Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle (Week 397), “Winging It!”—Ade’s take
Hello there, everyone! Well, given the popularity of the movie, in the form of numerous memes, countless references to it in other platforms and a “challenge” spawned from it, there’s no way around this fact: BIRD BOX is everywhere (37A: [Post-apocalyptic drama thriller starring Sandra Bullock])!!! Today’s crossword is the latest homage to it — and probably the most clever! A series of circles in six sections of the grid form a “box,” and the letters inside of the circles — read from left to right and continuing onto the second line of circled boxes — spell out an actual bird. I was slightly tempted to finish solving the remaining entries blindfolded once I figured out the theme, but having “EWRYTHBM” or “NUYKJUY” as answers to clues wouldn’t look too pretty…and they would be wrong.
- ASTARTE (14A: [Phoenician fertility goddess]) + SLINGER (16A: [Word after hash or gun]) = STARLING
- ARBORIO (15A: [Rice variety used in risotto]) + RESOLES (17A: [Fixes a clog?]) = ORIOLE
- WRY (36A: [Like some humor]) + ENSUED (40A: [Followed]) = WREN
- MADE DO (35A: [Managed somehow]) + AVE (39A: [St. crosser]) = DOVE
- SPARE ME (59A: [“I’ve heard enough”]) + PROTEAN (63A: [Able to change shape]) = PARROT
- INFLAME (61A: [Stir up, as passions]) + RAIN GOD (64A: [One prayed to during a dry spell]) = FLAMINGO
This was probably the toughest solve I’ve had on here since regularly solving the CN puzzles, as I got hung up a few times, especially at the crossing of ARLEN (15D: [“Over the Rainbow” composer]) and ET LA (19A: […____, títe, Alouette,…” (song refrain)]). Initially put in “abyss” instead of ABYSM, and that took a little longer than normal to untangle that last letter (27D: [Deep cavity]). ARBORIO would have been even tougher to get if not for the Emergency Broadcasting System, or EBS, as one of the crossings (9D: [Old FCC warning service]). As I’m tying this sentence now, the unmistakable, long-lasting tone during one of those tests is in my head. Ugh! However, this is only a test…and not a FINAL (55A: [Major exam]).
The fill in the corners, even when not including the non-themed entries, was really good, and loved entries like SO SOON (65A: [“What’s your hurry?”]) and AMNESIA (66A: [Jason Bourne’s affliction]). Yes, there’s “Bourne” in that clue and BORNE as an entry elsewhere in the grid, but I’m not chafed by that at all (26D: [Wind-_____ (carried by a breeze]). Then there are entries like BARGES IN (26A: [Enters without knocking]) and THIRD RATE in the middle of the grid that are wonderful entries as well (20D: [Hardly the best]). Here is hoping you did not mind this third-rate review of the grid before transitioning to the sportsball portion of it, which features an entry that probably was very tricky for non-sports enthusiasts…
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: YOST (13D: [Legendary football coach Fielding ____]) – In the first part of the 20th century, Fielding Yost was probably the preeminent head coach in college football, leading the University of Michigan to 10 Big Ten Conference championships and six national championships on his way to accumulating a 165-29-10 career coaching record while at Michigan. Many of his teams in the first few years of the 1900s regularly scored over 40 points during games, something that helped in the initial popularity and interest that was built in the game of college football in the United States. Yost served as Michigan’s athletic director from 1921 to 1940 and the Yost Ice Arena, home of the very successful University of Michigan hockey team, is named after him.
Thank you so much for your time, everyone! Let me know how your attempt at the Bird Box challenge goes! Have a wonderful day and, as always, keep solving!!
Erik Agard & Alison Ohringer’s Wall Street Journal crossword—Nate’s write-up
In August 2018, Alison debuted with Erik in the NYT and, now, we’re treated to her WSJ debut and her second published puzzle with Erik. Congratulations, Alison! We’re looking forward to many puzzles to come!
We have quite the tasty theme today … which made my healthy new year eating plan all the tougher! :D
17A: FRITTER AWAY [“Get thee gone, fried fiend!”?] – This is exactly what I’ve been saying to all the delicious morsels that have crossed my path since I got back on the healthy eating wagon!
27A: POWDER PUFF [Apply talc to a flaky pastry?]
34A: TURNOVER ON DOWNS [Why the breakfasting crossworder could only read Across clues?] – I know quite little about sports, so I had no clue how to even parse this themer when I finally finished it by getting the crossing entries. Sure enough, it’s a quite common American football term. Go sports!
43A: HONOR ROLLS [Write an ode to conchas?] – In college, I studied for a while in Uruguay. The word conchas has quiiiite a different meaning there…
56A: BUNS OF STEEL [What novelist Danielle eats for breakfast?]
Theme density? Check.
Wonderful humor? Check.
Consistency of theme? Check.
Minimal icky fill? Check.
Equal number of women and men represented in the grid? Check!! (Danielle STEEL and LIL KIM compared to LARS Ulrich and ORION)
I appreciated the clue [Jazz or Blues] for TEAM and the acknowledgment of the faulty CLAW in nearly every arcade. And it’s not a mistake that CURRENT runs right down the center of this grid – any puzzle Erik Agard touches feels exactly that. All in all, a solid puzzle and wonderful WSJ debut. Hooray!
