Joe Deeney’s New York Times crossword, “Fan Clubs” —Sophia’s write-up
Hi all! Sophia here filling in for Nate this Sunday.
Theme: “Fan Clubs” – common phrases are reparsed such that they sound like descriptions of people who really like certain things.
- 21a [Geometrophiles …] LOVE TRIANGLES
- 31a [Imagophiles …] PRIZE DRAWINGS
- 46a [Gastrophiles …] FANCY RESTAURANTS
- 63a [Dextropodophiles …] GET OFF ON THE RIGHT FOOT
- 79a [Autotumulophiles …] DIG THEIR OWN GRAVE
- 94a [Aurophiles …] GO FOR THE GOLD
- 109a [Chronomechanophiles …] LIKE CLOCKWORK
This is Sunday wackiness at its finest, and I’m here for it. I figured out the theme early on after LOVE TRIANGLES, but I still liked discovering each of the new theme answers along the way and seeing just how crazy the re-parsing could get. I’m surprised (but not in a bad way!) that the NYT is willing to use this meaning of GET OFF in a puzzle, but it made me smile the most, even though I realllly wanted the phrase to be “get off on the wrong foot” and was certain I had an error.
I’ll be interested to see how this plays difficulty wise for folks, since I think it might depend heavily on one’s ability to understand the theme clues themselves. I don’t know enough Greek/Latin roots to know just how well the “fan” translations are done, but when I knew one of them it made the answer pretty easy to get. On the other hand, if I didn’t know one, I was pretty much in the dark until the base phrase showed itself (DIG THEIR OWN GRAVE is the best example of this; I still only understand the “auto” part). Despite that, the puzzle felt easy to me, I spent my last two minutes error hunting.
Sunday puzzles can feel like a slog if the only exciting thing about them is the theme, so here are some other random things that I liked/thought about!
- Fill highlights: STINK EYES, WANNA BES, ITALIAN HERO. I think the amount of theme material in the puzzle made it harder to have standout fill; I wish there was more of it. We do, however get to see the full length versions of oft-used-crosswordese all stars TSE TSE FLIES and JAI ALAI.
- Great clues: 79d [Announcement of a split decision?] for DEAR JOHN, 23a [A little off?] for ON SALE.
- Things that I knew immediately that other people might have trouble with: 35d [Seasons of Love” musical] for RENT, 90d [2005 Scott Westerfeld sci-fi novel with the sequel “Pretties”] for UGLIES
- Things I didn’t know that other people might do better with: 115a [Actress Kaitlin of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”] for OLSON, 62 [Fall behind the pack] for STRAGGLE – I was certain it was “struggle”, how to spell SLEAZY (it’s not with two Es :( )
- Cross that I find somewhat unforgivable with the clues given: SNOOTS/COO with 116a [Schnozzes] and 110d [Co.’s second-in-command, usually] – This could so easily be “snouts/cou” if you’re like me and aren’t immediately thinking of Chief Operations Officer. Just clue them as snooty people and/or the dove sound, it’s much more fair.
Sound off with your thoughts in the comments! Happy Thanksgiving week to those in the US!
Evan Birnholz’ Washington Post crossword, “You Had One Job!” —Matthew’s write-up
Evan’s got the week off, so we have a rerun from 2017 today. I don’t remember it as well as I’d like.
Our themers are idiomatic phrases with a negative element, but then clued in a somewhat literal way. It’s tough to explain:
- 23a [“I told you to fight back, but you ____”] COULDN’T RESIST
- 34a [“I told you to escort the inmates to their cells, but you ____”] TOOK NO PRISONERS
- 51a [“I told you to spray insecticide, but you ____”] WOULDN’T HURT A FLY
- 69a [“I told you to divulge information, but you ___”] WENT WITHOUT SAYING
- 86a [“I told you to save your money, but you ___”] SPARED NO EXPENSE
- 101a [“I told you to receive a message, but you ___”] DIDN’T GET THE MEMO
- 118a [“I told you to chip in a little bit of change, but you ___”] GAVE NO QUARTER
A playful theme, reminiscent of Evan’s “Captain Obvious” series. Each base entry is plenty common in the language and the clues are a nice chuckle. Away from the theme, we don’t have a ton in longer downs, but what we do have makes the grid nicely connected.
