Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle (Week 541), “Military Briefs”—Ade’s take
Good day everyone! Hope all is well with you and that you’re all getting your costumes and other decorations ready to get in the Halloween spirit. (Yes, I know there are those people who are already thinking about Christmas decorations at this point in the year. If that’s you, stop it!! Just kidding…I think.)
There are some soldiers and members of the armed forces in camouflage today, as in that the abbreviations of ranks in the military are included in the five theme entries, with the letters spanning multiple words.
- IN A BAD MOOD (17A: [Grumpy and cranky]) – Admiral (ADM)
- OPEN SEA (36A: [Pirate’s place]) – Ensign (ENS)
- STAGE NAMES (57A: [Queen Latifah and Lil Baby, for example]) – General (GEN)
- COCO LOPEZ (11D: [Brand of sweetened cream used in piña coladas) – Colonel (COL)
- BASIC PLAN (32A: [Plain-vanilla subscription option from Netflix]) – Corporal (CPL)
Man, it’s been a while and a half since I’ve seen AL-ANON in a grid (10D: [“12-Step” support group]). Remember seeing that a couple of times when I started solving puzzles just over a decade ago, and think I hadn’t seen it since until right now! Seeing EGG NOGS already has me thinking that a) the holiday season will be here before I know it, and b) that I don’t think I have ever had a drink of egg nog ever in my life (28A:[Spiked Yule drinks]). Actually, I have…when my college roommate and best friend to this day was obsessed with drinking spiked egg nog on campus before flying back home to California. Can’t say that it was anything special. X-RAY LABS (49A: [Medical photo venues]) was the highlight for me of all the non-themed fill while one of its intersecting answers, PRAGUE, has me thinking that that might be one of the cities that I should put on my bucket list to visit (46D: [Czech capital, aka “The City of a Hundred Spires”]).
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: MOOG (8D: [Synthesizer pioneer]) – A part of arguably the greatest dynasty in National Hockey League history, former goaltender Andy Moog was a member of three Stanley Cup-winning teams as a member of the Edmonton Oilers, in 1984, 1985 and 1987. He was mostly the backup to Hall-of-Famer Grant Fuhr on those teams, but then established himself as a big-game goalkeeper when he became a member of the Boston Bruins, helping the Bs make the Stanley Cup Final in 1988 and 1990. Coincidentally enough, both those Bruins teams lost in the championship series to the Oilers. Moog has the highest winning percentage of any eligible player not enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame (.580).
Thank you so much for the time, everybody! Have a wonderful and safe rest of your day and, as always, keep solving!
Conor Sefkow’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap
Pardon the discombobulation, but my iMac is in a mood (updating software) so I’m solving and blogging on a new laptop with a new download of Black Ink solving software (and I didn’t adjust my solving preferences beforehand so I kept typing in unexpected squares) and it’s been a long week already, hasn’t it? So quick recap on the puzzle.
The whimsical revealer is 37a. [Portmanteau coinage describing this puzzle’s theme], ALLITERNATION. The four themers are two word phrases consisting of a demonym (place-name adjective) followed by a noun with the same beginning sound (alliteration, with various nations’ demonyms): RUSSIAN ROULETTE, FRENCH FRY, DUTCH DOOR, and CHINESE CHECKERS. It feels cheeky to coin your own theme revealer! But it’s cute.
Tough for Tuesday: 2d. [Egyptian king of the gods], AMUN-RA. I had ANUBIS first, and it’s a good thing RUSSIAN’s U is crystal clear because the other god’s name can be spelled Amen-Ra and Amon-Ra, I think. Also: the old dagger SNEE is dusty crosswordese I would not expect to see in an early-week puzzle.
54a. [Counter-Strike of League of Legends], ESPORT. I didn’t know you could singularize just one E-sport.
62a. [Map with elevation lines], TOPO. I wonder which is more broadly familiar: shorthand for a topographical map or the tasty sparkling water brand, Topo Chico.
