David Alfred Bywaters’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “In Motion” — Jim P’s review
Taking the title literally, the bigram IN is moved from one phrase to another.
- 22a [Play set in a low-class bar?] DIVE COMEDY. Divine Comedy. The IN moves from this phrase to the next one.
- 24a [Ovine musical prodigy?] LAMB CHOPIN. Lamb chop.
- 39a [Three-layer Valentine’s Day chocolate box?] FAT HEART. Faint heart.
- 41a [What follows nine lives?] CAT FINISH. Catfish.
- 66a [Edible marijuana?] BROWNIE POT. Brownie point. Apt entry for today. Happy 420, folks!
- 70a [Vampires at mealtime?] DINING BATS. Dingbats.
- 92a [Item of intimate apparel for an iguana?] LIZARD BRA. Lizard-brain, I guess.
- 95a [Armored knight’s undergarment?] TIN SHIRT. T-shirt.
- 114a [Congressional debate, to a cynic?] CAPITAL GAS. Capital gains.
- 116a [Wheat field?] GRAINY AREAS. Gray areas.
A pretty good set though I could pick nits here and there. For example, I’ve heard “faint of heart” far more than “faint heart.” “Brownie point” is more often seen in the plural. “Lizard-brain” doesn’t feel that in-the-language.
Still, I like the structure of the theme with the IN-less phrases on the left and their partners on the right. Very nicely consistent. And I do like that first pair, each with classical elements as well as crosswordese wackery. On the whole, the consistent structure and wordplay won me over enough to look past the nits.
Plenty of fun fill to enjoy, especially BROUHAHA (though it’s very near to HAHA), OCELOTS, REAL LIFE, WASABI, PATHOS, BELUGA, HOT POTATO, and “LIAR LIAR.” Quite a few fun spoken phrases too: “SAME HERE,” “LET’S SEE,” “ONE SEC,” “I DISAGREE,” and “I’M SOLD” keep things lively. I’ve never heard of EDIT WARS [Wikipedia conflicts] so that was tough to parse out, but I imagine it’s a real thing. (Yup, sure is.)
Oh, I missed DO-SI-DOS [Square dance moves]. I don’t know exactly what the square dance move is, but I do know the peanut-buttery Girl Scout cookie. Oh and whaddyaknow. Do-si-do is a strain of cannabis flower named after said cookie, though it’s described as more minty than peanut-buttery. Happy 420, folks (did I already say that?)!
Not so keen on IDEAMAN. Constructors, just strike that one from your lists. It sounds so dated and sexist that you’d be better off without it.
Beyond that there isn’t much to gripe about beside a smattering of crosswordese (OGEE, ILIE, etc.).
Oh hey! The clock just struck 4:20 pm. And I just noticed BONG [Head shop purchase] over on the left. Happy 420, folks!
I give this one 4.20 stars! (Well, maybe 3.7, but who’s counting?)
Kevin Adamick’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
So this is essentially four 8×6 crosswords welded together. I struggled to find a foothold in puzzle 1, but got through puzzles 2, 3, and 4 in a easyish-Saturday amount of time. That first corner took the longest.
Fave fill: The dreaded BOYS’ CLUB, ATE ALIVE, RON REAGAN, DOG-TIRED (this whole week, man!), CRANKS UP, the French TRICOLOR (though the echo of “colored” in the UVEA clue bugged me), and HECKLERS.
Least fave fill: EMAG (nobody really uses this), blah ODEA, A DRIVE, archaic UNLADE, and AD ASTRA clued as [Start of Kansas’ state motto] rather than as the Brad Pitt sci-fi movie that opens in 5 weeks. The fill’s surprisingly low on the “roll-your-own” sort of entries, though, despite the low word count of 60. ROADER clued as a FITB, YELLER not clued as an “Old ___” FITB, maybe REALER—those are really the worst in this category.
Six more things:
- 9a. [“Science may have found a cure for most evils; but it has found no remedy for the worst of them all – the ___ of human beings”: Helen Keller], APATHY. Smart woman.
- 17a. [What some investments and trained dogs do], ROLL OVER. Great clue.
- 22a. [Italian city that’s home to the Villa d’Este], TIVOLI. Probably I should have known this from those years of crosswordese ESTE clues, but no.
- 23a. [Nuts], DERANGED. Is this ableist language? Discuss.
- 48a. [Anna who played Scheherazade in 1963’s “Scheherazade”], ANNA KARINA. French, right? Was in French New Wave movies with Jean-Paul Belmondo? Googling … Danish-French, and in New Wave films directed by Jean-Luc Godard. I don’t think I saw any of her films in that French New Wave cinema class I took in college.
- 56a. [They serve a function], CATERERS. Also a good clue.
Four stars from me.
Kyle Dolan’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
This Downs Only thing is really hard! I got it done in under 15 minutes, but it was a struggle. The solve would have gone much smoother with the Across clues visible (obviously!), but especially these two:
- 1A [Minuet-like dances] SARABANDS
- 60A [Lake Superior mining region] IRON RANGE
These are two terms I am unfamiliar with. I have been up to the Soo Locks in the Upper Peninsula and watched the ships come in and get raised up to head into Lake Superior, and I think they are hauling iron ore, but the term IRON RANGE is new to me. Other than that, an appropriate challenge this week and another gem from my buddy Kyle, who I haven’t seen in a while now. According to his FB page, he has the NYT on the 26th, so we have that to look forward to. 4.6 stars for this one.
Some highlights (from the Downs, of course!)
- 3D [Area 20 yards or less from the opponent’s goal line, in football] RED ZONE – This was easily the first thing I filled in. I hate now that I love football so much, but in this country, I am not alone. I don’t follow it nearly as closely as I used to, since the hypocrisy of the game is getting worse. And it is truly just too violent.
