Adam Fromm’s New York Times crossword, “Math Hysteria”—Amy’s write-up
The theme is a little tricky to explain. The phrases that are theme answers are interpreted as if mathematical expressions can represent them:
- 22a. [L x A], LOS ANGELES TIMES. Now, I cannot explain why L x A would not be LOS TIMES ANGELES instead.
- 39a. [x – y = x – y], SAME DIFFERENCE. A subtraction answer is a difference, and these two expressions equal the same amount, ergo SAME DIFFERENCE.
- 47a. [(A- or B+)/7], SEVENTH GRADE. Okay, 1/7 = a seventh, but (A- or B+) as letter grades, that’s not any sort of mathematical expression I know.
- 67a. [The “x” in x^2 = 666], ROOT OF ALL EVIL. 666 being the mark of the beast, yadda yadda. I really want this phrase to include THE at the start.
- 86a. [$$$/X], CASH DIVIDEND. You can’t actually divide dollar signs by anything except an S and a |.
- 95a. [3.BB], THREE-POINT SHOT, in basketball, rendered as decimal “3.” followed by a BB, aka the ammo called shot.
- 116a. [X^Esq], POWER OF ATTORNEY. An exponential power.
So SAME DIFFERENCE and ROOT OF ALL EVIL are outliers here, since their clues include actual mathematical expressions, unlike the other five themers. Eh. Not for me.
The fill felt a bit on the musty side, no? GLITTERATI sparkles, but DER ALTE, ESSO, plural ELMOS, OPA, and the woeful 117d. [Old-fashioned cry of despair], “O ME” (among others) brought me down.
Five more things:
- 63d. [R&B group with the 1991 #1 hit “I Like the Way”], HI-FIVE. Wow, oh wow. I was not listening to much music in 1991, other than the stuff I’d already been listening to in the ’80s, so I needed every crossing here, including two themers. Thought 67a ended with LEVEL, which gave me HEFIVE, and given that I have not heard of the group …
- 31d. [Elvis’s middle name], ARON. Yeah, this is probably a mistake that spread far and wide. Elvis much preferred the Aaron spelling. If you are stuck with ARON in your grid, there’s a Pokémon by that name, but you’re better off avoiding the entry. (This clue/answer combo upsets diehard Elvis fans.)
- 84d. [Sappho, e.g.], POETESS. Ugh. If you’ve gotta trot out a “ladies need a special suffix because regular words are for men” word, try to make it somehow relevant. Sappho wrote in Greek, not English, so it’s not as if she was known as a “poetess” in her day.
- 93a. [A short while?], THO. No, please do not do this. Don’t try to salvage a little, sort of junky entry with a cutesy clue. Though has other meanings that are far more common than the “while” meaning.
- 79d. [1993 Salt-N-Pepa hit whose title is a nonsense word], SHOOP. I wasn’t listening to Salt-N-Pepa in the ’90s, either, but their career was bigger than Hi-Five’s. Here’s the video.
3.25 stars from me.
Robert E. Lee Morris’s Universal Crossword, “Internal Conflict”–Judge Vic’s write-up
Here we have an anagrammatical “Internal Conflict” that, from what I can glean, is very cleverly laid out. The circled letters, unscrambled, are–well, see the reveal at 63a. What’s amazing to me is that Robert has assembled eight long answers–all two-unit ILSA’s (actually, all two-word phrases) with anagrams of words that we use to label human emotions spanning the two units.
- 23a [*Famous Hollywood eatery] BROWN DERBY–WONDER
- 42a [*Big burger side] LARGE FRIES–GRIEF
- 86a [*Railroader of song] CASEY JONES–JOY
- 107a [*Floor plan units] SQUARE FEET–FEAR
- 4d [*She played Penny Lane in “Almost Famous”] KATE HUDSON--HATE
- 15d [*Sweet-sounding Don McLean hit] AMERICAN PIE–PANIC
- 62d [*Savory pan drippings] BACON GREASE–ANGER
- 72d [*Sprinter’s footwear] TRACK SHOES–SHOCK
- 63a [Ambivalence, or a hint to the starred answers’ hidden parts] MIXED EMOTIONS
Well done, Constructor Morris … and Editor Steinberg, who uses no work-arounds on this puzzle. Perhaps we shall see more circles, rather than special instructions in with the clues?
