Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle (Week 542), “Meet the Best Man!”—Ade’s take
Good day everyone! The chill is in the air for a good portion of the country, so here is hoping everyone is staying warm. (Geez, wasn’t I just talking about hoping everybody was staying cool?)
We have some first-class men included in today’s puzzle, and they’re so highly regarded that the letters A-ONE are featured, in that order, in their names. The circles highlight that feature of all of the theme entries.
- LANGSTON HUGHES (16A: [Best man who wrote the poem “I Too”?]) –
- ANTONIO BANDERAS(22A: [Best man who starred in “The Mask of Zorro”?])
- CLAUDE MONET (34A: [Best man who painted “Woman with a Parasol”?])
- MARIO VAN PEEBLES (44A: [Best man who directed “New Jack City”?]) – RIP to his father, legendary actor Melvin Van Peebles, who passed away last month.
- JAMES EARL JONES (53A: [Best man who starred in “The Great White Hope”?]) – Jones’ role in the movie was patterned after one of the greats in the history of boxing, former heavyweight champion Jack Johnson.
Along with the theme, which highlighted great entertainers of color, we also have PUENTE representing on the music end (32A: [Bandleader Tito, aka “The King of Latin Music”]). Liked a lot of the long downs in the corners, with with LEAR JET (37D: [Executive’s aircraft]) and RESTART being my favorites, as the latter reminds me now of the issues I’ve been having with starting my laptop/awakening it from sleep mode (12D: [Problem-solving PC command]). Maybe I should cut it off once in a while instead of running it days at a time! It’s been a little while since seeing our old architect friend, EERO, in a grid (19A: [Architect Saarinen]). Can the patriarch, Eliel Saarinen, get some love sometime soon? Because of ESPN sportscaster Chris Berman giving former Major League Baseball player Scott Podsednik the nickname of “The Scott Podsednik Adventure” years ago, that allowed to, after finding out where it came from, read more about, and then watch, The Poseidon Adventure, directed by Ronald NEAME (48D: [Director of “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie”]). Great cast, OK movie. Maybe I’m a rough critic.
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: MCLEAN (1D: [“American Pie” singer Don]) – For the second straight week, the focus is on a hockey goaltender, which is fitting because the NHL regular season started last week. Former NHL goaltender Kirk McLean was one of the last goaltenders who played the “stand-up” style of goaltending, as opposed to the widely-used (and, most likely, universally-used) butterfly style, where goaltenders drop to their knees to make saves. McLean was a finalist for the Vezina Trophy, the award given to the league’s top goaltender, on two occasions (1989, 1992) and, in 1994, was the goaltender for the Vancouver Canucks on their run to the Stanley Cup Final. In that series, they took the favored New York Rangers to a seventh game before losing to the Blueshirts at Madison Square Garden, giving the Rangers their first Stanley Cup victory since 1940.
Thank you so much for the time, everybody! Have a wonderful and safe rest of your day and, as always, keep solving!
Ross Trudeau’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
This one’s for the English majors. The puzzle has left/right symmetry, and three of the four themers are Downs abutting other entries of equal length. The theme clues are marked, but it’s maybe asking a lot of newbies to find themers that don’t jump out at you in the grid. We get 28d. [Literary trio found in the answers to this puzzle’s starred clues], THE BRONTËS, and a possessive for each of the sisters:
- 19a. [*Children’s book whose title character says “If I can fool a bug, I can surely fool a man. People are not as smart as bugs”], CHARLOTTE’S WEB.
- 6d. [*Chain known for its soft pretzels], AUNTIE ANNE’S. I’m hard pressed to resist the cinnamon and sugar pretzel bites (the bite-size nuggets mean you don’t wind up with sugar and butter on your face).
- 25d. [*Prominent left-leaning political action committee], EMILY’S LIST.
I don’t know that there’s a thematic rationale for the ‘S bit. Perhaps nothing more than that they offer a way to include just the first names, and not non-Brontë surnames.
Fave fill: EARLY RISER (not me!), ACUTE ACCENT, SNOWPACK, SENIORITIS.
Tougher bits for a beginning solver who’s waded into Tuesdays: MAA, KENO, Italian OTTO, Canadian ESSO, authorial monogram RLS, the SOU‘wester hat.
Tech terms not in my vocab: 40a. [Small interval for grouping data, to a coder], BIN, and 4d. [Downloads in the testing phase], BETA APPS.
Three more things:
- 52a. [Radish lookalike]. TURNIP. I disagree that they are lookalikes! One is a magenta red and small, while the other is a markedly larger white and purple entity. If you ever wanted to read an excess of paragraphs comparing the two, here you go.
- 7d. [Bit of décor?], ACUTE ACCENT. Cute! “That’s a cute accent píllow.”
