Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Say What?” – Jim Q’s writeup
Let’s start with 101A: [Political activist’s plea] VOTE! Pretty please?
A light and breezy puzzle from Evan today where the wordplay comes in the cluing.
THEME: Common two-word phrases (in the clues) are reimagined as if they were verbal utterances.
- 23A [Take notice?] QUIET ON THE SET. “Take” refers to movie shoot, and “notice” is the utterance.
- 35A [Turn signal?] IT’S YOUR MOVE. When you’ve been staring at your chess competitor for 1/2 hour because he/she thinks it’s your turn, you might offer this “turn signal.”
- 49A [Bank statement?] THIS IS A STICK-UP. A bank statement more frightening than my actual bank statement!
- 71A [Health profession?] I FEEL GREAT.
- 74A [Cold call?] I’M FREEZING. Anyone else turn the heat on yet? Happy November!
- 92A [High command?] AIM FOR THE STARS. Not a phrase I’ve heard, though it Googles well enough. “Shoot for the stars” is the one I know. Also, I always found that to be an absurd goal.
- 109A [Work order?] GET CRACKING.
- 122A [Finish line?] THAT’S ALL FOLKS. Very appropriately the final themer!
Fun, consistent puzzle. I’m often prepared for something quirky in the grid with the WaPo, but it’s not an unwelcome change of pace for something more traditional. It seems as though great attention is given to ensure that the same style of puzzle is not repeated week after week.
- 7D [Number in the musical “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels”?] TEN. This one bothered me solely because I accompanied this musical for a month straight and have zero recollection of this song. [*Googles*] “Wait a second…there is no song called ‘Ten’! There’s been a mistake! Maybe I’ll shoot Evan an e-mail about this grievous error…” [*Re-checks clue. Notices “?” for first time. Realizes TEN is certainly in Dirty RotTEN Scoundrels. Slaps forehead. Mentally apologizes for doubting Evan*]. My new favorite clue in the puzzle.
- 26A [Answer to Rick James’s joke “What did the five fingers say to the face?” per an episode of “Chappelle’s Show”] SLAP. That’s way funnier than what I had- SNAP. Also, RAUN is not really a name. Had to correct when Happy Pencil failed to show.
- 42A [The A of LGBTQIA, informally] ACE. For “Asexual.” Interesting article on the growing initialism here.
- 14D [Mark on a crossword tournament puzzle] ERASURE. If you’re anything like me, then this is very, very accurate.
- 31A [They’re delivered by a server] EMAILS. Thought for sure we were to consider a waiter or a tennis pro.
- 59A [Enjoy, as one’s Life?] MUNCH. The cereal. My initial hunch was READ, as in “enjoy Life Magazine.”
- 103D [Time saver?] READER. There’s the magazine clue.
- 112A [Animal enlarged in the horror film “Gnaw: Food of the Gods II”] RAT. Inferable. Very inferable. But I’m more interested in how I missed this gem of a film growing up. Here’s the trailer:
3.6 stars from me! (.1 bonus for the Dirty Rotten Scoundrels “Gotcha!” clue)
And don’t forget… 101-ACROSS ON TUESDAY!
Patrick Berry’s New York Times crossword, “Unthemed”—Amy’s write-up
Oh, hey! A jumbo themeless puzzle, and it’s from Patrick Berry? I’m sold. It’s a gorgeous grid, with stacked 13s, two expanses of stair-stepped 6s (you don’t see that much!) with long fill at the ends, lots of juicy entries. And then, for good measure, lots of clever Berry clues.
My list of favorite fill will be much longer than in a themed 21x: BOBS FOR APPLES, “ARE WE DONE HERE?” (I had “… FINISHED” first), KATIE HOLMES, OPEN-MINDED, BAR MITZVAH, TD GARDEN, CAYENNE PEPPER, PET SEMATARY, ROCK OUT, SOFT TACO, FAST DAYS, and FOREST GREEN.
- 92a. [Paprika lookalike], CAYENNE PEPPER. I hadn’t quite realized that paprika was ground chile peppers till I read this article, “How the Chile Pepper Took Over the World.” It’s a fascinating read—the writer travels to Jamaica, Hungary, and Thailand to delve into the local histories and modern trends in chile pepper growing and eating. It’s bonkers that the Spanish and Portuguese colonizers transported chile peppers from South America to the rest of the world. Thai cuisine has depended on chiles for centuries already! (See also: Potatoes. So globally beloved, so born in the Americas.)
