Jack Mowat & Jeff Chen’s New York Times crossword, “Of Course!”—Amy’s write-up
Golf is not my favorite topic, so a theme of golf-related plays on words isn’t really up my alley. We’ve got various phrases and words redefined in a golf context. And a duffer, apparently, is someone without a lot of golf skills. If you’d quizzed me, I’d have thought it was a term for any golfer, not specifically a bad one.
- 23a. [Duffer’s approach shots that barely go anywhere?], MICROCHIPS.
- 33a. [Duffer’s putt that just misses?] A STROKE OF BAD LUCK.
- 46a. [Nickname for a duffer who can’t hit straight?], CAPTAIN HOOK.
- 66a. [Result of spectators heckling a duffer?], DISTRACTED DRIVING. One of the silliest things in the world, the expectation that golfers can’t be expected to perform amid noise, whereas every other athlete can and does.
- 88a. [Duffer’s problems with an angled club?], WEDGE ISSUES. The straight definition is roughly “any issue that is fraught with the potential to drive a wedge between those who don’t see eye to eye.” As an example, the thickness of one’s mechanical pencil lead is a WEDGE ISSUE among many crossworders.
- 100a. [Duffer’s reasons to choose a wood?], IRON DEFICIENCIES. Feels a little weird in the plural, but probably legit. What say you, physician-solvers?
- 115a. [Like the duffer in this puzzle?], NOT UP TO PAR.
The theme’s consistency is good—the “all NOT UP TO PAR” angle. I just don’t get into golf, and golf terms like CHIP and WEDGE aren’t things that resonate. Unless! Unless you are talking about potato chips and potato wedges.
Toughest crossing: 71a. [Rope holding down a bowsprit], BOBSTAY (say what??) and 43d. [Piece of training equipment in boxing], SPEED BAG. I neither box nor sail. I’m sure I’m not alone in that.
Our dinner has arrived early, so gotta go. Some nice fill here. 3.75 stars, I guess?
Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Sounds About Right” – Jim Q’s writeup
A classic theme and a classic title today.
- 23A [Monastery full of bucks?] DEER ABBEY. Dear Abby. I always screw up the spelling of ABBEY/ABBY. My cat’s name is Abby and I often switch between the two spellings. I think it gets her mad.
- 25A [Posted sign warning people that garbage is prohibited in this area?] WASTE BANNED. Waistband.
- 39A [Ones receiving divine revelations from eating Indian bread?] NAAN PROPHETS. Non-profits. My favorite of the set.
- 48A [Sea voyage taken by a royal successor?] HEIR CRUISE. Air crews.
- 68A [Nickname for Attorney General William that he earned for complaining?] WHINE BARR. Wine bar.
- 87A [Boyfriends who rule?] REIGN BEAUS. Rainbows.
- 93A [Fraudulent survey that collects sensitive information via email?] PHISHING POLL. Fishing pole.
- 112A [Jets on a fireplace frame?] GRATE PLANES. Great Plains.
- 115A [Tranquility among jack rabbits?] HARE PEACE. Hairpiece.
A gentle, accessible puzzle, perfectly placed amongst some of the curveballs of the past weeks. I always enjoy when Evan embraces the absurdity of the clue/answer pairs rather than trying to find ones that sound a bit more plausible (See NAAN PROPHETS, WHINE BARR and REIGN BEAUS!). I had to stop at HEIR CRUISE and say it aloud a few times before I cam up with Air crews as its homophonic partner. I think the plural of Crews threw me off, but that’s the one I least enjoyed uncovering.
Nicely filled with any names that might not be in the solver’s wheelhouse fairly crossed, though I must admit I screwed up LAZARUS, DUSTIN, and KATANA by filling in LAZARES, DESMIN, and KAMANA. All three of those looked fine to me! Hehe. I keep forgetting I’m supposed to watch Stranger Things.
I needed every crossing for EVENEST… I couldn’t see that one at all. But… does anyone say that?
Overall, a fine, playful puzzle for a fun Sunday solve.
Debbie Ellerin’s Universal crossword — “Head Fake”
THEME: Phrases where “FALSE” can precede the first word.
- 17A [*Snooze button’s location] ALARM CLOCK. False alarm.
- 23A [*Game with no tackling] FLAG FOOTBALL. False flag.
- 40A [*OSHA is in it] LABOR DEPARTMENT. False labor.
- 51A [*Despicable opportunist] BOTTOM FEEDER. False bottom.
- 64A [Sprinter’s infraction, and a hint to the starred answers’ first words] FALSE START.
A fine Universal today, very cleanly filled with a very accessible theme. “False flag” and “False labor” were somewhat new to me, but as I was googling each I realized what they were. Those terms were both sitting on the edge of my everyday vocabulary, waving from a distance, asking to be noticed. That is not saying anything negative about their use in the puzzle – they’re both perfectly fine – just that I couldn’t immediately snag them.
MOONBEAMS and DO NOT OPEN make for nice longer downs. You can even make a sentence out of it as if you are talking to multiple children with the same name in the Hippie Era: “Moonbeams, do not open!”
Thanks for this one!
David Alfred Bywater’s LA Times crossword, “What’s Missing?” – Jenni’s write-up
As the title suggests, something is missing from half the theme answers. We can answer the question by looking at the other theme answers.
