Evan Kalish’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Water You Saying?”—Jim P’s review
Our theme is precipitation homophones. The revealer is NAME DROPS (59a, [Shows off one’s connections, or what you’ll do by speaking the starts of 17-, 28- and 43-Across]). The clue argues that by speaking such homophones, we are “naming” drops, i.e. we are identifying what that precipitation is. I’m not sure I quite buy that, but we’ll just go along with it.
- 17a. [Lost the opportunity] MISSED OUT. Mist.
- 28a. [Pre-agreement research] DUE DILIGENCE. Dew. Do you pronounce these words the same? I’m sure not everyone does.
- 43a. [Have unchallenged authority] REIGN SUPREME. Rain.
I didn’t grok the theme before I finished the solve, so it didn’t help me out much. With DROPS in the revealer, I was expecting something to either be omitted or turned downward. When I finally had the aha moment, it was less “aha” and more “okay.”
Really nice long fill with BEST BETS, ESCAPE ROOM, UNDER SIEGE, and THE STRIP. The short fill is remarkably clean as well.
Clues of note:
- 21a. [Save]. BUT. I do like this usage of the word “save,” but it’s definitely unexpected. Good deception.
- 26a. [Where you might throw in the towel]. HAMPER. Another good clue.
- 32a. [Terza rima pioneer]. DANTE. The term translates to “third rhyme” and was used as the structure for the Divine Comedy. From Wikipedia: “Terza rima is a three-line stanza using chain rhyme in the pattern ABA BCB CDC DED. There is no limit to the number of lines, but poems or sections of poems written in terza rima end with either a single line or couplet repeating the rhyme of the middle line of the final tercet.” Learn how to write in terra rima here.
- 9d. [It brought a T. rex to life in “Jurassic Park”]. CGI. Anyone else go with DNA? That throttled my NE corner thoroughly since it led to AZTEC at 19a and NERVE at 16a. Took a while to sort it all out.
- 10d. [Trio awarded a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2016]. RUN-DMC. Today I learned one of the trio, Jam Master Jay, was murdered in 2002, but the case went unsolved until August of this year when two men were charged in the crime.
- 13d. [Canon fodder?]. TONER. I love this clue. It misled me completely.
- 60d. [LIRR operator]. MTA. This is tough for someone who’s never been to New York. (LIRR is Long Island Rail Road.) I’ve only been once, on my way to ACPT a few years ago, so it rang enough of a bell to get me the answer, but I’m sure this was just alphabet soup for a lot of solvers.
The theme didn’t wow me, but it works. Good fill and cluing though. 3.6 stars.
Can’t leave here without revisiting one of the great music videos of the ’80s. Enjoy!
Alex Bajcz’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
I didn’t much care for this one. It started out with an unexciting 1a/1d crossing (1a. [Converted into fuel, as coal], COKED and 1d. [Sammy with four Oscars], CAHN—with COKED also crossing Ron ELY; COKED would have been easier if clued in relation to someone who is coked up, on cocaine), and then the theme wasn’t much fun to wrangle, and there was more iffy fill along the way. Theme revealer: 62a. [Big name in American book publishing for 120+ years … and a hint to the answers to the starred clues], DOUBLEDAY. The starred answers are one- or two-word things in which each part can precede “day” or “Day” in familiar phrases:
- 18a. [*Four-time heavyweight champ nicknamed “The Real Deal”], HOLYFIELD. Holy day, field day. HOLYFIELD is the only one-word themer. I wish square 16 and its opposite had blocks to avoid stacked 9s, one of them thematic and one not.
- 23a. [*Gift that comes with a hitch?], WEDDING PRESENT. I know someone who held a wedding reception this past weekend, in the present day of a pandemic. Still shocked anyone thought this was a good idea.
- 38a. [*Place that honors those who’ve served], VETERANS MEMORIAL. So I guess this is why the puzzle’s running for 11/11, because it’s Veterans Day?
- 51a. [*Producer of a lot of suits?], BUSINESS SCHOOL. I feel like “business day” by itself, not preceded by “next” or an ordinal number, isn’t really a thing. Odd, no?
How many of you figured out the theme angle before reaching DOUBLEDAY? I sure did not.
Worst crossing: 6a. [Former gridiron org. for the Memphis Maniax and Orlando Rage], XFL / 6d. [Mandarin “thank you”], XIE XIE. Defunct/failed sports abbreviation meets foreign phrase that’s less commonly known by non–Mandarin speakers, I’d wager, than ni hao. The 2001 XFL had 8 teams in 7 states, and its one and only season lasted 3 months. McMahon tried to revive it this year but COVID.