- 33d. [Word with immunity or mentality], HERD. I have a fervent HOPE (9d) that we somehow reach HERD immunity with COVID, as the virtual house arrest for the immunocompromised is wearying.
3.75 stars from me. The less familiar (to a beginning solver) fill knocks this down some.
Daniel Britt’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Set Sail”—Jim P’s review
Theme: The SEVEN SEAS (66a, [Global group, and a hint to the starts of the starred answers]). While there are more than seven seas in the world, here are seven that fit within the confines of a crossword puzzle and whose names also start familiar phrases.
- 14a. [*Peary goal of 1909] NORTH POLE.
- 20a. [*Contemptible person] YELLOW DOG.
- 22a. [*Flash photography annoyance] RED-EYE.
- 32a. [*Venomous reptile with stripes] CORAL SNAKE.
- 52a. [*Exactly right] DEAD ON.
- 56a. [*Skin blemish also called a comedo] BLACKHEAD.
I definitely needed the revealer because I couldn’t make any connection between the entries otherwise. Had a nice aha moment once I got it.
It’s unusual to have non-theme answers that are longer than theme answers in the same direction (BYE ROUNDS and SHORTENER), but the asterisks make it clear which entries are thematic.
BYE ROUNDS is a nice entry and has a deceptive clue [Inactive periods for seeds]. I was totally thinking botany, and when I couldn’t parse the beginning BYER___, I needed several more crosses for the penny to drop. A good time.
TREE RAT and CHEAPO are other fun entries, and JOCOSE [Humorously playful] is one for the word nerd. I wanted JOCULAR but it didn’t fit.
Eight theme entries, even though some of them are on the short side, still put a strain on the fill, so we get things like plural TEDDYS (first names, not articles of clothing), and partial ONE AT. But overall, this makes for a fine debut, so congrats to our newest constructor.
Clue of note: 36d. [Film role for Ricardo Montalban and Benedict Cumberbatch]. KHAN. Missing a few A’s, I think.
Brooke Husic & Mark Valdez’s USA Today Crossword, “Add a Cup“ — Emily’s write-up
Fantastic puzzle today! Lots of fun entries and clues, in particular.
Theme: The word “cup” can be added to the end of the first word of each themer to form a new phrase.
- 17a. [Something an elite athlete might set], WORLDRECORD
- 39a. [Filters keep them out of espresso], COFFEEGROUNDS
- 62a. [Sticky treat that might have a tongue tattoo], FRUITROLLUP
A descriptive title explains today’s theme and when you “Add a Cup” to the themers, it makes the international soccer (football) competition WORLDCUPRECORD, and depending where you live globally you might be drinking from a COFFEECUPGROUNDS while watching the matches, or even eating sweet treat such as a FRUITCUPROLLUP. These are great themers and the theme transformations are excellent too, not to mention the fun clues.
Favorite fill: ASFORME, SNAP, PAN, PREP, RISEUP, EATSIN, BLINKS, PUFFS, and AUSTIN
Stumpers: CAPE (first instinct was “belt” but maybe her CAPE is iconic too—comic books and movies aren’t my usual jam), FRUITROLLUP (gum brands kept coming to mind, especially “Fruit Stripe”), and TERSE (needed crossings, wanted “concise” or “brief”)
Feels weird to say that this puzzle took me back but it really did. So much in this puz was delightfully nostalgic, drawing on knowledge and bringing up memories from childhood through college years. It really spoke to me and I had a great flow when solving it. I haven’t thought of many of these references in a long time, so it was equally impressive that their clues hit on just the right triggers for me when filling it in. What a joy! Can’t wait to hopefully see more collabs from Brooke and Mark!
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “YRs Truly” – Derek’s write-up
The title kinda gives away what is going on. All the themers have the initials YR:
- 17A [Flower in a Texas song] YELLOW ROSE
- 19A [Genre for Michael McDonald and Rupert Holmes] YACHT ROCK
- 24A [Getaways with a focus on poses] YOGA RETREATS
- 41A [Longest waterway in China] YANGTZERIVER
- 48A [“I’m serious”] “YES, REALLY”
- 54A [“No argument here”] “YOU’RE RIGHT”
Nicely done. My Across Lite still doesn’t like the Jonesin’ file when I start the puzzle and doesn’t get the timer going, so no idea how long this took me. But it wasn’t too long. A lot smoother than a normal Jonesin’ mainly because there isn’t too much obscure pop trivia in this one. Fun stuff, Matt! 4.4 stars from me.
A few more notes:
- 15A [Spike’s demon friend, on “Buffy”] CLEM – This wins the obscure award for me. I am likely not going to watch a show that has demons on it!
- 36A [Car brand that translates to “I roll”] VOLVO – Good to know! I may never own but, but still good to know!
