Sam Ezersky’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Fun theme! Things you might say to someone that begin with you’re are reimagined more literally:
- 24a. [To a cosmetician: “You’re …”] MAKING ME BLUSH. As in the makeup called blush, not flushed cheeks.
- 30a. [To a produce vendor near closing time: “You’re …”] OUT OF YOUR GOURD. Have you read “It’s Decorative Gourd Season, Motherfuckers”? It’s been a fall favorite for many since 2009.
- 47a. [To a bad free throw shooter: “You’re …”] MISSING THE POINT. Ha!
- 63a. [To a temp worker: “You’re …”], IN FOR IT NOW. This feels less apt. Who would use “in for it” in relation to working?
- 65a. [To a rude driver: “You’re …”] DARN TOOTIN’.
- 76a. [With 98-Across, to an aspiring entrepreneur: “You’re …”] ONLY AS GOOD AS THE / COMPANY YOU KEEP. Ooh, good one. Although plenty a good entrepreneur has seen their business fail due to outside factors and not the quality of the business. (See also: COVID.)
- 104a. [To anyone who wasn’t addressed above: “You’re …”] SOMETHING ELSE! Ha, I like it.
I like most of the theme, and overall the fill is good and the cluing crisp. Gotta run, it’s dinner time. 4.25 stars from me, a fun Sunday puzzle.
Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Housecleaning” – Jim Q’s
Still have yet to finish the challenge that involves the consumption of any of the drinks featured in this puzzle. Let’s just say I’ll get to it eventually!
THEME: Areas in a house are scrambled in common phrases, and need to be “put back in order.”
- 23A [“So friggin’ what?!”] WHO THE HELL CARES? CELLAR. Excellent entry.
- 42A [Naval command?] ALL HANDS ON DECK! HALL.
- 56A [Business launch] INITIAL PUBLIC OFFERING. OFFICE. So accustomed to seeing IPO in crosswords, but never the whole phrase!
- 80A [Racing venue that hosts the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama] BARBER MOTOR SPORTS PARK. RESTROOM. I call it a bathroom in a house, and a restroom in public.
- 97A [Boundary of the red zone in football] TWENTY-YARD LINE. ENTRYWAY. ENTRYWAY. The toughest of all to unscramble for me.
- 118A [Get back to one’s normal state after a failure, idiomatically] DUST YOURSELF OFF. STUDY.
Kinda feels like the game Clue. “It was EDWINA in the STUDY with the SIPHON!”
I can’t say I ever really hit a groove with this one. I was tripped up often, either by the fill or the cluing, and “unscramble-the-word” themes don’t usually help me all that much synergy-wise. I typically see the theme word retroactively, especially when the word keeps changing (that’s not a complaint… I’d much rather have different words to unscramble then its cousin theme-type where a single recurring word is mixed in different phrases). So, like last week, this played rather like a themeless for me.
There are some colorful phrases, though. Particularly in the theme answers. All of them landed solidly for me with the exception of BARBER MOTOR SPORTS PARK, which I’ve never heard of (having TOTED instead of BORNE for 81D [Carried along] certainly didn’t help!).
Here’s just a few stumbling spots for me, starting right off the bat with 1A:
- 1A [Airport fleet] JETS. Not CABS or TAXIS, which is often the answer for the airport fleet clue.
- 22A [“The Art of Loving” author Fromm] ERICH. I went with ETHAN… cuz… ya know… Fromm looks like Frome. *sigh*
- 29A [___ work (tedious labor)] SCUT. Never heard this. I went with SCAT, especially because SCAT is a synonym for “shit” in a sense, and that seemed to fit the bill.
- 37A [Join a conference call] DIAL IN. I don’t hear the term DIAL all that much these days.
- 89A [Exclamation while performing a karate kick] HI-YA! I didn’t know that’s how it was spelled! Also, I’m very much into Cobra Kai on Netflix.
- 103A [Mineral that can make coffee taste less bitter] SALT. Well I’ll be! I don’t really plan on salting my coffee anytime soon though.
- 122A [T in a vocal score] TENOR. Callback to last week’s puzzle? I had TACIT.
- 5D [___ Hasan, journalist who hosted “UpFront” on Al Jazeera English] MEDHI. So many new names in this puzzle, but ERICH and MEDHI were toughest for me to suss out.
