Alex Eaton-Salners’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “How Sweet It Is!”—Jim P’s review
MIXED FRUIT is our theme, clued [Sweet snack, and a description of the first words of the starred answers]. Each theme entry begins with a word that’s an anagram of a fruit.
- 16a [*Roadside assistance, of a sort] MILE MARKER. Lime. Sweetness is not this fruit’s key aspect.
- 22a [*2016 #1 hit song by Sia] CHEAP THRILLS. Peach. Not in my wheelhouse, but it’s got a good beat and you can dance to it.
- 37a [*Lottery option] LUMP SUM. Plum. Sadly, not an option for most of us.
- 47a [*Surrounded by the like-minded] AMONG FRIENDS. Mango. Nice one. I like the entry as well as finding the more exotic mango included here.
Nothing tricky about this theme, but it’s nice and clean and satisfying. I wonder if Alex considered something like WIKI LEAKS.
I struggled mostly in the upper half of the grid starting at 1a [Sounds from pounds] atop 13a [Heaps]. I went with ARFS and TONS before fighting with the crossings to land at YAPS and A LOT. In the middle, JOKE seemed the likely answer to 5a [Laugh inducer], but it turned out to be JEST. And on the right, I went with a sarcastic-sounding YEAH to answer 9a [“Uh-huh…sure, buddy”]. It wasn’t until I got the lower half of the crossings that I could see it was going for I BET. Thankfully, after those initial struggles, I either got onto the right wavelength or else the bottom half of the grid was clued more straightforwardly.
I loved seeing SLUGGO in the grid as well as POMPEII, KAPUT, the BLEH/MEH combo, and especially BATTLE SCAR and SORE LOSERS. Didn’t care much for XIN [Choose, as a survey box], but that’s a small nit in an otherwise solid grid.
- 33a [Meat brand since 1937]. SPAM. As a descendant of islanders, I grew up eating a lot of SPAM, and thanks to me, so did my kids. Recently we’ve gotten into SPAM musubi so much so that I bought a little musubi maker from my local Asian supermarket.
- 46a [Magazine contents]. ARMS. Do you consider ammunition to be ARMS? I’ve only ever heard the word used when referring to weaponry (firearms and such).
- 34d [Boxer’s issue?]. PUP. Ha! Nice one.
- 53d [Life class work]. NUDE. I’m presuming this is art-related? Is “Life” a standard term for a class in which you draw or paint living things?
Fun grid with sparkly theme entries and long fill. Four stars.
Zhouqin Burnikel’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap
I found this puzzle to be a good bit easier than yesterday’s NYT. Anyone else feel that Tuesday and Wednesday were flip-flopped?
Theme is CROSS DRESSING, [“Mrs. Doubtfire” plot device – or what the letters in this clue’s answer do five times?], and this 14d answer crosses five long answers right through words that are also types of salad dressing. JAILHOUSE ROCK has house dressing (I was astonished last week to be told that a restaurant had only the house vinaigrette and no other options, though I know they used to always have balsamic. Does this mean they’re on their last legs?), HAIL CAESAR has Caesar, DUDE RANCH has ranch, RUSSIAN MOB‘s got Russian (eww), and THE ITALIAN JOB has Italian.
I like the theme execution, and I don’t think CROSS-DRESSING is questionable as clued.
Kudos to Zhouqin for including plenty of long fill (4 8s, 8 7s) without impinging on the theme (9, 10, 10, 13, 13, 13).
Don’t love ABE clued as a $5 bill, because who actually uses that outside of crossword clues? And ERTE is meh fill, but in a nice open corner.
Four stars from me.
