Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle (Week 549), “Well, Hoop-de-Doo!”—Ade’s take
Hello there, all! Here is hoping you’re doing great and staying warm still!
Today’s grid has a hidden sports theme, and the players mentioned in the clue to the reveal, which is NBA CENTERS, might be considered out of place in today’s National Basketball Association given its rapid shift to positionless basketball (60A: [Patrick Ewing and Shaquille O’Neal…or an alternative puzzle title]). Then again, Ewing and Shaq are two of the greatest players in league history, so I’m sure they would have been great in any decade! Anyways, the letters “NBA” are embedded in each of the five other theme entries.
- RAIN BARREL (16A: [Roof runoff water collector])
- GREEN BAY PACKERS [26A: [Team that celebrated its 100th birthday in 2019])
- MANBAGS (33A: [Needlessly-gendered name for satchels, some say])
- OPEN BAR (37A: [Reception amenity])
- BARGAIN BASEMENT (44A: [Very inexpensive])
Trying to think of the devices in which you would need AAAA batteries, which I know I have never bought before, and I’m thinking something like pen lights (2D: [Tiny battery]). I’m sure frequency illusion is going to bite me at this moment, and I’m going to come across/buy something that will require quadruple As! European soccer first exposed me to ASTANA, as there’s a soccer team there (FC Astana) that once played in a European club competition a few years back, though that made me think that Astana was the current name of Kazakhstan’s capital (45A: [Former name of Nur-Sultan, capital of Kazakhstan]). Probably favorite fill of this beguiling grid-solving experience is BEGUILES (34D: [Charms by way of flattery]). I’m pretty sure all of you know that BYO stands for “bring your own,” which makes me think of the number of times that I’ve BYOB’d to a party, and I’m pretty sure that answer is zero (24D: [“Booze not provided” in events]). I’m not a teetotaler, but I know I’ve had long stretches without having booze. Whatever stretch that I’m on now will probably end before the end of the year since I’ve been working up a storm late and need to wind down pretty soon..and that might include a beer or red wine.
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: ROOMIE (32A: [Expense-sharing house party]) – Was just doing some research on Chicago Bears running back and Pro Football Hall of Famer Gale Sayers, and came across an interesting fact about one of his former teammates, Brian Piccolo. As some know, Sayers and Piccolo were running backs for the team in the 1960s who ended up developing a close friendship before Piccolo died at age 26 from cancer. (Their relationship inspired the 1971 movie Brian’s Song.) I know that Piccolo was Sayers’ roomie on the road at one point, but did not know until know that they became the first interracial roommates in NFL history!
Thank you so much for the time, everybody! Have a wonderful and safe rest of your day and, as always, keep solving!
Margaret Seikel’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Our theme revealer here is 57a. [Some Xmas card attire … or a hint to 18-, 23-, 37- and 48-Across], MATCHING P.J.’S. The four themers all have P.J. initials:
- 18a. [One remedy for a hangover, supposedly], PICKLE JUICE. You can also get in way ahead of the hangover and order a shot of whiskey with a “pickleback” chaser—drinking a shot of pickle brine after the whiskey. No, ma’am, I do not want any part of that.
- 23a. [Place to pick up a pepperoni pie, perhaps], PIZZA JOINT.
- 37a. [Close follower of the “horse race”], POLITICAL JUNKIE. Obsession with those horse races is exhausting.
- 48a. [Aircraft that’s 1% full?], PRIVATE JET.
Cute enough theme.
Fave fill: NECK PILLOW, JAMAICA, “MAKE IT WORK” (not that I knew the reference, 31d. [Iconic encouragement from Tim Gunn on “Project Runway”]).
Three more things:
- 63a. [Distribute cash at the end of a shift, in restaurant lingo], TIP OUT. Not super familiar to me, but kinda rings a bell.
- 59d. [African American or Asian American, e.g., for short], POC. Is there anyone who doesn’t know this initialism by now? It’s short for people of color. There’s also the term BIPOC, which expands to Black, Indigenous, and people of color, but my brain gets snagged on the lack of grammatical parallelism (Black people/Indigenous people/people of color, “people” not in a consistent spot); my mind wants the word “other” to slide in there before “people of color,” but nobody asked me.
- 45d. [8 or 9, but not 10], DIGIT. I can dig it.
Four stars from me.
