Erik Agard’s New York Times crossword, “Lines of Work”—Amy’s write-up
Apologies for the late posting, folks! I had a busy evening, between Pokémon Go, carbo-loading dinner at home to prepare my sweetie for tomorrow morning’s Chicago Marathon, and finally wrangling my son into watching the romantic comedy his mom and girlfriend have been wanting to see (Crazy Rich Asians, I cried numerous times, as well as laughing and also hollering at certain characters). So I poked away at Erik’s puzzle throughout the movie, multi-tasker that I am. The “Lines of Work” theme takes classic movie quotes and imagines what profession would espouse that line:
- 21a. [Professional whose favorite movie line might be “There’s no place like home”], SOFTBALL PLAYER. +5 to Erik for using the woman-dominated sport of softball instead of baseball here. The Wizard of Oz line, of course.
- 35a. [… “Here’s looking at you, kid”], GOATHERD. Ha! Casablanca line.
- 40a. [… “I wish I knew how to quit you”], I.T. SPECIALIST. Clever. Also, Brokeback Mountain made me cry way more than Crazy Rich Asians. Ugh, heartbreak.
- 61a. [… “Go ahead, make my day”], SCHEDULING COORDINATOR. Cute. Dirty Harry movies.
- 81a. [… “Get to the chopper!”], ORTHODONTIST. Not sure what movie this is from. A war movie? Googling … okay, it’s from the Schwarzenegger scene-chewer I’ve never seen, Predator. Here’s the 6-second clip with that line. Not loving the theme answer here, as teeth = choppers isn’t remotely specific to orthodontia, and there are a lot of types of dentists out there.
- 87a. [… “Is this your king?!”], MAGICIAN. No idea where the quote’s from. Googling … oh! Black Panther. Here’s the 11-second clip with that line.
- 102a. [… “I’ll have what she’s having”], EPIDEMIOLOGIST. Ha! I legit LOLed at this one. Your average epidemiologist isn’t too keen on having whatever disease is going around, but hey, it’s a funny way to reinterpret the classic When Harry Met Sally… line. Also, get your flu shot! People like me and an awful lot of people I’m close to rely on herd immunity to protect us, so thanks to everyone who gets immunized!
The theme itself gets 4.5 stars, because so much of it amused me, and I DUG (64d) the way Erik incorporated pop culture and his imagination.
Fave fill: WANGARI MAATHAI (I mostly had the first name! needed crossings for the last name), ENTRANCE MUSIC, UPSELL, ALPHABET BLOCKS, ROSARIO Dawson, HOUSE CAT (and that clue! 75d. [What goes in a box]), and the pretty pairing of the yellow PRIMROSE and purple HYACINTH.
Erik’s noted for his clever and original cluing. My pick for the best in this batch is 52d. [District 9, for short?], SCOTUS. A group of nine in the District of Columbia, the Supreme Court of the United States. Brilliant, Mr. Agard. (It helps if you’re familiar with the South African sci-fi movie District 9, and have that extra layer of mislead. Neill Blomkamp’s other filmed-in-RSA movie is Chappie, which I also recommend. Also, 50a PALPS? The creatures in District 9 have those. No, I’m not talking about Kavanaugh, don’t be silly.)
Five more things:
- 56d. [Swayed to the dark side, say], TURNED. Feels like a very fresh clue angle for a most ordinary word.
- 71d. [Effective salesperson], CLOSER. Did most of us learn this term from Glengarry Glen Ross? Do we all rework that “Coffee is for closers” line? Have you ever told small children that cookies are for closers? I definitely have.
- 30d. [Firm-ly worded letter?], MEMO. As in a business firm. Another classically Agardian sort of clue.
- 43d. [Image Award org.], NAACP. Hey! Just this morning, I was proofing a puzzle whose themers all won the NAACP Image Award for Entertainer of the Year. Not that I didn’t already know it, but it was extra-easy today.
- 13a. [Figure that denotes acidity], LOW PH. Just saw a thing on TV tonight, an acidic lake full of volcanic sulfur, pH 2.6. Don’t try swimming there if you like having flesh on your bones.
