Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle (Week 495), “Thanksgiving Toast”—Ade’s take
Good day everybody! Hope you all are doing well and are getting ready to enjoy Turkey Day in a handful of hours. I am sure a good number of you (myself included) have had a series of trying moments in 2020, and I so hope the final month and change allows for opportunities to savor the gift of life and all it offers while hoping that 2021 — for those who believe in fresh starts once calendars flip over into the new year — will start on a higher note. Oh, and if you can help it, keep the guest list as short as possible this weekend!
Today’s puzzle definitely rings in the holiday season with a nice little message spelled out in the circled entries of each of the five theme entries. The hidden words end up spelling, “Eat, Drink, and Be Merry.”
- HEARTBEATS (17A: [Pitter-patter sounds])
- DRINKING IN (33A: [Relishing])
- JAMES GANDOLFINI (39A: [He played Tony, a “waste management consultant” on “The Sopranos”])
- TINKERBELL (48A: [Pixie portrayed by Julia Roberts in “Hook”])
- MERRY WIDOW (63A: [Strapless corset])
In case you’re thinking of Christmas at this time, there’s the clue to COALS to put you in the mood along with the Christmas tree you’ve already put up (25A: [Snowman’s peepers]). I’m a huge fan of both Motown and jazz, so both DIANAS referenced in the clue speak right to my soul (20A: [Singers Ross and Krall]). I like instrumentals more with my jazz, but a huge fan of Diana Krall as well! So we have an on-screen gangster in James Gandolfini and have an actual mob boss in the grid with the context to TEFLON (10D: [“The ___ Don”]). Only real spot of bother was trying to remember how to spell FIENNES (24D: [“Quiz Show” star Ralph]) and initially putting in “keno” for FARO (29A: [Gambling game]).
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: SET (62D: [Congeal]) – Just finished watching the ATP Finals championship doubles match end in a super tiebreak (first to 10 points, with a two-point margin) and that, along with this clue, reminded me that, as of 2019, each of the four Grand Slam tournaments now have different rules regarding a final-set tiebreak. Before 2019, only the US Open had a last-set tiebreak (to seven points) if a match reached 6-6, while the other three tournaments played on until winning by two games. Because of recent marathon matches at Wimbledon (ahem, John Isner), the Australian Open decided to go with a final-set tiebreak to 10 points after reaching 6-6 while Wimbledon decided to implement a final-set tiebreak to seven points after a match reached 12-12. Only the French Open plays on until a player wins by two clear games in the final set.
Thank you so much for the time, everybody! Have a wonderful and safe rest of your day and, as always, keep solving!
Alex Eaton-Salners’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Baby Buggies”—Jim P’s review
Theme: The names of certain little critters (mostly insects) are also common words in English. The theme clues ostensibly ask for the birthplace of said critters, but in reality are referring to the non-critter English words.
- 16a. [Fly’s birthplace?] BASEBALL BAT
- 24a. [Slug’s birthplace?] BOXING GLOVE
- 37a. [Beetle’s birthplace?] VOLKSWAGEN PLANT
- 48a. [Grub’s birthplace?] GREASY SPOON
- 59a. [Tick’s birthplace?] CUCKOO CLOCK
I wasn’t sure why I was supposed to care where a fly is born, but then I remembered the title and that tied everything together well enough for me. No, a slug is not a bug and neither is a tick if you want to get technical about it, but we’re definitely taking liberties with this puzzle, so it’s best not to overthink things. I enjoyed the plays on words, and that’s the point.
TIKI BAR tops the highlights in the fill. RANGE TOPS and EPSOM SALT aren’t as exciting, but they’re solid enough. I don’t think I know OLD BLUE [Classic folk song about a colorful dog]. Let’s check…Nope. Never heard the song, but there have been plenty of covers of it. See below for a nice version I found on YouTube.
I also didn’t know GOBOT [Transforming toy from Tonka]. That’s a pretty deep cut from the 80s.
And that’s about all I’ve got. Quirky but cute theme. 3.7 stars.
