Stephen McCarthy’s New York Times crossword, “Maple Leaf”—Amy’s write-up
Fun puzzle, but it should have been saved to run in two or three weeks, closer to Canada Day. The theme is 76a. [Like all the answers with pairs of circled letters, punnily], MEHDE IN CANADA, with that “eh” standing in for a long A in made, and a circled EH appearing naturally in a bunch of Canadian names and phrases:
- 104a. [Six-time winner of the N.H.L.’s Art Ross Trophy, born in Saskatchewan], GORDIE HOWE.
- 108a. [“24” and “Suits” actress, born in Halifax], LESLIE HOPE. I don’t recognize the name but she’s popped up in a zillion TV shows so I’ve probably seen her here and there.
- 4d. [Alberta city named for an eagle-feather headdress], MEDICINE HAT. Helpful and interesting clue.
- 10d. [Two-player game invented in Toronto], TABLE HOCKEY. Guessing this is like foosball but for hockey?
- 16d. [Seasonal destination near Quebec City], WINTER ICE HOTEL. Please tell me it’s actually carved out of ice each winter and yet somehow has indoor plumbing.
- 19d. [Program introduced by the Trudeau government in 1984, colloquially], FREE HEALTH CARE. Aspirational! The U.S. is so far behind.
Cute theme, eh?
Nice grid overall, with plenty of longish fill and very little in the way of junk. Seven things:
- 67a. [“Love is love,” e.g.], TAUTOLOGY. This was one of the first clues that jumped out at me, and it gave me hope that LGTBQ rights and marriage equality would figure into a Pride Month theme, but no, the answer’s just a logic term. (Happy Pride, y’all!)
- 84a. [15th birthday celebration], QUINCEANERA. June 13 is Diary of a Crossword Fiend’s birthday, and unfortunately we missed the chance to celebrate our quince last year! It’s Sweet 16 this weekend.
- 18a. [Lex Luthor, to Superman], ARCHFOE. An uncommon word, but apparently it’s been in the English language since 1595! Who knew?
- 45d. [Be batty, in a way?], ECHOLOCATE. I’m good with not having this ability, but wouldn’t it come in handy in the middle of the night when you don’t want to bump into walls in the dark?
- 88a. [Classical Icelandic literary work], EDDA. Basically hardcore crosswordese, not accepted in the NYT Spelling Bee wordlist, but if you’ve been puzzling for decades already, you know this one. Or if you’ve studied medieval Norse literature, I guess?
- 82a. [Seasons in Québec], ETES. Plural foreign words aren’t great fill, but this one feels at like part of the Canadian vibe so I’ll allow it.
- 69d. [“Very high,” on a fire danger scale], ORANGE. Stay safe, those of you in the West and Southwest. I’m so sorry that this season is looking even more menacing than last year’s fire season. (Even Chicago has been in a drought this year, though our plants are still green.) Climate change is deadly and the industrialized nations of the world need to do so much more.
Four stars from me.
Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Disney Plus” – Jim Q’s Write-up
THEME: Letters are added to Disney movies to create wacky phrases.
- 25A [2007 Disney film about a pooch who can create storm noises?] THUNDER DOG. Underdog.
- 31A [2012 Disney film about auto safety advocate Nader carrying equipment like a flare in case of a car crash?] WRECK ITEM RALPH. Wreck It Ralph.
- 44A [1981 Disney film about mocking someone who isn’t in the vampire-killing business like Buffy Summers?] DRAG A NON-SLAYER. Dragon Slayer.
- 58A [1953 Disney film about a bamboo-munching bear named after actor Lorre?] PETER PANDA. Pet Panda? Haha, no! It’s Peter Pan. Seriously, I thought it was Pet Panda at first.Hahaha!
- 81A [2003 Disney film about a strange community rec center in the Sunshine State?] FREAKY FLORIDA Y. That’s right. Even the YMCA is zany in Florida.
- 103A [1968 Disney film about a romantic partner who’s annoyed by me?] THE LOVER I BUG. The Love Bug.
- 121A [1983 Disney film about asking columnist Landers if she had raised a false alarm at any point in her life?] ANN, EVER CRY WOLF? Is it Never Cry Wolf? That seems to make the most sense.
I haven’t tried to look for the meta yet. I bet if you take a look at the letters added that’s either the answer or a strong hint. I’ll go back and highlight those now and take a look.
