Dick Shlakman & Will Nedigers New York Times crossword, “Merger Mania”—Amy’s write-up
I enjoyed this puzzle. I liked the theme, and there was so much good stuff scattered throughout the grid, like IDA B. WELLS, JABOUKIE Young-White (I’ve followed him on Twitter and appreciate that his first name is supervocalic—uses each of the vowels exactly once), CELESTE Ng. Non-people fill like UBER-X, REHYDRATE, ABACAB, TIME CRUNCH, the UNDEAD wights—I liked that, too.
Here’s the theme, where two companies “merge” by having a product from each of them combine to form a familiar phrase:
- 23a. [Result of a merger between Quaker Oats and Greyhound?], LIFE COACHES. Life cereal, Greyhound motorcoaches.
- 46a. [Result of a merger between Kraft and Hershey’s?], SINGLES BARS. Kraft Singles cheezoid, Hershey’s chocolate bars.
- 51a. [Result of a merger between Google and Planters?], DRIVE NUTS. Google Drive, where you have your Google Docs and Sheets, and Planters peanuts.’
- 68a. [Result of a merger between Hasbro and Nikon?], TROUBLE SHOOTERS. The Pop-o-Matic board game Trouble, cameras that shoot.
- 91a. [Result of a merger between Procter & Gamble and Jacuzzi?], TIDE POOLS. Tide laundry detergent (Tide Free powder adherent here) and Jacuzzi hot tubs/pools.
- 94a. [Result of a merger between Hormel and Instagram?], SPAM FILTERS. Love it! There is actually Spam in my fridge right now; my son likes it with eggs, like any good Filipino.
- 120a. [Result of a merger between Ralph Lauren and Starbucks?], POLO GROUNDS. Polo shirts/clothes, coffee grounds. I learned from crosswords that the Polo Grounds were a baseball venue. Maybe the Dodgers? Not entirely clear on that. Defunct stadiums are not of much interest to me.
Just six more things, because my family’s waiting for me:
- 14d. [Lead-in to an Indiana “-ville”], EVANS. Weird clue angle for a common name—but my cousin once lived in Evansville so this was a gimme.
- 72a. [Bird like the Canada goose or arctic tern], MIGRANT. Hoping the piping plover pair return to Chicago’s Montrose Beach to nest again. They winter down in Florida or Georgia, but have nested here in the spring the last few years. Endangered and precious!
- 109d. [Birkin stock?], BAGS. As in the super-spendy line of Hermès bags, playing on Birkenstock sandals.
- 111d. [Quinceañera, e.g.], RITE. I went to one when my son was one of the chambelanes for his friend’s quince. I do not have the footwork skills to dance well to fast Latin music.
- 98d. [JAMA contributors], DRS. Hey! I’m participating in a Johns Hopkins study whose preliminary results were reported in JAMA last month. Hit the big time!
- 99a. [___ reform, cause for the Marshall Project], BAIL. The Chicago Community Bond Fund has also been working on this issue, and the governor signed into law an end to cash bail.
4.5 stars from me.
Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Themeless No. 16” – Jim Q’s Write-up
They sneak up on you, don’t they? Just when you start to forget that WaPo dabbles in themeless 21x puzzles, Whoomp! There it is.
There was a lot to like, as there darn well should be in a jumbo themeless!
Favorites for me included:
- 51A [Stressful competition?] POETRY SLAM. Excellent entry with a great clue. “Stressful” in the context referring to stressed syllables in the poems.
- 1A [Assessments providing incontrovertible proof] ACID TESTS. Don’t think I’ve ever seen this phrase without the words “Electric Kool-Aid” before it. Not to be confused with the BAR EXAM.
- 67A [Artistic movements?] INTERPRETIVE DANCE. Little curveball with the decision to make the clue plural.
- 93A [Spent] DEAD TIRED.
- 104A [“Don’t even need to look up the answer!”] I’M RIGHT. Who doesn’t love knowing trivia before someone else can google it?
- 110A [Condition of a jinxed team, so to speak] BAD MOJO.
- 116A [Nitwit] DING-A-LING. Not to be confused with the DING-A-LING of Chuck Berry’s earworm.
- 17D [Knight-time event?] RENAISSANCE FAIRE. That’s one groaner of a clue if I’ve ever sen one.
- 43D [Most expensive property between Go and Jail (not counting houses or hotels)] READING RAILROAD. Hands up for trying to remember the name of the light blue property adjacent to Jail.
- 92D [Access point for some rescues?] PET DOOR. Rescues being shelter animals in this context. My Great Dane uses the regular door (he can open it… if only I can get him to close it!) to get IN AND OUT of my house.
- 111D [First name among legendary ax wielders?] JIMI. Hendrix, of course. “Ax” referring to the guitar.
New for me:
- SPACE PEN
- YIPPIES (I keep trying to watch The Trial of the Chicago 7 but I fall asleep before it’s five minutes in).
- The RARITAN River.
- Names: Eric CARLE, LAMAR Jackson, SAM Seder, KEN Watanbe (I kept reading that as “wannabe” in the clue), Christopher ORR, Marielle FRANCO
- Interesting Jane Austen quote in the clue for 115D [“One cannot always be laughing at a ___ without now and then stumbling on something witty”: Jane Austen] MAN. Can’t tell whether this is complimentary or insulting!
