David Alfred Bywaters’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Surprise Ending”—Jim P’s review
The title serves as the revealer, but it doesn’t do a complete job of explaining what’s happening. Each theme answer is a well-known phrase except the original ending of -CK has been softened to -G.
- 17a [Happy meal for a horse?] POSITIVE FEEDBAG. …Feedback. This one was the hardest for me to solve because I had DELAY at 8d and that NE corner is tough with proper names and a French word. That said, I like the entry.
- 22a [Carpentry enthusiast?] SAW BUG. …buck. I don’t understand the decision to go with six-letter entries when it seems there are a plethora of options to choose from, like PASS THE BUG, or BANG FOR THE BUG.
- 38a [Advice to a farmer heading to the state fair?] TAKE YOUR PIG. …pick. This one’s cute.
- 56a [Feature of a coop coat rack?] HENPEG. …peck. Same question as above. Note that each entry has a different vowel before the final G (AEIOU), though they aren’t in order in the grid. If having the E for this entry is important, then I would’ve gone with GREGORY PEG with a clue like [Hines’s hook?].
- 63a [Apocalyptic plumbing disaster?] THE DOOMSDAY CLOG. …Clock. This one works though I’m only vaguely familiar with the clock. Ah, it’s a metaphorical construct meant to impart how much danger humanity has placed itself in. Thanks to the double threat of nuclear war and climate change (neither of which this administration seems to care about alleviating), we’re still at 2 minutes to midnight. See the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists for more info.
Not a bad theme, but I prefer there to be some purported reason for making the change from CK to G. But maybe I’m in the minority on that. And again, the six-letter theme entries don’t make sense to me. They’re too easy to lose sight of in the grid.
This didn’t seem like a very Thursdayish puzzle, but that NE corner slowed me down quite a bit with GARDE [___-manger (cook who prepares cold dishes)] crossing GIBRAN [“The Prophet” author] and ALDA clued ambiguously [Bisset’s co-star in “The Mephisto Waltz”].
Not much in the long fill department; the 11-letter central entry causes an unusual block configuration in the east and west. I do like EGG CUP, ALTHEA Gibson, and SMIDGE.
Clues of note:
- 51d [Film star Lamarr who’s in the National Inventors Hall of Fame]. HEDY. She invented frequency hopping which is a way to transmit signals without allowing eavesdroppers to listen in. This helped pave the way for much of our modern-day communications.
- 13d [Charlie Townsend’s detective employees]. ANGELS. Maybe you know them by the more common Charlie’s Angels.
- 16a [Scar, e.g.]. LION. From The Lion King.
- 25a [Dhurrie or kilim]. RUG. I don’t know these, and frankly I don’t feel like looking them up. Anyone care to enlighten us?
A good puzzle. Not a theme to get excited about, and I still don’t get some of the theme choices made, but three of the five were good. I wish there was some flashier fill as well. 3.25 stars.
Paul Coulter’s Fireball Crossword, “This and That”–Jenni’s write-up
I bounced around the grid for a while before I figured out the theme, and then it fell pretty quickly. Each theme answer has a rebus including AND; the crossings use only the letters before and after AND. It was easier to solve than explain.
- 17a [Film role for Donald Glover] is (LandO) CALRISSIAN. 1d is [String tie], or BO(LO).
- 25a [Kisses, e.g.] are CHOCOLATE (CandY). 28d, [Color of the ghost Inky in Pac-Man], is (CY)AN.
- 32a [Chain of Chinese restaurants] is (PandA) EXPRESS. 23d is [California wine valley] NA(PA).
- 41a [Proves useful] is COMES IN (HANDY). 44d [Get a lot of ink on, perhaps] is (HY)PE.
- 56a [“An Honest Liar” documentary subject] is THE AMAZING (RANDI). 60d [Lens holders] are (RI)MS.
This was a satisfying, consistent solve, and not something I remember seeing before. Thanks, Paul and Peter!
A few other things:
- At least 13a, [Like few marathoners], acknowledges that some runners are OBESE. Fat is not a synonym for unhealthy.
- 30a [Smokejumper’s need] is a CHUTE. If you haven’t read Norman Maclean’s “Young Men and Fire,” you should. And then listen to this.
- 52a [Jet pilot of the past?] is one of those sneaky clues that uses the upper-case letter at the beginning to confuse us. The Jet in question is a member of the football team, and the answer is NAMATH.
- 42d [Seat in a group of 12] is IMPANEL, which I think of as a variant of EMPANEL.
- 51a [Sport in which players wear body cords] is EPEE – the cords register the hits electronically.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: I’d never heard of the documentary “An Honest Liar.” I didn’t know that KAMPALA is the largest city on Africa’s largest lake. I didn’t know that ROCK/paper/scissors is also called roshambo.
