Natan Last’s New York Times crossword, “Hook-ups”—Amy’s write-up
Neat theme from Natan. Seven familiar phrases or compounds that happen to contain a letter string that’s also a type of fish have those fish “hooked” and pulled “up” to the top of the entry. From left to right, we have:
- 1d. [Gym rat’s development]. TROUTWORKOUINE. WorkouT ROUTine.
- 56d. [Gave extra juice], PERCHSUARGED. SuPERCHarged.
- 4d. [Act overprotectively toward], CODMOLLYDLE. MollyCODdle. This is where I sussed out the theme.
- 26d. [The “Aladdin” song “A Whole New World” takes place on one], CARPMAGICETRIDE. Magic CARPet ride.
- 63d. [What might get you a “ladle” drunk?], PIKESDPUNCH. sPIKEd punch.
- 12d. [Role for a biology grad student, perhaps]. BASSLAISTANT. LaB ASSistant.
- 48d. [Surprised], TUNACAUGHWARES. CaughT UNAwares.
Well executed concept.
Fave fill: COOLED DOWN, STORM SURGE, PAUL SIMON, COLD FISSION (and the COOLED/COLD connection doesn’t bother me here), LARGE TYPE, STEAMPUNK, A VOTRE SANTE, FOUR-ALARM chili, CANNERY ROW, GENDERED ([Like “mailman” and “waitress”]), MANTA RAY, YEESH, MOTLEY. Unfave: I’M SORE.
Did not know: 43a. [Fate, in Greek myth], MOIRA.
Also did not know, despite being a teenager the year the song came out (it didn’t quite make the top 20): 3d. [1984 Steve Perry hit], “SHE’S MINE.”
Clue pair I liked: 13d. [Works with numbers], OPUSES (feel like we just saw this clue in the past week) / 21d. [Worker with numbers, for short], CPA.
Clue I like and want to steal (though we used a similar one for the plural in 2015 at my job): 66a. [Shoe with lots of holes], CROC.
4.3 stars from me.
Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “This and That” – Jim Q’s writeup
Happy Sunday! I’m going to try to describe this theme without being too wordy. Wish me luck.
THEME: Half of the themers contain two hidden words, both of which are aptly described by the other half of the themers that follow “A AND B” formula. Anyone want to take a crack at describing that more clearly and succinctly?
- 23A [Kindergarten exercise, or a description of the circled words in 31
Across] SHOW AND TELL, which can be found in HAIR RESTORATION. Show = AIR (as on TV), Tell = RAT (as a tattletale would).
- 71A [Like one vacillating between two extremes, or a description of the circled words in 53 Across] HOT AND COLD, which can be found in HOUSING POLICY. Hot = IN, Cold = ICY.
- 74A [Dicey, or a description of the circled words in 90 Across] TOUCH AND GO, which can be found in STAPLE REMOVER. Touch = TAP, Go = MOVE.
- 118A [Activity with many events, or a description of the circled words in 107 Across] TRACK AND FIELD, which can be found in HUNTSVILLE, ALABAMA. Track = HUNT, Field = LEA.
This is one of those themes that I appreciate in retrospect since understanding it wasn’t necessary in order to solve the puzzle. Essentially, I solved this like a themeless. While I did notice the _____ AND _____ pattern to half of the themers, I never bothered to stop and search for the cross-referenced clue since they were clued independently from the theme. Also, I really hate stopping to search for a cross-referenced clue unless it’s necessary, so I didn’t.
When the puzzle was over and I grokked the theme, I said “Ah, I get it. Nice.” And that was it. Evan seems to cycle through puzzle types (Basic, Clever, Insanely Clever, Themeless, Meta, and Un-Crossword Puzzles [“Something Different” or a Variety Puzzle]). I’m sure this isn’t a strict rule of his, but I feel like that’s a fair assessment of WaPo after reviewing them for this long. I’m bringing this up only because I think this is a very strong cycle and a great way to reach all different levels of puzzlers. Veteran solvers may shrug at today’s theme, but someone out there just got hooked because they were able to solve the puzzle and had a great Aha Moment.
