Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle (Week 433), “Fall Sweeps Week”—Ade’s take
Hello there, everyone! Hope you’re all doing well to start your week!
Today’s puzzle is more fun with puns, as the first four theme entries are wacky takes on common phrases/nouns, with the trick being that the first letter of each phrase is removed to create the pun. The four letters removed from the starts of each of those entries end up spelling out L-E-A-F, which leads to the fifth theme entry and the reveal, LEAF BLOWER (59A: [Noisy yard tool that cleared away the characters in 17-, 23-, 37- and 48-Across]).
- OTTO TICKET (17A: [Preminger’s get-rich-quick purchase?]) – Lotto ticket.
- CHO CHAMBER (23A: [Recording studio feature designed by stand-up comic Margaret?]) – Echo chamber.
- LIEN ABDUCTION (37A: [Out-of-this-world seizure of something that was on the house]) – Alien abduction.
- ARM ANIMALS (48A: [Critter depicted in Old MacDonald’s bicep tattoos?]) – Farm animals.
For over 30 years now, I always knew the nickname of New York Yankees great Joe DiMaggio was “The Yankee Clipper,” but had never really researched the origin of it until finishing this puzzle today, doing so after reading the clue for PAN AM (10D: [Yankee Clipper airline]). When doing the research, we find that, in 1939, DiMaggio was given the nickname by Yankee Stadium public address announcer Arch McDonald, who compared Joltin’ Joe’s speed and ability to cover ground in the outfield to the Pan Am airline. Man, the nicknames what were doled out by sports writers and other people involved in sports during an earlier generation (e.g. Sultan of Swat, Splendid Splinter, Galloping Ghost, Say Hey Kid) were just iconic in nature and still have a ring to them decades after their coinage.
I totally was put on a music track by the paralleling entries of CHER BONO (11D: [Full name of Sonny’s singing partner]) and I’M AMAZED, the latter making me think of Paul McCartney’s “Maybe I’m Amazed” classic (38D: [“Oh, wow!”]). Favorite clue/entry pairing of the day was that for LIP-READS (37D: [Interprets by word of mouth (so to speak)]). Basketball season is around the corner, so, for those who are fans of “THe Association,” we hope that KLAY can get back on the court as soon as possible after his ACL injury in the 2019 NBA Finals so we can once again marvel at his long-range shooting prowess (56D: [NBA star Thompson of the Golden State Warriors]). Before we go, a few words about another basketball legend…
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: WICKS (44A: [They get lit in a candle shop]) – Former WNBA player Sue Wicks was, almost inarguably, the greatest basketball player in the history of Rutgers University, as she was a three-time Kodak All-America selection (1986-1988) and, in her senior year of 1988, won a number of national player of the year awards. Among other other accolades, the 6’3″ Wicks ended her collegiate career as the school’s all-time leader in points (2,655) and rebounds (1,357), with those numbers remaining the records in those categories for men and women. After playing professionally overseas for a decade, Wicks was drafted by the New York Liberty in the inaugural WNBA Draft in 1997. Wicks played six seasons with the Liberty, making the WNBA All-Star Game in 2000 and being an integral part of four Liberty teams that reached the WNBA Finals (1997, 1999, 2000, 2002).
*NOTE: The next time “WICKS” appears in a crossword that I’m blogging, I’ll talk more about former UCLA legend, NBA Rookie of the Year and four-time NBA All-Star Sidney Wicks. (No relation to Sue Wicks.)
Thank you so much for the time, everyone! Have a wonderful rest of your day and, as always, keep solving!
Paul Coulter’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap
The theme is phrases that mean happy or content, clued as if they specifically pertain to various occupations:
- 17a. [Like a happy astronaut?], OVER THE MOON.
- 24a. [Like a happy portrait model?]. SITTING PRETTY. This doesn’t mean that, though. It means you’re in an advantageous position. You might hold all the power but be quite unhappy.
- 38a. [Like a happy mountaineer?], ON TOP OF THE WORLD.
- 49a. [Like a happy medium?], IN GOOD SPIRITS.
- 59a. [Like a happy meteorologist?], ON CLOUD NINE.
Cute theme, but SITTING PRETTY needed to be replaced. Anyone know a good 13-letter phrase that means happy?
- 47a. [Old British coins worth 21 shillings], GUINEAS. Yes, I needed crossings to point the way. Everything you wanted to know about old English money, right here.
- I like YO-YO MA, a tennis SET POINT, and TAHITI. Less keen on—in a Tuesday puzzle—MOUE, VINGT, PUCE, ONE A as if apartment numbers get spelled out, TERP, NAE, and GINO Vannelli.
- I lied. It’s two things. I’ve got an early morning ahead of me.
3 stars from me. Would be higher if SITTING PRETTY had been swapped out for a happy synonym.
