Jesse Goldberg’s New York Times crossword, “Why? Well, Why Not?” —Nate’s write-up
Happy weekend! If you’re like me, you’re desperately holding onto the end of July, and today’s puzzle will hopefully give you some enjoyable moments before those Sunday scaries (and August scaries!) kick in. This week’s puzzle is a classic “add or take away a letter to get a new fun phrase” puzzle:
– 24A BELLY BOTTOMS [Places where some belts are tightened?]
– 29A COMBAT READ [Stephen Crane’s “The Red Badge of Courage,” e.g.?]
– 51A CAMPY COUNSELOR [Lawyer with absurdly exaggerated humor?]
– 58A SLUMBER PART [Sleep phase?]
– 71A GRIMY REAPER [Harvesting machine that needs cleaning?]
– 80A THREE TIMES A LAD [Doctor’s description of the birth of triplet sons?]
– 96A FAIRY FIGHT [Battle between Tinker Bell and Princess Ozma?]
– 108A MADISON COUNT [Census-taking of a Midwest capital?]
I tend to prefer this type of puzzle when the addition or subtraction of a letter allows both parts of the phrase to be interpreted differently, so I was mixed on this set of theme entries. CAMPY COUNSELOR (my personal favorite), GRIMY REAPER and BELLY BOTTOMS, for example, repurpose both words for the new phrase in a way I really enjoyed, while COMBAT READ, SLUMBER PART and FAIRY FIGHT didn’t.
What I did appreciate about this puzzle, though, is that there was a reason for why the Y was being added or taken away, referenced at the bottom of the grid:
– 115A WISE UP TO [Become aware of … or a homophonic description of four letter shifts in this puzzle’s grid]
The Y that would have been in the second of each theme entry pair was moved up two squares (WISE UP TO = Ys up two (spaces)) to the first of each theme entry pair. That level of theme tightness + grid constraint impressed me, and the fixed parameters of this theme + revealer also make the bit of glueiness in the puzzle make sense. (The corners of the grid were particularly tough for me.) Understanding the theme also gives the title (“Why? Well, Why Not?”) a satisfying click.
There were some fun, modern entries that I enjoyed, like SRIRACHA, PPE, SRSLY (short for seriously??), and DEB Haaland, but it was weird to see the clue to TITLE at 57A [Count, e.g.] dupe one of the theme answers (MADISON COUNT) – I’d hope that the editing would be a smidge tighter than that, especially with such a widely clueable entry. Also, did anyone else put ALEXA at 5D? Maybe that’s part of why I got so stumped in that corner and solved it last!
That’s all I’ve got for today’s puzzle. Let us know what you enjoyed about it (and any ideas for other theme entries!) in the comments below. Have a great weekend and a lovely start to August!
Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Animal Adoption”— Jim Q’s write-up
Brace yourself for wackiness in today’s WaPo.
THEME: Animals are inserted into names of notable people and zaniness ensues.
- 23A [Washington Post journalist adopting a serpent / Singer Dylan courts a hospital section full of nude people?] BOB WOOS NAKED WARD. BOB WOODWARD has adopted a SNAKE.
- 33A [“The Tyger” poet adopting a farm bird / Declaration about being actress Lively while sick? WHEN ILL, I AM BLAKE. WILLIAM BLAKE has adopted a HEN.
- 49A [“Hello, Dolly!” actress adopting a large deer / Ruler of the Christmas song TV network?] CAROL CHANNEL KING. CAROL CHANNING has adopted an ELK.
- 66A [Blues legend adopting a big cat / Seas full of mischievous aliens?] E.T. HELLION WATERS. ETHEL WATERS has adopted a LION.
- 84A [Former SNL actor adopting an amphibian / Headline about how politico Buttigieg plans on adopting an enthusiastic boy?] PETE TO ADD AVID SON. PETE DAVIDSON has adopted a TOAD.
- 99A [“A Beautiful World” painter adopting a large bird / Those who inspire a family matriarch named after one of the Stooges?] GRANDMA MOE MUSES. GRANDMA MOSES has adopted an EMU.
- 115A [“The Fugitive” co-star adopting a rodent / Command to designer Hilfiger to ogle cinematic archaeologist Indiana?] “TOMMY! LEER AT JONES!”] TOMMY LEE JONES has adopted a RAT.
