Jacob Stulberg’s New York Times crossword—Jenni’s write-up
Jacob serves up a visual theme today (and “serves up” is relevant. Stay tuned).
We have six starred clues:
- 4a [*Complain] is CARP.
- 24a [*Extract with heat, in a way] is SMELT and then I knew something fishy was going on.
- 32a [*Weapon with a point] is PIKE.
- 44a [*The Mikado in “The Mikado,” e.g.] is BASS (the voice part required for the role).
- 53a [*Birdcage feature] is PERCH.
- 69a [*Shoe part] is SOLE.
So we’ve got six fish, all swimming across. We also have two grid-spanning down clues.
- 3d [Warning for easily provoked types … or for the answers to the six starred clues?} is DON’T TAKE THE BAIT. If that had been the whole theme, dayenu! It would have been enough. But there’s more!
- 9d [What might tempt the answers to the six starred clues?] does not look like a word: IIIIIIIIIIIIIIJ. But it’s down, so it actually looks like this:It’s a line with a hook at the end. I really like this. It’s a straightforward mid-week theme with two really clever and eminently solvable additions. Lots of fun. I realized early on that 9d would be a string of I’s, and when I filled in the J, it made me laugh. Excellent puzzle.
A few other things:
- 1d [Solid orange ball] is the FIVE ball on a pool table.
- I’m from New York, and I like it when sarcasm shows up in my puzzles. 15d [“Oh really?”] is THAT SO and 37a [“A likely story!”] is I BET. You wanna make something out of it?
- 36d [Ash, e.g.] is GRAY. Color, not embers.
- 22d [Short notice?] is GLIMPSE. A little tricky for a Wednesday. This is not a complaint.
- 61a [Hazel eyes, e.g.] is a TRAIT, one I share with my daughter, even though we are not biologically related. Life is interesting.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that BEBOP came after swing. My education was sadly lacking.
I leave you with an updated version of one of the great songs of swing.
Kurt Krauss’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “All in Vane” — Jim’s review
Words ending in -AIN are changed to -ANE (one exception: CAINE simply has its I removed) resulting in wackiness…or groaniness depending on your tolerance for puns.
- 17a [Result of a lion’s covering his ears?] MANE SQUEEZE. This one was hard for me to see since I was missing two key letters which caused it to look like this: MANES_UE_ZE. And those crossings…were not nice.
- 24a [Air conditioner prototype?] MODEL TRANE. Meh. Not a new pun. The company’s slogan uses the same one, i.e. “Nothing stops a Trane.”
- 39a [Strike at a sugar plantation?] THE CANE MUTINY. The definite article feels out of place given that clue.
- 54a [What you do when you put your hand through a broken window?] FEEL NO PANE. I liked this one best. It was slightly unexpected.
- 64a [Like flight attendant safety announcements?] PLANE-SPOKEN
For me, these mostly felt tired and re-hashed. Nothing new here.
But does the fill make up for it? In my opinion, no. The puzzle is beset by fun-sapping fill of the worst kind: EMS, AMS, ERBE, QOM, and CIE. If the theme was stellar enough to warrant this kind of fill, I’d be more willing to look past it, but it’s not.
I think the whole grid needs restructuring. Why set up your grid such that you are required to use the name QOM [City of central Iran] (at 18d)? That is completely within the constructor’s control, and, frankly, a ridiculously avoidable situation. Trade your outer theme answers or better yet, do some restructuring so that you don’t have a three-letter word starting with Q and ending with M.
There are some highlights in DILEMMA, PIT STOP, STUPOR, and HAVE A COW, but that’s nowhere near enough to make up for the killjoy fill mentioned above.
Thankfully, it’s been a long time since a WSJ puzzle gave me such a negative vibe, so I expect that this is a rare occurrence.
Paulo Pasco’s AVCX crossword, “Power Signs” — Ben’s Review
Maybe it’s because I’m on the younger end of the solver range for crosswords, but I love puzzle’s like today’s AV Club from Paulo Pasco. There’s always a good mix of so-called “high” and “low” culture references, and to mix all that in with a supersized grid and a fun play on an important practice these days? They’re hitting all my sweet spots. More on that in a sec, but first, some clues and answers:
- 30A: Went about something honestly — PLAYED IT S(TRAIGHT)
- 49A: Sweet cocktail with vodka — (WHIT)E RUSSIAN
- 69A: Magic Mike, e.g. — (MAL)E STRIPPER
- 17A/83A: Admonishment for self-awareness … and a hint to this puzzle’s theme — CHECK YOUR/PRIVILEGE
Playing off of the notion of checking one’s privilege, each of the theme answers features a type of privilege (straight, white, male) that’s literally been “checked” in the grid. I thought this was really cleverly done, and didn’t even notice it at first – trying to explain how WHITE got transformed into an E made me realize there may have been something going on with the “CHECK” part of the revealer and the rest fell into place
For those unfamiliar with what checking your privilege means, I’ll explain it this way: I’m a straight white dude. Simply by being born with those three boxes checked the way they are, I’ve essentially hit the jackpot when it comes to certain advantages in society. It’s important to consider when making a broad statement (something like, “No one ever handed me anything on a plate growing up”), that just due to my (straight, white, male) privilege, I’ve had opportunities that others may not have had. This comic by Toby Morris explains it even better.
Other things I liked: ABBA, TOSCA clued with a description that Paolo noted could “describe every opera ever, sorry”, GRUDGE clued as “Aged beef?”, calling out the Borowitz report as being STALER than a piece of old bread most of the time, racking my brain trying to remember that Melissa McCarthy’s Sean Spicer impression called him “Bazooka Phylicia AHMAD Rashad” in a recent sketch, and BAHAMA MAMA.
4.5/5 stars. Say hi if you’re at The Indie 500 this weekend!
Samuel A. Donaldson’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up
Sorry for the late post. Between work and moving house, I had one of those days where one basically collapses after work. I didn’t even mean to go to sleep, I just did.
This puzzle is fittingly timed, with a US president threatening to trample on these rights, we get a reminder of things guaranteed in the FIRSTAMENDMENT to the constitution: thekingsSPEECH, getRELIGION, generalASSEMBLY, and vanityPRESS.
Dense theme, so some strain is expected and noted. Still, there were two full names: SUSANDEY and JOHNCENA. I’m surprised we don’t see CENA on its own more in puzzles; GNC is also surprisingly uncommon given its notability and letters. FACETIME is another nice au courant touch. On the other hand, I could do without both RETASTES and REAIR in the same puzzle!