Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “Can’t Make Heads or Tails” — no need to flip out. – Erin’s write-up
Hello lovelies! This week’s Jonesin’ theme involves removing Heads and Tails by taking the final H and T off some common phrases.
- 17a. [Really, really cold Newton fruit?] SNOWBALL FIG (snowball fight)
- 40a. [Getting the most out of the Russian fighter plane?] USING ALL ONE’S MIG (using all one’s might)
- 63a. [One response to “Doctor, I think I’m an 18-wheeler”?] YOU MAY BE RIG (you may be right)
- 35a. [Swiss roll alternative] HO HO. A Ho Ho is a Hostess brand chocolate snack cake with creme filling rolled into a pinwheel design, while a Swiss roll (which was not created in Switzerland) is any flavor sponge cake with a jam, icing, or whipped filling. Drake’s similar branded product is the Yodel, while Little Debbie sells Swiss Cake Rolls. Tastykake also makes Swiss Rolls, which are probably ten times better than their competitors. (I will die on this hill despite never trying any of these brands.)
Until next week!
Sam Koperwas & Jeff Chen’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Contact”—Jim’s review
Theme answers consist of celestial bodies that have the letters ET in them. The revealer is SPACE INVADERS (34a, [Classic video game, and a hint to a two-letter chunk common to 17-, 27-, 42- and 59-Across]).
- 17a. [Star in Orion that lent its name to a 1988 film “bio-exorcist”] BETELGEUSE.
- 27a. [Phenomenon that brought the Blob to Earth in 1958] METEOR SHOWER.
- 42a. [Alien vampires travel in its icy wake in 1985’s “Lifeforce”] HALLEY’S COMET.
- 59a. [In 2016, Wired investigated if there could be life on this theoretical body] PLANET NINE.
I don’t recall being so underwhelmed by a theme before. If the ETs were actually doing some invading (i.e. being inserted into existing phrases to make something new), then we’d have something. But the mere presence of those ultra-common letters in words like “meteor,” “comet,” and “planet” hardly seems like a theme.
The clues try to associate each celestial body with actual ETs (in film or otherwise), but even that fails right off the bat since the movie hinted at in the first entry has no aliens in it whatsoever. (By the way, you know they’re making a sequel to Beetlejuice, right? It won’t come out until late next year, but I figured you’d want to know if you hadn’t already heard.) In short, I’m just not getting it. If there’s some layer to the theme I’m missing, please let me know.
The fill on the other hand is quite nice with APPLETINI, STAY COOL, THE BOWERY, DODGERS, SWAG BAG, and ALSO-RAN.
Clue of note: 63a. [Watch brand with a one-letter name]. OMEGA. I see what you did there. But I already had 80% of the letters in place when I got to this clue, so it was a cinch to get that last letter.
This is a nice grid with spacey main entries and lots of fun fill, but the ET angle didn’t do anything for me. Three stars.
Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle (Week 628), “Easy, Breezy, and Cheesy!”—Ade’s take
Hello there, everyone! Here is hoping you all are doing well and staying safe.
For those who love their puns with a little bit of cheesiness, then today’s grid has hit the mother lode. Each of the five theme entries in today’s grid is a pun in which one of the words in the answers is altered to a similar-sounding word that happens to be a type of cheese.
- COOKIE MUENSTER (16A: [Muppet inspired by a semi-soft Dutch cheese?]) – Cookie Monster
- EDAM SMASHERS (21A: [Physics lab devices dedicated to mild cheeses?]) – Atom smashers
- GOUDA FOR NOTHING (37A: [“Worthless” catchphrase in a free cheese promotion]) – Good for nothing
- FETA ACCOMPLI (50A: [Done deal involving Greek cheese?]) – Fait accompli
- MASS SWISSTERIA (58A: [Widespread panic caused by a fondue cheese?]) – Mass hysteria
Whether the BARN DOORS were blown off for you when looking at the word play with the theme or not, it was nice to look at BARN DOORS in the grid in general (13A: [They’re opened when the cows come home]). I thought initially that the clue for PAWER was calling for the name of a ship that transports oil, but it’s just calling for a someone who’s a klutz in holding things by hands (30A: [Crude handler]). Then you have CLUMSIEST in the grid as well to reinforce the the butterfingers nature to the grid (64A: [Most likely to spill the beans?]).
