Matthew Trout’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
The theme is tied together by 63a. FAIRY TALE ENDING, clued [“Happily ever after” … or what 17-, 27-, 39- or 47-Across has?]. Those four entries end with common fairy-tale words: princess, dragon, tower, and knight:
- 17a. [Xena, notably], WARRIOR PRINCESS. An icon!
- 27a. [Largest lizard on earth (up to 10 feet long)], KOMODO DRAGON. I enjoyed seeing the parthenogenetic offspring of a single-lady dragon at the Chester Zoo in England. Like Xena, she didn’t have much use for males, not even for their gametes.
- 39a. [Toronto landmark that’s the tallest free-standing structure in the Western Hemisphere], CN TOWER. We were up top on the observation level on 8/23/11 when that Virginia-centered earthquake hit. I figured the CN Tower just tended to sway because of its height, but heard about the quake later that day. !!
- 47a. [Who sang the 1973 #1 hit “Midnight Train to Georgia”], GLADYS KNIGHT. Enjoy the song, posted below.
Cute theme, fresh angle.
Fave fill: WORLD MAPS, always my favorite classroom wall decor as a kid.
Overall, the fill felt a tad oldish/crosswordese-tinged: ELAN RIME PISAN KOLA IDIG STET NEAP AGEE OTOE, plus the surprising-to-spot-on-a-Tuesday NYALA.
Three more things:
- 25a. [“Smart as a whip” and “sharp as a tack”], SIMILES. Back in the 1990s, a pathologist who was the editor in chief of a series I managed informed his fellow ed board members that I was “sharp as a tack.” It made my day, and I still remember it fondly after all these years. Give somebody a well-deserved bit of praise (in the form of a simile, if you choose to accept the mission) this week. Heck, do it twice. … And now I’m envisioning a crossword theme wherein the theme entries are plays on familiar similes. SHAR-PEIS ATTACK as a newspaper headline? Sorry for the unannounced 9d.
- 1d. [Ten Commandments, e.g.], LAWS. Well, they’re not all laws. Nobody’s going to jail for coveting their neighbor’s house.
- 44d. [It’s all about me, me, me], EGO TRIP. Great clue.
3.25 stars from me.
Michael Lieberman’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Idle Hands”—Jim P’s review
The theme is a BROKEN CLOCK (62a., [It’s right twice a day, and it can be found at 18-, 28- and 51-Across]). Each of the other entries has the letters CLOCK “broken up” by the interior letters.
- 18a. [Karate chop target, sometimes] CINDERBLOCK.
- 28a. [Radio format for Fleetwood Mac and Heart] CLASSIC ROCK.
- 51a. [Where Oxford types might hang out?] CLOTHES RACK.
The elegant touch here is that each configuration is different, and there’s a progression as the CLOCK letters seem to “move” from right to left. There’s nothing about the theme that requires this set-up, but it’s evidence of an attention to detail on the part of the constructor that’s always nice to see. (The final configuration CLOC*K isn’t possible without actually spelling out CLOCK in the first word (e.g. “clockwork”).)
Cs aren’t ever fun to work with in a grid, and there’s an overabundance in this grid. But that doesn’t seem to have dampened the fill much. There’s plenty to like such as COLE SLAW, “THANK GOD!,” RECYCLE, YORKIE, and GLUON, plus AMATEUR, LIAISON, WRITE-IN, and a pair of kid-lit girls—symmetrically placed, even—ELOISE and RAMONA.
Names I didn’t know: ’90s rapper SKEE-LO [Rapper with the 1995 hit “I Wish”], Colts’ head coach Frank REICH (but I’ll note that’s a new clue for that name, giving political commentator Robert REICH a break), and RHEA Seehorn of Better Call Saul.
Clues of note:
- 66a. [Social-distancing proponent]. LONER. If there was one thing I didn’t like in this grid, it was this clue. I realize it’s just trying to be cute, but casting social-distancing in a negative light is the wrong approach when we all need to do our part to beat this thing.
- 34d. [Self-checkout spot?]. Not a grocery store lane, but a MIRROR. Nice one.
- 61d. [Cardinal direction that doesn’t start any state’s name]. EAST. We have North and South Dakota; why don’t we have West and EAST Virginia?
An impressive construction with plenty of strong fill. 3.8 stars.
Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle (Week 500), “Annual Creature Feature”—Ade’s take
Good day, everybody! Before we go any further, let’s all congratulate Liz on her 500th Crossword Nation puzzle!! Time flies when you’re having fun, right?
As we head closer to ringing in the New Year, today’s puzzle is an homage to the Chinese New Year, which will be year 4719 when it rolls around in just a few weeks. When it comes come around, it will be the YEAR OF THE OX, and the grid contains puns in which the letters “OX” are added consecutively into phrases/names of nouns to create puns (57A: [2021 on some upcoming calendars…and a hint to this puzzle’s “strong” theme]).
- OXO PIONEERS (16A: [Willa Cather novel about kitchenware trailblazers?]) – O Pioneers!
- COX NOTE (36A: [One-hundred-dollar-bill with actress Courteney’s face on it?]) – C-note
- TWO LOX LLAMA (10D: [Ogden Nash beast who loves second helpings of salmon?]) – Two-L llama
- OXLIP READER (23D: [Anthology of writings about the yellow primrose?]) – Lip reader
There was a good number of medium-length fill in the grid, and the ones that featured going across were pretty quality, from USED CARS (47A: [Pre-owned vehicles]) to SEMI SOFT, probably my favorite type of texture since I’m in love with the Drunken Goat cheese, one that is soaked in doble pasta wine (24A: [Cheese category that includes gouda and havarti]). Then there’s the cream of that medium-fill crop in SEXLESS, which had a pretty funny twist to a now-common phrase of “friends with benefits” (26A: [Like some “friends with no benefits” relationships?]). Can’t say anything in this grid deserves a POT SHOT, except for shouting out the entry that includes just that (42A: [Cheap criticism]).
