Rich Katz’s New York Times crossword, “Double Talk” — Nate’s write-up
Before we get into this puzzle, I want to admit upfront that I solved the full thing without understanding how any of the theme answers / clues worked until well after the solve! That means (a) I suspect this puzzle might be a love-it-or-hate-it one for solvers and (b) the fill was clean and lovely so as to be accessible even if you didn’t grok the theme, which I appreciated!
– 21A JUNK IN THE TRUNK [But wait!] (homophone of “butt weight”)
– 38A STRING BIKINI [To peace!] (homophone of “two-piece”)
– 55A TUCKERED OUT [Holy Week] (homophone of “wholly weak”)
– 77A CORONATIONS [Air rights] (homophone of “heir rites”)
– 91A SUPERBOWL WIN [Bare feet] (homophone of “Bear feat,” I think? Like, the Chicago Bears?)
– 112A KINDERGARTENER [We won!] (homophone of “wee one”)
– 30D ROBITUSSIN [Flew by] (homophone of “flu buy” (not “flu bye,” like I first thought – thanks to John in the comments!))
– 51A BEACH HOTEL [See in] (homophone of “sea inn”)
So, each theme entry matches a spoken homophone (thus, the “Double Talk” title) of the original short, italicized clue. It took me way too long to make this connection, and I wonder if a more direct / less cryptic title would have helped? I’m still not 100% certain on two of the homophone interpretations, so let me know in the comments if you think I have any of them wrong!
Other random thoughts:
– One square stumped me, since I know quite little about “Star Wars”: the AMIDALA / ROBITUSSIN crossing at the I.
– There was some fun cluing in this puzzle! [Classic Greek archetype] for FRAT BRO, [Word for word, in Paris] for MOT, and [Column that might lead to a row?] for OP-ED.
Overall, the puzzle’s cluing and entries felt mostly modern / current, even if the homophone theme might have been more common in years past. That said, it was a quick and enjoyable solve for me! How did you enjoy the puzzle? Let us know in the comments section – and have a great weekend (+ 1 hour of extra sleep, if you’re turning clocks back tonight!).
Paolo Pasco’s Washington Post crossword, “I’m Touched!” — Matthew’s write-up
Our first WaPo guest puzzle while Evan is on parental leave comes from Paolo Pasco, a constructor whose praises I tipsily sang at a wedding this evening.
Ten wacky phrases all contain the letters -AU-, and are tied together by a revealer at 105d [Man who changed 10 letters in this puzzle by touching them (the original letters describe his daughter, to his dismay)] MIDAS
Looking back at the themers, they’re much less wacky if -AU- is changed to another, single, letter:
23a MARDI AURAS – “Mardi Gras”
25a CLAUSE QUOTE – “Close quote”
38a SISTINE CHAPEAU – “Sistine Chapel”
55a EAU MCMAHON – “Ed McMahon”
65a CENTAUR OF MATT – “Center of Mass”
82a RAMEAU NOODLES – “Ramen noodles”
92a LUAU WRENCH – “Lug wrench”
108a BUTANE LAUGHTER – “Butane lighter”
125a MAUI SCANNER – “MRI scanner”
128a BIBLE BEAUT – “Bible belt”
The changed letters, as noted in the revealer, from top to bottom spell “GOLDEN GIRL,” an apt, if tragic, description of MIDAS’ daughter.
I found this theme as lovely and elegant as I’d expect from Paolo. RAMEAU (clued as “French composer Jean-Phillippe”) strikes me as a bit of a deep cut compared to other theme clues, but the base phrases are all plenty recognizable.
No additional notes today as I’m traveling and writing from a hotel. Thanks Paolo!
LA Times Crossword, “Make Mine a Double” by Pam Amick Klawitter — Jack’s write-up
Theme: Common two-word phrases (with one exception) have the last letter of the first word “doubled” and attached as the first letter of the second word to create a new zany phrase.
- 22A. [Curmudgeonly professor?] = ACADEMIC CRANK (academic rank)
- 38A. [Sign of sadness from Dumbo?] = ELEPHANT TEAR (elephant ear)
- 13D. [Golf rental with a sponsorship deal?] = GRAPHIC CART (graphic art)
- 14D. [Method of tracking down Ben-Hur?] = CHARIOT TRACE (chariot race)
- 70A. [Pilot’s scheduling concern?] = SPEED OF FLIGHT (speed of light)
- 62D. [Collectible earthenware?] = CLASSIC CROCK (classic rock)
- 70D. [Under a log or in a pile of wet leaves?] = SNAILS SPACE (snail’s pace)
- 100A. [Sign of wedding-day jitters?] = SMOKING GROOM (smoking room)
- 117A. [Consequence of a Midwest cold snap?] = FREEZING GRAIN (freezing rain)
It’s a simple concept that works well as a Sunday theme. It actually took me a few themers to see what was going on because my eyes kept blurring the duplicated letters and just seeing normal phrases that didn’t match their clues. It bugs me a bit that SPEED OF FLIGHT is the only themer with three words. I’m guessing lots of phrases could work with this theme and I think it would have been better to keep consistency by replacing or removing that one. CLASSIC CROCK is probably my favorite.
