Happy Pride, everyone!
Christina Iverson and Katie Hale’s New York Times crossword, “Let’s Get Literature”—Nate’s write-up
Hi, everyone! Today’s puzzle by the Christina / Katie powerhouse pair has us truly book-ed and blessed. Let’s dive in!
23A: COMES OUT OF ONES SHELLEY [Looks up from reading “Frankenstein”?]
– 33A: GOES THROUGH HELLER [Reads “Catch-22,” “Closing Time” and “Something Happened” – and doesn’t stop there?]
– 55A: TAKES A LONG WALKER [Borrows “The Color Purple” from the library instead of “The Flowers”?]
– 81A: PLAYS THE FIELDING [Listens to “Tom Jones” on audiobook?]
– 100A: BREAKS THE LAWRENCE [Reads “Lady Chatterley’s Lover” so many times its spine splits?]
– 117A: GIVES A FAIR SHAKESPEARE [Donates some copies of “King Lear” to the Renaissance Festival?]
This puzzle was quite the literary field trip and got me geared up to tackle some summer reading! I liked how consistent and parallel this theme set was – not only was each author pun at the end of the them entry, each was based on a solid in-the-language phrase, and each clue made sense of the themer. My favorite was TAKES A LONG WALKER – I’ve never read “The Flowers,” but I know now I could pick it up on a day where I might not have as much time to read. On the other hand, my Southern ear hears “breaks the law” and Lawrence as different sounds (or maybe I hear it as lore-ence rather than Law-rence?), but that didn’t minimize the enjoyment of the theme for me at all. All in all, a fun, erudite, and bright offering that had me enjoy my time solving it. Bravo to the constructing pair!
– This puzzle felt quite clean to me! I also appreciated how many women and people of color were included throughout this grid – I know it’s not something that everyone care about, but it’s something I notice and value when I’m solving puzzles.
– 30A: PART [Split hairs?] – This was a cute clue.
– 44A: LOL [The joy of text?] – This one, too. (And this clue could have been an alternate title for this puzzle!)
That’s all for now – I hope you’re well and enjoying Pride month!
Michael Schlossberg’s Universal Sunday crossword, “Three-Way Switch”—Jim P’s review
The revealer today is PROVERBS (111a [Book after Psalms … or, read as one, two or three parts (as indicated by the stars), this puzzle’s theme]). During the solve, you may have noticed the various stars attributed to some clues. The clues with one star lead to actual PROVERBS. The clues with two stars lead to PRO VERBS, i.e. verbs that start with the letters PRO. And the clues with three stars lead to the entries involved with the circled squares, i.e. the ones where you find PR OVER BS.
One-starred clues (PROVERBS):
- 32a. [*Tip for a waiter?] PATIENCE IS A VIRTUE.
- 61a. [*Observation about observation] A WATCHED POT NEVER BOILS.
- 93a. [*Jumping-in line] LOOK BEFORE YOU LEAP.
Two-starred clues (PRO VERBS):
- 24a. [**Declare]. PROFESS.
- 104a. [**Get down on one knee]. PROPOSE.
- 48d. [**Take a knee, maybe]. PROTEST.
Three-starred clues (PR OVER BS):
- 18a. [***Tailgated on campus, say (Note this answer’s first two letters) / 22a. ***Above-average pupil (First two letters). PRE-GAMED over B STUDENT.
- 23a. [***Celeb’s image problem (Last two letters) / 27a. ***Dominican people now called the Kalinago (Last two letters). BAD PR over CARIBS.
- 86a. [***Credit card fig. (Last two letters) / 92a. ***”Conan” channel, once (Last two letters). APR over TBS.
Whew! That’s a lot to keep track of. Pretty nifty to get that much wordplay out of one word. I will admit that I found the last one (PR OVER BS) to be a bit hokey, as if anyone would care that you could stack those four letters. If that was the extent of the theme, I’d just roll my eyes. But put it all together and it makes for a nice change of pace.
