Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle (Week 519), “Let’s Take the Low Road!”—Ade’s take
Hello everybody! Hope you all are doing well to begin the week once more!
It’s always a fascinating visual when the theme set are all downs, and this is no different. All of the five longest down entries end with words, all toward the bottom of the grid in location, that can come before the word “road.”
- NORTHANGER ABBEY (3D: [Coming-of-age Jane Austen novel])
- AMERICAN DIRT (5D: [2020 Jeanine Cummins novel, and an Oprah’s Book Club selection])
- CUSTOMER SERVICE (7D: [Client contact that can make or break a business])
- PAT ON THE BACK (22D: [Appreciation for a job well done])
- IT’S A FREE COUNTRY (11D: [“I’m entitled to speak my mind!”])
Second consecutive week that AMCS makes an appearance in the grid, and we’re not talking about the Loyola University Chicago Ramblers or Indiana Pacers here (32A: [Pacers and Gremlins]). Oh, with with LINO, does anyone still rocking some linoleum flooring in their kitchen these days (24A: [Retro kitchen flooring, for short])? Did not see this coming, but seeing VILA in the grid made me think of how much the show referenced in the clue subconsciously impacted my family’s housing visions when we were watching network television in our project housing apartment (57A: [Former “This Old House” host Bob]). So many times, my dad and I would catch a glimpse of the show when channel surfing (before we got cable television) and he always either learned about what he would do with certain parts of a house if and when he got to own a house or thought about what he would do differently than what Bob was instructing. Either way, that show, in a subconscious way, kept our family thinking of the dream of finally being homeowners in America and what to do to improve the house if things went awry. Thanks, Bob!
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: NEE (55A: [Abigail Adams ___ Smith]) – We get to talk about a fellow Brooklynite here, which is awesome! Former college basketball head coach Danny Nee spent three decades as a head coach in Division I at the University of Ohio, University of Nebraska, Robert Morris University and Duquesne. His most successful run came while Nebraska, where he led the Cornhuskers to 10 postseason appearances (5 NCAA, 5 NIT) in his 14 seasons in Lincoln from 1986-2000. In 1994, he led the Cornhuskers to a surprise Big Eight Tournament title, and in 1996, Nee and the Huskers won the postseason NIT championship.
Thank you so much for the time, everybody! Have a wonderful and safe rest of your day and, as always, keep solving!
Alan Massengill & Jeff Chen’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “PDQ”—Jim P’s review
Theme: Each theme answer is OFF TO A FAST START (57a, [Quick out of the blocks, and a hint to the circled letters]). The circled letters of each entry is a word or abbreviation meaning, “Get it done PDQ!”
- 16a. [Welcoming torchbearer] STATUE OF LIBERTY.
- 25a. [“It’s all good,” to an Aussie] “NO WORRIES, MATE.” Fun entry. Is it possible to say this without trying to do an Australian accent? I assume it’s not just me.
- 44a. [Just to be safe] AS A PRECAUTION.
I wanted OFF TO THE RACES to be the revealer because it feels more fun, but obviously it doesn’t work to explain the other theme answers. The existing revealer, however, does, and is well-suited for a Tuesday puzzle.
BEAUJOLAIS is a lovely entry at 3d, but I would not have guessed that an O followed the J. Definitely needed the crossing for that letter. MET GALA is good as is the pseudo-mini-theme of TEAPOTS and TEFLON PANS. I’m looking askance at OUTROW, though.
Clues of note:
- 39a. [Ballet class bends]. PLIES. I’m curious why this isn’t clued as the English word instead of a plural French word.
- 18d. [“Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing” author Judy]. BLUME. The famed author is still with us and is 83 this year. She taught a MasterClass in 2017. I’ve never read one of her books, but I recall reading a scene in one book that I must have purloined from my older sister. Can’t remember which book, but I do remember what the scene was about.
- 56d. [“That’s enough!”]. STOP. I like this anti-thematic entry being in the bottom right corner of the grid.
Straightforward but solid theme and smooth fill throughout. 3.8 stars.
Kevin Patterson’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Okay, this is one of those themes where I’ll need to lay it all out to understand what’s going on (since the puzzle was pitched easy enough to complete it without paying attention to the theme). The revealer is 66a. [Casual … or a hint to the answers to the five starred clues], LOW-KEY. The starred entries are all Downs:
- 3d. [*Steps taken in an emergency?], FIRE ESCAPE.
