Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle (Week 525), “It’s a Bling Thing”—Ade’s take
Hello everyone! First and foremost, hope you all are staying cool, and definitely hope those out in the West Coast are coping OK with the nasty heatwave that’s descended upon many of the states in the area.
Today’s grid breaks out the good JEWELRY, as each of the circles in the grid form a box, and the letters inside of them, when read from the top row to the row below it, end up spelling out some type of bling (39A: [___ boxes (places for valuables…and an alternate puzzle title)]).
- RED NOSE (13A: [Rudolph’s guiding light]) + SEARING (16A: [Painfully hot]) = NOSE RING
- ANT FARM (15A: [Colony without carpenters?]) + LEAFLET (17A: [Candidate’s handout]) = ARMLET
- CHO (38A: [Comedian Margaret]) + KERSEE (42A: [Olympic track-and-field powerhouse Jackie Joyner-___]) = CHOKER
- HASBRO (37A: [Company that produces Scrabble]) + OCH (41A: [“Gee!” in Scotland]) = BROOCH
- LOCUSTS (61A: [One of the Ten Plagues]) + KETTLES (66A: [Kitchen whistlers]) = LOCKET
- NECKING (63A: [Making out]) + LACED UP (67A: [Tightened, as ice skates]) = NECKLACE. Why does seeing “necking” make me giggle? Because I have the maturity of a 10-year-old class clown sometimes, probably!
Given the theme, love the WHITE GOLD entry right down the middle of the grid (20D: [Platinum substitute used in baubles and bangles]). The middle left section of the grid could have twisted some solvers in knots, especially since I looked at the clue for WACKO as an adjective and initially put in “wacky” (26D: [Screwball]). Had a feeling “YLETA” was not going to be the entry going across, so getting the “O” right in OLETA ended up not being too difficult (46A: [“Get Here” singer Adams]). Definitely one of the benefits of more people being outside safely is going to the parks, and can’t wait to come across Bryant Park once more to see people playing BOCCE (52D: [Game similar to lawn bowling]). I know there’s a pallina and eight other balls, but I can’t say I’m an expert in the game…far from it. Anyone out there play/have played some bocce and want to share their experiences?
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: NO-HIT (34A: [Like some Nolan Ryan games]) – Not only does Nolan Ryan have a Major League-record seven no-hitters during his career, he also has an MLB record-tying 12 one-hitters. (Cleveland legend Bob Feller also had 12.) Speaking to his incredible longevity, Ryan’s first no-no came in 1973 as a member of the California Angels and his last no-hitter came in 1991, at 44 years old, as a member of the Texas Rangers.
Thank you so much for the time, everybody! Have a wonderful and safe rest of your day and, as always, keep solving!
Jeff Eddings’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Unsafe”—Jim P’s review
Theme: Ways in which a runner is, um, outed(?) in baseball. The revealer is “YOU’RE OUT!” (66a, [Call at home, and a clue to the ends of 17-, 24-, 40- and 52-Across]).
- 17a. [Frequent genetic testing subject] FRUIT FLY. Hitting a pop fly doesn’t necessarily mean the hitter is out, though. If the person catching it, drops it…
- 24a. [“Game” of missed connections] TELEPHONE TAG. Usually known as “phone tag.”
- 40a. [Shocking awe?] LIGHTNING STRIKE. One strike does not an out make.
- 52a. [Impetus] DRIVING FORCE. Not being much of a baseball watcher, I’m not 100% sure what a “force out” is.
As you can see by my comments, for one who doesn’t follow baseball, this felt a little loose. But then I realized each of those words can precede “out,” i.e. fly out, tag out, strike out, and force out. That’s a much cleaner theme, and probably the constructor’s intent, even though it’s not spelled out (haha) in the revealer clue.
There are no long sparkly bits in the fill, but GINKGO is pretty crunchy and a good challenge if you’re not totally up on its spelling. The ASIAGO and FENNEL pairing make for a good stack, and IT’S HOT is apropos for a lot of Americans right about now. I also like FRY UP [Cook quickly, informally] which could also be a hyphenated noun to a Brit.
I had trouble with PSYOP [Military propaganda, for short] which is normally seen in its plural form “psyops.”
