Kathy Bloomer’s New York Times crossword, “Le Puzzle” —Nate’s write-up
Wait, is this a miracle? Multiple Sunday NYT puzzles in a row written by women?! I’ll take it! Here’s to hopefully many, many more.
The title of this week’s puzzle implies that we’re about to get le-d. Let’s take a look:
– 22A: TRICKLE QUESTION [“When will the leaky faucet get fixed?,” e.g.?]
– 106A: ALL OVER THE MAPLE [Where you’d find sap for syrup?]
– 3D: SKIPS A BEATLE [Says “John, Paul … and Ringo”?]
– 15D: STARTLE DATE [Show up naked, perhaps?]
– 31D: WORDLE OF MOUTH [M _ U _ H?]
– 34D: LOTTERY PICKLE [Loss of the winning ticket?]
– 60D: PALACE COUPLE [King and queen?]
– 63D: CLASS TRIPLE [The three R’s?]
Each of our themers has gained an additional LE for comedic effect, and I really liked the inventiveness of many of these entries! WORDLE OF MOUTH has to be my favorite just for how incredibly current (and on brand!) it feels, and CLASS TRIPLE was a fun transformation to describe a super common phrase. STARTLE DATE felt a bit stilted (and the clue felt a bit unwanted sexual advance-y) and coups never feel quite fun to joke about, especially after January 6th, so I wasn’t as keen on PALACE COUPLE either. That said, a fun idea explored to largely solid effect in my eyes.
Other random thoughts:
– Aside from a few partials and other bits (AGIN, I LAY, TNOTE), this grid felt quite clean and led to a super quick solve time for me! I hope it felt super smooth for you, too.
– 1A: ASSHAT [Complete jerk] – Now that’s certainly a way to start off a puzzle!
– 28A: HORMEL [Spam generator] – Okay, this was cute.
– 116A: KNEELS [Protests, in a way] – And what a fantastic way to end the puzzle, too.
What did you think? Can you come up with any -LE transformations that could make for fun themers? The first thing that pops to mind is [Story of a woman’s trip to Pamplona?] for LADY AND THE TRAMPLE, but that’s quite grim! Let me know what you come up with. For now, be well and have a great week.
PS – Another fun aside! Last week, I was lucky enough to be on Wheel of Fortune. This coming week, crossword legend/icon and editor of cryptics at The Browser, Dan Feyer, will be a contestant on Jeopardy! Tune in on Friday, October 7th to see him in action. :D
Ross Trudeau’s Universal Sunday crossword, “Watch the Commercials!”—Jim P’s review
The revealer is SKIP AD (106d, [Button over a YouTube video interruption, and a hint to interpreting each starred clue]). The clues to the theme answers should be read after eliminating the letters AD found therein.
- 22a. [*Valedictory address] ACADEMIC REGALIA. Valedictory dress.
- 33a. [*Places for construction site advisors] WELDING HELMETS. Visors.
- 53a. [*Passionate adoration] FIERY SERMON. Oration.
- 65a. [*Adverse event] POETRY READING. Verse.
- 77a. [*Adrift at sea] MID-OCEAN RIDGE. Rift.
- 93a. [*Advantage point in tennis] UMPIRE CHAIR. Vantage.
- 107a. [*Embarrassing advice] GUILTY PLEASURE. Vice.
- 125a. [*Addiction specialist] SPEECH THERAPIST. Diction.
I was floundering with the theme for about a third of the solve. I’m not sure what clicked, but suddenly I had my aha moment well before I got to the revealer. My initial reaction was disappointment because we just saw this gimmick two days ago in the Friday daily puzzle (titled “Don’t Start With Me!”). Plus, I was hitting entries like SALE DAY which I’m not sure is a thing and DO SAY which I know people don’t say. (They do say [“Pray tell!”] or “Do tell!”.)
Since I’d already grokked the theme, I wasn’t looking for or expecting a revealer. Thus, when I stumbled upon it, it caught me by surprise, and a welcome one at that because it was spot on. Every time I turn to a YouTube clip and I’m anticipating seeing the video I want, an ad shows up and I start looking for that cherished SKIP AD button.
