Adam G. Perl’s New York Times crossword—Jenni’s write-up
As I may have mentioned, I don’t usually care for crosswords with circles. This time the circles didn’t bother me overly much, but the theme didn’t really engage me, either. Maybe I’m just cranky. Whatever the reason, the theme seemed too easy for a Wednesday and the fill did not redeem the puzzle.
The circles tell us that there are theme answers in each corner of the grid, and there’s a grid-spanning revealer that ties it all together: 36a [Is an expert on this puzzle’s theme?] is KNOWS EVERY ANGLE. In my head, the idiom is “knows all the angles,” but that’s a minor quibble.
Each set of circles is arranged at an (you guessed it) angle, and continues the word that identifies the type of angle. We have OBTUSE, RIGHT, ACUTE, and REFLEX. I had no memory of REFLEX angles from geometry class, and my husband (who works with math teachers doing professional development) couldn’t immediately define it either. His comment: “Now THAT’S obscure.” If you have to rely on a math term that a STEM geek doesn’t recognize, your theme has issues. We get an extra math clue at 52a with [Decimal system]; it’s BASE TEN.
The fill has issues, too. NATANT (for [Swimming]), ELON, XENO, A CUP (clued as a bra size), ALIENEE, ORU, OGEE, EOS. Partials [Young ___] UNS and I GET [ “____ that a lot”]. Not very much fun.
A few things I did like:
- 24d [Family guy?] for MADE MAN, although I suppose it trades in a nasty stereotype.
- I’m always happy to see [Plaza girl in kid-lit] ELOISE because I loved those books.
- 37d [One unlikely to order ham and eggs] for VEGAN.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: see above re: REFLEX angle.
Daniel Hamm’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Sure Think” — Jim’s review
Theme: Words with the bigram NG are changed to NK.
- 17a [Lockup that never changes?] STATIC CLINK
- 22a [Section of a flirting etiquette book?] WINK TIPS
- 24a [Group of judges at a male beauty pageant?] HUNK JURY
- 29a [Financial institution catering to geniuses?] WHIZ BANK
- 46a [Sci-fi zap that leaves victims reeking?] STINK RAY
- 53a [Site for a chilly reception?] WEDDING RINK
I didn’t get a lot of enjoyment out of this theme. It doesn’t feel very fresh, there’s no consistency with how the changes are applied (first word vs. second word), and there’s one —ANK, 4 —INKs, one —UNK, and no —ENKs or —ONKs. Plus, the last entry has an unchanged —ING in it.
I did like HUNK JURY as an entry, and STINK RAY has merit, but “zap” as a noun sounds weird.
As you’d expect, I found multiple examples of this theme in the cruciverb database. One, by Alison Donald in the LAT in 2007, had the nicely consistent set of STATIC CLINK, BURGER KINK, BUFFALO WINK, and SWAMP THINK. Other puzzles had entries like MINK DYNASTY, THE LORD OF THE RINKS, SINK FOR ONE’S SUPPER, etc.
In other words, I think today’s grid needs some other constraint to tighten it up. Unless I’m missing something, it just feels too loose.
Fill-wise though, it’s as solid as ever with HOLE PUNCH, INFIELDER (with the great clue [Base fellow?] — though not all infielders are men), SHRIEKS, COLGATE, CRIMEA, and ENIGMA. I did not know the French word for “year” (ANNEE) which doesn’t make for very good fill, nor the Mongolian mountain range (ALTAI) which is only slightly better.
Nice to see a timely clue for NRA: [Target of many March for Our Lives signs], though.
Ben Tausig’s AVCX, “Shoddy Construction Material” — Ben’s Review
This week’s AVCX puzzle, from editor Ben Tausig, definitely nails the 2/5 difficulty it promised. This was an enjoyable breeze of a solve, and I loved the theme:
- 20A: “Can we stop with the incessant ‘ambient composer Brian’? So frustrating …” — ENO? UGH, ENOUGH!
- 28A: “I call for a permanent moratorium on ‘Grammatical case: Abbr.,’ ‘mined metal,’ etc.” — NO MORE NOM, ORE
- 44A: “Just take these out of your puzzle constructing list: ‘Joe Biden’s state: Abbr.,’ ‘French summer’ …” — DELETE DEL, ETE
- 52A: Obscure or overused puzzle words that are the object of ire in this theme (or, if you don’t mind such things, “___-Magnon; NNE opposite; Chicago airport code; Linguistic suffix”) — CROSSWORDESE (or: CRO, SSW, ORD, ESE)
So good, so meta. Again, this was easy to figure out what was going on, but a fully pleasurable solve.
Other fill I liked this week: F-BOMB, ENEMA, LIPTON, YAKS, SEQUINED, DEEP DISH
Gail Grabowski & Bruce Venske’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up
If you don’t actively look out for a theme, as I am wont to do, this one may have slipped past you. There is no revealer, and no major impediment to ignoring the theme. It’s a nice little set of synonyms for SPUNK: ENERGY, SPIRIT, FIRE and DRIVE
Rest of the fill was largely unremarkable. [“Worst Cooks in America” judge Burrell], was an unknown ANNE; guessing some kind of “reality”. [Fine cotton fabric], ORGANDY is may favourite word in the puzzle. It has a very nice “mouth feel”, which I guess partly explains its use here… The use of ESALE, which feels largely a nonce word, is bizarre. I’d move a lot of grid to get away from it, yet it’s sitting in a very quiet corner that must surely be able to be filled in a hundred ways, and nothing else in that corner is so unusual that you’d want to hold onto it. Tres weird.