Emily Carroll’s New York Times crossword, “Flip ’Phones”—Amy’s write-up
The theme is flipped homophones. A word or phrase’s two halves are swapped, and the spelling shifts to make the flipped version also a real word. The resulting goofy phrases are clued accordingly:
- 23a. [Low end?], KNEE-HIGH HEINIE. Good lord, that’s a droopy bum.
- 48a. [Agreement for exporting essential oils?], TEA TREE TREATY.
- 63a. [Exercise program done in formal attire?], BOWTIE TAE BO.
- 77a. [Sturdily built friend on “Friends”?], BEEFY PHOEBE.
- 93a. [Spotted animal with a lot of sore spots?], TOUCHY CHEETAH.
- 118a. [Cause of a work stoppage at a shoe factory?], LOAFER FURLOUGH. Saved the best for first and last, if you ask me.
I liked the theme for being playful and posing some challenge to decipher.
Did not know: 21a. [Wife in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “Tender Is the Night”], NICOLE. Never read it. Also did not know the 103a. [First letter of “tsar” in Russian] is TSE. I do not, in fact, know the Russian names of any letters.
Did know, because I used to be a medical editor: 76d. [Rapid movement of the eye from one point to another], SACCADE.
Five more things:
- 128a. [Word before shot or plot], SCATTER. Nice clue!
- 65d. [Kid-lit character with the catchphrase “Thanks for noticing me”], EEYORE. Poor morose donkey, so easy to look past.
- Lots of spoken phrases here: “I DID IT!”, “I’M RICH!”, “TRUE DAT,” “YEAH, MAN!”, and S’POSE and SORTA. (Would be better not to have SORTA and SORT OUT in the same grid, though.)
- 4d. [Breaks along the Panama Canal?], SIESTAS. The Canal doesn’t scream “they speak Spanish there” to me, but presumably there are lots of Spanish speakers who work there. Does anyone nap alongside the Canal, though?
- 1a. [Crawling marine mollusk], SEA SLUG. It was somehow pleasing to me to have this creature at 1a.
4 stars from me.
Gail Grabowski’s Universal Crossword, “Eight-Way Stop”—Judge Vic’s write-up
Think about the title, okay? Read it. Now, read it again. Got it? S TO P. So, with the title doubling as the reveal, take a look at the theme entries:
- 23a [Flexible fishing rod?] RUBBER POLE–As opposed to Rubber Sole.
- 28a [Political nominee fretting after being chosen?] WORRIED PICK–Worried sick.
- 51a [Result of eating lemon drops from dawn to dusk?] ALL-DAY PUCKER–All-day sucker.
- 87a [Clerk sneaking a look at confidential files?] OFFICE-PEEKER–Office-seeker.
- 117a [Loan shark’s threatening words?] PAY YOU WILL–Say you will. A curve thrown here, the first word, rather than the last, being subjected to the gimmick.
- 32d [Authentic “I Like Ike” campaign freebie?] ORIGINAL PIN–Original sin.
- 47d [Garden rototiller?] PLOT MACHINE–Slot machine. Another first word affected. That eliminates the old “But wait, one is different” objection.
Gail is a pro, and this is a good and competently-constructed puzzle, with lots of good stuff accompanying the theme matter:
- 46a [Wicker chair accessory] SEAT PAD–Per Ginsberg, this phrase debuts today! Kudos!
- 66a [Short dagger] STILETTO
- 93a [Pacific weather phenomena] EL NINOS
- 101a [“Our offer ends soon!”] SAVE NOW
- 11d [Well-mannered] COURTEOUS
- 34d [Warning of imminent attack] RED ALERT
- 41d [Be under the weather] FEEL ILL–Ginsberg indicates this has been used only 3-4 times before, most recently seven years ago in an “other source” than the dozen or so that he IDs.
- 62d [Determine the presence of, as bacteria] TEST FOR
- 65d [Legislature member, informally] STATE REP–This appears to be a debut ILSA. Kudos again!
- 81d [Refrigerator conveniences] ICE MAKERS
Glancing through the word list, I see nothing that jumps out in a negative way. Which is to say that the marginal stuff that so many bloggers point out much of the time (e.g., COS, ORU, ERNE, and DOLOR) is, volumewise, what I would expect a seasoned veteran constructor to have had to settle for.
Nice job! 4 stars.
Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Life on the Edge” – Jim Q’s writeup
Hands up for ORE at 1-Across! 3 letters? [Mine find]. It’s a no-brainer, right? Wrong. Instead this puzzle turned out to be pretty “wild.”
THEME: Uncaged animals. Entries on the edge of the puzzle are one letter “too long” to fit, and the leftover letters spell out 16 different animals.
- 31A [Inherent behaviors…. or what you’ll need to complete this puzzle] ANIMAL INSTINCTS.
- 75A [“What a wild scene!”… or what you might say after seeing what’s surrounding this puzzle] IT’S A ZOO OUT THERE.
This puzzle was adorable. Quite possibly a nightmare to construct, but a wonderful payoff.
