Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle (Week 486), “Brainy Forecast”—Ade’s take
Good day, everyone! We have already arrived at autumn, and I hope the next few months of 2020 go much better than the first nine months have given us so far!
Today’s puzzle was a “B” to do! No, it wasn’t hard, but the letter “b” is added to phrases/proper nouns to create puns with each of the four 15-letter theme entries. An element of the b-less original phrase is part of the cluing.
- ISN’T IT BROMANTIC (17A: [Rodgers and Hart standard dedicated to male bonding?])
- A BROOM WITH A VIEW (28A: [E.M. Forster novel about a high-flying witch?])
- THE AMAZING BRACE (47A: [Reality series about a phenomenal orthopedic device?])
- BRUSH TO JUDGMENT (62A: [Court decision about dental hygiene?])
Loving this puzzle today, and I’m in that mood because of one reason: FROGMAN (46D: [Military underwater worker]). Seeing that clue immediately made me think of, and gives me the chance to acknowledge, R&B legend Clarence “Frogman” Henry for one of the iconic songs that’s getting more and more plays in commercials and movies over the past couple of years after being featured in a number of films in the 1980s, “(I Don’t Know Why) But I Do.” Hit it!
Another thing that stood out was having both aggressors in the Cold War present, USA (64D: [Springsteen’s “Born in the ___”]) and the USSR (26A: [Cold War initials]). Speaking of a Big Red Machine of a different variety…
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: BENCH (29D: [Dugout seating]) – It is almost without any doubt that former Cincinnati Reds catcher Johnny Bench was the greatest catcher in the history of Major League Baseball. A 14-time All-Star, Bench was the centerpiece of the “Big Red Machine” Reds teams of the 1970s that appeared in four World Series in the decade and winning two (1975 and 1976). Along with being a feared hitter who, to this day, remains the only catcher to lead his league in home runs in a season (45 in 1970, 40 in 1972), Bench also was one of the best defensive catchers the game has ever seen, throwing out 43 percent of would-be base stealers for his career on his way to winning 10 Gold Gloves (The caught stealing league average during his career was 35 percent, according to ESPN.) Bench was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1989. Give him a hand…well, with his hand, he could hold seven baseballs in it. You know what they say about guys with big hands, right?
Thank you so much for the time, everybody! Have a wonderful and safe rest of your day and, as always, keep solving!
Jeremy Newton’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
This puzzle’s a tribute to the late 7d CHADWICK BOSEMAN, who played 24d T’CHALLA, aka 40a THE BLACK PANTHER (really not sure about that “THE” here), king of 25d WAKANDA, who had a vague and nonspecific 63d SUPERHUMAN POWER (the comic book character has a whole list of specific superpowers) from consuming a 17a HEART-SHAPED HERB. If you’re going to put together a Boseman tribute puzzle, why not be more selective in the themers rather than elevating HEART-SHAPED HERB to being the point of entry into the theme?
Another option would have been to spotlight Boseman’s body of work rather than the minutiae of Marvel’s Black Panther movie. I’ll grant you that his other key films and portrayals are tough to get a symmetrical theme set from—Jackie Robinson in 42, two additional films with numerals in the titles, 16-letter Thurgood Marshall, the James Brown biopic Get on Up … it takes some wrangling. But certainly cobbling together more of Boseman’s oeuvre would make a more apt tribute than the HEART-SHAPED HERB plot point that will likely be unknown to plenty of solvers.
What else? Three things:
- 36d. [Calgary’s province: Abbr.], ALB. Ugh, no, just … no. It’s abbreviated AB or Alta., unless you speak French, in which case you might go with Alb., but this clue’s all in English. And no, the old “priestly vestment” crosswordese angle isn’t any better. Maybe don’t wrangle six interlocking theme entries so the grid’s got more breathing room?
- 15a. [“Sex-x-xy!”], “SO HOT.” Awkward. “AS DO I” is another entry I’m not keen on. (In the category of weird-looking clues, we’ve also got 56d. [Fancy-y-y], LUXE.)
- There are more than 10 abbreviations in this grid. Too many? What’s a reasonable limit?
2.75 stars for me. Chadwick Boseman, rest in power. Look for his final film, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, on Netflix in late November.
Seth A. Abel Wall Street Journal crossword, “Out on a Limb”—Jim P’s review
The revealer is BREAK A LEG (38a, [Superstitious words of encouragement, and a clue to 17-, 25-, 54- and 64-Across]). To be more precise, the theme answers break a part of a leg. Each theme answer has a hidden leg-part spanning two words.
- 17a. [“Help wanted” counterpart, in ads] WORK NEEDED. Knee. Is this a real phrase? I don’t think I’ve encountered it before.
- 25a. [Hostile message sent anonymously] CRANK LETTER. Ankle. Nice one.
- 54a. [Ring road, stateside] BELT HIGHWAY. Thigh. I’ve never heard this full phrase, only “beltway.”
- 64a. [Gives subtle suggestions] DROPS HINTS. Shin.
I like the premise here, but I had to look askance at a couple of the entries. Maybe it’s just me though.
