Peter A. Collins’s New York Times crossword—Jenni’s write-up
You know all those trigonometry abbreviations that show up in crosswords and make you roll your eyes? OK, maybe that’s just me. They’re the theme of this puzzle (with circles. I think you all know how I feel about circles in my puzzles).
- 17a [Is a recluse] is STAYS INSIDE. (sine). You don’t have to stay inside to be a recluse. You could live in a remote area and go outside and still not see anyone.
- 21a [Shell station?] is TACO STAND (cosine). OK, that one’s cute.
- 27a [Land close to home] gave me a little trouble, because I read “land” as a noun. It’s a verb; the answer is HIT A NERVE. (tangent).
- 35a [When repeated, marching orders?] is a revealer of sorts: LEFT RIGHT includes TRIG.
- 46a [City on the Brazos River] is WACO TEXAS. (cotangent)
- 52a [Where S is …] also gave me pause. The answer is MORSE CODE. (secant)
- 58a [Place where students are graded on a scale?] is a MUSIC SCHOOL. (cosecant)
So there you have it. Not my favorite theme.
A few other things:
- I disliked this puzzle before I even got to theme answers because of 5d [Fat stat]. The answer is BMI. We’ll ignore for the moment the evidence that suggests that BMI is wildly overused and overinterpreted, and focus on the fact that everyone has a BMI. Fat people, thin people, medium-sized people, tall people, short people, whatever. We all have a body mass index because we all have a body and all bodies have mass. I don’t object to the word “fat.” It’s a descriptor, not an insult. I do object to the idea that only fat bodies are measured. And yes, I am aware that this was simply an attempt to be cute and amusing for what would otherwise be a boring answer. It’s still a terrible clue.
- 8d [___ Stic (ballpoint pen)] is CLIC. If you haven’t yet read the reviews for Bic’s less well-thought-out product, the Bic For Her Retractable Ball Pen, you are in for a treat. There’s a joke somewhere in “retractable balls” but I’m too tired to think of it.
- 28d [Haul back to the auto pound] is RETOW. Just say no to RETOW and other roll-your-own words. You can’t declare that something is a word by sticking a prefix on another word. That’s not how it works.
- 54d [Mayo parts?] completely stumped me. I finished the puzzle and I knew it was correct and I stared at it for quite a while, trying to figure out how DIAS connected to either the condiment or the Irish county. The light finally dawned: it’s Spanish for the month of May, which is made up of days. Phew.
- 47d [Anti-rash powder] is TALC, which has been associated with ovarian cancer. Don’t use it. If you need something, try cornstarch.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that VIRNA Lisi existed.
Daniel Hamm’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Golden Boy” — Jim’s review
The Oscars are this weekend, so here we have an OSCAR-themed puzzle. The letter string OSCAR is hidden inside made-up phrases (because you’re not going to find enough real phrases that can do the job).
- 17a [Eerily white figure in a field?] ALBINO SCARECROW
- 26a [Vehicles pulled by thick-skinned beasts?] RHINOCEROS CARTS
- 40a [Still life featuring pears?] BOSC ARRANGEMENT
- 49a [Some Met run-throughs?] TOSCA REHEARSALS
I don’t get a lot of thrill out of hidden word themes, but they do the job of giving the solver an added hint to thorny theme entries. In this case, there are a couple of elegant features to this set as well. First, each entry is a grid-spanner. Second, with a letter string that’s five letters long, there are four possible ways to split them across two words. Each method is used once and in order as you proceed down the grid. Nice.
As is often the case in WSJ grids, many clues are theme-adjacent by referring to films in general. Two of them refer to this year’s OSCAR contenders: THREE gets the clue [Number of billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri], and YOUR is the answer to [“Call Me by ___ Name”].
Favorite fill: RAISINET, VAMOOSES, LA CASA, SHLOMO, CLICHE, and DE CARLO (39d, [Yvonne of “The Munsters”]). I don’t know that I would ever recognize her without her Lily Munster make-up, but see the photo of how she looked in the OSCAR-nominated The Ten Commandments.
Aimee Lucido’s AVCX, “Cross-Country” — Ben’s Review
It’s suddenly the end of February already! How did that happen? However we got here, it’s Wednesday, so that means there’s a new AVCX puzzle. Today’s is from Aimee Lucido and has a 2.5/5 on the difficulty scale. Groking the theme on this one took me a few minutes, since there were no shaded/circled squares in the grip to point out what’s going on:
- 17A: U.S. scientist who traverses the country to study harbor seals, river otters, and cattle? — MARINE BIOLOGIST
- 24A: U.S. dairy product that goes equally well with pecan pie, hot salami sandwiches, and knoephla? — ALMOND MILK
- 37A:U.S. levy on automobile race winnings, weed, and blueberries? — INCOME TAX
- 52A: U.S. forest event that starts in the Ozarks, spreads to Death Valley, and then … burns down a bunch of corporate tax havens? — ARCADE FIRE
- 58A: Annual speech, and an alternate title for this puzzle — STATE OF THE UNION
The execution of this theme left me a little confused. Finding some way (circled squares/shaded squares/etc.) to indicate that the first words of each of the non-58A theme answers can be spelled out using US State Abbreviations would have made this feel much closer to a 2.5/5. Another thing that bugged me was the clue for 52A – when all the other clues for MARINE BIOLOGIST, ALMOND MILK, and INCOME TAX are straight definitions, not doing that for ARCADE FIRE seems off. I tried googling every combo of “forest event”, “Ozarks”, “Death Valley”, etc, and I don’t get anything resembling info on this, just a bunch of results for the indie rock band that are notable enough at this point that they should have been the clue.
Other solving notes:
- I was pleasantly surprised that it was Notorious RBG instead of the standard Notorious BIG, but boy did that need to be clued in a parenthetical that nudged me that way – the RBG internet meme isn’t nearly as widespread as it needs to be for that to be an auto-connection in my brain
- 50A‘s clue for OLEANNA, “Mamet play that would have been written very differently by a woman” also felt a little underclued to me – I’d argue that any Mamet play would be written very differently by a woman.
- As a Minnesotan, I am very familiar with snowmobiles, but I’ve never heard of SKIBOBs
- You are not a SAP if you’re the “Sort who cries during ‘Coco'”. You are a person with a functioning heart.
Paul Coulter’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up
I figured the theme out at MOSCOW/RUSSIA, with the circle making it stick out like a sore thumb. Duma – Russia is a specific link, whereas LUANDA/ANGOLA and OTTAWA/CANADA are more broadly clued. Hellenic in the clue gave ATHENS/GREECE away. CAPITALGRIDLOCK is not a phrase I’ve heard of; in quotes, it gets 1,540 hits, two of the top 3 of which are about traffic in Jerusalem and Djakarta respectively… I’m not buying that that’s a legit phrase at this point.
Intersecting theme answers always makes the surrounding fill super tough to fill, and all four corners are “bigger” than usual to fit the 6×6 intersecting themers. The scowl-o-metre went into overdrive in the very first corner with AGORAE/LAI/ERSE and I couldn’t get it to start working again…