Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “Back to the Beginning” — two by two, to the start. – Erin’s write-up
Hello lovelies! This week’s Jonesin’ grid tests the ever-important skill of saying the alphabet backwards:
- 20a. [Mystery clue 1] DR MOREAUS WELLS
- 25a. [Mystery clue 2] SYMBOL FOR IRON
- 41a. [Mystery clue 3] US CAPITOL SITE
- 46a. [Mystery clue 4] FOUR YEAR DEGREE
These entries seem unrelated at first glance, but fall into place after figuring a couple of them out. My first gimme was SYMBOL FOR IRON, which is Fe. Next came US CAPITOL SITE, which is Washington, DC. At this point it became apparent that we’re looking for two-letter answers in descending alphabetical order. The clue at 20a refers to The Island of Dr. Moreau, the novel by H.G. Wells. Finally, the FOUR-YEAR DEGREE is a Bachelor of Arts, or a BA. So from top to bottom, we have HG, FE, DC, BA. Pretty clever!
- 7d. [Silent screen star Pitts] ZASU. Her acting career spanned from the silent film era to the birth of television. Her name resulted from her two aunts’ insistence she be named after them leading to the name Eliza Susan Pitts and her nickname ZaSu.
- 11d. [Measure for some dress shirts] COLLAR SIZE. Why can’t all clothes be sized this way? Instead of arbitrary numbers, why not use waist size, bust size, length, collar size, and so on? Size charts include a lot of this information, but then they differ from brand to brand.
- 53d. [___-Dryl (store-brand allergy medication)] WAL. Wal-Dryl is the Walgreens version of Benadryl, or diphenhydramine. I’m still mad at Walgreens for buying out Happy Harry’s, which was the best drugstore chain in Delaware when I was growing up. Second, if your allergies are acting up, a newer-generation antihistamine like Claritin/Zyrtec/Allegra is a better choice, as they last up to 24 hours instead of Benadryl’s 4-6 hours, and they don’t cause the sleepiness (or occasionally paradoxical stimulant effect!) Benadryl causes. Now if you’re looking to fall asleep more quickly…Benadryl will probably work. ZzzQuil Sleep Aid? It’s just Benadryl rebranded so you can pay more for it and think you’re getting a special sleep medicine.
OK, medical rant over. Until next week!
ETA: Matt was recently interviewed for the Think Out Loud segment of Oregon Public Broadcasting. You can listen to his thoughts on crossword construction here: https://www.opb.org/article/2023/09/11/longtime-portland-crossword-constructor-shares-what-he-thinks-makes-a-good-puzzle/
Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Dressing on the Side”—Jim’s review
Theme answers are familiar phrases whose outer letters spell out an article of clothing. The revealer is OUTERWEAR (60a, [Coats, say, or literally what the circles contain]).
- 17a. [Without it, a company can’t remain profitable] CORE ASSET. Corset.
- 24a. [Noisemaking wooden slats that give their name to a comedy type] SLAPSTICKS. Slacks. Huh. I never knew where the term came from.
- 36a. [They can be seen rolling in the aisles] SHOPPING CARTS. Shorts. Good clue, especially following the preceding entry.
- 51a. [Loses it] BLOWS A FUSE. Blouse. Good entry.
An excellent example of this theme type with an apt title and revealer. I especially like the uniformity (haha) of the clothing choices being six letters each and each one broken into two parts of three. A very nice theme set.
Top fill includes COMPILER, OFF-WHITE, OSIRIS, and SALTINE. Wasn’t sure about TOTE UP [Add], and there isn’t much precedent for it in crosswords, but it is idiomatic.
Clues of note:
- 46a. Passed]. ENACTED. Got me with this one. I went with ELAPSED.
- 10d. [Anthology editor, e.g.]. COMPILER. I can see why you’d go with this clue, but to anyone who’s done any programming, a COMPILER is a program that takes code written in a programming language and converts it into machine language.
- 18d. [Sunrise site]. EAST. I wouldn’t really call the EAST a “site,” but you know…alliteration.
- 36d. [Rooting section?]. SOIL. Nice clue. Oh, actually I was thinking of a pig rooting around in the dirt, but the clue also works for plant roots. An even nicer clue now!
Good puzzle. 3.75 stars.
Ella Dershowitz’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap
This was my fastest NYT solve in quite a while, but I don’t know that it’s all that easy for beginning solvers since there’s some older crosswordese in the mix (more on that later).
Understanding the theme was not at all needed for me to complete the puzzle. Looking back, I see that the circled letters all take roughly the shape of the letter C, and they all spell out “sea ___” animals to go with the revealer, 37a. [Aquatic denizen … or a phonetic hint to this puzzle’s circled words], SEA CREATURE, or “C creature.” We get a sea SPONGE, sea URCHIN, sea TURTLE, and … sea MONKEY, which is actually brine shrimp marketed as something cooler.