There’s theme material everywhere in the grid, but there are still plenty of nice fill entries like: SET LISTS, TOP BANANA, AIR SPACES (though it sounds weird in the plural), TREE BOA, POP BOTTLE, FIRST BASE, ESOTERIC, SPRITES, AUTO DIAL, ZODIAC, “NICE ONE!,” and the ’70s song I GO CRAZY. Not sure I’ve ever heard JAUNTED as a past-tense verb.
Clues of note:
- 14d. [Natural flavors, surprisingly]. ADDITIVES. I guess these are flavors that are natural to something but not necessarily to the thing you’re eating. There’s a lot of gray area here.
- 17d. [Main M.D.]. PCP. I only just realized this must mean Primary Care Physician. In the military health care system, they/we use PCM—Primary Care Manager—because that person may not necessarily be a physician (possibly a physician’s assistant or nurse practitioner).
- 93d. [Drink that “platter” surrounds, aptly]. LATTE. Hold on. “Platter” doesn’t surround LATTE, P and R do. And why is it apt that a platter would surround a LATTE? Consider me FAZED [Thrown for a loop].
I wasn’t crazy about all of the theme, but it’s an impressive amount of wordplay packed in one grid. Plenty of strong fill to enjoy. 3.75 stars.
Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Color Separation”— Jim Q’s write-up
THEME: A rainbow connection! The grid is divided in half, and a “bridge” of color unites them.
- POINT BROWN. POINT B / R / OWN.
- SOFT CORAL. SOFT C / O / RAL.
- IVORY COAST. IVOR / Y / COAST.
- WON GOLD. WON / G / OLD.
- PITCH BLACK. PITCH / B / LACK.
- SEPIA TONE. SEP / I / ATONE.
- SILVER MINE. SIL / V / ERMINE.
In the black separation line: ROY G. BIV (and if you solved in the webapp, you were treated to the actual colors as shown in the solution grid here).
- RAINBOW CONNECTION
- ACROSS THE SPECTRUM
Both of those serve as either bonus answers or revealers… take your pick!
What a wonderful, thoughtful, and tight puzzle to kick off June. A subtle nod to Pride Month, but taking its own course. Anytime construction starts dabbling with a color-dependent theme, big risk is involved. Colors as themes have been done. Done. To. Death. I remember reading somewhere, perhaps in Patrick Berry’s handbook, that if you take on such a theme (and I believe he even used colors in his example), then it better be something that hasn’t been done.
And that’s this!
There are so many elegant aspects here, it’s difficult to know where to begin. First of all, each of the longer entries as a whole (as clued by the top half’s down entries) contains a color: BROWN, CORAL, IVORY, GOLD, BLACK, SEPIA, SILVER. None of those colors is represented in the ROY G BIV spectrum. It’s almost like one group of tones is giving a polite nod to the other:
“Hey, ROY G BIV. We see you. How ya doin’ over there?”
“Hey other tones. Sorry we always get all the attention. You guys are pretty cool too.”
“No worries. All good.”
Next, and this is pretty wild given the last constraint I just mentioned, the white parts of the grid are still valid crossword fill. This is a Birnholz standard, but I would’ve given him a pass on this one since the theme is so dependent on using colors already in the longer answers: POINT B, SOFT C, WON, PITCH, SEP: All valid crossword fill. Never heard of IVOR, but let’s see what that is: used 27 times according to xwordinfo and often clued as [Composer Novello]. SIL used 136 times and clued frequently as part of RSVP. The bottom halves also follow the same rule, and they’re all clued independently: OWN, RAL, COAST, OLD, LACK, ATONE, ERMINE. RAL being the funkiest of those, but clued as North Carolina’s capital. Slow clap for SIL / V / ERMINE. That’s quite a find.
The colors are all spaced beautifully apart. The bonus answers are perfectly apt. I mean, this is one helluva puzzle.
