Samuel A. Donaldson’s New York Times crossword, “Collision Courses” —Nate’s write-up
Happy weekend! Thanksgiving (in the US at least) isn’t too far off, and then we head into the home stretch for the calendar year. With all the food-filled celebrations to come, this Sunday’s puzzle serves as a perfect primer to mix up some tasty concoctions!
– 22A: P(OLICE) [Band whose final album, “Synchronicity,” was their most popular, with “The”]
– 4D: D(RIVE)L [Claptrap]
OLIVE meets RICE
– 26A: G(O ASH)ORE [Disembark]
– 7D: (SQUAT)TER [Unlawful occupant]
OAT meets SQUASH
– 24A: (MAÑANA) [24 horas from now]
– 15D: (BANGO)R [City NW of Bar Harbor]
MANGO meets BANANA (or, really, MAÑGO meets BAÑANA here)
– 96A: (COMATO)SE [Like a very heavy sleeper]
– 89D: (TORN)ADO [Relative of a waterspout]
CORN meets TOMATO
– 113A: (CHIME)S IN [Pipes up]
– 105D: (LIVE)R [Unpopular food that’s rich in minerals]
CHIVE meets LIME
– 107A: (MEET)S [Measures up to]
– 101D: (BELON)G [Fit in]
MELON meets BEET
– 62A: FRANKEN FOOD [Lab-engineered fare, facetiously … or a hint to the six crossings of shaded squares]
– 73A: BUMPER CROPS [Bountiful harvests for farmers … or another hint to the crossings of shaded squares]
In each pair of crossing theme entries, the shaded squares can be read from (west to center to south) OR (from north to center to east), each path revealing a type of food. These food share a common letter in the middle, and are thus (as the title of this puzzle implies) courses (bits of food) that collide to form, in each pairing, a FRANKEN FOOD BUMPER CROP.
This was a fun theme for me, and I appreciated the added detail of pairing foods that I’d actually want to eat together! Each pairing of foods felt like the base of a delicious recipe, and I probably should have solved this after dinner so I wasn’t so hungry. That said, the rest of the solve sometimes felt a bit of a slog – since the grid was largely segmented into 10 regions, each region felt like its own mini puzzle with very few short entries with which to gain footholds. A few of those regions (especially in the bottom third of the puzzle) had a number of stodgier entries, which also made the puzzle a bit less joyful overall for me. YMMV.
Other random thoughts:
– 1A: PEDDLE [Sell, as bicycles?] – This was a cute way to start off the puzzle!
– 13A: LIBIDO [What might prompt a run for congress?] – I know what this clue is doing, but it still reads as creepy to me, especially given the number of politicians who end up in sex scandals. This was more icky than cute for me.
– 43A ELLES and 74D ELLA felt like a dupe that could have been avoided?
That’s all for now. I hope you enjoy the rest of your weekend and have the chance to mix up some delicious food and flavor combinations of your own! Don’t forget to let us know in the comments what you enjoyed about the puzzle.
Universal Crossword, “Themeless Sunday 16” by Rafael Musa — norah’s write-up
- FIEND 20A [Demon] (Look ma, we’re in the puzzle!)
- MOO 33A [(Hi, I’m a cow!)]⭐
- MATERIALGIRL 25A [1984 Madonna hit about her desire for affluence]
- TIMEWILLTELL 42A [“We’re gonna have to wait and see”]
- HOUSEMUSIC 56A [Genre often played at nightclubs]
- IMONAROLL 11D [Comment after successive successes]
- FALAFEL 20D [Fried ball in a pita]
- ITFIGURES 30D [“That’s no surprise”]
- BATMOBILE 31D [Vehicle parked at Wayne Manor]
- CYCLE 50D [Observe Bike to Work Day, say]
This one fell really fast for me (possibly a Universal themeless pr?). IMONAROLL (11D) clued as [Comment after successive successes] could easily describe our constructor today; Rafa seems to have had at least one print puzzle a week for the last six months or so. While this grid doesn’t excite me *personally* as much as some of his other recent themelesses, it is clean and clued well, leading to an enjoyable solve. I first filled in 34A as EmAIL without looking at either clue, and at that point I had IM… phrases at 7D and 11D already; I was expecting some sort of mini theme to reveal itself at 30D. While that (obviously) didn’t happen, it does still feel like IMNOTREALLYSURE, IMONAROLL, and TIMEWILLTELL are telling a story.
- Rainbow Kitten Surprise. BAND (12D [Rainbow Kitten Surprise or U2]) An alternative rock band from North Carolina. This is a fun way for a constructor to get something that is important or interesting to them into a puzzle that may be completely unfamiliar to solvers. (It’s is also a 21…)
Thank you Rafa!