And I totally forgot until now to check the first letter of the animals to see what apt word is spelled out (as per Evan’s pre-solve note). SHELTER! That makes sense! Since each person has “adopted” an animal, they are now “animal shelters.” Cool!
Wowza, this one really embraces the “If you’re gonna go wacky, go big or go home” philosophy of crossword theme development. I solved steadily from North to South and uncovered the (hilarious) BOB WOOS NAKED WARD first. I thought that one was very wacky, but I think that was the most grounded of the bunch. Thank goodness each entry was clued twice so I had a shot of parsing it correctly! Otherwise I might still be scratching my head.
So if you love wacky, you’ll love this. And if you don’t, you won’t. I think that’s fair to say! I love the wackiness, even if I do roll my eyes once or twice (looking at you E.T. HELLION WATERS). But c’mon… WHEN ILL, I AM BLAKE (Lively) is just so much fun. I really want to know what illness that is and whether or not it’s regrettable to have.
random thought: For some reason I really want the answer for one of them to be CHANNEL CAROL KING…
Anyway, fill was fairly simple. Many of the across clues I didn’t even see as I was able to fill in many areas sans crosses. The question mark clues really landed in this one:
- [Home pages?] DEEDS. Nice.
- [Local power station?] CITY HALL. Indeed.
- [Magic numbers?] STATS. The basketball team, that is.
- [Makeup of quarters?] MONTHS. Quarters of the year, of course.
- [Risk factor?] MAP. Took me forever to get this one. Risk, the map-based board game.
Erm… does anyone call a [Tequila-based cocktail, informally] a MARG? That’s new to me. Regionalism?
Fun one today! Lots of playfulness, and a really clever Birnholzian layer to top it off!
Michael Schlossberg’s Universal Sunday crossword, “Eight Tracks”—Jim P’s review
As the title suggests, there are eight songs used in this puzzle’s theme, however that fact isn’t exactly pertinent.
What is pertinent is the revealer at 72a DOUBLE STANDARDS [Unequally applied rules, or a hint to interpreting the starred clues’ answers]. The other theme entries are familiar phrases but clued with respect to a popular song (i.e. a standard). One of the words in each theme answer, when doubled, is the title to said song.
- 23a. [*Song on a scratched Naked Eyes record? (1983)] BROKEN PROMISES (Promises). I wouldn’t recognize the name of the band, but the song I know.
- 38a. [*Putting on a Thompson Twins single? (1984)] PLAYING DOCTOR (Doctor). Can’t you see I’m burning, burning?
- 104a. [*Snippet of a Frank Sinatra song? (1980)] NEW YORK (New York) MINUTE. This required some research. The song was written for the 1977 Scorsese film New York, New York, and was sung by Liza Minnelli in the film. (The song is actually titled “Theme from New York, New York.” and is not to be confused with the song “New York, New York” from the 1944 musical On the Town.) Sinatra’s version came out in 1980, which boggles my mind; I thought it was decades older than that.
- 125a. [*Sales metric for a Neil Diamond single? (1966)] CHERRY (Cherry) TURNOVER. She got the way to move me, Cherry!
- 13d. [*Amy Grant’s “Heart in Motion”? (1991)] BABY (Baby) ALBUM. This is as modern as it’s going to get in this puzzle.
- 16d. [*”I’m not leaving until I hear a John Lee Hooker classic!”? (1962)] BOOM (Boom) OR BUST. Shame on me for not recognizing the song title, but of course, it’s a classic. Enjoy the scene below from The Blues Brothers and just try to keep from tapping your toes.
- 77d. [*ABBA? (1974)] HONEY (Honey) BUNCH. This song is not familiar to me at all despite the group being one of my guilty pleasures. (Don’t tell anybody!)
- 84d. [*Listened to a record by the Archies? (1969)] SPUN SUGAR (Sugar). The song I know, but who are the Archies? Apparently they’re the fictional band made up of Archie, Jughead, etc., in the animated ’60s TV show The Archie Show.