Yup! It’s THE MANDALORIAN!
Never heard of a couple of the base phrase titles (Never Cry Wolf, Dragon Slayer, and Underdog to be specific), but the Birnholzian staple wackiness+ in the clues made it easy enough to figure out.
This is one of those puzzles that can please both parties: Those who enjoy metas and those who do not, so I hope the gripes about metas are minimal :) Also, it’s one of the easiest metas that the WaPo has featured, which is great for introducing this puzzle genre. Often, with this type of theme, there would be a revealer saying something like [Disney Plus hit… and what’s spelled out by the added letters in the answers to the starred clues] leading the solver to THE MANDALORIAN.
Fill felt pretty standard today. Not too new-name heavy! I’m familiar with DEXTER Gordon, though I suppose that might be new for a lot, but the name is super inferable.
Not too much else to say about this one other than I enjoyed it! Now, off to DRAG all those NON-SLAYERS in my neighborhood.
Morton J. Mendelson’s Universal Sunday crossword, “Upscale”—Jim P’s review
Theme: Phrases whose first letters are a note on the musical scale, have those letters replaced with the next note up on the scale. Crossword wackiness ensues.
- 25a. [Brand of neatly arranged chocolates? (Theme hint: What follows la?)] TIDY GODIVA. Lady Godiva.
- 31a. [Dumbfounded young fellow? (… sol?)] LAD AT A LOSS. Sold at a loss.
- 54a. [Toy merchant in business by himself? (… fa?)] SOLO SCHWARZ. F.A.O. Schwarz.
- 68a. [Electronically transmitted figure of speech? (… mi?)] FAXED METAPHOR. Mixed metaphor.
- 89a. [Common quality assurance step in gum production? (… re?)] MINT CONTROL. Rent control.
- 109a. [Supervillain who doubles as a clergy member? (… do?)] RECTOR DOOM. Doctor Doom.
- 120a. [Bicycle helmets? (… ti?)] DOME SAVERS. Time savers.
I quite liked this. It’s well-conceived and expertly executed. The title is so concise yet perfectly suited to describe everything that’s going on, and the entries are ordered such that as you look at those opening letters of each entry from the bottom of the grid going up, you travel up the musical scale. Unfortunately, most people solve from the top down, but that’s neither here nor there. It makes sense to have DO at the bottom and move up to TI. A very elegant touch, that. Plus there’s a good amount of humor present. A couple of those entries are certainly chuckle-worthy.
So let’s see. What are our long non-theme entries? TO BE SAFE, TRADE WAR, SALSA BAR, PARODIES, TIMES SIGN, OPERETTAS, STEPS IN, VERSACE, MAKES A BET, BODY ARMOR, STATE SEAL, PRIZE RING, POPPED OUT. I’m not so sure about those last two. I don’t think I’ve ever heard the first one (clued [Boxing match site]), but then I’m not one for watching boxing. And the second is clued [Suddenly emerged], which sounds more like POPPED UP to me. But on the whole, very nice long fill.
Elsewhere, I like the pairing of quaint “I NEVER!” and “DEAR ME!” which are in symmetrical positions in the grid. Cute.
Clues of note:
- 72a. [TV show that was known for its ads?]. MAD MEN. Clever clue. The first thing that pops into your head (well, mine at least) is the Super Bowl, but that’s not what you’d call a “TV show.”
- 101a. [Chapek’s predecessor at Disney]. IGER. Really? Do we have to know the new guy, too? It’s bad enough we ever had to know IGER, only because he has crossword-friendly letters. I guess he’s not going away from crosswords just because he’s not the CEO anymore.
- 2d. [Classic camera brand]. LEICA. My dad was a professional photographer and I remember him talking about Leicas since I was a kid. Hey, Father’s Day is coming up and…hmm, maybe not. The cheapest Leica looks to be around $2600, just for the body (no lens). Oy. I guess that’s why he was always talking about them.
- 8d. [x, before algebra?]. TIMES SIGN. I like this clue. Yes, once you take Algebra (shouldn’t it be capitalized?), x is the most commonly used variable. What do you use as a TIMES SIGN? I usually use a dot.
- 17d. [Mandarin alternative?]. NAVEL. Okay, it’s about time I figured out the difference between types of oranges, so here’s what I found. There are two types of big oranges: Navel and Valencia. Learn more about them here. Mandarins are the category of smaller oranges which is comprised of tangerines, clementines, and satsumas. Learn more here. You’re welcome.
