Solution to Evan Birnholz’s July 31 crossword puzzle, “Animal Adoption”

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Last weekend was Boswords Summer Tournament. I couldn’t attend in person, but competed virtually with a few hundred others…and managed to finish in seventh place among all individual online solvers! I did not expect such a high finish, although I ended up making a mistake on the difficult championship puzzle (which does not affect its place in the classification). Still, it was a fun set of puzzles and you can buy them yourself at this link above. If you’re a budding builder who hasn’t been published in The New York Times, you might also consider submitting a non-themed puzzle to Boswords for their upcoming Fall Themeless League. Again, there is more information at this link.

In other personal news, I hit a milestone earlier this week: July 26 marked exactly 10 years since I got my first jigsaw acceptance. It was for a collection of puzzles called Twenty Under Thirty, edited by American Values ​​Club crossword editor and friend of the show Ben Tausig. I still can’t believe it’s been so long since that first “yes”, but after spending the previous three and a half years receiving nothing but rejections, I remember it was one of the greatest chills of my young puzzle life.

It’s a zoo over there! Or in there, to be exact. In this puzzle, seven famous people have “adopted” different animals by inserting them into their names, creating wacky phrases. Each topic response contains two clues, first telling you about the pet’s adoption, then the resulting weird phrase.

  • 23A: [Washington Post journalist adopting a serpent / Singer Dylan courts a hospital section full of nude people?]. BOB WOODWARD adopts a SNAKE TO DO BOB-WOOS NAKEDDISTRICT D.
  • 33A: [“The Tyger” poet adopting a farm bird / Declaration about being actress Lively while sick?]. WILLIAM BLAKE adopts a CHICKEN TO DO OHFR EVIL I AM BLAKE.
  • 49A: [“Hello, Dolly!” actress adopting a large deer / Ruler of the Christmas song TV network?]. CAROL CHANNING adopts a ELK TO DO CAROL CHANNELKING.
  • 66A: [Blues legend adopting a big cat / Seas full of mischievous aliens?]. ETHEL WATERS adopts a LION to make ETHELLION WATERS.
  • 84A: [Former SNL actor adopting an amphibian / Headline about how politico Buttigieg plans on adopting an enthusiastic boy?]. PETE DAVIDSON adopts a TOAD to make pete JO ADDAVID SON.
  • 99A: [“A Beautiful World” painter adopting a large bird / Those who inspire a family matriarch named after one of the Stooges?]. GRANDMA MOSES adopts an EMU to make GRANDMOTHER MOE MUHSE.
  • 115A: [“The Fugitive” co-star adopting a rodent / Command to designer Hilfiger to ogle cinematic archaeologist Indiana?]. TOMMY LEE JONES adopts a RAT to make TOMMY LEER To JONES.

I didn’t want to use a completely random set of animals, so there’s a note above the puzzle that says, “The first letters of the adopted animals in this puzzle spell an appropriate seven-letter word.” The first letters of animals (SNAKED, HFR, ELK, LION, JADO, EMU, RAT) spell SHELTERwhere celebrities have likely adopted their new pets.

Adding letters or words to familiar phrases is tried and true crossword puzzle territory, but I always forget how hard it is to come up with viable answers when adding the word forces you to reanalyze the entire phrase into something. completely different. For example, a pun like JACKRABBIT NICHOLSON is a fairly easy addition of RABBIT to JACK NICHOLSON, but it doesn’t really change the meaning of the original sentence. The animals in this puzzle transform celebrity names into completely bizarre phrases that you’ll probably never write or say out loud in conversation. But then if my cat is any indication, animals are strange creatures that make our lives more joyful just by being around them.

Some other answers and clues:

  • 30A: [Home of the hawks] is AREA. A group of birds that haven’t been adopted by a celebrity today.
  • 39A: [Boars, bulls, etc.] is MALES. A few more stray animals.
  • 46A: [Dalmatians at stations, perhaps] is TRACKS. Wait, it really is a zoo here. So many animals that didn’t create wacky sentences but still ended up in the puzzle.
  • 56A: [Big farm creatures] is OX and adjacent to 57A: [Small farm creature] is ANT. More creatures in the grid, large and small.
  • 60A: [Steel appendage for Doctor Octopus] is TENTACLE. Ok, to be honest, that was an extra animal that I didn’t even remember including until now. I only thought of Doctor Octopus because I was a Spider-Man fan when I was younger, not because I was trying to shoehorn another animal into the clues.
  • 125A: [Grooms like a peacock] is PREENS. I think what this puzzle shows me is that I’m writing down more animal-related clues than I realize.
  • 4D: [Toyed with, like a kitten would] is PAW. Well, I just mentioned my cat above, so why not throw a kitten into the mix?
  • 12D: [Eel in a sushi roll] is UNAGI. This fish is placed safely away from the octopus.
  • 107D: [Hammerhead’s habitat] is OCEAN. This shark hides near the bottom, but may hunt eel or octopus.

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