Alex Eaton-Salners’s New York Times crossword, “It All Adds Up”—Amy’s write-up
I like the theme. It’s sort of a riff on a rebus theme, where a spelled-out number appears within crossing answers (in circled/shaded squares), but instead of a single square containing, say, TEN, the crossing entries contain spelled-out numbers that, when added together, make the number needed for these themers to make sense. The added-together numbers are just letter strings within the themers.
- 23a. [Bygone office group], SONEOPOOL / 3d. [Made the rounds?], NINEDEDBAR. ONE + NINE = TEN, so we get STENO POOL and TENDED BAR.
- 25a. [Final remark in an argument], THELASONERD / 15d. [Doctor’s reassurance before a shot], IONENTHURT. ONE + ONE = TWO, THE LAST WORD and IT WON’T HURT. When the hell does a doctor say “it won’t hurt” about an injection? How often are doctors even giving shots? Usually it’s nurses or pharmacists. When I have doctors administering shots, it’s local anesthetic, or cortisone going into a joint, and it hurts like a mofo. Does the editorial team not get medical care? “You’ll feel a little pinch” is what health care providers actually say. They don’t lie.
- 66a. [Long-running show whose iconic hourglass is in the Smithsonian collection], DAYSOTWOLIVES / 35d. [1943 Pulitzer-winning Thornton Wilder play, with “The”], SKINOTWOTEETH. (Ah, the dreaded with ‘The’.) TWO + TWO = FOUR. DAYS OF OUR LIVES, SKIN OF OUR TEETH.
- 113a. [Union Pacific vehicle], FRFOURTRAIN / 72d. [Qualifies to fight in a certain class], MAKESWFOUR. FOUR + FOUR = EIGHT. FREIGHT TRAIN, MAKES WEIGHT. I’m not sure the word vehicle encompasses a train made of multiple train cars.
- 116a. [Neither gains nor loses], BREAKZERO / 77d. [Journalists might be invited to it], PRESSEVENT. ZERO + SEVEN = SEVEN. Not sure I like this variation, where PRESS EVENT is exactly the same either way. Fun twist or inelegant?
Never heard of 41a. [Sheltered balcony with abundant natural light], SUN-TRAP. Here’s a definition.
Fave clue: 97a. [Zoning, so to speak], OUT OF IT. This isn’t about real estate zoning at all, but “zoning out.”
Fave fill includes “GOOD GAME,” and that’s all I’ve got time for because my son just got back from picking up our Wrigley BBQ dinner.
Four stars from me.
Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Dark Secrets” – Jim Q’s Write-up
Another — ANOTHER — absolute feat of construction today.
*If you missed yesterday’s comment from Evan on this site, he offered a warning that today’s puzzle would best be solved on paper*
THEME: Words that follow the word “black” are hidden in seven different sets of black squares throughout the puzzle.
*The solution grid that appears here is the one offered through WaPo’s applet.
The added Birnholzian layers are all in place. They include:
- The spelling of a secret, apt word, in this case CLOAKED. As in, all of the hidden answers are CLOAKED. Also, I could’ve sworn the word was COLAKED. Visually it was hard for me to realize that OPS was below LAB.
- All words whose endings/beginnings/both are “cut short” due to the theme are still valid entries in the white squares. Like OMEGA appears to be MEG. PAGER appears to be AGE. This is repeated how many times over?? WOW.
- Consistency. The hidden words occur in horizontal black “bars” made up of three or more squares. Any thing else added or subtracted from those bars is off the table.
- Mostly clean/interesting fill all around.
I really don’t like solving on paper because it forces me to come to terms with the fact that I’m probably well overdue for purchasing me a good ol’ pair of reading glasses. So my time is well below what it would be, but whenever I get the heads-up that the WaPo needs to be solved on paper, I confess I get excited. I know I’m in for something clever.
Unfortunately, that heads up is also kinda- sorta a spoiler, because I’m on the lookout for a trick, but I suppose it’s unavoidable in the digital age. That being said, I did uncover the gimmick quite early on with MACH[O], ON TO[P] and SPOT[S]. I saw Black OPS and knew where we were going.
What I wasn’t expecting was for OPS to be part of the entries below as well… and then for those entries to also include a hidden themer as part of their ends. Mind blown.
There were also several instances where I forgot to include the black squares, which explains why it took forever for me to get the SE corner.
Lots of fun clues in this one too:
- [Non-pluses?] crossing [Pluses] for MINUSES / ASSETS.
- The noted irony that DENNYS is a [Fit Fare diner chain].
- 87A [G/U/A/C holder] RNA.
- 124A [Extension granted to students?] EDU.
Definitely a bit more bite, which is fine with this type of puzzle. Evan varies up the difficulty level and the theme concepts appropriately enough to reach all types of solvers.
ISIDRO, LANOLIN, BORNEAN, and LOCUST TREE were all either new or difficult for me, but appropriately clued and fairly crossed.
This whole thing is just very well executed and stands strong under meticulous construction.
Thanks as always, Evan!
