Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “Give It a Go” – Erin’s write-up
Hello lovelies! This week’s Jonesin’ theme is pretty simple: Names and phrases which contain the word AGO. I enjoyed the elegance of each first word ending in A and the second word beginning with GO, but other than that there isn’t much to this theme.
- 17a. [Migratory honker] CANADA GOOSE
- 55a. [“Only Murders in the Building” actress who’s less than half the age of her co-stars] SELENA GOMEZ. She’s 30, Steve Martin is 77, and Martin Short is 72.
- 11d. [Question of possession?] WHATCHA GOT?
- 28d. [Veruca Salt co-founder who left to go solo in 1998 (then rejoined in 2013)] NINA GORDON
- 16a. [“Ni ___, Kai-Lan” (2010s Nickelodeon cartoon)] HAO. The series taught children Chinese culture and the Mandarin language along with life lessons like working together and resolving conflict. A nice inclusion for Chinese Lunar New Year, which started January 22 this year and will end with the Lantern Festival on February 5.
- 25a. [Korea’s national dish] KIMCHI. Koreans generally celebrate Seollal, their Lunar New Year festival, from the day before to the day after the New Year (January 21-23 this year).
Let’s stop there. Until next week!
Bill Thompson’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Brief Résumés”—Jim P’s review
Theme: CVS — Not the drug store chain but the plural of Curriculum Vitae (never mind that the actual plural is Curricula Vitae). The revealer’s clue is [Brief résumés, and an apt description of this puzzle’s four longest answers]. Those answers are all familiar(ish) two-word phrases with initial letters C.V.
- 19a. [Pantry staple] CIDER VINEGAR. I know this more as “apple cider vinegar.”
- 35a. [Inmate’s perk] CONJUGAL VISIT.
- 54a. [Documentary- like filmmaking style] CINEMA VERITE.
- 15d. [What might be pierced in a commercial legal case] CORPORATE VEIL.
Fairly standard initial-letters theme, but the fact that one of them (the last one) is crossing all of the others is absolutely bonkers. Maybe typical solvers won’t think anything of that, but from a constructor’s standpoint, that’s quite a rarity. Sure, there are other CV phrases (computer virus, e.g.), and these were probably chosen in part because they could be crossed in this way, but still, there aren’t that many CV phrases to begin with, and of course, there still has to be puzzle symmetry with letter lengths and all. So…quite an amazing bit of serendipity on display here.
The fill is mostly nice besides with BADASS, AROMATIC, COLORADO, LIKE A FOX, and “LET ’ER RIP!” as highlights. Not so keen on evolutionarily-suspect APEMEN as well as EBAN clued [Member of Meir’s cabinet]. Seems silly to me that we’re supposed to know a cabinet member from another country’s government from 50 years ago. I couldn’t tell you who was in our government’s cabinet 50 years ago. Also, I’m not exactly sure what is meant by VIDEO TAG [Aid in organizing digital movies]. I can surmise, but I’ve never heard the phrase before and I’m guessing most solvers haven’t either.
Clues of note:
- 50a. [“Riverdale” star KJ]. APA. New to me. The actor starred as lead character Archie. We can probably expect to see more of him in crosswords as his career progresses.
- 39d. [Military band member]. TUBA. Thrown by the “military” part. I’d have gone with “marching.”
Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle (Week 608), “Opening Movements”—Ade’s take
Good day, everyone! I hope you are all doing well to start this final full week of January!
Today’s stroke of genius from Liz comes from the theme answers, in which the first word in each of the first four theme entries is a word that can also come before the word “stroke” and each is a types of stroke, in one sense or another. The final theme entry, THE STROKES, is the reveal and, possibly, the source of an earworm or two if you’re a fan of the band (57A: [“Future Present Past” band … and an alternate puzzle title]).
- KEY LIME PIE (17A: [Tart-and-creamy dessert])
- BACK INTO A CORNER (22A: [Force to choose between limited options, say])
- GROUND SQUIRRELS (37A: [Terrestrial critters])
- BRUSH WITH DANGER (48A: [Reason to say “Whew, that was close!”])
I totally remember one of my old classrooms in high school having This Side of Paradise on a shelf in the back of the room in the midst of many other books, but never knowing anything about the book and who wrote it…until now, when having to figure out one of the characters, AMORY, in this solve (23D: [“This Side of Paradise” protagonist]). Come to find out now, F. Scott Fitzgerald named his main character, Amory, after a star Princeton football player at the time, Hobart Amory Baker, a.k.a. Hobey Baker…the eponym of the award given annually to college hockey’s most outstanding player! So even when you’re thinking about this story arc about about unfulfilled romances and eventual disillusionment with society around the Prohibition era and a clash between a younger, free-spirited generation of young kids versus the conservative establishment, it still always comes back to sports somehow! You can’t get away from it! :-)
Might give the book a run soon, and definitely will put it in my never-ending list of suggestions that I have in my Notes app.
