This week’s AV Club is from Brendan Emmet Quigley and features a meta contest. We’ll have the review for this puzzle up after the deadline for that has closed.
Alex Eaton-Salners’s New York Times crossword—Jenni’s write-up
You will notice that my grid has the little marks that show I checked the solution. I went over it and over it and couldn’t find a mistake, so I checked it. All the theme answers had one wrong letter. I revealed one of them and it turns out that they wanted the wrong letter…so my grid was actually correct. I’ll explain more below. I left the timer running while I did all that, which is why I’m putting this as untimed.
So what’s the theme? 17a [Tomorrow, in 43-Down] gives us a start. The answer is MAÑANA, crossing PIÑATAS at 2d for [They’re broken at parties]. Hmm. What else do we have?
- 18a [Mexican president Enrique] PEÑA NIETO crossing 7d [Bathrooms, in 43-Down], BAÑOS. Here we go again with 43D.
- 37a [Drink often served with a miniature umbrella] is PIÑA COLADA, which is the reason we have a 16×15 grid. Our 43D cross-reference is AÑO.
- 60a [Peppers milder than habaneros] are JALAPEÑOS, crossing SEÑOR for 53d [Mister, in 43-Down].
- Finally, we get to 43d [Language that utilizes the letter “ñ”] which is, of course, SPANISH. Our last cross-referenced theme answer is 44d [43-Down, in 43-Down], which is ESPAÑOL. This crosses EL NIÑO, which frequently shows up in crosswords, but not usually as a theme answer.
All the theme answers are in Spanish, and all of them have an ñ. Apparently it is possible to enter the ñ correctly on the Android apps, but not on the NYT applet and not in my solving software. The software should accept N, but apparently wanted ã instead – see the revealed square in 34 D on my grid. I hope that will be corrected by the time many of you do the puzzle. Those of you who solve on paper, of course, will not have any such issue.
Technical difficulties aside, this is a very cool theme. I am not usually a fan of cross-references, but here it adds to the fun, especially since all the cross-referenced clues are the downs. Nice touch. We get two crosswordese answers worked into the theme (AÑO and the aforementioned EL NIÑO) which I find amusing. SEÑOR is also a common entry. Using the ñ as the linchpin of the theme is elegant. I really liked this puzzle.
A few other things:
- 13a [Result of a sock in the eye] is a SHINER. Good old slang. No fun to experience.
- At first, I read 8d [Tuned too high] as “turned” and tried to enter “loud.” The correct answer is SHARP.
- 28a [Persona ___ (welcome guest)] is GRATA, which I have never heard. It was not hard to figure out, since PERSONA NON GRATA is well-known, and I suspect Alex and Will were trying to avoid it. A Google search for “PERSONA GRATA” turns up mostly definitions on the first two pages.
- Shout to Erin at 29a with [1987-94 “Star Trek” series, briefly]. It’s TNG, or The Next Generation. Make it so.
- It’s coming up on prom season around here, so 66a [Attaches, as a carnation] seemed very appropriate to me. The answer is PINS ON, although if Emma gets a corsage for prom, she will not be able to pin it on The Dress.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that [Forrest Gump’s C.O.] was LT DAN. Never seen the movie.
Paolo Pasco’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Choice Words” — Jim’s review
Paolo is a relative newcomer, but he does good work. This one doesn’t disappoint.
The theme is simple—phrases of the form “x IT OR y IT”—but they’re all solid and the rest of the fill sparkles.
- 17a [ABC Family series about teen gymnasts] MAKE IT OR BREAK IT. Not familiar with the show but it seems solid enough. I lost interest in that channel when they were airing shows I didn’t want my young children watching. They eventually acknowledged this and re-branded as Freeform, whatever that means.
- 27a [Incredibly divisive] LOVE IT OR HATE IT.
- 43a [“Outta my way!”] MOVE IT OR LOSE IT. Love this one.
- 57a [Final offer words] TAKE IT OR LEAVE IT. A strong finish. It’s as if our constructor is saying, “Enjoy the puzzle…or not. Makes no difference to me.”
Six squares is a lot of repetition in every theme answer, so I’m mildly surprised that this type of theme can make it to publication. But all the phrases are strong and lively which should make up for the repetitive nature of the theme.
And then there’s the great fill: BIKINI LINE, VIDEO POKER, FESTIVUS, and OPEN SEAS are your long Downs today and don’t they just shine? Plus a very nice center with a clutch of Scrabbly Zs.
Clues of note:
- 52d [Class where you’d use the SOHCAHTOA mnemonic]. TRIG. The mnemonic is a way to remember how to find the sine, cosine, and tangent of an angle. Sine equals Opposite over Hypotenuse, Cosine equals Adjacent over Hypotenuse, Tangent equals Opposite over Adjacent.
- 13d [Team with a basketball-bearing-a-B logo] NETS. The B is for Brooklyn.
- 58d [Somewhat, suffixally] ISH. Whaddya know? “Suffixally” is an actual word.
- 59d [Majors in broadcasting?] LEE. This is going back a ways—way before young Mr. Pasco’s time, I presume. LEE Majors played Steve Austin, aka The Six-Million-Dollar Man.
- 48a [Not in a private area?] AWOL. Good misdirection on this one.
Fun puzzle filled with lively phrases and snazzy fill.
Mark MacLachlan’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up
The puzzle is a list theme, and one that will please those who are fascinated by the quirks of language. THREESOMES is the revealer and the first and last three letters of each of four words is the same: IONizatION, ANTioxidANT, INGestING, UNDergroUND.
The clue in [*Beneficial substance in berries], ANTIOXIDANT is repeating as fact something with little evidence or plausibility; it just goes to show if you shout something loud enough it can become established as “fact”.
CONGEE is an unusual and interesting word. It doesn’t >look< appetizing.
Not a lot of truly weak entries, but both ABCD and XLVI are “rip it up and start again” bad. Both are, in truth, just strings of letters. It’s true the X??I is in place with the grid as designed, but if you are going with that, and not redesigning, soccer star XAVI would be a huge improvement, as long as the crossings are all basic answers.