in comparison to some fantastic ones I completed this last week, it left me indifferent.