Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle (Week 439), “Free Spirit”—Ade’s take
Good day, everybody! Here is hoping your last-minute plans to celebrate Halloween, if in the event you do take part in Halloween festivities, are going very well.
There’s a ghost in this crossword machine today, as the first five theme entries are all puns of common phrases and/or nouns, with the puns being created when you remove the first letter of the original terms. The five letters removed, from top to bottom, spell out the word “GHOST,” and the sixth theme entry, GIVES UP THE GHOST, acts as the reveal (63A: [Ceases to function (or what this puzzle does at 17-, 26-, 32-, 45-, and 52-Across]).
- OLDEN RETRIEVERS (17A: [Go-getters of yore?]) – Golden Retrievers.
- ILL BILLY (26A: [Joel who’s under the weather?]) – Hillbilly
- SCAR WILDE (32A: [“Lion King” villain named for a poet/playwright?]) – Oscar Wilde.
- ID VICIOUS (45A: [Freudian concept inspired by one of the Sex Pistols?]) – Sid Vicious. How awesome is this clue/answer pairing?!?!
- AX EVADER (52A: [One who escapes from a date with Lizzie Borden?]) – Tax evader. Just as awesome as the one prior!!
I hope that I’m not the only person who absolutely had to guess the “J” at the intersection of HAJ (44A: [“The ___” (1984 Leon Uris novel)]) and RAJIV (33D: [Indira Gandhi’s son and successor]). Was pretty confident that my first guess, the “J,” was correct, but stared at that blank square for a while! Haven’t come across PPS. in a while to denote the abbreviation for “pages,” but this one-time magazine writer doesn’t mind it at all (36A: [Sheets in a mag]). So how many of you refrain from saying HERO and call that particular sandwich a hoagie (1A: [Long, tubular sandwich])? Been to Philadelphia so many times but still don’t bow down to (made up) pressure to say “hoagie!” It’s a hero, end of story!! Don’t @ me! Loved the fill of PROMO CODE (37D: [Money-saving discount info for an online shopper]). To close, leaving you with this…“All we hear is RADIO GA GA, radio goo goo, radio ga ga (3D: [1984 hit song by Queen with the lyric “how music changes through the years”])!
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: STURM (38D: [Drang’s counterpart]) – Former professional hockey player and long-time German national team member Marco Sturm played over 900 games in the National Hockey League between 1997 and 2013 as a winger. Sturm was a first-round pick of the San Jose Sharks in 1996 and, in 1999, was named to the NHL All-Star Game for the only time in his career. Between the 2002 and 2010 seasons, Sturm scored at least 20 goals in seven of the eight seasons contested during that span.
Thank you so much for the time, everyone! Have a wonderful rest of your day and, as always, keep solving!
Evan Mahnken’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Ha! This theme is a beefed-up version of one that will run in Crosswords With Friends in several months—our puzzle arrived a few days ago. Add one more to the long list of “constructors who come up with the same theme idea independently of each other.” Nobody’s plagiarizing 99.5% of the time this happens; their brains just light on the same wordplay-related concept. This time, the idea is that JAY-Z (57d. [Rapper whose name hints at the extremities of the answers to the five starred clues]) sounds like the letters J and Z, and those letters start and finish other recording artists’ (sort of) names.
- 20a. [*”Saturday Night Live” cast member of the late 1980s], JON LOVITZ. Here’s where the “(sort of)” comes in: Everyone else in the theme is in music, and Lovitz is in comedy/acting. Gotta ding the theme for that, as the 5/1 split feels weird. (The XWF themers are all in music.)
- 37a. [*Singer starring in 2019’s “Hustlers”], JENNIFER LOPEZ. I want to see that movie.
- 57a. [*Grammy winner for “Make It Mine,” 2010], JASON MRAZ.
- 12d. [*Onetime member of ‘N Sync], JC CHASEZ.
- 37d. [*Singer on the first day of Woodstock], JOAN BAEZ.
Five more things:
- 68a. [He played with Kobe on the Lakers], SHAQ. I don’t know that Shaquille O’Neal ever said the words in this meme, but I liked it when I saw it a few days ago. There was a recent thing on social media, asking people what pop culture wrecked their first name. There hasn’t been anything terrible for “Amy.” There was that slightly older guy who sang Pure Prairie League’s “Amie” at me when I was in high school, but that was sweet. Has anything—songs, characters, famous people—ruined your name for you?
- 45d. [Always, in music], SEMPRE. Kinda tough fill for a Tuesday, no?
- 42a. [Middling mark at school], CEE. Raise your hand if you ever, at any time in your schooling, consider cee and bee to be what the letter grades were. Anybody? Bueller?
- 25d. [Pico de ___ (condiment)], GALLO. Pico de gallo >>> Gallo jug wine.
