Nam Jin Yoon’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
I love this puzzle! This is a particularly good weekend for NYT themelesses. Nam Jin Yoon fills his grid with some zippy long conversational phrases, and you love to see it. (That’s the opposite of “YOU HATE TO SEE IT,” which is something you might say when the quarterback you most loathe manages to lose the Super Bowl, or when some jackass who cut you off on the highway gets stopped for speeding.) I just read somewhere a mom saying that she uses “brain science” and “rocket surgery” instead of the usual “it ain’t ROCKET SCIENCE here.” “MORE POWER TO YOU” is useful, but “IT’S NOW OR NEVER” has really been pretty useless this past pandemic year, when hardly anything can actually be accomplished “now.”
Other fill that caught my eye: The AXOLOTL, which was slandered as an “ugmo” (it’s not! it’s adorable) on this week’s Full Frontal With Samantha Bee. HOAGIE, even though we call ’em subs in Chicago, possibly because my husband has a cousin overseas named Hoagy. Ta-Nehisi COATES. Pie CRUST, preferably with butter like they use at Hoosier Mama Pie Company. KITTY-CAT, at a distance. GET GOING, ONE OF US (which you can chant rhythmically when you find a kindred spirit who also prefers the 0.9 mm leads for a mechanical pencil).
Oops, it’s almost midnight, so let me finish
- 45a. [Longtime Sacha Baron Cohen persona], ALI G. More recently, he’s put on the Borat persona. I appreciated his interview in a recent (monthly) issue of Entertainment “Weekly.”
- 39d. [Singing style with African-American roots], DOO-WOP. Terrific clue. I hadn’t known this.
- 33d. [“Little Women” actress Ronan], SAOIRSE. My way to remember how to spell that, short of learning the Irish language, is to think of Sao Paulo. That AOI doesn’t come easy otherwise. (Also: Trip Payne taught me that the vowels in Shia LaBeouf’s last name are in alphabetical order rather than French order.)
- 34d. [Milan ___, author of 1984’s “The Unbearable Lightness of Being”], KUNDERA. Liked the book okay, and when a friend and I went to see the (terrible) movie adaptation, woooow, so many audience members got up and walked out.
- 3d. [America’s first historically Black sorority, in brief], AKA. Alpha Kappa Alpha is the sorority Kamala Harris was in, and also the one my 1990s editorial assistant, Rona, was in at Northwestern. Everything I know about AKA, I learned at Rona’s wedding.
4.5 stars from me. Really a fun puzzle, not too hard but not overly easy, either.
Joe Deeney’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
I took my time this week! Or maybe the puzzle was harder? I spent a few minutes watching Tyler Hinman’s Twitch stream on Friday night, and he flies around the grid using the arrow keys, which I don’t do. Perhaps I should practice that; hard to teach an old dog a new trick though! This wide open grid seemed to have just a little more bite than normal, but that is ok with me. Joe Deeney is another person who I don’t think I have ever met, but if we ever have live tournaments again, I would love to say hi to him. Another wonderful themeless by Joe today; 4.5 stars.
A few highlights:
- 1A [Ones who usually know what to do with their hands] CARD SHARPS – Why did I think the phrase was card sharks? Or is that a different thing altogether?
- 17A [Italian menu word meaning “hunter”] CACCIATORE – I did NOT know this. I might have to look up how this came about …
- 29A [Agamemnon pair] NUS – He was a Greek hero, hence the Greek alphabet. Name looks oddly Egyptian, though!
- 34A [Social science classic] DAS KAPITAL – One of Marx’s many works. I remember Marx and Engels being almost demonized in my Social Studies classes in grade school. This book is, in part, about the flaws of capitalism, of which we have a seen a few magnified in recent years.
- 49A [DIRECTV parent] AT & T – I almost went to AT&T TV since I need the Tennis Channel, but I think I will go back to Sling instead. Hulu TV doesn’t have it, but they have the Marquee Network for Cubs games. The new cable-free landscape is becoming quite expensive!
