Hey! There’s a new monthly crossword contest to check out. It’s part of the Beyond Wordplay newsletter (scroll down). This first one has a contest deadline this Sunday, so click through, download the puzzle (.pdf or .puz), and see if you can get the meta answer. There’s also a link at the top of the newsletter for subscribing via email. So far my only exposure to Beyond Wordplay has been this past Tuesday’s episode of That Word Chat, featuring BW mavens Ben Zimmer, Allegra Kuney, and Eric Chaikin. They had a few games for people on Zoom to compete on—I was a contestant in the spoonerism game and was tied with Dave Shukan till the last one! Ach, I did not go on to the finals. Tyler Hinman won the finals. I loved the various wordplay puzzles Allegra, Eric, and Ben wrote for us. Haven’t had a chance to do the contest puzzle yet—need to blog the Saturday NYT first!—Amy
Emily Carroll & Erik Agard’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Oh, hey! Emily Carroll constructed this past Monday’s Boswords Fall Themeless League puzzle and I loved it. Also enjoyed hearing from her (and this week’s featured solver, Ric Quiñones) in the Twitch stream after the puzzle. Emily’s Boswords puzzle took me twice as long as this one—those “Stormy” level hard clues don’t mess around!
This grid’s got a big “H” of 15s anchoring everything: the foreboding and regretful “SO, IT’S COME TO THIS,” a STICKY SITUATION, and MNEMONIC DEVICES. I sure did not recognize the mnemonic in the clue: [“My Violent Evil Monster Just Scared Us Nuts” and others]? Yeah, when I was trying to memorize the order of the planets, we still counted Pluto, and I stuck with my grandpa’s pronunciation of “SUNP” to remember Uranus was closer than Neptune.
Fill I like: SASHAY, AVOCADO, UMPTEEN, ERIC IDLE, NEW MONEY, TANDOORI, DOGGEREL.
The only entry on my “nope” list is 8d. [“I swear!”], ON GOD. This doesn’t feel at all like something people say, but that’s just what I know from my experience. Could well be a common bit of colloquial speech in other settings.
Seven more things:
- 18a. [Literally, “art-doer”], GEISHA. I don’t think I knew that etymology/meaning.
- 22a. [“All ___ are civil ___, because all men are brothers” (quote attributed to François Fénelon)], WARS. Not a quote I knew, but a good one.
- 27a. [Lane hugger?], KENT. As in Clark Kent and Lois Lane. I really thought this one was about bad driving.
- I like the three Parlement/Bundestag/Parliament clues, for OUI, NEIN, and AYE.
- 20d. [Research org. in Bethesda], NIH. Please let it emerge intact in January, and let the CDC be restored to reputability.
- 29d. [Do makeup?], ATONE. I like the clue.
- 37d. [Crude verse], DOGGEREL. You know Gelett Burgess, the guy who wrote “The Purple Cow,” a little piece of doggerel? Turns out this 24-word verse is among his best work. The other stuff is terrrrrible.
Four stars from me. Enjoy your weekend!
Daniel Larsen and The Wave Learning Festival Crossword Class’s Universal crossword, “Go for Gold” — Jim Q’s write-up
Well, I’m familiar with young Daniel Larsen’s puzzles, but The Wave Learning Festival Crossword Class is new to me. My curiosity is piqued. I’ll be googling shortly.
THEME: Phrases where the last word is related to GYMNASTICS.
- PRICE FLOOR. As in the FLOOR exercise.
- DOOMSDAY VAULT.
- SUN BEAM.
- CHOCOLATE BARS.
- [Olympic sport suggested by the starred answers’ ends] GYMNASTICS.
I read the title first, like a good solver should, and it totally messed with me! I thought it was going to be a theme where a word in the answer can follow “Gold.” And it sorta works? Like, I dunno…. GOLD VAULT? GOLD SUN? GOLD BARS for sure! I thought Man! That’s a stretch! So the revealer was a relief. Quite satisfying to uncover.
PRICE FLOOR and DOOMSDAY VAULY are new to me. The latter seems oddly specific when juxtaposed with generic CHOCOLATE BARS.
Good puzzle all around.
Oh wow! I’m so glad I looked up Wave Festival. Check this out (from the home page):
Wave was founded to address the educational inequities exacerbated by COVID-19. As the coronavirus pandemic continues to disrupt traditional educational opportunities for students worldwide, we hope to continue our work by offering nontraditional seminars, curricular tutoring services, and hosting speaker events.
