Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle (Week 414), “Study in Black and White”—Ade’s take
Good day, everybody! Here is hoping all of you are doing well. If a constructor is going to go away from standard operating procedure in terms of constructing norms (e.g. every entry being at least three letters long), then a grid like the one Ms. Gorski has produced today is definitely one to emulate and appreciate! The grid is a tribute to one of the iconic musicians of our generation, BILLY JOEL (107A: [Born 5/9/1949, the iconic performer of the asterisked songs]), as he gets ready to perform on his born day at The World’s Most Famous Arena, MSG (75A: [On 5/9/2019 (his 70th birthday), 107-Across will play his 110th concert at this NYC venue]). The reason for the two-letter across entries and the stand-alone down clues above is to form the keys to the piano keyboard that’s on display, which is just amazing!
- ONLY THE GOOD DIE YOUNG (25A: [*Hit song with the lyric “They say there’s a heaven for those who will wait” ])
- SHE’S GOT A WAY (37A: [**Hit song with the lyric “A million dreams of love surround her”])
- BIG SHOT (49A: [*Hit song with the lyric “Well, you went uptown riding in your limousine”])
- HONESTY (51A: [*Hit song with the lyric “Everyone is so untrue”])
- AN INNOCENT MAN (60A: [*Hit song with the lyric “But I’m not willing to lay down and die”])
- PIANO MAN (79A: [*Hit song about a musician whose instrument is suggested by the top five rows of today’s grid])
- MOVIN OUT (82A: [*Hit song with the lyric “He’s tradin’ in his Chevy for a Cadillac”])
- WE DIDN’T START THE FIRE (94A: [*Hit song with the lyric “Einstein, James Dean, Brooklyn’s got a winning team”])
The execution of the grid and what it tried to convey is what should be the focus, and it is hard for me to try and single out other parts of the grid because of the sum of all the parts. At first, I thought something might be up going across the stand-alone down entries, but no dice. The OBIE Awards are this month, and it reminded me of a couple of wonderful off-Broadway plays that I got a chance to write about/cover and now wish I could do that a little more (110A: [Theater award]). I personally know one wonderful director, Layon Gray, who had a couple of well-reviewed off-Broadway plays that I covered, including Black Angels of Tuskegee. Definitely hope you look it up and that there’s an opportunity to see a recording of it online. I’m in Boston at a basketball game at the moment and I’m sharing the same breathing air as MARV (64D: [Sportscaster Albert]), who is here for TNT broadcasting this Milwaukee Bucks-Boston Celtics NBA playoff game (52D: [Hoops org.]). OK, we start the blog with Billy Joel and we’ll end it with him…sort of.
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: WE DIDN’T START THE FIRE (94A: [*Hit song with the lyric “Einstein, James Dean, Brooklyn’s got a winning team”]) – What’s being referenced in the “Brooklyn’s got a winning team” part of the song is, almost certainly, the 1955 Brooklyn Dodgers baseball team that finally won the World Series over the hated New York Yankees after the Yankees had defeated the Dodgers in the Fall Classic five different times over a 15-year span prior to that (1941, 1947, 1949, 1952, 1953). The series victory in seven games over the Yankees was the only World Series the Dodgers won as a franchise while in Brooklyn before moving to Los Angeles in 1958. Since then, the Dodgers have won five more World Series titles, but all while located in the shadows of Hollywood (1959, 1963, 1965, 1981, 1988).
Thank you so much for the time, everyone! Have a wonderful rest of your Tuesday and, as always, keep solving!!
Ross Trudeau’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap
Long day, plus an early day tomorrow, so let’s be quick. Revealer: 49a. [Icing on the cake … or a hint to 20-, 24-, 35- and 43-Across], FINISHING TOUCH. The other four themers end with words that, in other contexts, are also a type of touch: BUY A PIG IN A POKE, EXOTIC PET, THIS IS SPINAL TAP, SUNSTROKE (less common than generic heatstroke, no?).
