Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “Are You Cereal?” – Erin’s write-up
This week’s theme is a before and after-type combining celebrities and breakfast cereals.
- 20a. [Cereal featuring a wide receiver on the box?] JERRY RICE CHEX
- 36a. [Cereal featuring a Grammy-winning singer-songwriter on the box?] FIONA APPLE JACKS
- 54a. [Cereal featuring a “Muppets Take Manhattan” and “Man of La Mancha” actor on the box?] JAMES COCO ROOS
The theme is cute, but I would love to see some newer celebrities here. Jerry Rice retired in 2006 and James Coco died in 1987. Fiona Apple released her latest album in 2020, so she’s good. (I recommend listening to her single “Shameika.”)
Speaking of cereal, did you know (among other things) Jamelle Bouie reviews weird breakfast cereals for Serious Eats? Here’s one of my favorites, a review of Green Onion Chex from Kellogg’s South Korea. I wish I could embed this here but you’ll just have to trust me and click the link. Please trust me. My office staff is wondering why I’m cracking up by myself at my laptop.
Julian Lim’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Our theme revealer does double duty here. 39a. [With 43-Across, historical period found in each set of circled letters] clues CHINESE / DYNASTY, and the first four letters are circled for the Chin dynasty. The Ming, Tang, Sui, and Han dynasties are hiding at the starts of MINGLE IN THE CROWD, TANGLED WEB of lies, SUIT TO A TEE, and HANGING BY A THREAD. Those long ones have 16 letters, so the grid’s wider than usual.
Fave fill: the IG NOBEL Prize (take a look at 2021’s dubious winners).
Tough for a Tuesday: EVO ([Annual video game competition, for short]? news to me), EARLAP, CHOU / ENLAI (is Zhou the more commonly used transliteration now?) awkwardly cross-referenced to half of a theme entry, plural NAPAS for wines, plural interjection DOHS, AGUE, and OSAGE River.
Three more things:
- 2d. [“Go ahead, tell me the answer”], “I GIVE.” Who out there is using the phrase like this? Instead of “I give up.” Anyone? It sounds wrong to me.
- 32d. [Needed further explanation], WASN’T CLEAR. Not keen on appending a WAS, WASN’T, IS, or ISN’T to any random adjective that can be negated and using it as crossword fill. AREN’T PLEASED?
- 5d. [Like kiwis and plum tomatoes, by shape], OBLONG / 17a. [Oolong, e.g.], TEA. I don’t know how broadly familiar Oolong tea is in the U.S., but it hit me just right to encounter Oolong soon after filling in OBLONG. Not a ton of O*LONG words out there!
3.5 stars from me. How’d this one treat you?
Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle (Week 570), “Believe!”—Ade’s take
Hello friends, and hello to you, month of May! Here is hoping you are all doing well to begin the new month.
Today’s grid is making sure there are no trust issues lingering after your solve, as each of the first words in the first three theme answers can come before the word “trust.” The fourth theme entry, TRUST EXERCISE, acts as the reveal (57A: [2019 Susan Choi novel that won the National Book Award for Fiction…or an alternate puzzle title]).
- LIVING OUT LOUD (15A: [1998 comedy/drama with Holly Hunter and Queen Latifah]) – When I put in “living” and saw Queen Latifah in the clue, I thought, “There’s no way Living Single had Holly Hunter in its cast!” (P.S. Living Single is a totally underrated sitcom for how funny and cutting-edge it was for its time; A portrayal of four single and successful black women in the early 1990s, with Queen Latifah as one of the leads.)
- BRAINSTORMS (26A: [Produces ideas in a “think tank” setting])
- PUBLIC HOUSE (42A: [Fleet Street’s Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, for one])
It was one of the shortest answers that ended up causing me the biggest hangup, when putting in “me to” instead of US TO led to what looked like a 10-car pileup in the middle of the grid that I had to untangle out of (18A: [“Take ___ your leader”]). Guess I only envision one solitary alien being present when making a request like that in wanting to take over our planet. New word/person of the day for me was NILO, the first Latino to ever win a drama Pulitzer when he did so for Anna in the Tropics (13D: [Pulitzer-winning dramatist Cruz]). We’ve seen “sarong” and “sari” in puzzles a number of times, but I believe this is the first time that I’ve come across DHOTI in a grid (47A: [Hindu garment]). Almost some interesting timing with one of the answers, the Sun King himself, LOUIS XIV, as it is one of his descendants, Louis XVI, that is the eponym for the city of Louisville, which is hosting the Kentucky Derby at the end of this week (37D: [French monarch with a 72-year reign]).
