Randolph Ross’s New York Times crossword, “Unemployment Lines”—Amy’s write-up
Take a word that has to do with an occupation, precede it with a DE- or DIS- prefix and tack on an -ED, and you’ve got a purported term for an unemployed person in that trade:
- 22a. [Unemployed salon worker?], DISTRESSED HAIRDRESSER. Note that distress is not etymologically connected to tress.
- 29a. [Unemployed nail polisher?], DEFILED MANICURIST.
- 46a. [Unemployed men’s clothier?], DISPATCHED TAILOR.
- 63a. [Unemployed educator?], DEGRADED TEACHER. In this instance, unlike in the previous three themers, degrade and grade actually are related.
- 83a. [Unemployed loan officer?], DISTRUSTED BANKER. Also related to trust.
- 100a. [Unemployed rancher?], DERANGED CATTLEMAN.
- 111a. [Unemployed prestidigitator?], DISILLUSIONED MAGICIAN. Definitely related to illusion. Would have been neat if either all or none of the theme’s adjectives related to the occupation.
Theme is okay, a tad dry.
Overall, the puzzle felt like it came from the 1990s—lots of older fill, awkward fill.
Seven more things:
- 14d. [Surgical tube], STENT. That’s defining surgical pretty loosely. Typically, a stent is placed via a minimally invasive procedure rather than open surgery. A little cut near a blood vessel to snake a catheter way the hell inside the body, rather than a big incision cutting open the chest.
- 21a. [When Hamlet dies], ACT FIVE. Since when do we spell out act numbers? Ought to be Act V or Act 5.
- 103d. [Headgear for a knight], ARMET. The word was only faintly familiar to me … probably from doing crosswords in the ’80s and ’90s.
- 7d. [___ tea], ASSAM. I had to work the crossings because it’s been a while since I’ve seen a tea clue for ASSAM that doesn’t pinpoint India.
- 31d. [Okinawa port], NAHA. Needed all the crossings here, too.
- 74d. [Source of a Boston “curse”], THE BAMBINO. As in Babe Ruth. I’ve definitely paid more attention to the Cubs’ billy goat curse than anything to do with the Red Sox. (Nice entry, though.)
- 53d. [You can page through them], BEEPERS. Unless you work in a hospital, it’s likely you have not used a beeper/pager since the ’90s.
2.8 stars from me. Too much fill like OCTAL CULP BEENE SITA SNAPAT DIEDON BRIGANTINE ISE STLO NAHA THIEU IDI ACETEN to feel like a modern crossword.
Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Change of Address” – Jim Q’s writeup
This week’s WaPo comes with a note from Evan: My parents moved out of the house in Highland Park, Illinois, where I grew up. I wrote this puzzle while visiting that house for the last time.
This personal touch is very… touching… for this multi-layered puzzle. And it’s a super cool tribute with which many of us can relate.
Also, I’m a sucker for a well-crafted Schrödinger puzzle, so this one had me at hello. Or “goodbye” I s’pose is more appropriate.
THEME: Each of the three Across entries containing circled letters contains a type of house, yet the letters H-E-A-R-T can be substituted for the down answers in those circled letters and still make sense.
REVEALER: I was able to figure out this answer without reading the clue (I was worried that the clue would be too revealing). I felt something cool was happening and I didn’t want a spoiler. For once, I was glad I did that, because the AHA was more satisfying IMO.
- 125A [Phrase about feeling a strong connection to a particular place, and a hint for substituting letters in this puzzle’s circled squares] HOME IS WHERE THE HEART IS
ACROSS THEME ANSWERS:
- 45A [Thunder and Lightning, e.g.] FRANCHISES. As in sports teams, I’m assuming. But RANCH is certainly a type of house. And a guilty pleasure, when it comes to sauce.
- 50A [Poison Ivy of the Batman universe, e.g.] VILLAINESS. Contains VILLA.
- 98A [Obtained another doctor’s diagnosis] GOT A SECOND OPINION. And there’s CONDO.
DOWN THEME ANSWERS:
First Set: This was the last area of the puzzle I solved, and while it helped me to figure out the theme, it was the spot that caused the most confusion.
- 31D [*Sound of laughter] HAR / HAH
- 3D [*Result of two people with incompatible values exchanging numbers, perhaps] BAD DATA / BAD DATE
- 46D [*Hoops org.] NBA / ABA
- 47D [*Angler’s acquisition] COD / ROD
- 48D [*Something in the end of a shoe] HOE / TOE
Second Set: Seems pretty clean both ways!
