Ross Trudeau’s New York Times crossword, “WHAT A ZOO!”—Jenni’s write-up
Amy’s out with her family and I’m pinch-hitting. Ross Trudeau is fast becoming one of my favorite constructors. This is a nice example of his work with a multi-pronged theme featuring cryptids. The Oxford Dictionary defines “cryptid” as “An animal whose existence or survival is disputed or unsubstantiated.” We have three, each cross-referenced to its purported location:
- 24a [Cryptid of the 91-Across] is ABOMINABLE SNOWMAN. 91a, in turn, is [Creation after the Indian and Eurasian plates collided], or the HIMALAYAS. I appreciate the straightforward cluing rather than a recursive cross-reference.
- 31a [Cryptid of the 115-Across] is LOCH NESS MONSTER. 115a, [Gaelic’s home], is SCOTTISH HIGHLANDS.
- 48a [Cryptid of 105-Across] is THE KRAKEN, and he (or she?) hails from THE NORWEGIAN SEA, clued as [It borders Iceland’s eastern coast]. I look forward to learning more about THE KRAKEN when we visit Iceland in March.
In the middle of the puzzle we have three more theme answers: 62a [With 68- and 74-Across, J. K. Rowling’s first screenplay, with a hint to three pairs of answers in this puzzle]. All together those three entries give us FANTASTIC BEASTS/AND/WHERE TO FIND THEM.
A nice, solid, satisfying theme. THE KRAKEN is new to me. I’ve heard of Champ, the cryptid reported to live in Lake Champlain. Are there others?
A few other things:
- 4d [___ Johnson a.k.a. The Rock] is DWAYNE. Local boy makes good! He spent part of his adolescence in Bethlehem, PA, where he played football for Freedom High, rival of Liberty. It’s the American heartland around here.
- 8d [2007 #1 Alicia Keys album] is AS I AM. I filled that in from crossings and assumed the M was incorrect before I read the clue.
- 16d [Housewives and househusbands] are HOMEMAKERS.
I have a feeling that was Ross’s clue, not Will’s. Call it a hunch.I was wrong. Will Emailed me. It was his clue. I will revise my sense of Will’s clued-up-ness to gender roles
- 47d [Person who’s happy to go bust?] is an amusingly fresh clue for NARC.
- Being married to a geologist will make you smarter: 51d [Certain product of pyrolysis] is SHALE OIL.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: see above re: THE KRAKEN. I had also never heard of CARLOTTO Massimo or “The Goodbye Kiss.”
Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Themeless No. 9” – Jim Q’s writeup
After the super-high word count in last week’s Mini-Madness puzzle, this week is at the opposite end of the spectrum: the 9th in Evan’s 21×21 themeless series. Naturally, the word count will be lower. In this case 128 words.
Seed Entries (or at least I assume):
- 47A [Comedic true-crime podcast hosted by Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark] MY FAVORITE MURDER. I’ve never heard of this podcast, but you can bet it’s on my list after discovering My Dad Wrote a Porno in WaPo puzzle from a couple of months ago. Although it was new to me, it was fun to suss out- even with the east side of the entry being in the toughest part of the grid for me.
- 77A [Model home shown in December?] GINGERBREAD HOUSE. Got this without any crosses. It might be because I was literally solving the puzzle next to a gingerbread house I’m building. Proof in the picture. I’m way behind though… everyone else at the restaurant where I work has finished his/hers.
- 34A [Royal coups?] NO HIT GAMES. As I know nothing about royalty, I skipped over this one, but it filled itself in later. The Kansas City Royals. Clever!
- 53A [Piercing spots for some] NIPPLES. Fun to see nipples clued as what everyone knows them to be rather than “Parts of baby bottles.”
- 79D [Apple picker’s market?] APP STORE. Apple in clue with “?” = think the company.
- 60A [She served as the president’s interpreter on a 2016 trip to Cuba] MALIA OBAMA. Who knew??
- 88A [Autopsy’s genre, aptly] DEATH METAL. Never heard of the band. Found them on YouTube and thought Maybe this won’t be so bad… after hearing the first minute or so. Nope. Not my cup of tea.
- 25A [Budget ___] CUTS. INNS? Nope… that’s already in the puzzle. CARS? PLAN? Finally I had ?UTS- and it still took me a while.
- 55A [Metaphor for an introvert’s demeanor] SHELL. I entered MOUSE. Took it out when MOUSETAIL appeared later.
