Zhouqin Burnikel’s New York Times crossword
37a. [Epic battle in technology ... or a hint to four crossings in this puzzle] clues MAC VS. PC, and I’ve circled the letters where MAC crosses figurative swords with PC in the grid. The puzzle largely played like a themeless, since everything besides 37a is straightforward.
Highlights in the fill:
- 16a. [Bada Bing!, on "The Sopranos"], STRIP CLUB. There’s a documentary about male strippers in Dallas that’s coming out in two months, you know.
- 22a. [Sitcom set at a Vermont inn], NEWHART. Bob Newhart’s guesting on The Big Bang Theory this Thursday night.
- 47a. [Like Muddy Waters's music], BLUESY. Muddy Waters has shuffled off his mortal coil, but Buddy Guy is still touring vigorously in his late 70s.
- 50a. [Stick in a purse, maybe], LIP BALM. I don’t have a pop-culture tidbit for you here, but you could do worse than using Avon’s Moisture Therapy lip balm. No waxy feel, no fragrances/flavors.
- 61a. [Winning advantage], TRUMP CARD. Do not partake of Donald Trump’s pop culture.
- 10d. [Movies, TV, hit songs, etc.], POP CULTURE. If you know a non-crossworder who digs pop culture, get them the brand-new book Star-Studded Crosswords. These are easy 13×13 puzzles edited by Stan Newman (disclosure: I worked on the puzzles too) for the Daily Celebrity Crossword app, and the fill is guaranteed to be worlds easier than that found in most newspaper crosswords (the Stan-edited Newsday crosswords don’t have dreck either). There will be no ARAL or ANOUK in the Star-Studded puzzles.
- 12d. [Wee bit], SKOSH. Fun word.
So some of the juiciest fill was partially thematic, with a PC hidden within. Good job choosing lively theme entries, Zhouqin! I kinda like the near-duplication of ONE-ALL and ON CALL, identical in five of the six slots.
Now, themes that lock down a lot of real estate tend to suffer in the fill, and I was not enthused by ANOUK, ACR, O’SHEA, AS RED, REO clued as an ancient car, and ARILS. Speaking of ARILS, an artist gathered MRI images of produce and flowers and the results are mesmerizing; here are the ARILS of a pomegranate as seen by MRI. Six groaners in an NYT puzzle is pretty good, but personally, I’d like to see a few less.
Updated Wednesday morning:
Ben Tausig’s Ink Well crossword,
48a. [What you'll get if you take the correct deductions from the original phrases in 17-, 34-, and 64-Across] is a TAX REFUND, and it’s earned by deducting TAX, REF, and UND from three familiar phrases to create these theme answers:
- 17a. [Alternate logo for the University of Iowa?], BIG YELLOW I. Joni Mitchell had a song, “Big Yellow Taxi.” Here’s an Iowa Hawkeyes big yellow I magnet.
- 34a. [Tool that Superman's archenemy uses to help hang paintings?], LEX HAMMER. Lex Luthor meets a doctor’s reflex hammer.
- 64a. [Malia's command to the family dog when it's time to return to Pennsylvania Avenue?], “HOMEWARD, BO!” “Homeward Bound” is both a song title and a familiar phrase.
I like the deductions-leading-to-TAX REFUND angle. I personally am not waiting for a refund from the IRS; I sent them a check with the tax money I had used over the last year instead of giving it to them up front. I don’t quite get the excitement about tax refunds—they often mean you could have had more money throughout the past year, but instead gave an interest-free loan to the IRS.
Foreign vocab in the grid:
- 20a. [Beethoven's Third], EROICA. Did you know that was Italian for “heroic”?
- 44a. [Number of starters in the Baseball-Bundesliga], NEUN or nine, in German.
- 53a. [Texas oil company whose name comes from the Spanish for "treasure"], TESORO. Did not know the oil company.
- 1d. [French cleric], ABBE.
- 30d. [Colombian snacks], AREPAS. Well, technically, this is an English word meaning exactly what it is—corn pancakes from Colombia and Venezuela. I need to try one of these. … Okay, I’m back after spending 10 minutes poking around the web looking for a good local place to try arepas. Someone remind me that Melao Latin Cuisine is where I need to go—and soon. Maybe for my anniversary this weekend?
- 65d. [Call for Lionel Messi], OLE. Messi is an Argentine fútbol star who plays for FC Barcelona, so there is probably plenty of olé business.
Now, I would ream a Monday newspaper puzzle for having six foreign words, but Ben’s puzzles are meant to be more challenging and they’re not for beginning solvers, so this is fine. But ABBE and NEUN feel a bit like foreign crosswordese, and OLE is in the puzzles so, so much.
Better living through chemistry:
- 25d. [Ingredient in solvents], HEPTANE. If you say so.
- 58d. [Molly, initially], MDMA. Molly is slang for the club drug Ecstasy.