- 34d. [Shoes, in slang], KICKS. Please tell me that somewhere, sometime, there was was a shoe store called Route 66.
I haven’t got much else to remark on here, other than how weird plural AMANAS is. Would you say “All of my kitchen appliances are GEs/Bosches/Amanas,” or would you just use the brand name without an S on the end? I think the latter.
3.3 stars from me.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “Nothing Is As It Themes” – Derek’s write-up
We have a gimmick in this themeless, which gave me fits in the Black Ink software, as I didn’t know how to enter numbers! (I do now!) Revealing an answer makes it blue, so you can clearly see my foul-ups in the grid, but still a fine puzzle. The answer at 38A is 24 HOURS OF LE MANS, and this is what required putting in the numbers. The crossers were interesting:
- 37D [1400, for legionnaires?] 2 P.M.
- 38D [Record label for acts like Cocteau Twins and Bon Iver (and a year in the reign of Emperor Augustus)] 4 A.D.
I think this was cleverly done. While this gimmick would easily fly in a NYT, there are a couple of other entries that probably wouldn’t (see below). But other than those small nits, this is another great themeless by one of the best constructors out there. Most of this grid is fairly common fill that seems to mesh effortlessly. 4.3 stars.
Examining some clues closely:
- 15A [Line from a permissive judge] “I’LL ALLOW IT’ – The judge on Caught in Providence has skipped across my Facebook timeline more than once. I have never seen his show, but this sounds like something he would say!
- 17A [Skype predecessor] VIDEO PHONE – This idea was sci-fi fodder in the 60s and 70s; now it is commonplace. Amazing.
- 28A [Trickster god of African folklore] ANANSI – I believe you. This is one of those obscure entries.
- 44A [Daughter of Cyrus and mother of Xerxes (hidden in LOS GATOS-SARATOGA)] ATOSSA – … and this is the other! I like the technique used here that you see in the Games Ornery Crossword in the Easy clues of just making the clue a hidden word puzzle!
- 51A [X-___ large] TRA – I got this quickly, since this is my size! I need to get back to running …
- 65A [City that hosted the Winter Olympics 8 days after Elizabeth II took the throne] OSLO – What other city could it be? I suppose ROME is also 4-letters, but this is still a nice piece of trivia.
- 2D [Rachel’s “The Favourite” costar] OLIVIA – This is referencing Olivia Colman, who is a fantastic actress. I enjoyed Broadchurch but I haven’t seen a lot of her other movies, including this one which I think garnered her a Best Actress Oscar. Meaning I should probably go watch it!
- 30D [“13th” documentarian DuVernay] AVA – I have seen this, and it is excellent. I am 50 years old, so I was born right after a lot of the civil rights struggles, but in light of recent events I have tried to educate myself on some of the horrors of slavery, Jim Crow, and other matters. It does provide context that explains why some people say and do the things they do. Watch this documentary is you haven’t already. It is phenomenal.
- 49D [“___ back, tell a friend” (Eminem lyric)] SHADY’S – Yeah, but which song is this from??
- 57D [Boba not found in tea] FETT – Ah, a Star Wars reference, just in time for the next movie that is coming out later this year. That I likely will not go see!
That is all! Another Jonesin’ coming next week!
Chase Dittrich’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
Another new constructor, perhaps? The name Chase Dittrich did not appear in the constructor database here, so that may mean congratulations are in order. The theme is revealed across the middle:
- 38A [Act in a bipartisan way, and what the circled letters do Across and Down] CROSS PARTY LINES
I won’t list them all, because there are too many, but each answer that contains a circle can be followed by the word PARTY. This includes the long answers masquerade and Tupperware! This also means that there are a whopping 11 total theme entries including the revealer, which is phenomenal. I thought this was a great idea and it was well executed. 4.4 stars, and if this is indeed a debut, then high congratulations!
A few more things:
- 37A [San Diego ball club] PADRES – The Padres have been to the World Series twice, but this year is the first time the Washington Nationals/Montreal Expos have been. As of this writing, they are down 3-2 after losing three straight home games (!). The only team that has never been to a World Series is now the Seattle Mariners.
- 51A [Native encountered by Crusoe] CANNIBAL – Not the greatest mental picture here, but tastefully addressed by citing a literary classic!
- 55A [Large watchdogs] MASTIFFS – My co-worker just got a puppy bull mastiff, and I hear they are some of the greatest dogs. I still don’t want one myself, though.
- 59A [“SNL” alum Cheri] OTERI – The most famous SNL alum in crosswords!
- 10D [Part of MO] OPERANDI – I remember learning this when I was still in middle school. Not sure where it originally came up, but it has stuck all these years!
