Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Sound Engineering” – Jim Q’s writeup
A fresh take on the “Add a Letter” theme!
THEME: Phonetic sounds of letters (not just/necessarily the letters themselves) are added to common words/phrases to create wacky results.
- 22A [“Twilight” heroine, as depicted on Indian currency?] RUPEE
BELLA. “P” has been phonetically added to Rubella.
- 24A [Command to a kid to be patient?] WAIT CHILD. “H” added to Wild.
- 37A [Declaration that naturalist Charles and physicist Georg are the same person?] DARWIN IS OHM. “O” added to Darwinism.
- 52A [One planting explosive salad plants?] ENDIVE BOMBER. “N” added to Dive Bomber.
- 77A [Time when Pooh’s gloomy friend existed?] DAYS OF EEYORE. “E” added to Days of Yore.
- 95A [TV show featuring a sea cow whose performances are televised as they happen?] MANATEE LIVE. “T” added to Man Alive!
- 111A [Jamaican liquor you can drink on a late-night flight?] REDEYE RUM. “I” added to Redrum.
- 113A [Walkways for a show host?] EMCEE PATHS. “C” added to Empaths.
- 65A [Spelled as spoken, and what’s spelled out by the sounds added to eight phrases in this puzzle when said aloud] PHONETIC.
This was a very fun puzzle. I especially liked uncovering the revealer PHONETIC halfway through the solve. I was totally mystified by the themers I had uncovered to that point, and with the Aha Moment mid-solve it was more rewarding than finding it at the end, especially because it was also a huge help in figuring out other answers in the puzzle.
I wanted to start a slow clap for figuring out how to add AITCH (H) to a base answer. Unfortunately, the base phrase for that answer (WILD) is not all that exciting, so it was not my favorite of the bunch, but still…
I enjoyed the answers MANATEE LIVE, ENDIVE BOMBER, and DAYS OF EEYORE the most because of the liveliness of the base phrases (MAN ALIVE!, DIVE BOMBER, DAYS OF YORE) and the resulting, rather funny answers.
Probably the weakest answer was EMCEE PATHS, not only because EMPATHS doesn’t make for all that exciting a base phrase, but the letter EM is also phonetically part of the answer.
- 3D [Character in “Thelma & Louise”?] AMPERSAND. As in the character “&” in the title. Solve enough Birnholz, and you won’t need a single cross to help you there.
- 1A [Emulate Mel Tormé] SCAT. That moment when CROON doesn’t fit, and you immediately assume that perhaps there’s a rebus square.
- 36A [Had the items in this puzzle’s fourth row, say] ATE. Nice clue for what I can only assume is a coincidence.
- 86A [Castles in the ___] AIR. Seems like a wink to last week’s “Captain Obvious” puzzle, no?
- 101A [Pool table location, maybe] DEN. Hope it’s a big DEN, or a small pool table. Remember that episode of Seinfeld when they were using the conductor’s baton as a pool cue?
- 96D [Office holders?] EASELS. For pie charts? That’s what I’m thinking.
VIDEO GAME CLUE OF THE WEEK:
- 47D [Dinosaur introduced in “Super Mario World”] YOSHI. B.E.Q. called him a “dragon” a few weeks ago in a themeless puzzle. Seems it can go either way, but I definitely prefer dinosaur.
Erik Agard’s New York Times crossword, “Stoners’ Film Festival”—Jim P’s review
Jim P. sitting in for Amy who’s enjoying the festivities at the Indie 500 tournament.
Lucky for me I got a fun-filled grid to blog by our very own Erik Agard. He’s taken common phrases and re-purposed them with respect to stoner film culture. Let’s take a look.
- 23a [Stoner movies?] PUFF PIECES
- 30a [Components of stoner movies?] POT SHOTS
- 43a [Tension in a stoner movie?] HIGH DRAMA. Ha! Perfect!
- 46a [Stoner movie that flops at the box office?] SMOKE BOMB
- 62a [Ending of a stoner movie?] JOINT RESOLUTION. Excellent.
- 82a [With 84-Across, like an audience during a stoner movie?] ROLLING IN / THE AISLES. This is laugh-out-loud funny. The only question is…why do they need to go into the aisles to roll their joints? Can’t they do them at their seats?
- 98a [Bad actor in a stoner movie?] BAKED HAM
- 107a [Be behind the camera for a blockbuster stoner movie?] DIRECT HITS.
This is how you do a phrase repurposing theme (for lack of a better term). All the phrases are in the language, the modification is consistent throughout, and the embedded humor is the icing on the cake. (Maybe a minor deduction for the last entry where it’s the second word that is pot-related instead of the first as in all the others.)
