Evan Mahnken & David Steinberg’s New York Times crossword, “State of Confusion”—Amy’s write-up
The theme entries are seven unrelated phrases that happen to include a letter string that can be anagrammed to a state name:
- 23a. [Voice box? [Wolverine State], ANSWERING MACHINE. (Michigan is made from the circled letters.) I suspect most of us no longer have a working answering machine at home, just voicemail.
- 33a. [Safari sighting [Golden State], AFRICAN LION. (California.) I’m sure Gareth or pannonica can tell us if “African lion” is a term that has scientific legitimacy.
- 48a. [Stashed for later [Blue Hen State], SQUIRRELED AWAY. (Delaware.)
- 67a. [Editorialist’s skill [Mountain State], PERSUASIVE WRITING. (West Virginia.)
- 87a. [Knight’s accouterments [Ocean State], SWORD AND SHIELD. (Rhode Island.)
- 103a. [Sushi bar offering [Centennial State], AVOCADO ROLL. (Colorado.)
- 116a. [Has been around the block [Evergreen State], KNOWS A THING OR TWO. (Washington.) The most colorful of the theme answers.
I’m generally a fan of geography and anagram themes, but this one didn’t quite deliver the goods. And I’m pretty sure that there are software methods of finding phrases or words that include an assortment of letters, so it’s not likely that the constructors toiled with scratch paper trying to devise a workable list of themers.
Seven more things:
- 4d. [___ City, Yukon Territory], DAWSON. If you don’t know this city, you should—why, it’s Yukon’s second-largest city, population 1,375. When the local hockey team played in the 1905 Stanley Cup, Wikipedia tells us, they traveled part of the way to Ottawa by dogsled.
- 45d. [Charlie Brown catchphrase], “GOOD GRIEF.” I prefer “good gravy,” myself.
- 120a. [Hawaiian word that’s also a common Chinese surname], LEI. It’s a top-100 name in mainland China, but quite rarely seen in the U.S.
- 30d. [One leaving a trail], SNAIL. This is one of the reasons snails rarely get away with burglary.
Make that four things, as I’m told dinner is ready. 3.5 stars—solid fill and cluing, wished for more fun in the theme.
Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “These Are the Driods You’re Looking For” – Jim Q’s writeup
Guess I’m obligated to say right off the bat that I’ve never seen Star Wars. It’s not like I’m trying to avoid it… someday I’ll get to it! However, I’ve done enough crosswords where I’m fairly comfortable with the main characters and settings, so even with my limited knowledge I did ok here.
THEME: The characters C3PO and R2D2 are both represented in common words/phrases.
- 23A [*The act of placing limits on something] CIRCUMSCRIPTION. Cx3 Px1 Ox1 = C3PO
- 39A [*Screening locations] SECURITY CHECKPOINTS.
- 55A [*Group of islands north of the Canadian mainland] ARCTIC ARCHIPELAGO.
- 77A [*Pacific state evergreen] CALIFORNIA REDWOOD. Rx2 Dx2 = R2D2.
- 94A [*TV series whose second episode was titled “Top Banana”] ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT.
- 113A [*Queen Elizabeth II, to King Edward VII] GREAT GRANDCHILD.
- 64D [“Star Wars” droid whose alphanumeric name is represented in the starred answers in the top half of this puzzle] C3PO.
- 52D [“Star Wars” droid whose alphanumeric name is represented in the starred answers in the bottom half of this puzzle] R2D2.
Jam packed weekend, so I gotta be quick. This is sure to delight the Star Wars fans among us, but it really isn’t dependent on knowing much about the franchise at all beyond the very basics that appear in crosswords regularly, so kudos to that!
My favorite answer was ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT, not only because of the snappiness of the answer, but I like that the Rs and the Ds are right next to one another. Really sells R2D2 visually.
And of course, lots of other bonus Star Wars stuff sprinkled throughout. Part of me wonders why Evan didn’t hold off to publish this in May. May 4th is Star Wars Day, right? It’s on a Monday this year, which seems close enough to Sunday to get away with it, but perhaps that’s a tad too inelegant to publish on May 3rd?
