Mary Lou Guizzo and Jeff Chen’s New York Times crossword—Erin’s write-up
A combination quotation and word “ladder” puzzle transforms us from FOOL to SAGE through a saying by a Latin mime writer.
- 17a. [Part 1 of a maxim by Publilius Syrus, hinted at by the series of circled letters] The quotation continues through 20a., 60a., and 65a. and reads LET A FOOL HOLD HIS TONGUE AND HE WILL PASS FOR A SAGE.
- A word “ladder” begins at 17a. with FOOL and gracefully slides down the grid with TOOL, TOLL, and TALL, then falls through a wormhole or portal to the left side of the grid, resuming with TALE, SALE, SANE, and ending at 65a. with SAGE.
Quotation puzzles are common, and word ladder puzzles for the sake of having a word ladder often lead to subpar fill, but this mix of the two led to an interesting solve without sacrificing the fill. I noticed the word ladder early on, but since I tend to read things left to right I saw that TALE was not a single letter change from TOOL, but TOLL was. Then I was able to pick up on the diagonal progression from FOOL to TALL. The clue at 47. [With 32-Across, whopper] links TALL TALE together nicely, so I was able to rationalize the unexpected leap back to the left and follow the remainder diagonally from TALE to the end of the quote.
The fill didn’t jump out at me as overly sparkly and fresh, but newer answers like GRU from the “Despicable Me” movies help balance out more established names such as Loretta SWIT and Tatum O’NEAL. KODIAK was one I hadn’t seen in a while and provides good contrast to the ever-cuddly POOH. Finally, the SE corner sounds like a delightful Batman and Robin battle involving peanut butter or marshmallow fluff. GOO! EWW! YEOW! Four stars, as I fight off the urge to grab the jar of peanut butter and a spoon.
Steven E. Atwood’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Quality or Quantity?” — Jim’s write-up
Good day! Steven E. Atwood brings us today’s WSJ puzzle with a literal take on some interesting adjectives. These adjectives (all ending in –FUL) are clued “?-style” and aim to deliver some chuckles (or at least some groans). Theme entries are:
- 17A [Like a jeweler’s case?] WATCHFUL
- 22A [Like an estate attorney’s file cabinet] WILLFUL
- 23A [Like the Theater District at night?] PLAYFUL
- 34A [Like trees in tropical South American forests?] SLOTHFUL
- 39A [Like the habitats of lions?] PRIDEFUL
- 38A [Like the neck of a guitar?] FRETFUL
- 52A [Like a hayloft?] BALEFUL
- 58A [Like the audience at a Bob Marley concert?] DREADFUL
I like this kind of theme where common words or phrases are re-purposed and you’re made to look at them differently. But, though none of them is longer than eight letters, that’s still a lot of theme entries (8!). Keeping that many themers apart must have been quite the challenge.
Sometimes you’re on a constructor’s wavelength and everything goes smoothly. Sometimes you’re not. With this one, I just wasn’t.
Maybe it was the segmented grid that hinders movement around the puzzle. There are three distinct sections of the grid (five, if you want to separate out the extreme NW and SE). That means answers in one section don’t really help you in another. Having your grid as segmented as this, where one additional block (and its symmetrical partner) would cut off whole sections of the grid, is usually a bit of a no-no. I can see why it was done, because of the many themers, but maybe the puzzle would have been better served with fewer themers and more space to breathe.
Cluing was tough in some cases. 15A [Corn holder] is not COB but TOE (good clue, but tough). 8A [Had a workaday job?] with its ? had me thinking it was part of the theme. 21A [Car sticker letters] is usually MSRP. Today it’s AAA. 47A [Largest city in the Baltics] is not OSLO, but RIGA. 64A [They go in ballot boxes] is XES; couldn’t see that until I got the crosses. And that’s just the Acrosses that gave me trouble.
There’s also some tough fill. I didn’t know 42D SURREYS [Two-seat carriages] or 47D REXES [Short-haired cats]. 63A MOISES [Two-time Silver Slugger Award winner Alou] I know only from crosswords, so woe to you if you don’t. I usually leave medical/anatomical stuff to my wife, so 19A PINEAL [Melatonin-producing gland] was hard for me to see. And 46D G-FORCE [Takeoff measure] was also difficult to suss out with its strange beginning.
But what I did like was the PLAYFUL theme. I think I uncovered PRIDEFUL and SLOTHFUL first, so I was thinking deadly sins. It took me a while to realize each theme entry ended in -FUL and then things finally started moving faster.
I also like the consistency applied to each theme entry. A Theater District might be FULl of PLAYs, a forest might be FULl of SLOTHs, a hayloft might be FULl of BALEs. My favorite is the reggae concert audience that is FULl of DREADs (a little off-target, but close enough).
So, maybe 3.5 stars from me. The theme is solid and fun, but perhaps it was too much of a good thing. The puzzle could have benefitted from some breathing room and funner non-fill words.
Doug Peterson’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “In the Loop”—Ade’s write-up
Good afternoon, everyone! Hope you’re all doing great on Hump Day. Though today’s crossword, like almost all crosswords, take the shape of a square, Mr. Doug Peterson fills the theme of his grid with references to shapes that are far from squares. Each of the three 15-letter theme entries are multiple-word phrases in which the first word is also a circular shape.
