Stephen McCarthy’s New York Times crossword, “Resettling Letterings”—Amy’s write-up
The name of the game is apt anagrams, where the all-caps word in each clue needs to be anagrammed to become an answer to the clue:
- 23a. [2004 film about a group of MALIGNERS], MEAN GIRLS.
- 25a. [It might be put on for stage PAGEANTRIES], PAGEANTRIES.
- 42a. [You might be MARVELING AT this as it whizzes by], MAGLEV TRAIN.
- 46a. [Sort of SCHEMATIC for Christian education], CATECHISM.
- 64a. [Many relationships are INSTIGATED on one], DATING SITE. Memo to single men: Please try to take a good selfie for your profile picture. A friend of mine’s on Match.com and there are so many men who take photos not smiling, looking mad. With dark sunglasses. With a cigar or cigarette in their mouth. Slumping back in a recliner for the least flattering angle. Finding the least flattering lighting. If this is you, here are some pointers.
- 68a. [Healthy eaters may give this A WIDE BERTH], WHITE BREAD.
- 90a. [They can be NOISELESS while stalking prey], LIONESSES. You know I’m annoyed by “lion” in 36d and 42d’s clues.
- 93a. [Explorers of the UNTRAVERSED], ADVENTURERS. Is UNTRAVERSED a legit word?
- 111a. [Writing done GRAPHICALLY], CALLIGRAPHY.
- 115a. [The Trojans lacked the FORESIGHT to turn this down], GIFT HORSE. Nice one.
There’s a good chance all of these anagram pairs appear on lists on the internet but you know what? If I’ve seen them, it’s been a while so they all felt fresh and I liked working through the theme entries.
I’m puzzled out after spending six hours doing the Lollapuzzoola tournament today, so just five quick things:
- 75a. [Grp. that hasn’t yet found what it’s looking for], SETI. There’s a song for them.
- 79a. [Valuable load for a mule], KILO. Boy, I thought this clue was about the beast of burden, maybe some old Gold Rush reference. But no, a drug mule.
- 96a. [Old cable TV inits.], TNN. I know the common letters come in handy, but I’m begging you, constructors: Chuck this one out of your word lists. It’s been gone so long.
- 114d. [You can chew on it], PAP. It’s exhausting, this fussiness of the NYT crossword, generally afraid to just go with [___ smear] and be done with it. You know that probably 99% of the uses of PAP in people’s vocabulary are for the Pap smear.
- Liked the ZOOM BOMB and plant TENDRILS.
Four stars from me. Enjoy the rest of the weekend, friends!
Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Pooch Perfect” – Jim Q’s Write-up
THEME: Phrases that sound like there’s a breed of dog in them, clued doggy-style.
- 22A [Drawing implement used by a wrinkly dog?] SHARPEI MARKER. Sharpie marker.
- 33A [Hunting dog atop a banner-bearing staff?] FLAGPOLE SETTER. Flagpole sitter.
- 48A [Colorful cosmetic applied to some wrinkly dog?] LIPSTICK ON A PUG. Lipstick on a pig.
- 71A [Crispy snacks for a long-eared dog?] BEAGLE CHIPS. Bagel chips.
- 90A [Water dog that plays table tennis?] PING PONG POODLE. Ping Pong paddle.
- 106A [Skyscraper owned by a hunting dog?] TOWER OF TERRIER. Tower of Terror.
- 121A [Railroad vehicle for a commuting Chinese dog?] CHOW CHOW TRAIN. Choo-choo train.
This was a fun, rather loose theme. A bit of a diversion for the WaPo in that sense. This is not the type of puzzle to be over-analyzed or taken too seriously, so I’ll do my best not to. Yes, you have to accept that POODLE sounds like PADDLE and that CHOW–CHOW sounds like CHOO-CHOO (those two were both of my favorite entries), but that’s easy enough to do. I thought BEAGLE was referring to those Bugle corn chips for a hot second but then thought better of it. LIPSTICK ON A PUG felt a bit more off than the others since the phrase doesn’t strike me as changing all that much… it’s still LIPSTICK ON A(n) animal. The visual is nearly the same.
Didn’t know FLAGPOLE SITTER was a thing! I suppose I never really listened to the lyrics of this song:
Favorite mistakes today:
SLEEZY as the dwarf after I started to change SNEEZY to SLEEPY and then got distracted by a butterfly.
RACE PEEL instead of FACE PEEL as I misspelled OR(F)F‘s name.