Jamey Smith’s Wall Street Journal crossword—Nate’s write-up
“What Goes Around…”
3D: CHANCES ARE [Johnny Mathis, 1957 (+32)]
18A: BOYS DONT CRY [The Cure, 1979 (+20)]
29D: BLUE VELVET [Bobby Vinton, 1963 (+23)]
32A: STAND BY ME [Ben E. King, 1961 (+25)]
42A: SEA OF LOVE [Phil Phillips With the Twilights, 1959 (+30)]
60A: AMERICAN PIE [Don McLean, 1971 (+28)]
59D: FILM [What each of this puzzle’s songs also was, once you do the math]
If I’m interpreting this theme right, adding the parenthetical number to each song’s year gives us a new year in which a movie of the same name was released. This feels like it could be a good idea if it were tightened up / modernized a bit, but most of the songs are from relatively long ago + a few of the movies are decidedly less well known that this theme feels more like a, “oh okay, that’s a thing” than a “wow!” moment. It also feels like there could be many examples of songs who share the same name as a movie, but that these ones were chosen for this puzzle only because they symmetrically fit into the grid. Also, all of the songs used as theme entries in this puzzle were sung by men. In fact, DOES and Supergirl / KARA are the only women / female entities in the entire puzzle vs. soooooo many men. Sadly, the ratio isn’t even close.
What I did greatly appreciate about this puzzle was that it was dense in theme-related fill without sacrificing much at all in the way of clean fill in the grid. Sure, there’s a SLEWED here and BAROLO there, but it otherwise felt like a smooth solve that fell gradually and fully. That’s certainly a win!
Steve Mossberg’s Universal crossword, “Fantastic Beasts”—Jim Q’s review
A delightful offering from Mr. Mossberg today. I’m not familiar with the constructor’s name, but I thoroughly enjoyed today’s Universal.
THEME: “Beasts” with homophone-ish starts to their names.
17A [Hugger from the deep?] CUDDLEFISH. So much cuter than a cuttlefish.
- 30A [Bedazzled big cat?] BANGLED TIGER. Way more fabulous than a Bengal tiger.
- 44A [Lizard in a loose robe?] KIMONO DRAGON. The komodo dragon could only dream of looking so sassy.
- 59A [Gruesome camp raider?] GRISLY BEAR. Grizzly bears have more tact.
There wasn’t much not to like here. Consistent theme and- as long as your willing to look past RESEDA (the anagram hint in the clue was much appreciated)- the fill was mostly smooth. Maybe no long, splashy “new” entries (78 words in the grid will do that), but not much to cringe at.
All of the animals were fun to uncover. Caught on to the theme at BANGLED TIGER because part of me thought that perhaps cuttlefish was indeed spelled as CUDDLEFISH.
Can’t say I truly understand the title, though.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “Evened Out” – Derek’s write-up
This was the type of theme that I could actually fill in a bunch of letters early! Once you saw what went in the first few circled boxes, it was off to the races:
- 17A [Concerned question] “WHAT’S WRONG?”
- 22A [Where harmful skin exposure may originate] FROM UV RADIATION
- 34A [Interstellar emissions studied by NASA] COSMIC X-RAYS
- 51A [Unwisely responding to an online troublemaker] FEEDING THE TROLL
- 58A [Intermediaries] GO-BETWEENS
Bravo, Matt! It cannot have been easy finding answers that fit these patterns, and they are in order to boot. The constructor in me senses that this couldn’t have been that easy. 4.4 stars from me this week.
A few more highlights:
- 30A [“American Pie” actress Tara] REID – How about [Sharknado actress], because sadly she may in fact be MOST famous for that role!
- 64A [Basketball Hall-of-Famer ___ Thomas] ISIAH – Is he crossword-famous yet?
- 3D [Eastern European language, such as in Dvorak’s “Dances”] SLAVONIC – This is a little tough. We usually say “Slavic” in Indiana.
- 37D [“Got it”] “I DIG” – Is it 1978 again? I’ve been accused of speaking like it was more than once! I think I called someone a “jive turkey” earlier this week!
- 45D [Pirate, in old slang] SEA RAT – Is this two words??
- 47D [“That’s awkward”] “OH GEEZ” – I have said both of these many times. I have children …
- 49D [“Victory is mine!” character] STEWIE – I haven’t seen Family Guy in a while, but everyone knows this bratty child!
Another Jonesin’ next week!
Evan Mahnken’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
EZ does it!
- 16A [Amazon founder] JEFF BEZOS
- 20A [Very focused, as an athlete] IN THE ZONE
- 51A [Expatriate American poet arrested for treason in 1945] EZRA POUND
- 56A [Aztec emperor] MONTEZUMA
- 33A [Pleasing to look at … or a phonetic hint to a two-letter sequence in 16-, 20-, 51- and 56-Across] EASY ON THE EYES
Well done! Not too complicated, but it IS Tuesday! I got the central answer rather early in the solve, so that helped get the last couple of themers, but they weren’t too difficult even if you didn’t know they had the same E-Z sequence as all of the others mentioned in 33A. We’ll take it! 4.1 stars for this one.