Then I started appreciating the theme clues. Take [*Advantage point in tennis] for example with the answer UMPIRE CHAIR. “Advantage” and “point” are words used in tennis, so the clue seems like it might make sense. But the fact that the clue is actually “Vantage point in tennis” to refer to that lofty perch, the UMPIRE CHAIR, feels sublime. Similarly, a “Valedictory address” is a real thing, as is an “Addiction specialist.” But so are their AD-less versions. Really, this is some lovely cluing.
And there’s plenty to like in the fill despite my earlier misgivings. Favorites include ANGELICA, FROZEN SOLID, “IT’S GONE!,” CHEAP EATS, CAR STEREO, EX-LOVERS, OBAMANIA, DIET SODA, and “I MADE IT!”
Other clues of note:
- 8a. [Alan born Alphonso D’Abruzzo]. ALDA. As many times as I’ve seen his name in crosswords, I didn’t know it was a stage name. It’s also interesting that the name comes from the first two letters of his first name and surname.
- 4d. [“Totally awesome!”]. SO DOPE. Do young people still say this? It feels dated to me and I wanted the clue to reflect that, but maybe I’m misjudging it.
- 42d. [Ride-or-die pal]. BFF. “Ride-or-die” is new to me. It’s current slang meaning someone with whom you’d “ride out the storm.” Here’s more on its meaning, including its origins. Can also be used as a noun.
Very nice puzzle. I just wish it was farther removed from the Friday puzzle with a similar gimmick. Four stars.
Zhouqin Burnikel’s USA Today Crossword, “Roll Back” — norah’s write-up
THEME: All answers have the word ROLL spanning BACKwards through a phrase, thus the title “Roll Back”
- THATS A TALL ORDER (17A: “I’ll see what I can do, but…”)
- FULL ORCHESTRA (27A: Symphony group)
- PILL ORGANIZER (60A: Multiday, multidose medicine container)
This was a super breezy (even pre-coffee!) solve this morning. Animal facts? Sign me up! And a nice theme that works really well – THATS A TALL ORDER is a great find. (and also gives me another theme idea or two…)
OTHER INTERESTING ITEMS:
- BALI (5A: Island two miles east of Java) Bali is home to the gorgeous Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary which is part natural rainforest, part primate reserve, and part Hindu temple complex
- OHIO (13A: Rock & Roll Hall of Fame’s state) 2022 Inductees include Carly Simon and Dolly Parton
- OSLO (63A: Norway’s largest city) The city of Oslo is a leader in reducing urban carbon emissions. In September 2021, the number of electric vehicles entering Oslo was higher than the number of fossil-fueled vehicles. They plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 95% from 1990 levels by 2030.
- SOCAL (53D: Orange County’s location, familiarly). Did you all see Albert Pujols hit home run #700 last weekend at Dodger Stadium?
- DENS (70A: Lairs for raccoons) Like most animals who make dens, the primary function is to provide a safe location for birthing and caring for young. Raccoons, however, are one species that is very quick to abandon a den and can move every day or two if startled. Look at this adorable video of baby raccoons.
- ZITI (60D: Pasta often baked with three cheeses) Ah, yes. The TikTok pasta.
- GNAW (59A: Chew like a gopher) Gophers, like all rodents, have teeth that never stop growing. Due to an enamel imbalance, they grow with an inward curve, allowing the animal to gnaw endlessly. This is why it’s important to provide your pet rodents with healthy chew toys.
I learned about:
- ZOEY (33A: “The Politician” actress Deutch) I didn’t recognize her name but when I looked her up I realized that I know her from “Not Okay” and “Zombieland: Double Tap.”
- DOOM (21A: Doctor ___ (Fantastic Four foe)) Doctor Doom is a comic villain who can manipulate energy and electricity. He has been seen in many iterations of comic books, movies, television series, and video games since his first appearance in 1962.
- AKITA (41D: Spitz breed with catlike feet) I admit, I had no idea what this clue meant. Cat-like feet? It’s true! Described as “well-knuckled” with “webbed toes to help walk on snow“, they sure do look like kitty paws! Look how cute :)
Two reviews for the price of one today; I’m also writing this puzzle up for Sally’s Take.
Thank you Zhouqin!
Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Building Blocks”—Matthew’s write-up
Evan builds us up and breaks us back down today. Our revealer is neatly in the middle of the themers:
- 23a [Subject of Russell Miller’s biography “Bare-Faced Messiah”] L RON HUBBARD
- 39a [Thomas Malory work about a legendary king] LE MORT D’ARTHUR
- 49a [Squat, e.g.] LEG EXERCISE
- 66a [Building block that may be inserted into or removed from a set one by one (as seen in the starred answers’ first words)] LEGO BRICK
- 89a [Confidence builders] EGO BOOSTERS
- 95a [Finish spectacularly] GO OUT WITH A BANG
- 119a [Short story prize won by Alice Munro and Alice Walker] O HENRY AWARD
So we build up to LEGO from the L, and back down the O, and each themer’s part of LEGO is a standalone word in its phrase; a big plus for me alongside just a plain colorful set of phrases.
- 26a [“How do you do, fellow kids?”] MAA. I love this clue-entry combination, which plays on a Steve Buscemi meme originally from the TV show “30 Rock” and subverts it through a different meaning of “kids.” I can just imagine goats talking to each other with skateboards pitched over their shoulders.
- 56a [Union station?] CHAPEL. The misdirection is maybe a bit apparent, but is a nod to Evan’s Washington, DC audience, who know Union Station as the Amtrak hub in the city.
- 57a [Team in the NHL’s Pacific Division] OILERS. The Oilers play in Edmonton, which I don’t think of as very “Pacific,” but teams in all sports are spread out so much in the Mountain and Pacific time zones that cities like Detroit and Nashville are in the NHL’s Western Conference.
- 81a [Venues for A-list stand-up comedians] ARENAS. As comedians go, I’ve come to enjoy Taylor Tomlinson’s work; she has a few Netflix specials and a strong Instagram presence.
- 72d [Childishly rude] SASSY. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen “childish” in a clue for SASS or SASSY before!
- 105d [“The ____ Family” (BBC sitcom about a family living in Manchester, not Buckingham Palace as it may sound] ROYLE. I appreciate the homophone help here. I caught a bunch of BBC sitcoms growing up on PBS, but I’ve been less plugged in in the streaming age.
Adrian Johnson’s Universal crossword, “Themeless Sunday 12″—Darby’s write-up
I’m excited to be writing on Adrian’s Universal 15×15! I thought that this was a really fun themeless with plenty of great fill.
- 13a [“Moves quickly”] MAKES HASTE
- 17a [“‘Wait your turn!’”] ONE AT A TIME
- 19a [“Seasoning for matzo ball soup”] KOSHER SALT
- 51a [“‘Hold Up!’”] HANG ON A SEC
- 59a [“Friendly Spanish farewell”] ADIOS AMIGO
- 61a [“‘Isn’t it time for us to leave?’”] CAN WE GO NOW
I thought that these were all really fun, and I loved that they stacked three and three in the NW and SE corners. It’s always fun to hear vernacular phrases like CAN WE GO NOW and HANG ON A SEC in puzzles, and it was impressive to see these all so close together. 4d [“Seattle NFL player”] SEAHAWK, 59d [“Spicy North African condiment”] HARISSA, and 8d [“Sway like a Jenga tower”] TEETER cross all of the NE marquee answers, and 37d [“Tube for inflating a tire”] AIRHOSE, 42d [“Energetic sorts”] DYNAMOS, and 44d [“Cornell’s home”] ITHACA do the same in the SW. This is all to see that the fill was really fresh, despite the stacks.
Outside of those, I really enjoyed 36a [“Pitch heard but not seen”] RADIO AD, 43a [“Oversize prop for a sports fan”] FOAM FINGER (which, with 30d [“Tennessee NFL player”] TITAN felt especially appropriate with SEAHAWK on a football Sunday), and 25d [“‘Speaking of which…’”] ON THAT NOTE.
There was a great balance of ROTE recall and fun wordplay in this puzzle.
Re: 21-Across in the NYT. I am *begging* crossword editors to stop cluing STENO as [Bygone office job] or [Old-fashioned dictation method] or whatever. There are tens of thousands of stenographers happily and profitably employed in the 21st century, using specialized machine interfaces hooked up to Python applets.
(P.S.: Real-time court reporting is harder and more in-demand than coding, and yet it is constantly dismissed as mindless low-pay secretarial work. It’s a real mystery why this career in which ~90% of the labor force is female is denigrated so!)
I just solved the August 15, 1999, NYT puzzle. STENOG was clued as “court worker.”
