Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “If I Only Had a Grain” – Erin’s write-up
Hello lovelies! This week’s theme involves adding OAT to phrases:
- 17a. [Stumble over the jacket holder?] STEP ON A COAT RACK (step on a crack)
- 33a. [Regatta completely taking place on a watch surface?] WRIST BOAT RACE (wrist brace)
- 41a. [How to tell which hive dwellers are evil twins?] THE BEE GOATEES (The Bee Gees). From the Evil Twin trope, where the evil twin looks the same as the main character other than a goatee, glasses, etc.
- 58a. [Place to call for gas pain tips?] HOTLINE BLOATING (“Hotline Bling”). I can’t think of the Drake song without remembering this mashup between it and “Hark the Herald Angels Sing.”
Other things, aka people I learned about today thanks to this grid:
- 35d. [Grammy-nominated gospel singer Tribbett] TYE. Most of his albums have topped the US Gospel charts.
- 45a. [Actress Lotte who was married to Kurt Weill] LENYA. Lotte Lenya was an Austrian-American singer, actress, and diseuse.
- 32d. [“Paddington” actor Whishaw] BEN. Besides voicing the titular bear in the movies and TV series and, he is also known for portraying Q in three Bond films, among many other roles.
Until next week!
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Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle (Week 598), “The Wild, Wild Quest”—Ade’s take
Good day, everybody! I hope you’re all doing well as some winter-like chill is starting to descend upon some sections of the country right now.
Today’s puzzle definitely would rank high in Q-Rating, if that existed for crossword puzzles. The four theme answers are puns, created when taking the names of nouns and altering their sounds ever so slightly by replacing the “w” syllable with a “q”-sounding syllable.
- QUASHING MACHINE (17A: [Political organization that puts the kibosh on everything?]) – Washing machine
- KILLER QUAIL (36A: [Dangerous bevy bird?]) – Killer whale
- QUACKS PAPER (43A: [Daily news for ducks?]) – Wax paper
- SCHOLARLY QUIRKS (64A: [Peculiarities that are purely academic?]) – Scholarly works
Only real slowdown in solving was putting in “it groups” instead of IN-GROUPS (27A: [Cliques]). Of course I would get that wrong at the beginning since I’ve never been in any in-group in my life…well, maybe Crossword Fiend and the group of superheroes here saving the day everyday would qualify as such! Probably the highlight of the grid was coming across HUROK, whom I was not familiar with, and getting a chance to read about him a little and his impact on classical music and entertainment in America (18D: [Memorable impresario Sol]).
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“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: NESTOR (4D: [Yankees pitcher ___ Cortes]) – One of the reasons that the New York Yankees had one of the best starts to a season in Major League history in the 2022 season was because of the emergence of left-handed starting pitcher Nestor Cortes, who would have finished fifth in the American League if he had pitched enough innings to qualify for the league leaders. Cortes made the All-Star Game for the first time this past July, and finished with a 12-4 record while pitching 158.1 innings and only allowing 108 hits. (In general, allowing less than a hit per inning as a starting pitcher is really good.)
Thank you so much for the time, everybody! Have a wonderful and safe rest of your day and, as always, keep solving!
Blake Slonecker’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Support Groups”—Jim P’s review
Theme: ROCK BOTTOM (29d, [Lowest possible level, and a musical feature of four answers]). Those other (vertical) answers have rock bands hidden at their ends (i.e. the “bottom”).
- 3d. [Sweet game franchise] CANDY CRUSH.
- 7d. [Loud therapy] PRIMAL SCREAM.
- 14d. [Cutting-edge] STATE OF THE ART.
- 20d. [“Quit denying it!”] “OPEN YOUR EYES!”
Nice choices in theme answers and a consistent application of the theme. I like the modern CANDY CRUSH and the evocative PRIMAL SCREAM most of all.
There’s a strong 60s/70s vibe with the bands, though. It would have been nice if some more modern groups were added, but maybe simpler band names was a thing back in the 60s. The closest I could come (with just a cursory look) was Weezer hidden in “tweezer.” But there’s no common phrase that ends in a singular “tweezer.” Live (the band) or Tool would work (hidden “black olive” and “toadstool,” perhaps), but those bands are not as widely known.
Fillwise, we get the lovely POT STICKER as well as DIRTY HARRY in the Across direction. I also like PAN OUT and GAUDY. Nothing much to scowl over, either.
