Gary Larson’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Uh-Oh!”—Jim P’s review
Pronunciation change: Long O sounds are changed to short U sounds.
- 23a [Henhouse division?] CLUCK ROOM. Cloak room.
- 25a [Head count at a convent?] NUN QUANTITY. Known quantity.
- 35a [What new Starbucks employees develop?] CUPPING SKILLS. Coping skills. My impression of the word “cupping” is more in line with Urban Dictionary definitions. However, it is also an ancient alternative medicine technique.
- 53a [Life of the party?] FUN COMPANY. Phone company.
- 70a [Toupee maker’s before-and-after portfolio?] RUGS GALLERY. Rogue’s gallery. I like this one.
- 84a [Coin collector?] QUARTER NUT. Quarter note. When you have nine theme answers and eight of them have the first word altered, you would think the ninth one would as well. In this case you’d be wrong. This one should be consistent with the rest or dropped entirely.
- 99a [What cowboys do when they can’t remember the lyrics?] HUM ON THE RANGE. Home On The Range. Another good one.
- 106a [Prison employee who’s verbally assailed by inmates?] CUSSED GUARD. Coast Guard. Hmm. Having trouble believing that someone who gets cussed at is “cussed.”
- 119a [Prepare beans and peas for eating?] HULL FOODS. Whole Foods. Not bad.
Some of these aren’t bad, but nothing about this gets me excited, and the ones that are off bring the rest down.
I’m further bothered by kludgy bits in the fill like TRIABLE (60a, [Worthy of judicial review]), SEA ROVER (105A [Pirate]), ONEALS, ARN, BLYS, EMS, ROES, SRIS, and singular TROUSER (though it’s rescued somewhat by its clue, singular [Pant], which I found amusing).
To be fair, there’s definitely some good fill here, more than I remember while solving in fact: ENUNCIATES, FONDUE, TOLD ALL, ROOT CANALS, BACKSPACE, DAMASK, PIQUE, UNIBROW, PENANCE, RINGTONE, and HILARIOUS.
But while the nits don’t outnumber the stand-outs, they do sap their strength. In a 21x grid, which can easily turn into a slog, I feel it’s better to comb through that fill and make it as squeaky clean as possible.
Clues of note:
- 1a [Cover story?]. I wanted ATTIC for this, but it’s ALIBI. I was wondering why it needed the question mark, but I guess the original phrase comes from the publishing world.
- 28a [Gillen of “Game of Thrones”]. AIDAN. Littlefinger portrayer who finally…well, I’d better not.
- 34a [Get to work on Time]. EDIT. Cute.
- 87a [Taxi rtes.]. STS. I’m guessing…”streets”? Not the best clue.
- 2d [Manilow maiden]. LOLA. From “Copacabana”.
- 114d [One wearing very little clothing?]. DOLL. Another cute clue.
Some good wordplay here and definitely some good fill, but for me, I felt some theme entries needed tweaking and some of the fill could’ve been cleaned up. 3.4 stars.
And now…you asked for it, so here it is. Manilow singing Copacabana. (Best Youtube comment: “Willy Wonka got a good career after leaving the chocolate factory.”) Enjoy!
Mark Diehl’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Yeah, so I hate this puzzle and its theme on principle, the principle being that (a) nobody really says “May the 4th” for the date, and (b) this “Star Wars Day” nonsense has crapped all over what used to be a perfectly lovely date for one’s wedding anniversary (28 years!). We’ve got a 3/6/6/3 mini-theme spelling out MAY / THE 4TH / BE WITH / YOU. Each of them is clued as a stand-alone entry, but BE WITH is a terrible entry unto itself, and MAY is gratingly clued as [Could] when 35d is COULD WE. And if you’re going to have THE 4TH as a themer, maybe don’t plunk THE UNIVERSE right below it in the grid, as the extra THE jumps out.
Top fill: CAN’T TAKE IT, ITALIAN WINE, BALANCED BUDGETS (although that clue is a lie, [Goals for fiscal conservatives]—the Trump administration has been moving further away from a balanced budget, and now it’s the Blue Dog Democrats pushing for a Balanced Budget Amendment that is likely to again go nowhere), COLESLAW in its entirety, “I NEED A HUG,” TSA AGENT, SEUSSIAN. Toyota 4-RUNNERS are legit but I’m sure that numbered square vexed a ton of solvers not expecting to find a numeral in the grid outside of a Thursday puzzle.
Not keen on: BABY BIB (redundant, as any bib is for babies unless it is otherwise described, like a lobster bib), ABEAM, ETON clued as [Radley rival] (why on earth would any of us know that?), A-TEST, plural abbrev SRAS.
Five more things:
- 33d. [Full monty], WHOLE BIT. This might be terrible fill—I’m not sure. Thoughts?
- 4a. [Tail end of a dog?], APSO. As in the tail end of the name, lhasa apso. Eh. Meh.
- 16d. [Ones making glowing recommendations?], NEONS. What? No. We’re calling neon signs/lights NEONS, are we?
- 26d. [Makers of fine combs], BEES. Nice clue. Had me thinking of hair care accessories.
- 31a. [Poet/lyricist who wrote the 1974 #1 hit “Seasons in the Sun”], MCKUEN. Don’t think you’re getting out of here without listening to Terry Jacks. I can’t say the lyrics give me respect for Rod McKuen’s poetry, and I don’t know that I’m familiar with any of his other work. (If you were a ’70s kid, you probably remember the parody we’d sing, “Streaking in the Sun.” “… and the cops came with guns and they shot us in the buns” is about all I recall of those lyrics.)
