Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “Running Free” — more words, words, words – Erin’s write-up
Hello lovelies! This week we’re dealing with a themeless, and it played much harder than usual for me. The center stack of 11s took quite a bit, despite knowing that IRISH was going to be part of 32a. somewhere and that [Lasso handler?] referred to Ted Lasso but not seeing the show so not knowing who plays him. I really enjoy the clue [They come to a point in your field of vision] for CAT EYE FRAMES, but it took until I had most of FRAMES filled in before I realized it meant glasses.
The one entry I plopped in embarrassingly fast: [Musical character who sings “I swear on all my spores”] is AUDREY II from “Little Shop of Horrors.”
People I did not know: [Director with a memeworthy Mark] TOMMY WISEAU from “The Room,” [“Mr. Belvedere” costar Bob] UECKER, [Actor Sheridan who plays Cyclops] TYE, and [Family surname in current TV] the ROY family from “Succession.”
My Natick of the grid: RENI Santoni crossing “Is Anybody Goin’ to San ANTONE?” E was the last vowel I thought to plug in there. GIE [“… the giftie ___ us”: Burns] would have been a close second if I hadn’t cracked the triple stack.
What are your thoughts on this week’s themeless? Any clues or answers that stood out, either good or bad? Feel free to share in the comments.
Jess Shulman’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Expansion Plans”—Jim’s review
Theme: Products with two-part rhyming names expand to add a third rhyming product.
- 21a. [Ticket reseller’s new meal kit service?] STUBHUB GRUB.
- 53a. [Candy bar maker’s new fragrance line?] PAYDAY SPRAY. Eww but ha!
- 3d. [Activity tracker company’s new fiction imprint?] FITBIT LIT.
- 33d. [Beverage maker’s new exotic animal collection?] YOOHOO ZOO.
Okay. Sure, these were a bit silly, but it’s all in good fun. I’m not sure I believe Fitbit would expand into literature, but I suppose if they focused on fitness-based stories, it would be plausible. And I can’t imagine what a chocolatey drink would have to do with exotic animals, but who’s to say what they’re giving their animals to drink behind the scenes? Animal Welfare better keep an eye on them.
I think I had close to half the grid filled in before I grokked the theme. One reason was that I didn’t know what a “fiction imprint” could mean. The other was that I was thrown off because I remembered that AMC Theater’s membership program is called Stubs, and so I had that second S in place for a long time. Eventually I figured out TETHERED at 8d and that set everything aright.
Fill highlights include MET GALA, “GET BACK,” CANYONS, ACADEMY, WENT SOLO, SIESTAS, and PODUNK.
Clue of note: 6d. [Unimportant small town]. PODUNK. My wife’s from Arkansas and uses this word on occasion, but only as an adjective; I don’t think I’ve ever heard it used as a noun. And apparently, much to my surprise, it’s not from the south, but has northeastern and Algonquian origins.
Cute theme, good fill. 3.75 stars.
Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle (Week 619), “Throwing Shade on Things”—Ade’s take
Hello there, everybody! Hope all is well and that your Easter Weekend went as good as planned, if you indeed had plans for it.
Haven’t seen the gimmick in today’s puzzle for a while, where the same word is used as a clue for multiple entries and you have to fill in possible definitions for the same word. “Trees” is the word in question, though none of the theme entries references the word being slang for marijuana.
- JOYCE KILMER POEM (17A: [TREES])
- SHOE PRESERVERS (25A: [TREES])
- ARBOR DAY TOPICS (42A: [TREES])
- GENEALOGY CHARTS (56A: [TREES])
It took a while to dust off Jack KEMP from my memory bank in terms of remembering who was the VP candidate back in ’96, even though I still remember him more as a former quarterback who was the last to lead the Buffalo Bills to a league championship (18D: [Dole’s running mate in 1996]). I think his son, Jeff, also played in the NFL as a quarterback, though I’m not sure if he followed his dad into politics. Only bit of fill I was not too sure of until the end was EMBAY (28D: [Shelter in a cove]). I’m sure I’m not the only one who found out way, way after watching their first GODZILLA movie that the monster is an allegory of the disaster of humans dabbling in nuclear weapons (37D: [King Kong’s foe in a classic Japanese film]). So all those times I was rooting for Godzilla when going up against Mothra and King Geedorah and the rest, I was actually rooting for nuclear weaponry?!?! Oh, well…the movies were cool and I was too young to know any better!