Clues of note:
- 21a. [Brig’s pair]. MASTS. I was not aware a brig was a type of ship as well as a prison on a ship. Way to confuse people, sailors.
- 38a. [The four seasons, for one]. CYCLE. Well, SITE FOR A RUDY GIULIANI PRESS CONFERENCE didn’t fit.
- 45a. [Bountiful setting]. UTAH. Needed 75% of the crossings. The city has a population of around 44,000.
Nice Tuesday theme. 3.75 stars.
Sandy Ganzell’s New York Times crossword–Amy’s recap
The theme is the children’s song “OLD MACDONALD,” with its E-I-E-I-O chorus. The themers have animals featured in the song: DON’T HAVE A COW (moo!), the fish (and Wisconsin card game) SHEEPSHEAD (baa), and WHITEHORSE (neigh). Reasonable Tuesday fodder.
Excited to see HAROLD’S Chicken get a shout-out! There are a couple Harold’s restaurants in my neighborhood, and my husband saw a Harold’s food truck this afternoon. If you don’t know the Harold’s Chicken story, here you go. The mainstay is fried chicken doused with sauce and served with white bread. Authentic South Side vibes. (Granted, Harold’s isn’t a huge, national chain, but it’s gonna be tough to clue HAROLDS otherwise without resorting to the dreaded name plural.)
Surprised to see LIANA, the jungle vine and not-so-common name, in a Tuesday puzzle. Used to be in crosswords a lot more often. Could see the crossing of HSBC ([U.K.-based financial giant]) and BABA ([Rum-soaked cake]) being a tough spot for some solvers.
3.75 stars from me.
Guilherme Gilioli’s Universal Crossword – “Will Machines Replace Humans?” – Matt F’s write up
I think we have… human behaviors… that can be done… by… “machines?” Let’s take a closer look:
- 19A [Be inconsistent, or what an HVAC unit can do] BLOW HOT AND COLD
- 25A [Make dramatic changes, or what a blender can do] SHAKE THINGS UP
- 44A [Understand implicitly, or what an answering machine can do] GET THE MESSAGE
- 52A [Coerce, or what a drill can do] PUT THE SCREWS ON
Machine 1 = HVAC unit. FWIW, there is not a catchall “HVAC unit” that serves both hot and cold functions… you have a furnace for hot, and an air conditioner for cold. Separate units. If anything, the clue would be more accurate if it said “HVAC system.”
Machine 2 = blender. C’mon, people never associate appliances with “machines,” though I guess they are, in a technical sense.
Machine 3 = answering machine (obsolete). Less than 0% chance at taking over for humans. Using “machine” in the clue is a tad inelegant given the use of “machines” in the title.
Machine 4 = drill. Tool. In my experience, “put the screws to” is a much more colloquial phrase, but I could be wrong.
The answer to the title question, based on these answers, is an emphatic, “No!” Not much in the way of true existential dread in this puzzle, and I suppose that’s a good thing. It’s cute without being heavy… none of these common “machines” have any shot at actually taking over for humans. I guess they do “behave” like humans in a dad-joke way and that is enough to justify their use in this puzzle. Imagining a person waffling next to an A/C unit is kind of funny.
The theme phrases are all sparkly in their own right, but in the context of this theme they just don’t land with much oomph. I had a mostly “ah, ok” reaction to this puzzle, especially in the age of the Boston Dynamics dancing robot, which actually has a chance at supplanting human tasks. This puzzle belongs in 1997. On another note, I can never look at Mr. Gilioli’s spoon-bending NYT puzzle (12/21/21) without thinking about The Matrix. Those sci-fi sentinels invoke much greater machine-takeover energy than The Brave Little Toaster set we have today.
OUT OF SIGHT, DASH CAM, and TAKE TWO are standouts. I’m not as thrilled about STEREO SETS. Consider WITTY a fun bonus-reveal for this puzzle — or at least an apt description of it.
The math nerd in me loves 14A [An A in geometry?] for AREA.
16A [Alphas’ followers] are not Greek letters (although, yes…) but I took this as second’s-in-command in a wolf pack, aka BETAS.
Did you know a 17A [lady lobster] is called a HEN? Well, you do now!
59A [“Anarchy in __ (Sex Pistols song)] was a fun way to clue THE U.K.