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: RUNE (63A: [Ancient letter]) – Up until early Monday morning, there was a real good chance that this entry would have more constructors think about putting a sports spin to it, as 19-year-old Danish tennis star Holger Rune was still alive in the Australian Open. Though he ended up losing the match, Rune’s meteoric rise up the rankings portends to future greatness, and he already has had a number of accomplishments under his belt, including being ranked the No. 1 junior player in the world. The current world No. 10 has won three ATP Tour titles already, including winning one of the premier events on tour, the Masters 1000 event in Paris last November. In that event, he became the first ATP Tour player ever to win five consecutive matches against top-10 opponents: Hubert Hurkacz, Andrey Rublev, Carlos Alcaraz, Feliz Auger-Aliassime and, in the final, Novak Djokovic.
Thank you so much for the time, everybody! Have a wonderful and safe rest of your day and, as always, keep solving!
Aaron Rosenberg & Jeff Chen’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap
I’d call this a tough theme for a Tuesday if solvers needed to know about ASSAM tea to solve the puzzle, but the circled teas can be post-solve add-ons if you wrangle the clues okay. Fun theme revealer: 39d. [Beverage mixed with tapioca pearls … or a description of this puzzle’s circled letters?], BUBBLE TEA, and the circled letters (circled and not shaded in the nytimes.com version, as I might have expected to see) spell out CHAI, ASSAM, OOLONG, and HERBAL teas, in each case spanning breaks between words. Note that the puzzle is 15×16, a little taller to accommodate a 16-letter themer:
- 3d. [Electronic device for a person with voice impairment], SPEECH AID.
- 18d. [Go through one of life’s significant moments], PASS A MILESTONE. Nice entry.
- 7d. [Response from someone who merely glanced at an online post, maybe], TOO LONG, DIDN’T READ. Typically shortened to tl;dr, and one must appreciate the inclusion of a semicolon there. Love the entry!
- 9d. What a U.F.O. might turn out to be], WEATHER BALLOON. Another entry I liked.
Fave fill: CHEAP SHOT, “OH, SURE…”, MATZO, GUMS UP.
High on my “meh” list: 55a. [Distilled coal product used to preserve wood], TAR OIL. ALDO Gucci also feels a bit hard for Tuesday newbies.
25d. [Vietnamese New Year], TET. Take a moment of silence to remember the victims of Saturday night’s mass killing, which ripped a hole in the Lunar New Year festivities, and their communities in mourning.
3.9 stars from me.
Samantha Podos Nowak’s Universal Crossword – “The Parent Trap!” – Matt F’s write up
Today’s puzzle is for new parents out there who still have to make things happen no matter how tired they are. Heck, you might even find inspiration for a crossword theme in the midst of your daydreaming! This seems to have been the case for Ms. Nowak, who used her MOMMY BRAIN (see 58A – [Mental disarray of early parenthood that inspired the 16-, 25- and 44-Across clues?] to interpret common phrases with a fun kid-oriented twist. Let’s see what she came up with:
- 16A – [Result of finger painting with blue and yellow?] = GREEN THUMB. Here I thought we’d be seeing more color-blending in the theme, but then…
- 25A – [Result of a little one hiding a surprise behind her back?] = INVISIBLE HAND. Ok, so no more color blending, but there is a “handy” similarity in these two, right? And finally…
- 44A – [Result of a toddler having a PB&J?] = STICKY FINGERS. Yes, ok, 3 theme answers ending with something below the wrist, so what would be the reveal?
When “mommy brain” appeared I had a real head-scratching moment. How does this phrase relate to the theme answers?? Well, it doesn’t. But, after looking back, it definitely explains the mindset of the constructor when she recontextualized the theme phrases. Aha! That’s it! Nice touch that all phrases relate to the same extremity — thumb, hand, fingers — although I wish the “green thumb” clue would have followed the same formula as the other two. It is the only one that does not include a subject… the clue could have easily been [Result of a baby finger painting with blue and yellow?]. But alas…
There’s some nice clean fill here and the cluing was fun and fresh throughout. The long bonuses really elevated this puzzle: OVERBITE, ONE-AND-DONE, VIRUS SCANS, and DOG TIRED.
Thanks for the fun puzzle, Samantha!
Kelsey Dixon’s USA Today Crossword, “Three MC’s and One DJ” — Sophia’s recap
Editor: Erik Agard
Theme: Three theme answers have the initials MC, and the last has the initials DJ.
- 15a [Kenan and Kel on “Kenan & Kel,” for example] – MAIN CHARACTERS
- 30a [The Songbird Supreme] – MARIAH CAREY
- 37a [Transportation for Aladdin] – MAGIC CARPET
- 56a [Game show round with clues worth up to $2000] – DOUBLE JEOPARDY
The puzzle’s title is a reference to the Beastie Boys song by the same name – I hadn’t heard it before, but I’m listening to it as I write this recap. I may not have known what the title was in reference to, but as soon as I saw it I knew what the theme would be. That was very helpful for getting the last three theme answers, all of which I was able to drop in with only a letter or two. I didn’t know MARIAH CAREY had the nickname “The Songbird Supreme” – I guess since she can’t be the Queen of Christmas, it’s better than nothing.
