Gary Larson’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Stuffy Nose” — Jim P’s review
Theme: Common phrases re-imagined as if the speaker had a stuffy nose.
- 17a [Item on a wheat farmer’s agenda?] HOE GRAIN. Whole grain.
- 38a [Keats or Shelley?] ODE CHAP. Old chap.
- 62a [Place for a pedicure?] TOE BOOTH. Toll booth.
- 11d [Antivirus program?] CODE REMEDY. Cold remedy.
- 30d [Sailing?] BOAT ACTION. Bolt-action.
Hmm. These don’t really work for me. If I plug up my nose and try to say “whole grain,” there’s still an L in there, but the N becomes a D. Same story with “bolt-action.” “Toll booth” pretty much sounds as originally intended, and in “cold remedy,” the M becomes a B. Of these five, only “old chap” -> ODE CHAP sorta makes sense to me. Your mileage may vary, I suppose.
The rest of the grid is solid with the likes of “LET’S GO!”, STRASSE, LARYNX, LAKERS, and OUSTER. Weird plurals STADIA and TONERS are eyebrow-raisers, though.
Clues of note:
- 23a [Common sense]. SMELL. That works.
- 31a [Con quest]. PAROLE. Nice, though I tried ESCAPE first.
- 6d [Impertinent ones]. SNIPS. Why make this into a weird noun?
- 39d [Banquet]. DINE. And does anyone use “banquet” as a verb?
The grid is fine. Nice, even. But the theme missed the mark for me. Three stars.
Michael Hawkins’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
The theme revealer is 49a. [Misconceptions about money … or a loose hint to 20-, 24- and 44-Across?], FINANCIAL MYTHS, which I guess is legit but the phrase isn’t too familiar to me. The theme answers are phrases from the financial world that include names of mythical beasts—but these also are not things I really am aware of. Just me?
- 20a. [Success story like Uber or Airbnb], UNICORN START-UP.
- 24a. [Institutions propped up with government support], ZOMBIE BANKS.
- 44a. [One profiting through litigation, not innovation], PATENT TROLL.
Your mileage may certainly vary, but the theme felt rather too arcane to me. I do appreciate that the theme isn’t overly dense, which means the fill is solid.
Fave fill: OVERSHARE. Love the apt clue, [Discuss one’s toilet habits, for example]! Also fond of HOT TAKES. (My hot take: The PATTY MELT is an abomination. The name alone! Ach. I’ve never had one, and the clue specifies Swiss cheese but I feel like I’ve seen it photographed on menus more with American cheese.)
Three more things:
- 32d. [Group of talking heads], PANEL. Pro tip: If you’re invited to be on a panel, it’s good to make sure that the proposed panelists are not all men, not all white. Use their desire to have you on the panel to push them to be more representative.
- 58a. [West African republic], GHANA. A Ghanaian restaurant just opened in my neighborhood but it’s not on Yelp yet. Should I check it out? What’s good?
- 37d. [Role in hide-and-seek], SEARCHER. Feels like a roll-your-own word. I don’t recall using this word in childhood games.
3.5 stars from me.
Greg Johnson’s Universal Crossword, “X-Ray Eyes”—Judge Vic’s write-up
Hmm. The letter I runs from each of the top corners to each of the bottom corners. That’s 29 I’s in the shape of an X. The puzzle’s reveal, 26d, goes, [Gender equality law represented by this puzzle’s diagonals] TITLE IX.
Again, hmm. Why do these diagonals necessarily represent the Roman Numeral IX associated with Title IX of the Educational Amendments Act of 1972, which famously states, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance”? One might expect an answer to this question to emerge from a couple or three theme answers. But one would be wrong, I think (enlighten me if I err). The rest of the puzzle feels like a not-awful themeless, though, highlighted by:
- 5a [18 or 21, by law] OF AGE
- 27a [Small taste of wine] ONE SIP
- 28a [Jumbled] MIXED UP
- 44a [Zilch] NOT A BIT
- 50a [“Victory is ours!”] WE WIN
- 63a [Handling the task] ON IT
- 64a [Far from grainy] IN HD
- 3d [Enter, then quickly exit] GO IN AND OUT
- 4d [Like efficient trains] ON TIME
- 6d [Uninhibited one] FREE SPIRIT
- 10d [Treat kindly] BE NICE TO
- 25d [Dessert with gummy worms] DIRT PIE
- 28d [In a rebellious way] MILITANTLY
- 29d [Where to sign] DOTTED LINE
- 37d Like small hail PEA-SIZED
I don’t purport to know what might or could have gone into, say, 3d, 25d & 29d to constitute theme material consistent with, or in support of, the reveal. Just sayin’ that without that, the editorial question posed above looms. And, as impressive as the diagonals may be, they don’t answer it. They just make a Roman nine, kinda, sorta … with the I being much smaller than the X and having 28 mirror images of itself.
Max Carpenter’s AVCX, “Small Doses” — Ben’s Review
Max Carpenter microdosed us all with this week’s guest puzzle in the AVCX. You’ll want to click through on the screenshot to catch what’s in the rebus squares, but if you know anything about microdosing, you’ll already have an idea of what’s going on:
- 32A: Superstitiously sealed portal in the back of some churches — DEVIL’S DOOR
- 36A: Upcoming occasion on which the AVCX will publish a guest puzzle by Malia Obama — APRIL FOOL’S DAY
- 14D: Reality show that moved to VH1 in 2017 — RUPAUL’S DRAG RACE
- 15D: Fergie song about a dramatic breakup — BIG GIRLS DON’T CRY
There’s little doses of LSD everywhere in the puzzle. I keep feeling like I missed one somewhere, but a second pass through the grid didn’t reveal any other squares that would benefit from a rebus entry.
wrong BIG GIRLS DON’T CRY
Other fill I liked: NUMERO UNO, IDA LUPINO, MOOG, MR BEAN, OX TONGUE, ARBORISTS, PUSSY RIOT, BOP IT, BON MOT, NEVADAN, and GREY GOO (which I’ve never heard before, but I’m assuming is another way to talk about the Singularity). Lots to love here!
Norfleet Pruden’s LA Times Crossword – Gareth’s summary
This felt like it should be a clichéd theme, once I found it, like THESUNALSORISES etc., but I don’t recall encountering it before. MONKEYBUSINESS, HORSEFEATHERS and then more general ANIMALCRACKERS… Along with having an zoological link, they are MARX brothers films.
There are only three theme entries (plus MARX), but they are of irregular length, which seems to be why there aren’t a lot of other flashy answers, and why things like PPD and AANDP (crossing PTS) occur.
We don’t have ANIMALCRACKERS here, but we do have ZOOBISCUITS, which are completely different, I gather.