Peter Collins’s New York Times crossword, “Help!”—Amy’s write-up
The theme revealer is a little one: 109a. [Critical message that’s a hint to the six longest entries in this puzzle], SOS. Those six themers have S.O.S. initials: SAME OLD STORY, “SAIL ON, SAILOR” (which I’ve never heard of—whadaya know, it didn’t even crack the Top 40 in 1973, there’s no reason you should know it unless you’re a hardcore Beach Boys fan), START OUT SLOWLY, STRUTTED OUR STUFF (with that OUR stuck in there arbitrarily, just to make it fit the theme), SNAKE OIL SALESMAN, and “SULTANS OF SWING.” That’s two Sundays in a row of NYT themes that aren’t funny or particularly clever, just sort of … there.
Five more things:
- 126a. [Caribbean game fish], SNOOK. One of those words that most of us need to work the crossings to piece together, am I right?
- Ugliest crossing, square 92: AGRO clued as [Prefix with industry], crossing awkward partial AN ART, [Not a science, but ___], with another indefinite article already in the clue. Feh.
- 73d. [Please too much], CLOY. I dispute the clue. Something that cloys isn’t pleasing you too much, it goes well past the point where it stops being pleasing and starts being annoying. The problem isn’t that the thing is just too pleasing.
- 52d. [Dress seller], MODISTE. Not a common word. I think I learned it from crosswords. (Dictionary labels it “dated.”)
- Gotta laugh at the lower right corner, with that IMBECILE who’s TAUTENED and ENGORGED. Paints a picture, doesn’t it. Schmuck!
3.4 stars from me.
Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Home Brewing” – Jim Q’s writeup
Here’s a puzzle that’s after my heart! Beer on the house!
THEME: Varieties of beer are literally placed over different types of houses.
- 23A/27A PILLAGER / RAMSHACKLE
- 50A/53A STOUTHEARTED / SNOWSHOVELS
- 88A/92A DEALERSHIPS / LAUNDRY CHUTE
- 114A/122A THE DECIDER /DISLODGE
- 68A [Declaration about free booze, and a hint to this puzzle’s theme] DRINKS ARE ON THE HOUSE.
This is one of those puzzles that, once the solver determines the theme, it is helpful in figuring out the rest of the grid. I like that sort of fill/theme synergy. While there is no need to clue any of the theme entries wackily (they’re mostly straightforward), there’s plenty to like in this puzzle. I mean, c’mon… THE DECIDER was a great throwback alone. The only themer I didn’t like all that much was STOUTHEARTED, primarily because I’m unfamiliar with the term, but also because STOUT isn’t buried within the word like most of the others (see also DISLODGE).
- 37A [“___ but a scratch” (line from the Black Knight after losing his arm, in “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”)] TIS. Yesterday’s L.A. Times had a couple “best movie quotes of all time” answers in it. I wonder where this is on the list?
- 116D [Soft-shell item, maybe] CLAM. Hands up for CRAB!
- 5D [Wrap that you can’t buy at a food truck] TOGA. Hands up for SARI!
- 12D [It means “choose” with or without a starting S] ELECT. I love these types of clues that make you consider things about the language that you may have overlooked.
- 80D [LCD component] LEAST. Hmmm. I thought LIQUID. Perhaps this is referring to the math term? In which case I know it as LOWEST Common Denominator, but I suppose LEAST works as well.
- 30D [Bloody mary garnish] LIME. Yes. And I’ve also seen it garnished with bacon, shrimp, cheese, olives, green beans, asparagus, beets, and pepperocinis. Oh yeah, and celery.
- 88A [Lotus positions?] DEALERSHIPS. Clever.
If I were blogging this at night, I’d definitely have a brew in hand. But alas, it’s still coffee o’clock. Enjoy your Sunday!
4 stars from me.
Ed Sessa’s Universal Crossword, “The King Lives”—Judge Vic’s write-up
What Ed has done with the King here is–well, let’s watch it happen. First, the reveal:
- 114a [1957 lyric whose singer is scrambled in each starred answer] I’M ALL SHOOK UP–A line from Presley’s hit song “All Shook Up.” And then we have:
- 23a [*Like many Mediterranean people] OLIVE-SKINNED–There’s Elvis, not mixed-up, not shaking his hips per se, but shook up. All shook up.
- 36a [*Conservative show until 2008] FOX NEWS LIVE–I could have done without any references to Fox News, but there again is Elvis, shaken up.
