Rebecca Goldstein and Rachel Fabi’s New York Times crossword, “Thanksgiving Meal Prep” — Nate’s write-up
– 22A BANK ROLLS [Stockpile bread?]
– 24A GOOGLE APPS [Research hors d’oeuvres online?]
– 38A CHOOSES SIDES [Selects green bean casserole, candied yams and mashed potatoes?]
– 65A TALK TURKEY [Debate roasting versus deep-frying?]
– 91A SHEPHERD’S PIE [Steers the dessert cart?]
– 108A KICK THE CAN [Make cranberry sauce from scratch?]
– 112A TABLE WINE [Reserve the chardonnay for later?]
– 37D GRAVY TRAIN [Work on one’s whisking technique?]
– 52D SAGE ADVICE [Pro tip about seasoning stuffing?]
Silly, food-related puns (and so many of them!) + modern fill / clues + a super fast (personal best Sunday) solve?! How could I ask for more? I really enjoyed this puzzle and it certainly put me into the celebratory spirit – I just wonder what theme entries ended up on the cutting room floor!
– I’m curious to hear how many other people will set Sunday best times with this puzzle – let us know in the comments if you do so we can celebrate with you!
– I loved seeing entries like BOP, BOBA, LIL NAS X, HELL NO next to OH DEAR, and NO CAP, as well as so many of the entries clued from modern references (hi, KEN!). The puzzle felt current, alive, and in dialogue with today, which I appreciated. Even entries like MANSE, RIESEN, EWERS, and ENOCH felt like fair compromises for this otherwise fun puzzle.
– Did anyone else have O__A at 102A and confidently plunk in okra instead of ORCA?
Thanks to the constructors for a fun solve. To everyone reading, have a great weekend (and a great Thanksgiving, if you observe it!).
LA Times crossword, “Change the Subject” by Susan Gelfand & Katie Hale — Jack’s write-up
Theme: common phrases are reinterpreted as tips from teachers of different school subjects.
- 23A. [Tip from a history teacher about how to study WWII?] = CHOOSE ONES BATTLES
- 38A. [Tip from an English teacher about the editing process?] = MAKE A LONG STORY SHORT
- 60A. [Tip from a gym teacher about how to win at tug-of-war?] = PULL IT TOGETHER
- 81A. [Tip from an astronomy teacher about how to set up telescopes?] = AIM FOR THE STARS
- 102A. [Tip from an accounting teacher about calculating profits and losses?] = FIND THE RIGHT BALANCE
- 121A. [Tip from a math teacher about working with squares and cubes?] = REMEMBER YOUR ROOTS
The theme hangs together nicely. I wonder how hard it was to come up with these. PULL IT TOGETHER is so perfectly re-imagined as advice to tug-of-war players. Where does that inspiration start? I guess one of these puns occurs to you first and gives you the idea to consistently use teachers. Then you think, “Gym teachers probably have a lot of punning potential.” And then, what? You start googling common phrases related to running and sports and pulling? Seems like an awfully open-ended process and I admire constructors who persevere through such tasks.
A lot of the base phrases already have an advice-like quality to them. CHOOSE ONES BATTLES, AIM FOR THE STARS, FIND THE RIGHT BALANCE, etc. That tightens things up, but I don’t see MAKE A LONG STORY SHORT as advice that one gives. It’s just something people say (or demand of others) when they want to cut to the chase.
The fill was a bit rough in places with A RUT, MTN, ORNE, ALLA, ILIA, MAAS, STRO, OAS, SRO, ALEE, not to mention three “ats” in HINT AT, LET AT, AT SEA. With only six themers (close to the minimum on a Sunday), I would have hoped for cleaner entries. There are three X’s in the grid, along with a Z and a J, so I can’t help but wonder if some fill was sacrificed for the Scrabble score.
My favorite entry in the puzzle is the conversational and awfully confrontational BASED ON WHAT? tucked behind an innocuous clue 15D. [Question of evidence].
Happy Sunday y’all
Kate Chin Park’s Washington Post crossword, “Take a Hike!” — Matt’s write-up
This week’s WaPo guest puzzle is from Kate Chin Park. A handful of themers marked by asterisks don’t make sense when fit into their grid spot, and a revealer at 115a helps us out:
- 115a [Certain striver … or something found four times in this puzzle?] SOCIAL CLIMBER
To make sense, we have to follow an upward angle from the end of each themer to complete the phrase:
- 30a [*Eke out an existence?] HANG ON FOR DEAR (LIFE)
- 45a [*Influential storytellers, collectively] MAINSTREAM (MEDIA)
- 73a [*”You and me both”] JOIN THE (CLUB)
- 100a [*”Just doing my job”] ALL IN A DAY’S (WORK)
An effective theme that demands a lot from the design, since each of those “extra” bits are triple-checked by the theme as well as the typical across- and down- of the grid. It does have the effect of chunking the grid into shorter entries within narrow S-SE bands without much connectivity and condensing the opportunities for flashier, longer fill into fewer areas of the grid. I generally am mildly biased against asymmetry, but I wonder if it could have been toyed with here — certainly the theme demands shorter entries and more blocks on the east side, but with rotational symmetry we have the same constraints on the (south)west without any theme material over there.
