Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle (Week 537), “Breakable”—Ade’s take
Soooooo….what did you get me for my birthday today?!? Just leave your present at the front of the door and I’ll retrieve it when I get home, OK?!
Hello there, everyone! Hope you’ve all been doing well lately! Today’s grid features five theme entries in which the first word is also a word that can successfully complete the “Break the___” phrase.
- BANK HOLIDAY (17A: [Christmas or Thanksgiving, e.g.])
- ICE ON FIRE (24A: [2019 environmental documentary narrated by Leonardo DiCaprio])
- RULES OF CIVILITY (37A: [2011 debut novel by Amor Towles]) – I remember seeing A Gentleman in Moscow books at Barnes & Noble a few times a couple years ago and put Towles’ first name to memory in case “Amor” ended up being fill. Of course, his name is in the clue and the book title I remember was not the one I saw in the bookstore.
- NEWS FLASH (49A: [Show-stopping bulletin])
- MOLD REMOVAL (60A: [Home owner’s post-flood procedure, often])
Though the circumstances are beyond unfortunate in allowing the ELBOW BUMP to become even more prevalent in greeting people in the world, I do really like the clue (31D: [Joint meeting during the pandemic?]). We got some love for the Pacific Northwest in the grid, with both TACOMA (48D: [Puget Sound port]) and OREGON making appearances, with the latter reminding me of my time in Eugene when I almost had my eardrums blown off by the deafening noise from the crowd inside of Autzen Stadium, home of the University of Oregon Ducks football team (63A: [Eugene’s place]). I have yet to try it, but it seems like BAKING homemade eclairs is probably a whole lot harder than what the final product looks like (4D: [Making cream puffs and eclairs]). Definitely wanting a bigger challenge in the kitchen than the muffins and layer cakes that I’ve made over the years for dessert treats. I’ll let you know how that goes! Wish me luck!
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: MOLINA (15A: [“Spider-Man 2” actor Alfred]) – So a number of you, mostly through crosswords, are familiar with the Alou brothers of baseball: Felipe, Jesús and Matty. In the 21st century, another trio of brothers made names for themselves in Major League Baseball, the Molina brothers. All of the brothers played catcher. The first of the three to make the majors, Bengie, is a two-time Gold Glove winner who won a World Series in 2002 with the Anaheim Angels — before the Angels re-adopted “Los Angeles” in its team name. The second, Jose, was also a member of the 2002 Angels’ championship team, along with winning a title with the New York Yankees in 2009. The youngest of the brothers, Yadier, is still an active major leaguer and, most likely, will end up in the Baseball Hall of Fame when all is said and done. As of Monday, Molina, who has played his entire career with the St. Louis Cardinals, has recorded 2,100 hits, won nine Gold Gloves, appeared in 10 All-Star Games and claimed two World Series titles (2006, 2011).
Oh, and as I’m typing this, I’m in the press box at Citi Field of the Cardinals-Mets game, with Yadier behind the plate catching. No joke! Funny how the world works sometimes!
Thank you so much for the time, everybody! Have a wonderful and safe rest of your day and, as always, keep solving!
Steve Mossberg’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Hair of the Dog”—Jim P’s review
Fun title referring to an old-timey hangover cure. But this puzzle’s not about a suspect elixir, but dog fur, specifically a LAB COAT (40a, [Wear for a chemist, or for a canine, as shown by the starts of 18-, 24-, 51- and 61-Across]). The other theme entries start with a word that can precede “Lab” to name a type of dog.
- 18a. [World Cup caution] YELLOW CARD.
- 24a. [Movie industry, idiomatically] SILVER SCREEN.
- 51a. [Candy wrapped in pastel-colored foil] CHOCOLATE EGG.
- 61a. [Choice at a taco bar] BLACK BEANS.
