Will Nediger’s New York Times crossword, “Double-Doubles” —Nate’s write-up
– 23A: CHRISTMAS CAR ROLL [Slow-driving holiday parade in December?] – Christmas carol
– 37A: ADD MITTS DEFEAT [Update Wikipedia after the 2012 election?] – Admits defeat
– 52A: BEE ATTITUDES [Subject of study for an insect psychologist?] – Beatitudes
– 76A: WE’LL COME MATT [Promise from actor Damon’s friends regarding his movie premiere?] – Welcome mat
– 88A: FOR THEE ASS KING [Words accompanying an offering to the ruler of donkeys?] – For the asking
– 104A: MISS INN FORMATION [Arrive too late to see a hotel being built?] – Misinformation
Okay, now this theme made me feel things and I am AGOG! I cracked up at the very LA attitude of totally promising to come to a friend’s event in WE’LL COME MATT, fondly remembered the time when politicians actually acknowledged when they lost with ADD MITTS DEFEAT, and properly clutched my pearls at figuring out the hilarity (and sacrilege?) of FOR THEE ASS KING. I loved how such a simple action as doubling a few letters in each base entry made themers that were so alive and fun. I am begging Will now: let us know what other themers you came up with that ended up on the cutting room floor! The way his mind works…
On top of the theme, we really should applaud Will for how wide open this grid is, how relatively low word count it is for a Sunday, and how clean it is! #constructorgoals
– I loved the pancake mini-theme we had running through this puzzle, with LATKE, BLINI, and DOSA.
– My one asterisk to the grid feeling super clean was the tough TOFF right at 1A! That was the last bit I filled in. Oh, and ETRURIA hit me hard.
– I also loved the Michaela COEL and Mia HAMM shout outs!
What did y’all think? Let us know in the comments – and have a great week!
Chandi Deitmer’s L.A. Times crossword, “Brand Awareness” — Jack’s write-up
Theme: We’re treating brand names as though the capital letters in their names were lowercase. This turns them into wacky phrases with wacky clues. The revealer motivates the new interpretations: [Political movement against free enterprise, or a way of reading this puzzle’s long answers?] = ANTI-CAPITALISM.
- 21A. [Southwestern snapshot gallery?] = ADOBE PHOTOSHOP
- 30A. [Alerts to some party planners that their guests have arrived?] = HOSTESS DING DONGS
- 44A. [One searching for a river crossing?] = FORD EXPLORER
- 56A. [Troves of getting-to-know-you questions?] = ICE BREAKERS MINTS
- 70A. [Flipped bar tables?] = CONVERSE HIGH TOPS
- 82A. [Veto a very large corsage?] = AXE BODY SPRAY
- 101A. [Entertainment at a tailgate party?] = FENDER TELECASTER
I would have enjoyed this theme even more in a Tuesday or Wednesday 15×15 puzzle. It wasn’t quite enough to carry a 21x for me. Some of the reimaginings amused me and I was grateful for the revealer, which I think ties the concept together nicely. However, it’s ultimately a list of brand names and three or four examples plus the (14-letter!) revealer would have made for a nice mid-week theme.
I appreciate that every theme entry contains a brand and a product. That kind of consistency matters. ADOBE PHOTOSHOP and HOSTESS DING DONGS fit their fanciful clues to a tee and top my favorites list. I didn’t know the use of “spray” to mean “a group or bunch of cut flowers” so the dictionary had to help me comprehend AXE BODY SPRAY post-solve.
The fill suffered at times (PAH, URB, DEP, BRER, CRO, ALFA, LTS) but had a rockstar bonus in 13D. NOT TO BRAG, BUT… This entry is worth building a themeless around. It’s so human. I also dug the similarly colloquial 84D. OH, STOP IT. A nit: 26A. (AIR TANK) and 90D. (OPEN AIR) duplicate “air.” I don’t actually mind dupes like this but I feel obligated to point it out. Also, 1A. BOCCI – I don’t remember seeing this alternate spelling of bocce before.
Clues of note:
- The puzzle started strong at 1D. with the clever misdirection [Wireless support, maybe] = BRA. I was imagining tech support for Internet troubles.
- 2D. [Ref. that could be considered hi-def.?] = OED also tickled me. The Oxford English Dictionary is a reference work that is “high in definitions.”
