Dory Mintz’s New York Times crossword, “Uh? Oh…”—Amy’s write-up
The theme entries are made by adding a schwa sound (the “Uh” of the puzzle’s title) to familiar phrases:
- 22a. [Beams of one’s dreams?], FANTASY SUPPORTS. Fantasy sports. Beg pardon, but who on earth would be dreaming of support beams?
- 33a. [Visit a museum to see a Rembrandt exhibit?], GO FOR BAROQUE. Go for broke. Rembrandt’s Baroque?? Let’s see what Wikipedia says: “His contributions to art came in a period of great wealth and cultural achievement that historians call the Dutch Golden Age, when Dutch art (especially Dutch painting), although in many ways antithetical to the Baroque style that dominated Europe, was extremely prolific and innovative and gave rise to important new genres.” He is listed among a bunch of Dutch artists in Wiki’s Baroque painting article, though. Maybe not the first name to come to mind when going for Baroque?
- 49a. [Bird of prey that’s gently petted?], FALCON CARESSED. Falcon Crest, old prime-time soap opera. Yesterday my husband shot video of a peregrine falcon in our city yard, perched in a maple and eating a bird. I would not pet that falcon.
- 67a. [Actor Justin sitting poolside?], THEROUX IN THE TOWEL. Threw in the towel. Justin Theroux stars in the Apple TV+ adaptation of Paul Theroux’s novel, The Mosquito Coast. He’s the writer’s nephew!
- 86a. [Make fun of small orange fruits?], DERIDE APRICOTS. Dried apricots. When it comes to fresh stone fruit, yeah, I can get on board with deriding apricots. Cherries, peaches, nectarines, plums, and pluots, I like. Not into apricots.
- 102a. [Mashed potatoes, on a Thanksgiving plate?], GRAVY TERRAIN. Gravy train. Call me a contrarian but I don’t care for gravy on my spuds.
- 116a. [Fourth-quarter meltdown at an N.B.A. game in Oklahoma City?], THUNDER COLLAPSE. Thunder claps.
The theme is OK but none of the themers actually amused me. Something like THOREAU IN THE TRASH, would that work here?
Seven more things:
- 19a. [Wrestling star John], CENA. He’s in this summer’s DC movie, The Suicide Squad, and that was a highly entertaining, if goofballishly violent, flick. I am so grateful for first-run movies on streaming services, because there’s no way in hell I could go to a movie theater during this pandemic.
- 43a. [Sicily’s Parco dell’___], ETNA. A fresh ETNA clue! Sure, why wouldn’t Sicily have an Etna Park?
- 57a. [To read: Sp.], LEER. It’s a relief to have this entry clued as a Spanish word. When we still have to explain to “nice guys” just what is wrong with complimenting strange women on the street, the LEERing is most unwelcome.
- 90a. [Something rectangular that might have more than four sides], MENU. I’ll take sweet potato fries, please.
- 7d. [“Build ___ Buttercup” (1968 hit by the Foundations)], ME UP. Yes, it’s a clumsy partial. But who doesn’t like to be reminded of this song? The Foundations were a British soul band, I’ve just learned.
- 15d. [His birthday is celebrated as “Children’s Day” in India], NEHRU. Uh, the US doesn’t celebrate any sort of Children’s Day, does it? This may explain why so many parents are keen on sending their kids to school without masks during a virulent pandemic.
- 29d. [Thing seen in the foreground of “Washington Crossing the Delaware”], OAR. A fresh OAR clue! Ha.
3.5 stars from me.
Zhouqin Burnikel’s USA Today crossword, “The Fall of Rome”—Darby’s write-up
Theme: Each themed answer includes the letters “ROME” as part of a down answer, essentially making Rome fall.
- 3d [“Like a full-face smile”] FROM EAR TO EAR
- 17d [“Lupita Nyong’o, ethnically”] AFRO–MEXICAN
- 21d [“Egg dish with ham, onions and green bell peppers”] DENVER OMELET
I enjoyed this theme quite a bit. It was a clever play on its title “The Fall of Rome,” and as a history nerd, I appreciated the nod. Grid-wise, I also enjoyed the inclusion of lengthier answers like ONION FLAKES (16a [“Dried veggie bits in soups”]) and STANDS ALONE (62a [“Is peerless”]). They were nice distractors from the theme that also managed to contribute to it, if that makes sense?
