Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle (Week 456), “Blocked-Off Areas”—Ade’s take
Hello everybody! We are already into the last week of February, which means some of us will be drinking green beers before we know it for St. Patrick’s Day! (I’ve never had a green-hued beer in my life, and I plan on keeping it that way.)
Today’s puzzle included groups of circles that had to be interpreted as squares because the words that were formed in each of the circles ended up fitting in to today’s theme, MARKET SQUARES (35A: [Central open-air commerce areas in towns and cities…and a key to the puzzle theme]).
- MEAT, FREE, BEAR, MASS, BULL & FLEA are the six words that are formed in the circled squares, all of which can precede the word “market.”
Seeing the longish entries of EASEMENT (30A: [Right of way, to a property owner]) and AMASSING sandwiching today’s theme was definitely an eye-pleaser (39A: [Gathering]). And those entries were just a few of the seven-letter or longer entries that dotted this grid, with CASTANET forcing my mind to replay the sound that it makes over and over after solving for it (22D: [Clicker in a flamenco dancer’s hand]). Given today’s political climate here in the United States, very timely and apropos to mention Thoreau’s ESSAY in the grid (42A: [“Civil Disobedience,” for one]). Speaking of a nice shout out, there’s one for Chesley Sullenberger with the clue to SULLY, and I can’t believe it’s been over 11 years since that flight because I can remember seeing the news about it like it was yesterday (49D: [Nickname of the “Miracle on the Hudson” pilot]). There are names of two old-time Major League Baseball players, with one being ENOS Slaughter, the man whose “mad dash” allowed him to score the game-winning run of the 1946 World Series (58A: [Slaughter of baseball]). The other person is not known for his baseball skills as much as he is for his espionage during war. Wait, what?
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: BERG (19A: [Icy hazard for ships]) – Princeton and Columbia-educated, as well as fluent in many languages, former Major League catcher Moe Berg ended up spending his immediate post-baseball career as a United States spy. notably being sent by the U.S. government to Italy to interview a number of physicists about Nazi Germany’s nuclear program. During trips to Japan in which he accompanied Major League all stars as they played exhibition games, Berg gathered intelligence for the government, filming the city of Tokyo from rooftops and providing US intelligence rare photos from the city. Though Berg had a 15-year career in the Majors, performed dangerous missions for US intelligence and was renown for his intelligence by appearances on game shows, he was without work for around the last 20 years of his life. He passed away in 1972 due to effects from a fall in his home and, reportedly, his last words was to the nurse who was taking care of him were these: “How did the Mets do today?”
Thank you so much for the time, everybody! Have a wonderful rest of your day and, as always, keep solving!
Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal crossword—Nate’s write-up
Puzzle’s like today’s WSJ by editor Mike Shenk are why I’m a huge fan of letting puzzles have titles. Look at the great upset critter themers we get in today’s “Animals in Revolt” puzzle without having to sacrifice room in the grid for a revealer:
16A: ANGRY BIRDS [Video game with villainous green pigs]
21A: MAD COW [2012 Hank Williams III single]
34A: STEAMED CLAM [Seafood item from a beach cookout]
51A: HOT DOG [Frank]
55A: RAGING BULL [Loser to “Ordinary People” at the 1981 Oscars]
(with the bonus SORER at 38A)
A nice tight theme set! I can’t think of many other common phrases or compound nouns that have this same angry animal setup – comment below if you can.
Other random thoughts:
– I loved seeing the APOLLO Theater get a shout out!
– This fill in the puzzle was largely so smooth but gosh was that MERCOURI / URIS crossing in the SE corner a doozy! I had to run the alphabet at that square until I got it. TRICE was also tough for me, but the crossings there were all super fair.
– For women in the grid, we have LENA Horne, LAILA / ALI, HERS, LINDA Rondstadt, and Melina MERCOURI. So, 4 women plus a pronoun. There are many more men than that in the grid and there are almost as many Hanks (AARON and Williams III) as women. Women vs. Hanks: 4 to 2.
– I liked the mini pig theme, with the “villainous green pigs” in ANGRY BIRDS, [Pig fat] LARD, and [Porcine comment] OINK. Maybe being cast as the villains has made them the angriest animals of all in this puzzle? :)
Peter Gordon’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap
STATE / MOTTOs are the name of the game today: 69a. [With 70-Across, what the first word of each long Across answer is vis-à-vis the bracketed place in its clue]. There are four states with one-word mottos in English, and those words are the first part of these four themers:
- 21a. [International competition for countries that boycotted the 1984 Summer Olympics [Texas]] FRIENDSHIP GAMES. Sports footnote.
