Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “Free Throw” – Erin’s write-up
Hello lovelies! Matt has graced us with a themeless this week, so let’s go through some of the more notable entries. For starters, lots of TV references:
- 10d. [Phil, to Will, on TV] UNCLE. This refers to 90s sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air or the recent remake, Bel-Air.
- 37a. [Panel show featuring David Mitchell and Lee Mack] WOULD I LIE TO YOU? It’s a British game show where celebrity contestants have to guess whether embarrassing stories told by their opponents are true or not.
- 52a. [Cosmo cohort] ELAINE. Cosmo Kramer and Elaine Benes from another 90s sitcom, Seinfeld.
- More of a film short than TV, but 2d. [1996 Tom and Jerry Short involving a goldfish] FILET MEOW.
Other interesting things:
- 6d. [Extinct marine arthropods] SEA SCORPIONS. Some of these puppies grew to over eight feet long!
- 20a. [Salamander added to Minecraft in 2021] AXOLOTL. If you’d like to know how to pronounce this in the original Nahuatl, here’s a fitting Reddit Minecraft post.
- 21d. [Coping mechanisms?] SAWS. TIL that the saw with a thin handle, thin blade, and rectangular metal frame is called a coping saw.
- 9d. [Cookies that have a gluten-free variety] OREOS. Regular Oreos are also dairy-free and egg-free, if your child is in a class with an allergic child and you’re struggling to find snacks to send with them to school.
Until next week!
Jeffrey Wechsler’s Universal Crossword – “Look Sharp” – Matt F’s write up
Theme: As indicated by the brilliant reveal at 55A [Daring performers with blades … or the starred clues’ answers?], we have a puzzle full of SWORD SWALLOWERS. Let’s take a closer look:
- 16A [*Gadget used on zucchini] VEGETABL(E PEE)LER
- 24A[*Gets lucky] CATCHE(S A BRE)AK
- 42A [*Haitian-American sprinter who won two medals at the 2015 Pan American Games] BARBA(RA PIER)RE
Interesting that 2 of these are defined by the Olympics as fencing blades (épée and sabre), while the third (rapier) is hidden inside of an Olympic athlete. The other fencing blade used in modern-day competition is called a foil. The rapier, by all accounts, was the original fencing sword that kickstarted the movement of “civilian fencing” in the early 17th century. I suspect rapier was chosen here because it made the theme set more elegant by allowing all three entries to span across word breaks. I needed a lot of crosses to figure out Barbara Pierre, who in 2013 was the 4th fastest 100m sprinter in the world with a time of 10.85 seconds (blazing fast!). I could have watched that race 36.6 times during my solve.
In the grid, TALL PEOPLE makes a near green-painty appearance, not helped by an awkwardly written clue – [Research shows they earn notably more per above-average inch] – I keep re-reading this clue, trying to figure out what the “average inch” earns in the first place. I have no idea. Somebody please explain. I enjoyed the parallel entry, COVER STORY, along with a lot of the mid-length stuff like SHOWCASE, STEW POT, SLIMES, STATIC (esp. with its engineering-related clue, [unmoving]), and EMILIA Clarke. I’m not an opera guy, so PARSIFAL didn’t do anything for me.
Clues I loved: [“Should I know that name?”] for WHO, [“AVE Maria”] opposed to a “St. crosser” type clue, and [Clean, as a deck] for SWAB. With [Person you shouldn’t recognize?] for SPY, the clue doesn’t seem misleading enough to warrant the “?”.
This was a fun puzzle overall. It flowed well and featured a sparkling reveal that perfectly captured the theme.
Wendy Brandes’s New York Times crossword–Amy’s recap
The theme anchor is CUTTING THE CARDS, [Part of a blackjack dealer’s ritual … or what this answer is doing vis-à-vis the answers to the starred clues]. Those long answers are highlighted: LAST PICTURE SHOW (marked by a dreaded with “The” clue), GIFT OF GAB, OPEN-NOTE TESTS, Van Morrison’s “MOONDANCE,” and TAKING CREDIT FOR. Credit card, dance card, notecard, gift card, sure. Not exactly sure what a picture card is, though.
