Gary Larson’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Shaken, Not Stirred” — Jim P’s review
The puzzle title comes from Bond, James Bond, of course, and the revealer at 96a highlights one of the actors who played the famed spy, SEAN [Connery, whose speaking style is played on in this puzzle]. The theme answers have S sounds changed to SH sounds with additional spelling changes as needed in the affected words.
- 22a [Healthy glows?] VITAL SHINES. Vital signs.
- 24a [Clams, oysters and the like?] SHOAL FOOD. Soul food.
- 37a [Argument at a job site?] WORKING CLASH. Working class.
- 46a [Ample storage space for gardening supplies?] ENOUGH SHED. “Enough said.” I like this one.
- 65a [Radar O’Reilly’s job in the 4077th?] MASH COMMUNICATIONS. Mass communications.
- 81a [Pessimistic rant?] GLOOMY GUSH. Gloomy Gus.
- 89a [Annual photo feature in Sports Illustrated?] BATHING SHOOT. Bathing suit. Um, no to that clue. I don’t think they have an annual issue of people taking baths, unless things have changed since I last read a magazine.
- 108a [What vampires do during the day?] SHUN LIGHT. Sunlight.
- 110a [Having nothing appropriate to wear at the beach?] OUT OF SHORTS. Out of sorts.
This feels too wide open. The changed sounds occur sometimes at the beginning of words, sometimes at the ends. Sometimes it’s the first word being changed, sometimes it’s the second. And there are so many S words that become valid SH words (seer, seep, sake, sank, sag, save, sale, Sam, saw, sack, same, just for starters), that one could probably make dozens of similar grids.
Some other constraining factor is in order, I think. First, for consistency’s sake, I would only use words with SH sounds at the beginning. (Whether to have that word first in the phrase or later is less important). Second, since the basis of the puzzle is “playing on” (more like “making fun of,” if you ask me) the way a certain person speaks, perhaps theme entries could be limited to verbal phrases along the lines of “ENOUGH SHED.” Other possibilities might include “FOR PETE’S SHAKE” or “THIS SHUCKS” or “SHAVE THE WHALES.” Third, I would reduce the number of entries, because…
With so many possible theme answers, it’s tempting to fit in as much as you can. But this reduces the quality of the surrounding fill. Yes, the long stuff here is fine or even good (PELL-MELL, PARAMECIA, DIONYSUS, BOOM MICS, MINI MALL, “THANK YOU,” and CALLAHAN), but there’s a lot of scowly stuff as well (DSMS, OSA, ECTO, EMIN, CRIS, A LEAD, A NO NO, RESEEK, OCH, and EMIL crossing SHILO). With fewer theme entries, you’d still have strong long fill, but you could clean up the short stuff as well.
In the end, there’s just too much here and it’s too wide open of a theme. It’s not bad, but certain improvements could be made. A tighter theme would be more enjoyable and result in cleaner fill. 3.0 stars.
Andrew Zhou’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Maybe a bit on the easy end of the Saturday NYT spectrum, yeah?
Favorite fill: IN A SPIRAL, XERISCAPING, SIMONE BILES, SHACKED UP, ACL TEAR, SIROCCO (I like those wind names), “I CAN SEE THAT,” and GARLIC BREAD.
I feel lied to: 14a. [Farm feed holder] is a GRANARY, and when I was a kid, there was a rural town nearby that had a quaint shopping center inside an old agricultural building, and they called it The Grainery. They couldn’t just spell it right?
Four more things:
- 20a. [It. is in it], NATO. It. is an abbreviation for Italy.
- 8d. [Its spirit may be broken], LAW. As in the letter of the law and the spirit of the law, both of which can be broken.
- 29d. [Pre-hosp. childbirth aide, often], EMT. I wonder what percentage of people in labor arrive at the hospital via ambulance, rather than getting themselves there in a car. I did have a friend whose second labor moved so fast that by the time her husband was going to drive her to the hospital, things had progressed too far and they called an ambulance. Instead of going to her chosen hospital and having a soothing water birth in a birthing tub, BAM, baby was born in the E.R. A pity—she was going to have the midwife-attended water birth I had wanted to have (but didn’t) a few years earlier!
- 42d. [Widely used antibiotic brand], CIPRO. Ciprofloxacin, like the other -floxacin antibiotics, has a new warning—certain people are at increased risk of having an aortic dissection or aneurysm if they take those antibiotics. People with high blood pressure, a history of aortic problems, Marfan syndrome, or Ehlers-Danlos syndrome should avoid these fluoroquinolone antibiotics. #TheMoreYouKnow
Pretty smooth grid. Four stars from me.
Jeffrey Wechsler’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
Looking forward to seeing Jeffrey in a couple of months in Stamford. I always enjoy his puzzles. This grid image was captured from the Xword solving program for PC. I have been using it on my PCs instead of Across Lite for the last week or two. I think it also reads .jpz files as well. Like Across Lite (the PC version, anyway), you can also customize fonts that appear. It seems a little easier to use, but they both accomplish the same thing, so it boils down to personal preference. If there is something I am missing about either, please let me know.