ARIA in 2d and OPERA in 8d both referred to Angela Gheorghiu, a Romanian opera singer, which was an interesting combo and pushed me to learn more about the well-known soprano. I wish that the two words weren’t so apparently related, but I do appreciate the push to fill in the operatic gap in my knowledge.
Lastly, some of my faves from today include:
- 15a [“Catan resource”] – Settlers of Catan is my favorite game. I don’t love the colonizing aspect to it, but I do enjoy it nonetheless. I’m also fascinated by how different folks learned to play and what they call the different resources, regardless (and sometimes in spite of) the official names. For example, I’ve heard “ORE” and “rock” used interchangeably.
- 41a [“Creepy-sounding lake”] – As I said on Friday, I love when ERIE is included. It’s also worth mentioning that this puzzle does make the second in a row by Zhouqin Burnikel in USA Today to include it. I know that this might be more of an editorial thing rather than a consecutive construction thing, and it certainly shouldn’t be a dealbreaker.
- 27d [“Only state whose seal was designed by a woman”] – IDAHO’s seal was designed by Emma Edwards Green in 1891. In her account of the design, Green references the issue of women’s suffrage, still yet to come to fruition when the seal was created. It was most recently updated in 1957. You can read more of Green’s account here.
- 34d [“Onion relatives”] – I thought that there was some skillful construction in the incorporation of both ONION FLAKES and LEEKS, as well as the fact that LEEKS crosses REEK (44a [“Smell really bad”]) , which is also supported by ODOR (35a [“‘Pee-yew!’ elicitor”]).
That’s all from me today, folks! Enjoy your Sunday!
Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Themeless No. 17” – Jim Q’s Write-up
I CAN’T STRESS THIS ENOUGH… IT WAS FUN WHILE IT LASTED!
That about sums up a Birnholz themeless for me! Tough to pull off a consistently engaging 21x themeless, but he consistently does imo.
- The two aforementioned
- OREO CONE.
- OLIVE PIT.
- PTEROSAUR (fun to figure out).
- PAY RAISES.
- QUITE SURE.
- MAMA by the partnered PAPAS.
- VOTE EARLY!
New for me:
- ADENAUER… thank goodness for the rather entertaining anagram help! NUDE AREA?!?!
- IT ME
- SON OF GOD.
Had no clue LOWE’S has been around for 100 years! I just thought they popped up in response to The Home Depot.
Fave clue: [Says “coulda, woulda, shoulda,” e.g.] ELIDES. Cute.
Have to run! Taking the nieces/nephews to an amusement park as the last hurrah before school starts.
Gary Larson’s Universal crossword, “Letter Openers”— Jim Q’s write-up
THEME: Common words parsed as if the first two letters are abbreviations.
- 17A [Benefit of a college degree?] BABOON. B.A. BOON.
- 18A [Noon?] AMENDING. A.M. ENDING.
- 40A [Endowment for a retired soldier?] VAGRANT. V.A. GRANT.
- 31A [Hollywood makeover, say?] LAREDO. L.A. REDO.
- 46A [Sneaky plan for skipping gym class?] PERUSE. P.E. RUSE.
- 61A [Loudspeaker system that’s leased out?] PARENTAL. P.A. RENTAL.
- 64A [Promotion for a diplomacy group?] UNPLUG. U.N. PLUG.
Fun concept! I think I’ve seen similar ideas in the past, but it’s a good one. And a lot of theme here too. Oddly enough, I didn’t even consider the theme until about 75% of the way through… I think it’s because I just solved the 21x WaPo themeless.
Favorite answer was A.M. ENDING for [Noon?].
RINSED OUT and DRILLED IN felt nicely juxtaposed with that last word.
OPERA ARIA is strange to me. Feels redundant.
Thanks for this one!
Paul Coulter’s Universal Sunday crossword, “Sunday Puzzle”—Jim P’s review
No, the title is not a mistake, and I don’t believe the Universal Sunday puzzles are going title-less. Instead, this is a puzzle about CATCHING SOME SUN (61a, [Enjoying a summer afternoon … or what each starred clue’s answer has been doing, based on its altered word and three letters above it?]). Those theme answers are familiar phrases except one word has been changed due to the effects of the SUN, which are the three letters above each changed word.
