Ross Trudeau’s New York Times crossword, “Game Hunting”—Amy’s write-up
It’s a board game theme this week, with familiar (or not so familiar) phrases clued as if a key word is the name of a board game rather than a regular word. And the clue and answer are things someone might say when trying to select a game to play.
- 23a. [“We can’t play that game – I can’t reach it on our shelf!”], “THE RISK IS TOO HIGH!” Um, no. This doesn’t feel like a thing people say often enough that you can riff on it for a theme.
- 23a. [“We can’t play that game – I can’t reach it on our shelf!”], “SORRY NOT SORRY.” Awkward grammatically, but 100% in-the-language now.
- 54a. [“We can’t play that game unless we borrow someone else’s”], “I HAVEN’T A CLUE.” Well, this one’s weird because you don’t say that you have a Clue or a Connect Four or a Monopoly.
- 76a. [“I’m begging you, let’s not play that game!”], “PLEASE DON’T GO.” And this one’s off-kilter too, because the game Go isn’t a verb.
- 85a. [“No, that game would be over in a flash”], “LIFE’S TOO SHORT.” Well, it doesn’t take as long as Monopoly, but I wouldn’t call Life a quick game!
- 103a. [“I’ve finally decided! I’m …”], “…ASKING FOR TROUBLE.” You gotta love that Pop-o-Matic action.
So I’m about 50/50 on this theme, which is not a good ratio. I do like the random long fill, though I kept trying to find game names in those. GENDER FLUIDITY, the ONES COLUMN (two letters off from being an OP-ED COLUMN—gotta read the clues), MERE MORTALS, FATHER TIME, TRUE COLORS, SPICE RUB.
Eight other things:
- 93a. [“If you are always trying to be ___, you will never know how amazing you can be”: Maya Angelou], NORMAL. Oh! This is lovely.
- 39d. [Like albino alligators], RARE. Slightly less rare are leucistic alligators, which are whitish and may have blue eyes, vs. the pink eyes of a true albino alligator.
- 18d. [Kind of number not much seen nowadays], FAX. Unless you are talking to a health insurance company, in which case they really think that faxing things to them makes sense. I assume most people required to fax something just scan it or take a phone photo, and then use a website or app to “fax” it.
- 53d. [Blandishment], CAJOLERY. I never remember what blandish means, since it sounds so much like brandish. And CAJOLERY is not a commonly used form of that word.
- 83a. [Info in dating profiles], TYPES. Listen, friends. If you have a “type,” and that type specifies the race or ethnicity you’re interested in dating, you are doing it wrong.
- 82d. [Secondary loan signer], CO-MAKER. This is not a term I’d ever seen before, and I’d be OK with never seeing it in another crossword.
- 112a. [Bead source], PORE. Man, I was working the crossings, and then 102 [Go on and on] could be YAK or YAP equally plausibly. Eventually I figured out that the bead in question was a bead of sweat. Oof!
- 96a. [Praise for a picador], OLÉS. I don’t know that a “hooray!” is praise so much as a cheer or encouragement.
3.25 stars from me. Some lovely fill wasn’t quite enough to offset the thematic struggles and the other fill that wasn’t to my liking.
Edited to add: After seeing a discussion of this clue on Twitter, I wanted to call out that [M –> F –> M] clue for GENDER FLUIDITY. It really misses the point. It’s maybe not an easy term to define concisely enough for a crossword clue, but this clue seems wedded to that M/F gender binary, and that’s entirely inconsistent with the concept of gender fluidity. It includes people who identify as non-binary, neutrois, male, female, and other. If you know anyone who’s non-binary, you know that they’re absolutely not flip-flopping as “male yesterday, female today, male again tomorrow.”
Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Fall Guys”—Jenni’s write-up
I figured out the theme on this one very early. It was still fairly challenging, since the theme answers aren’t signaled in any way, so each one felt like a little bit of a surprise – and I didn’t find one of them until I went back and looked. They are symmetrical, but I tend not to notice that kind of thing while I’m solving.