Other floats in this parade include:
- 26a [Prime Japanese protein] KOBE BEEF–Only one prior appearance in a puzzle covered by the Ginsberg database.
- 35a [Hit the ceiling] GO NUTS
- 102a [Where grunts get grub] MESS HALL
- 9d [Southernmost UC campus] SAN DIEGO
- 83d [False teeth cleaner] POLIDENT–Only one prior appearance.
Strong showing. 3.8 stars!
Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Code Breaker” – Jim Q’s writeup
Quick writeup today since A. the matinee I have tickets for begins at 2 p.m., not 3 (as I originally thought) B. the absurd Daylight Savings Time thing (read WaPo’s take on it here) certainly isn’t helping and C. the roads are an icy mess.
For this oddly sized meta-puzzle, Evan asks the solver to determine a 7-letter word that is the puzzle’s code.
THEME: Morse Code. The words “DOT” and “DASH” are hidden among seven different rows of the puzzle.
- Row 3: DAS/H ; DO/T ; DA/SH ; D/OT
- Row 5: DO/T ; DA/SH ; DO/T
- Row 7: DO/T ; D/ASH
- Row 9: DAS/H ; DO/T ; DA/SH ; D/OT
- Row 11: DAS/H ; DO/T ; D/ASH
- Row 13: D/OT
- Row 15: DAS/H ; DO/T ; D/OT
The meta is fairly straightforward after finding each of the DASHes and DOTs. Each row represents a letter in Morse Code, and once you have determined what each letter is, you’ll have CRACKED it. And indeed, the meta answer is CRACKED.
To Evan’s credit, I hadn’t noticed the repeating letter strings until the very end. In fact, ASH [“Pokemon” protagonist] was the last answer I filled in- and I thought “Well that’s funny… ASHES [Evidence of a blaze] is already in the puzzle…” Interestingly enough, ASHES at 4-Across is not part of the theme at all. Must’ve driven Evan crazy being forced to use that word.
The title certainly nudged me toward a quick AHA since any form of the word “Break” in a revealer or title often suggests that a black square will break up a theme entry.
With constrictions like that, this is impressively filled. ARMOR ALL, SHORT ARM, TIN PLATED, SET A DATE, SHARKNADO, I’LL TELL, HAN SOLO, IT’S A TIE, and PRO BONO make the short list for me.
Most of the fill/clues are straightforward.
Also, I could not get this scene from A Christmas Story out of my head while inputting the code into an online translator:
Imagine the size the puzzle would have to be in order to get BE SURE TO DRINK YOUR OVALTINE as the final answer in Morse Code…
Fun Puzzle! 4.1 stars.
Paul Coulter’s Universal crossword, “4-H Club” — Jim P’s review
Jim P here sitting in for Jim Q. All the Qs in this review have been changed to Ps.
There’s a great big hint to the theme in the form of a giant H in the middle of the grid. Beyond that, each of the theme answers in a pinwheel pattern starts with one of the Hs that are the basis for the 4-H Club.
- 17a [*Cold cut that’s ironically dairy-free (note each starred answer’s first word)] HEAD CHEESE
- 58a [*Kale, quinoa, etc.] HEALTH FOOD
- 11d [*Kind person’s quality] HEART OF GOLD
- 24d [*Passes to everyone] HANDS AROUND
Straightforward enough, eh? The pinwheel pattern almost recalls the clover logo of the 4-H Club. It would have been cool if the entries were in a clover pattern, but that would be a much harder puzzle.
HANDS AROUND feels less standalone than the others, but I suppose it passes muster. “Hands down” would sound stronger to me, but it’s two letters shorter. And keep your HEAD CHEESE. I refuse to eat any meat that’s got that kind of a name. Okay, I broke down and looked it up; the description is even worse.