- 94d. [Like DC and MI], ROMAN. Roman numerals, not postal abbreviations.
Worst fill: plural UMS, the SRA/SRTA overlap, -OLA. Terrific for a 21x puzzle to be so smoothly filled that this is all I find to grouse about.
Overall rating, still 4.5 stars.
Kevin Salat’s LA Times crossword, “Flip The Switch” – Jenni’s write-up
I really liked this puzzle! The “switch” of the title is the on/off switch; each theme answer has them swapped.
- 22a [Lectured about links?] is SPOKE ON THE CUFF. I dropped in SPOKE OF and thought we were dropping a letter. Nope.
- 32d [Guidebook for throwing a shot?] is ON PUTTING. I presume they didn’t use golf because “putting” is pronounced differently (English is weird!).
- 47a [“We have that in stock,” e.g.?] is ON–HAND REMARK.
- 60d [Stage hog staying sober?] is a HAM OFF RYE. This is when I started to giggle.
- 70a [Extra-base hit, likely?] is a FLY OFF THE WALL.
- 91a [Fake modeling material?] is KNOCK–OFF WOOD. Still giggling.
- 117a [Let go of a factory workers unit?] is LAID OFF THE LINE.
I didn’t realize until I wrote them down that the top half of the puzzle has ON in the theme answers and the bottom half has OFF. That elevates it from a good theme to a great theme. I love a feat of construction that’s also fun to solve.
A few other things:
- You might get a PRO TIP from a MENSCH.
- LEHIGH is about ten miles from where I sit. Love seeing local flavor in my puzzles. And you can get a STEIN at the Oktoberfest in Bethlehem this weekend. Stop by and say “hi” to my husband at the Banana Factory glass studio booth. Make a pumpkin!
- 11d [Olive pursuer of comics] is BLUTO. Olive would have something to say about #metoo.
- Could have done without REHEM but that’s really my only quibble with the fill. In a Sunday-sized puzzle with these theme constraints, that’s pretty good.
- I’m not disturbed by Oktoberfest in a clue and OCTOBER in the grid (clued as the fictional submarine). It also appears in the date. I’m good.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that NONA Hendryx sang in Labelle. Here they are.
Ned White’s Universal crossword, “Flawless”—Rebecca’s review
THEME: DING has been removed from 8 answers in the puzzle
- 23A [Realtor’s private swampland pitch?] FENding FOR YOURSELF
- 46A [Shelter for wild hogs?] BOARding HOUSE
- 50A [Advice to a feline fancier’s suitor?] LIKE HERding CATS
- 72 [Superhero creator Lee in boot camp?] STANding AT ATTENTION
- 97A [Grunts of mealtime satisfaction in a sty?] PENding APPROVAL
- 100A [One ticket after another?] FEEding FRENZY
- 125A [Face-to-face greeting?] HIding IN PLAIN SIGHT
- 121D [What’s missing from seven answers in this puzzle] DING
Another really great letter removal theme from the Universal – we detail this grid -removing all the DINGs and the result is a stellar puzzle. My favorite themers of the day were LIKE HER CATS and HI IN PLAIN SIGHT, but really all are excellent for the theme and every one of these clue/answer combos is entertaining and fun.
The fill in this puzzle also made for a really fun solve, which is not how I often feel about large puzzles. Had THEMYSCIRA before DC UNIVERSE for 78D, which cruelly have the same letter count, but appropriately GORDON Ramsay put me right. DANCE PARTY, TRUE COLORS, RIPS OUT, ESTEFAN also numbered among my favorites – but really fantastic work all around.
If I’m being nit-picky – it did feel like the word UP appeared a few too many times – but I’m not sure I would have noticed had it not been for MASH UP and EAT IT UP appearing right next to each other. Both are excellent answers, so I didn’t dwell too long on the repeat.
Only other minor thing – how can you have an Office clue for JAN [She dated Michael on “The Office”] and not PAM?!?
