Sunday, April 26, 2020

LAT  untimed (Jenni) 


NYT 11:09 (Amy) 


WaPo 9:22 (Jenni) 


Universal untimed (pannonica) 


Universal (Sunday) 10:15 (Jim P) 


Royce Ferguson’s New York Times crossword, “Turn, Turn, Turn”—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 4 26 20, “Turn, Turn, Turn”

This puzzle kept my interest the whole way through, which doesn’t happen in most Sunday-sized NYTs. The theme is neat, apparently inspired by road tunnels in Switzerland’s mountains. The two-part revealer is 47a. [With 86-Across, fixation problem suggested by this puzzle’s theme], TUNNEL / 86a. VISION. There are eight L-shaped “tunnels” of black squares, and 58d. [The driving force behind this puzzle?] is a CAR that drives through those tunnels. The clue for each full tunneled answer goes with the space where it starts, and the post-tunnel portion gets a legit clue for just that portion. Each portion before and after the tunnel is a legit stand-alone entry, but the first entry segment doesn’t make sense with the clue. I’ve circled the theme entries in my answer grid.

  • 1a. [1969 hit for Neil Diamond], SWEET {CAR}OLINE, with 23d O-LINE having a football clue.
  • 25d. [Cousin of cream cheese], MAS{CAR}PONE, with that SAM 25d running upwards to the tunnel.
  • 44a. [Belief in Buddhism and Hinduism], REIN{CAR}NATION.
  • 48d. [Magical rides], FLYING {CAR}PETS.
  • 59a. [Deal with], TAKE {CAR}E OF.
  • 83d. [Throwing away], DIS{CAR}DING, with the SID running upwards.
  • 89d. [Doesn’t give a hoot, colloquially], COULD {CAR}E LESS. The “colloquially” is there because there’s no room in the tunnel for ‘nt. That implausible E-LESS actually has a legit clue, 119a. [Like the entire 290-page Georges Perec novel “A Void,” curiously enough].
  • 116a. [Bone connected to the wrist], META{CAR}PAL.

Moving along from the theme, what else caught my eye? These:

  • 22a. [Ad label in red and white], AS SEEN ON TV. What’s the last AS SEEN ON TV thing you’ve purchased?
  • 26a. [They do dos], HAIR SALONS. I was already overdue for a haircut when I canceled my March 18 appointment. Five weeks later, my hair is uncooperative and it’ll be at least another five weeks before I can get a cut. Have you got any pandemic hair epiphanies to report?
  • 107a. [What torcedores can skillfully do], ROLL A CIGARTorcedores is new to me.
  • 111a. [It may spit venom], ACID TONGUE. A coveted trait.
  • 118a. [Humanities dept.], PSY. Say what? Psychology is one of the social sciences. The humanities encompass arts, literature, history, philosophy, and whatnot. Not so much the fields in which rigorous research studies are done—whereas psychology definitely encompasses a scientific mode.
  • 3d. [Nail polish brand], ESSIE. At the nail salons I used to go to, the brighter colors tended to be OPI polishes, while ESSIE included lots of pales and nudes and pinks. But really, all the brands have all the colors.
  • 10d. [Short winter days?], XMASES / 24a. [What Santa does before Christmas], MAKES A LIST. It would not have been too hard to avoid using Christmas in the clue for an answer that crosses XMASES, no?.
  • 65d. [Nonbinary pronoun], THEIRS. One of the contestants on last night’s RuPaul’s Secret Celebrity Drag Race was actor Nico Tortorella, who is nonbinary/genderfluid and uses they/their pronouns. They made a gorgeous drag queen!
  • 93d. [Kitchen gadgets], RICERS. There was a time when someone persuaded my mother-in-law that the best way to mash potatoes was to use a ricer. She bought one, used it … and abandoned it. I haven’t tried a ricer, but I do like my old-school waffle-squared masher. Perhaps the cauliflower-instead-of-rice people are using ricers?

Four stars from me. How’d the puzzle go over for you?