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: RAJA (1D: [Prince of India]) – Not too many undrafted players are able to carve out a 12-year career in the NBA, but that’s exactly what Raja Bell did at the turn of the century. Bell played for six different teams, but his best known for his work as a member of the Phoenix Suns, where he was named an NBA All-Defensive First Team selection in 2007 and an All-Defensive Second Team pick the following season. In 2007, Bell also tied for the NBA high in total three-pointers made with 205.
Thank you so much for the time, everybody! Have a wonderful and safe rest of your day and, as always, keep solving!
Taylor Johnson & Jeff Chen’s New York Times crossword–Amy’s recap
I can’t tell you what the theme is just yet, because it was a quick solve and I never even looked at the clues for the third and fourth 15s. Let’s see:
- 16a. [Famous fighting words], “WANT A PIECE OF ME?” I feel like this question really wants to start with “you.”
- 23a. [Item made of ingredients grown without pesticides], ORGANIC PRODUCT. Phrase feels iffy on the “suitable for crossword fill” front.
- 43a. [Color-matching puzzle game with billions of downloads], CANDY CRUSH SAGA. Billions?? Sheesh!
- 54a. [Travel cross-country … or a description of what 16-, 23- and 43-Across do?], GO COAST TO COAST. 16a travels from WA (Washington) to ME (Maine). 23a travels a notch south, OR (Oregon) and CT (Connecticut). 43a continues the southerning, with CA (California) and GA (Georgia). Postal (USPS!) abbreviations for states, the three on the Lower 48’s West Coast plus three of many on the East Coast.
Neat riff on a geography theme.
Fave fill: Saoirse RONAN, THE POPE, Janelle MONAE, MONDEGREEN, SUDOKU, and UNITARIANS (I know only a handful of Unitarians but they’re uniformly lovely people!).
It’s been a tiring Monday so I’ll sign off here. 3.75 stars from me.
Bjorn Olafsson’s Universal Crossword – “A to B” – Matt F’s write up
Looks like we have another constructor today with a first-time tag here on Fiend. Congrats to Bjorn Olafsson on the debut! Today we are taking the title literally – each theme answer starts with A and ends with B. This is a classic book-end theme with some fun finds. Let’s take a look:
- 17A – [Hollywood VIP] = A-LIST CELEB
- 23A – [Nightlife venue that stays open very late] = AFTER-HOURS CLUB
- 55A – [Like a dozer at a construction site?] = ASLEEP ON THE JOB
- 63A – [“Walk” or “run”] = ACTION VERB
ASLEEP ON THE JOB tops this list by a mile, and I really love its clue. The other theme answers are perfectly serviceable and did not take anything away from this puzzle. The theme was executed cleanly and I enjoyed the solve. The grid looks tight but I appreciate the intersecting 8’s in the NW/SE: RAINFALL / ROLY POLY and ME TOO ERA / MONSTERS.
Fun fact of the day at 10A: Sunfish can lay 300 million EGGS at once! That is incredible.
Thank you, Bjorn, and congrats again on the debut!
Erik Agard’s New Yorker crossword — pannonica’s write-up
As advertised, a difficult but ultimately moderate affair. The grid would always cede an entry or two—sometimes begrudgingly—whenever I was most in need of a stepping stone.
- Favorite clues: 20a [Item for people who take the car and train] LEARNER’S PERMIT. 36d [Made a key ring?] JINGLED. 19a [Unthinking reply to “Happy birthday”] YOU TOO.
- Conversely, I felt 26a [Clubs might be its strong suit] DINER and 1a [Arguments with a counter tenor?] REBUTTAL were too much of a stretch.
- Somewhere in the middle, meaning I’m neutral about them, are 3d [Low clearance level] BARGAIN BASEMENT, 49a [High points of cathedral architecture] STEEPLES, and—aptly—11d [Visit a medium?] MEET IN THE MIDDLE.
- 14a [Volunteer’s offer] I CAN HELP.
- 18a [“¿Dónde va Vincent? Donde va la __” (Spanish analogue of “monkey see, monkey do”] GENTE. Where does Vincent go? Where the people go.
