Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle (Week 567), “It’s Hip to be Square!”—Ade’s take
Hello there, all! I hope you’re doing well and, if you’re in areas where springlike weather has descended upon you, know that I’m jealous!
There is a lot of outside-the-box thinking with this grid, because each of the entries that make up the perimeter of the puzzle are all words that can come after the word BOX, with “box” appearing in the middle of the grid as the reveal (38A: [Puzzle theme, as suggested by 12 border answers…and the shape created by their placement]).
- BREAD (1A: [Moolah])
- TOOL (6A: [One who’s easily duped])
- SOAP (10A: [“The Young and the Restless,” for one]) – My mom’s favorite soap for years, as she loved (and loved to hate) Victor Newman!
- PILL (13D: [Disagreeable person])
- CAT (31D: [Cool dude])
- TACKLE (48D: [Bring down, during a football game])
- VOICE (65A: [Express, as an opinion])
- SAND (64A: [French novelist George, who wrote “Mauprat”])
- MAIL (63A: [“You’ve Got ___” (Hanks/Ryan rom-com)])
- BOOM (53D: [Period of economic growth])
- SKY (35D: [Light blue shade])
- BALLOT (1D: [List of candidates])
Lots of long, non-themed fill featured in the grid, and the ones in the heart of the puzzle, like WOOD SORREL (21A: [Edible weed with a lemony flavor]) and GREENERY stood out as the best of that bunch for me, with the latter reminding me of the beautiful foliage I see every time I take a bus to Boston for work and see the colorful trees lining I-84 (24D: [Colorful foliage]) on the way there. Remember when leaving a LENS CAP on while taking a photograph caused headaches to people and caused possible great photographs from not being captured (9D: [Camera protection])? Seems like a long, long time ago since those days given the advancement of camera technology. (I’m old enough, though, to have had that happen to me in photography class over 20 years ago!) OK, enough dating myself! Actually, more of dating myself; Anyone here remember the Looney Tunes cartoon, “Rocket-Bye Baby,” where a mix-up caused a martian baby to be delivered to earth and vice versa, and one of the babies’ names was called YOB, which is “boy” backwards (43A: [1809, for Pres. Lincoln])? Someone out there must remember! If not, here’s the cartoon’s opening and close, and you can hear the dad desperately yelling, “YOB! YOB! Where’s my Yob?” as the alien baby flies away to its real parents. No, I’m not going insane…I tell the truth!
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: MALIK (59D: [L.A. Lakers guard ___ Monk]) – One of the bright spots of the Los Angeles Lakers having an uncharacteristically poor season in 2021-2022 is that it allowed some of the younger players some more exposure, and one of those players, Malik Monk, has taken advantage of it so much that he is now relevant in crosswords!! Just yesterday, in the regular-season finale, Monk scored a career-high 41 points in a Lakers win over the Denver Nuggets. The fifth-year guard out of the University of Kentucky averaged a career-best 13.8 points per game this season, and it is possible that this season launches him into NBA stardom, which, in turn, will possibly lead to more appearances in crosswords!
Thank you so much for the time, everybody! Have a wonderful and safe rest of your day and, as always, keep solving!
Jesse Goldberg’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Tail Assemblies”—Jim P’s review
Theme: BACK-TO-BACK (58a. [Consecutive, and a hint to what can start each part of the starred answers]). The other theme answers are familiar two-word phrases, and each word can be preceded by the word “back.”
- 17a. [*Selective Service System part] DRAFT BOARD. Backdraft, backboard.
- 27a. [*Launder, as delicate fabrics] HANDWASH. Backhand, backwash (ha!)
- 35a. [*Actor’s entrance] STAGE DOOR. Backstage, back door.
- 49a. [*Opposite aspect of something] FLIP SIDE. Backflip, backside.
I like it. The revealer hints that both words in each theme answer get a “back,” and all the theme answers are common, in-the-language phrases. Strong execution from start to finish.
The unusual-sized central entry (nine letters) results in large corners with stacks of sevens. In a grid like this, this is where you’re likely to find the most crosswordese. But for the most part, today’s corners are quite smooth. Highlights include HAD A COW, DEADPAN, ORLANDO, TRINKET, MANACLE, and SLACKER. Plus we have HOME ICE going right down the middle and a PIT STOP at 26d. I’m not a fan of IDED as an entry, but if that’s the worst thing in the grid, I have no complaints.
