Tracy Gray’s New York Times crossword
This is a cute theme: ’70s and ’80s songs with weather terms in them.
- 17a. [1987 Buster Poindexter hit], “HOT, HOT, HOT.”
- 23a. [1980 Bob Seger hit], “AGAINST THE WIND.”
- 48a. [1971 Bill Withers hit], “AIN’T NO SUNSHINE.” I don’t know this song.
- 60a. [1977 Foreigner hit], “COLD AS ICE.”
- 37a. [Local news feature suggested by the answers to 17-, 23-, 48- and 60-Across], WEATHER FORECAST.
This is a theme with a ton of possibilities—in fact, Mike Nothnagel made a Daily Celebrity Crossword featuring James Taylor’s FIRE AND RAIN, Kansas’s DUST IN THE WIND, and Bruce Springsteen’s THUNDER ROAD. I assume others have made weather song puzzles too over the years. Fertile territory. There are songs with hurricanes, lightning, clouds, and more. Can’t think of any tornado songs, though. There should be some country songs from Tornado Alley, no?
The Monday NYT fill had very little that I might term crosswordese, but the Tuesday NYT drops “Var.” AMIR, UTES, BAHIA (1d. [Brazilian state northeast of São Paulo]), ARHAT (6d. [Enlightened Buddhist]), HELOT (25d. [Spartan serf]), ASEA, and NACRE. I wouldn’t love all of these in a Saturday puzzle, but I wouldn’t find them as unfair as on a Tuesday.
Five more things:
- 19a. [You might pick up good ones from people], VIBES. I had a few letters in place and considered VICES here. What? Peer pressure can bring you some great vices.
- 42a. [Burp], ERUCT. This was a gimme for me. Belch : eructation :: fart : flatulence. (Be sure you know borborygmus, too.) Hey! What is GAS doing clued as an ARCO product rather than cross-referenced to our burp here?
- 65a. [Guitar players in rock bands, slangily], AXMEN. Well, sure. If they have penises. Some guitarists are women, like these ones, those ones, or maybe these ones. Those lists don’t even include Chrissie Hynde, Jane Wiedlin, Courtney Love, or those other people in Wikipedia’s list of 370 American female guitarists and 63 Canadian ones. Now, if the clue had been, say, [Eddie van Halen and Jimi Hendrix], I would not take issue with it. They’re both men.
- 9d. [Firecracker], LIVE WIRE. Great entry!
- 38d. [Shape of the British 50-pence piece], HEPTAGON. Here’s what it looks like, what it weighs, and information on how much debt you can repay using a sack of these coins.
3.33 stars. Fun theme (though it might’ve been nice to include a more contemporary song, not that any comes to mind for me) offset by a bit more rarely-seen-outside-of-crosswords vocabulary than I care to see in an early-week puzzle.
Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle, “Crash Test”—Janie’s review
That’s “crash” as in getting some serious shut-eye—and “test” as in, yup, test… exam… trial. The test at issue comes to us by way of a specific enigma (delivered in three parts) and a one-part solution, all forming the long theme fill.
- [20A] WHAT QUESTION
- [35A] CAN YOU NEVER
- [42A] ANSWER “YES” TO?
- [55A] “ARE YOU ASLEEP?”
And you know why. Although I wonder if this is true for people who are asleep under hypnosis. (I’ll think about that tomorrow, Scarlett…) Regardless… that’s the theme today. Short ‘n’ sweet. With an emphasis on the latter. What sweetens it? Well, there appears to be a bedding sub-theme. First of all, there’s the SERTA [Mattress label word] that crosses the second “e” of asleep. Then, we also get the EIDER duck, whose feathers fill eiderdown pillows and quilts; and finally, there’s even baby’s own BLANKIE (neatly crossing eider). These elements, even as suggestions, charmingly enrich the theme idea.