Calling a foul on 1d. They’re pollsters, not POLLERs!
Did not know: [Chinese dialect spoken mainly in Hunan province], XIANG.
3.5 stars from me. Mostly solid, Tuesday-range fill, though I suspect many newer solvers will be in the same boat as me, needing the crossings to piece together XIANG.
Sam Koperwas & Jeff Chen’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Land Development”—Jim P’s review
Theme: GROWTH AREA (62a, [Prime sector for development, and a clue to the ends of 18-, 24-, 40- and 50-Across]). The other theme answers are familiar phrases whose final words can also be areas of land where one might grow crops.
- 18a. [Home for a supercomputer array] SERVER FARM.
- 24a. [Guy Fawkes conspiracy of 1605] GUNPOWDER PLOT. Remember, remember, the 5th of November. Boy, they really hate that Guy. They’re still burning him in effigy 417 years later. Here’s some background on the event.
- 40a. [Meets some difficulty] HITS A ROUGH PATCH.
- 50a. [Attractive region in physics] MAGNETIC FIELD.
Nice theme. Each word changes meaning just enough, and all the entries are well-known and evocative. Expertly constructed.
PEAR TARTS and STEAMROLL top the fill. Actually, that’s about it for actual sparkle; the rest is mostly standard stuff. It did feel like there were more abbreviations than usual (WTS, AGT, NIH, ATF, and…OWS).
Clues of note:
- 58a. [Fitting spot for an AirPod]. EAR. I think there’s a play on words going on here since an AirPod “fits” in your ear.
- 63d. [“___ geht es dir?” (German greeting)]. WIE. Tough one (for me at least). I’ve visited Germany a few times, but this is not one of the phrases I picked up. It translates to “How are you doing?”
Solid grid all around. 3.5 stars.
Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle (Week 599), “Taking Sides on Thanksgiving”—Ade’s take
Good day, everybody! I hope you all are well as holiday season really kicks into gear. If you will be traveling over the next 48 hours or so, I am hoping you all get to your destinations safely.
So if this puzzle doesn’t get you ready for Thanksgiving, nothing will. We buck serious rules and standards of crossword construction to create some juicy sides on all sides of the grid. Four 15-letter entries make up the perimeter of the grid, and all are sides that might end up featuring in Thanksgiving celebrations in different parts of the country and world. Smack dab in the middle is where those meals are going to feature at, the DINNER TABLE (35A: [Gathering place on Thanksgiving Day…and a setting for the “four” side dishes at this puzzle’s perimeter]).
- BRUSSELS SPROUTS (1A: [Side of green veggies])
- SWEET POTATO PIES (12D: [Southern side dishes])
- SAUTEED PARSNIPS (59A: [Side of quick-fried root veggies])
- BUTTERED NOODLES (1D: [Side of pasta topped with a Kerrygold spread]) – That’s a thing on Thanksgiving? I’d love to have/make that!
Just in case you need some strong liquids to down while having all that dinner, we have both GIN (41A: [“Bathtub” booze]) and DRY MARTINI in the middle of the grid (18D: [Cocktails ordered for James Bond]). The unorthodox design of the grid resulted in a good number of long entries in the grid outside of the theme entries, and almost all of them stood out in a great way. Only real slow down came when I put in “plows away” for PLUGS AWAY, and I know everyone is plugging away now in making sure all Thanksgiving plans go off without a hitch (53A: [Keeps working (at)]). I won’t judge any of you if you GORGED at the dinner table on Thursday and going into the weekend, as, as long as my mom insists on cooking Thanksgiving dinner — even though we keep telling her that we can handle the cooking duties now — I’ll keep stuffing my face (41D: [Overate, and then some]).