7D [Devastated] was a bit awkward for HARD-HIT, though it is accurate. I think “hit hard” feels more in-the-language. As a baseball fan, [Line drive, say] would have been fine by me.
Brooke Husic’s New Yorker crossword — pannonica’s write-up
Lots of unfamiliar material for me. Crossings, however, were fair and it ended up being a well-calibrated Tuesday New Yorker crossword.
- The stuff I didn’t know: 1a [“Empire” star __ P. Henson] TARAJI. 60a [Domain for Warsan Shire] POETRY, 25d [“You Don’t have to Go to Mars for Love” writer Harvey] YONA, 28d [Throat singer and author of the book “Split Tooth”] TANYA TAGAQ, 48a [Alter ego for Knowles-Carter] YONCE (or is it YONCÉ?). Finally, I half-knew 13a [Home country of the exiled opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya] BELARUS.
- 13d [Group with the 2020 hit “Dynamite”] BTS. I’ve learned to recognize any clue in this format with a recent date as a BTS reference. Undoubtedly this will one day come back to bite me, but for now it’s working.
- 23d [Initialism that encompasses modes of power exchange in consensual sex] BDSM. It’s probably more nuanced than you think. I know someone who used to be in that scene.
- 33d [Parts of papillons that are shaped like butterfly wings] EARS. More specifically and technically, pinnae. One of my pet peeves are these skeletal Halloween decorations that have pinnae (which are boneless, containing cartilage instead). And don’t even get me started on the invertebrates—octopodes and spiders, for example—that get the skeleton treatment. For this and this alone I am glad that OCTOBER (55a [Diwali’s month, in 2022]) is over.
- 42d [Ghost __ (Maya Lin exhibition in which dead cedars represent casualties of climate change] FOREST. This song is from a soundtrack album called Madagascar: Island of Ghosts, and features the haunting cries of the indri, the largest extant species of lemur:
- 51a [Like someone who experiences neither romantic nor sexual attraction, for short] ARO-ACE. That’s aromantic-asexual.
- 19d [Colorful ring in a cereal bowl] FROOT LOOP. Second day in a row that I’ve written about a crossword with a reference to this cereal.
- 36a [2020 film that dramatizes a real-life 1964 meeting of Malcolm X, Cassius Clay, Jim Brown, and Sam Cooke] ONE NIGHT IN MIAMI. Been meaning to see this.
Good themeless workout today.
Michael Sharp’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Jenni’s write-up
The theme announces itself right up front. 1a is [Sci-fi weapon that makes the sounds heard at the end of the answers to the starred clues] and I thought “huh! Never realized that RAY GUN and PHASER have the same number of letters!” checked 1d to confirm that the answer is RAY GUN and went on with the puzzle. That made it more fun to get to the end: 71a is also [Sci-fi weapon that makes the sounds heard at the end of the answers to the starred clues] and the answer is, of course, PHASER. So what sounds are we talking about?
- 20a [*Black Widow” co-star] is FLORENCE PUGH.
- 36a [*Cathedral bench] is a CHURCH PEW.
- 56a [*Offer of assistance] is CAN I HELP YOU?
PUGH, PEW, PYOU (that last one is brilliant). I enjoyed this clue. I leave it to you to decide if the onomatopoeia works.
A few other things:
- Loved seeing HARRIET the Spy. One of my childhood faves.
- Also love BAO. On the menu for lunch.
- I only hear ASH HEAP in the [Metaphor for no-longer-relevant history].
- 47d [Garden type] is ZEN. Is this like [Soup type] for MISO?
- Sigh. I thought we had all learned that an EEG is not a scan. Guess not.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that Alison BECHDEL wrote the graphic memoir “The Secret to Superhuman Strength.”
Brooke Husic’s USA Today Crossword, “Right Turn” — Sophia’s recap
Editor: Erik Agard
Theme: Each theme answer has a word that can precede “turn” as its final “rightmost” word.
- 17a [Lawful evil’s opposite on an alignment chart] – CHAOTIC GOOD
- 29a [Type of cheddar] – EXTRA SHARP
- 46a [The asterisk in the German word “Freund*innen”] – GENDER STAR
- 61a [“Time’s up, test-takers!”] – PENCILS DOWN
It took me a while to see the theme after I finished, at least partially because the theme answers themselves are much more interesting (in my opinion) than the phrases the create with “turn” (Turns of phrase?? Haha). This puzzle will play different difficulty wise depending on what you know – for me, CHAOTIC GOOD was instant, but I had never heard of GENDER STAR and the German clue didn’t help much. There were also lots of proper names today that slowed me down, timewise.