- 113D [It’s detonated deep down] SEA MINE. I didn’t know that was a thing.
- 34D [Cocktail party snack] CANAPE. I had CASHEW. I’ve been to a couple swanky cocktail parties… where I’m almost certain I noshed on a CASHEW or two. Maybe I unwittingly consumed a CANAPE as well :)
- 61D [“When They See Us” Emmy nominee Aunjanue ___] ELLIS. My dog is named ELLIS, after the late ELLIS Marsalis. Can we get him clued in a puzzle soon? (Marsalis that is, not the dog)
- 92D [Knickknack holder] ETAGERE. When Mr. Happy Pencil didn’t appear, I thought for sure this was my screw up spot, because it looks so wrong to me! I was right though… (SCAT/SCUT was the spot I needed to fix).
- 93D [Soprano Merritt] MYRA.
The last area to fall was the Southwest. I found it very difficult, especially since WENTY-YAR doesn’t look like it can be unscrambled to me, especially into the name of an area in a house.
In all, I enjoyed the challenge of this one. It was just a tad out of my wheelhouse in general.
*** I’m really disappointed in myself that I missed the very Birnholzian layer of this puzzle that puts it (many) steps above a typical unscramble-the-hidden-word theme. The first letter of each of the house areas collectively spell CHORES, which of course is extremely apt, as we are to put the house back in order. The hint for that comes in the notepad, which I completely missed. My apologies!
Paul Coulter’s Universal crossword — “Pare-ent” – Jim Q’s Write-up
A frequent contributor to the Universal is back again!
THEME: Phrases that include ENT are missing their T, and wackiness results.
- 17A [What would be evidence for a flat Earth?] EVEN HORIZON. Not EVENT HORIZON.
- 27A [Certain infielders who are paid very little?] BARGAIN BASEMEN. Not BARGAIN BASEMENT.
- 45A [Exercise program for knights?] ARMORED REGIMEN. Not ARMORED REGIMENT.
- 60A [Plot where witches grow mandrake?] CONVEN GARDEN. Not COVENT GARDEN.
Oof. I face-planted on this when it came to fully understanding the theme, but that’s due to my own ignorance I think. The only base phrase I was solidly familiar with was BARGAIN BASEMENT, and I used that and the (amusingly odd) title in order to figure out the other base phrases. I would’ve preferred if COVEN GARDEN didn’t have two words ending in -EN!
A smooth ride for the most part! Even though I didn’t fully grok the theme until late, I still enjoyed the clues for the longer answers, most notably [What would be evidence for a flat Earth?] EVEN HORIZON.
Coulda done without BITER, especially clued as a dog. And it’s always hard to get excited about NADIR, which I’ve seen maybe once outside of crosswords.
Always like Universal’s staple clues like 39A [Vow hidden in “said OK”] I DO.
3 stars from me.
Mike Peluso’s Los Angeles Times puzzle, “Mistaken Identity” — Jenni’s write-up
I really liked this theme. I wish the fill was as good.
The theme answers are phrases with one part swapped out for the other member of a familiar pair. It’s easier to show you than to describe. I figured it out from the very first themer and had fun decoding each one.
- 2d [Louvre sculpture of the wrong sister?] is SERENA DE MILO (Venus de Milo).
- 22a [Banking convenience with the wrong comic magician?] is AUTOMATIC PENN (automatic teller).
- 34a [Builder with the wrong surveyor?] is a STONE DIXON (stonemason).
- 50a [Feeling blue with the wrong publisher?]is IN A WAGNALLS (in a funk). Funk & Wagnalls published a dictionary and an encyclopedia. “Look it up in your Funk & Wagnalls” was a catch phrase on “Laugh-In.” Kids, ask your grandparents.
- 56d [Intel product with the wrong toon rodent?] is a COMPUTER DALE (computer chip). Chip ‘n Dale are Disney chipmunks (and don’t @ me about the missing apostrophe. That’s how Disney does it).
- 68a [Metalworker with the wrong gun manufacturer?] is a BLACK WESSON (blacksmith).
- 84a [Cheap knockout with the wrong puppet?] is SUCKER JUDY (sucker punch).
