Nancy Stark & Will Nediger’s New York Times crossword, “Ready, Set … Gets Low!”—Amy’s write-up
“Gets Low” is a spoonerism of “let’s go,” and the theme entries are spoonerism pairs like that, but combined into one long phrase (with the real half sometimes first and sometimes last) and clued accordingly:
- 23a. [Cheer for beer on campus?], ALL HAIL HALL ALE.
- 38a. [Hoot at an out-of-focus nature photograph?], BOO BLURRED BLUEBIRD.
- 54a. [Antsy feeling when one is out of cellphone range?], SO NERVOUS NO SERVICE.
- 78a. [Where a demanding dockworker gets supplies?], STEVEDORE DIVA STORE. Apparently STEVEDORE can be pronounced with either two or three syllables.
- 94a. [Landing in Rotterdam?], DUTCH-TOWN TOUCHDOWN.
- 114a. [Piano that plays only a certain three notes?], B CHORD KEYBOARD.
Kinda fun theme. And with just six themers, there’s space for some good 7s and 8s in the fill. I like GNOCCHI and ARANCINI (these are words spoken in my house this evening), COLLAB, AGUILERA, SOWETO, DEPAUL, and DIYERS.
SevFiveen more things:
- 36d. [World capital settled by Vikings circa the ninth century], DUBLIN. Hey! That’s neat trivia to learn.
- 46a. [Small three-legged table], TEAPOY. What the…? This is not a word I have encountered before, I don’t think. The word is from Hindi/Urdu.
- 66a. [“Tilted Arc” sculptor Richard], SERRA. I don’t really know his work, so I looked it up. Here’s a short write-up about “Tilted Arc,” complete with an utterly boneheaded sentence near the end: “Even with the similarity of form and materials Tilted Arc shares with the buildings that surround it, it is hopelessly rejected by the general public, like a donor organ in the body of a transplantee.” Has that writer never heard of anti-rejection meds? Anyway, a Google image search showed me some cool large-scale Serra installations.
- 84d. [“Here, move over”], “LET ME TRY.” Feels like fresh fill, and good, colloquial fill.
- 112a. [It’s not legal], LETTER. As in American paper sizes, long legal size and 8.5×11 letter size.
Four stars from me. Wash your hands, and practice good social distancing!
Pam Klawitter’s Universal Sunday — “Answering Email” — Matt’s review
Seven phrases are “re”-imagined as e-mail reply headings beginning with the preposition “re”:
21-A: [Subject line for a reply email about a defective charger?] = RE: CORD-BREAKING
46-A: [… about getting rid of dust?] = RE: MOTE CONTROL. Amusing, since “mote” is an inherently funny word, though “moat” is not. Not sure why.
67-A: [… about a guy who’s sleeping on the job?] = RE: TIRED PERSON
89-A: [… about specialized rehabilitation for a dog?] = RE: TAIL THERAPY. Good since the meanings of “retail” and “tail” are so different, not so good since it invokes an injured animal. But then not so bad since it’s just the tail that’s injured and the dog is getting help for it. I’m overthinking this.
118-A: [… about a slightly wet book shipment?] = RE: COVER DAMAGES
15-D: [… about disposing of an old electrical part?] = RE: FUSE DISPOSAL. I only know this as a “garbage disposal.” OK, looks like it’s referencing just general disposal of waste, but doesn’t Google that well and seems more of a British thing. Base phrases in a pun puzzle like this should really be rock-solid since uncertainty over what’s being punned on tends to kill the funny. You don’t want to kill the funny.
53-D: [… about allowing two events to occur in the same place?] = RE: VENUE SHARING. I like this one since “venue sharing” sounds both funny and like a real thing. Maybe it is.
So I like the twist here of using the “re” as an e-mail heading. Haven’t seen it before and it makes the theme idea logical instead of arbitrary. The execution was decent, but with so many “re-” words available it seems like there could’ve been a couple of killer themers in there, entries where both 1) the meaning changes drastically with the removal of the “re” and 2) where the result is hilarious. Still, a perfectly good theme as is.
I was surprised to learn that this grid had 144 entries since it looks wider-opener than that at first glance. I would’ve guessed 140. I know we’re not supposed to obsess about stuff like that, and look at all the nice sixes and sevens she worked in there: MWAHAHA (that whole northwest corner is intricate and clever), BEACON, WHY NOT?, FRITTER, CLASSY and DRESSY meeting at the Y, AT REST, YANKEE, ACROSS (as a down!), UNUSUAL, PRECISE, PROFIT, and STEAL IN.
110-A: [Circle calculation] = AREA. It may still be Pi Day when you read these words.
27-D: [Kind of wrestler who eats 10,000-calorie meals] = SUMO. Whoa. That’s gotta be expensive.
57-D [Color with no common rhymes] = ORANGE. All over America today, solvers are confidently writing SILVER or PURPLE in those boxes.
Let’s call it 3.56 stars.
Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Name Dropping” – Jim Q’s writeup
I solved this puzzle the same way I solved Evan’s puzzles when his site, Devil Cross, was in its infancy: at a piano while waiting to accompany a high school musical. Granted, I did find it bizarre that Broadway is closed, but a local high school was still performing. That decision was above my pay grade.
THEME: Wordplay with celebrity names
23A [Tanker mess that occurs during a blessing?] GRACE SLICK.
- 25A [Young kangaroo who’s head of the diocese?] JOEY BISHOP.
- 36A [Nobleman known for eating burgers?] PATTY DUKE.