Other things that were new to me today: Bollywood star AJAY Devgn, SEP being Pain Awareness Month, author Jackie KAY, spoken word artist Theresa THA S.O.N.G.B.I.R.D.
Also, I think “Show yourself” or “Into the Unknown” is the official Frozen GAY ANTHEM, not “Let It Go” like the clue says. Just my opinion.
Yay, Dan Feyer being the topic on Jeopardy!
Harold’s Chicken Shack! Oh, man, that takes me back to my Chicago days.
The review of the NYT puzzle failed to note the three entries that gave us the sounds made by the three animals: MUUMUU, NAENAE, BABA.
I think Amy’s parenthetical references to the animal sounds (“Moo”) were intended to include MUUMUU and the other sounds.
I’m glad the sounds were included in the puzzle, because there’s otherwise no reason to have NAENAE in a puzzle. Ever.
Until I read the Wordplay column, I didn’t realize that the animal sounds were directly underneath the animal’s name, all with a duplicated syllable, and all spelled differently than the animal sound. I thought the puzzle was kind of meh until that was pointed out to me, and that massively elevated the puzzle in my view. Now I think it’s a five-star puzzle.
What’s wrong with NAENAE?
It’s my understanding that the dance fad lasted for about a year.
If I’m wrong and people are still doing it, I withdraw my objection.
NYT: This one gets the full star-age rating from me because of the re-spelled animal sounds directly under the animals… well done!! I haven’t seen a muumuu in a puzzle for ages, it seems.
I did enjoy the puzzle even before I noticed that, but that was very nice icing.
WSJ: I love rock music just as much as the next person, but this exact theme was used by the NYT on 4/26/22. Two of the four same bands were used, and the puzzle had the same revealer.
Maybe it doesn’t matter because it’s a different publication?
The WSJ hid the band names, while that NYT puzzle used the names as words…
After what I thought was a fair Monday New Yorker puzzle (challenging, but solvable), I thought Tuesday’s had far too many Naticks. Solvable, for me at least, only with extensive alphabet runs in the tricky squares. That part is never fun.
Me, too. It’s as if they made up for Gorski’s totally fair kind of difficulty by stuffing as many cultural referents as humanly possible. I ended with eight blank squares, compared to typically none at all in a NYT Saturday. And that’s having the long central entry as a gimme, since I’d rented the film just last month (and liked it quite a bit). Definitely not fun.
Seconded. Challenging but fair yesterday (a very good equivalent for the Stumper of two days ago on that), and an enjoyable solve. Today, not so much. Obscurity is not difficulty. Obscurity is not fun either.
I may be off-base here, but I think one of the problems is is that while the New Yorker has excellent constructors, I don’t think it has an uber-editor. (At least, none that is credited.) My guess is that sometimes the puzzle constructor is not the best evaluator of how difficult the puzzle really is.
Will Shortz (and his team) calibrate the week’s difficulty level very well. I look at my average times from Monday to Saturday, and they form almost a straight line (from quick solve to slow solve).
TNY is a different xword puzzle, it is purposefully alternative as far its fill. There are sometimes editorial issues but the fill is exactly what they want. They do have some old skool constructors like Gorski and Berry who typically stick to more traditional fill but the rest are young and are putting in their experiences or what they think is important/overlooked. Xwords for them are a chance to publicize individuals or works that have been marginalized or underappreciated for various reasons. I accept that and sometimes am completely befuddled like last Monday or this one which was perfectly gettable with the crosses for me.
TNY: Listen, I have the utmost respect for Brooke and her intellect and her ability to produce challenging puzzles. I do not fault Brooke for running this puzzle on a Tuesday, when TNY puzzles are labeled as “moderately challenging”. I can only speak for myself, but I found this puzzle incredibly difficult, up there with Natan Last’s Monday TNY puzzles.
Where is the editor? Some setters are way too full of themselves and need to be told “no.” What an awful puzzle, what a shame.
hi geri! thank you for your response. i’d love it if you would explain my crimes to me. please tell me the ways in which i’m being full of myself. please describe the awfulness and where i should be sure to feel ashamed. please tell me the “no” that i need to be told — maybe i should delete the crossword software from my computer and close up shop?