- 100d. [Cooks, as spinach]. STEAMS. If you need to cook spinach, this would be the way to do it. You can also blanche or sauté it. Please don’t boil it.
Nicely executed puzzle with strong fill. Four stars.
Matt Skoczen’s LA Times crossword, “Get Wise” – Jenni’s write-up
The “wise” of the title is a pun on “y’s.” Each theme answer has a Y added. I like the theme idea; I have some issues with the execution.
- 23a [Irish region named for a literary nobleman?] is COUNTY DRACULA (Count Dracula). I struggled with this one. I hadn’t figured out the theme yet and didn’t connect “Irish” to COUNTY. I thought maybe it was an O or some kind of rebus. The crossing is 6d [5, in 5/8, say]. At first I thought that was a time signature. Once I grokked the theme, I went back and realized it’s part of a date and the answer is MAY.
- 31a [Commiseration at a cookout?] is BARBECUE PITY (barbecue pit).
- 51a [Sham indignation?] is IMITATION FURY (imitation fur). Here’s where I started to raise an eyebrow. COUNT and COUNTY have the same vowel sound. So do PIT and PITY. FUR and FURY do not quite have the same sound to my ear.
- 67a [Excited cry from a gemologist?] is AY THERE‘S THE RUBY (ay, there’s the rub). RUB and RUBY don’t sound anything alike. Maybe if the first two weren’t consistent, the inconsistency of the rest wouldn’t bother me. In this configuration, it feels – off.
- 85a [Dilemma presented by a suspicious peace offering?] is TRICK OR TREATY (trick or treat).
- 104a [Young farm animals’ taxi company?] is CALVE‘S LIVERY (calve’s liver).
- 116a [Cues from the Miracles’ lead singer?] are SMOKEY SIGNALS (smoke signals). Here’s the real inconsistency. There are five theme answers with the Y appended to the last word and one with the Y appended to the first word. If there were some of each, that would be cool. One sticks out like, well, a sore thumb.
I realize I’m being very picky about the sound-alike thing, and I can let that go. The sudden switch to Y at the beginning doesn’t please me.
A few other things:
- In the same quadrant as [5, in 5/8, say] we have [5, in 2.5], which is TENTHS. The echoing clue is cute but makes 6d trickier than necessary, especially since it crosses the additional letter in the theme answer.
- 10d [Nittany Lions’s sch.] is PSU. For those of us in PA this was a total gimme. Please also note that Penn (The University of Pennsylvania) and Penn State (The Pennsylvania State University) are not the same. Really not the same.
- IMBRUE isn’t a word you see every day. Or even every week.
- 71d [Very violent, perhaps] is RATED R. The level of violence permitted in various rating tiers compared to the level of sexual content or cursing is absurd. When my kid was a tween and young teen, I didn’t care if she heard the F-word in a movie. I didn’t care if she saw part of someone’s body during consensual sexual activity. I did care – I cared a lot – when she saw horrific violence treated like a casual everyday occurrence. I cared when she saw coercion and stalking treated like alluring romance. This is a longstanding absurdity in American culture and it needs to change.
- If you need to have SAINTE and STS both in the grid, how about cluing STS as something other than [Mark and Luke: Abbr] to avoid the dupe?
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that Nicole Kidman was born on OAHU.
Neville Fogarty’s Universal crossword, “You Heard It Here first” — Jim Q’s write-up
This puzzle is part of Universal’s Pride Month series.
THEME: Phrases that start with homophones of BYE.
- BUY A VOWEL.
- BY THE BOOK.
- (revealer) BYE BYE BYE.
Cool theme! I’m surprised I haven’t run across it before. The N-Sync title almost screams “Make a crossword out of me!”
Bi-ERASURE was a new term for me. According to GLAAD, it is defined as “…a pervasive problem in which the existence or legitimacy of bisexuality (either in general or in regard to an individual) is questioned or denied outright.” There’s an interesting article about it here. I must say I did find it odd to have an entry about sexuality erasure while the Q seems to have gone missing from 1D.
Some excellent cameo appearances from the hilarious Tig Notaro (clued in 16A), BOWEN Yang of SNL, JEN Kramer (who was a new name for me), and TYNE Daly.
Thanks for this one.