Similar to a grid last week, the nine-letter central entry bisects the grid and pretty much eliminates any chance for some long sparkly fill. We end up with a bunch of 7s in the corners which do the job with a minimum of fuss. The best of the lot are “I REPENT“, L.A. LAKERS, ARSENIO, and SYNERGY, one of those meaningless corporate buzzwords execs like to use (and which gives me a good excuse to embed Weird Al’s “Mission Statement” video.)
On the eyebrow-raising side, SWEAT IT [Worry, so to speak] looks weird without the “DON’T.”
Clues of note:
- 10a. [Trident-shaped consonants]. PSIS. I’ve seen this clue so many times, but I have some sort of mental block preventing me from storing it in my long-term memory. Anyone have a good way to remember this one?
- 41a. [Home that may be threatened by global warming]. IGLOO. I think there are a lot more homes than igloos that are threatened by global warming.
- 40d. [General in the rebel resistance]. LEIA. I’ll admit I was going to fault this clue since I expected it to say “rebel alliance.” But the Alliance was from the original trilogy of films. In the most recent trilogy, the rebels are called the Resistance.
Interesting theme, but it felt hit-and-miss with me. 3.3 stars.
Zachary David Levy’s Universal crossword — “Five-Spot” – Jim Q’s Write-up
This puzzle is best served with a spot of tea.
THEME: Different types of “spots”
- 17A [Spot for a comedian] STAND UP ACT.
- 24A [Spot for a product] TV COMMERCIAL.
- 39A [Spot for someone in a jam] STICKY SITUATION.
- 50A [Spot for a vehicle] PARKING SPACE.
- 62A [Spot for a dermatologist] BEAUTY MARK.
This puzzle is very straightforward. It feels like it wants to be funny and playful, but doesn’t know how. Nothing is wrong with it at all. In fact, the dryness of it is kind of its appeal for me, like the straight man of a comedy duo. In other words, this grid is more of a Bud Abbott than a Lou Costello.
I don’t think I’ve ever heard a STAND UP ACT referred to as a spot (I’ve heard “slot” though), and that being the first themer threw me a bit as I tried to figure out the theme.
I also find it somewhat strange to clue OCCAM with ___’s. Fill-in-the-blanks that have truncation in the clue feel off to me.
Lastly, the question mark clues, in my opinion, didn’t really need question marks. A CAR certainly could be a [Gift that helps a teen go places?] and NETHER does seem rather [Deep down?] to me, but both kind of fit the vibe of the straight man trying his best a humor I suppose.
Overall, not bad. Just… different!
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “Adjusted to Fit Your Screen” – Derek’s write-up
This week’s retrospective Jonesin’ puzzle is from September of 2012, and I think I actually remember this one! Let’s list the themers and then I will explain:
- 1A [What your answers must be written in to understand the theme] CAPS – This is KEY!
- 17A [Aligned correctly] RIGHT-SIDE UP
- 59A [What Neil Armstrong partook in, e.g.] NOISSIWNOOW
- 10D [“Land sakes alive that’s awesome!”] EOEHMNOEHM
- 29D [Do the “I am not a crook” thing with the V-signs, for example?] ZOXHZUHEHE
So if you solve in all caps, as you ABSOLUTELY SHOULD, then you can turn these seemingly nonsense entries to make sense. 17A is normal; 59A is upside-down and should read MOON MISSION. 10D is WOWIE ZOWIE if you turn the puzzle 90 degrees counter-clockwise, and 29D is MIMIC ZIXON is you turn it 90 degrees clockwise. Brilliant. Probably not the type of thing you could ever see in a NYT, but this is what makes indie crosswords great. 4.8 stars for this terrific puzzle from yesteryear!
Just a couple of things:
- 26A [1980s hairstyle that may have involved a kit] PERM – I don’t know anything about this! I don’t have hair to work with!
- 42A [Audrey Tautou’s quirky title role of 2001] AMÉLIE – Something else to watch!
- 53A [Rapper ___ Def] MOS – Yeah, he is 46 years old now. Man, time flies!
- 35D [Troy’s friend on “Community”] ABED – An only slightly dated reference. I’ll bet this whole show is on Peacock!
- 57D [Actor McGregor] EWAN – Nice guy! And crossword-famous on TOP of being regular famous!
That’s all for now! Another retro puzzle next week!
George Jasper’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
This is another byline that I am not familiar with. But we have a nice puzzle, and one that definitely NEEDS the circles!
- 20A [Top line of a lawyer’s solicitation ad] NEED LEGAL HELP
- 31A [Gamer’s coin] ARCADE TOKEN
- 39A [Pesky V-formation fliers] CANADA GEESE
- 51A [Iconic video game since 1978, and a hint to the circled letters] SPACE INVADERS
See why the circles are needed?
- 23A [Seafood platter accessory] BIB – We just ordered some seafood delivered. I did not wear a bib.
- 48A [Rhythmic Ravel classic] BOLERO – Rhythmic? Isn’t all music rhythmic??
- 5D [Provincetown’s peninsula] CAPE COD – Sounds like a great place to visit. in 2021.
- 42D [Colonel’s aspiration, perhaps] GENERAL – The perhaps is good here. Maybe the colonel doesn’t WANT to be a general! Maybe he’s happy being a colonel!
- 58D [__ of Good Feelings] ERA – No one is going to call 2020 this. Or maybe the entire 2010s decade. Or this entire new millennium!
Have a safe and healthy week!