Sande Milton and Jeff Chen’s New York Times crossword—Jenni’s write-up
An unusual grid for an unusual puzzle with a layered, complex theme. I spent some time looking it over after I solved it and then checked Wordplay to make sure I hadn’t missed anything.
There are five obvious theme answers and one that looks like a revealer.
- 20a [Rack #1: AELPRSY] is PLAYERS. They’re not trying to hide the theme.
- 25d [Rack #2: AAEGNRR] is ARRANGE.
- 56a [Rack #3: BDEJLMU] is JUMBLED.
- 23d [Rack #4: EELRSTT] is LETTERS. That’s exactly what they do.
- 31d [Game described by this puzzle’s four racks] is, of course, SCRABBLE.
Then we have 35d [Assortment … or a description of 32-, 39- and 42-Across] is MIXED BAG. Wait. The theme entries aren’t 32-, 39-, and 42-Across. What’s going on?
- 32a [Key] is ISLET.
- 39a [Subway entry] is STILE
- 42a [Game pieces in 31-Down] are TILES.
That’s the game board surrounded by the racks. It’s an actual Scrabble game in the grid. Wow.
The fill is very constrained by the amount of theme material and the shape of the grid. It didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the puzzle; I wonder if the same would be true for a younger solver. I know the saying “Loose LIPS sink ships,” I remember TEENA Marie, I’ve read about ABIE‘s Irish Rose, and I’ve actually seen a TELEX machine. And I’ve actually driven the entire Nevada stretch of US ROUTE 50, once dubbed “the loneliest road in America.”
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that Oklahoma State’s mascot is Pistol PETE.
Zhouqin Burnikel’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Inner Nerd” — Jim’s review
You know where this is going based on the title. Yup, phrases with NERD spanning multiple words.
- 17a [Red carpet wear] DESIGNER DRESSES
- 26a [Result of an eHarmony match, perhaps] DINNER DATE
- 43a [Dachshunds, casually] WIENER DOGS
- 55a [Neighborhood pharmacy] CORNER DRUGSTORE
While the theme is familiar, Zhouqin executes it pretty much perfectly. The phrases are well-chosen and even include a couple of grid spanners. I was going to ding the grid for the use of three words in the final entry (where STORE might be considered extraneous), but then I realized DRUGSTORE is often (usually?) written as one word. So there’s not even that.
And for consistency’s sake, each themer breaks up NERD in exactly the same way. It’s always more elegant if each answer does things the same way or if they each do it differently. As an example of a hidden word theme, this is pretty much a poster child (poster puzzle?).
As usual, our constructor gives us plenty of fun fill to discover. I like the pairing in the northwest, even if the two entries are in the wrong order: “IS IT TIME?” “YES, INDEED“. In the southeast there’s a MAGNETIC HOUSE VOTE going on, whatever that might mean.
Clues of note:
- 48a [Decreased?] is not FADED but IRONED.
- 60a [Diamonds in the sky] is not STARS but KITES.
- 62a [GI on the run]. AWOL. This always sounds wrong to me as a noun. I’ve never heard it used that way except in crosswords.
- 19d [Starfleet Command setting]. EARTH. SAN FRANCISCO didn’t fit.
- 27d [MapQuest line]. ROUTE. Is MapQuest still around?
- 41d [Book with Numbers]. BIBLE. The capital letter gave it away. A much trickier clue would have been [Numbers book].
That’s about all I got. A straight-over-the-plate but smooth-as-silk puzzle. 3.5 stars.
Rebecca Falcon’s AVCX, “Going Viral” — Ben’s Review
This week’s AVCX features a guest puzzle from Rebecca Falcon, who had her debut puzzle published by the AVCX a few weeks ago as a Friday bonus. Let’s take a look at what’s going on with “Going Viral”:
- 19A: Place for paddles or Solo cups (late ’80s, infected floppy disks) — PING PONG TABLE
- 32A: “Sabrina the Teenage Witch” star (late ’90s, hit Windows machines) — MELISSA JOAN HART
- 44A: Place where firs are raised (mid-’80s, affected mainframes) — CHRISTMAS TREE FARM
- 56A: Hulu series for Sarah Silverman (early ’00s, spread through Microsoft Outlook) — I LOVE YOU AMERICA
- 72A: 2018 Janelle Monáe album, or what you may have if you acquired any of the circled malware in this puzzle — DIRTY COMPUTER
Each of the theme answers starts with the name of a notable computer virus. I love the timeliness of this theme (DIRTY COMPUTER came out last month and is a solid bop all the way through), but as a whole the grid’s lacking a little of the inventiveness/pizazz I associate with the AV Club’s puzzles. With a few cluing changes, I’m pretty sure this could have run in the NYT without issue.
- The problem with solving a puzzle right before lunch is that you see a clue like “South Asian wrap” and enter DOSA into the grid instead of SARI.
- We nominated GREG Kinnear for an Oscar. That happened.
- okay, so re: my earlier point on this appearing in the NYT, maybe BALL GAG wouldn’t fly there, but plenty of the rest of this would without too much issue.
Solid construction, if lacking in some of the usual AVCX pizazz.
C.C. Burnikel’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up
The theme is revealed at EXTREMEMEASURES, only the theme is actually more precise than that. I count that as a minor demerit – the revealer doesn’t relate to the fact that all the measures are weights, which seems off. On the plus side, it has the three major English weights, in order – TON, POUND, OUNCE. Less used weights, like grain and stone, are ignored, making things neater. POUND and OUNCE must have been tricky to find appropriate answers for, as PUTTERAROUND and OUTOFBALANCE are both pretty stolid as theme answers go. THEBOOKOFMORMON is an excellent 15, no matter how you feel about the contents.
- [The bubbles in bubble tea, usually], TAPIOCA. Haven’t tried that, but recently discovered the joys of falooda. Here the “bubbles” are vermicelli and gelatin and not tapioca. Been trying to find some of the dishes I’ve learnt about in crosswords; General Tso’s chicken is actually incredible! The new Indian restaurant here serves palak paneer, so that’s next up!
- [Youngest ever Nobel Prize laureate __ Yousafzai], MALALA. Definitely the most difficult name here, although winning the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize means her name has been in lights. MALALA as a surname is South African journalist Justice.
- [How, to José], COMO. Spanish speakers, is that accurate? I know it’s quite a versatile word, can it be stretched to “how”?
- [Pinch hitter, say], SUB. In baseball. In cricket (which borrowed the term from baseball), the player is merely promoted.
- [Kid-friendly card game], UNO. Not always so friendly – it can be quite kid-rowdy too…
- [Divided island north of Australia], TIMOR. Hands up for trying PAPUA first.
- I liked how [Canine neighbor], MOLAR abutted [Eye wolfishly], OGLE.
- [Thurman of “Kill Bill”], UMA. A role that has been in the press lately for all the wrong reasons.