Just a few more things:
- 5A [First bird to attack in “The Birds”] GULL – I knew there were birds in this obviously, and now that I think of it the first one was a white gull. I better recall the black birds later in the movie.
- 15A [Deep sleep] SOPOR – Tough word for a Tuesday! I was in a sopor one night this weekend …
- 47A [Like Goldilocks’ first bowl of porridge] TOO HOT – Don’t know why, but this made me chuckle!
- 12D [“Gunsmoke” actor James] ARNESS – Is this reference to the crossword-famous James Arness getting dated? Do young people even know what this show is? I barely know it, and I am 50!
- 25D [Fall back on] RESORT TO – Slightly awkward partial, but gettable.
- 36D [Slangy assent] YAH – This also seems awkward. I don’t think I have ever seen this as a slangy “yes.”
- 42D [__ Artois: Belgian beer] STELLA – How long until we can clue this as [Super solver-constructor Zawistowski]!
- 49D [Small hill] KNOLL – These are usually grassy; especially in Dallas.
Have a great week!
Jonesin’ – had to increase my star rating by 1/2 a star for the cluing of OSU as my alma mater….Oregon State University. (The Beavers were the 2006, 2007 and 2018 College World Series champions.) It’s usually clued as THE university in Ohio and occasionally as the one in Oklahoma.
You know Matt’s from PDX, right?
I didn’t know that. Thanks.
NYT: I thought it was a cute theme. I was not too bothered by SITTING PRETTY, although I do see the distinction Amy is making. I guess to me it has a self-satisfied connotation– you’re in good position and you know it. It might put you in GOOD SPIRITS, though not necessarily OVER THE MOON, ON CLOUD NINE…
May be if it had been a progression, it would have been better?
Right before I did the Crossword Nation, I spent a half-hour or so raking leaves, while mentally doing a cost-benefit analysis of raking vs. leaf-blowing. Raking came up the winner: free mulch, exercise and being active generally, smaller carbon footprint, less noise (or at least, fewer decibels).
Coming inside to do a crossword that turned out to have a leaf-blowing theme was a startling coincidence. I liked that the theme blew away the word LEAF from the entries, and I enjoyed the fill, as well. I had CHERilyn instead of CHER BONO, and I had to get PAN AM from the crosses since I could only come up with Joe DiMaggio for Yankee Clipper. Thanks, Ade, for explaining that, and thanks to Ms. Gorski for a fun puzzle.
WSJ: well-constructed and entertaining, too. :-) The songs may not be as current as some would like, but they are all pop classics, so more than fair game in my book. I liked it a lot more than Nate did.
I likes it also. And if it will make Nate feel better an ass and a mouser could be females.
Regarding the WSJM This is so arbitrary it’s a non theme. Because of that, I rate it a 2.
WSJ – I enjoyed the puzzle. I was particularly pleased to see Barolo, maybe my favorite of all wines, in the grid. I can’t wait for Barolo weather to get here.
I can think of two 13 letter phrases that connote happiness, although each is slightly problematic:
1. SEVENTH HEAVEN (usually part of the phrase IN SEVENTH HEAVEN
2. JUMPING FOR JOY ( usually jumping is phrased as either JUMP or JUMPED).
I am still bothered by the series of posts on Sharapova yesterday. When she burst on the scene at 17, she was a power hitter. Serena was more powerful and more athletic, essentially derailing Sharapova’s short stay at the top. Sharapova used a drug called Meldonium for many years. It was not illegal. It did become illegal in 2015 or 2016 and she wrongfully continued to use it. Like many tall thin European players, Sharapova made a lot of money as a model. She is not the only one and no tennis player ever benefited more from her looks than Anna Kournikova. Sharapova has periodically thrown shade at Serena, but from my perspective as a lifelong jock, it is born of envy at her god-given talent, not expressly racist.
NYT – “sitting pretty” is a deal killer. It does not mean happy, it means in an advantageous position. Needed a substitute, which I’m sure is out there.
I try to imagine being in an advantageous position and being unhappy about it. Or even neutral about it. Can’t do it. Nit not worth picking.
You’ve never heard of rich, powerful people who are still miserable? Money can’t buy happiness.
Sure I have. I guess I’m being too specific in my thinking. If I’m sitting pretty in a particular situation I’m happy about that instance even if I’m unhappy about other things.
LAT-Super late getting to the puzzle and the review, but I wanted to point out that the theme was more detailed than just the EZ part. Each EZ is on top of an I in the grid, making the theme truly easy on the eyes.