Joe DiPietro’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “All for Naught”—Jim P’s review
The word “for”, normally in the middle of the theme phrases, has been removed.
- 18a [Played checkers with MSNBC host Reid?] JUMPED JOY. I suppose it makes sense to go with the checkers angle, but the entry reads like Joy was mugged (or possibly worse).
- 38a [“Salad topping’s a hit!”?] DRESSING SUCCESS. This one’s slightly marred by the fact that the base phrase would be stronger in its imperative form (“dress for success”). It’s still valid, but feels a mite less elegant.
- 57a [When nature calls?] STALL TIME. Ha! As a fan of toilet humor, I approve. (I also approve of starting the grid off at 1a with a BELCH. I had a boss once who was not shy about belching at the workplace; maybe it was because our workplace was her house, but still…)
- 3d [Winnie-the-Pooh after too much Jim Beam Honey?] LOADED BEAR. This was the first theme clue I read, and it got a chuckle out of me.
- 30d [Drop a frozen pizza?] BREAK LUNCH. Hmm. If it’s really frozen, I don’t see it breaking.
Despite the little nits I picked, the chuckles won me over, and I enjoyed the theme.
I further enjoyed the longer fill: TEA COZY, OH PLEASE, AIRSICK, MUPPET, and NO BATTER [Little League dugout taunt]. I wanted HEY BATTER BATTER for that last one or BELLY ITCHER, but neither would fit. I actually did try AY BATTER, but it took the crossings for me to get the correct phrase which I finally recognized once I saw it. Still, I think there should be some indication that in practice the phrase is chanted repeatedly (though not at practice).
Not a fan of crossing crosswordese: Latin ECCE and Spanish river EBRO. And I’d never heard of a TAMTAM (8d, [Flat gong]), but I’m happy to learn it. I considered STATOR for a while for 21d [Lipitor, for one], but thankfully I correctly put in STATIN. For the record, a stator is “the stationary portion of an electric generator or motor, especially of an induction motor”. Got that?
Cluing felt fresh overall, especially these gems:
- 50a [Not well while high?] AIRSICK crossing 52d [Not well at all?] RARE. Love this. In the first instance, the question mark goes with “high”, in the second, with “well”. Nicely done.
- 1d [He hits low pitches]. BASS.
- 4d [Polo grounds?]. CHINA. Referring of course to Marco Polo and his journey along the Silk Road.
- 11d [Place to get a belt]. Not a clothing store or a bar, but a DOJO.
- 35d [Screen guild?: Abbr.]. TSA. Another good bit of misdirection.
All in all, a fun grid from start to finish. Four stars.
Jeff Chen’s New York Times crossword—Ben’s review
My Thursday average got a little longer thanks to Jeff Chen’s puzzle today. It starts out with four clues whose fill in the grid doesn’t make much sense:
- 26A: South American landmark whose name means “old peak” — MACH
- 29A: 2008 animated film set in ancient China — KUNGF
- 47A: Start of a polite request — IFYO
- 51A: Fruit named for a region of France — DANJO
There’s also four unclued entries in the grid:
- 20A: ICCHU
- 23A: ANDA
- 40A: LEASE
- 44A: EARS
A revealer in the downs helps link the two:
- 45D: Increase rapidly…or a hint to connecting four pairs of answers in this puzzle — RAMP UP
I caught RAMP UP fairly early on, but then attempted to use additional white squares as the bridge. That’s not the case here – each set of three black squares RAMP[ing] UP the grid can be used as “UP” and connect two halves of the correct answers to the clues at 26A, 29A, 47A, and 51A: MACH[U P]ICCHU, KUNG F[U P]ANDA, IF YO[U P]LEASE, and D’ANJO[U P]EARS. This one took me far longer than it should have, given how straightforward this seems.
- SUPER SLO MO (as opposed to just regular slo mo) felt arbitrary to me as an answer to “Sports replay effect”. The rest of the longer across fill (STAGE ACTOR, STATIONARY, and KEY STROKES) was nice.
- other fill I liked: AZALEAS, LAMAZE, MOBILES (“Hung pieces of art”), TATAMIS, SHAZAM, POLLACK, ROTUNDAS, HOLY DAYS, BJORK!
- I would argue that Weezer no longer makes EMO music. They’re solidly pop now, y’all.
Matt Skoczen’s Universal Crossword, “Countryside”—Jim Q’s write-up
Rejoice people of Suriname! You made it into a crossword theme!
THEME: Repetitive country endings, clued wackily
- 17A [Delay in a Middle Eastern country?] KUWAIT WAIT.
- 28A [Craze in a Balkan country?] ROMANIA MANIA.
- 49A [Sobriquet in a South American country?] SURINAME NAME.
- 66A [Perfect place in a Scandinavian country?] SWEDEN EDEN.
Dagnabbit! I’ve been a similar theme kicking around in my constructor notes for some time now, with one of the entries being KUWAIT WAIT DON’T TELL ME. Matt beat me to it!
SURINAME is new to me. It seems like an outlier too since the NAME part is pronounced differently in the country.
No real complaints in the fill. BOY GENIUS was especially nice. I don’t know much about Chinese flavor additives, but STAR ANISE is definitely not in my spice rack.
Jeffrey Wechsler’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary
It’s a sort of a commemorative puzzle theme today. Author MARYSHELLEY is centre, and her work FRANKENSTEIN (;or, The Modern Prometheus) is the first entry, followed by THEMONSTER. The bottom half features actors who have played the roles of a Dr. FRANKENSTEIN and THEMONSTER in two different (out of many, many) film adaptations: GENEWILDER and BORISKARLOFF respectively.
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword, “Animal Tales”—Andy’s review
A quote puzzle from BEQ today. The quote, from [“A Legacy of Spies” author] JOHN LE CARRÉ, is: “THE CAT SAT ON / THE MAT” IS NOT A / STORY. “THE CAT / SAT ON THE DOG’S / MAT” IS A STORY. A parable about conflict in storytelling.
I found this incredibly tough! The quote itself was challenging to solve — lots of short words in the quote, so if you’re missing a couple of letters in key spots, it’s really hard to see what the quote will be.
Plus, there were a lot of tough spots in the fill, I thought:
- 5d, ADA [Aim tube letters]. Struggled to figure out what an “aim tube” was; not until after finishing did I realize it was the toothpaste brand Aim.
- Didn’t know that former Jets coach REX Ryan had started doing NFL analysis for ESPN.
- 12d, [Sire]… I put LIEGE instead of BEGET, which led me to think that [Police rank: Abbr.] was DET instead of SGT.
- Didn’t figure out until exactly now that [Part of many cords] referred to this kind of cord, which leads to LOG as the answer.
And so on. Maybe I’m undercaffeinated today, but I found nearly every section of the puzzle sticky today. The challenge didn’t diminish my enjoyment, though — as quote puzzles go, I thought this one was absolutely fine.
By far my favorite clue was the new one for crossword staple ICE-T [Rapper who had his first-ever coffee and first-ever bagel in 2018]:
Until next week!