Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle (Week 509), “Brief Getaways”—Ade’s take
Good day, everyone! March is here just like that! Here is hoping you are well, especially in the past 12 months since there will be a lot of reminders that you’ll come across about last March being the month when the gravity of COVID-19 really starting to take a grip in the United States. Again, here is hoping you are all doing your best to stay safe and keep others safe with your actions. Also, for those who have lost loved ones as a result of the pandemic (as well as those whose passings were not COVID-related), my sincere condolences to you and your families.
Today’s grid is about hidden getaways, in a way. The five long theme entries, all going across, feature multiple-word entries in which the letters “e-s-c” span between the two words. We also have ESC in the grid, acting as the reveal (66D: [Puzzle theme that’s hidden in the five answers]).
- NUDE SCENE (17A: [Bare necessity in a skin flick?])
- PILATES CLASS (24A: [Place to learn a core-strengthening exercise system])
- JACQUES COUSTEAU (40A:[Undersea explorer and pioneer of marine conservation])
- ICE SCULPTURE (52A: [“Cool” carving])
- THE SCREAM (65A: [1893 Edvard Munch painting described as an “ultimate image of our political age”])
It is a good thing that AMANA (20A: [Microwave brand]) is a pretty common word seen in crosswords, or that couple with the crossing of LEUMI could have been a tricky one to navigate (2D: [Israel’s Bank ___). If Surrealism floats your boat more than the Expressionism mentioned in the bottommost theme entry, then DALI would be right down your alley (33D: [Surrealist Salvador]). Hesitated a little in putting in NICE SHOT, as I was deciding on whether the first word would be “good” or what it eventually turned out to be (10D: [Compliment from a tennis opponent]). Here is hoping that I was not the only person who pit in “riata” first before REATA, as that is definitely an entry that reminded me again to wait before plopping down what version it will be (56D: [Lasso]). I was going to start the next graph with STEAL and mention how the number of stolen bases in a season throughout Major League Baseball in 2017 was over 1,000 stolen bases fewer than in 1987 (8D: [Baserunner’s feat]). But then something else caught my attention, which made me think of a sporting event I saw in sixth grade that made me run around my apartment like an unhinged brat on an insane sugar rush…
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: SLASH (26D: [Cut sharply, as prices]) – In the mid-to-late 1990s, one of the more dynamic players in the National Football League was Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Kordell Stewart, who earned the nickname of “Slash” because he played a number of positions on the field (QB/RB/WR) and generated big plays from each of those positions. Though he played this all-purpose, jack-of-all-trades role for the first few years of his NFL career, Stewart did eventually become the full-time starting quarterback of the Steelers, making the Pro Bowl in 2001 after throwing for over 3,000 yards and rushing for over 500 yards in leading Pittsburgh to the AFC Championship Game before losing to the New England Patriots. For all his professional exploits, Stewart, who played collegiately at the University of Colorado, is most remembered for one of the greatest college football plays in history; Stewart’s Hail Mary pass at the end of a Sept. 24, 1994 game against Michigan, which traveled over 70 yards in the air, was caught by Michael Westbrook for a game-ending touchdown and give the Buffaloes an improbable 27-26 victory. The play and game is known as “The Miracle at Michigan.” Avert your eyes, Wolverines fans. (Sorry, Derek!)
Thank you so much for the time, everybody! Have a wonderful and safe rest of your day and, as always, keep solving!
Ross Trudeau’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
I don’t quite get this theme. “Familiar” phrases that end with words synonymous with choice are clued with specific reference to a food or drink:
- 17a. [Lager or I.P.A.?], DRAFT CHOICE. Those are beers you might choose on draft. But “draft choice” sounds wrong to my ear. “Draft pick,” sure.
- 23a. [Hot fudge or caramel sauce?], SPLIT DECISION. Listen, here’s the thing: You can have both on your banana split.
- 39a. [Neat or on the rocks?], ICE PICK. Eh. If you order your drink neat, you have no ice pick, you are picking no ice.