Also, and this could be due to the fact that I solved this whilst on a school bus transporting a load of high school freshman to Six Flags- which is a challenge in and of itself- but I found this one very difficult. Last week’s puzzle visited at the ground floor of crosswords, and then this week, the elevator shot right up to the penthouse! Ironically, the easiest part of the puzzle was RAINBOW CONNECTION, which was a gimme [Top 40 hit sung by Kermit the Frog… and what you’ll need to join both halves of this puzzle]. But the rest I found very challenging. I was steadfast in refusing to jump to the bottom half of the puzzle until I had figured out the top half and/or sussed out the theme. But even with the RAINBOW CONNECTION nudge, the theme wasn’t immediately clear.
The icing on the cake was the programming by AmuseLabs to create the rainbow within the black void (I was lucky enough to solve on the webapp). I think WaPo has the best online solving experience out there. I can think of a publication or two who might want to go knock on AmuseLabs’ door…
The fill experience was fine, of course, but I have difficulty remembering anything that stood out simply because it is so very upstaged by the theme.
Oh yea… there’s this: [Doc with solutions for a labyrinth?] ENT. I assume that “labyrinth” is referring to, I dunno, the ear canal or something? Ah yes… google tells me I assumed correctly. But did anyone else really, really want to enter VET for that?
Thanks for this one, Evan. It’s perfection.
Trent H. Evans Universal Crossword, “Themeless Sunday 4” — Jim Q’s write-up
I’m so confused by the 15x Universal Sunday. Like, why is it so elusive online? At this site, the Saturday puzzle is featured for two days, and the Sunday is never featured. Also, is it themeless, or isn’t it? Are we in a transition phase? Also, if I’m being honest, it frequently seems to be the red-headed stepchild in comparison with the rest of the week’s offerings.
Why wasn’t this one run yesterday, during a themeless day (“freestyle” day) when yesterday had a themed puzzle but called itself themeless? Why do they call it “Themeless” sometimes and “Freestyle” other times? What’s the difference?
- IT WASN’T ME!
- SO I GATHER…
- IT’S A KEEPER.
- WHO’S NEXT?
- NOT IF I CAN HELP IT!
That sounds like a disjointed conversation. Lots of dialogue in this puzzle :) but nothing OUT OF WHACK!
I really liked the old timeyness of HOOTENANNY, though I confess I did not know the spelling.
Wanted BAGS for [The can be checked or packed]. I wonder if that was intentional misdirection. BOXES seems less apt. Yes, they’re checked in a different sense of the word, but “Pack a box” doesn’t seem like a thing I’ve heard, even though one certainly may pack a box. I just feel like those types of clues should be spot on or not used at all.
Some clues are a little too cute for me such as [Strands at a buffet] for ANGEL HAIR. Sounds like a very specific type of buffet that perhaps the clue should’ve suggested. [Goes through some ups and downs?] seems a bit dramatic for NODS.
Other than that, a standard issue simple themeless!
3 stars from me.
Zhouqin Burnikel’s USA Today crossword, “Ridesharing”—Darby’s write-up
Editor: Erik Agard
Theme: Each of the theme answers include the word RIDE shared between two words.
- 17a [“‘What if we try this instead…’”] I GOT A BETTER IDEA
- 37a [“Region that covers most of Botswana”] KALAHARI DESERT
- 57a [“Man is one”] GENDER IDENTITY
I thought these were great themers. In retrospect, I should’ve started solving exclusively on Downs first, as I wanted to enter I’VE GOT A BETTER IDEA, which is clearly too long, and so I caught up with both this themer and KALAHARI DESERT on the crosses. GENDER IDENTITY was pretty quick to fall in at the end, and it fit smoothly with the final section of the grid.
Based on the distribution of the black squares, I definitely spent most of my time up top down to MANTRA and AVOID. Then, I switched over to Downs and cruised through most of the puzzle pretty quickly. The puzzle’s asymmetry felt like a very unbalanced solve time-wise, especially since the word lengths varied enough that I was a little disoriented but it still worked together really smoothly. I thought that 46d [“Like cottagecore”] RUSTIC and 47d [“Diamond pattern”] ARGYLE were fun sixes to have in that lower corner.
A few other things I noticed:
- 22a [“‘Come and Get This Hunni’ singer Leakes”] – NENE Leakes has been in so many things! She was in The Real Housewives of Atlanta, Glee, The New Normal, and Dancing with the Stars.
