Angela Olson Halsted & Doug Peterson’s New York Times crossword, “Game Changers”—Amy’s write-up
Write-up and grid after dinner. Feel free to comment in the meantime!
—I’m back. Theme revealer is EXTRA INNINGS, timely for the start of baseball season. Clue is 120a. [Ballgame extenders … and what can literally be found in the answers to the asterisked clues]. The other themers are made by adding I, N, N, I, N, G, S to familiar phrases:
- 23a. [*Perfect curveball?], IDEAL BREAKER. There’s the extra “I” from INNINGS, tacked on to the front of DEAL.
- 33a. [*Batting coach’s instruction to a lackadaisical hitter?], BUNT SERIOUSLY. But.
- 40a. [*Apprentice groundskeepers?], LAWN STUDENTS. Law.
- 65a. [*Overenthusiastic description of a routine base hit?], SO FAIR, SO GOOD. Far.
- 72a. [*Umpire’s aid in judging foul balls?], LINE DETECTOR. Lie.
- 99a. [*Long hours of fielding practice?], LABOR OF GLOVE. Love. “Labor of glove” is awkward. Can you think of another 12-letter basebally wacky phrase made by adding G to a familiar 11-letter phrase?
- 104a. [*Imperceptible fastball movement?], INVISIBLE SINK. Ink.
Having the added letters spell a relevant word makes for a more elegant them than just adding the same letter to all the phrases.
- Lovely cluing throughout from Doug and Angela:
Consider 6d. [Group sometimes said to be “out”], for JURY. You think about the LGBTQ sort of “out” and the “no longer in style” sort of “out” before the JURY comes to mind, if you’re like me.
- And 32d. [It plays a role in arm-twisting], that sounds like we’re looking for some sort of 4-letter coercion-related term, but it’s literal twisting of the arm with the ULNA.
- 73d. [Seller of Belgian waffles and French toast (fittingly, considering the “I” in its name)], IHOP. Hey, foodies who’ve been to Belgium: Are the Belgian waffles in the U.S. strikingly different from those in Belgium?
My fave fill includes “IT’S ALIVE!,” HOT WATER, SET LISTS, FOLK MUSIC, ST. BARTS, BAO ([Chinese steamed bun], and also the title of a delightful Pixar short), and EGGPLANTS (with a great clue, [In the Renaissance, they were known as “mala insana” (“mad apples”)])
Four more things:
- 48d. [Tina Turner, voicewise], ALTO. There’s a new HBO documentary called Tina and I hear it’s good. Have you seen it yet?
- 38d. [When doubled, a Nabokov protagonist], HUMBERT. Your protagonist is both a pedophile and an unreliable narrator. Nabokov, did you really have to go that route? Can we just call him the antagonist, since he’s also that?
- 93d. [Russian city on the Ural River], ORSK. It’s not even the biggest city in Orenburg Oblast! I tried OMSK first; it’s not on the Ural but it’s about five times the size of ORSK and I feel like it’s got more crosswordese cred. At any rate, LABOM OF GLOVE was perplexing me till I straightened this out.
- 47d. [Nothing special], SO-SO. This one is less than SO-SO since it’s crossing SO FAIR, SO GOOD. Could have been VIA SYSTEMS HATHA crossing VETO IMHO and sad partial A SAD. You could argue that’s better, you could argue it’s worse.
- 46a. [Singer/songwriter Parks with the 2021 album “Collapsed in Sunbeams”], ARLO. Here’s her song “Hurt,” off of that album.
4.25 stars from me. Angela and Doug, I forgive you for the plethora of sports clues!
Ed Sessa’s LA Times crossword, “Key Characters” – Jenni’s write-up
If the best thing I can say about the theme is “at least it’s not completely made up like last week’s,” that’s – not great. Each theme answer contains a symbol seen on the top row of the keyboard (at least on the top row of my keyboard). This morning the role of the circles will be played by the color red.
- 17d [Monets, Manets, etc] is IMPRESSIONIST ART.
- 23a [Was in the running for] is HAD A SHOT AT. When I typed that out, I reversed the clue and the answer. This tells you that there’s no wordplay in the theme.
- 36d [Marriage phrase from the Book of Common Prayer] is TIL DEATH DO US PART. I presume the Book of Common Prayer is in there to justify the TIL instead of the more common TILL.
