Andy Kravis’s New York Times crossword, “Surplus Store”—Amy’s write-up
“Surplus” means extra, and if you add (“plus”) SUR- to the beginning of familiar phrases, tweaking the spelling as needed to yield a new first word, you get Andy’s theme:
- 23a. [“The operation was a success!,” e.g.?], SURGERY VERDICT. Jury verdict.
- 36a. [People who start arguments out of nowhere?], SURPRISE FIGHTERS. Prizefighters.
- 54a. [Officers who woke up on the wrong side of the cot?], SURLY MAJORS. Lee Majors, action star of the 1970s.
- 69a. [Soirées where everyone is dressed in their finest board shorts?], SURFER BALLS. Fur-balls.
- 86a. [Got 101% on an exam, say?], SURPASSED PERFECT. Nice! You can argue that “perfect” is an absolute, like “unique,” but the clue nails it with that example. (Also, we all know the phrase in order to form a more perfect union.) The past perfect tense.
- 105a. [Why someone might practice deep breathing every five minutes?], SURFEIT OF ANGER. Fit of anger.
The theme is executed well and the title works perfectly.
There’s some really nice fill here, too: a BILLOWY dress, the sportsy BIG DANCE, SPACKLE (just a fun word), HAT HAIR, David SEDARIS, “ORDER NOW!,” and SQUIRT GUN. Squirt guns have recently been pressed into action by priests looking for a contact-free way to drop a holy water blessing on someone. Babies have even been baptized via squirt gun during this pandemic, I kid you not.
Seven more things:
- 83d. [Getting three square meals a day], WELL-FED. Given all the folks unemployed during this pandemic, on top of everyone who was already food-insecure, food pantries are more vital than ever. If you can spare a few bucks, these agencies can always make use of more donations. And if your household needs more food, there are organizations to help out. The Feeding America site can help you find a local food bank if you don’t know what’s near you. Plugging in my zip code gave me only the Greater Chicago Food Depository, whereas I like to support the Lakeview Food Pantry in my area.
- 5d. [Flip inside out], EVERT. Would’ve been nice to have a Chris Evert clue here.
- 12d. [___ Creed], 6 letters … APOLLO! Alas, the answer is NICENE.
- 18d. [Early accepter of mobile payments?], CALDER. As in mobile/stabile sculptor Alexander Calder, and not Venmo or Zelle or what-have-you.
- 60a. [One who’s unfaithful?], ATHEIST. No religious faith, usually, though certainly there are plenty of secular Jews. Atheists are probably no more likely to be “unfaithful” in other ways, though. In fact, according to the Pew Forum, the religiously unaffiliated are less likely to be divorced than Catholics or Protestants (including evangelicals) are.
- 86d. [Appetizer often served with mint chutney], SAMOSA. We had ready-made Indian food for dinner last night, and yes, the frozen samosas came with tamarind-mint chutney. I opted for a mango chutney from the fridge, though.
- 102d. [Direction for one who’s been in Benin to go to Togo], WEST. This is just a pleasing clue, with “to go to Togo.” I like geography, enjoy the geo quizzes at Sporcle.com, and think those who were stumped by Chad’s capital in yesterday’s NYT puzzle should do some African countries and capitals quizzes. Sporcle’s also got US states and capitals quizzes, so 90d. [Only state capital that shares no letters with the name of its state], PIERRE, that was a quick one for me.
4.25 stars from me.
Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Field Work” – Jim Q’s writeup
Happy to say I mowed my lawn yesterday prior to solving this puzzle, so that added to the satisfaction.
SOME THEME ANSWERS:
- 24A [Field work team] GROUNDS CREW.
- 38A [Green part of a field, or what cuts it (as also shown in the circled squares)] BLADE.
- 59A [Field work that’s illustrated in this puzzle] MOWING THE LAWN.
OTHER THEME ANSWERS:
- 43D [Park sign directive] KEEP OFF THE GRASS. Kind of a theme answer anyway.
- 74D [Copper alloy used in marine construction] NAVAL BRASS.
- 76D [Pretty woman in Scottish folk songs] BONNIE LASS.
- 77D [Talking biblical beast whose name uses only one of the five vowels] BALAAM’S ASS.
- 79D [Handheld video game console with a dual-screen feature] NINTENDO DS.
- 49D [One of five human antibodies, so named for its epsilon chain] IMMUNOGLOBULINE. I really wanted this answer to have something to do with grass, or the ground or something.
This is a quirky puzzle. The theme is more visual than anything with the clever cutting of a blade of GRASS. So it’s much more dense in the south, and notably more difficult down there fill-wise as well since there are more constraints.
I caught on very quick, needing no crosses for KEEP OFF THE GRASS and BLADE. The clue for BLADE told me what to do with the circled letters, and then it became very clear what to do with the green shaded boxes (which, as the note tells us, do not appear in Acrosslite, but I had taken a sneak peak at the PDF prior to solving). So the AHA moment for me was fun, but over quickly, leaving me mostly to fill.
I got very hung up in the FAUN/SALVOS/NAVAL/GAZING area. Though in retrospect, I’m not sure why. IMMUNOGLOBULINE was a head scratcher as well, mostly because I really thought it was going to be grass related.
- 61D [Save “The Last Dance” for me, say?] TIVO. As in, I will save this Michael Jordan documentary, “The Last Dance,” for later by TIVOing it! Side note: I’m probably the last person who hasn’t seen this doc.
- 42D [“Thanks, Captain Obvious!”] NO DUH. Perhaps a little nod to Evan’s own character, Captain Obvious? I think it’s about that time when we should be seeing another episode of his…
Lastly, anyone notice how low that BLADE eventually cuts?? You’re gonna ruin your mower, Evan!
Really liked the concept, but I wish it were a slower burn.
