Tracy Gray’s New York Times crossword, “Ups and Downs” —Nate’s write-up
Hi, all! I hope this post finds you well and experiencing more ups than downs. We have a bit of an Escherian grid today, so let’s climb up an slide in:
– 35A diagonally up to 22A: EDMUND HILLARY [Mount Everest scaler] – HILL in circles
– 39A diagonally up to 24A: RAN RAMPANT [Went out of control] – RAMP in circles
– 60A diagonally down to 79A: EVIL STEPSISTER [“Cinderella” meanie] – STEPS in circles
– 73A diagonally down to 95A: BACKDOOR SLIDERS [Lateral-breaking pitches] – SLIDE in circles
– 80A diagonally down to 109A: PARACHUTE IN [Glide down from above] – CHUTE in circles
– 114A diagonally up to 84A: ALASTAIR SIM [Portrayer of Scrooge in 1951’s “A Christmas Carol”] – STAIRS in circles
I really enjoyed the Chutes & Ladders nature of this grid, with a HILL, RAMP, and STAIRS to bring you up the grid and STEPS, a SLIDE, and a CHUTE to bring you down it. My favorite theme entries were the one where the conveyance was present in a totally different form in the base answer, like in EDMUND HILLARY or RAN RAMPANT, and I wished there were more of a transformation in some of the other entries. I was waiting on a revealer that never came, but I reckon the graphic nature of this theme along with the title meant there didn’t need to be one. It was a very quick solve for me, though, which was a nice bonus and could tip the scales in favor of this puzzle for folks on the fence (though I suspect there’ll be a mixed response to this puzzle).
My favorite clue of the puzzle was easily 112A BRATWURST [It’s a banger in Germany]. – I love a good sausage joke!
What did you enjoy about the puzzle? Let us know in the comments below – and have a nice weekend!
Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “College Admissions”—Amy’s recap
College students are heading back to campus and Evan’s worked eight famous people’s first names starting with F-R-E-S-H-M-E-N (120a. [New college students, and what’s spelled out by the first letters of the people admitted to this puzzle’s colleges]) into college/university names to form new phrases:
- 23a. [Christmas toymaker wouldn’t shut up? (Actress Drescher admitted to a North Carolina university)], ELF RAN ON. Fran Drescher, Elon University.
- 30a. [Prayer beads for fans of Dashboard Confessional’s music? (Activist Parks admitted to a Georgia university)], EMO ROSARY.
- 36a. [Awful celestial explosion caused by actress Jovovich? (Pianist Gilels admitted to a Pennsylvania university)], VILE MILLA NOVA. Weird to have MILLA in the mix and not be the circled name that’s added.
- 59a. [Rip some geek? (Singer MacGowan admitted to a New York college)], BASH A NERD. Name’s faintly familiar—he’s from the 1980s (and beyond) Celtic punk band, the Pogues.
- 69a. [Thick heads of hair on people in a hot tub? (Author Melville admitted to a Maine college)], BATHER MANES.
- 80a. [Headline about a mollusk being aboard Noah’s ship? (Poet Van Duyn admitted to a Massachusetts university)], CLAM ON ARK.
- 98a. [Most authentic issue of a fashion magazine expected to arrive? (Actress Getty admitted to an Indiana university)], PUREST ELLE DUE.
- 109a. [Street where people wear Greek garments? (Journalist Robertson admitted to a Louisiana university)], TUNIC LANE. “CNN’s International Diplomatic Editor.”
Some schools have dispensed with the needlessly gendered term freshmen in favor of first-year students. Theme’s decent, but the resulting phrases mostly aren’t funny. Solid fill, good clues. Four stars from me.
David Steinberg’s Universal Crossword, “Themeless Sunday 10” — norah’s write-up
- AGUA FRESCA 16A [Fruity Mexican drink]
- DR FAUCI 5D [Booster supporter of note?]
- DEAD FISH 9D [Metaphor for a bad handshake]
- DOG TOY 20A [What a chow chow may chew]
- NO DUH 35A [“That’s obvious!”]
