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.