- CIRCLE OF FRIENDS (17A: [Tight-knit social group])
- ROUND OF APPLAUSE (38A: [Audience’s acclimation])
- RING OF CERTAINTY (59A: [Authoritative tone])
Maybe it was because I did this grid while at a football training facility, or that I was inspired by the constructor who created the grid for today, but I, for a chance, tore through the grid without any hiccups. Ok, I lied; there was one hiccup, and that was when I typed in El Paso instead of LAREDO (22A: [City of the Rio Grande]). That’s just not fair that there are two popular crossword entries that are Texas cities on the Rio Grande that have six letters in it and both end with the letter “o.” Oh, did I tell you about the time I met Mr. MACY and his wife at a fashion show in 2011 (1D: [“Fargo” actor William H. ____])? Well, a friend of mine got me an invitation to the Heart Truth Red Dress fashion show a while back, with the afterparty taking place at the New York Public Library in midtown. While at the library, we met up with the person who was the head of public relations for the company that helped to put on the show. (She was a childhood friend of the person that got me the invitation to the show.) As we were all hanging out, Felicity Huffman just happened to drop in to say hello, with Macy in tow. At that point, I thought to myself, “I need go to more fashion shows!”
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: IAN (19D: [Golfer Woosnam]) – The first Welshman to ever win a golf major, IAN Woosnam was at the peak of his golfing powers in 1991, the year in which he won The Masters. The week prior to his win at Augusta, Woosnam reached No. 1 in the world golf rankings, and stayed at the top spot for almost a year. In 2001, at the age of 43, Woosnam went into the final round of the British Open tied for the lead at 6-under, but was hit with a two-stroke penalty for starting that final round with 15 golf clubs in his bag, one more than the rules allowed. Woosnam finished in a tie for third place at the event, four strokes behind David Duval of the United States, who won the event. (Man, remember when David Duval was seen as a capable foil to Tiger Woods and his dominance on the golf course?)
Thank you for your time, and I’ll see you on Thursday!
John Lieb’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s highlights package
Surprisingly, this puzzle is not by Zhouqin Burnikel. I don’t think John Lieb is one of her proteges… This puzzle has answers whose first word ends in C and whose second begins with C too: as revealed in the bottom right at CCS. We have ERICCLAPTON; DRAMATICCHOPS (is that a ‘thing’? I had DRAMATICPAUSE first, which made me giggle at the idea of William Shatner as a master thespian); ORGANICCOFFEE (clue is not entirely accurate, endotoxins from Bacterium thuringiensis are usually acceptable, unless they’re included using recombination of a plant genome, in which case they are EVIL; but don’t try to understand the logic behind the organic movement, you will hurt your brain that way); and a MAGICCARPET.
The grid features a fairly choppy design. This has the advantage of allowing each section to be polished. Thus, we get a generic EVILDOER, a SLAMDUNK, and modern if distasteful SUPERPAC in different corners.
Re [Three-time Rock and Roll Hall ofF Fame inductee] ERICCLAPTON – he was inducted as a solo artist and as part of the Yardbirds and Cream; Blind Faith, John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, and Derek and the Dominoes are yet to be so honoured.
A simple theme, but a well-executed puzzle: 4 stars.
Gareth, leaving you with classic rock:
Alex Eaton-Salners’s BuzzFeed crossword, “At Least We Still Have Calvin Klein”—Amy’s write-up
Crap! I forgot to blog this earlier. Schedule’s all out of whack this week with four mornings in a row at clinic.
Alex (newcomer?) has assembled a nice Back to the Future theme, with MARTY MCFLY, a HOVERBOARD, the CLOCK TOWER, and Doc Brown’s “GREAT SCOTT!” The title alludes to Marty’ CK undies in the movie, when he traveled back to the ’50s and his young mother thought his name was Calvin because it said Calvin on his underwear waistband.
Things I liked best:
- 15a. [Pissed-offness] as a clue for IRE. I had a degree of that yesterday morning, and “ire” isn’t the term I was feeling.
- 18a. [How I quickly crossed the Middle East?], I RAN/IRAN. Cue Flock of Seagulls song from the ’80s. Clue is goofy and nonstandard, but the child-like punniness pleased me.
- 32a. [2015 Taylor Swift hit about some beef], “BAD BLOOD.” See, now, I’m old enough that “some beef” first suggests red meat to me rather than an interpersonal conflict. I really thought this was going to be a wordplay theme answer (this was before I knew there was a BttF theme). I always like a good duping (not duplications!), even if the duping was not even intended by the cluer.
- 41a. [Units that drip onto my head so I never have to take a shower!], A/CS. Yes! Exactly so.
- 66a. [Actress Mryl’s throat condition?], STREP. Drop an E from Meryl and Streep and there you have it. I can’t help thinking Merl Reagle would’ve appreciated this goofiness.
- The successive YO-YO and WII SPORTS clues about never having to leave home.
- 37d. [Get ready, as for a lifetime of success handed to you on a silver platter], PREP. Social critique of prep school students.
There were a handful of short slangy or pop-culture answers I didn’t know, but the crossings got me through without feeling at all stymied.
Nice debut, if it is indeed a debut. Fun puzzle. 4 stars from me.