Freddie Cheng’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
If you gather together the six answers to the starred clues, you get a BLANK CANVAS, on which you might paint a more literal BLACK BOX, TAN LINE, GOLD RING, GRAY AREAS, and a RED SQUARE and create a piece of ABSTRACT ART. The constructor explains (at Wordplay), “After seeing a Kandinsky painting one day, I wondered if I could also build an abstract crossword “work of art” using shape and color elements. I quickly settled on the idea of using entries that are not normally treated as colored elements to be reinterpreted as such.” Kinda cool conceptually.
Three more things:
- 11a. [Path of the tip of a pendulum], ARC. Nice clue. Mesmerizing, too.
- Asian entities in the grid: YAO Ming, TAO, IRAQIS, Yoko ONO, GAL/GADOT (she’s Israeli and Israel’s in Asia), Mt. ARARAT, and KOI. How’s the male/female split today? YAO, KEATON, AL ROKER, ENO, Dame EDNA (aka Barry Humphries), mythical EROS, and ERIC go up against NENA, ONO, GAL/GADOT, and REY. 7 to 4, or maybe 6 to 5 if you shift EDNA to the feminine side.
- 40d. [Opening strip on a package], TEAR TAPE. I’ve never seen that term before. I call it a tear strip.
Four stars from me.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “Hey Nineteen” – Derek’s write-up
Is it 2019 already?? Matt uses the “19” idea in the clues for the theme answers:
- 17A [Element #19, whose chemical symbol derives from the word “alkali”] POTASSIUM – Nice bit of trivia!
- 28A [Card game holding where it’s impossible to score 19 points] CRIBBAGE HAND – I haven’t played cribbage in 35 years.
- 40A [Singer with the hit 2008 debut album “19”] ADELE – It is about time for a new Adele album, isn’t it?
- 45A [Stephen King series that makes many references to the number 19] THE DARK TOWER – Haven’t read it; haven’t seen the movie. I should do one or the other.
- 62A [Golf course hangout known as the “19th hole”] CLUBHOUSE – I have been to a few “19th holes” in my day …
I half thought there would be 19 references to 19, knowing Matt, but that is likely impossible for a daily size puzzle. That would be a lot for a Sunday puzzle! This puzzle is rife with pop culture refs, as is expected from a Jonesin’ puzzle. A solid 4.6 for this one, which is actually the SECOND Jonesin’ of 2019!
Just a few more things:
- 19A [“No Hard Feelings” band The __ Brothers] AVETT – They need to have a #1 song to help crossword constructors everywhere! Here is that song:
- 21A [Italian city where “Rigoletto” is set] MANTUA – Is this a real city? I am not a fan of opera, so this is new to me. Perhaps one day I will become “cultured.”
- 38A [Actor Keegan-Michael] KEY – One of the stars of the Key & Peele show. Key is in tons of commercials and does a mean imitation of Penn State football coach James Franklin, while fellow alum Jordan Peele has another scary movie, Us, coming out soon. Watch the trailer!
- 3D [“Glee” character Abrams] ARTIE – Talk about obscure! At least to me, because I never watched Glee.
- 18D [Character pursued by Gargamel] SMURF – Let’s get that song in your head! “La, la, la la la la!”
- 29D [“__ Yellow” (Cardi B song)] BODAK – I got sick of this song. I actually don’t listen to much radio anymore. I usually have the news or sports playing in the background at work.
- 31D [Spaghetti __ e olio (garlicky pasta dish)] AGLIO – A new one on me. It is making me hungry, though …
- 46D [ __ Donuts] DUNKIN’ – I love my Dunkin’ Donuts coffee, although the company is soon to be known as simply “Dunkin”!
Another Jonesin’ is coming next week!
Mark McClain’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
Did it Tuez? I hear that is a Crossword Twitter thing, but I must not be following the correct people. I thought I was! Maybe I have the wrong notifications turned on! I will let 38A explain what is going on:
- 17A [National Portrait Gallery, e.g.] ART MUSEUM
- 24A [Freebies for tourists] AREA MAPS
- 49A [Rosary recital] AVE MARIA
- 61A [Puzzle solver’s breakthrough, e.g.] A-HA MOMENT – A great entry, since it hits home for just about every solver.
- 38A [Medium for many talk shows … and an apt place to discuss six puzzle answers] AM RADIO
I am sure the day is far in the future that there will be a call-in show about crossword puzzles, but maybe I am totally wrong! Let’s start one up! Perhaps on satellite radio so it reaches everyone!! All of these answers have the initials “A.M.”, and there is also the bonus AMVETS at 41A. There are other instances of the consecutive letters AM in the grid, but I don’t think it detracts from the solving experience. I had to actually look closely to find them. I don’t know what my time was; I forgot to start the timer evidently. A solid 4.4 stars from me today.
A few more things:
- 14A [Texas home of Baylor University] WACO – At least David Koresh isn’t mentioned.
- 9D [Yemen’s capital] SANA’A – I think this properly has the apostrophe in it. The actress Sanaa Lathan does not.D
- 22D [Texas border city] DEL RIO – Too many towns in Texas here. There are other clues for this. [NFL coach Jack] or [Actress Dolores] are options.
- 24D [Home of the Braves] ATLANTA – This is also the name of the Donald Glover show. I haven’t seen it, and I hear it is really good. He has gotten nominated for several Emmys and Grammys, but I don’t know if he has actually won any yet. (I take it back: a little research shows he HAS won. A lot.)
- 52D [Card game inducted into the Toy Hall of Fame in 2018] UNO – Yay!
I hope your Tuesday doesn’t “Tuez!”