- 20A [Work with Ajax] ILIAD. I didn’t hesitate to type in ILIAD (again, if you’ve solved enough Birnholz puzzles, you start to see through that clever cluing quickly). It’s a great clue, though.
- 9D [Youngster’s address] KIDDO. I’ve never heard anyone use this word without sounding condescending, regardless of the height/age of the person being addressed.
- 63A [Sonata quartet member?] TIRE. Car models make for great cluing fun.
- 40D [Actor Grint or media executive Murdoch] RUPERT. Just saw “Ink” on
Broadway. I recommend. RUPERT Murdoch just made an appearance in the audience himself. Read about that meta moment here.
- 66D [Gratuity rule at some restaurants] NO TIPS. I was just thinking about the top ten places I wouldn’t want to work… this type of restaurant makes the list.
- 109D [Man found in the vicinity?] VIC. Get it? VICinity. VIC is literally in the “vicinity.” Can we get a ruling on this, Judge Vic? If I were on the jury, my verdict would be “great clue.”
- 93D [Spherical Halloween decorations] EYEBALLS. Weird. I don’t see a lot of independent EYEBALL decorations on Halloween. I think this clue could’ve used a “perhaps” at the end.
- 84A [Three-part abbr. for a big U.S. financial corp.] BOFA. Erm… Bank of America? Sure. That’s what Google says.
I look forward to seeing what’s next in the cycle! Something tells me the heat will be a touch higher next week.
Mark Feldman’s Universal Crossword, “Musings of an Angry Patient”—Judge Vic’s write-up
I like this kind of theme. And I like this specific puzzle. It was fun. Mark gives us punny quotations from a series of angry patients, the pun in each instance being, shall we say, directly proportionate to the specialty of the doc involved. First, the themers:
- 23a [I don’t like my dermatologist because she …] GETS UNDER MY SKIN
- 38a [My ophthalmologist …] GIVES ME THE EVIL EYE
- 51a [My cardiologist …] DOESN’T HAVE A HEART
- 78a [My psychiatrist …] MESSES WITH MY HEAD
- 95 [My orthopedist …] COSTS AN ARM AND A LEG
- 112 [My otolaryngologist …] NEVER LENDS AN EAR
So, with a theme like this, it’s important that the theme answers be horizontal. With a theme count of 15-17-16-16-17-15 (96 letters), we’d not expect too much else in the Across domain. But there is actually some pretty decent and fun stuff to behold there:
- 33a [Fills up an Uber?] PILES IN
- 44a [Online greetings] E-CARDS
- 48a [Makes lively] PEPS UP
- 85a [Available] ON CALL–A nice little bonus to the themers, this one is!
- 106 [Cat carrier opening] AIR HOLE
And in the Down arena we find:
- 1d [Prodded] EGGED ON
- 7d [Soccer stadium cheers] OLE OLE
- 10d [Blocked] STYMIED
- 16d [One minding her own business?] MANAGER–Looks like an ILSA (man and ager), but isn’t. Plus, each of those medical offices has a manager, I am sure!
- 33d [Racer’s quick break] PIT STOP
- 38d [Deny] GAINSAY–Yup, it’s an old word, but it’s an ILSA.
- 52d [Confess] OWN UP
- 86d [Offensive to the senses] NOISOME–Interesting word. Good word. Not an ILSA, because it’s a root and a suffix, but it looks like an ILSA.
- 87d [Creator of 96-Down] C.S. LEWIS
- 90d Italian seaport SALERNO–Another non-ILSA that looks like one.
- 97d [Stick like a stamp] ADHERE–Another ILSA-lookalike.
Good job, Mark! 4.1 stars from me.
Zhouqin Burnikel’s Universal Crossword, “Sit on It”—Jim Q’s write-up
All rise… no, wait… sit back down, for a breezy puzzle by Ms. Burnikel on this lovely Sunday.
THEME: Things one can sit on make up the second word of two-word phrases.
- 16A [Reds catcher with 10 Gold Gloves] JOHNNY BENCH.
- 10D [Los Angeles, for Los Angeles] COUNTY SEAT.