- 4d [Weirds out] UNNERVES, 35a [Throws for a loop] FAZES.
- 6d [Someone whose task is trying] TESTER. I toyed with LAWYER, but that’s the jurist’s job.
- 21d [George whose most famous work is subtitled “A Study of Provincial Life”] ELIOT. I’m going to say this is Silas Marner. Am I correct? … Nope! That one bears the subtitle ‘The Weaver of Raveloe”. D’oh! It’s Middlemarch. 12d [“. . . never mind, then”] OR NOT.
- 23d [Dogs from China, for short] PEKES. Tried CHOWS as one of my first forays in the grid.
- 35d [Tiny magical creatures in Neopets] FAERIES. I was so wrong with DIGIMON, which I’m thinking in retrospect were a similar, if competing line.
- 40d [Carpal __ (set that might be memorized using the mnemonic “Sally left the party to take Cathy home”] BONES. You want ’em? OK, you got ’em! Scaphoid, lunate, triquetrum, pisiform, trapezium, trapezoid, capitate, hamate.
- 42d [Mr. Darcy (1995) or Mark Darcy (2001), for Colin Firth] ROLE. Of course Bridget Jones’s Diary was an itself adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, so this is not an amazing coincidence.
Very nice workout. No argument from me, counter tenors or no.
May Huang & Brooke Husic’s USA Today Crossword, “The Hero’s Return” — Sophia’s recap
Editor: Anna Gundlach
Theme: Each theme answer contains the string OREH, “hero” in reverse.
- 20a [Carrie Underwood hit with the lyric “Maybe next time he’ll think . . .”] – BEFORE HE CHEATS
- 35a [Alum of an all-male Atlanta school] – MOREHOUSE MAN
- 54a [Session for practicing Chopin’s “Fantaisie-Impromptu”] – PIANO REHEARSAL
I had very different experiences with each of the three theme answers today. BEFORE HE CHEATS was an instant lay-down. I knew the “Morehouse” of MOREHOUSE MAN, but really wanted the second word to be “grad”. And the theme of the puzzle really helped me on PIANO REHEARSAL, where I came very close to dropping in “piano recital” instead. It’s a solid theme, and one that is nicely hinted at via the title.
Favorite fill: YEAH RIGHT, MARTINIS, DIET SODA
Favorite clues: [Body part that Stuart the Minion has one of] for EYE, [Prefix for “pronoun” or “pets”] for NEO, [WNBA team whose name was inspired by an MLK speech] for DREAM – after last night’s draft I cannot wait for the WNBA season to start!
Re the NYT puzzle: I have no interest in themes that do not connect with the solver during the solve.
Such themes may display the constructors’ creativity and ability to fill diagrams with words. But if they don’t affect my solving experience in any way, then this strikes me as a wasted effort.
I could have liked the puzzle had there been some sort of cross-reference to 63A. But there wasn’t, so … not.
I’ve learned that no puzzle can appeal to everyone; there are puzzles I love, puzzles I hate, puzzles that are disappointing but diverting nonetheless. Sometimes themes don’t resonate with me but I learn something; and sometimes there are puzzles that are so opposite my tastes that I refuse to do them. For those, my family teases me as though I harbor the fantasy that my refusal to do the puzzle will turn into some kind of meaningful boycott. When I complete a puzzle that strikes me like this one does you, the wasted effort was mine, I’m afraid.
NYT: I solved it like an easy themeless. I read the revealer, and I thought that it just meant the other theme answers spanned the grid, which wasn’t all that impressive.
When I read the first part of Rachel Fabi’s Wordplay column, and I realized there was more to the theme, so I went back to find it. I immediately noticed the states and that they’re correctly arranged north to south. Noice!
And on top of that, MONDEGREEN! (One of my favorite musical terms.) Plus a LAMA on the LAM!
