Alan DerKazarian’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “C Through” — Jim’s review
IOO is the hidden “word” of the day as revealed at 73a with the clue [Arabic equivalent of C hidden in this puzzle’s five longest answers].
Looking at those entries you’ll find the improbable letter string of IOO right there spanning across actual valid phrases.
- 18a [“The Andromeda Strain” threat] BIO–ORGANISM
- 24a [Feature of some entertainment websites] AUDIO ON DEMAND. I don’t know that I’ve heard this (Video On Demand seems more common), but I don’t doubt it’s a thing.
- 40a [Source of a soundtrack, often] STUDIO ORCHESTRA
- 52a [Ham, e.g.] RADIO OPERATOR. Do you refer to the actual operators as “hams”? I did not know this.
- 63a [Where Michael Phelps won the last five of his 23 gold medals] RIO OLYMPICS. This one sounds a little made-up, but I’m sure I heard it at the time the Olympics were going on.
When I first grokked the theme, I didn’t think there was any way our constructor would have actual in-the-language phrases with that letter string. I presumed that they would be bodged together in some way.
But lo and behold, he did. And for that reason alone, I’m digging this puzzle. And you can’t deny that IOO looks a lot like 100 in the grid (of course IOO is actually 4 in binary). The double-O is responsible for a couple of nifty stacks in the grid as well: “OH, HI” and OHIO in the middle as well as OOMPH and OOPSY at the bottom which I thought was pretty fun.
BLIND DATE and SUPERFOOD make for great long fill of course, but there were some scowly moments as well, specifically PSEUD [Intellectual poseur, informally] and that whole SE corner with KFC and EEC crossing ORFEO and ROCCO. When you have two uncommon proper names crossing two acronyms, that’s a rough section for the solver. I would have replaced EEC with EEK and ROCCO [Madonna’s eldest son] with ROCKO. The wallaby star of the cartoon Rocko’s Modern Life may be no better than ROCCO, but at least EEK is more gettable than EEC [Common Market, for short].
Oh yeah, one more scowly moment: [South Carolina’s senior senator] Graham, who said he’s already made up his mind even before any testimony from Ford or Kavanaugh is given. Ugh.
Other than those low points, this is a decent puzzle and the surprising thematic finds made this fun for me. 3.5 stars.
Melinda Gates & Joel Fagliano’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
I like what I know of Melinda Gates’ philanthropic works, but I confess I did not love this puzzle. The theme takes terms that start with a stand-alone letter that’s followed by a word, and that first letter is doubled. The resulting phrase is clued accordingly:
- 17a. [Part played by women and girls?], XX FACTOR. No, no, no. You’ve lost me with the first theme answer and clue. First of all, FACTOR and “part played by” feels like a weird equivalency. And more importantly, there are lots of women with XY chromosomes and men with XX chromosomes. Some of these transgender folks are our friends, and these chromosomal clues piss me off.
- 29a. [Area below “To:” in an email?], CC SECTION. A bit dull?
- 37a. [Ones on set with 2009’s “Star Trek” director?], J.J. CREW. J.J. Abrams. If you’re not up on your pop culture (I am), maybe you were confused by this clue.
- 40a. [Any one of the 12 steps?], AA LINE. Playing on an A-line cut in fashion. This one would work better if the next row didn’t have that extraneous AAA drawing the eye, and if anyone thought of the 12 steps in Alcoholics Anonymous as “lines.”
- 46a. [Group of buildings housing a King?], B.B. COMPLEX. As in B complex vitamins and B.B. King, but not the various Kings of Musical Genres (Michael Jackson, Elvis, etc.).
- 64a. [Lover of Cummings’s poetry?], e.e. READER.
I do like SAM RAIMI, J.M. BARRIE, BONE UP, OTTERS, and (just because it’s a pretty word) CYCLADES.
Five more things from the puzzle:
- Before I read the clue for 58a, I had RAT**CK filled in and my first thought was RATFUCK. (Which has a solid history in politics! Woodward and Bernstein trotted it out in 1974’s All the President’s Men.) But no, it’s that [Group in the original “Ocean’s 11” movie], the RAT PACK.
- 16a. [Musical run with four sharps], E SCALE. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen this term before. I wonder if more Americans know who J.J. Abrams is than what E SCALE means.
- 7d. [Irony?], FERRIC. Cute clue.
- 12d. [Horse with evenly mixed black-and-white hairs], BLUE ROAN. This is not, I don’t think, remotely common knowledge. Also, I’m pretty sure that horse would look gray.
- 31d. [Quahog or geoduck], CLAM. Wikipedia tells me that the quahog’s scientific name is Mercenaria mercenaria, and I want to know why that is. Also, I’m sorry it’s come to this, but just in case any of you don’t know what a geoduck looks like, here’s a video.
3.25 stars from me.
Ben Tausig’s AVCX, “Hounded at Work” — Ben’s Review
Today’s AVCX is from editor Ben Tausig and it has a really cute theme:
- 17A: Sprinting shoe, or the name of a 65-Across for railroad workers? — TRACK SPIKE
- 24A: United Kingdom flag, or the name of a 65-Across for labor rights advocates? — UNION JACK
- 37A: Supply chain, or the name of a 65-Across for people in cubicles? — OFFICE MAX
- 56A: FM ad, or the name of a 65-Across for ham operators? — RADIO SPOT
- 65A: Calming presence in the workplace — THERAPY DOG
A theme based around office dogs is always going to be my jam.
Other things I liked: POLAR Seltzer (both as fill and over La Croix/Bubbly/lesser fizzy waters), turning a bunch of the three-letter horizontal fill into fun combos (IOS SAG: what happens when you try to upgrade your old iPhone to the new IOS was a favorite, as was ONO LIU: SKA GAL), EUROPOP like Ace of Base, SNL SKIT
Ed Sessa’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s Summary
The symmetrical arrangement of B-I-N-G-O is the neatest thing in this puzzle by far. BINGO stands alone as a revealer, and is spelt out in (B)VITAMINS, WHOAM(I), ALL(N)ALL, (G)FORCE, STANDING(O). The middle answer is something of a deep cut, acknowledged the puzzle with a leading clue. Still, I checked, and it had Fantasy and Serpentine Fire (which charted higher, though I’d never have guessed that!) Do you have a craving for Philip Bailey right now?
What else? Didn’t know JOGBRAS (they seem to just be sports bras? If there’s a difference, my Google search didn’t clarify.) Don’t mind a new bit of fill, but not sure it was worth three chestnuts in HAJJ, OMOO and AMA… The best area is definitely PERUVIANS/SRILANKA/ULYSSES, even with crossing SHARERS and SOYS.