Jason Flinn’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
The theme is 37a. [Summer amusements … or a literal description of three answers in this puzzle], WATER SLIDES. Three “creek” synonyms slide downhill in the grid to complete the answers clued in the Across portion that starts the words:
- 21a. [Fowl territory?], CHICKEN RUN. Cute movie. “Run” as a synonym for “creek” is something I’ve seen mainly in crosswords (see also: rill.)
- 28a. [Like traditional media, to some], LAMESTREAM. I’d think the New York Times would be happier to include MAINSTREAM than the insulting (and poorly coined) LAMESTREAM.
- 51a. [Free-for-all], DONNYBROOK. I wonder if that was a frequent scene at 1970s Donny Osmond appearances.
Top fill: DREIDEL (cute clue: [Top choice in December?]), ANN ARBOR (clued by way of the Big House, which my guys have been to for a Man U match), WANNA BET, EPHEMERA, MR. YUK, ELON MUSK, and TWERKS.
Most challenging crossing: ERTE meets AMARNA. Most heavy on the crosswordese VIBE: OMOO ROAN OPAH.
Three more things:
- 5a. [Some spoonfuls], DOSES. Indeed! Most of my doses are in pill form, but there are also two teaspoonfuls of what looks for all the world like yellow tempera paint.
- 19a. [One-named singer born Christa Päffgen], NICO. You may have been an ’80s teenager if you tried NENA first.
- 67a. [Gesture made with the thumb and nose], SNOOK. You know what you do with a snook, right? You cock it. Here’s a video of a cock a snook chain. Also? I don’t encounter “cock a snook” often, but when I do, it’s usually in a crossword. First time was maybe about a decade ago, and maybe once every couple years since. If you didn’t know it, I hereby absolve you.
3.8 stars from me.
Peter Gordon’s Fireball crossword, “Themeless 94” – Jenni’s write-up
When I finished and looked at the timer, I was astonished. I would have sworn it was well over ten minutes. There were at least three episodes during my solve when I just sat and stared at the grid without putting anything in for what seemed like minutes. Apparently not. Despite the time, this puzzle felt very difficult.
- 1A is “1952 Broadway play by Mary Chase that starred Helen Hayes.” I’ve only heard of one Mary Chase play, Harvey. You know, the one with Jimmy Stewart and the imaginary rabbit. Even if I was willing to accept that Helen Hayes appeared in Harvey on Broadway, it didn’t fit. It was the last entry I filled in, because it has a string of consonants in the middle that seemed improbable. The answer is MRS MCTHING. I wonder if she’s any relation to Miss Thing.
- The NW corner continued to stump me at 15A, “1993 James Caan film about a college football team.” Apparently it’s THE PROGRAM.
- To make up for that, 11A was a gimme – “Spoof costarring Elliott Gould and Donald Sutherland.” I suspect Peter was trying to trick us into entering MASH, but MASH (or, more properly, M*A*S*H) was not a spoof. The spoof was the ill-conceived vehicle that tried to capitalize on the fame of M*A*S*H, SPYS. And yes, it was actually S*P*Y*S.
- Apparently General MEADE was nicknamed “Old Snapping Turtle.” They don’t make nicknames like that anymore.
- In the “new and different clue” category, we have 48A: “When asked ‘Do you know Tim Cook?’ she sometimes answers ‘We’re on a first-name basis’.” Tim Cook is the CEO of Apple and of course he’s on a first-name basis with SIRI.
- Continuing on with that category, we have 61 A: “Bride in the news in 1943.” It’s nice to see OONA ONEILL with her full name for once. And she did indeed marry Charlie Chaplin in 1943, when she was 18 and he was 55.
- My favorite clue/answer pair is 35d, ” ‘Wonderful vehicles through which you can passively-aggressively speak to your spouse”, according to actress Elizabeth Banks.” I have no idea who Elizabeth Banks is, but I think I like her. The answer is CHILDREN.
- And finally, I ended as I started. 67A is “Old McDonald’s offering.” It’s got nothing to do with e-i-e-i-o. The answer is ARCH DELUXE. Which, again, I have never heard of. Apparently it was McDonald’s attempt to capture the adult market (before they added the coffee bar). Iceberg lettuce leaves! Two for each serving!
What I didn’t know before I did this crossword: See above re: MRS MCTHING and ARCH DELUXE. I also did not know that the cactus WREN was the state bird of Arizona.
In closing, 35A, “Smokejumpers’ equipment” (CHUTES) reminded me of the Mann Gulch Fire, which occurred near Helena, Montana in 1949, and took the lives of twelve smokejumpers. Norman Maclean wrote a book about it called “Young Men and Fire”, and James Keelaghan wrote a song that haunts me. The recording I know is by a “folk supergroup” called Cry, Cry, Cry (Dar Williams, Lucy Kaplansky and Richard Shindell.)
Harold Jones’s (Mike Shenk) Wall Street Journal crossword, “E-Filing” — Jim’s review
It’s Tax Week at the WSJ, and so we have another tax-inspired puzzle. Turns out, we’re adding Es to two-word phrases, one per word, to make new, wacky phrases.
- 17a [Courted in a rom-com, maybe?] WOOED CUTE. From woodcut. This one feels a little cludgy, but it’s growing on me.
- 21a [Rosary recitation, to an atheist?] BEAD TRIPE. Bad trip. I dislike the clue for this and I’ll talk about it below.
- 57a [Distressed jeans, e.g.?] HOLEY WEAR. Holy War. My favorite one. Funny!
- 63a [Sight in the unrated version of “Gladiator”?] CROWE BARE. Crowbar. A close second.
