Peter Gordon’s Fireball Crossword, “Themeless 153” – Jenni’s write-up
I struggled a bit with the top half of this one. I finally got a foothold in the SE and solved upwards, finishing in the NW. Nothing was unfair. I’m not sure if I’m just a bit foggy today or it’s really more difficult than recent FB offerings.
- 5d [Top choice] is CREWNECK. “Top” as in “shirt.” I got the CK first and filled in PICK, which slowed me down even more.
- 14a was the lone gimme for me in that quadrant. [Myringotomy targets] are EARDRUMS. While they’re not any fun, they’re better than spontaneously perforating said eardrum. Ask me how I know.
- 34a [Short-lived TV series starring James Caan as a former minor-league baseball player] crossing 28d [Worst Actor and Worst Actress Razzie winner for playing the title roles in “Jack and Jill”] has two Patented Peter Gordon Very Long Clues. I’m lucky that both were inferrable from crossings because both fit into “what I didn’t know before I did this puzzle.”
- 45a [Learned] is ERUDITE. Adjective, not verb.
- 60a [Society member in a fez] is a SHRINER. I knew that and had no idea why, so I looked it up. Now I know that the whole thing is an exercise in cultural appropriation and Orientalism.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: see above re: Adam Sandler and James Caan. I also did not know that REBECCA never appears in the movie named after her.
Ashish Vengsarkar and Narayan Venkatasubramanyan’s New York Times crossword—Ben’s review
It’s the second collab puzzle in a row for NYT Thursdays, this time from Ashish Vengsarkar and Narayan Venkatasubramanyan. This one’s sneaky, and I liked the aha moment here:
- 17A: Homer’s self-satisfied assertion — WHAT A GOOD BOY AM I
- 29A: Bums, for example? — SCOTTISH POET
- 35A: Yam source, historically? — SPINNING WHEEL
- 43A: Place to find a comet — BRASS SECTION
- 56A: Thoroughly … or a hint for parsing some lowercase letters in four of this puzzle’s clues — FROM STEM TO STERN
Each of the clues has a lowercase “m” that, if re-kerned and parsed as the letters “r n” in each clue, makes much more sense:
- 17A: Horner’s self-satisfied assertion — WHAT A GOOD BOY AM I
- 29A: Burns, for example? — SCOTTISH POET
- 35A: Yarn source, historically? — SPINNING WHEEL
- 43A: Place to find a cornet — BRASS SECTION
12D: Band with the 4x platinum albums “Out of Time” and “Monster” — REM
Other nice entries: REPASTS, DECANTS, GYRATES, HAD A HUNCH, TABLESAW, PAY GAP, and TOOTHY
David Litman’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Do or Do Not”—Jim P’s review
Theme: “THERE IS NO TRY” (58a, [Yoda’s words following “Do or do not,” and a hint to this puzzle’s theme]). The other theme entries are familiar phrases except the ending –TRY has been removed. (The quote comes during the scene in The Empire Strikes Back when the old Master Yoda is giving young Luke Skywalker his first real training in the ways of the Jedi.)
- 19a. [Coopers, abroad?] FOREIGN MINIS. Ministry.
- 23a. [Young “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” host?] BABY REGIS. Registry.
- 40a. [Criticize the author of “The Raven”?] SLAM POE. Poetry.
- 49a. [Dads in Odense?] DANISH PAS. Pastry.
The theme works best when the –TRY ending is the only logical one, as in the second and fourth entries. The first one can also end in –TER, and the third one in just a –T. And calling fathers PAS is just awkward. But other than those nits, I enjoyed the theme and its nerdy basis.
What’s in the fill? For some reason, I like the crossing of DR SEUSS and FREUD. Maybe it’s the two different ways that we pronounce that particular vowel combo that piques my interest. Elsewhere, NANOBOT, “I’M TORN,” TITANS, MUSSE, and GUSTO add a bit of sparkle.
Clues of note:
- 1a. [Ready to run]. SHOD. It being a Thursday, my mind looked for alternate meanings, and “Ready” seemed like it could be a verb, and “run” seemed like it might have to do with newspaper publishing, so I went with EDIT. Tough start for me.
- 16a. [Spewers of formic acid]. ANTS. I was thinking geology here.
- 39a. [Base for birlers]. LOG. Had to look this one up post-solve. Birling is the act of spinning a floating LOG with one’s feet.
- 12d. [Nova, e.g.]. LOX. I had no clue on this one. Help me out here.
- 46d. [NFL team with a raccoon mascot]. TITANS. And the connection between raccoons and TITANS is…?
- 31d. [“Weird Al” specialty]. POLKA. A little sleuthing on the internet dug up the excellent and fun video below. It’s a collaboration from various animators set to “Weird Al’s” “Now That’s What I Call Polka” from his grammy-winning 2014 album Mandatory Fun. Enjoy.
