Gary Larson’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Stop Bugging Me!” — Jim P’s review
Cute wordplay going on today as common words are broken in two with the latter half being some kind of bothersome pest, either insect or arachnid.
- 17a [Nuisance on the range?] CHAPS TICKS. It wasn’t until I started writing this up that I realized this wasn’t CHAP STICKS which I didn’t find too nuisance-causing. Realizing my error, the whole theme fell into place.
- 25a [Nuisance in an orchard?] APPLE BEES. Calling bees a nuisance isn’t cool (but I’ll allow it for consistency’s sake). The rest of the critters here are presumably doing fine population-wise, but bees need our help.
- 36a [Nuisance at a POW camp?] STALAG MITES. Kind of a depressing clue and entry, no? But I admit to liking this find.
- 51a [Nuisance at a haberdashery?] SERGE ANTS. I always forget what serge is. M-W.com says it’s “a durable twilled fabric having a smooth clear face and a pronounced diagonal rib on the front and the back.” Oh yeah, that makes it clear. How can it have a diagonal rib on the front and the back and yet a smooth clear face?
- 60a [Nuisance at a phone store?] APP ROACHES. Hmm. You don’t really buy apps at a phone store, and having a roach at an online virtual store doesn’t have much surface sense.
I can certainly pick some nits (haha), but once I realized the pest angle, I liked the theme much better.
I did have a heckuva time getting the R and O in APP ROACHES. Those crossings are clued [Bitter medicinal herb] for RUE and [Bribes] for SOPS. Huh? I don’t recall ever seeing those uncommon definitions for those common words before. Do us a favor and spread those off-the-wall clues out.
The 11-letter central entry causes large open corners in the grid. Mostly, they’re handled very well. I especially like the OPHELIA / REALISTS stack in the NW. “OUT HERE” feels a little on the iffy side, and I’m definitely anti-ORANG, but everything else in the corners is solid.
Clues of note:
- 21a [Stirrup spot] and 27d [Hammer and anvil, e.g.]. These are all BONES in the EAR. Also known as the Malleus, Incus, and Stapes (Huh! They did some legal work for me a few years back.), the Internets tell me they are the smallest BONES in the human body.
- 10a [Touch]. ABUT. You might want to avoid saying this clue/entry pairing out loud if you’re at work.
- 18d [Open placement]. SEED. As in, placement in a tournament like the U.S. Open.
Solidly consistent and buggy puzzle. 3.8 stars.
Evan Mahnken’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
The puzzle’s easy enough to be a Monday or Tuesday, is running on Wednesday 4/24, and relates to Shakespeare, whose birthday is 4/26 and deathiversary is 4/23. Close enough for government work, or better to just run the puzzle in some other month on a Tuesday?
Revealer: 54a. [What the film answering each starred clue was inspired by], SHAKESPEARE PLAY. Here are the movies:
- 17a. [*1956 sci-fi movie with Robby the Robot], FORBIDDEN PLANET. Hmm, The Tempest? Apparently yes, per Wikipedia. Never saw the movie, but saw the play on Broadway with Patrick Stewart as Prospero.
- 22a. [*2006 rom-com starring Amanda Bynes and Channing Tatum], SHE’S THE MAN. Twelfth Night? Yes.
- 35a. [*1961 musical for which Rita Moreno won an Oscar], WEST SIDE STORY. Romeo and Juliet.
- 45a. [*1953 musical with songs by Cole Porter], KISS ME, KATE. The Taming of the Shrew.
Coincidentally, the 10/13/10 movies were the theme set in a 2017 Aimee Lucido puzzle for Crosswords With Friends.
Five more things:
- 30a. [Put 10,000 hours into, it’s said], MASTER. Maybe, maybe not. Here’s a discussion of that topic.
- 62a. [“I’m laughing so much it hurts!”], “MY SIDES!” I don’t know about this one. Legit or no?
- 4d. [Large scale of the universe?], LIBRA. The Scales constellation.
- 26d. [Lil ___ X, rapper with the 2019 #1 hit “Old Town Road”], NAS. This is the song that was burning up Billboard’s Country charts till Billboard decided the song didn’t qualify for that genre. The artist considers it country trap, trap being a Southern type of hip-hop. Billy Ray Cyrus sings on the remix.
- 31d. [Tokyo’s former name], EDO. Crosswordese Asian geography of yore.
3.6 stars from me.
Matthew Sewell’s Universal Crossword, “Hidden Strength”—Judge Vic’s write-up
So, Matthew, focused on symbols of strongness, places four such items so as to span the junctures of words in a name, a movie title, and a couple of interesting phrases. To make it easy to follow, I’ve rearranged things a bit:
- 15a [Sturdy literary symbol in 42-Across] OAK
- 42a [Bond film with a Duran Duran theme song] A VIEW TO A KILL–a really good film. The title was actually changed a tad from that of an Ian Fleming short story.
- 61a [Roaring literary symbol in 25-Across] LION
- 25a [Annually celebrated promotions?] CLIO NOMINEES—Clio nominee may be a self-explanatory phrase that someone would say, but … it gets only 425 Google hits. Can that be right?
- 2d [Crushing literary symbol in 55-Across] FIST
- 55a [Old-time players] HI-FI STEREOS–I thought a stereo was different from a hi-fi. Hi-fi stereo is not in any dictionary. It doesn’t have its own wiki. In a wiki titled “Stereophonic sound,” hi-fi is mentioned only in footnotes and a list of See alsos. But hi-fi stereo gets 6.5 million Google hits. Can that be right? Hmm. Maybe I’m wrong.
