Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle (Week 490), “Left Brain Exercise”—Ade’s take
Hello everybody!! Just two weeks until Election Day, and here is hoping that those of who who have voted already did so without any incidents or complications!
Today’s puzzle was one that surely teased the brain, especially since the four longest entries in the grid all were multi-word entries in which the first word — appearing on the left side of the entry — is also a word that can come after the word “brain.”
- BURP CLOTHS (17A: [Over-the-shoulder accessories for new parents])
- TRUST BUT VERIFY (24A: [Reagan Era phrase based on a Russian proverb])
- POWER OF ATTORNEY (37A: [Authority to act for another])
- CRAMP ONE’S STYLE (48A: [What a controlling boss might do])
- FREEZE POPS (59A: [Icy fruit-flavored treats in tubes])
Couple of theme-related points. First, I had not ever heard of a brain burp before. Maybe I might have termed it something else when saying something out loud before processing fully what the heck my mouth had produced. Second, I immediately put in “slate” instead of SLATY, which then made me think for a second that I had completely remembered Reagan’s quote wrong all these years (12D: [Bluish-gray]). Quick enough of a fix at the end, but still a little trippy of an experience on my end. All of those nine-letter answers in those paired down entries were delectable, unless you’re a one-hand backhand tennis player and normally don’t hit that shot TWO-HANDED (33D: [Like some returns of serve by Serena or Chris]). Started my career as a news reporter, so I definitely was aware of the more-than-decent work from areas of war that LARA (13A: [News reporter Logan]) produced at CBS TV before her hard turn to conjuring up and/or promoting conspiracy theories that she has engaged in over the past few years (8D: [“60 Minutes” broadcaster]). Love the subtle nod to the women of the military in the clue for LOOIE (51D: [He or she outranks the sarge]). Since I am sure that I did use the SWMYS space in a prior blog to talk about the NO MAS boxing match between Sugar Ray Leonard and Roberto Duran (45A: [“Enough, Jorge!”]), where the latter famously was reported to have said those words out loud right before the referee stopped the fight, we’ll take the next graph in another direction…
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: CASH (18D: [Money belt filler]) – The Tampa Bay Rays will play Game 1 of the World Series tomorrow against the Los Angeles Dodgers, and they will be led onto the field by current manager and former Major League player Kevin Cash. He was a seldom-used reserve catcher in his playing days in the Major Leagues from 2002 to 2010, but he caught on quickly in the coaching ranks…like most former catchers do. In 2015, he was hired as the Tampa Bay Rays manager and has led Tampa to the postseason in each of the past two seasons.
Thank you so much for the time, everybody! Have a wonderful and safe rest of your day and, as always, keep solving!
Parikshit S. Bhat’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Start Trading”—Jim P’s review
Theme: The first word in each theme answer can follow an OPENING BELL (58a, [9:30 a.m. event at the NYSE, and a hint to the starts of the starred answers]).
- 18a. [*It may temporarily blind you] PEPPER SPRAY. Bell pepper.
- 23a. [*Be far superior to] TOWER OVER. Bell tower. My experience is that this phrase is more commonly used in comparing people’s heights, but certainly it can be used with general abilities as well.
- 36a. [*Friendly toast] BOTTOMS UP. Bell bottoms.
- 51a. [*Precocious lad] BOY WONDER. Bell boy. I’ve never heard this phrase refer to anyone but Batman’s sidekick.
Very traditional word-following-another-word theme, but it works. The theme entries are all in-the-language phrases, and the OPENING BELL revealer makes for a solid PREMISE for the theme.
The 9-letter central entry and surrounding blocks bisect the grid, so there isn’t anything in the way of long marquee fill, but the 7s that are mostly in the corners are good. I especially like LEOPARD, NEO-NOIR, TOADIES, TOP SPOT, and RED STAR.
Clues of note:
- 65a. [Postwar British prime minister]. ATTLEE. I really should learn my British PMs. I’m okay with Thatcher onward, but before that, if it’s not Churchill, forget about it.
