Robert Ryan’s New York Times crossword, “Stitchin’ Time” — Nate’s write-up
23A: PARTNERIN’ CRIME [Bigamy, legally speakin’?]
36A: CHECKIN’ DESK [Where copy editors are workin’?]
56A: WAITIN’ LINE [“Enjoyin’ your meal?” or “I’ll be servin’ you today”?]
83A: ENDIN’ TEARS [Reaction to the climax of a heartbreakin’ movie?]
102A: MOTHERIN’ LAW [Statute regulatin’ surrogacy?]
117A: BACKIN’ BUSINESS [Financin’ Broadway shows?]
16D: TALKIN’ CIRCLES [Bubbles featurin’ comic book dialogue?]
55D: RESPONDIN’ KIND [One tendin’ to reply quickly?]
In today’s slangy puzzle, each of the themers takes a well-known X in Y phrase and reimagines it as an Xin(g) Y one. “Respond in kind” becomes RESPONDIN’ KIND, “talk in circles” becomes TALKIN’ CIRCLES, etc. “Check-in desk” (rather than “check in desk”) turning into CHECKIN’ DESK feels like a bit of an outlier in this theme set since the base phrase has a slightly different form such that the transformation feels different. Even still, a mostly consistent theme with some quite evocative reimaginings – I don’t think I’ll forget PARTNERIN’ CRIME or MOTHERIN’ LAW anytime soon.
Side note: The constructor’s name vaguely rung a bell, so I looked back on his NYT history. He’s only had one other crossword with the NYT… and it was another Sunday puzzle just two months ago! This new (to NYT) constructor has written 2 of the most recent 10 NYT Sunday puzzles. Wow! That’s some kind of magic. Looking forward to seeing what’s next for him.
(Separately, it’s worth noting that in this same ten-week time span, only two of the NYT Sunday puzzles involved a woman constructor at all – and each of those was a woman + man collaboration. I’m hopeful that the NYT is continuing to work on achieving more gender equity in its Sunday puzzle bylines so that a “two puzzles by the same guy vs. two half-puzzles by any women at all” situation like this doesn’t happen anymore.)
Let us know in the comments section – what did you think about the puzzle? Any other phrases you could imagine as themers for this puzzle? Be well and have a great weekend!
MaryEllen Uthlaut’s LA Times crossword “Performance Reviews” — Jack’s write-up
Theme entries are common phrases interpreted as though they are part of reviews for various professionals.
- 23A. [The lazy housekeeper…] = LET THE DUST SETTLE
- 43A. [The disruptive hairstylist…] = MADE WAVES
- 72A. [The fashionable archaeologist…] = DUG IN HER HEELS
- 98A. [The overzealous electrician…] = BLEW A FUSE
- 123A. [The absent-minded dentist…] = LEFT AN IMPRESSION
- 16D. [The psychic bartender…] = CALLED THE SHOTS
- 50D. [The fearless trapeze artist…] = GOT THE HANG OF IT
This is a solid theme concept and many of the puns work well. I’m particularly fond of re-imagining “DUG IN HER HEELS” as a fashionable archaeologist on a dig. I imagine there were many other potential themers that didn’t make the final cut.
I found myself wishing that the rest of the puzzle were as playful as the theme. Most of the clues were quite straightforward and the longer non-theme entries were mostly just more fill. Also a little too much ETERNE, DET, SRTAS, ASST, ENE, KEA, DRI, AGARS, LAN, IBID for my taste.
A couple places had tough proper nouns crossing that almost sank me: 103D. [Name seen in many hotels ] = GIDEON crossing 131A. [Fashion journalist __ Leon Talley] = ANDRE and 74D. [Selassie of Ethiopia] = HAILE crossing 79A. [New ___, Connecticut] = CANAAN. That latter crossing combines an emperor of Ethiopia whose reign ended in 1974, with a small seemingly random town in Connecticut. I think that’s a little too obscure.
A couple of other thoughts:
- 4D. [Super casual “Sure!”] = NATCH. I like this slang and you don’t see it in crosswords much. Short for “naturally.”
- 100D. [Curio stand] = ETAGERE. The word is new to me though I’ve definitely seen this furniture before. I’m glad to know what to call it.
Evan Birnholz’ Washington Post crossword, “In Pairs” — Matthew’s write-up
Our theme this week takes phrases of the form “X and X” and inserts them into words, to form new phrases.
- 23a [Discount vouchers one receives for overthrowing the government?] COUP COUPONS
— see 30a [Honest path … or what’s been added to a word at 23 Across] UP AND UP. Thus COUP COUPONS is COCOONS plus UP and UP
- 47a [Buffalo relative that’s achy from spin class?] SORE CYCLING BISON
— 63a [Unspecified person … or what’s been added to a phrase at 47 Across] SO AND SO. SORE CYCLING BISON reparsed as RECYCLING BIN
- 68a [Achievements with at least 10 points and 10 rebounds, for example … and an alternate title for this puzzle] DOUBLE DOUBLES
- 92a [Computerized version of comedian Johnny?] ELECTRONIC CARSON
— 77a [Endlessly … or what’s been added to a phrase at 92 Across] ON AND ON. ELECTRONIC CARSON < ELECTRIC CARS
- 121a [Nickname for a dirty spouse?] GRUBBY HUBBY
— 111a [Before long … or what’s been added to a word at 121 Across] BY AND BY. GRUBBY HUBBY < GRUB HUB
I didn’t fully grok this theme until very late in my solve: COUP COUPONS looks like it could be an -ON addition, and “ELECTRONIC CARS” sounded ok as a base phrase, which would also mean an -ON addition. But I sorted out eventually.