Then, between the cluing (in some cases) and the fill, I also find a mini-theme of the culinary variety, starting with someone to WAIT ON [Take food orders from] me. Or you. So, what’ll it be? You can choose from an assortment of QUICHES (perhaps one made with morsels of HAM [which, as clued, you might also find in a western omelet]), BLTS, TOFU [Miso soup cube], or a green smoothie made with KALE. “M-M-M!” ["This panini is delicious!"]. Oh! I’m so glad to know that. And who’s to say—if you’re feeling “nutty AS A fruitcake,” you just might want a piece of that, too, for dessert. Hey—“I’LL PAY!” ["Dinner's on me!"].
We also get several PAIRs of go-together, proximate fill: adjacent negatives, the slangy “IX-NAY” and the military-correct “NO, SIR!”; crossing TV talk-show hostesses Kelly RIPA and OPRAH Winfrey; crossing weaponry, from the most destructive H-BOMB to the, what? less destructive/more “benign” (certainly by comparison…) BBS; and the stacked art-world tie-ins of EASEL and PRADO. As I’ve said on more than one occasion, all of this “internal glue” (sub-theme and mini-theme included ) helps to keep the puzzle tight.
And a bunch of tricky clues keep even the experienced solver on his/her toes. Like the ones that ultimately deliver prefixes, suffixes, or the well-disguised partial, e.g., [Cultural intro?] for AGRI- (agricultural), [Cannibal chaser] for -IZE (cannibalize) [hmm...shouldn't this clue get a question mark, too?], or [Opinion leaders?] for “IN MY…” (“In my opinion…”). Then we get the kind of clue that skews what we think the “obvious” answer might be, say, in a combo like [Wrote letters of authorization?] for OK’D. Here the “letters” in question are not those that get delivered by the post office but are, instead, (meaningfully) alphabet-based. [Revolutionary period?] does not refer to late-18th century America or France, but to the fact that it takes Earth the period of one full YEAR to make its revolution around the sun.
In the same vein, [Helped make Rice richer] does not refer to the food staple (this Rice is capitalized after all), nor to either former Secretary of State Condi or Lestat creator Anne, but to Rice University—made richer by being financially ENDOWED. And along those university lines, nice how the lively VARSITY [University sports team] sits directly above endowed Rice in the grid. In the “lively” department, too, I’d place FIRE ALARMS (along with its sensory, image-making clue [They'll drive you out of the office]) and SHAKE DOWNS. I was less taken with the more old-school OSSA and ASTI and OLAN (oh, my!), but know they go with the territory. They’re also the kind of fill learner-solvers should become acquainted with. They’re part of the bedrock of crosswordese—”go to” fill seasoned solvers keep in their arsenal.
And that’ll do it for today.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “Get Back”
The theme answers contain backwards words that form longer compound words if you place them after “back.” That sounds convoluted but it isn’t. See?
- 20a. [Places for missing persons reports], MILK CARTONS. Backtrack.
- 29a. [It's heard in Houston], TEXAS DRAWL. Backwards.
- 37a. [One end of a fencing sword], BLADE POINT. Backpedal. “Blade point” feels perhaps a little contrived.
- 46a. [Item exhumed years after burial], TIME CAPSULE. Backspace.
I like the reversed/rebus aspect to the hidden words, and I like three of the four themers.
Lots of interesting/fresh longer fill here, too. Good gravy, 14d. [Encyclopedia Brown's hometown]?! It’s IDAVILLE. If you’re a puzzly nerd anywhere near my generation, you devoured the Encyclopedia Brown mini-mysteries. Also good: phone ON SILENT; “WHO’S NEXT?“; nonfictional cities SARASOTA and GRENOBLE (plus, aptly enough, the Winter Olympics sport of BIATHLON); fruit IN SEASON (I await Bing cherries); and STAR WARS.
Here’s your music video for the day (complete with the lyrics printed below the video): XTC’s “SENSES Working Overtime.” 22a. ["And I've got one, two, three, four, five ___ working overtime" (XTC lyric)] was a gimme for me, thanks to my husband’s music collection.
Bruce Venzke’s Los Angeles Times crossword
Love the city + noun/ city = noun theme. Super-cute! We’ve got:
- 20a. [Agreement in a Massachusetts city?], CONCORD CONCORD.