- 5d. [River of Scotland]. DEE. Apparently there are two Rivers Dee in Scotland, as well as one in Wales and one in England.
- 24d. [Addresses a rally, e.g.]. ORATES. Unless you’re Trump and you’re only there for the adulation. I don’t know that he orates so much as he just opines, like recently when he went on for eight minutes regarding toilets.
Solid theme and puzzle. 3.7 stars.
Jeff Chen’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
In this alphabetically based theme, words and phrases whose letters appear in reverse alphabetical order take top billing, with the revealer offering a different riff on a familiar term: 38a. [Like goods that are temporarily out of stock … or a hint, alphabetically, to the answers to the starred clues], BACK-ORDERED. The eight starred answers are TOOK HEED, YUPPIE, SPLIFF, TROLLED, WOOKIEE, ROOMBA, “TO LIFE,” and SPOON-FED. It feels like a bit of a cheat to allow doubled letters within this framework—and only one, TO LIFE, doesn’t include any doubles. Half of the themers (the first and last 8/6 pairs) are stacked with additional entries of the same length, which gives the grid the look of an unthemed puzzle.
There are reasons that few daily-sized puzzles contain nine theme answers. Here, those reasons include plural ELMOS, MIAS, and IKEAS; both ASU and LSU (one university abbrev is enough, no?); odd partial US DO; and entries like RELET, FER, and I’M A FAN. I’d like to have seen Jeff execute this theme minus one pair of 6s, likely with smoother fill.
Five more things:
- 8d. [Dangerous plant to have around?], SPY. A non-botanical plant, that is.
- 38d. [Made dirty], BEFOULED. A quaint word, one whose be- is extraneous, but I like the word nonetheless.
- 39d. [Crime boss], DON. Usually we call him by his full name, Donald.
- 40d. [Alternative to an ax], SAW. Wildly different ways of cutting, but a crossword clue that says [Wood-cutting tool] can plausibly take you to either AXE or SAW. These are the things that vex those of us who edit crosswords that are meant to be easy and accessible rather than tricky!
- 53d. [Something you can pick up with your nose], ODOR. To pick up other things, you’ll need to partner up with someone else’s nose. But not till after COVID, please.
Three stars from me. I didn’t particularly enjoy the theme, but might have appreciated it better had it been enveloped by better fill.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “Rhymes at the Zoo” – Derek’s write-up
I am going to be lazy this week, because I remember this puzzle! Here is my write-up from May 9, 2017:
I got an alert from Matt G. that there was a “super-cute puzzle alert” for this one. I answered him before I started, indicating I had high hopes. I was NOT disappointed! Probably the cutest puzzle I have ever seen. Note the blurb before 1-Across that sets the stage:
- 1A [Note: Matt J. took his two kids to the zoo, where they came up with this theme (no, he doesn’t work at the zoo, just thought it’d be fun). Clues with an [E] were written by 67-Across, and clues with and [S] were written by 49-Across.]
Before I explain who the kids are, let me list the thematic entries (and there are six!):
- 17A [Fearsome cat that spends moolah on Lamborghinis and mansions?] [S] BUYIN’ LION
- 21A [Monkey that eats curtains?] [E] DRAPE APE
- 35A [Scaly creature that likes to eat frosted sweets?] [S] CUPCAKE SNAKE
- 42A [Bird that smokes and does vandalism?] [E] ILLEGAL EAGLE
- 56A [Water animal with flippers that barters 24/7?] [S] DEAL SEAL
- 64A [Slow animal that grows wings and gets in your clothes?] [E] MOTH SLOTH
I think we may have some budding puzzle-makers!! 67-Across turns out to be ELLA and 49-Across is his son SID. Needless to say, you should have solved this puzzle with a great big smile on your face. Why? The title calls this “a group effort for Take Your Kids to Work Day!” Awesome concept, hilarious clues, and literally a heartwarming puzzle. I am giving this one the full 5 stars!
