Garrett Chalfin’s New York Times crossword, “Right on the Money” — Nate’s write-up
3D DOES WELL BY / DOES WONDERS [Treats favorably / Has a very good effect]
via 29A WON [Emerged as a victor] (also the currency of South Korea)
12D MEMORABLE / MEMORANDUM [Like a momentous occasion / Office communique]
via 34A RAND [Writer Ayn] (also the currency of South Africa)
52D EXPERTS / EXPOUNDS [Masters / Elaborated]
via 64A POUND [Poet Ezra] (also the currency of the United Kingdom, among other countries)
81D HAPPY NOW / HAPPY ENDING [“Are you satisfied?” / Common fairy tale conclusion]
via 101A YEN [Craving] (also the currency of Japan)
88D FIRING / FIRE ALARMS [Part of a potter’s process / Parts of a building’s safety system]
via 98A REAL [Not fake] (also the currency of Brazil)
Five of the down entries have two clues, whose answers can be found depending on whether you go straight down or if you turn “right on the money” – that is, if you turn right at the circled currency and then (I think?) right again to finish the downward trek. For me, the tracing of the second theme entry in each pair was fun, but I was left shrugging my shoulders at how many of the theme pairs were so similar. I’d have loved theme pairs that diverged in meaning and etymology as much as they diverged across the puzzle. MEMORABLE / MEMORANDUM was a particularly egregious example of both entries having the same memory etymology. HAPPY NOW / HAPPY ENDING and DOES WELL BY / DOES WONDERS both use the same first word, which also took away from any kind of transformation possibility.
That said, the reason this puzzle took me so long was that there were so. many. proper. names! EGO, RAND, GLENN, ELLERBEE, POUND, AMY, SACHS, INDIANA JONES, ANN, IKE, ARDERN, RED ADAIR, ORION, OSSA, HOAG, SAL BANDO, ANISTON, BEA, SATIE, ITZA, and JANE, at least. Oooof.
Other random thoughts:
– RIPER years is a way to talk about old age??
– RED ADAIR was a complete mystery to me, made tougher by crossing SOBA (I wasn’t sure on that last vowel, but fair) and DA?GUMIT, which I’d spell daggumit, but which is apparently spelled DADGUMIT. I had to run the alphabet at that square to finish the puzzle. Tough section, especially with LEERERS, ERNS, SHEDDED, and HELIO nearby. Eek.
– Given everything I noted above, I wish the editors had taken a stronger hand in guiding the constructor to a puzzle that made use of a theme mechanic like the one that was used here, but with unexpected divergences in theme entries and a fresher, less proper noun-dense grid.
Aside from a few fun clues (AMEX CARDS, SMALL ARMS), this puzzle wasn’t the most joyful solving experience for me. I hope it treated you better! Let us know in the comments – and have a nice weekend!
Jared Goudsmit’s USA Today Crossword, “Photo Spread” — Emily’s write-up
Theme: each themer is encompassed within P–IC
- 17a. [Like the world of “Mad Max: Fury Road”], POSTAPOCALYPTIC
- 35a. [Stand-up performer such as Carrot Top], PROPCOMIC
- 44a. [Checkout counter question], PAPERORPLASTIC
Today’s themer set is a mixed bag of this and that but it all comes together in a well-framed snapshot. POSTAPOCALYPTIC is still a popular genre though “Mad Max” is certainly one of the most recognizable examples. Having only seen Carrot Top in phone commercials growing up, I learned today that he’s a PROPCOMIC. With all of the self-checkout lanes these days, PAPERORPLASTIC is rarely heard question while shopping these days.
Favorite fill: SPLAT, EZRA, and TAYE
Stumpers: ORELSE (thought only of cessation, not end of a phrase) and CELLISTS (new to me)
Smooth solve with a great theme and lots of fun lengthy bonus fill. Again, today’s puzzle has a grid that allows for more flexibility and creativity, which I appreciate and am enjoying this trend.
Universal Themeless Sunday 56 by Rafael Musa, norah’s review; 3:37
- ⭐ IMONLYHUMAN 19A [“We all make mistakes, OK?!”]
- IDBEHONORED 41A [“Yes! Thanks for thinking of me!”]
- GUMMYBEAR 7D [Chewy treat shaped like an animal]
- CANDYBARDS 35D [100 Grand and PayDay]
- NOBRAINER 33D [Resolution made with resolution]
Lately I’ve been enjoying themeless puzzles that feature long entries in symmetrical locations that while aren’t theme entries are related in a fun way, whether that’s in meaning, in cluing, near-anagrams, linguistically, etc. Today the pair of CANDYBARS and GUMMYBEAR did that for me. (On this, see also Kelsey’s Apple News puzzle from October 28, a recent favorite)
I’m better at beer pong than I am at TABLETENNIS, so I was amused by its clue: 56A [Sport whose balls are used for beer pong]. I don’t totally understand NOBRAINER 33D [Resolution made with resolution] – can someone help me out please?
You should know: Ella MAI 55A [Singer-songwriter Ella]
Thanks Rafa and the Universal team!
Denise Blasevick & Jeff Chen’s Universal Sunday crossword, “The Cat’s Meow”—Jim’s review
Theme answers are familiar phrases that hide the word “life” (in various foreign languages). The revealer is NINE LIVES (82d, [Storied feline trait … and a hint to the circled letters’ meanings]). Note also the black cat head in the center of the grid.
