Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “Eh-Oh!” – Erin’s write-up
Hello lovelies! Quick writeup this week as I’m away on vacation! This week’s theme is words and phrases that start with the letters AO.
- 17a. [Current Maori-language name for New Zealand] AOTEAROA
- 19a. [North African curvy-horned wild sheep that was released in Texas in the 1950s] AOUDAD. They’re also known as Barbary sheep.
- 29a. [Series of heart structures that lead to the head and neck arteries] AORTIC ARCHES. We start out with six of these. The fourth one develops into the central part of the aortic arch we have at birth.
- 38a. [New York Times film critic whose Twitter name is still “32 across” six years after his name appeared in the crossword] A.O. SCOTT. This is better explained with a photo.
- 45a. [Tagline that distinguishes a concert or convention from a full-weekend affair] A ONE-DAY EVENT. I don’t love this entry as it begins with the article A, but it’s the only one.
- 59a. [Honshu city deemed one of the world’s snowiest major cities (averaging 26 feet per year)] AOMORI
- 62a. [Items containing free trial software, dubbed “history’s greatest junk mail” by a Vox article] AOL DISCS. I remember getting these in the mail all the time. I also remember it took HOURS for America Online to install on the family Windows 3.1 desktop.
I’m going to stop here because it’s time to drive to Maine. Until next week!
Jeff Stillman’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Swine Dining”—Jim P’s review
Theme: PORK WRAPS (57a, [Greek or Asian meat offerings, or a description of the circled answers]). The other theme answers are familiar phrases whose outer letters spell out a type of swine. (When I think of Greek food, I don’t think of pork, but maybe that’s just me.)
- 17a. [Gets amped up at a bar?] PLAYS A GIG. Pig.
- 24a. [College student’s delight, often] HOME COOKING. Hog.
- 33a. [Shines brighter than a star?] STEALS THE SHOW. Sow.
- 49a. [Weekend adventurer’s need] BOAT TRAILER. Boar.
The theme is fine and it works. It certainly helped me fill in the circled letters of 49a since I already knew what those would be. But I have questions.
Right off the bat, I see that three of the “hidden words” are three-letters long, which means the theme is pretty loose; there are a lot of phrases that hide HO_G, for example. But HOME COOKING is a great entry. Not so much PLAYS A GIG, though. Why not something less roll-your-owny like PINKY RING?
Further, trying to work with a central entry that’s not 7- or 15-letters long is challenging. Since the theme is loose enough, why not pick an entry that’s a helpful length like STEALING THE SHOW or SCHOOL BUS YELLOW or SHAMWOW?
That 13-letter central entry forces big corners. The NW is nice with ALPACAS, SILK HATS, and PLACEMAT. And the SE features WIDE OPEN and DEEP SEA, which is a great pairing. But OBOE PART and APP CODE feel too green painty, especially for such long entries.
The other two corners are solid with SEQUOIAS and ANT TRAPS and only a couple abbreviations (CTN and ACC).
Clue of note: 5d. [Seduce]. LEAD ON. I don’t quite equate these. To me, LEAD ON implies some element of deception whereas “seduce” does not necessarily. Anyway, this entry would be more fun clued as the colloquial phrase, perhaps with the clue [“After you”].
The theme works, and there are some lovely bits of fill, but there are also significant ways in which the grid could be improved. 3.25 stars.
Trey Mendez’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
A nice debut from Trey Mendez, with a geographic/aviation mashup theme. Each themer is a flight-related term that starts and ends with postal abbreviations of the states whose cities appear in its clue:
- 18a. [What follows a plane going from Richmond to Chicago?], VAPOR TRAIL.
- 26a. [Part of a plane traveling from New Orleans to Little Rock?], LANDING GEAR.
- 45a. [Former airline from Denver to Birmingham?], CONTINENTAL. Nobody fact-check whether Continental had a Denver-Birmingham route.
- 56a. [Duration of air travel from Miami to Bangor?], FLYING TIME.
It took me a while to grasp what was going on with the theme. Did it feel Wednesdayish to you? Not sure if it was my mistyping spree that slowed me down, or theme difficulty.
There was a lot of pop culture in the puzzle, no? I always like that. And lots of proper nouns. I count about 18 propers, which means the crowd that grumbles every. single. time there are are a lot of names is feeling put out by the “trivia.” I mean, we know they’re all fine with BOLERO and INGMAR Bergman, but they’ll complain about the pop culture propers. (You know who we don’t hear from about puzzles with lots of names? All the rest of us who don’t consider pop culture to be beneath our notice.)
Five more things:
- 23a. [Payment by many a factory worker], UNION DUES. It’s kind of gross how hard Amazon and Starbucks (among others) are fighting against worker unionization efforts. They spend a ton of money to avoid having workers able to demand better conditions!
