Christina Iverson and Scott Hogan’s New York Times crossword, “Movin’ On Up”—Nate’s write-up
Hi, all! It looks like this week’s Sunday NYT puzzle is asking us literally to move ON up. Let’s see what fun changes that causes:
3D: FRUIT BATON [Banana wielded by a maestro in a pinch?]
74D: TIS THE SEAS [Response to “Why art thou queasy?]
6D: WARMUP TOON [Animated short before a Pixar movie?]
83D: STORE COUP [Retail takeover scheme?]
9D: TRASH CANON [Give a scathing review of a major camera brand?]
76D: BOXING LESS [What Amazon retirees enjoy most?]
13D: TACO BARON [Mexican street food mogul?]
78D: HEART SURGE [Result of love at first sight?]
16D: MAIN DRAGON [Smaug, in “The Hobbit”?]
79D: WELCOME WAG [What a dog greets its returning family with?]
What a fun theme, well-executed theme! In each column of theme entries, the lower theme phrases loses its ON, which moves up to the top theme phrase, creating new, fun phrases in both places. There were so many fun executions of this theme: TIS THE SEAS, HEART SURGE, and WELCOME WAG were easily three of my favorites. What I especially enjoyed about this theme was how cleanly and consistently it was executed. ON was lost every time from the end of the bottom themer and added to the end of the top themer. That level of consistency and attention to detail really makes me smile when solving a puzzle like this, knowing how many great entries the constructors came up with even with that extra constraint.
The themer I perhaps enjoyed the least from a workers’ right standpoint was BOXING LESS, given Amazon’s abhorrent treatment of its workers, but it’s a fun transformation that maybe could have been saved by a clue not related to Amazon? STORE COUP also felt unfortunate because, well, coups these days… All in all, though, this was a puzzle I really enjoyed and hope you did, too. Can you think of any fun themers that could have worked for this puzzle? Let us know in the comments below!
Other random thoughts:
– This grid feels relatively clean to me, which made for an even more enjoyable solve. Bravo to the constructors for that!
– 55A: OCTAGON [Each of its interior angles measures 135°] – I’ll admit I did the math to figure this one out! For a regular polygon, the sum of the exterior angles is 360°. If each interior angle is 135°, each exterior angle must be 180° – 135° = 45°. 360° / 45° = 8 angles, which makes an OCTAGON.
– 109D: HOSE [Place for a run?] – I originally had HOME here, but that made MCALA for [Teatro alla ___] at 122A, which certainly had me confused!
– 91D: DAGNABIT [“Tarnation!’] – I can’t tell you how quickly I plunked this in, thanks to growing up in the south. My husband still looks at me weirdly when I say it. :D
Ok, that’s all for now. What did you enjoy about the puzzle? Let us know below – and have a great week!
Erik Agard’s USA Today crossword, “Hit It”—Darby’s write-up
Editor: Erik Agard
Theme: The last two words of each theme answer can come after “Hit” in a popular phrase.
- 23a [“Treasure map hint”] X MARKS THE SPOT / HIT THE SPOT
- 42a [“Doing some fraudulent accounting”] COOKING THE BOOKS / HIT THE BOOKS
- 59a [“Constantly traveling”] ALWAYS ON THE ROAD / HIT THE ROAD
I thought that these were such fun theme answers that were relatively easy to fill in. It took me a bit to put COOKING THE BOOKS into words since I couldn’t remember the phrase, but I really messed myself up in the southeast corner by having ALWAYS ON THE MOVE rather than ALWAYS ON THE ROAD. Once I got AND in there, it helped significantly, and that corner fell into place.
I felt like 16d [“‘He’s grown so much!’”] WHAT A BIG BOY and 22d [“Beyonce song co-written by Solange”] GET ME BODIED were some nice bonus long answers in this asymmetric grid. The middle portion with ORCS / LOOP / DOOR was tough for me since I wasn’t familiar with “A Strange LOOP” and was definitely overthinking “Revolving DOOR” for a long time. I loved both OLD HAND and SPRIG (which I think is such a fun word) here.
A few other thoughts:
- 22a [“Darts and Hearts”] – Love a cute clue for GAMES.
- 64a [“Actress ___ Sava Jeffries”] – LEAH Sava Jeffries is an actress who has appeared in Empire. She also has been cast in the upcoming Disney+ series Percy Jackson and the Olympians as Annabeth Chase, a daughter of Athena and one of the main roles, and I’m pumped up about both her casting and the series itself!