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: MANN (65A: [Educator Horace]) – One of the best defensive players in the history of Washington’s NFL franchise, defensive end Charles Mann was a four-time Pro Bowl selection who spent 11 of his 12 seasons in Washington. Mann recorded at least 10 sacks in four different seasons, including a career-high 14.5 sacks in the 1985 campaign. Mann, a two-time Second Team All-Pro selection, won three Super Bowls: with Washington in 1987 (XXII), 1991 (XXVI), and with San Francisco in his last year before retiring, in 1994 (XXIX).
Thank you so much for the time, everybody! Have a wonderful and safe rest of your day and, as always, keep solving!
Alex Eaton-Salner’s Universal Crossword – “Chain Letters” – Matt F’s write up
Today we have a rebus progression, where “chains” of letter are tacked onto the front of theme answers and carry their quantity with them. Is that a confusing sentence? I promise the theme is not that confusing! Let’s see what we have:
- 13A – [Family-friendly charity race, literally?] = KFUNRUN (1K fun run)
- 15A – [Fast pace for a video, literally?] = XXSPEED (2X speed)
- 22A – [What requires special glasses to see, literally?] = DDD FILM (3D film)
- 37A – [“Learn by doing” youth groups, literally?] = HHHHCLUBS (4H clubs)
- 55A – [Sources of fast cellphone service, literally?] = GGGGGNETWORKS (5G networks)
Alex uses left/right symmetry to great effect today, making room for five steps in this progression without overcrowding the grid. It’s also a very elegant touch to increase the numbers in order as the theme progresses from top to bottom. This was a fun theme to work through, and offers a nice solving advantage to those who can catch onto the gimmick early.
This puzzle was fun, and very clean considering the tough constraint of single-letter strings in the front (especially the longer ones!). It may look tight, but it’s not easy to find such fun double-7’s in all four corners; not to mention the triple-6’s crossing 9+7 in the middle. The double-down-7’s are my favorite groups in the grid, with another fun 7 holding down the center region: MANKINI.
While Groucho may be the most well-known of the Marx Brothers, Harpo held it down as the physical comedian in the group. Per Wikipedia, “Multiple unverified stories attempt to explain Harpo’s evolution as the “silent” character in the brothers’ act. In his memoir, Groucho wrote that Harpo simply wasn’t very good at memorizing dialogue, and thus was ideal to portray the archetypal Vaudeville role of the “dunce who couldn’t speak.””
Thanks for the puzzle, Alex!
Juliana Tringali Golden & Wendy L. Brandes’s New York Times crossword–Amy’s recap
What ties the theme together is 34A.
[“Got everything before we leave?” … with a checklist seen in the circled letters], “READY TO GO?” The things you might check to make sure you have before you walk out the door may include your ID, some CASH (though I’m more wont to leave with a credit card than some cash), KEYS, and a PHONE. Those essentials span two-word phrases: TAXI DRIVER, VOLCANIC ASH, WHISKEY SOUR, and KEEP HONEST. I’m not wild about KEEP HONEST as an entry, as it feels incomplete without a pronoun in the middle.
Fave fill: SMUSHES, TALKS UP, POV (point of view), SMITTEN. “What? On a Tuesday??” points to ERTE.
In the “Huh?” category, 43D. [Aardvark, by another name] caught me off guard. It’s Afrikaans for “earth pig,” but somehow someone decided to go with ANT BEAR? Show me the bear in this BBC picture!
3.75 stars from me.
Jamey Smith’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Jenni’s write-up
Popping in from the last lap of our nearly three-week road trip. I enjoyed this puzzle! I didn’t get the theme until I filled in the revealer. The theme answers have asterisks. This is Jamey’s first tag at Crossword Fiend – if this is a debut, I’m looking forward to more!
- 17a [*High-intensity workout regimen] is CROSSFIT.
- 25a [*Feasibility assessment of a large project] is a PILOT STUDY.
- 39a [*Buttery choice in a bread basket] is a PARKER HOUSE ROLL.