- 50D [*Certain spiritual practice] VOODOO / HOODOO
- 36D [*Where Marco Polo went] ASIA / ASEA
- 37D [*Strike] BELT / BEAT
- 29D [*”No ___” (words of refusal)] DEAL / DEAR (Love this pair)
- 51D [*Letters associated with watching films] AMC / TMC
Third Set: Super clean both ways!
- 100D [*Monopoly token] CAT / HAT. Even if the CAT weren’t a relatively recent Monopoly token addition, I’m sure Evan would’ve found an easy way to clue that Schrödinger-style.
- 90D [*Necessity for a stage actor, often] PROP / PREP. Yup.
- 91D [*Take ___] TEN / TEA. I prefer TEN. And coffee in that TEN.
- 92D [*It’s built for computers] CODE / CORE.
- 101D [*Crew member] OAR / TAR.
Circled Squares + Left-Right Symmetry + *Only Four Theme Answers = There’s something about this puzzle that is tricky. *There’s a helluva lot more than four theme answers…
Even as I solved the starred downs, I innately went with the answers that fit the clues for the houses. It’s only when I (lastly) tackled the first set of starred down answers that I realized there was something funky going on. Then, with the revealer in mind, I figured it out. My favorite kind of puzzle… when the revealer helps me to figure out the rest. Although I found the bulk of this easy to solve, there was a tension building as I didn’t realize the theme, and that pesky area that I couldn’t grasp.
I love Schrödinger puzzles. And there’s always going to be some give in the clues in order to make it work. Most of the answers here fit great either way. I loved DEAR/DEAL, COD/ROD, OAR/TAR, CAT/HAT.
It felt as if the clue for BAD DATA /BAD DATE was doing acrobatics in order to fit, and I’m still unsure if I understand the clue for HOE / TOE. [*Something in the end of a shoe]? I’m ready to say that HOE is the end of the actual word SHOE, but I’m also prepared for someone to mock my ignorance and tell me that the actual tool called a “hoe” has a part called a “shoe.” But if my initial instinct is correct, it feels like a ? at the end of the clue would’ve been appropriate.
Overall, this was really a fantastic puzzle. I loved it. I’m an occasional constructor, and I rarely talk about it in real life. But people inevitably find out, and I get these sorts of comments: “So I hear you make word searches…” “My biology teacher makes crosswords too for homework assignments!” “I know a website that can help you with that!”
In other words, the human element is lost on people. Or at least casual solvers.
I loved the note that accompanied this week’s puzzle. For once (really, for once), the embedded note wasn’t about how to figure out a trick. It was about a human experience.
And it was a puzzle made by a human.
And while I’m still unsure what DECKS has to do with [Diamond settings?], I know that I have wasabi and hot chicken wing flavored Oreos in my pantry ready for a drunken dare because a human mentioned their existence in a crossword puzzle.
4.5/5 Stars from me. 4.5 because I felt the first “down section” was a stretch. 5 because it helped me.
C.C. Burnikel’s LA Times crossword, “Extreme Weather – Jenni’s write-up
This is a good puzzle for a sleepy Sunday morning. It’s not my favorite kind of puzzle (no real wordplay, plus it has circles) but I can appreciate it for what it is. The circles show us weather words at the extremes of each theme answer.
- 23a [Many a character in “The Americans”] is a SLEEPER AGENT.
- 29a [Jenna, to Barbara] is TWIN SISTER. (George W. Bush’s daughters)
- 38d [Place to keep things] is a STORAGE ROOM. I dunno about that one. “Storage room?” Is that a thing? I mean, I know it’s a thing in that people have rooms for storage, but does anyone use that specific phrase?
- 45d [PlayStation 4, for one] is a GAME CONSOLE.
- 55a [Amtrak service] is HIGH SPEED RAIL.
- 112a [Bit of racket sport equipment] is a SQUASH BALL.
- 124a [“Enough already!”] is STOP RIGHT NOW.
A few other things:
- 1d [Part of ADA: Abbr.] confused me. I thought of the Americans With Disabilities Act and then I thought of the American Dental Association. Nope. The answer is ASST, as is Assistant District Attorney. I need to dig out my Law&Order DVDs and remind myself.
- 4d [Lingerie top with spaghetti straps] is a CHEMISE. They often do have spaghetti straps, but that’s not what defines a CHEMISE. It’s the straight silhouette.
- 11d [Not get everything you want] is a cute contrast with 15d [Get everything you want], but I don’t think SEE IT ALL is quite right for the second answer.
- Obsolete word alert: NUDIE (for [Skin flick] ) crossing NEGS (for [Photo sources] ).
- 78d [Sour cream blob] is a DOLLOP. Is Daisy sour cream regional? Does anyone else say “dollop” of sour cream?
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that OPRAH co-produces “Queen Sugar.”