- 7D [“It’s not critical”] “NO RUSH” – This has 5 NYT hits, each clued exactly the same way: [“Take your time”]
- 12D [“The elixir of quietude”: E.B. White] MARTINI – This is a phenomenal quote. For whatever reason, you kinda knew this was an alcoholic reference! Great clue!
- 24D [Spy novel pen name] LE CARRE – I don’t think I knew this was a pseudonym … more amazingly, he’s still alive!
- 29D [Six-winged being, in Isaiah] SERAPH – Tell me someone else filled in CHERUB!
- 37D [Lab notebook entries] RAW DATA – This was one of the harder entries to suss out going Downs Only. But still a great clue.
- 40D [Doo-woppers with an eponymous ’70s-’80s TV variety show] SHA NA NA – I used to watch this show all the time! Ah, the good old days, when there were only 5 or 6 channels!
- 41D [Aquarius, for one] AIR SIGN – I have no idea what this means …
- 49D [Whitewater VIP] STARR – Starr Report, Mueller Report; that’s what I immediately thought of when I saw this answer! It has been a newsworthy week, if nothing else!
Greg Johnson’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up
Whoops. I started this puzzle and paused it, but I never stopped the timer. I have no idea what my time was, but it felt like around 20 minutes. This one gave me fits, as you can see by all of the error marks in the grid. I jammed through the top part of this, but the entire bottom third was not on my wavelength at all. I am not sure why, because looking at the puzzle as a whole, it looks like a great puzzle. That’s why they call it a Stumper, I suppose! I have done several of Greg’s puzzles now, but evidently I need to head to his web page and do some more! Hope you liked this newest edition of “joyful agony” from Stan this week: 4.5 stars from me.
- 1A [Source of diamond heat] FASTBALLER – Oh, THAT kind of diamond. Great 1-Across entry!
- 31A [Chow line creator] PURINA – I have actually delivered to a Purina facility. There is one just south of where I live in Milford, IN.
- 35A [Cyber-show-and-tell] UNBOXING VIDEO – Awesome entry. What better way to pander to our materialistic tendencies than to enjoy watching a person opening something we didn’t buy!
- 45A [Much two-way radio talk] TEN CODES – I had TEN FOURS in here at first, but there are several phrases that start with ten. I think semi drivers still use CB radio a lot, but it seems to be a dying art.
- 66A [Rolls Royce Ghost, e.g.] GAS GUZZLER – If you can afford this car, you don’t care that it gets 6 MPG! (It actually gets about 12. It’s beautiful, though!)
- 12D [Carpenter’s chalk on a string] SNAP LINE – When I did construction, we called this a chalk line, and “snap” was the verb used when you made the line. To each his own, I suppose!
- 14D [Fast-service promise] NEXT DAY – As in UPS Next Day Air, which caused me stress for nearly 28 years.
- 35D [Art that can fluoresce] U.V. TATTOO – Is this even a thing? I have no tats, and certainly none that glow in the dark!
- 36D [Half of the Moon] NEAR SIDE – As opposed to the far side of the moon, no doubt?
- 40D [Smart TV necessity] USB PORT – I have a smart TV, and I can live without this port, although I believe I DO have one in the back somewhere!
Have a great weekend!
Lewis Rothlein’s Universal Crossword, “United Nation”—Jim Q’s write-up
Tougher one today from Universal. One of those themes where the solver might see it in retrospect rather than during the solve.
THEME: The latter portion of two state names are combined to make a familiar word.
- 10A [*Beatles’ meter maid (MO + MN)] RITA. MissouRI + MinnesoTA.
- 23A [*Hard to please (MS + KY)] PICKY. MississipPI + KentuCKY.
- 28A [*Craze (AL + VA)] MANIA. AlabaMA + VirgiNIA.
- 39A [*Rocket’s touchdown (MD + WY)] LANDING. MaryLAND + WyomING.
- 48A [*Fatuous (NC + ME)] INANE. North CarolINA + MaiNE.
- 53A [*2010 Supreme Court nominee (AK + MI)] KAGAN. AlasKA + MichiGAN.
- 67A [*Parlor pics (ND + MA)] TATS. North DakoTA + MassachusetTS.
- 66A [With 69-Across, Tenth Amendment topic … or what the starred answers literally consist of?] STATES’ / RIGHTS.
I solved this as a themeless since the theme answers are clued straightforwardly. I found it easier to figure them out with the clue than by trying to determine the connection between the state abbreviations. The AHA moment came about a minute after the solve by seeing the connection in MANIA (I was thrown off with MS + KY as PICKY ends with the actual state abbreviation). Lots of M states in this puzzle too!
The brevity of the theme answers led to some great fill, although if one were looking at the grid alone, it’s likely he/she would think that 3-, 5-, 23-, and 31-D were the actual theme answers. All of those were solid entries (SCREAMS OUT, LIVE AND LEARN, PAUL GIAMATTI, and BEATEN PATH), and they were more lively than the entries around which the puzzle was built. BASS DRUM fits in that category as well.
Had trouble with HEAD CT (appreciate the anagram clue!) and am unfamiliar with TRUMBO, so that area played somewhat harder. Also, the clue for 35D being [CD + CD + CD + CD] gave pause as it kinda sorta looked like a theme clue.
On a side note, there’s a fantastic play on Broadway right now called “What the Constitution Means to Me.” It was recently featured on This American Life and in a season full of outstanding straight plays that opened, NY Times is calling it the best of the bunch. Not sure I agree with that part, but it’s really, really good.
Anyway, I like the concept here and the fun revealer, but I wish solving were more dependent on understanding the theme.