Will Nediger’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “The Long and Short of It” — Jim P’s review
It feels like we’ve been seeing the same names over and over again in the WSJ bylines, so I was happy to see a name I don’t recall seeing in this publication before. But Will’s no stranger to the biz. He runs his own puzzle website, has numerous published puzzles in other venues, and I want to say he’s involved in the running of a puzzle tournament (but I could be wrong about that).
Anyway, he brings us an aptly titled grid today which is the old standard vowel run, but with a twist. The theme entries on the left side end in a word following the form B*TS where the * is a long vowel. The entries on the right have the short-vowel version of that word.
- 23a [Co-star of 1969’s “Women in Love”] ALAN BATES. This was the toughest corner for me partly because I don’t know this actor and partly because the other clues were tricky or ambiguous. But it’s all legit.
- 25a [Mammals that practice hemophagia] VAMPIRE BATS. It helps to know your prefixes. In this case, hemo-, meaning “blood-related”, is the tip-off.
- 35a [Fetal ultrasound features] HEART BEATS
- 39a [They’re not worth taking] SUCKER BETS
- 65a [Attacks absent friends, say] BACKBITES. I tried BACKSTABS first (before I grokked the theme obviously).
- 67a [Post letters?] ALPHA-BITS. This breakfast cereal is made by Post.
- 94a [Items on many Thanksgiving tables] GRAVY BOATS
- 96a [Some web crawlers] SEARCHBOTS
- 113a [Ranch dressing?] COWBOY BOOTS. Love the clue, but I am of the opinion that the long u “says its name”, as in “buttes”.
- 115a [Reasons for red cards] HEADBUTTS
My nit about the long u aside, I think it’s incredibly impressive that, first of all, Will found a letter pattern (B*TS) that could take all ten vowel constructions, and then found common-enough phrases with those words at the ends, and then managed to get them all to fit symmetrically and just so in the grid. Nice job!
Further, with a full ten theme answers, the grid gets loaded up with constraints, but amazingly, Will still brings the fun fill. Consider AUNT BEE, NAMASTE, DILBERT, CROP TOP, STOCKADE, IN PIECES, MEINEKE, EVANSTON, SUBTENANT, REPLY ALL, DR PEPPER, OPEN SEA, Mr. GOODBAR, and “GET THIS.” Very, very nice. I also like SHAOLIN [Kung fu style developed by Chinese monks] and WALLIS [Simpson for whom Edward VIII abdicated], but that was a tough pair to have stacked atop each other.
Cluing felt very fresh throughout. In fact, I might even say it outshone the fun fill. This is why my time was higher than I’d like because I was just not on the right wavelength with the clues. But everything was legit, so no complaints here. Consider these:
- 9a [Material named for a French city]. DENIM. Originally from Nîmes.
- 28a [They take things down]. STENOS.
- 45a [Popular LGBTQ magazine]. OUT.
- 72a [Having a twist]. IRONIC.
- 84a [Ornament formerly banned from the Chelsea Flower Show]. GNOME. Loved learning this factoid.
- 87a [Malek of “Bohemian Rhapsody”]. RAMI. Ooh, and I have to mention he’s been cast as the baddie in #Bond25 (the next James Bond film). Great choice!
- 1d [Performance with finger-snapping]. SLAM.
- 2d [Bust measurement?]. KILO.
- 4d [Ranking, say]. SENIOR. Not a noun, an adjective.
- 15d [Farmer Hoggett’s prize animal]. BABE.
- 24d [Middle managers?]. BELTS. Ha!
- 38d [Northwestern city]. EVANSTON. Got me on this. Was thinking the Pacific Northwest the whole way, not the college town.
- 40d [Cause of many an email fiasco] REPLY ALL. It’s so true, isn’t it?
- 71d [Programmer’s unit]. SERIES. Got me with this one, too. Was thinking coding the whole way, not a TV programmer.
- 73d [Participants in a murder?]. CROWS. Ha! Darkly funny.
- 116d [Container of water?] DAM
That’s some fine cluing there that kept me on my toes from start to finish.
Nice theme, beautiful fill, clever cluing. What more could you ask for? 4.25 stars from me.
Joe Deeney’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Lots of nice stuff in this 70-worder, and a few unfamiliar things. Prettiest fill: EARTHRISE, LEAF PEEPER, THE LUXURY OF TIME, TULIP MANIA. Also crisp: OVERSLEEP (so much better than undersleeping, if you ask me), JOHN CLEESE, ATKINS DIET (totally not for me), NEIL GAIMAN, DYNAMITES. Overall, the fill is pretty smooth.
Did not know:
- 5d. [It’s paid by polluters], GREEN TAX. That’s a thing?
- 33d. [Original title of Shakespeare’s “Henry VIII” (the latter not used until the First Folio in 1623)], ALL IS TRUE. Literature trivia I am glad to learn.
And another couple things:
- 9a. [Pain in the ass?], BRAND. Ugh, must we have burning of the flesh of a donkey (or another farm animal’s hindquarters?) in a crossword? So many less upsetting ways to clue BRAND. Commercial brands with probably a hundred different ways to clue trickily by example. Brand new. Russell Brand.
- 10d. [Movie theater purchase], RAISINETS. I would sooner buy BASSINETS, personally. My kid’s going to the 11:30 pm showing of Avengers: Endgame tonight. This movie lasts 3 hours and 2 minutes on top of the 15-20 minutes for previews! There will be no Raisinets purchase.
It’s late, I’m tired, I’m out of words. Four stars from me.
