Alex Eaton-Salners’s Fireball crossword, “Heads Back”—Amy’s write-up
As the title suggests, the heads of each word in the base phrases move to the back, forming new words. The resulting phrases are clued accordingly:
- 15a. [Some snorts?], NOSE LAUGHTER. Enos Slaughter of baseball’s yore.
- 20a. [Squads’ squalid shacks?], TEAMS’ HOVELS. Steam shovel.
- 32a. [What coral feel toward destructive snorkelers?], REEF ANGER. Free range.
- 48a. [Spellbound owls?], RAPT HOOTERS. Trap shooter.
- 56a. [Ocean water, continental landmasses, etc.?], EARTH TOPPINGS. Heart-stopping.
Favorite clue: 47d. [Place where you’re free to do puzzles all day, to some], UTOPIA. We would also have accepted HEAVEN.
Three more things:
- 4a. [Forest part], IDI. As in Forest Whitaker playing the part of IDI Amin.
- 41d. [Mosque leader’s office], IMAMATE. Not sure I’ve seen this term before, but it was inferrable.
- 9d. [Calf producer], ICEBERG. Oh, that kind of calf! Took me a while and some crossings to find my way here.
- 23d. [Bin-laden worker’s org.], TSA. TSA agents may be laden with plastic bins.
- 24d. [Pen pal, perhaps], HOG. Your buddy in the pigpen is a HOG. Or maybe you have an epistolary relationship with a biker.
Four stars from me.
Jeff Chen’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “The Game Is Afoot!”—Jim P’s review
We’re looking for fictional detectives today as hinted at by the Holmesian title. Theme answers are familiar(ish) words and phrases that feature a single circled letter. Change that letter according to the revealer’s hint, and you’ll find the surname of a detective created by the author identified parenthetically. Said revealer is in two parts: CLUE / ME IN (66a, [With 67-Across, “I need a hint” and a hint to uncovering four famous detectives].
- 18a. [Words with two opposite meanings, like “cleave” and “oversight” (Chester Gould)] CONTRANYMS. Change the circled N to a C to find TRACY. I don’t recognize the name Chester Gould, but I’m going to assume we’re talking about Dick Tracy here. (Yup, just verified it with an Internet search.)
- 26a. [Missouri (Arthur Conan Doyle)] THE SHOW-ME STATE. The circled W becomes an L to give us HOLMES. This was the first one I sorted out, and it was crucial to understanding the theme.
- 46a. [Diagnoses after diagnoses (Edgar Allan Poe)] SECOND OPINIONS. The circled O becomes a U to give us DUPIN(?) I’m guessing here because I simply don’t know the detective created by Poe. (Shame on me for not knowing this, but “Dupin” is C. Auguste Dupin, who first appeared in The Murders in the Rue Morgue which is also considered the very first detective story. He reappears in The Mystery of Marie Roget and The Purloined Letter.)
- 57a. [Desert condition (Carolyn Keene)] DRY WEATHER. The circled Y becomes an E to give us Nancy DREW. Nice to have this one included even though DRY WEATHER sounds a bit green paintish and “Carolyn Keane” was a pseudonym for a number of writers who wrote Drew stories (though the initial and primary writer was a woman by the name of Mildred Wirt Benson).
This was fun to unpack and sort out. It didn’t help not knowing some of the names, but I view that as more of a gap in my knowledge base than a fault with the puzzle.
But don’t you think it’s a bit weird that we need a CLUE to find the detectives? Shouldn’t we use clues to find the criminals?
Aside from that, this was fun and definitely different than the usual rehashed fare.
Looking at the long fill, we have “DON’T BE RUDE,” RUNS FOR IT, BOSSA NOVA, and TEAPOT DOME. A very nice collection. I didn’t know the rapper FAT JOE [“The Elephant in the Room” rapper] and with it crossing another proper name LENA [“A Raisin in the Sun” matriarch] at the A, that might give people pause. An I seemed like a possibility in that square, but the A definitely seemed more likely. I wanted ICE DAM for the clue [Winter river flow blocker], but the crossing of JOAD made it clear it should be ICE JAM. If you never read The Grapes of Wrath, that was probably another tough crossing.
- 38a. [Self-correcting mechanical device]. SERVO. We also would have accepted [Tom of Mystery Science Theater 3000]. I know Jeff has a geeky streak in him, I wonder if that was his original clue.
- 41a. [Versace logo figure]. MEDUSA. Did not know this. I wonder if there’s a story behind it.
Nice, meaty puzzle all around. Four stars.