Worst entry: 32a. [Paid to play: Var.], ANTEED. Never seen this purported variant before. If your grid includes this, please backtrack and redo some fill. Also underwhelming: EXO, RIA, ESS, ICAHN (less irksome if CAHN isn’t across the way, somehow), ENG, HOBS (54d. [Goblins, in folklore]), NAOH, and GYRE clued as a verb (it feels much more familiar as a noun, as in the North Pacific Gyre full of floating trash).
Dupe I could do without: 13d SET IN, 51d BESET.
Five more things:
- 55a. [Cary of “The Princess Bride”], ELWES. A gimme for me, especially since watching him and his castmates reunite online for a virtual table read of the script a few weeks back, as a fundraiser for WisDems. Brought a smile to my face!
- 10d. [Where you’re actually going when you “see a man about a horse”], TOILET. Solid!
- 33d. [Taylor who sang “Tell It to My Heart”], DAYNE. I might well have forgotten this name if not for comedian Tig Notaro’s series of Taylor Dayne stories.
- 35d. [Last task before sending to print], FINAL EDIT. This might feel obscure to you, but as an editor, I am all for it.
- 46d. [It’s found beneath the crust], PIE PAN. Ah, yes. Geology terminology.
2.5 stars from me, mainly because of the fill issues.
Elizabeth C. Gorski’s New Yorker crossword – Rachel’s writeup
I very much enjoyed this puzzle by Elizabeth C. Gorski! Excellent marquee grid-spanning entry, some other fun long entries, and a clue that made me laugh out loud right at 1-A. Nailed it!
I *loved* WE’RE JUST FRIENDS through the middle. The clue translation [“I swear, there’s nothing going on between us!”] is just perfect, and i was able to enter the full 15-letter entry with barely any crosses. Other fun (or otherwise notable) long entries were: TATA FOR NOW / PASTEL GOTH / DON CHEADLE / ANESTHESIA (among other long entries, but highlighting these four). I would expect to see “TTFN” in grids more frequently than we do, so having the full phrase is a nice subversion of (my own) expectations. More on PASTEL GOTH below. I love DON CHEADLE and the fact that he was both [Paul Rusesabagina’s portrayer in “Hotel Rwanda”] and also War Machine’s portrayer in “the Avengers.” The range!!!! Finally, loved the clue on ANESTHESIA [Knockout on “Grey’s Anatomy”?]. Excellent fake-out!
A few more things:
- I haven’t been ON TASK in about eight months so this clue feels like a personal attack
- Favorite clue:
- [“We have too much beer,” ___ no one ever] for SAID. This is comedy gold!
- Fill I could live without: STP, ESA, ISE, NEC, XER, ITSO. None of this is unforgivable, but it’s a lot of small stuff that accumulates
- Representation note of the day: I can imagine other crossword constructors never even considering adding PASTEL GOTH to their wordlists, considering it just a silly trend for teenage girls if they consider it at all. Highlighting it in today’s puzzle feels meaningful, as if to say, maybe it IS just a trend for teenage girls, but teenage girl things are not by default silly and also belong in crosswords. I dig it SO MUCH. Sort of a similar vibe on cluing TRIO for [Destiny’s Child, e.g.]. Lots of trios out there, and I’m so glad this is the one we got.
Overall, tons of stars from me for a fun, quick solve. I’m out on Friday because I’m observing absentee ballot counting in my district, so someone else (!!) will be writing up Friday’s New Yorker. Happy Veteran’s Day, and thank you, to those who serve/d. See you next week!
Robert E.L. Morris’ Universal crossword, “Wear a Mask” — pannonica’s write-up
A selection of individuals who were wearing masks before it was cool. And by cool, I mean as a reasonable method of limiting the spread of a pandemic-level virus.
- 16a. [Underwater explorer] SCUBA DRIVER.
- 10d. [Athlete who makes saves on ice] NHL GOALIE.
- 31d. [Honey collector] BEEKEEPER.
- 53a. [One making a large withdrawal?] BANK ROBBER.
In fairness, none of their respective masks will help against COVID-19. Except perhaps with the exception of the BANK ROBBER, if it was, say, a classic bandana style rather than a rubber disguise job.
More critically, that themer is also exceptional in that its clue is cutesy-question-marked. Even though I like the punniness of it, I’d prefer it were a straightforward one, same as the other three. Further muddying the water is the longish and nearby-ish 40a [Attempt at making cookie dough?] BAKE SALE.
- 20a [Intelligent] BRIGHT. BRAINY was my first attempt.
- 50a [Foyer fixture] COAT TREE. …RACK my first attempt.
- 3d [Brownish gray] TAUPE. The word comes from Latin (via French) for mole. Wikipedia has a good image of a museum specimen of Talpa europaea.
- 12d [You may sign one with a Sharpie] CAST. Someone else might sign official-looking documents with one.