I digress. Jeffrey’s grid is a 70 worder with, in typical LAT fashion, a low amount of dreck. Slightly challenging, as have been the last few LAT Saturday puzzles. Either I am getting slow and old or they have ratcheted up the difficulty level just a smidge. And that is a good thing! They were too easy, in my opinion. A solid 4.2 stars for this one.
Some more things:
- 1A [“Everything is ruined!”] “WHAT A MESS!” – Nice entry for 1-Across. This puzzle is anything but a mess, though! ;-)
- 23A [“Put your wallets away”] “MY TREAT!” – Yes, we all love to hear someone say these words!
- 27A [They need receivers] PASSERS – Nice clue, but it is more like receivers need passers! Seemingly, and I am generalizing here, the moodiest players on some teams are the receivers, who are not able to accomplish anything unless someone THROWS TO THEM. In particular, there was a feud in the news between the Steelers QB and WR this past week. They missed the playoffs.
- 35A [Snow __ ] WHITE – This could be tons of things. ANGEL, PLOWS, FLAKE. I did not think of this at first.
- 64A [Where love doesn’t conquer anything] TENNIS GAME – Ah, the dead period of the year for tennis is nearly over! They are playing Aussie Open tune-up tournaments as we write this, and the first major of the year starts on Monday the 14th, which for us in the US is actually Sunday night the 13th! Getting ready for no sleep for two weeks!
- 5D [Cartoonist with an Edgar Award] ADDAMS – Chas Addams was the creator of The Addams Family, as well as a prolific cartoonist. I don’t think he ever actually had a syndicated comic strip. His Edgar was sort of a lifetime achievement award. I found all of this here.
- 8D [Drinks it all in] SAVORS THE MOMENT – Sometimes a key factor in enjoying a puzzle, perhaps?
- 27D [’60s music conspiracy theory] “PAUL IS DEAD” – Ah, yes, the famous line supposedly hidden in a Beatles song by a technique I learned was called “backward masking” way back when I was younger. Gotta watch out for those Satanic references, children! I don’t know if this is true, but I will tell you a quick true story: years ago, a friend of mine had a cassette tape of Kilroy Was Here by Styx. The tape broke (remember those days?) and he put it back together backwards. After playing it, I’ll never forget what he did next: he BURNED it. I have been afraid to play their music backwards for 30 years! I think this is not too difficult in this digital age, either. Judge for yourself!
That is all!
Lester Ruff’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up
This Les Ruff puzzle (Stan!) started out a little “less rough,” but ended up Stumping me as it usually does. There are some great entries in here, and lots of misdirection that led me down a couple of rabbit holes that were incorrect. The entry at 36A I assume was the seed entry (see below), and as usual is something I have not heard before. I would say I am getting old, and I am not hip to what these young kids say, but Stan is older than I am, so that doesn’t hold water! Stan’s puzzles are always fun and clean; a solid 4.5 stars this morning.
- 1A [What “Rhapsody in Blue” was first scored for] JAZZ BAND – Ah, a hark back to the days when there was not streaming music and you had to actually GO SEE people play music. How times have changed, and yet live music is still always better!
- 17A [Reaction to the unexpected] “HOW NOVEL!” – A great casual phrase. Maybe even a little snarky!
- 26A [Alternative to Chrissy] TINA – Both based on Christine or Christina, I believe.
- 35A [Director who sued Viacom over Spike TV] LEE – I remember this. This was the old TNN channel, and I remember thinking this lawsuit was petty. I don’t know how it turned out. Why does everybody sue everybody else in this country??
- 36A [Start of an updated auric adage] TWEET UNTO OTHERS – “Auric” hint at a reference to the Golden Rule. This is that phrase I have not heard before, but I think it surely has to do with being kind on Twitter.
- 52A [Alternative to Tessa] TERI – Great similarity to 26A. These are variations of Theresa, I believe.
- 8D [Perform as promised] DELIVER THE GOODS – Not quite as good as 36A, but still nice having crossings 15s in the grid.
- 11D [They scared Churchill, by his own admission] U-BOATS – Understandable!
- 13D [Arrange artfully] ENGINEER – I would not describe what engineers do as artful. Perhaps sometimes, but in my mind their jobs are more about function. Maybe it is just me.
- 36D [Common contractions] TWITCHES – Best clue in my opinion. Seeing the word “contractions” and juxtaposing that with an eight letter entry blew my mind!
A new Panda Magazine comes out today, so there goes my Saturday. We just finished the entire Puzzle Boat 5, and it is magnificent. Yes, it took over two months to finish all of the nearly 100 puzzles. I still highly recommend. Check it out here.