Hey folks! In this puzzle we’ve got four “cross-reference-y” dupe-y answers:
- With 1 Across, warning at sea is SHOT (across) THE BOW— so we aren’t referring to the word at 1-across (which is BACK), we are referring to the literal word “across”
- With 1 Down, like a free-for-all fight is KNOCK DRAG OUT. Here, we are not referring to the entry at 1-down (which is BEST), we are using the word “down” to create the full entry KNOCK (down) DRAG OUT.
- With 1 Across, charity event involving a coast-to-coast human chain is HANDS (across) AMERICA
- With 1 Down, dessert sometimes made with pineapple is UPSIDE (down) CAKE
I like the vibe of this theme for sure! I looove when constructors sassily break crossword rules, especially on a Thursday. It got a “nice!!!” out of me, which is basically all I want from a puzzle. This didn’t quite stick the landing for me for three reasons:
- The crossword grammar is slightly wrong, no? The way the clues are phrased (“With across, xyz”) I believe the final answer should be ACROSS SHOT THE BOW rather than SHOT ACROSS THE BOW. (Correct me if I’ve missed something here, kind commenters, I might be missing the role of “1” in the clue!)
- Two of the terms were foreign to me, which meant parsing them took ages. SHOT (across) THE BOW is totally new to me, so I was trying to use BACK somehow (read it backwards maybe?). I also misremembered the second phrase as KNOCK (back) DRAG OUT, which significantly confused me. I expect if all four of these were in your brain, you had a much easier time with this.
- I do wish the entries at the 1-across and 1-down had come back to play somehow!! Like, I was thinking about them for the whole puzzle and they ended up not meaning anything! I’m not sure how this could have happened… maybe in a title, if NYT allowed that? Any ideas?
But I acknowledge that (2) is totally out of Michael’s control, and (1) and (3) are nitpicks :)
Another thing that made this puzzle tough was the huge quantity of proper nouns, or things clued in a trivia-y way. For example, I know that MILAN is a city in Italy, but I didn’t know that it was the setting of “Farewell to Arms,” so that ended up being tough for me. I think there were ~16ish which is a LOT!! And many of them new to me, including (but not limited to) “The IDIOT,” KAT Chow, Cicely TYSON, BESS Myerson, and MAHALO.
Should we talk about the NRA? We can talk about it. Here’s my take: I don’t mind it in a puzzle, but I know other people really really really don’t like it. So I try not to put it in puzzles because I want my solvers to have a good time. I’d rather see a clue like [Target of “March for Our Lives” protests] than what we got here (1930’s Depression-fighting org.) which is like, trying to pretend we don’t all think “that gun organization” when we read NRA.
- [“Aww”-inspiring one] for TOT
- [It’s funky] for STENCH
- [Places to find dishes of different cultures] for LABS
- [Great place to visit near Michigan?] for LAKE HURON
- [One behind The Times] for EDITOR
- [Made a bank getaway?] for SWAM
- [Stretch for the stars?] for LIMO
- [Ursa minor?] for CUB
Ang D’Argenio & Olivia Mitra Framke’s USA Today Crossword, “Side of Fries” — Sophia’s recap
Editor: Amanda Rafkin
Theme: The first word of each theme answer is a type of french fry.
- 16a [Dinnerware served with a sirloin] – STEAK KNIFE
- 24a [Pairs of marks used by coders] – CURLY BRACKETS
- 39a [Hybrids of athletic shoes and high heels] – WEDGE SNEAKERS
- 53a [Breakfast-making appliance that inspired Nike Moon Shoes] – WAFFLE IRON
Cute theme! It’s a good thing I’m solving this at night after eating a bunch of takeout for dinner, since otherwise I’d be very hungry. I like all the theme answers a lot, although I will say that as a coder I always call them “curly braces” as opposed to CURLY BRACKETS. Also, WEDGE SNEAKERS have always confused me as a concept, and at first I thought the WAFFLE IRON clue was referring to these 90’s classic Moon Shoes, and I was very confused:
I had trouble in a couple spots of the puzzle today. I put in “kindly” instead of FONDLY for 5d[With affection], and I didn’t know ONI and I wasn’t sure if the file format was GIF or “pdf”. I also didn’t know 49d [“Lord of the Rings” village that sounds like a cheese] – is BREE a common LOTR thing to know? I know the major characters (and orc and ent of course) and then I’m out. I was surprised at this spelling because I would have guessed it would have been clued as a person’s name… but I guess this is just swapping out one proper noun for another. Oh, and I’ve never seen “Archer” so 11d [“That’s how we get ___!” (running joke on “Archer”)] for ANTS means nothing to me.