3.75 stars from me. Plenty of zippy clues (e.g., BEAR = [Hairy gay man, as it were], TEBOW = [Former NFL quarterback Tim whose name became a dictionary-recognized verb in 2012]) and a solid theme, offset a tad by the likes of ABBE, HEPTANE, ADLAI, and ECLAT.
Steve Blais’ Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s review
Disclaimer, I looked this puzzle over for Steve when he was developing it. Although I only half-remembered it, it still meant for a very fast time!
The theme takes four idioms for losing control emotionally and then ties them to entities for whom the idiom could literally be true. Idioms in general make for a strong theme with a broad appeal provided you can find an interesting angle like this one here. I only noticed it now, and not in December, but all the entities aren’t real (sorry Virginia). On the whole, this is a very elegant concept indeed for me! FWIW, I dug up the draft Steve sent me and I see Rich changed Steve’s clues from “shouldn’t” to “might”. We have:
- [What an angry mermaid might do?], GOOFFTHEDEEPEND
- [What an angry Santa might do?], HITTTHEROOF
- [What an angry Humpty Dumpty might do?], GOTOPIECES
- [What an angry witch might do?], FLYOFFTHEHANDLE
Both long downs are very nice: CATSCRADLE and especially the mythological PROMETHEUS. The latter does result in the compromised section featuring ITINA, the tough name TIEGS, ATH and RASA. I don’t think any of those are beyond the pale on their own, but it is the one rough area in the grid.
Favourite clues: [Color of Death's dart, in "Venus and Adonis"], EBON and [Chips-to-be], POTATO
Great theme! 3.75 Stars.
Donna S. Levin’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Range Rover”—Ade’s write-up
Happy Wednesday everybody!
One of the things that I want to do before too long is to go mountain climbing. Although that seems unlikely since I’m woefully out of shape, Ms. Levin helped me somewhat realized my dream, at least somewhat. This mountain-climbing exercise of a grid featured four theme answers in which the first word is the name of an American mountain range.
- CASCADE EFFECT: (20A: [Unforeseen series of events brought on by a single act])- All of that because of dishwasher detergent?
- WHITE RABBIT: (35A: [Waistcoat-wearing lagomorph in “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”])- Any time “lagomorph” can be used in a sentence is the right time to use it.
- ROCKY BALBOA: (42A: [Loser to Apollo Creed in their first bout])
- OLYMPIC MASCOT: (59A: [Atlanta’s Izzy or Sochi’s Bely Mishka])- Names of Olympic mascots can do better than these, right?!
This was so enjoyable, especially because of the cosmopolitan nature to it. There’s some geography to fill in, with MACEDONIA (34D: [Balkan region]), ESPAÑA (23A: [Madrileño’s country]) and GENOA (62A: [Birthplace of Christopher Columbus]). Also different ethnicities represented, with AGHAS (2D: [Turkish top bananas]) and ASIAN (66A: [Like small-eared elephants]). By the way, who knew that small-eared elephants were chiefly found in Asia? Nice little factoid. To continue the cosmopolitan theme, there’s BOCCE (1D: [Lawn bowling, Italian style]), POLENTA (9D: [Grits’ Italian cousin]), YIN YANG (43D: [Symbol on the South Korean flag]) and the reference to Olympic mascots! I think topping off the global nature of the grid is the amazing fill, and the amazing song, C’EST SI BON (11D: [Eartha Kitt hit that’s “so good”]). The fill was so good in this one, that a little-known American soccer league made it into the grid!
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: NASL (52A: [Tampa Bay Rowdies’ assn.])- The Rowdies, along with nine other teams, play in the modern iteration of the North American Soccer League, which was founded in 2009. But the original NASL began play in 1968 and ran until 1984, when the league dissolved. The NASL was responsible for the first soccer craze in America when Brazilian soccer legend Pelé signed with the New York Cosmos in 1975. Other European soccer greats, though past their prime, also signed on to play in the league to increase its prestige, including German defender Franz Beckenbauer (nicknamed “Der Kaiser”), British midfielder George Best and Dutch attacker Johann Cruyff.
Bonus “sports” moment: MAD DASH (5D: [Frenzied race])- In the sports world, “Mad Dash” is the term used to describe St. Louis Cardinals catcher – and crossword favorite – Enos Slaughter scoring from first base on a single in the bottom of the eighth inning to score the winning run in Game 7 of the 1946 World Series against the Boston Red Sox. Slaughter was on first base with two outs and the game tied at 3-3, when teammate Harry Walker lined a base hit to left-center field. Slaughter was running with the pitch and did not stop until reaching home, blowing past the stop sign flashed by the third base coach. The Cardinals won the Fall Classic, while the Red Sox would go another 57 years without a title.
Thanks so much for your attention, and I’ll see you again on the new page of the calendar tomorrow. Take care!