Missed opportunity: 8d PARLAY crossing 22a LEA. I really wanted that L to be a T so we could enjoy a fun PAR-TAY!
- 1a. [Abductor of Persephone]. HADES. I knew I was wrong, but with the H and E in place, I went with HELEN. Sue me. At least I didn’t go with HOMER.
- 45d. [Hardly a go-getter]. SLACKER. We also would have accepted [Foe to Principal Strickland of “Back to the Future”].
- 50d. [Not up]. IN BED. We also would have accepted [Fortune cookie additive?].
Solid theme and a smooth grid. Four stars.
Dan Schoenholz’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Different categories of jobs are reinterpreted to refer to specific job titles:
- 19a. [Temp job?], METEOROLOGIST. Ugh. I say “ugh” only because the temps that the meteorologists have been forecasting for the Midwest this spring are well below normal, and the trees still think this is pretty much November. I. Want. Foliage! And also more flowers.
- 27a. [Union job?], WEDDING PLANNER. Ah, the union of two crazy lovebirds! Friend of mine just had a sunset beach wedding in the Keys that was livestreamed. It was lovely, though nobody could hear the vows over the wind whooshing across the camera mic.
- 44a. [Flex job?], YOGA INSTRUCTOR. Flexible body, flexible work hours?
- 51a. [Dream job?], PSYCHOANALYST. Interpreting dreams.
Fave fill: HIT IT BIG, SARONG, confiscated YACHTS. Nice to see Alice MUNRO, Steffi GRAF, Edith PIAF, and TONI Morrison, too.
Three more things:
- 20d. [Exact lookalike], TWIN. Question for the medically minded: How common is it for identical twins (raised together) to grow up to be different heights?
- 12d. [Spanish for “foolish”], TONTO. Ah, yes. A reason that the Lone Ranger’s sidekick’s name/depiction comes in for criticism. It’s NOT P.C.
- 3d. [Encyclopedia volumes vis-à-vis Wikipedia, e.g.], OLD MEDIA. Can’t say the phrase really feels familiar to me. Is it a newer coinage, moving from media –> print media –> OLD MEDIA?
Not everything felt suitable for a beginner wading into Tuesday territory but overall, not too far off. Four stars from me.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “Intro to Puzzles” – Erin’s write-up
This week we’re going back to Solving 101! Each theme entry contains the letters IOI in order, to resemble the numbers attached to an intro college course:
- 17a. [Label for some TV jacks] AUDIO IN
- 23a. [Carbon-14 or strontium-90, as used in dating] RADIOISOTOPE
- 38a. [2004 Hawthorne Heights single considered an “emo anthem’] OHIO IS FOR LOVERS
- 48a. [Hippie-inspired perfume ingredient] PATCHOULI OIL
- 59a. [Artificial tissue materials for 3-D printing] BIOINKS
This theme was a learning opportunity for me, as I had never heard of OHIO IS FOR LOVERS or BIOINKS. A bioink consists of cells usually combined with a biopolymer gel to create 3-D tissue. How amazing is that?!
- 42a. [“The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar ___”] WAO. This Junot Díaz novel looks fascinating.
- 4d. [Video game designer behind the “Civilization” series] MEIER. I remember “Sid MEIER’s Civilization” being popular while growing up. I didn’t realize the series was still going, with the sixth one released in 2018.
- 22d. [What they say to do to a fever, versus a cold (or is it the other way around?)] STARVE. Hundreds of years ago physicians thought that fasting would slow down the body’s metabolism, reducing a fever. Now we know that colds and fever increase the body’s energy demands, so if a person is able to eat while ill, they should.
- 36d. [Religious hit for MC Hammer] PRAY. Hammer became an ordained minister several years after this 1990 hit was released. He also had a show named “M.C. Hammer and Friends” on the Trinity Broadcasting Network. I can’t find any footage to share, but a quick Youtube search can open your mind to the wonders of “Hammerman.”
Michael B. Berg’s Universal Crossword, “Ba-dum-tss”— Jim Q’s write-up
This appears to be a debut puzzle for Michael! Congrats!
It’s too early for me to do shots.
THEME: Words that can precede the word SHOT are on the perimeter of the puzzle.
- (revealer) RIM SHOT
I think my favorite part of the puzzle was the title! That sounds bad, but it’s not meant to be. I enjoyed the puzzle just fine, but I’ve never seen the onomatopoetic “Ba-dum-tss!” spelled out before, and that brings me much joy.
