Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle (Week 430), “Hot Box!”—Ade’s take
Good day everyone! I hope all is great with you all as we turn the corner towards the end of summer in 2019.
Today’s puzzle is, as the kids say, straight fire! I mean it! Each of the entries on the perimeter of the grid all is a word that can also come after the word “fire.” To complete the theme, the entry that’s smack dab in the middle, FIRE SIDES, acts as the reveal (21D: [Toasty chat sites…or a hint to the puzzle theme]). Let’s take a tour around this crossword ring of fire, shall we? Oh, and I dare you not to have Johnny Cash playing on loop in your head right now!
- CRACKER (1A: [Ritz, for one])
- ESCAPES (8A: [Houdini feats])
- STORM (14D: [Rush at])
- WOOD (37D: [Elijah of “The Lord of the Rings” films])
- SIGN (60D: [Autograph])
- STATION (68A: [Social rank])
- FIGHTER (67A: [Combatant])
- PROOF (49D: [Tony-and Pulitzer-winning play by David Auburn])
- BALL (27D: [Lavish party for debutantes])
- CODE (1D: [Morse, for one])
Embarrassing moment of the day came when I put in “Adam Ant” instead of ATOM ANT, even though I had the character in my head as I was solving it (16A: [Hanna-Barbera superhero with antennae]). Clearly, I also had “Goody Two Shoes” in my mind as well! Honestly, ’80s music just creeps in my mind, even when I don’t want it to! It was not hard to have music and music lyrics in the brain when solving this, given the presence of STATE SONG (9D: [“Georgia on My Mind,” in Georgia]), KANSAS (5D: [“Dust in the Wind” band]) and SOS, which made me think of The Police’s “Sending out an SOS” (53A: [Captain’s “Help!”]). ATOM ANT was just one of the many longish fill in the grid that was very pleasing in each of the corners, definitely something to make one say OOH LA LA after solving (15A: [Très chic]). As I’m writing this blog, I’m sitting in the US Open media room underneath Arthur Ashe Stadium, and, like past years, there is a pretty good chance I’ll be hearing JAS a number of times from the horde of German press that sits adjacent to my seating area (58A: [German “yesses”]). Das ist gut!
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: LYLE (38A: [Baseball’s “Sparky”]) – There are some who might have thought that this clue had to be talking about Sparky Anderson, the former World Series-winning manager of the Cincinnati Reds and Detroit Tigers. But this “Sparky” is about the man who was the first reliever to ever win the Cy Young Award in the American League. One of the premier relief pitchers of his time, Albert Walter Lyle, a.k.a. Sparky Lyle, was best known for his time with the New York Yankees, going to three All-Star Games during his time in the Bronx between 1972 and 1978. In 1977, Lyle won 13 games (13-5 record) and saved 26 games as he was voted the Cy young Award winner in the Junior Circuit (slang term for the American League). Lyle finished his 16-year career with 99 career wins and 238 career saves, the latter statistic setting the American League all-time record at the time of his retirement.
Thank you so much for the time, everyone! Have a wonderful rest of your day and, as always, keep solving!
Michael Schlossberg’s Wall Street Journal crossword—Nate’s write-up
Let’s see if we have any two-body problems in today’s puzzle, “Binary System.”
16A: HOITY TOITY [Snooty]
23A: AVOIRDUPOIS [Weight system]
37A: HOI POLLOI [Common people]
53A: OINGO BOINGO [Band with the “Weird Science” title song]
59A: BOILING OIL [Defensive weapon in old sieges]
As the title hints, our theme entries each feature zeroes and ones, which are represented alphabetically as Os and Is. All is well and good, until we get to AVOIRDUPOIS, which has a theme-breaking A and U! I’m willing to concede the Y in HOITY TOITY as not-a-vowel in that themer, but how did this themer with an A and U get past any stages of checking or editing this puzzle? Also, I’d never heard of this [Weight system], which Wikipedia tells me is, “a measurement system of weights which uses pounds and ounces as units.” Huh! Even though we commonly use this system in the US, is this a commonly used term for it today? I’ll defer to the readers on that one. That huge asterisk aside, I liked the idea of this theme, especially with inclusions like OINGO BOINGO. The other themers felt fun, except for BOILING OIL, which felt less inspired.
:) :) :) This might be the most woman-positive and woman-centric puzzle I’ve ever reviewed for the WSJ! We have ANNE Hathaway of “Ocean’s 8,” DOES, ERMA Bombeck, Margaret MEAD who wrote “Coming of Age in Samoa,” Medusa, Jane EYRE, Daisy Ridley as REY in “Star Wars,” OCTAVIA Spencer representing with her Oscar(!), the WNBA SKY, TESS Hardy, and PIPPI Longstocking of the Astrid Lindgren books. Bonus points for so many of the women being clued for their accomplishments and not their relationships to men. Extra bonus points for BRA being clued matter-of-factly / not creepily! Compare this list to the relatively few men in the puzzle (Jefferson, PEI, monsieur, Asgardian THOR, Carl ICAHN, Kennedy) and you get the extremely rare woman-centered puzzle. Now, if this feels like “too many women” to you, consider that this women:men ratio is almost always exactly flipped in puzzles these days. Most days do indeed feature “too many men.”