Fun theme once I caught on to the doubling aspect. I wouldn’t say all of these are “standards,” but I’m okay with applying the term loosely. I suppose I’m right in the target demographic for this grid since I’ve listened to most of these songs all my life. I imagine some solvers (older or younger) enjoyed it less if they didn’t recognize the songs.
Moving on. Fill highlights include FAKE PUNT, INK SPOT, ARSENAL, SALAMI, and WEIRDO. Overall, the grid’s quite clean despite having nine long theme entries.
Clues of note:
- 21a. [“Top Chef” coverings]. APRONS. I saw “Chef” and immediately went with TOQUES. It didn’t play well with BUBBA above it.
- 79a. [English football club with a cannon in its logo]. ARSENAL. Nice touch with the cannon.
- 134a. [Better-than-OK boomer?]. TNT. TNT is a great boomer, then? I guess the clue is worth a chuckle, but it feels like it’s trying a bit too hard.
Enjoyable puzzle, especially if most of the songs are recognizable. Four stars.
Rafael Musa’s Universal Crossword, “Themeless Sunday 8” — Jim Q’s write-up
Been seeing this byline quite a few times lately. And been enjoying it!
- DO THE MATH!
- THAT’S NO LIE!
- WHATCHAMACALLIT (is that candy bar still a thing? It was so good!)
- BIKE HELMET
- and enjoyed learning MORTADELLA
Excellent, excellent clue for OSCAR SNUB [Result of a critical error?]. I mean, I don’t know if it’s accurate to equate a critic’s SNUB with an Academy voter’s error, but I still love that clue.
HIGH C (not to be confused with HI-C) clued as [Note that can test a singer’s range] is about as GREEN PAINT as they come. Any note can test a singer’s range. High. Low. Somewhere in between. As long as it’s letter’s A-G, it can test a singer’s range.
Overall, a solid presentation.
Michael Schlossberg’s LA Times crossword, “Reboots” – Gareth’s theme summary
Michael Schlossberg’s LA Times Sunday features TV shows re-imagined. So:
- [Show about monks who form a rock group?], BANDOFBROTHERS. Originally about WWII soldiers.
- [Show about Alfred E. Neuman and company?], MADMEN. Originally set in a 1960s ad agency.
- [Show about some St. Louis sluggers and their fixer-upper?], HOUSEOFCARDS. Seems a stretch this one.
- [Show about a mom-and-pop neckwear business?], FAMILYTIES
- [Show about mug shot photography?], ARRESTEDDEVELOPMENT
- [Show about a village and its mountain lion problem?], COUGARTOWN
[Show about a red sock, a blue sock, and the love they found in the dryer?], THEODDCOUPLE
- [Show about a school pep squad?], CHEERS
- [Show about Quaker Oats, Mikey, and the partnership that changed cereal forever?], THEFACTSOFLIFE
Zhouqin Burnikel’s USA Today Crossword, “Corporate Insiders” —Darby’s write-up
Theme: Each theme answer included the abbreviation for a business executive.
- 16a [“‘Dune’ or ‘The All-Consuming World”] SPACE OPERA
- 29a [“Takeout utensil”] PLASTIC FORK
- 47a [“Special ability”] MAGIC TOUCH
- 62a [“Vedanta Villarta golf tournament”] MEXICO OPEN
This theme was exactly as I expected it to be, meaning the theme device was super clear in the puzzle’s title. I loved SPACE OPERA, MAGIC TOUCH, and MEXICO OPEN. We hear a lot about the US Open or other golf tournaments, so I thought that this puzzle did a nice job drawing attention to this one.
A few other things I loved:
- 1a [“Hard-to-find children’s book character”] – I love a good WALDO reference.
- 55a [“Second largest Great Lake”] – While Lake Erie is my favourite Great Lake, and I do love seeing it in puzzles, this was a nice nod to the second largest (best?) lake in Lake HURON.
- 66a [“Civil rights activist Jenkins”] – A non-biblical, educational clue for ESAU??? ESAU Jenkins was from South Carolina. He created the Rural Mission Health Planning Program in 1971, helped to provide access to Atlantic Beach for African Americans, and so so much more. You can read more about his life here.
I’m late with this because it was moving day, so I’m writing this review of a great puzzle from the box-filled space that is my new apartment. Thanks for y’all’s patience!