I’m not the biggest fans of themes like this. It revealed itself instantly then it was just a matter of filling in shot words. Also my computer autocorrects “shot” to “shit” (I was tired of changing “autocorrected” words such as “duck” back to my original intention, so I taught it all the four letter words I use with some frequency) making it very difficult to type this post right now. Figured I’d share that.
SNAPshot and HEADshot are both types of photos, which feels somewhat dupish to me.
Favorite fill bit was ECOTOURISM. And if you meet any DANAs who copped an attitude recently, well now you know why.
Erik Agard’s New Yorker crossword—Amy’s recap
Okay, so the New Yorker’s recent addition of two more crosswords a week while I was on medical leave means we haven’t figured out who, if anyone, will be tackling the Tuesday second-hardest themeless or the Friday themed puzzle. (I may not pop in for next Tuesday’s.) But I just solved Erik’s puzzle and it’s quite remarkable. You know how sometimes there’s a stunt puzzle where, say, the letter E is never used, or all the clues start with the same letter? The stunt, if you can call it that (and really, you can’t), in this puzzle is that Erik’s demonstrated that one can craft a smooth, eminently solvable puzzle without referencing a single cis white person in it. Erik embraced the opportunity to clue answers via BIPOC peoples’ cultures. JAR is a [Kimchi container], TEEN is [Any of the four main characters of “Reservation Dogs”], and so on. Manny Jacinto’s JAWLINE. Jamaica shout-out for BRER Anancy. KEV is clued as a generic nickname, but I watched a Twitter video from Black comedian Kev on Stage not 10 minutes before solving this puzzle, and he’s my go-to KEV reference (hard to clue him, though; full name is Kevin Fredericks).
Not sure I’ve seen EBT, [Grocery-payment option: Abbr.], in a crossword before, but surely there are plenty of solvers who do use, have used, will use EBT (aka food stamps) at some point in their lives. Representation matters.
Did not know:
- [Thuso Mbedu’s role in “The Underground Railroad”], CORA. Always good to have an alternative to a comic strip supporting character or a Downton Abbey character.
- [“Child of Myself” and “Movement in Black” poet], PAT PARKER. Here’s her poem, “My Lover Is a Woman.”
- [Title for Elliot Kukla], RABBI. He’s trans and has written a Reform Judaism blessing for those transitioning.
Fave fill: HATE-READS, “I’M WAITING,” HENNAED, CHARCUTERIE, LIP SERVICE, BREAK A SWEAT, BLITZEN.
So when you see a puzzle that has, say, 10 references to white men and only a handful to anyone else, you can’t insist that crosswords are just too hard to construct to be more broadly inclusive. Erik’s puzzle stands as proof of concept: A great puzzle can make a wide range of people feel represented and seen. Five stars from me for this thoughtful and wall-to-wall interesting crossword.
Erik Agard’s USA Today Crossword, “E-Sports“ — Emily’s write-up
A different take on the theme today that was very creative though tougher than it probably should have been, given that my sports knowledge is limited. If you are like me, though, fear not because there are so many other delightful clues and entries throughout and it’s a fantastic puzzle whether or not this theme’s in your wheelhouse.
Theme: sports related people and terms with only “e” as the vowel
- 26a. [Pro tennis played with a career singles record of 695-25], ESTERVERGEER
- 45a. [People who maintain golf courses], GREENSKEEPERS
- 7d. [Like some dribbles and dunks], BETWEENTHELEGS
- 14d. [End-of-game football strategy], PREVENTDEFENSE
Hopefully today’s themers were easier for you than they were for me. The only one that I got initially was GREENSKEEPERS, though the first “s” eluded me at first so it remained partial for a while until it clicked that links were multiple. The rest I had to get through crossings, and BETWEENTHELEGS was particularly tricky for me being crossed with a film I’ve not seen or heard of (though that’s on me and BEANS sounds excellent so I’ll be watching it asap). Glad to now know ESTERVERGEER who not only has this astonishing record but also an accomplished career. PREVENTDEFENSE is something that I have probably heard watching the occasional football game though not fully understood and to some it’s not a great strategy both in football and in life.
Favorite fill: NAAN, ENTRY, and ENTRY
Stumpers: NAAN (brilliant misdirect—had me trying “press”, “bulbs”, “clove” before the entry which is my favorite type), USEBY (being a down entry–read vertically–I think made it harder for me to puzzle out having not personally seen this phrase in a crossword before, needed crossings), and SASH (was thinking “purse” in a line instead of cross-body but a fun clue!)