- 35a. [Ancient inhabitants of Crete], MINOANS. I was just thinking about the Minoans this evening! Ran into a neighbor who’s heading to the Mediterranean for a cruise that will include Crete, which he and his husband have never been to, along with Rome, Turkey, Israel, and Cyprus. And no, I did not mention the Minoans to him.
- 40a. [Share one’s seat?], MOON. Fun clue! It definitely had me stumped—and that’s despite watching a lot of Naked and Afraid lately!
- 48a. [Mounts Shasta, Rainier and Hood], VOLCANOES. Ha! Earlier today, I was editing a MTS clue and needed to add a third Mount ___ to Shasta and Rainier. Yep, if you’re looking for mountains in the US that are called “Mount something,” you’re gonna land on exactly these three. And yes, all three are stratovolcanoes, but I don’t think anyone will try to fit STRATOVOLCANOES into a 3-letter space.
- 63a. [“All My ___,” Arthur Miller play], SONS. Oof, I don’t think I’d heard of this one before.
Four stars from me.
Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle (Week 586), “Contain Yourself!”—Ade’s take
Good day, everyone! The last full week of August is here! My word! Here is hoping you’re all doing well and finalizing/executing those late summer plans before it’s time to think about cool, crisp breezes and carving pumpkins.
We have some fun with common phrases/nouns with today’s grid, and those expressions are reimagined in the cluing so that the final word of the answers, which also happens to be synonyms for a container, actually is used in reference to a container.
- POLE VAULT (17A: [Secure container for expensive fishing gear?])
- EARDRUM (40A: [Cylindrical container for corn?])
- SHADOWBOX (66A: [Container for Laila Ali’s eye makeup?])
- CRANK CASE (10D: [Display container for Model T parts?])
- TOP DRAWER (35D: [First-rate container for a spinning toy??])
Of all things, I liked that BIPOD got some love, for the sole fact that all I see in my field (broadcasting) are monopods and tripods, and I own a pair of each that I can take out onto the field when doing stand-ups (1D: [Two-legged support]). I think it was in crosswords that helped me realize that both ROLFing was a thing and that it is an eponym (6D: [Deep-tissue bodywork pioneer Ida]). With the US Open tennis tournament around the corner, very timely to have HALEP in the grid, a woman who just won a US Open warm-up tournament in Toronto earlier this month (3D: [2018 French Open winner Simona]). In 2016, Halep won the same event in a different Canadian city, Montréal, and, from what I saw, a lucky journalist got the chance to do a one-on-one interview with her soon after. I wonder who that person was?!?
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: SEXES (58D: [“Battle of the ___” (Billie Jean King/Bobby Riggs tennis showdown where King won]) – How about presenting today’s “sports…smarter” subject in trivia form?! Let’s go! Here are a few questions, and if you answer three out of the four correct, then you’re a true tennis historian and/or older than you want to admit! Here goes!
1.) What city and/or arena did the “Battle of the Sexes” match take place?
2.) What was the final score of the match?
3.) The name/logo of which brand of candy was emblazoned on Riggs’ outfit upon entering the arena before the match against King?
4. ) Earlier in 1973, which top female tennis player did Riggs defeat in the original “Battle of the Sexes,” which ended up serving as the precursor for the more famous “Battle of the Sexes?” (all answers below)
Thank you so much for the time, everybody! Have a wonderful and safe rest of your day and, as always, keep solving!
Answers: 1) Houston Astrodome 2) King def. Riggs 6-4, 6-3, 6-3 3) Sugar Daddy…of course 4) Margaret Smith Court
Stella Zawistowski’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Jenni’s write-up
I always smile when I see Stella’s byline on a puzzle. I prefer her harder ones, of course (even when they crack my head open) but an easy-ish Stella is still a good puzzle. This one is no exception.
The theme answers are all a little rank.
- 16a [Intimate meeting with an important person] is a PRIVATE AUDIENCE.
- 22a [Rum brand with a pirate logo] is CAPTAIN MORGAN. Good entry. Lousy drink.
- 48a [Significant parts of family budgets] are MAJOR EXPENSES.
- 58a [United Nations body] is the GENERAL ASSEMBLY.
PRIVATE, CAPTAIN, MAJOR, GENERAL marching in order down the grid with two 15s thrown in for good measure. All four are solid entries and it’s a totally Tuesday-appropriate theme. Nice.
A few other things:
- This is the second Oktoberfest clue I’ve run into lately for STEIN. I’m stuck at home recovering from COVID so I’ve been doing a lot of puzzles, and I shouldn’t be surprised.
- 5a [“You’re a winner!” email, often] is a SCAM and could also have been SPAM.
- For some reason, I entered ONION for [Tapenade fruit] at 25d. First of all, not a fruit. Secondly, not usually used in tapenade. The correct answer, of course, is OLIVE.