This isn’t the first time we’ll have seen a DOUBLE DOUBLES revealer, but I haven’t seen this take on it before. I quite like the four “X and X” phrases, and the base phrases are plenty recognizable.
- 65a [“DMZ” director DuVernay] AVA. I’m unfamiliar with this miniseries, which Wikipedia tells me features Rosie Perez as “Alma Ortega, a NYC medic, [who] becomes a symbol of hope in a demilitarized Manhattan Island while trying to find her son, who wandered off instead of sticking with her during their evacuation from Manhattan during the Second American Civil War.” Not for me, I don’t think.
- 82a [Phyllis who won an American Comedy Award for lifetime achievement] DILLER. I’ve known Phyllis Diller’s name for a long time, but I don’t know that I’ve seen much of her work. Her voice acting credits are more familiar to me.
- 108a [“Leaving ___ Vegas”] LAS. Long crossword experience has me looking for a place to put Elizabeth SHUE in wherever I see this film referenced.
- 127a [____ Spence Jr. (welterweight boxing champion)] ERROL. Spence is currently the “unified” welterweight champion, holding the title across different organizations and a professional record of 28-0.
- 69d [Flowering plant with rex and wax begonias] BEGONIA. I’m so accustomed to “wax BEGONIAs” that I didn’t realize there were other options. I quite like the look of rexes on a Google.
- 70d [Psychic played by Whoopi in “Ghost”] ODA MAE. Here’s one I haven’t seen in a grid in some time!
- 75d [Judd’s role in “St. Elmo’s Fire”] ALEC. Having not seen the movie, yes, I put in “ELMO” at first…
Shannon Rapp and Rebecca Goldstein’s Universal Sunday crossword, “Blended Family”—Jim’s review
Theme: Scrambled family members are hidden in familiar phrases and identified with circled squares.
- 22a. [“We’ll start again in five”] TAKE A SHORT BREAK. Brother.
- 38a. [Smallest Canadian province] PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND. Niece.
- 46a. [Piraguero’s competitor in “In the Heights”] MISTER SOFTEE. Sister.
- 67a. [Sacred church image] RELIGIOUS ICON. Cousin.
- 84a. [Forestry tool used in a controlled burn] FLAMETHROWER. Mother.
- 93a. [“There’s not enough time to do it all!”] “I’LL SLEEP WHEN I’M DEAD!” Nephew. Fun phrase and a nice find.
- 115a. [Chinese calendar period that began in 2023] YEAR OF THE RABBIT. Father. Timely.
Works for me. The scrambled words are on the lengthier side (as scrambled words go), so they really didn’t contribute much to the actual solve. It was more of an after-the-fact thing to go back and see who was hidden in each phrase. But the phrases are all solid and familiar (except for MISTER SOFTEE which I didn’t know), and the overall solve was pleasant.
I wouldn’t give this puzzle NO STARS, but that’s a fun entry clued colloquially with [“Do not recommend!”]. I like MARACAS and FISH TANK in the left side stack, but I’m dubious about “I S’POSE SO” [Brief “Sure, why not?”]. If you’re going to abbreviate your answer, you probably wouldn’t tack on that “SO” at the end. Elsewhere I like NIGHT OWL, ANEMONES, MOTHRA, DOG EAR, FIDGET, and TIPTOED. I finished the puzzle with an error because I put in RUMBA instead of ZUMBA [Latin dance-inspired cardio] and never went back to see that FARE was supposed to be FAZE [Shake].
- 1a. [Smartphone keyboard featuring faces]. EMOJI. Never heard of the keyboard itself being called EMOJI. Here’s your factoid of the day: The word does not come from the word “emotion”; that’s just a coincidence. It’s a combination of the Japanese words for “picture” (絵, pronounced “eh”) and “character” (文字, pronounced “moji”). Conversely, the word “emoticon” is a portmanteau of “emotion” and “icon.”
- 6a. [Big ___ Conference]. TEN. They still call it that even though there are 14 schools in it? Make that 16 schools as of next year when UCLA and USC join after leaving the Pac-12. Prepare now for clues referencing this fact.
- 32a. [Cheaper option in a mixed drink]. RAIL. This was a source of consternation for me since I’ve never heard the term “rail drink.” Let’s let this site define it: “A rail is the ‘house’ chosen brand for quick, go-to cocktails. Rail drinks are the cheap option, called such because they live in quick reach of the bartender in what some bars call ‘the speed rail.’ Others call this ‘the well,’ thus the synonym ‘well drinks.'” Examples include gin and tonics, rum and cokes, and the like.