Jeffrey Stillman’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Get Cracking”—Jim P’s review
Theme: Words that precede CODE. The revealer is CODE WORDS (62a, [Lexicon used by spies, and a key to the ends of the starred answers]).
- 17a. [*Go up, in a way] CATCH FIRE.
- 25a. [*Make one’s way inside] GAIN ACCESS.
- 38a. [*Location typically having a 25-mph speed limit] RESIDENTIAL AREA.
- 50a. [*Coco Chanel designed a famous little black one] PARTY DRESS.
Fire code, access code, area code, dress code. Works for me. Similar to yesterday, this is another tried and true theme type, and it’s executed well.
A timely EBENEZER and a colloquial “SEARCH ME” top the fill. Also, NAMETAG, CAVEAT, and Bruno MEDIATE (pronounced me-dee-AH-tay), a guy I used to know in college.
Not so sure about TYPE A’S [Tightly wound individuals]. The pedant in me wants it to be TYPES A. Also, leading your grid off with uncommon AGITA isn’t such a fun start. Also also, HAS IT [Knows the answer] gets a raspberry from me.
Clue of note: 2d. [Man in a mask]. GOALIE. I gather the clue was built around alliteration, but I’d happily give that up to make it more inclusive—with [One in a mask], say.
Lewis Rothlein’s Universal Crossword, “Choice Words”— Jim Q’s write-up
THEME: Common phrases with the consecutive letters “O-R” in them are reimagined and parsed as a new phrase where it makes the word “OR.”
- 17A [Choice of hair terms?] DO OR LOCK? Door Lock.
- 27A [Choice of produce section terms?] APPLE OR CHARD? Apple Orchard.
- 44A [Choice of sailing terms?] WINDS OR KNOTS? Windsor Knots.
- 60A [Choice of pro wrestling terms?] REF OR MAT? Reformat?
Some fun and clever wordplay today. APPLE ORCHARD / APPLE OR CHARD? and WINDSOR KNOTS / WINDS OR KNOTS? were definitely the standouts for me. REF OR MAT? feels a tad forced, as does DOOR LOCK/DO OR LOCK (both the base and the reparsing).
I had big trouble out of the gates, entering RIVER, AROSE, and RUSSIA where ANODE, STOOD, and SERBIA belonged (2D, 3D, and 4D). I can’t remember the last time I bungled that badly in a Universal, where, coincidentally, everything I entered seemed reasonable per the clue and was the correct number of letters. Puzzle felt tougher than usual in general in that sense. TEASER for [Magazine cover, essentially] was particularly tough for me.
A couple things gave me pause:
-The OR in a longer down entry TEMPORARY seems a bit inelegant in a theme like this, especially when that entry is longer than two of the themers.
-[Acronym on a poolside bottle] SPF. Is that an acronym? I thought acronyms made words. I call SPF an initialism.
Good to see AIMEE MANN. Anna Howard SHAW was new for me.
Nice Universal style DNA clue! [It’s hidden in “tooth and nail”]. It’s both in the phrase and in your teeth and nails. Nice!
Overall, 3.4 stars from me.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “Free Fifty” – Derek’s write-up
Full disclosure: I solved this while watching Psych 3 on Peacock! You don’t want to know how long this puzzle took me. And it was slightly hard to boot, especially without full concentration. Turns out I actually CANNOT multitask! Nice themeless edition this week, and TONS of Obscure Pop Culture refs in this one, and maybe just plain obscure stuff period! I told you it was a slightly tough one! Also proof that you can get away with a lot more daring entries (and clues!) in indie puzzles, which is what make them great! 4.4 stars from me.
A few things:
- 1A [When they’re low, insurance companies are more profitable] LOSS RATIOS – But when the hurricane comes, watch out! Sell your stock!!
- 21A [Second-hand, alternately] SIDE STREAM – I don’t know this phrase. Is it a west coast thing, or is it just me?
- 37A [Basis of the name of a short-lived, short-form streaming platform] QUICK BITES – I think this is referring to Quibi, which lasted all of 5 seconds. It as maybe a good idea, but whether it wasn’t or just bad execution, it didn’t work and failed miserably.
- 52A [30 Seconds to Mars singer Jared] LETO – I think I knew he was in a band! Don’t ask me to name anything they sing, though …
- 59A [Ferrari model] TESTAROSSA – I got to sit in one of these years ago. So very close to the ground!