Like: CRAISINS, BROCA’S AREA, NOT AGAIN. Don’t like: odd POP ON, dated IROC, hard-for-Tuesday Italian UOMO.
39a. [Anti-rust coatings], ZINCS. Why clue this, weirdly, as a plural noun when it’s also a verb?
3.75 stars from me.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “A Few Good Turns” – Derek’s write-up
The flavortext says we are “cycling through,” and in a literal sense. All the them answers have the iterations of the word OVER if you keep moving a letter to the end. So we have OVER, VERO, EROV, and ROVE represented in sequence in the theme answers:
- 17A [Luxury SUV manufactured in the U.K.] RANGE ROVER
- 62A [Relinquished] HANDED OVER
- 11D [Semi-aquatic mammal with webbed feet] RIVER OTTER
- 29D [Gave a thumbs-up to] APPROVED OF
I was thinking it would be nice to have a revealer, but there is no way to do that cleanly and not repeat a word. TURNOVER quickly came to mind, but that may have actually made the puzzle worse. There are circles and a title, and in this case that seems to suffice, whereas in NYT or LAT puzzles that generally have no titles during the week, things are a little different. Fun puzzle this week, and not too hard either. 4.3 stars today.
Some high points for me:
- 14A [Cookie with a “Game of Thrones” variety in 2019] OREO – … because of COURSE they did! I wonder what flavor they are?
- 38A [2 + 1, in Italy] TRE – Maths is hard.
- 45A [“Mr.” in “Elmo’s World” segments] NOODLE – Never heard of him. I consulted my 6 year old, and HE never heard of him. He also doesn’t watch this much, so there’s that!
- 54A [John who appears in a 2019 episode of “The Twilight Zone”] CHO – I saw this episode, and the new Twilight Zone episodes are excellent.
- 7D [Type of party chronicled in Mixmag] RAVE – Never heard of Mixmag. Also, never been to a rave. I am old.
- 28D [Shakespearean character in the NATO Phonetic Alphabet] ROMEO – This phonetic alphabet comes up a lot in puzzles, so this is a nice somewhat fresh way to clue a common answer.
- 31D [He gets knighted in “Cars 2”] MATER – He does? I’ll have to rewatch it!
- 40D [Strong holds] CLENCHES – Oh, THAT kind of “hold.” This one fooled me for a bit!
Another Jonesin’ is coming next week!
Mark McClain’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
Even though I was solving Downs Only, I had an idea of what the theme was fairly early on, especially since most of the theme answers are in the downs. The revealer appears to be in the clue for 63A, but that also seemed evident while solving. Here are the themers:
- 16A [*Privates’ training site] BOOT CAMP
- 5D [*Unlimited budget, figuratively] BLANK CHECK
- 10D [*Uris WWII novel] BATTLE CRY
- 29D [*System with only ones and zeros] BINARY CODE
- 35D [*Picture-taking Brownie] BOX CAMERA
- 63A [Apparent setting for a two-letter comic strip suggested by the answers to starred clues] STONE AGE
So all of the theme answers have the initials “B.C.”, like the famous comic strip that has been around for years. (According to Wikipedia, it has been around since 1958, although the original cartoonist passed away over ten years ago.) Not too complicated, but then it shouldn’t be on a Tuesday. Nice puzzle, Mark! 4.4 stars for this one.
Some highlights for me (from the Downs Only, of course!):
- 1D [Conspiratorial group] CABAL – This is slightly tough for a Tuesday, but it’s a word worth learning if you don’t know it.
- 2D [Garlicky sauce] AIOLI – It was either this or PESTO, but the latter isn’t really “garlicky.” It’s just another five letter sauce!
- 6D [Popular Girl Scout cookie] SAMOA – Not more popular than thin mints! (At least in the Allen household!)
- 7D [Lab tube] PIPETTE – This is also slightly tough, since my mind was on BEAKER or FLASK. Or maybe I was just tired!
- 8D [Narrow, bony fish] GAR – This is definitely quite crosswordese-y. There was a basketball player Gar Heard from the 70s, but I am a sports fan. He is not a Hall of Famer, but it would be nice if he was!