Frankly though, I didn’t know what the Hs stood for in 4-H Club, but it all makes sense. I was never in, nor were any of my kids in the club, though we considered it, especially when we lived in agriculturally-minded locales over the years. If you have any experience with the club, please share in the comments.
Top non-theme fill: SLIT TRENCH (which I never heard of; I’ve always just heard “trench”), EARLY BIRDS, ESPRESSO, DEEP-SEA, LEOTARD, and SNOWFALL (though I’m sure many on here would rather not see this in their grid). That’s a lot of strong fill. There’s not too much gunk, but those NW and SE corners are not pretty with their strings of 3-letter entries. Thankfully, those get worked out pretty quickly.
Nice puzzle. 3.5 stars from me.
Jim Holland’s LA Times crossword, “EU Trade- Jenni’s write-up
Late! So late! So here’s the grid with the correction signs because I had a typo and no time to hunt for it.
i’m moved to ask it again because i think this is his debut in universal (very solid puzzle, too) – does Robert E. Lee Morris really need to be using that specific full name in the bylines? are you letting him rock with that if you’re the editor?
He’s been using that byline for at least a decade. Suprisingly, neither Peter Gordon, Rich Norris, David Steinberg nor any other editor has seen fit to demand he change his name. Go figure.
Why “surprisingly,” Martin?
Sorry. Sarcasm indicator needed.
as i’m still not 100% positive which direction you intended the sarcasm, would you mind indicating your meaning by saying it
So you’re saying “None of these editors had a problem with it, so Erik is wrong to raise the issue”?
I suppose there are a number of other men, mostly in the South, whose names include “Robert E. Lee” (or “Jefferson Davis,” or “Stonewall Jackson”) as a shout-out to the Confederacy.
I’m saying I find it offensively presumptuous to believe that one has the right to censor another’s name, yes.
One is within one’s rights to refuse to solve the puzzle, or look away from the byline if it causes you pain. But to lobby for an editor to expurgate it is calling for another form of censorship, which is something I’m against.
IS NOTHING SACRED ANYMORE??????
NYT: That bottom section took the most time to fall sadly, between the themers and the fill. VARIG/GENESEE anyone?
Thanks for calling me out, Erik! I feel that asking a constructor to remove part of their name overextends my privilege as a crossword editor. That said, I may be the only daily crossword editor who has never gratuitously clued LEE in reference to Robert E. Lee, and I intend to keep things that way. I hope this clears things up.
NYT 22A: If you were using a calculator with reverse Polish (or postfix) notation, you would enter the L, then the A, then press the “times” key. In that way, Los Angeles Times would make sense.
HP calculators use RPN, which is very efficient and requires no parentheses. When I was in college, calculator contests with people who used TI calculators, which used infix notation, were reliably won by RPN users. Much gloating and bragging ensued. We were a wild bunch back then.
Not being a math whiz, I went simpler with 22A. 3 x 2 is three two times. I liked the clue.
I’m not sure why Shortz has been putting the author bios in lately. Other commenters seem to like these “personal touches,” and maybe I’m a curmudgeon. They seem silly to me. Just let me solve the puzzle. If I feel the need to know more about the constructor I’ll look them up on the internet.
My favorite thing about the (awesome) WaPo puzzle was how this time Evan’s Weekly LOTR Reference actually became a theme/meta entry!
NYT: I was pleased to see the constructor’s display of sensitivity in the Wordplay comments, where he stated that he was removing AH SO from his word list. It would be good to see the editors and other constructors do the same.
Me trying to figure out the meta for the WaPo puzzle:
1. Well, this puzzle is a strange shape
2. *many minutes pass*
3. Uh, no idea.
NYT… I loved this puzzle. I found it clever and lively and fun. Thanks to the constructor for an ULTRA fun solve. Dont let all the whining get you down…
I couldn’t agree more!!