Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle (Week 522), “Women Who Bring Their “A” Game”—Ade’s take
Hello everyone! Just like that, we’re in June! Hope all of you are doing well and that you were able to make the best of your holiday weekend.
There are a number of A-plus women that feature in today’s grid, as each celebrity mentioned in the theme set is a woman whose first name and last name ends with the letter “a.”
- LEA SALONGA (17A: [Actress who won a Tony for her portrayal of Kim in “Miss Saigon”])
- DUA LIPA (39A: [Grammy-winning singer whose “New Rules” video has over two billion views on YouTube]) – Two billion and one, after I just went onto YouTube to familiarize myself with it.
- MALIA OBAMA (61A: [In 2013, she was named one of “Time” magazine’s “most influential teens”])
- JESSICA ALBA (11D: [“Sin City” actress who co-founded The Honest Company, maker of eco-friendly products])
- EVA LONGORIA (24D: [“Frontera” actress named Philanthropist of the Year in 2009 by The Hollywood Reporter])
I’m also certain that when archaeologists came across JAVA MAN, there were also remnants of coffee grounds nearby (27A: [Mr. Coffee?]). Any pig Latin makes a crossword more fun in my opinion, and now I need to incorporate AMSCRAY more in my everyday conversation (4D: [“Beat it!”]). Only real slowdown for me was initially putting in “doled” instead of DEALT (39D: [Gave out, as cards]). The nickname mentioned in ALI, given her father’s famous line, is one of the best sobriquets in sports (33D: [Boxer Laila nicknamed “Madame Butterfly”]). Crossings definitely bailed me out for entries such as ELENI (15A: [Title role for Kate Nelligan]) and ARAM, though the latter might have been a tough one to get if Lea Salonga was also not in one’s wheelhouse (18D: [William Saroyan’s “My Name is ___”]).
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: PLAYBOY (45D: [Casanova]) – Four years after its founding, the lifestyle magazine Playboy got into the sports game, as it began selecting a preseason All-America football team. Playboy also released a preseason college basketball All-America team, which definitely gave many the excuse that they were reading the magazine “for the articles.” A photo shoot accompanied the All-America team selections, though a number of players who were selected on teams declined to appear in the magazine, a number of them citing ethics concerns. Below is the 1978-79 men’s basketball preseason All-America team, which includes Larry Bird (far right, standing) and Darrell Griffith, a.k.a. “Dr. Dunkenstein” (sitting, Louisville), one of the men who helped introduce the “high five” gesture to the world. Seriously! (Look up the 1980 Louisville basketball team and “high five.” You’ll be amazed!)
Thank you so much for the time, everybody! Have a wonderful and safe rest of your day and, as always, keep solving!
Finn Vigeland’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
The “names with a kind of fruit in them” concept isn’t new, but Finn’s brought in a different angle for the revealer: 34a. [Turned out successfully … or what the parents of 16-, 19-, 52- and 57-Across did?], BORE FRUIT. With two of the fruit folk being fictional, this parental angle isn’t entirely applicable. Here are the botanicals:
- 16a. [First African-American to win the Oscar for Best Actress], HALLE BERRY. Did you see John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum? Berry played an assassin with well-trained Belgian Malinois dogs. I watched all three Wick movies over a single weekend last year and it was cathartic as hell.
- 19a. [He might have done it with the candlestick in the study], PROFESSOR PLUM.
- 52a. [Mario’s love interest in Super Mario games], PRINCESS PEACH. I’m expecting a delivery of Georgia peaches this week!
- 57a. [Pop star with the 1996 3x platinum album “Tidal”], FIONA APPLE.
I do like that the theme included two real women. I don’t remotely mind that the PROFESSOR PLUM game character is male while the other three themers are female—too often, seeking thematic tightness has led to all-male theme sets. I’m OK with having a mix. Also OK with including nonbinary people—and curious to see how (and when) the various showbiz awards that split actor/actress or male/female artist into separate categories adjust to reflect reality.
Fave fill: AXL ROSE, GI TRACT, DUA LIPA, TAQUITO, I, TONYA.
Five more things:
- 40d. [Tech release of 2017], IMAC PRO. No current iMac Pro in the lineup. Those new 24+ iMacs with all the colors are adorable and I want one. Is it worth downsizing from my current 27″ iMac from 2013?
