Good news! You can still access the Chronicle of Higher Ed crossword via Fiend’s “Today’s Puzzles” page. Each Friday’s puzzle (during the weeks that the CHE publishes) should be available the Monday preceding. Thanks to editor Brad Wilber, Fiend webmaster Dave Sullivan, and server guy Martin Herbach for setting this up.
This week’s AVCX is a contest puzzle from Francis Heaney. We’ll have a full write-up once the deadline for entries has closed.
Trenton Charlson’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
The theme is the letter “i” and that is the only vowel in this grid. I think I spik fir ill if is whin I … Okay, I can’t do that. I think I speak for all of us when I say “thank dog the clues are regular and don’t obey the same restraint, because that would have been horrendously unfun.”
Listen, if you are sending a letter anywhere in 2019 other than the Vatican, your [Formal letter opener] had better not be SIRS. Is there no way to clue that word other than via an antiquated exclusionary convention that nobody decent is still using? (Narrator: “There is.”)
Some of the fill is zippy enough—your “WILD THING,” TIGHT-KNIT, “BRING IT!” But that doesn’t make up for the overriding dryness of a “theme” that is absent any humor or wordplay. It felt STIFLING. I was CRINGING rather than SMILING when it came to things like MINISKI and the parade of IDS IRT INT INIT ISIT INS INI INKIN WITHIN IST.
Barely recalled at all, but pieced together with crossings: 41d. [Otto who worked on the Manhattan Project], FRISCH.
2.5 stars from me. I like the crossword to be less of a rote “just fill it all in” and more of a battle of wits. You know those cheap newspaper puzzles with unthemed grids with high word counts (meaning not a ≤72-word themeless with longer fill)? That’s the vibe here. Did you like it better than I did?
David Alfred Bywaters’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Bugs in the System” — Jim P’s review
Today we’re given well-known phrases, except that parts of them have been messed up and anagrammed into types of bugs.
I love the double meaning in the title. It usually refers to instances when little things go wrong, for example when letters get mixed up in a phrase. But not only do we have mixed-up words, those mix-ups change those words into bugs. It all points to an infestation of some annoying but smart PESTS (67a, [Anagrammatic intruders in this puzzle’s longest Across answers]).
- 17a [Bug in aerosol form?] SPRAY-ON ANT. …tan. A little nonsensical, but okay.
- 25a [Bug in a plutocrat’s stash?] GOLD FLEA. …leaf. Reminds me of the Richard Scarry books where you have to hunt for the gold bug on every page. My son loved doing that in the Cars and Trucks book.
- 36a [Bug empire’s ruling family?] GNAT DYNASTY. Tang…? I think? Yes. From A.D. 618 – 907.
- 51a [Bug convention?] WASP MEET. Swap…
- 60a [Bug that’s twice as irritating?] DOUBLE MITE. …time.
Cute little theme that kept me guessing until I got to the revealer.
Since I actually was timing myself today, I didn’t really pay close attention to the fill. But YULETIDE is nice while NURSLING seems pretty uncommon — though less so than its neighbor AMPHORA [Old olive oil container]. Nothing else strikes me as notable, though it’s all solidly made.
Clues of note:
- 65a [January 13, e.g.]. IDES. Hmm. Why is that, I wonder. I thought it was always the 15th. *checks internet* Ah, I see I’m mostly wrong.
- 9d [Intl. travel jet now being redeveloped]. SST. This is one of those entries that I just hate seeing. I realize it’s super useful, but it’s also super outdated. However, if it’s true that it’s being redeveloped, I suppose the entry will make a resurgence, for better or worse.
Solid anagramming theme with a clever twist. 3.6 stars.
Debbie Ellerin’s LA Times Crossword – Gareth’s review
The theme is fairly simple, if a little oddball. It’s dedicated to those [Laugh syllable] clues we mostly love to hate. The revealer is apt – LASTLAUGH describes concisely what is happening, and the themers are varied. There is stacking on two of the pairs, but despite this being a DICEY tactic, the letters are well-chosen and the surrounding grid such that little collateral damage occurs.
My favourite thing was actually the three part mini-clue theme though: [Fall sign] is LIBRA (I always have to mentally flip these, as that’s a spring sign here). [Spring sign] meanwhile is a different kind of sign – BUD. Lastly, [Summer sign?] is a totally different summer! A very impressive wordplay threesome!
The grid in general is much cleaner than most we’ve seen this week. Very few short, tired answers, and even less short, contrived answers (which IMO are far more annoying). Instead, the most difficult answers are likely the longer [Italian city that hosts the annual Eurochocolate Festival], PERUGIA, a decidely third tier Italian city; and [Inverse trig function], ARCSIN, which has remained for me a mysterious button on my calculator no-one even explained after a year of university mathematics…
I don’t like gimmick puzzles usually and this is not an exception. It just means worse-than-average fill and no wordplay.
With these gimmicky puzzles it’s always about how it’s “impressive” that someone filled a grid using only the vowel i, and I’m sure it is very hard, but crosswords are supposed to be fun! It’s a game!
I didn’t pick up on it and could not find the theme, otherwise thought the middle with all the participles or gerunds rather strange.
100% this. I thought the theme was “lots of ING entries”. Close to zero fun—I only find stunt puzzles impressive if they’re also fun to solve, personally.
NYT: I dinni… I didn’t mind it…
CHE – I really enjoy the CHE puzzle. Thanks so much for making it available online. Brad Wilber, Dave Sullivan, and Martin Herbach are my heroes.
Hear, hear, about the CHE, thank you all of you, and lovely to come across Martin Herbach again, Hello!!
Didn’t love the solve but gotta admire the feat.
For WSJ, I had to look up SWAP MEET to confirm it exists, but so it goes.
The app has “Old letter opener” not “Formal letter opener” as the clue for SIRS (53A in the NYT), which seems more apt.
So they changed the clue in the HTML5 online interface and in the mobile app, but left it as [Formal letter opener] in the .puz file and in the “print newspaper version” PDF. It astonishes me that apparently nobody on the editorial team saw this as an issue until it was too late to fix it in all the puzzle formats.
I solve on-line and didn’t see what Amy was upset about. Now I do. “Old letter opener” is not only more accurate and less sexist, but mislead me into trying to find short synonyms for “finger” or “knife” as openers for old (snail-mail) letters.
Yesterday’s Jonesin’ is now up. Sorry for the delay. It was strictly my fault.
The clue for SIRS was “Old letter opener” which to me made it clear it was outdated. That said, “Elton John and Paul McCartney, for two” or something like that would have been a better clue.
I didn’t mind the kludgy short fill that much in the NYT because the long fill was surprisingly zippy for a single-vowel puzzle
NYT. There are 51 Is by my count. Is that a record?
Per Xwordinfo, yes, by nearly double the previous record: https://www.xwordinfo.com/Crossword?date=1/9/2019