- 102a [African currency with the wrong mapmaker?] is a KRUGER MCNALLY (kruggerrand).
All the base phrases and mixed-up pairs are solid, and the result is funny – a really nice Sunday theme. Not sure which one is my favorite! I’m leaning toward SERENA DE MILO but I also really like SUCKER JUDY. They just tickle me.
And then there was the fill. Let’s start with having CIA in a clue and in the grid. Ugh. Don’t like DOLES clued as [Gives sparingly] – it needs “out.” EMT and ER DOCS and EMER are all in the grid; that’s a little much. INTR for a kind of verb. Maybe if I were Christian, BAPT for [John was one: Abbr.] would seem less awkward. The crosswordese (ALETA, ARIL) wouldn’t have bothered me so much if it weren’t for all the other dreck.
A few other things:
- 7d [Exasperating, like a car that won’t start] is STUPID. Yes, indeed.
- 43d [Biker’s headgear, perhaps] is DO RAG. I looked it up to check if the biker version has a specific spelling, and found this gem: “If you ride a motorcycle and don’t wear a helmet, a doo rag/ Hoo Rag®, keeps the sun and wind from burning your forehead. Prolonged exposure to sun and wind can result in skin cancer.” If you ride a motorcycle and don’t wear a helmet, skin cancer is the least of your problems.
- 52d [“Can __ help me?”] is SOMEONE. I really wanted it to be ANYONE or SOMEBODY. Don’t know why.
- I am not a night owl so I don’t usually see the WEE HOURS.
- I like clues and answers like 105a [“You didn’t start yet, did you?”] for AM I LATE?
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that Timbuktu is in MALI (geography is seriously not my strong suit, as anyone who’s played me in Learned League already knows). Also did not know that the term SALTY language came from profane sailors. I didn’t look that up because I want it to be true.
Leonard Williams’s Universal Sunday crossword, “Money Changing”—Jim P’s review
Completely unrelated: Today is October 4th and that got me wondering if CBers celebrate this day (10/4). Sure enough, it’s National CB Radio Day! And consider signing this petition to honor all the truckers who’ve been hauling our goods back and forth during this pandemic and keeping vital supply lines open. Have a great day, good buddies!
On to the puzzle! The title is enough of a hint as to what’s going on here, but there’s also a revealer starting at 115a: [With 118-Across, often-criticized move by a central bank … and a hint to the starred answers’ last words]—that is, CURRENCY / MANIPULATION. The other themers are well-known phrases whose last word is an anagram of a world currency.
- 23a. [*Completely wasted (Iraqi dinar)] DOWN THE DRAIN
- 25a. [*Pool for a robin (Thai baht)] BIRD BATH
- 31a. [*Range rover? (Albanian lek)] ROCKY MOUNTAIN ELK
- 53a. [*Uncaring response (South African rand)] I DON’T GIVE A DARN
- 65a. [*Prepare to get photographed (Mexican peso)] STRIKE A POSE
- 73a. [*Pasta sauce base (Indian rupee)] TOMATO PUREE
- 89a. [*Untrustworthy sort (Omani rial)] COMPULSIVE LIAR
- 103a. [*Unparalleled grouping (South Korean won)] A LEAGUE OF ONE’S OWN. I’m not a fan of “one’s” phrases. It’s too bad THEIR couldn’t fit in there.
I, for one, am grateful for the parenthetical clarifications, because I would have had a challenging time recognizing all these currencies and where they came from (I’m looking at you Albanian lek). It occurs to me that this theme could’ve been more humorous if the actual currencies had been used in place of the normal words in the phrases (STRIKE A PESO or I DON’T GIVE A RAND, e.g.). But that requires the solver to be up on numerous world currencies, which might be a stretch (judging by my own knowledge gaps), so maybe it’s best as it is.
Moving on to the fill, highlights include THANATOS (Greek god of death), ARRIBA, CAMP OUT, SUMATRA, STEEL-TOE, HARPIST, INDY CARS, ON PAROLE, and MAGENTA. I also liked the modern techy feel with ROKU, USERID, textspeak IMO, Zoom alternative TEAMS, IN-APP purchases, and MOD and SYSOP both clued [Online admin]. Only E-CHECK gets the side-eye from me.
