Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Holiday Numbers” – Jim Q’s writeup
21×25 grid and a meta? You have my attention.
THEME: The Twelve Days of Christmas… and some other song.
- 23A [Drug kingpins, e.g.] CRIME LORDS.
- 25A [Ticket dispensers] METER MAIDS.
- 38A [Pin points?] WRESTLING RINGS.
- 55A [Those leading others into danger with false promises] PIED PIPERS.
- 59A [Unforeseen events with big consequences] BLACK SWANS.
- 75A [Some Japanese percussionists] TAIKO DRUMMERS.
- 89A [Honkers in the sky] CANADIAN GEESE.
- 108A [Overprotective sorts] MOTHER HENS.
- 112A [Winged things in magic shows] WHITE DOVES.
- 127A [Redheaded son of a musical sitcom family] DANNY PARTRIDGE.
- 145A [People arriving first] EARLY BIRDS.
- 147A [Drinks that get their color from grenadine] PINK LADIES. Awww, man! I really this were clued Grease! style.
Fun Fact: A total of 364 gifts are given total in this song, most of which are birds. I’ll take the rings! But you can keep your 30 Leapin’ Lords tripping over the 40 Milking Maids. And once I had a standoff with a single goose when I was stuck on a rock in a lake. If there were 41 more, I’d still be there.
Anyway, great puzzle. The fill was super easy, and it fell in quick with the exception of two tricky areas (took me a while to see WRESTLING/WAVE/ORDERS and HOOKE/WAKKO). This is to be expected in an oversized puzzle with a meta (I’m sure there are some traditionalists out there who grumble when Evan offers a meta now and again, so at least it’s a fun and painless ride along the way).
The only problem I can see is that all of the references to The Twelve Days of Christmas are out of order!
Or is that a hint? Hmmm. Let’s try determining how many of each gift there are in the order they appear in the grid:
10 LORDS, 8 MAIDS, 5 RINGS, 11 PIPERS, 7 SWANS, 12 DRUMMERS, 6 GEESE, 3 HENS, 2 DOVES, 1 PARTRIDGE, 4 BIRDS, 9 LADIES.
Could it be that the meta answer corresponds with the box numbers? That would be absurd! There’s no way one would be able to cram a well-known song title into the first three horizontal entries in the grid, is there?
There sure is. In fact, you really don’t even need the order once you know you’re looking for the first twelve boxes. As soon as you see DIVA, LAZED, and FIN (all perfectly fine fill!), it’s hard not to see FELIZ NAVIDAD.
Wow! What a great concept and execution. Made so much more impressive by the “non-forced” theme entries (including the anagram of FELIZ NAVIDAD).
Fantastic all-around. With a sly little wink in the clever title.
FELIZ NAVIDAD, everyone.
Laura Taylor Kinney’s New York Times crossword, “Down for the Count”—Amy’s write-up
It bothers me that the electronic forms of the puzzle capitalize every word in the Sunday puzzle’s title. I can copy and paste the title from Black Ink (a Mac-only alternative to Across Lite), but I have to edit the title into proper title case. /editorialrant
I needed to turn to Twitter to grasp the theme here. The revealer does double duty as a regular themer: 39a. [Abstainers … or the central column’s answers vis-à-vis 20-, 39-, 74- and 101-Across, respectively] clues TEETOTALERS. and there’s a THREE crossing the middle of this entry because there are 3 letter T’s in it. Likewise:
- 20a. [1/x, for x], MULTIPLICATIVE INVERSE. That phrase contains TWO T’s. It’s awfully mathy for a crossword clue, though.
- 74a. [It postulates a space-time fabric] THE THEORY OF RELATIVITY. FOUR T’s.
- 101a. [Little Richard hit with “the most inspired rock lyric ever recorded,” per Rolling Stone], TUTTI FRUTTI. FIVE T’s.
The entire rest of the grid contains no T’s at all, which in large part accounts for all the compromises that were made—the plural GERALDS and SAMUELS, possessive MORTON’S (tell me, non-Chicagoans, do you have any reason to be familiar with Morton’s: The Steakhouse?), plural SESAMES, unpleasant DELOUSED in the opening corner of the puzzle, URI SPEE ISDONE GESTE PULLA ILLE MDL AAS—it all wore me out. On the plus side, EL CAPITAN is solid as a rock, and I was glad to see the Packers’ LOMBARDI, ROGER FEDERER, a DELIVERY ROOM (mine was an OR, fun!), GO BROKE, PORK CHOP, and AIRWAVES.
Four more things:
- 47a. [Speed that would enable a 23-minute D.C.-to-L.A. flight], MACH SIX. (a) This is an arbitrary number to include, and (b) it’s distracting to have this MACH SIX centered across the TWO THREE FOUR FIVE column. Also, I feel like this clue is giving us all motion sickness.
- 52a. [One who might give you a shot], NURSE. It’s definitely flu season and it’s not too late to get your flu shot! You can also get it from a pharmacist at your local drugstore or grocery-store-with-a-pharmacy. Friend of mine hadn’t gotten her shot yet and the virus brought her low in November. She was sick as a dog for nine days.
- 100d. [Prefix for a polygon with 140-degree interior angles], NONA- / 11d. [The 1 in (1,2), in math], ABSCISSA. Dang, why is there so much math to do in this crossword? What is the multiplicative inverse of too much math?
