John Westwig’s New York Times crossword, “Opposites Attracting” — Nate’s write-up
– 22A: IN OUTING [Event at a hot new club?]
– 24A: SHORT LONGING [“I wish I were under four feet tall,” e.g.]
– 38A: PRO CONNING [Career for a scammer?]
– 67A: SPRING FALLING [Slinky?]
(72A – Not a themer, though it was similarly ? clued with a -NG ending, which totally tricked me for a while!)
– 91A: ODD EVENING [Dinner date that makes a good story?]
– 109A: WHOLE PARTING [A kiss, a hug, a wave, the works?]
– 112A: ON OFFING [Title of an essay by a hit man?]
– 37A: EASY HARDING [“Whoa there, Warren G.!”]
– 41A: NICE MEANING [Compliment for a lexicographer?]
I really enjoyed this theme, especially with how solidly each one landed for me. It’s an impressive theme set, especially with nine themers spread throughout the puzzle. The rub, though, was that I think that hampered the fill in some places. There were areas of the grid where I just could not get traction, as reflected by my much slower than average solve time (for me, at least) noted above. Entries like HOW DE DO, DIM OUTS (just two lines before IN OUTING, which felt like a big dupe), SHILO, SAND GLASS, ADOLPH, FBI SPY, and OF A LIFETIME (such a partial!) stumped me. I also think I just wasn’t on the wavelength of some of the cluing to get things to fill in just right. You’ll see that I tried to enter EXOTIC rather than EROTIC because I couldn’t parse MING ERA and presumed MINGEXA must just be something I didn’t know. Whoops! :)
All the same, I’m glad to have solved this puzzle for the theme alone. I wonder if there were any left on the cutting room floor – can y’all think of any fun phrases (and apt clues) that might work for this theme? Two other theme thoughts: (1) I wonder if the EASY HARDING clue was originally clued via ice skater Tonya? (2) I want to guess that either SPRING FALLING or NICE MEANING was the inspiration for this puzzle – what fun sparks!
What did you think of the puzzle? Let us know in the comments below – and have a great weekend!
Universal, “Themeless Sunday 39” by Jess Rucks — norah’s write-up
- HOLYBUCKETS 17A [“My goodness,” to a Minnesotan]
- MASALACHAI 17A [It means “mixed-spice tea” in Hindi]
- YOUBETCHA 1D [“Fer sure!”]
- ELASTIGIRL 49A [Mom pulled in many directions?]
- SALSADIPS 28D [Chip accompaniments that may contain cream cheese]
- TONE 13A [Part of nonverbal communication, surprisingly]
This one is just a little more open at 70 words and 34 blocks, allowing for nice flow between the sections and especially through the middle. Super clean grid! Never heard HOLYBUCKETS before, but this along with YOUBETCHA and SALSADIPS that contain cream cheese, I’m getting a *real* midwestern vibe from this one. Jess, if you’re out there, say hi! :)
I learned: the yield sign was invented in TULSA. who knew!?
Thanks Jess and the Universal team!
Garrett Chalfin’s Universal Sunday crossword, “Up and Down Markets”—Jim’s review
Theme: Words that can precede “market” are found in the circled squares. In addition, pairs of entries (marked by asterisks) use those squares in either the up or down direction.
- 24a [*Chemist’s cooler] & 40a [*Event with recruiters and employers]. LABFAIR & CAREZER combine with FREE (in two directions) to become LAB FREEZER & CAREER FAIR.
- 57a. [*Urgent note] & 74a. [*Nuclear discharge type]. SEEMISSION & BETONCE combine with MEAT to become SEE ME AT ONCE & BETA EMISSION.
- 59a. [*First game of the year] & 77a. [*Web surveys during election season]. SEASONOLLS & ONLINER combine with OPEN to become SEASON OPENER & ONLINE POLLS.
- 97a. [*1983 holiday comedy] & 116a. [*Comedian in “Bridesmaids”]. ACHRISTMCCARTHY & MELISTORY combine with MASS to become A CHRISTMAS STORY & MELISSA MCCARTHY.
Whew! This must’ve been a difficult construction with trying to find pairs of entries that fit together and of course symmetrically in the grid. That last pair is an impressive find.
