This week’s AVCX is a meta puzzle from Rebecca Falcon. Answers are due Sunday, April 7. Our writeup will run after that deadline has closed.
Ross Trudeau’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
The theme revealer is SEARCH RESULTS, 55a. [Google returns … or the answers to the four starred clues]. The four theme answers are things discovered by the people in the clues:
- 19a. [*Louis Pasteur, 1885], RABIES VACCINE. Apparently Pasteur’s methods would not pass muster today, and in fact were controversial at the time. (Sure, you test your unproven vaccine on a 9-year-old boy.)
- 25a. [*Roald Amundsen, 1906], NORTHWEST PASSAGE. The Western world gives Amundsen the credit, but he and his crew might well have perished without the counsel of Inuit people who knew what was needed to survive in the Arctic.
- 38a. [*William Herschel, 1781], URANUS. [Insert joke here.] Did you know that the field of astronomy and astrophysics remains rather hostile to women?
- 48a. [*Howard Carter, 1922], TUTANKHAMEN’S TOMB. One wonders how many Egyptians pretty much knew what was down there but had the respect not to take everything away.
There is, of course, a wealth of knowledge discovered by women and/or people of color. We learn via Wordplay that Ross Trudeau made this puzzle before people had pointed out to him just how many white men his puzzles featured, and he’s both trying to do better on that front and mentoring newbie constructors from underrepresented groups (women, POC, LGBTQ people). If you are reading this, you like crosswords, and you’re a member of those groups, I encourage you to try your hand at constructing! The Crossword Puzzle Collaboration Directory is a Facebook group where you can find a mentor to coach you through the process of making a publishable crossword, and they’ll patiently answer your questions and encourage you. Go for it!
Five more things:
- 42a. [Half of square dance participants, typically], GALS. In my area, I suspect most square dancing is all-male. At least, I’ve traditionally seen men in the square dance group in the Pride Parade.
- 44d. [Where’s it’s happening], ON SCENE. This feels awkward. “On the scene” works better for me.
- 43a. [One-named Latin singer], CHARO. She’s also a gifted guitarist and a comedian. See her guitar virtuosity below.
- 49d. [Competitor of Target], KOHL’S. With the K in place, I filled in KMART and scoffed. Kohl’s is thriving, I think, unlike the Sears/Kmart combo, but Target is bigger and sells a much broader range of merch. I feel like Walmart is the only true Target rival in this country.
- 31d. [Magic creatures of Jewish lore], GOLEMS. Also a type of Pokémon!
I’ll ding the puzzle a bit for fill like ZEE, plural RCAS, ALII, WSU, AD IN, TSETSE, and [Vintage car inits.] REO, but the longer fill had some sparkle to it. 3.5 stars.
Zhouqin Burnikel’s Universal Crossword, “Top This”—Judge Vic’s write-up
What is C.C. up to here? Well, let’s take a look at the reveal:
- 61a [Ingredient for success, or what’s hidden in each starred answer] SECRET SAUCE–Okay, now let’s search the starred answers for the key ingredients:
- 17a [*Teaching job interview parts] DEMO LESSONS–I was about to blow my whistle and throw a penalty flag, as demo lesson is neither in my memory nor in any dictionary. But, lo and behold, it is a real thing, supported by lots of hits. And there, spanning the two-word ILSA, is MOLE (sauce).
- 24a [*Fitting compliment?] THAT’S SO YOU–And the yield here is SOY.
- 38a [*With ramifications] AT A COST—TACO.
- 50a [*Fun winery event] GRAPE STOMP–Another non-dictionarized ILSA with lots of hits, to say nothing of that memorable episode of “I Love Lucy.” PESTO.
A clever, 5-unit, all-horizontal theme of 11-10-7-10-11?! Nice, on the one hand. OTOH, it doesn’t leave much space for other noteworthy entries, especially Across ones. There’s AT A COST and ON ALERT, common prepositional phrases. Then, in the Down arena, we find two show-off anchors in POP CULTURE and AVERAGE JOE leading an unremarkable cast of totally competent fill. Enjoyable!
3.7 stars from me.
Greg Johnson’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Poor Boxes”—Laura’s review
Laura here, in for Jim P., who is on vacation at a Land of some kind down in Anaheim. I think there are mice there? So what’ve we got in this here puzzle? A bunch of down entries are clued in reference to 60-Across, like so:
- [6d: See 60-Across]: DESTITUTE
- [11d: See 60-Across]: INSOLVENT
- [27d: See 60-Across]: BROKE
- [33d: See 60-Across]: TAPPED OUT
- [35d: See 60-Across]: PENNILESS
- [60a: Sales incentive, and a hint to the starred answers]: NO MONEY DOWN
Nice! I like it when the theme makes use of grid construction, such that synonyms for poor or having no money are the marquee down entries. Not having direct clues for that much down-entry grid space was a little tough going (good luck to anyone solving this one downs-only!) but fairly clues, and I was able to get everything on the crosses.
Fave clue: [47a: Springy?]: VERNAL. April is truly the cruellest month in northern New England; we still have piles of snow in all the north-facing parts of our yard. Spare me your flowery Insta posts! Our dead land won’t breed any lilacs for at least five weeks. Second fave clue: [7a: THIS CLUE HAS NINETEEN]: CAPS. Nineteen what? Spaces? Letters? Ah, ok.
Wow this is a very masculine grid. Not a single clue or entry with anything womany in it; even IDA is astronomical — [11a: Asteroid with a moon] — instead of [Activist ___ B. Wells] or some such. There’s the “girl” in [3d: “The Girl Who Played With Fire” author Larsson]: STIEG‘s clue. And — oh UGH — [61d: Title bestowed in a ceremony]: MRS. I just noticed that since I must’ve gotten it on the crosses. Those of us who chose not to change our names in the marriage ceremony, are we still Mrs.? (My usual reply if someone asks “are you Miss or Mrs.?” is “I’m Dr.”) Maybe we should go back to Mistress, like the Puritans.
Let’s funk our way out with [64a: 1978 song by KC and the Sunshine Band]: SO GLAD.
Craig Stowe’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up
Today features a typical version of a “words that go with” theme. In this case, the word is CASE. It also features a not uncommon wrinkle that the answers are vertical, hinted at by the revealer, UPPERCASE. The four “hidden” words are: HARD(CASE), PENCIL(CASE), TEST(CASE) and SHOW(CASE). Of the theme entries themselves, most are fairly prosaic, with PENCILSKIRT being my favourite.
- [Grooming process], TOILETTE is a fun and curious loanword.
- [Drambuie and Scotch cocktail], RUSTYNAIL. Best of the long non-theme entries. Its counterpart is WARMONGER.
- [Singer Turner’s memoir], ITINA. A very specific crossword arcana exhibit. There were quite a few today amongst the shorter answers, but I solved so fast they didn’t grate as much as they perhaps should have.
- [Philippines peak: Abbr.], MTAPO. MTIDA is the European crossword equivalent.
- [Looks flushed], ISRED. That’s pretty much as contrived as it can get…
- [That, old-style], YON. Kind of. Like in modern spanish, things can either be this (close to both of us), that (near to you, far from me), or yon(der) (far away from both of us). At least I think that is how it works? There ought to be enough language mavens around to provide any corrections to this?