Joe Krozel’s New York Times crossword—Andy’s review
I almost never love word ladder puzzles, but I especially don’t love word ladder puzzles on Thursday, when I could get something much more interesting and tricky.
That said, today we get a word ladder containing ROLL / CALL / VOTE [With 44- and 76-Across, way to put legislators on record … or the start, middle and end of a word ladder]. I won’t bother listing clues for all the steps in the word ladder because they’re all of the form [Second word in the word ladder], but we get ROLL / POLL / PALL / PALM / CALM / CALL / MALL / MALE / MATE / MOTE / VOTE. PALM and CALM are just there to make the word ladder symmetrical, as you could just go from PALL to CALL. The most impressive thing about this puzzle is that every four-letter across entry is thematic (all 11 of them!), which is really hard to do in 78 words… which is partly why this one gets an extra column and goes up to 81 words. (Also, to have a central four-letter entry, the puzzle needs to have an even number of columns.)
- LOVERS’ LEAP and CHOKE COLLAR are both a little grim for the NYT puzzle, but ROYAL BLOOD and AERIAL PHOTO are both very nice at the other two long spots.
- LETTER I is a bad entry, but [Start to instigate?] is a solid clue.
- TV/VCR should start being clued as [Obsolete dual-purpose viewing equipment].
- I liked seeing the artists WILLEM de Kooning and Andy WARHOL.
- Hooray for LGBT! Meh to VSO.
- Most of the other fill was pretty good–I particularly liked MENS REA and TABLET PC–but I could’ve also done without SOON AS, RASA, and CENTO.
All in all, I did not enjoy solving this. I hope you felt differently! Until next time!
Paul Coulter’s Fireball crossword “Janus-Faced” —Jenni’s write-up
Janus is the Roman god of the threshold. He is usually depicted as having two faces to show his connection to the passage of time.
The theme answers in this puzzle are all two-faced. They incorporate words that are their own opposites – known as Janus words or contronyms.
- 20a [Hid problems *or* Showed solutions to problems] is SCREENED FIXES. You can try to hide the fix you’re in, or you can show everyone how you repaired something.
- 37a [Approve the removal of fine particles *or* Show disapproval toward the sprinkling of fine particles] is SANCTION DUSTING. I never noticed before that “dusting” can mean either cleaning a surface or covering a surface.
- 57a [Quickly look at supervision *or* Carefully look at a failure of supervision] is SCAN OVERSIGHT. I’m not sure the “carefully look at” sense of SCAN is in common usage compared to the “superficial glance” sense.
It’s an interesting use of a linguistical oddity. There’s no wordplay in either the clues or the answers. Since the answers are not in the language, the clues have to be straightforward. They seem a bit too obvious for the FB, though. There was a tiny aha! moment when each one fell into place, but overall it felt too obvious to be much fun.
The rest of the fill is more interesting than the theme answers. That’s mostly good, but not entirely.
- 1d [They may be clonic or tonic]. I love medical gimmes. The answer is SPASMS. “Tonic-clonic” is a common type of seizure in which tonic (rigid) spasms alternate with “clonic” (jerking) spasms.
- 5a [“Heartbreak House” writer] is SHAW. Not one of his better-known plays. It’s a riff on Chekhov’s “The Cherry Orchard.”
- 11d [ “The Phantom Menace,” in the “Star Wars” series] is EPISODE I (not fond of using I for 1 in only one direction). 12d, REN, is clued with the animated dog rather than the Dark Side warrior, son of Han and Leia, who killed his father. Or did he?
- The HEGIRA at 49d is studied by the IMAM at 60d.
- April and October birthstones make an appearance: DIAMOND and OPALS, which describe my engagement ring.
I said some of it was not good. I was thinking of 61a. [Like, but don’t consider as a romantic partner, in modern slang] which is FRIEND ZONE. Yes, in theory someone of any (or no) gender can be FRIEND-ZONEd by someone of any (or no) gender, and the clue is scrupulously non-gendered. We all know the primary usage of this term, though. It’s het men who are FRIEND-ZONEd by the women who refuse to sleep with them even though the men are perfectly nice and don’t do anything wrong and don’t hit the women or anything like that, so of course they should get laid as a reward. FRIEND ZONE derives directly from the idea that heterosexual men are entitled to sex with any women they choose, and those of us who hold the radical idea that we have autonomy and can choose our own sexual partners are at best castrating bitches and at worst victims of violence. This is the language of the misogynist hate group called “incels.” Language matters. Normalizing this crap by using it in puzzles and pretending it’s not gendered is not a good look.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that STEELY DAN is named after a dildo depicted in “The Naked Lunch” by William S. Burroughs. I was OK not knowing that.