- 11D [___ Damacy (Playstation game with a ball that picks up everything in its path)] KATAMARI – Oh my! I believe you.
- 29D [Japanese light novel series “___ Been Killing Slimes for 300 Years and Maxed Out My Level”] I’VE – A looong way to go for an easy entry!
- 39D [Municipality in the province of Padua (and not a Japanese send-off)] SAONARA – Really?? Kinda funny, though, with the clueing!
- 42D [Supposed occupation of Joe Coulombe, founder of a grocery chain] TRADER – Another great clue! Didn’t know he had a last name! This is just their mascot, I believe.
- 48D [“An Impeccable Spy: Richard ___, Stalin’s Master Agent” (2019 Owen Matthews book)] SORGE – Wow. This HAS to be the OPCRotW! I have no idea what anything in this clue is talking about!
That is all for now!
Jeff Stillman’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
We have a revealer smack dab in the middle!
- 17A [*Spends time in the gym] WORKS OUT
- 26A [*Upscale eatery service for topper wearers] HAT CHECK
- 54A [*Times Square New Year’s Eve custom] BALL DROP
- 65A [*When employment ends, formally] EXIT DATE
- 38A [James Taylor classic … or, respectively, what can precede the two words in each answer to a starred clue] FIRE AND RAIN
So we have fireworks and rain out; fire hat and rain check. You get the idea. It took me a minute to get it, but it is fairly simple. That says more about me than anything! Nice puzzle, Jeff. 4.5 stars from me for a smooth Tuesday puz.
A few more things:
- 44A [Where some surfers shop] EBAY – I haven’t bought anything on Ebay in forever. That is probably a good sign, right?
- 59A [NFL Dolphins’ home] MIAMI – Time to go to Miami to watch the Wolverines in the Orange Bowl! I don’t think I can swing it, but I will explore some options!
- 29D [New Hampshire prep school town] EXETER – I know what this is, but I have never set foot in NH. One of these days I will knock out some of those New England states!
- 45D [Short operatic solo] ARIETTA – Also former Cubs pitcher Jake. At least I think he’s gone for good this time!
- 46D [“Whatever you say, honey”] “YES, DEAR!” – All of you: learn this phrase! It comes in handy!
Everyone have a safe and healthy week!
Brooke Husic & Rebecca Goldstein’s USA Today Crossword, “Time After Time“ — Emily’s write-up
I thoroughly enjoyed writing up this Tuesday’s puzzle as much as last week’s, and the common denominator is Brooke! I’m a fan and it’s so fun to see how the different collabs with others turn out.
Theme: each themer ends with a unit of time
- 19a. [Ideal 24 hours], PERFECTDAY
- 29a. [Celebratory period for recent grads], SENIORWEEK
- 39a. [June, in the LGBTQ+ community], PRIDEMONTH
- 49a. [Particularly successful stretch], BANNERYEAR
So much to love about today’s theme! First, it’s certainly a PERFECTDAY with such a great group of themers, increasing in duration with each one. Next up is SENIORWEEK, which I think of as a high school phenomenon as in college, senior year everyone seemed to just be trying to figure out what was next after graduation and where they were going. PRIDEMONTH is always a favorite time, especially here in Columbus, OH, with the excellent parade/march (complete with complimentary Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream sample pints handed out along the route) that culminates in community festival and the Party in the Park. BANNERYEAR is a fun round out to this set of themers. In addition to the great set and fun themers of this theme, they also line up so nicely in the numbering: 19, 29, 39, and 49. So good!
Favorite fill: BURQUINI, MOONPIE, DICE, NEVER, NASA, and PRIDEMONTH
Stumpers: SEEM (I was hung up on “seen”), SEAR (“burn” was my first instinct), and MELD (needed crossings, as “stir” was all that I could think of)
What a fantastic collab today from Brooke and Rebecca! Lots of other great clues, including ESTAR crossing SER as Spanish verbs and UNO and TWO used with clues that play off of each other, hinting at an entry in the other language (Spanish entry with an English clue and English entry with a Spanish clue). Also QUINCEANERA and HIDDENDOOR are fun bonus entries. We saw some last week on Tuesday from a collab between Brooke and Doug. I hope this bonus entires in the downs continues. Though the grids look more broken up visually, these bonuses really connect the puzzle in a subtle, off-set way.