Hoang-Kim Vu & Jessica Zetzman’s LA Times crossword, “Undercover Work” – Jenni’s write-up

This puzzle actually needs the circles. I wasn’t happen to see them when I opened the puzzle, and in the end I didn’t mind them. We didn’t have a tag for Jessica Zetzman. Is this a debut? If so, well done! I look forward to more.

Each theme answer has a set of circled letters that spell a word. They also have asterisks in the clues, which seems unnecessary, but now I’m just being cranky.

Los Angeles Times, April 26, 2020, Hoang-Kim Vu and Jessica Zetzman, “Undercover Work,” solution grid

  • 7d [*”Landslide” group] is FLEETWOOD MAC, hiding FOOD.
  • 13d [*Revere] is PUT ON A PEDESTAL, hiding POSTAL.
  • 15d [*Nissan Leaf, e.g.] is an ELECTRIC VEHICLE, hiding CIVIL. We have a Hyundai Kona plug-in and a Ford CMax Energi plug-in hybrid. We also have a roof full of solar panels, so we run the cars on sunshine – especially now when I hardly drive at all so I don’t often engage the gas engine in the Ford.
  • 22a [*Rejects, in a way] is SWIPES LEFT, hiding SELF.
  • 42d [*Inverts] is TURNS UPSIDE DOWN, hiding TURNDOWN.
  • 50d [*Farmers’ market find] is a HEIRLOOM TOMATO, hiding ROOM.
  • 61d [*Dish commonly made with cod] is FISH AND CHIPS, hiding FAN.
  • 113a [*Journeys that aren’t fun] are GUILT TRIPS, hiding LIP.

What do the hidden words have in common? We find out at 33d, [President’s protector … and a hint to the circled letters] – SECRET SERVICE. All the hidden words combine with SERVICEFAN SERVICE didn’t ring a bell with me, so Wikipedia to the rescue: it’s “material in a work of fiction or in a fictional series which is intentionally added to please the audience.” Glad I learned that! The theme is solid and made for a pleasant “aha” moment.

A few other things:

  • Does anyone still have towels that say HIS and HERS? I’ve seen the sets that say HIS and HIS and HERS and HERS.
  • I like [“… but maybe I’m wrong”] for OR NOT
  • What’s the name for the phenomenon when you see something you’d never seen before and then it’s everywhere? That’s happening to me with the information that RINGO Starr took his nickname from his jewelry.
  • I kept trying to make FAA work for 56d, [Flight safety org.], because I do not think the TSA actually contributes to our safety. It really didn’t occur to me.
  • They could have used [Salsa holder] as a clue for both NACHO and FRITO.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that NAURU is the world’s smallest island nation.

Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Themeless No. 13” – Jenni’s writeup

I don’t always do Sunday-sized themelesses, but when I do, they’re Evan’s. He tends to pitch his puzzles a bit harder than the NYT, which is a good thing. This one was mostly smooth with a couple of crunchy spots. Perfect. And now I want peanut butter.

My highlights:

Washington Post, April 26, 2020, Evan Birnholz, “Themeless No. 13,” solution grid

  • The subtle misdirection at 5a [Go low?]. I had SLOUCH. It’s CROUCH.
  • 43d [The meaning of mean]. It’s AVERAGE. This puzzle is not (it’s above average, to be clear).
  • 71d [Clowns’ co-workers] for LION TAMERS. I found that very amusing. Don’t ask me why.
  • 104a [Where never to get involved in a land war, per Vizzini in “The Princess Bride”]. I’ve never seen the movie (I know, I know) but even I know that the answer is ASIA.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that Marilyn MANSON made an album called  “Portrait of an American Family.” When I read the clue, I figured it was a TV show, and that’s no coincidence; the clue reads [Marilyn on “Portrait of an American Family”] and Evan’s prepositions are never accidental.

Paul Coulter’s Universal crossword, “Group Play”—Jim P’s review

Theme: Clues of the form [adjective band?] lead to an actual band name related to said adjective.