Clues of note:
- 7a. [Wood used in yachts]. LARCH. Yeah. No way I was going to know that. But if it had been clued [“How to recognise different types of trees from quite a long way away” tree], that would’ve been a gimme (for me, YMMV).
- 56a. [It may be smoked]. GOUDA. I was working off the _UDA and couldn’t think of any meat that would go in there—somewhat embarrassing since we enjoy smoked GOUDA in our house.
- 93a. [“Dios ___!”]. MIO. I don’t think I’ve seen this clue before, but it’s a lot more fun than [“O Sole ___”].
- 96a. [Command that doesn’t get soldiers’ attention?]. AT EASE. Nice.
- 14d. [Plucky person?]. With the H in place I started off with HEN___. Turned out to be HARPIST.
- 15d. [Incomplete]. UNDONE. Hmm. Is this really the more common definition? I tend to use it more to describe something that was set but has since become unraveled, as it were, like a tied shoelace.
Nice theme, impressively clean fill. 3.75 stars.
WaPo: I don’t see mention that the notepad clue will aptly give us : Chores! (which is why “bathroom” wouldn’t work :) )
I too call the “loo” a bathroom at home, and restroom elsewhere. I seldom ask at other’s homes, so maybe I do call it a restroom in THEIR house when I do have need, and bathroom at mine. Not sure.
Great puzzle for me… tough last two anagrams and I did sit back and think at “restroom”.
WaPo: The note and the extra layer are not to be missed and provide a real smile at the finish. I, too, thought of the game, Clue, as I worked this grid. I don’t generally enjoy anagrams in puzzles but the Birnholzian take here is great fun. As to the Sunday Times puzzle…if you can’t say something positive, see Rex. ;-)
I really appreciate the creativity in this puzzle, particularly the extra layer of having CHORES at the end, but I found there were a number of obscure proper nouns, and they also could have been clued differently to make them more guessable. I am guessing that extremely few will have heard of BARBERMOTORSPORTSPARK, and a clue that the first word is BARBER would have helped.
Similarly, NIA Franklin, MEHDI Hasan, etc are going to be known by extremely few, and the clue has no extra hint. It’s good to have some people who deserve more widespread fame, but it makes the solving very choppy.
I noticed also the many proper names but–as usual–Evan’s crosses were so fair that I could fill in those names without much problem. Evan’s puzzles–like those written by and edited by Erik Agard–often contain many such names. I try hard to look up each name I don’t know in hopes I’ll have a chance of remembering them next time. As several of our Crossword Fiend reviewers often ask, “what did I learn today from this puzzle?”
I’m glad you enjoyed the CHORES layer. But besides the fact that I fundamentally disagree that every name that appears in a puzzle has to be known by a huge number of people — built into that are a lot of assumptions about who’s worthy of being included in crosswords and who the audience is — there is zero way that Mehdi Hasan is known by “extremely few.” He’s hosted several successful news shows and podcasts, has close to 1 million Twitter followers, and just the other day he announced that he’s joining MSNBC as an on-air analyst.
Fine, you haven’t heard of him, but I think he’s worth knowing and it’s not good to assume that someone who’s obscure to you is obscure to everyone else. (And I think I crossed his name and all other names in this puzzle fairly, anyhow.)
I agree, all names that I didn’t know (including Mehdi) were fairly crossed to be getable… I saw no reason for them to make the puzzle less enjoyable to me. I really did enjoy this, and the CHORES was the real icing on the yummy cake!
I thank you for that, and I agree with above… I learned something today :)
NYT: I don’t understand the answer for 63a. It seems that to a temp worker, you would say: “You’re in it for now…” not “you’re in for it now,” which has different context. Despite that nit, I enjoyed this theme. I was able to finish this puzzle during commercial breaks watching SNL last night and got a much better than average solve time for a Sunday.
LAT: nice puzzle, but ERDOCS directly following EMT, when they are not clued in a linking fashion, seems like a no-no to me.
Did it bother anyone else that in LAT the swapped word is always in the final position… except in 2D? That really threw me.
NYT – Does 63a make more sense if you view it as “You’re in for I.T. now?”, I.T. being Information Technology, i.e. the computer department. In other words, you’re a temp in the computer area for the time being. (I used to work in IT so that’s the way I read it, but that’s me.)