Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle (Week 518), “Blathering Gathering”—Ade’s take
Hello there, everybody! Hope you all are doing great as we try to start this new month in style!
Today’s grid is all about some rhyme time and, in a way, trash talking, with the last names of celebrities and/or fictional characters paired with rhyming words that highlight nonsense talk.
- YOKUM HOKUM (17A: [Blather from Abner of Dogpatch?]) – Guessing Yokum was L’il Abner’s last name?…*Looks up*…Yes, it was!
- DUFF GUFF (25A: [Blather from “Lizzie McGuire” actress Hilary?])
- MAHONEY BALONEY (38A: [With 41-Across, blather from “Frasier” actor John?])
- TOSH BOSH (52A: [Blather from reggae trailblazer Peter?])
- STRUNK BUNK (64A: [Blather from “The Elements of Style” co-author William?])
Had a little bit of a tougher time cracking the middle left portion of the grid than I probably should have, as I knew AMCS (32A: [Ramblers and Pacers, e.g.]) just fine but managed to somehow type “cruiseers” (though I meant “cruisers”) for what turned out to be CHRYSLERS (34D: [Some minivans]). Speaking of whips, we have another car in the grid with LIMOUSINE, with a cute clue to boot (11D: [It can be a stretch?]). Three partials in the grid starting with “A,” with the one for A-MIST getting me for a while given that I could not recall ever hearing of that before (32D: [Love-in-__ (flower]). I’m sure a few of you might have those in your garden, let alone come across the flowers before. Love the clue/entry pairing for UHURU (8D: [Black ___ (reggae band)]). Oh, and before leaving, definitely have to let me know which ISLEY Brothers song is your favorite (68A: [The ___ Brothers (“It’s Your Thing” group)]). For me, it’s definitely Footsteps in the Dark (what an intoxicating beat), with Live It Up being a dark horse in terms of needing to dance and needing a boost.
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: MAYA (30D: [Rudolph of “SNL” fame]) – Listing the on-court accomplishments of basketball legend Maya Moore would be more than enough to explain her greatness: 2x national champion and 3x national player of the year at the University of Connecticut and 4x WNBA champion and 2014 WNBA MVP while with the Minnesota Lynx. But during the height of her career, in 2019, Moore took a sabbatical from basketball to focus her energy on criminal justice reform and advocacy, particularly working to help free a man who was wrongfully imprisoned for two decades. The man, Jonathan Irons, was convicted of a burglary charge at age 16 just outside of St. Louis despite no corroborating witnesses, fingerprints, DNA or blood evidence linking him to the crime. (He was tried as an adult and was found guilty by an all-white jury.) In March 2020, Irons’ conviction was overturned by a Jefferson City, Missouri state judge. On July 1, 2020, Irons walked out of prison a free man. In September of 2020, this happened between Mr. Irons and Ms. Moore…
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Thank you so much for the time, everybody! Have a wonderful and safe rest of your day and, as always, keep solving!
Nina Sloan’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Sweet theme! Candy brand names you wouldn’t want to be called:
- 23a. [Candy with an insulting name #1], GOOBERS. Who’s the biggest goober in public life?
- 29a. [Candy with an insulting name #2], AIRHEADS. I think the pandemic has amplified airheadedness in most of us.
- 33a. [Candy with an insulting name #3], BUTTERFINGERS. I don’t think I drop stuff too much, but I did bonk my head twice in the last two days. #accomplishments
- 40a. [Candy with an insulting name #4], SLO POKES. Man, I loved those as a kid.
- 48a. [Candy with an insulting name #5], DUM DUMS. Mmm, cream soda Dum Dums are the best. A friend of mine has a kid who once expressed favoritism for the root beer flavor (see photo and caption).
I enjoyed the theme, and the puzzle was on target for a Tuesday level of easiness. I do wish that the (iffy) entry STALE AIR weren’t crossing themer AIRHEADS. It’s too airy. I feel a draft in here!
Five more things:
- 35d. [Person who appreciates a walk in the woods, say], NATURIST. Last I checked, naturalists are into the forest, and naturists are into going around in the nude. NATURISTs need to be extra careful during their walks in the woods, because clothes protect much of the body from poison ivy and ticks.
- 22a. [Big name in vapes], JUUL. I like the entry, but hate the way the tobacco companies responded to reduced numbers of smokers. “Hey! Let’s sell ’em the nicotine in another form, and maybe even jack up the dosage so they’re extra addicted.”
- 38a. [Prefix with sexual], PAN. Pop-culture example of someone who’s pansexual: Daniel Levy’s Schitt’s Creek character, David Rose.
- 5d. [Fit on a hard drive?], ROAD RAGE. This entry is starting to be too dangerous for it to be fun crossword fill. Here in Chicago, there’s a toddler recovering from a gunshot in the head, fired by someone in an SUV who was mad another car didn’t let them merge in. Maybe if this country didn’t have so many people packing heat while driving?
- 7d. [Seals, to great white sharks], PREY / 21d. [Bit of Special Forces headwear], BERET. Anyone else start wondering what the Navy SEALs wear? Not berets.
How’d the puzzle treat you folks? 3.75 stars from me.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “Seize Them!” – Derek’s write-up
Or perhaps the title should be “CZ Them! We are dealing with phrases with the initials CZ:
- 17A [Metaphorical space that’s not too taxing] COMFORT ZONE
- 19A [Ohio facility that had an elephant wing named for Marge Schott until 2020] CINCINNATI ZOO
- 36A [2021 Academy Award winner for Best Director] CHLOE ZHAO
- 57A [It’s no diamond] CUBIC ZIRCONIA
- 61A [2016-18 Syfy horror anthology based on Internet creepypastas] CHANNEL ZERO
I saw a lot of Z’s happening early in this solve, but that is only half the story. I am thinking this theme was totally inspired by the win from 36-Across at the recent Oscars that nobody was watching. I will watch Nomadland soon to see what the buzz is all about. I have seen a couple of the other Best Picture nominees, and they are fairly good.