No doubt, since it was probably so difficult to find suitable theme answers, there are some trade-offs. LAB FREEZER feels green paintish to me, and I don’t think I’ve heard CAREER FAIR nearly as much as “job fair.” I also didn’t know BETA EMISSION, so I needed all the crossings to make sense of that one.
But it all works well enough, and it’s an ambitious theme in a cool-looking grid (I thought it was a Día de Los Muertos skull at first).
There’s some lovely long fill to enjoy as well like OCEAN BLUE, ILL AT EASE, KILLER BEE, SPY PLANE (though it dupes SPY FI), “HOLD IT!,”and EDELWEISS. You can’t read that last word without hearing Christopher Plummer’s smooth vocals, can you? (Whoops! Today I Learned: Plummer was overdubbed in The Sound of Music by a professional singer by the name of Bill Lee. But I found a video with Plummer’s actual voice – see below.)
As far as eyebrow-raisers go, MUSTA is weird, even clued colloquially with [“___ been something I said!”], WET RAG is less familiar to me than “wet noodle,” and AN I clued with [“Wheel of Fortune” purchase] is not the crossword norm since indefinite articles aren’t usually used. That would be like using the clue [Donkey] for AN ASS.
Clues of note:
- 1a. [Old spelling for a Korean War landing site]. INCHON. The correct spelling being Incheon.
- 19a. [Chocolate-dipped Pepperidge Farm cookie]. MILANO. Um, no. They simply aren’t dipped. They’re a sandwich-type cookie.
- 12d. [EMT’s procedure done to the beat of “Stayin’ Alive”]. CPR. Never heard this one. Here’s how “Stayin’ Alive” will make you a lifesaver.
Other than some nits, this is a nice grid with an impressive theme. Four stars.
Evan Birnholz’ Washington Post crossword, “To Make a Long Story Short” — Matthew’s write-up
Our themers are edited book titles. Specifically, edited down by one letter:
- 23a [James A. Michener novel about a chili morsel in a piece of nursery furniture?] CRIB BEAN (“Caribbean”)
- 30a [Charles Dickens novel about a residence with constant plumbing problems?] LEAK HOUSE. (“Bleak House”)
- 37a [John Steinbeck novel about furious, slack-jawed gazes?] THE GAPES OF WRATH (“The Grapes of Wrath”)
- 49a [Carol Shields novel about a person who celebrates a birthday in early April by getting high?] THE STONED ARIES (“The Stone Diaries”)
- 68a [Donna Tartt novel about a short putt?] THE GOLF INCH (“The Goldfinch”)
- 83a [Chinua Achebe novel about how slim Oreo cookies just can’t stay intact?] THINS FALL APART. (“Things Fall Apart”)
- 100a [Celeste Ng novel about the absence of male deer in people’s lives?] OUR MISSING HARTS. (“Our Missing Hearts”)
- 109a [Blake Crouch novel about the stuff that makes up Noah’s ship?] ARK MATTER. (“Dark Matter”)
Simple theme done well, IMO. And in classic Evan form, there’s another layer:
119a [Shortened, and what the letters removed from eight novels in this puzzle spell out] ABRIDGED, nicely tying in with the title “To Make a Long Story Shorter.”
- 36a [Like a grounded Jet, say?] SACKED. This took me a minute to get the sense of “grounded” – the idea is of the New York Jets’ quarterback being brought to the ground when sacked.
- 81a [MSNBC host Jen] PSAKI. A bit of naivete on my end, to be surprised that the former White House Press Secretary wouldn’t have a tv role now.
- 112a [Air out?] BREEZE. Nice little trap to get solvers to drop in “breathe” here
- 121a [NASA astronaut Jessica] MEIR. Here’s a different cluing angle I like for MEIR
- 6d [Drag queen ___ Vox] ADA. I’m unfamiliar with drag culture, but I recognize Vox, who was runner up in Queen of the Universe, a singing competition for drag artists, after making the top ten of American Idol’s sixteenth season.
- 16d [“The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle” author Murakami] HARUKI. A bit tougher to remove a letter for a fun title of this one.
- 35d [Pitcher Saberhagen] BRET. Saberhagen’s a name I haven’t seen in a bit. He hasn’t played in the Majors in 20+ years, but here he is.