- 24A [“Helicopter” fruit source] MAPLE. With ??PLE, and the word fruit in the clue…
what else could it be? APPLE of course! Wrong.
- Names TYCHO Brahe, YVETTE Nicole Brown, Alessia CARA, and HENRI Poincare were all new to me. I found them tougher than usual to infer. And since I just learned that I had no clue how to spell PRIVILEGE, the area with TYCHO (and where I also incorrectly entered MOUSE for SHELL) really gummed me up.
VIDEO GAME CLUE OF THE WEEK:
- 1D [Nintendo antihero with the same name as a Nintendo hero except for an inverted first letter] WARIO.
Fun puzzle, though it’s not a sparkly as Evan’s themelesses tend to be. 4 Stars.
Emily Cox & Henry Rathvon’s CRooked crossword, “Frank Admission”—Judge Vic’s review
As we did two weeks ago, we solve for a longish quip. Which I like, though I know many solvers who do not. With the timer going, I finished in 19:15, with at least two minutes wasted correcting typos along the way. Read that: This is one easy romp.
At 27-, 44-, 58-, 67-, 84-, and 96-Across, the authors share with us [… a quote by Boris Karloff]: WHEN I WAS NINE I PLAYED / THE DEMON KING / IN CINDERELLA AND / IT LAUNCHED ME ON A / LONG AND HAPPY / LIFE OF BEING A MONSTER. Other noteworthy stuff includes:
39a [Forest feller] WOODMAN–I’d have thought WOODSMAN, but it seems the two are synonyms.
- 54a [No vegan] MEAT-EATER–An interesting study, this term, as to whether it’s two words, a compound word, or a hyphenated word. The mainstream dictionaries don’t carry it all, leaving one to apply general rules that would forbid a layperson from daring to cast it as a compound word. The TV show doesn’t help matters, as Netflix puts a moose head between the words in some depictions, has one on top of the other in some, and in normal prose renders it MeatEater, breaking multiple rules.
- 78a [Botherations] HEADACHES–Good word, botheration. I remember it, though hazily, from my childhood. My mother was the only person I ever heard say it. Or was that my grandmother? M-W Online defines it circularly: “the act of bothering” or “something that bothers.” For the record, I disapprove of such lexicographical laxity. Oxford gives us a choice, circle or no: “Effort, worry, or difficulty; bother” (yes, they do use the Oxford comma!).
- 14d [Raisers of Cain] HELLIONS–This word I definitely learned from my mother. She was referring to people I should not emulate.
- 81d [King Midas, e.g.] PHRYGIAN–Thank goodness for the crossers on this one. Was this in the King Midas book?
2 stars. Even though I like quip puzzles in general, I found this one to be very non-exciting.
Paul Coulter’s LA Times crossword, “Culinary School” – Jenni’s write-up
We have food and cooking terms defined – differently. Some work better than others.
- 23a [Pie company exec?] is a PASTRY WHEEL. Shouldn’t that be “big wheel?”
- 25a [Bad brunch review?] is an OMELET PAN.
- 37a [Neighborhood with meat purveyors?] is a BUTCHER BLOCK.
- 55a [ATM code you rotate regularly?] is a ROLLING PIN.
- 84a [Thief at a fertility clinic?] is an EGG POACHER.
- 98a [Nasty group of directors?] is a CUTTING BOARD.
- 116a [Stadium for a boxing match?] is a PUNCH BOWL.
- 118a [Journalists covering a spicy story?] are the GARLIC PRESS. This is my favorite.
As I look at the list, I realize there’s only one that doesn’t work well. It’s the first one, though, so it colored my experience of the theme.
A few other things:
- 4d [Without delay, as payment] is ON THE NAIL. I haven’t heard this phrase used on its own. Just me?
- 36d [Gullible sort] is a SIMP. Not a word you see every day. Let’s bring it back.
- 53d [Collection of heir pieces?] is the punny clue for ESTATE.
- 73d [Concealed] is PERDU. Never heard it used this way except for “pain perdu,” which connects with the food theme. Now I want French toast.
- 88d [Easy paces] are DOG TROTS. Not often used in the plural, and I’ve apparently been using it (or understanding it) incorrectly. I thought it meant a quick pace – like doubletime. Google supports the puzzle’s meaning.
- Could have done without ATTS crossing TELCOS when the latter is clued as [AT&T and Verizon], even thought the ATTS in the grid are attorneys.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: see above re: DOG TROT.