Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle (Week 469), “Traveling on the Cheap”—Ade’s take
Good day, everybody! I hope you are doing well today, and before we stray too far from Memorial Day 2020, definitely want to send a heartfelt “thank you” for all of the people of the American armed forces who sacrificed their lives to protect the freedoms our country enjoys, and I am sure a number of you reading this have had family and/or other loved ones who had served in the armed forces. Once again, thank you.
Some of you might have taken car rides this past weekend for the holiday, and today’s crossword is all about catching a ride as the first four theme entries have a run of letters embedded (in circles) that form a type of ride. The final theme entry, RIDE SHARING, acts as the reveal (60A: [Cost-saving travel option that hints at the puzzle theme]).
- EXTRA INCOME (17A: [Earnings from a side hustle, say]) – Train.
- HATHA YOGA (26A: [Its poses include Cobra and Downward Facing Dog]) – Hay.
- MUSLIM OFFICIALS (37A: [Mosque leaders]) – Limo.
- LUCA BRASI (50A: [Enforcer in “The Godfather”])– Cab.
Really got myself into a jam at the beginning, entering in “scowl” for SNEER (5A: [Meanie’s look]) and putting in “LEO” for 9D, and those errors were kept in the grid even longer when being 100 percent sure of the SHIA crossing (5D: [LeBeouf of “Disturbia”]). I think it was about four or five years ago when I first learned that SNAFU was actually an acronym: “situation normal: all f****d up” (24A: [Major mix-up]). I’ve been trying my best to know all about MOANA, the Disney animated movie, because of its popularity, but really liked seeing this non-movie-related clue as well (34D: [Ala ____ (open-air shopping center in Honolulu]). A couple of weekends ago saw the running of the final two episodes of The Last Dance documentary on ESPN, taking an in-depth look at the inner workings of the Chicago Bulls NBA dynasty, and one of the 10 episodes hit on the “BE LIKE Mike” campaign of the early 1990s put on by Gatorade (48D: [Emulate]). Seeing the 10-part documentary, among other things, made me fully realize the global impact advertising had in making turning Michael Jordan into one of the few true global icons of the 20th century. I’m pretty sure I knew these words by heart at one point or another when I was 10.
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: RAM (9D: [Zodiac beast]) – Currently one of the top doubles players in tennis, American Rajeev RAM has broken through as a Grand Slam winner over the past couple of years, pairing with Czech Barbora Krejcikova to win the 2019 Australian Open mixed doubles championship and with British player Joe Salisbury to win this year’s Australian Open men’s doubles title. Ram also has two singles titles to his credit, both occurring at the same event: the Hall of Fame Tennis Championships in Newport, R.I., in 2009 and 2015.
Thank you so much for the time, everybody! Have a wonderful —and safe — rest of your day and, as always, keep solving!
Alan Massengill & Doug Peterson’s Wall Street Journal crossword—Nate’s write-up
Hopefully today’s puzzle wasn’t “In Review” for too long – it’s great!
17A: SUPER BOWL [“The tuna poke is fabulous!”]
20A: AWESOME SAUCE [“The hollandaise is a-maaazing!”]
35A: NO GREAT SHAKES [“The fountain drinks are just meh”]
53A: CIVIL SERVICE [“The waitstaff is so polite!”]
58A: KILLER APP [“The mozzarella sticks are to die for!”]
40A: YELPER [Online reviewer who might post 17-, 20-, 35-, 53- and 58-Across]
I know I often kvetch about puzzles being dusty or seemingly republished from thirty years ago, but this puzzle is anything but that. It has a fun theme for a modern concept (YELPER) along with some thoroughly fun and modern revealers, including AWESOME SAUCE and KILLER APP. I wasn’t familiar with the last one until I looked it up: a KILLER APP is “any computer program or software that is so necessary or desirable that it proves the core value of some larger technology” – basically, an app or program that becomes essential to and almost synonmous with the device or operating system.
Other random thoughts:
– While the location for YELPER in the grid seems an unusual place for a revealer, I did enjoy that the puzzle featured TASTES in a symmetrical location.
– 47A is a prime example of how you can clue an otherwise innocuous word to feature women (and successful ones at that). Here’s to the Lady Bears at BAYLOR!
– I can’t tell you how long I tried to type in something Seuss-ian for 2D [Layer of green eggs]!
– I’m usually annoyed at women in puzzles being clued only in their relationship to a man (EDITH for [Archie’s wife] here), but this puzzle has some equality in that it also clues a man only through his relationship to a woman (PHILIP for [Elizabeth’s husband]).
– The clue for ELLIS as [Island with an immigration museum] should remind us that we are a nation of immigrants who all supplanted native peoples who were already here. To deny future immigrants the same hope of an American dream is, well, un-American.
