Gary Larson’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Beginning French”—Jim P’s review
If you don’t like foreign-language words in your puzzle, this one isn’t for you. But as the title suggests, the French words contained herein are mostly basic vocabulary that many people know and that all crossworders should know.
The “Beginning” in the title has a second meaning as well. It’s indicating that each theme answer has a beginning part, which is in French, with a remainder in English. The base word from which each theme entry is taken is a standard English word or one that has been subsumed into English.
Also, there’s a nice hint at what’s to come at 1a [Hybrid language] PIDGIN. Adding that into the grid is a nice touch.
- 17a [Fine trawling gear?] BON NETS
- 18a [Waterfront properties?] MER LOTS. Taking this from a French word is probably less than ideal, but it still works.
- 33a [Golden egg layer, to the giant?] MON GOOSE. I like this one best.
- 45a [A home for a horse?] UN STABLE
- 62a [Adam, Hoss and Little Joe on “Bonanza”?] LES SONS. Why “Bonanza”? Isn’t there a more current reference with wider reach?
- 64a [Salt cod, for one?] SEL FISH
I enjoyed this. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a theme like it, so I definitely appreciate its novelty. Perhaps those of you who know French or are sticklers for linguistic purity might enjoy it less, but as someone who grew up in a house where Chamorro and English were often mashed together, I quite liked the concept. And the title is perfectly apt with its double meaning.
I didn’t enjoy those little sections in the West and East with ADANO and DOAS (clued [“CSI” extras]) and the crossing proper names ELLA [“Boo’d Up” singer ___ Mai] and ELIAS [Pettersson of the Vancouver Canucks]. If ever there was a need for a “cheater” square, this is it. Place one at the first A in ADANO and change it to NANO. MAE can become ODE and you’d have MOO and NODS in the Down direction. In the East, the cheater square would replace the S in ELIAS which you could change to ELSE leaving GOBS and ELLE in the Down direction. Pretty easy fix for a marked improvement in fill (IMO).
But aside from that, the fill is good with GINSENG, NOODLE, ON TOAST, and ALL OF US [Sitcom of the 2000s co-created by Will and Jada Pinkett Smith]. I don’t remember the show, but I like the entry.
Clues of note:
- Fave clue goes to 71a [Good day to dye] for EASTER, although that’s probably a little late to be dyeing your eggs.
- 57a [Ham producer]. NOAH. Not EASTER-related, but Bible-related. That was a tough one.
- 27a [Brit’s undershirt]. VEST. This made me laugh. When my daughter was 4 or 5 and attending our little village school in England, the school put on Adventurer’s Day on which the children would dress up as an adventurer. Chatting with one mum on the playground, she asked me what on earth her boy Harvey should wear. I was thinking of these cargo vests people wear with all the pockets and such. But I just said to her, “I don’t know. Just have him put on a vest and some jeans.” And so of course, on the day, Harvey shows up looking like a street tough in his wifebeater tank top. I felt so bad, but hey, they were just little kids, and he got through the day just fine. (My daughter is still friends with Harvey and they FaceTime every once in a while.)
Good puzzle with a novel theme. 3.8 stars.
Paul Coulter’s Fireball Crossword, “Standing On Their Heads”–Jenni’s write-up
The puzzle took just over five minutes. It took me at least that long to suss out the theme once I had the grid filled in.
All the theme answers have the first letter of a base phrase moved to the end to create something wacky, which is then clued accordingly. They all go down, so they are standing on their heads, as per the title.
- 3d [Jet in a scenic painting?] is a SCAPE PLANE (escape plan).
- 8d [Placing of the balls within a triangular device at the beginning of a pool game?] is RACK START (track star).
- 14d [Headline after basketball player Patrick had a bad game?] is EWING NEEDLESS (sewing needles).
- 28d [Deserved cry of protest?] is EARNED HOWL (learned how).
- 32d [Stove upgrade?] is a RANGE REDO (orange-red).
The nonsense phrases are worthy of a Cuckoo Crossword, the base phrases are all in the language, and the “aha!” moment was gratifying. I liked it.
A few other things:
- 1a [Dead actor?] is a great clue for POSSUM.