- 11d [“Ingredient for making anpan”] – Anpan is a Japanese bread with sweet red bean paste inside. These little dudes are so cute and look very tasty, and, as the puzzle suggests, you need YEAST to make them. Here’s a recipe in case you’re feeling inspired!
- 56d [“___ de France Femmes”] – The TOUR de France Femmes is a women’s cycle stage race around France run by the same organization that runs the Tour de Frances. The 2022 race begins in just a couple of weeks, starting on July 24th and ending on July 31st.
So good, so fun! This is a puzzle I could spend hours poring over.
Adrian Johnson’s Universal Sunday crossword, “Jumbo Freestyle 2”—Jim P’s review
Theme: None! Another meaty themeless grid to sink our teeth into.
This thing is loaded with highlights. Check these out: “RUB SOME DIRT ON IT!,” OBJECT PERMANENCE, STARDUST, CLYDESDALE, RARE TREATS, MONSTROSITY, BLOOD TESTS, FOLK HEROES, SURE BETS, EMOTIONAL BAGGAGE, SCULPTURE GARDEN, SOCK DRAWER, “SAME OLD SAME OLD,” BOSSA NOVA, SCORPIO, GOT WISE, “LET’S NOT GO THERE,” STEAL HOME, LOSE HOPE, ROCOCO.
What an amazing set! And there’s next to nothing to scowl about. OTS [When ties are untied? (Abbr.)] is about as bad as it gets (and that’s not that bad).
This is the second freestyle Sunday (here’s the first from about a month ago) and they’ve both knocked it out of the park. If this is what editor David Steinberg has in store for us, we have plenty to look forward to.
Clues of note:
- 4d. [Where two pairs is better than three of a kind?]. SOCK DRAWER. Ha. Cute. But what do you need two pairs for? Isn’t one pair best of all?
- 65d. [Pull off the ultimate diamond heist?]. STEAL HOME. Another excellent bit of misdirection. But if you haven’t learned this yet in your crossword journey, learn it now: Whenever you see the word “diamond,” the clue is usually about baseball.
- 83d. [Legumes in dhansak]. LENTILS. Per Wikipedia, dhansak is an Indian dish of mutton or goat meat mixed with LENTILS and veggies and served with caramelized rice. Apparently, after the death of a loved one, no meat is eaten for three days following the death, and dhansak is used to break the fast on the fourth day.
4.5 stars from me.
Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Captain Obvious Goes to the Movies”— Jim Q’s write-up
Captain Obvious is like that quirky acquaintance that you run into at occasional social events. Like, just when you’ve forgotten about him (and I assume it’s a him… you do too, right?), there he is! Not really someone you hang out with regularly- or even want to at that- just someone you don’t really mind being around. Nice to catch up with and chat for a bit. Then move on with a bit of an eyeroll and an explanation about his behavior to the person who you actually went to the party with.
THEME: Movie titles are clued (very) literally
- 23A [“___, you’ll find a mattress, a dresser and a nightstand”] IN THE BEDROOM. I saw IN THE BEDROOM a day or two after reading the story Killings for the first time, and had no idea that the movie was based on that piece before watching it. That was a mindblowing moment for me.
- 32A [“___, it will be nighttime”] FROM DUSK TILL DAWN. I don’t understand why TILL has two L’s.
- 50A [“___, but others prefer cold”] SOME LIKE IT HOT.
- 69A [“___, and you’ll have performed a good deed”] DO THE RIGHT THING.
- 93A [“___, you must capture one robber”] TO CATCH A THIEF.
- 108A [“___? Then we should expect gore”] THERE WILL BE BLOOD.
- 122A [“___? Then you’re not quite a movie star”] ALMOST FAMOUS. Coming to a Broadway stage in the fall.
Here’s how literal the clues are: I’d never heard of TO CATCH A THIEF and I still got the whole entry with only the last letter in place from a cross. Captain Obvious puzzles are great for crushing time records in that sense. Really, I got all of the themers with essentially zero help from crosses. Love that or hate that, Captain Obvious is here to stay. I’m firmly in the camp that enjoys seeing him (and enjoys seeing him go when I’m done with him!)
