Jeffrey Wechsler’s New York Times crossword—Andy’s review
Glad to be back to resumé my reviewing schedule.
Today’s theme is roughly this: the four base phrases all contain a word that can be pronounced with or without a terminal “é” sound. In the original phrases, the word does not have the “é” sound; Jeffrey has clued them as though they do have the terminal “é”. Like so:
- 20a, FOR HEAVEN’S SAKE [Why Japanese tipplers anticipate the afterlife?]. Sake, as in Japanese rice wine. Heaven’s sake is probably pretty good.
- 31a, WHACK A MOLE [Pound on some Mexican food?]. Mole, as in the sauce. I imagine taking a hammer to a liquid such as mole would have messy consequences.
- 39a, LAMÉ EXCUSE [“I didn’t know you disliked shiny fabrics!,” e.g.?]. Lamé, as in the shiny fabric. I used “lamé” in my 2015 Indie 500 puzzle, which added terminal “é”s to ordinary phrases (ON THE LAM became ON THE LAMÉ).
- 48a, RUN FOR THE ROSÉS [Quick trip to pick up white zinfandel and blush?]. Rosé, as in the wine.
Solidly executed if fairly standard wordplay theme. A couple of these are syntactically stretchy, but the results were humorous enough that I didn’t mind too much.The length of the theme entries (two 14s, two 10s) is a bit awkward, but using those stair-step blocks of black squares in the grid design worked out very well, I think.
The cluing must have been turned up to a pretty challenging level, because even though this theme is decidedly Wednesday-ish (maybe even Tuesday-ish), I clocked in at around my Thursday average time. Some of that probably has to do with the long entries, which I liked a lot: YESHIVAS, THE NATURAL, WHITE RICE, INVECTIVE, SUM TOTAL, and (less enjoyable but still good) TOOK A CLASS.
I always find clues with fill-in-the-blank quotes difficult, and I remember two from this one: A TALE [“And thereby hangs ___”: “As You Like It”] and FATAL [“Travel is ___ to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness”: Twain]. I wonder how many people absentmindedly plunked in VITAL instead of FATAL for the Twain quote?
Not much else to say here. 3.4 stars from me. Until next week!
Gabriel Stone’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Ballpark Figures” — Jim’s review
Added letters today, as revealed by 56d [Stat inserted into this puzzle’s long Across answers]. Baseball season has begun, and so we are looking for RBIs.
- 17a [Lessens a person’s drink tab?] DROPS THE BARBILL. Drops the ball.
- 27a [Parts of excellent wind farms?] FINE TURBINES. Fine tunes.
- 44a [Automatic rifle that fires M&M’s?] CANDY CARBINE. Candy cane. This could be useful. They have guns that fire marshmallows, why not M&Ms?
- 51a [Signs of an upcoming precipice?] CLIFF HARBINGERS. Cliffhangers. I like this one, possibly because “harbinger” is such a fun word. It came up the other day in our family while we were playing Castle Panic.
By the title, I figured the puzzle would have to do with either stats or personages on the field. Still, it took me about 30 seconds after getting the first one to grok the theme. I had hoped that each subsequent entry would feature a different stat. But then, there aren’t really enough other baseball stats that are knowable to non-baseball fans (other than E.R.A.).
I was also hoping for some sort of conceit as to why the stats are embedded in our theme answers, but none was forthcoming. Even something like “padded stats” would have worked.
Still, the modified phrases are solid enough and work sufficiently.
Fill-wise, similarly, “solid” is the word of the day. NEPALESE, SCALENE, CABBAGES, TIC TACS, ERRANDS, BATHTUB, and ONE-SHOT are the highlights. One bit of sparkle shows up at 22a: “AM I LATE?” Oh, and I like AZORES (46a, [Portuguese island group]). I got that one immediately because my wife, while we were stationed in the UK, would travel there on occasion to see patients from the American military community. Somehow, I never got to go on those trips.
One bit of trivia almost naticked me: 42d is clued [Steven of the New Jersey Devils]. Maybe this is well-known in New York, but I needed all the crossings to get SANTINI. That last “I” was dependent on knowing that the plural of “tempo” is TEMPI. I can imagine that others might have trouble there as well. I’m of the opinion that the Robert Duvall role “The Great SANTINI” would have given solvers a fairer chance at that entry.
Clues of note:
- 21a [Company that offers little training]. LIONEL. That’s the electric train company. Shouldn’t there be a ? on that clue?
- 38d [Heads for the produce aisle?]. CABBAGES. There’s the ?. Good clue.
- 61a [Flirtatious fellow]. EYER. Eww—both for the word and for the idea that a guy who’s eyeing someone is actually flirting and not leering.
- 32d [Queen’s attendant]. DRONE. Think apian.
That’s all from me for this week. A solid puzzle as per usual. Have a great weekend.
Mike Peluso’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s review
Four defs of [Break down] – CATEGORIZEDLIST/ENGINEFAILURE/WEEPINANGUISH and CHEMICALLYDECAY. It’s all rather bland with an unhappy undertone yes?
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword – “Bro Hugs” — Ben’s Review
The theme for this one was easy to suss out from the title “Bro Hugs” – we’ve got BRO hugging part of a more recognizable phrase:
- 17A:Consul to Mars?— BRUNO AMBASSADOR
- 28A:Wooden toy brand intended to be played solitaire? — BRIO FOR ONE
- 38A:With 40A, scrubbing pad just sitting unused? — BRILLO AT EASE
- 50A:Lady who dances to Ravel? — BOLERO MISS
- 62A: “Marlon, the thing I was talking about? It’s over there”? — BRANDO THAT’S THAT
BRUNO AMBASSADOR and BRIO FOR ONE definitely amused me enough to make up for BOLERO MISS and BRANDO THAT’S THAT being just okay. All in all, a nice theme with some clever entries.
- I didn’t love the variant spelling of Osso BUCO (which I’m used to seeing with two C’s)
- Both sides of the downs for BRILLO AT EASE were a little disappointing, too. Lots of blah fill with ABC, FRO, JAN, USE, and TEX.