Two stars from me because of the dreaded “theme” and some clunky fill/clues. Ardent defenses of “Star Wars Day” will be met with distinct dismay from me, so proceed with caution, commenters.
Pawel Fludzinski’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
I think these Downs Only stones are still tough, but I wouldn’t call it agony. Tough one here, especially with no theme to figure out. There are some awesome Across entries in here (WOLVERINE!), although some of them are hard to get without the clues. Most of the issues, as you can see by the error marks, are on the eastern seaboard. Pawel makes good puzzles; please make more of them! A firm 4.5 stars for this one.
Some of the best (Downs Only, of course!):
- 2D [White Monopoly bill] ONE – I thought this might be the TEN. I haven’t played this game in years!
- 7D [Nunavut native] INUIT – The other answer from this region is ALEUT, but those are out on the Alaskan islands. Nunavut narrows it to northern Canada, I believe.
- 9D [Where a gaffer or grip is recognized] END CREDIT – In these recent superhero movies, you have to endure through all ten minutes of these for extra scenes!
- 11D [Started to perspire] BROKE A SWEAT – This took to long for me to get. I think I made it harder than it is. I almost “broke a sweat!”
- 25D [“Knowing where your food comes from” movement] FARM TO TABLE – Great entry. You see this a lot nowadays, especially in a vegetarian/vegan sense. Most people would cringe if they saw how meat was actually mass-produced.
- 31D [Canonized Archbishop of Canterbury] ANSELM – I did not know this. At all.
- 33D [Part of a blabbing metaphor] LOOSE LIPS – “… sink ships!” This one also took too long, but what a great entry!
- 43D [Hard-to-overcome evils] HYDRAS – I’ve never heard this used as a metaphor, but I suppose it works.
- 45D [Brew in Brest] BIÈRE – Beer in French does have an accent in it, if Google is correct! Slightly different than the ñ controversy, but its a little similar.
That’s all for now! Have a great weekend!
Lester Ruff’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up
Lester Ruff’s puzzles (Stan’s!) are usually “less rough,” but this one gave me fits. Well over 20 minutes on this solve, and that hasn’t happened to me in a while. Either I am stressed out, or this was a tougher Stan edition than normal. Curious to know what others thought. 4.3 stars, but this one left bruises.
Ironically, some stuff I liked:
- 1A [App attention-getter] SPLASH AD – For something that is so pervasive, why do I never use this term??
- 15A [”Take your medicine!”] “NO EXCUSE!” – This was tough for me, partly because I usually hear this in a plural form. Extremely tough, in my opinion
- 34A [Electric SUV make as of 2018] JAG – As in a Jaguar, which is interesting. I don’t think I have seen this car in Indiana yet!
- 50A [Author of Amazon’s top book of 2018] OBAMA – This was definitely a forehead slapper once I got it. I think that book is STILL selling well. Maybe I should buy it!
- 58A [Superlative] GRADE A – This doesn’t end in -EST?? No, it doesn’t! Well done, Stan …
- 65A [California Prune and Apricot Growers, today] SUNSWEET – I had SUN MAID in my mind. I don’t eat enough prunes and apricots, evidently!
- 1D [Carrier bought by Evenflo] SNUGLI – After having gone through three children and the accompanying car seats, this took too long to figure out.
- 6D [Canopy for rabbi-conducted weddings] HUPPAH – I didn’t know this. At all. It doesn’t even ring a bell. Again, in northern Indiana, there are far more Amish than Jewish people.
- 7D [Completely appropriate] AS IT SHOULD BE – Great 12-letter entry …
- 21D [Federal Statistical System agency] CENSUS BUREAU – … as is this one. I guessed this one early on, and I was right.
- 47D [Heat-keeping measure] R-VALUE – Best clue/entry combo in the grid. I worked in construction for a while years ago, and this came up all the time. I was totally “stumped” by this one!
Off to see the Avengers movie later this Saturday. At an IMAX!
Daniel Raymon’s Universal Crossword, “See-ing Double”—Jim Q’s write-up
For some reason, I now have the song “Do You See What I See?” stuck in my head. Great. I don’t even like that song at the appropriate time of the year.
THEME: Homophones with words beginning with C then S.
- 20A [Wine merchant based in a storage area?] CELLAR SELLER.
- 28A [TV drama about breakfast food?] CEREAL SERIAL.
- 35A/39A [With 39-Across, overhead crack cover?] CEILING SEALING.
- 45A [One detecting pleasant smells at church?] CENSER SENSOR.
- 55A [Romaine salad thief?] CAESAR SEIZER.
I like that, rather than giving us a simple arbitrary homophone pair, Daniel put himself under stricter construction rules dealing strictly with the C/S sound. Answers themselves all work for sure.
CEILING SEALING would work much better as a verb phrase (the way it’s clued now, it sounds like the answer should be CEILING SEAL as no one calls a cover a SEALING), but that would be inconsistent with the rest of the themers. It’s also broken up across two answers though. I don’t mind it, but the puzzle wouldn’t have suffered without it either.
I’m also a bit confused as to why the CELLAR SELLER is clued as a wine merchant. I get that wine is stored in cellars, but “storage area” is already in the clue. I think it would’ve been more fun/ridiculous if it were someone actually trying to sell cellars.
Solid grid. Favorite non-themer was CUT IN LINE both as a colorful phrase and as clued [Act like a rude waiter?].