- 54D. [w/o delay]. You know you’ve been solving crosswords for too long when you put ANON (wrong) before ASAP (correct).
- 75A. [Private aye] = YES SIR. I wish I could write clues like this – ones that sound like familiar yet completely unrelated phrases (like “private eye”). See also 83D. [Sheep trills] = BAAS (sounds like “cheap thrills”). Fun stuff! I can never come up with them.
Emet Ozar and Will Nediger’s Universal Sunday crossword, “Name-Dropping”—Jim P’s review
Theme entries come in pairs where the first one ends in a famous person’s first name, and the second begins with that person’s last name. The entries themselves are familiar phrases, and the second entry is always one row below the first one (hence the title).
- 23a. [“The singer of ‘That’ll Be the Day’ was a ___ of mine …”] GOOD BUDDY.
- 28a. [“… we hung out regularly with the movie stars in ___”] HOLLYWOOD.
- 46a. [“After that horrible case, a longtime Seattle Storm point guard convinced me to ___ …”] COUNTERSUE.
- 51a. [“… she also helped me unwind. It was therapeutic to watch the sparrows in her yard at their ___”] BIRD FEEDERS.
- 71a. [“During my hard times, the actress-turned-princess of Monaco was a ___ …”] SAVING GRACE.
- 80a. [“… few people can be so kind and beautiful: She even looked good in ___”] KELLY GREEN.
- 93a. [“I remember enjoying a ___ with the ‘Channel Orange’ singer at a BBQ in San Francisco …”] BEEF FRANK.
- 102a. [“… we chatted about music while we took in the ___”] OCEAN VIEW.
Well, that was different. Some of these got a bit wordy and sometimes it was a stretch to connect the two phrases. (Why is it surprising that someone would look good in KELLY GREEN?) But I recognize that the pool of potential names for this theme probably isn’t all that large and then one has to consider possible phrases that will fit in the grid symmetrically. So in the end, it works and I like that it’s something a little bit different, even if it got a little goofy.
I didn’t know the final name, ‘cuz I’m old. But interestingly, I realized that 93a could also have been HILLBILLY, giving us the name BILLY OCEAN which I do know. But it’s probably better to have names that are recognizable to different age groups. Two older names and two newer names is a good balance.
I thought it was a little weird to have a fully-named DIANA ROSS almost in the exact center of the grid given that the theme is about famous names. I wonder if that could’ve been avoided.
However, the pairing of her name (clued [“I’m Coming Out” singer]) with TRANS ICON probably isn’t coincidence. Today I Learned: The writers of the song wrote it with the gay community in mind even though Ross didn’t learn the meaning of the term “coming out” until much later. When she did, she was upset that the song might jeopardize her career, but came around to putting her faith back into it since she loved it. It became a huge hit for her as well as a gay anthem.
Other things I didn’t know: That USAGE NOTE is a phrase (though it still seems a bit arbitrary to me). And that an AUTOPEN is a real thing [Device to help with signing]. True story: I thought the clue said “singing” and was trying to force AUTOTUNE in there.
Other puzzle highlights include Jon BATISTE, GO “POOF,” and SCHOOLS clued slangily with [Teaches a lesson].
One final clue of note: 78a. [Dated means of payment, in two ways?]. CHECK. “Dated” in that it’s old and “dated” in that one writes the date on the CHECK. I’m all about getting through the check-out line as quickly as possible, so if I can use my phone to pay, I will.
Zhouqin Burnikel’s USA Today crossword, “Roam Free” —Darby’s write-up
Editor: Erik Agard
Theme: Each theme answer’s first four letters are an anagram of ROAM.
- 16a [“Salsa ingredient”] ROMA TOMATO
- 33a [“‘Evergreen’ singer-songwriter”] OMAR APOLLO
- 59a [“‘A Gentleman in Moscow’ author”] AMOR TOWLES
Going into this puzzle, I figured ROAM would be unleashed, though I wasn’t sure if it would be in this form or as split between the two words in each answer. Getting it figured out on ROMA TOMATO was really helpfu since I was unfamiliar with OMAR APOLLO and AMOR TOWLES, so I actively used the anagrams to help fill the two themers. However, I was pretty held up on 61d [“Pro tennis org.”] WTA where it crossed AMOR TOWLES.
As usual, the long fill was great: SET IN STONE, YOU TELL ME, and APPLE TARTS, in particular. I also thought CAT DOOR was cute.