We hope that this fun and diverse programming will keep students engaged and curious as they continue their education from home. For a few hours every week, students can tune into Wave and focus on something they love.
It appears as though it is run in large part by students.
Love that it produced a crossword.
Joe Deeney’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Divine Intervention” — pannonica’s write-up
Were I to guess, I’d say the theme derived from the title phrase rather than vice-versa.
The names of gods are inserted into base phrases—meddling in human affairs!—sowing chaos and ruin. Well, just wackified new phrases. So it’s more metaphorical than metaphysical. Further, these gods also appear as standalone entries, often but not always relatively nearby to their host entries.
(I’ve marked up the grid with circles for all the relevant parts.)
- 102d. [God of war intervening in 22-Across] ARES; 22a. [Funnyman Billy gives a revealing performance?] CRYSTAL BARES ALL (crystal ball).
- 21a. [Goddess of the hearth intervening in 38-Across] VESTA; 38a. [Impeccable family pedigree?] FIVE-STAR TREE (fir tree).
- 41a. [God of agriculture intervening in 50-Across] SATURN; 50a. [Resists temptation at the breakfast buffet?] SKIPS A TURNOVER (skips over). I don’t associate turnovers especially with breakfast. Sweet ones are desserts and savory ones (like beef or chicken or vegetable) are like on-the-go lunches or snacks. Just my experience. I guess the sweet varieties occupy the same niche as danishes and coffee cakes? Okay, I suppose I can see that.
- 97a. [Goddess of motherhood intervening in 77-Across] RHEA; 77a. [Cook who uses vinegar instead of honey?] KITCHEN AIRHEAD (Kitchen-Aid). Clue made it sound as if it were a deliberate decision, as opposed to a distracted ERRor (106a).
- 37d. [Goddess of strife intervening in 90-Across] ERIS; 90a. [Mocking music?] DERISIVE BARS (dive bars). (See also, 19a [Score unit] MEASURE.)
- 83a. [God of the sky intervening in 109-Across] HORUS; 109a. [Dance group composed of gullible people?] PATSY CHORUS LINE (Patsy Cline). (See also, 20d [Easy victims] SAPS.)
These are clever, well done, and at least moderately entertaining. The grid is quite clean, considering that there’s a lot of theme material floating around. As alluded to before, aside from the vertical ERIS and ARES, most of the deities are in the neighborhood of their “interventions”.
Let’s do a tally, because that’s one of my gimmicks. 3 Greek gods (ARES, RHEA, ERIS), 2 Romans (SATURN, VESTA), one Egyptian (HORUS). Male/female split is 50-50.
- 38d [Flowerless foliage] FERN. Factette: Sphaeropteris excelsa, the Norfolk Island tree fern, is considered to be world’s largest FERN.
- 26a [A tug undoes it] SLIPKNOT. They may thus be easily relocated along a line. I love how its symmetrical partner is RIP CORDS clued via parachuting as [Fall openers].
- 8a [Like recent Rembrandts] FORGED. But they’ll be there for you.
- 57a [Other people, to Sartre] is not a cue for a French word or phrase; it’s part of a famous quip. HELL is, of course, other people. And Nietzsche said “To live is to suffer, to survive is to find some meaning in the suffering.” Whee.
- 94a [Stop on Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited] ERIE. Haven’t seen this angle before.
- 101a [Piping plastic, for short] PVC, polyvinyl chloride.
- 102a [Shakespearean interjections] AYS, 96d [Homer hollers] D’OHS (why not ‘Homeric’? Potentially theme-intruding?).
- 6d [Bad-mouth, slangily] TRASH ON. Have not heard this particular phraseology, but that’s probably on me.
- 7d [Bear, e.g.] SELLER. Oh right, Wall Street Journal.
- 16d [The Devil’s repeated question in Kipling’s “The Conundrum of the Workshops”] IS IT ART? Was not familiar with this poem.
- 18d [Separator of Korea and Japan, to Koreans] EAST SEA, aka Sea of Japan.
- 28d [Durable woods] TEAKS, 108d [Pliant wood] ELM.
- 118a [Chopin pieces] WALTZES. The last time a shared a June Tabor song, it got some positive responses, so here’s one of her most powerful. Though a bit late for Veteran’s/Armistice Day (and ableist to our 21st century mentality), I didn’t share it elsewhere this year. It’s the definitive cover of Eric Bogle’s song.