New for me:
EUTERPE (not new… just couldn’t recall a single damned letter!)
Hope you’re all safe from Henri!
Steven E. Atwood’s Universal Sunday crossword, “Blended Together”—Jim P’s review
Cute theme today which features familiar two-word phrases whose first words end in the same sounds that start the second words. These sounds are “blended together” such that the second word basically has its starting sound removed thus forming a different word, and thus ensuring crossword wackiness.
- 22a. [Reaction to an amazing TV ad?] COMMERCIAL AWE. Commercial Law. I’m not too familiar with the base phrase, but I guess it’s a thing.
- 42a. [Tech restoring internet access?] WEB ROUSER. Web browser.
- 46a. [Someone to go around being annoying with?] FELLOW IRKER. Fellow worker. I’m not so sure “fellow worker” is an in-the-language phrase, but the idea of friends going around annoying other people is funny to me.
- 52a. [Superficial river mammal?] SHALLOW OTTER. Shallow water. I like this one. That damned otter only cares about looks!
- 81a. [Scoop shop covering a large lot?] ICE CREAM ACRE. Ice cream maker. Put an S on the end to get “Ice Cream Acres” and you’ve got the name of a retirement community I can get behind.
- 88a. [Donkey-hyena hybrid?]. LAUGHING ASS. Laughing gas. To me this is the best example of the lot to understand what’s going on with the theme. It’s succinct but makes total sense.
- 90a. [Way past a tennis court’s fence?] BEYOND OUT. Beyond doubt.
- 112a. [Night before a professor’s time off?] SABBATICAL EVE. Sabbatical leave.
I enjoyed this. It started out slow but got better toward the end.
Lots of great fill to like today: FUZZY LOGIC, TINCTURES, ANGEL HAIR. “GO GET ‘EM!,” SHA NA NA, STAMINA, ORANGE RIND, CHIANTI, REAR END, ZINNIAS.
Did not know baseball player Jose ABREU, and the entry “BE REAL!” feels far less common than “Get real!”
Clues of note:
- 49a. [Nursing garment]. BRA.”Nursing” as in breastfeeding, not the occupation.
- 72a. [Star-___ mole]. NOSED. I’ve never heard this term before, and to be honest, I wasn’t sure it wasn’t dermatological. But it’s a type of mammal with a star-shaped touch organ on its face (apparently known as “Elmer’s organs”—ahem) used for feeling its way around underground.
- 34d. [Creamy Indian dish]. KORMA. Yum. I usually add extra coconut milk and have it with toasted naan to sop up the sauce. In England, this is usually an item on the kids’ menu at Indian restaurants.
Nicely constructed grid with an enjoyable theme. Four stars.
Zhouqin Burnikel’s USA Today crossword, “Out with It”—Darbyy’s review
Theme: Every answer includes the word OUT before the word IT, meaning that the themers have OUT with IT.
- 20a [“Words of deep affection] – I LOVE YOU TO BITS
- 36a [“Capri and Naples region”] – SOUTHERN ITALY
- 55a [“Opposite of an old soul”] – YOUTHFUL SPIRIT
Relatively simple theme here today, but I enjoyed the theme answers. I got Southern Italy right away, and after that, it was relatively easy to get the next two.
We had a couple of other good duos today. There were two Olympic-ish mentions: one in 51a [“Chloe Dygert’s Olympic team] (USA) and – this is the “ish” – 64a [“Takes the gold”] (WINS). Then, there was the duo of FURbaby/PET references in 40d [“It might cover a cat owner’s pants”] and 44d [“Animal in a family photo”] respectively (and consecutively). If we expand this to animals more generally, we also pick up 33a [“Flying mammal”] in BAT and 65a [“Giraffes have 32”]. Coincidentally, that’s the same amount of TEETH an adult human has.
I feel like I could definitely make at least 2 grocery LISTS (25a [“Grocery shopper’s aids”]) based off of the food- and kitchen-related clues here:
- 2d [“Wine storage area”] CELLAR
- 3d [“____ oil”] CANOLA
- 9d [“Cookie with Forbidden City flavors”] OREO
- 22d [“Sandwich known by its initials”] BLT
- 36d [“Japanese dish served nabemono style”] SUKIYAKI
- 46d [“Egg container”] CARTON
- 16a [“Prepare some jajangmyeon, say”] (OOK
- 19a [“Recipe amts.”] TSPS
- 23a [“Dip for tortilla chips”] SALSA
- 42a [“Chai latte holder”] MUG
- 46a [“Small soup order”] CUP.