- TRANS 60A [ ___ pride]
I found this a little trickier than recent Themeless Sundays from Universal. There are a few things here that I’ve never heard of, including PAPER CHASE (13A: Law student’s trial?) and SPOILER SPACE (43A: Lines before a movie’s ending, say?). Of course, I’ve heard of PUFF PUFF PASS (22A: Game for a circle of stoners) (and in fact have it on my own seedlist) but have never heard it referred to as a ‘game’. Was also unfamiliar with PAP (10A) meaning [Mushy food for babies] and POSER (30D) meaning [Perplexing puzzle]. (If anyone wants to explain these to me, please comment!) This particular LEA (4D: Actress Seydoux) was also new to me.
I am amused by what feels now like a little bit of a throwback in FLAMED (40A: Bashed online), especially following shortly after NODUH (35A). I generally enjoy a little more pop culture and vernacular in my themeless puzzles but overall, this is a solid and clean construction from David with lots of interlocking and parallel long entries throughout.
Adrian Johnson’s Universal Sunday crossword, “Angry Letters”—Jim P’s review
Theme: Anagrams of synonyms for “angry” are found hidden inside familiar phrases. The revealer is MAD SCRAMBLE (117a, [Frenetic rush in each starred clue’s answer?]). Some of these anagrams are quite lengthy, so those clues give you the starting letters (in addition to the tiresome bits about counting squares).
- 21a. [*Nephew’s daughters (Anagram letters 4-11 to a word starting with “inc”)] GRANDNIECES. Incensed.
- 26a. [*Art exhibit in a park (… letters 9-15 to a word starting with “enr”)] SCULPTURE GARDEN. Enraged.
- 39a. [*Trick for falling asleep (… letters 5-12 to a word starting with “see”)] COUNTING SHEEP. Seething.
- 62a. [*Housing option for the elderly (… letters 8-12)] ASSISTED LIVING. Livid.
- 69a. [*Great American Ball Park team (… letters 8-12)] CINCINNATI REDS. Irate.
- 93a. [*Spurred into action (… letters 2-11 to a word starting with “infu”)] LIT A FIRE UNDER. Infuriated.
- 108a. [*Healthy side dish with a medley of ingredients (… letters 3-7)] MIXED VEGETABLES. Vexed.
I was really surprised to see the help with finding the anagrams in some of these clues. But as I said, some of them are quite long. I felt like I was on the last level of Anigrams and needed a hint. So yes, when preparing for this write-up, I did partake of such help (because I certainly didn’t stop to figure out the long ones during the solve).
It’s quite impressive that such long anagrams are found in other phrases and that all those phrases could be made to fit symmetrically in a grid, and that all the phrases are solid, in-the-language phrases as well. The revealer is perfectly apt as well. Overall, a really impressive theme set.
Top fill: DRAG SHOW, SCREWDRIVERS, TODDLER, PITCH PERFECT, TATAMIS, LINEMEN.
Clues of note:
- 58a. [Canon alternative]. NIKON. Note that NIKON recently announced they’re getting out of the SLR business. They’ll still make cameras with interchangeable lenses, just not SLRs with their mirrors and moving parts.
- 58d. [“Feeling Good” singer Simone]. NINA. Love this song and the joy celebrated in the video (see below)! If you want a more kick-a** (and maybe a little creepy) version, check out this cover by Muse.
Impressive construction and smooth fill all around. Four stars.
Zhouqin Burnikel’s USA Today crossword, “Top Parts” —Darby’s write-up
Editor: Erik Agard
Theme: Each theme answer is made up of three words, the first letters of which all spell out “TOP.”
- 3d [“What a swearing-in ceremony marks”] TRANSFER OF POWER
- 5d [“Triple bogey”] THREE OVER PAR
- 10d [“‘Stressed Out’ Duo”] TWENTY-ONE PILOTS
The theme here was not what I expected, thinking that the first word of each theme answer would pair with TOP in some way. It took me a trip to Sally’s blog to find the theme, which was just plain escaping me since I had come in with this preconceived notion. I’m kicking myself now because TWENTY-ONE PILOTS actively uses TOP as an acronym. TRANSFER OF POWER was a nice fifteen, and THREE OVER PAR was also really fun, especially as someone who gets a lot of triple bogeys when golfing.
