Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle (Week 514), “Extended Play!”—Ade’s take
Hello there, everyone! Hope all is well with you in starting out the week.
We are getting a whole lot of play out of today’s puzzle, with the four theme entries combining two common phrases with a shared word into one long phrase. Furthermore, the last word in each of those entries is a word that can come after the word “play.” A number of people do not play around when solving puzzles, but you have no other choice with this grid!
- SPELL CHECKLIST (16A: [Daily reminder for a witch?])
- RAGING BULLPEN (29A: [Tempestuous warm-up area for pitchers?])
- OYSTER BEDTIME (46A: [When a bivalve hits the hay?])
- WILL POWERHOUSE (61A: [Highly-energetic trusts and estates lawyer?])
Seeing DRY TOWNS immediately made me think of when I was searching for a new way to clue “dry” and ended up coming across the fact that about half of all the counties in the state of Arkansas are indeed dry (35D: [Spiritless cities?]). Definitely makes me wonder what would have happened if the state school, the University of Arkansas, had won their Elite Eight game against Baylor last week and gone to the Final Four. Or when the men’s basketball team won it all in 1994 with then-President Clinton, one of the most famous Arkansans, present at the game. How would the dry towns have celebrated? Yes, first-world problems, I know, but just wondering still! I’m not sure if I’ve ever come across CASH RICH, other than just saying that I “have cash on me” when mentioning that scenario, which does not happen too many times with me (36D: [Having lots of spending money on hand]).
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: GOOSE (31D: [Fla. team that won Super Bowl LV]) – The D-1 NCAA Tournaments have just wrapped up, and seeing the entry smack dab in the middle of the grid reminded me of one of the great NCAA Tournament players of all time, the University of Kentucky’s Jack “Goose” Givens. In the 1978 national title game, Givens scored a career-high 41 points as he led the Wildcats to their fifth NCAA title with a 94-88 victory over Duke in St. Louis. Goose was a three-time All-SEC First Team selection and, after his collegiate days, was drafted in the first round by the Atlanta Hawks and played two seasons with the franchise.
Thank you so much for the time, everybody! Have a wonderful and safe rest of your day and, as always, keep solving!
Amanda Chung & Karl Ni’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Oops, I forgot all about blogging till midnight arrived! Thank goodness Ade had the post up hours ago. So let me get this out quickly now.
Cute theme! Three colloquial (if a bit old-school) phrases that start with an interjection and end with a woman’s name get strikingly similar clues: 16a. [“Omigosh, girl!”] / 23a. [“Dang, girl!”] / 35d. [With 37-Down, “Wow, girl!”] for HEAVENS TO BETSY, GEEZ LOUISE, and GOOD GOLLY, MISS MOLLY. A tall and thin 14×16 grid and left/right symmetry accommodates the theme set.
More modern slang peppers the grid: DEETS for details, TOTES for totally, BFFS, a POSSE of friends who are your [Crew].
- 4a. [Place for meals on wheels], BAR CAR. Back in my Amtrak traveling days, I think there was a dining car separate from the bar car? Are the meals in the BAR CAR now?
- 31a. [“To ___ by silence, when we should protest, makes cowards out of men”: Ella Wheeler Wilcox], SIN. Excellent quote.
- 42d. [Place for a sensor in tennis], NET CORD. Huh. News to me!
Four stars from me. Enjoy Little Richard.
Joe Hansen’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Single Spaces”—Jim P’s review
BASEBALL / DIAMONDS are today’s theme (25a, [With 49-Across, a hint to the circled letters]). Each grouping of circled letters is in the shape of a diamond and spells out one MLB team name.
The teams are the REDS, CUBS, RAYS, and METS in the corners and the PHILLIES in the center.
That’s cute, yeah? It’s nice to have something different (a curveball, if you’ll allow it) every once in a while, and this works well enough.
It does mean that the puzzle can feel very much like a themeless, so one would hope for some nice, strong fill. ANASTASIA and NEAT FREAK top the list. EASINESS is on the bland side, but since it must start with E_S-, there aren’t a lot of options there. BARKEEPS [Tap tenders] in the other corner is nicer, but I feel like “barkeep” is more often used as a term of address and less a job title. TEE TIME and DAYS OFF round things out and make a nice pairing.
Clues of note:
- 33a. [Holler from Homer]. DOH. With the baseball theme, why not turn this one around to [Homer holler] as a slight bit of misdirection?
- 8d. [Mother of Eric and Donald Jr.]. IVANA. With a little bit of re-work, this could be made into IPANA which would be a huge improvement.
Baseball fans maybe got more out of this grid than I did; I found it to be solid enough, though. 3.5 stars.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “Never Say Never” – Derek’s write-up
This phenomenon has been going on for a while now; this theme is a fresh take on an old annoyance!