- 4d. [Cantaloupes and such], MELONS. I only like watermelon, not cantaloupe and honeydew. Are there any other melons out there for me?
- 14d. [Director Anderson] WES. There is finally a release date for his latest movie, The French Dispatch, which was pandemic-bumped from summer 2020 into the fall of 2021. I seem to have settled into being a person who will only see a Wes Anderson movie if it’s animated.
- 28d. [ESP and photographic memory, for two], GIFTS. Question: Is ESP a gift, a curse, or a thing that doesn’t actually exist?
- 36d. [Online initialism of rejoicing], FTW. For the win! And not fuck the what?
3.9 stars from me.
Emily Carroll’s Universal crossword, “Continuous improvement” — Jim Q’s write-up
1-Across brought a smile to my face today. Not the clue. Not the entry. The note:
The next few weeks of crosswords were made by LGBTQ+-identifying constructors. Tweet at us using #UniversalXwordPride.
And what a great puzzle to kick off the celebration.
THEME: It Gets Better.
- 20A [Wholesome entertainment] GOOD CLEAN FUN.
- 35A [1963 war film known for its motorcycle jump scene, with “The”] GREAT ESCAPE.
- 41A [No mere squirt gun] SUPER SOAKER.
- 56A [Comforting words, and a theme hint] IT GETS BETTER.
I saw the theme taking shape and was rather surprised when I got to a revealer clue. I thought the theme was just having phrases that start with synonyms for “good” or whatnot. Why does that need a revealer? I thought. Then, wow. Perfect.
The It Gets Better campaign has had such a positive impact since its inception. I’ve seen its effect first-hand as a middle school and high school teacher, especially being close with many students who are establishing and discovering their individual identities. I love that it’s being celebrated in a puzzle, and executed so well by Emily Carroll, whose puzzles are always a pleasure to solve.
A few other nods to LGBTQ+ today in the fill/clues to introduce the underlying theme of the month:
- 15A [https://pflag.org and https://www.out.com] URLS.
- 40A [Stonestreet of “Modern Family”] ERIC.
- 62A [Score for Abby Wambach] GOAL.
- 8D [Its bass singer was Lance Bass] N’SYNC.
- And I don’t think I’m reading too far into [Queenly] for REGAL, am I?
I’m sure I missed a few. Feel free to point them out :)
Looking forward to the month ahead!
4.1 stars today.
Ruth Bloomfield Margolin’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Job Descriptions”—Jim P’s review
Theme: Familiar phrases whose first word can change meaning to be a job title and whose second word can change meaning to become a verb.
- 17a. [Townsperson indicates “He went thataway” in a silent film?] EXTRA POINTS. I’m reminded of the scene in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid where the guys get an old timer to lie to a pursuing posse about which way they went. While they secretly watch from across the street, the old man chickens out and points the armed posse to the brothel in which they’re hiding. Can’t find a clip of it, but of course, you already know the scene I’m talking about.
- 28a. [Standup performer takes bawdy humor a step too far?] COMIC STRIPS.
- 44a. [Fashion worker works on her technique?] MODEL TRAINS.
- 60a. [Building manager responds poorly to a demanding tenant?] SUPER STORMS.
A very nice, consistent set of themers. Both words change meanings in each phrase, and all the changes are made the same way throughout the set. Well done.
Plus, there’s sparkly long fill in each corner: “HI-YO SILVER!,” SPEED DEMON, “DEAR SANTA,” and OPERETTAS.
Clues of note:
4d. [Pack animal]. BURRO. I’m reminded of the scene in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid where the guys are in Bolivia trying to go straight. They interview with a two-bit pack-mule boss who hires them to transport gold over the mountains. This old timer is constantly spitting tobacco and either shouts “Bingo!” after a successful spit or “Dammit!” after a failed one. Of course, you already know the scene I’m talking about.
13d. [Numerous]. MANY. I’m reminded of the end of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid where the guys are about to have it out with what amounts to the Bolivian army. Oh, sorry. That’s probably enough BCATSK references.
A very nice puzzle all around. And it seems to have inadvertently reminded me of one of my favorite films of all time, so it might be time to rewatch it. Sounds like a plan. Four stars from me. Bingo!