- 50a. [Jägermeister or Fireball?], SHOT SELECTION. Yeah, I don’t know the contexts in which shot selection is a familiar phrase. Basketball, my husband suggests. Pool, my first thought.
- 61a. [Chicken broth or beef bouillon?], STOCK OPTION. This one is good, but I damn well noticed the word stock in a clue elsewhere in the puzzle (6d. [Participated in a stock exchange?], MOOED) and repeating a 5-letter word from a themer, it’s just too obvious. Come on, Shortz et al. Throw us a bone and watch out for such overlaps.
Odd theme. Two liquors clues and ice for liquor, one drinkable broth, and then a total outlier of a non-liquid banana split and its toppings, which are sort of ancillary to the split. I wanted to love this puzzle because I so enjoyed seeing Ross’s ROSS – DRESS FOR FEWER T-shirt on Twitch (Googling tells me his Twitch streaming partner Parker Higgins made the shirt). I may need to get one of those shirts mainly to wear to Ross Dress for Less (which I call Ross Dross for Loss).
Besides the theme not resonating for me, there were some “Wait, what’s this doing in a Tuesday puzzle?!” bits, like DECOCT, SPY-FI (honestly not sure I’ve seen this outside of crosswords), OFF-PUT (no, you are put off by something that’s off-putting, and I believe Merriam-Webster agrees with me), TEHEE (where outside of crosswords is that a thing?), the KOLA nut, and I-wish-I-could-swear-it-isn’t-used-in-real-life-but-unfortunately-it-is MENTEE.
Three more things:
- 2d. [Emanation from Barney Gumble on “The Simpsons”], BURP. More of an emanation from deep within Barney Gumble, deeper than you knew existed.
- 54d. [Figure at a roast], EMCEE. If a MENTEE is someone who receives mentoring, I hereby move that EMCEE be defined as someone who gets emcored.
- 57a. [Perfumery scents], MUSKS. Honestly, one is more than enough. Plural MUSKS is giving me a headache. #fragrancesensitivity
Three stars from me. I’ll like the next one better.
Bonnie Gentry’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Ringleaders”—Jim P’s review
This is a particularly nice example of the word-following-another-word theme type. I found a similar example in the Cruciverb database, but I’m partial to this one for its fun entries.
- 17a. [*Weekly promotion at some Mexican restaurants] TACO TUESDAY. Taco Bell. Was TACO TUESDAY a thing before The Lego Movie came out? I don’t recall hearing it before then, but I bet it was around. (In fact, it goes all the way back to the 80s.) In our house we have Fried Rice Fridays. Do you have any food/day-of-the-week pairings?
- 25a. [*Playthings for future engineers] TINKER TOYS. Tinkerbell. This was a fun, surprising entry.
- 37a. [*It can be reached via ferry from the Battery] LIBERTY ISLAND. Liberty Bell.
- 50a. [*Elevator for edibles] DUMBWAITER. Dumbbell. Gotta love the word DUMBWAITER!
Like I said, fun entries, both the entries in the grid and the “bell” phrases.
Moving on to the fill, everything is awesome with PICTURE IT, IN THE NEWS, THE DOW, HERETIC, RIVIERA, FANS OUT, JUMBO, and DUMPY. I could have done without crosswordese ERTE and a trio of partials (OF A, IT BE, OR ME), but honestly, I barely noticed them since I was enjoying the solve.
Clues of note:
- 34a. [She was captured aboard the Tantive IV]. LEIA. I certainly didn’t know that bit of trivia, but it was easy to sort it out.
- 5d. [Lucy of “Elementary”]. LIU. Why not clue this with respect to “Kill Bill” since UMA [Thurman of “Kill Bill”] is not far away?
- 12d. [Post concerned with good behavior]. EMILY. I glossed over this one while solving, but I like misdirection here.
- 39d. [Barry Manilow’s “Could ___ Magic”]. IT BE. Not a fan of the awkward partial, as I said above, but I just wanted the excuse to embed the song here (see below).