- 54a [*Foie gras ingredients] GOOSE LIVERS
- 80a [*Dodecagonal, as a die] TWELVE-SIDED
- 95a [*Blue jeans pioneer] LEVI STRAUSS
- 16d [*Home to the Olympians] ATHLETES’ VILLAGE
- 43d [*Tempe football arena] SUN DEVIL STADIUM
With this reasonable amount of theme, it’s expected that there will be lots of other good fill. And Ed does not disappoint:
21a [Digs up] UNEARTHS
25a [Meh] NOT SO HOT
26a [Doesn’t take a chance] PLAYS SAFE–Used twice before, this one still bugs me a tad. I think the true ILSA is PLAYS IT SAFE. But …, it’s just a crossword. And, with two priors, it cannot be called green paint (that’s a rule–not!).
33a [Concluding period] TAIL-END
66a [“Impossible for me!”] NO CAN DO
109a [Snowboarder’s headgear] BALACLAVA
112a [Spend too much] GO IN DEBT
116a [Booker T. Washington, for one EDUCATOR
5d [Mark related to sun damage] AGE SPOT
11d [Collective celebratory cry] WE DID IT
17d [Ancient Mediterranean sea power] PHOENICIA
67d [Marriage blend] ONE FLESH–Only one prior usage of this term (watch out for the green paint!).
92d [Destroyer in 2000 news] USS COLE
Nicely done, Ed!
4 stars from me!
Paul Coulter’s Universal crossword, “Oh, Grow Up!” – Jim Q’s writeup
An unusually difficult daily from Universal today (for me, anyway!). But I like the concept.
THEME: The first three letters of each theme answer are synonyms for a male.
- 18A [*Barrier-breaking bang] SONIC BOOM.
- 20A [*SoCal ballplayer] L.A. DODGER.
- 53A [*Venezuelans’ neighbors] GUYANESE.
- 55A [*Temptation for Odysseus] SIREN SONG.
- 34A [“On Bended Knee” group, or a hint to the starred answers’ first three letters] BOYZ II MEN.
I had no idea that the II part of BOYZ II MEN utilized Roman numerals. It’s already such a funky looking grid entry and being fairly confident with BOYZI?MEN, I still had trouble filling in the second I. Doh! (In retrospect, I absolutely knew the spelling- just forgot during solve.)
My only nit with the theme itself is that it seems to suggest the first three letters should be synonyms for grown men. LAD and SON aren’t synonymous in my book. They both seem to suggest there’s still some growing to be had.
EMPLACE, JOGTROT, EGGAR, RIO DE ORO and GUYANESE were all hard for me to see as well. Also, I can’t imagine calling anyone a BARMAID without expecting said BARMAID to spit in my drink.
Love the clues for RIOT ACT [Babysitter’s reading material?] and CANNOT [Pessimistic word, even when “no” is removed].
Paul Coulter’s LA Times crossword, “Just Desserts” – Jenni’s write-up
We have yummy tasty puns for dessert today. No calories! Groan at as many as you like!
- 22a [Sure sign that Spot got into today’s dessert?] is PUDDING ON THE DOG (putting on the dog).
- 35a [Krispy Kreme rep’s agenda?] is DOUGHNUT CALL LIST (do not call list).
- 52a [Ice cream order toppings?] are SUNDAE SUPPLEMENTS (Sunday supplements). For the young’uns, “Sunday supplements” were the extra sections in the Sunday newspapers. Newspapers were….oh, never mind.
- 77a [Final roadside stop for an eggy treat?] is CUSTARD’S LAST STAND (Custer’s last stand). Paul is not the first to think of this one.
- 92a [“You’ve made the Heath bar perfectly!”?] is THAT’S A REAL TOFFEE. I actually don’t know what this one is, and I’m sure someone will tell me.
- 113a [“Nice apple tart, Christopher”?] is GOOD PIE COLUMBUS (Goodbye, Columbus).
Except for my mental block on 92a, I enjoyed all of these.
A few other things:
- 1d [Half of quatorze] is one way to clue SEPT without using an abbreviation. I’m not sure it’s an improvement. I studied French and I know “quatorze” but I doubt it’s in most people’s vocabularies.
- 19d [Hair holders] are SNOODS. Or at least they were.
- Yiddish left over from last week’s puzzle: KITSCHY and MAVEN.
- This is the second time this week I’ve seen KASHA in a puzzle.
- 80d [Typist’s left hand home keys] would have been more challenging if I’d done the puzzle on paper. It’s ASDF
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that ESPNU has a show called “College Football Live.”