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: SOLOMON (45A: [Son of David, in the Bible]) – A sad entry for the day, as we honor former Major League Baseball executive and pioneer Jimmie Lee Solomon, who passed away at the age of 64 this October. Solomon was the executive vice president for baseball development starting in 2010, and was the driving force in creating developmental academies in urban areas throughout Latin America, where a number of current MLB players were first discovered. The All-Star Futures Game, a showcase of the minor league’s best talent right before the All-Star Game the next day, was also a brainchild of Solomon’s. Solomon was tight end at Dartmouth and received his J.D. from Harvard Law School.
Thank you so much for the time, everybody! Have a wonderful and safe rest of your day and, as always, keep solving!
BE SAFE (11D: [“Take care of yourself”])!
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “Some Good Things from 2020″ – Derek’s write-up
I think Matt does a retrospective puzzle or two every year; this year is no different. As a matter of fact, this year it might be a nice idea to focus back on the GOOD since it seems there wasn’t much of it!
- 1A [Time’s 2020 Entertainer of the Year] BTS – For a while, I didn’t know what K-pop was! I sure do now …
- 18A [Country singer who donated $1 million to Covid vaccine research] DOLLY PARTON
- 34A [Pioneering Vice President-Elect of the United States] KAMALA HARRIS
- 43A [Show with an unprecedented sweep of seven Emmy Awards] SCHITT’S CREEK
- 61A [Former British Army captain who walked laps for charity in April 2020, raising over 32 million pounds by his 100th birthday] SIR TOM MOORE – Don’t know who this is.
- 71A [Initialism that became increasingly prevalent in 2020] WFH – Stands for Work From Home, no doubt? I have done some of that in 2020!
Well done. Nice to focus on the good and not the depressing stuff for a change. And the obscure pop culture is a themer this week, but I think it is just because I don’t know anything. Another nice one, Matt! 4.3 stars.
A few more notes:
- 17A [___-Caps (candy for moviegoers, when we went out to movies)] SNO – I have not been to the movies, but I might run to the convenience store and get a some anyway!
- 28A [Square root of 2, rounded down] ONE – It is actually around 1.414. Also an irrational number used quite a lot in higher math.
- 38A [Digital watch maker] CASIO – They make cheap keyboards, too! At least they used to. This company has been around forever.
- 68A [“Death ___ Salesman”] OF A – Or [Panic at the Disco’s “Death ___ Bachelor”], a song I had stuck in my head at one time!
- 3D [Downtempo R&B songs] SLOW JAMS – Matt is showing his age! This was all the rage in the ’90s
- 12D [“Citizen Kane” actor Everett] SLOANE – Another movie I haven’t seen in a while. Something to re-watch!
- 48D [Mall pizza eatery] SBARRO – I have been to the mall ONCE since last February, and that was only because I had no choice. I would have gone again to get this the New York Times with the puzzle insert, but they were sold out, so I ordered one in the mail. It came yesterday!
That is all! Now to get a song stuck in your head …
Catherine Cetta’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
Quick one today! I have been off a few days; maybe the rest is helping! The revealer for this one is at 56A:
- 20A [City street spot you usually have to back into] PARKING SPACE
- 33A [Unfavorable impression] NEGATIVE TAKE
- 42A [Winter clock setting] STANDARD TIME
- 56A [In 2020’s MLB season, each game of one was seven innings … and what each word of three long answers can have] DOUBLE-HEADER
So we are familiar with phrases double parking, double space, double negative, you get the idea. I tried to use HEADER in this fashion at first since I am an idiot! Nice easy puzzle, and a quick 3 minute solve as well! Now off to try and finish Puzzle Boat 7 this week; only 20 puzzles or so left out of the 140+! 4.2 stars today for this Tuesday edition.
Just a couple more things:
- 1A [Like new dollar bills] CRISP – They also stick together when they are new. Which can be annoying.
- 5D [Rain-on-the-roof sound] PIT-A-PAT – Haven’t seen this in a while! We say pitter-patter here.
- 9D [Vine-covered walkway] PERGOLA – Another word I haven’t seen in a while. I want to build an arbor on my property, which is similar.
- 46D [Baked treat that sounds like a place to meet] DATE BAR – Nice clue! I am also hungry, now.
- 48D [Play the flute] TOOTLE – This sounds like to silly of a word to describe a professional flautist!
Have a safe and healthy week!
Emily Carroll’s Universal crossword, “Money Down” — Jim Q’s write-up
With a title like that you half expect the theme answers to be vertical right?
THEME: CASH is hidden under types of tables.
- ENDPLAYS over CASHEWS
- SIDECAR over CASHMERE
- KIDS MEAL over JOHNNY CASH
- UNDER / THE / TABLE (revealer)
Although David is running Puzzle Society “reruns” for a week, I never solved this one. Very clever. Loved the concept and the circle-less execution. At first I thought it was a simple word repetition theme as I saw CASH a couple times before uncovering the revealer. Nice AHA and a sigh of relief that it was more complex and intriguing than that.
Always a fan of “Apt name for…” clues. In this case SIDE CAR. Also enjoy “find-the-hidden-word” clues, in this case GNP in Signpost (though I prefer when the word we’re examining has something to do with the hidden word).
The RIYDAH / DAL crossing was tough for me. No idea which vowel belonged there and ran through them before Mr. Happy Pencil made an appearance. My only other nit is… do hammers go “BANG!”?