Yellow Lab, Silver Lab, Chocolate Lab, Black Lab. Fun, except I’ve never heard of a Silver Lab. Apparently it’s a diluted form of the Chocolate Lab and for that reason, not considered a purebred Labrador retriever and is therefore the subject of controversy.
But I like the wordplay in the revealer and the entries themselves make for an enjoyable set.
I’m loving today’s marquee fill entries, too: MORAL FIBER and YOU ARE HERE. PICANTE is a great entry as well. RECYCLE, ENDIVES, and GOES BAD round things out.
Not a fan of weird plural CELLI [Violas’ kin] especially when CELLO can take its place by turning KIT into a Keystone KOP.
Clues of note:
- 7d. [Old computer, jocularly]. RELIC. With the C in place, I went with ENIAC at first, deciding to focus on the “old computer” part and ignoring “jocularly.” Anyone else fall into that trap?
- 64d. [Face mask provider]. SPA. I’m guessing a lot of spas provide the safety type of face mask to those patrons who failed to bring their own, but I’m assuming the clue is referring to anti-aging face masks.
Fun theme and grid. 3.8 stars.
Christopher Adams’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
The first of the answers with the five circled letters that I completed was 13d. [Some vaccine shots], BOOSTERS, and I sort of got my hopes up that it would be (implausibly for the venue) a pro-vaccination theme. (COVID vaccine research, particularly where immunocompromised people who have reduced antibody responses is concerned, is an interest of mine this year.) That circled BOOST is also an actual word, so I thought there might be other “lift” sort of words involved. But no, the actual theme is explained by the revealer at the end, 57a. [2013 Best Musical Tony winner … with a hint to this puzzle’s theme], KINKY BOOTS. KINKY is playing the part of a cryptic crossword clue’s anagram/scrambling cue, and then BOOTS is scrambled in various (mostly non-word) ways in the other themers:
- 15a. [“Everlasting” candy from Willy Wonka], GOBSTOPPER. Yum! Great fill on its own.
- 22a. [Teeny-tiny futuristic machines], NANOBOTS.
- 46a. [Tale of woe], SOB STORY.
- 9d. [Orchestra once conducted by John Williams], BOSTON POPS.
- 26d. [Places to sign in in inns], GUEST BOOKS.
- 32d. [“Peter Pan” group], LOST BOYS.
You’re on your own for figuring out if any other permutations of the letters in BOOTS in a different order can be found in a familiar words or names. Eight theme answers is more than enough, though!
Eight themers could compromise the fill in less deft hands. I wasn’t seeing much that might stymie a solving newbie. Inter ALIA, HSBC, maybe the UTES team, a singular ALP? Overall, the grid was pretty smooth, sprinkled with bits like SASHAYS, PRESS-ON nails, and some mostly up-to-date pop culture (I absolutely needed all the crossings for KOKO the 60a. [Lord High Executioner in “The Mikado”]).
Three more things:
- 29a. [Alternative to Sure or Secret], BAN. Secret remains a big brand in the antiperspirant/deodorant category. But Sure and Ban? Not so much. Not loving this angle when there are other ways to clue BAN, not loving the inclusion of Sure. (Dove, Old Spice?)
- 42a. [Bygone M&M color], TAN. I miss tan M&Ms! Like, were the machines in the factory limited to being able to apply exactly six consistent colors of candy shell, and never seven? Who voted to get rid of tan and replace it with blue? If you ever wondered about the breakdown by color of the country’s M&M supply, slake your curiosity here.
- 46d. [Pointy thing on the outside of a SARS-CoV-2 virus particle], SPIKE. No, wait, that wasn’t the clue, it was [Hard hit in volleyball]. (I told you I think about vaccine issues!)
Four stars from me.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “Home Repairs” – Derek’s write-up
We have circles!
- 17A [Replaces, as with a charged battery] SWITCHES OUT
- 24A [“Let’s get together sometime”] “WE SHOULD MEET UP!”