- 42a [City planner’s concern] is URBAN GROWTH. Wikipedia tells me this usage for “exclamation point” comes from 1950s stenographers.
- 50a [Like much jewelry, in ads] is FINE QUALITY. Sigh. First of all it’s the EQUAL sign, not just the EQUAL. I had a second of all because both my husband and I call it the EQUALS sign, but a Google Ngram search tells me EQUAL SIGN is more common, so OK.
- 68a [Ball of fire] is a HUMAN DYNAMO. If BANG is OK for “exclamation point” then AND is OK for “ampersand.” “Ampersand is more fun.
- 77a [Prom invitation] is CARE TO DANCE? Only if it’s the Senior Prom at Shady Pines. I can’t see even the suavest tux- or gown-clad teenager uttering this phrase.
- 100a [Colorful top] is an ALOHA SHIRT. Also needs a “sign” in my book.
I’m on call, so I’m both tired and cranky this morning. I wouldn’t have liked this theme even if I were on vacation (although then I wouldn’t have had to write about it).
A few other things:
- 11d [Parlor furniture support] is a SOFA LEG. In my head, SOFAs go in the den or living room. The parlor has a davenport or a settee.
- Today’s entry into the annals of “let’s see how we can clue a woman’s name without actually referencing a woman” is [Steak ____]: DIANE. I can see how that went. “DIANE Ross. No, that’s not right. DIANE Fossey. Ah, crap, that doesn’t work either. Steak! Everyone likes steak. Mmm, steak. Time for lunch.” DIANE Rehm would like a word with you. She’s wondering why IRA Flatow gets all the public radio crossword glory.
- 38a [Boxes for drawers?] are PEN CASES. Don’t let the attempt at wordplay in the clue distract you from the fact that “pencil cases” is the more common usage, and this time Google Ngrams agrees with me.
- Glad to know about BANCO for the next time I play baccarat in Monte Carlo.
- There’s probably a sedimentologist somewhere who uses the word SILTS to denote samples from various locations. The rest of us (including the household structural geologist) say SILT. Singular. I know it’s supposed to be fair game in crosswords to pluralize everything. Doesn’t make it right.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: never heard of the Muppet SAL Minella, and I’m not happy that I have now.
Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Jukebox Musicals” – Jim Q’s Write-up
THEME: Pop songs whose titles are reminiscent of Broadway musicals.
- 23A [James Brown song that would be apt for the “Once” score?] THERE WAS A TIME.
- 34A [George Thorogood and the Destroyers song that would be apt for the “Wicked” score?] BAD TO THE BONE.
- 48A [Average White Band song that would be apt for the “Chess” score?] PICK UP THE PIECES.
- 69A [Brad Paisley song that would be apt for the “Fame” score?] CELEBRITY.
- 73A [Foreigner song that would be apt for the “Frozen” score?] COLD AS ICE.
- 91A [Pink song that would be apt for the “Anything Goes” score?] WHATEVER YOU WANT.
- 110A [Kacey Musgraves song that would be apt for the “Carousel” score?] MERRY GO ROUND.
- 121A [Beatles song that would be apt for the “Oliver!” score?] TWIST AND SHOUT.
This was fun :) Over-the-plate type theme with no extra bells or whistles attached. I half-expected the first letter of each song to spell something out, which is a familiar motif of Evan’s when he publishes a seemingly simple theme. But nope! And that’s totally fine.
The apt songs are appropriate for the musicals’ titles of course, not the musicals themselves. After all, Elphaba certainly isn’t BAD TO THE BONE, and Carousel (a musical I’ve always found rather disturbing) doesn’t really have anything to do with MERRY GO ROUNDs. But it was a good time to draw the connections between the songs and titles. I was able to get TWIST AND SHOUT with no crosses, but that was the only one.
There’s a number of musicals out there whose titles are already songs. Those are often the jukebox musicals to which the title is referring. Off the top of my head…. ummm… Mamma Mia, 9 to 5, Movin’ Out… those last two aren’t really jukebox musicals. Oooh… how bout Bat out of Hell: The Musical? That was awesome. So very bad that it was so very good.