- 59A [Lead attorney’s assistant] SECOND CHAIR.
- 28D [James Taylor, for one] FOLK ROCKER.
Initially entered FOLK SINGER for James Taylor, but one would have difficulty sitting on a brand of sewing machine without risking strange injuries.
Basic theme type here that is consistently presented, though SECOND CHAIR still refers to an actual CHAIR more-or-less. At least it’s more closely related than the others, particularly BENCH and ROCKER, which do not conjure images of the actual thing one sits on at all in those contexts.
TTFN is new fill for me… I assume “Tata for now!” Do Brits use that shorthand in place of TTYL? Other fill is mostly standard, though I liked FACE I.D.
3 stars from me.
Ross Trudeau’s LA Times crossword, “Elimination” – Jenni’s write-up
I love Ross Trudeau’s puzzles, and this is a good one. Each theme answer has “el” removed. Wackiness results.
- 22a [Cracked river barriers?] are DAMS IN DISTRESS (damsels). I got the theme immediately, which sometimes makes the rest of the theme answers anticlimactic. Not this time.
- 40a [What a generous mechanic might do after a wreck?] is THROW IN THE TOW (towel).
- 50a [David or Saul?] is JEW IN THE CROWN (jewel). Not just my favorite answer in this puzzle but one of my favorites of all time. I’m still laughing.
- 68a [Request to the local marriage oath writer?] is CAN I BUY A VOW? (vowel).
- 89a [Variety headline for director Lee’s U.S. debut?] is ANG’S IN AMERICA (angels).
- 97a [Magician’s tote?] is an EVERYTHING BAG (bagel).
- 118a [Talks about woks?] are PAN DISCUSSIONS (panel).
They all work brilliantly, and each base phrase is solidly in the language. I really enjoyed solving this.
A few other things:
- I didn’t notice the exclamation point in 28a [“Yesterday!”] at first, and I dropped in SONG since I had the S. Nope. It’s STAT.
- Interesting vocabulary: ELDRITCH, clued as [Spooky], and SAPID, [delicious]. We could also say it was obscure vocabulary.
- 61d [Creations with colorful blocks] are LEGO ART. This is a thing, and a very cool thing. I’ve seen this exhibit written up, and when I was looking for it on Google I found two other Lego artists doing sculpture as well as “paintings” and architectural models.
- 62a [Chipotle alternative] is not another kind of pepper. It’s QDOBA.
- One objection: 63d [Crunchy snack] is BAGEL CHIP, which crosses EVERYTHING BAG, which is pretty close to BAGEL crossing BAGEL.
- 91d [“Oh, that’s adorable!”] is AW, SO CUTE. I hear this in my daughter’s voice.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that COLADA means “strained.”
NYT might as well have been in Greek for all I could grasp. I still have a DNF and unintelligible entries in the far NW (which I see from Amy must be MOOK, BRAH, and BALL in some sense I can’t decode). I’m always annoyed anyway, thinking of that corner, of the frequent clue asking for a TV channel for a show. That’s obviously meant to require crossings, so seems to me that the puzzle had darn better have crossings that aren’t for a small club.
Hey JohnH. I see you’re a frequent commenter here. Just out of curiosity, have you ever shouted “Get off my lawn!” at children looking for a lost baseball on your property? After reading many of your responses (you’re quite prolific!), it feels like you have. I hope your Sunday improves!
Jim, of course he hasn’t! He’s a Manhattanite, with neither car (as we’ve heard from him dozens of times) nor lawn.
JohnH, [High pitch] + the word BALL … pitch, ball … are you making a connection yet? (Hint: It’s not at all about eunuchs.)
Also, JohnH, “obviously meant to require crossings” is not remotely factual. The vast majority of Americans do actually watch TV and know which channels air what shows. Samantha Bee’s “Full Frontal” show actually put on a “Not the White House Correspondents Dinner” a few weeks back. If you like political comedy with a bite, that is precisely Bee’s stock in trade.
Old people, amirite?!