- I filled in 2d from crossings and thought it was something odd in Italian. Nope. [Beginning of Juliet’s line before “Deny thy father and refuse thy name”] is O, ROMEO, not ORO MEO.
- Am I the only person who filled in INSET for 9d [Map key]? The correct answer is ISLET.
- 31a [1956 World Series MVP] is LARSEN. One of my favorite baseball photos of all time is the picture of Yogi Berra leaping in Don Larsen’s arms after Larsen’s perfect game in the 1956 World Series.
- 60a [Light show of a sort] is AURORA. My husband and I went to Iceland at the beginning of March. We chose the week of the new moon to maximize our chance of seeing the aurora, and we did. It was AMAZING.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that WAR CLOUD was the first horse to compete in all three Triple Crown races.
Julie Bérubé’s New York Times crossword—Ben’s review
It took me forever and a half to figure out what was going on with this week’s puzzle – I could have used something in the clues to point me to what felt like the revealer here:
- 18A: Greenhouse gas mitigators — CARB(ON) (OFF)SETS
- 28A: Third in a horror series — S(ON) (OF F)RANKENSTEIN
- 47A: Administerer of citizenship tests — IMMIGRATI(ON) (OFF)ICE
- 63A: Churchgoer, e.g. — PERS(ON) (OF F)AITH
- 39A: Intermittently — (ON) AND (OFF)
39A definitely feels like a revealer, given that it breaks the pattern of (ON) squares and (OFF) squares next to one another, but I could have used a little nudge to get me thinking in that direction. I had PARISHONER instead of PERSON OF FAITH for a while, and knew that 18A was pointing towards some sort of CARBON OFFSET or tax, but couldn’t put two and two together.
- Having JEDI and YODA at mirrored positions in the puzzle is nice, but I don’t love OBJ as the first bit of fill/cluing I encountered in the grid
- I got back from a Samin Nostrat (of Salt Fat Acid Heat fame) book signing before solving the puzzle, so all the food fill in this puzzle was right at the top of my brain – LEEK, BLEU cheese, (ON)ION, and even (OFF)AL
- For whatever reason, when I think SERUM, I think skincare, not a “Lifesaving supply”.
Hoang-Kim Vu’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary
This puzzle theme is all over the place, in more ways than one. It features demonyms, more or less. Three are more or less homophonic: BASQUE/BASK, CZECHS/CHECKS, FINNISH/FINISH, but KENYAN/CANYON have clearly different sounds. CZECHS is randomly pluralised. FINNISH is an adjective unlike the other pun formations, which are nouns. And BASQUE is not associated with an independent nation, unlike all the others. When each of the answers is different in some way to the other three, that’s a pretty big flaw…
Not really much going on outside of the theme. The longest pair outside of the theme are ANSWERED and MINSTREL. A couple of oddball shorter answers: [Doorbell ringers’ response], ITSUS; pretty arbitrary.
[Tight end Zach who scored the go-ahead touchdown in the Eagles’ only Super Bowl victory (2018)], ERTZ; what a ridiculously precise clue that!
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword, “At the Trattoria”—Andy’s review
After last week’s off-the-wall BEQ Thursday puzzle, it was nice to have a return to normalcy. Fairly straightforward Italian cuisine puns today:
- 17a, FUSILLI QUESTION [Dumb thing to ask about pasta?]. Silly question.
- 26a, PENNE DREADFUL [Cheap thriller about tubular pasta?]. Penny dreadful.
- 43a, ZITI CHARACTER [Down-at-the-heel type who loves pasta?]. Seedy character.
- 54a, GNOCCHI DETECTED [Modern-day car message that alerts when near dumplings?]. No key detected.
Plus, a rotini tiny bit of a bonus answer at 23a, SAUCE [Covering for this theme’s answers].
A nice breezy solve for me, and I thought all the puns were funny.
Answer of the day: 9d, ENES [Portland Trail Blazers star Kanter]. If you haven’t seen the way Portland eliminated the Oklahoma City Thunder (Kanter’s onetime squad) in Round 1 of this year’s NBA Playoffs, well… you’re in for a treat.
Until next week!