- 31a. [45 1/2-carat gem at the National Museum of Natural History [Rhode Island]], HOPE DIAMOND.
- 43a. [QB’s downfield throw [Wisconsin]], FORWARD PASS. Is this about Aaron Rodgers?
- 57a. [Companies that have big market shares [Utah]], INDUSTRY LEADERS.
I don’t personally find state motto trivia to be of much interest, and the theme entries weren’t particularly lively.
AW SHUCKS and LAVA LAMP are zippy, but there was also fill that felt a bit hard for a Tuesday (NITTI, VIDI, ARNO, stilted IT IS SO) or on the blah side (ORCH, EDYS, STET, REDYE, plural GILAS).
3d. [Brand to use “if you dare wear short shorts”], NAIR. Ah, yes. The single catchiest commercial jingle about pubic hair America has ever had.
3 stars from me.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “Is It of Isn’t It” – Derek’s write-up
This title is a little tricky, but let me list the theme answers and then we will explain:
- 18A [Winter wear with check stubs in the pockets?] COATS OF PAY –
- 28A [Lacking, like a bad luau?] MISSING THE POI –
- 49A [Feathery cattle comforter?] DOWN FOR THE COW –
- 64A [Distill happiness and box it up?] CASE THE JOY –
So we have several phrases that have the NT sound removed from the end. For example, coats of paint has been shortened to COATS OF PAY. So the title now makes a little more sense hopefully, as the “nt” sound is in one half of the title and not in the other half. Nicely executed, with several hilarious entries and clues. A great example of a Jonesin’ puzzle! 4.6 stars this week.
A few more notes:
- 14A [“Remote Control” host Ken] OBER – There are three error marks in the puzzle. This was one of them. Couldn’t remember this dude’s name, and had no idea what 2D was.
- 35A [Poet-political activist Jones] LEROI – This is Amiri Baraka. Don’t know either name. Another error here. The third error was a typo!
- 68A [Zapp Brannigan’s assistant, on “Futurama”] KIF – This is definitely the obscure-pop-culture-reference-of-the-week. Some people are huge fans of this show (one of my sons, for example!), but I don’t think I have ever watched it. I am getting old …
- 11D [Like family-friendly organizations?] NEPOTISTIC – Did the name Hunter Biden pop into your head? Too political??
- 30D [Official name of Seattle’s MLS team] SOUNDERS FC – Great entry! Most soccer clubs around the world have names like this, and many in the MLS follow suit. Get with the program if you don’t like soccer! It is growing and growing fast.
- 37D [Spanish guitarist ___ De Lucia] PACO – Who?
- 57D [“___ Masters” (2020 Fox reality show)] LEGO – I haven’t seen this show yet, although I want to. I’ll find it on demand somewhere!
- 65D [RadioShack’s ___-80 computer] TRS – We had these when I was in high school! Matt and I are close to the same age, so we must have similar horror stories!
That is all! Another Jonesin’ next week!
Paul Coulter’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
Could this theme be interpreted in two ways? We shall see. Let’s see what the original theme is in the first place and then we will discuss:
- 17A [1950 Gloria Swanson film] SUNSET BOULEVARD –
- 25A [1979 Jim Henson film] THE MUPPET MOVIE –
- 42A [1988 Demi Moore film] THE SEVENTH SIGN –
- 57A [2002 Woody Allen film … or what each of the last words of 17-, 25- and 42-Across can be] HOLLYWOOD ENDING –
So we are familiar with the terms Hollywood Boulevard, Hollywood movie, and Hollywood sign. But is it a double theme in that each of these movies has, shall we say, a Hollywood ending? That is an actual open-ended question, since the only movie of these three I have seen is The Muppet Movie! In any case, a nice theme that at the very least makes you think a bit! A solid 4.5 stars for this one.
A few more things:
- 1A [Rene of “Ransom” (1996)] RUSSO – Why pick this movie? I think I have seen this way back when (is this the one with Mel Gibson?), but it seems like a dated clue.
- 52A [“John Wick” star Keanu] REEVES – In a similar manner, this clue could be updated to [“John Wick: Chapter 3: Parabellum” star Keanu].