Kyle Dolan’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
My friend Kyle has today’s LAT challenge puzzle. There are quite a few timely clues/entries in this puzzle, which may or may not be by design, but at least I found that to be the case. A little thornier than usual, and I had a misspelling/brain cramp/error in the grid that also slowed me down (see below). But lots of lively stuff, and a few entries that made me smile! 4.6 stars from me today!
Some comments, which may heavily feature some of the longer entries in the grid:
- 5A [Steadfast refusal] “NO MEANS NO!” – This is one of those timely entries, as the #MeToo movement is a somewhat recent news item.
- 18A [Sports-based nickname for Green Bay] TITLETOWN – I am thinking Kyle’s proximity to Wisconsin partially fed this entry. I just hope he isn’t a Packers fan!!
- 50A [Jazz trumpeter’s nickname] DIZ – This is where I was stuck. I had spelled MEZCAL at 44D with and S instead of the correct Z. DIZ is surely short for Dizzy Gillespie, I would think.
- 59A [Words after yawning] “I NEED A NAP!” – I say this literally every day!
- 3D [Away, maybe] ON VACATION – This is something I have not “been” in months. Maybe in 2022!
- 5D [Pumpkin pie spice] NUTMEG – Also timely. Tis the season for pumpkin pie! And now, I am hungry …
- 10D [FiveThirtyEight guru] NATE SILVER – Still timely. His predictions earlier this month were, like a lot of other pollsters, somewhat hogwash!
- 13D [Four Seasons rival] OMNI – This CLUE is timely! There was a recent Giuliani presser at the Four Seasons … but not the hotel!!
- 27D [Raspberry since the 1920s] BRONX CHEER – This is only since the ’20s? Is this related to Yankees history, I presume?
- 30D [Leeward mountain dry area] RAIN SHADOW – Great entry. We don’t hear this term much in flat-as-a-pancake Indiana. Now I have that song “Moonshadow” in my head
- 52D [Colleague of Neil and Sonia] ELENA – One last timely mention, with all of the Supreme Court drama in the news recently. At least, it seems, more than there normally is.
That’s all for now! Off to do more puzzles!
Greg Johnson’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up
Not too bad on this Stumper! I had some minor issues in the NE corner of the grid, as you can see by the error marks. I did not know 15A at all (see below), and this is usually my issue with themeless puzzles: I get to some 6 or 8 square block that I have no idea what to put in them. This happened on my live solve during Boswords, which cost me a good minute on time, although in the end the solve was correct. I had 3/4 of this puzzle solved in about 8 minutes, so I had visions of an under 10 solve, but it was not to be. This Stumper ended up stumping me in the end! 4.5 stars from me today.
Lots to discuss today:
- 8A [Ready to crush the curve] UP AT BAT – I has IS AT BAT. I was close! Awkward phrase, but it is correctly used.
- 16A [Finlike sails] LATEENS – This is a new word to me. I am not a sailor.
- 17A [Flower frequented by pollinators] BEE BALM – This is also a new phrase. I am not a beekeeper!
- 33A [Business loss, for instance] TAX WRITE-OFF – Very nice.
- 39A [Pre-closing status] SALE PENDING – As in closing on a house. Tricky!
- 58A [Ambien alternative] LUNESTA – This clue reminds me: I HATE pharma commercials!
- 12D [”Colorful” Federal Reserve report] BEIGE BOOK – This is slightly new. I think I have heard of referrals to this. All the info you need is here.
- 20D [Leads to the basement, say] SHOWS DOWN – Great way to clue this. Many face-offs would be SHOWDOWNS, right?
- 24D [NFLers with a bull logo] TEXANS – I remember a recent trivia question (LearnedLeague, maybe?) about NFL teams with horns on their helmets. This was one of the answers, and it is tough because the mascot is not an animal.
- 36D [About 1/300 of a dictionary] ZEES – I would love to know how the research went for THIS clue!
- 49D [”Fuzzy-Wuzzy” word] WASN’T – This rhyme is fairly short, so there aren’t that many choices!
- 50D [Response to a rapper] ENTER – “Rapper” as in “knocker,” but the thought is some sort of rap battle. Best clue in the puzzle!
- 51D [Saber-tooth tiger voice in the ”Ice Age” films] LEARY – These movies are getting old but still funny. Something else to watch!
Have a safe and healthy week!