But the rest of the puzzle was yucky.
Very interesting to learn both about the number of current stenographers and the demand for real-time court reporting. I learn a lot from crosswords and it’s important to hear when they’re giving the wrong impression.
I checked it out on Zip recruiter and the average salary of a stenographer is around 75K/year but can be up to 240K.
I’d love to see one of these stenotypes (the modern machines they use). They sound like fun. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stenotype
Court stenographers are certainly a thing today, but you have to admit that the typical office no longer has secretaries taking dictation on steno pads. Is shorthand even taught in high school anymore? Gregg and Pitman are pretty old-fashioned, I would say.
Plus, wouldn’t it be kind of insulting to call a court reporter a “steno”? That’s just a guess, I really don’t know.
I’m also surprised to hear that court reporting is denigrated. I’m aware of the high pressure and high salaries.
NYT: I too loved the WORDLE entry… I’m obsessed with that game and solve multiple variants a day beyond the classic Wordle–including French and Arabic Wordle (and excited tonight because I just lucked out and got the latest classic Wordle in 2 tries).
Nate, I really enjoyed watching you on Wheel of Fortune. Congratulations! I hope you have some fun plans for your winnings.
Looking forward to watching Dan Feyer on Jeopardy. May he have many happy returns on the show.
I read the title and was instantly a bit shocked that the NYT would allow the answer to 1-A with “ASSHO” with an “LE” written into one box, but was thankfully wrong (although “whole” would make for a punny response to “Complete Jerk = whole ass”.
In the “When will they stop …?” category, I’d put any of the playground retorts on that list, although those are not perceived as socially triggering.
Also – is there some kind of rule or custom that I’m missing as to the spelling of “AAH” or “AHH”? We had “AAH” in both the NYT and Universal today; I always leave the center box blank and get it with the crossings.
Re: NYT /Alan Alda–His father, Alfonso Giuseppe Giovanni Roberto D’Abruzzo, was a well-known actor/singer as Robert Alda–long before Alan Alda started his career.
LAT: I really *so close to* loved this puzzle, except for that first themer, which shouldn’t have been a themer since it didn’t fit the theme…. (“One of these things is not like the other…”)?? No wordplay, no pronunciation cuteness, no spelling differences… simply a different (not really interesting) definition of a real thing.
Dearly loved “Delhi counter”, “Kabul stones” and esp. “Quito-based diet”.. the others are good too (except the aforementioned), just that those are my favorites .
Was my favorite of the day if not for that one entry, which might work with a different theme…? I dunno.
Also enjoyed the other puzzles today…Esp. the UC, with no missteps on that theme :) .
I am perplexed by the first themer. Is it meant to be a pun? If so, I can’t figure out what the pun is upon. And if it’s not a pun, is there some second meaning attached to the phrase? I can’t make any sense of it either way.
“Cologne samples” is presumably meant to be a “clone samples” pun. My guess is that this is supposed to be a Photoshop reference. ???
I guess that is the probability. If so, it missed the mark. Even the blogger at Crossword Corner didn’t get it.
I had a difficult enough time with prog rock, clone samples are way off my radar. It appears I’m not the only one.
I thank you for your answer, it does make more sense than just …. cologne samples.
All of the themers include the names of cities that are repurposed to be used in familiar-sounding phrases. It would have been more consistent with the other themers if they’d used the German spelling (Koln), even though you’d need an umlaut to spell it properly. Plus, it would mess up the grid symmetry. I agree with marciem that it doesn’t work as well as the others because there’s no change in spelling.
I don’t buy the “clone samples” explanation.
Another reply on crossword corner says it is “colon samples” to test for occult blood . That again *almost* works, except it is stool samples they use to test for occult blood. On a full colonoscopy they take biopsy samples.
Really not much in the language, IMO.
I don’t buy that explanation either. I wasn’t in the clinic, but I worked in the medical field for 40 years and have a pretty good familiarity with medical terminology and test names. I’ve have never heard of “colon samples”, though you do get tissue samples with a colon biopsy of course. I’d lay money that the constructor was thinking perfume samples. I didn’t have as much of a problem with the phrase as I did with the other themers involving more wordplay with the city names.
That was exactly my problem with the first theme answer, that it didn’t fit with the word play of the other ones