- 52d. [Ancient Mexicas, e.g.], AZTECS. I didn’t know the word Mexica till just now.
- 36a. [Soda brand with more than 90 flavors], FANTA. And I bet I wouldn’t actually like more than about five of the these flavors.
- 31d. [Rock musician with a knighthood], BONO / 7d. [Crank up the amp to 11 and go wild], ROCK OUT. These answers are adjacent, so that “rock” overlap really jumped out. So, they bestow the OBE honors on Irish people who aren’t British citizens?
- 23a. [Early reel-to-reel devices], WIRE RECORDERS. I don’t think I’ve seen the term before.
- 19d. [Shiny beetle disliked by fruit growers], FIG EATER. Never heard of this bug, whereas the fig wasp has its whole horrific story.
- 37d. [Steve who co-created Spider-Man], DITKO. After the first four letters, I filled in an A, but no, this is DITKO. Not a name I knew.
- 48d. [Selling point?], MARKET. Crisp little clue, a bit tricky. Point = place. See also: 51a. [Travel on-line?], PARASAIL. Travel through the air, attached by a line to a boat or whatnot that’s pulling you. 56a. [Party of 13?], BAR MITZVAH, party at age 13. 61a. [Trunk fastener?], CORSET, trunk = torso. All sorts of question-mark clues sprinkled throughout the puzzle.
The whole venture gets a thumbs-up from me. Berry-grade themeless smoothness, at twice the size of the standard themeless. 4.5 stars.
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s CRooked Crossword, “The Hunan Condition”—Laura’s review
Jokes with a Chinese restaurant menu theme; some of them are rather corny, but they fit (like those little baby corns you get in vegetable stir-fry):
- [23a: Carelessness around Chinese
dumplings?]: WONTON NEGLIGENCE. Wanton negligence
- [31a: With 38-Across, noodle dish
decorating a family emblem?]: LO MEIN ON THE [38a: See 31-Across]: TOTEM POLE. Low man on the totem pole
- [53a: Chinese dumplings turn off a
handful?]: DIM SUM LOSE SOME. Win some, lose some
- [69a: Missive written with a Chinese sauce?]: HOISIN PEN LETTER. Poison pen letter
- [89a: Revelation one is related to a Chinese general?]: TSO’S YOUR OLD MAN. So’s your old man!
- [102a: Gathering where Chinese vegetables are served?]: BAMBOO BEE. Not sure what the base phrase is here.
- [107a: Starch will provide electricity?]: RICE TO POWER. Rise to power
- [114a: Adventurous Szechuan cooker?]: WOK ON THE WILD SIDE. Walk on the wild side. My favorite of the set, and my best guess as to the seed entry. It is also most likely to be the punning name of an actual Chinese restaurant; <checks internet> indeed, at least three establishments are called as of this moment.
LETS BE frank: the crossing of ESKER and STOA was rough and crosswordese-y, but most of the fill was smooth, as befits BEQ. One of 21 women currently serving in the US Senate, incumbent [79d: Senator McCaskill]: CLAIRE is running a tight race in Missouri against Republican challenger Josh Hawley. Don’t forget to vote this Tuesday, November 6.
Mark McClain’s LA Times crossword, “Alphabetical Order” – Jenni’s write-up
Here’s the grid for LAT – sorry it’s so late. The theme is two-word pairs that start with successive letters of the alphabet, arranged from A in the top left to Z in the bottom right. Lots of theme answers. Kind of icky fill.
A tough NYT for me. Crime and Punishment was probably my favorite novel as a kid, but needed about 4 letters of the crossings to realize it was St. Petersburg. Other hard entries Vicodin, antivaxxers, capeman, martina, rose red, amoroso, Topol. Forgot all about DeeDee Myers.. that’s pretty far back.
Psst: That’s the Saturday puzzle.
My bad, and here I was wondering why you were so late lol
In addition to Thai and Indian cuisines without chilies, imagine Italian without tomatoes! On my recent first trip to Greece, I learned that the Greeks are totally smitten with potatoes. They’re everywhere. It’s a rare meal that doesn’t come with roasted or fried potatoes. And souvlaki always has a pile of French fries jammed into the pita along with the more familiar ingredients.
Chocolate, string beans and kidney beans, pineapples, papayas, sweet potatoes, cassava, zucchini, pumpkin and other squashes, peanuts and corn join chilies, tomatoes and potatoes in the list of foods that were unknown to Europe before the Explorers “discovered” them. Some, like cassava and corn, are major caloric sources in many African countries as well.