The only other thing is I feel like I’ve definitely seen this idea before. Maybe not with both characters at the same time, but at least one of them (probably R2D2). Not that it matters. It’s well done here and themes are bound to be reminiscent of one another. That’s just the nature of it.
I assume the title of the puzzle is a play on words from a movie quote? That would make sense…
Enjoy your Sunday!
P.S. Really liked the clue for WORDY [Like this clue, which is unnecessarily verbose and could be way more succinct than it is]. Hahaha!
David Alfred Bywaters’s LA Times crossword, “Up Above” – Jenni’s write-up
All the theme answers are in the downs and they have “up” added at the beginning – “above” the base phrase. It was fun to solve.
- 3d [Like many characters in 22-Across?] is UPSET TO MUSIC. 22a is OPERAS. Great clue.
- 12d [Fashion house employee?] is an UPSCALE MODEL.
- 14d [Belt firms?] are UPHOLDING COMPANIES.
- 28d [Like an enthusiastic shrubbery salesperson?] is UPBEAT ABOUT THE BUSH. I think of the expression as “beat around the bush.” According to Google Ngram viewer, I’m right, but it’s recent. “Beat around” didn’t become more common than “beat about” until 1980. The answer is so funny I don’t much care.
- 63d [Unwanted piano key noise?] is an UPRIGHT CLICK.
- 66d [Niacin and protein, say?] is the UPSIDE OF BEEF.
All the base phrases are solid and all the altered answers are amusing. A fun Sunday theme!
A few other things:
- 23a [Informally formal entry announcement] is IT‘S I. I guess the formal would be IT IS I.
- 30a [Rival of J.H. and W.K. Kellogg] is C W POST. I listened to a podcast about the war between the Kellog and Post companies. Health food is serious business, and some of those people were very very odd.
- 43d [Good name for a Swedish soccer goalie?] is NILS. Think about it.
- 56d [Sleuth Charlie known for aphorisms] is CHAN, and he should be known for racism more than anything else. Can’t we use Jackie instead?
- 100d [Surrendered amateur status] is GONE PRO. I really wanted WENT PRO, but it was not to be.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that the TRANE company is based in Dublin, Ireland, and that ARETHA Franklin won a Grammy Lifetime Achievement award in 1994.
The NY Times theme felt less like a theme than a meta. Once you’re done, you’re welcome to unscramble the state names, if that’s your idea of a good time. (Surely no one knows or cares to be quizzed on their nicknames.) Then, too, PERSUASIVE WRITING may not hold up all that well as an entry on its own.
I could swear that the Sunday puzzles have been on a bad streak for a while now. A shame. Weekdays, from what I can see, are holding up just fine.
Surely no one is a bit of an overreach. I enjoy state trivia, including nicknames.
Fair enough. Apologies.
NYT: I agree about “Persuasive writing.” Is is really a thing? “Sword and shield” and “Surely not” struck me similarly as not stand-alone phrases. A rather dull Sunday Times puzzle–surprising from Steinberg. I did enjoy the appearance of Dawson City. Reminds me of Bill Morrison’s wonderful documentary from 2016: DAWSON CITY FROZEN TIME. Magical!
NYT: Who cares if the constructors used software? Not me. The wonderment is in how cleverly they managed to embed the scrambled state names within colorful phrases. The use of software to construct the puzzle doesn’t mean it’s a bad puzzle.
There is still a small remnant population of lions in India, so it’s valid.
Universal: Been there, done that … identical revealer and themers (plus PEYTON PLACE) to Gary Cee’s 2/1/2016 NYT puzzle. Boo hiss.
WaPo: The title of the puzzle is based on a line from the first “Star Wars” movie wherein the two droids of the puzzle are in danger of being captured by hostile forces. They are accompanied by Alec Guinness’ character, Obi-Wan Kenobi, who as a Jedi has mastered the power of suggestion. When the droids are approached, Obi-Wan intones “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for” and the would-be captors pass on by. (You really should watch at least the first “Star Wars.”)
LA Times – [Unwanted piano key noise?] is UPRIGHT CLICK? Joe Ely might have something to say about that.