- 3d [Editor’s mark in the list “…pansy, periwinkle, petunia…”?] PEONY CARET. Pony cart. This one’s just so crazy that I like it.
- 29d [To be turned off, when the lighthouse is retired?] BEACON FATE. Bacon fat. The clue for this feels awkward.
All in all, a good theme. It can’t have been easy to find two-word phrases where you can legitimately make new words from both words by adding Es, and have those new phrases make some sort of sense. So kudos on the amount and variety of theme material and getting them to cross in the grid.
But back to that BEAD TRIPE clue. I dislike it for two reasons. (1) It doesn’t feel right to call something many people genuinely believe in “TRIPE“, even if you’re qualifying it as “to an atheist”. But mostly, (2) the clue assumes all atheists would label prayer as TRIPE. This enforces the stereotype of atheist as disrespectful, intolerant, and superior. Sure, some might act that way, but not all. Being an atheist doesn’t mean you’ll disrespect another’s beliefs by labeling them TRIPE. Further, just because one doesn’t believe in the content of prayer, doesn’t cause one to believe that the act of prayer is useless. There are meditative and calming aspects of prayer that have beneficial effects.
So that clue left a bad taste in my mouth, but the rest of the grid is very nice with crunchy, challenging, Thursday-level clues. My favorite fill is MAN BAG (50d, [Satchel’s cousin]). Also good are PRICETAG (39d, [Source of shock, at times]) and ODORLESS.
There are plenty of Zs (wait, is the theme 1040 EZ? Nah.), with STOLTZ crossing DITZ, MAZDAS crossing LIZ and STANZA crossing ZORRO. I like the poetic clue for ZORRO [“The fox so cunning and free”] which refers to the ’50s Disney TV show’s theme song.
I especially like 32d [Trendily self-referential] for META, given that tomorrow’s (and every Friday’s) WSJ puzzle is a META puzzle. That’s so META!
Let’s end the regular WSJ week with some humor. Here are some clips from “The One With Joey’s Bag”.
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword – “Hopping Mad” — Ben’s Review
BEQ Thursdays are back! After last week’s detour for one of his equally awesome Marching Bands puzzles, it was nice to have a themed Thursday puzzle again.
I totally managed to get in my own head on the theme of today’s puzzle. There’s only one answer to 21/23A, but it wasn’t immediately clear how to make it fit in the grid:
- 21A/23A: One-hit wonder Falco’s one hit* — ROCK ME A (MAD) EUS
- 37A/39A: Edge in some sporting contests that hinders the visitors — HOMETEA (M AD) VANTAGE
- 52A/53A: Way to barely be seen? — FRO (M A D) ISTANCE
As it turns out, when you pay attention to the puzzle’s title, it helps you with solving the puzzle. Who knew? Once I realized that MAD was lurking in the black spaces bridging the two theme clue entries for ROCK ME AMADEUS, everything fell into place for the rest.
(Falco also originally performed “Der Kommissar” which later went on to be a hit for After The Fire once translated to English, but that’s the type of trivia that does you no good when you’re writing or solving a crossword. It also doesn’t count as a hit for him.)
I’m fine giving some of the theme entries that aren’t technically words a pass, but there was a bunch of fill/cluing this puzzle that I wasn’t as forgiving on. Entries like ALUI (15A, “His, in Haiti”), STYLO (31A, “Crayon’s counterpart, in parts of Canada”), AMADO (48A, “‘Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands’ author Jorge”), and ITAR (59A, “___-Tass”) didn’t feel particularly gettable, even with their crossings (particularly that last one – I don’t really keep up with what the major news organizations are names around the world), and some of the clues also bugged me:
- 33A: Runner Zatopek — EMIL (EMIL I’ll allow, as it’s a nice filler word, but picking a Czech runner who medaled in 1952 and died in 2000?)
- 65A: Server’s advantage — ADIN (I had not seen this tennis term before this week, where it’s thankfully appeared in two puzzles)
- 8D: Musical kingdom — SIAM (There was a little bit too much of a mental leap needed to get from “Musical kingdom” -> “The King and I” -> SIAM here for my liking)
Despite my griping, I didn’t think this puzzle was a complete FLOP (52D). I liked that CLUE was clued as “Where you might try Mustard with a knife?” (63A), and any reference to The Smiths’ “guitar god” Johnny MARR (32D) is just fine by me. Brendan correctly named the “Time Lord from Gallifrey” (2D) as THE DOCTOR and not DOCTOR WHO (as some might), meaning my one usual bit of nerd pedantry didn’t get triggered. And any excuse to post some DISCO (particularly from Nile Rodgers and Chic, who have a new album theoretically coming later this summer and should be in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame already, gosh darn it) is always welcome.
There was a bit more that frustrated me than delighted me this Thursday. 2.75/5 stars.
Mike Peluso’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up
DOSEQUIS means “two x”, and there are five more theme entries with 10 X’s in them. The Fourecks sequel is awaited. The puzzle theme felt a little strained in going for so many theme answers: EXTRAEXTRA, PRIXFIXE and NEXTEXIT – all work. TEXMEXDISH leans perilously towards “green paint” as an answer trope. SIXTYSIX is the dreaded awkwardly-spelt-out-number. I don’t see a reason for more theme answers if it means compromising on quality.
LIII is an answer that you should almost never be forced into using. Here it is not forced. There is a Q in that section already; adding two Z’s is a poor design choice leading to LIII (and EZIO and ESSO to boot). In general, it felt like the plethora of theme answers and the X’s they brought with them forced a lot of compromises in the grid.
Good puzzle, so long as “ooh X’s” allows you to ignore everything else.