- 50d. [In need of exercise]. DUMPY. This one threw me since I’m more familiar with the “shabby or run-down” definition.
Fun puzzle. 3.85 stars.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “All Over the Place” – Derek’s write-up
OK, I found this one tough. So either I go to my old standby excuse of needing more sleep, or this was simply a tough Jonesin’ puzzle! There isn’t even that much obscure pop culture in this one, but what there is, I had NO clue what they were! (See below.) Enjoyable solve, though, as is expected with a Jonesin’ puzzle. And I can proudly say I learned several things after solving this puzzle! 4.9 stars today.
- 1A [Online request to “pay your respects” when your playable character dies] F’S IN THE CHAT – I had to Google this. I am not a gamer, so I had no clue. This makes for a great 1-Across entry, though!
- 15A [Lead singer on the “Pinkerton” album] RIVERS CUOMO – This dude is in Weezer, who I HAVE heard of. I didn’t know that from the “Pinkerton” reference, though. Also, that album is 25 years old!!
- 22A [Scott of “30 Rock” and “Big Hero 6”] ADSIT – I only know him from 30 Rock. Big Hero 6 is a cartoon, so he likely is doing VO work in that one.
- 33A [Japanese naval architect of WWII, Baron Yuzuru ___] HIRAGA – I believe you. This man is likely highly involved in the Pearl Harbor attack.
- 41A [It involves pinning and throwing] JU-JITSU – Nice clue! This is one of a few variant spellings that are acceptable.
- 55A [Instant ramen brand name, originally (before ditching the middle letter)] CUP O’NOODLES – These taste different when you HAVE to eat them. These are by Nissin, a popular brand.
- 9D [Pop poolside painter] HOCKNEY – No idea who this bloke is. If you know art, then maybe you know this story.
- 23D [“Ehhh, really?”] “I’M NOT SO SURE …” – Great casual phrase!
- 27D [“Too-Ra-Loo-Ra-Loo-___” (Irish classic)] RAL – What?? I still believe you!
- 41D [Briggs who hosts “The Last Drive-in”] JOE BOB – This might be the OPCRotW by far. I don’t understand anything in this clue OR answer!
- 56D [GRF’s vice president] N. A. R. – Nelson A. Rockefeller, if you were wondering. Know your veeps!
I could go on, but I will stop there. Another Jonesin’ next week!
Jeffrey Wechsler’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
I love Jeffrey Wechsler puzzles! What do we have for this edition?
- 19A [*Tour de France participant] BICYCLE RACER
- 34A [*Lo-cal tea brand] DIET SNAPPLE
- 41A [*Singer who’s the namesake of the high school in “Grease”] BOBBY RYDELL
- 54A [One who might use one of the ends of the answers to starred clues] COMPUTER NERD
I highlighted this hidden computer brands in red, since I AM a 54-Across! I wish I know more about programming; perhaps I will take that up when I retire as a hobby! This is a smooth puzzle, especially considering the wide-open corners in this one. Great job, Jeffrey! 4.6 stars from me.
A few more notes:
- 26A [Pinochle combos] MELDS – I haven’t played
- 44A [Poirot’s pals] AMIS – Poirot is technically Belgian, but this clue still works!
- 2D [“The Name Game” singer Shirley] ELLIS – You’re going to have this song stuck in your head now! See the video below! You’re welcome!
- 15D [“The Big Bang Theory” actress __ Bialik who is also a scheduled 2021 “Jeopardy!” guest host] MAYIM – Yes she is! But I wonder when … ?
- 24D [Actress Hayek] SALMA – Is Bliss any good? She is in that I believe.
- 52D [Prepare for takeoff, as a frosty windshield] DEICE – Extra points for you if you have to deice your car at some point in the year.
Have a safe and healthy week!
