Nancy Cole Stuart’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Spooked” — Jim’s write-up
Halloween puns! Nancy Cole Stuart is serving up some spooky wordplay for us today.
- 16A [Zombie involved in a crash?] COLLISION CORPSE. From collision course. This theme answer is gruesome and not in a fun, Halloweeny way. Taken without the clue, the entry definitely does not pass the breakfast test. It is more real than any other themer since a corpse is not actually a monster. I wish the constructor could have used a zombie pun instead.
- 27A [Path followed by a specter?] WRAITH TRACK. Race track.
- 44A [Request to a phantom maestro?] PLAY IT GHOUL. Play it cool.
- 58A [Comment on a specter’s visibility?] THE GHOST IS CLEAR. The coast is clear.
Those are all pretty groan-worthy puns, so YMMV depending on how much you like puns. But I wish there could have been a little more consistency. In the first two themers, course becomes CORPSE with the introduction of a P sound, and race becomes WRAITH courtesy of a lisp. But in the last two a hard-C sound changes to a G: cool to GHOUL and coast to GHOST. I found this similarity a bit distracting.
- There were a lot more Halloweeny clues and entries in the grid than yesterday. For example, WITCHY, BOO, EERIE, and a host of spooky clues (28D for example: [Like banshees] for IRISH).
- Could not remember CARY GRANT as being the “Notorious” star (duh!). I kept wanting to put in James Cagney. Why might that be?
- Don’t know Tris Speaker or his nickname GREY EAGLE. That made the SW difficult for me.
- Loved the clue for 40A RENEW [Parents appeal]. Tough but fair.
Overall a fun puzzle keeping us in the spooky spirit until Saturday gets here.
Jay Kaskel and Daniel Kantor’s New York Times crossword—Erin’s write-up
If Judge Judy and VeggieTales combined their creative teams for a new side-dish legal arbitration show, Jay Kaskel and Daniel Kantor could write the pilot. They dish out some piping-hot edibles wordplay in today’s puzzle:
- 17a. [34-Across case involving … wrongful termination?] CANNED CORN
- 25a. [… divorce proceedings?] SPLIT PEAS
- 45a. [… political corruption?] DIRTY RICE
- 53a. [… marijuana possession?] BAKED BEANS
- Tying the theme together is the central answer, 34a. [Legal setting for 17-, 25-, 45- and 53-Across?] FOOD COURT
Each of the theme entries brought a smile to my face, and while I don’t think of SPLIT PEAS as a side by themselves, they’re all common food phrases and the wordplay is consistent. I can’t help but chortle at the thought of a kernel of corn perched at a podium on one side of the courtroom, with a giant piece of broccoli wearing robes and a gavel yelling at the boss (who may or may not be a French fry) for not bringing documentation about why the corn was fired. But anyway.
The cluing was pretty solid, especially 10d. [Famous middle name that means “love of God”] for AMADEUS, and 12d. [Flying transmitter] for TSETSE / 37d. [Invasive bug] for WIRETAP, with the neat twist of a more electronic clue for the insect and a more insect-related clue for the electronic device. SNIPERS and RELOADS are good longer fill, but seemed a little trigger-happy together in such a playful puzzle. Some of the shorter fill wasn’t great (ATRAS, MINOT, OUSE), but the theme and longer fill make up for it. Like GITANO. I don’t know if I had a pair, but I definitely remember them:
Finally, Falco is one of my guiltiest pleasures. Rock Me AMADEUS!