I like to think I’ve defended some puzzles here that others disliked, but no question I just plain dislike pop culture trivia. I don’t have a lawn and don’t watch sitcoms and superhero movies. And do bear in mind it’s not just me. This Sunday NYT has an unusual number of very low ratings.
Amy, thanks for the help with “High pitch.” I should have got that.
And look, I know we’ve had this thread before, but I want again to insist on three closely related points: there’s a surprising bias in the puzzles, it’s not about being open or not to new things, and New Yorkers aren’t so bad. Hey, who in hell would want to live in New York who’s not open to new things?
I like to think that many solvers are at least readers of the NY Times even if they don’t live here. (The puzzles run in the paper, after all.) New York has a uniquely rich geography and history, and readers will know it. And yet if a puzzle once evokes any of that, Amy, for one, will surely slam it herself as obscure!, as she has before. They will know that there’s literature beyond Isaac Asimov, film beyond Star Wars, and the arts beyond Dali. And you’re telling me that Amy and others here wouldn’t call the puzzle out if it mentioned them?
I’m not saying that you have to have read Finnegans Wake (I failed twice) or even be able to spell it to do these puzzles. But why are they so about things that many of us just don’t need or want to know? Nor is it about age. I was no more than 20 when I read Virginia Woolf and Jane Austen, although my reading now runs more to new fiction.
As for kids playing on your lawn, New Yorkers also know about living together in tight spaces and appreciating strangers. They’ll be used, like me just half an hour ago, to doing laundry without complaining or taking offense when a mother lets her little kid ran wildly around the laundry room getting in their way. That’s life, and it’s not a life for curmudgeons.
Because “many of us” is just plain wrong, John. You don’t want to know them, and nobody suggests you should want to, but you are not speaking for the majority you imagine you represent. Comments like that are condescending and judgmental. Since people of color weren’t often part of what you consider culture and often fall into what you consider stupid trivia, you also come off as at best racially tone-deaf. At best.
You’re right that a lot of people didn’t like this puzzle. I heard that from a number of my friends who are more casual solvers and don’t hang out here. They didn’t like the theme gimmick – found it too difficult and ultimately unsatisfying. That’s a perfectly logically reason for the low ratings that has damn all to do with your “trivia” category.
The Samantha Bee program has made general news several times since its airing — it’s been rather controversial, so it’s not just some show on some cable network. And just about any popular or news-making program attaches its identity to its platform. If you know that Today is on NBC and The Late Late Show is on CBS, but never watch either, you know what I mean. Not trivial at all.
Thanks, Jim. It’s fair to say that I like to mix up the theme type and difficulty from week to week and I intended this one to be relatively easy.
My only slight objection is to the labeling of Basic/Clever/Insanely Clever puzzles. I don’t think of easy puzzles with basic themes as being inherently less clever than harder ones (if that’s what you meant by Insanely Clever puzzles). An easy puzzle might not reinvent the wheel, but if it’s done well, it can be just as clever and engaging as tougher puzzles. And like you said, it’s a big solving audience out there — it’s okay to serve up a Sunday puzzle that novice solvers can conquer every now and then.
I agree with the poster above – that whole NW corner was unpleasant. Plus I’m surprised “She’s Mine” didn’t get side-eyed for its overt toxic masculinity.
It’s hard to side-eye toxic masculinity in a song one has no recollection of ever hearing. (Also, if you listen to the radio, you’re hard-pressed to avoid songs that embody toxic masculinity. ’50s, ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, ’90s, ’00s, ’10s … there is so much to choose from in any era.)
The thing is, a song that peaks at #21 is not a “hit.” I can sing “Oh Sherrie” from memory (even though I loathe it) but can’t recall a single bar from this “hit.” Essentially they’ve made some 35-year-old album filler into a clue & are saying “C’mon how do you not know this?” It’s a vexing NYT habit.
Well, I guess you’re another narrow-minded jerk.
NYT was great fun for me! Thank you Natan!
Sorry, I didn’t enjoy today’s NYT at all. Even after I figured out the “hook”, the jumble of the answers just took all the fun out of it. If the “hooked” answer had turned into another word or phrase, then it would have been fun. But all I got was a mess. I finished it, but without much joy.
