Fireball is a contest this week. The review will be posted once the deadline for entries is closed.
Lewis E. Rothlein’s New York Times crossword—Andy’s review
Theme of the puzzle is revealed at 15d, X MARKS THE SPOT [Treasure hunt phrase … or a hint to seven Across answers]. Seven across answers have a SPOT rebus, but the corresponding down answers have a letter X in that square. Thus, everywhere it appears in the grid, X also MARKS a SPOT:
- 14a, IN A SPOT [Stuck], crossing 15d, X MARKS THE SPOT.
- 19a, GUEST SPOT [One-time appearance on a TV show], crossing 12d, TEXTER [One who shouldn’t be driving].
- 20a, SPOT OF TEA [Refreshment for a Brit], crossing 3d, PRIX FIXE [Alternative to à la carte].
- 31a, DESPOTISM [Oppressive rule by absolute power], also crossing 3d, PRIX FIXE [Alternative to à la carte] (but at the other X).
- 44a, “OUT, DAMNED SPOT!” [Command in “Macbeth”], crossing EX-ENEMY [Japan, to the U.S.]. EX-ENEMY did not return many results in my cursory Google search, but it’s the kind of entry that is inferable, and the clue certainly fits it well. Do you all think EX-ENEMY is a legitimate crossword entry? If so, what about EX-INLAW? That crossword chestnut EX-GI? How about EX-MET? EX-JET? EX-[insert team here]? Any principled way to draw the line, or are all EX- phrases fair game?
- 51a, SPOTIFY [Popular music streaming service], crossing X IN [Choose, as a questionnaire box].
- 66a, SPOT-ON [Perfect], crossing 38d, TRAIL MIX [Backpack snack]. I like the way “backpack snack” sounds.
The last time I remember X MARKS THE SPOT being in a New York Times crossword, it was at the end of a lovely Contest Week by Patrick Blindauer. This puzzle does something slightly different, and I really liked this concept. I liked almost all of the SPOT and X phrases. The difficulty felt just right for a Thursday; my time was a bit above my Thursday average, but I also spent about 10 extra seconds typing in SPOT rebuses that I later spent another 10 seconds replacing.
It’s really difficult to get seven(!) Xs into a grid cleanly. This grid comes close, and it also manages to get some good non-theme fill: STIFF-ARM, OCEAN MAP, GASLIT, ANKLE-BITER, GAG REEL. But it’s not without its compromises: glaringly, the SHWA variant, but also UTA, IS UP, and the dupe of AGE ONE and ONE CUP. I thought ON A TEAM was a strange phrase to pass off as stand-alone; very much the kind of thing you might find in a Jeffrey Wechsler LA Times Friday, which is certainly some people’s SPOT OF TEA.
That’s all I have on this one — a solid Thursday offering. Until next week!
Samuel A. Donaldson’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Now, Now!” — Jim’s review
They sure have something against Ws over there at the WSJ this week. Yesterday, we were changing them to Vs. Today, we’re eliminating them altogether (at least in the theme answers).
Each entry has two words that originally started with W. These have been removed and the results are mostly good. To make sense of the title, re-parse it as, “No W, No W!”
- 17a [Slogan advertising free detergent for the masses?] ALL TO ALL. Wall-to-wall.
- 25a [Unconventional assassin?] ALT-HITMAN. Walt Whitman. Nice find.
- 36a [“Introducing Signor Gucci!”?] HERE’S ALDO. Where’s Waldo? This is the one where the penny dropped for me.
- 52a [Remnants of a corn fire?] ASH AND EAR. Wash and wear. Meh. I guess you can’t win them all.
- 61a [Golf course cops?] HOLE HEAT. Whole wheat. There are several directions this clue could have gone, including one involving Preparation H. Probably wise that they went for the golf clue.
As is typical of letter-deletion themes, grokking what’s going on usually takes a little longer. It wasn’t until I filled in my fourth entry that I got it. When I did, I enjoyed finding that last one.
The grid features fairly wide open corners with some nice 7-letter entries: SPARTAN, AT-LARGE, and the beautifully-named LEILANI Mitchell up top with PEAPODS, OTHELLO, MR DEEDS, and DOG DAYS down below. In the middle, fun entry STREAKER gets an equally fun clue: [Person who takes off running?]. I also liked LOW-TECH, TIMOTHY hay, and EXIT ROW.
Other clues of note:
- 2d [For Fight Club, it’s “You do not talk about Fight Club”]. RULE ONE. Uh, no. The start of the quote is, “The first rule of Fight Club…” If the clue is going to quote the movie, I should think the answer would as well.
- 47a [Don’t go fast?]. EAT. Clever. Fasting as in not eating.
And the saddest clue award goes to 29a [Tribe home, informally]. REZ. For some, this may conjure up images of dusty poverty, alcoholism, and hopelessness. I realize this is a stereotype, but in many places, it’s not. And there’s no escaping the fact that we are a nation built on the subjugation of its native people and their essential incarceration onto poor-value lands. Good job, early Americans. And truthfully, things haven’t really gotten a lot better. Interesting that this entry crosses APACHE (clued with respect to the helicopter), a people who suffered terribly at the hands of the American and Mexican governments.
So that entry was a downer, but on the whole, this was an enjoyable theme and puzzle.
Bruce Haight’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s review
I found this crossword a bit tacky. To be precise, three pieces of tack replace homophones to create wacky, but unusually vague, clues referencing horses. I think the first revealer HORSEVOICE, necessitated some of the vagueness, as “horse” was made out of bounds. [How the theme entries should be pronounced?], with a bit of finessing, could have been sufficient to reveal the theme. The additional MRED, bit was a bit messy, in my opinion, of course. I can’t think of any other pieces of tack that have homophones? Surcingle? Numnah? Martingale? You might have been able to come up with repurposed “bit” and “halter” entries, but the three used are a pretty tight set.
- [Like wild boar meat], GAMY and LEAN. Eaten warthog, but not wild boar; warthog is quite fatty, although leaner than pork.
- [Triage MD], ERDOC. Side-eye.
- [Christmas cracklers], YULELOGS. Puik clue!
- [“Ratatouille” director Bird], BRAD. That is… not a Brad I know.
- [“My word!”], IDODECLARE. Heavens to Betsy!
- [“That price is negotiable,” in ads], OBO. Or best offer, I assume; though I’ve never seen it so abbreviated, in puzzles or elsewhere.
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword – “Ground Beef” — Ben’s Review
With the Russians secretly invading everything in America these days, it only makes sense that they’d take over BEQ’s crossword. Luckily, this makes for a pretty straightforward, fun theme:
Regular folks on the Russian Space Station?— MIR MORTALS
Place to worship an old Russian assembly? — TEMPLE OF DUMA
“Care for this Russian money, Whoopi?”– RUBLE GOLDBERG
- 53A: Russian insect repellent? — MOSQUITO NYET
- 59A: Flimsy Russian forest? — PAPER TAIGA
I am always in the mood for good puns, and these are good puns. Particularly loved RUBLE GOLDBERG and PAPER TAIGA.
(Verka Serduchka is Ukrainian, not Russian, but I’ll never pass up the opportunity to post “Dancing Lasha Tumbai”. Look, it was either this or some t.A.T.u.)
Other things I liked: DAFT, THOM Yorke of Radiohead, KENO GAME, LAKESIDE, the Mazda MIATA, YMCA, SECANT, FLAMBE, KLAATU, and IRON-ON t-shirts
Punny theme, nice fill.