- I consistently felt just a tiny bit outside of this puzzle’s age demographic – there were a lot of pop culture references from the late 90’s and early 2000’s, which I was a little young for. As such, STU the Rugrats character, the 2006 album BDAY, and the Keenan and Kel answer all took a few crosses for me.
- I liked seeing AHS clued as the abbreviation for “American Horror Story” – yes, it’s harder than just clueing it as the sound, but we’ve all see that clue five million times before.
- The big SW and NE corners are really nicely done here. I do wish the puzzle was a little less closed off though – there’s basically a giant line of black squares across the middle that breaks it into two separate puzzles.
Rebecca Goldstein’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Jenni’s write-up
I’m not crazy about this theme. It’s a Tuesday-level puzzle and the fill is fine. The theme….well, let’s get into it.
I couldn’t figure out what the theme answers had in common.
- 18a [*Traditional Thanksgiving entree] is ROAST TURKEY.
- 24a [*Feature of anxiety, often] is a RACING MIND. This is true, but I’m not sure it’s really a familiar phrase. I’m more likely to say “my mind is racing” than “I have a racing mind.”
- 35a [*The “order” part of a “Law & Order” episode] is a COURT CASE.
- 47a [*Piano lesson pages] are SHEET MUSIC. Just got home from my first piano lesson – well, not my first. My first in the last 50 years.
So what’s the through line? 53a tells us. [“Enough already!” or what one may do to each answer to a starred clue] is GIVE IT A REST. Love the first part of this clue. I’m not crazy about the theme part. It applies to the ROAST TURKEY and I suppose to the RACING MIND. A COURT CASE is not “given a rest.” The litigants rest their cases. Not the same thing. And SHEET MUSIC has rests – also not the same thing. This is more of a stretch than I like to see in my themes.
A few other things:
- Mmm, AREPA. So yummy.
- As long as I’m being cranky, I’ll complain about non-standard state abbreviations. [N. Dak. neighbor] is MONT except no one uses either appellation and there are other ways to clue MONT.
- RONA Jaffe died in 2005. I guess you could say she’s OLD HAT. Maybe it’s time to find a new clue – like, say, a certain virus that’s causing a lot of buzz lately?
- 38d [In a row?] is a fun clue for FEUDING. Is it too much for a Tuesday? I’m no judge of such things.
- 49d [Curmudgeon] is CRANK. I feel seen.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that KYOTO is considered Japan’s cultural capital.
Erik Agard’s New Yorker crossword — pannonica’s write-up
This “moderately challenging” puzzle was definitely calibrated correctly, at least for the solver.
My experience was: getting a few disparate answers, encountering stuff that was either mysterious or outside my wheelhouse, steadily finding more short entries that were gettable or inferable, filling in more and more of the grid so that the longer ones succumbed, and finally stitching the whole thing together. To wit: it worked just like a crossword is supposed to. Funny, that.
- 1a [Word that can precede good, for, or you] ALL. All for is a little weak, but it’s in service to the “good for you” wordplay.
- 12a [Ao __ ] DAI. I don’t know what this is, so let’s look it up. Aha, it’s the name of the national garment of Vietnam, spelled more accurately Ào dài. This is what I thought of when I filled in the answer (couldn’t find the album version):
nb: In an attempt to restore balance, I looked for Vietnamese ào dài song, but ended up wading through lots of contemporary stuff that I didn’t care for, and gave up for time.
- 15a [White house] IGLOO. No question mark or other indication.
- 19a [Topping topping, maybe?] BETTER THAN SEX. No way to get that without significant crossings!
- 23a [Maneki-__ (beckoning-cat figurine)] NEKO. You know what this is. By the way, I question the placement of that hyphen.
- 34a [Gossip story that stays in the news for weeks, e.g.] SAGA. Imagine my surprise when the jokey-cynical answer I thought of turned out to be correct!
- 35a [“Something to be outgrown,” per Alice Walker] WAR. We don’t seem to be doing so well, collectively.
- 37a [Surfaced, in a way] PAVED. The “in a way” qualifier alerts us to the misdirection. In a tougher crossword, such as the Stumper, it wouldn’t be there.
- 45a [Rallying cry popularized during the Mozambican struggle for independence] A LUTA CONTINUA.
- 3d [Phrase that can mean “Pay attention!” or “Check out this link to my podcast!”] LISTEN HERE.
- Vertical grid-spanner: 6d [Lately?] AT THE LAST SECOND.
- 20d [Small details, in a metaphor] TREES. Versus the forest.
- 25d [Do some asynchronous communication] LEAVE A NOTE. I was so close with LEAVE A TEXT, sans crossings.
- 29d [Heat in water] BOAT RACE. Tricky! 39d [Where one might find king and queen beds] PALACE. So literal.
- 36d [Narwhal relatives] BELUGAS. They are the only two species in the Family Monodontidae.
- 42d [Underutilizing the principle of economy of language] WORDY. Meta!
- 46d [Hesitant syllable] UMM. 27d [“What a wholesome moment!”] AWW.