Adrian Johnson’s Universal Sunday crossword, “Jumbo Freestyle 5”—Jim P’s review
Oh man, these Universal Jumbo Freestyles are good! I’m not going to say they keep getting better because they were lovely right from the get-go, but the quality level has not dipped at all.
So many goodies in this one: MISSION ACCOMPLISHED, GET OUT OF JAIL FREE CARD, IT TAKES ONE TO KNOW ONE, ROOKIE YEAR, CAREER HIGH, “TRY IT OUT,” KIELBASA, OSCAR NIGHT, KITE RUNNER, STINK EYE, BATH SALT, “SO IT GOES,” “HOW ABOUT NO?,” STATICKY, DAD JOKE, CAPE COD, and FRUIT SALAD. I had to give COOL, CALM, AND COLLECTED the side-eye because I know it as, “Calm, cool, and collected.” But Internet dictionaries show both versions as valid.
I must admit I’m not familiar with the use of IN FAITH as a phrase meaning [Truthfully]. It feels quaint and dated. I also didn’t know ELOTE [Mexican street corn]. Here’s a recipe that doesn’t involve someone’s life story.
Clues of note:
- 36d. [Boat for exploring the Boundary Waters]. CANOE. I’ve never heard of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in Minnesota, but now I want to go there.
- 74d. [“What if we … didn’t?”]. “HOW ABOUT NO?” Perfect phrasing in this clue to capture the feel of the entry.
Lovely Sunday-sized themeless. 4.25 stars.
Evan Birnholz’ Washington Post crossword, “Card Collection” —Matthew’s write-up
Lots of circles in this oversized (21×22) grid from Evan today. It’s pretty clear what’s going on, once we get to the relevant entries:
- 42a [Seasonal nickname of Elizabeth Stuart, wife of Bohemian ruler Frederick V] THE WINTER QUEEN
- 48a [Hole where one can get an eagle on the second stroke] PAR FOUR
- 52a [Baseball legend Robinson] JACKIE
- 59a [LXX, spelled out] SEVENTY
- 67a [Tie (up), as a shoe] LACE
- 71a [Like some EPs] SIX TRACK
- 75a [Big shipping vessel] FREIGHTER
- 79a [Former ESPN college football and horse racing sportscaster Edwards] JEANNINE
- 84a [Perfect scores at the NBA slam dunk contest] TENS
- 87a [Grammatically informal way for a trio’s members to refer to themselves] US THREE
- 93a [“The Handmaid’s Tale” author Margaret] ATWOOD
- 102a [Small bird that may be ruby-crowned] KINGLET
- 106a [One excelling at hitting for average, hitting for power, fielding, throwing and running, in baseball lingo] FIVE TOOL PLAYER
In addition to those thirteen entries, we’ve got a revealer at 127a [Metaphorical means of cheating at cards, illustrated in this puzzle] STACKED DECK, and in retrospect, an easter egg at 22a [Good run for a gambler] LUCKY STREAK, which most solvers will reach before the theme, and perhaps like me, not notice its relevancy until after. Or perhaps not.
I’m always impressed by stacked themers — Will Nediger and Ross Trudeau are two folks who I can think of doing it recently — of course I can’t find any of the three grids that I’m thinking of quickly right now, but I’ll ask them and may come back. While I’m plugging, I’ll also note that Ada Nicolle’s excellent (mostly-)themeless blog and patreon is named “lucky streak,” so she’s on my mind after this puzzle as well.
Back to the theme for a second, I particularly enjoyed the entries that didn’t use the card value in the same way — JACKIE, LACE, FREIGHTER, JEANNINE, ATWOOD, and perhaps KINGLET. I’m surprised it’s only half–it felt like more during the solve. I imagine it was prohibitive for Evan to find entries that worked while disguising every card, but it’s fun to dream. The theme set is also a bit sports-focused. I do well with this, and I know Evan is a sports-y person, but it’s something I noticed during the solve and that I know is a flashpoint for some. That said, the theme is relatively transparent to help with any obscure answers, sports or otherwise, and I think it was wise for Evan to spell out the five “tools” in FIVE TOOL PLAYER in the clue.
- 35a [“Pagoda Fruit” sculptor] ARP. I’m not familiar with much of Jean Arp’s work at all. This particular sculpture is featured on his Wikipedia page, and is named as such because Arp felt the top was reminiscent of a pagoda’s roof.
- 38a [European city where 126 Down was formed] OSLO. I pulled this off a crossing early in my solve and assumed the later entry would be some international organization. Nope, it’s the band A-HA!