- 35d [Place to grab a bite before bowling] SNACK BAR. Not really my association, but bowling isn’t really in my cultural experience.
- 27d [Chicken’s home] COOP.
- 18a [Woeful word] ALAS.
Bryant White’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary
Today’s theme concept is quite basic: a CANDY centre, and four other across answers that are C… …Y; the theme entries themselves are also more functional than full of flair: CENTEROFGRAVITY, COMEINHANDY, CARRIERSAWAY and COSMETICSURGERY.
A few other notables, though in the main the puzzle was, as the theme, basic:
- [QB targets], TES. I’m sure lots of us wanted TDS here, but DATSAT says no dice.
- [Solstice mo.], DEC. Bonus points for a hemisphere neutral clue for once!
- [Oaty breakfast mix], MUESLI. As long as the oats are toasted and not raw. Swiss muesli is cardboard!
Julia Tringali Golden’s AVCX, “Mixed Blessing” — Ben’s Review
Happy Wednesday! This week’s AVCX is from Julia Tringali Golden and I should have paid closer attention to the title of the puzzle this week, “Mixed Blessing”:
- 18A: Octet of Robert Mapplethorpe photos? — EIGHT NUDES
- 31A: Attila’s most avant-garde friend? — EDGIEST HUN
- 37A: Soft leather whatever? — SUEDE THING
- 48A: Finished an entire bottle of Beefeater? — USED THE GIN
I kept trying to figure out what common modification was being applied to phrases, but it turns out I was overthinking the connection between these clues:
- 63A: Blessing mixed four times in this puzzle– GESUNDHEIT
Yes, EIGHT NUDES, EDGIEST HUN, SUEDE THING, and USED THE GIN are all anagrams of GESUNDHEIT.
Ariana Grande’s “THANK U Next” was the album clued at 19D, but Alanis Morissette also had a single by that name.
Other grid things I liked: multiple bottled water brands (VOSS going across, EVIANS going down), PUG, PERDU, AIR VENT, and RED WINE
NYT: I agree this one wasn’t especially fun, and I had to save CAHN / COKED for a last-square guess. I don’t think I’ve even seen coal, so it’s a cultural gap.
Speaking of cultural gaps, I was actually pleased to see XIE XIE, an international language answer I’m much more familiar with than a very, very long list of French, German, and Spanish words I’ve had to struggle with in these crosswords. I don’t speak any Chinese languages, but it’s probably the Chinese phrase I hear most in conversations I understand nothing else of. See also: Kamsamnida!
The XFL had two seasons, and it was doing pretty well in its second incarnation this year. It was a victim of the lockdown in March. It really looked like it had an outside chance to make it as a spring football league. 2020 has been a rough year for outside chances.
+1 to XIE XIE. i don’t speak mandarin but i know that. also, upwards of a million americans do speak mandarin
I know, French is sooooo #OKBOOMER
Clue/answer pairs rather strained so far this week, but NY-er today very clean, even if STP is a very small stretch and anesthetize (v) would have been a cleaner answer than anesthesia (n) it didn’t fit, d-oh
Agreed. If crosswords are going to force us to know dozens of random words in European languages, basic pleasantries in languages with many more speakers, even within the US, should also be on the table.
Fireball subscribers – be careful opening the email for the puzzle! The solution grid was visible in the email I received.
NYT: I thought the mini religious nuance was worth mentioning too: HOLY (day), PONTIUS Pilate and OUR SAVIOR. And even tossing in SHINTO, so as not to be so Christian-centric.
Apart from the unfamiliarity of COKED to many solvers, I thought the clue was poorly worded. You don’t convert coal to fuel by making it into coke, because coal is already a fuel. Coke is a form of coal that’s used for specific purposes. When I was young we had weekly deliveries of coal (for the living room fireplace) and coke (for the kitchen stove).
What was a surprise to me is that according to Wordplay in the NYT, the author submitted this puzzle in 2013(!). When the time came to finally run it, he asked if he could re-fill the grid since it had been so long — this is the *freshly* filled grid.
Theme was fine for a midweek puzzle for me, but the fill … just subpar.
just a hearty shout-out and thank you to francis heaney and the avcx team for the election themeless bonus. even w/ all the nonsense we’re being subjected to right now, for me this was a very cathartic kinda solve. me, i’ve been sporting my “BYEDON 2020” t-shirt since saturday.
everything in time. onward!!
Ironic. You like the election themeless aspect, but then remark on your politcally themed t-shirt.
the xword is themeless — but (like my t-shirt) hardly apolitical.
not sure what the “irony” is…
TNY: I’m always delighted to see a Liz Gorski puzzle. And now I know about PASTEL GOTH.