Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Model Citizens” – Jim Q’s writeup
Car models and crosswords. A match made in heaven.
THEME: Common phrases that contain a car model reimagined as if the car belongs to a celebrity.
- 23A [Honda driven by Jackie Chan?] STUNT PILOT.
- 25A [Kia driven by Marilyn Horne?] MEZZO FORTE.
- 35A [Dodge driven by Alexander Graham Bell?] PHONE CHARGER.
- 58A [Volkswagen driven by Jacques Cousteau?] WATER BEETLE.
- 66A [Hyundai driven by Vladimir Horowitz?] PIANO SONATA.
- 76A [Nissan driven by Edwin Hubble?] GALAXY QUEST.
- 97A [Mitsubishi driven by Neil Armstrong?] LUNAR ECLIPSE.
- 112A [Acura driven by Joan Baez?] FOLK LEGEND.
- 114A [Ford driven by Ella Fitzgerald?] JAZZ FUSION.
After last week’s (very) impressive meta, I was expecting something light and over-the-plate in the cycle. And that’s what this is: a fun, mostly easy puzzle with wordplay on car models.
The theme works best if you don’t overthink it. If you do, the connection between the person in the clue and the answer might leave you somewhat confused as they aren’t entirely consistent throughout. For instance, Joan Baez is a FOLK LEGEND. But Graham Bell isn’t a PHONE CHARGER. He is associated with the phone, of course. But LUNAR, being an adjective, throws off that line of thinking for Armstrong. Hubble feels associated with the whole answer as he was on a GALAXY QUEST of sorts, and Horowitz has certainly played PIANO SONATAs, but I doubt Cousteau had much interaction with WATER BEETLEs, though he was certainly interested in WATER.
And there ya’ go. I just overthought it. Tsk tsk. It’s not the kind of puzzle that deserves those kinds of analytics. Evan’s predecessor, Merl Reagle, never cared about that level of cohesion either.
Mostly standard fill- lighter on the puns than usual imo- but still some good stuff like:
- 56A [What you’ll see when you look in the mirror] GLASS. It might be a week after Father’s Day, but it’s never too late to enjoy a good dad joke.
- 8D [Something dropped during a prank] TROU. Student at my school recently pulled a good ol’ fashioned mooning prank in grand fashion. I didn’t know people did that anymore. I sort of admired the retro audacity.
- 17D [One drawing lots?] ARTIST. As in the ARTIST draws “a lot.”
- 24D [“I must be off!”] TIME TO GO. I like that entry. It has a sing-song quality to it.
- 60D [“Obama, Clinton, ___ Join Forces to Form Nightmare Ticket” (May 2008 headline in the Onion)] MCCAIN. I think every crossword should have a fill-in-the-blank headline from the Onion.
- 61D [___ ball (toy made of rubber filaments)] KOOSH. Remember those?!
I must be off in my Jeep Patriot… hmmm… [Jeep driven by Samuel Adams?] NEW ENGLAND PATRIOT. That works, right?
VIDEO GAME CLUE OF THE WEEK:
- 40D [Large enemy in “The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion”] OGRE.
Samuel A. Donaldson & Doug Peterson’s Universal Crossword, “Doing the Splits”—Judge Vic’s write-up
Hmm. We have here a couple of consummate pros, who happen also to be friends of mine, whom I met through ACPT 10 or more years ago. And, with this puzzle they do not disappoint. Starting with the clever title, which portends a repeating word in the theme clues, one of my favorite gimmicks:
- 17a [Split ends?] BOWLING PINS
- 24a [Split level?] HOT FUDGE SAUCE
- 38a [Split personality?] DIVORCE ATTORNEY
- 49a [Split decision?] STOCK DIVIDEND
- 59a [Split rail?] BALANCE BEAM
Other good ILSAs include MAGIC WAND and EVIL TWINS, but the fill is excellent throughout and the clues entertaining.
David Liben-Nowell & Victor Barocas’s New York Times crossword, “Take Two”—Amy’s write-up
Hey, it’s my Minnesota homeboys, the professors, with a nifty theme I don’t think we’ve seen before. There are eight sets of identical twin entries in the grid, with the first one being clued normally and the second one’s clue leading to a phrase in which second precedes the word in the grid, and the answer doesn’t match the clue unless you mentally insert second.