Clues of note:
- 8a. [Jason who played Lucius Malfoy in the Harry Potter films]. ISAACS. I like him though he’s essentially the same character in everything I’ve seen him in (Star Trek: Discovery, The O.A., Harry Potter), i.e. the handsome charmer who turns out to be a villain. Well, I guess he was a villain right from the start in Harry Potter.
- 49a. [Baseball’s Nola, Judge and Hicks]. AARONS. So many AARONS here, yet none of them is Hank. There are a lot of other baseball references in other clues as well and references that pretend to be about baseball but aren’t really. I’ll leave it to you to find them if you’re interested.
You don’t have to be a baseball fan to solve and appreciate this puzzle, but it helps. It took a little while for me to come around on the theme, and some sparkly (non-baseball) fill would have been welcome. 3.5 stars.
Matt Frederick’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
The theme pairing was familiar to me (Jeffrey Harris combined the two songs for a Crosswords With Friends puzzle), but the visual angle here was new. Led Zeppelin’s “STAIRWAY to HEAVEN” occupies part of this asymmetrical theme, with the stairway angled upward towards HEAVEN, and AC/DC’s “HIGHWAY to HELL” the other, with the HIGHWAY going straight (well, at a 45° angle) to HELL. These 8- and 7-letter diagonals intersect in the center, and 29d/36d spells out CROSS / ROADS. It’s cute, but it is really a stretch to consider a STAIRWAY a ROAD of any kind.
I do like that the number of theme squares is kept small, as jamming in more thematic material when there are triply checked squares in the diagonals would make for too much ungainly fill. Nice to see SCARAB, almost-thematic OVERPASSES, a SEAHORSE, ABOVEBOARD, and FOREWARNED in the mix. The fill is mostly pretty smooth (if a bit packed with 3s), though I don’t love the ODER river or the less common spelling SANA instead of Sanaʽa. And then there’s 43d. [Antioxidant juice brand], BAI, and I really wanted that BOWLS clue (43a. [Offerings from Pottery Barn and Chipotle]) to be a bit more obvious (I’ve never bought dishes from Pottery Barn and feel like Chipotle’s burritos are better known than their “bowls”), just because BAI is a big ask. I’ve seen the brand, yes, but that ain’t juice, honey, it’s artificially sweetened water drinks. FOWLS and La BREA crossing FBI is maybe worse overall, but would dodge the “figure out BAI” issue.
Three more things:
- 45a. [Opening of some formal letters], SIRS. If I were to receive a letter addressed thus, I might well chuck in the recycle bin.
- 56d. [Aptly named shelfmate of Smarties candy], NERDS. I’m a sucker for these candies, compressed sugary powder with colors and flavors and crunch. Is it time for trick-or-treat yet?
- 63d. [Tackle box item], LURE. Somehow, my husband just picked up fishing as a pandemic hobby. Starting on Memorial Day, 2021. You know what? For many of us organ transplant recipients, this pandemic ain’t over. There’s still time to pick up pandemic hobbies!
3.5 stars from me.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “There’s Norway” – Derek’s write-up
I didn’t read the title before solving. Perhaps I should have! The title gives you the best idea of what is going on with the theme. The circled letters all contain the letters OSLO:
- 17A [Quite skilled] NO SLOUCH
- 19A [Tavern gambling game, in some states] VIDEO SLOTS
- 33A [Smokey Robinson song that was covered by The Jackson 5] “WHO’S LOVIN YOU”
- 42A [Taco Bell taco variety with a unique shell] DORITOS LOCOS
- 55A [Started to stall, like a bad Internet connection] GOT TOO SLOW
- 62A [Chicano rock band with the apt debut album “How Will the Wolf Survive?”] LOS LOBOS
Perhaps the addition of an entry of OSLO as an answer would simply be overkill. Also, in looking at the grid, where would you put it? This reminds of Bill Gates’ obsession with obtaining a Nobel Prize. I suppose if you’re that rich, you have to work towards something, don’t you? Especially if you have any type of ego, which I am sure he does? Not that that is a bad thing, but I doubt you could be that rich for long without acquiring one at the very least! But I digress: we are back to a typical Jonesin’ this week, with some fairly obscure trivia for you, or at least for me! But perhaps you will learn something! 4.4 stars this week.
A few notes:
- 13A [Constellation whose name means “eagle”] AQUILA – For instance, I did not know this! Interesting clue, for sure. There is also an AQUILA in the Bible also, I believe.