Erik Agard’s AVCX crossword, “If I Had a Nickel” — Ben’s Review
This week’s AV Club puzzle is a beast, you guys. It’s a Sunday-sized grid with plenty of interesting and challenging fill that took me nearly 20 minutes. While I liked the puzzle, I didn’t quite get the theme until I started writing up this post:
- 23A: Start drawing the Marvel antihero also known as Frank Castle? — PENCIL PUNISHER
- 40A: Evil part of a musical — SINISTER ACT
- 54A: “For the love of all that is holy, PLAY YOUR HORNS!”? — BLOW DARNIT
- 63A: Do an EEG? — MONITOR NEURONS
- 72A: What you might inadvertently get if one of your three wishes is a Wii? — GENIE WHIZ
- 74A: Do your Biology class report on the, uh, flying turtle…mouse? — FAKE AN ORGANISM
- 80A: What Clark Kent feels when he sees Kryptonite? — SUPER PANIC
- 95A: Pet name for a dog? — CANINE SUGAR
- 118A: (SPOILER ALERT) A butcher’s knife to the shoulder/back, courtesy of her own mother? — CARRIE FINISHER
While solving, I kept thinking how the theme entries kept switching irregularly between adding an IN and an NI, not quite realizing that all of the IN examples I had were actually INIs, meaning everything literally adds a nickel. Considering the puzzle’s title is “If I had a nickel”, this should have been waaaaay more obvious to my brain.
In some sort of crossword constructor mind meld, everyone seems to be cluing ALICIA Keys this week by mentioning her first album (14A, “Keys with Songs in A Minor”). I managed to learn a new role popular crossword and TV star ESAI Morales has played (that’d be “the president in The Brink”, according to 39A), and my music knowledge helped me realize that the “partner of chopped” 126A was looking for was likely SCREWED – that’s remixing by slowing part of a song down.
In the downs on this one, it was nice to see Armando IANNUCCI in the grid at 18D. I mostly blocked out Macklemore’s “Thrift Shop” when it came out, so I had no idea that WANZ was on it, or who WANZ is, so I needed to get 55D by the across clues. Aside from the theme clues, the actual clues in the puzzle this week seemed more straightforward for the AV Club – but that was balanced out by all the interesting fill.
Michael Sharp’s BuzzFeed crossword, “BuzzFeed Themeless 3″—Amy’s write-up
Hey! These are some kickass marquee answers. Brilliant Indian writer SHERMAN ALEXIE (how have I not been following him on Twitter?), WHITE PRIVILEGE, brilliant black writer TA-NEHISI COATES (his Atlantic articles are fierce), and rock band ALABAMA SHAKES, which is fronted by a black woman (I wandered off for a while to listen to another Southern woman fronting a roots rocks band, Nikki Hill). I like fill that doesn’t embody the stereotypical white male perspective. The next-longest pair of answers, SPEEDOMETERS and RISE TO THE TOP, are fine, though it is odd to find RISE TO THE TOP has sunk to the bottom of the grid.
Other fill I like: JOHN DOE, Don GIOVANNI (though technically, John and Giovanni are the same name), CIS ([Gender identity that isn’t trans]), EMPATH, and JORTS with a [“Dear Men, You Seriously Need To Stop Wearing ___” (denim-related 2014 Buzzfeed article)] clue (it’s short for jeans shorts).
Did not know: 13d. [Girl-oriented manga, familiarly], SHOJO. No idea what it’s short for.
- 40a. [Desk manner before Noah], STEWART. Took me forever to understand this clue—Jon STEWART “manning” the Daily Show desk before Trevor Noah.
- 28a. [Conclusion of a presidential address], GOV. I read “address” as “speech” and was confused.
- 20d. [Five-___ (baseball slang for position players who excel at hitting for average, hitting for power, baserunning, throwing ability, and fielding) (I swear this is a real thing)], TOOLERS. Never heard this term, and judging from the clue’s second parenthetical, I’m guessing it’s not too commonly known. So seldom does a clue basically come right out and say “Yeah, we don’t really expect you to know this one.”
- 32d. [“Alias” actress Lena or “Alias” executive producer Ken], OLIN. For real? Ken Olin worked on Alias too?
- 37d. [Like some red fish?], SWEDISH. That horrible “candy,” ugh. Did you know Trident sells a Swedish Fish/lemon “Layers” chewing gum? Here’s a review. I’m sticking with Swedish Lena Olin.