Solid puzzle. 3.75 stars.
Robyn Weintraub’s New Yorker puzzle– malaika’s write-up
Good morning, friends! Let’s get into it.
Things I did not like:
- ERIC Adams and ELON Musk and Carl ICAHN
- A Shakespeare reference when there were a thousand other clue angles for LOVE
- I guessed on the MON / MITSY crossing… I feel like [Sun follower?] should have been [Sun. follower?] which kind of messes up the clue.
- ADAS / ENDOR was also a hard crossing for me, I was trying to think if “atas” was a reasonable abbreviation for “attorneys”
- AFL – C.I.O…. I have no idea what this means and I simply do not care enough to look it up
Things I liked:
- Kristen Stewart
- Is “nerd” being an insult a generational thing now? I feel like I haven’t heard anyone use it in a negative way for like…. a decade. I think movies like Booksmart and 21 Jump Street kinda touch on this. Like, superheroes and video games and Being Extremely Online and caring about the environment and etc. are all cool now… or at the very least, mainstream? Discuss.
- [Chocolate factory tank] for VAT
- SO HELP ME
- [Downside of showering before the game?] for RAIN DELAY
- The reference to That One When Harry Met Sally Scene. Was talking about this with a friend– I think that’s the most famous scene, he thinks it’s the one where Harry lists out all the things he loves about her.
- ILANA Glazer
- Referring to food and shelter as NEEDs
- [Mojito garnish] for MINT
- [Concludes a film in a dark way?] is a brilliant clue for what is already a great entry in FADES TO BLACK, which makes me wonder if this was the seed
- PLANT BASED. Do you know the difference between plant-based and vegan? Was it just a rebrand? I think I’ve seen some people say the former refers to food and the latter refers to lifestyle (e.g. wearing leather) but I really don’t know. In NYC, I mainly see the former.
- [Like a “sinker” matzah ball] for DENSE
Matthew Stock’s USA Today Crossword, “Middle C’s” — Sophia’s recap
Editor: Erik Agard
Theme: The theme answers are two word phrases, and the middle letter of each word is C
- 16a [1993 witch movie] – HOCUS POCUS
- 35a [Label scanned at checkout] – BARCODE STICKER
- 58a [Footbags] – HACKY SACKS
Busy day today so I’m just gonna give a quick rundown of all the things I liked about Matthew’s puzzle!
- A theme with an extra layer. I guessed from the title that the theme answers would have C in the middle, but I didn’t expect the elegance of the two word answers each with C – a pleasantly elevated theme.
- Theme answers that were exciting stand alone answers despite their constraints – well, at least HOCUS POCUS and HACKY SACKS (although I will admit I had zero idea what on earth “footbags” could refer to). BARCODE STICKERS is a bit more suspect; I wanted simply “barcodes” for the longest time.
- Asymmetry that suited the theme. Since each theme answer had two theme words needing to have C in the center, each one needed to be an even number of letters long. Since USA Today puzzles are always 15×15, that meant that Matthew wouldn’t normally be able to put an answer in the center. But by adding an extra black square, he could do it. The intentional asymmetry allowed the placement of only 3 theme answers which kept the grid open for clean fill.
- Speaking of clean fill! So many things I hadn’t seen in puzzles before that I was excited to see today: AND I’M OUT, ULTRA HOT, MUNCHIES, WENT DARK.
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Crossword #1461, “G-Strings”—Darby’s review
Theme: Each theme answer substitutes a G-word for a homophonic phrase.
- 17a [“Enthusiastic cry to Stefani while playing hide and seek”] SEE YA GWEN I SEE YA / SEE YA WHEN I SEE YA
- 37a [“‘Mr. Padre’ in due course?”] OVERTIME GWYNN / OVERTIME WIN
- 60a [“Avocado and omelet refuse dish”] GUAC ON EGGSHELLS / WALK ON EGGSHELLS
I was curious to see where this would go when I saw the puzzle title, and I caught SEE YA GWEN I SEE YA first, though I wasn’t able to parse the phrase until I said it out loud several times. That part of the theme really clicked when I got OVERTIME GWYNN. As a result, I half-expected there to be another form of GWEN/GWYNN in the third answer. Also – please nobody ever make GUAC ON EGGSHELLS for a second breakfast. I beg you. Lastly, there was a bonus themer in 26d [“What a Micronesian baseball player uses?”] GUAM BAT / WOMBAT that felt very fun but a little out of place within the puzzle as the only Down themer.