- 86a. [Who once had all 10 of the top 10 Billboard hits simultaneously], Peter NOONE of Herman’s Hermits. No, wait, the answer is NO ONE. It’s a weird clue.
3.25 stars from me. The difficult-to-construct trick of keeping the letter T out of most of the grid doesn’t make the solve smoother or any more fun. And it might have been better to cross-reference the TWO, THREE, FOUR, and FIVE clues to their crossing themers rather than cluing them straight, just to make the theme pop out more.
Alex Eaton-Salner’s Universal crossword, “Game On!”—Jim Q’s review
Kick off is coming early this year!
THEME: LIV is added to common phrases and wackiness ensues.
- 15A [*With 61-Across, reminisced at an alumni event?] RELIVED
COLLEGE. Not REED COLLEGE.
- 18A [*Hepatologists?] LIVER DOCTORS. Instead of ER DOCTORS.
- 19D [*Fire Dickens’ Twist?] CAN OLIVER. Instead of CANOER.
- 52A [Big game on February 2, 2020 … or a hint to what’s added to the starred answers] SUPER BOWL LIV.
I found this puzzle… bizarre. In a number of ways. Not at all unenjoyable, just bizarre. Here’s a few things that made me cock my head:
- Theme answer placement: Three are going across, one is going down, and revealer is not the last one placed in the grid.
- Odd separation of RELIVED COLLEGE. Made it hard to appreciate the base phrase REED COLLEGE.
- CANOER as a base word. The others are more “snappy.”
- The revealer: The SUPER BOWL part of it really has nothing to do with anything.
- The entry IV LINE. Kinda sorta feels like a themer, doesn’t it? Even though the letters are out of order, there’s LIV at the beginning, and IV LINE is not something I hear all that often.
I’m not complaining. Just found it funky. Nothing wrong with quirkiness now and again!
Peter Koetter’s LA Times crossword, “At the Helm” – Jenni’s write-up
I didn’t figure out the theme until after I finished the puzzle, and only after some thought. The revealer is a little tricky (or my on-call brain is a little fuzzy). Once I figured it out, I liked the puzzle a bit more than I did while I was solving, although one answer pretty much ruined the experience for me.
All the theme answers are starred:
- 16d [*Food chain with a roundheaded spokesman] is JACK IN THE BOX.
- 23a [*Without hesitation] is HOOK LINE AND SINKER. Is that really accurate? I think of it as “without question,” not “without hesitation.” On second thought, maybe those mean the same thing. Hmm.
- 32a [*Opponent of the U.S. entry into WWII] is AMERICA FIRSTER. This is the answer I mentioned above. The group referenced in the clue were racist, nationalist, anti-interventionalists who decried Roosevelt’s “internationalism,” which was a thinly-veiled charge that he was too cozy with American Jews (ironic, given that FDR’s polices doomed thousands of Jews to death when the German government would have let them leave). That’s bad enough. Even worse: the slogan is back as part of our political landscape. I saw an “America First” yard sign the other day supporting Trump’s re-election campaign. My area has one of the highest concentrations of white supremacist groups in the country. I live with this every day and would prefer it not intrude into my puzzles.
- 48a [*”Sheik of … burning sand” in a Ray Stevens hit] is AHAB THE ARAB. Speaking of racism…
- 61d [*1990 Paul Simon song, with “The”] is OBVIOUS CHILD.
- 67a [*Back-to-basics food regimen] is the CAVEMAN DIET. I guess so, although Google gives 2.5 million hits for this and 78,000,000 for PALEO DIET.
- 84a [*Moments requiring decisive action] are CRUNCH TIMES.
- 100a [*Groups that pervert justice] are KANGAROO COURTS.
What do all these have in common? Let’s look at 112a, [1865 classic not written for the characters that start the answers to starred clues], which is O CAPTAIN MY CAPTAIN. I thought “characters” referred to the letters beginning each answer and started to write them all down in order, and then the penny dropped. They’re all captains: Captain JACK, Captain HOOK, Captain AMERICA, Captain AHAB, Captain OBVIOUS (by far my favorite), Captain CAVEMAN (new to me, not surprising since he debuted when I was 17), Cap’n CRUNCH, and CAPTAIN KANGAROO. It’s a fun theme and I would have enjoyed it a lot if not for 32a.
A few other things:
- Is YUK really a goofy laugh? I guess it’s reminiscent of the Three Stooges?
- 13d [Self-indulgent sort] is a CAKE EATER, when there are no lotuses around.
- I think of the [Chichén Itzá builders] as the MAYA or MAYANS, not the MAYAS.
- 63d [Industrial settler?] is a good clue for SMOG.
- 103d [Logical “razor” creator] was OCCAM, a gimme for anyone who went to med school. Occam’s Razor tells us to seek the simplest explanation that fits all the evidence, and is a foundational principle for diagnostic thinking.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: never heard of Jay CHOU; didn’t know that Bing Crosby played ALAN–A–DALE in “Robin and the 7 Hoods;” didn’t know that the letter EPSILON inspired the symbol for the euro; never heard of AGATHA Raisin in either book or TV form. I read American mysteries and don’t much care for British whodunits.
I leave you with Jay Chou, “Jasmine Orange.”