Victor Barocas’s New York Times crossword, “Pardon My French”—Nate’s write-up
Apologies for the delayed NYT review – some friends were in town from DC and our Binax tests had us in the clear! This week’s Sunday NYT puzzle has some French puns, and I’ll leave it to y’all to tell me if they work / are pronounced properly because I don’t speak much French at all and only recognize some basic French words from crosswords.
22A: [Positive thinker’s motto?] OUI SHALL OVERCOME
34A: [Means of becoming a god?] DIEU PROCESS
51A: [Where Rapunzel let down her hair?] BELLE TOWER
65A: [Holy water?] EAU FOR HEAVENS SAKE
83A: [Answer to ‘What is Roquefort or Brie?'”] CEST CHEESE
96A: [Spilled milk?] LAIT TO WASTE
112A: [The queen with her pets?] REINE CATS AND DOGS
EAU FOR HEAVENS SAKE, CEST CHEESE, and LAIT TO WASTE really cracked me up, especially with how simple their clues could be to get to these 0punchlines. I also appreciated that the French words used were all ones that were easily recognizable from crosswords, making the puzzle feel accessible to the non-Francophones out here.
Other random thoughts:
1A: [Tobacco plug] CHAW – This felt like a strange choice for 1A, which you usually want to be a nice/easy entry to get folks started in the puzzle. We have this more archaic, tobacco-related word instead of CHAP or CHAT, which could have also easily worked here.
14A: [Taller roommate of 15-Down] BERT and 15D: [Shorter roommate of 14-Across] ERNIE – My kingdom for the day when “Sesame Street” lets these kings announce their true relationship. (Also, I wonder if the original clues submitted for this puzzle tied OSCAR at 27A into the “Sesame Street” angle?
91A: [Announcement on National Coming Out Day] IM GAY – You know I had to shout out this entry. I love to see it, especially knowing this entry only first appeared in a NYT puzzle in 2015(!).
What did you think about the puzzle? Qu’as-tu pensé? (Or at least that’s what Google Translate gave me!) Let us know in the comments section below.
Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Celebrity Dish”— Jim Q’s write-up
THEME: Popular meals clued wackily as if they belong to a celebrity.
- 23A [Actress Eva’s lettuce dish?] GREEN SALAD.
- 25A [Bluesman B.B.’s fish dish?] KING SALMON.
- 36A [Singer John’s egg dish?] DENVER OMELET.
- 54A [Actor Martin’s meat dish?] SHORT RIBS.
- 68A [Comedian Chris’s crustacean dish?] ROCK LOBSTER.
- 86A [Actor Jack’s fish dish?] BLACK BASS.
- 98A [Singer Fiona’s pastry dish?] APPLE STRUDEL.
- 117A [Actress Betty’s sliced dish?] WHITE PIZZA.
- 119A [Rapper Foxy’s fish dish?] BROWN TROUT.
A very over-the-plate (no pun intended) puzzle. One that welcomes solvers at any level into the WaPo building. I was half expecting the first letters of the celebrity names to spell something out in Birnholzian fashion, but it’s rather nice to solve something that doesn’t have (or need) another layer now and again. This one was well-placed in the lineup following a meta from last week.
As far as the themers go, fishy dishes are definitely in abundance! I think I’d take the KING SALMON over the others if I were dining out, but did anyone uncover ROCK LOBSTER and not immediately get an earworm? (my earworm is Peter Griffin’s take on the song. Great. Now it’s back. Arghh!)
Didn’t know Eva GREEN or Foxy BROWN, but those were the only new ones for me.
Some notable clues/answer pairs in this one:
- 5A [“John ___ Jingleheimer Schmidt”] JACOB! Another earworm! Are kids still taught this in elementary school? Such a ridiculous song.
- 51A [T/I/N/A turner] VANNA. I’d call that a Clue of the Year contender, although… ya’ know… she doesn’t really turn anything anymore.
- 101A [Titans, or an NFL team that might play against the Titans] GIANTS. Nice one.