I grokked the theme very quickly after realizing that ORE and ADELE would not work in the NE. One glimpse at the title, and a note of the note that accompanies the puzzle (SOLVE ON PAPER!!!!), and I was more than willing to write letters off the grid. CAT and LAMB revealed themselves quickly, and as soon as I entered ZACH for 4-Down, I knew ZEBRA had to go across the top.
Sometimes, when the theme reveals itself a little too quickly, the puzzle gets boring. The opposite is true here. It was exciting to discover/infer all of the animals, and it is one of those themes where- once you get it- can aid with the fill. I especially loved the clue for 133A [Black Panthers co-founder Bobby whose name is a homophone of one of this puzzle’s featured creatures] because I was struggling with the SE. And SEALE helped me write in SEAL (though the hint in the clue was likely to help the solver determine Bobby’s last name as it’s more obscure…).
I finished the puzzle and was thinking about it while driving to work last night. Then this thought hit me: If I know a Birnholz puzzle, I bet all of the entries that were “too long” still work as acceptable crossword fill even without the extra letter. Sure enough. Check it out. ODE, EATS, REA, ALT, LESS, ORAL and DELE make up that NW corner. All acceptable fill. That must’ve been an exceptionally tall order, especially in the corners. RATIFIES / GRATIFIES is pretty awesome. RANKLES / ANKLES. CARRIE / CARRIER. I mean, c’mon. That’s great.
- 24A [Takes more Money, say] RENEWS. Love those magazine clues. They’re right up there with car clues.
- 20A [Writer who takes a firm position in this books?] GRISHAM. Though he’s branched out and tried new things, he’s definitely most known for his legal thrillers.
- 58A [Court-ly love?] NONE. I don’t get this one. It was the last entry I filled in, and I guessed correctly, but I need some help in the comments. OH WAIT! I get it. “Love” on the “Tennis court’ means NONE! Ha!
VIDEO GAME CLUE OF THE WEEK:
- 9A [Developer of the game “Star Raiders”] ATARI.
Thanks, Evan! You menageried to make that an exceptional puzzle.
Kevin Christian and Andrea Carla Michaels’ Universal Crossword, “Photo Album”—Jim Q’s write-up
THEME: Phrases where the second part can precede the word “Shot”
- 17A [Protection at the beach] SUN SCREEN. Screen shot.
- 25A [Pat on the back or compliment] EGO BOOSTER. Booster shot.
- 40A [Tax inequity for couples] MARRIAGE PENALTY. Penalty shot.
- 50A [Take the plunge?] BUNGEE JUMP. Jump shot.
- 64A [Actor portfolio items, and a clue to the ends of 17-, 25-, 40- and 50-Across] HEAD SHOTS.
Fine, standard Universal puzzle. Played very easy for me, even with KUROSAWA in there (all crosses were more than fair).
I paused for a second after entering the revealer HEAD SHOTS. I was wondering why the “shot” word was last in the phrase when it seems like it should be at the “HEAD” of the phrase. But since those words all precede “shot,” it works. Still woulda been nice to see them at the heads of the entries.
3 Stars. Right over the plate.
Pam Amick Klawitter’s LA Times crossword, “Can You Digit?” – Jenni’s write-up
I’m happy it’s cooled off enough here in eastern PA that I can write this out on the porch with a nice breeze keeping me comfortable. It’s a comfy theme, too – straightforward and accessible. The circles in each theme answer tell us what to look for.
- 21a [Unite in a common cause] is DRAW TOGETHER.
- 26a [Unobstructed view] is LINE OF SIGHT.
- 35a [Place to find a hack] is a TAXI STAND.
- 46a [Post-Civil War economic growth period] is THE GILDED AGE.
- 62a [Fortuitous] is HEAVEN-SENT,
- 64a [On a lark] is JUST FOR FUN.
- 74a [With no time to spare] is UNDER THE WIRE.
- 90a [Front door, usually] is MAIN ENTRY.
- 95a [What “I don’t wanna” do, in a Zayn/Taylor Swift hit] is LIVE FOREVER.
And 104a tells us what we’re looking at: [5½ and 8¾, e.g. … and a hint to this puzzle’s circles] is MIXED NUMBERS. See the anagrammed TWO, ONE, SIX, EIGHT, SEVEN, FOUR, THREE, and NINE? Each number crosses two words, which is a nice lagniappe. All the theme answers are solidly in the language. A nice, breezy, Sunday theme.
A few other things:
- 14d [Dr. Howser of ’80s-’90s TV] is DOOGIE. I never watch medical shows, but I remember catching part of an episode at some point and he was highlighting “Joy of Sex.” Someone involve with that show either went to medical school or listened to someone who did.
- We get a three-letter bird that’s not an EMU: MOA at 23a.
- I got 40a from crossings and couldn’t figure out what a NOREST was. Turns out it’s [Problem for the weary] and it’s NO REST. Ah.
- SHEREE Wilson and Kay LENZ will remain in crosswords far longer than their ouevre would suggest because they are so useful. This puzzle clues NEVE as [Snow in le Alpi] rather than as NEVE Campbell.
- The amorous pair of PSYCHE and EROS make an appearance.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that SUNOCO has been the official fuel of NASCAR since 2004.