- 21a. [*Seem less impressive] TAN IN COMPARISON. Pale. With 16a SUNY.
- 47a. [*Inexperienced] DRY BEHIND THE EARS. Wet. With 41a SUNG.
- 83a. [*Worried about a monster under your bed, say] AFRAID OF THE LIGHT. Dark. With 80a SUNK COST.
- 111a. [*Be discouraging about] POUR WARM WATER ON. Cold. With 103a DATSUN. Wow. Is DATSUN still around? Apparently they are; they’re just focused on emerging markets like Indonesia, India, and Nepal.
This is an exceptionally appropriate theme for me as I just returned from a week at Glacier National Park, the highlight of which is traveling Going-to-the-Sun Road, one of the most picturesque roads in America.
Pretty cool theme. What I like most about it is that each entry features a different aspect of the sun’s power: burning or coloring, drying, lighting, and heating. That’s an elegant touch. And I didn’t pay close enough attention to the revealer clue to realize there were SUNs everywhere…until I started writing this up, that is. When I realized that, I was even more impressed. Nicely done.
The only thing I question is why clue it with respect to the original phrases. Why not alter the clues and add a question mark? For example, [*Seem more impressive?] feels like an apt clue for TAN IN COMPARISON and injects just a little bit of humor. Similarly, [*Experienced?], [*Worried about opening the curtains, say?], and [*Be encouraging about ?] would seem to work for the rest of the themers.
Moving on, if you’ve had enough SUN for a while (as I have; we need some rain here in the west), there’s a RAIN DANCE going on at 77d. Other highlights include ZOROASTER, MONA LISA, CAPRESE, MUD TIRE, RADIUM, CREOLES, HARPOONERS, RODEOS, and ENIGMA. I’m not so sure about EMAIL TRAIL. How does that differ from an “email thread” (which seems more common to me)?
Clues of note:
- 4a. [One may love you unconditionally]. PET. Wouldn’t it be better if some pets had conditions and stopped loving the ones that abuse them?
- 57d. [Iron Man’s possessive]. HIS. This one’s oddly specific and it just feels weird.
- 103d. [Buggy terrain?]. DUNE. We would also have accepted [Highly anticipated sci-fi remake of 2021]. The film comes out next week and stars the young and talented Timothée Chalamet as Paul Atreides.
Impressive and fun puzzle. Four stars.
No question there’s ambiguity in the use of “Baroque,” and some would reserve it solely for the Catholic countries. Wiki is squarely within that camp. Its article on the style never once mentions the Dutch, and its article on the Dutch golden age states that the Dutch weren’t much touched by the Baroque.
Still, hate to depart from Wiki, which I consult all the time, but plenty of historians use the Baroque simply for the distinct period covering the 1600s and much of the next century. The label and its association with flamboyance, after all, was created only a century later by hostile critics, and the style began with quite the opposite, a paring away of the mind games and excess of the late Renaissance and Mannerism, toward a greater immediacy, dramatic use of natural light, greater depth and texturing in oil, and greater continuity of space. The most famous in its breakthrough was Caravaggio, and I’m quite comfortable seeing all that in the Dutch.
Bear in mind, too, that Wiki has no trouble considering Velazquez in Spain the Baroque’s foremost portraitist, and his portraits share with Rembrandt’s that up-close feeling and quiet dignity. Then, too, it feels a little funny to think of that one country as off on its own with no relationship to the rest of Europe, for all its religious differences and successful independence wars from Spain. Svetlana Alpers, a great historian, notes that explanations of Dutch art in terms of the Protestant ethos are “much disputed” and calls a leading intellectual figure totally “of his time and place.”
Anyhow, I didn’t feel a hint of qualms when I got that clue. In fact, I smiled.
NYT: ILYA crossed with PALAU ?? not a fan
WaPo: Hallelujah, a Birnholz themeless. My favorite – and in my humble opinion, way too infrequent.
Did not like this one.
Thank you. I would do more of them, but I realize most solvers are used to themed 21×21 puzzles. I figure three of them per year is enough for now.
Sorry, I just don’t see the humor or the wit in these – forced and unfunny. That’s me I guess.
Incisive analysis! Care to share any other things you don’t find funny? People dying to know!
I wanted to love this, but i could not after all…favorite clue: 90 across…maybe next time!
Build me up, Buttercup is having a renaissance in a series of insurance ads. Good timing.