Fave fill: COMEDY GOLD, by a mile. I also love any REGINA George shout out.
Fave clues: [Fathers’ new partners, perhaps] for STEPDADS, 33a [Collecting 100 of these gives Mario an extra life] for COINS.
Susan Gelfand’s Universal Crossword, “Two for the Books” — Jim Q’s write-up
THEME: Authors last names make up common phrases
- [You may make a bed of it (E.B., Anne)] WHITE RICE. E.B. White, Anne Rice.
- [Sheet metal producer (Danielle, John Stuart)] STEEL MILL. Danielle Steel, John Stuart Mill.
- [English version of the Bible (Stephen, P.D.)] KING JAMES. Stephen King, P.D. James.
- (revealer) CO-AUTHORS.
Nice idea! Fun to suss out. I sorta wished I only had the authors first names as the clues… feels like the themers are doubly clued in a sense (with the authors being upstaged by the actual definitions). But that may be something I can easier say with hindsight.
John Stuart MILL seems like the odd one out in this group. Like, if these writers were at a party, I feel like John Stuart would be the lonely guy in the corner while the others were yukking it up.
Nice clue for UMPS [Four of diamonds, for short?] There are four UMPS out on that baseball diamond!
Very smooth solver for me, coming in at 2:54 (I don’t frequently time myself, but anything below 3:00 is rare).
Thanks for this one, Susan!
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Crossword #1475, “Impacted Teeth”—Darby’s write-up
Theme: Each theme answer includes grey squares that together spell out a type of tooth, making them literally “impacted teeth” within the words.
- 17a [“Sarcastic comment to a boring monologue, say”] INCREDIBLE STORY / INCISOR
- 26a [“Impresario behind the Sex Pistols”] MALCOLM MCCLAREN / MOLAR
- 43a [“Coerced”] TWISTED ONE’S ARM / WISDOM
- 56a [“Food made with Gualwei and Yuxiang sauces”] SZECHUAN CUISINE / CANINE
I thought that this was a relatively simple while still really clever theme. There was less wordplay in the clues themselves than one usually sees in BEQ themed grids, and it took only filling in INCREDIBLE STORY for me to figure out the theme, which certainly added in my solve as I worked through MALCOLM MCLAREN and TWISTED ONE’S ARM. Filling in CANINE also made SZECHUAN cuisine apparent, especially once I got 48d [“Hebrew prophet”] EZRA. Also, between the four themers, there were 58 squares of theme in this puzzle, and it didn’t seem to affect the rest of the fill too much.
I didn’t love the choice to clue OCHO as 52d [“Beto’s eight”] as I think that clues like that have long been stereotyping Spanish language speakers. However, I did really enjoy the inclusion of 14a [“Computer whose first code was written by six women mathematicians”] ENIAC and kicking off the grid with 1a [“Bat mitzvah officiant”] RABBI rather than “bar mitzvah.”
Solid puzzle with a simple but fun theme. That’s all from me for today!
Emma Lawson’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary
I didn’t see Emma Lawson’s theme until after solving. It possibly didn’t help that I desperately wanted the first theme entry to be FARMTOFORK, and when that was too short, FARMTOPLATE, although FA/ATE seemed to go nowhere. After that I forgot about looking at the theme. Once solved, it’s easy to see the classic trope of circles spelling out words, today as bookends. The revealer, BREAKASTORY, means all four are synonyms: FABLE, MYTH, TALE and SPIEL. The last stretches things a little, I feel, but is defensible.
- [*Locavore movement], FARMTOTABLE. Like I said, wanted one of the other variants for a considerable time.
- [*Insulating layer around a nerve], MYELINSHEATH.
- [*Accept a difficult role], TAKEUPTHEMANTLE
- [*Use a randomizer to decide, say], SPINTHEWHEEL. I know a randomizer as a procedure that generates a pseudo-random number in coding, but I don’t think it’s referring to that here?
- [What an investigative journalist might do, and what the answers to the starred clues literally do], BREAK A STORY
A few seriously difficult intersections today:
[Former Disney president Michael], OVITZ and [Citrus hybrid used in Japanese cuisine], YUZU. My last square, after dimly recalling that surname, although runner Steve Ovett was clouding my recall. Also [Florence’s role in “Black Widow” and “Hawkeye”], YELENA crossing the [Harp constellation], LYRA. I had to change the A to an E when I realised YELENE wasn’t a typical name. Another entry that broke my stride was [Private discussions], TETEATETES since I hyper-corrected to TETESATETE.