- 60A [“Pondering My ___” (meme showing a wizard staring into a crystal ball]. Never heard of this meme til now. Sounds hilarious.
New Names for Me:
- John AMOS.
- SETH Doane
- ERIC Wilson
- JASPER National Park
- Ilhan OMAR
- Aforementioned Eva GREEN and Foxy BROWN.
And of course, I’m sure all of use smiled at the reference to Betty WHITE PIZZA.
Zhouqin Burnikel’s USA Today crossword, “Chair Assembly”—Darby’s write-up
Theme: Each theme answer includes a part of a chair for you, the solver, to assemble.
- 16a [“‘Let me hang up for a moment to deal with this’”] I’LL CALL YOU BACK
- 28a [“Artificial upper limbs”] PROSTHETIC ARMS
- 47a [“Local government center”] COUNTY SEAT
- 60a [“Drumsticks”] CHICKEN LEGS
This really fun, creative, and much less harrowing that IKEA directions can sometimes be. I’m always pleased when I get phrases like I’LL CALL YOU BACK on the first go. I also thought that these themers were great in removing each of the chair pieces from that context. I didn’t get the theme until I finished, so it didn’t necessarily help me solve, but I saw the connection right away once I finished.
We’ve got another asymmetric grid here with what felt like a packed grid with 75 answers (if I counted correctly). I appreciated that the asymmetry gave us sets of five in the middle and rightmost sections of the bottom portion of the grid while also maintaining a nice set of fours across the first two rows. The middle fell into place quickly with the quick moves between threes, fours, and fives. I struggled most with the bottom left corner when starting with the Across clues because I was unfamiliar with 55a [“Narenda Kohli’s language”] and 59a [“‘Gossip Girl’ actor Brown”]. However, filling in the Downs quickly brought me to HINDI and ELI.
Three other fun things for today:
- 26a [“Name that means ‘ocean’ in Hawaiian”] – I didn’t know this about KAI, but a quick Google search brought me to a new great resource called Ulukau, the Hawaiian Electronic Library. Its goal “is to make these resources available for the use, teaching, and revitalization of the Hawaiian language and for a broader and deeper understanding of Hawai’i.
- 3d [“Challenging request”] – I thought that TALL ORDER was a fun answer to see in a puzzle, and it paired well with the other 9-letter answer to 11d [“Peach with no fuzz”] NECTARINE just a few columns down.
- 10d [“U.S. state with the longest coastline”] – This was a new fact for me about ALASKA but was still fillable since I already had the ALA from moving across.
Overall, I think that this was the fastest USA Today puzzle I’ve ever done, so I’m feeling pretty pleased with that, and like I said, it was a lot less stressful than building IKEA furniture (though it’s too bad IKEA isn’t mentioned in the puzzle). Have a great week!
Christina Iverson’s Universal Sunday crossword, “A Model Theme”—Jim P’s review
Today we have familiar phrases featuring words that are also car models. Their clues are crossword-wacky, of course.
- 21a. [Last Nissan pickup at the dealership?] THE FINAL FRONTIER. Nice one to start with.
- 33a. [Makes a compact Chevy?] CREATES A SPARK. I may have known there was a Chevy Spark, but it’s not one that I can readily envision.
- 49a. [“We’re all out of that Ford SUV”?] THERE IS NO ESCAPE.
- 63a. [Look for your Kia hatchback in a crowded lot?] DO SOME SOUL SEARCHING. I think it’s obligatory to include a Kia Soul in any car-based crossword theme.
- 78a. [Honda SUV used in a commercial?] TELEVISION PILOT.
- 91a. [Exits a Subaru sedan?] LEAVES A LEGACY.
- 104a. [Own a Dodge SUV that excels in crash tests?] HAVE A SAFE JOURNEY.
A fun set, yeah? We’ve seen car model-based themes before, but it feels like it’s been a while since I encountered one.
I do wish there was another overall connecting element here, and the puzzle is so close to one. Nearly all the clues are related to the car-making/buying process, save two. The Kia clue could be changed to [Shop for that perfect Kia hatchback?], and the Subaru clue could be changed to [Trades-in a Subaru sedan?].