- 26a. [Adobe dwelling in a Colorado city?], PUEBLO PUEBLO. This is fictional, as Pueblo County has no pueblos. They’re here.
- 49a. [Hanging sculpture in an Alabama city?], MOBILE MOBILE.
- 58a. [Bovine in a New York city?], BUFFALO BUFFALO.
Less fond of the non-beginner-friendly fill, which might include 15 answers. RETAG! OLEO! ABAFT! And many more! ZERO HOUR and GAME FACE are terrific fill but I would gladly sacrifice them both if it meant less of the words that appear so much more often in crosswords than out of them. I know plenty of you aren’t fazed by URIEL NAE ASPIC UKES, and they don’t slow me down at all, but they do dampen my enthusiasm for the crosswording venture.
4.25 stars for the theme, 2.25 for the fill, 3.25 stars overall.
Donna S. Levin’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Stir the Porridge”—Ade’s write-up
Good morning/afternoon everyone!
Not sure what your preference is for breakfast, but I’m either a cereal type (Corn Chex) or eggs with hash browns. Never been one for oatmeal or Cream of Wheat, though this puzzle by Donna S. Levin makes a whole theme about breakfast, with the letters R-I-C-E jumbled (or creamed) at the beginning of each of the four theme answers, with the reveal as the fifth theme answer. So maybe you’ll have scrambled rice right now, instead of scrambled eggs. OK, well, maybe not…
- CRIED A RIVER: (17A: [Bawled one’s eyes out])- Now the Justin Timberlake song is in my head…and not getting out.
- ICE ROAD TRUCKERS: (28A: [History Channel reality show set in the Arctic])- Part of what I call The Alaskan Invasion, with reality TV shows based in Alaska having now flooded the cable airwaves.
- ERICA: (35A: [“Fear of Flying” author Jong])- Who knew that a catalyst for second-wave feminism could be served in a bowl of breakfast?
- RECIDIVISM RATES: (43A: [Penologist's concern])-Lovely-looking 15-letter entry about a topic that’s not so lovely.
- CREAM OF RICE: (58A: [Porridge-like breakfast dish and, cryptically speaking, what the first four letters of 17-, 28-, 35-, and 43-Across are])
Not only was there a BONUS (6A: [Extra]) in the grid, but also EXCESS (13D: [Surplusage]). Along with Ice Road Truckers, there’s another reality show that’s an entry right above the grid with TIARAS (27A: [“Toddlers & ______]). Not that I would ever watch reality TV, but from what I hear, Toddlers and Tiaras is about young girls and their parents that are ADDICTS to the beauty pageant scene (41D: [Rehab residents]). Moving on to actual good performances and acting, really liked seeing SERPICO (10D: [Cop role that won Pacino his first Best Actor Golden Globe]).
Thank goodness I didn’t fall into the immediate trap of automatically filling in YMCA for a four-letter clue involving the Village People, and got NAVY almost immediately after reading the clue (8D: [They “want you as a new recruit,” sang the Village People]). First time coming across ARENDT in a grid (49A: [Political philosopher Hannah]), though I think Nicole Arendt was a former tennis player, so the last name was somewhat familiar.
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: HEIDI (50A: Film that famously interrupted a 1968 NFL telecast])- (Technically speaking, this was an AFL telecast and not an NFL telecast, since the AFL-NFL merger did not happen until two years later, 1970, and the Jets and Raiders were members of the AFL.) Probably the most famous regular-season game in televised football history became so because almost everybody never saw the finish of it! The 1968 AFL game between the New York Jets and Oakland Raiders ran longer than the three-hour window TV window it was slotted for, therefore causing a conflict with the airing of the TV movie Heidi, scheduled to air at 7 PM that evening. Though NBC executives wanted to hold off on airing Heidi until the game ended, the studio never got word of that decision, and at 7, NBC switched over to Heidi in the Eastern part of the U.S. At the time, the Jets led 32-29, but the Raiders scored two touchdowns in the final minute to win 43-32. Many viewers missed out on the exciting finish, and the way networks handled games that ran over its time slot changed immediately after that.
Thank you for your time, and we’ll see you all on Wednesday!