– Hopefully where you are isn’t DENSER than it should be – stay six feet apart and take care of yourself and each other. We’ll get through this together!
Neville Fogarty’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
My eyes lit up when I saw Neville’s byline, and then 1a and 1d were both colloquial and contemporary—[Chillaxes (with)] for HANGS, plus HACK IT. So I was predisposed to like the puzzle and excused the blah AD OUT and STN in that corner.
The theme revealer is right through the middle: BODIES OF WATER are 35a. [What 17-, 21-, 55- and 60-Across end in], and those four themers are famous(ish) people whose surnames are all wet.
- 17a. [Best Actor winner for “The King’s Speech”], COLIN FIRTH. Firths are Scottish, and you can’t get a finer-named one than the Firth of Forth.
- 21a. [Actor who played Dagwood Bumstead in film, radio and TV], ARTHUR LAKE. Scarcely a celebrity in the last seven decades—1950 was his last Blondie movie. I’m guessing Neville sought a letter-count match for Veronica Lake (same era as Arthur but far more famous) and Ricki Lake.
- 55a. [Singer with the 1984 #1 hit “Caribbean Queen”], BILLY OCEAN. Frank Ocean (video below) would also have been a solid choice, though his music hasn’t made it to #1.
- 60a. [“Pearl Harbor” director, 2001], MICHAEL BAY. I have seen maybe two of his bombastic movies. I’m good with missing out on the rest of his oeuvre.
I would call the theme solid but it’s more liquid, isn’t it?
Four more things:
- 47d. [Doll that ran for president for the first time in 1992], BARBIE. She lost to Stretch Armstrong, despite her superior qualifications.
- 67a. [Fertile soil], LOESS. Certainly on the hard side for a Tuesday puzzle that beginners might be wrangling. All these years of encountering it in crosswords where its letters come in handy, and it turns out I knew very little about it. Check out the Wiki article. Apparently loess tends to be fertile, but in Iowa, when the topsoil erodes away, you’re left with infertile loess that won’t grow crops well without added fertilizer.
- 36d. [Be better than in every way], OUTCLASS. Great word, welcome in my crossword puzzle.
- 42a. [7 1/4 is a common one], HAT SIZE. Wondering if this is generally more familiar to men than to women. All the hats I buy are either “one size fits all” (which rarely fit me) or available in two sizes, S/M and L/XL.
3.75 stars from me. Would have been nice to have a more modern LAKE and something other than an all-male theme. (My personal policy is that thematic “tightness” gained by including only men as entries in a “members of a set” theme is useless, and it would be better to diversify.)
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “Free Is a Very Good Price” – Derek’s write-up
This is puzzle 990, and the flavortext says this is the “last themeless till the big one.” I can only assume the “big one” is puzzle 1,000, which will be here in just a couple of months! At any rate, we have a smooth themeless here. I keep forgetting to check if my timer is on, but this one took about 4 or 5 minutes, if I had to guess. 1-Across is a stellar entry! See below for an explanation. Hope you’re enjoying a light holiday week! 4.4 stars for this one.
A few high points:
- 1A [Cocktail “invented” in 2020 that can include vodka, gin, honey, Emergen-C, or whatever you feel like drinking] QUARANTINI – Fantastic! And talk about timely! I am sure this is a debut entry. And I may go make one later …
- 17A [How long USPS bulk mail takes to get across the country] ABOUT A WEEK – That’s if everything goes perfectly!
- 57A [Actress Davidovich of “Gods and Monsters”] LOLITA – This qualifies for one of the obscure-pop-culture-references-of-the-week! I recognize the face, but not the name.
- 67A [Only state capital without a McDonald’s] MONTPELIER – I have heard this bit of trivia before; do they actively oppose having a Ronald there, or is there just not enough people? If they are opposing it, they are my new heroes!
- 3D [“I don’t want the issue of Hobbes’s reality settled by ___ manufacturer”: Bill Watterson] A DOLL – Is it just me, or is the Calvin & Hobbes comic strip in the news a lot lately? Or is it just in puzzles a lot?
- 26D [Syllable for the Swedish Chef] BORK – Awesome!
- 34D [How book titles should appear when cited, per APA style] IN ITALICS – Italics still don’t seem to work in .puz files.
- 39D [Video chat company based in San Jose] ZOOM – Definitely also timely!
- 46D [Water measures, when mixing condensed soup] CANFULS – I would have thought this was spelled with two L’s!
- 55D [“Mary Tyler Moore Show” actress Georgia] ENGEL – The obscure-pop-culture-trivia-of-the-week is usually something recent! This is a 50-year-old reference, but still nicely done! Perhaps something else to watch during this ongoing lockdown!
