Zachary Spitz’s New York Times crossword—Andy’s review
It’s a rebus Thursday! The gimmick is explained at 31a / 44a, CORNER / OFFICE [With 44-Across, V.I.P. area represented four times in this puzzle] / [See 31-Across]. Each of the four corner boxes contains a word that can precede “office” in a common phrase:
- 1a, (BOX)CAR [Transporter with sliding doors], crossing 1d, (BOX) SEATS [Luxuries for theatergoers]. Box office.
- 9a, (GOAL)POST [Kicker’s target], crossing 13d, (POST)ER CHILD [Archetype]. Post office. Kickers aren’t aiming for the goalposts, right? Unless it’s a particularly windy day, maybe?
- 36d, FDA APPR(OVAL) [Need for drugs], crossing 68a, (OVAL)TINE [Popular drink]. Oval office. Boy there’s a lot happening here. I know the [Need for drugs] clue is trying to be cute, but lots of drugs (including those not sold in the U.S.) don’t need FDA approval. Needs a question mark, in my opinion. Plus, the return of the [Popular ___] clue for a thing that isn’t particularly popular! First RUM RAISIN, now OVALTINE!
- 51d, STEAL (HOME) [Sneakily advance from third], crossing 70a, FUN (HOME) [Alison Bechdel memoir made into a hit 2015 Broadway musical]. Home office.
I don’t have a lot to say about this one. It’s a good, competent execution of a Thursday rebus theme I’ve seen plenty of times before (i.e., rebuses in the corners + CORNER ___ revealer). The theme answers were all well chosen, I thought. The 8-letter stacks in the NE and SW are cool (YAKITORI, LION’S DEN, plus the two theme answers were very good), and I liked that the four corners all have different rebuses, but it didn’t really do enough to distinguish itself from previous iterations for me.
In hindsight, the NRA/MACLEOD crossing seems a little rough given the cluing (could just as easily be NRC/MCCLEOD if you’re unfamiliar with The Love Boat, and NRA isn’t clued as the famous National Rifle Association but rather as the FDR-era National Recovery Administration). Also, PERCENT and RED CENT is on the cusp of dupe territory. Otherwise a fine puzzle.
Until next weekend!
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “King Me!” — Jim’s review
It’s not often we see a BEQ byline in the WSJ, so this was a pleasant surprise.
As if in answer to pannonica’s question in yesterday’s comments (“Who’s Rex?”), BEQ makes his claim for the throne. (Hopefully, he brought his dragons.) Does BEQ fancy himself the new king of crosswords? Or else is this puzzle an homage to someone named Rex? I suppose we’ll never know. But it’s a clever use of the title phrase for theme-building purposes.
By the way, the Latin word REX is added to four common phrases.
- 18a [Mexican treat at a Philadelphia university?] DREXEL TACO. Del Taco, the fast-food chain. I know it, but I don’t think I’ve ever eaten at one. When I lived in San Antonio, the go-t0 fast-food Mexican restaurant was Taco Cabana.
- 27a [Mailroom tape?] OFFICE MEMOREX. Office memo. Does anyone still use audio- or video-tape of any sort these days?
- 46a [Stipulation that things are on the house at an old drugstore?] FREE FOR REXALL. Free-for-all. I did not realize Rexall was defunct. Some franchises still use the name, and Rexall products are still being sold.
- 60a [Role Nigel Farage played in a 2016 vote?] BREXIT PART. Bit part. Do people here know Nigel Farage, leader of the UK Independence Party (UKIP)? Wikipedia calls UKIP a “Eurosceptic and right-wing populist political party.” When I lived in England, my old neighbour happily voted for Brexit, primarily for economic reasons (he certainly has no love for Farage). But he said that if he knew how much of a mess they were going to make of it, he wouldn’t have. Last I heard, there was still talk of another referendum once plans have been finalized, but they are nowhere near any concrete details at this point.
All in all, a pretty standard add-some-letters theme, but it works well and the Scrabbly X makes things more interesting, giving us crossings of ROXY, XENA, the standard AXE, but interesting THE MAX.
Nice long fill in TAKE NOTICE and RATTLETRAP. The latter makes me think of this short story by Neil Gaiman with one of the best onomatopoeic titles I know. (If you have ten minutes to spare, listen to the author read it below.)
Didn’t much care for ERIE PA, ERNE, or the clue for SHREW. [Constant nag] sounds sexist even though no gender is specifically called out.
- 1d [“Abort, Retry, Fail?” software]. MS-DOS. Nice clue. At one time that would’ve been a gimme for me, but I needed some crossings before the light bulb went off.
- 67a [MC of NWA]. REN. Here we have BEQ’s trademark musical references coming through. (See also 53a TUPAC [He had a beef with Biggie].) MC Ren joined NWA just before they began work on their influential Straight Outta Compton album.
- 69a [1974 Sutherland/Gould spoof]. SPYS. I was thinking M*A*S*H, but that came out in 1970.
- 37a [Fight for 15 concern]. WAGE. The organization started in 2012 when fast food workers walked off the job in NYC demanding a living WAGE. Bernie Sanders is teaming up with the group to organize demonstrations and marches this Labor Day. Contrarily, recent studies and evidence show dramatic pay raises have been hurting small businesses and therefore, their workers.
- 5d [Sex ed subj.]. STD. Duplication of “sex.” But really, is that such a bad thing? And have any of the mainstream publications used this or a similar clue for this abbreviation? It’s nice to see the WSJ being willing to break with convention.
Nice puzzle overall. And now, as promised. Neil Gaiman reads “Click Clack the Rattle Bag.”
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword – “Truckin'” — Ben’s Review
This week’s BEQ seems a little undercooked, theme-wise, though that’s not apparent at first glance:
- 20A: Christmastime rental — SANTA COSTUME
- 53A: Place for battle planning — STRATEGY ROOM
- 36A: Jokey way to describe the food truck industry … and a hint to this puzzle’s hidden theme — MEALS ON WHEELS
That’s it, at least to my eyes (though I could completely be missing a few other theme entries). As to the “hidden” theme, the TACO from SANTA COSTUME is on top of the CAR in CARE, and GYRO from STRATEGY ROOM is on top of the CAR in CARVE. This feels a bit too slight to qualify as a full theme, especially since I don’t like either of these entries as answers to their clue. SANTA COSTUME feels like a clunky version of SANTA SUIT, and STRATEGY ROOMs are usually called WAR ROOMs. I’m hoping there’s another themer I’m missing in the mix here.
Underwhelming theme, but I liked the shout-outs to Margaret KEENE, LPNS, QUEEN BEE, and SNORRI, who sounds like one of the Icelandic versions of the Seven Dwarves, but is actually an Edda writer. Someone’s been to Reykjavik recently!
This one needed a little more time in the oven as a theme.
David Poole’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s review
The puzzle features phrases starting with demonyms in them that repurpose the second part to create wacky phrases. I kind of wish there was something more specific about this set, but there isn’t. IRISHSETTERS changes SETTERS to be about volleyball, ITALIANBREAD is now referring to money (which is bread in crossworld), SPANISHSTEPS are now dance steps, and INDIANSUMMER now refers to arithmetic.
Wish constructor and editor had taken a little time to polish the grid: XED, YRS, IQS, SEC, ICBM in 4×3 corners are entirely unnecessary. The ACTSO/TITOV/OSS area and REBEC in its opposite are due to a design with three themers on top of each other. To clean this would be a much bigger task…