I was also pretty slow in my love, which I attribute to the fact that the southwest corner was tough for me. I initially had IRIS at 53d [“‘The Flash’ character ___ West-Allen”], referring to The Flash’s wife, but that set me in a bit of a rut with 52a [“Audible sleepers”], having to change my initial N in the correct SNORERS to an I and getting very confused. The choice to list NORA here is a specific reference to the TV version of The Flash, which I’d watched most of, but it was still pretty tricky, especially with TO WIT and 63a [“Units of butter or soap”] BARS. I’m so used to seeing PATS to refer to butter that I tricked myself up.
However, I did really love 16a [“Bearers of Bartletts and Boscs”] PEAR TREES and 55a [“Home run celebration”] BAT FLIP. 41a [“Feature of some shorts”] PLEAT had a nice pair in 59d [“Distressed jeans feature”] RIP, and its crossing with 41d [“Sauce for orecchiette”] PESTO was particularly fun to me for some reason.
A few other things I noticed:
- 32a [“‘Bessie’ director Rees”] – DEE Rees was the first Black woman nominated for an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay for Mudbound in 2017. She was also nominated for an Emmy award for Bessie.
- 15d [“Scatter around”] – I’m not used to the verb form of STREW, so for some reason, I resisted filling this in for a while, but the crossings ultimately made it super apparent.
- 46d [“Solos for He Hui”] – No stranger to ARIAS, He Hui has starred in a variety of operas, including Aida and Madame Butterfly. In the former, she was the first Chinese soprano to play the title character.
That’s all from me today!
Zachary David Levy’s LA Times crossword, “I Oughta Be in Pictures” – Gareth’s summary
Zachary David Levy has this Sunday’s puzzle: “I Oughta Be in Pictures”. The title explains most of it. “I” is inserted in Hollywood films to create plausible fake titles:
- [Film remake about a student who finally finds the right martial arts teacher?], THESIXTHSENSEi
- [Film remake featuring a spooky archaeological site?], MIDNIGHTRUiN
- [Film remake heavy with art metaphors?], MONALISASiMILE
- [Film remake featuring broken raga instruments?], THEFAULTINOURSiTARS
- [Film remake that tries to prove all unmarried men are created equal?], BACHELORPARiTY
- [Film remake featuring spa treatments that are no joke?], ASERIOUSMANi
- [Film remake that documents soapbox sites?], TiRADINGPLACES
The rest of the grid was pretty quiet, with few long non-theme phrases and only a few playful clues like [Speed reader?], RADAR and [After-lunch sandwich], OREO. There were also a few newer references for otherwise common crossword names, such as BAIO as [Chris of Vampire Weekend], but nothing too difficult to work around.
NYT – Pretty fast Sunday for me as well :) though I ended up having to brute force the KC in AKC / KEIRA / CENAC.
I enjoyed the brand trivia (hadn’t encountered SEIKO or KARO yet) and felt especially happy to see PRESET, though maybe that’s just nostalgia for pre-Spotify times. The clue for IAMB made me chuckle, too. Fun puzzle all around, imo!
NYT: It’s an impressively filled grid — virtually junk-free — given how the diagonal elements of the theme answers must have limited the options for the crossing words.
It seemed especially elegant to have PAR[CHUTE]IN and BACKDOOR[SLIDER]S going down. The other diagonal elements like STEPS and STAIRS can function in either direction.
Universal (David Steinberg) and LAT:
poser: a puzzling or baffling question
I wish I had enjoyed the LAT puzzle more than I did. I’m a big movie fan, and the idea of adding “I” to familiar titles is not bad. And I appreciate the work that went into finding the titles.
But there’s a distinct oldies feel to the titles in the grid: Sixth Sense , Midnight Run , Mona Lisa Smile , The Fault in Our Stars , Bachelor Party , A Serious Man , Trading Places .
Maybe my problem is that only one of those titles is from a movie I truly enjoyed (A Serious Man). A couple sound only vaguely familiar.