- 40D [Broadway restaurant founder] SARDI – I have never seen a Broadway play, although I have been to that area of Manhattan several times. Still not clear on how anyone can live there, but I am from the Midwest where there is lots of wide open space!
Have a great week!
Michael Paleos’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “That Sinking Feeling” — Nate’s write-up
I have the day off from school today because of the wildfires popping up all over Los Angeles. We’re safe, but it’s quite scary! Thankfully, I had this wonderful puzzle to take my mind off of those fires for a bit:
1D: WILLING [SEE HEADER]
6D: DUCK FEATHERS [SEE HEADER]
10D: ON THE BLINK [SEE HEADER]
22D: FOOTBALL PLAY [SEE HEADER]
30D: MELANCHOLY [SEE HEADER]
49D: SWALLOW [SEE HEADER]
It definitely took me a few beats to get this theme, but it looks like all of those themed down entries are meanings of the word “down.” “I’m WILLING to do that!” = “I’m down!” To SWALLOW something is to down it, etc. “That Sinking Feeling,” indeed! The one I’d never heard of before is ON THE BLINK, which would be used to refer to a machine or computer being down. Who knew!? Overall, I liked this grid. Lots of theme density without sacrificing the rest of the grid too much (aside from RUR and ORFEO) and a fun, multi-layered theme. That they all actually went down is a nice bit of attention to detail. This also feels like a complete theme; I can’t think of any other major meanings of the word down. Nice!
– Love seeing women like AVIATOR Amelia Earhart represented, and we’ve even got Lizzie Borden and AYN Rand, as if there were a woman randomness generator. ::laughing face emoji::
– I enjoyed the ARK / ARC double feature, largely because I can’t ever remember which one is which.
– 11A: My mind went somewhere totally different when reading this clue!
– 28A: SEX as a [Birth certificate datum] is what we’re assigned when we’re born based on the perception of our genitalia, which is different than someone’s gender identity (how they understand their gender). I’m glad that this clue didn’t conflate the two.
Jon Lovitz, not known as a singer?
Liar! That’s some dude named Jimmie Moore.
That’s the Ticket!
Lovitz sang “Save the Orphans” on Two and a Half Men as well.
Universal Crossword: Ups and Downs
Where do I begin? First of all, a word ladder does not belong in a crossword puzzle. Ever. Add to that it had an anagram (ugh) which also DOES NOT EVER belong in a crossword, and a clue that required referencing another clue. If there was any good stuff in there, I just can’t get past those features to see it.
Apart from that Mrs. Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play?
I asked David if he would run this puzzle today because it’s the 90th anniversary of Black Tuesday and he did. Thanks.
I enjoyed the play. It was a word ladder with a higher purpose that worked well for me. I thought it was quite cleverly done and enjoyed the solve. Well done Jules!
I’ll echo this. I think Frank’s comment was a bit rough. I’m no fan of word ladders but this was very well done. Overall, I enjoyed the solve. Thanks JPM.
I also thought it was excellent. Great job, Jules, and keep them coming, please.
I enjoyed the Universal Crossword! I like word ladders and anagrams and word play in general. It also had a history lesson going from boom to bust on October 29th!
I don’t care for word ladders in general, and this top-and-bottom one got a definite meh from me at the start, and the anagram was totally unnecessary IMHO, but … that said … the tie-in between the start & end of the word ladder and the two long acrosses was brilliant. I don’t ask for much more than a smile on my face after a Tuesday puzzle, and this one was many notches above that. Thank you jpm
“Please tell me that somewhere, sometime, there was was a shoe store called Route 66.” — Google quickly turns up a line of Kmart shoes called Route 66.
The puzzle, though — what a Joyless showbiZzz-name slog. This Tuesday really toozed, and if if 38D:SEMPRE is questionable Tuesday fill then 12D:JCCHASEZ should be chased the heck outta this grid.
I liked this puzzle a lot better than you did, Noam, because I enjoyed the JZs, but I also liked your funny comments. I surely agreed with your last remark, though I know that ’N Sync is a very well known band. The famous names that were mostly obscure to me did have fair crosses.
No love for yesterday’s BEQ? I thought was a ton of fun. So there.
WSJ–Sure glad you explained the meaning of sex.
Xword Nation: I would have preferred ill billy to be clued to a goat, but I guess there was a certain symmetry to having the middle three play on names and the outer two not, so I still have to say that this was a lovely puzzle — and olden retrievers brought back fond memories of Prince Valiant, our golden when I was a wee tot, who then went to my gramps when we moved across the country and was his faithful companion for yeeeeeeeeears. Brought back a few tears too, so thanks for that memory prompt, Ms. Gorski. Truly.
So glad you’re safe Nate. Nastiest fire season ever.