Peter Gordon’s New York Times crossword, “New Look”—Amy’s write-up
Neat theme here. The revealer is 116a. [New look provider … or a homophonic hint to this puzzle’s theme], FRESH PAIR OF EYES, and each themer is made by adding two letter i’s to the last word of familiar phrases:
- 23a. [Meticulous magical beings?], THOROUGH FAIRIES. Thoroughfares.
- 32a. [Like some cross-Caribbean flights?], PANAMA-HAITI. Panama hat. Not loving PANAMA-HAITI—I checked Expedia and they weren’t finding any nonstops between PTY and PAP. Twelve hours with a stop in Miami was about the best. Fine, take a private plane.
- 50a. [Journals of a certain stunt performer?], DOUBLE DIARIES. Double dares.
- 68a. [Possible reason for refusing to wear a tank top?], SHOULDER HAIRINESS. Shoulder harness. Ha! This one amused me. I don’t know why. I support body positivity!
- 85a. [Means of learning about Chiang Kai-shek?], BOOKS ON TAIPEI. Is Books on Tape still a thing? Are the tapes CDs or downloads?
- 99a. [Inept dancers at Oktoberfest?], POLKA IDIOTS. Polka dots.
Works for me, for the most part.
Fave fill: TRUTH SERUM, TOOTSIE POP, SWEATS IT, TELEPORT, OH HENRY!
Seven more things:
- Did not know, will not remember: 34a. [Three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver in the New York Jets Ring of Honor], ALTOON. No idea what this “Ring of Honor” means. Like a hall of fame, but in a circle? A piece of jewelry? So weird.
- Didn’t I just single out GOT SORE as bad fill in the NYT one or two days ago? Here’s the present tense, GET SORE, 94a. [Become ticked off]. Nope, still don’t like it.
- 79d. [Org. that bestows the Community Assist Award], NBA. Didn’t ring a bell, but this is great. Check out these players being honored for helping their communities in any given month, the offseason, and “seasonlong,” which I don’t like as an unhyphenated word.
- 37a. [Biblical father of Eliphaz], ESAU. ESAU is legit, but Eliphaz is definitely a biblical second-stringer.
- 115a. [Dish at a traditional Bedouin wedding], CAMEL. I did not see that coming.
- 124a. [Felt on the head?], STETSON. As in a hat crafted from wool felt.
- 76d. [Thomas Jefferson or John Tyler, by birth], ARIES. Know your presidential zodiac signs! Obama and Clinton are Leos, like me. No idea about the others, off the top of my head. Nancy Reagan’s astrologer might know.
Four stars from me.
Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Team Pursuit” – Jim Q’s Write-up
THEME: Sports teams can be found at the beginning of common phrases, clued wackily in an aspiring sort of way.
- 23A [Winning streak for Seattle’s WNBA team?] STORM SURGE.
- 35A [Hall of Famers who played for St. Louis’s NHL team?] BLUES LEGENDS.
- 40A [Winning and excellence, to Utah’s NBA team?] JAZZ STANDARDS.
- 66A [Chicago’s NFL team winning a second championship in a row?] BEARS REPEATING.
- 74A [Happy players on Tampa Bay’s MLB team?] RAYS OF SUNSHINE.
- 99A [Buffalo NFL players who deserve praise?] BILLS OF CREDIT.
- 107A [Applause for Oklahoma City’s NBA team?] THUNDER CLAPS.
- 124A [Ambitions among friends … or what seven answers in this puzzle represent?] SQUAD GOALS.
The WaPo elevator has returned to the ground floor after last week’s mind-bender (I wouldn’t mind seeing a couple of the angry emails Evan inevitably received for that one), and is back to being accessible for all solvers. Everyone can enjoy this one… even me, who knows impressively little when it comes to sports teams (STORM and THUNDER both new for me in this one. Last time I admitted that I didn’t know something about sports that most people should know, a troll was born to chide me for my ignorance. There’s a troll for everything I suppose. Go figure).
I *think* I’m interpreting the sorta-kinda revealer SQUAD GOALS correctly. All of the clues have positive takeaways for the team, so they are GOALS or sorts. Seems a bit loose, and my apologies if I’m articulating that incorrectly, but that’s what I’m sensing.
In the fill:
- 20A [Style of fiction that Catherynne M. Valente called “a fairy tale with guns”] NOIR. What a great description of the genre!
- 38A [“For ___ purposes …”] I always say, when the ever-so-popular crosswordese partial “ALL INTENTS AND” doesn’t fit, go with OUR.
- 117A [Where one might grab a cab] WINE STORE. Great clue, but does anyone call it a WINE STORE? Maybe in places where wineries are more prominent. By me, wines are mixed in amongst liquors, and they steal the spotlight in the store name.
- 3D [Flower shop emanation] AROMA. I think I’ve only ever associated the word AROMA with food, so this one threw me.
- 69D [“At ___!” (Army order)] EASE. Cluing feels rather ironic here.