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: MCNABB (4D: [Former Eagles quarterback Donovan]) – Here’s a little known fact about Syracuse University’s Donovan McNabb, the greatest QB in the history of the Philadelphia Eagles franchise (sorry Norm, Jaws, and Randall). During his time as a standout quarterback at Syracuse, McNabb, who was a two-sport star in high school in Illinois, was also a member of the Syracuse University basketball team, including the 1995-96 team that made it all the way to the national championship game before losing to Kentucky. His senior season at ‘Cuse saw him finish in fifth place in the Heisman Trophy voting. Of course, because my timing is always horrible, I arrived at Syracuse as a freshman soon after McNabb’s college days ended.
Thank you so much for the time, everybody! Have a wonderful and safe rest of your day and, as always, keep solving!
Aimee Lucido’s New Yorker crossword — pannonica’s write-up
Despite using the not-100%-smooth-for-me web interface (I can never get Crossword Scraper to deliver a usable file at The New Yorker) and a casual approach, my time for this was on the fast side for a “moderately challenging puzzle”. About 5½ minutes.
No marquee answers in this grid. There is a pinwheel of double-stacked tens, and they’re all good: INFLUENCER/TURING TEST, BANANA CHIPS/CLEMENTINE (clued via the brand name Cutie), I DID INDEED (which is gettable from the precisely phrased clue)/DATING APPS, DARN TOOTIN’/DEATH GLARE (for which I originally had DEATH STARE—my only misstep).
- 1a [Shape of a cat with its paws and tail tucked beneath it] LOAF. Familiar to anyone whos baked bread, especially forming it for a pan. My personal term has long been the wordier breadloaf position.
- 5a [Benghazi’s country] LIBYA. Oh right, Benghazi.
- 22a [Diatribe] TIRADE. DIATRIBE = TIRADE + IB.
- 25a [“The Invisible Life of __ LaRue” (V.E. Schwab novel)] ADDIE. Author and title equally unfamiliar to me. Seems it’s a 2020 book with a significant fan base.
- 31a [Game where you can play rough but you can’t play fair?] WORDLE. The now-ubiquitous 5-letter Mastermind™-like word guessing game. As this is the central entry with a witty clue, I’m guessing this was the not-so-limiting seed entry for the grid.
43a [Capital of Bhutan] THIMPHU.
- 59a [If you ask how much it costs, it might say “I strive to be invaluable”] SIRI. Bleh.
- 60a [Software for setting up Internet connections?] DATING APPS. Cute.
- Symmetrical pair: 4d [Sending winky-face emojis, say] FLIRTING, 38d [Made a friendly expression toward] SMILED AT.
- 229d [Shawkat of “Arrested Development”] ALIA. Change of pace from the overused Latin phrase et alia.
A very smooth grid and a satisfying solve.
Catherine Cetta’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Jenni’s write-up
This was a smooth solve. I didn’t figure out what was going on with the theme until I got to the revealer. Then again I didn’t try very hard because I was solving the puzzle.
Each theme answer has circles.
- 17a [“Almost!”] is NOT QUITE.
- 22a [Bargain hunter’s event] is RUMMAGE SALE. This is definitely a thing and very reasonable entry. It does have a musty vibe to my ear. The Google ngram viewer confirms that it peaked in 1951.
- 38a [Rush hour woe] is COMMUTER TRAFFIC.
- 49a [Lingers] is HANGS AROUND.
I realized the circles were NOTE, RULE, COMIC, and HAND. I didn’t see the connecting thread until I got to 61a [Items found on library shelves, and what are literally found in each set of circled letters]: BOOKENDS. NOTEBOOK, RULE BOOK, COMIC BOOK, HANDBOOK. Nice! Solid, consistent, accessible.
A few other things:
- Because I have no understanding of Mediterranean geography, I thought 1d [Resort island in the Ionian Sea] was CAPRI. It’s CORFU. Capri is in the Tyrrhenian Sea.
- We get PETE Buttigieg and DADS as the answer for [Both parents, in some families]. Yay for representation.
- Loved [Major plot twist in “The Wizard of Oz”] for TORNADO.
- SALADS made me think of the “women laughing alone with salad” meme, which I found here, and then I discovered that there’s a book and a play.
- Is [Square] still a synonym for NERDY? I thought nerds were cool these days.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: see above re: CORFU and the Ionian Sea. I also didn’t know that ICE–T had a song called “Rhyme Pays.”
David W. Tuffs’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Wildlife of Crime”—Jim P’s review
I like a good imaginative theme. This one involves phrases that include animals to describe people involved in nefarious doings. They’re clued as though they are groups of lawless critters escaped from a zoo.
- 17a. [The local zoo has reported that some of their most unscrupulous animals have escaped, including a pack of ____…] DRUG MULES.