Better still, the rest of the fill is strong and interesting. Check out all this good stuff: FLOOR MODEL, TREEGUARD, GOD OF LOVE, LOUISVILLE, OFF THE GRID, AMATEURISH, MEN’S TENNIS, SAILMAKING, MOTOR CITY, TOILETRIES, CODE SWITCH, CHICANA, and KEG STANDS.
Clues of note:
- 73a [Animal wearing red pajamas in a children’s book]. LLAMA. From the Llama, Llama Red Pajama books. Check out this article about the timelessness of the first book.
- 105a [TV host with the autobiography “Born a Crime”]. Trevor NOAH. I highly recommend this book. When I got it, I expected it to be funny; I didn’t expect it to be important. It is. But even better, listen to the audiobook of it read by the author, because you get to hear all the vocalizations and accents he employs.
- 62d [Dissident/writer Khashoggi]. JAMAL. Nice to see this clued this way.
- 63d [Big nonprofit that operates the Department of Defense Safe Helpline]. RAINN. Did not know this one. You would expect this entry to be clued with respect to actor RAINN Wilson, but bringing attention to the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization, is a worthy cause.
Wonderful theme and dazzling fill. 4.25 stars!
Oh, and if you’re in the mood to have your own stoner movie marathon, here are some ideas.
Matthew Sewell’s Universal Crossword, “Peanuts Festival”—Judge Vic’s write-up
This is a fun theme all the way around. Theme answers have funny, punny clues that lead to two consecutive film titles. These titles make grammatical sense and have some connection to reality. All the clues have a Peanuts reference, creating, in each instance, a third, non-existent film that you can make just as funny as you want it to be.
- 23a [Grodin/Pearce film about a treasured Schroeder souvenir?] BEETHOVEN MEMENTO
- 31a [Wheaton/Hendrix film about a friendship with Snoopy?] STAND BY ME WOODSTOCK
- 44a [Hawke/Dunst film about Charlie Brown’s emotions?] BOYHOOD MELANCHOLIA
- 66a [Beatles/De Niro film about a visit to Lucy’s psychiatric booth?] HELP ANALYZE THIS
- 87a [Reeves/Poitier film about Marcie quickly approaching Peppermint Patty?] SPEED TO SIR WITH LOVE
- 96a [Chaplin/Swayze film about Pigpen getting down?] THE KID DIRTY DANCING
- 109a [DiCaprio/Curtis film about the Great Pumpkin?] TITANIC HALLOWEEN
How and you not laugh at every one of those? how can you not?!
There is a lot of theme here. And yet, there’s plenty more good stuff in this fill. I like this little combo:
- 38a [41-Across pitier] MR. T
- 41a [Dunce] FOOL
I like these answers from the Across domain:
- 29a [Dials back] REINS IN
- 50a [Live-in nannies] AU PAIRS
- 64a [“Things finally add up!”] OH I SEE NOW
- 69a [Alexandria’s river area] NILE DELTA
- 117a [Taking five] ON BREAK
- 121a [Thumb-and-forefinger gestures] OK SIGNS
And these, from the Downs, are excellent:
- 7d [Feudal holding] FIEFDOM
- 15d [Hyundai compact] ELANTRA
- 46d [Objected to hamming it up?] OINKED
- 59d [What Brexit exits, briefly] THE E.U.
- 87d [Japanese china shop purchase] SAKE SET
- 90d [Job hunter’s listings] WANT ADS
Nice job! 4 stars here.
Kevin Christian’s Universal Crossword, “Rainbow’s Start”—Jim Q’s write-up
Apt Pride Week puzzle!
THEME: The letters L-G-B-T-Q begin each of the five theme answers.
- 21A [*Cowardly Lion’s creator] L FRANK BAUM.
- 32A [*Tot’s cinema fare] G RATED MOVIE.
- 41A [*Triad that consists of its root note, D and F#] B MINOR CHORD.
- 53A [*Young boy’s father, frequently] T BALL COACH.
- 68A [*Unilever swabs] Q TIPS.
- 1A [What’s celebrated in June, or a hint to the starred answers’ starts] PRIDE.
Solid puzzle with solid theme answers, though it’s somewhat odd to see a gender specific clue for 53A [*Young boy’s father, frequently] in a puzzle whose intent is to be inclusive. Especially since my niece has a T Ball game scheduled for 2:30 today.
ALTHEA and CYLONS were new for me. Happy to add them to my general knowledge. Now I hope they stay there.
Fun to see CHER make an appearance, not only because she’s a pillar in the LGBTQ community, but because I just saw “The Cher Show” on Broadway last week. A fun diversion, but I’d have to agree with the NY Times review of it.