The thing I hate about my mondegreens is that my psyche often refuses to update its established libretto. So when I casually start mis-singing Radiohead’s “Creep” as “… I’m a WIDOW” and then the Lyric Lawyers kick a door down in my head and drag me into You Know Your Singing This Wrong, Right? Court where the judge pointedly interventions me with logic like “‘Widow’ doesn’t make sense. It’s ‘weirdo’. And now you know. Sing it with ‘weirdo’ and you will like it more because you can actually mean something intelligible. Okay? Great. Dismissed.”, I’ll sing it the right way for, like, ten minutes, but invariably I’ll return to the mondegreen. I think there’s some bias they have a name for at play about how the First Time you encounter a thing tends to supersede information and evidence derived from subsequent encounters. I vaguely remember the quick rationalization of what the Radiohead singer meant by “I’m a creep / I’m a widow”: I’m a person whose spouse has passed on, and solitude and distance keep me company nowadays, or something; and I think because I made it make sense that way, that First Time, brain won’t let it go, now matter how hard I try. It’s frustrating and funny at the same time.
Nice shot. Especially because that’s a thing, and the internet is telling me what I described apparently isn’t. Maybe there’s a psychology/philosophy equivalent of a mondegreen, where you remember an idea a little differently than what was presented to you.
I think it might be “first impression bias.” I know human resources folks talk about that in the context of hiring – trying not to be swayed (either way) by your first impression of a job candidate.
Ah, Radiohead – also the non-source of “Baby’s got Depends . . .” (“The Bends”).
C’mon now! The song is called The Bends. How could you mess that up?!?
sheer force of will
I didn’t think that a MONDEGREEN had to be song lyrics. The eponymous example of a mondegreen is from a poem, not a song.
I don’t think anyone said it has to be song lyrics, but song lyrics are definitely examples. A crossword clue rarely if ever implies that it the only possible meaning of a term.
Clever theme, solid fill, liked that there were several spanners, really enjoyed this Tuesday NYT
A solid, Tuesday-appropriate puzzle and theme, I thought, if a bit on the easy side even for a Tuesday. The theme was unfortunately diminished by the lack of any hint of a connection between the USPS hanging out there in the southeast corner and the Postal Abbreviations that were the whole point of the theme. Huh? USPS seems obviously placed to be a revealer, but somehow…wasn’t.
I liked the NYT, but also found the theme after solving. Maybe circled/shaded squares on the state abbrevs would have helped it connect in real time.
NYT: I found the puzzle tough for Tuesday. Especially NE and mid-Atlantics areas. Lots of proper names I did not know plus having ORGANIC PRODUCE did not help.
Agreed on difficulty. Others who found it easy must have known the names. But it’s PRODUCT, not “produce,” no? I made the same mistake and had trouble letting it go. Still feels more natural, shall we say. It was only after sufficient prodding from the theme, which I got after otherwise done and no sooner, that I came up with a state abbreviation for that crossing.
OTOH, while it was more of a challenge than I’d like for today, I don’t mind a bit that USPS will just have to serve as a revealer without prompting. While that arguably raises difficulty, too, it reminds me of what some other puzzles have done, particularly with a Mike Shenk favorite place to park a hint for metas.
(TNY was the usual torture for me, but still easier, appropriately, than Monday’s.)
Can I just say I am NOT a fan of non-symmetrical grids. Looking at you USA Today. As a part-time (and not very good) constructor, it just feels like cheating. Seems like you can put things anywhere, which takes away from the art of it, no?
+1 (times 1,000)
Jonesin’ – Erin, I found this puzzle to be completely impossible for me to finish. I had about a fourth of it filled in before I was stuck. When I used the “check puzzle” feature, most of my answers were wrong anyway. I gave up and hit reveal just to see what some of the answers were. Ironic, because his Easter egg puzzle last week was one of my favorites of all time!
I did 95% of it by myself. TOMMY WISEAU and RENI Santoni doen’t sound at all familiar, and those are hard names to get even with a lot of crosses.
On the other hand, “Is anybody goin’ to San ANTONE?” was a gimme. The next line is “Or Phoenix, Arizona?” That must have been all they had time for in the TV ad for the K-Tel “1oo Hot Country Hits” (or whatever it was) that I saw a bajillion times in the early 1970’s.
It took me way longer than it should have to get UPDIKE. It’s been years, but I have read “Rabbit, Run” and its sequels.
It also took a long time to get CROSSFITTERS, because POWER LIFTERS worked until it didn’t. (Do people who do CrossFit really call themselves that? (Never mind, I’m sure some of them do.))