- 26A [“___ of Avalor” (Disney series)] ELENA – For me this is the OPCRotW. I don’t watch Disney much, other than Marvel and Muppet stuff. Oh, and Star Wars. And Hamilton. Phooey!
- 50A [“Wynonna ___” (Syfy series)] EARP – This series is over now, as I believe I read the series finale was just in the last week or two. Not in my wheelhouse at all
- 4D [Actress Mosley with the podcast “Scam Goddess”] LACI – This is actually the OPCRotW! No idea about anything in this clue!
- 5D [Massey of “Love Happy”] ILONA – This actress is crossword famous! I don’t even know what she looks like!
- 15D [2007 film in Edgar Wright’s “Cornetto trilogy”] HOT FUZZ – I didn’t now there was a trilogy! I will look into this. Isn’t this the Simon Pegg movie?
- 25D [“Archer” character with an extensive back tattoo] PAM – An Archer ref! Love it!
- 29D [Mort who hosted the first Grammy Awards ceremony] SAHL – Another crossword famous person! I don’t know what he looks like either. I’ll bet those first Grammys were quite different than they are now!
Another Jonesin’ next week!
Prasanna Keshava’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
Be a pal and enjoy this review!
- 19A [Aid for shade at the shore] BEACH UMBRELLA
- 29A [Award first won by Naughty by Nature] BEST RAP ALBUM
- 39A [“Breaking news!” teaser] “FILM AT ELEVEN”
- 50A [Facebook invite … to which the circled letters respond] FRIEND REQUEST
Are we friends now? Yes, each of the words could be used as an opener when you want to ask someone to help you move! Very nicely done, and it almost looks like a themeless grid, so well done Prasanna! I count 72 words, which is heading down to themeless word count territory. A fun solve: 4.4 stars today.
A few notes:
- 15A [Deficiency of red blood cells, across the pond] ANAEMIA – We are not in Britain!
- 25A [Chain with links] IHOP – I haven’t been to IHOP in years. I also haven’t been to any restaurant to sit down in several months
- 55A [Former weekly with home viewing listings] TV GUIDE – They don’t print this weekly anymore? Does anyone even watch TV anymore?
- 12D [Dressed like many Union soldiers] IN BLUE – A little forced, but solvable.
- 42D [“You bet!”] “SURE DO!” – Great casual phrase!
Everyone have a safe and healthy week!
Enrique Henestroza Anguiano’s Universal crossword, “Mixed Grains” — Jim Q’s write-up
THEME: The word SAND can be found jumbled in common phrases.
- BRAND STRATEGY
- SENDS ALONG
- STAYED SANE
- (revealer) SHIFTING SANDS
This puzzle strikes me as a perfect one for introducing newer solvers to this theme type. Clean fill, transparent theme, and a crystal clear revealer.
For me it was a fairly standard solve. Nothing really grabbed my attention. SHIFTING SANDS is certainly a valid phrase, just not one I use or hear very often. Same goes for BRAND STRATEGY. And STAYED SANE doesn’t quite feel like a stand-alone phrase to me. Don’t get me wrong, the puzzle works just fine- and it was in my strike zone, but just a little outside.
I don’t understand the clue for 33D [Natural sleep aid?] BRAINSTEM. Good entry (as is its symmetrical partner BODY BLOWS), but lemme go ahead and google that. Aha! Things I’ve forgotten from biology class. This explains it.
This theme is better served with circled letters, which Universal is unable to accommodate in its widely available platforms. So while this is an excellent introductory puzzle imo, it has a problem. Circled letters are a clear, clean visual aid. Asking solvers (especially newer ones) to count and mentally circle their own letters is a bit much. I’ve seen it fall flat many times when co-solving Universal puzzles that employ this technique with beginners. I don’t understand why they are offering two different solving experiences (download the puzzle as it should appear from this blog, or solve it on paper/ in web applet).
3 stars with circles, 2 stars without.
Julian Lim’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Against All Odds”—Jim P’s review
Theme entries feature even numbers in the circled letters on the outer edges of each phrase. These even numbers are therefore “broken” by the rest of the phrase. The revealer is BREAK EVEN (58a, [Have no profit or loss, and a hint to the circled letters]).
- 17a. [Powerful engine] TWIN TURBO
- 21a. [Disagreeable state] FOUL TEMPER
- 36a. [Ingredient in a margarita] SWEET AND SOUR MIX
- 50a. [What the exhausted crave] EARLY NIGHT
- (Two, Four, Six, Eight. Who do we appreciate?!)
It feels weird to call a number an EVEN, using that word as a noun. That said, I am impressed that the first four even numbers are found hidden in lively answers and that everything fits in numerical order as well as symmetrically.
MANPURSE tops the fill along with the skateboarders’ clothing brand NO FEAR (which is not the same as L.A. GEAR which I tried first). On the shaky side there’s roll-your-own PELTER as well as NEW DO, which feels incomplete.
Clues of note:
- 19a. [Make a cameo, e.g.]. CARVE. Jewelry, not acting.
- 46d. [Salon offering]. NEW DO. Maybe I’d like it better if the clue was something like [Part of a makeover, perhaps].
I’m still not so keen on the revealer, but everything else is solid. 3.6 stars.