I thought that COOK was a nice twist on the oft-seen “have some [insert food item that I will drool over here]” and that CUP was a nice acknowledgement of the fact that there are two soup sizes you can order.
“Out with it” may have been our theme, but I think that the real treasure was the selection of food and wine we filled along the way.
Alex Eaton-Salners’s Universal crossword, “Start with the Basics”— Jim Q’s write-up
An easy peasy puzzle from Alex Eaton-Salners? Unheard of!
THEME: Two-word names/phrases whose first letters are EZ or PZ.
- EMILE ZOLA.
- POLISH ZLOTY.
- PETTING ZOOS.
- (revealer) EASY PEASY.
Hard to see the byline without expecting some sort of curveball. There’s not much of one here, but rather a pleasant scrabbly solve based of a cutesy phrase.
New for me:
KIM Mulkey (I’m terrible with athlete names in general).
Clue for ADAM [Name that sounds like a tiny particle]. SHEESH (even though it TRIPped me UP), PANT LEG (cute visual with the clue), SKIP IT!, and WIN IT ALL.
Coulda done without that plural ADZES hanging out in there.
Impressive construction here. Well done.
Roland Huget’s LA Times crossword, “Musical Keys” – Gareth’s write-up
Roland Huget’s Sunday puzzle features a theme with two disparate parts. All of the theme entries are, broadly, musical, and have a computer key trigram somewhere within. There are quaint jingle ITSTHERE(ALT)HING, jukebox musical SMOKEYJO(ESC)AFE, torturous THECHICK(END)ANCE, early 20th century MEETME(INS)TLOUIS, vintage rap song FORGO(TAB)OUTDRE and even more vintage AUCLAIR(DEL)ALUNE which is not the same as CLAIRDELUNE!
I guess I’m just an old fashioned crossword purist. I don’t think anagrams belong in a puzzle. Rebuses either, for that matter. Didn’t enjoy this at all.
How is that a purist position? Anagrams have been in crosswords for ages.
Doesn’t feel pure to me either. Huh? Rebuses have been at least a weekly feature for as long as I’ve been doing puzzles. I look forward to them more than anything, in fact, but I’d never dream of turning that personal preference into a rule for others.
This theme was unusual, in that one could have a shot at the long theme entries not only without crossings, but as one’s very first fill. In fact, that could be the easiest way to solve this one, as crossings for other things were much needed. My last to fall was the NE, where I needed lots of help with, say, ELISE, ANI, and a league for Senators.
Minor quibble, but not on the puzzle: the instructions notwithstanding, cryptics are not all anagrams.
NYT: I’m terrible at anagrams, and I’ve never understood why. I’m very good with spatial relationships, and I’ve always figured that should be an advantage with anagrams, but alas …
My anagramming capabilities aside, I found this puzzle fun. I was impressed with all the long anagram entries that were familiar, and the clues that did not seem to be stretching things too far. Appreciated the fact that the puzzle title itself is a pair of anagrams.
Maybe try writing down the original word on paper or in a text file. Eliminate letters after you enter some of the crossings. The resulting blank spaces must contain the remaining letters. Plugging them in may let you see where the anagram is going. At least it sometimes helps me.
NYT: The Anagrams were a nice change of pace for a Sunday, I thought, and in some ways made it easier even though I’m not so good at them. But there were many places I could work by elimination after a few entries and figure out the phrase. And the clues were good.
I felt that Graphically and CALLIGRAPHY was too much of an overlap, with GRAPH being intrinsic to them both. As opposed to say : Foresight and GIFT HORSE, which are really a cool pair.
I was less crazy about some of the fill, like intersecting abbreviations… I understand the constraints, but it does suck some of the joy out of the experience…
NYT: FORESIGHT/GIFT HORSE was brilliant.
MALIGNERS/MEAN GIRLS was pretty good.
The rest? Meh.
LAT: Pointless. Music + keyboard keys with no connection.
WaP0: Ugh. Needed fun clues; there weren’t any.
UCS: Best of the bunch. Especially SHALLOW OTTER. This puzzle had the pizzazz and
wackiness that WaPo was lacking.
NYT: I enjoyed it, basically because I like word-play like anagrams, and agree that FORESIGHT/ GIFT HORSE is brilliant.
LAT: I’d say it just felt flat to me….
They’re good dogs,
NYT Wednesday 9-down “NFL”?
The NFL stages an annual (when there’s not a pandemic) Pro Bowl Game for top players from each conference.