- 39A [More than enough at the buffet] GENEROUS HELPING
- 50A [They may involve blue material] BURLESQUE SHOWS
- 61A [Major book publishing company (or what the circled squares contain)] RANDOM HOUSE
Nicely done! As is always the case with a Jonesin’, I’ll bet the brainstorming process was a lot of fun. This one seemed to play a tad easier than a typical Jonesin’, but there aren’t too many Obscure Pop References in here this time. That means there will surely be some in the next puzzle or two! Fun solve this week; 4.5 stars from me.
A few notes:
- 44A [Princess in L. Frank Baum books] OZMA – I don’t think I know this character; she evidently appears in every Oz book after the first one, according to a quick Google search. Hm. I have stuff to read, evidently! This may be the most obscure ref in the puzzle, at least to me.
- 46A [Like TV’s “Batman”] CAMPY – That’s what made it great!
- 6D [What’s exited in Brexit, for short] THE E.U. – I have to make sure this is in my word list!
- 27D [Country cottage, in Russia] DACHA – I wouldn’t like one in Russia, but I don’t think I want a second house anywhere. I can barely maintain the first house!
- 34D [Hostess snack cake] SUZY Q – My sweet tooth will be the death of me.
- 41D [Grateful Dead bass guitarist Phil] LESH – I can never remember this dude’s name. I am not a Deadhead, so that doesn’t help.
- 53D [John H. Johnson’s magazine] EBONY – I haven’t seen this mag in years. I think they are, like most print media, suffering a bit. I am sure they have an online presence. (I checked, they do!)
That is all! Another Jonesin’ next week!
Mark McClain’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
We have circles!
- 20A [2002 Hugh Grant film based on a Nick Hornby novel] ABOUT A BOY
- 30A [Gobbledygook] MUMBO JUMBO
- 41A [Three-time All-Star outfielder whose son was a seven-time N.L. MVP] BOBBY BONDS
- 55A [Birds with short finch-like bills … or, what the sets of circled letters literally are?] BOBOLINKS
This is a slightly different use of circles, as they indicate the letters in between the BO letters, thus forming the BO-BO links. Clever! At least it is something different, which is always welcome. Nice idea, Mark! 4.7 stars.
A few notes, with a minor theme;
- 1A [Sarah __, fIrst woman governor of Alaska] PALIN – We have quite a few women referenced in clues in this puzzle. Not sure if this is a conscious effort, but I noticed it, which must mean there are a LOT!
- 16A [Tierra en el mar] ISLA – This was a missed occasion, if that was the aim: we have the actress ISLA Fisher!
- 3D [ESPN basketball analyst Rebecca] LOBO – I remember when she played for UConn, but I am old. I remember when Geno Auriemma was hired!
- 9D [Soccer great Hamm] MIA – I think she married a baseball player. Nomar, maybe?
- 26D [Costa del Sol coin] EURO – I think this place is in Spain, and if I ever vacationed there I am not sure I would come back home.
- 32D [Part of “MNF,” an in-season wkly. sports broadcast] MON – We are referencing Monday Night Football here, which returned last night. The Las Vegas Raiders won in OT!
- 51D [Hannah of “Splash”] DARYL – Believe it or not, she is now in her 60s!
Everyone have a safe and healthy week!
Rebecca Goldstein & Brooke Husic’s USA Today Crossword, “Are You My Mother?“ — Emily’s write-up
Today’s title hints to be on the look-out for mothers. There are lots of great references to and inclusion of women throughout the entires and clues as well, some to motherhood and others to women more generally. Girl power!
Theme: The word “mother” can precede the first word of each themer.
- 17a. [Extremely high-grade], SUPERIORQUALITY
- 39a. [Some studs], TONGUEPIERCINGS
- 61a. [Warm layer for cold weather], GOOSEDOWNJACKET
What a fun theme! Plus, the title is clever as a question. When “mother” is added to the first word of each themer, that gives different types of mothers: Mother SUPERIORQUALITY is a female religious role, mother TONGUEPIERCINGS is one’s native language, while Mother GOOSEDOWNJACKET tells fantastic fairy tales and nursery rhymes. I enjoyed the variety of the use of “mother” with these entries.