- 17D [Prepared to drive, in golf] TEED UP – I am volunteering at the US Senior Open at the end of June. I have never seen pros hit a golf ball up close, even if they are pros over 50. It is right around the corner from my house at Notre Dame’s Warren Golf Course, so travel is not an issue!
- 33D [Wile E. Coyote vendor] ACME – They just don’t make cartoons like this anymore.
- 34D [Open __: scans for the claustrophobic] MRIS – Not usually pluralized, but I suppose it can be. MRIS ARE a little claustrophobic. I try to just close my eyes and listen to whatever is on the headphones.
- 57D [Hefty Cartwright brother] HOSS – This is a Bonanza reference, a show I didn’t watch much. It was on in syndication a lot when I was younger, I just never got into it. Hard to watch hour shows when you’re under 10 years old!
Have a great week!
Will Nediger’s Universal Crossword, “By the Way”—Jim Q’s write-up
P.S. Why is “post script” a thing, but not “pre-script”? I consider this my pre-script right now, but I don’t know how to abbreviate it.
THEME: The letters PS are added to the ends of base phrases to create wacky ones.
- 17A [Notifications on a certain dating app?] BUMBLE BEEPS. As opposed to TINDER
- 28A [Atwood’s writing skills, e.g.?] MARGARET CHOPS.
- 41A [Operating room suggestion] USE THE FORCEPS.
- 56A [Words added to letters, or a hint to the ends of 17-, 28-, and 41-Across] POST SCRIPTS.
Cute add-some-letters theme with PS aptly at the end of each of the themers. BUMBLE BEEPS and USE THE FORCEPS both landed strongly for me. With only three theme answers (not including the revealer), I would’ve liked the third to be equally as strong and entertaining. However, MARGARET CHOPS uses MARGARET CHO as the base phrase, then simply clues a different Margaret (the others feel like they undergo more of a change).
I liked the clue for CHEETOS [They stain your fingers orange] because it is totally accurate. I don’t know of anyone who has successfully polished of a bag of CHEETOS without some funky looking fingertips afterwards. Takis have the same effect. Just red instead.
Gary Larson’s Wall Street Journal Crossword, “Where the Boys Are”—Erik’s write-up
Gary Larson wrote last Thursday’s puzzle, took Friday off, wrote the big 21×21 puzzle for Saturday, had a nice long weekend, and now he’s back with the Tuesday. That’s some Mike Shenk-level prolificness right there!
Meanwhile, as far as I can tell, the last time a woman constructor wrote the WSJ puzzle was March 26th. (April 10th if you count the wonderful women of the JASA Crossword Class.) I’d love to hear from the WSJ team, as well as any women constructors who do or don’t submit there, about why this might be the case. Comments section is open, and so is my inbox.
Onto the puzzle. The starts of five answers is where the boys are:
- 17a [Like high school dances] CHAPERONED.
- 24a [Variety of orange] MANDARIN.
- 39a [Non-Jew] GENTILE.
- 50a [Venezuelan’s neighbors] GUYANESE. ??????????
- 62a [Villainous] MALEVOLENT. I plunked down MALEFICENT and then floundered in that section for several minutes.
I thought this gimmick seemed familiar, so I searched Crossword Tracker and found this puzzle from exactly a month ago (same GUYANESE clue, even!). The duplication didn’t detract from my solving experience at all. I like the revealer and the sequential nature of that version; I love how smooth the fill is in this one. Only SEAMY and a smattering of proper nouns (never heard of NYTOL or THE WALL; only know YALTA from puzzles) felt a bit tough for an early-week puzzle. There’s not a lot of flashy long answers, but it’s so well-crafted that I don’t need those.
One more thing:
- 39d [Davis of “Thelma & Louise”] GEENA. Has anyone seen Dead to Me on Netflix? I binged it last week and it gave me serious T&L vibes, despite being not at all the same thing plot-wise. Riveting show, and crossword staple ED ASNER plays a role.
Thanks to Larson et al. for the workout!