- 23a [Feeling caused by reading too many self-referential articles?] is META FATIGUE. That’s metal fatigue without the L. Then we have 25a [Where movie actors rehearse Southern accents?], which is DRAWL LOTS. The missing L shows up in the middle of draw lots, and there’s a helpful circle to make sure we notice. More on the circles later.
- 50a [Overhead support for a small army?] is ANT AIRCRAFT (anti-aircraft), paired with 54a [Urban pedestrian’s maneuver?], TAXI DODGE (tax dodge). My husband made up a rap called “The Covid Swerve.” If he succeeds in coaxing our daughter to post it on TikTok, I’ll share the link.
- 88a [Insult humor in a cornfield?] is CROW ROAST (crown roast), matched with 91a [Trust that a supervised job will lead to full-time work?], INTERN FAITH (interfaith).
- 118a [Legume farmer’s concern?] is PEAK DEMAND, parterned with 121a [Sailing one small ship after another?], BARK HOPPING (bar hopping). I think BARK HOPPING would be going from one small ship to another, but that’s not important now.
I like this theme, which is a fun variation on the drop a letter/add a letter idea. I do not like the circles. I’m not a huge fan of circles in my puzzles anyway, and here they rob us of any real “aha” moment. I know Sunday puzzles have to be accessible to casual solvers, and maybe I’m just living in my own little crossword bubble, but I think this theme would have been solvable by normal people without the circles. I also do not like “Indefatigable” showing up in a clue when METAL FATIGUE is a theme answer. This would have bothered me anywhere in the grid, but it’s especially egregious when they’re nearly right next to each other.
A few other things (note to self: do not go for a two-mile walk between solving and blogging, or you will forget what you were going to write):
- I know the plural of APEX as APICES, not APEXES, and Google Ngram agrees with me.
- I know T, S, and E are useful letters. If you’re going to use the insect, use the whole insect. If you’re going to use TSE by itself, reference Eliot, please, not [When doubled, a dangerous fly].
- I promised myself I wouldn’t complain about the Roman numeral math. Oops.
- Does anyone refer to infielders as BASEMEN without saying “third baseman?” I think not.
- Name that could have been clued as a woman and wasn’t: DEE. It’s not even the letter; it’s the “Twisted Sister” frontman. So it’s a primarily female name clued by referring to a man.
Wow. I guess I really didn’t like this puzzle very much, even though I mostly enjoyed the theme.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that Thomas ARNE wrote “A-Hunting We Will Go.” Since it was written in 1777, I don’t feel too badly about that. I also did not know that Meryl STREEP has 21 Oscar nominations, or that this is a record number.
Christopher Adams & Steve Faiella’s Universal crossword, “Dessert Dilemma”—Jim P’s review
Theme: Before-and-after entries featuring two-word desserts all clued with the angle of trying to decide which dessert to purchase.. I’m hungry.
- 27a [Choice about buying a fruity dessert with ice cream?] BANANA SPLIT DECISION. Good one.
- 38a [Bargains that may influence you to buy a tart dessert?] LEMON SQUARE DEALS. Would be better in the singular but good otherwise.
- 60a [Internal conflict about buying a dessert with a graham cracker crust?] S’MORES BAR FIGHT. Hmm. Not sure about this one. The “s’more” is a dessert in and of itself. A “s’mores bar” is a lesser-known variation…AFAIK. That made this one tough to parse, especially when it starts “S’MORES BARF…”
- 72a [Sample that may entice you to buy a custardy dessert?] CREAM PUFF PIECES. Again, an unfortunate plural, but not bad at all.
- 95a [Judgment about buying a swirly breakfast dessert?] CINNAMON ROLL CALL. I think a funnier clue would’ve been something like [Temptation from a swirly breakfast dessert?], but a good entry.
- 103a [Ice cream and meringue dessert that you finally bought?] BAKED ALASKA PURCHASE. I can never remember what Baked Alaska is. I tend to think it’s something with crab in it, but clearly that’s not right. And is “Alaska Purchase” a phrase that springs immediately to mind when talking American land deals? Not on the level of “Louisiana Purchase,” I’d say.
Despite my nits, these are fun entries. I like the consistency of focusing on a dessert purchase. Before-and-after themes often make for good opportunities for humor, and there is some here, though maybe not the lol kind.
Loads of bright and shiny long fill in this grid with DIANE KEATON, LOBSTER BIB, RELAXERS (clued with respect to hair, not generic idling persons), NORDIQUE, “IS IT ME?”, “I DON’T BITE“, EGOMANIA, FAMILY UNIT, HAT TIP, AIKIDO, the LAKERS, and KALAHARI. If you’ve ever been to New Orleans and/or Mardi Gras, you know LAGNIAPPE [Small gift for a customer] which generally equates to “free stuff.”
Did not know MIGOS [“Bad and Boujee” trio], nor ERIS [Apple of Discord thrower], nor KLOSS [“Project Runway” host Karlie], nor PEREC [Author of a novel with no E’s (although this answer has two)]. Pretty sure I’ve heard of this last book, but it sounds like it would be torturous to read. Anyone with any first-hand knowledge of it?
Clues of note:
- 49a. [Small metal fastener]. BRAD. We also would have accepted [“Pulp Fiction” quote: “Check out the big brain on ___!”].
- 64a. [“Prolly not”]. NAH. Good, slangy hint in the clue.
Nice puzzle. 3.8 stars.