WaPo: 71 ACROSS! I just finished another witty and imaginative Sunday puzzle from Evan. Almost makes me forget yesterday’s less than tactful NYT puzzle and less than smooth WSJ puzzle. 122 ACROSS!
NYT: A thing of beauty.
NYT: I was pretty shocked that BONO had been given an honorary knighthood, given that one of his most famous songs was a pointed critique of the U.K. that was banned by the BBC back in the day. Other honorees include Bill Gates &, ahem, Rudy Giuliani.
A very nice NYT, but I was disappointed anyway. I know I’m in the minority, but I just enjoy themes (especially rebuses BTW). Indeed, I wish the most challenging puzzles, Friday and Saturday, had them, so Thursday ends up being my favorite puzzle of the week, although I don’t often get a copy.
Since Sunday is never themeless, I actually spent a minute or two toward the end on the assumption that the title was a pun and there was a theme of some kind related to it! But obviously not.
Yeah, I kept looking for a hidden theme, but there wasn’t one. On the other hand, Patrick Berry. Nice puzzle, and harder than the average Sunday.
In my world, “pretty” is just short of “very”. Someone who is “pretty nice” isn’t as nice as someone who is “very nice”. And someone who is “very pretty” is extremely close to “very”.
I get that the expanded meanings are pretty widely used, it’s just not very familiar to me.
Also, small objection with 70A; I might run into my attorney “in” court, but I wouldn’t sustain a foul unless we were “on” court.
Other than that, 100% agree with the high ratings.
I didn’t understand that clue at all — even if refers to running into someone ‘on’ court rather than ‘in,’ why would it be a foul? Is this some kind of arcane sports reference, like real tennis? You can run into someone on a squash or racquetball court, for example, and it may or may not be an infraction, but in neither case is it a foul.
It is definately a foul if you are on a basketball court. On the other hand, I agree that “in” is misleading here.
Jerry Seinfeld has a very funny (pretty funny?) routine about the use of “in” vs “on”, along with a few other linguistic anomalies. For example, you can live “in” Manhattan, but you live “on” Long Island”. You go “in” a cab, but “on” a train – and you “take” an Uber.
Likewise, “in court”, as in, “I’ll see you in court” is fine, but if we were going to settle our differences by shooting hoops, we’d say “I’ll see you on THE court”.
NYT and WaPo were fine but didn’t really make me smile at any point. Hex/Quigley was the cream of the crop in my opinion, but I’m a sucker for a good [meaning groan-worthy] pun.
Best Sunday NYT in quite some time. A themeless Sunday was refreshing, in my opinion.
I enjoy themed puzzles but, increasingly, with Sunday puzzles, it seems as though the theme becomes apparent maybe a third of the way through the puzzle, and then it’s a slog to complete the whole puzzle (I often don’t bother anymore).
I guess the pedestrian fill that is often needed to support a theme feels acceptable to me in a smaller puzzle, but gets PRETTY(=very) boring in a large Sunday puzzle. This one, on the other hand, challenged me all the way through, with few answers that relied on pop culture knowledge (often my downfall).
Thanks, Mr. Berry!
I have definite mixed feelings about the themeless Sunday puzzle. As GLR points out, a Sunday puzzle with an easily recognizable theme can become a slog, but when the theme is clever, then the puzzle becomes challenging and fun. I found this puzzle substantially easier than most Sunday puzzles, perhaps because it calls for more recall of trivia than solving acumen.
I don’t get the GET CRACKING answer in the WaPo — in my idiom, get cracking means hop to it, shake a leg, get to work, so the clue — “work order” — seems like a literal definition, unlike in the other themers.
A “work order” isn’t a thing you literally say out loud, at least not in my experience. It’s usually a written document detailing what work needs to be done, what the costs of each task are, etc. The base phrases in the clues don’t (normally) have anything to do with verbal communication.
Thanks, that makes sense. I hadn’t caught on to the non-verbal nature of the clues.
Am I wrong to raise an eyebrow over the crossing of a clue with the word “court” and the answer “courtesan”? The latter originally meant someone attached to a royal or papal court (“courtier”) and later became a euphemism for prostitute.
Loved Patrick’s themeless and also loved Mark McLain’s LA Times’ “Alphabetical Order” puzzle…both delightful for different reasons.
My take on BAMBOO BEE is the base phrase would be ‘bumble bee’
Perhaps with Sunday being “fall back” day this was a fall back to the theme less Sunday
Puzzles of the 1950’s.