Fave fill: FLIPS OUT, NEWS LEAK, HIJAB, TINKLE, LACES UP a pair of skates, mathy EMPTY SET. Given the number of squares that must work for an Across, a Down, and a “C creature,” there are definite compromises in the fill. ONE-L’S, AER Lingus, Brian ENO, German NACHT, ORTS (which I feel like I haven’t seen in a grid in years!), prefix INFRA—not to mention a profusion of proper nouns. I count about 21, and I know some solvers complain bitterly once that census rises above maybe 14. Makes for a quick puzzle for me, but if you don’t know your older art rock or newer pop, good luck to you with that Brian ENO/Rita ORA crossing.
Three stars from me.
Susan Gelfand’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Jenni’s write-up
Well, that was confusing! I copied the starting text from last week’s post and it already said Susan Gelfand. Good news since I usually enjoy Susan’s puzzles. This one was no exception, for the most part.
As I solved I had no idea what connected the theme answers.
- 18a [*Food stalls offering filled tortillas] are TACO STANDS.
- 23a [*Kits that include pots for melting cheese or chocolate] are FONDUE SETS. Or heating stock to cook thin slices of meat and veggies in. Yum.
- 38a [*1933 comedy starring Marie Dressler and John Barrymore] is DINNER AT EIGHT.
- 50a [*Ingredient amount in a recipe for paella or risotto] is ONE CUP RICE. This is the part I’m not so crazy about. My recipes generally either say “one cup OF rice” or “white rice, one cup.”
Then the revealer explained all: 57a [Unexpected charges, and a feature of the answers to the starred clues] is HIDDEN FEES. TACO STANDS, FONDUE SETS, DINNER AT EIGHT, ONE CUP RICE. I liked this a lot especially because there weren’t any circles so I got to figure it out for myself! I appreciate the way each hidden fee crosses two words – there’s something satisfyingly consistent about that. Fun!
A few other things:
- I was surprised not to see more SMOG in the city views on the US Open telecast last week. I remember what the city was like in the 1960s and early 70s, when the air was always gritty and we had to shower off the dirt when we got home. It’s almost as if the Clean Air Act actually, you know, contributed to cleaner air.
- SCALAWAGS is a lovely word. I should use it more often.
- I have a feeling our younger solvers are scratching their heads about Jimmy DURANTE (and by “younger” I mean “younger than I am” and I’m 63, so that’s a lot of you). Here he is. Scroll down for a video of Durante and Louis Armstrong.
- Nice to see JANET Yellen making an appearance.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: never heard of ERROL Barnett of CBS News.
Anna Shechtman’s New Yorker crossword — pannonica’s write-up
Once again, pitched correctly as a ‘moderately challenging’ crossword.
I’ll start by recounting the end of my solve. I needed to work my way clockwise around the grid and circle back to 28-across to finish things off—the crossings of 26-down M–MA (which I’d correctly suspected was a D) and 12-down WOJNA–OWICZ. Once I was able to answer 8-down [Facing trouble, per a quaint expression] IN DUTCH and place the C for [Cranks] CODGERS, it was all complete.
- 26d [Ecstasy] MDMA (3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine).
- 12d [Artist and AIDS activist David who wrote, “WHEN I WAS TOLD THAT I’D CONTRACTED THIS VIRUS IT DIDN’T TAKE ME LONG TO REALIZE THAT I’D CONTRACTED A DISEASED SOCIETY AS WELL”] WOJNAROWICZ.
I wonder if it was a similar path for other solvers.
- 15a [Technophobe’s concession, maybe] DUMB PHONE. Hard not to live at least partially in this modern world.
- 17a [“Showing Up” director Kelly] REICHARDT. That’s her most recent feature. Just looked over her filmography and realized that I haven’t seen any of her films, although First Cow is one I’ve been meaning to watch. I think Meek’s Cutoff might be her most well-known?
- As with the clue for 26a CODGERS, there are a number of terse clues where it’s prima facie impossible to know whether it’s a noun or verb. Others include 20a [Peels] RINDS, 31a [Treasure] ADORE, 9d [Lands] GETS, 11d [Judge] ARBITER. Of course this is a standard clue type in crosswords, but for some reason they felt notable in this puzzle.
- 32a [Spot for one’s first period, perhaps] HOMEROOM. Kind of an edgy seeming clue, until you notice that ‘for’ isn’t the appropriate preposition for the intended misdirection. Relatedly, 48a [Cup measures contribute to them] BRA SIZES also didn’t feel like a completely successful misdirection. E for effort on both, though.
- 54a [Mask with vague, eco-friendly language, say] GREENWASH. A gimme.
- 63a [Friend of Dorothy?] THE TIN MAN, with definite article.
- 23d [Prominent search result, often] SPONSORED AD. I never click on these, even if it’s the result I was seeking. Instead, I scroll down to the regular listing for the same product or company.
- 25d [1975 documentary film starring Big Edie and Little Edie] GREY GARDENS. It had a latter-day revival, which spawned—I think—some sort of follow-up, and eventually a musical. Because everything eventually becomes a musical.
- 55d [Abbr. for someone with only a first and last name] NMI, no middle initial. But what if, say, you gave your child Nmi as a middle name, how would you pronounce it? ′en·mē, nə·′mē, ′en·ə·mē, or some other way?
Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle (Week 641), “Union City”—Ade’s take
Hello there, everyone! Hope all is well with you and that you’re continuing to have rewarding days as summer comes to a close.
Wedding season is still upon us, so definitely fitting that today’s theme hits on that just a little. Each of the five theme entries is a multiple-word entry, and the letters R-E-N-O are seen spanning multiple words in the grid. To top it off, RENO also appears in the grid as the reveal (63A: [Quickie wedding city … or a word that spans two words in each starred answer]).
- FUTURE NOSTALGIA (17A: [*2020 studio album by Dua Lipa])
- SQUARE NOODLES (21A: [*Quadrate pasta in a Pennsylvania Dutch pot pie recipe])
- YOU’RE NOT KIDDING (36A: [*”So true!”])
- SURE NO PROBLEM (44A: [*”You’re welcome!”])
- ADVENTURE NOVELS (52A: [*”Treasure Island” and “The Call of the Wild,” e.g.])
The non-themed 10s adjoining a couple of the theme entries were real good fill, with STATE BIRDS (61A: [Maine’s Chickadee and Vermont’s Hermit Thrush]) and PARTY FAVOR, with the latter reminding me that I do have a wedding coming up soon and might want to get on the shopping for a gift thing sooner rather than later (14A: [Gift for a bridal shower attendee]). I want to say that our (New York’s) state bird is a bluebird … *Googles* … Yes, the Eastern Bluebird! Alright, will never forget that … until I do. Got held up for the stupidest reason, putting “at an” incline instead of ON AN, a small error that takes up a chunk of time on the solve (42A: [___ incline (tilted)]). But, somehow, the intersection of QUIRE (22D: [24 sheets of paper]) and LEO II, a tricky one on the surface, was no problem at all (29A: [Pope who died in 683]). Go figure.
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: MAYO (6A: [Creamy BLT spread]) – Former NFL player Jerod Mayo is currently the a linebackers coach for the team he spent his entire career with, the New England Patriots. During his playing days, Mayo, who was the 10th overall pick of the 2008 NFL Draft out of Florida, burst onto the scene as a rookie, winning the league’s Defensive Rookie of the Year Award. He went on to be a two-time Pro Bowler, an All-Pro selection in 2010, and, after the 2014 season, a Super Bowl champion after the Patriots defeated the Seattle Seahawks.
Thank you so much for the time, everybody! Have a wonderful and safe rest of your day and, as always, keep solving!
Alice Liang’s USA Today Crossword, “Cutting Edge” — Sophia’s recap
Editor: Amanda Rafkin
Theme: Each theme answer literally “cuts” the word EDGE.
- 20a [Spot for opinions in a newspaper] – EDITORIAL PAGE
- 36a [Budget motel chain] – ECONO LODGE
- 55a [“The Raven” author] – EDGAR ALLAN POE
Fun theme that’s literal in multiple senses – the edge of each theme answer is literally “edge”. I like how all three of the themers split “edge” in different ways. It took me a while to come up with ECONO LODGE – I kept thinking of “travel lodge” instead. I also ran into trouble because I spelled EDGAR ALLAN POE‘s name wrong – “Allen” instead of ALLAN. And then I did it again as I write this recap, clearly I never learn :)
Notable clues: [Word before “fryer” or “mattress”] for AIR, [Org. with Lions and Bears] – NFL
Notable fill: ROSIE THE RIVETER, CROP TOP, TED LASSO, ON STRIKE (let’s go SAG/WGA!)
Paul Coulter’s Universal Crossword – “WorM’s-Eye View” – Matt F’s Review
Theme answers are written with an “M” in the grid and a secondary hint in each clue tells us what the word or phrase becomes when the M is flipped to make a “W.” This trick applies to all 3 M’s in the grid in both directions.
- 19A – [Goes shopping, perhaps … or, after flipping a letter, reaches one’s limit] = HITSTHE(M/W)ALL
- 24A – Actress Grier … or, after flipping a letter, Fido’s foot] = PA(M/W)
- 63A – [“Spy vs. Spy” magazine … or, after flipping a letter, mouthful of gum] = (M/W)AD
- 14D – [Eternal City dweller … or, after flipping a letter, Atkinson of “Mr. Bean”] = RO(M/W)AN
- 26D – [Ref’s correction … or, after flipping a letter, hotel service delivered by phone] = (M/W)AKEUPCALL
- 29D – [Prime minister after David Cameron … or, after flipping a letter, “It’s possible”] = THERESA(M/W)AY
I think the title is to be interpreted as “W or M” and it’s a cute nod to the bird and the worm (because typically you’d say “bird’s eye view” and if you flip the perspective you get the “worm’s-eye view” … that makes sense, right?).
This is a fun theme and I can imagine the difficulty in finding intersections that work with both an M and a W. “Hits the mall” fills a little contrived, but the rest of these stand on their own with either the M or the W. Theresa May / There’s A Way is an all-timer – I love how that one forces the solver to reparse the phrase!
I thought this was a nice theme concept and well-executed in the fill, especially considering the M/W switch has to work across and down!
Thanks for the puzzle, Paul!