David C. Duncan Dekker’s New York Times crossword – Jenni’s writeup
When I finished the puzzle and looked at the timer, I was shocked. I thought it took a lot longer than 6:24 – I would have sworn I was flailing around for over ten minutes. I usually don’t have great swaths of white space in Wednesday puzzles. Phew.
This is not my favorite kind of theme. 33a is the revealer [Like each letter of the alphabet in this puzzle, at minimum] and the answer is QUINTUPLE. I’m taking this at face value. I didn’t count. Some of the fivesomes are obvious; there’s a cluster of Q’s in the middle of the puzzle and a row a K’s in parallel, plus three Z’s in a bunch.
All those scrabbly letters create a pretty challenging vibe, especially for a Wednesday, which is not helped by the cluing. In particular, the cross-reference at 5a [43-Across in one’s ___ ] stopped me in my tracks. It’s an odd construction, and the only obvious answer in crosses was 7a APE for [Copycat.] In retrospect, it’s obvious that 5d [Pokémon Go, e.g.] must be CRAZE but it wasn’t clear to me in the moment (and what do you think that clue was originally? I figure it was changed shortly before publication.) I left nearly the whole section blank and moved on. It was unsettling, and I wonder if a less experienced (or less stubborn) solver would have just thrown up her hands.
There were some enjoyable moments.
- The Q cluster gives us QUIRK, QUAFF, QUICK, QUINTUPLE and my favorite of the bunch, DOWN QUARK. DOWN QUARK is clued as [Part of a neutron’s makeup] which did not help me much; I got it mostly from crossings. I just like the words.
- 14d [“Good ___!”] is a FITB, and I like it anyway. The answer is GRAVY.
- Rhymes! DIVER and JIVER at 44d and 49d, respectively. JIVER is a roll-your-own, I think; I’ve never heard it used in a sentence. The rhyme saved it.
But oy, the obscurity and crosswordese. ORYX, FOHN, RAKI, TSWANA. Ugh. Not a fun theme. Not great fill. Just not my kind of puzzle.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that RAKI existed at all. Apparently it’s a type of brandy. O-kay.
Aimee Lucido’s AVCX crossword, “What’s the Catch?” — Ben’s Review
Today’s AVCX puzzle is from Aimee Lucido and has a 3.5/5 difficulty rating. Let’s take a look at what’s going on with the theme clues:
- 17A: Type of plumbing circuit that might prevent a Squirtle — WATER LOOP
- 21A: Exeggcute again from the top — DO OVER
- 22A: One who’s quite Oddish — WACKO
- 38A: Daughter of your Slowbro, e.g. — NIECE
- 46A: Citrus so sour that it might cause Koffing — LEMON
- 60A: Amoristic Geodude — ROMEO
- 62A: Take action when feeling Drowzee — TURN IN
- 68A: Game in which characters invade different cities, and a hint to what needs to happen for the cities invaded in this puzzle to return to normal — POKEMON GO
It’s another POKEMON GO-themed puzzle, so hopefully you learned your Pokemon after BEQ’s outing a few weeks ago. This time it’s the clues that are invaded, rather than the answers, which works to varying degrees of success – some, like Oddish and Drowzee, fit naturally, others, like Koffing and Slowbro, feel just a smidge forced in. That’s not all that’s going on, though. As 68A suggests, ridding the letters from POKEMON from the theme entries themselves gives you a list of cities invaded: WATERLOO, DOVER, WACO, NICE, LEON, ROME, TURIN.
A few final clue notes:
- 2A: Met ___ — GALA (my sister was in town this week and is studying fashion, so we made a trip down to NYC to see the current exhibition, Manus x Machinus, on Saturday. It’s amazing craftsmanship – go, before it closes Labor Day!)
- 29D: Celebrity-obsessed Haverford of “Parks and Recreation” — TOM (Someone has been exploring what P&R would have done with Pokemon Go, and it’s pretty great.)