Universal Sunday crossword solution · “Group Play” · Paul Coulter · Sun., 4.26.20

  • 22a [Rock band?ROLLING STONES.
  • 24a [Soul band?NIRVANA. Not sure I’ve ever heard the phrase “soul band,” but I guess it’s a good definition for bands like Sly and the Family Stone or Earth, Wind, and Fire.
  • 39a [Girl band?ALICE COOPER. The band broke up in 1975, and then lead singer Vincent Furnier adopted the name as his own.
  • 49a [Marching band?SUPERTRAMP.
  • 67a [Big band?] THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS. I like this clue and entry a lot.
  • 88a [One-man band (based on its name’s origin)?] JETHRO TULL. Had to dig into Wikipedia to find that the band was named randomly (by an agent) after a 17th/18th century British agriculturalist.
  • 97a [WWII pilots’ band?] FOO FIGHTERS. This is the only clue that is not an in-the-language phrase. Why the glaring inconsistency? [Military band?] would’ve worked fine here, I think.
  • 117a [Hair band?] BLONDIE. Nice one.
  • 119a [Steel band?] NINE INCH NAILS. Now this one actually is a one-man band (Trent Reznor).

I have to admit that during the solve I wasn’t pausing long enough to make the connection between entry and clue. I mostly relied on crosses, and once the entries started to take shape, I filled them in fairly easily. That said, looking back, I like the theme and the title as well. There are some inconsistencies that could be ironed out, but on the whole, I found this entertaining.

Fill highlights: IRON MAN, MONSOON, and BOTNETS. I also liked PROBS [In all likelihood, slangily]. I struggled with PRO-KEDS [Adidas alternative] and the CELIE /BENIN crossing (mostly because I saw [Neighbor of Togo] and was thinking “Tonga,” the Pacific island nation). SANAA [Capital of Yemen] is one I should commit to memory (but haven’t), and I just realized EDM [Club music genre, briefly] stands for Electronic Dance Music. Good to know.

Forgery of Venus de MILO from Animal Crossing: New Horizons

Clues of note:

  • 75d. [2020 Disney remake]. MULAN. I love the original and am looking forward to the live-action version. It’s currently scheduled for a July 24 release (delayed from March 27).
  • 78d. [Venus de ___]. MILO. Spoiler: If you’re playing Animal Crossing: New Horizons, Redd the fox (ha!) may try to sell you a Venus de MILO. But don’t be like my wife who bought a forgery which sports a pearl necklace.

Fun puzzle. 3.9 stars.

Matthew Sewell and Jeff Chen’s Universal crossword, “By Any Other Name” — pannonica’s write-up

Universal • 4/26/20 • By Any Other Name” • Sun • Sewell, Chen • solution • 20200426

  • 52aR [Poet with a famous line that the rhymes in 13-, 14-, 25- and 27-Down hint at] GERTRUDE STEIN. 65a [Common color for the flower that this puzzle hints at] RED.

Well, you know it’s going to be ‘rose’. The title references another hugely famous quote about the flower, that one by Shakespeare.

  • 13d. [Reacted to seeing a snake, perhaps] FROZE IN FEAR.
  • 14d. [Items in a decision-making list] PROS AND CONS.
  • 25d. [Pitches like a southpaw] THROWS LEFTY.
  • 27d. [Less boozy Pabst brew] STROH’S LIGHT.

Rose¹ is a rose² is a rose³ is a rose⁴

Another version—more well known—is “A rose is a rose is a rose”. The title of the source poem, “Sacred Emily” (1913), is good trivia.

The grid has left-right symmetry and I’m uncertain whether it’s intended to visually evoke a flower.

This doesn’t feel like much of a theme. Four phrases that begin with rhymes of \ˈōz\ ? Plus a name and a three-letter bonus word?

  • Digging (a little) the of 5a [Big __ Wolf] BAD and 65a RED which of course evokes the Riding Hood story. More wolf action with the intermediate 58a [“The __ Who Cried Wolf”] BOY.
  • 1a [Like karaoke music] SUNG. Having a dilemma parsing this.
  • 4d [Sliding ballet steps] GLISSADES almost seems onomatopoeic.
  • 49d [Great Lakes natives] ERIES. It’s always the Erie. At least on the east side of the continent.

The last across and down clues/entries further echo the theme, with DNA as studied by Rosalind Franklin crossing TETRA [Bright fish] for a fourfold finale.