New names for me:
LAUREN Mayberry, STARLA in general (I haven’t met any, but it’s a lovely name, clued excellently!), HAL Blaine, AIMEE Garcia, Rachel DRATCH (not new… just new seeing her surname in a crossword!), LILI Taylor.
Fun puzzle for 301. See you next week!
Paul Coulter’s Universal Sunday crossword, “Lower the Shades”—Jim P’s review
Theme: FALL COLORS (118a, [Autumn tones, and a hint to the words that drop down within the starred clues’ answers]) appear in the circled letters and they “fall” from the starred clues’ entries. I love how this revealer meshes so well with the title.
- 22a. [*First, second, third and so on] ORDINAL N(UMBER)S with 8d PLUMBER.
- 27a. [*Sundae topper] MARASCIN(O CHER)RY with 13d SMOOCHER.
- 52a. [*Aging] GETTIN(G OLD)ER with 53d GOLDA.
- 84a. [*”Homeland” star] CLAI(RE D)ANES with 85d REDO.
- 110a. [*Corporate oversight group] BOARD OF T(RUST)EES with 101d THRUST.
This works really well, and Paul handles it masterfully. All the phrases are familiar, the Downs are unrelated to the colors (except perhaps GOLDA), and everything is tight and consistent. This theme enforces a lot of constraints on the grid, but overall, the result is a smooth, fun solve.
Paul even manages to give us plenty of fun fill like RAIL SPLITTER, UNPARALLELED, BEDHEAD, TIE TACKS, LEVEL UP, THE LEFT, HAM BONE, DOG EARS, TOADSTOOL, ADD SALT, and MAKE HAY.
I didn’t know the title of Christopher Reeve’s memoir STILL ME, but in truth, I didn’t even see the clue during the solve; I filled it in from the crossings. Same with Philip AHN of the old Kung Fu TV show. That’s some fusty crosswordese, but again, the crossings took care of it.
Clues of note:
- 17a. [Hawaiian island with no traffic lights]. LANAI. Interesting factoid. Maybe it’s because the island only has 23 people per square mile (vs. Oahu which has 1600 people/mi2).
- 123a. [Present, for the verb “gift”]. TENSE. A lot of trickeration going on here. Thankfully in this case, I caught it early on.
Impressively constructed puzzle all around with a timely theme and lovely fill. Four stars.
Zhouqin Burnikel’s USA Today crossword, “I’m All In”—Darby’s review
Theme: Each themed answer includes “I’M” split between a person’s first and last name.
- 20a [“‘Jazz’ author”] TONI MORRISON
- 37a [“‘The Hills’ actress”] HEIDI MONTAG
- 56a [“Movie producer born in 2004”] MARSAI MARTIN
Sally Hoelscher, who also blogs this puzzle and does a great breakdown, pointed out that the I of “I’M” is the last letter of TONI, HEIDI, and MARSAI’s names while M is the first of their last names, which I think adds a nice touch to the theme. I struggled for awhile in figuring out the theme more generally because I thought I would find I’M IN in each answer because of the puzzle’s title. I think it was the “I’m All In” that threw me off.
This puzzle took me nearly 2 minutes longer than my usual solve time. I thought that 8a [“What ‘Bei’ in ‘Beijing’”] was particularly tricky, eventually filling NORTH in on the crosses. It was a great clue though, and I found myself really looking forward to getting the answer. I felt similarly about 65a [“Fat in bird feeders”] SUET, another unfamiliar term.
- 13d [“Beast eaten by the cat in ‘Puss in Boots’”] – I have some questions about the logistics of a cat eating an OGRE, but I’ve also never seen the movie in question.
- 21d [“People who celebrate Matariki”] – Matariki is a constellation that others know as the Pleiades. When it appears, it is heralded as the beginning of the new year for the MĀORI. You can read more about Matariki here. I thought that the inclusion of this clue also matched the educational aspect of both 52d [“Japanese city home to the Shitenno-ji Temple”] OSAKA and 57d [“Worshipper of Viracocha”], referring to the creator god of the INCA. I think that these clues are all great entries into learning more about cultures and ideas we aren’t familiar with.
- 38d [“Seaweed-wrapped sushi rolls”] – I thought this was an interesting way to learn about NORIMAKI. It is a form of makizushi, and it may be the reason I advocate for sushi as takeaway tonight.
That’s all from me. Have a great week, y’all!
Paul Coulter’s LA Times crossword, “Support Groups” – Gareth’s write-up
Paul Coulter’s Sunday puzzle is a tad quirky. When I got to the second revealer, BACKUPBANDS, I was hoping the circled squares would spell actual bands. Instead, they spell out words that spell out words that fit the pattern “___ BAND”. That makes a tighter set, but a little drier for me. The gimmick itself is fine, though the first one, GARAGE, had me a little confused due it being an almost palindrome.
There were several unusually elegant (though seemingly obvious) clues today:
- [Rest of the afternoon], SIESTA
- [Grande dame of pop], ARIANA
- [Best at putting things away?], OUTEAT. Not best as in superlative.