David Alfred Bywaters’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Singled Out” — Jim’s review
DAB’s back and he’s taken the phrase “Singled Out” and re-parsed it as “Single-D Out.” That is, he found two-word phrases where the first word ends in D and the second one begins with a D. In each case, he removed the second word’s D to humorous effect.
- 17a [Really impressive little strummed instrument?] GRAND UKE. …Duke.
- 23a [Defective printer supplies?] BAD REAMS. …Dreams.
- 35a [Part of a canoeist’s itinerary?] DESIGNATED RIVER. …Driver.
- 44a [Uncomfortable hairpieces?] HARD RUGS. …Drugs.
- 55a [What a new ice skater may unpleasantly encounter?] COLD RINK. …Drink.
I didn’t chuckle too much at these, but neither did I grumble. COLD RINK feels a little too on the nose, but HARD RUGS is funny, DESIGNATED RIVER makes for a nice grid-spanner, and I enjoyed imagining what “The GRAND Old UKE of York” nursery rhyme would sound like, especially given its new sense of alliteration. On the whole, an enjoyable theme.
And the long fill is equally enjoyable, thanks to a theme set that consists of only a 15 and four 8s. My favorites are BANANA PIE, MINI MARTS, EVOLUTION, GAS RANGE, BIG CAT, SAY YES, PIÑATAS, and SALIENT. Those NE and SW corners are huge (5×6) and there’s nothing at all bad in them (partial A CLAM and so-so ENLACE are the worst of it).
Clues of note:
- 19a [Page link]. STAPLE. Love this clue. It’s not as high tech as it first appears.
- 43a [Rick’s old flame]. ILSA. Holy cow! Why can’t I remember that she’s ILSA, not ELSA. I think I had it straight before Frozen came along; the Born Free lioness was ELSA and the Casablanca role was ILSA. But somehow adding another ELSA in there muddled me up. But now I think I’ve got the solution: Ingrid=ILSA. All else is ELSA. Yeah? Let’s try that.
- 50a [Party animals]. PIÑATAS. Cute.
- 56a [Sprinkle with sugar or flour]. DREDGE. Is this true? I thought it meant to coat by laying the food item on top of or dragging it through the sugar or flour.
- 59a [Give one’s blessing]. SAY YES. This clue is kind of blah. Something more fun might be [Excited urging] or [Hopeful appeal to a decider].
- 18d [CXI + CXI + CXI + CXI + CXI]. DLV. Yikes. Sometimes it feels like clue writers go out of their way to torture us with Roman numeral math. Okay, upon reflection, this really isn’t that hard; it just looks intimidating. But I admit I just got the D by counting the Cs and left the rest to the crosses.
All in all, a clean and clever puzzle to end the regular solving week. I’ll put it at 3.7 stars.
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword – “Finale” — Ben’s Review
Don’t take the title of this week’s BEQ Thursday literally – he immediately mentions in the accompanying blog post for this puzzle he’s not stopping any time soon – but do take it figuratively. It’s a key to what’s happening in the theme answers.
- 20A: Place to learn how to do recaps? — SUMMARY SCHOOL
- 25A: Things played in Budapest? — HUNGARY GAMES
- 41A:One who only likes red lollipops? — CHERRY PERSON
- 46A:Drink that might be mud, might not be? — MYSTERY COFFEE
There’s a final phonetic “E” sound added to each theme answer’s phrase: SUMMER SCHOOL, HUNGER GAMES, CHAIRPERSON, and MISTER COFFEE all get transformed.
Quick fill rundown: IS IT I never quite works for me as an actual thing people say outside of crosswords, I was hoping “TV Actor Scott” meant ADAM, but it’s actually BAIO, SCROD is a lie, and OH I SEE NOW felt real tenuous as far as fill goes.
Joe Kidd’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s review
The theme is RAISEARUCKUS and four vertical entries contain very loose synonyms: MELEE, BRAWL, ROW and STIR.
Fill was frustrating, in part because four 12’s caused the theme to be too crowded, as in the RUDIN/USDOT/IFOLD/OFTEA/ANDA/ILE pile-up. However, I can’t fathom a reason for AHEAP/HAMMS/AGUA.