- 50A [Hotel convenience] MINIBAR – I don’t know if I have ever stayed in a hotel room that had one of these! They generally aren’t in Hampton Inns!
- 58A [It doesn’t affect a starting pitcher’s win-loss record] NO DECISION – Baseball is gonna try and ramp up in 2021, but there are rumblings that spring training in Arizona is already under fire. Stay tuned!
- 7D [Snack with an unappetizing name] ANTS ON A LOG – I believe this is celery with peanut butter in it and raisins on top. I have never eaten this.
- 12D [Nerves] THE JITTERS – Always a little odd when entries have a THE in front of them, but this one works well. You rarely see it as just “jitters”
- 14D [“Did it start already?”] “AM I TOO LATE?” – Great casual phrase!
I will stop there. I have a jigsaw puzzle that is calling my name …
Stanley Newman’s Newsday crossword, “Themeless Saturday” – Derek’s write-up
This one felt like a real old-timey Stumper this week! OK, I am really tired this week, so perhaps that is my story. That error-ridden section in the west central portion of the grid gave my all kinds of fits and starts. I suppose if I would have figured out 31-Across before I did it may have gone better; all of my first hunches were correct! And I am not gonna lie: not getting 58-Across is just embarassing. For explanations of both, see below. I will take the harder puzzle this week, but I think this is more of a case of I am totally out of it! I will take a nap before Sunday’s Winter Wondersolve or I will be no good at that either! 4.4 stars today.
Those promised comments:
- 1A [Large waterfall] CATARACT – I always forget this is a meaning of this word. I am deathly afraid I will have the eye version soon.
- 17A [Flag-capturing game] STRATEGO – We played this all the time in school. I was terrible at it.
- 31A [”That’s a shame!”] “BOO HOO!” – This is the entry that stumped be. It wasn’t TSK TSK or TOO BAD or even MY OH MY. Totally fooled.
- 35A [Theft insurance of a sort] STRONG PASSWORDS – This entry being wrong also didn’t help the word salad I was building in that western center area. I had SECRET instead of STRONG for a while, I might have tried SECURE as well. Brutal!
- 52A [Collector’s handout] WANT LIST – I am Amazonified to thinking this should say WISH LIST!
- 56A [Balance Games offerer] WII FIT – This took a minute to get, and we used to own one of these. Nintendo systems will live on in crossword fame!
- 58A [Naval enlistee] YEOWOMAN – BEST ENTRY IN THE GRID! Again, I had the W wrong, and I am hanging my head in shame!
- 8D [Diner menu listing that can’t be ordered] TWO EGGS ANY STYLE – Ah, a reference to the time long ago when we used to order food at a restaurant …..
- 12D [”In motion” watch brand] MOVADO – I think this is referencing an older ad campaign? And does anyone wear a watch that isn’t a smart watch anymore??
- 30D [Green stuff in yogurt] KIWI – I had KALE in here. That would be disgusting!
- 32D [Make-way linkage] ONES – Simple enough after solving; looks almost like a foreign language beforehand!
Everyone have a safe and healthy weekend. If you live in the upper Midwest like I do, watch out for the coming snowstorm Saturday night and stay safe!
Wren Schultz’s Universal crossword, “Hit or Miss” — Jim Q’s write-up
Whether or not you like this puzzle, you can’t deny that it’s a hit!
- 11D [Game phonetically hinted at by this puzzle’s starred entries] BATTLESHIP.
- 3D [What you might sink by calling 66- and 68-Across, in some versions of 11-Down] PATROL BOAT.
Answers to starred answers are letter/number combos, as one may see in the game Battleship. They are:
SEE TO (C2), ASICS (A6), BEFORE (B4), BENIGN (B9), I TOO (I2), and I WON (I1)
Thoroughly enjoyed this. Especially since it took so long for the whole puzzle’s theme to come together for me, which led to a solid b. I vaguely recall seeing a Battleship theme before, but I can’t remember where. Pretty sure it wasn’t this puzzle though (I believe Universal is still currently printing reruns through this weekend).