That is all!
Craig Stowe’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
The revealer is so clever, it took me a minute to see what was going on! Or maybe I’m just tired:
- 17A [*Usual burger component] GROUND MEAT
- 39A [*British afternoon tradition] HIGH TEA
- 11D [*Military might] FIREPOWER
- 33D [*Monarch or viceroy] BUTTERFLY
- 62A [“Magic” toys … or what the answers to starred clues add up to?] EIGHT BALLS
All of the themers can precede the word “ball”, as in ground ball, meatball; you get the idea. And there are four theme answers, each with two words that have this quality, and thus you have EIGHT BALLS. Clever! Astounding! Or yes, maybe I am just stressed out and need a nap! Or maybe it doesn’t take much to amuse me! At any rate, and for whatever reason, I found this a nice, tidy “a-ha!” moment for a Tuesday puzzle. Hope you enjoyed it as well! 4.5 stars.
A few more things:
- 22A [Risqué message] SEXT – Don’t these kids know that digital images don’t really ever disappear, especially if they are sent by text??
- 28A [Metaphors for inner turmoil] DEMONS – A nice way to clue a fairly ugly word!
- 50A [Narcissist’s indulgence] EGO TRIP – There was a narcissist ref in a puzzle recently, and the answer was ME ME ME, which I thought was nice.
- 3D [Jersey __: coastal vacation area] SHORE – This was a show, if you hadn’t heard!
- 43D [Hit for Aerosmith and The 4 Seasons (different songs, though)] RAG DOLL – Great clue. And yes, the songs are VERY different!
- 51D [Yogurt-based condiment served to cool hot curry dishes] RAITA – I think I have had this. I think.
- 55D [Video game princess] ZELDA – Maybe a great game to replay (or play for the first time!) during this continuing isolation period!
Have a safe and healthy week!
NYT: I wonder how people view today’s puzzle in comparison to this one from 23 years ago: https://www.xwordinfo.com/Crossword?date=12/25/1997
On the one hand, that puzzle had gender diversity in the theme; however, it was also a little inconsistent since two of the bodies of water were plural (and one was an artificial “body of water”). So, yeah, construction is all about trade-offs.
It also ran on Thursday, which is kind of amazing to think about… people in 2020 would lose their minds if this theme appeared on Thursday.
And check out the constructor stats! I know A.J. is one of the all-time greats, but come on! 263 puzzles dating back to 1956. A 49 year run. Impressive…
Callaloo, Ligne, Bellevue, Casca. Ugh. And not a very holiday like theme for a puzzle running Christmas Day. I prefer VERONICA LAKE to ARTHUR, but like FIRTH from today.
good find. i’m a big fan of neville but to me the older theme entries are way better
My guess is that people losing their minds in 2020 about a puzzle like this running on a Thursday says more about the standards for what people will lose their minds over in 2020 than it does about the standards for Thursday puzzles.
Oh, there’s absolutely no doubt about that. I like to look back at these puzzles from early in Shortz’s tenure so that when critics rail about “declining standards in the NYT puzzle” I can point out that these “standards” were largely figments of their imagination.
Kardashian in the clues today. That was the one name too many in that whole phonebook of names.
Jai ALAI (the coolest game ever) in the grid was barely enough to overcome it.
NYT: To be more current and diverse, Ocean Vuong, Brook Lopez and Lake Bell could have been first name options.
I liked the theme concept in the NYT, but of the four names, only Billy Ocean was familiar enough to write in with confidence. Never heard of Arthur Lake or Michael Bay.
Colin Firth sounded familiar once I saw it, but I struggled in the NW corner. I know SoHo and NoHo and TriBeCa, the Village, Chinatown and Little Italy, but NOLITA was new to me. I added to the problem with getting stuck on either “made it” or “make it” at 1-D. I don’t keep up with the Kardashians, and have no intention to, so KRIS was a mystery – not much interest in people who are basically famous for being famous.
I’d take that 1997 puzzle Ethan linked to, any day – regardless of the inconsistencies in the theme.
Jonesin’: Can anyone explain the meaning of this puzzle’s title?
Since no one responded, there’s been some talk about calling themeless puzzles freestyle puzzles, and my last set of themelesses have had “Free” somewhere in the title, as a nod to freestyles. As for the phrase (and I was coming up short for new “free” phrases), this one was a long time slogan of Portland furniture salesman and local pop culture icon Tom Peterson.
“ should remind us that we are a nation of immigrants who all supplanted native peoples who were already here. To deny future immigrants the same hope of an American dream is, well, un-American” Thou doth not know your world history – we are not the bad guys and we remain one of the few country’s which allow jus soli.