Andrew Ries’s New York Times crossword, “Take One for the Team”—Amy’s write-up
Okay! I’m done with the puzzle but I’m not done with the theme. Let me highlight (mentally) the “one” letter that should be “take”n so that what’s left in the circled squares are the names of baseball teams. 25a ASPIRATES has the PIRATES and an extra S that’s circled. 27a is MEAT SAUCE, METS with an A. 39a CASTRO STREET, ASTROS + C. 44a SCRUB SUITS, CUBS + R. (I’m accustomed to just hearing them called scrubs, no suit.) 66a TELEVANGELISM, ANGELS + I. 84a FRED SAVAGE, REDS + F. 90a PAID RESPECTS, PADRES + I. 105a GRAYSCALE, RAYS + C. And 107a PORT WINES, TWINS + E. Those extra letters spell out SACRIFICE, which is in the grid at 76d with a “see note” clue, but I’m pretty sure that note will just point solvers towards making the connection I already did. Yes, indeed: “Drop one letter from each set of circled letters in the grid to name a major-league baseball team. The letters thus removed, in order from top to bottom, will spell an appropriate answer at 76-Down.” I think I would have liked it better without the note and SACRIFICE in the grid—makes it too easy! Given the title, team names like ASTROS and PADRES jumping out at me, and baseball season having just started this week, I’m not sure the hand-holding was needed.
I kinda forgot about the Sunday crossword till it had been out for four hours. Oops. So now it’s late and I’m tired and perhaps you’ve been wondering why there’s no Sunday post yet.
Five more things:
- 72a. [Hockey venues], ARENAS. Andrew Ries has (or had) a connection to St. Cloud, Minnesota—whose local university, St. Cloud State, has a top-ranked hockey team that … just lost in the first round to a 16-seed … for the second year in a row. My condolences, Andrew!
- 96d. [They have thick skins], RHINOS. No, wait. It’s MELONS.
- 10d. [Tremendous auditory pleasure, in slang], EARGASM. What song subsumes you in it because you love it so?
- 14d. [Traveler’s holder of bathroom supplies], TOILET BAG. What? No! Toiletry bag or case or kit, sure. But toilet! No. Anyone else now picturing a bag of poop? (“Hang on, I need to grab a TOILET BAG so I can take the dog for a walk.”)
- 82d. [Something removed when changing a tire], WHEEL NUT. Lug nut is the term I’ve always heard. What I’ve learned tonight is that Mr. Ries and I have markedly differently vocabularies (or he’s using the phrases that fit the grid, even though he also doesn’t say scrub suit, toilet bag, or wheel nut).
3.75 stars from me. There wasn’t any humor involved in the theme, and the rest of the puzzle felt pretty dry.
Ed Sessa’s LA Times crossword, “Pardon My Yiddish” – Jenni’s write-up
Punny goodness with Yiddish words placed into English phrases. Yiddish is transliterated from the Hebrew alphabet; there are multiple possible spellings of many words. All I ask for is consistency, and this puzzle has that.
- 23a [Bar mitzvah celebratory drink?] is a MAZEL TOV COCKTAIL (Molotov cocktail). I find this one disturbingly menacing, probably because an unexploded Molotov cocktail was found on the playground of our local JCC a year or so before Emma started daycare there.
- 36a [Incompetent drivers?] are SCHLEMIELS ON WHEELS (meals on wheels). Did you hear the one about the man who rode a camel down Collins Avenue in Miami Beach?
- 50a [Where decent people buy decent clothes at honest prices?] is the MENSCH STORE (mens store).
- 66a [Cream cheese promotion?] is a SCHMEAR CAMPAIGN (smear campaign).
- 93a [Trudged through a nudist camp?] is SCHLEPPED IN THE BUFF (slept in the buff).
- 115a [Disaster for a figure skater?] would be a KLUTZ PERFORMANCE (clutch performance).
A few other things:
- Instead of Scott Turow’s book, we get [Like Nash’s lama] for ONE-L. If you’re not familiar with the Nash ouevre, here’s the epic poem in its entirety, with footnote:
A one-l lama, he’s a beast.
A two-l lama, he’s a priest
And I would bet a silk pajama
There isn’t any three-l lama*
*The author’s attention has been called to a type of conflagration known as a three-alarmer. Pooh.
- We also have EMTS clued as [Ambulance pros] without reference to CPR. Thank you.
- 51d is [Peepers]. I thought of eyes and then I thought of spring frogs. I did not think of CHICKS.
- 71d [Sticks with the Swedish meatballs] is a slightly tricky clue for TOOTHPICKS.
