Brad Wiegmann’s New York Times crossword, “Exes & Nos”—Nate’s write-up
This week’s Sunday NYT puzzle is relatable content to anyone who’s had to kiss a lot of frogs before they find their royalty. But there’s a happy ending as a reward for solving the puzzle – let’s check it out!
- 22A: HAD NO PRAYER [“It’s tough finding the right person. My first boyfriend was a perfectly nice atheist, but he…”]
- 28A: DIDNT WORK OUT [“So then I dated a fun couch potato, but he…”]
- 48A: CAME TO NOTHING [“Then my friend set me up with a recluse, but he…”]
- 66A: LET ME DOWN [“I dated my rock climbing instructor for a while, but he just…”]
- 80A: WOULD NEVER FLY [“Then I had a fling with a Pittsburgh Penguin, but I knew he…”]
- 104A: MISSED THE CUT [“I was in a serious relationship with a hippie, but he…”]
- 110A: DID THE TRICK [“Finally, I started seeing a charming magician, and he…”]
This might be the most matter-of-factly queer puzzle I’ve seen in ages, and I’m here for it! I know nothing about the constructor, but the fact that a male constructor is doing this schtick about a number of past failed “he”s did not go unnoticed by me, especially since he could (and the editing team!) could have easily had written every clue with respect to “she”s. None of the themers or their clues required the “Exes & Nos” to be of any particular gender. I know that some folks who worry about crosswords getting “too woke” are convinced that people like me won’t be happy until crosswords are quite literally the most flamboyant queer people of color, but this puzzle’s straightforward queerness is something I appreciate tremendously. It’ll stick with me for a while. I’m so grateful to the NYT team for publishing this puzzle. Bravo!
Other random thoughts:
- 45A: TONGUE [One getting depressed during exams?] – This was cute!
- 106A: OSHA [Org. issuing vaccine standards starting in 2021] – Relevant!
- 74D: I MET [“How ___ Your Mother”] – This puzzle should have been called “How I Met Your Father” (or Guncle?).
That’s all from me for now. What did you like about the puzzle? Let us know in the comments section!
Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Rock Bottom”— Jim Q’s write-up
This puzzle is all about that bass.
THEME: Common phrases placed vertically in the puzzle with a one-word song title as the last word in each phrase.
- [Pretended not to know (Nirvana)] PLAYED DUMB.
- [Ship that ran aground on Christmas Day (Blondie)] SANTA MARIA.
- [“Nighty-night!” (Fleetwood Mac)] SWEET DREAMS.
- [Smooched suddenly (Prince)] STOLE A KISS.
- [Turned out badly (Depeche Mode)] WENT WRONG.
- [“Watch out!” (George Harrison)] BEHIND YOU.
- [Public transportation stopping at docks (Harry Chapin)] WATER TAXI.
- [“Might as well try” (Johnny Cash) IT CAN’T HURT.
- [Tutu’s homeland (Toto) SOUTH AFRICA.
- [“Man, you just feel bad for that guy” (Beck)] WHAT A LOSER.
- [Source of low notes … and, when read left to right, what’s spelled out by the bottom letters of 10 answers in this puzzle] BASS GUITAR.
- [Pieces of rock? … and what the last words of 10 answers in this puzzle represent] SONGS.
I really suck with song titles. And artists for that matter. Lyrics too. I just sort of hum along and join in when the chorus to YMCA comes back around. So there’s a lot of song titles I didn’t know here. I just assumed PLAYED DUMB, WENT WRONG, and SWEET DREAMS were the entire song titles. Then I got to IT CAN’T HURT and said to myself “Wait a second… pretty sure the title is just… ‘Hurt'” Bingo! As a side note, I do appreciate that that particular song title is ascribed to Johnny Cash and not the Nine Inch Nails. If I recall correctly, Trent Reznor said something along the lines of that song no longer belonging to him and the band once Johnny Cash’s cover version exploded in popularity. There. If I’m right, I just negated some of what I said in the first two sentences of this post. But that’s the extent of my rock band knowledge. I swear. That and Van Halen had a rider in their contract demanding a bowl of M&M’s in their dressing room with the brown ones removed.
Ok, I also knew LOSER, AFRICA, and TAXI, but that’s it. The entries where I had an inkling of what title might be at the bottom lent itself to a nice synergy with the rest of the clue.
Anyway, it’s a pretty excellent theme, and although I am well-versed in Birnholzian style, I didn’t see the added layer coming this time, where the (aptly utilized) bottom letter of each themer spelled BASS GUITAR. Since the central entry SONGS seemed to be a revealer of sorts, and it didn’t mention anything about stringing letters together, I never saw BASS GUITAR coming. Nice.
The theme and the construction is just so damn tight. To be expected, but never unimpressive.
Not too many new names for me… Robin HOBB, Is that it? Just one? That might be a new record.
