The WSJ puzzle today is a meta contest puzzle by constructor Matt Gaffney. It will be reviewed on this site after the contest closes Sunday evening.
Gareth Bain and Brad Wilber’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Okay, there are plenty of solvers who consider Brad to be their nemesis. They gnash their teeth all the way through his puzzles, struggling with his particular brand of erudite clues. Well, I like Brad’s puzzles, and this one took me one second longer than the Tuesday puzzle. Was it Tuesday-easy for you, or did I just hit a groove? Edited to add: Black Ink solving software typically obscures the first half of a dual byline. So hey, it’s half Gareth! That could explain why it’s not Brad-tough.
Lots of lively fill in the grid. I was partial to CABOT COVE (though I’ve never watched Murder, She Wrote), US AND THEM (which I didn’t know was also a Pink Floyd song title), DANCE CRAZE, SPREAD ‘EM, HOT MIC, MAKE NICE (Brad excels at doing just that—he may, in fact, be second only to Howard Barkin in the Nicest Crossworder standings), SCHMO, and GEEZERS. (Any comments calling me a hypocrite for not calling out the targeting of men in the latter word will be summarily deleted.) Definitely a solid 68-worder.
Five more things:
- 19a. [Off one’s rocker], BATS. Would much rather see this clued as a noun and not this adjective. Folks with mental illness have enough trouble without having their conditions belittled and stigmatized.
- 42a. [Brat Pack name], LOWE. I’m years late to the Parks and Recreation party, but very much enjoy Rob Lowe’s character. (Husband and I started watching it on Netflix during our surgical recoveries, and we’re into the final season now.) He is literally one of the show’s funniest three or four characters. (See also: Ron Swanson, Tom Haverford.)
- 52a. [It makes granite glint], MICA. Filled it in easily enough, and yet I’m not convinced I actually knew this, despite taking Introduction to Geology in college. I never seem to find soft bits in granite, and mica is so soft. (Apparently this can be a problem with granite countertops, which I no longer covet. Flecks coming off! No bueno.)
- 1d. [Do a school visit, maybe?], SCUBA. You know what? I checked two dictionaries, and neither shows SCUBA as a verb (the verb form being scuba-dive). Is this one of those evolving usages?
- 2d. [Yellow-skinned fruit], CASABA. I filled in *A*A*A and waited to see if the crossings gave me BANANA or PAPAYA, misremembering what the “yellow-skinned fruit” trick is. Thank you, crossings!
Only one tennis answer and one opera clue? Well, that’s pretty much the bare minimum I expect from a Wilber puzzle. We would also have accepted a library-related clue in lieu of one of the other topics. (College librarian Brad loves opera and tennis.) Edited to add: Since I didn’t realize this was also a Bain puzzle, I wasn’t attuned to looking for Gareth’s obsessions in the fill and clues, too.
4.2 stars from me.
Jeffrey Wechsler’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s review
I’ve never heard of the phrase DOWNINFRONT before. I can guess what it means though: “I can’t see the screen.” It googles more than well enough, so I must be in a small minority. I wanted it to be DONT something initially; DONTSPOILIT perhaps. Actually, right at the beginning, when I had a starred four-letter answer at 1A, I thought we were getting a word ladder.
The theme trope is a fairly uncommon one. The answers require you to mentally insert DOWN at their fronts to make them match their clues. The fun of the puzzle is the initial confusion leading to an (in my case quite delayed) a-ha when you solve the fractured clues.
The answers themselves in these cases tend to be fairly prosaic: downCAST, downGRADE, downFALL, downLOAD, downWIND, downTOWN, downSWING, downBEAT. A common problem I have found with these themes is that the answers sometimes kind of work even without the missing part. Here, the only one I see is [*Musical starting point] for BEAT. This is a big improvement over most other examples of this theme I can recall.
- [Bygone dentrifrice], IPANA. Didn’t know the word ‘dentrifrice’. It’s basically a synonym for ‘toothpaste’. Appropriately, it’s a mouthful.
- I can’t be the only one who confidently dropped olOROSO into 2d, [Spanish sherry] instead of AMOROSO. It fouled things up no end!
- [Marx of lesser repute], GUMMO. Not enough blocks for Richard ALAS!
- [Classic military text by Carl von Clausewitz], ONWAR. Another unknown. Difficult, but inferrable (two common words, plus a nudge from the clue!) and fresh-feeling too.
- I FORESEE a few people struggling in the AVEENO (plus TOMKAT and KERI) region. Not beyond the pale, but certainly a few tough answers there!
- [Endangered Sumatran], ORANG. I never hear this as anything other than orang-utan!?
Gareth, leaving you with the Crystals…
Donna S. Levin’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Beatles Flops”—Ade’s write-up
Hello everyone! I hope you all are doing well! Today’s crossword puzzle, brought to you by Ms. Donna S. Levin, are all the songs that the Fab Four would have sung, but thought better of. Explained in another way, each of the four theme answers are puns of famous songs from The Beatles, with the titles of the songs altered by changing one letter.
- I WANNA BE YOUR FAN (17A: [Beatles song about an aspiring groupie?]) – From “I Wanna Be Your Man.”
- FENNY LANE (28A: [Beatles song about a path through the bog?]) – From “Penny Lane.”
- FESTER DAY (46A: [Beatles song about a celebration in honor of an Addams Family uncle?]) – From “Yesterday.”
- HERE COMES THE FUN (61A: [Beatles song about imminent good times?]) – From “Here Comes The Sun.”
Boy, was I taken for a look with SMALL U (20A: [Member of an unscrupulous quartet?]). Those misleads that usually refer to the actual structure/spelling of another word usually isn’t a problem, but wasn’t picking it up there, to the point where I thought REBUFF wasn’t right (6D: [Snub]). The two Ls and the U at the end had me doing a triple take before I caught on. Ended up being familiar with the lake referenced in the clue to AUSTIN when I visited the Univ. of Texas about five years ago, and was told by a few people there that a few college rowing teams travel there during the holidays to practice there (58A: [Texas site of Lady Bird Lake]). It definitely was the most random fact that I learned when I was down there! This was a real fun puzzle, and it also was a way to have some real good earworms slip in for a few minutes, thinking about The Beatles.
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: NL EAST (18D: [Marlins’ and Mets’ division]) – Ever since divisional play started in Major League Baseball in 1969, the Atlanta Braves have won the most NL EAST Division titles, at 12. Interestingly enough, the Atlanta Braves started the divisional play era in the NL West, which they won in 1969 when they lost to the NL East champion in 1969, the New York Mets, in the first National League Championship series. Here are the number of times the other current teams in the NL East have won the division in their history: Philadelphia Phillies (11), New York Mets (5), Washington Nationals/Montreal Expos (3), Florida Marlins (0). Despite the Marlins never winning an NL East division title, they’ve won two World Series.
Have a great weekend, everyone!