Joe Grzybowski’s Los Angeles Times puzzle, “Ch-ch-ch-changes” — Jenni’s write-up
I figured out what was going on with the first theme answer. It was a reasonably fun theme. We didn’t have Joe in our database. Is this a debut? If so, nice job!
Each theme answer is a base phrase with a CH added. Wackiness results.
- 23a [Headline announcing Thomas Kingsford’s 1842 process?] is A STARCH IS BORN. Do I need to tell you that the base phrase is “A Star is Born?” Didn’t think so. I confused myself by reading “process” as “progress.” It also helps if you recognize the name of Kingsford Cornstarch, which I do, for some reason. If you were expecting charcoal, you were out of luck.
- 37a [Breakfast product made from trees?] is ALL–BRANCH CEREAL.
- 49a [Place for the good guys?] is a MENSCH ROOM.
- 66a [Mad Hatter’s cup?] is CHALICE IN WONDERLAND. This may be my favorite.
- 79a [Apex predator at the feeder?] is SHARK FINCH.
- 88a [Literary slugger making cookies?] is CASEY AT THE BATCH. This may be my least favorite because AT THE BATCH is not something anyone says abut cookie-baking. I know, I know, wackiness. But still.
- 109a [What keeps the church singers healthy?] is CHORAL HYGIENE. I miss singing. Oh, do I miss singing. Damn pandemic.
Overall, it’s a good Sunday theme. All the base phrases are solid and the theme answers work almost perfectly.
A few other things:
- For the life of me, I can’t remember how to spell KRONOR. Don’t know what my issue is.
- This is the second puzzle in a week that has MENNEN as an answer. I can’t remember the last time I ever thought about that brand. Now I’m waiting for the third.
- Obscure scientific term of the day: ECOTONE, clued as [Transition area beteween plant communities]. Once I saw it, I remembered it, but if you’d asked me to define it I would not have been able to.
- HALTERS do not necessarily bare arms and midriffs. They always bare the arms, but it’s possible – even common – to have a halter top that comes down to the waist or below. Dudes. Do your homework.
- The CLIC-Stic gives me a chance to link to this again, which is always worth a laugh. Not the same pen, but the same company.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that Soong MEI-ling was Madame Chiang. I also did not know (or at least did not remember) that Kim DAE-jung won the 2000 Nobel Peace Prize. My US-centricism is showing. And my NE US bias: I did not know that HARDEES started in Rocky Mount, NC.
MaryEllen Uthlaut’s Universal Sunday crossword, “Multitasking”—Jim P’s review
I’m not exactly sure how to explain this theme. Each theme entry is a common verbal phrase that includes a body part, or the use of a body part. Its clue is another body-part verbal phrase that aims to stand in antithesis of the entry phrase. Make sense? I thought not.
- 23a. [If you drag your feet, can you ___?] KICK UP YOUR HEELS. For my money, this is the best of the lot. Both are phrases that involve the feet, and if you were to literally try to do them both at the same time, you’d fail. Answer: No.
- 33a. [If you look down your nose at someone, can you ___?] KEEP YOUR CHIN UP. If you were to look down your nose at someone, your chin would indeed tend to go up. Answer: Yes.
- 60a. [If your fingers are crossed, can you ___?] PULL SOMEONE’S LEG. This one is the least clear. In one you have fingers, in the other a leg, so there’s not as strong of a correlation between the two phrases. Can you literally cross your fingers then pull someone’s leg? Answer: Yes.
- 85a. [If your hands are tied, can you ___?] LET YOUR HAIR DOWN. Again, not a strong correlation between hands and hair. In fact, I’d rather see this clue with the previous answer; that would make more sense to me. Answer to the question? Depends on how your hands are tied and how long your hair is.
- 109a. [If your teeth are set on edge, can you ___?] CHEW SOMEONE OUT. Not bad since both have to do with teeth, but unlike all the previous entries, no body part is specifically mentioned. Answer: No idea since I don’t know what it means to literally set one’s teeth on edge.
- 122a. [If you’re hopping mad, can you ___?] STAND YOUR GROUND. I like this one, too, because it has great imagery. Answer: No way.
A very playful theme, and that counts for a lot in my book. 21x puzzles can be slogs, but when your theme is fun and lively, that helps a lot. That said, I was a little thrown by all the duplication of “you”s and “your”s in the clues and entries. I don’t know that that would be allowed in most publications, but this theme would be impossible to do without resorting to repeating those words, so it’s just one of those things, I guess.
The fill is solid but I’m surprised there isn’t anything especially sparkly. VIS-À-VIS, SMUSHES and GO KART are the most colorful; the rest of the long entries are single words like APTITUDE, ELEMENTS, TASSLES, TELECOM, SUPERSEDE. I do like the word CLOTURE; that’s just fun to say.
Clues of note:
- 130a. [Cartooning and crossword construction]. ARTS. Agreed!
- 8d. [Rogaine alternative?]. TOUPEE. I’m not certain this needs a question mark since there isn’t a play on words here. What say you?
I liked this offbeat but lively theme. 3.8 stars.