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10 Responses to Sunday, April 26, 2020

  1. Philippe says:

    I read a couple of pages of ‘a void’, ‘la disparition’ in French and it is truly amazing. You do not notice the absence of ‘e’ and it is an incredible feat considering how much ‘e’ is used in French. Rumor has it that some critics did not see it and did not understand what had disappeared
    Pretty good grid today

    • JohnH says:

      I read it in French, too, and was knocked out. (The longer “La Vie Mode d’Emploi” or “Life a Users Manual” is a lot of fun, too.) Astounding that the translator pulled it off in English, too. In French, you’ve three words for “the” (“le,” “la,” and les”) so can avoid an E by avoiding masculine and plural nouns. No such recourse in English.

      I didn’t have the chance to take everyone Thursday for explaining PROPS for “proper respect” or “dues.” It was all helpful, and the look back at R-E-S-P-E-C-T was especially interesting.

      I wanted the turns to be intersections, with the turn direction as so often painted on the black street, as in the puzzle’s title, so was surprised to find them as tunnels, which run mostly more or less straight, but no big deal. For that matter, we don’t pay extra for plastic bags here in NYC. They’re banned, although it hasn’t taken effect everywhere, and the fee is applied to their replacement in paper. But again, just a nit, not a real complaint.

      • JohnH says:

        Oops, sorry. “Thanks,” not “take.” (Also missing an open quote.) Oh, and psych in the humanities felt wrong to me, too. Could even turn up in the “real” sciences at some universities.

  2. marciem says:

    NYT . To begin, I really loathe it when there is a note saying “do this one on paper” for whatever reason and I was going to quit before I started and be sad that I didn’t have the NYT to keep me busy in place, for today.

    That said… I LOVED THIS PUZZLE! It was satisfying with just the notice that L-shaped black spaces had arrows. Once I got “Sweet Caroline” , the rest fell comfortably in place with a little work which I like.

  3. David L says:

    NYT was an interesting and novel challenge. Just the thing for a rainy Sunday morning when I can’t even go for a walk.

  4. Billy Boy says:

    I liked the straightforwardness of the NYT as large formats are often a hideous mess of non-word/phrases. This one had very few ugh words and was engaging until for me the very SE was my last to go and I got impatient.

    RICER: My wife the cook, despises riced potatoes in a restaurant as they are often soupy and don’t have any body, it is a choice to re-rice to oblivion, but I also prefer a little chew to my mash, so no ricer at Chez Renee.


  5. Paul Coulter says:

    Universal Sunday – “[Military band?] would’ve worked fine here, I think”
    Jim, that’s how I clued FOOFIGHTERS in my submission. Perhaps David thought solvers would be unfamiliar with this? Two more I had in the NW and SE corners that didn’t make the cut were GOGOS – Dance band? and HEART – Wedding band?

  6. David Steere says:

    WaPo: I love how Jenni compares Evan’s great themeless to a peanut butter sandwich. Yum. But, where is the jam? Hoang-Kim and Jessica’s LA Times puzzle was fun, too. I’m afraid, though, I’m with Rex on today’s NY Times–a tortured concept with little payoff and a real slog.

  7. Brenda Rose says:

    Amy – I had to laugh when you brought up salon hair appts. My last one was on 1/29 & the next was scheduled for 3/13 which of course was cancelled. I wouldn’t exactly call it an epiphany but it sure was a happy moment when I found my stash of hair bands. Who’d thunk.

  8. scrivener says:

    I really enjoyed the NYT but was done in by BANE and ENLAI crossing BREMEN (a French clue, a Chinese person, and a German city), and by ALA and ASADO crossing ACELA (two Spanish words crossing a regional specific).

    Of course once I saw ALA and ASADO (upon revealing my bad squares) I recognized them immediately — my problem is that I only know ACELA from East-Coast-based conversations in podcasts and from crossword puzzles, and I remembered it as OCELO. I finally read the Wikipedia article on the Acela Express just now to try and cement it in my brain, and I’m not sure it’s going to help. The name appears to be some concept of acceleration and excellence.

    I hate myself and sometimes I hate my trainless home state.

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