We have ten answers that leave something dangling. I’ve highlighted them in the grid.
- 23a [Landing site during Operation Neptune] is NORMANDY, with ANDY dropping down as party of SHANDY. “Operation Neptune” was the official code name for D-Day.
- 24a [Steep, as meat] is MARINATE.
- 26a [Ball VIPs] are BELLES. That’s the one I didn’t see while I was solving – filled it in by crossings and didn’t look too closely.
- 30a [Without a brand name] is GENERIC.
- 70a [Ride to a certain station] is a POLICE VAN.
- 72a [Louis Armstrong, e.g.] is a TRUMPETER.
- 116a [High-ranking military official] is a MARSHAL.
- 119a [Former muscle car featured in “Smokey and the Bandit”] is a TRANS AM.
- 113a [Wine repositories] are CELLARS.
- 122a [Scheduled] is SLATED.
Evan (who used his own name in the puzzle!) ties it all up neatly at 57d [“There’s an injured soldier here!” … and a hint to 10 answers in this puzzle]. The answer is MAN DOWN because each of the names goes down.
I really like this theme. The small inconsistencies (some four-letter and some three-letter names, and some spanning two words while others don’t) do not bother me at all. It was fun and satisfying to solve.
A few other things:
- 29a [Investment option, for short] is IRA, not clued as a name, which is good.
- 54d [Toast topper, at times] is AVOCADO. For a long time, avocados were the only green food my kid would eat.
- I don’t generally think of an ANEMONE as a “stinging ocean predator” because they’re so lovely. That’s not very smart of me.
- 77d [Dutch city where the painter Johannes Vermeer was born] is DELFT. I fell in love with Vermeer when I was 14 and first encountered his work at the Frick Museum in NYC (and if you haven’t been there, it’s a gem). This was a gimme for me.
- We have [Channel associated with a ticker] twice. It’s at 1d for CNN and again at 124 a, clued with a question mark, for AORTA.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: see above re: Operation Neptune. I had also never heard of TV princess Elena or her kingdom, AVALOR. She is apparently a Disney princess who came on the scene long after my kid got too old for Disney princesses.
Paul Coulter’s LA Times crossword, “For Starters” – Jenni’s write-up
Each theme answer is a list of items in the same category; their first letters tell you what they are. All the clues are [Three types of (see circled letters)]
- 22a is MERCATOR AREA POLITICAL, which gives us MAP.
- 32a is JUMBO EXECUTIVE TURBO: JET.
- 50a is MINUTE ANCHOR NEWSPAPER: MAN.
- 76a is CALICO ABYSSINIAN TABBY: CAT.
- 90a is CITROEN ACURA RENAULT: CAR.
- 108a is AVANT GARDE ROCOCO TRAMP: ART.
Not my favorite kind of theme, but it’s well done.
A few other things:
- 31d [Star of the animated short “Two Scent’s Worth”] is LE PEW. At least they didn’t style him as a “lover.” Pepe is really a sexual harasser. When kids watch those cartoon, they are normalizing stalking. This is rape culture.
- 30d [Stand-up sort] is MENSCH, which I guess has now fully entered the English lexicon since it’s clued without any reference to Yiddish. Since I grew up with Yiddish words sprinkled in our family’s vocabulary, I have no idea which ones are widely known outside of the Jewish community.
- 80a [“Chestnuts roasting __ open fire”] gets us away from Biblical definitions for ON AN. Thank you.
- When you have both OLEO and OLIO in your puzzle, you should either get rid of them or clue them with reference to each other. Or something to show that you understand they are crosswordese (especially OLIO, which I never see outside of crosswords).
- 113a [He’s got the life] is RILEY. A quick search suggests that the origin of this phrase is unknown.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: That OLAF I only ruled for five years.