Sam Donaldson’s New York Times crossword, “Chores Galore”—Amy’s write-up
The Sunday puzzle thinks we’re slacking off, because this one’s called “Chores Galore” and last week’s was “To-Do List.” You’re not the boss of me!
Sam’s theme assigns a chore to a specific job based on a different angle of a key word:
- 23a. [Chore for a censor?], TAKE OUT THE TRASH. One can argue whether the things that get censored actually constitute trash. I say no.
- 28a. [Chore for a satellite TV technician?], DO THE DISHES. Satellite dishes, that is.
- 42a. [Chore for a security guard?], SWEEP THE FLOOR. I don’t quite get this one. As in sweeping a place for eavesdropping bugs? Are we talking a building or store security guard here?
- 67a. [Chore for a rower?], GO TO THE BANK. The river bank.
- 73a. [Chore for a knight?], SORT THE MAIL. Chainmail, the kind that goes with armor and not the kind you roll your eyes at before deleting it.
- 97a. [Chore for a dog-walker?], PICK UP THE TOYS. As in toy dogs, not playthings. This one’s my favorite of the themers.
- 114a. [Chore for an N.F.L. owner?], PAY THE BILLS. The Buffalo Bills. Does anyone think the NFL will actually play the whole season as planned? Heck, I’m not even sure they’ll start. I’m also not seeing the NBA and MLB seasons working out as the leagues intend. Those poor owners, I tell ya. This deadly pandemic is getting in the way of their ability to basically print money.
- 121a. [Chore for a bowling alley employee?], CLEAN THE GUTTERS. Gutters alongside the bowling lane, not at the edge of the roof.
The theme’s fairly solid, and I liked it but didn’t love it.
Seven more things:
- 75d. [Motel 6 alternative], RODEWAY INN. I was going to say I’d never seen this chain, but the first photo on Rodeway’s Wikipedia page shows a motel in Chicago. Turns out this is the current name of one of the sometimes-seedy motels on Lincoln Avenue on the city’s Northwest Side.
- 45d. [Baked], ON POT. This is a dreadful entry, isn’t it? It’s not in the language the way on drugs or on heroin is.
- 9a. [“The Tale of ___ Puddle-Duck” (Beatrix Potter children’s book)], JEMIMA. Yes, there is a familiar literary option for JEMIMA, so clues need not reference the brand of high-fructose corn syrup for pancakes. In related news, the company that makes the ice cream bar called Eskimo Pie is renaming it owing to the offensiveness of the E word to many people. Hockey player Jordan Tootoo, an Indigenous Canadian, recently weighed in on the word, too. (Hat tip to my friend and neighbor Susan, who’s also an NYT crossword solver.)
- 1a. [“The King of Latin Pop”], IGLESIAS. The nickname belongs to Enrique, not his dad Julio. Here’s a 20-year-old video (rather perplexing in a number of ways) of a duet between Enrique and Whitney Houston.
- 18d. [Crispy cookie brand], TATE’S. Have tried these cookies. I’m a big believer that cookies should be crunchy, not chewy. Don’t @ me if you prefer cookies that yield like a tub of oatmeal.
- 55a. [Kristen of “Bridesmaids”], WIIG, crossing WII U. You don’t see a ton of WII* crossings out there! I was sort of hoping to see Wiig’s movie, Barb and Star Go toVista Del Mar, this summer, but the release was bumped from this summer to next summer. I tell you, when your job involves scheduling “Movie Monday” puzzles months in advance, studios monkeying with release dates is vexing.
- 85a. [Air Force 1 maker], NIKE. That’s a sneaker we’re talking about, not a federally owned jet.
3.6 stars from me. Enjoy the rest of the weekend!
Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “A Meal With Captain Obvious” – Jim Q’s writeup
I really want to meet Captain Obvious. Not sure I could stomach a whole meal with him, though. I’d go insane I think.
THEME: Captain Obvious and food. That is, colloquial phrases with food items in them are taken literally.
- 23A [“___? Then I’ll need a larger skillet for that salmon”] BIGGER FISH TO FRY.
- 33A [“___, and you’ll have to mop up that burrito filling”] SPILL THE BEANS.
- 52A [“___? You can microwave that treat to soften it up”] TOUGH COOKIE.
- 69A [“___, and you’ll have bought strips of meat”] BRING HOME THE BACON.
- 92A [“___? I’ll cut you a slice”] PIECE OF CAKE.
- 105A [“___ aren’t as large as these russets”] SMALL POTATOES.
- 121A [“___; I know because I baked this bird for dinner”] MY GOOSE IS COOKED.
I’m a sucker for the Captain Obvious series, and I know I’m not the only one. And Evan smartly spaces them apart- one maybe two in a year- so that the conceit doesn’t tire itself out and his audience is kept in anticipation. Actually, I think I noted in a recent write-up that we were due for a Captain Obvious puzzle soon, and this one did not disappoint.
I knew a lot of the “gists” of the theme answers without crosses, but got hung up on the occasional word. For instance, I knew GOOSE / COOKED instantly but wasn’t sure about the MY / IS part. Hangups like that only made it more enjoyable.
In the fill, I got hung up on the occasional name: can’t believe I forgot MENDES even though I loved 1917. RJ MITTE was new as a name to me, even though I devoured Breaking Bad. Didn’t know MARLA Sokoloff. And I know I should know the name LUCA BRASI, but I don’t (that little section down by BRASI was the last area I filled).