Names in this one stopped me from a steady flight. I guess that makes up for the ease of the themers. Tough/new ones for me included LUSAKA, Chris REA, OSCAR Isaac (I think I’m alone there though… looks like he’s pretty damn famous), IDA Nielsen, Bob PETTIT, LORRIE Morgan/Collins, IGOR Shesterkin, MARNI Nixon, ENID Bagnold (I’ve seen the name more than a few times. Almost there in getting it without help…), Friedrich ENGELS, Simona HALEP, and MAX (I quit on Stranger Things during Season 1, which I regret. I was having difficulty following because, well, I wasn’t paying attention)
The area I found hardest was AESOP (I had AENID- spelled wrong, I know)/ENGELS/TINPOT section.
Was hoping to land in the 8 minute mark once I saw the title. But missed it by a couple minutes. Oh well. I’ll try again next time, when I least expect to see him.
Thanks for this one!
PS- I think it would be fun if Evan hosted a “Draw Captain Obvious” contest. I am really interested to see how people depict him in their mind’s eyes.
Rebecca Goldstein’s Universal Crossword, “Hidden in Plain Sight” — Jim Q’s write-up
THEME: Pieces of a disguise are hidden in common phrases.
- HOT AS HADES. SHADES.
- NOW I GET IT! WIG.
- HIPPOCRATIC OATH. COAT.
- WORTH A TRY! HAT,
- (revealer) UNDERCOVER.
Strange today. Universal is doing the unique-to-Universal “count the letters” stunt, but this time it appears in Across Lite too. Typically, when circles are necessary in order to fully appreciate the theme (as in this puzzle), Universal offers them to Across Lite solvers, but asks the commoners who solve online in their own webapp to mentally count and circle their own letters. Now everybody has to count! Maybe a tacit acknowledgement that it’s unfair/absurd to offer two different versions of a puzzle to people? That said, I have no idea where to find the 15x Sunday grid online. For some reason, they run the Saturday grid two days in a row at Andrews McMeel and skip the Sunday one altogether. That’s another mind-boggling McMeel thing.
Anyway, this one is standard fare. Checks all the boxes of a hidden word theme- familiar base phrases, word hidden is bridging words in the theme, tight connection between the words. Why isn’t’ this puzzle called Spy Wear?!
TARAJI P. Henson is new to me. Needed every fair cross- glad to see a fresh name though.
Fun fact that I learned: There was a candy called Dweebs? Nerds for the win!
3.25 stars today.
Amie Walker & Christina Iverson’s LA Times crossword, “Divine Inspiration” – Gareth’s summary
I’m guessing two half by-lines makes a whole for Ms. Iverson? In any case, what I liked most about Amie Walker & Christina Iverson’s puzzle, “Divine Inspiration”, was the revealing answer: INNERGODDESS is crossword platinum! The trickiest thing about a theme like this, much like the fictional monster theme some months ago, is you want to try and be as broad in your cultural net as you can, while still making sure you don’t lose too many solvers. Today, we have KALI from Hinduism, ISIS from ancient Egypt, and then HERA, ERIS and EOS from ancient Greece and TERRA and DIANA from ancient Rome, probably originally Greek in any case. Not sure what other non-Greco-Roman options were on the table? Sedna? Amaterasu is kind of difficult to hide! As too, Ishtar, Astarte or Pachamama and even the double GG of Frigg is tricky! So, in sum, I’m guessing the main reason for the preponderance of Greeks and Romans is that they had short punchy names for their deities!
- [*Daikon, for one], WINTER/RADISH. I thought it might be South Asian TARRA hidden there at one point.
- [*”Pay attention!”], LOOKALIVE.
- [*Protective sorts], GUARDIANANGELS.
- [*Meme featuring a cartoon dog sitting calmly in a room on fire], THISISFINE. That is the text featured in that snowclone, though I’ve never thought of memes as having names before. Curious concept.
- [*Pre-anthem request], PLEASERISE.
- [*Roku service], VIDEOSTREAMING
- [*Hairstyle made famous by Jennifer Aniston], THERACHEL
- [Divine feminine energy, and what can be found in each of the answers to the starred clues], INNERGODDESS
Top five clues and/or answers:
- [Time to hustle?], DISCOERA
- [Permanently, informally], FORKEEPS.
- [Pad see ew cuisine], THAI, which doesn’t sound as appetising as it should, if you’re English speaking.
- [Critic whose final blog post ended, “I’ll see you at the movies”], EBERT. Joined in the Great Beyond this week by South African film critic and columnist Barry Ronge.
- [Kept underground, say], AGED