Caitlin Reid’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
This puzzle’s 16 squares wide, because you can’t jam three terrible marine-animal puns into just a regular-size grid. I did actually laugh at the one in the middle, having seen someone make that exact joke in a Facebook comment the other day. Here are the salty puns:
- 19a. [“An orca is actually a dolphin?!”], “WHALE? I’LL BE DAMNED!” Playing on “well, I’ll be damned!”
- 37a. [“Wow, that’s a giant sea cow!”], “OH, THE HUGE MANATEE!” “Oh, the humanity!” My in-laws live a half hour away from the springs where some manatees spend the winter months. They are indeed big animals.
- 55a. [“This is the best fish I’ve ever had!”], “GREAT COD ALMIGHTY!” “Great God almighty!” The grammar for “great cod almighty” doesn’t quiiite work for me, but you can imagine someone shouting this while eating fish and chips, can’t you?
The theme’s so solid: Riffs on three familiar exclamations. Three marine creatures (two mammals and one fish—can you think of another 16-letter exclamatory pun involving a marine mammal?). One swimmer at the start of the themer, one in the middle, one at the end.
One of my favorite aspects of this theme (besides that it made me laugh) is that there are three themers, leaving plenty of wiggle room for smooth fill with some sparkling Downs (AVALANCHE, “IT DEPENDS,” BLIND DATE, BAT SIGNAL).
Five more things:
- 45a. [Turquoise and topaz], HUES. I imagine anyone who encountered this clue before having any crossings in place filled in GEMS. Topaz as a color … that’s tricky. You know how many colors of topaz there are? A multitude. Brownish, sure, but also blue and pink and clear and a bunch of other colors, alone or in combination.
- 66a. [Bobs and weaves], DOS. As in hairdos. I had a short and layered hairstyle at the beginning of the year. My last haircut was in early June, and I walked past National Guard troops to get to the salon. Anyway, six and a half months later, it’s grown out to a bob. Do you think my husband can keep my hair trimmed at the level it’s at now?
- 1d. [With 61-Across, former White House girl], SASHA / OBAMA. Hey, maybe she and the family will swing by the White House next year to say hi to the new residents.
- 39d. [Dream disrupter, perhaps], ALARM. Ah, yes. Since I work from home and haven’t had a commute since the ’90s, I was out of the habit of setting an alarm unless I had an early appointment. I recently decided I really should be waking up by 9 every morning … and boy, I don’t much care for it. Maybe I should try going to bed before 1 a.m.?
- 47d. [Make-it-yourself dishes from bars], SALADS. Man, I miss salad bars! Have been steering clear of them since my organ transplant, so I’m way ahead of everyone who’s only been missing salad bars since the COVID pandemic kicked off.
4.25 stars from me.
Paul Coulter’s Universal crossword, “Tongue Tied” — Jim Q’s write-up
Facebook just told me it’s David Steinberg’s birthday… so Happy Birthday, David! I promise not to complain about circles today!
THEME: Words that mean the same thing but are in different languages are found back-to-back in common phrases/names.
- 16A [*Stream outward (French: letters 1 to 4, English: 5 to 7)] POUR FORTH.
- 27A [*”A Man for All Seasons” man (Spanish: 7 to 9, English: 10 to 13)] SIR THOMAS MORE.
- 48A [*In plain view (English: 7 to 9, French: 10 to 12)] UNDER YOUR NOSE.
- 65A [Fluent in two languages, or like each starred answer’s pair of hidden words?] BILINGUAL.
This is one of those puzzles that’s more of a post-solve-chin-scratcher. One that makes you say “Interesting. Very interesting.” But even though the theme conceit didn’t really aid me during the solve, and I had to decipher some odd instructions in the clues, I really found the whole idea fascinating. So it very much worked for me. I like Paul’s puzzles in general. They tend to strive for unique ideas, but still stay within a realm of accessibility.