- 21a. […a shiver of ___…] LOAN SHARKS.
- 36a. […a clowder of ___…] CAT BURGLARS.
- 54a. […and a scold of ___] JAY WALKERS.
- 61a. [After all the animals were captured, they turned into ___] JAILBIRDS. Not so sure that this fits with the others, but as my disbelief was already suspended, I thought, “Sure, why not.”
This was fun, although I have to say the use of animal groupings threw me off. Except for the first one, they were no help in identifying the animal in question. I would have liked it better if the clues offered a hint to the illegal activity involved, such as […the ___ were stealing everything in sight] for CAT BURGLARS (or something better). But still, I enjoyed it.
Really impressed with the fill as well all over the grid including AIR KISS, CANDY EGG, STARTERS, PANACEA, CAJOLE, MADCAP, PALM OFF, YUKFEST, CANNOLI, SEA FANS, “SAYS ME,” and “DON’T GO!” Lovely stuff to uncover at every turn. Only SETS AT made me wrinkle my nose.
Clues of note:
- 12d. [Romantic gesture in long-distance relationships?]. AIR KISS. Cute.
- 22d. [“Father ___” (Mark Wahlberg movie)]. STU. Hadn’t even heard of this one. Apparently it’s out now, and based on a true story of a boxer-turned-priest. At least we have another cluing angle for this long-used nam
Fun theme and impressive fill. 4.25 stars.
Trent H. Evans’ Universal Crossword, “Ahead of Time”— Jim Q’s write-up
The revealer is right in the title!
THEME: Common phrases where both words can precede the word “time.”
- QUIET DOWN! Quiet time. Down time.
- SPACE TRAVEL. Space time? Travel time? I don’t think either of those phrases rings a bell for me.
- SPRING BREAK. Spring time. Break time.
- ABOUT FACE. About time. FaceTime.
- GOOD SAVE. Good time. Save time.
I know this is a common idea, but I’m always impressed when solid two-word phrases can be found where each of the words can precede a common word. That said, it’s also hard to make sure that they all fit perfectly without a bit of shoehorning. Like “good time” on its own doesn’t feel right (“good times” feels fine… good time sounds like it needs to be part of a longer phrase). I suppose I’ve heard the phrase “break time” but that feels off too. And I don’t know what to make of either “space time” and “travel time.” I might be missing something there.
I found the GOOD SAVE placement rather intriguing. Totally unexpected. Can’t tell if I like it or not… just gave a verbal shrug when I came across it.
Fun clue for TERSE: [Unlike this clue, which is far too wordy and could have simply been “curt”]. Sometimes the meta clues induce eye-rolls. Sometimes they’re just plain delightful. This was the latter.
Had DOG TRAINER for DOG GROOMER, which would’ve worked fine, had the clue been without a ? [One who makes a boxer look smart?]. That’s a very good clue and misdirection. Bravo!
Another good one for [Big name in cubism?] RUBIK.
Overall entertaining, even if the theme wasn’t always spot on.
Sara Cantor’s USA Today Crossword, “Cold Open“ — Emily’s write-up
Loved everything about today’s puzzle! So good!
Theme: each themer begins with a synonym for the word “cold”
- 17a. [Horseradish, at a Seder], BITTERHERB
- 27a. [Response to an underwhelming anecdote], COOLSTORYBRO
- 42a. [Refreshing Lipton drink], BRISKICEDTEA
- 54a. [Unfriendly welcome], CHILLYRECEPTION
Such a fun theme and themer set! “Seder” should have clued me in more but my mind was rotating through different descriptors such as “harsh”, “pungent”, and “hot” for BITTERHERB but once I had a few crossings, then this one practically finished filling in itself. COOLSTORYBRO also took me a few crossings to get and while I certainly have used this phrase before, it in no way describes my response to this puzzle if you can’t tell (sorry, not sorry, for all of the exclamation points throughout this post). This one frustrated me most of all because I used to drink BRISKICEDTEA a lot, was even picturing the can image and could taste it from memories but missed the first word so doubted what it was for a while until more of the puzzle was filled. Cluing had me thinking “cold shoulder” yet with this being the final themers, I had firgured out by then what was going on so it was easier to fill in CHILLYRECEPTION. Also there are a couple of alternating patterns: one with the starting letter—the first and the third begin with a “b” and second and fourth begin with a “c”, and a second with the number of words in the themer—two in the first and fourth, and three in the second and third. So many things going on! Super cool to see pulled off and so well too!