- 59A [Natural rise of a religious movement?] FAITH HILL.
- 61A [Nautical locations where radio operators say “copy that”?] ROGER WATERS.
- 67A [River crossings where some meet their boyfriends?] BEAU BRIDGES.
- 72A [One worshiped by male goats?] BILLY IDOL.
- 92A [Seafaring voyage for male turkeys?] TOM CRUISE.
- 109A [Forest full of big cats?] TIGER WOODS.
- 111A [Folk tale about a bathroom?] JOHN LEGEND.
Standard, easy puzzle with a familiar theme. I thought for sure with a title like Name Dropping names would be “dropped” to the answer below a themer or something like that. Nope. HOWEVER, names are dropped in a sense. Did you catch that there are no other names anywhere in the fill? That’s quite the feat. Actually, I don’t think I’ve ever solved a crossword that didn’t feature names in the fill. So… cool! And the fill didn’t suffer all that much, though I’m sure it was a burden for Evan. Okay, I coulda done without the IMARET/MAGE crossing, but at least there was that cute clue for MAGE about anagramming a word in the clue (“game”).
Because I solved on the West side of the puzzle and headed down I uncovered GRACE SLICK, FAITH HILL, and PATTY DUKE first. I thought for sure we were still keeping with the theme of women’s month. Then TIGER WOODS peaked out and I was corrected.
- 50D [Cause for alarm in a restaurant?] CHILI. As in *five alarm* chili.
- 12D [Game point?] TOY STORE. Point being a place in this context.
- 1D [Out words?] I’M GAY. The first entry I filled in.
Mostly standard stuff today.
GAME CLUES OF THE WEEK:
- 53D [Bosses of video games, e.g.] ENEMIES.
- 80A [Fantasy game sorcerer, and an anagram of a word in this clue] MAGE.
Hope your week ahead brings a sense of solace!
Kate Hawkins’ Universal crossword — “Lost in the Shuffle” — Jim Q’s review
THEME: Ends of theme answers end with common card games
17A [*Eli Whitney invention] COTTON GIN. How is it that no one has ever left school without knowing that Eli Whitney invented the COTTON GIN?
- 24A [*Fire-stoking tool, after use] RED HOT POKER.
- 38A [*Vegetable parts often dipped in butter] ARTICHOKE HEARTS.
- 51A [*Landmark over the Thames] TOWER BRIDGE. Yup. I wanted LONDON BRIDGE. For shame!
- 62A [*Conflict involving a wooden horse] TROJAN WAR. I prefer the wooden rabbit from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Not as bloody.
That’s a lot of theme space! It’s pulled off nicely and even has SNACK BARS and STRAW BALE as longer answers, though I think of them as HAY BALEs (they’re everywhere around where I live, and we’ve never called them STRAW BALEs!). RED HOT POKER seems a bit contrived with the double adjective, and google seems to agree that it’s not really a thing in the context of the clue. It is, however, a flower that I’m sure you’ve seen before! I think it would’ve been more fun to clue it like that! Seems less contrived and a fun fact!
Simple, consistent theme that makes it difficult to carp about anything. I’ve said it before, but I like it when Universal sticks to the types of themes that are easy to explain to a solver at any level.
Pam Awick Klawitter’s LA Times crossword, “No Rhyme, No Reason” – Jenni’s write-up
For the second Sunday in a row, the LAT is by a woman! I support this trend.
The theme answers look like they should rhyme, but they don’t, because English is weird.
- 23a [Costuming choice for a “Cats” performance?] is a LEOPARD LEOTARD.
- 37a [Proctor’s nightmare?] is a GREAT CHEAT.
- 41a [Tree surgeon’s challenge?] is a TOUGH BOUGH.
- 51a [One skilled at squandering?] is a MASTER WASTER.
- 70a [Sweeping thoroughfare?] is a BROAD ROAD.
- 84a [Expert on current energy options?] is a SOLAR SCHOLAR.
- 95a [Dud of a car that Stephen King might write about?] is a DEMON LEMON. That’s my favorite.
- 100a [Chophouse bandit?] is a STEAK SNEAK. When you do a lot of crosswords in a row, you might start to see dupes where they don’t exist. SNEAK showed up in the NYT and it stopped me here until I remembered that was a different puzzle.
- 118a [Lazy son, vis-à-vis his lazy dad?] is a YOUNGER LOUNGER.
It’s a fun theme. The eye rhymes make it a pretty easy puzzle; once you get one word in a theme answer, you can fill in the end of the other word. In a Sunday puzzle, that’s feature for most people, not a bug. I wonder how many people will start doing crosswords while they’re practicing social distancing.
A few other things:
- 1d [What’s underfoot?] is SOLE, not SOIL, as I originally thought. The question mark is there for a reason!
- Has anyone ever seen RIA in the wild? The word, not the thing itself. I have not.
- 46d [Deluge result, perhaps] is a RAIN DELAY. Here’s hoping we get enough baseball this summer to have one.
- 74a [Pool slip-up] is a MISCUE. I expected a question mark with this clue and didn’t get one. Is that a term of art for pool?
- The BEEBE/TREN crossing almost got me. I’ve never heard of Don BEEBE and the train fanatic in my house doesn’t speak Spanish; we both studied French. I took a guess and it was right.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: see above re: Don BEEBE. I also did not know that the actual fight at the OK CORRAL took place in 1881, and I didn’t know that a BATEAU was a word in English for “flat-bottomed boat.” I did know the French word. See above, again.