- It felt like I came across a lot of food clues. Hmmm… let me look back. 4d [Takes evening courses?] DINES, 95D [Gobbles (down)] SCARFS, 100D [Gobbled up] EATEN, 16A [Chow] GRUB. This puzzle is making me hungry! Bring on the SATAY, EDAM, TRISCUITS, and a SIDE ORDER of tater tots sprinkled with ROMANO!
- One very particular area: FORA, PRATE, AT TEN, SADE, LOIRE all hanging out together with the clue for APPS being rather difficult.
I was hoping for some more colorful answers that would never fit into a normal 15x grid as well.
Other than that, very enjoyable!
Jacob Stulberg’s Universal Sunday crossword, “Whose Side Are You On?”—Jim P’s review
Our theme consists of protagonists paired with one of their antagonists while one of their usual buddies is off to the side by their lonesome (clued as someone else).
This is all explained by the phrase KEEP YOUR FRIENDS CLOSE / AND YOUR ENEMIES CLOSER (67a, [With 75-Across, interpersonal advice depicted four times in this puzzle?]).
- 23a. [*Antagonistic pair from detective fiction] HOLMES MORIARTY with 22a [*Golfer Bubba] WATSON.
- 39a. [*Antagonistic pair from DC comics] POISON IVY BATMAN with 45a [*Bird symbolizing spring] ROBIN. I imagine Poison Ivy was chosen for symmetry’s sake; I don’t consider her to be one of Batman’s primary foes like Joker, Riddler, or Penguin.
- 96a. [*Antagonistic pair from Nintendo games] MARIO DONKEY KONG with 93a [*Playwright Pirandello] LUIGI. Similar to the last one, Donkey Kong hasn’t played Mario’s foe in many years and is sometimes portrayed as an ally. Mario’s chief rival is Bowser, of course.
- 111a. [*Antagonistic pair from a sitcom] NEWMAN SEINFELD with 118a [*Name before or after “vs.,” in a 1979 film title] KRAMER.
I love the the theme revealer in this one. Learning that the phrase can be split into two 20-letter segments at just the right spot is an amazing find. That said, I’m not sure about the implementation of the theme with protagonist and antagonist smushed together yielding an entry that doesn’t make much sense on its own. I got used to it easily enough, but it just feels odd, especially in those cases where the antagonism isn’t as iconic.
There’s a ton of theme material in this grid, so there’s little long fill to speak of—just a handful of 7s. But MALTESE, MANAGUA, ANDROID, and ABALONE are all nice, though I don’t know what a MALTESE dog looks like. Oh, there’s one.
Clues of note:
- 36a. [Low organ part]. PEDAL. Even when I put in the last letter to this one I was still thinking body parts, not musical instruments. Duh!
- 48a. [Unlock]. OPEN. I don’t equate those two.
Still not sure how I feel about this one. It works for the most part, but it’s just odd. 3.4 stars.
Paul Coulter’s LA Times crossword, “Four of a Kind” – Jenni’s write-up
Circles. Why did it have to be circles? Well, it had to be circles because the theme answers begin and end with the same four letters, so there you go. I thought that was the whole theme until I got to the revealer at the end, which at least didn’t have circles. The whole thing made me sorta grumpy. I like a little wordplay in my puzzles, especially on Sunday. This is more “hey! I found five phrases that begin and end with the same four letters! And I can make them symmetrical!” It’s one of those things constructors notice about language, and I’m sure it’s a feat of construction (maybe. Not a constructor). Doesn’t make it any more fun to solve. The theme answers are clued straight and we know which ones they are by the circles. Which is where I started this paragraph, so let’s get on with it, shall we?
- 23a [Law firm standout] is a LEGAL EAGLE.
- 25a [Stay afloat, in a way] is TREAD WATER.
- 42a [Near-perfect bridge feat] is a SMALL SLAM.
- 46a [South American shocker] is an ELECTRIC EEL.
- 68a [Future educator’s goal] is a TEACHING CERTIFICATE. And a system that treats teachers as the professionals they are and pays them accordingly. Hey, a girl can dream.
- 90a [Vietnam War defoliant] is AGENT ORANGE. I’m not a huge proponent of the breakfast test. If I were, this entry would definitely fail. I’ve taken care of vets who were exposed to this vile stuff. I can’t imagine what it did to the people on the ground. No, actually, I can imagine, which is why I don’t want to see this in my crossword.
- 92a [Bonneville racing venue] is the SALT FLATS.
- 113a [Did a flower garden task] is DEADHEADED.
And the revealer: 116a [Tennis umpire’s order after odd-numbered games….and a hint to the two sets of circled letters in each of eight answers]. It’s CHANGE ENDS. I don’t think we really needed a hint, did we? A confirmed “meh” from me on the theme.
A few other things:
- Does anyone ever use LILTS to refer to “light songs?”
- It wasn’t so terrible when my kid was AGE TWO. Now, three, on the other hand….
- Can’t, at the moment, think of any pop groups whose names include COMMAS. I’m sure there’s one I should know. I was looking for UMLAUT, which didn’t fit. I suspect this was put in to ping off of 13d [Words in some pop group names] which is a bad clue for a bad entry: ANDS.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that ABBIE Cornish appeared in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.”