- I really like the word IMPRESARIO. In my mind it’s always linked with Sol Hurok and indeed when you Google him, the phrase “American impresario” comes up before you even get a hit.
- Not crazy about XES IN.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that CIEN is Spanish for “hundred.”
Erik Agard’s New Yorker crossword — pannonica’s write-up
Stack of triple-sixteens in the center. Yep, you read that right—sixteens. That’s to accommodate what I presume is the seed entry, the wholly unfamiliar to me (and mightily impressive) ANISHINAABEMOWIN, 37a [Language in which “boozhoo” is a greeting]. It’s the Ojibwe language, and Chrome’s built-in spellchecker does not flag it as I’m recording it here, so that’s kind of impressive and inclusive, Unrelated anecdote: “[Wilson Anthony “Boozoo”] Chavis was born in Church Point, Louisiana to parents Arthur and Marceline Chavis in a Cajun Creole settlement called Pied des Chiens (Dog Hill), and was the son of tenant farmers. He acquired the nickname ‘Boozoo’ in his childhood, although the origin of the nickname is unknown. When asked by a reporter about his nickname, Chavis replied ‘Man, I hate that question’.” (Wikipedia)
Above and below ANISHINAABEMOWIN are 33a [Modern-day form of minstrelsy] DIGITAL BLACKFACE (there’s a primer with several links here on Wikipedia) and 38a [Phrase in the “past exonerative” tense, per the political commentator Bill Schneider] MISTAKES WERE MADE. Yep, there’s a Wikipedia page for that one.
- 2d [Green cocktails] APPLETINIS. I’ve never made or had one, but can guarantee you that when I do, I’ll ensure that it isn’t green.
- 11d [Something sweated through] PORE. 33d [Sweated-through, e.g.] DAMP.
- 15d [General __’s chicken] TSO. Oof.
- 28d [Poems traditionally printed in a single vertical line] HAIKUS. An interesting and informative clue. I would also think that traditionally they are called haiku in the plural.
- 31d [Penchant for sarcasm] ACID TONGUE. rawr
- 34d [Phrase of finality] THAT’S THAT. 10d [Reached a conclusion] ENDED.
- 6a [Greyhound’s home] BUS DEPOT. Didn’t fool me for a moment.
- 28a [Meat in a Cubano] HAM.
- 44a [Friend] PAL. 30d [Caught up with someone, say] SAW A FRIEND.
Additionally, the grid is populated with some, yes, sparkly entries, such as EARTHRISE, STAR TURN, DON’T ASK ME, METRONOME, MARIMBAS, and more.
A solid workout, and to reiterate: I needed every single crossing for that Ojibwe (wait, the spellchecker flags that?!) word.
Taylor Johnson and Dylan Merrill’s Universal Crossword, “Commercial-Free” — Jim Q’s write-up
Appears to be a debut from Dylan Merrill today! I really want to know if there’s any relation to Patrick…
THEME: “AD” is removed from common phrases to create wacky new ones, clued wackily.
- 18A [*Assignment to pick up a laundry detergent?] GAIN MISSION. GAIN ADMISSION.
- 24A [*Workday-ending performance?] FIVE O’CLOCK SHOW. FIVE O’CLOCK SHADOW.
- 36A [*Initial untruths?] FIRST LIES. FIRST LADIES.
- 47A [*Gown for a presidential ceremony?] INAUGURAL DRESS. INAUGURAL ADDRESS. Perhaps that INAUGURAL DRESS is worn by those FIRST LIES?
- (revealer) 54A [Product for carpet stains, and a theme hint] SPOT REMOVER.
Fun one! I liked the bit of time it took for me to figure out a couple of the base phrases after filling in the wackified entry. FIVE O’CLOCK SHOW being my favorite of the bunch as I was trying to figure out the spot from whence came AD (I figured AD would be dropped from the starts of words based on the first entry I uncovered, GAIN MISSION.
And a nice revealer at the end, though I think I would’ve preferred one more entry like the others instead. Sometimes with titled puzzles, you end up with two revealers, as is the case here.
This puzzle also highlights a nit I bring up from time to time. It features two similar clues, one I think is fun and clever, and the other which feels random and lazy. They are:
14A [Monster within “armor–clad”] ORC and [Name hidden in “narrow escape”] WES. The former I think is clever! An ORC is often armor-clad, so the clue is very apt. The latter just baffles me. WES can be found in a boatload of phrases. Why this one? Is it WES related somehow? For a moment I thought WES Craven may have made a movie by that title or something. But no. Just a random phrase as far as I can tell.
All in all, I really enjoyed this one.
Also, a TRITONE is one of my favorite sounds (contextually). Glad to see it in the puzzle! And MCLOVIN never not be a great entry.