- 105a is [U.K. utility cost limitations]. I didn’t think PRICE CAPS was a Britishism. Or is it that US utilities don’t have PRICE CAPS?
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that CACAO beans are evergreen.
Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Late Bloomers” – Jim Q’s writeup
Spring is here! Of course, for most that conjures up images of flowers… for me it’s weeds. They’re already starting to come up in the garden. Exciting. Weeds stayed out of the WaPo this week, however.
THEME: Flowers are “picked” from the front of common phrases/names and placed at the end instead, creating wackiness.
- 23A [White-petaled flower on a North Carolina university campus?] DUKE DAISY.
Instead of DAISY DUKE.
- 25A [Bearded flower grown by media mogul Rupert?] MURDOCH IRIS.
- 35A [To-do list item instructing you to flatten a yellow flower?] SQUASH BUTTERCUP. I want to know what else is on this to-do list.
- 62A [Talk smack about a cinematic autumn flower?] DIS MOVIE ASTER. Rather than DISASTER MOVIE.
- 71A [Author Shelley’s tiny Valentine’s Day flower?] MARY’S BABY ROSE. My favorite of the bunch.
- 99A [Extremist actor Romano’s purple flower?] ULTRA RAY’S VIOLET.
- 116 [Ruby-colored Easter flower, when shown to a studio audience?] LIVE RED LILY. Instead of LILY-LIVERED.
- 118A [Opium flower belonging to a rooster?] COCK POPPY. That’s a strange looking phrase.
The perfectly apt title very much gave away the theme for me. What else could “Late Bloomers” mean? While I do like the theme, and certainly enjoyed the puzzle as a whole, a couple of inconsistencies caused some pause. I had the most difficulty with DIS MOVIE ASTER. The altered phrase seems awfully forced, but the problem was that the three themers above it set the “rule” that the flower was the first word of a phrase being moved to the end. Here, ASTER is separated from DISASTER, which I didn’t think was “allowed.” So I left that entry blank for some time. When it happened again with ULTRAVIOLET, I understood that the flower need not be in front nor a stand-alone word (however separating ULTRA and VIOLET seems just fine, whereas separating DIS and ASTER doesn’t).
One other inconsistency with LILY-LIVERED becoming LIVE RED LILY, as it requires the solver to parse the “non-flower” part of the clue.
- 21A [Idle creation] Being used to Evan’s misdirection, I assumed that this meant Eric IDLE, and I confidently entered SATIRE. Nope. DOODLE.
- 19A [“Official instrument of the International Order of Travel Agents,” per “Angels in America”] OBOE. What a fun clue for a tired entry! So what if Googling that title in quotes only yields 282 results? Love it.
- 58A [Narrow inlet, and an anagram of 33 Across, 80 Across or 64 Down] RIA. They are versatile letters indeed. Too bad IAR or RAI weren’t elsewhere in the grid.
- 59A [Cosmopolitan location for travelers?] BAR CAR. “Cosmopolitan” as in the drink, which exploded in popularity due to Sex and the City.
- 106A [Mercury once seen on Earth] FREDDIE. Really makes me want to finally watch Bohemian Rhapsody.
- 122A [Routine response?] HAHA. “Routine” as in a stand-up comedian’s routine, though sometimes HAHA could be a routine response without the question mark I suppose.
- 32D [Service for streaming “Game of Thrones”] HBO GO. Someone house sat for me two years ago… I’m hoping she doesn’t change her HBO GO password, because I’ve been mooching off of it, and “Game of Thrones” is about to start…
- 51D [Film critic for the New York Times since 2000] A.O. SCOTT. New name for me! Looks pretty funky in the grid- tough to infer.
- 108D [With 56 Across, horror film franchise with a book called the Necronomicon] EVIL DEAD. Anyone else see Evil Dead the Musical when it was in New York? Or am I the only one?
No nits about any of the fill. Fun, playful, clever. Took my mind off of overthinking any nits I had with the themers.
VIDEO GAME CLUES OF THE WEEK:
- 5A [Video game franchise set in the 26th century] HALO
- 109A [Platform connector in Donkey Kong] LADDER
3.4 stars from me! Enjoy your Sunday!
Will Nediger’s Universal crossword, “The Tables Have Turned” – Jim Q’s writeup
A certain city in Arizona would dig this puzzle today.
THEME: The word MESA can be found backwards in three of the theme answers.
- 20A [Mechanics, informally] GREASE MONKEYS.
- 40A [1961 hit with a mailbox on its album cover] PLEASE MR. POSTMAN.
- 57A [University of Florida student’s 2007 plea] DON’T TASE ME BRO.
- 70A [Landform found backward in 20-, 40- and 57-Across] MESA.