I’m six days into a bout with COVID that’s had me pretty knocked out, so abbreviated notes today. Highlights for me included MARIO PAINT, HI I’M CLIPPY, DADA being clued to Hannah Höch, a clue for NCAA that gets the year correct for NCAA v Alston (you’d be surprised), a fun OGDEN Nash rhyme when the opportunity presents.
Have a good week
Kelly Richardson’s Universal Sunday crossword, “Two Peas in a Pod”—Jim’s review
Theme answers are familiar phrases with a pair of added Ps within. The revealer is INNER PEACE (116a, [State of serenity, and what six answers have in common, both metaphorically and homophonically]).
- 23a. [One who’s fully present for every tiny moment with his niece?] SAPPY UNCLE. Say. Nice, evocative clue. Maybe get your own kid, Uncle.
- 29a. [Club connected by a deep enjoyment of Carolina Reapers?] PEPPER GROUP. Peer. Got this one pretty quickly after grokking the theme with the first one.
- 45a. [Person whose worries vanish as she captains her ship across Lake Geneva?] ALPINE SKIPPER. Skier. Not sure I get what vanishing worries has to do with anything. [Person who captains her ship across Lake Geneva?] gets the job done.
- 65a. [One who embraces his identity as a helpful little fish in a big pond?] MISTER NICE GUPPY. Guy. Good one.
- 92a. [Finding bliss as a barista?] FIT TO BE TIPPED. Tied. Again, not sure where the “finding bliss” part fits in. [Doing a good job at Starbucks, perhaps?] would make more sense to me.
- 105a. [One with a sense of purpose in living off the land?] HAPPY FARMER. Hay. Is “hay farmer” an in-the-language phrase? I wanted this to be based on the word “hayseed.”
Solid add-some-letters theme. I picked some nits above, but overall it’s a nice enough theme that works well.
Top fill goes to HORROR STORY, MALAPROPISM, LIFE SAVER, ECCENTRIC, CANNOLI, PORCINI, BLUE RIDGE Mountains, SAUSAGES, FINE TUNE, PARANOID, and I’VE NO IDEA (though that beginning contraction was tough to sort out). Plenty of good stuff to enjoy there.
I was on the wrong wavelength or something as far as cluing goes, especially in that ACTED / PLACE / SAUCE section in the North. I probably spent a good couple of minutes just trying to sort out those three entries.
Clues of note:
- 1a. [Conjuring a rabbit out of a hat, e.g.]. Right out of the gate I was wrong. I wanted this to be TRICK but it turned out to be MAGIC.
- 8d. [Pluck]. VALOR. Hmm. I don’t quite equate these. To me, it’s kind of like saying “pleased” and “ecstatic” are equivalent.
- 12d. [Like a trenchcoat or mushroom]. TAUPE. I get that a lot of trench coats are tan-ish, but I can’t see saying that mushrooms are all TAUPE in color.
- 53d. [Prince in disguise, perhaps]. FROG. Hmm. To me, “disguise” implies the prince purposefully wants to look like a FROG.
- 16d. [“It’s a dog-eat-dog world,” say] for IDIOM and 65d. [“It’s a doggy dog world,” say] for MALAPROPISM. I enjoy when constructors/editors pair clues like this.
- 92d. [Background for policy decisions]. FRAMING. Meh. Needed every crossing for this and I’m still not sure what it means.
- 103d. [“The Ecstasy of Gold” composer Morricone]. ENNIO. I loves me some good ENNIO Morricone tunes. I didn’t know this one by name, but I certainly recognize it. It’s from The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.
Nice puzzle. 3.5 stars.
Brooke Husic & Matthew Stock’s USA Today crossword, “It’s Raining Men” — Darby’s write-up
Editor: Amanda Rafkin
Theme: The second word of each theme answer can precede MEN. Since they’re all Down answers, “it’s raining men.”
- 4d [Have a good time] MAKE MERRY / MERRY MEN
- 17d [Cohort just older than millennials] GENERATION X / X-MEN
- 34d [App used to manage shared expenses] SPLITWISE / WISE MEN
Seeing the title for this, I was so stoked, and I love the sets of men highlighted. MAKE MERRY feels apt both because I think it’s a cute reference to Robin Hood’s Merry Men but also MAKE MERRY captures the holiday vibes as we head into Turkey Day and December. Also, it was fun to see GENERATION X spelled out in full since we so often see it as GEN X or XERS in puzzles. I struggled a bit with SPLITWISE, but after getting SORE, PLED, A LINE, and WING, it became clearer.
I moved pretty smoothly through this grid, and I think there was some really nice longer fill to complement the themers. 13a [Early opportunity to get concert tickets] PRE-SALE and 17a [Team’s strategy] GAME PLAN were both great in the NE corner, as were 25a [Eco-friendly power source] GREEN ENERGY and 43a [Cultural identity for North Americans] MEXICANIDAD. Plus, I literally yelled aloud as I entered in 61a [“All bangers, ___” (album endorsement)] NO SKIPS because it was so fun and cute.
Other answers I loved included:
- 1a [Doohickey] – I’ve always loved “doohickey” as a word, and I just think GIZMO is a great starter for a puzzle.
- 62a [Oklahoma people aka the Wazhazhe] – I appreciated the incorporation of how the OSAGE refer to themselves since so many tribal names were applied by European settlers.