3.25 stars from me, over and out.
MaryEllen Uthlaut’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Connecting Flight”—Jim P’s review
The title of today’s puzzle is a little off, but the revealer is more apt: CUTTING / CLASS (53a, [With 56-Across, indifferent student’s practice, and a hint to the puzzle theme]). The theme rows consist of two entries with circled letters on either side of a block. The circled letters spell out a seating class on a commercial flight.
- 20a [Scout’s job, for short] / 22a [1974 song by rock’s Big Star]. RECON / O MY SOUL. Never heard of that song or the band. Has anyone here?
- 26a [Public transportation] / 30a [Actually existing]. MOTORBUS / IN ESSE. Don’t know anyone who uses the term MOTORBUS. SYLLABUS would have fit just as well. IN ESSE I only know from crosswords.
- 46a [Christmas tree choice] / 48a [Connector of stories]. RED FIR / STAIRWAY.
I got the gist of the theme by the second themed row, and the revealer cemented everything in place. Works well enough, but having to rely on an obscure song from a band few solvers will know as well as fusty crosswordese (IN ESSE) doesn’t bring joy to the solve.
Would it have been possible to do this theme with actual school classes? Maybe, but maybe not. SPANISH could be hidden in LIFE SPAN / ISHTAR. HISTORY in SUSHI / STORYTIME. But a lot of the most common classes would be hard to incorporate: ENGLISH, BIOLOGY, ALGEBRA, etc.
NANTUCKET, INFOTECH, and ROUSSEAU top the fill followed by PIXIE, ISLAND, and CRAYON.
Clues of note:
- 64a. [Seat at the table]. PLACE. I was looking at “Seat” as a noun. Then decided it was a verb when I got the answer. Now I think it can be either.
- 4d. [Insurer that once had the naming rights to the Mariners’ ballpark]. SAFECO Field is now T-Mobile Park.
- 6d. [Like tears and sweat]. GLANDULAR. Why not clue this [Like sweat and tears, but not blood]?
- 7d. [Met score]. RUN. “Met,” as in a player from “the Mets.” Contrast this with 66a [Part of a Met score] for ARIA.
Greg Johnson’s Universal crossword, “The Name of the Game”— Jim Q’s write-up
THEME: Names of featured board game characters
- JOHN BODDY (Clue)
- RICH UNCLE / PENNYBAGS (Monopoly)
- GINGERBREAD KIDS (Candyland)
- CAVITY SAM (Operation)
Really liked this one. Felt like a total throwback with those games, and yet most of the names (or parts of the names) eluded my.memory… fun trivia! It seems like this is the kind of category that might appear on trivia night at the pub, so good to have in your back pocket.
I initially thought the clue for Clue was asking for one of the (many) other characters in that game, not the one who no one thinks about (yet who is, oddly enough, a crucial character). All I can picture is Tim Curry, who actually isn’t Mr. BODDY of course. Also, never knew Mr. BODDY‘s first name was JOHN. Or that his last was spelled that way.
Didn’t know RICH was part of MONEYBAGS‘s name. GINGERBREAD KIDS is very cute… totally forgot that one. And the dude from Operation has a name?!?! I’m only just realizing how many times I operated on CAVITY SAM and didn’t even bother to learn his backstory. Terrible bedside manner.
Standard, if forgettable fill. If I had any nits I don’t remember them now.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “It’s Time to Get Things Started” – Derek’s write-up
We have an AWESOME theme today, especially if you’re a fan of the Muppets, like I am!
- 17A [In-N-Out Burger “secret menu” order] ANIMAL STYLE – This secret menu is something I don’t know well, since the nearest In-N-Out is 1,000 miles from me! But I think this is a lettuce wrapped burger. Feel free to correct me!