- 29a [“Wisconsin nation”] – The ONEIDA Nation of Wisconsin originally were forced to move from New York state due to land policies and treaties that took away land from the Oneida people as well as the conspiracies of private companies and Eleazor Williams, an Episcopal clergyman. You can read more about this history and the ONEIDA Nation here.
- 37a [“Region that covers most of Botswana”] – I was unfamiliar with the KALAHARI DESERT, but it is huge, covering an estimated 360,000 square miles.
Overall, this was a fun puzzle! It definitely had its twists and turns, but in a good way!
Doug Peterson’s LA Times crossword, “Mocktails” – Gareth’s summary
Mocktails are cocktails without the alcohol. Today’s puzzle by Doug Peterson features the non-alcoholic origins of the names of various cocktails. We have:
- [ROB ROY], WALTERSCOTTNOVEL
- [MIMOSA], FLOWERINGTREE
- [STINGER], SCORPIONSWEAPON
- [SIDECAR], MOTORCYCLEACCESSORY
- [COSMOPOLITAN], FASHIONMAGAZINE. I really hesitated putting FASHION in, as the magazine’s focus is much more general?
- [MANHATTAN], NEWYORKISLAND
- [GRASSHOPPER], CROPEATINGINSECT
There were too many tricky clues, but here are some worth noting:
- [Prompt giver]m CUER. As in who gives prompts, not promptly.
- [Respiratory cavity], AIRSAC.
- [“The Great British Bake Off” co-presenter Fielding], NOEL. Would never have thought he was well-known in America. I know him mostly from “The IT Crowd” and “Never Mind the Buzzcocks”.
- [Caffeine-rich seed], KOLANUT. GUARANA is a fruit, but is also seven letters!
- [Shoe retailer owned by Amazon], ZAPPOS. One letter from a Pokemon, but no idea here…
- [Energy bar brand with a rock climber in its logo], CLIF. Know it as an American stand up punchline, but never knew it had one eff.
- [Bygone anesthetic], ETHER. In human medicine; it still has niche applications in veterinary medicine…
Video, [Confident gesture after a performance], MICDROP
NYT: TAKESALONGWALKER was my least favorite of the themers because I couldn’t make any sense of it. Are we supposed to know that “The Flowers” is a short story rather than a novel, or infer it from the clue? Either way, it was more obscure than the others.
WaPo: Great puzzle as usual!
Not sure I’d call it “obscure,” but that answer, unlike the others, requires the solver to do more than just associate an author’s name with his/her work.
Overall, I thought it was an entertaining theme, and the fill was solid – fun puzzle!
That clue didn’t bother me at all, and I don’t even know “The Flowers.” Is it that hard to deduce that it’s a work by someone named Walker, maybe THE Alice Walker of a widely read novel cited in the clue? Whether it’s a short story or shorter novel doesn’t even matter?
Hey, if we can come up with proper names where we don’t have a clue where to begin, surely a punning clue like this can at least bring a smile to one’s face. Overall, the theme often enough did.
Capsule reviews of the day:
NYT; Delightful; books and word play. What more could I ask for?
LAT: Nominated for most boring puzzle of the year.
Universal: Nominated for most convoluted puzzle of the year.
WaPo: Brilliant. The “revealers” didn’t do a lot for me, and I was unimpressed when I went to the website to see what the “full solving experience” was as opposed to my AcrossLite solve, but the puzzle itself was amazing! Can you please upgrade my 4.5 to a 5? My finger slipped.
The LAT didn’t include my favourite adult beverage, the SCREWDRIVER. If you want to learn something cool, google how the drink got its name (supposedly).
WaPo and NYT: What’s not to like about the Times Sunday puzzle other than, perhaps, the rather stupid title? Literature references and clean fill. Quite fine. Much, much better than the usual Sunday Times puzzle. But, Evan’s WaPo is a real masterpiece. Complex, lovely and satisfying. A rare Sunday with two excellent large-size puzzles. David
p.s. Zhouqin’s USA Today was really cute, as well.