NYT: The pattern of the puzzle spells S O S across a diagonal from NW to SE, and adds an interesting visual twist.
So it does! How could I have not seen that? *shakes head*
NYT: Raise hand for “hardcore Beach Boys fan”: I had albums, went to concerts, cranked up the radio volume when a BB song was playing. So I had no trouble with Sail On, Sailors, but I seem to be in the minority there. I liked the big SOS in the middle of the grid, too.
“Sultans Of Swing” does have an extra S that is not part of the theme. It’s too bad that the grid design didn’t allow the extra S to be in the revealer.
I’m a little embarrassed that although I have read HAMLET more than once, it took me several crosses to get the answer. Good clue!
I’m not familiar with SNOOK or MODISTE; I’ll have to find ways to work them into conversation. I particularly liked RADICCHIO and have just now added it to my grocery list. A dinner plan is forming…
One last thing: GO HOOS!
I really really really wanted Sultan of Swat [Babe Ruth] in there. :(
That would have been super!
Silly story. My now 28-year-old [come Tuesday] had many pet names as a baby, but one of them was “Snook,” which was actually short for “Snook the Book,” and don’t ask me where that came from [wife says she just made it up and that sounds about right], so I thought that answer was just an early b’day present. End of silly story. Happy Birthday, Snook!
I’ve been curious about the redesign of the Sunday Times puzzle page a few weeks ago, to make room for a few words of introduction to the setter. They’re maybe mildly interesting, but surely that will wear once we get to the same person a second or third time.
Here it contains a spoiler that the black squares play a role. My first thought was that we should be left to find this for ourselves, but I guess that, since the role is only visual and not intrinsic to solving as in some daily puzzles we’ve seen, it might even be invaluable. You sure have to squint a few times to see it.
I kept looking for my mistake after entering RSTLNE, but sure enough it’s not a mistake. Guess I’m out of touch thankfully with such things once again.
Though an ardent avoider of “Wheel of Fortune,” I knew RSTLNE from that show as though it were ingrained in my my psyche.
I’ve watched the show at least 30 or 40 times or more, but never catch on to the rules. The letters meant nothing to me. Still, the crosses were OK. Same for the first across clue, but worse. Never heard of it, but had it by the end. The rest of the puzzle was very nice.
The Wheel player who gets to the Bonus Round gets to select three consonants and a vowel to aid in solving the Bonus Puzzle. Since everyone chose a subset of RSTLNE, they decided to make a gift of those and let the contestant choose others.
Universal Sunday: How are OLIVE-SKINNED, GOOSE LIVERS, ONE FLESH still clued in a neutral tone in 2019, to ask the least?
OLIVE-SKINNED has a Wikipedia entry and a lot of Google News results, so I think it’s still fine, and not sure I see the problem with GOOSE LIVERS. But ONE FLESH would be better off as a straight-up biblical allusion, for sure; it’s a little dated in any other context.
OLIVE-SKINNED: I’m not comfortable with cluing skin colour by region or ethnicity (at least make it “people from the Mediterranean”), so I’d be happier with, e.g., a cosmetics angle.
You can’t separate GOOSE LIVER(S) / Foie gras from the traditional procedure of force-feeding. ;_;
And ONE FLESH invariably carries the biblical imbalance between man and woman. (Which should be a thing of the past, agreed!)
Jim Q – the first two in the grid SON and LAD represent boys, the second two GUY and SIR represent men – hence boys to men, the pronunciation of BOYZIIMEN. A great group out of Philly, my home town.
What does “ILSA” stand for? I see it in Vic’s reviews fairly often but don’t know the reference.
In-the-Language, Stand-Alone. ;o)
There’s also a great metal band called ILSA.
Jenni – You’re right about the custard one. That’s a very old groaner my father used to say every time my mom served custard for dessert. It was my seed entry for a dessert puns theme. One of my favorite originals that didn’t make the cut was “ICANNOLIIMAGINE – “After a long day of puzzle-making, I sure do crave an Italian filled pastry?”
The base phrase for the toffee one is, “It’s a real toughie.” I thought this was well known, but some folks over at the Crossword Corner were guessing, “It’s a real coffee,” from an old commercial. Others said they knew the expression. Maybe it’s a regionalism?
It took me a while to figure out the base phrase for ITS A REAL TOFFEE — I think it was a combination of “it’s a real toughie” not being a particularly idiomatic phrase for me (although certainly I’ve heard it) along with the vowel change — tuff vs toff.