Daniel Raymon’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
The theme involves anagrams of famous living people’s first names, and they’re all notable women in the arts:
- 17a. [Actress McCarthy is wandering], MELISSA’S AIMLESS.
- 33a. [Designer McCartney is prepared], STELLA’S ALL SET. We would also have accepted [Crossword constructor Zawistowski is prepared].
- 42a. [Supermodel Hutton is incredible], LAUREN’S UNREAL. And she’s still modeling in her 70s.
- 60a. [Singer Love is erudite], DARLENE’S LEARNED. Man, it took me a while to dislodge Courtney Love from my mind! Darlene Love, of course, has been performing for a whopping 60 years. For 30 of those years, she sang “Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home)” annually on David Letterman’s show.
Poor Melissa McCarthy. Everyone else gets a positive attribute! The theme is well placed on a Tuesday, and I like the starring role given to actual living women.
The fill is mostly smooth, though OTO, Ron ELY, and ENL clued as [Supersize: Abbr.] feel too tough for a Tuesday. Who says “This print of the photo is supersize!” to refer to an enlargement? I tried XXL first.
Five more things:
- 1a. [Head covering similar to a wave cap], DORAG. I had to look up wave cap after finishing the puzzle, and now I know what that is and how it works.
- 26a. [Before a sitting judge], AT BAR. This term feels a bit tough for a Tuesday, but Dani works in law, so I’ll let him have it as a zhuzh of personal flavor.
- 6d. [“Horned” creatures], TOADS. Maybe that should be “TOADS,” since these are lizards rather than toads.
- 9d. [Home to Xenia and Zanesville, the most populous U.S. cities starting with “X” and “Z”], OHIO. Trivia! (Note: When I use the word trivia, it’s not a negative. Commenters who grouse about “too much trivia” in crosswords are not wired the same way.)
- 11d. [Still preferable], EVEN BETTER. I don’t understand why the word still is in the clue. How would you clue EVEN BETTER to be, well, even better?
Four stars from me.
Victor Fleming’s Universal crossword, “Among Thieves”—Jim Q’s review
It’s the judge’s turn! I’m curious as to whether or not this theme was inspired by an actual case. I mean, judges’ minds must wander during a particularly boring proceeding just like anyone else, right? I imagine a legal pad full of theme ideas that accompanies Vic to the bench.
THEME: Everyday actions that sound criminal.
- 17A [What a shopper legally does] SWIPES A CARD.
- 24A [What a breakfast cook legally does] POACHES AN EGG.
- 51A [What a minimally helpful person legally does] LIFTS A FINGER.
- 62A [What a runner on a diamond legally does] STEALS A BASE.
- 39A [Takes from, or an apt alternate title for this puzzle] RIPS OFF.
Love the consistency in this simple, but solid set. All have to do with “stealing” and all follow the ______S A(N) _______. They are all clued consistently also. I don’t know if there’s any real benefit to the bonus answer RIPS OFF. I think the four themers stand alone just fine without any revealer or alternative title. But I guess it does no harm.
- L BOMB. Depending on the person, I suppose it’s much nicer than an F BOMB.
- HORSE SENSE. That’s fun to say, ain’t it?
- NO MSG. This American Life recently aired an episode which included the MSG scare origin story. I had no idea. Fascinating. And quite entertaining.
Certainly some crosswordy regulars making appearances (looking at you northwest!), but nothing groan worthy.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “Choice Menu” – Derek’s write-up
The theme wasn’t easy to see while solving, but after a closer look it made perfect sense. I will highlight the affected letters in the theme list:
- 17A [Waiting room welcome] “PLEASE HAVE A SEAT “
- 23A [Fortifies the castle, perhaps] DIGS A MOAT
- 37A [Results of excessive stress] MELTDOWNS
- 53A [2004 movie with a screenplay by Tina Fey] MEAN GIRLS
- 60A [Beyond Burgers, for instance, or what the theme answers contain?] MEAT SUBSTITUTES
So in our “MEAT” substitute puzzle, the letters in MEAT are used in four themers, each one having one letter switched, and in order to boot! It would have been cool if the letters that act as subs spelled something, but that is an impossible ask, I would think. Surely nothing that would be relevant. This still is a fine construction feat, since they are all in order. Neatly done, Matt! 4.3 stars today.
More neat stuff:
- 14A [“Juno and the Paycock” playwright Sean] O’CASEY – This guy is definitely crossword famous, even though he’s been dead for over 50 years and you probably don’t recognize the work referenced here. At least I don’t!
- 26A [Taiga feature] TREES – A taiga is basically a forest where it’s freezing all the time, hence the Russian word!
- 56A [Sch. whose initials actually refer to “Green Mountains”] UVM – Is this University of Vermont-Montpelier? Or just Univ of VT with weird initials?