I started out not liking it [I often don’t care for Natan’s puzzles], but warmed to it as I went along and ended up really enjoying it. Trying to figure out the theme answers just from the fish was fun, even though the NW corner was a bear.
It’s a clever theme for sure and I was pleased to have completed the puzzle with only one bad square, but the cleverness of the theme doesn’t make it a very enjoyable solve, which is why I gave it a 2.
I agree with everything Dook said.
I love Evans puzzles and especially appreciate the easier ones. As a casual puzzle solver it generally takes me a week or so of filling in a clue here and there to finsh them (and occasional help from this site). So having one I can finish in a day is great and does make me feel good. I do appreciate the harder ones like last week, even though I rarely get the metas, I enjoy reading the solution to them here.
I’m a monday thru wednesday NYT solver. The rest languish unfinished in a pile next to my couch. A couple will accompany me on a long vacation where I can spend some quality time. The reviews help me weed through and avoid the more onerous ones.
Thanks for the wonderful reviews which are always a big help. And a special thanks to Evan who’s puzzles renewed and brought back my interest in the art.
Thanks for this comment!
That’s touching to hear. Thank you, Jon.
NYT: I enjoyed sussing out the theme answers which were all quite lively, and I loved the strong fill, especially things like STEAMPUNK, STORM SURGE, etc.
I finished with an error though. I fully accept BRAH as the correct answer for 17a, but I confidently put in BRUH which I seem to hear more often. In the split second that I checked the crossing, [High pitch, maybe] seemed like it referred to advertising, and I thought BULL might be a little weird, but it could work. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.
Not a fan of today’s NYT — the trick with fish names seemed bizarre and random, and some of the fill was pretty obscure.
Talking of obscurity, I thought at first that COLDFISSION was a mistake for the bogus idea of COLDFUSION, but evidently it’s real. But googling brings up only a handful of legit scientific publications, from some years ago, plus a whole lot of baloney. It’s inferrable, at least, but not even remotely the kind of thing your average NYT reader would have any reason to know about.
I enjoyed this puzzle – I’ve never encountered a theme like this and I found it challenging and rewarding once I got it.
Maybe this makes me “part of the problem”, but I never even think about the gender of the constructor or the political ramifications of the words in the puzzle, I just look at the words – so none of that stuff even occurs to me.
Anyway – one word-related point of interest for me was at 93A, with “HEADS” being clued as “HELMS”. Perfectly valid in one world – but on a boat they are quite different things. I enjoy it when I end up saying, “Ohhhh – THAT “Helms” or something on that order.
NYT: Was anyone else bothered by an “unhooked” fish (MANTA RAY) in the down direction? Also, the MOLLY part of MOLLYCODDLE is also a type of fish. Why didn’t it get hooked?
Didn’t like the bait?
Other than that, I thought it was a fun puzzle.
I had the same thought about MOLLY and it confused me, since it was the first theme answer I got. Didn’t think twice about MANTA RAY, but you have a point.
Спасибо за информацию!!!!!
NYT: I would have enjoyed the fish “hooks” theme if the answers had resulted in words or phrases, but “codmollydle,” etc. didn’t provide any fun. Early on, I guessed the “mollycoddle” clue but thought it must be scrambled into a real word. Alas, not so.
NYT. Loved the concept and loved the puzzle.
I’ve been a curmudgeon before about the little bios that have started prefacing the NYT puzzles. I’m doing it again. I feel like being told that Mr. Last was watching people fish when he got inspiration for the puzzle took out the joy of figuring out the fish hook theme myself.
I really loved this puzzle though. Even though I had no clue what channel Samantha Bee was on. There being a finite number of TV channels made it pretty simple to work it out.
WaPo: Another winner from Evan, whose puzzles are consistently good. So many clues that are clever/funny (a few have made me laugh out loud), and a great blend of fill — different parts of life and geared toward different ages — really well done.
I marveled at this one, at his ability to find the “companion” theme answers (with the circled bits) — all are in-the-language. Oh, and I’m a veteran solver, fwiw — I don’t always need mega-meta-contortion to enjoy a puzzle.