- 25A [Streaming device maker] ROKU – Shoulda figured this out quicker. We have literally three or four of these!
- 65A [Singer Kamoze with the 1994 hit “Here Comes the Hotstepper”] INI – Part of that obscure trivia I was talking about. But you would know this song if you heard it!
- 67A [“Dollface” actress Povitsky] ESTHER – THIS is the OPCRotW for sure! No idea who this is! This show is evidently on Hulu, and she is also a comedian.
- 30D [1977 Burton role in “Roots”] KINTE – Finally! At the end of July, LeVar Burton will host Jeopardy! for a week.
- 35D [Crafts that are also called UAPs (as of 2021 news)] UFOS – There are strange things among us …
- 43D [They Might Be Giants title character who “proudly stands at the rainbow’s end”] ROY G. BIV –
- 58D [“Great White North” sketch show] SCTV – “Take off, hoser!” This is from that skit. The movie Strange Brew was also based on Bob and Doug McKenzie doing their thing. I am showing my age!
The Ini Kamoze song is a little racy, so here is a safer earworm for you!
Mary Lou Guizzo & Jeff Chen’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
Two of my friends have teamed up for this Tuesday’s LAT puzzle! We have a revealer at 45D:
- 17A [Arrest] TAKE INTO CUSTODY
- 33A [Kind of in jest, kind of not] HALF-SERIOUSLY
- 39A [Vintage Burger King slogan] HAVE IT YOUR WAY
- 60A [Mixed drink recipe directive] SHAKE VIGOROUSLY
- 45D [Sextet featured in order in this puzzle’s theme answers] AEIOUY
Nice job! Now it would be super-elegant to have each of the vowels including Y only appear once, but that is nitpicky. What IS happening is the six letters all appear in alphabetical order in each theme entry. This is hard enough to do without striving for this feature. There is a Facebook group called Supervocalics, which ARE words and phrases that feature all five vowels just once, but very few of those have the vowels in order, and to find enough to fill an entertaining puzzle might not be possible. They even got the revealer to span two theme entries! Does that silence the nitpickers out there? Great! 4.5 stars from me.
Just a few comments:
- 54A [“The __ of the moral universe … bends toward justice”: MLK Jr.] ARC – Some may beg to differ …
- 3D [Coolpix digital camera maker] NIKON – I have one of these! Not the best camera, but I am also not the best photographer either!
- 10D [“Your guess is as good as mine”] “WHO CAN SAY?”– Great casual phrase!
- 33D [Futuristic sci-fi vehicles] HOVER CARS – Somehow I doubt we will ever have these. I have always said people can barely make change. A wreck at 2,000 feet would be exponentially worse than the horrors we already have on the ground!
- 54D [Tennis legend Arthur] ASHE – I am just a touch too young to have seen him play much. I wonder how he would have fared in the all-time ranks if he hadn’t have died prematurely.
Everyone have a safe and healthy week!
David Harris’s Universal crossword, “Symbolism” — Jim Q’s write-up
*This puzzle is part of Universal’s Pride Month Series*
Joke’s on me. For the first time, I absolutely cannot complain about Universal’s inability to include circles in its grid. And this puzzle is teeming with absent circles.
THEME: Circled letters (and what they stand for)
- 20A [A] ANARCHY.
- 22A [H] HELIPAD.
- 38A [C] COPYRIGHT.
- 57A [i] INFORMATION.
- 69A [K] KOSHER.
- 70A [X] CANCEL.
- 27A [Drew a ring around, or what each single-letter clue in this puzzle should be?] CIRCLED.
This puzzle nailed it. From the concept, to the grid design (Left/Right symmetry to accommodate all that theme!), to the fill, to the cluing. This was really fantastic.
A sign of a really good puzzle, and a likely memorable one, is when the theme can’t really be replicated using a new set of entries. I can’t think of anything else this could really include as far as circled letters go. And while I don’t think of a circled X as meaning CANCEL, it doesn’t strike me as far fetched or over-reaching. Just something that is likely over my head at the moment that I’ll probably come across later today (haha or right now as I hover my mouse in the corner of my screen and see a circled red X if I wanted to close out this tab).
COSPLAY! OF NO USE! ONE NOTE! FLOATIE!
There’s literally nothing about this puzzle I didn’t like.
And, of course, my favorite feature being the (unintentional?) nod to this publication’s lack of circles in its grids.