David Levinson Wilk’s New York Times crossword, “Puzzlin'”—Amy’s write-up
David shunts the G from the end of an -ING word to the beginning of the next word in some familiar phrases, and clues the goofy new phrase accordingly:
- 23a. [Nobody but the guy gettin’ married on his feet?], STANDIN’ GROOM ONLY.
- 38a. [Winter item you’ll be wearin’ for years?], EVERLASTIN’ GLOVE. This is giving me a junior high flashback to Andy Gibb, though I preferred “Shadow Dancing” to “An Everlasting Love.”
- 58a. [Danger when walkin’ in a silo?], FALLIN’ GRAIN. Actually, falling into grain is the biggest danger.
- 69a. [Drivin’ around the lot with pop-pop?], PARKIN’ GRAMP. “Parking ramp” isn’t the term I use—I call multi-level parking facilities “parking garages.” I think “parking ramp” may have regional adoption? Maybe Minnesota, for one? Also, does this themer make you think Gramp has got an internal combustion engine?
- 87a. [Sayin’ “Look, here’s the thing about dry land …”?], QUALIFYIN’ GROUND.
- 102a. [What was causin’ the doctor to check for joint pain?], FEAR OF MISSIN’ GOUT. I tell ya, gout is no joke!
I liked this theme. I appreciate that there are just six themers, leaving plenty of space for the grid to include a bunch of stacked 7s, 8s, and 9s. The fill is pretty good overall.
Six more things:
- 61d. [His tombstone reads “Workers of all lands unite”], MARX. Did not know that. What epitaph would you like to leave behind for those who come after you?
- 69d. [Buttinsky], PRIER. Okay, this is a terrible entry. There wasn’t much else to despoil the grid, though.
- 67a. [Hedge fund titan nicknamed “The Palindrome”], SOROS. Am I the last one to find this out? That he’s got a Palindrome nickname?
- 71a. [Overhead expenses?], HATS. Good clue!
- 78d. [Ho-hum feelings], ENNUIS. Not sure you can really pluralize this. “I have so many ennuis. The ennui of being sequestered at home for month. The ennui of political advertising season. The ennui of procrastination.”
- 44a. [“Mixed Marriage” playwright St. John Greer ___], ERVINE. Never heard of him. He was Irish. Crossword-worthy, or no? I’m leaning no, based on the shortness of his Wikipedia page.
On the representation front, we’ve got 10 (Al SHARPTON, Gish JEN, JAYNE Mansfield, Tori AMOS, Camila CABELLO, JANIS Joplin, ANN MEYERS, RAISA Gorbachev, LUISE Rainer, Eva LONGORIA) up against 9-ish (ERVINE TEIXEIRA CAAN ARP SOROS ENDE NEY CARR MARX).
Four stars from me.
Dan Schoenholz’s LA Times crossword, “Double Features” – Jenni’s write-up
This is one of those themes that’s an impressive construction but wasn’t much fun to solve. Each theme entry is the title of a movie that contains the title of another movie, and they’re clued by what they have in common.
- 23a [Two that received Oscar nods in all four acting categories] is A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE. The highlighted letters (circled in the grid) give us REDS.
- 39a [Duo from the Deep South] are STEEL MAGNOLIAS and SELMA.
- 53a [Pair for the holidays] are IT‘S A WONDERFUL LIFE and ELF.
- 74a [Couple in the 21st century with Best Director Oscar winners] are BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN and ROMA.
- 91a [Two period pieces from across the pond] are THE KING‘S SPEECH and TESS.
- 107a [Pair of divergent tales of the paranormal] are A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET and GHOST. Not sure what “divergent” has to do with anything.
The titles inside the longer titles added nothing to the solving experience. The clues were straightforward, and when you get the longer one correct, you’ve got the shorter one. The pattern was evident from the first theme answer and there was no wordplay to amuse me as I marched on down the grid. I can see that it was challenging to construct given the constraints – six title-within-a-title entries that share a characteristic and are the right length for the symmetry. As a solver, my response is “so what?”
A few other things:
- I’ll leave it to the mathematicians to tell us if PARAMETER is correctly clued as a [Defining characteristic]. Works for me from the colloquial use of the term.
- We looked at Solar City panels from TESLA and decided against it. It’s less money up front but more potential complications later. We own our solar panels. Then we got an electric car, so we run it on sunshine!
- We had a TORNADO warning while I was solving this puzzle! Luckily, no TORNADO.
- Does anyone actually say URB?
- I haven’t seen ADSORBS since high school physics.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: never heard of a LOW BAR squat in weightlifting, and I did not know there was a TARO blight in Samoa. Most of the Google hits are scholarly articles, so here’s the Wikipedia article for your perusal.
Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Alphabet Soup” – Jim Q’s writeup
If you’re looking for a quick brown fox jumping over a lazy dog, you’ve come to the wrong puzzle.
THEME: Pangram! Four wacky sentences each use every letter of the alphabet exactly once!
- 27A [*A non-straight ’90s MTV personality canceled general Norman? Delish!] LGBTQ VJ NIXED SCHWARZKOPF! YUM!
- 54A [*Yo, dude! A sappy NFL passer is annoying everyone at a New York airport.] WORD UP! SCHMALTZY QB VEXING JFK!
- 80A [*Mr. Griffin, the “Atlanta” network holds the rights to that clumsy dance tune by the fictional composer of “A Little Nightmare Music.”” MERV, FX OWNS KLUTZY PDQ BACH JIG.
- 108A [*Mr. Novak, please send that home shopping network a copy of Junior’s car rental ad immediately.] BJ, FAX QVC MY KID’S HERTZ PLUG NOW.
- 85D [A “perfect” one uses all 26 letters once each, as seen in four answers in this puzzle] PANGRAM.
Wow. Just wow. I have a feeling this will be a divisive puzzle with some loving it and some hating it. While I can respect the reasons that some might not like it, I am firmly in the camp that loves it. Four complete (albeit over-the-top wacky) entries using a perfect pangram? That’s only five vowels to play with (okay, six)! Insane! Not to mention the construction around it… fill like OUTLANDER and DABBLER right next to it cross two of the theme entries. And yet, somehow, the fill doesn’t really suffer all that much. Or if it does, I didn’t notice. Looking back at the puzzle now, it does seem that there is more crossword glue than usual, but I suppose Evan’s always-excellent cluing helped me to look past it.
It’s also one of those themes that helps you figure out the puzzle. Since we know we’re going to be using every letter, it’s easy to assume the QVC and HERTZ part of 108A [*Mr. Novak, please send that home shopping network a copy of Junior’s car rental ad immediately.].
OXYTONE and SCHWEIGER were new to me, but I enjoyed uncovering both.
I bet that Evan’s going to get some grief and some hate mail for this one, but I say keep pushing the boundaries. And let’s not forget the careful balance of over-the-plate themes mixed in with zaniness like this. That is, if you don’t like a puzzle here and there, just wait a week. There’s one coming for you.
Paul Coulter’s Universal crossword — “Kitchen Capers” – Jim Q’s Write-up
Paul Coulter is back! I feel like it’s been forever!
THEME: Not entirely sure, but phrases fit the pattern VERB BEGINNING WITH S + THE + NOUN BEGINNING WITH B THAT YOU MIGHT FIND IN A KITCHEN. Is that it?
- 20A [Blab] SPILL THE BEANS.
- 29A [Succeed in a kids’ game involving grabbing and tagging] STEAL THE BACON. Never heard of this game. Sounds fun. I now feel like my childhood was missing something.
- 47A [What too many cooks do, it’s said] SPOIL THE BROTH.
- 56A [Play a kissing game] SPIN THE BOTTLE.
I was confident on the theme up until BOTTLE. Then I doubted myself. I mean, BEANS, BACON, BROTH… BOTTLE? One of these things is decidedly not like the other. Still, an enjoyable, easy solve.
Paul’s grids are reliably good. My favorite mistake was entering HESS for MACK [Big name in trucks]. That works, right? Haha.
Zhouqin Burnikel’s Universal Sunday crossword, “Metalheads”—Jim P’s review
Theme: Chemical element symbols of various metals are prepended to common phrases.
- 22a. [Chef for some shelter adoptees?] FELINE COOK. Iron + line cook.
- 24a. [Payment for a stand-up person?] COMIC CHECK. Cobalt + mic check.
- 36a. [Exercise regimen that involves getting out of bed repeatedly?] ALARM WORKOUT. Aluminum + arm workout.
- 59a. [Easy A’s?] SNAP CLASSES. Tin + A.P. classes.
- 79a. [Cassandra, e.g.?] AUSPICE GIRL. Gold + Spice Girl.
- 97a. [Worn-out shellfish?] TIRED LOBSTER. Titanium + Red Lobster.
- 113a. [Most adorable Senate gofer?] CUTEST PAGE. Copper + test page.
- 116a. [Prearranged part of a bus tour?] AGREED STOP. Silver + reed stop.
These all check out, though none of them tickled me very much—TIRED LOBSTER being the best of the lot. I’ve never heard of a reed stop which is defined as “a set of reed pipes in an organ.” Seems pretty niche such that your average solver wouldn’t have heard of it.