Gary Larson’s LA Times crossword, “Getting Along” – Jenni’s write-up
I didn’t understand the theme until I filled in the final theme answer at the bottom of the puzzle. Each theme has a short A sound changed to a long A sound.
- 22a [Bash in a boxcar?] is a FREIGHT PARTY (frat party).
- 24a [Capillary?] is a MINI VEIN (mini-van). I didn’t realize this was a theme entry until I started to complain about it in the section below. Duh.
- 38d [Pancake cookbook photo session?] is a CREPE SHOOT (crapshoot).
- 45a [Senior taking lessons?] is a GRAYED STUDENT (grad student).
- 47d [Source of elegance?] is GRACE ROOTS (grass roots).
- 68a [Minor combat injuries?] are BATTLE ACHES (battle axe).
- 92a [Endure a Moscow heat wave?] is BAKE IN THE USSR (back in the USSR).
- 119a [Poorly executed karate move?] is a LAME CHOP. Let’s not use LAME as a synonym for “bad,” okay? It’s ableist.
- 121a [Pretend a true story is made-up?] is FEIGN FICTION.
The theme is consistent and solid. I didn’t find it all that much fun; that’s a personal-taste thing, though, not a quality issue.
A few other things:
- 1a [Observing Yom Kippur, say] is ON A FAST. I have never heard anyone say this about Yom Kippur (or Ramadan, for that matter). I’ve heard ON A JUICE FAST, which is of course something completely different. It felt like a reach and made me grumpy about the puzzle in the very beginning.
- Also not fond of RADARS at 12a. Is that plural ever really used? Speaking of plurals that aren’t really used, we have 36a [“I need a few __”] SECS. No.
- It took me a while to realize that 55a [Stops] was a noun, not a verb. It’s DEPOTS.
- 99a [Gait between walk and canter] is a TROT. In March, when we went to Iceland, I took a horseback ride and learned that Icelandic horses have an additional gait called a the tölt. It’s smoother than a trot and not as fast as a canter. Also: don’t call them ponies. It upsets the horses.
- I liked 127a [Wings you can’t eat] for ELLS.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that William KATT was in “Carrie.” That may be because I spent most of the film with my face buried in my boyfriend’s shoulder. That may be why he took me to the movie in the first place.
OFF THE GRID to me doesn’t imply “unfindable” but that one is generating their electricity locally (solar or a generator). Perhaps I’m taking it too literally, but there are a lot of rural homesteads here in Vermont (as findable as anything is here) that aren’t connected to a grid. Found that NW corner pretty tough, timely entry for the Kentucky Derby though.
When my husband was working in central Nevada there were a lot of people living off the grid in both senses – they wanted to be unfindable and that was the reason they didn’t draw on any public resources. I think the “off the power grid” is a more recent usage.
Universal 15x – Tballcoach should probably have been clued “Young child’s father, frequently” instead of …boy’s. My daughter played t-ball, too. When they’re old enough, I certainly hope my granddaughters get equal opportunity, too.
When I helped coach my daughter’s T-ball team [many many years], my co-coaches were moms. That clue failed completely.
My thoughts exactly. Thanks for mentioning it.
Kind of unfair to have LANDO and LEIA cross, especially with an obscure clue for the latter. There are people in the world who haven’t seen Star Wars.
Have they been doing crosswords for awhile, though? LEIA is quite common fill, and LANDO isn’t super frequent, but I bet it’s popped up in a number of Billy DEE Williams clues over the years.
I’m with Amy on Leia she and arlo and the alou brothers live on in xwords… To me CodeSwitchers and the school were obscure. I tried modeswitchers… It was a meh moment in an otherwise fun solve
NYT: UTES & UKES, I HAVE & I MIND, A TEAM & A LIST. MONDO, which was used by Dennis Miller in a commercial 15 years ago, somehow still considered “slang.” The ever popular TUTEE. An airline that hasn’t existed for two decades (well, it is next to OLD). The theme was a bit goofy but consistent. The fill was pretty FEH.
What the hell did they do with the numbers in the LA Times? They are so big theres no room for a letter.
What great theme answers! Baked Ham for answer of the year!
L.A. Times: I assume that the feign fiction theme answer is the pun for fan fiction, but what is fan fiction?
Fan fiction is a nerdy genre where you write episodes and post them on fanfic sites. Because the world needs lots of bad Doctor Who.
Ha, ha. Thanks, Martin
Martin’s reply is more fun, but if you want to know something and can’t wait for a reply, try an online dictionary or (blech) wikipedia. A surprising amount of stuff that’s new to some of us is established enough to be part of real reference books/sites: