David Alfred Bywaters’s’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Are You Kidding?” — Jim P’s review
The theme didn’t help me during the solve because I couldn’t suss it out. After completion, I looked closer at the title and focused on the first two words. This led to the realization that the letters R and U were added to the two words, respectively, in the base phrases to get the theme answer.
- 17a [Facial feature of the Man in the Moon?] LUNAR MOUTH. Luna moth. This was a deceptive one to start with since the term “lunar month” is a legit phrase. That’s what I thought it was going for the whole solve. Also, there’s an extra U here adding to the confusion.
- 24a [What to launch after your first three surveillance planes have crashed?] DRONE FOUR. Done for.
- 29a [Government takeover by poets?] BARD COUP. Bad cop.
- 42a [Posting at a Midwestern locavore vegan restaurant?] CORN MENU. Con men.
- 48a [“Ahoy! Let me out of here!” maybe?] BRIG SHOUT. Big shot.
- 57a [Microbial memorial?] GERM STATUE. Gem State. Utah? Nope. Idaho.
This a very tightly constrained theme, so it must have been difficult to find suitable theme possibilities. In an ideal world, each of these would spark humor as well, but when the constraints are so tight, having them just make some sort of sense is really as much as you can hope for. Each of these has enough surface sense to work.
I’m not keen on the title though. “Kidding” doesn’t really work for me, especially when there are other “Are you…” phrases. “Are You Game?” would work, but I think a better option would be “Are You In?”
How did you do with SYSCO (31a, [Major food service corporation])? What a completely forgettable company name…and the full name is even worse: Systems and Services Company. So very descriptive…not! The answer came to me somehow—I must have seen their trucks at some point—but if you needed every crossing, there’s no shame in that.
Clues of note:
- 13a [Smack or punt]. BOAT. I know the flat-bottomed punts from living near Cambridge, England, for a while. “Punting on the Cam” is a common phrase there. But I’ve never heard of a smack. Turns out it’s also a British boat.
- 20a [DC champion]. EDISON. Tough clue. I was thinking comics, but politics is also a viable potential option as well. Filling in the final letter I still had to think about it. Where EDISON touted Direct Current systems, Tesla was in favor of Alternating Current. Tesla eventually won.
- 41d [People at the ends of lines]. ANGLERS. Tricky. I needed nearly all of the crosses to see what was going on.
Nice puzzle with an impressive set of themers, even though none of them struck my funny bone. All around, a good puzzle. 3.8 stars.
Peter Gordon’s Fireball Crossword, “Hidden Figuras”–Jenni’s write-up
This is not a particularly difficult puzzle by any standards, and certainly not a Blazingly Hard Fireball. The “figuras” hidden in the theme answers are numbers in Spanish.
- 18a [Leave that consists of the headpin and either the 7 or 10 pin, in bowling jargon] is a DODO SPLIT, hiding DOS.
- 28a [Where you might see a buff buff buff] is a NUDIST RESORT, hiding TRES. I parse that as a fan of nudity who is themselves in very good shape.
- 35a [Nonmonetary satisfaction from a job] is PSYCHIC INCOME, hiding CINCO. I haven’t heard this phrase before. I think of it as “the warm fuzzies.”
- 43a [Lasting a very long time, but not forever] is QUASI-ETERNAL. Haven’t heard that before, either. It was easy to infer. It’s hiding SIETE.
- And one I missed (thanks to the commenter who pointed it out): 57a [Third-tallest building in Chicago] is the AON CENTER, hiding ONCE. Can you tell I studied French, not Spanish?
And the puzzle begins and ends with a revealer: 1a [With 66-Across, really good goods (and a hint to this puzzle’s theme)] is PRIMO STUFF. All the hidden figuras are prime numbers.
It’s a perfectly fine theme for a Tuesday/Wednesday puzzle. I hope for more from the Fireball.
Favorite clue/answer pair: 53d [Dead flower?] for STYX.
Off to an appointment so we’ll skip straight to What I Didn’t Know Before I Did This Puzzle: despite having once owned my own ball and shoes, I have never heard of a DODO SPLIT. I also did not know that a wolffish could be known as a SEA CAT.
I leave you with 26d
Jon Olsen’s New York Times crossword—Ben’s review
Today’s Thursday NYT appears to be a debut! Congrats on getting your first NYT puzzle published, Jon Olsen! I have thoughts about your theme but they feel like very minor nits to pick at, and one of them isn’t even your fault:
- 18A: First two symbols in a 3-Down — COLON HYPHEN
- 61A: Final symbol in a 3-Down — PARENTHESIS
- 35D: Images such as 3-Down — EMOTICONS
- 3D: Response to solving this puzzle — HAPPY FACE
- 39A: Elements of a 3-Down — :-)
So: I like the idea of this theme, and will even begrudgingly allow an emoticon with a hyphen in the middle since you can’t have two-letter entries in the crossword. Honestly, it’s fine – sort of like how some people put two spaces after a period and others put one. I don’t think emoticons need noses, but you might!