Joe Deeney’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
I try to be as authentic as possible when describing my solving experience. That is why there are so many error marks in the grid. I have noticed that on the live Twitch streams that they NEVER check to see if a square is correct. I am not that confident yet. Some of these entries, going across, really gave me fits (I’ll include the clues that I never saw until later!):
- 16A [1982 bestseller using Milne characters, with “The”] TAO OF POOH
- 33A [“C’mon, man!”] “DON’T BE THAT GUY!”
- 43A [Low-pay position] MCJOB – I just knew, with M?JO?, that this was MAJOR!
- 52A [“Glass” director] SHYAMALAN – I have never seen one of his movies, and I always struggle to spell his name.
But I will take my time of under 14 minutes. This is getting a little easier, but there is no way I will tackle a Stumper this way; my appreciation for the elite solvers grows even more when I realize I cannot do what they do. Before I forget, Joe Deeney has a great puzzle here, too! This grid has only 66 words! This is one of the better LAT themeless puzzles I have seen in a while. 4.8 stars for this one. (I didn’t realize until early Saturday that Joe Deeney has the NYT Saturday puzzle too!)
Some clue highlights (from the Downs, of course!):
- 2D [With 26-Across, “Delta of Venus” author] ANAÏS NIN – Talk about crossword famous! I have not read anything by her or Henry Miller. I’m not sure I’ll ever be old enough!
- 6D [“Training Day” law org.] L.A.P.D. – This was either this or NYPD or SFPD. And I saw this movie!
- 10D [“Later”] “I GOTTA RUN” – Love those casual phrases!
- 14D [Daydreaming] LOST IN THOUGHT – Great down entry in the middle.
- 29D [Fetish] MAGIC CHARM – Another great down entry. Stumped me for a bit, since this clue has a couple of different meanings.
- 30D [Obsolete organizers] ROLODEXES – I am old enough to remember having one of these! (I never had two of them, so the plural is a little weird to see.) Ah, the days before electronic contact lists …
- 35D [Often not a Yankee supporter] MET’S FAN – I thought baseball, but I don’t know why it took so long to come up with this. I must have been sleepy …
- 45D [Warner __, ’20s-’30s portrayer of Dr. Fu Manchu] OLAND – This was a gimme for me. Some of my favorite times growing up were curling up on the couch on a Sunday afternoon and watching Charlie Chan movies. I should watch one of these soon!
It’s supposed to snow here today! I am going to move …
Frank Longo’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up
Not bad! I got a Longo puzzle done in under 15 minutes! I got smart this time: I waited until my house was empty and I had some quiet time to solve this. And it worked! This is a really hard puzzle, but this felt like a very methodical stripping away of layers until the puzzle was solved. I don’t always describe a Longo Stumper as enjoyable, but I enjoyed this one. A lot. 4.7 stars for this 70-worder.
- 1A [1970s subject of a Maddow podcast series] AGNEW – I will have to look this up; it sounds intriguing.
- 16A [Flying sphere] AEROSPACE – Oh, THAT sphere …
- 31A [Mumbai Catholic] EAST INDIAN – Not sure what this even means. Mumbai is in West India.
- 39A [Person of Dutch lineage] BOER – Wasn’t there a Dutch East India Company once upon a time? Weird relation with 31A.
- 44A [Gel-ocity, for one (with 56 Down)] BIC PEN – It took too long for this writing utensil junkie to get this one.
- 62A [Some basket balls] YARNS – This might, sneakily, be the best clue in the grid.
- 3D [Word from the Hindi for ”viceroy”] NABOB – I tried SAHIB. I was close!
- 7D [Apple activator] HEY SIRI – I hate using Siri. Or Alexa. Or any of these things.
- 25D [No longer feeling] BENUMBED – My only gripe. This is fine, I just found it tough.
- 34D [Greens mower maker] DEERE – I have seen Stan/Frank clue John Deere like this before, so I guessed and I was right.
- 43D [Zen epiphany] SATORI – This one also took too long to pull out of the far reaches of my rusty brain. I am getting old!
Enjoy your weekend!
Evan Kalish’s Universal Crossword, “Suggestion Box”—Jim Q’s write-up
If Evan Kalish’s byline is new to you, take note. It probably won’t be so new to you this time next year. He has quite a few in the pipe at several publications, and rightfully so.
THEME: Phrases that end with types of “tips”
- 17A [*Double-dipping, e.g.] PARTY FOUL. Foul tip.
- 19A [*Spicy finger food item] HOT WING. Wingtip.
- 58A [*Broadway musical with puppets] AVENUE Q. Q-Tip.
- 60A [*Sincere] HEARTFELT. Felt tip.
- 37A [Advice column starter, or a hint to the starred answers’ ends] HERE ARE SOME TIPS.
I love the revealer because it’s so blatant. Yes. Indeed. Here are some tips.
Not sure about the clue for 58A since AVENUE Q is no longer on Broadway (it’s Off-Broadway right now, and set to close next month). In my opinion, it should be clued just as a musical without the Broadway qualifier or be clued with a date [2004 Tony winner with puppets].
Evan takes a lot of pride in creating the cleanest, snappiest grid he possibly can. That’s evident here with fill like ALL TOO TRUE, I KID YOU NOT, MATH TEAM, ROOTS FOR, and DAYS OFF. Although most of those answers are longer than two of the themers themselves, they’re all in down positions, so it’s not distracting.
Coulda done without OWOW and RADS, but if that’s the price of admission for the rest of the grid, it’s well worth it.