- 10d. [*What closets and attics provide], STORAGE SPACE.
- 21d. [*The pill, e.g.], BIRTH CONTROL.
- 25d. [*Running bill at a bar], OPEN TAB. ESCAPE, SPACE, and TAB tipped me over to understanding the theme—keyboard keys at the bottom of these theme entries, or low keys. They’re not placed particularly low on the keyboard (TAB, for example, is in the fourth row from the bottom).
- 30d. [*Nine to five, at a factory], FIRST SHIFT.
Solid theme. Particularly nice to have BIRTH CONTROL, STORAGE SPACE, and FIRST SHIFT in the mix. The term low-key gets a lot more use these days, with a shift in meaning and as an adverb rather than an adjective. I need a young adult to explain more thoroughly! Sometimes it seems to replace kinda/sorta, subtly, or not gonna make a big thing about it but….?
Seven more things:
- 18a. [2012 Grammy winner for “Channel Orange”], FRANK OCEAN. Nice to get the full name in the grid for this R&B singer.
- 33a. [Theme park with the ride Soarin’ Around the World], EPCOT. I think that ride might have opened after my last trip to Disney. That Soarin’ looks silly to me.
- 59a. [Networks that deliver electricity], POWER GRIDS. If you live in Texas, I’m sorry about your weird power grid.
- 7d. [That: Sp.], ESA. As usual, this is a “wait for the crossing to tell you if it’s ESO or ESA” situation.
- 12d. [They’re often served mushy in England], PEAS. Enough with the mentions of mushy/mashed peas, NYT!
- 19d. [Western ___ (college course, informally)], CIV. Why does this get clued as a college class? I took it in high school and I honestly don’t think the college I went to had a Western Civ class.
- 29d. [“The Tonight Show” host before and after O’Brien], LENO. May I just say that NBC really did Conan dirty? He deserved better, and Leno definitely had some … issues.
Overall the fill’s pretty solid. Four stars from me.
Prasanna Keshava’s Universal crossword, “Measured Words” — Jim Q’s write-up
THEME: Different measurements are hidden in common phrases.
- A DROP IN THE OCEAN. Pint.
- CAMERA CREW. Acre.
- PUT ON AN ACT. Ton.
- WISCONSIN CHEESE. Inch.
As far as hidden word themes go, this is spot on. Universal‘s hidden word themes typically are. They set a high standard for that type. Here, the base phrases are all lively and familiar, the measurements bridge the words in those phrases, and there is solid consistency in that all of the units of measurement are different (liquid, area, weight, distance).
Fill and cluing was also above par in this one. Here are some of my faves:
- 23A [Hasbro game with voice commands] BOP IT! It’s fun when you’re playing it, torturous when you hear other people playing it.
- 24A [Number of capitals Bolivia has] TWO. Really? Ah, yes. La Paz and Sucre. Now that I’ve looked that up, that fun fact rings a bell.
- 38A [Money plant?] MINT. Excellent clue.
- 12D [What half the letters of “twenty” spell] TEN. Love these types of clues. Universal does it often. I don’t tire of it.
- 18D [___ through the nose] PAY. I always found this phrase and the accompanying visual disturbing.
- 45D [Slacker?] LOOSER. Don’t know whether to applaud this or roll my eyes. Let’s go with a slow clap as a compromise.
I’M ON A ROLL! and ADOPT-A-PET are a snazzy pair of pillars.
Let’s see… anything else? Oh yeah… Another Universal puzzle that should be solved with circles. Since last Monday, FIVE of the Universal puzzles were constructed with circled letters in mind. I feel this is a disservice to solvers who are unaware that this blog exists and don’t use Across Lite to solve puzzles (i.e. most solvers). That is because Universal is unable to publish puzzles that feature circles on its widely available platforms (online and on paper in syndication). The visual is lost when solvers are asked to count letters, and newer solvers (those with whom I’ve co-solved, anyway) often don’t understand the counting instructions at all.
I am completely befuddled as to why Universal publishes so, so many puzzles that should have circled letters when they are unable to provide that feature to the masses. It’s the only puzzle that I know of that intentionally offers two different solving experiences: Download from this site, or solve on paper/online in applet). The fact that they’re available on this blog with circles seems to acknowledge that asking solvers to count letters is subpar.