- 24A [Science lab container that could be corrosive if spilled] BEAKER OF ACID
- 41A [Genre associated with Hunter S. Thompson] GONZO JOURNALISM
- 51A [It’s typically made with apples, walnuts, and mayo] WALDORF SALAD
- 65A [Chocolate-dipped cookie desserts supposedly named after Phil Rizzuto] SCOOTER PIES
The italicized openers to all the theme answers are names of different Muppets. And who doesn’t know the Muppets? Sadly, they are now owned by Disney, like everything else in the entertainment world, but that doesn’t take away from my fond childhood memories of watching The Muppet Show, which is where the title of this puzzle originates. I am in my happy place with this puzzle, despite the evil spectre of Disney! 4.8 stars from me!
A few more things:
- 30A [“One-of-a-kind” digital asset sometimes labelled a “crypto-collectible”] NFT –
- 60A [Actor Alan of whom Bill Hader does a good impression] ALDA – Is this from SNL? Don’t know this bit. I’ll have to Google it!
- 8D [Someone performing home repairs, e.g.] D.I.Y.-ER – I am not one of these. Only when absolutely necessary!
- 33D [Eastern European relish made with red pepper, eggplant, and chilis] AJVAR – Never heard of it. Is this even one word? Or is it two??
- 48D [Brooklyn or Romeo Beckham, to Sir Elton John] GOD-SON – It’s all about who you know!
- 57D [“Stagger ___” (African-American folk song)] LEE – I don’t know this song. I am going to have to turn in my black card!
I will stop there. Another Jonesin’ will be here next week!
Alan Olschwang’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
It has been a while since I have done a puzzle by Alan Olschwang, but we have a great puzzle with, including the revealer, a whopping SIX theme answers!
- 17A [Crude carrier] OIL TANKER
- 31A [Gem set by itself] SOLITAIRE
- 46A [It’s useless to argue with one] KNOW-IT-ALL
- 9D [Good thing to spend with one’s kids] QUALITY TIME
- 25D [“Rebel Without a Cause” co-star] NATALIE WOOD
- 66A [Dramatic descents, and a hint to each set of circles] TAILSPINS
To the letters in the word TAIL are all jumbled around in each themer, giving you many “TAILspins”! Although these are four common letters, this is still a tight feat of construction. All in an enjoyable puzzle to boot! 4.6 stars from me.
Just a few more details:
- 16A [Latin bears] URSAE – I don’t know why I read this as Latino and not Latin!
- 35A [“She loves you” followers, in song] YEAHS – What a clue. Are you humming this song now?
- 64A [Kaka’ako crooner] DON HO – While, haven’t seen this name in forever. “Tiny bubbles, … in the wine …”
- 73A [It’s quite a blast] H-TEST – What is this stand for?? Hydrogen bomb test? I think this is a new one to me.
- 11D [“Ditto”] “AS AM I” – This could also me ME TOO, AS DO I, SO AM I, etc. Tricky!
- 32D [Yossarian’s “Catch-22” tentmate] ORR – I still have never read this book. Perhaps when I am on vacation in a week or so1
Everyone have a safe and healthy week! Here is an earworm for you!
Erica Hsiung Wojcik’s USA Today Crossword, “Top Secret“ — Emily’s write-up
In a puzzle full of secrets, what’s not a secret is the delight of this fun grid, great clues, and excellent entries! Also, there’s a sneaky SPY that tried to HIDE as best as they could, and nearly made it unseen, at the very bottom of the grid.
Theme: The first (or top) word of each themer is combined with the word “secret” to make new phrases.
- 9d. [Modulating between dialects], CODESWITCHING
- 17d. [Regular, degular, shmegular], GARDENVARIETY
- 18d. [Beachfront city near Los Angeles], SANTAMONICA
I enjoyed the vertical themers paired with a creative title. It felt like I was cracking my own secret CODESWITCHING. This first themer is also a great entry in general and reminded me of the excellent NPR podcast Code Switch. The second themer makes somethings extraordinary from ordinary with secret GARDENVARIETY. The most extreme change comes from the last themer, procuring a jolly person from an equally sunny place: secret SANTAMONICA.
