Peter Gordon’s Fireball Crossword, “Barmen” – Jenni’s write-up
I had an inkling what the theme was from the title and I was right! That feels like a victory. This is pretty straightforward as Fireball puzzles go; a fast and fun solve.
All the theme entries are in the downs, which always leaves me wondering if I list them in numerical order or L to R. Today I’m going with with the order in which I solved them, which is sorta L to R. The first one I figured out was 14d, which was a gimme. Hey, there’s gotta be some payoff for majoring in English.
- 14d [Title gentleman in a Laurence Sterne novel] is TRISTRAM SHANDY. I remember absolutely nothing about this book except the author and title. A shandy is beer or cider mixed with lemonade or something similar.
- 6d [Heavy-metal singer with 1998 song “Dragula”] is ROB ZOMBIE who will make an encore appearance at the end of this review. A zombie is a Tiki drink with various recipes, always containing rum (usually dark) and most often brandy.
- 10d [Writer of legal novels whose titles include “Compelling Evidence” and “Prime Witness”] is STEVE MARTINI. A martini is gin or vodka with or without vermouth garnished with olives or lemon peel. Our local bar scene suggests that anything served in a martini glass is called a martini even it’s identifiably a daiquiri.
- 15d [Actor who delivered the line “I’m sorry, the card says ‘Moops.’ “] is JASON ALEXANDER. This immortal dialogue occurs in an episode of Seinfeld I never saw. What’s up with the spacesuited hand? I am expanding my cocktail horizons. I think of an alexander as a brandy drink with cream and chocolate liqueur. Apparently that’s a Brandy Alexander, usually made with Cognac; the alexander can also be made with gin.
- 23d [Role for Harrison Ford in “42”] is BRANCH RICKEY. “42” tells the story of Jackie Robinson’s early days on the Dodgers; Rickey is, of course, the man who hired him and put him there. I think of a rickey as gin, lime juice, and club soda; Wikipedia tells me it is may also be made with bourbon.
- 37d [Loser to Damien Chazelle for Best Director of 2016] is MEL GIBSON. First the drink: gin and vermouth garnished with a pickled onion. Now the ick. Some people should be cancelled from further involvement in public life, and Mel Gibson is one of them. I agree with Joshua Malina that if this Jew-hater (“anti-Semite” really doesn’t convey the depth of his racism) continues to work in Hollywood, “cancel culture” doesn’t actually exist. Oh, he has other odious viewpoints as well. He hates women and advocates (or at least tolerates) violence in intimate relationships and despite the buddy-buddy work he did with Danny Glover he isn’t all that fond of Black people, either. I know, I know, separate the artist from the art and free speech and second chances and blah blah blah. Spare me.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: see above re: ROB ZOMBIE. I also did not know the names of those STEVE MARTINI books and I’ve never heard or seen the word CASTELLAN, clued as [Governor of a building surrounded by a moat, say]. Merriam-Webster uses the words “feudal” and “medieval.” Oxford Dictionaries calls it “historical.” I don’t feel so bad.
Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Merging Traffic”—Jim’s review
Theme answers in the Across direction are two-word vehicles with the actual vehicle part doubling as the ending for a Down entry.
- 17a [Cash conveyor] ARMORED CAR with 7d [Chapel figure] VIC(AR).
- 24a [Class conveyor] SCHOOL BUS with 10d [Chevy sedans] MALIB(US).
- 53a [Credenza conveyor] MOVING VAN with 34d [Jean Jacques Rousseau, by birth] GENEV(AN).
- 65a [Cargo conveyor] PANEL TRUCK with 47d [Amazed] AWEST(RUCK).
At least a third of my solve time (maybe half) was spent in the SE corner, for a few reasons. One, because I wanted PANELEDsomething. Two, because all the other vehicles were three-letters long, so I thought that one would be, too. Three, because the cluing down there seemed particularly thorny. And four, because I’ve never ever heard of I. F. STONE [Journalist with a weekly newsletter from 1953 to 1971], so that was nigh impossible to parse. But I got there in the end.
The theme is fine. It didn’t wow me, but it certainly works well enough. Although, it would have been a bit nicer if 10d was a regular word (like INCUBUS or RHOMBUS) instead of the plural MALIBUS.
In the fill I liked the colorful “I DECLARE” as well as AS A RULE and CANTATA.
Clues of note:
- 1a. [The Ivy Bush and The Floating Log, in Tolkien’s Shire]. INNS. That’s a deep cut. I’m no LOTR expert, but I can at least name The Prancing Pony (in Bree, not the Shire). At least a pivotal scene occurred there unlike the two in the clue (AFAIK).
- 16a. [Second half of the U.S.’s only hyphenated county name]. DADE. I needed 75% of the crossings before it triggered Miami-DADE. Interesting factoid.