Favorite fill: USUAL, QUEERBAIT, and WORMHOLE
Stumpers: ALTER (tried “edits”, “redo”, and “amends” first), AQUA (needed crossings, stuck on either “teal” and “cyan”), and ILY (got with crossings)
When I opened my USAT app, I was delighted to see it was by Sara Cantor and the puzzle did not disappoint! An excellent way to start my Tuesday, and hopefully you all enjoyed it as much as I did. A well-deserved 5 stars from me today, especially knowing how tricky this all must have been to achieve and maintaining such great fill. Kudos, Sara!
In the NYT app the clue I see for 10 D is “First ‘O’ of O-OO” and the answer is TIC. Same clue appears later in the puzzle, with an answer that makes sense.
O.O.O. = out of office; O-O-O = tic-tac-toe
Ah! Thank you.
Odd, but I’d the opposite experience. TIC was obvious to me, but I had to come here to learn “out of office.”
Pretty decent puzzle for so early in the week. I don’t really know Chinese dynasties, but nice how it works out. I don’t know if it’s a rewarding, clever addition of theme density to have the cross-referenced second use of CHINESE for more recent politics, or just messy, but might as well enjoy it!
I didn’t know EVO either and can’t swear anyone’s ever said NAPAS. In fact, can’t swear one ever says “mingle in the crowd.” But I could be wrong. One nit, though. “Winner take all” isn’t a saying but a choice of rules.
NYT: MINGLEINTHECROWD has the same number of letters as PAINTSADOORGREEN. And both are equally idiomatic.
I concur. Think it’s more common to say MINGLEWITHTHECROWD
NYT: Couldn’t figure out why I’M AN AGE answered 71A, but I MANAGEd to figure it out.
Have to disagree with Jim P. about the cluing in the WSJ. The weird names for groups of animals offer prime territory for wordplay, and I think I would have been disappointed had the clues aimed more directly at the grid entry rather than requiring you to figure out the animals in question — whether or not you knew SHIVER and CLOWDER [which I certainly did not]. And the answers were all solidly in the language, so I thought it was a great puzzle. Maybe a bit tough for a Tuesday, but that’s not really the constructor’s fault, right?
I don’t get it. Why was the bottom themer not clued with reference to a group of BIRDS? I sailed right through this grid, probably because it only has a couple of token cultural references to anything beyond about 1990 (boy, did this thing feel musty, even to this late Boomer). But in the end I wasn’t at all sure that I had the theme right. A shiver of SHARKS, a clowder of CATs and a scold of JAYs aren’t in my lexicon. Who the heck decides on these bizarre words for groups of things anyway?
Turns out … no one’s really sure!
It always puzzled me. A 7th grade teacher taught us a gaggle of geese and had us stretch out the first G for effect, and it worked, as his real subject wasn’t the word, but instilling a sense of language and words as fun. But over time I learned there were other collectives as well, and it’s really kind of weird.
After all, they’re barely in the language, if being in the language means that people actually use them. Surely almost no one wants to, even if the words weren’t mostly too obscure for someone who wants to use them could. But normally a decision like this depends on usage, and if no one’s using the words, then whose decision remains?
I’m not saying it’s all a hoax, only that it’s puzzling. I’m sure it’s legit enough, even if I wasn’t sure in solving the puzzle that these were actual terms.
The 13A clue in the LAT puzzle was “In order to” for the answer “so that”.
I’m having trouble thinking of an example where “so that” can be substituted for “in order to”.
It’s kind of awkward, but the connection makes sense to me. “I had to duck in order to/so that I could get through the doorway.” I realize that you need to add “I could” for the “so that” sentence to make grammatical sense, but that’s the idea.
Of course it makes sense. It just isn’t valid.
OK, golfballman has been blacklisted. We won’t see his comments here again.
Oh, rats — I would have liked to see what he posted that got him ousted.
He was calling for Gareth’s head on a platter for not having posted a Sunday LAT write up… second time the poster has done that, and previously he was pointed to the LAT Crosword Corner write-up if indeed Gareth found himself in the middle of living life instead of serving (for free) this posters needs/desires.
Thanks — now I’m caught up.
NYT: Seemed like a fine Tuesday puzzle. Theme was kind of interesting and no major complaints about the fill – just nothing special.
Amy – In my youth, I heard (and occasionally used) “I GIVE.” But more often in the context of a physical challenge (a schoolyard wrestling match) than a mental one.
Re: Universal Crossword…
Space-time, as in “the space-time continuum.” Defined as “the concepts of time and three-dimensional space regarded as fused in a four-dimensional continuum.”
Travel time, as in the amount of time it takes to travel somewhere. I’ve seen that phrase a fair amount in guidance on calculating gas reimbursement for business trips. I’ve seen it used in reference to planning itineraries or Google Maps as well.
Thanks! Just for posterity, there was one more themer that wasn’t mentioned in the review: PRESS ONE