Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Home Game” – Jim Q’s writeup
Constant WaPo solvers may notice a bizarre number of themes that center around the idea of “home.” This time, however, the clues hold the master key to the front door.
THEME: Theme clues are phrases with “home” in them, and they’re reimagined in a literal sense.
- 23A [Starter home?] RESTAURANT. As in, a restaurant is the “home” of starters
- 25A [Take home?] OP-ED COLUMN. “Take” meaning “opinion.”
- 37A [Hits home?] BASEBALL STADIUM.
- 53A [Hammer home?] TOOL CABINET.
- 71A [Anybody home?] PLANET EARTH.
- 91A [Fly home?] PAIR OF PANTS. Assuming they’re not, ya’ know, yoga pants or anything.
- 106A [Drive home?] DESKTOP COMPUTER.
- 122A [Rest home?] SHEET MUSIC.
- 125A [Rams home?] LOS ANGELES.
Another straightforward offering that didn’t pose too much of a challenge. This is a great puzzle for people looking to get into crosswords. It’s consistently clued and easy to grok. The balance of zany/tricky/straightforward themes allows solvers at any level to dig in to a WaPo with a solid chance of it being on their wavelength. That being said, I’m suspecting there will be a curveball next week since we’ve had over-the-plate ones the last few Sundays.
The themer that took me the longest to see was RESTAURANT clued as [Starter home?]. It feels like a stretch, and with it placed in the NW, it’s the first one I uncovered. In a simple theme like this, I think I would’ve preferred it switched with LOS ANGELES so the theme presented itself more clearly from the get-go.
- 48A [Engage in some diamond-lending?] DEAL. As in cards, but that clue is weird imo. I just googled “diamond lending” and it is indeed a thing, but I don’t think of cards as being “lent out” once they’re dealt.
- 66A [Halves of a split item?] EXES. Good clue. “Item” in this case being synonymous with “couple.”
- 78A [Used a tap, say] SPIED. Really wanted this to be POURED. Wrong tap!
- 83A [What the snake in the ouroboros symbol is depicted as eating] ITSELF. Didn’t know it was called “ouroboros.” Cool.
- 15A [Amount of work?] SALARY. As in the amount you earn.
- 89D [“Wonderful Tonight” singer Clapton] ERIC. Ever really absorb the lyrics of this song? Guy sounds like he simply gets drunk and manages to compliment his lady for being the one everybody checks out at a party before passing out.
VIDEO GAME CLUE OF THE WEEK:
75A [Nintendo product with aerobics minigames] WII FIT. I tried it for about 10 minutes. Maybe burned a calorie or two.
Until next week!
Frank Longo’s New York Times crossword, “Open Wide!”—Amy’s recap
It’s that rarity, a themeless 21x puzzle. Frank Longo can wrangle wide-open spaces with the best of them, and so he’s managed to get corners with stacked 11s and 9s, plus tons of entries in the 7- to 17-letter range.
Fave fill: DANIEL CRAIG, TIE-DYEING, a Shawshank PRISON ESCAPE, SPILLANE, BRAND-NAME PRODUCTS (I have my loyalties), SEVEN YEARS IN TIBET (didn’t see it), scientific META-ANALYSES, AMAZON PRIME, and RARE DISEASE (I’m a big fan, can’t get enough of the rare diseases—well, actually, one or two is more than enough to have).
Much of the fill is ordinary stuff, with some clunkers like the ELOPER and MENDERS, crosswordese-type stuff like ERNES and SAAR and AMAH (which is a word my Asian mother-in-law actually uses! but she also does a lot of crosswords …).
Five more things:
- 1d. [Nobleman above un conte], DUCA. Apparently these are the Italian words for a count and a duke. Both news to me.
- 13d. [Sitcom/film star who was named People’s “Most Beautiful Woman” twice], ANISTON. She’s currently the star of a TV drama for a change, Apple TV+’s The Morning Show. I’ve been watching it but haven’t seen this week’s episode yet. I did, however, read this short piece of slashfic about the Aniston and Witherspoon characters earlier today.
- 75a. [Fuel-carrying ships], COALERS. Not a word I’d seen before, and it looks like a roll-your-own word with that -ER tacked on. If you’re not in the coal business or the shipping business, you may not have seen it before, either. (I might have seen heaps of coal and some COALERS in the port of Duluth, on Lake Superior, though.)
- 52d. [Get married, in slang], SPLICE. The folks I saw on Crossword Twitter discussing this tonight have never encountered this usage. Nor have I.
- 31a. [In the mood for love], AMATIVE. Say what? Had the AM- in place, filled in AMOROUS. That wasn’t working out with the crossings, so I changed it to AMATORY. And then that didn’t pan out, either. AMATIVE? Not a word I knew existed, possibly. Not a word we use much, certainly.
Now, the main fun of themeless puzzles, for me, is locking wits with the constructor, battling through tough clues. When you bring the clues down to Sunday-puzzle difficulty, but there’s not a good wordplay theme to engage the funny bone, it’s perhaps less entertaining than one hopes for. 3.5 stars from me.
Gail Grabowski’s LA Times crossword, “Accentuating the Negative” – Jenni’s write-up
I usually like Gail’s puzzles, and this was no exception. It was an enjoyable solve for a cold, wet Sunday. Or any other Sunday. The theme answers all have “un” added to the beginning of an ordinary phrase.
- 16d [Rattle football linemen?] is UNNERVE CENTERS.
- 23a [Like frayed laces on hockey skates?] is UNFIT TO BE TIED.
- 39a [Dig up buried Burma-Shave relics?] is UNEARTH SIGNS. I loved this one.
- 52d [Do a “Wheel of Fortune” job?] is UNCOVER LETTERS.