- 19a. [Mystery writer Susan ___ MacNeal]. ELIA. New cluing angle alert! At least it’s something different than [Director Kazan].
- 35a. [Tell tale item]. ARROW. Tricky clue leading one to immediately want to plop in HEART (especially with AORTA just above).
- 51a. [Weaver’s offense, perhaps: Abbr.]. DWI. Not a bird and not someone who works a loom, but someone driving badly.
Daniel Bodily’s New York Times crossword — Zachary David Levy’s write-up
Difficulty: Easy (9m35s)
Today’s theme: ENDS UP ON TOP (Prevails eventually … or a hint to entering the answers to the six starred clues in this puzzle)
- TABLE SCRAPS — craps tables
- BAR STOOL — tool bars
- TAPERED — red tape
- POTSHOT — hot pots
- LINEAGE — age lines
- HEAD SPIN — pin heads
With mild reservations about the idiomatic-ality of HEAD SPIN — outside of, say, breakdancing, or as a partial finish to the phrase “Make your/ones…” — this was a good “proper” Thursday. Probably skews towards the older crowd, with ITO Midori and NYPD Blue and John TESH and Paul ANKA. No drip or rizz or glow-ups or fahrvergnugen today, better luck next time, please see the cashier on your way out.
Cracking: CLIP ON TIE, I do knot remember the last time I wore one of these, I sported an honest-to-Gosh bowtie on my wedding day, my nodology was crisp.
Slacking: I have only the abbreviation SYS to carp about today, nearly a clean sheet. Woof, wait, I just remembered PACAS, not to be confused with some under-the-radar slang for alpacas — admittedly what I thought we were dealing with here. PACAS are apparently like chipmunks with rat faces, as if the Almighty mused: “What can I do to make chipmunks less appealing?”
Sidetracking: Sing, Sing, Sing (With a SWING)
Caitlin Reid’s New Yorker puzzle – Kyle’s write-up
Thanks to Caitlin for today’s fine puzzle. I’m looking forward to her next New Yorker Thursday byline.
It’s already late in the day and I’m posting on my lunch break so I will keep this short: nice variety of long entries here, with “DO I HAVE TO?“, ICECAPADES and SHUTTERBUG being highlights for me. I thought the cluing was really nicely done across the board. Always good to be reminded of the difference betweeen HOMONYMS as exemplified by [Bow and bow or tear and tear, for example] and homophones, which would be two words sounding identical but with different spellings (eg meat and meet).
Enrique Henestroza’s USA Today Crossword, “3Lw” — Emily’s write-up
At first, today’s title made me think of TLC which happens to be a trio of women singers. Would be some fun tunes to solve by, that’s for sure!
Theme: each themer is a woman who’s first name begins with L– and last with W–
- 20a. [Actress who play Shuri in “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”], LETITIAWRIGHT
- 40a. [“Car Wheels on a Gravel Road” singer-songwriter], LUCINDAWILLIAMS
- 59a. [“The Matrix Resurrections” director], LANAWACHOWSKI
What a fun set for movies and music! Watch a LETITIAWRIGHT flick and read about her acting method. Today you can rock out to LUCINDAWILLIAMS jams. And watch more flicks directed by LANAWACHOWSHKI. Also, the set is 3 names, hence the title hint today!
Favorite fill: ETUDE, LETGO, ICEE, and EDDY
Stumpers: ONTV (took me a couple of crossings), TRAGIC (also needed crossings), and ACACIA (new to me)
Always enjoy a puzzle from Enrique. They are a nice level for me–a bit tricky but not too hard which makes for a good challenge that’s fun. Hope to see more USAT puzzles in the future!
Barbara Lin’s LA Times Crossword – Gareth’s summary
“Short tree names” is a well-explored crossword puzzle word set. The dilemma is always whether to include fruits in your theme or not. Barbara Lin uses one in her set of four trees that replace their heterographs for wackiness:
- [Evergreen seedlings?], FIRBABIES. Interesting that “furbabies”, despite cringiness, is now well-known enough for this kind of wordplay…
- [Shade tree that’s been pruned too severely?], TOPLESSBEECH.
- [Fruit tree in the royal orchard?], PEAROFQUEENS
- [Recently developed conifer cultivar?], THENEWYEW
I guessed correctly at the intersection of RAGRUG and SMOGTEST. I’m not sure what either of those are. I had thought [“How We Do (Party)” singer], RITAORA’s career was largely ignored in the US, but someone has been paying attention at least! My least favourite thing in the puzzle was the clearly pejorative [Frankenfood initials], GMO – way to reinforce fearmongering about products that at most different in a single protein that may or may not even be present in the final product…