I cannot and will not mention every clue, because there are too many good ones to mention and you should solve this puzzle yourself, but these four stand out to me:\
- 54A [Sid: I’m not __ years old anymore.” Me: “No, I mean __ as in ‘I __ some food.”] ATE – Wow. Sounds like every conversation I have ever had with my kids when they were young!
- 69A [Me: “How about the clue ‘Used needles,” Ella?” Ella: “No, new needles You have to use them because it affects the fabric more than you expect.”] SEWED – Double wow! I literally laughed out loud on this one. Best clue in the puzzle!
- 37D [ __ for “Ricky Bubwick” (apparently a name that Sid just made up)] “R” IS – Kids say the darndest things … !
- 56D [Parents “who do puzzled goodness”][S] DADS – Aww!! How cute is THAT???!!!
I was thoroughly entertained. It will now be a phenomenal week because of this puzzle!
That is literally what I said 3 1/2 years ago! I echo these sentiments this week, but my time was a minute faster!
Roland Huget’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
This is one of those easier puzzles that you have no idea what the theme is until you get to the very end. Or is it just me?
- 20A [Bach mini comic opera about a beverage addiction] COFFEE CANTATA
- 25A [Modern car receivers] SATELLITE RADIOS
- 47A [He played the interviewer in “Interview With the Vampire”] CHRISTIAN SLATER
- 53A [Last parting, or what can literally be found in 20-, 25- and 47-Across] FINAL FAREWELL
Kudos to you if you spotted this theme before the revealer, but I had no idea. I would have never seen those synonyms for “farewell!” But this is a stellar example of how a revealer entry ties the puzzle up into a neat bow instead of just revealing something you probably already know, albeit hopefully in a punny way. Stellar job this Tuesday, Roland! 4.6 stars.
Just a few things:
- 17A [Singer __ Amos] TORI – Her name was featured in a puzzle that was part of this year’s Labor Intensive series from Mark Halpin. HARD puzzles!
- 23A [Pillow filler] FOAM – I had DOWN here at first, although I own a memory foam pillow!
- 45A [German camera] LEICA – I don’t know enough about photography to know why these cameras are supposedly so awesome. I know they are not cheap!
- 63A [“Voices Carry” co-songwriter Mann] AIMEE – From the appropriately named band ‘Til Tuesday!
- 25D [The “poison” type contains the skin irritant urushiol] SUMAC – Good to know!
- 55D [Love handles, so to speak] FLAB – This reminds me of the “flab” I need to lose!
Everyone have a safe and healthy week!
Paul Coulter’s Universal crossword — “High Marks” – Jim Q’s Write-up
THEME: Grades (A, B, C, D, F) are over the hidden word ARC in each of the themers. Hence “grade on the curve.”
- CLEAR CONSCIENCE.
- SOLAR CELLS.
- BAR CARS.
- EAR CLIP.
- STAR CHART.
- [Make 60 a passing score, say … and what each indicated letter is, in relation to a hidden 3-letter word just below it?] GRADE ON THE CURVE.
I want to like this one. I really do. But if I’m being honest, that was a rough experience solving in the web app. This is mostly due to Universal’s inability to use circles. Normally, I empathize mostly with new solvers who have to decode and letter count. But this was too much for me this time. The revealer alone is asking the solver to do waaaay too much to figure out the puzzle, imo. And it’s the type of theme that one is more likely to figure after the solve. Simply circling the letter “grade” would’ve made it much, much more enjoyable.
I usually love Paul’s puzzles. But it was hard for me to get excited about this one, even though a lot of work clearly went into the construction (that’s a lot of theme material and constraints!)
I’m not familiar with EAR CLIPs or SOLAR CELLS, BAR CARS feel like a thing of the past, haven’t used a STAR CHART in… forever, and I can never spell the word CONSCIENCE or any of its iterations without it feeling wrong.
The work and the finds that went into this puzzle are very impressive. It just wasn’t for me, at least not until Universal is able to tighten its grids and use circles when it’s called for (coming soon, I’m told?)
3.8 Stars with circles. 1.5 without. This one really needed it more than most to be properly enjoyed.