Fill wasn’t too bad either, especially with some constraints due to theme and the left/right symmetry, though it is odd to uncover something as long as OPINION POLL and realize it has nothing at all to do with the theme.
The added sinking of that 2-hit-and-it’s-done PATROL BOAT that I can never find when I play was delightful.
Hope you’re not saying I HATE IT! with this one. I certainly didn’t.
Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Churnal crossword, “Cheers for Jeers” — pannonica’s write-up
Phonetic substitution time again. Here, we have j- sounds replaced by ch- ones. Technically, that’s a voiced postalveolar affricate (ʤ) becoming a voiceless postalveolar affricate (ʧ) and it’s exactly the same as the Los Angeles Times theme of just over a week ago. As is often the case with these types of themes, the sounds are structural siblings.
- 22a. [Sound from a colonel’s canary?] MILITARY CHEEP (jeep).
- 35a. [Green member of a colorful quartet?] LIME CELLO (Jell-o).
- 53a. [Wedge placed in a car’s dampening devices?] SHOCK CHOCK (jock).
- 55a. [Really big drink?] GALLON CHUG (jug).
- 66a. [Neck jewelry that’s very functional?] PRACTICAL CHOKER (joker). See, not so difficult to avoid an inhumane reference (cf. that LAT crossword).
- 84a. [Easily duped fellow with wide shoulders?] BROAD CHUMP (jump).
- 88a. [Result of leaving a batch in the oven too long?] COOKIE CHAR (jar).
- 98a. [Mouthful for a sideshow performer?] GLASS CHAW (jaw). Are they called hyalophagists?
- 117a. [One disaster leading to another and then another?] CALAMITY CHAIN (Jane). By far the best of the lot. Only the second theme entry to involve a spelling change other than a simple j to ch. The other was the Italianate cello.
I’d probably be more amenable to this theme had I not encountered its twin a mere eight days ago. On the other hand, it feels kind of SCANTY (125a [Meager]) for a full-blown 21×21 grid. Perhaps I’m too chaded, er, jaded. Do want to note, however, that neither of the relevant phonemes appear elsewhere in the grid, because Shenk is a consummate cruciverbalist even when plying lesser material.
- Favorite clues: 3d [Where some learn how to shoot] FILM SCHOOL, 8d [Person who makes up stories?] ARCHITECT, 27a [Group of players] CAST.
- 12d [Calyx component] SEPAL, 44a [Potpourri bit] PETAL.
- 18d [Play-reviewing aid] SLO-MO. For when you miss some of that Shakespearean dialogue, such as 78a [“In apprehension how like ___”: Hamlet] A GOD.
- 33d [Virologist Jonas] SALK. You know, he chose not to patent or profit from his polio vaccine, so as to maximize its global distribution. Just saying.
- 36d [Fashion house known for its paisley patterns][ ETRO. Looking at their website, they certainly hoe that row.
- 40d [1960s TV show set at an African animal study center] DAKTARI, which is Swahili for ‘doctor”. Theme song by jazz drummer Shelly Manne.
- 45d [“Was __ los?” (“What’s wrong?”)] IST. Curious that nowhere does the clue specify that this is a bit of German.
- 46d [Salt container?] SHIP. This clue seems as if it’s trying too hard to be clever. And I’m feeling even less generous toward 21d [It might lead to a lump in your throat] for OATMEAL, which is, frankly, weird.
- Clue I still don’t understand: 13a [Voluntary players] ORGANS. Some help please?
- 86d [Gator’s cousin] CROC. Look! Crocodile gaiters! Was unable to find gaiters combined with CROCS shoes, though; probably because those are famously ventilated, far from watertight.
- 75d [Like a spiny dogfish’s spines] DORSAL.
- 124a [Tom’s counterpart] SHE-CAT. Also acceptable (at five letters): molly, queen.
- 127a [Wind chime sound] TINKLE.