Not too much to say about the fill. I think I would’ve preferred DE NOVO not make an appearance, not only because I didn’t know it, but in a puzzle that’s foreign language themed, I think it best if we steer clear of foreign words. I’m probably just picking that nit because I didn’t know it though.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “Hyphen It Up” – Derek’s write-up
Quick solve today! I’ll take it. Perhaps an easier Jonesin’ for a holiday week? All themers, as the title hints to, contain the letters DASH:
- 16A [Show excessive stubble, perhaps] NEED A SHAVE
- 20A [Old-timey hangout with a counter] SODA SHOP
- 36A [Tourists’ warm-weather wear] BERMUDA SHORTS
- 53A [Was still in the running] HAD A SHOT
- 58A [Lizzo song of 2016] GOOD AS HELL
It took me a second to spot the theme, but I was trying to solve with a little pace. Still practicing for the final Boswords puzzle! At this point, I will be happy to not make another silly error. (Left a square blank last week – it still stings!) Again, if this puzzle was in fact a tad easier with a crazy week ahead, I am on board with that idea. Not too many obscure pop culture references this week, but I found a minor one that you either know or you don’t. 4.2 stars from me.
- 35A [Firing figure] AXER – I would never want to be the one who is the “axer.” That can’t ever be easy.
- 39A [2011 NBA champs, for short] MAVS – Has it been almost ten years already?
- 41A [“Middlemarch” novelist] ELIOT – One of these days, I will have the patience and the stomach to finish watching the animated Cats. I am not there yet. I started it; I am about 7 minutes in!
- 2D [“___ just the cutest?”] “AREN’T I” – Yes I are!
- 13D [“Geaux Tigers” sch.] LSU – Another gimme for this sports fan. College football is a farce this year. And all of it, seemingly, just for the money. COVID cases everywhere. College basketball hasn’t even started yet and it is already a fiasco.
- 36D [Islands off Spain] BALEARIC – This is slightly tough.
- 37D [Movie that brought on “Army of Darkness”] EVIL DEAD – I haven’t seen this movie either, but I am not a horror movie fan. Yes, I am a wuss.
That is all!
Evelyn Rubin & Ross Trudeau’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
The name Evelyn Rubin was not in the constructor database on this site, so if this is indeed a debut of some sort, congratulations! I do recognize Ross Trudeau’s byline, and this collaboration has a fun theme, with not only a trademark LAT revealer, but with the theme answers going down. There is a good reason!
- 3D [“Tuesday” special with fowl filling] CHICKEN TACO
- 5D [Underwater snorkeling done behind metal bars] SHARK-CAGE DIVING
- 9D [19th-century French gift to New York City] STATUE OF LIBERTY
- 25D [’70s fashion trend … and features of 3-, 5- and 9-Down] BELL BOTTOMS
Ah, this takes me back to when I was under 10 years old. Or to last week when I was watching a YouTube video of an old “Soul Train” line! Surely you are all familiar with Taco Bell, a diving bell, and the Liberty Bell. These pants tried to make a comeback recently; thank goodness they did not! (At least I don’t think so; I am not what you would call a “fashionista!”)
- 18A [Property valuations] APPRAISALS – I would love to rebuild my garage and make my house appraisal go up!
- 34A [Actress Rooney __] MARA – She was in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, another movie I haven’t seen. Something else to watch!
- 37A [Wile E. Coyote explosive] TNT – Have I mentioned all of the Looney Tunes shorts are on HBO Max? Technology is awesome.
- 49A [Lola in a Manilow song, e.g.] SHOWGIRL – Not many ways to clean this in a G-rated way!
- 26D [TV journalist Stahl] LESLEY – She will be 79 next month. I am not an ageist, but I will NOT still be working when I am 30 years older.
- 29D [ESPN journalist Storm] HANNAH – An ESPN clue. A gimme for me!
- 43D [NBC revue that gave us “More Cowbell”] SNL – This is still one of the funniest, and also one of the downright silliest, sketches ever on Saturday Night Live!
Have a safe and healthy week!