Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle (Week 488), “Borderlands”—Ade’s take
Good day, everybody! Hoping that everyone is doing well and staying safe.
Because of COVID, many people have had to cut out possible plans of traveling across the country and the world. Though a very small consolation compared to that reality, today’s puzzle allows us to, literally, travel around and see some different COUNTRIES (37A: [Puzzle theme suggested by this crossword’s periphery]). Of course, none of the answers are clued in reference to any features and characteristics of the country itself.
- JAMAICA (1A: [“Lucy” novelist Kincaid])
- VIETNAM (8A: [“Good Morning, ___! (1987 Robin Williams film)])
- MOROCCO (14D: [1930 Marlene Dietrich film])
- PANAMA (51D: [Wide-brimmed hat])
- GEORGIA (69A: [“Jimson Weed” painter O’Keeffe])
- DENMARK (68A: [2002 song by The Chemical Brothers])
- IRELAND (40D: [’80s supermodel and entrepreneur Kathy])
- JORDAN (1D: [“His Airness” (and hoops great) Michael])
The execution of the theme allowed for some longer entry chunkiness in each corner of the grid/ There wasn’t any part of my solve where I ATE DIRT (13D: [Swallowed one’s pride]), as in taking a HEADER (53D: [Web page banner]), but it did take me a little bit before figuring out the clever cluing to EPCOT (29D: [Center of Florida?]). Actually, I did have a little stumble when putting in “Basra” for MOSUL, as I had the the “s” in there initially and I automatically put the former in once I saw Iraq in its clue (32D: [Iraqi metropolis]). Not sure if it was new or a rerun, but I saw the 60 Minutes feature on2018 Nobel Prize winner Nadia Murad, the Yazidi Iraqi captured by (and eventually escaped from) ISIS who has used her platform to create organizations to help and empower women who have been victims of human trafficking and genocide. What a story, and it always reminds me of the general disinterest our country possesses when it comes to the human suffering of people in the Arab world, particularly those who identify as Muslim.
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: REECE (54D: [Model/volleyball star Gabrielle]) – One of the more popular athletes of the 1990s, Gabrielle Reece starred on the court before her more well-known popularity on the runway and in sports fashion modeling. Reece set school records in solo blocks and total blocks during her career at Florida State University, and played the sport professionally before fully concentrating on her modeling/acting interests. Reece is married to another famous athlete in a non-mainstream sport, surfing legend Laird Hamilton.
Thank you so much for the time, everybody! Have a wonderful and safe rest of your day and, as always, keep solving!
Roger & Kathy Wienberg’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Priced Two-for-One”—Jim P’s review
We have a letter-replacement theme today, but it’s a two-for-one deal. Specifically, the letters AF replace the letter D, as indicated by the revealer AFFORD (50d, [Handle the expense, and, when parsed correctly, this puzzle’s theme]). The correct parsing should be “AF FOR D” (not AFF OR D which was my first thought).
- 17a. [Signs of sorrow staining a bundle of papers?] SHEAF TEARS. Shed…
- 33a. [Blazing waterways?] AFIRE STRAITS. Dire…
- 41a. [Blimp for a Canadian hockey player?] LEAF ZEPPELIN. Led…
- 62a. [Training venue for Disney snowmen?] OLAF SCHOOL. Old…
Not bad. Some flow better than others, but on the whole, not bad. I checked to see what other words can swap out an AF for a D, and pickin’s were slim. These are all of the common words that I could find that can do this, so let’s hear it for an exhaustive theme.
In the fill, TAKE A HIT and EASY MARK are both assets, as are SKYCAP, APP STORE, MULL OVER, and “SO COOL!” Nothing much to scowl at except maybe TARSI and OPER.
Clues were pretty straightforward for a Tuesday, hence my solve time is about 30 seconds faster than yesterday. Seems like the two puzzles should have been swapped.
Good puzzle, solid all around. 3.5 stars.