Favorite fill: SIS, CADETS, and CODESWITCHING
Stumpers: UNTIL (I really wanted “and so” to work), PLAYGOD (needed the crosses to fill the first half of this one), and UNSEAT (“usurp” and “oust” were all I could come up with)
Liked today’s puzzle? Trying to make some of your own? Intrigued by the process of constructing and publishing? Well, here’s one more secret: Erica included a fantastically detailed note about how this puzzle was made, including feedback from the editor Erik Agard on Sally’s blog today!
– an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment.
*Suicide is not sport, especially to families enduring it
*E-sport is gratuitous at best, certainly oxymoronic – get off yer butt and move more than fingers
*alliternation is decidedly awful
NYT 22-D, “Not Get Take0ut” was interesting to me – I maintained that the answer, “DINE IN” is exactly what you do when you DO get takeout. My wife pointed out to me that from a restaurant’s point of view, the choices would be “Takeout or dine-in?” It hadn’t even crossed my mind that that would have been a possibility. The opposite was true of my wife – she hadn’t thought of my answer. Maybe there’s a more global lesson there.
Small nit to pick with the WaPo/LA Times today. The answer to 9-D actually has five circled letters, not four – but the fifth one doesn’t belong to that entry, it’s part of a crossing.
Disagree. The four circles in every theme answer are contiguous. The one you are referring to is part of the across entry 46A. I’ll grant that it would have more elegant had it not crossed 9D, but sheesh … that’s really picky.
USA Today: I’m accustomed to being stumped by references in this puzzle. In fact, that’s why I incorporated it into my daily habit after Erik Agard took over as editor. I’m trying to broaden my horizons and get some exposure to language and names that I probably wouldn’t otherwise. But, crossword solvers are supposed to know the name of a tea shop in Louisville? Plus, ERHU??? Yikes!
I haven’t been doing the USA today puzzle but your comment intrigued me enough that I tried it. ERHU is pretty out there, but was crossed fairly, I thought. The tea shop clue is very weird indeed, and since I only vaguely remembered the name of the musician crossing the last letter I thought it was somewhat unfair.
I’m trying to think if the name of the tea shop is some kind of pun that would make it easier to guess, but nothing’s coming to mind.
I think Agard and his small clique of hipsters incorporate too much of their lingo into their puzzles. As an example, 47D (What miming a phone might mean = Hit me up) makes no sense to the common person. Can someone explain what that term means?
Miming a phone: make a fist, extend thumb and pinkie, hold thumb near ear and pinkie near mouth.
“Hit me up”: call me/contact me.
Miming a phone has been around for a long time. “Hit me up” is more recent, but I’d guess it’s been in use for 10-15 years.
NYT: Put in SETTLERS OF CATAN for 58 across – thought it had to be right given it fit – which threw me off for a few clues, but found the right path and enjoyed the puzzle
Same here. It seemed just the sort of not exactly nichey/not exactly mainstream sort of thing the NYT would have in a puzzle.
WSJ: 1974 rock music should be right up my pop culture alley, but I’ve never heard of either the song “O My Soul” or the band Big Star. Huh.
Big Star was great but short-lived.
You might remember this 60’s song by one of Big Star’s primary songwriters, Alex Chilton:
Yup … I definitely know that one, but couldn’t have told you that the band’s name was The Box Tops or that Alex Chilton was the name of their lead singer. I’m always happy to fill in the holes in my 60s/70s music knowledge. Unfortunately, these days, it’s not likely that I’ll remember any of this trivia even a week from now.
Also the topic of the song “Alex Chilton”, one of the best of the Replacements songs – 1980’s Minneapolis favorites.
LA Times – Having NATIVITY and NATALIE WOOD in the same puzzle is a pretty major duplication: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natalie_(given_name)
Universal -24/52A I wanted RICHUNCLEmoNeyBAGS also, but it was not to be. I never knew he was named PENNYBAGS! LOL The things you learn in crosswords.