Least favorite fill: Prefix SNO (though I like it if it has a Sno-Caps context); abbrevs GRP, RDA (defunct), IRR; partial A STEP. Really nothing so terrible.
Solid 70-worder with an interesting grid featuring 12/13/14 stacks. And those 13s and 14s! Love them. 4.25 stars from me.
Al Hollmer & C.C. Burnikel’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary
At its heart, this is just a “phrases that are completed by” theme; in this case Muscle, South, Long and Palm are completed by BEACH. It does have a cute revealer in BEACHPARTY.
There are good fill choices in most areas: TOSTADA, STRATEGO, EGOTRIP, MOLIERE, GRANDEUR, ERITREA and the snigger-inducing HOOHA dot the landscape.
[Take ___ the waist], INAT is a terrible partial worsened by an awkwardly “trying to be fresh” clue. Just go with [___ the death] and move on. While we’re on odd clues, what’s with [“Chocoholic’s favorite tree?], CACAO‘s question mark. It seems to signal wordplay, of which there is a lack.
I still need to be explained how OTARU is anywhere near important enough to be crossworthy. It has a population half that of the 110th most populous Japanese city (I couldn’t find a longer list with it on!) It seems to have been historically more important, but not so much I’m convinced there’s a valid reason to have heard of it. It has precedent and that’s it. I asked an (infrequent crossword solving) American friend of mine who is a Japanophile and he agreed (though he could tell me a fair bit about the town…)
Tony Orbach’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Dashed Dashes”—Ade’s write-up
Hello again, everyone! How’s everyone doing on this Hump Day? Today’s crossword puzzle, brought to us by Mr. Tony Orbach, has a little anagram taste to it, as each of the first three answers, derived from its funky, pun-like cluing, are multiple-word entries in which the last word is an anagram of the word “salt.” Speaking of salt, the entry SALT SHAKER acts as the reveal (64A: [Tabletop dispenser that might have produced the final words of 17-, 29-, and 47-Across]).
- CELERY SLAT (17A: [Thin strip of a crunchy stalk?]) –
- GARLIC LAST (29A: [Recipe note for the final step in making a flavorful stir-fry?])
- KOSHER LATS (47A: [Back muscles developed in a strictly legitimate way?])
So is CHEATERS the word that home teams’ fans chant when the New England Patriots come to their place and play a road game this season (54A: [Shout from a team of sore losers, perhaps])? I’d be shocked if they didn’t chant that at some point. What a slick clue for AWAY GAME, actually referencing a Pittsburgh Pirate baseball player instead of an actual pirate (42A: [Pirate’s travel itinerary part?]). Even for someone who usually sniffs out misleading clues that actually reference sports very well, that had me at sea for a little bit. The opening entry of BOÎTE I would have only gotten through its crosses, which is exactly how I was able to get that entry right today (1A: [Small cabaret]). It’s definitely not a day to STROLL around New York City, as it’s pouring right now as we speak (10D: [Amble]). It’s a good thing the World Series game tonight is being played in Kansas City instead, right?
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: SWIFT (46A: [Singer whose “Black Space” was her second consecutive No. 1 on the Billboard’s Hot 100 in 2014]) – No, I wouldn’t have known that Taylor sung this song if you gave me that title as a clue, but her last name did make me think of former Major League Baseball pitcher Bill SWIFT. Although being a decent yet unremarkable pitcher in his 13 years in the Majors, Swift finished second in the 1993 National League Cy Young Award voting in 1993 while a member of the San Francisco Giants. Swift went 21-8 with a 2.82 ERA for the Giants in 1993, who won 103 games yet missed out on the playoffs that year, finishing a game back in the NL West to the Atlanta Braves. Atlanta just happened to have the player who won the Cy Young Award in the NL that season, Greg Maddux.
Thank you so much for your time, and I hope to see you here again tomorrow!