Brandon Koppy’s New York Times crossword—Ben’s review
I’m not quite sure what to make of Brandon Koppy’s latest puzzle for the NYT. It was tricky in a Thursday sort of a way, but also not quite? Let’s discuss that in a minute, once we’ve looked at the theme here:
- 17A: Peter…/Rabbit… — JACKSON HOLE
- 24A: Space…/Bar… — TIME FLIES
- 30A: Dead…/Drop… — BEAT BOX
- 42A: Jack…/Cheese… — POTHEAD
- 49A: Fire…/Screen… — POWER PLAY
- 59A: Dog…/Star… – PADDLEBOARD
Well, it’s not quite a before & after…more of an after & after? Each pair of clued words can make a two-word phrase. Each of the those words is also the first word of a two word phrase, and those second words can also be combined to form a third word or phrase. I think I’d like this one more if there were more of a theme to either the clues or the answers – something to unify things rather than being a random assemblage of phrases that fit a certain word pattern. It’s fine, but just fine.
- Things I liked: BEELINE, ATE CROW, director WES Anderson, AMIRITE (meant to be parsed as “am I right?”, but the sort of quick “amirite, ladies and gentlemen?” that a hack-y 90s stand-up comedian would do), L’CHAIM, PALADIN, SANDRA Bullock,
- Lots of proper names in the bottom half of the grid: KEN STARR, Walter HAAS, the WEBER (named for German physicist Wilhelm), Bobby ORR, and Valerie PLAME
- Weird wormhole from the fill this week: the clue for AWARDS (“Edgar, Oscar, and Tony”) made me think of another name associated with awards: Jimmy. The Jimmy awards are to high school theater what the Tonys are to theater theater, and both of last year’s winners for actor and actress in a musical will be stepping up on Broadway soon in Dear Evan Hansen and Mean Girls, respectively. Vulture did a fantastic piece about all of this last year that’s worth a lunchtime read
Hope to see some of you at the Indie 500 this weekend in DC!
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword, “Adders”—Andy’s review
Another week of solving the BEQ puzzle without the across clues, and I feel like I’m getting more on Brendan’s wavelength with each passing week. This time the title, “Adders,” was a big hint: Each of the theme entries added two ERs (not necessarily consecutively) to a normal phrase, to punny effect. Like so:
- 20a, OAKLAND ERASER [One gerrymandering the Bay Area?]. Oakland A’s.
- 27a, MAGIC WANDERER [NBA legend Johnson’s life as a nomad?]. Magic wand.
- 44a, SPIN DERRIERES [Shake some asses?]. Spin-dries.
- 49a, GRUMPY CATERER [Guy who’ll provide food for your wedding and will have a miserable time doing it?]. Grumpy Cat, rest in peace.
Fun twist on the “add-a-letter” theme type, and the puns and clues were all very funny. Some nice long fill as a bonus, with MORNING JOE [Mika Brzezinski’s show] and SOUR GRAPES [Sore loser’s reaction].
A few final notes:
- The hardest clue for me was 57d, INT [Chief takeaway?: Abbr.]. I solved this by inferring the crossings. I assumed it was about banking until I had the big aha about 40 seconds ago that this was an abbreviation for “interception,” and “Chief” here refers to a Kansas City Chief.
- [Pitching award] for CLIO is a great clue, and will never get old to me.
- 9a, GASOL [Raptors star Marc] — The Raptors are in the NBA Finals for the first time in franchise history this year.
- BEQ was very generous to give me a big hint in 8d, THE OCEAN [Led Zeppelin song with a nautical name]. I would’ve had a much tougher time without the “nautical” hint.
- [Keeps in the galley] for STETS is a lovely clue.
Hope to see many of you this weekend at The Indie 500! To everyone else, until next week!
Debbie Ellerin’s Universal Crossword, “Body Building”—Jim Q’s write-up
I wish body building were this fun all the time. I’d be buff.
THEME: Phrases with body parts.
- 18A [Totally in love] HEAD OVER HEELS.
- 26A [Thin as a rail] SKIN AND BONES.
- 44A [Intense way to fight] TOOTH AND NAIL.
- 53A [Sarcastically] TONGUE IN CHEEK.
Simple theme today. I feel like I may be missing something that ties the themers together other than two body parts in each. Somewhat surprised when there was no revealer. Perhaps a consistent cluing style for each or a common middle word (OVER, AND, AND, IN) would’ve led to a stronger sense of cohesion.
With four theme answers, the grid still has plenty of room to breathe, which Debbie took advantage of with snappy fill. TACO STAND, DARED NOT, and SMELL A RAT were my favorites.
Ross Trudeau’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s review
Well look at this! An anagram theme featuring actual discrete words and not “scrambling them somewhere in the middle”! And seven letters too, even if they are pretty common ones! The three entries suffer slightly from being in non-standard tenses in two cases and awkwardly plural in the third. This is partly the nature of the theme, as DIAPERS hands you two -ED words.
CHANGINGDIAPERS is a great revealing fifteen (even if it should be nappies, which anagrams to pinesap, and, er…) though I wish the clue had just read [New parent’s task…] which is simpler and avoids making a vague, unclear statement on gendered roles.
The entry with the best personal positive connotation is [Spanish stuffed pastry], EMPANADA, because our one local market has a stall run by an Argentinian couple that sell those and they’re magnificent! UPTOP was also snazzy.