Will Nediger’s New York Times crossword, “Sea Change” —Nate’s write-up
– 22A: SHIP OF THESEUS [Thought experiment that asks whether an object remains the same object if its parts are replaced one by one]
– 33A: CHIP AND DALE [Acorn-loving duo]
– 48A: CHOPSTICKS [Restaurant pick-up option?]
– 51A: CHOW YUN-FAT [Hong Kong action hero who frequently collaborated with John Woo]
– 71A: SHOWBOATING [Ostentatious behavior]
– 87A: SLOW MOTION [Dramatic action-movie effect]
– 90A: SLOP BUCKET [Pail for feeding pigs]
– 107A: SLIP-ON SHOES [Loafers, e.g.]
– 121A: SHIP OF THESEUS [Thought experiment that asks whether an object remains the same object if its parts are replaced one by one]
Quite the meta puzzle! As the first four letters of each theme entry change one by one… they end up changing back into the SHIP we started with. It’s a neat idea to use the word ladder concept to explore this meta SHIP OF THESEUS idea and I love that the first and last theme entries were the same (*chef’s kiss*), though I wish there’d been an entry where none of the letters from SHIP were part of the start of the theme entry. My understanding of the SHIP OF THESEUS question is whether it’s still the same ship if you one-by-one replace every piece of it.
Pro: Lots of theme entries, many of which were fun!
Con: Having this many theme entries required a lot of unusual or uncommon fill to make the grid come together (MEZE CACHET NULLITY TOPOS FETTLE UPPISH OTIOSITY), which may have slowed some solvers down.
Pro: I still somehow had a really quick solve time??
Gotta jet, so I’ll end it here. What’d you think of the puzzle and it’s purposeful repeat of a major answer? Let us know in the comments below – and have a great weekend!
Trent H. Evans’ LA Times crossword “Meditation Break” — Jack’s write-up
Familiar phrases have the letters “OM” added to them to create new wacky phrases with wacky clues.
- 23A. [Illumination in the Sugarhill Gang’s car?] = RAPPER’S DOME LIGHT (Rapper’s Delight is a hit by the hip hop duo Sugarhill Gang)
- 34A. [Critique of an overstuffed pillow?] = TOO MUCH DOWN (touchdown)
- 66A. [Headline announcing a generous Butterball donation by an Oscar winner?] = TOM HANKS GIVING TURKEYS (Thanksgiving turkeys. Butterball is a company that sells turkey products.)
- 85A. [All-clear announcement near the Colosseum?] = ROMAN RIOT OVER (ran riot over)
- 99A. [Trite remark of the future?] = BROMIDE TO BE (bride to be. A bromide is a trite and unoriginal remark.)
- 110A. [Employee’s explanation for intentional incompetence?] = JUST DOOMING MY JOB (just doing my job)
I guessed the theme from reading the title. “Add letter” themes are quite common, especially on Sundays and “Meditation” in the title hints at the mantra chant “Om”. Predicting the theme didn’t spoil the solve for me though. There are some nice finds here. I’m particularly fond of “Thanksgiving turkeys” becoming “Tom Hanks giving turkeys” — that’s the kind of humor I like to see in a puzzle like this.
I had heard of bromide in the chemical sense, but its meaning as a trite remark is new to me. Apparently bromide was once used as a sedative, which would dull people. The metaphorical meaning of unoriginal thoughts grew from that history. Interesting!
It’s a little odd that 23A. [Illumination in the Sugarhill Gang’s car?] = RAPPER’S DOME LIGHT is the only themer whose clue references the base phrase of the theme entry. Rapper’s Delight by the Sugarhill Gang is the phrase being altered. The other clues don’t do this. The clue [Critique of an overstuffed pillow?] for TOO MUCH DOWN makes no reference to touchdowns or football for example. Kind of a strange inconsistency.
Trent took care to keep the longer fill lively: RED TAPE, THIN ICE, OH IT’S YOU, and DOG TREATS with its tough vague clue [Bones, perhaps], are all nice entries.
A couple of other thoughts:
- 76A. [Carnival ride destination] = PORT. Nice misdirection to rides at a carnival. Here, Carnival refers to the cruise company.
- 107D. [Astronaut’s go-aheads] = A-OKS. I didn’t know that A-OK had anything in particular to do with astronauts, but Wikipedia says it was popularized by NASA’s public affairs officer in the ’60s.