I do not enjoy making that argument every time it happens, but I truly feel it’s important to consistently point out that flaw as consistently as they publish puzzles that should have circled letters. Not the constructor’s fault at all. Puzzle itself was very good.
4 stars with circles. 2.9 without.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “Free Game!” – Derek’s write-up
This was on par with a tough Saturday puzzle! This is one of the easiest grids to fill out, especially if the center square is a black cell. There is nothing in here longer than 9 letters. But Matt, in true Jonesin’ fashion, has all kinds of trivia stuff in here. (See the end of this post!) Many nominations for the Obscure Pop Culture Reference of the Week in this one! Probably too many to choose. This puzzle likely wouldn’t fly in a mainstream outlet, but still a fun solve, I think. A great example of what indie puzzling can be. 4.3 stars from me.
Let’s start Googling:
- 17A [Misheard phrase such as “nerve-wrecking”] EGGCORN – Great entry. I thought it might be EAR????, but I was going down the wrong rabbit hole!
- 20A [Martial arts-based Lego set that launched a cartoon and subsequent movie] NINJAGO – I KNOW this, but it took forever to come to mind! I love Lego sets, but they are sooooo expensive.
- 35A [In the meantime, in Latin] AD INTERIM – I believe you!
- 49A [Award given to “Nomadland” for Best Film in April 2021] BAFTA – Another awards show I didn’t watch. Are these even on TV? I will, however, rent Nomadland soon to see how it is.
- 53A [Santa Monica area in early skateboard documentaries] DOGTOWN – I have been here, and I didn’t know that’s what it was called! The famous pier is near here.
- 61A [Connecticut-born cartoonist known for big stripey cats] B. KLIBAN – You can Google this yourself!
- 3D [Malaysian-born comedian who gained fame in 2020 for his online cooking reviewer persona Uncle Roger] NIGEL NG – I must have plenty of hobbies, because I don’t know who this is either! I will look his videos up later. Or ask my son if he knows who this is!
- 7D [Johnson who invented the Super Soaker] LONNIE – Again, I believe you!
- 10D [Ballpoint pen, in the U.K.] BIRO – This is not a brand, it’s a Britishism. I think.
- 13D [Wright who played Shuri in “Black Panther”] LETITIA – She will likely be in Black Panther 2, while Chadwick Boseman obviously will not be. The story should still be interesting!
- 41D [Puerto Rico observatory site where a notable telescope collapsed in 2020] ARECIBO – This is just hard. I have vaguely heard of this place, but I got it mainly from the crossings.
I just found out Matt is in the following video in the finals of the Connections Online Quiz League! I have never heard of this, and I may sign up myself, but I hear this is a great watch. I haven’t watched it either, but I hope you enjoy!
Tom Locke’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
We have a name that was not in the constructor database on this site! This puzzle is certainly on the “cheeky” side; very funny!
- 17A [*Youthful blush, say] ROSY CHEEKS
- 26A [*Idler at the shore] BEACH BUM
- 53A [*Parlor piece] LOVE SEAT
- 62A [*Frank holders] HOT DOG BUNS
- 37A [Hit from behind … and what the answers to starred clues are?] REAR ENDED
Hilarious! I didn’t quite laugh out loud, but this is pretty funny, in a 5th grader sort of way. Which is right up my alley! If this is in fact some sort of debut, congrats to Tom Locke! Please make many more! 4.3 stars from me.
Just a few things:
- 36A [Like Lady Liberty’s crown] RAYED – I don’t know if I would describe it with this exact word, but this is accurate.
- 3D [“Les Misérables” girl] COSETTE – I had COLETTE in here, and I hunted around for my error for a full minute!
- 5D [Collectibles like ticket stubs and matchbooks] EPHEMERA – I see this as stuff you should NOT save. Or save a picture of it! I am trying to whittle down what I own going forward; I have piles of junk like most people!
- 13D [Lost it] WENT MAD – I tried GONE MAD in here. Both seem correct, but only one fits in the grid!
- 39D [Deplete, as a bank account] DRAW DOWN – Another not-so-common usage, but probably used more by people actually in the banking industry. I will have to ask my son, who is a teller.
- 40D [Grill-cleaning solution] SAL SODA – We just use a wire brush or brillo pads. Is that the same thing?
Everyone have a safe and healthy week!