What (literally) prevented me from finishing the puzzle with a HAPPY FACE is a deficiency in the mobile app – the keyboard doesn’t have parentheses, even in rebus mode! I got two-thirds of the way through the final entry in my phone, then had to open the puzzle in my browser so I could type in a closing paren. Theoretically, I could have used the rebus key to type in (EYES)ORE, PIA(NO SE)ATS, and PLY(MOUTH), but at that point I had already used the solution-checker to confirm that Yes, There Is An Actual Emoticon Going Across The Middle of The Grid and had 2/3 of :-) going across. It’d seem wrong to have :-(MOUTH), somehow.
- Pretty sure I leaned straight into the expected fake-out at 15A’s “President with the same first and last name as his father” and entered ADAMS instead of OBAMA
- TIL that Argentina is named after SILVER!
- I have done the Googling and can confirm that Sacha Baron Cohen’s BORAT is the only person who called a sling swimsuit a “mankini”, which theoretically counts as popularizing the term. Please carry on with your day.
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword, “Do Me a Solid”—Andy’s review
I decided not to put my solving time in today’s heading, since I thought it would be a spoiler to say that I solved a 15×15 BEQ puzzle in 59 seconds.
The first sign of strangeness was that this puzzle’s difficulty was assigned as “???”, with “Easy,” “Medium,” and “Hard.” The revealer, if you can call it that, was at 16a, ALL BLACKS [New Zealand’s national rugby team, or a hint to this puzzle’s theme]. From the title and clues, it quickly became obvious that the answer to every answer in this puzzle was BLACK, with the minor exception of the aforementioned 16a.
Well that makes my job easy this week! I thought this was extremely funny. There’s not a lot else to talk about, except that Brendan came up with 72 ways of cluing BLACK. My favorites were [___ Lives Matter] and [Singer Rebecca with the 2011 viral video “Friday”]. Which one was your favorite? Let me know in the comments.
If you didn’t get your BEQ fix from this April Fools-y puzzle, no need to fret! Brendan also posted a bonus Marching Bands. If you enjoy that, you can find details on how sign up for Year 5 of Brendan’s biweekly Marching Bands below the puzzle at this link.
Until next week!
Ross Trudeau’s Universal Crossword, “Me First!”—Jim Q’s write-up
Is it just me, or does it feel like Ross Trudeau’s byline appears every other day in the Universal? Not that that’s a bad thing- I really like his puzzles. Just sayin’.
THEME: Works that start with the pronoun “I.”
- 14A [*Robbie skating biopic, 2017] I, TONYA. I loved this movie.
- 19A [*Eckhart monster film, 2014] I, FRANKENSTEIN. Never heard of this movie. It earned 5% on Rotten Tomatoes, so apparently not Eckhart’s finest.
- 53A [*Trevino Newbury winner about a portrait, 1965] I, JUAN DE PAREJA. Hate to say I’m unfamiliar with this as well. Needed every cross (except the I!)
- 61A [*Asimov sci-fi book, 1950] I, ROBOT.
- 36A [“So excited!,” or a hint to the starred answers] I JUST CAN’T WAIT!
With two of the themers being unfamiliar to me, this played harder than a normal Universal. I found the fill more challenging than usual too. Nothing wrong with the theme though, just didn’t find it all that exciting (though the revealer made me smile).
I don’t understand why NEZ and XYZ is crammed up in the NE when there are about a bajillion different fill options that would make for a smoother solve experience. I suppose the goal was to include more exotic letters, but the puzzle already had plenty of J’s. While ALEGRE is not ideal fill (hence the anagram help), the SE is much more difficult to fill cleanly. Not true of the NE.
Any help with the NO DOGS clue? Oh wait. I thought it said [Police unfriendly to Tibetans]. Just seeing now that it’s “policy.” That makes way more sense.
Andrew Linzer’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s review
[“Dude, nice triatomic molecule!”], FRESHWATER. OHO.
[“Dude, nice metered text!”], EPICPOEM.
[“Dude, nice root vegetable!”], SWEETPOTATO
[“Dude, nice riding crop!”], COOLWHIP
[“Dude, nice buzzer collection!”], KILLERBEES
- Clecho: [Scabbers, in the Potterverse], RAT and [Hermes, in the Potterverse], OWL. No idea about Harry Potter. Assume these are minor “characters”?
- [Conan’s network], TBS crossing [NBA stats], PTS. I’d have gone with TBA/PTA here, personally – plural abbrs. always feel contrived.
- [Yoga pose similar to a push-up], PLANK. It’s a yoga pose? I thought it was just a fad thing?
- [Jefferson Memorial column type], IONIC. Interesting choice of example, as it’s mostly associated with classical buildings; I presume this is neo-classical?
- [Like some subscription-based sites], ADFREE. If you’re paying a subscription to still have ads, I would complain…
- [Office position], DESKJOB. A really beautiful entry to work in that.
- [Pod member], WHALE. Going on my first pelagic trip south of Cape Point on Saturday. The target is pelagic bird species (hoping to see my 400th South African bird), but seeing some cetaceans would be equally awesome…