Enjoy your Sunday!
Kevin Christian’s Universal crossword — “Meta Puzzle” — Jim Q’s writeup
Hands up for “You got me!” on 25A!
THEME: Meta- All theme clues are self referential.
- 17A [This answer has ___] TEN LETTERS.
- 25A [This answer is ___] SDRAWKCAB. (BACKWARDS)
- 34A [This answer has ___] FOUR SYLLABLES.
- 47A [This answer is ___] MISPELLED. Indeed. Spellcheck doesn’t seem too happy right now.
- 56A [This answer is ___] EN FRANÇAIS. In French.
Hey, this was fun! I like how each of the themers revealed itself differently. It was exciting to try to figure out. I was really stuck on the BACKWARDS entry, and kept checking my crosses to try to figure out what I had wrong. I didn’t know who DARLENE Love was, but figured it had to be either DARLENE or MARLENE. Finally, a solid AHA moment when I realized what was happening there.
Good cluing and fill all around:
- 2D [Manager’s statement?] I GET BY. One who “manages” gets by.
- 1D [Dis] HATE ON.
- 46D [“Why are you including me?”] WHO’S WE??
I got stuck in one more area because I really wanted TOP SEED instead of ONE SEED and I was okay with SHREDding credit cards rather than CUTting them UP!
A memorable Universal puzzle.
Mark McClain’s LA Times crossword, “Case in Point” – Jenni’s write-up
On a day when we have attorney Andy Kravis in the NYT, we get legalese in the LAT. Each theme answer is a common phrase clued as if it literally applied to a legal issue.
- 15d [High-hat challenge of a conviction?] is a SNOB APPEAL.
- 23a [Bailiff who keeps the jury in stitches?] is a COURT JESTER.
- 34a [Music played between attorneys’ arguments?] is a BRIEF INTERLUDE.
- 52a [Polite argument on behalf of the accused?] is CIVIL DEFENSE.
- 69d [Magistrate who specializes in agricultural litigation?] is a FIELD JUDGE. I raised an eyebrow at that and then looked it up. It’s totally legit and now you know I don’t watch football.
- 76a [Cartoon dialogue introduced as evidence?] is a TRIAL BALLOON.
- 93a [Satisfaction for a prosecuting attorney?] is a GUILTY PLEASURE.
- 109a [Action brought by a cowardly plaintiff?] is a CHICKEN SUIT. They saved the best for last.
While I generally prefer my wordplay in the grid rather than the clues, this one was a lot of fun. It’s perfectly pitched for a sunny Sunday morning.
What I could have done without: the appearance of MEL Gibson. He’s managed to rehabilitate himself in Hollywood, but not with me. He’s an unrepentant misogynist, racist, anti-semitic asshole. Why not MEL Brooks? or MEL Harris? Or the owner of the diner where Alice and Flo worked? If I can think of three alternate clues off the top of my head, surely the constructor and editor could have come up with at least one.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that Vishnu has four ARMS, that there’s a HEAD PIN (is that one word or two) in bowling, and that the Iowa State athletes are called the Cyclones.
Chase Dittrich and Jeff Chen’s Universal crossword, “Done With Ease”—Jim P’s review
“Ease” for me would be under 10 minutes, so I couldn’t say I did this puzzle with ease, but it wasn’t too challenging and the themers were quite enjoyable. Our constructors took phrases that they could tack the sound “eez” onto and made a puzzle out of them. The highlight of the theme for me is the variety of ways that sound is produced.
- 23a [Hollywood pharaoh?] LOS ANGELES RAMSES. Los Angeles Rams. I don’t keep up anymore. So the Rams are back in L.A.? Oh, hang on. And the Chargers are now the L.A. Chargers? So L.A. went from zero NFL teams to two within the span of a couple years.
- 41a [Aerial attraction for circus visitors?] TOURIST TRAPEZE. Tourist trap.
- 47a [Where one can find heavenly horns?] UP IN THE ARIES. Up in the air. This was the last for me to solve and hardest one to parse. The clue is ambiguous—maybe a little overly ambiguous—and I kept wanting to put an S in the starting square.
- 68a [Collaborative sites that focus on toilets?] JOHN WIKIS. John Wick. Cute.
- 83a [Like an officer who constantly has to write tickets for certain turns?] MAD ABOUT UIES. Mad About You. I like this one.
- 89a [“Be sure your Instagram doesn’t contain anything embarrassing”?] KNOW THY SELFIES. Know thyself. Good advice.
- 110a [“Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” and “Dude, Where’s My Car?” in giant letters?] QUESTION MARQUEES. Question mark. Another good one.
Overall, a fun set. If there’s one nit to pick, it’s that the “eez” sound is an essential part of the new words in the first three answers, but it’s only a tacked on plural in the last four. That is, those last four would still be valid crossword entries if they were made singular, thus making them less elegant. But that didn’t detract from the enjoyment of the solve since they all seemed to flow naturally.
Great start to the grid with “DARE I ASK?” at 1a. ETERNITY right below it ain’t half bad either. Other goodies: TOO REAL, FLATBEDS, MASON JAR, GAS TANKS, ICY STARE, PANACEA, BORNEO, ARMREST, AVARICE, OREGANO, JOCKEY, KB TOYS (who else tried to squeeze TOYS R US in there?), SOWETO, BEDLAM, and “I COULDN’T.” Lots to like there. In the less-to-like category are IMING, IN SONG, and UBERING since I don’t know that people use “Uber” as a verb, do they? (I usually hear “took an Uber” as opposed to “Ubered,” but maybe that’s just me.) Also, I did notice the “eez” sound in GENESES.
Clues were mostly straight over the plate, so I’ll leave it there. Fun puzzle with lots of sparkly fill. Four stars.