- 57a [Brief period of apathy?] is UNMOVING DAY.
- 82a [Committee leader who’s a bit on edge?] is an UNEASY CHAIR.
- 97a [Orthodontist’s concerns] are UNSOUND BITES.
- 119a [Pets that help with luggage after a trip?] are UNPACK ANIMALS. Wish I had some of those.
All the base phrases are solid and all the theme entries are amusing. I like it when there are theme answers going both across and down; for some reason, I find that very pleasing.
A few other things:
- 1a [“Proud Mary” pop gp.] is CCR – Creedence Clearwater Revival. Kids, ask your grandparents.
- 9d [Small decision-maker] is a fun clue for COIN.
- 11d [Trees with berries] are ELDERS. Really? Aren’t they ELDERberries? There are other perfectly good clues for that entry.
- 46d [Flu symptom] is AGUE, an old term for the shaking chills that accompany high fevers. Flu has arrived here in eastern PA and there have already been at least two deaths that I know of. Flu shots are not guaranteed protection, but they reduce the risk of contracting the flu and reduce the severity of illness and risk of life-threatening complications – tl; dr: flu shots save lives. GET YOURS. Also: the flu shot cannot give you the flu; there’s no actual virus in the shot. Many people have some mild achiness and malaise as part of the immune response. Trust me, the flu is way worse.
- 121a [Challenge for a flight attendant] is AIR RAGE. Be kind to your flight attendants this week.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that Corinne Bailey RAE won a Grammy. I’d never heard of her, which was my loss. This song won Best R&B Performance in 2012.
NYT southwest is rough. I found that AMATIS/MIMESIS crossing impenetrable. SAAR crossing ROADSTEAD, also not in my wheelhouse. I don’t think Roadstead is even very inferable based on the clue.
Agreed that the SW of this one was the gnarliest and last to fall for me. I had RED NOSES and then RED FACES (since I had RUHR in place already) before SAD FACES :((
I’d those, too, as well as Amy’s sequence to AMATORY. I’d call it hard, certainly hard enough on a Sunday to justify a theme if one wants one. Curiously, it felt a little easy with short clues and then hard on the unusually long ones.
I get a lot of my reward from themes, which keep me going through the size of a Sunday. (I do work Saturday, but my fave each week is the hardest of the themed, so Thursday.) Without that, not ideal for me, but no doubt that’s just me, and the wealth of longish fill made for some interest.
I’m like you, JohnH. I love themes, and I like those crosswords a lot more than themeless. Also like you, I’m wondering why a themeless crossword needs to have stuff like AMATIVE in it.
NYT: P. G. Wodehouse used SPLICE quite a bit, to mean marry. His books are the only place I have ever seen the word in that usage.
I went the same amorous-amatory-amative route.
I somehow didn’t realize that this was a themeless until the end. I searched thoroughly – maybe there was a meta? – and thought the clue for 100A (“Free”) was a hint. This is my brain on early-morning caffeine.
I didn’t realize it was a themeless until I read Amy’s review. And I don’t drink caffeine. Maybe I should.
LAT – For a simple theme, Gail’s “Accentuating the Negative” is remarkably well done. All the theme answers were amusing, and the theme was consistently applied. I particularly enjoyed the answer to “Pets which help with luggage after a trip.” Since it hasn’t been reviewed yet, I won’t reveal the answer, but this one gave me my out-loud laugh for the week.
It’s understandable that the NYT, like other cultural institutions, is shooting for a younger demographic. But EUBIE Blake in two Sundays in a row? Nothing against the E-Dog, as he’s known by millennials far & wide. But it just seems like pandering.
Amy…you are absolutely spot-on with my thoughts on this Sunday themeless. Amative? Coaler? Splice? And even though I’m a boater, Roadstead was new to me.
I’m with you, also. I prefer themed puzzles, especially on Sundays. I am also a boat person and never heard of a roadstead. And, I grew up in coal country and never heard the term coaler. I know them as coal barges.
I really enjoy the Sunday Washington Post crosswords. I think Evan Birnholz and I are on the same wavelength, because I’m often able to enter complex answers like ATTABOY and HOWNICE right away.
But I’m not in love with the “diamond-lending” clue, either. I took it more straightforwardly, that a diamond DEALer might lend diamonds, but that didn’t really sit right. I think Jim Q’s correct that the clue refers to dealing cards, but I agree with him that the cards aren’t being lent. The dealer doesn’t “own” the cards, and often the dealer rotates, so you are “returning” the cards to a different person than the one you lent them to. Actually, I think I don’t typically return them to a person, but to an anonymous pile in the middle of the table that the next dealer will collect.
Is today’s NYT constructor, Frank Longo, also the Frank A. Longo of the Sunday weekly Premier Crossword that runs in newspapers and is available online? Or do they have coincidentally similar names?
Yes, Frank Longo in this puzzle is the same person that does the Premier Crossword (or the Super Crossword). This is as indicated in the bio on the newspaper print version of this NYT.
“nicest” isn’t my idea of a term associated with 3 star restaurants
3-star is the best rating Michelin offers, and even being rated at all requires clearing a high bar. For more info: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michelin_Guide
Roger, I strongly agree! “Nicest” is an exceedingly lame way to describe a Michelin 3-star restaurant.
I really enjoyed Frank’s NYT puzzle — entries and clues. I don’t often put in ratings, but I did for this … alas, mistakenly entering a 3 instead of my intended 4.5.
I can fix that, Pat.
The SW corner of NYT slaughtered me. I had to do several check puzzles and four reveal squares. I hate myself.
I did not understand the clue “Letter Carriers: for which one-letter clues will do”.
This crossword appeared in the Sunday edition of the Toronto Star.
I was able to complete it without the clue.
Please explain it.