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: RIVER (28A: [Amazon or Aare, e.g.]) – As a small part of the great start the Miami Dolphins have had this season, wide receiver River Cracraft has definitely made the most of his very few opportunities he has had on the field so far. In his fourth NFL season, and on his third NFL team, Crafraft has caught two passes on the season, and both came for touchdowns. Before his NFL career, Cracraft had a standout career at Washington State University from 2013-2016, as he finished second in school history in catches (218) and sixth in school history in both receiving yards (2,701) and touchdowns (20).
Thank you so much for the time, everybody! Have a wonderful and safe rest of your day and, as always, keep solving!
Susy Christiansen & Doug Peterson’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Jenni’s write-up
Good morning! Writing this on Tuesday because Monday got away from me so it will be quick. I didn’t figure the theme out until I got to the revealer, which is properly situated at the bottom of the puzzle. When I tagged the constructors I realized we didn’t have a tag for Susy which suggests this is her debut, at least for Fiend-reviewed puzzles. A good start! Hope to see more from her.
- 18a [*Gift basket retailer known for cheese and sausage] is HICKORY FARMS and I suspect this stumped non-US solvers. Trust me, you aren’t missing anything.
- 27a [Oktoberfest venues] are BEER GARDENS. At this point I thought we were going for a farm/garden/growing kind of thing. Nope.
- 42 [*Robin Williams drama set at a prep school] is DEAD POET‘S SOCIETY.
- 54a [*Classic Ford model] is the THUNDERBIRD.
And the revealer: 66a [Essentials, or what the first words to the answers of the starred clues are] is NUTS AND BOLTS. HICKORY and BEER NUTS. DEAD and THUNDER BOLTS. I like the way the theme answers are paired in regions of the puzzle and it was a fun aha! moment. Nice Tuesday theme.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that KOA has its headquarters in Billings, Montana.
Rafael Musa’s USA Today Crossword, “Final Question” — Sophia’s recap
Editor: Erik Agard
Theme: Each theme answer ends in the word ASK.
- 17a [Protective item worn by some hockey players] – GOALIE MASK
- 41a [“From a Native Daughter” author] – HAUNANI-KAY TRASK
- 65a [Not get distracted] – STAY ON TASK
Looks like the USA Today is finally back up and running! Glad to see the tech issues have been fixed, at least for the most part.
Today’s puzzle is a solid USA Today style theme, with a good title and some fun theme answers. It’s one of the days when it seems almost like the theme was created to get some answers in the grid rather than the other way around, but I’m certainly not mad about that! HAUNANI-KAY TRASK is new to me, even though “From a Native Daughter” came out in 1993.
Other thoughts on this puzzle:
- The grid is dominated by two down spanners, BRACE YOURSELVES and FASHIONABLY LATE. I love both of these answers and think they were great choices to highlight!
- Not sure how many folks will know GORP core immediately, but it was an instant get for me. Here in Seattle, that style is pretty much thought of as “regular clothes”.
- Given how often we see “asana” in puzzle fill, it was fun to switch it up and have 43d[Asana] be the *clue* for YOGA POSE.
- Things that were new to me: KASHA varnishkes, that the KNEE is the largest joint in the body.
Natan Last’s New Yorker crossword — pannonica’s write-up
A lot going on here today, so please accept my apologies for the hasty write-up. Also, I did not mean to highlight 39-across HOLSTER in the solution grid.
I don’t know if it was the distractions going on here (medical emergency with neighbor, who lives alone) or something else, but my solving experience seemed more difficult than yesterday’s New Yorker themeless.
One of the issues I needed to resolve was in the upper right corner. 7a [Affliction that may be treated with psychedelic therapy, briefly] PTSD, but I had ADHD here. That in turn led to 9d [Do some lawn work] coming out as HOE rather than SOD.
Another minor trouble spot: left-hand side: 24a [Account] TALE, for which I had TAKE, which had me considering 1d [Above all] as <something> SKY in lieu of CHIEFLY.