Holy delicate flower, Batman. Some people aren’t going to like your work. Some will hate it. It’s often irrational. It happens. Don’t think that your little crossword puzzle is any more important than it actually is – which is to say, it’s beyond miniscule in terms of real-world, big-picture importance. Accept that not everyone loves your beautiful puzzle and move on to the next one.
not worried about my beautiful puzzle, just curious to hear more about the personal attack.
I finished it on my own, but there were a lot of cultural references that I had to guess at.
Ironically, one of the few things that I thought was correct was “Sasha [Fierce]” for the Beyoncé alter ego (48D). Once I took that out, the SE corner was much more manageable.
LAT: I’m sure Jenni’s recap will disabuse the constructor and all constructors of the notion that 66A is a scan.
pet peeve #37 :) .
p.s. otherwise enjoyed the puzzle and the pugh pew pyous!
Indeed. Again. Still.
I didn’t look at the instructor’s name closely, and didn’t realize it was Rex. Ha! He has to know better by now 😄. Pyew on that combo 😏
Yes, that clue should be kept for MRI.
LAT: I’m quite confident that Rex would rip this puzzle to pieces if it were to appear in the NYT. Oh, the irony.
Care to elaborate?
Rex Parker’s real name is Michael Sharp; he constructed the puzzle.
(I assume that if you’re reading this blog, you’ve heard of Rex Parker.)
I was asking the commentor to supply some specificity. WHY would Rex “rip this puzzle to pieces”?
Sorry. I misinterpreted your question.
This probably doesn’t answer your question, either, but Rex almost always rips the NYT puzzle to pieces.
I didn’t think the LAT puzzle was that bad, but it does have answers of the sort Rex finds fault with — CTRS, SYR, etc.
I’ll shut up now. If sanfranman59 wants to elaborate, I’d be happy to hear what he thinks Rex would dislike about this puzzle.
Yep, Rex’s strength is really in his snarky but often insightful critiques. Whenever I encounter one of his puzzles it makes me think of Roger Ebert. He won the Pulitzer for his film criticism and had a huge impact on that field. He also dabbled in screenwriting. His most noteworthy credits? Beyond the Valley of the Dolls and Beneath the Valley of the Ultra-Vixens.
Michael Sharpe-Roger Elbert? Really?
I think the author was going for expressions that could be interpreted in two different ways, one when applied to a human, the other when applied to a machine. Dad jokey? Fine with me – cruciverbalism is full of 2/3 puns, and I love them.
Have you never heard of a “heat pump”? It’s basically an air conditioner running backwards, to provide space heating. It’s useful in places like the southern US and Israel, where I live, where it doesn’t get too cold in the winter. I’m not going to give a full course in thermodynamics here, but, under the right conditions, it’s much cheaper to run than resistive electric heating (but, if it’s too cold/humid outside, it spends a lot of time and energy defrosting the outside unit, which is why you don’t see many of them in more northern climes). And, yes, even in chilly NJ, back in the early 1970’s, my aunt and uncle, OBM, had an integrated HVAC unit that included air conditioning and gas heat. You really should get out more.
Considering the amount of poetic and linguistic license one sees in crosswords, both “unit” and “system” fit nicely here.
Regarding a blender being a machine, please see my above comment about license.
Separate answering machines may be obsolete, but the function is still performed by a machine, namely the tiny but powerful computer that is your phone.
When I put “put the screws” into Google, it showed “put the screws to”, but “put the screws on” also got a good response. I think it’s just a matter of what happens to fit in with the situation you’re describing.
Maybe lose the “wet blanket” attitude, Matt? ;)
Thank you Zev for your thoughtful response. I agree, I probably went a little too far out of my way to poke holes in this light and fun theme. Only dry blankets from here on out ;)
Nice to meet someone who can take criticism in the spirit intended. Quite rare these days…
Thanks for responding.
Is Martin’s server out again?
Power is out and separate internet outage today. They’re working on both.
My heat is back on and your puzzles are back on line.
TNY: I solved AROACE from the crosses. Thanks for the explanation.
loved TNY! great center stack, FANCAM, BOYTOY, IN THE ZONE… very fun