I’m trying to remember the last Broadway musical I saw before the shut down. I go (err… went) to theater so frequently in New York that I can’t remember. I know the last play I saw was The Minutes, by Tracy Letts. Loved it. I’m one of a handful of audiences that saw it after it opened. Perhaps it was the Bob Dylan musical? Girl from the North Country? Yes, that’s probably it. Broadway is supposedly re-opening in September, but it actually opened (however briefly) a couple days ago. I will say that I’ve saved a boatload of money this last year without feeding that habit. But I can’t wait to go back.
Anyhow, back to the puzzle. Good fill. Fresh clues. All that jazz. What were the new names for you? For me it was Carrie NYE, aptly a Tony nominated stage actress, ANITA Dongre, ERIN Moriarty, Deanna TROI, LUIS Arce, and Sean MAHER. I think that’s it. I have yet to watch MANK, so that name wasn’t on the forefront of my mind either.
Thanks for the puzzle, Evan!
Hal Moore’s Universal Sunday crossword, “Pick, Quick!”—Jim P’s review
Today’s theme changes some P’s to Q’s in well-known expressions with the revealer MIND YOUR P’S AND Q’S (117a, [“Behave,” or a theme hint]).
- 21a. [Mexican dip in Manila?] PHILIPPINE QUESO. Peso. “Cheese” in Filipino is “keso” (due to the Philippines being a former Spanish colony), so I wish a different entry were found in lieu of this; it’s too close to the original.
- 26a. [Venomous porcupine’s defense?] POISON QUILL. Pill. I’ve met one porcupine up close in my life (it came to our front door in Washington state), and I’m fer darn sure glad it wasn’t venomous. But “venomous” is used incorrectly here. Venom is typically injected (via bite or sting) when attacking. An animal’s toxic defense is referred to as a poison (poison dart frog, e.g.).
- 55a. [One particle in alignment with another?] PARALLEL QUARK. Park.
- 66a. [Charming old color assortment?] QUAINT PALETTE. Paint.
- 81a. [Factory that makes noisy toy ducks?] QUACKING PLANT. Packing.
- 109a. [Airplane flyers who have misgivings?] QUALM PILOTS. Palm. Meh. Qualm is a noun, so this one’s a little awkward.
So…a couple things. First, P’s aren’t just changed to Q’s; the Q’s come with U’s. It’s a package deal kinda thing, I guess. Obviously, you generally need the U’s when working with Q’s, but it’s just odd when the idiomatic phrase specifically calls out certain letters but not U’s. So it’s just one of those things. We accept it or we don’t, and we move on.
Second, I would normally say that there shouldn’t be any other instances of the changed letter in the final answers, but here our constructor made that a feature instead of a bug. The original phrases were all double-P’d phrases (both words started with P). But only one of them changed—sometimes the first, sometimes the second. But the phrase is MIND YOUR P’S AND Q’S, so it’s up to you to determine which ones are altered and which aren’t. So, yeah, I’m okay with that.
Where does that leave me? If I’m okay with the U’s tagging along, then I like the theme just fine. It’s not overly thrilling, but it works well enough. And dealing with all those Q’s definitely puts a strain on the fill. Let’s check that out.
COLLOQUY, PIQUE, NIQAB (all nice), ACQUIT, SHAQ, QUIT (solid), and BBQ PIT (okay, I guess). On the whole, well-handled. What else is nice in the fill? FLOUR MILLS, STEEP CLIMB, TIME LIMIT, BAIL OUT, PRAIRIE, OP-ED PAGE, INDONESIA, new Senator RAPHAEL Warnock, and the CASPIAN and CARIBBEAN Seas. Strong fill for the most part.
Clues of note:
- 43a. [Weed chemical, for short]. THC. Got me with this one as the springtime weather made me think of yard work and herbicides and such.
- 49d. [“Genesis does what Nintendon’t” sloganeer]. SEGA. Yeah, like get out of the console business.
- 59d. [Take place?]. OP-ED PAGE. Tough clue at odds with the much easier clues throughout the puzzle. But I like it.
- 80d. [15 minutes, say, at a crossword tournament]. TIME LIMIT. Is there a tournament with only a 15-minute limit? That seems awfully short. Maybe in the final rounds, I suppose.
I’m still not totally okay with the whole QU thing, but what else could be done with it? Very nice fill in the grid, though. 3.5 stars.