Christina Iverson’s New York Times crossword, “Pest Control”—Nate’s write-up
Merry Christmas to all those who celebrate! I hope you’re doing well and able to spend time (safely, remotely, or otherwise) with friends and loved ones.
At first this puzzle seemed a bit buggy… and it turns out I wasn’t wrong! Let’s take a look:
21A: MOTHER [Malice, more formally] – Remove “lice” to get [Ma, more formally]
22A: HORSEBACK RIDER [One wearing chapstick, perhaps] – Remove “tick” to get [One wearing chaps, perhaps]
32A: NORTH POLE [Antarctic coordinate] – Remove “Ant” to get [Arctic coordinate]
51A: PUBLIC HOUSE [Blouse and broach, perhaps] – Remove “louse” and “roach” to get [B and B, perhaps]
65A: TRUE FALSE TEST [It has many beet and beef options] – Remove “bee” twice to get [It has many T and F options]
84A: SPEARHEADED [Tickled] – Remove “Tick” to get [Led]
96A: SOFT DRINK [Pop fly] – Remove “fly” to get [Pop]
116A: CHEESE [Briefly, e.g.] – Remove “fly” again to get [Brie]
37D: GET HITCHED [Antelope, say] – Remove “ant” again to get [Elope, say]
47D: GOOGLE MAPS [Approach for directions] – Remove “roach” again to get [App for directions]
113A: WORK OUT THE BUGS [Gradually fix something… or what to do to understand this puzzle’s italicized clues?]
At first (and to no avail), I searched the theme answers for bugs that I should remove. Then, I realized that you need to remove bug(s) from each theme answer’s clue in order for the clue to make sense. Neat! I especially enjoyed the theme answers were you had to remove two bugs to transform the clue. And for me, many of these were like camouflaging bugs – I didn’t see them until I needed to find them! How did you enjoy the theme and puzzle? Let us know in the comments section below!
(Random question unrelated to the theme: Does anyone actually say that someone is AFROED (92D)? It feels like an adjective that’s not quite in the language, and searching around doesn’t seem to show much support for its use. On Instagram, for example, #afro has 9.6 million posts, where as #afroed has 100+ posts. Black solvers – What is your experience with this offshoot version of afro?)
Desiree Penner and Jeff Sinnock’s Universal Sunday crossword, “R-rated Films”—Jim P’s review
Theme: Famous films have an R added to wacky effect.
- 23a. [Movie about the “Simpsons” father trying to survive solo?] HOMER ALONE. This made me smile since we just watched Home Alone last night. I’m imagining Homer trying to come up with traps for burglars and each one backfiring.
- 34a. [Movie about a couple fighting over orange juice preferences?] PULP FRICTION. Believable.
- 42a. [Movie about the rise and fall of Helen’s city?] TROY STORY. Pixar’s adaptation of The Iliad, no doubt.
- 66a. [Movie about a guppy named for an African country?] A FISH CALLED RWANDA. This made me LOL since Wanda is a favorite of mine..
- 75a. [Movie about a group that writes apprehension-themed verses?] DREAD POETS SOCIETY. I solved this before seeing the clue. I wanted it to be about reggae song writers.
- 102a. [Movie about singer Paisley’s fan club?] SUPERBRAD.
- 109a. [Movie about an aptly named cranky ranger?] FORREST GRUMP.
- 128a. [Movie about an association of horror movie lovers?] FRIGHT CLUB.
A well-executed and enjoyable theme; it’s got a good mix of films and enough humor to see it through.
The fill is clean and smooth if not especially sparkly. The long entries include ONE-PLAYER, HYBRID CAR, ADAMANTLY, and FAST EATER which get the job done. I didn’t time myself, but it felt like a quick solve, which is a testament to the smooth fill and straightforward clues.
Clues of note:
- 36d. [Gumball cost, once]. CENT. This one’s for the octogenarian solvers, I suppose. When could one buy a gumball for a penny?
- 81d. [One Time?]. ISSUE. Cute.
Drew Schmenner’s Universal Crossword, “It’s Happening!”— Jim Q’s write-up
Nifty, rad, puzzle!
THEME: Two-word phrases where the first word is a synonym for COOL.
- SWEET TEA
- NEAT FREAKS
- FLY OFF THE HANDLE
- HIP HUGGERS
- COOL HEADED
SWEET! NEAT! FLY! HIP! COOL!