Kathy Wienberg’s Universal crossword, “Shore Thing” — Jim Q’s write-up
Wow! The wackiness continues in Universal! Loving the risks David is taking with publishing curveballs since coming back from January’s respite.
THEME: Phrases that have SEA in them must be read carefully going down! The solver has to note that SEA is on the “side” of the entry.
- CHA / SEA / WAY. Chase away.
- TEA / SEA / PART. Tease apart.
- DEEP / SEA / TED. Deep seated.
- ALL / SEA / SON. All season.
- (revealer) SEA SIDE.
Outstanding puzzle! Though I confess it’s one of those that I didn’t see until post solve. However, the mystique after failing to interpret the initial theme clue held strong and kept me engaged, wanting to see the theme reveal itself. It was a really nice AHA moment to find those phrases, which were very well hidden. Well, maybe CHA isn’t the best stand-alone entry in a puzzle, but it’s certainly a well established piece of Crosswordese (usually clued punnily as one half of a dance or something…).
More importantly, I really am thoroughly enjoying the puzzles that have been featured since Universal came back from hiatus. I hope this isn’t a fluke! I think quirky themes like this in a puzzle like Universal are an excellent way to engage newer solvers and help shove them down a crossword solving rabbit hole from which they’ll never escape (heck, I’m still there after about 30 years).
A rare 5 stars from me today. That’s the second 5 star rating I’ve given in a weekI think!
Peeve of the day: The NYT clues NTH, not for the first time, as “Last in a series.” If we’re talking about mathematical usage, then it really isn’t; it’s the generic term in a series. For example, a simple series is 1/x + 1/x^2 + 1/x^3 + 1/x^n … It’s an infinite series so there is no last term.
End of peeve.
I also thought SPYFI, OFFPUT and TEHEE were bad. I kind of like DECOCT, though.
Agreed about NTH, SPY-FI, and OFF-PUT. I didn’t mind DECOCT as much, apart from whether it belongs on a Tuesday. I’m also ok with DRAFT CHOICE, which brought a smile.
Oh, beside NTH, another running grievance I have with the NYT is cluing C as an average grade. It’s not just a matter of grade inflation. C was never an average grade. Other puzzles, including the WSJ, clue it differently.
NT: I liked the theme today. Found it fun. Had DRAUGHT PICK at first, which I think is a better entry, but then you wouldn’t have ICEPICK.
AMY: You forgot to slam the MAN in the puzzle — at least it is was buried in the SW basement :)
Was there a “man” dupe in a clue or something?
NYT: I liked the theme idea, but agree that the execution ended up a little discombobulated. I think fewer themers with a tighter focus on sports/alcohol (timeless combo!) would have landed better, and might have allowed for less junk in the rest of the grid.
Also, as an NBA fan I can confirm that SHOT SELECTION is indeed a common basketball term.
Also also, there is a great episode of the podcast Comedy Bang Bang from a few years back in which comedian Joe Wengert plays the sad-sack CEO of Ross Dress for Less. Funnily enough, after the slightest scrutiny of the rhyme scheme or lack thereof, he ends up declaring that the store will be renamed Ross Dross for Loss! Great minds, etc.
NYT: In case anyone cares, SHOT SELECTION is also a legit phrase in golf. Yet another sports reference, I know, but there it is.
LAT: I disagree with Derek’s nit with 44A. Although Poirot is Belgium (and often has to correct people who assume otherwise), his native language is French, so “Poirot’s Pals” is correct.
I agree and I am fascinated that your reviewer gave the puzzle 4.6 stars and the only two votes were for 2 stars. Is this a case of west coast envy? Lovely early week puzzle
UNI: I’ve loved Universal’s boldness over the past week or so, but this was a miss for me. Yet, I’m still glad they are moving in this clever direction, and I think my lack of enjoyment of this puzzle was more of a “me” problem.
UNI: with Cha and Tea, I was expecting two other words for a cuppa. That would have been too good!
Super hard puzzle this week, thanks for the help. Please listen to Pinkerton, it’s by far their best album.