- 77a. [“Moon Over Half Dome” photographer Adams]. ANSEL. Let’s have a look at that photo.
- 65d. [“Go ___ and prosper”]. FORTH. I know “live long and prosper,” but not this quote. And yet I should know it, since I’m a fan of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein which is where the line comes from. “And now, once again, I bid my hideous progeny go forth and prosper. I have an affection for it, for it was the offspring of happy days, when death and grief were but words, which found no true echo in my heart.”
Nice puzzle. 3.75 stars.
Erik Agard’s USA Today crossword, “U St in DC” — Darby’s write-up
Editor: Erik Agard
Theme: Each answer includes U ST IN and references a place in Washington, D.C.
- 15a [“‘The Mother Church of Black Catholics’”] ST. AUGUSTINE
- 27a [“March on Washington organizer”] BAYARD RUSTIN
- 44a [“1979 hit by Chuck Brown & the Soul Searchers”] BUSTIN LOOSE
This puzzle looked and felt like a themeless in a lot of different ways, given its wide open corners and the diagonal flow between the upper right and lower left sections. I needed help with some of the themers, but each came together with only a few of the crosses. I also study the history of American Catholicism, so I was particularly excited about ST. AUGUSTINE.
I thought that it would take me longer to finish this grid after not immediately getting 1a [“Number one”] (an apt clue number) BEST, but I finished right around my usual time. I thought that 15a [“Westie’s way in”] DOG DOOR was cute, as was 9a [“Friends to exchange letters with”] PEN PAL. I also appreciated the mirroring in 24a [“Imitated a pigeon”] COOED with 39d [“Imitated an owl”] HOOTED (with the added bous of OWLS at 22a.
Other fave fill included ADHERENT, YOU GET ME, EMOTION, TURBULENT, and SPOONED.
WaPo: Nice mention of The Smiths. Andy Rourke, their bassist, passed away the other day at the way too young age of 59. Great musician in a great band. I’m curious if this was a late change since crosswords are usually done in advance (I think). Very good puzzle as well, Evan!
THE SMITHS is probably just a coincidence, but yes, the timing is nice.
Be sure to wish Morrissey a happy birthday tomorrow. He’ll be 64.
Thanks. The puzzle was finalized a couple weeks ago, so this was a coincidence, but I think the song title in the clue could serve as a fitting tribute to Rourke.
NYT: I enjoyed the theme more than many that are supposed to be humorous — MOTHERIN LAW was probably my favorite.
But where the puzzle really shined was the clueing of the fill. Stuff like AHA and SKIS had amusing new twists in the clueing, and there’s nice misdirection on the clues for things like BLANK CDS and SIESTA.
Two answers made me a little sad — FOSTER DAD and GI JOE. My brother died a few weeks ago, and he and his wife were foster parents to several children, including two siblings who each lived with them for many years (and who they kept in contact with even into the kids’ adulthood).
And since Kurt and I were only three years apart, we played together a lot as youngsters. Our GI JOEs got a lot of action.
The clue for SILENT E is also great misdirection. I already had a cross or two, but that’s probably all that kept me from entering “Rosebud.”
The ratings are all over the map, which is curious. I’m guessing the negatives were, like me, just not comfortable with so many not so great puns. Indeed, for neatness’ sake, I’d have preferred fewer apart from the themers, to set them apart. I was no doubt just either sloppy or a bit out of sync with the themers, but it took me a while to convince myself that they were consistent. At first I thought them divided as to whether the root phrase was IN and the punning clue wa -IN’ or vice-versa. Still, no question it’s ingenious.
The Sunday magazine biographical intro says that you can see in his favorite clues (the puns) his early interest in cryptics. If it makes anyone more receptive, they do not number puns among clue types, at least in the US. That’s in part because standard US puzzles like today’s welcome puns, where the Brits don’t have US-style puzzles to which to turn for puns, so they include them.
Perhaps I was predisposed to like these puns because I had recently finished a 2003 Sunday NYT puzzle that had puns based on artists’ surnames. (The best of that lukewarm bunch was “Show me the Manet.”)
Any time a constructor tries a theme that’s supposed to be punny or funny, they risk their humor falling flat with a number of solvers.
I can’t say that I enjoyed all of Rober Ryan’s puns, but none were so bad that they made me dislike the entire puzzle.
Fair enough, definitely. (I don’t get “show me the Manet,” though. A pun on what?)
“Show me the money”. A quote from the movie Jerry Maguire I believe.
Yep, that’s it.
Sorry for your loss, Eric. It sounds like your brother was a good dad.
Thank you, Jim. He was a good guy all around.
Universal Sunday: “I finished the puzzle with an error because I put in RUMBA instead of ZUMBA [Latin dance-inspired cardio] and never went back to see that FARE was supposed to be FAZE [Shake].”
Same here! I’ve been trying to find errors on my own instead of letting the software do it, and it took me a few minutes of checking every answer before I saw that. I couldn’t make sense out of “Shake” being FAZE, but I am pretty good about ignoring such things.
Solid theme, if not particularly exciting. I wish the clueing had been less prosaic, though I did like “Turn the page?” for DOGEAR.