- 69A [Firecracker flashes] SPARKS – This is also a fairly common surname; surprised pop-culture buff Matt didn’t clue it that way!
- 2D [Dom who voiced Pizza the Hutt in “Spaceballs”] DELUISE – He’s been gone ten years already. I am getting old …
- 8D [Danny who plays Frank Reynolds] DEVITO – I used to confuse him with Dom DeLuise when I was younger! It is quite odd to see them both in the same puzzle!
- 23D [Word that punctuates Billie Eilish’s “Bad Guy”] DUH – This is timely. Even I know who this is, and I rarely listen to music these days!
- 35D [Blackberry, back in the day] PDA – I never had one of these. They were quite the rage 15 years ago, though!
- 54D [2010 comedy inspired by “The Scarlet Letter”] EASY A – Ah! A movie I HAVE seen! A rarity!!
There is another Jonesin’ coming next week! Until then!
Paul Coulter’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
Not too complicated a theme, but it IS Tuesday! Revealer is at 62A:
- 17A [Toy on a track] MODEL TRAIN
- 24A [Native growth in an Asian orchard] MANGO TREE
- 39A [Grilling accessory] MEAT THERMOMETER
- 49A [Result of too-tight jeans, perhaps] MUFFIN TOP
- 62A [Blather, and a phonetic hint to the four other longest answers] EMPTY WORDS
I told you it wasn’t too complicated. I saw the MT initials early on, so then you could safely assume the revealer would be along those lines. I didn’t have an exact revealer in mind, but I saw the word EMPTY early on, and it played into what was going on. Nice puzzle! 4.3 stars from me.
- 20A [WWI French soldier] POILU – I don’t think I know this word! Seems slightly tough for a Tuesday.
- 42A [Award for “Green Book”] OSCAR – I still haven’t seen this movie. Perhaps over the long weekend! Although I will be struggling through Mark Halpin’s Labor Intensive suite for sure!
- 54A [TV monitoring device] V-CHIP – Do TVs still have these? I know they started doing them about 20 years ago or so.
- 61A [“Star Trek” helmsman] SULU – George Takei’s Twitter feed is hilarious!
- 65A [“The Time Machine” race] ELOI – This is another classic that I haven’t read in probably 25 years. Time to revisit this classic, and perhaps other H.G. Wells works.
- 31D [Tropical food that has a five-point shape when sliced] STARFRUIT – I don’t think I remember trying this fruit. I’ll have to keep my eyes peeled next time I’m in a produce section!
- 34D [Intensify] AMP UP – This is rarely used, but a great entry.
- 53D [“Hop __”: Dr. Seuss book] ON POP – Speaking of classics!
That is all!
AVOIRDUPOIS is a perfectly good name, went straight in. Each (two word) answer had a paired OI doublet. But … avoirdupois was the only single word answer. Hmmmmmm
NYT deceptive from this chair. Took a longer while relatively for this non timer with several type-overs.
NYT: I like it and I’m a bit confused by ratings being low. Amy gave it high marks and her rating is usually highly predictive.
I think the theme was good, but some of the cluing may have been a little hard for a Tuesday? (Starting with DORAG?).
So THAT’s how zhuzh is spelled.
I don’t understand why also having vowels other than OI in sequence twice breaks the WSJ theme. Indeed, the theme was the only thing that relieved this puzzle for me from utterly abysmal and made it halfway solvable.
I sure recognize AVOIRDUPOIS (so there), but a corner with Ridley, Nintendo, Spencer, and the Chicago WNBA was otherwise hopeless for me, all on top of Lindgrin, Hathaway, and OINGO BOINGO. I could care less that it earns p0ints for their being women. A few other things, like EAGERER, felt awfully forced as well.
Just to be safe, I don’t belittle the importance of including women. But they’re still proper names and still trivia.
Avoirdupois–“has a theme-breaking A and U.” Huh? nothing wrong with it.
WSJ: The presence of other vowels has no bearing on the theme. The only constraint is that the relevant entries have two sets of the bigram OI. It’s purely their resemblance to the numerals zero and 1 – that they’re both vowels is immaterial.
edit: I was interrupted while writing this and didn’t refresh. That’s why I didn’t see JohnH’s significantly earlier comment which says the same thing.
I think I disagree a bit — although it’s not the extra vowels so much as the absence of a double OY sound. I realize that has nothing to with the binary theme, but it was a jarring inconsistency. I would preferred four themers to jamming in that extra one, and maybe that very ugly EAGERER could have been avoided.
NYT: I agree on the still preferable. “Even better” is an improvement of your original opinion from good to great. “Still preferable” is a downgrade of your original opinion from good to meh, but better than the alternative.
Derek – yes, definitely try the starfruit. Also known as carambola, they’re delicious. So pretty when they’re sliced. Let the edges get a little brown, then they’re sweet. Cut them too early and they’re quite astringent.
I would have clued EVEN BETTER with “Still more preferable.” “Still preferable” seems off.