I do have to mention my own car-based puzzle from a few years back. I don’t have that many published grids, so when I spot a theme answer that I used once upon a time, I can’t help but think of that puzzle. Here it is from 2015, back in the earliest days of the WSJ going daily.
Lots to like in the fill today: LEOPARD SKIN, INSIDE INFO, OVERSLEEP, ONION BAGELS, PLOTLINES, Sony’s old DISCMAN, ROSE HIP, SARCASM, and Pat BENATAR. I’m on the fence with COARSE SALT, though. I see that it’s often labelled “Coarse Kosher Salt” or just “Kosher Salt”. I use “coarse black pepper” far more often.
LOS and LAS together in the same grid, both meaning “the”, and right next to one another at 11a and 14a? Feels a bit too dupey to me.
Clues of note:
- 17a. [Button inside a blouse?]. NAVEL. Cute. The “blouse” tricked me into thinking the button was a part it.
- 24a. [82-Across’s features a butterfly]. LOGO. There’s no way—at 24a—that I’m going to go looking for 82a in a 21x grid. Thankfully, I made a correct educated guess based on a couple crosses. (82a turned out to be MSN.)
- 37a. [Mark with two dots]. COLON. I so wanted UMLAUT here.
- 58a. [Wedding runner]. EMCEE. Huh? Maybe a wedding reception is run by an EMCEE, but the actual wedding is led by some sort of officiant.
- 32d. [Regarding]. IN RE. Doesn’t seem right to use “Regarding” in the clue when the phrase is often translated “in regards to”.
- 44d. [2021 Bachelorette Thurston]. KATIE. I guess the capital B indicates this person was on the TV show.
- 51d. [Blessing’s opposite]. CURSE. And in the parlance of Reddit, when something is both a blessing and a curse, it’s “blursed”.
- 59d. [“Hello ___” (classic cellphone tagline)]. MOTO. “Classic” feels a tad generous.
- 80d. [Green Apple product, perhaps]. IMAC. The new line of iMacs are fruit-colored in a throwback to the versions they made 20 years ago.
- 81d. [Fruit that may grow inside a brandy bottle]. PEAR. Never heard of this. That’s kinda kooky!
- 83d. [“Cousin” on “Succession”]. GREG. No idea why “Cousin” is in quotes as I’m not familiar with the show.
- 93d. [Burton who will host “Trivial Pursuit”]. LEVAR. He was a fan favorite for the Jeopardy gig, and I would have loved to have seen him get it.
Fun puzzle. Four stars.
Desiree Penner and Jeff Sinnock’s Universal Crossword, “Swinging Celebration”— Jim Q’s write-up
THEME: Events are found backwards in common phrases
- SPECIAL AGENT. GALA.
- BOOBY TRAP. PARTY.
- ALL ABOARD. BALL.
- (revealer) TURN OF EVENTS.
Fine puzzle, featuring my pet peeve of Universal: theme-dependent circled letters. Actually, it’s stronger than a pet peeve. It’s just embarrassing that Universal can’t find a way to publish circles in its puzzles when the theme calls for it. Always takes away from the solve (for this one, I solved in Across Lite, so I got the version that Universal offers that does include circles… the fact that it’s offered in that form is a tacit acknowledgement that the version offered to the masses is subpar)
Love that PARTY can be found in BOOBY TRAP. All themers were solid.
I asked my class of high school freshmen about a week ago if anyone says “LIT” anymore. A unison chorus of “NO” was the response. Maybe it’s time to go back to cluing it flame-style. It’s the equivalent of PHAT from the 90s, and it’s done.
The GOT BY / EKE BY dupe is… well… a dupe. Actually made EKE BY difficult for me to fill in because I thought “No way would a dupe be that blatant.” Calling attention to it by repeating the clue doesn’t help imo.
Anyway, like I said, puzzle was fine. It’s hard for me to get excited with the circled letter themes in Universal, which is no fault of the constructor. I don’t mean to sound as negative as I may be coming across.
3.3 stars with circles.
1.3 stars without.