Ari Richter’s Universal Crossword, “Mixed Metaphor”—Judge Vic’s write-up
The letters of the word DOUBT appear scattered through each of three horizontal ILSA’s, and a fourth horizontal entry, which is metaphorical as a whole, serves as a reveal. Take a look:
- 20a [Concerning outlook] TROUBLE AHEAD
- 32a [“To Kill a Mockingbird” or “Jane Eyre”] DEBUT NOVEL
- 42a [“Mom is going to kill me!”] I’M SO BUSTED
- 51a [Latent anxieties, or a hint to this puzzle’s theme] SEEDS OF DOUBT
So, doubt, which seems to me to be the non-metaphorical part of the seeds metaphor, is mixed? Are the letters in doubt its seeds? Just asking.
None of the horizontal allies are more than six letters long. In the Downs, though, we find:
- 5d [Wrapped in pastry] ENCROUTE–New word to me, though it looks to have been used a couple times before.
- 10d [Dance like Chubby Checker] DO THE TWIST–Good clue. Good memory.
- 29d [Hushes] QUIETS DOWN
- 40d [Starts spending less] CUTS BACK–Interesting, brain-taxing clue. When you start to spend less, aren’t you really ceasing to spend the same amount or more? Ouch!
- 42d [On the throne] IN POWER
Fun stuff, though a tad hazy in the final analysis! 3.0 stars.
Chuck Deodene’s LA Times Crossword – Gareth’s summary
I think of GUESTAPPEARANCEs more as big names appearing on regular tv shows than guests on talk shows, but that may just be me? In any case, the exact letters GUEST repeat 4 times in other long across answers. It’s quite a big chunk to hide four times: LEAGUESTANDINGS and TONGUESTUD are good, and the FUGUESTATE is a really interesting phenomemon, but ARGUESTHEMERITS was a tad awkward without its OF. I think the puzzle wouldn’t have lost much to have just the 3 GUESTs.
In other news:
- [Insulin-producing gland], PANCREAS. The main gland is exocrine, with the islets of Langerhans within being little, well, islands of endocrine tissue that produce hormones – insulin and glucagon. Obligatory musical interlude.
- [Perform like Ella], SCATSING. That looks and sounds really weird as is.
- [TV lawyer Goodman], SAUL. Have no idea what show this is, and little inclination to find out.
- [__ the crack of dawn], UPAT. That’s me (us) tomorrow. Off day, but going to see the red-billed oxpecker at Koeberg.
- [House-warming option], GASHEAT. Like SCATSING, this looks and sounds really weird as is.
- [Put into power], ENSEAT. Another awkward entry.
- [2019 Pebble Beach event], USOPEN. However, we’re first heading to Bethpage in Long Island for the PGA Champs, which has been moved forward in the year.
Juliana Tringali Golden’s AVCX, “AVCX Themeless #38” — Ben’s Review
We’ve got a world debut in the AVCX — congrats, Juliana Tringali Golden! Maybe it was the 4/5 difficulty, maybe it’s wrapping my brain around a new constructor’s cluing style, maybe it’s tackling this at the end of a busy workday, but this one took me longer than usual. Let’s look under the hood at the fill:
- I usually look at a themeless’ long fill to get a sense where the constructor is at, and the choices here felt like they didn’t stick out as much as some more idiosyncratic constructors — ENAMELED, PINEAPPLES, CUTTLEFISH, ADAPTERS, IRREVERENT, and PLAY BY PLAY are all fair fill, but nothing stuck out as hyper-fresh fill
- I liked both the upper-left and lower-right stacks — MOTIVES, AMOROUS (“Like Pepé le Pew”), and NITRITE balanced nicely with KENYANS, PLEATED, and PAVLOVA (my brain got briefly stuck on Melba, but that’s an opera singer with a dessert named for them, not a ballerina with a dessert named for them)
- Speaking of desserts, I learned that I’ve been mishearing a phrase for years. “Just compensation, at times” feels like it’s pointing to “just DESSERTS”. That spelling (the one I thought was the original spelling) is technically incorrect – per Grammarist, it’s supposed to be “just deserts”, as in what you deserve.
I’m still on an Icelandic band kick. This is Vök.