- 19a [Gardner of “The Night of the Iguana”] AVA. I am unfamiliar with this film and the Tennessee Williams play it’s based on, but it doesn’t take much researching to understand why it’s well-regarded enough to show up in puzzles decades later. Adding it to my “to-read” list.
- 41a [Unagi, at a sushi bar] EEL. Only by achieving true Unagi can you be prepared for any danger that may befall you.
- 122a [Eager to agree, say?] ANAGRAM. This particular trick happens at just the right frequency to give me pause every time. Kudos to crossword constructors as a collective for not overusing it.
- 10d [“Westworld” weapon] PISTOL. I don’t know the show, so I started with “phaser,” which as we learned in the LA Times last week, has the same number of letters as “ray gun.”
- 12d [2017 Poker Hall of Fame inductee] PHIL IVEY. Poker had a heck of a boom in the 00s, didn’t it? I recognize this name from those years when some World Series of Poker event always seemed to be on ESPN, but couldn’t tell you much. There’s another Phil–Hellmuth?–and I couldn’t tell you which is which. I’m not sure I had anymore knowledge to this in 2017 when the puzzle first came out, either.
- 35d [Dullea of “2001: A Space Odyssey”] KEIR. I thought I didn’t know this fellow, but I do. “Open the pod bay doors please, HAL.”
Running late but will highlight two neat bits of gentle misdirection: [Popular game] for DEER asks you to reconsider the word “game,” and [Tower by the shore?] for TUGBOAT to reconsider “tower.”
Morton J. Mendelson’s Universal Sunday crossword, “Men in Black”—Jim P’s review
Theme: As the title suggests, the trigram M-E-N is hidden within certain black squares. Theme answers start in one entry and finish in a corresponding entry on the other side of the black square. The second halves are also crossword-valid entries with their own clues (which I won’t list here).
- 36a. [*Like yeast (Hint: Each starred clue’s answer continues through a block and a neighboring answer)] FER / (MEN) / TABLE. Not the most exciting entry with which to start.
- 39a. [*Places to stroll] PRO / (MEN) / ADES.
- 78a. [*Bothering and bothering] TOR / (MEN) / TING.
- 111a. [*How green choices are beneficial] ENVIRON / (MEN) / TALLY.
- 117a. [*2, 3, 23 and others] PRI / (MEN) / UMBERS. Definitely the best entry of the lot since MEN spans two words.
- 5d. [*Repairing of a damaged relationship] FENCE / (MEN) / DING.
- 13d. [*Carried out] IMPLE / (MEN) / TED.
- 53d. [*Nietzsche’s ideal human] UBER / (MEN) / SCH.
- 71d. [*Green or white liqueur] CREME DE / (MEN) / THE.
- 96d. [*Orange citrus hybrid] CLE / (MEN) / TINE.
I definitely preferred the entries that were not just root + MEN + suffix. An entry like “fermentable” could’ve been “fermenting” or “fermented,” e.g., and that makes it less enjoyable than something like “fence mending” which is its own idiomatic phrase.
I had a quick look to see if there were other potential entries where the MEN is split among two words. I only found “name names” with “Ames” as the second part. The constraint of having a standalone second entry really tightens things up, and I commend our constructor for employing and sticking to it. The other approach would be to just have a “-” as the clue for the second half, and then you could have an entry like STEAM ENGINE. Either way works, but the approach in today’s puzzle is harder to pull off, so kudos on that.
Some nice long fill today in DAWN OF TIME, PUT TO A VOTE, HORN SOLO, DIG DEEP, OPEN TAB, POP-UP ADS. Hadn’t heard of PINK GIN [Cocktail colored by Angostura bitters], but the crossings are fair. It felt like there was more than the usual amount of crosswordese (ERAT, INGE, ASA, UGG, ARETOO, OTO, etc.) though.
Clue of note: 55a. [Newsman Newman]. EDWIN. This is how old I am: I used to watch David Letterman’s daytime show once upon a time, and EDWIN Newman would come on to read the news. I thought it was a gag at first, but no, Letterman had actual news on his show. Newman even hosted SNL once. Visitors to this blog might particularly enjoy the skit below.
Zhouqin Burnikel’s USA Today crossword, “Cart In” —Darby’s write-up
The USA Today site is still showing Friday’s puzzle, but you can access it through Puzzle Society. Since I don’t have a subscription, I’m not able to get it, but I recommend checking out Sally Hoelscher’s blog for a write-up of this puzzle. See y’all on Thursday!