Alan Massengill & Andrea Michaels’ New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Phrases that start with an R are converted to goofy phrases starting with FR- words:
- 19a. [Scary landlord?], FRIGHTFUL OWNER.
- 24a. [Anti-fuel extraction slogan?], FRACK AND RUIN. Feels a bit ungainly, as RUIN is a noun in the base phrase while FRACK is a verb.
- 48a. [One who freely admits not being any good?], FRANK AMATEUR. There are many such people in the crossword-solving arena.
- 55a. [What Fancy Feast and Meow Mix compete in?], FRISKY BUSINESS. Can’t help suspecting that there’s a 1980s porn movie with this title, riffing on Risky Business. Not loving the cat food clue angle, since that other brand is Friskies, not Frisky. FRISK AVOIDANCE would fit this slot.
The theme’s well-slotted on a Tuesday and it mostly works, but I had some reservations, as noted.
Wasn’t loving all the fill here. Plural abbrev SSGTS, AEROS from a second-level hockey league, UIES, SSS, ACT I, ESSO, ICERS, and SING OF clued as if it can stand alone. That last one might be more defensible if clued as a 6-letter partial (see the 1973 Carpenters song, with “sing of happy, not sad” in the lyrics).
Five more things:
- 38a. [Pac-12 sch.], USC crossing that CPU abbreviation? Wondering why it wasn’t USE crossing EAT at the end rather than USC/CAT. It’s not a bad idea to try to avoid crossing two initialisms or acronyms.
- 3d. [Showing no emotion], STOIC. Ah, yes. The “Is it STOIC or STONY? Gotta wait for the crossings to tell you” issue. Similar to “Wait, will this be AVOW or AVER? SEETHE or SEE RED?”
- 6d. [Org. defending free speech], ACLU. They’ll also defend the same-sex marriage rights enshrined in the Obergefell decision if Alito and Thomas entice hateful people to challenge the law and shove it to the Supreme Court. It mystifies me that they insist that same-sex marriage somehow infringes on religious liberty. And telling our lesbian and gay friends that they cannot get legally married in their house of worship didn’t infringe on that? GMAFB. (If you find this comment to be too “political,” you might look for another place to read about crosswords because this one is committed to affirming the human rights of our LGBTQ friends.)
- 31d. [Baby hippo], CALF. Did I know baby hippos were called calves? I don’t know that I did. But 31a was either COD or ANN, and there’s no common word for a young animal that starts with A, is there?
- 55d. [Punishment for jaywalking], FINE. Have you ever been cited for jaywalking and required to pay a fine? I have not. Have you ever jaywalked when there was actually a police car nearby, but nothing happened? I have. And yet the other day a Versace shoe designer who happens to be Black was stopped, asked for his ID, and frisked thoroughly by cops, for jaywalking. He was so nervous, because we’ve all seen similar situations go horrendously wrong.
- 58d. [Crimson Tide, to fans], BAMA. BAMA always takes me to Beyoncé’s “Formation,” which introduced me to the term “Texas Bama.”
2.75 stars from me.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “Mew Coup” – Derek’s write-up
We have a cute quip in this retro Jonesin’ from 2015. It reads: FELINE DIET KICKS OFF A KITTY REBELLION – MUNCH TWO MICE UPRISE. Clever little pun here, with a play on the phrase “much to my surprise” being changed with a few near homophones. I am not sure what phrase is being parodied in the title, though; perhaps it is just a clever rhyming title. If I am missing something, please let me know! And yes, I made a slight error in the solve: I thought the cats had DIED in 17A! They are anything but! Nice puzzle, especially for you cat lovers out there, which includes me! 4.2 stars this week.
Just a few things:
- 15A [“Gunfight at the O.K. Corral” lawman] EARP – There is the new show Wynonna Earp which has a weird take on this clan. I haven’t seen it, but I hear it’s at least interesting.
- 43A [“I’ll take ‘Cartoons’ for $200, ___”] ALEX – Jeopardy! is back; I haven’t been watching, I must admit. I have been devouring Only Connect on YouTube!