A pair of grid-spanning entries: one easily gettable and the other unknown to me. You can decide which is which. 14a [Montell Jordan hit with the line “To all my neighbors, you got much flavor”] THIS IS HOW WE DO IT. 47a [Awards for Bo Jackson and Lamar Jackson] HEISMAN TROPHIES.
- 29d [One skilled at managing one’s pride?] LION TAMER. Cruelty here. There’s a reason such ‘acts’ are obsolescent.
- 36d [Hanguk, by another name] KOREA. Wouldn’t have gotten this one so easily were it not for Hangul appearing in the NYT Spelling Bee a week or so ago.
- 25a [Media columnist David] CARR. I believe he died several years ago.
- 27a [Solstice time] JUNE. Oh right, I was trying YULE here.
- Very solid staircase in the center of the grid: 29a [Awesomely] LIKE A BOSS, 31a [Get on the ground] DISEMBARK, 32a [Rises near the bottom of a range] FOOTHILLS.
- 44a [Source of relief from the desert?] ALOE. Tricky, that one.
Good workout, or at least it seemed that way to me.
NYT – Amy, a Picture Card is any King, Queen, or Jack in a standard card deck. They all have pictures of characters on them.
You may now slap your forehead and go “duh”.
I’ve always heard those referred to as face cards. I’ve played a lot of card games and never heard anyone refer to them as picture cards. Maybe it’s a regional term (I’m on the west coast).
Ditto, from a midwesterner. Those are face cards. Like Amy, I’ve never heard of a “picture card.”
Ditto in NYC. (POLLER felt wrong to me, too.)
Is an OPEN-NOTE TEST the same as an open-book exam (what I entered first)? It’s new to me.
The Wordplay comments had much discussion of OPEN-NOTE TEST versus “open-book.” They’re different. (OPEN-NOTE was new to me, too.)
Whatever dictionary I looked at last night said “picture card” is how the British refer to the jack, queen and king.
I’d never heard it before.
After all of the discussion, “Picture Card” sounds vaguely familiar but in my world they are “Face Cards” too. For me, the placement of that clue at the top threw off my understanding of the theme – I didn’t get it until I read the review.
A detailed and fair review of Mr. Wechsler’ s Universal Puzzle. It is nice to see someone at the FIEND who doesn’t automatically rate him with a 1.
Welcome Matt F.
Thank you, Jason!
WSJ: 68a… I did not know this. I call the beans LYEma beans, and the city LEEma so I never made the association despite the spelling.
TNY – “A pair of grid-spanning entries: one easily gettable and the other unknown to me. You can decide which is which.”
I had the same experience and I bet it was the opposite of yours. That’s an odd sounding sentence, isn’t it.
I think otherwise, since I didn’t know the song.
I’m an awful gambler.
TNY – I am still puzzled by the answer to 4-DOWN.
Can someone shed some light?
That’s the name of the band.
Thanks – I realize that I should have googled it but it seemed so odd that I just thought something must be wrong!
That was my last to fall. (While the review post was good as ever, no surprise if it seemed harder than Monday’s. As I keep saying, with TNY always safer to go by the constructor in judging difficulty (or at least in predicting the barrage of proper names, since this Monday’s had other ways of making things rough), and this one was Natan Last.
Rushed here as soon as I finished just to give this all my stars for this entry. Forgot to do so for Traci Lords a few weeks ago and have been kicking myself ever since.
Full credit to TNY in the cultural reference department.
Unlike pannonica’s experience, I was able to finish today’s TNY and wasn’t able to with yesterday’s. Yesterday was a real grind for me even with Google and “Error Check” enabled.
I hope everyone here has a wonderful Thanksgiving – don’t eat or drink too much, just enough to be happy!
I loved solving the Free Throw themeless one. By far my favorite one I ever did. Had to come back and make sure I left a note. Thank you!