Best clue of the day is going to THRONES [Queens’ seats].
A couple of notes on parsing – I so appreciated 88A clued as PUT IN over PUTIN and I struggled with AS EVER – my brain just kept seeing A SEVER and did not understand that clue or how that could be thing with an article in front of it- I always find it funny how information gets processed and the parsing of words is one of those things that is infinitely entertaining to think about.
I was thrilled to see the BLANCA clued for the amazing MJ Rodriguez [Lead role in “Pose”]. I’m going to leave you with another example of the brilliance of MJ Rodriguez – here’s her rendition of Suddenly Seymour that has quickly become the best version of this song in existence.
Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Tradespeople” – Jim Q’s writeup
After back-to-back curveballs from the WaPo, something right over the plate this week.
THEME: Familiar names are separated where the last half is “traded” with the first- clued wackily.
- 23A [Financial guru Suze’s stately home?] ORMAN MANOR.
- 25A [Pigeonhole “Twilight” heroine Swan?] LABEL BELLA.
- 35A [Cry to performer Rita that enough is enough?] NO MORE, MORENO!
- 55A [Loggins’s partner Jim found eating with some soldiers?] MESSINA IN A MESS.
- 76A [Popular tunes by literature Nobelist Doris?] LESSING SINGLES.
- 95A [Vacation locale owned by director John?] LANDIS ISLAND.
- 110A [Quaint oath said to a clay character?] BY GUM, GUMBY!
- 112A [Ideas offered by a Russian president?] PUTIN INPUT.
I was cruising right along while solving this puzzle, but I did get hung up on quite a few of the theme answers. Often, I’d get one half of the answer, and try to figure our the anagram for the second half (see note at bottom: I initially thought it was a simple anagram). I like it when puzzles work that way, so no complaints. I undoubtably would’ve been a solid few minutes faster were ORMAN, LESSING, LANDIS, and BY GUM in my vocab. My mind drew a blank on MESSINA too.
Other unfamiliar entries included TARON Egerton, DIEGO Luna, AMOS Oz, OVIEDO, Samantha MORTON, and STAN clued generously as [Term for a zealous fan that rhymes with “fan”]. Everything fairly crossed, so no harm done.
- Repeated 45D/46D clues: [NBA team with a flaming basketball logo] for SUNS and HEAT.
- 78D [Hyundai halter] STOPLIGHT. For some reason, I was picturing an item of clothing on a car.
- 81D [Provider of child support in December?] MALL SANTA. Borderline creepily clued, but clever.
- 48A [Pocket poker pair called “Wayne Gretzky” (because of his jersey number)] NINES. Great trivia clue!
- 53A [Get the hell out of here?] CENSOR. As in “hell” is a naughty word that should be censored.
I didn’t notice that this was anything less than an anagram theme until I came to ABBA [Band whose letters describe the pattern of this puzzle’s theme entries]. That may help explain some of the more obscure choices in the themers.
Enjoy this beautiful weekend!
Mark McClain’s Universal crossword, “Reel to Unreel”—Jim Q’s review
THEME: UN- is added to the familiar phrases- clued wackily.
- 20A [Parent of a teen who just got a learner’s permit?] UNEASY
RIDER. Ain’t that the truth.
- 41A [Storage unit that withstood a major earthquake?] THE UNHURT LOCKER.
- 61A [Possible result of dancing in heels?] UNHAPPY FEET. Never tried dancing in heels, but if the trove of kicked off footwear surrounding the dance floor at every wedding I’ve attended is any indication, this is entirely accurate.
Three solid themers is sometimes all you need. The result is a clean grid and an enjoyable solve. I’m sure there are a ton of other possible entries out there, but I appreciate that they weren’t crammed in just to get more material in a tight space.
Still, I stumbled (badly) in one area. For 21D [Suppressed] I entered SATED, assuming that each theme would start with UN. Then for 35D [“Beat it!”] I entered SCAT. Then I just stared at the grid for about a minute before fixing it. I think that added 1:30 or so to my time. Doh!
Overall, fun solve.