Paul Coulter’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Makeshift”—Jim P’s review
This was a whole lot of not fun for me. An inscrutable theme coupled with an abundance of crosswordese meant that the clues that were intended to be tough just became annoying. I pretty much just gave up after a while.
The theme takes long common phrases that imply anagramming a certain word. But you don’t know what that word is until you find that theme entry’s partner, the entry preceding or following it. That second entry gives a definition which is a synonym of the unknown word. But you still have to figure out what that unknown word is and then anagram that into another word which you put into the grid but which has no clue indicating what it is. Does that all make sense? Yeah, I didn’t think so. The problem is, unless you can think of this unknown word, crosses are almost no help to you.
- 23a [Extreme anxiety] SHATTERED NERVES & 26a [Angst, if you’ve 23-Across] DARED. Somehow, you’re supposed to realized that “angst” means “dread” and then you “shatter that nerve” (whatever that means) to turn it into DARED. Are we having fun yet?
- 34a [Creating controversy] STIRRING THE POT & 33a [Marijuana, if you’re 34-Across] OP-ED. Stir some pot (i.e. “dope”) to get OP-ED. At least this makes a little more sense.
- 49a [Attitude reversal] CHANGE OF HEART & 54a [Middle, if you have a 49-Across] RECENT. The keyword being “center.”
- 73a [Diner dish] SCRAMBLED EGGS & 71a [Urges on, if you’ve 73-Across] SIMPLE. This one was really hard to get because of the surrounding fill (EADIE, TRIS, ESTAB, etc.) and because it seemed like the clue wanted a present tense verb ending in S (this was well before I grokked the theme). It did; it wanted “impels”, but of course you have to scramble it.
- 90a [Starting a conversation, perhaps] BREAKING THE ICE & 94a [Winter coat, if you’re 90-Across] MIRE. The keyword being “rime”. I think this was where I finally started to see the light.
- 106a [Supper side] MIXED VEGETABLES & 105a [“Musical fruit,” if you’ve 106-Across] BANES. I applaud the attempt at humor (yes, sometimes I applaud fart jokes), but BANES does not make for good fill. Surely there is a better 5-letter anagram of a vegetable out there. (*googles*…Hmm. Maybe there isn’t.)
Like I said, trying to figure out this theme took a long time, and in the meantime I felt beset by crosswordese’s greatest hits: LATH, ACRO, RIIS, ETERNE, SETA, ENTRE, MARLS, ERSE, I GET A, READ A, COOER, RELO, ILER, EPISC, EADIE, TRIS, AARE, ANIM, AER, SRS, AN IN, OSSA, ONE ON. No doubt all of that is due to the fact that there’s so much theme material: six near-grid-spanners when you put the paired entries together. But suffering through that onslaught before understanding the theme meant that I was in a bad place for a very long time. And the a-ha wasn’t enough to lift me up.
There were some highlights though. TRATTORIA, ENERGY BAR, SENSEIS, SET FREE, TIP OVER, HELENA, TWO BITS (minus the shave and a haircut), and AGGRO [Belligerent behavior, to Brits] are my fave bits of fill.
I admire that this is something different, an attempt to change things up rather than present us with the same ol’ standard fare. Maybe if the fill wasn’t so rough I’d have been more inclined to go along for the ride. But with six pairs of themers, there are a lot of constraints on the grid. It strikes me that if it was reduced to five pairs (lose the first one, IMO), the fill would be improved and the solver would have a better overall experience. 2.5 stars from me.
Ryan McCarty’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap
I learned a few things tonight. Apparently 28a. [Time-consuming environmental procedures] are called GREEN TAPE, riffing on red tape. And 4d. [Penalty box, in hockey lingo] is called the SIN BIN. (Congrats to the St. Louis Blues on their Stanley Cup win this week!) Apparently California has a Santa LUCIA Range, too.
Fave fill: LESBIAN in Pride Month. BLUE MOON (joining GREEN TAPE and CLARET RED in a colorful cluster). The verbs SHOEHORNS and FACETIMED. Classic candy BIT-O-HONEY (eww, hard pass) crossing a BEEHIVE.Cinematic IVAN DRAGO and CEREBRO. A protestor’s messy FLOUR BOMB. GOOGLE HOME and something I wouldn’t do when that thing was on, RUN ONE’S MOUTH. And I like seeing IRONMAN because my brother-in-law did his first IronMan 70.3 this past weekend (and finished!).
Not keen on the GANGRENE/SICKROOMS crossing, which is just grim. Crosswordese-ish OAST and AGAR, abbrevs PTA ETD ORG HUD IRR, the in-too-many-puzzles “AM I LATE?”
3.9 stars from me.