- 16A [Song activity #1] HAND OVER
- 23A [Song activity #2] BE DISAPPOINTING
- 35A [Song activity #3] GALLIVANT
- 49A [Song activity #4] LEAVE HIGH AND DRY
- 59A [Song-based trick wherein the things the singer’s “never gonna” do to you describe the theme answers, in order] RICK ROLL
You know this song is going to end up in this post, don’t you? Would you have it any other way? That way you can verify the lyrics of the theme, which I am too lazy to write here! Suffice it to say Matt skipped over “Never gonna make you cry”, unless that is lumped in with 49-Across! A funny puzzle this week! 4.5 stars.
A few notes:
- 18A [Senator Kyrsten] SINEMA – Timely. She has been in the news recently. I’ll leave it at that!
- 19A [Linguistic suffix with “morph” or “phon”] EME – The word phoneme comes up a lot in rebus puzzles; not so much in school!
- 64A [World leader whose name is repeated in Dead Kennedys’ “Holiday in Cambodia”] POL POT – Never a great reference, but clued this way is at least palatable.
- 9D [The Red Devils of the Premier League, when abbreviated (the team uses this as their website)] MAN. UTD. – I think this means Matt found Manchester United abbreviated this way at their team URL! It works.
- 13D [Casey’s place, in a poem] THE BAT – An odd partial, if nothing else. But easy enough to solve!
- 27D [Channel that airs frequent reruns of “Family Feud”] GSN – There is another channel called Buzzr that I recently found; I think it is on Pluto TV. Which is free! Great if you want to watch reruns of Charles Nelson Reilly on Match Game from the mid-’70s!
- 50D [“The Neighbors” actress Jami] GERTZ – No, she was in Twister! (At least that is the only thing I think I have ever seen that she was in!)
Here is that earworm for you!
Gary Larson’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
I misread the revealer at first; I had no idea what this theme was! I must need a vacation … the revealer is at 37-Across:
- 15A [*Instant in which emotional decisions are made] HEAT OF THE MOMENT
- 61A [*Defeat soundly] BEAT THE PANTS OFF
- 1D [*Flaky type] SPACE CADET
- 28D [*Employment field] LINE OF WORK
- 37A [Like jobs with no future … and what the start of each answer to a starred clue can be?] DEAD-END
So we have dead heat, dead beat, etc. You get the drift. For some reason I thought we were dealing with the ends of the clues! Reading is hard.But this puzzle was fun! 4.3 stars from me.
Some minor points:
- 19A [Female surfer] WAHINE – When I see this word, I don’t mentally see a surfer. But I think this simply means female in Hawaiian. Correct me if I am wrong.
- 67A [Cowboy singer Gene] AUTRY – Haven’t seen this name in forever, for some reason.
- 15D [MLB’s Astros, on scoreboards] HOU. – Usually clues don’t bother me, but there is no need to give ink to the cheaters in this clue! There are the Texans, the Rockets, even the Houston Comets of the WNBA for that matter! If the entry is actually ASTRO or something, then I can understand it. But in this case, you could go in a few other directions.
- 39D [Mad Magazine mascot Alfred E. __] NEUMAN – They still make this mag! It isn’t quite the same as it used to be. Still awfully funny at times, though!
- 62D [“Do or do not. There is no __”: Yoda] TRY – This is a great inspirational phrase; I should write this in calligraphy and hang it in my office!
Everyone have a safe and healthy week!
Zachary David Levy and Joanne Sullivan’s Universal crossword, “Takeout Order” — Jim Q’s write-up
Another “out-of-the-norm” puzzle from Universal! Sometimes I feel like these come in spurts. Probably just me.
THEME: The word ACT needs to be removed from themers in order for the clue to make sense.
- 16A [Tag sale task] PRACTICING. Pricing.
- 25A [Misplace] LACTOSE. Lose.
- 27A [Supporting] FACTOR. For.
- 32A [Sway] EXACT CHANGE. Exchange.
- 45A [Flushed] REDACT. Red.
- 47A [Bathroom surface] TACTILE. Tile.
- 55A [“Stop pretending!”… or a hint to answering each starred clue] “DROP THE ACT!”
That’s a lot of themers! Interesting that this idea works for so many words/phrases. Nice finds all around… especially EXACT CHANGE. I realized something funky was going on and started ignoring clues for the themers and letting the downs do their thing. Then I jumped to the bottom and got the revealer. I was glad I uncovered that comparatively early on because it was enjoyable to know what was going on while figuring out the rest of the themers. Cute little AHA moments abound. In fact, I would’ve preferred the revealer in the title (similar to a recent Universal puzzle where I thought OVER AND OUT should’ve been the title).
I can see a puzzle like this may be frustrating to a brand new solver, but I like Universal’s approach to non-conventional themes. I think it’s important to run puzzles like this here and there. It keeps it fresh and fun.
Let’s see… anything else? I don’t remember stumbling in the fill or giving anything side-eye at all… I was solving in the web applet, which I find clunky, so that is usually a bigger target of frustration over anything in the fill. Looking it over, seems pretty standard. Nothing flashy (not that there can be with all that theme), and nothing to gripe about other than EAT RAW which… is that an in-language phrase?
Overall, impressive, quirky, and very fun to puzzle out.