The fill is solid as usual when it comes to a Burnikel grid. I especially like CHIMERAS as well as TUXEDOS, HOLDS TRUE, RAGTIME, and DEADPAN with a clue referring to comedian Tig Notaro whose work I admire (and laugh at) very much.
This wasn’t my favorite Burnikel puzzle, but then, they all can’t be. It works just fine, it just doesn’t have her usual sparkle. 3.5 stars.
I used “Parking Ramp” more than “garage” growing up in Western New York, and by happenstance only learned days ago from a tweet that it may be a regionalism.
I liked the theme. It was sort of the reverse of this Manny Nosowsky classic: https://www.xwordinfo.com/Crossword?date=11/13/1997
The Times took me twice as long as usual, but it was an enjoyable challenge. Lots of canny misdirection, solid fill, and a groan-worthy but amusing theme.
NYT: Like Amy, I really enjoyed the theme and gave the puzzle a high rating. I would guess the negative ratings might come from the many proper names, often crossing, so I needed to work around them.
Ennuis is not usually plural in English but it can definitely be plural in French. However, “Les Ennuis” signifies generic trouble… “Chercher les ennuis” means to look for trouble. The word comes from the same origin as “annoy”, so if something is boring, “c’est ennuyeux”. The more existential Ennui as a state connotes to me a feigned annoyance that implies that one is bored because one is above the triviality of life…
I suspect you’re right about the ratings. I got the theme quickly but then struggled like anything with the fill without a lot of fun. It wasn’t all proper names either, which relieved some of the pain, since thus I can feel I’m catching up with the times. But, while not crossings, the sheer density of ZEBRA FISH, APIA SAMOA, NERD ALERT, ANN MEYERS, and NESPRESSO side by side made the middle my last to fall.
I didn’t know Soros is “the palindrome” and wouldn’t swear to it either, but at least his name is a palindrome, so I shrugged that one off. ENNUIS in plural did sound weird.
NYT – Amy, I solved the puzzle after you so no, you are not the last person to know that Soros is “The Palindrome.”
LAT 90d – I’ve never seen a Lab that had to be told, “Go fetch.”
FEAR OF MISSIN’ GOUT
Gout – Hard to miss, easily diagnosable over the phone
PRIER – I worried about the spelling of this near-word, too
merriam-webster . com says it’s legit, from as far back as 1552
not a particularly hard puzzle, me finishing a 21×21 is testament
For the WaPo puzzle, put me in the “love it” camp, but I can see why some will hate it. There is a LOT of three-letter fill, including a bunch of three-letter exclamations. Evan Birnholz does his usual excellent cluing to try to help us figure them out, but some will find it annoying.
If the theme didn’t have the use-each-letter-exactly-once aspect, it would have been a lot more frustrating. But that really helped me figure out the nonsense phrases.
Agreed. I needed the perfect pangrams to figure out SCHWEIGER (SCHWEINER? SCHWEIDER?) and a couple others, and some fill was rough, but not unreasonable, given the exercise.
WaPo: If anyone can turn a difficult (and often painful) crossword type into a joyful experience, Evan certainly can. His pangram puzzle today and his “Greatest Hits” puzzle last week both astonish and please. Thanks. What next, Evan?
Totally agree with David. Loved this puzzle. By a miracle, I had no errors, as long as word up is a thing. Listen up? Loved the crazy clues. Got ox and pang and my trusty dictionary gave oxytone and pangram, both new to me. Essays seemed to fit Lorde, whoever that is. Hard enough to do one pangram, but four? So much fun to do, and hats off to good clues. Thanks.
The WaPo puzzle seems to me to be a cousin of the ‘Cuckoo Crossword’ seen once in a while. And my reaction is the same— it’s fine, but just once a year, please.
I’m in the Love-Today’s-WaPo camp as well. The clues alone are worth the price of admission.
UCS: Count me as one who never heard of a reed stop and had to look it up to make sure that was it. I think I’ve actually heard of an “agreed stop”, so at the end that knocked down my love of the puzzle otherwise. I really did enjoy it once I caught on to the theme. Again, until I hit that last one, sadly.
How did Amy count Al
Sharpton as a female?
Al Sharpton isn’t a straight white man. Representation matters for much more than just gender.
Al is not a straight Black man either. Ask the victims of Tawana Bradley’s fake attack.
Libs continue to amaze with your PC phobias.
“PC phobias,” lololol
Amy, I agree that Mr.Ervine isn’t very interesting – if he hadn’t been standing next to Emily Davison on her last day, he would be even less so! (Davison, a hard fighting suffragette, was killed when she stepped onto Epsom Downs in front of the king’s horse during the Derby.)