May Huang’s Universal Sunday crossword, “Counting Down the Days”—Jim’s review
Theme answers are familiar(ish) phrases that feature the abbreviations for the days of the week, aligned down the center of the grid.
- 24a. [Stop a car suddenly] JAM ON THE BRAKES.
- 37a. [Spontaneous happenstance] IMPROMPTU EVENT.
- 52a. [Hit Montell Jordan song] “THIS IS HOW WE DO IT.”
- 67a. [Has a gentle personality] WOULDN’T HURT A FLY.
- 87a. [Breadmaking ingredient that already contains baking powder] SLEF–RISING FLOUR.
- 97a. [Won’t relent] STOPS AT NOTHING.
- 118a. [Measurement also known as a dalton] ATOMIC MASS UNIT.
It’s not a bad theme, but it’s just not that engaging. Once you unveil the second theme answer, the rest of the theme is laid bare and there’s just not a lot of intrigue left. I’m sure it was a challenge for the constructor to find suitable phrases where the letters align and where the entries are symmetrical. That’s a pretty tall order, and it was executed quite nicely. Unfortunately, achieving that feat doesn’t necessarily translate into a challenge for the solver.
However, if the purpose of the theme is to help a solver fill in answers, it definitely does the job. Having those circled squares in the bottom half of the grid pre-filled certainly aided in making quicker work of those entries.
The long fill is quite nice, too, with entries like ART CRITICS, BLACK COMEDY, WINTER GAMES, SNOW GLOBES, PALE ALE, and OFF BASE. COMPORTS is a fun word as well. I’m giving GO HYBRID the side-eye though. Is that a phrase people use? I felt like GO GREEN better suited the clue [Switch from a GR86 to a Prius, say], though it didn’t fit.
Clues of note:
- 104a. [Hawaiian airline hub, for short]. KOA. Kona Airport. First time seeing this entry clued this way. Maybe we should also be aware that Hilo’s airport (the other main airport on the Big Island) is abbreviated ITO.
- 16d. [Singer Jhene with the album “Chilombo”]. AIKO. A name I didn’t know, but crossword-worthy with a few Grammy nominations under her belt including Album of the Year. Also, not the same AIKO as the Japanese singer who uses that as her mononym.
- 21d. [IN second?]. LT GOV. Tricky. Needed a lot of crossings to come up with “Indiana.”
- 38d. [Fire spinning toy]. POI. Another unexpected clue for an oft-seen crossword entry. I had no idea these things were called that. I thought we weren’t supposed to play with fire. The fire performance art, also called POI, originated with the Maori people in New Zealand.
- 48d. [State with three vowels]. OHIO. I tried IOWA first.
- 55d. [“Lupin” actor Sy]. OMAR. Good to see him get some crossword love. I enjoyed this Netflix-produced show, and it should also be noted that he’s been in a number of big-name films and is the first Black actor to receive the César Award for Best Actor.
- 69d. [Fielding of “The Great British Bake Off”]. NOEL. Also good to see him get some crossword love. I enjoyed his off-beat performance in the British The IT Crowd.
- 90d. [Agent Jimmy Woo’s org.]. FBI. In Marvel Comics, that is.
The theme does the job, though it didn’t necessarily excite. The fill is lovely and the cluing strong. 3.5 stars.
Amanda Rafkin’s USA Today crossword, “Sides of Fries” —Darby’s write-up
Editor: Amanda Rafkin
Theme: The beginning and end of each theme answer (the sides) spell out FRIES.
- 17a [“Pests that might congregate around a bowl of bananas”] FRUIT FLIES
- 41a [“Produce that has to be thawed before eating”] FROZEN VEGGIES
- 65a [“People you like despite your rivalry”] FRENEMIES
This theme was really cute. After all, who doesn’t love a side of fries? I immediately figured it out based on FRUIT FLIES, but the answers themselves were pretty easy to figure out, so much so that I filled in each on my first pass through clues. I wasn’t quite sure who to spell FRENEMIES, but that was my only theme-related snafu.
The grid itself was really clean and had a lot of good fill. I liked the rhythm of moving from 49a [“Asexual, for short”] ACE to 52a [“___binary”] NON. 3d [“‘It’s always a bit of a mystery’”] YOU CAN NEVER TELL and 11d [“‘Let me handle these negotiations’”] I’LL DO THE TALKING were great spanners that really added to the puzzle. I also really liked 26d [“Thingamajig”] GADGET and 22d [“Paper-folding art that also involves cutting”] KIRIGAMI.