- 47d [Tempered literary symbol in 16-Across] STEEL
- 16a Youth-Dew cosmetician ESTEE LAUDER
So, we have four long horizontal themers that are symmetrical. Plus four shorter answers–two Across, two Down–each functioning as a mini-revealer, asymmetrically placed roughly one per corner. Interesting spread.
With every section of the grid involving theme, it’s not surprising to find not much else of note. ILSA’s are ON A DATE, ALL FOR, and I KNOW. Couple of other interesting entries are HASSOCK and BESTIES.
Kameron Austin Collins’ AVCX, “AVCX Themeless #37” — Ben’s Review
It’s a themeless week at the AVCX, and the second themeless I’ve solved from KAC this week after Monday’s New Yorker puzzle. I have my fingers crossed the trend continues later this week – KAC’s grids are always solid and the fill is a good blend of knowledge sources. This AVCX was a 4.5/5, but felt easier than Monday’s puzzle to me. Let’s dig in:
- I figured 1A‘s “Plastic junk?” involved fake genitals and I was not disappointed when it turned out to be STRAP-ON. Happy Wednesday from the AVCX.
- Very excited that KAC and I phonetically spell DOSVIDANIYA the same way, since I did not need any crossings when given the clue “Russian farewell, in an alternate transliteration”
- The other long fill in the grid had some nice stuff going on – SKELETON KEY, SIDE HUSTLE, NO ONE CARES
- I also liked all of the vertical fill in the corners – SO BORED, TRI-BORO (which I didn’t know), STAN LEE, HOST SNL (which I’d definitely say is a “dream gig” for any celeb), ABC KIDS, BEAN DIP (which I don’t think of as spicy, but maybe I’m just using the wrong beans), ENTER IN, and YES LET’S
Great stuff all around.
If you’re a 90s kid like me, you likely recognize Enya’s “ORINOCO Flow” from the Pure Moods infomercial above.
Ed Sessa’s LA Times Crossword – Gareth’s summary
“Trigram progressing from one side of the grid to the other” is an infrequent trope, and today it’s running vertically not horizontally, which is an additional small wrinkle. The puzzle is revealed at ALEGUP – with an awkward-sounding article prefacing it. The five legs are found in LITT(LEG), clued very meta as [*What makes Guy a guy?]; [*Post-apocalyptic Will Smith film], IAM(LEG)END – not seen it in part because I avoid Will Smith like the plague, however I have seen Omega Man with Charlton Heston, which is the same film I believe; a central E(LEG)Y clued as [*Gray wrote one in a country churchyard] – apparently the poet is Thomas Gray – it naffly evoked Chris De Burgh for me, alas; a CAB(LEG)RAM is a quaint [*Telegraphed message]; lastly, [*346-piece Big Ben, e.g.] is LEGOSET.
- [“Better Call Saul” actress Seehorn], RHEA. Not a RHEA I’ve encountered – Ms. Perlman passes the torch.
- [“Madame Bovary” subject], ADULTERY. Clued eyebrow, so as to ruffle as few feathers as possible.
- [“Plant-powered” hair care brand], AVEDA. I don’t recall meeting this product in a crossword (or elsewhere) before. Worth noting. I may just not have noted it previously. There is something similar I do recall previously however… AVEENA? AVEENO.
NYT: MY SIDES is way legit, heard/used it for years. Etymologically akin to “side-splitting” re: vigorous laughter.
NYT puzzle is almost 13 minutes under my newbie Wednesday average of 20 minutes. Definitely an easy one for the day. I’ll second MY SIDES being a thing. Haven’t heard it THAT often, but definitely on occasion.
NYT: I am impressed with Amy’s ability to map those movies onto Shakespeare plays. I saw “Forbidden Planet” as a kid in the 1950s and absolutely loved it. It was my first laser disk (technology). I used the final scene in my chem class to illustrate “black body radiation” and still never connected it to Shakespeare (or his scientific prediction). Hmm.
NYT: I thought this puzzle was just great. Maybe too easy for Wednesday, but honestly everything from Monday-Wednesday registers as about the same for me, so I don’t much mind. I think I just have a fondness for simple straightforward themes. They remind me of the early-week NYT puzzles that ran when I was starting out doing puzzles, in the very early Shortz Era 25 years ago, before everything was a hidden word or word-that-can-precede theme.
By the way, it would have very easy to stash RAN (Kurosawa film based on King Lear) at 58D. I wonder if Evan thought of that.
NYT: Rex Parker commented today he could hardly wait to see Lil Nas X’s name appear in full in a puzzle. That actually happened in the BEQ Themeless Monday #513 which was released on April 15, 2019!
Old Town Road: So now I know what that song is. I feel like I’ve heard it in a lot of places recently without realizing what it was.
>BEAN DIP (which I don’t think of as spicy, but maybe I’m just using the wrong beans)
spiciness here is probably less a function of which beans you use and more an issue of which spices you add. and in what amounts…
and yes: *great* having two kac themeless puzzles in one week!
I like the fun-infused theme puzzles David edits at Universal, but today’s fell flat for me. It felt superfluous to include the symbols of strength both “hidden” and as stand alone answers. A fun revealer could have pointed solvers in the right direction, or the long theme answers could have been clued with reference to their hidden strengths.
I was a bit puzzled by a leg up when they were down. Expected gel down for leg up.
From left to right they start at the bottom and rise UP…