Favorite fill: KPOP, DOOM, POD, MATH, and TAKES
Stumpers: CREPT (“stealth” or “sneak” were coming to mind), LIMIT ([Restrict] made me think more of holding back, etc.), and SIR (just didn’t know)
Music entires clearly have selected my afternoon tunes for today. I now have an ear worm for Ursula’s song, having watched the original “The Little Mermaid” as well as the live made-for-tv version not too long ago (after finding the Wikipedia link, actually it was that long ago…in fall of 2019 apparently!). Also, with so many great Blackpink songs there are many excellent options for poppin’ jams. My all-time fave is still “Boombayah”, with over 1.2 billion views on YouTube and that still isn’t their most viewed music video. FYI it is a sexy music video but given that SEX [__ ed] and [Fallopian ___] TUBES are in today’s puzzle, seems only fitting.
With all of the great entires and clues in today’s puzzle, if you haven’t already, be sure to check out SALLY’S TAKE on USA Today Crossword on it, which covers them more in-depth and provides lots of great facts.
CROSSWORD NATION note for Adesina: Making puff pastry shells for cream-puffs or eclairs is a super simple. Then you need to make a filling, which is also quite easy. (or even use ice cream) Try it, you’ll like it! Watch the weight!
NYT: 20-D had me puzzled for a while. I’m familiar with Calum Scott’s version of the song, but not ROBYN’s. Then I headed off into other “Dancing” songs – “Dancing with a Stranger,” “Dancing by Myself,” “Dancing All Alone.” Very confusing (for me), but the crosses were fair, so no big deal.
Since three sets of themers had the BOOTS anagrams intersecting, I thought that was part of the KINKY conceit, but that didn’t work out in the SE.
pannonica: “Shouldn’t be too much of an ordeal to get Chrome up and running.”
That’s easy for you to say. The older I get the more Luddite I become. I’m fortunate to have found someone who is tech savvy and is willing to give me a hand.
To be certain — if I install Chrome I will be able to get the NYT puzzle, right?
I use Chrome and I do the NYT puzzle, although I have switched to using the official web app. This crossword-scraping business sounds kinda weird to me. Seems like the puzzle could get damaged in the process.
I’ve used it for both NYT crosswords this week and for “The New Yorker” puzzles for the last two or three weeks. It’s worked like a champ. A couple of times with TNY, I’ve needed to go into the settings and check the box for Unicode characters to get it to work. BTW, I too am moving closer and closer to the Luddite end of the spectrum these days.
My hunch is there’s an army of like-minded people out there and the it’s gonna cost NYT, in the long run. My tech prowess is limited to Across Lite puzzles, email and a few sites I regularly explore. Beyond that, yeah, I’m a Luddite.
David, what’s the “official web app”?
I mean that I solve the puzzle using the NYT’s own web interface.
I’m glad y’all have kept this conversation going. I tried the NYT site. Solved 51 straight days. I still don’t like it. I’m not interested in my stats. I just added crossword scraper and it’s a snap!
glad to her about scraper, seems that today i lost the NYT across lite, been working til now
very glad it works super easy
oh, and LUDDITES UNITE
The New Yorker crossword today contains an incorrect answer: PLASTIC MAN (52A) was not based at all on the Fantastic Four character. Plastic Man, created by Jack Cole, debuted in 1941; Reed Richards (Mr. Fantastic) debuted almost 20 years later. Not to be pedantic but this is a common error, and it is troubling. Mr. Cole was one of the great cartoonists of the Golden Age and his stories involving the character, which appeared in Police Comics, remain a treasure for those of us who enjoy the medium. Nothing against Jack Kirby’s creation — but even The King he was open about his inspiration.