- 10D [“Have ___ my mind?”] I LOST – Yes, yes I have!
- 26D [Engine buildup] GUNK – Is this an actual word??
- 29D [Presley-inspired Mexican-American singer with the albums “Graciasland” and “Merry MeX-mas”] ELVEZ – My error was here; I thought it ended with an S! I also cannot spell Chinese rivers, but I think 41-Across can be spelled with an S or a Z. I think I have seen it both ways. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!
- 49D [Waffle brand that somehow has a cereal version] EGGO – Now I am going to have to go buy this and try it!
That is all! Another Jonesin’ next week!
David Poole’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
Sorry for the delay; I solved the wrong puzzle! Here are the theme entries for Tuesday’s puzzle!
- 4D [Movie with Minions] DESPICABLE ME
- 8D [“Spoon-bender” debunked by the Amazing Randi] URI GELLER
- 32D [Diner list for animal product avoiders] VEGAN MENU
- 23D [Meteors, and what three Down answers aptly contain] FALLING STARS –
We have the stars Spica, Rigel and Vega starting in the circles of a few down answers, so they are literally “falling” down the grid. I like it, even though I had to make sure Spica was the correct star name! Not as familiar with that one, and I didn’t want to insert a tasteless word in the review! Nice puzzle, David! 4.4 stars from me.
A few more comments:
- 18A [“24” analyst Chloe __] O’BRIAN – This is the fictional character name. Played by actress Mary Lynn Rajskub. At least in the first season; I think they shuffled everyone around in subsequent seasons. It’s been a minute since that was on!
- 51A [Apple known by its first three letters] MACINTOSH – The new Macs are out, and I certainly cannot afford them!
- 5D [Got a run home] SCORED – This is a baseball reference, and the World Series is just around the corner. I don’t care who wins, as long as it isn’t the Astros!
- 6D [Avocation] HOBBY – Your vocation is what you do for a living. Crosswords are my avocation!
- 44D [Arizona MLBers] D’BACKS – Another baseball reference. They wont be in the World Series any time soon!
Everyone have a safe and healthy week!
Ross Trudeau’s Universal crossword, “Standard Procedure”— Jim Q’s write-up
THEME: People who are involved with courses
- PASTRY CHEFS
- MATTER OF COURSE
The featured editor today is Amanda Rafkin! And a fine job with this puzzle. Interesting theme that feels both loose and tight at the same time. And some great fill: OKAY, SURE. PUMP FAKE, OSCAR NOD are faves there.
The unfamiliar LORRIE crossing DRIER was difficult for me as I am never sure if it’s an I or a Y in DRYER, and spelling a name LORRYE looks strange for sure, but I’ve seen a host of stranger name spellings as a teacher for 15 years. So I convinced myself LORRYE was correct, but quickly changed it when the happy pencil didn’t appear.
Thanks for this one!
I kept wondering what the NYT grid represents. Must admit I’m more relieved than disappointed that it wasn’t something I missed.
I’m not a fan of THE . . . fill, like the long revealer, but I guess it would have been asking a lot to squeeze in BRONTE SISTERS, whether as one or two entries. So I guess it’ll do.
I was impressed by the NYT — interesting grid and theme, symmetric placement of the theme entries, and pretty clean fill (HEA is not great but one clunker is allowed).
I was also perplexed by the idea that turnips and radishes are lookalikes. Maybe to someone who has poor depth perception and a strange kind of colorblindness?
NYT: I was happy to get clarification on the difference between ovine and caprine linguistics (they seem closely related). I swear I have heard some ovines speak caprine and vice versa. The differences are subtle. Of course none speak bovine so that kept 5A much simpler. Though I did start out wrong which slowed me a bit.
I enjoyed the puzzle a lot. Once I got Charlotte and the revealer, I was looking for Emily and Anne in the acrosses which didn’t happen.
p.s. don’t send Ross shopping for your veggies, if radishes and turnips look alike. They may be related plant-wise (I don’t know), but not so much taste and size and color wise.
I believe it is a fixed principle of crosswords that sheep say baa and goats say maa. Who decided this I cannot say.
LOL, ok, I missed that memo :D . There aren’t all that many goats bleating in xwords, not as many and sheep, so I didn’t know.
Universal … a sea of blocks (46!) and 3- and 4-letter answers (45 of 74!) … oof!
Derek: I don’t care how late the review of the LA Times puzzle is posted, I will read it. I come here for insight into that daily and Sunday puzzle and the Inkubator. For now my crossword puzzling time is limited to those and the Merle Reagle book reprints and Puzzle Wright Press book weekend series. I am a slow solver. I have never timed a solve. I love puns. Thank you for your generous sharing of your knowledge, insight, and time.