Zhouqin Burnikel’s Sunday New York Times crossword, “Breaking News”—Judge Vic’s write-up
Upon finishing this puzzle in 27:50 (my Sunday average is about 40 minutes), I thought, “Hmm. Nice title + clever, punchy clues + a reasonable theme = fabulous puzzle experience!” (Yes, I think in plus signs, equal signs, and exclamation points.) And that is what I had with Zhouqin “C.C.” Burnikel’s 58th New York Times crossword puzzle. (By the way, where does she find the time and talent to construct as many puzzles as I see appearing under her byline?!)
The only problem was that I had not gotten the theme at any point during the solve. And I didn’t see what the gimmick was, even though the entire completed grid was sitting there, staring back at me. Sheesh! Only hours earlier, I’d volunteered to sub in for Amy, for the first time ever, to write up a Sunday New York Times crossword! So, there I sat with visions of sitting until midnight or longer. But, … one by one, I started going over the theme entries to see how DEAR JOHN LETTERS could be a [… literal hint to the answers to the starred clues?] (A question that I simply fought off was whether the foregoing quote from the clue for 117a, having as it does the word literal and a question mark–signaling, in Patrick Merrell’s memorable words, “that wordplay or trickery is afoot”–is an oxymoron.)
I wish I could have taken a selfie of my smiling face when the aha moment hit. Under such a photo I might place this caption, quoting my thoughts once again:
“HOLLYWOOD ENDING–Hollywood ends with a d. EYE-OPENER–Eye starts with an e. ARCTIC FRONT–Arctic’s front is a. RING‘s LEADER = r. I got it!”
From JUMP-START, we get the J. STOLE‘s THIRD letter is o. REHAB’s CENTER is, of course, h. And we wind it all up with ANY‘s SECOND letter, n.
Wow! My favorites, in the non-theme fill were these:
- 1a [19,000+-foot Peruvian volcano] EL MISTI—I’d never heard of this and was unsure of 3d [Big name in notebooks] MOLESKINE, so the M that is common to both was the last letter in my solve.
- 18a [“That’s way better than I can do”] TOO GOOD—Nice entry, clever clue!
- 19a As we speak EVEN NOW
- 36a [Demands serious effort (of)] ASKS A LOT
- 58a [Get soaked, say] OVERPAY—Took me a while to get this one. I was looking for something literal.
- 73a [Fish dish that Nobu restaurants are noted for] BLACK COD—I know now of Nobu. At its website, about 45 locations are listed worldwide. There is not one in Arkansas.
- 81a [Morning fix, slangily] CUP O’ JOE—This spelling and spacing is my call, folks. It’s not in authoritative dictionaries, though clearly it’s in the language.
115a [“No way!”] IXNAY—It’s so in-the-language now that to indicate its pig-Latin origin is superfluous.
- 4d [Houses that may include tunnels] IGLOOS—Who knew?
14d [Continuing source of irritation] BUGBEAR—Concise, accurate definitional clue for a fun entry that doesn’t appear much.
- 31d [Roughly estimated] BALLPARK—Yep, this compound word is a genuine adjective. Or can be.
- 61d [“I know the answer!”] OOH OOH—C’mon, you know you’re smiling on the inside when you see this one.I am.
82d [Apollo 13 commander] JIM LOVELL—Looks like a first appearance for Captain Lovell.
Grats to C.C. on an excellent piece of work. And thanks!
And I’m still uncertain whether the clue for 117a is an oxymoron. But you know what? That uncertainty adds, rather than detracts, from the overall positive experience provided by this puzzle! 4.5 stars.
Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “TV Dinners” – Jim Q’s writeup
After back-to-back weeks of WaPo puzzles with quite a bit of bite, I’m starting 2019 off with a personal solve record of 9:06!
THEME: TV Titles with Foods
- 23A [Animated sitcom to watch while having sliders] BOB’S BURGERS.
- 31A [2009 horror TV film to watch while having an edible ear] CHILDREN OF THE CORN.
- 43A [Computer-animated kids’ show to watch while having lettuce and carrots] VEGGIE TALES.
- 58A [Animated kids’ show to watch while having dinner rolls] BREAD WINNERS
- 68A [Reality TV series to watch while having canard a l’orange] DUCK DYNASTY.
- 80A [Stop-motion sketch comedy series to watch while having poultry] ROBOT CHICKEN.
- 95A [When connected to 103 Across, animated kids’ show to watch while having beef spheres] CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS.
- 118A [Channel that does not broadcast this puzzle’s programs, surprisingly] FOOD NETWORK.
Okay, perhaps I shouldn’t pat myself too much on the back for setting my 21x speed record- most of these themers were served up on a silver platter (pun intended). Although the only one of the set I’ve actually ever watched is the quirky ROBOT CHICKEN, the titles were mostly very familiar. I’ve never heard of BREAD WINNERS before, but it was definitely inferable. That area of the grid was the last section to fall for me since I had DIRGE (haha!) for DRONE [Bagpipes emanation] and BUFFY for RAYNE [Protagonist of a vampire video game franchise].
Both CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS and CHILDREN OF THE CORN I associate with the big screen, but they were produced for TV as well. And besides, don’t you secretly love a good gimme with high-real estate when you have a chance a beating your average time? The former entry being split across two rows may irk some, but it doesn’t bother me at all. Also, It was a common practice of Evan’s predecessor.
Anyway, a low-calorie way to kick off the year!
- 91A [Had a TV dinner, say] ATE. Sly little wink at the theme/title.
- 5A [Couple on an ice cream date, perhaps?] SCOOPS. Adorable clue/answer pairing.
- 48D [Potential answer to “Where’s the beef?”] DELI. For a moment, I thought “beef” was referring to a spat between two parties.
- 86A [Actor Alan whose last name is a homophone of a synonym of “dense”] THICKE. Fun way to differentiate this actor Alan from the others. I liked his cameo on This is Us.
- 79D [“Wanna play with the laser pointer?”] MEOW. I’m starting to love these types of clues for MEOW.
VIDEO GAME CLUE OF THE WEEK:
- 59D [Protagonist of a vampire video game franchise] RAYNE. From the aptly titled BloodRayne series.
Solid puzzle, and easy to chew. 4 stars from me.
Didn’t know this video existed until recently. Good stuff.
Garry Morse’s LA Times crossword, “But Is It Art?” – Jenni’s write-up
Even when the quip is funny, I’m not a big fan of quip puzzles, and this quip doesn’t really amuse me. I guess it’s a good thing that it was kind of predictable, since that made the puzzle easier to solve.
So it’s a quip. We have the quipster at 8a and 123a: STEVEN WRIGHT. The quip, spread out over seven entries: I WENT TO A MUSEUM WHERE THEY HAVE ALL THE HEADS AND ARMS FROM THE STATUES THAT ARE IN ALL THE OTHER MUSEUMS. OK, then.
A few other things, since I have nothing more to say about the theme:
- 1a [Ohm reciprocal] with a bunch of obscurely clued crossings is not a good way to start a puzzle. The answer is SIEMENS.
- Thanks for the quotation marks in 3d [Hosp. “room”], because the EMERgency Department is not a room.
- 14d [Circus security] had me thinking guard, not acrobats. It’s SAFETY NET.
- 27d [Dressy pasta?] is cute! It’s BOW TIES.
- 75d [Mariner’s home] is SEATTLE. I got the first three letters and wanted something on or near the sea.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that more than 400 million M AND Ms are produced daily.