- 7D [Estrada of “CHiPs”] ERIK – There are lots of ERIKs to use now; it seems like a bit since I have seen this star of the ’80s!
- 12D [“Grand Canyon Suite” composer Ferde] GROFÉ – Who is this?? FWIW, Grofé is the last name and he is from NYC!
- 22D [Jazz pianist-singer Diana (and wife of Elvis Costello)] KRALL – I don’t think I knew they were a celebrity couple. I love piano jazz.
- 46D [Dye used by chemists] LITMUS – Did I know this was a dye? I always thought it was a type of paper!
- 49D [Reporters and their entourage, e.g.] TV CREW – Great entry. This only has one NYT occurrence.
- 50D [Key using all the black keys, for short] B MAJ – This can only apply to the major chord in this key, since there aren’t 8 black keys for the full octave. I think. It’s been a while since my piano lessons!
I could go on, but I will stop here! I think there are still a few more retro Jonesin’ puzzles over the next few weeks.
Bruce Haight’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
The theme is sometimes hard to see when they all go down. And when you’re solving quickly! Thank goodness there is a revealer!
- 5D [Sherlock Holmes portrayer in 15 movies] BASIL RATHBONE
- 11D [Wise counsel] SAGE ADVICE
- 24D [Silicon Valley region] BAY AREA
- 28D [Interpreter of lines] PALM READER
- 19D [Autumn occurrence, and a hint to the start of the other four longest Down answers] FALLING LEAVES
Nice! They all seem like spices at first, but I have not used palm leaves in any cooking I have done. I am not a great cook, so take any cooking advice from me with a grain of salt! (See what I did there?) Anyway, nice puzzle, Bruce! Looking forward to seeing you again at the ACPT, assuming this COVID-19 nightmare is over by next spring. Somehow, I doubt it. But keep the puzzles coming! 4.4 stars today.
Just a few things:
- 14A [Gulf of __: Red Sea inlet] AQABA – Not sure why I knew this immediately. Years of map-reading!
- 20A [Ingredient in some Tibetan cheese] YAK MILK – This sound not delicious.
- 34A [Fast-food chain named for its founders, the Raffel Brothers] ARBY’S – Nice bit of trivia I did not know!
- 57A [Ideal way to work, teamwise] AS A UNIT – I would agree!
- 66A [“The Clan of the Cave Bear” author Jean] AUEL – I’ve mentioned this before, but these were my wife’s favorite books. I think she is done with the series, but I am not sure.
- 8D [“On Golden Pond” actor or actress] FONDA – Clever clue!
- 48D [“I, Robot” author] ASIMOV – Still one of my favorite movies. The Will Smith version. Something to re-watch!
Everyone have a safe and healthy week!
Leonard Malkin and Brad Wilber’s Universal crossword — “Interior Design” – Jim Q’s Write-up
Bonus points up front for OSCAR PETERSON’s appearance!
THEME: Design elements of a house’s interior can be found hidden in common phrases.
- CZECH AIRLINES. Once you see CZECH HAIRLINES instead by accident you can’t unsee it.
- IPSO FACTO.
- WEB EDITOR.
- OSCAR PETERSON.
I found this one hard to get excited about, namely because I solved it in the online web applet, which doesn’t allow for circles (unlike the version offered at this site). So I solved it essentially as a themeless. Without circles, the synergy that could exist within the theme is gone for me. For instance, I would’ve picked up right away that I was looking for furniture/house stuff had CHAIR been circled, which would’ve allowed me to fill in BED if I were struggling with WEB EDITOR. Alas, that’s how it is at the moment. Someday it’ll be fixed.
Fun to see Brad Wilber’s name on this one, since I so commonly associate him with the brutally difficult Saturday Stumper.
The rest of the puzzle had a certain old-timey feel with BORNE OFF, ACK! (is that specifically from the Cathy comic strip?), and a CD reference. I never had TIVO, but is that still a popular thing to have? No clue.
CZECH AIRLINES was new for me, but inferable.
Very over-the-plate today!
3.5 with circles.