- I don’t think I’ve ever referred to an OK SIGN as an “OK sign,” but I don’t know what else you’d refer to it as.
- [Wash. and Tex. both form part of it] US BORDER. I saw USB and thought it was some kind of computer clue. Needed every cross. Then saw USB ORDER before I say US BORDER. It’s funny how the brain works when it refuses to see the obvious once it has decided something far-fetched must be correct. (that’s a deeper thought than I intended it to be)
- [Remark when getting a new lightbulb?] OH I SEE. [Insert eye roll here]
- [It may enjoy an empty box more than a deluxe scratching post] CAT. Truth! It took me four years to discover that all I needed to do in order to get my cat to stop destroying the furniture and the moulding was to offer corrugated cardboard boxes. She could give two shits about scratching posts.
- BABADOOK in the puzzle!
[Cookie that may be dunked using a Dipr] OREO. I love OREO clues. There seems to be no end to the way they can be clued. But what’s a Dipr? (googles)……. i can’t believe that’s a thing that exists. On the same level as the thoroughly reviewed banana slicer on Amazon.
- [Cheese that’s literally made up in this puzzle?] EDAM. If you read it from bottom to top it’s MADE going “up.” Clue of the year contender?
As always, thanks for this one, Evan!
Drew Schmenner’s Universal Sunday crossword, “Creative Writing”—Jim P’s review
Very little time to post today, so my apologies for the brief write-up.
Our theme is familiar phrases whose second words can all be synonyms for “a piece of writing.” Consistently, each first word also changes meaning.
- 22a. [Writing about claiming lottery winnings?] REDEEMING FEATURE.
- 32a. [Writing about a dot?] PERIOD PIECE.
- 44a. [Writing about a land?] COUNTRY RECORD.
- 57a. [Writing about a club’s get-together?] SOCIAL WORK.
- 68a. [Writing about a word that makes people smile?] CHEESE LOG.
- 77a. [Writing about a minor dispute?] SCRAP PAPER.
- 93a. [Writing about Queen Elsa and Olaf?] FROZEN ACCOUNT.
- 101a. [Writing about sororities and fraternities?] GREEK COLUMN.
- 117a. [Writing about Kim Kardashian’s eldest?] NORTHWEST PASSAGE.
That works. Maybe I didn’t exactly laugh out loud at any of these, but it kept my interest throughout. I’m impressed at the amount of theme material on display.
And yet the fill is nicely smooth. I enjoyed the long non-theme fill like PEARL JAM, DISHED IT OUT, GARBAGE PAIL, and PREP COOK.
Nicely executed theme and grid. 3.75 stars.
Ed Sessa’s LA Times crossword, “Freakonomics!” – Gareth’s theme summary
In Ed Sessa’s theme today, a series of broadly financial phrase are reimagined to be referring to a specific profession, that “freaks out” about it:
- [“Surgeon freaks out over higher __!”], OPERATINGCOST
- [“Cattle rancher. freaks out over ..”], STOCKMARKETDIP
- [“Landscaper freaks out over cut back __”!, HEDGEFUND
- [“Shrimper captain freaks out over __!”], NETLOSSES
- [“Restaurant owner freaks out over __!”], CONSUMPTIONTAX
- [“Car rental agency franchisee freaks out over __!”], BUDGETDEFICITS
- [“Balloonist freaks out over __!”], HYPERINFLATION
- [“Electrician freaks out over drop in his __!”], CURRENT ACCOUN
- SHINDIG – The Shadows aren’t in the RNR HOF somehow?
- [Aunties’ mates], UNCS. Who calls them that?
- [Salon and Slate], EMAGS. As above?
Zhouqin Burnikel’s USA Today crossword, “Start Here”—Darby’s write-up
Editor: Erik Agard
Theme: Each theme answer is composed of two words. The first begins with HE- and the second with -RE, spelling out HERE at the start.
- 17a [“‘I Am Woman’ singer”] HELEN REDDY
- 31a [“Like welding gloves”] HEAT RESISTANT
- 54a [“Licorice root for a sore throat, for example”] HERBAL REMEDY
This theme was definitely helpful in my solve. I first got HELEN REDDY on the crosses after mistakenly filling in NINA SIMONE. From there, I had a good sense of what I needed in each following themer.
This was a speedy puzzle for the most part. The top fell into place with almost no delay, but I got tricked up in the lower middle and right sections. I first had KEEN for 60a [“Enthusiastic”] instead of AVID and MARS for 61a [“Enemy of Wonder Woman”], remembering the Roman name for ARES, which, of course, turned out to be the answer to 64a [“Where the Zhurong rover landed”] right below. Eventually, I filled in BALI for 55d [“Indonesian island where ogoh-ogoh are built”] (you can learn more about the ogoh-ogoh statues here). I also felt a bit like 63a [“Parts of piano benches”] was perhaps a bit too general for LEGS, but it was generally fair.
Overall, a fun Sunday puzzle with really great theme answers.