Wyna Liu’s New York Times crossword, “Doubles Play”—Amy’s write-up
I don’t think the puzzle was as hard as my comparative solving time suggests—I was sort of distracted while solving. And then our dinner arrived before I was able to blog the puzzle … and then I got waylaid by the Liberty jigsaw in the other room and here it is, two or three hours later! Life is a puzzle.
The theme plays with words that contain a syllable with a Z sound that can be represented with plural letter names, if that makes sense. Like so:
- 22a. [*Performers who set the bar high?], TRA-PP ARTISTS. Trapeze artists. Trapeze is represented by changing the PEZE to PP, which is two letter PEES, and that plural S takes a Z sound.
- 24a. [*Go-getter’s maxim], CC THE DAY. Seize the day.
- 39a. [*Public health agency’s mission], DI-ZZ CONTROL. Disease Control. Still mad that the White House has cut the CDC out of the loop on some important statistics gathering.
- 48a. [*Feature of a Chippendales show], STRIP-TT. Striptease. It’s unfortunate that the next 7 with a double letter in the grid, PHOTO OP, isn’t part of the theme.
- 67a. [*Places for coasters], AM-UU-MENT PARKS. Amusement parks.
- 84a. [*How to screw in a light bulb], CLOCK-YY. Clockwise.
- 91a. [*What keeps up standards in the radio business?], OL-DD STATION. Oldies station. If you’re over 45, it’s kinda wild that there are oldies stations playing 1990s music, isn’t it?
- 110a. [*”Holy moly!”], GG LOUISE. Geez Louise!
- 114a. [*Occasion for hiding in the dark], SURPR-II PARTY. Surprise party. Are you one who would welcome a surprise party or who’s apt to disown anyone who plans one for you? Life can be startling enough without being ambushed by loved ones.
Neat theme. Took me a while to figure out what was going on.
What else? Lots of stuff:
- 11a. [Something pressed in an emergency], PANIC BAR. I don’t know what this is. Examples, anyone?
- 46a. [Actress and civil rights activist Ruby ___], DEE. This is a wonderful clue, so informative. See also: 105a. [Singer/activist Horne], LENA.
- 73a. [Language spoken on Easter Island], RAPA NUI. I knew that was a place name, but not that it was also the name of a people and their language. Click that link to read a bit about this Polynesian language, and about the Peruvians’ essentially genocidal treatment of the Rapa Nui in the 1860s. Shameful.
- 82a. [Palate cleansers between courses], SORBETS. The print version has palette instead. Oops.
- 103a. [Author/magazine editor Welteroth], ELAINE. This was a gimme for me. She was the editor-in-chief of Teen Vogue magazine when it launched into the stratosphere for its keen political coverage devoured by the young women who read it. She is only 33! One of those smart Black women to keep an eye on.
- 117a. [Genre for the Smashing Pumpkins and Liz Phair], ALT ROCK. Liz Phair and her fans on Twitter had a rousing discussion over what the answer to this clue should be.
- 121a. [Italian diminutive suffix], INO / 104d. [Japanese beer brand], ASAHI. If you don’t know your Japanese beers, this might have stymied you. But it certainly shows up in enough crosswords, with that great vcvcv letter pattern, so you ought to know it by now.
- 12d. [Inverse trig function], ARCSEC. Oof! THAT HURT. Trying to put together the two themers that it crosses, I spent too much time in this section.
- 32d. [Like polka], CZECH. !! I always thought it was Polish. It’s got a more Polish vibe here in Chicago.
- 33d. [What sheep participate in], GROUPTHINK. I’m grateful the word sheeple wasn’t used here. I hate it.
- 50d. [National economic prosperity, metaphorically], RISING TIDE. It lifts all boats. We’ve got too many boats stranded on a shoal right now.
- 58d. [First man, in Maori mythology], TIKI. The clue screamed “wow, you do not know this at all, it must be some obscure word you’ve never seen,” and then it turned out to be TIKI. Easy-peasy! (EE-y PP-y, in this theme.)
- 85d. [Have a serious crush on, informally], LIKE LIKE. Love this entry!
- 105d. [Partially landlocked bay], LOCH. Am I the only one who thought a LOCH was a lake?
This puzzle’s too big to go back and tally up the representation numbers, but it felt inclusive and I liked the overall vibe, fill, and clues along with the theme. Four stars from me.
Yaakov & Yoni Glatt’s LA Times crossword, “Fast x Furious IV” – Jenni’s write-up
The theme answers are all clued [Fast] or [Furious]. When I started to write this I noticed the x in the title and realized each [Fast] answer crosses a [Furious] answer, and there are four pairs. It’s an interesting construction, but that tidbit didn’t make it any faster (!) or more fun to solve. The theme gets a solid “meh” from me. The theme rundown:
- 23a [Fast] is IN THE BLINK OF AN EYE and it crosses 3d [Furious], ON THE WARPATH. That could be removed from everyone’s word list, since it references a stereotype of American Indians.
- BLOWING A FUSE at 53a crosses AT A GOOD CLIP at 35d.
- FIT TO BE TIED, 47d, is matched with LICKETY–SPLIT, 87a.
- A MILE A MINUTE at 67d crosses FOAMING AT THE MOUTH, 120a.
So that’s the theme. As I said, “meh.”
A few other things:
- Plurals I could do without: ACCUSALS, EATABLES, and D–DAYS. I could do without ACCUSAL and EATABLE in the singular, too.
- 80s and 90s ladies side-by-side: Sarah Michelle GELLAR and Ally SHEEDY.