Lots of excellent entries and clues in today’s puzzle! Much to learn as well, which I always enjoy, though it can make some areas trickier if I really don’t know certain things but finished in the end anyway. Also, the grid is amazing. Maybe it’s just me but despite the rotational symmetry, it feelings like it is asymmetrical and has a sense of movement—then again, mobile solving does give a different experience with only seeing partial grid until the very end. Fun puzzle indeed!
Plus, I need to find or make an IRONEGG soon as they sound incredible and similar though different to a ramen egg which is a favorite of mine.
I’d have liked the NYT a lot better if the fill and cluing didn’t feel like an attempt at Shortz’s greatest hits. And yes, that includes PIAF, TONI, and GRAF (if not MUNRO). Has anyone here actually listened to a song by PIAF or seen her name outside a puzzle? (I confess I have. My mother was in a failed musical revue of songs she’d performed.)
Edith Piaf was one of my father’s favorite singers of all time. I think she’s super, worldwide famous?
I have a number of recordings by Edith PIAF.
Of course, Toni Morrison and Stefi Graf are without question well known, and the first is one of the authors I most like and admire. My crit of the puzzle’s lack of creativity isn’t disturbed by that.
She makes my heart melt.
That’s a bold stance, labeling these women as trite, overused crossword fill. John, can we count on you to complain when OTT or ILIE or BORG or ORR pops up?
You realize, of course, that 3- and 4-letter names lend themselves to helping crosswords come together in the grid, particularly when they’re at least half vowels?
Also, Marion Cotillard won an Oscar (and many other luminous awards) for playing Piaf in a 2007 French biopic. They don’t usually make movies about singers who aren’t rather well-known.
I wish constructors and editors would retire NOTPC and NONPC from their word lists. It was a trite and lazy criticism, more often than not used sarcastically, when I was a student, and that was a long long time ago.
NON-PC is instructive as you can see the same trajectory of “woke” happening today. It had a few months, maybe a year or two of actual meaning before being fully co-opted and weaponized by those furious at the idea of being criticized for their speech.
“Woke” has been around in AAVE (African-American Vernacular English) for nearly a century; it’s had more mainstream currency only recently—say the past decade—and as you say, it’s now been almost completely coöpted and degraded.
That’s a very reductive idea of what wokeness is. It’s tough to encapsulate everything that it entails, but at its heart wokeism is a post-liberal worldview in which people are not primarily viewed as individuals but are viewed primarily in terms of their affiliation with various identity groups. It’s a collectivist mindset that requires the use of blanket generalizations and crude categorizations to separate people, while ignoring personal attributes and denying individual rights. This short-cutting approach is also foundational to the anti-rational, anti-science trademarks of wokeness. Hyper-illiberal cancel crusades are an extension of wokeism (from a speech angle it’s better understood as a broad chilling of speech) but that’s merely one effect of wokeism, not a cause or the defining feature. Like all things done in the name of “progressivism” (see the early 20th century eugenics movement, which troublingly has a lot of parallels to today’s discourse), wokeism is a box of regressive ideas and policy encased in a nice-looking, appealing package.
I think you should ask someone who actually uses the word what “woke” means, because this is a clear example of the cooption and degradation that pannonica describes one comment above yours.
NYT: 3d OLD MEDIA; 5d [Old-fashioned message carriers]
I enjoyed TNY today from Erik Agard. A shame to not see it here!
Yes, it’s a good one. Although I was puzzled by the clue for SWAB — “Item in a bone-marrow-test kit.” Having undergone such a test, I can tell you that swabs are the least of your concerns. And I’m not entirely sure any would be needed, typically.
I had zero plans to blog the New Yorker puzzle today, but the email told me it was by Erik so I had to solve it, and then I loved it too much to not write about it.
David, the SWAB in question is for folks signing up for the Be the Match bone marrow registry. People submit a cheek swab and then if it turns out they’re a match for someone in need of a bone marrow transplant, the potential donor is contacted. Participation in Be the Match is extra-important for potential donors of color, as too many of the ill people who need BMT have a hard time finding a good genetic match. Note: They’re mainly looking for people aged 18 to 35.
Oh, I see. I was thinking, for personal reasons, of a different kind of bone marrow test.