In the northeast and southwest corners, there were some fun eight letter answers, including OVERTURE, VETERANS, and, my favorite, ONE TO TEN. I was a bit confused with SOYA BEAN in 12d [“Protein in 45-Down”] (45d [“___ soup”] MISO), as I think SOY BEAN is the more accurate answer here. Someone feel free to correct me.
I spent a lot of time wading through names, which is a general weakness for me. There was Carl ICAHN, TUPAC, OLAV, YVES Tumor, ANGELA Lindvall, King MIDAS, KATEY Sagal, ICE T, ELI Stokols, and Mike TOMLIN. I would say I was pretty 50/50 on these. It was interesting to learn more about YVES Tumor who is an experimental musician and I thought the cluing for MIDAS, 45a [“King in a touching story”], was really fun and clever.
Overall, my favorite clue and answer was 57a [“Number at the top of some faces”] XII. My least was the inclusion of DUI in 33a [“Swerving crime: Abbr.”]. As BEQ might say, I’ll SEE YA GWEN I SEE YA.
Josh F. Kaufmann’s LA Times Crossword – Gareth’s summary
The first thing I noticed in today’s puzzle by Josh M. Kaufmann was the four long down entries. Sure enough today is a “revealer explains the theme better when themers run down” day, with the punchy [Head-scratching words…], WHYONEARTH explaining a synonym theme with a twist. Each of the four downs end in a synonym for EARTH preceded by a Y. So: [Big name in travel guides], LONELYPLANET; [Newspaper rival of the Bugle in the Spider-Man universe], DAILYGLOBE; [Anaheim attraction], DISNEYLAND; [Oz, for one], FANTASYWORLD.
[Indigo plant], ANIL. Also cricketer Kumble, the fourth most successful test bowler in terms of wickets.
Not themers: BONEMARROW, SQUAREONE, GESTATION.
[Wild party], RAGER. Do people still (ever?) say this?
NYT: Came here to find out what the gimmick is this Thursday, but no write-up for this one. I finished it in ignorance of that, within a normal time. The constructors have buried whatever it is pretty deep.
Look for the circled letters in the revealer entry.
In the clues for the theme answers, substitute RN for M. (That’s why those letters are circled in the revealer.)
It’s a play on the nasty sans-serif font the NYT uses for the clues.
This NYT puzzle convinced me to get better readers because I read the clues as “Burns, for example” and “Yarn source, historically.”
haha, same here.
That’s interesting. My confusion generally goes the other way – I see an “m” where it’s actually an “rn.”
NYT: I’ve actually been tripped up by the “rn” vs. “m” confusion many times – so I thought it was pretty clever that someone actually made it the theme of a puzzle.
Ditto. Enjoyed the theme, though admittedly, it took me a while to grok.
Yup … me too … whoever came up with that font ought to be drawn and quartered (okay, maybe that would be just a little too severe a punishment)
Me three. I burst out laughing when I finally realized what was happening, since I so often have trouble figuring out whether something is an m or rn. With this font (unlike the font in the puzzle clues) it looks clear. I wish that were always the case. Anyway, I really appreciated the puzzle!
NYT: This is keming. more
Well done! Brava! Your comment made me laugh more than the puzzle did.
I thought that it was self explanatory and quite (maybe too?) simple even if one is totally unaware of kerning. The solve was uber simple with all themers gettable with crosses this negating understanding.
Kerning ought to have been in the grid at the bottom. [meh] I didn’t know it before would have liked the puzzles teaching me that at the very least. Erudition is dead at the NYT puzzle page
Re: WSJ: Nova is a type of brined salmon (aka LOX) that got its name from Nova Scotia, where most of NYC’s salmon used to come from. At least that’s what Wikipedia told me. I did use to think lox is used interchangeably with smoked salmon, but apparently lox doesn’t necessarily have to be smoked.
I did not find today’s New Yorker nearly the stroll in the park of last week, and I wondered if it really hit its target of new solvers. Don’t get me wrong; I thought was a typically solid/wonderful Weintraub. But there were some bits — like the clues for PLANT-BASED and RAIN DELAY — that made me wonder. Seemed more along the lines of what NY wants to offer on Wednesdays now. Or even a Tuesday maybe.
AFL-CIO is one of the largest unions in the country. Surely worthy of being known.
I agree. It’s sad, but union membership in the USA is down to about 11% of the workforce.
I expect AFL-CIO is more familiar to older solvers.
what’s sad is that this commentator is apparently bent out of shape about gender representation but couldn’t give a darn that she is ignorant about unions. And then they wonder about why the working class is repelled by the dominant cultural context today.
WSJ… just a crazy Canuck commenting here… loved the “birling” clue, as any proud Canadian of a certain age would get the reference… listen to this song! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Srp7k-9oCkw
As someone who used to work at the NFB and still does gigs for them, this makes me happy.