- 3d. [*Actor who was once married to Courteney Cox (Catalan)] DAVID ARQUETTE.
- 5d. [*Western props blowing in the wind (Afrikaans)] TUMBLEWEEDS.
- 7d. [*Anglican architectural element (Maori)] TUDOR ARCH.
- 12d. [*Nonexistent meal, according to a saying (Estonian)] FREE LUNCH.
- 14d. [*It happens every year (Dutch)] ANNUAL EVENT.
- 16d. [*October carve-outs (Hawaiian)] JACK O‘LANTERN.
- 72d. [*Missive from the heart (Hungarian)] LOVE LETTER.
- 76d. [*Meal made with green ingredients (Danish)] CHILI VERDE.
- 80d. [*Bear in a classic children’s book (German)] GENTLE BEN.
Lively choices for theme answers, and the grid art is fun. But…
The purpose of a theme is to help a solver who gets stuck, and I’m very doubtful that this theme was helpful to anyone. Is there a single solver out there who might know more than half of these foreign words? And of course some of them seem to have similar etymologies (lookin’ at LEWE, LEVE, LIV, and LEBEN). Just ask yourself how many of these get clued in crosswords as translations of “life”. I’m thinking just the one (VIDA). So how can solvers be expected to get any help from this theme?
Despite that there’s a lot to like in the fill. “DOGGONE IT!” is notable for its central placement and its irony, considering the theme. Elsewhere I liked ARISTOTLE, CAVERNOUS, CO-EXIST, RIPOSTE, XMAS TREE, and WASTRELS (love this word). The biggest eyebrow-raiser was CALL-UPS [Orders to report]. I guess “orders” is a plural noun; I thought it was a verb, so I wanted CALLS UP.
Clues of note:
- 55a. [Org. that Curry favors?]. NBA. Cute.
- 79a. [Stuart Smalley interjection]. “DOGGONE IT, people like me!”
- 31d. [Men and boys]. HES. Bleh. Who would ever use this as a plural? I would’ve preferred [“___ dead, Jim”], [“___ a real nowhere man”], or [“___ Just Not That Into You”].
- 54d. [Color whose name comes from the German for “goblin”]. COBALT. Neat factoid. Are German goblins bluish?
The theme did very little for me, but the fill is lively and interesting. Three stars.
Rebecca Goldstein’s Washington Post crossword, “The Show Must Go On” — Matt’s write-up
Apologies for the late write up today. I had some travel delays on an already lengthy itinerary yesterday. Rebecca Goldstein is our guest constructor this week. A handful of themers don’t quite fit in their spaces:
- 26a [*1988] THE PHANTOM OF THE OPER
- 34a [*1950] OUTH PACIFIC
- 51a [*1952] THE KING AND
- 69a [*2017] EAR EVAN HANSEN
- 65a [*2021] MOULIN ROUG
It took me a few themers in to see that only end letters — either the first or last — were being deleted. Two revealers bring us along:
- 94a [Tony Award won by the starred answers in the years of their clues] BEST MUSICAL
- 105a [Delivers an aside, as this puzzle’s starred answers literally do] BREAKS THE FOURTH WALL
So it’s not so much that letters are deleted, by that they extend past the “walls” of the grid.
Edit: Thanks to commenters for pointing out the final layer of the theme I had missed: taking the revealer more directly, the missing letters of the selected musicals quite literally spell A-S-I-D-E.
A fun theme, and I appreciate the restraint not to clue the resulting grid entries as wacky phrases in their own right. I wonder what exactly the “fourth” wall is in the context of the puzzle, since themers extend past two different edges, but I don’t think it changes my enjoyment of the grid very much.
- 19a [Type of steak represented in a steak emoji] TBONE. I’m not sure I can picture the steak emoji, but this was a reasonable guess.
- 25a [Instrument that is typically about 18 feet long when fully stretched out] TUBA. Truthfully, I would have thought it was longer.
- 77a [Photography choice that fills in the blanks of “In_tagram fi_te_”] SLR. I’m not a great fan of this type of clue, but it can be useful to solvers. I’m sure many folks who make real money from social media use SLRs, but all of my Instagram photos are right from my cellphone camera.
- 82a [Vegeteable sometimes served with marshmallow topping] YAM. We celebrated an early Thanksgiving this week while on the mainland. I am a big fan of sweet potatoes and yams but find them plenty sweet enough already without marshmallows.
- 97a [Coke Zero alternative] DIET RC. RC COLA is certainly a staple of crossword grids, and I know it’s real, but I haven’t seen it in the real world in some time.
- 5d [Walter White’s product] METH. From the TV show “Breaking Bad”
- 20d [Fratty moniker] BROSEPH. I don’t think I’ve seen this in a grid before, but it’s certainly out in the language, alongside formations like “Bromance,” and more parallel to BROSEPH, “Broseidon”
- 27d [Actor Omar of “This Is Us”] EPPS. It is good for crosswords that Epps’ filmography is so extensive.
- 44d [Doja Cat or Lady Gaga, e.g.] STAGE NAME. Notably not a stage name: Dua Lipa
- 72d [Brosh who created the webcomic “Hyperbole and a Half”] ALLIE. This webcomic’s heydey was more than ten years ago, but it still resonates and is well worth a visit if you’re unfamiliar.
- 103d [“It’s-a me, ___!] MARIO. There was a mildly viral video a few months ago positing that Mario actually says the word “itsumi,” purportedly meaning “super,” but I see as I look it up that it’s been debunked.