- 68a [Sharjah’s nation: Abbr.] UAE. I was unfamiliar with Sharjah, as I am all UAE cities other than Dubai and Abu Dhabi, and of course it is the third-largest city in the country after those two. Hopefully I know it now.
- 77a [“For goodness ____!”] SAKES. Do you say “SAKES” or “sake”? I say the former, for Goodness, Pete, and Christ, but I’m sure both are common.
- 86a [“Stranger Things” actor Gelman] BRETT. Do I, a non-Stranger Things watcher, know this person’s face? No. He’s been in only two things I recognize; “Fleabag” and “Jobs.” Perhaps I’ll watch one soon.
- 121a [Cartoon reporter April] O’NEIL. Speaking of things I only know from crosswords and didn’t learn from television like I should. I believe this is a character from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles?
- 124a [Willy Wonka’s prop] CANE. I can’t quickly find whether the book or Depp versions of Wonka also used a CANE, but certainly Gene Wilder is Wonka in my mind, and hopefully yours. Turns out an origin story for the character featuring Timothy Chalamet is in the works. Meh.
- 10d [Red ___ (area of a football field)] ZONE. Specifically, this is the area inside the 20-yard line as the offense approaches the end zone. I’ve never learned why “red,” though.
- 60d [Network that fills in the blanks of the 1954 film “Whi_e _hrist_as”] TCM. How’s that for a way to help us between TCM and TMC?
- 74d [First hymn of a Mass] INTROIT. Catholic deep cut — I’ve seen this used *maybe* times in my life? — but certainly the “INTRO” part is somewhat intuitive, and it’s helped by the theme.
Today’s music is again provided by Evan:
Zhouqin Burnikel’s USA Today crossword, “It’s a Start” —Darby’s write-up
Editor: Erik Agard
Theme: The first letters (the “starts”) of each word in the theme answers spell out ITS.
- 17a [“‘That was my suspicion’”] I THOUGHT SO
- 23a [“Utensil with a long handle”] ICED TEA SPOON
- 62a [“Receiving a lot of attention”} IN THE SPOTLIGHT
The theme here was really subtle, and it took me a bit to get it. Each is a very different answer, which provided a nice variety. I didn’t know that ICED TEA SPOONs were a thing, so I filled it in with some skepticism as the crosses came together.
I moved through this puzzle pretty smoothly, stopping at a few different. Initially, instead of ANCHO at 52a [“Mole pepper”], I had CHILE, but the crossing 38d [“In ___(attuned)”] SYNC and 29d [“Has no winner”] ENDS IN A TIE cleared that up right way. 10d [“‘Pleasant dreams!’”] SLEEP TIGHT and 35d [“Place to share memes”] GROUP CHAT were both really fun as well.
Some other faves:
- 40d [“Skewer often glazed with tare sauce”] – Who doesn’t love food on a stick? This simple YAKITORI recipe looks super easy and delicious.
- 46d [“Crane material”] – Because this clue crossed 45a [“Origami mishaps”], I immediately pictured paper cranes, and so STEEL took me a hot sec to fill in.
- 66a [“Princess __ Organa”] – This clue for LEIA spoke to me deeply since I just did a deep dive on Disney+ last night watching all of the new Tales of the Jedi episodes. I’m here always for Star Wars content.
It’s more than a start, this puzzle is a great start (or really any time) to the day!
Drew Schmenner’s LA Times crossword, “It’s Working!” – Gareth’s theme summary
The magic happens in the clues in today’s puzzle by LA Times. There are seven theme entries that are just, broadly, jobs; all seven clues use idiomatic two-word idiomatic phrases the second word of which is a rough synonym for “occupation”. Is it just me or is it more typical to present the commonality in the answers? So:
- [Hitching post?], WEDDINGOFFICIANT
- [Fair trade?], CARNIVALBARKER
- [Cold calling?], POLAREXPLORER
- [Inside job?], INTERIORDECORATOR
- [Power station?], PRIMEMINISTER
- [Instrumental role?], CONCERTPIANIST
- [Scoring position?], BROADWAYCOMPOSER
- [Purr former], CAT. Cute! I would have punctuated the clue as [“Purr-former?”] or some such to indicate former is not a standalone word here.
- [Maui’s scenic __ Highway], HANA. New one on me, with handy letters to boot!
- [“They’re not saying anything worth listening to”], ITSALLNOISE. I’ve never heard anyone say this before?
- [Froot Loops mascot], TOUCANSAM. Snazzy answer!
- [Two-time Australian Open winner Osaka], NAOMI. Really hope she finds her mojo back!