- 51a [*Pattern inspired by nature ] is a ZEBRA PRINT.
What do all these have in common? 64a [Writers’ aliases, and what are found at the starts of the answers to the starred clues] is PEN NAMES. CROSS, PILOT, and PARKER I knew. ZEBRA was new to me. Nice, solid clue and I love the layered meaning in the revealer. Fun!
A few other things:
- I liked 3d. [“Easy, tiger”] is WHOA THERE.
- We went to the salon for a [Curly hairstyle] and a [Fresh style]. AFRO and NEW DO, respectively.
- What was your favorite GOOD HUMOR treat? Mine was a chocolate eclair. My brother got the Bomb Pop, my mother loved the Toasted Almond and my father always had a creamsicle.
- PINK LADY is a trademarked name for a yummy type of apple. Mmm.
- This is my regular announcement that an EEG is not a scan. MRI scans, yes. CT scans, absolutely. Ultrasound scans, sure. An EEG is not a scan. It’s a test.
What I didn’t know before I solved this puzzle: see above re: ZEBRA pens. I also did not know that Central Park has 843 acres. Walking through Central Park on a nice day is one of my favorite things to do in NYC. And I didn’t know that TRINI Lopez sang “If I Had a Hammer.” I heard Pete Seeger sing it in person, which was AWESOME. Rest in power, Pete. And I know the Peter, Paul and Mary version. Here’s Trini.
Kameron Austin Collins’ New Yorker crossword — pannonica’s write-up
It wasn’t until after I’d completed the crossword that I noticed the grid art. And after that it was a good couple of beats before I associated it with the central entry: 29a [They may hold Jigglypuffs] POKÉBALLS. This is because I’m only peripherally aware of things Pokémon, not really plugged in to the phenomenon.
Anyway, this is what a Pokéball looks like:
And the little Pokémon—pocket monsters—hang out in there until it’s time to battle, or something. I don’t see how they can ‘live’ there, so maybe it’s just during battle times?
Overall, the crossword was perhaps a little gentler than its advertised mantle of “moderately challenging”. There were consistent toeholds and lifelines to pull me through the trickier sections.
- 12a [Feeling of dread heading into a workweek] SUNDAY SCARIES. Not a term I’ve heard; I went with MONDAY … at first.
- 15a [ __ acid (compound that mixes with hydrochloric acid to form aqua regia)] NITRIC. Can you believe I filled in CITRIC at first? <hangs head in shame>
- 21a [ __ pudding] FIGGY, which if I recall correctly is not Scrabble-accepted.
- 27a [Platform that usually doesn’t take a politician very far?] PARADE FLOAT. Must have been on the right wavelength, as I plopped this in fairly confidently with only the ending –OAT.
Similarly, the other central-flanking entry was a gimme. 30a [Condiment also known as salsa bandera because it shares the colors of the Mexican flag] PICO DE GALLO.
- 39a [Big name in cataloguing, once] SEARS. Li’lbit tricky.
- 41a [Too bad] SAD. Does that clue/answer combo work?
- 50a [Manager of a pitching staff] SALES LEADER. Despite the absence of a question mark (c.f. 46a [Metal heads?] STEEL MAGNATES, above it), this one did not mislead me, as the SALES part was mostly in place by the time I read the clue.
- 2d [Classified section?] INDEX. Nice clue.
- 11d [“Once Upon a Time in America” director Leone] SERGIO.
- 12d [Hand roll, e.g.] SUSHI. Specifically, temaki.
- 18d [Noble scientific subject] RARE GAS. I believe the clue was meant to confuse the solver with Nobel/Noble. Especially as the paired crossing is 18a [Bang] RAM, which might evoke Alfred Nobel’s development of TNT.
- 24d [Figurative extras] BELLS, paired idiomatically with WHISTLES.
- 33d [Photoshop tool] ERASER. Because of its common letters, ERASE/R is a frequent crossword entry; my awareness of this facilitated the completion of this section. There are a lot of Photoshop tools and playing the odds paid off.
- 44d [Eastern European name that comes from a word meaning “holy”] OLEG.
So, not exactly a themed crossword, but certainly not a themeless either—a skosh of piquancy.