- 4D: Eyebrows on ___ — FLEEK (Explanation of “eyebrows on fleek”, on fleek)
- 39D: U.K. town whose name is seen on bath salts — EPSOM (the good kind of bath salts, not the other kind of bath salts)
This had nice fill, even if the theme felt a bit underwhelming to me. Maybe I’m just Pokemon Go’d out.
Gary Cee’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Joint Ticket” — Jim’s review
It’s an election year and VP candidates were announced a couple of weeks ago, so it seems a good time for this theme. The revealer is RUNNING MATE at 34a [Candidate’s choice, or what both halves of the starred answers can be]. That is, each half of our theme entries can be paired with (actually, follow) the word RUNNING.
- 16a [*9:30 a.m. for NYSE traders] START TIME. Running start, running time.
- 24A [*Source of a halo effect] BACKLIGHT. Running back, running light. We usually see running lights (plural) with respect to vehicle lights that remain on while it is in use.
- 47a [*Risk, e.g.] BOARD GAME. Running board, running game. Running boards are those narrow steps on the side of trucks and SUVs. Even Wikipedia doesn’t know how the term originated. Fun fact of the day: it’s also a term used for walkways on top of railroad boxcars. (The more you know…) Not sure what’s being referred to in “running game.” In football, the “ground game,” which may also be called the “running game,” refers to the offense’s ability to move the football forward by just carrying the ball (as opposed to passing the ball). But solvers who don’t watch much football would be forgiven for having never heard the phrase.
- 56a [*Utter buffoon] TOTAL JOKE. Running total, running joke. TOTAL JOKE sounds a bit arbitrary, but I’m sure I’ve heard it, and I like it.
Very nice corners in this puzzle: ELONGATE and NAUGHTY in the NE, ROTARIAN and PROTEGE in the SW (though I can’t stop spelling that word protOge), and especially the SE with GLOOMY, HANKIE, and TWEETS all crossing MR RIGHT. Lovely. Also, AKIMBO.
Unlovely stuff: ORT, OLLA crossing ATRIAL, and ADMEN. I think this last one is dated and uncommon, let alone sexist. However, looking at Google’s Ngram Viewer, its usage has increased over the last few years no doubt due to the TV show Mad Men. Still, it seems like these days, it’s best clued with respect to that show.
Did not know what a SKIMMER was (21d, [Wide-brimmed straw hat]). Turns out, it’s just another word for a boater. In the US we see them every four years, often at party conventions. In the UK, some schools still use them as part of their uniform, as do some sausage vendors and Scudamore’s Punting Company in Cambridge.
Clues of note:
- 28d. Favorite clue: [Nine of diamonds?] refers to INNINGS
- 33d. [It gets taken to the cleaners] refers to a STAIN. Do you really take a STAIN to the cleaners or the article of clothing the STAIN is on?
- The clue for 50a [Somebody you might call Mom who’s not your mom] (though not necessarily the answer IN-LAW) is dedicated to NBC announcer Al Trautwig.
C.C. Burnikel’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s writeup
Well, any puzzle will seem fun after that trainwreck of a NYT… Here we have a common theme trope – hidden words – with functional answers, but a delightful revealer. COMEBACKKID is as great as a punchline for your puzzle as you could wish for. I’d already worked out that each answer contained a synonym for “make fun of”, but was still pleasantly amused when the revealer revealed itself.
- [Spread some gossip], DISHTHEDIRT. RIDE
- [Hybrid toaster oven snacks], PIZZAROLLS. RAZZ. Seems to be some American brand.
- [He has a nest at 123 1/2 Sesame Street], BIGBIRD. RIB. Evocative extra-info clue!
- [Stayed on], HUNGAROUND. RAG
- [“…Mr. Tambourine Man, ___ song for me], PLAYA. Also, Spanish for beach. 9/10 I’d go with the Spanish. Also, I’m sure you can tell a lot about a person by whether they prefer Dylan’s version or the Byrds’…
- [Philips electric toothbrush brand], SONICARE. Eight letter brands in puzzles are rare! I’ve never heard of it, it must be said. Mind you, I use toothbrushes that cost around R7 (50c U.S.) Still think it’s a fun entry to have!
- [Wild], MADCAP. That word is just fun to say!