Laura Braunstein’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
It’s Amy subbing for Jenni to talk about a puzzle by Team Fiend’s own Laura! The theme entries look like verb phrases, but they’re reimagined as phrases beginning with nouns—plural animals, to be specific.
- 20a. [Why the hunter couldn’t shoot the mallards?] DUCKS OUT OF VIEW. #teamelusiveducks
- 25a. [Reason a cow swatted herself?], FLIES IN THE FACE. Hmm, this phrase is incomplete without an “of” at the end.
- 42a. [Circus animals enjoying some chocolate?], SEALS WITH A KISS. Listen, people, we can all do better than Hershey’s milk chocolate. (For example, 59a LINDT chocolate is a solid choice.) Also, these seals are far happier in the ocean than in captivity, even if it sometimes means being eaten by orcas.
- 47a. [Whose conversation might be about shaggy hair and Himalayan peaks?], YAKS ON THE PHONE. This one feels less idiomatic as a phrase whose words belong together.
A couple dings on the theme but overall, I liked it.
Five more things:
- 6a. [Where a person in charge is making the rounds?], BAR. Nice clue! Was this one yours, Laura?
- 24a. [The “she” in the lyric “She’s a good old worker and a good old pal”], SAL. I … have never encountered this before.
- 39a. [Marathon marking], MILE. Any of you crossworders running in Boston next month? My husband will be running his second Boston Marathon.
- 3d. [Wedding dress shade], ECRU. Really? Google results suggest … yes. And there’s also an Ecru Style fashion retailer now. Never heard of them before, and I don’t care for their styles. Are we really not done with the cut-out shoulders look by now?
- 25d. [Many a single-gear bicycle], FIXIE. Short for fixed-gear bicycle, I believe. It’s quite possible I learned this word from a BEQ or AV Club crossword several years back. Time for a little ten-speed bike nostalgia!
3.9 stars from me. Over and out!
Freddie Cheng’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Bees Do It” — Jim’s review
The title had me thinking about the birds and the bees, but that’s not where we’re going. Bees “buzz” of course, and that’s the leading word to the beginnings of our theme entries.
- 17a [*”Yeesh! I don’t believe this!”] KILL ME NOW. Buzzkill. Ha! Love the entry.
- 24a [*”Way ahead of you!”] SAW THAT COMING. Buzzsaw. Hmm. The clue doesn’t feel as in-the-language to me without the leading “I.”
- 40a [*”For the last time, stop!”] CUT IT OUT ALREADY. Buzz cut. The entry could’ve been anything given the clue, but this works.
- 52a [*”Full steam ahead!”] OFF TO THE RACES. “Buzz off!” Nice.
- And the revealer: 64a [Snazzy jargon, and a hint to the starts of the starred answers] BUZZWORDS
Fun entries, and I like the consistent choice to give each clue a lively verbal phrase.
I’m surprised there’s no “FEED” entry. But maybe there aren’t that many FEED possibilities. One does come to mind, and, whaddya know, it’s 13 letters and could replace the second entry (see video below, though they misspelled the name). But then you’d lose that nice consistency in the cluing.
NO BIG DEAL, though it’s not thematic, continues the liveliness from the theme. STYROFOAM isn’t quite as nice, but I’m loving the clue [Cooler stuff]. In fact, there were some real gems in the cluing today:
- 9a [The ultimate hand-me-downs?]. GENES. Science fun!
- 73a [Intelligence seeker]. SPY. Good misdirection. I was thinking of aliens for some reason.
- 7d [Not easily moved]. STOIC. More good misdirection, especially since STUCK shares the first two letters.
- 26d [Focus on the road]. AUTO. Even more good misdirection. The Ford Focus is indeed an AUTO.
- 28d [Starkers]. NUDE. Fun, Britspeaky clue. See also 48d [Dessert, to a Brit] which is AFTERS. I think I may have heard this on occasion, but more commonly I would hear “pudding” for any generic dessert or “pud” (rhyming with “good”), for short.
- 37d [Spoiler: The Planet of the Apes]. EARTH. Ha! Sorry if this ruined it for you. But if you really didn’t know this by now, damn you. Damn you all to hell.
- 58d [Basic floater]. RAFT. This clue could’ve gone in a different direction. Thankfully, it’s just about seafaring vessels.
Fun, lively theme entries, solid fill, and some durn fine cluing. That’s what I like to see!
Mark McClain’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up
I was feeling more culturally alienated today than most. The revealer is CHECKPLEASE, which is something we’d call a bill not a check (and if we did it’d be spelt cheque). The theme consists of things one commonly checks: a COAT at a COATCHECK is another American thing I know only from cultural immersion; checking oil in a car is the second; the third is checking, or ticking, a box on a form. Which brings me to the last entry, SWINGMUSIC. I’m not sure what swing we’re checking here, a baseball swing?? A golf swing?? Google says there’s a doohickey called a swing check valve, but it’s awfully technical for my little brain.
- [Popcorn brand whose logo resembles a movie marquee], ACTII. Provided this is a familar brand, it seems like the best way to clue this, rather than those tortured play clues…
- [Roger Federer’s org.], ATP. Glad to see this getting more play. I had it flagged as too obscure for crosswords once upon a time…
- [Very serious, as a water shortage], ACUTE. No comment.
- [Much of the Sunday paper], ADPAGES. A newspaper crossword deprecating newspapers?
[“Wanna go out?” response], ARF. Brilliant misdirection, even if ARF is such an implausible dog sound…
- [Kansas City cuisine], BARBECUE. No idea why that city in particular.
- [Struggle with sisters?], LISP. Clever, though I fear mocking of speech impediments went out with Tex Avery…
Rating withheld due to cultural insecurity.
Max Carpenter’s AVCX, “Empty Vessels Make the Most Noise” — Ben’s Review
Everyone getting ready for the ACPT this weekend? I’m hoping whatever snowstorm Boston’s getting blows over fast so that getting out of the city Friday night isn’t too bad, but I’m looking forward to this year’s constructor lineup.
This week’s AVCX is a massive 21×21 grid by Max Carpenter, clocking in at an accurately gauged 4/5 on the difficulty scale. This week’s puzzle feels more grid-based than fill-based — multiple spots in the grid (including a few that weren’t circled in my .PUZ file) have empty squares surrounded by some form of “noise”, as aptly suggested by 70A’s revealer, “MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING“. We’ve got HURLY BURLY up in the left, HULLABALOO, BROUHAHA, and BALLYHOO filling in the grid. Fill choices aside, this theme didn’t feel particularly novel – I’ve seen plenty of empty square themes in the past few years, and the small amount of themers in this big a grid also felt like a little bit of a letdown.
Since the fill on this puzzle felt a little closer to a themeless than your standard AVCX, I’m going to switch up my usual fill notes: what’s something you learned in the process of solving this week’s puzzle? I found out about the pizza preferences of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – turns out they prefer PIZZA HUT.