- I got to 81a, [Cathedral part] and confidently filled in NAVE because I was sure APSE had already appeared in the puzzle, but when I went back I couldn’t find APSE. I suspect it was in some other puzzle I did today (or I’m too tired to see it here).
- I wonder how PTAS will function this year. Socially distanced wrapping paper sales?
- [Musical fifths] are SOLS; that’s the fifth note on the DO RE MI scale.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that the insurance salesman in “Groundhog Day” is named NED (never seen it) and that the soprano in “The Flying Dutchman” is SENTA (never listened to it). I also did not know that Binghamton has a AA TEAM named The Rumble Ponies – I was happy to learn that!
Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Foursquare” – Jim Q’s writeup
Posting a quick write-up today! Rushing to get graduation videos ready for my students (July 31st graduation! Who would’ve thought?)
THEME: Meta! But the title says it all!
No real “theme answers” per se, unless I’m missing something (which is very possible). Perhaps a little wink on one of the clues? I’m talking about 21A [Length x width]. But if you look at some awfully strange letter combinations, it’s not too hard to figure out what’s going on.
There are eight sets of four-letter boxes where the letter is repeated (am I saying that right?). I have highlighted them in green on the grid I printed out since my photoshop program no longer works since I updated my Mac. But they’re pretty easy to spot, especially because it is particularly strange to see the letters W, Y, and B appearing frequently right next to one another.
I picked up on the theme at the CY YOUNG / NAVY YARDS / SKYY / HEY YA section, which was about halfway through for me, and I figured each of the repeated letters would spell the phrase we’re looking for. Bingo! TWO–BY–TWO! The length x width gives us FOURSQUARE!
Played like a quirky themeless with a hint of mystery for me, but in Evan’s hands that’s never bad. HALEP was new, and of course fantastic clue for TRANS MAN.
Overall, a pleasing solve as usual.
Val Melius’s Universal crossword — “The Masked Singer”
If you’re looking for a soprano, you’ve come to the wrong puzzle!
THEME ANSWERS: Vocal “singing” parts are hidden in common phrases.
- 18A [Walk-through on a real estate site] VIRTUAL TOUR.
- 28A [Premed’s job, perhaps] LAB ASSISTANT.
- 49A [Mandate on paper] WRITTEN ORDER.
- 63A [Consciences, or a theme hint] INNER VOICES.
Solid revealer and idea, but I feel like I’m solving a lot of hidden word themes in the Universal lately! Lots of circled squares, which Universal cannot print in their regular publication or online webapp. This one doesn’t suffer too badly from that pitfall imo.
It is strange that SOPRANO is missing. I mean, of course you’re not going to find a phrase that is able to hide SOPRANO (though I’m sure Val gave it a onelook search just for fun), but it certainly feels incomplete without that voice part, which frequently carries the melody!
BABE, DOLLS UP, and I NEVER! Gave this an old-timey feel. I can’t hear the word BABE in that context without thinking of the play Oleanna.
Really liked the clue for 39D [Apt part of a sad song?] DOWNBEAT. The clue for AT EASE!, on the other hand, seems a bit inaccurate: [“Chilling” words from a drill instructor?]. I mean, even when they’re AT EASE, do they really look like they’re chilling?
Overall 2.9 stars from me, with or without circles.
Ross Trudeau’s Universal Sunday crossword, “Measurable Impact”—Jim P’s review
Each of today’s theme answers is an idiom that hints at some sort of measurable change. The revealer, MOVING THE NEEDLE, is clued [Making noticeable progress, or a theme hint].
- 22a. [Has a broad impact, or affects a seismometer?] SENDS SHOCK WAVES
- 36a. [Exceeds one’s previous depravity, or affects a depth gauge?] SINKS TO A NEW LOW
- 51a. [Loses control, or affects a Geiger counter?] HAS A MELTDOWN
- 61a. [Suddenly takes major action, or affects a speedometer?] GOES FROM ZERO TO SIXTY
- 76a. [Tires, or affects a fuel gauge?] RUNS OUT OF GAS
- 90a. [Adds pressure, or affects a temperature gauge?] TURNS UP THE HEAT.
A nice collection of phrases. Each one is common enough, and I especially like how each one affects a different measuring device.
Beyond the theme, as usual with Ross Trudeau and David Steinberg, the fill is sparkly and strong. Highlights include “AMSCRAY!,” “SHALL WE?,” I AM MALALA, DRESS RACK, TALK TOO MUCH, SALARY BUMPS, EATS CROW, and THE TWIST with a great clue [Checker’s move?]. I liked seeing STARCRAFT [Intergalactic PC game], Warcraft’s spacey cousin which didn’t catch on the way the fantasy-based game did. Non-gamers maybe won’t have heard of it, but the title is fairly inferable, given the clue and the popularity of games ending in -craft. I also liked seeing DARWIN [“Survival of the fittest” naturalist], as I recently read (listened to the audiobook of) Tim Mason’s The Darwin Affair, an enjoyable Victorian thriller. Sadly, there wasn’t as much Darwin in it as I would have liked, but I recommend it nonetheless.
Clues of note:
- 14a. [Bit of floury language?]. SIFT. Fun clue.
- 80a. [Now-silent character on “The Simpsons”]. APU. I haven’t watched the show regularly in years, but I know of the objections regarding the stereotypical portrayal of this character. However, I didn’t know they just made him silent.
- 97a. [Jane Pauley’s channel]. CBS. This was my only error in the whole puzzle because I went with NBC where she was for 25 years. I didn’t know she became the current host of CBS Sunday Morning in 2016.
- 110d. [Dr. Mom’s treatment, maybe]. TLC. In our house, Dr. Mom actually prescribes medicine. (My wife’s a pediatrician.)
Solid grid. 3.75 stars.