Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle (Week 393), “Omen-clature”—Ade’s take
Good morning, everyone! I hope all is well and, for those in North Carolina at the moment, hope you all are staying safe through the powerful snowstorm that has passed through those areas affected. In today’s grid, the first four theme entries are all multiple-word answers in which the first word can also come before the word “signal.” The fifth theme entry, SIGNAL AHEAD, acts as the reveal (62A: [Traffic warning…and a hint to the puzzle theme]).
- HAND PUPPETS (17A: [Kukla and Ollie, but not Fran])
- BUSY SEASON (21A: [Mid-January to mid-April, for many tax accountants])
- TURN OFF THE LIGHT (39A: [Nelly Furtado hit single of 2001]) – This song is one of the tunes that makes up the soundtrack of my college years.
- SMOKE SHOPS (54A: [Sellers of cigars and water pipes])
Had a lot of fun solving, and the paralleling entries of FIRST NIGHT (11D: [December 31 celebration]) and THREESOMES being wonderful fill (28D: [Groups like Lady Antebellum and Dixie Chicks, for example]). I initially put in “class” instead of CASTE (23A: [Social division]), which, for a while, threw me off because I ended up wondering if “Lero,” as opposed to the actual answer, AERO, was actually the name of a car (24D: [Saab model]). Though OPP does not show up in grids too many times, a constructor definitely needs to clue this as “You Down With ___, Yeah, You Know Me!,” one of the most memorable hip hop lyrics/songs of the last 25-30 years from the group Naughty by Nature (5D: [Antonym (Abbr.)]). If, somehow, you have no idea what I’m talking about, just take a listen and thank me later!
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: THOR (37D: [Thunder god]) – I’m pretty sure you’ve seen THOR clued in 6,257 different ways, so let’s throw in another reference to the Norse god, but do so with a sports tinge. One of the top pitchers currently in the game of baseball is New York Mets starting pitcher Noah Syndergaard, who is nicknamed “Thor” in part because of his long blonde locks, his last name resembling the mythical Scandinavian land of Asgard and his overpowering fastball — sometimes recorded over 100 miles per hour — that some equate to the impact of Thor’s hammer. Syndergaard made his debut in May of 2015 and was selected to the 2016 MLB All-Star Game. He also was the opening day starter for the Metropolitans in 2017 and 2018.
Thank you very much for your time, everyone! Have a great rest of your Tuesday and, as always, keep solving!
Amanda Chung & Karl Ni’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
This husband-and-wife constructing pair’s byline is popping up more and more, and that’s a good thing. This Tuesday puzzle has a fresh theme whose little surprise in the revealer walloped me because I had no idea what the theme was till I reached 50a. [Place for kitchen scraps, such as those starting 16-, 24-, 32- and 44-Across], COMPOST BIN. Oh! Yes, the first words of those four entries are all, in other contexts, food scraps you don’t eat.
- 16a. [Combat trauma], SHELL SHOCK. Eggshells—you don’t want to eat them. Not even on a hard-boiled egg.
- 24a. [Leave quickly, as from a parking spot], PEEL OUT. You could eat those banana peels, I suppose, but why?
- 32a. [Baseball field maintainers], GROUNDS CREW. What would happen if you ate coffee grounds?
- 44a. [Casino V.I.P.], PIT BOSS. Don’t eat a peach pit after dark.
One thing that slowed my recognition of the theme was seeing the longest Downs, BIRD ON A WIRE and OREGON TRAIL, as possibly/probably thematic, since two of the themers were short 7s. But it’s not generally considered a crossword foul to have Downs that are longer than some Across themers, and it’s never a bad idea to eyeball the Across clues near the bottom to look for a theme revealer.
Slowed myself down a tad by making 4d. [Low-level law firm employee] a FIRST-YEAR associate instead of a FILE CLERK. Oops. I also have never encountered NEGAWATTS, or 31d. [Units of power saved, in modern lingo]. Who is using that? Is this a “kids these days!!” sort of word?
Four more things:
- 30a. [Indian wedding garb], SARI. If you pay any attention to pop culture, you may have seen some wedding pictures of Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas, two hot young celebs. There are all sorts of non-sari outfits as well, but click through for a slideshow of the beautiful attire.
- 1a. ([It’s gone!]), POOF. This was a nice way to start off at 1-Across!
- Two crossing phrases with preposition alternatives: 5a. [Visit on a whim], POP BY, could be POP IN, too / 5d. [Forgo], PASS ON, could be PASS BY. “I was in the neighborhood so I thought I’d pop in.” “They just passed me by.” Those work, yeah? But they aren’t really better answers for the given clues—just wrong turns I took in a Tuesday puzzle.
- 30d. [Slight problems], SNAGS. I kept misreading the clue as [Sight problems]. Probably a good thing I just ordered new glasses, huh?
4.25 stars from me. Smooth fill, crisp theme. NEGAWATTS may end up in the debit column if it turns out none of us know this slang term.
Kathy Jaschke’s Wall Street Journal crossword—Nate’s write-up
Today’s WSJ puzzle asks, “What’s in a Name?”:
18A: SOCIAL NORM [Party animal’s nickname?]
25A: SAVING GRACE [Pack rat’s nickname?]
43A: ABSTRACT ART [Book summarizer’s nickname?]
57A: LUCKY PENNY [Lottery winner’s nickname?]
