Devil Cross #68 by Evan Birnholz

Whip or nae-nae your way over to Evan’s site and solve “SQUARE DANCING” before reading on.


“Square Dancing”

Theme: Common phrases that end with dances

  • 23A: NEWS REEL – Dance performed by an anchor?
  • 25A: PROTEIN SHAKE – Dance performed by a nutritionist?
  • 40A: COLBERT BUMP – Dance performed by the host of “The Late Show”?
  • 44A: ROCK SLIDE – Dance performed by a climber?
  • 63A: IPOD SHUFFLE – Dance performed by a portable music enthusiast?
  • 83A: MINUTE WALTZ – Dance performed by a timekeeper?
  • 103A: ISLAND HOP – Dance performed by a castaway?
  • 106A: OLIVER TWIST – Dance performed by a famous Stone?
  • 120A: AVOCADO SALSA – Dance performed by a guacamole lover?
  • 125A: LOCK STEP – Dance performed by a safecracker?

This week’s Devil Cross is rated as “mild” on Evan’s site, and I’d have to agree — this is a breezy, fun solve that isn’t going to take long to crack. I’m hardly a speed solver, but I was done in under 15 minutes, and this was the first time I slowed down enough to register what the theme was:


You can see that I had already filled in several theme answers without really registering how they connected to their clues. I started the puzzle by filling in both parts of VERA WANG (118D/1D: Designer of the gowns in “Bride Wars”) and basically didn’t stop entering letters until I connected the two spots. So a very easy solve, which is fine — not every puzzle needs to be a brainbuster, and this is both well made and cleanly filled.

The theme is simple but cute. The base phrases are pretty lively, especially COLBERT BUMP (a term I wasn’t familiar with — it’s the rise in popularity that often followed an appearance on The Colbert Report). I think IPOD SHUFFLE and OLIVER TWIST are my favourites, but they’re all solid. One minor annoyance is that the WALTZ in MINUTE WALTZ already refers to a dance, while all the others have non-dance-related meanings in their base phrases. That feels a little inelegant. On the plus side, it does provide a Z for LIONIZE (54D: Treat like a king of the jungle — uh, scratch that last part about the jungle).

Random fill and clues that I enjoyed:

  • OTHELLO (15D: The Bard’s board game?) – I always forget there’s a board game by this name. Never played it.
  • USES (31A: “Startling Pigeons And 16 Other ___ For A Trombone” (title on a cover of The Onion’s Weekender)) – I misread this as “For A Tombstone”, and was so confused at first.
  • CARAMEL (52D: Whatchamacallit ingredient) – We don’t have these in Canada. Are they any good?
  • SPADES (79A: Heart beaters, often) – Bridge! Nicely devious.
  • DIPLOMAS – 8D: Rice papers? – Also a nice one. I was stymied enough by it to change directions in the grid, and ended up circling back around at the end.
  • NOAM (95A: “There’s a good reason why nobody studies history: it just teaches you too much” speaker Chomsky) – Great quote.
  • RESCUE (107D: “Chip ‘n Dale ___ Rangers”) – Hey, I loved this show when I was a kid! Bet it doesn’t hold up.

I wanted JACK KIRBY or JOE SIMON for 93D: Cap creator instead of the correct HATMAKER, but the crosses didn’t work. And I’m not hip enough to know drug lingo, so I had SALIVA instead of cannabis SATIVA at 116A until it produced TWILS instead of TWITS for 102D: Foolish fellows. Also didn’t know SEPAL (62D: Calyx component), which I gather refers to flowers, or a couple of proper names (Jessi COLTER, Lennox LEWIS, Greg OLSEN). All easily solved from the crosses, so no big deal.

I think that’s about it. Light and breezy.

  1. Thanks for the review! Nicely done, Ben.

    I was a bit uncertain about using MINUTE WALTZ myself for that reason, but it was very, very difficult to find a tenth word that could double with both a dance and non-dance meaning (STOMP? SKIP?), and have a familiar phrase matching in length with IPOD SHUFFLE. Plus I figured that MINUTE WALTZ was mostly well-known as the Chopin piano piece that it’d be different enough in surface meaning from a straight-up dance. I’d be all for suggestions for an alternate themer, however.

    Tiny correction: Lennox is the boxer’s first name. Mostly well-known during the early 2000s, I think.


    • Ben Johnston said:

      Gah, I even checked that while I was writing it up and I still got it wrong. Fixed now.


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