One of those puzzle types where the title is what makes it make sense. I usually prefer when a title like that is in the grid itself, but alas, THE TABLES HAVE TURNED is way too long.
All three of the themers landed solidly, DON’T TASE ME BRO being my favorite. GREASE MONKEYS took the longest since for some reason I wasn’t interpreting the word “mechanics” in the clue as people.
Fun stuff in the fill includes CHEST BUMP (that’s a big step up from a “high five”!), the angsty teen’s KEEP OUT! door sign, and YES INDEED!
I’ve never seen OH NOES before, but in the meme era, where the word THE is commonly spelled TEH, anything is possible.
Also… not all couples are CUTE. Ever see middle schoolers experimenting with awkwardly kissing between classes after they become a couple for a week? It’s very, very far from cute.
3.3 stars from me.
Did you forget about this?:
David Alfred Bywaters’ Universal Crossword, “The Grid Will Make You Grin”—Jim Q’s write-up
THEME: The letter D changes to N in common phrases, and results in wacky ones instead
- 23A [Invention that would take you very high?] MOON ELEVATOR. That will take you
higher than any MOOD ELEVATOR ever would.
- 33A [Shakespearean storage unit?] BARN OF AVON.
- 48A [Kurt Cobain’s marriage to Courtney Love, e.g.?] GRUNGE MATCH.
- 51A [Preadolescent who seemingly runs the house?] BOSS TWEEN.
- 64A [Sports fan’s jewelry?] PENNANT EARRINGS.
- 86A [Some water and some salt?] BRINE TO BE.
- 88A [Thugs you don’t really need?] LUXURY GOONS.
- 101A [Teatime projectile?] STUN MUFFIN.
- 116A [Prized possessions of Descartes and Curie?] FRENCH BRAINS.
With a classic theme-type like this, every themer should land… and the good news is they do! The only one I didn’t like as much as the others was PENNANT EARRINGS, probably because there is another N in the word being altered. But BOSS TWEEN, GRUNGE MATCH, and STUN MUFFIN were a lot of fun.
Lots of theme, but fill was fairly standard. Coulda done without DUHS as one of the more awkward plurals I’ve seen. Some clever cluing, such as [Not-so-big shot] for BBS made up for that.
3.3 Stars from me.
Here in Australia TOILET BAG is totally in the language – perhaps a little old-fashioned. WHEEL NUT is in the language too – I don’t know of lug nuts.
Never heard of a SCRUB SUIT though, SCRUBS is the word I know.
I’d never heard of TOILET BAG or SCRUB SUIT either, and they did sound a bit odd. I’d never heard of WHEEL NUT, but then I never expect to know automobile clues without crossings. As a New Yorker, never had a car and, while having rented, never bought or repaired one.
I’m not sure what would have made the theme more satisfying. It would certainly have been harder without instructions and an unclued entry, but not necessarily better. I might have spotted some teams and wondered why I was seeing them or extra letters. In time I might have seen the word, but then puzzled why it appeared. After all, there’s no context for which to submit an answer.
One approach might have been no instructions but a punny clue for that entry, like “What some baseball teams need to do with circled letters.” Well, not quite, because they’d have to sacrifice THEM, not just sacrifice. Still another way: have an extra entry that isn’t the same as the word but the answer to a riddle, like “What the extra letters in baseball might be,” and then a fill like FLY. Maybe someone else can do better.
Under the metrics analyses that are now ruining what once was a pleasurable pastime, sacrifices are a no-no, so maybe some form of that could have been the clue.
But as someone who love(s/d) baseball, I was appalled at the theme. If it would have been any of the other sports, I would have been dismayed at someone having the b—s (in keeping with the theme) of assuming I had any clue as to the names of teams. And what of those that don’t follow baseball, how are they supposed to do this puzzle?
You don’t really *need* the theme to solve the puzzle. Each of the themers is clued straightforwardly.
You’re joking, right? There are so many sports names (teams, athletes, events, stats, terminology) in crosswords all the time. It’s part of the cultural literacy, the common ground, that we’re expected to be familiar with. You don’t have to know every hockey team in the NHL, but you’d have to live under an angry rock to have avoided ever getting wind of *some* of the teams’ names.
I second the thought that sports terms are used in crosswords frequently and are part of cultural literacy, same as books, movies, music, and politicians. I also wanted to add that I grew up in Los Angeles, where we drive before we walk, and have always heard “those things you have to remove when changing a tire” called “lug nuts”.
Shouldn’t the title of the NYT be “Take One *From* The Team”? (yes, I know that’s not a real phrase, but the current title seems like it’s just a bit off. Call it a long fly ball to the warning track)