Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Wednesday, May 20, 2020, Natan Last, Andy Kravis and the J.A.S.A. Crossword Class


It's funny what you take for granted when you don't do a little research. For example, I had always assumed that J.A.S.A. was some sort of adult learning group. Instead, I find it's the Jewish Association Serving the Aging, a non-profit agency in the city of New York, providing social services. So now I have a different image in my mind of what this set of constructors might represent.

Regardless, under the tutelage of Mr. Last and Mr. Kravis, the class never fails to put out an entertaining grid. Today's is extra large, at 16 x 15, in order to support the four 16-letter entries. There is a pleasing consistency across all the theme answers, which take the form of an 8-letter word which can be broken neatly into two 4-letter words. By putting the two back to back and forcing a reparsing, we get some mighty silly phrases.

My favorite is definitely 51A: Headline about a pagan rotisserie shop? (HEATHENSHEATHENS) - first because the reparsing creates such a different sound in the middle of the phrase, from the soft TH to a hard T, pause, hard H. Second, because to describe a rotisserie as a place that heats hens is just silliness. Third, because the breathless nature of the headline is so completely out of sync with the topic. After all, people of other faiths than this newspaper's have been cooking poultry for longer than any faith has existed.

The other three elicited chuckles. While I do love me some brie (and have partaken of an annual baked varietal on New Year's Day provided by Horace for some years now), the difference between BRIEFEST and BRIE/FEST is not enough to make an aha moment.

The grid is very smooth otherwise. The class was wise not to attempt any crossing fill longer than seven letters. 46D: Private employer? (THEARMY) was cute. I also liked the cross-cluing of UNITE and UNTIE. And most of the time, I would prefer not to experience the metaphorical JAYBIRD.

Speaking of which, where did that phrase come from? Look here for the answer.

- Colum


  1. It's a good day for wordplay, with the themers and UNITE/UNTIE. My kind of day.

    I did try shore before MARSH, and it is probably good that "wetland" has too many letters, as it is more descriptive than poetic.

  2. 9:53
    This was a surprising and fun theme. MUSTACHEMUSTACHE is just silly. We don't generally take a BIBB lettuce around here, generally sticking with a red leaf/green leaf combo unless a Caesar salad is on the menu, but I am well aware of that variety, so I entered it off of the NABS cross. I always enjoy seeing related answers abut, and so enjoyed the proximity of DUEDATE and IVF. I also liked seeing HYBRID clued in a non-auto, and somewhat tricky, way, and any reminder of the brilliant SCTV is welcome. ASUSUAL, I had a good time with this Wednesday's NYT offering.