Other fave fill included 64d [“‘…and Jamie ___, you are all of us!’”] LEE, the cross at 63d [“Sweet/savory sammie”] PBJ with 70a [“The ‘J’ in 63-Down”] JELLY (even if it did sort of give 63d away), and 51d [“Discarded computers, etc.”] E-WASTE.
NYT: Loved it. There were a lot of proper names I didn’t know, but somehow the puzzle revealed itself and it was a great Aha moment. Such a wonderful change from the more typical Sunday fare.
Hated it. Name after name after name …. Solvable but not amusing or entertaining.
I thought the theme was more interesting than most, and yet somehow that did not translate into the puzzle itself being either interesting or entertaining. I found it very easy in spite of all the names. Maybe the crosses had to be easy because of all the names? I don’t know. But in the end it felt very unsatisfying.
NYT: I hadn’t heard of the SHIP OF THESEUS thought experiment before. The word ladder did contribute to solving the puzzle quickly; I liked the way the repeated answer illustrated the experiment.
I’d heard of the conundrum before, maybe not with quite that example, but never given it a name. All told, an entertaining enough theme, packed with theme answer (and a smile inducing repeated one at the end), and without the four-letter blocks I’d never have got CHOW YUN FAT.
Indeed, like huda I found a lot of names, but they did come close to ruining the experience, especially that cluster also with OCHOA. Definitely helped that, while I didn’t know a literal meaning of ROSH, we’re of course meant to recognize it as part of a familiar holiday. I also had “uppity” for UPPISH for an awfully long time. But done.
I hadn’t heard of it either until it showed up last week in a NYT article on fake designer handbags.
Ah, I read that in the print magazine for today. Strange coincidence.
Here in Nova Scotia, one of our icons is a a schooner called the Bluenose. The original sank,and some years ago the Bluenose II was upgraded. But the upgrades were so extensive (including a new hull) that one local journalist regularly referred to it as the Ship of Theseus.
Haha my husband’s had two hip replacements so I call his pelvis the hips of Theseus.
Regarding the NY Times crossword theme, every letter in SHIP is indeed replaced and then replaced again at least once to get back to the final SHIP. So it does work thematically.
Exactly. To have an entry where no original letter was contained would improperly skew the conundrum since indeed it would be something wholly different.
I had the same thought as zefwagner. But the point you raise didn’t occur to me.
NYT: I found it delightfully provocative. After 5 four-letter highlighted squares with an H as the second letter, I assumed that the H would be constant, and I wrote it in for the remaining highlighted squares. Oops! Fortunately, ShOPBUCKET clearly had to be SLOPBUCKET, so I removed the H’s I had so cleverly (I thought) entered. I enjoyed the safe return of SHIPOFTHESEUS at the end. It was a struggle. I had UPPIty before UPPISH and rOASTS before TOASTS, and I’d never heard of EVAN Rachel Wood, and SIL and SAL both seemed possible Italian nicknames. Alas, I chose EViN/SiL, but since I do the puzzle on paper, I felt great pleasure when I finished, even after coming here and finding I’d guessed wrong . Like Huda, I found the puzzle “a wonderful change from the more typical Sunday fare.”
Agreed. It’s a solid example of a lighter Sunday theme.
WAPO landed with a thud in my opinion. Neo-slang doesn’t work for me, as for example 125A: a celeb is now known as a “ledge”. I hope this was a one-and-done by EB, and that he gets back to his usually brilliant puzzles.
I would use even harsher language, but I shall refrain.
Starting to think you never liked crosswords in the first place and that you need to find a new hobby, Norm.
I enjoyed it. My only disappointment was that ANDOR wasn’t clued using the best SW show ever.
I’m late to the party, but re LAT – Sugarhill Gang was a trio when Rapper’s Delight came out. Who (at least us folks who were teenagers at the time) can forget Wonder Mike, Big Bank Hank, and Master Gee?
Also, there is an additional themer “Scriptures published in a garage” -> HOMEBREW BIBLE that arguably refers back to the original underlying phrase.
By the way, I thought the new phrases with “OM” were really clever – especially TOO MUCH DOWN and BROMIDE TO BE. My only complaint is with 121A – I don’t think NYSE is itself an “index.” It’s an exchange. The NYSE Composite is the index.