I was very confident that it was ARNEZ and not ARNAZ and CLEEVE looked just fine to me, so I have to claim a DNF since I couldn’t find my mistake when the Happy Pencil didn’t make an appearance.
Is LOOFAHS always spelled with an H? Or is that optional?
Andrea Carla Michaels’ Universal crossword — “Alphabetic Sextet”
I’m missing something about this theme, but hopefully I’ll figure it out by the end of this write-up.
THEME: Not entirely sure, but there is G?N beginning each of the themers where ? goes through the cycle of vowels.
- 17A [James of “The Sopranos”] GANDOLFINI. Miss this guy. Glad I got to see him in God of Carnage on Broadway.
- 24A [Word after “Lost” or “Beat”] GENERATION.
- 31A [Crisp cookie] GINGER SNAP.
- 42A [They get around in Venice] GONDOLIERS.
- 50A [Second Amendment issue] GUN CONTROL.
- 59A [Women’s healthcare field] GYNECOLOGY.
As noted, I’m not confident about the theme here. Alphabetic Sextet implies a set of six something. Okay, so there are six total theme answers. Is that the sextet? Or is there something six-ish in each of the answers themselves?
I think it’s the set as a whole. They’re very much in alphabetical order, separated only by that second letter, the changing vowel. So I suppose if they were all in a dictionary, they’d pretty much be back-to-back in a sense.
Oddly enough, I kind of enjoy a head scratcher now and again. I’m still only 60% confident that I explained the theme, but I didn’t hate it. Anyone else have an observation or something I missed?
Wren Schultz’s Universal Sunday crossword, “Initial Order”—Jim P’s review
Our theme is three-word phrases whose initial letters are found consecutively in the alphabet.
- 23a. [Goes downhill] STARTS TO UNRAVEL
- 36a. [NBA team in the Big Easy] NEW ORLEANS PELICANS
- 57a. [Have good intentions] MEAN NO OFFENSE
- 76a. [“Psych!”] I’M JUST KIDDING
- 92a. [Creamy, tangy salad topping] BLUE CHEESE DRESSING
- 112a. [Late-night ABC show] JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE. Nice find!
I thought this was a pretty nifty theme. There can’t be too many well-known phrases that have this feature, so I’m impressed by this well-chosen set.
Fun fill: I love a good MEAT PIE, I avoid the expensive MINI-BAR, I occasionally throw a FIREBALL (playing as Mario), and I cook my pasta AL DENTE. Other goodies: GENGHIS, DAY LILY, BARE SKIN, LATE IN LIFE, I SMELL A RAT, DELICACY, and MISNOMER. Good stuff.
I also like REDSHIRT [College athlete whose eligibility is extended], but we also would have accepted the clue [Star Trek away team member most likely to eat it].
My only hiccup was with the clue [Counsel], which I took to be a noun and so inputted ADVICE. Nope, it’s a verb, and so the puzzle wanted ADVISE. That cost me 50 seconds at the end.
Clues of note:
- 74a. [What I can follow?]. XII. On a clock with Roman numerals.
- 13d. [Bird, once]. CELTIC. That’s Larry Bird.
Pleasant theme and grid. Four stars.
MaryEllen Uthlaut’s LA Times crossword, “Uncertain Endings” – Jenni’s write-up
This was fun! All the theme answers have ER added to the end. Wackiness results.
- 23a [Dressed like the winning coach after the traditional ice bath?] is IN A COLD SWEATER.
- 32a [Pantry nook for chewy candies?] is CARAMEL CORNER. I kept trying to make this CANDY instead of CARAMEL even though it’s in the clue, because CARAMEL CORN is not a candy. Which is, of course, fine – the clue is referring to the corner in which you keep CARAMEL. Which is a candy. Duh.
- 52a [Fudd, when being elusive?] is SLIPPERY ELMER. My favorite.
- 69a [Shoe that’s really not better-than-none?] is HALF A LOAFER. I’m not crazy about the clue, which references the base phrase (HALF A LOAF is better than none).
- 92a [Regret losing one’s straw hat?] is MISS THE BOATER.
- 103a [Got a Mini airborne?] is FLEW THE COOPER.
- 121a [Life-size cutout to promote “Rocky”?] is a CARDBOARD BOXER.
The theme is solid and well-executed – my only quibble is with a clue, not an entry. It’s Sunday-smooth and enjoyable. Nothing about the fill made me wince while I was solving. Nice!
A few other things:
- According to this article, TACO Tuesday has been around since the 1930s, which surprised me.
- OK, one word in the fill made me wince: AGAZE. Just say no to that.
- Also just say no to April Fools jokes, even if you only mean to TEASE.
- Where I come from, charoseth is not a fruit paste. At our SEDERs, it’s a melange of coarsely chopped apples and walnuts seasoned with cinnamon and mixed with Manischewitz Concord Grape wine (nothing else will do – must be Manischewitz). I have had fruit-paste charoseth at Sephardic SEDERs and it is delicious.
- [Leader of the track] is a fun clue for PACE CAR.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that Quenya and Sindarin are forms of ELVISH. I presume this is LOTR lore. I’ve tried to read the books. Never made it through. I also did not know that GORSE is also called furze. “Furze” looks like a word Dr. Seuss made up.