Nine long theme entries is a ton, even on a Sunday. I’m impressed that the grid isn’t full of gunk. It’s not easy to keep things clean with this many pre-laid entries. It didn’t leave a ton of room for long bonus entries, but Pam did well keeping mid-length slots lively with things like LOL CATS, PLUS SIGN, and WIN WIN.
The PAISANO/IDA crossing was the toughest spot for me. I’m unfamiliar with PAISANO (it means ‘pal’ in Italian) and I didn’t know which state Snake River is in. PASSANO AND PANSANO both looked like plausibly Italian words, which would have made the crossing SDA or NDA for South Dakota or North Dakota. Although I suppose those are typically abbreviated SDAK and NDAK, so perhaps I should have inferred IDA more readily.
48A [Blue man group?] = SMURFS is an awesome clue.
Annemarie Brethauer’s Universal Sunday crossword, “Network Reruns”—Jim’s review
Theme answers are familiar phrases that feature repeated three-letter TV networks (as indicated by the circles).
- 25a. [Pepperoni or salami] CURED SAUSAGE. USA network.
- 32a. [T.H. White novel about King Arthur] THE SWORD IN THE STONE. Home Shopping Network.
- 49a. [Like calls from the ocean] SHIP TO SHORE. Showtime.
- 64a. [“I’m so excited!”] “BOY OH BOY OH BOY!” Home Box Office.
- 84a. [College city plus its surroundings, collectively] TOWN AND GOWN. Oprah Winfrey Network.
- 96a. [Subject of an awkward talk, for some parents] THE BIRDS AND THE BEES. Turner Broadcasting System.
- 109a. [Like some dirty shots] BELOW THE BELT. Black Entertainment Television.
It took me getting down to HBO before I caught on, mainly because I didn’t look at the puzzle’s title before I started. I wouldn’t call it the most exciting of puzzle themes, but it definitely did the job in helping me with the lower entries, and all the theme answers are lively and interesting. The high point for me was uncovering THE SWORD IN THE STONE which I read in college for an Arthurian legend class.
Other high points in the grid include Stephen King’s BAG OF BONES, MOHAWKS (clued as the people, not the hairstyle), DOUBLE DATE, IGUANAS, WOOHOO, GODDESS, SCROOGE, and LANDSCAPED. I’ve heard the name MANDY MOORE, but wouldn’t be able to point her out if asked. SF MOMA was quite unexpected; needed a majority of the crossings to parse it out. In that same section ONE PER feels like a long partial.
Clues OF NOTE:
- 114a. [Chevy model that can be interpreted as “doesn’t go” in Spanish]. NOVA. I’ve seen this joke before. And my parents actually had a NOVA when I was a kid. I think it lasted about a year.
- 4d. [Strategically planted plants]. LANDSCAPED. I had a hard time with this one because I kept reading “planted” as an adjective, not a verb.
- 34d. [Nordic ___ (dark genre)]. NOIR. Do you have any recommendations in this genre? Of course, there’s Stieg Larsson’s original Millennium trilogy, but I’m also partial to Jo Nesbø’s Harry Hole series set in Oslo (though the last two or three books have gotten a little bit silly).
- 71d. [“Professor T.” airer]. PBS. I don’t know this one, and from the title I thought it was a kids’ show. But apparently it’s a British crime drama based on a hit Belgian series. Any good?
Nice puzzle. 3.5 stars
Matthew Stock’s USA Today crossword, “We’re All in This Together” — Darby’s write-up
Editor: Amanda Rafkin
Theme: Each theme answer is bookended by letters spelling out THIS.
- 16a [“Don’t even try to change things”] THAT’S THE WAY IT IS
- 32a [Ancient Greek site located on a hill overlooking Athens] THE ACROPOLIS
- 54a [Texters’ indicator of approval] THUMBS UP EMOJI
The last of the High School Musical series, this was a fun way to turn “We’re All in This Together” into a puzzle. I really loved the inclusion of THUMBS UP EMOJI, which I had mostly on the crosses since I was moving through the Downs. I struggled a bit with THE ACROPOLIS, but I popped in POLIS since I knew that it would be the end of the answer, with the rest coming through on crosses.
I moved more slowly through the grid than usual, spending some extra time on THAT’S THE WAY IT IS. I also wasn’t familiar with Oksana MASTERS in 12d, but I loved the clue [Paralympian Oksana who has won seven gold medals across three different sports]. I’d love to see more Paralympians appear in puzzles in general. Highlighting wayfinding as key to MOANA was also great. Longer fill like PHOTO DUMP and OFF TOPIC was also fun, as was RUFFLED and NO DUH.