Craig Stowe’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
I don’t think I am quite in Craig’s wheelhouse yet; this one played a little tough for me than a usually Saturday LAT. Definitely no time for a Downs Only this week! I thought this was a phenomenal puzzle, with tones of fun and interesting entries that kept me engaged. Solving wide-open corners is also satisfying for the solver. This one gets 4.7 stars from me today. I loved it!
Some of what I loved:
- 17A [U.S. gross national debt units since 1981] TRILLIONS – This seems quite timely, since it is many trillions now and often brought up in campaign talk.
- 19A [Ready for action] HOT TO TROT – This one garnered a smile upon solving. Haven’t heard this phrase in years.
- 27A [Aristotle in the 20th century] ONASSIS – This one got a partial smile. Oddly, he was quite crossword famous for a while, but I have not seen ARI in more than a minute.
- 44A [Early one-named Velvet Underground vocalist] NICO – This was tough, since I don’t know this artist that well. Slightly before my time and out of my music wheelhouse of knowledge. You can learn about her racist leanings here.
- 54A [It may be a stretch] LIMOUSINE – Could this be the best clue? Quite possibly!
- 7D [Never] AT NO POINT IN TIME – This is the long 15-letter entry going down the center. Well done.
- 11D [Type of economics] BEHAVIORAL – This is certainly not an economic term, but still appropriate. That is what made this a great clue.
- 25D [Name wrongly associated with cake] ANTOINETTE – Yes, the famed “Let them eat cake!” quote has been debunked, I believe, and that is what the cluer is referencing here.
- 45D [Feet in a meter?] IAMBS – This is also a great clue, but I wasn’t fooled!
- 50D [E-__] ZINE – Yes, I wrote COLI in here. This could also be VITE. Even though it’s simple, I think this might still be one of the best clues
I could go on, but I will stop here. Anxiously awaiting the next Craig Stowe puzzle!
Brad Wilber’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up
Not a bad time for a Wilber Stumper! I will gladly take it. I struggled a little at first, but then it slid to a solution fairly quickly. At least after the letter check I did, which resulted in all of the error marks in the grid! I think I am starting to see a change, after three years, of using my brain at work vs. manual labor. My brain is fried in the evening, whereas that wasn’t always the case. Lesson for me: solve in the morning! 4.5 stars.
A few high points:
- 17A [Motherboard’s heat sink, e.g.] RADIATOR – This is a great clue, since “motherboard” and “radiator” are never used together. At least I don’t hear them together!
- 25A [Home of winetrain.com] NAPA – This makes sense once you stop and think a moment!
- 38A [Vegas’ Graceland and Cupid’s] CHAPELS – I misread this clue as rooms in Graceland! I told you I was tired …
- 59A [Egypt’s canine-head god] ANUBIS – I know this! It just was on the tip of my tongue, so to speak, until I got the A!
- 63A [Half a court pairing] SNEAKER – Yes, I was fooled by this. Another great clue, although I think I have seen similar ones before.
- 12D [Kool-Aid measure] SCOOPFUL – Now THIS brings back memories.
- 37D [Coffee-flavored sponge cake] MOKATINE – Yup. I put TIRAMISU in here. Mainly because I have NEVER HEARD OF MOKATINE!
- 40D [Lack of pitching ability] TIN EAR – If Harry Caray could learn to sing, even if it was one song, anybody can!
- 49D [Word from the Sicilian for ”swagger”] MAFIA – I learned something in this clue! I thought it came from a root meaning “family.”
- 51D [Protector of sheep from coyotes] LLAMA – Learned League members will love this answer!
Have a great weekend!
Gary Cee’s Universal Crossword, “Idiomatic”—Jim Q’s write-up
THEME: “Bring to ______” (last word of the theme answers completes that blank).
- 20A [*It’s constantly changing] TRAFFIC LIGHT. Ever get stuck at one that’s
broken and doesn’t change? The confusion that ensues is entertaining, assuming you’re not in a hurry.
- 27A [*Unassuming existence] QUIET LIFE.
- 38A [*What those who agree are of] ONE MIND.
- 47A [*Grizzly or Kodiak] BROWN BEAR.
- 51A [Force an agreement, or what the starred answers’ ends complete (Hint: Imagine this answer’s first two words in quotes!)] BRING TO TERMS. “Bring to” terms, that is.
One of those puzzles that (and I’m guessing I’m not alone here) I completed before sussing out the theme. The revealer with its extra hint seems to recognize that may be the case. I’m not sure I would’ve put it together without that nudge.
I’m guessing “FRUITION” does not complete any other common two-word phrase! Come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve ever heard that word used without “Bring to” in front of it. PASS would’ve worked as well- feels more familiar than BEAR in the “Bring to” sense.
Northwest corner took me the longest as CHAFF didn’t come to mind (I’ve heard the word, but still needed all the crosses). Smooth grid overall.