- 1D [PBS painter Bob] ROSS – Love me some Bob Ross! Plenty of his content is on Netflix!
- 7D [Fair-haired Wells race] ELOI – It has been a long time since I read this. I remember they were described as white or something like that; “fair-haired” seems to be a different way to put it.
- 10D [Actor Danny who appears in M&M’s commercials] DEVITO – Again, odd choice of reference.
- 28D [Eucharistic plate] PATEN – I am not Catholic, so I didn’t know this word. I’ll take your word for it.
- 37D [1860s North-South conflict] CIVIL WAR – Civil wars are always ugly, but there has to be a better way to clue this that isn’t depressing. Mentioning another civil war probably wouldn’t help, though. And I am one to not let entries bother me! Seeing TRUMP in a puzzle doesn’t bother me at all. Maybe a reference to the Avengers movie
Everyone have a fantastic week!
Greg Johnson’s Universal crossword, “Full of Surprises”—Jim Q’s review
This one is bound to have you OOHing and AAHing!
THEME: “OOH” is hidden in common phrases.
- 17A [Man-made animal attraction] ZOO HABITAT.
- 30A [“We need an air conditioner!”] IT’S TOO HOT!
- 44A [Speed skater inducted into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame in 2019] APOLO OHNO.
- 59A [City about 2.5 hours west of Cleveland] TOLDEO, OH.
Cute! Most of these felt solidly in-language and I like that OOH bridges the separate parts of the answer. IT’S TOO HOT is the one that I can’t be positive is an in-language phrase, and I like the other ones better because OOH is included in all of each entry’s words.
Great clue for 29D [Charger that won’t fit in your luggage?] RHINOCEROS! Also, it’s butted up against another solid, long down answer (DELAWARE). The symmetrical pair is equally nice (SNAKE OIL/POWERHOUSE).
Thanks, Greg! 3.8 Stars.
Funny, but regarding the WSJ, I’d have said that URIS is crosswordese rather than unfamiliar. I’d have sworn I filled him in twice in the previous week somewhere. So that was a gimme for me, even if completing the rest of MERCOURI took me till the end.
“Animals in Revolt” at first had me wanting to find animal names reading backward, but I guess that’s the cryptic solver in me. Good puzzle.
I’m older so MERCOURI and URIS were write-it-ins for me.
Melina was quite the full package. Pretty, bright, ambitious – went on in life to be a Greek Politician after arguably (part of the era) a sexy woman. She could sing, too.
Beautiful WSJ today and a mehish NYT considering that it was by Peter (Was that because of Will S.?), probably should have run on a Monday where it would have been stellar.
I learnt TRICE today.
Bob ROSS – hahahaha, the stoned painter with his ‘Happy little trees’.
Gotta. Love. It.
WSJ: “I can’t think of many other common phrases or compound nouns that have this same angry animal setup – comment below if you can.”
I can think of a couple.
Aha! I thought I’d seen this theme recently. JP gets dibs.
LAT – Thanks, Derek. To answer your question, there isn’t really an additional layer to Hollywood endings as a feature of the theme movies. Aside from ending with words that can follow Hollywood, they were chosen for familiarity.
Monday Universal – “Contain Yourself” started as a 21x. David was right to ask me to trim it to a 15x, as the others weren’t nearly as good as JAWBREAKERS, COFFEEBEANS, and CASSETTETAPE. The set that works with apt containers around contents is pretty limited. For the record, the others in the 21x I submitted were:
CORNSYRUP – Sweetener in many recipes, poured into an apt container
VANILLAEXTRACT – Common ingredient for bakers, produced in an apt container
BEEFEATERGIN – Popular spirit at the liquor store, displayed in an apt container
and stretchiest of all, POTATODOUGHNUT – Sweet treat, fried in an apt container
WSJ – also nice nod to Fat Tuesday with Mardi Gras at 31D
Jones had a double Natick in the Northwest corner with OBER and ODOM crossing ABED (or is it ABE D?). I’ve never seen “Community,” never even heard of “Remote Control,” and don’t know who’s in the cast of “Hamilton.” If you’re going to use pop culture references, don’t pile them up.
That NW corner cast a pall over this puzzle I couldn’t shake. I liked the themers and a few other solid entries but otherwise I just didn’t enjoy this.