I liked how this puzzle looked at these phrases from a new angle, though some of the clue/themer connections seemed stronger than others. My favorite themer was easily SOCIAL NORM, though LUCKY PENNY didn’t do much for me. I did appreciate the gender parity in the themers, and there were a number of women represented in the grid/clues: Annie Lennox, Sheena Easton, Sophia LOREN, LIZA Minnelli, REBA McEntire, CLEO Laine, Minerva, Cathy RIGBY, and OLAN. Wow! That might be more women than men in this puzzle (or at least parity), which I’ll take any day. And a (presumably) female constructor! <3
The fill in this puzzle is largely clean, which I also appreciated. I certainly learned about PIMA cotton (aka Sea Island Cotton and known for its high quality) from this grid, and I had no clue that the EQUATOR passes through 15(!) countries. I’m not sure if I would have predicted that number to be higher or lower, but I wouldn’t have guessed in that ballpark, I don’t think.
Side note: Does GO TO TOWN really mean [Act with energy]? I have only ever heard that phrase in a more … intimate connotation. When I filled that in, I had a ?!?! moment of, “How did they get that past the editors?!”
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “It’s Not Unusual” – Derek’s write-up
The title is a play on the theme, which is revealed at 59A:
- 16A [Lubricant used at the front and rear of an automobile] AXLE FLUID
- 19A [Artistic interpretation of one’s feelings, maybe] SELF-EXPRESSION
- 40A [It contains numerators and denominators within numerators and denominators] COMPLEX FRACTION
- 59A [Snarky social media response to an undeserved boast (and this puzzle’s theme)] WEIRD FLEX, BUT OK
- 65A [Eddie Murphy’s role in “Beverly Hills Cop”] AXEL FOLEY
I will let the reader Google this, as I just did. Basically, this means bragging about something that makes you look bad or says too much. Each of these themers, in the circles, has a “weird FLEX” in a literal sense, and they are all different. I had never heard of this phrase until solving this puzzle, so it is now abundantly clear that Matt is more hip than I am! I’m not sure what the upper limit is for word count in a 15, but this is at 78, which is close, I think. That is not a negative comment, just an observation. I don’t remember seeing an 80, but I will pay attention in the future to see if a puzzle hits this number. Now I am rambling. 4.5 stars today.
A few more things:
- 24A [“Matilda the Musical” songwriter Minchin] TIM – I believe you.
- 45A [ __ gin fizz] SLOE – This crossword-staple drink is something I have never tried. I shall have to grab some on my next liquor store run!
- 71A [ __-Pekka Salonen (conductor soon to lead the San Francisco Symphony] ESA – There was a hockey player with a similar name, if I recall correctly. My guess is they were both Finnish, as double k’s usually indicate this language when looking at names. I learned this from my one excursion into fantasy hockey!
- 4D [Ancient stone slab (anagram of TESLA)] STELA – Us crossword nerds don’t need the hint, but it is a timely find!
- 11D [“The Smartest Guys in the Room” company] ENRON – I thought this was a book, but it is a documentary about this infamous company.
- 28D [“thank u, __” (Ariana Grande song)] NEXT – This video was just posted on this blog I think on Saturday! Even I know more than I want to about her private life.
- 47D [“__ Poetry Jam”] DEF – I have watched the Comedy version, but I have not watched any poetry. I will search for it later today.
- 49D [Double __ (Oreo variety)] STUF – I now believe OREOs are in every puzzle in some form or another.
Another Jonesin’ coming next week!
Michael Krebs & Theodore Krebs’ LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
It has come to my attention that the constructors of this puzzle are a father and son team. And the son is 10 years old! This is really making me re-think why I haven’t made a puzzle in decades. Perhaps I will make another puzzle when my son turns 10 in 4 years!
Seriously, I think this is phenomenal, and the theme is done exceptionally well. It starts off a little vague, unless you’re a huge REM fan. There are seven thematic entries, including the main revealer at 39A. There are six names in the grid: PETER, BUCK, HENRY, AARON, PAUL and SIMON. The clues where each of these names are clue a famous person whose last name is the next name on the list, and it wraps around at the end! Here are the names (I won’t re-type all the clues for brevity’s sake) and the 39A entry:
- PETER BUCK
- BUCK HENRY
- HENRY AARON
- AARON PAUL
- PAUL SIMON
- SIMON PETER
- 39A [What six people in this puzzle might be said to possess] TWO FIRST NAMES
Extremely well done. And I am not just saying that because I TOO have two first names!! The entries are all symmetrically placed, the theme flows nicely and the wraparound ties a nice neat bow at the end. Stick a Q in this grid and it would have been a pangram! If this is in fact a debut puzzle by at least one of these Krebs, I salute you both. A robust 4.8 stars for this one, along with a plea to make many more!
A few more things, mostly with a slant from a 10-year old mind:
- 29A [Entertainment award quartets, for short] EGOTS – Rarely seen in plural form (at least by me!), still a fun entry. The list of people with an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and a Tony is not long. This page is informative, including telling you who is close to getting all four.
- 34A [Pops, to tots] DADAS – I said from the eye of a young person!
- 36A [“Perhaps I’m wrong”] “MAYBE NOT” – I love casual phrases!
- 1D [“Arthur” TV station] PBS – Again, likely on the TV at some point in this household recently!
- 10D [Impatient after-school text to a parent] COME GET ME – A true-life story, perhaps?
- 24D [Dr. Seuss’ Sam-__ ] I-AM – See 34A comment!
- 37D [Meaty spaghetti sauce] BOLOGNESE – This was nice. I could barely spell this.
- 40D [Script for TV] TELEPLAY – You hear the word screenplay much more often. Nicely done.
- 60D [Boo-boo kisser] MOM – Aww! I’ll defend you, kid: 10 is to old to have a “boo-boo!”
I am off to work on the puzzle I have been tinkering with for a while! Have a great day!