Brooke Husic’s USA Today Crossword, “Sharing a Bed” — Emily’s write-up
Fantastic puzzle today with an excellent theme, a wide-ranging themer set, and an incredible grid!
Theme: all themers contain the word BED
- 11a. [Affectionate German phrase sometimes abbreviated as “ILD”], ICHLIEBEDICH
- 22a. [“I feel like you should reconsider that”], MAYBEDONT
- 42a. [Strapless garment], TUBEDRESS
- 51a. [Phrase indicating uncharted territory on old maps], HEREBEDRAGONS
Given today’s title, I was expecting to find different types of beds among the themer set but instead they all literally share a BED. Needed multiple crossings today for ICHLIEBEDICH but only a couple for MAYBEDONT and TUBEDRESS while HEREBEDRAGONS filled right in. With such variety among them, the title and theme are even more humorous to me. Such fun!
Favorite fill: SOCIETAL, SETTLEIN, MAVENS, and DOMEE
Stumpers: LUCID (needed a couple of crossings), OOMPH (needed crossings), and DOBETTER (stuck on “don’t” or “do not” but those clearly weren’t it so took me a while to get it)
The top half filled in piecemeal for me, but the bottom half I really slowed. When I started on the downs, more began to fill in but it was steady progress and felt like a smooth solve through it took me a good amount of time to complete. My time surprised me today because it felt closer to 8-9 minutes, which I attribute to the great fill and cluing. Everything was fairly crossed, even with some entries and clues being unfamiliar to me. Also, shoutout to the amazing grid—just wow!
NYT: The only proper nouns I really noticed while solving the puzzle were LOLA and BOLERO: “Copacbana” and the Ravel piece are two things I’d be perfectly happy to never hear again.
I missed the LEIA clue until later. How, in 100 previous NYT puzzle appearances, did her cinnamon buns hairstyle escape notice? That’s so much better than “‘Star Wars’ princess.”
Fun theme that was handled well. Pretty impressive for a debut.
Didn’t seem a lot to me either. Eighteen, by Amy’s count? C’mon. There’s Rachael, Copacabana, and ENOS, but spread way out (and I think we’ve had LOLA clued that way rather than with the Kinks before). We’ve ACDC, but they’ve become as crosswordese as ELO and ABBA. DAB was the hardest for me but not a name. I agree with Amy that it felt like Wednesday but was otherwise just fine.
And let me just insist for the zillionth time: I am not making war on Amy’s love of pop culture. The idea isn’t to rate clues as faves if you like the stuff, although she keeps doing so. The idea is a fair solve. Surely those three or four entries are so spread out that crossings are available! Then, too, those who don’t mind BOLERO in a puzzle even when, like Eric or me, they hate it just respect that some things over time have entered a broader cultural history than today’s meme.
BTW, there’s a huge photo of Rachael on a building in the West 20s. I can only pity those with the view out their window.
NYT: Enjoyed this puzzle. It didn’t seem like there was a lot of “pop culture” as I was solving, but looking back at it, I guess there was quite a bit – just most of it was pretty familiar to me. I didn’t know DAB, nor LIONSGATE, nor ENOS off the top of my head, but they rang at least faint bells when I had some of the crosses.
I thought the theme was clever, but I suppose some might find it trivia-laden – you need to recognize which states the cities are in (not too hard if you live in the U.S.) and then the postal codes for the states (probably easier for an old-timer like me, who has sent snail mail to all of these places, than for a youngster from the electronic communication age).
When I got the first themer, I thought the circled letters were spelling out travel destinations (VAIL), but the second disabused me of that notion. Then the postal codes clicked, and the rest was pretty straightforward.
These days, there are probably better choices than “factory worker” in the clue for UNION DUES – police/firefighters, public school teachers, state/local government workers.
First, thanks Jim for the nice review! Dylan and I had a lot of fun putting this one together.
Also, I wanted to take a minute to plug my crossword project I just launched called “Lemonade Disco”. The first round of puzzles will be released on September 17, and I’m actively collecting submissions for round two! I would encourage all constructors of all experience levels to please participate! This is a great opportunity to hone your skills and get your puzzles out there to be seen!
I had to learn a lot for TNY, including that long central language, but gotta say I found the new stuff fascinating. I do gather that there’s some question about how often haikus were originally written in a single line, and it does make sense that English translators didn’t pull the three-part structure out of thin air.
UC: ” [Name hidden in “narrow escape”] WES.”
I’ve never seen a Wes Craven movie all the way through, but I would venture that his horror/scary movies often involve narrow escapes by at least some of the people, so that may be the connection.
LOL…. A perfect example of why I said I’d never seen one all the way through… I couldn’t even watch the brief clip all the way through! I assume there was a narrow escape in there…