- 17a. [Bridge component], HAND (as in the card game bridge) / 19a. [Previously owned], secondHAND.
- 25a. [One of three properties in Monopoly], PLACE / 26a. [Silver], second PLACE.
- 31a. [E, B, G, D, A or E], STRING on a guitar / 32a. [B-team], second STRING.
- 53a. [Being], PERSON/ 55a. [What you will always be (but he or she isn’t)?], second PERSON, grammatically.
- 76a. [Fruit that, surprisingly, is slightly radioactive], BANANA (wait, what??) / 79a. [Supporting role], second BANANA.
- 98a. [“All ___ is but art, unknown to thee”: Alexander Pope], NATURE / 101a. [Deeply ingrained habit], second NATURE.
- 109a. [Impressive stylishness], CLASS / 110a. [Not having full rights, as a citizen], second-CLASS. The U.S. Constitution doesn’t allow for second-class citizens, and yet we have had such for a long time.
- 115a. [Politician’s core support], BASE / 116a. [It’s halfway around a diamond], second BASE.
If you’re going to repeat a noticeable word in the grid, it had better be in the service of a theme. Smoothly executed theme here.
Ten more things:
- 114a. [Carpenter of note], KAREN. How many of you sprang for JESUS here?
- 10d. [Confederate general with a fort named after him], BRAGG. Whoa. Indeed, there are 10 Army bases named after Confederates.
- 2d. [“That happened?”], “HAS IT?” This doesn’t make sense to me. How does one of these phrases substitute for the other?
- 11d. [Item carried in an academic procession], MACE. See? Professors Barocas and Liben-Nowell know these things.
- 50d. [The two sides in chess, essentially], ARMIES. What army is complete without a bishop, after all?
- 65d. [What cibophobia is the fear of], EATING. Needed the crossings to piece this one together. Wow, that must be the worst phobia to have.
- 107a. [Geniuses, informally], SMARTIES. Raise your hand if you love American Smarties candy, the rolls of compressed sugar/calcium stearate candies, and not the foreign Smarties that are off-brand M&Ms.
- 78d. [New brother or sister], NOVITIATE. Catholic orders sort of thing, not a newborn sibling.
- 44d. [Drug treatment for Muhammad Ali], L-DOPA. You’re thinking about Ali’s rope-a-dope maneuver now, aren’t you? Rope-L-DOPA.
- 38d. [Objects spinning in an orrery], PLANETS. Orrery is a word I learned from a themeless NYT puzzle. Here’s a video of a guy building an orrery in his shop.
The fill was decent, with SLIDE GUITAR, Don GIOVANNI, HEDGEHOG, and SAY HELLO bringing some zip to the venture. A few clunkers like STEN were in the mix, but overall it wasn’t a grievous slog to work through the 21x grid so I’ll call it a win. Four stars from me.
Mary Lou Guizzo’s Universal Crossword, “Fitting Alterations”—Jim Q’s write-up
THEME: Apt anagrams
- 23A ELECTION RESULTS = 118A LIES! LET’S RECOUNT!
- 33A HALLEY’S COMMET = 102A SHALL YET COME
- 41A PRESBYTERIANS = 95A BEST IN PRAYERS
- 58A SCHOOLMASTER = 78A THE CLASSROOM
- 64A WAITRESS = 70A A STEW, SIR?
If you like these, here’s a list of some more.
I found that after googling “a stew sir” in quotes, which of course no waitress has ever said before. Also, am I the only one who hears a distinct Cockney accent when reading “A stew, sir?” I’ve worked in restaurants for well over 20 years now. I think I’m going to make it my goal to say that phrase at some point. With the Cockney.
This was tough to enjoy at times, mainly because of the cross referencing and trying to figure out what letters I hadn’t used. LIES! LET’S RECOUNT! is fun after it’s parsed, but when you’re reading it as LIE?LETS and trying to figure out the question mark… yikes. SHALL YET COME was another that was baffling for me.
Pretty cool to see JIM ACOSTA in there (though I’ve been calling him Lacosta I think. Whoops). Especially symmetrical to LOCAL NEWS. Too bad those aren’t anagrams of one another.