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “Go No Further” – Derek’s write-up
I needed the revealer to see what was going on, since while I was zipping through the solve I didn’t notice it at the time. I had a feeling something was removed from some phrases. I was right!
- 19A [Concern for the production designer of the show “30 Giant Rock”?] BOULDER COLOR
- 36A [Auto manufacturer’s second-place prize?] CHEVROLET SILVER
- 51A [What beauty may be in, if you’re indecisive?] EYE OF THE TORN
- 65A [“Without further ___” (or what the theme answers are missing)] ADO
I figured it out by the time I got to 51-Across. We are indeed removing ADO from Boulder, Colorado, Chevrolet Silverado, and eye of the tornado. Very nicely done. And not too hard, which is nice since it is a holiday week! 4.3 stars from me today.
A few more notes:
- 14A [What a Cessna can hold] PLANE LOAD – I don’t think of Cessnas holding “loads” at all; they’re not big enough!
- 57A [Sign starter on some old restaurants, maybe] OPEN SINCE – Popular on a lot of stores I have been to. Nice entry!
- 62A [From Ulaanbaatar, e.g.] MONGOLIAN – Now I want some Mongolian beef from a local Chinese restaurant. Guess what might be for lunch on Tuesday?
- 2D [Progressive character?] FLO – I LOVE their commercials, and I HATE commercials in general!
- 6D [Put in the fridge] COOLED – “Put” here is in the past tense, which made this slightly tougher.
- 22D [Kind of musical wonder] ONE-HIT – Another clever clue. There are still lots of one-hit wonders these days, even though music listening has changed quite a bit since I was a teenager. Apple going to lossless music this month is another big change. If you have the right headphones!
- 39D [Hardly remote] IN PERSON – A rarity in the COVID days! Hopefully soon we are back to normal!
I’ll stop there. Back to work!
Alina Abidi & Gary Larson’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
Another new name in the constructor database! Is this a debut? If so, congratulations! Our theme, though, is kinda reminding me of the still lingering cold weather:
- 17A [Machine Gun Kelly or Pretty Boy Floyd] PUBLIC ENEMY
- 25A [Former name of Denver’s Ball Arena] PEPSI CENTER
- 34A [Breathtaking regimen?] AEROBIC EXERCISE
- 49A [Underwater shocker] ELECTRIC EEL
- 56A [Get a delicate dialogue started … and a hint to 17-, 25-, 34- and 49-Across] BREAK THE ICE
Well done! Nice and simple, yet plenty of solving pleasure to be had. Nitpickers will note that they all “break” the same way except for one, but that is, truly, nitpicking. I find not issue with it. There is a nice wide-open grid as well! Not easy to do with several theme constraints. If this is in fact a debut puzzle (as well as a debut collaboration!), then this team can continue to produce puzzles with my blessing! (Not that that is needed!) 4.5 stars.
Some other points:
- 14A [Barn-raising sect] AMISH – We have a ton of Amish in our immediate area (within an hour drive or so?), so this was a gimme. I have literally seen barn-raisings in person!
- 21A [Bit of staircase babyproofing] GATE – I don’t miss these days AT ALL. I suppose they will be back if I ever have any grandchildren, but that is a loooooong way off. I hope!
- 31A [“Bottomless” brunch drinks] MIMOSAS – I haven’t been to a nice Sunday brunch in forever, due to obvious reasons. Perhaps it is time to go to one soon!
- 12D [Soothing cuppa] HOT TEA – This made me think the answer would be in Italian or something. And now I want some hot tea ….
- 23D [Activist and tennis legend Arthur] ASHE – Speaking of tennis, the French Open has started this week, and the big story is Naomi Osaka withdrawing due to possible mental stress. I hope she works through whatever she is going through. She is a lot of fun to watch.
- 27D [Cannes subject] CINÉ – This is French for cinema, or film, where a big festival is held in Cannes every year. I hope I got the accent in the right spot!
- 44D [“Booksmart” director Wilde] OLIVIA – I had something else in here at first. I forgot this famous actress has forayed into directing.
- 50D [Run after] CHASE – Cannot pass up an opportunity to give my son CHASE a shout out!
Everyone have a safe and healthy week!