And the title… It’s Happening!
Has a retro feel to it, doesn’t it? A little bit of the Fonz, a touch of Huey Lewis, and a dash of In Living Color.
An easy to grok theme, for an entry level satisfying puzzle.
New for me (though I’m sure I’ve seen the name) CIARA. Maybe I should give (her?) a listen sometime. I do feel like she pops up in crosswords often. Literally no idea as to the genre or era of (her?) music.
3.3 stars from me.
Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Cold Cuts”— Jim Q’s write-up
Let’s see what’s in store for the last WaPo of 2021! Why, it’s a meta puzzle :)
THEME: Meta… something to do with snow it appears… I’ll figure it out in a sec.
Those appear to be…
- IT’S NO SWEAT OFF MY BACK! I really wanted SKIN for SWEAT there. Don’t think I’ve ever heard the phrase referring to BACK SWEAT.
- GOODNESS KNOWS!
- APOCALYPSE NOW
- SANDNES, NORWAY. Never heard of it. Wondering now if I cycled through it on a bicycle tour at one point.
- CASINO WAR. That’s a game? I’m assuming the house has an edge… what is it? It can’t just be a game of chance…
- DASHING THROUGH THE SNOW (meta hint)
I’m almost 100% sure I know what’s going on, but I haven’t tested that hypothesis yet. Let’s do that now.
The word SNOW appears in every themer, but it separated by a letter. Do those letters spell the meta answer? Let’s see…
IT’S NO SWEAT OFF MY BACK! = S
GOODNESS KNOWS! = K
APOCALYPSE NOW = E
SANDNES, NORWAY = R
CASINO WAR = I
SKERI is most likely SKIER and I listed the entries in the wrong order. And, after all, a SKIER would be apt as that is certainly one who DASHes THROUGH THE SNOW.
This one was just fine! A nice, breezy way to end 2021. It may disappoint the meta-haters as it is meta dependent. Otherwise, it’s a themeless… with some tough longer entries like NO SWEAT OFF MY BACK (substitute the B in the answer with an S, and that’s how I know the phrase), SANDNES, NORWAY, and CASINO WAR.
I’m surprised I solved this so quick (for me), falling in the 12 minute range. I remember getting hung up in a few spots.
Looking back over the grid and the fill, I don’t see anything that jumps out at me to set off the Scowl-o-meter. Everything seems fairly standard.
So all-in-all, I enjoyed this one, as I do the vast majority of WaPo puzzles. But I’m not sure this will go down as the most memorable of a year full of some excellent Birnholz creations.
Zhouqin Burnikel’s USA Today crossword, “Interstitial Ads”—Darby’s write-up
Edited by: Erik Agard
Theme: Each theme answer includes SPOT (as in an ad SPOT) in the middle (making them interstitial), spaced out between two words
- 15a [“Phrases on Idaho license plates”] FAMOUS POTATOES
- 35a [“2006 biopic about Peter Rabbit’s creator”] MISS POTTER
- 59a [“Shows no promise”] LACKS POTENTIAL
Two 14-letter and one 10-letter answers make up the theme today, and if you look at the grid, it’s cool that you can see SPOT line up one on top of another as you move down the grid. I think that this balances out the – in my opinion – less than exciting themers. FAMOUS POTATOES was interesting, and now I have to imagine that “FAMOUS POTATOES” is the official catchphrase of Idaho (it’s actually esto perpetua, meaning “Be eternal”). MISS POTTER was tough, and I felt like LACKS POTENTIAL was good but just outstanding. However, with the line of ad SPOTs going down, I did feel that this was in more balance.
We had some great 7-letter answers in this grid. Up top were 10d [“Twisted snack”] PRETZEL and 11d [“Supplement rich in omega-3 fatty acids”] FISH OIL. We also saw 38d [“Rode a bike”] PEDALED, 41d [“Raw dish often eaten with wasabi”] SASHIMI, 42d [“Crotch-to-cuff measurements”] INSEAMS, and, my favourite, 43a [“Vacant area used for baseball games”] SANDLOT.
A solid Sunday for a day-after-Christmas/December 26th solve.I also loved letting MARINADE click for 35d [“Pre-grilling sauce”] and 60d’s [“Alma mater of Anthony Bourdain”] CIA for a little CIA spice-SANS-espionage.