Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Mr. Wrong”—Jenni’s review
I’m filling in for Jim while he travels back to Guam and I sit at home with my slowly healing knee. I was surprised to see the time when I finished; it felt a lot longer than that. I didn’t suss the theme until the very end, and the NE corner was harder than it should have been. It was worth the struggle!
The title finally explained the theme to me. I thought it was word reversal or anagram; nope, it’s swapping M and R in the last word of each theme answer.
- 17a [Othello at the osteria?] is a DINING MOOR. Obviously a word reversal theme riffing on DINING ROOM. I mean, duh.
- 25a [Making like the meteors that made the Cassini and Copernicus craters?] is BATTERING MARS. Um, wait. That comes from BATTERING RAMS and its not reversed. Well, RAM is reversed…maybe it’s anagrams?
- 41a [Stroll around the IBM campus?] is a BIG BLUE RAMBLE (marble). OK, definitely anagrams. Big blue marble describes the appearance of Earth from space.
- 55a [Rallying cry of the plebeians’ tax revolt?] is WHY PAY ROME? Then I looked at the title and finally realized what was going on. It’s more satisfying than a plain anagram theme.
A few other things:
- 1a and 1d are both [Card table actions]. I dropped BIDS in for 1a before I saw 1d, and it turns out that one is BETS and BIDS is 1d.
- 10d [Breastbones] are STERNA. Technically correct; in 30 years of medical practice, I’ve never heard the word. We don’t generally have a reason to talk about more than one sternum, since they don’t travel in pairs.
- 31a [Passage preventers] are NOES. Meh.
- I put MOI? in for 33d [Ingenuous utterance] but it’s really more of a disingenuous utterance. The correct answer is GEE.
- 46a [Bev Bevan’s band] didn’t ring any bells, but a three-letter band is either REM or ELO until proven otherwise, and I already had the O.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: see above re: Bev Bevan. I also did not know that Ernie PYLE had a Purple Heart, or that MARIO is Luigi’s older brother.
Peter Gordon’s Fireball Crossword, “Slanguage Arts”–Jenni’s write-up
This one is not blazingly hard and not particularly tricky, unless I missed something with the theme. Each theme entry is a well-known phrase with the first word morphed into modern slang.
- 16a [Dr. Ruth, when giving testimony?] would be a SEXPERT WITNESS (expert).
- 27a [Work of fiction about a close male relationship] is a BROMANCE NOVEL (romance).
- 42a [Pedal pusher of a competitive problem solver?] is a MATHLETE’S FOOT (athlete).
- 52a [Teen boy who is irritable because he hasn’t eaten in a while?] is a HANGRY YOUNG MAN.
All the base phrases are solid, the slang is familiar to me, and the theme hangs together fine. It’s not particularly challenging or entertaining.
A few other things:
- The NW corner stumped me briefly because I had difficulty with 2d [Modern art?]. It’s ARE. I also forgot (or perhaps didn’t know) that NOXZEMA made shaving cream and is therefore a Barbasol alternative.
- 10d [Patriots quarterback before Tom Brady] was DREW BLEDSOE, who never tried to trademark someone else’s nickname (as far as I know).
- 12d [It requires a good command of English] is MASSE, a pool term. The English in question is the spin you put on a ball.
- 33d [Jam ingredients?] are AUTOS. Not sure why this clue has a question mark.
- 61a [Gave a thumbs-up to] is OKD, which looks odd to me. I guess it’s really OK’D, but I’d prefer OKED. Maybe. That looks odd, too.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that the cable channel Sleuth changed its name to CLOO in 2011.
Trenton Charlson’s New York Times crossword—Ben’s review
I applaud Trenton Charlson for constructing a grid where every entry, per 53A, begins with a CONSONANT, but the grid feels a little like a constructing exercise that’s not as much fun to solve. Since other than that, the grid is basically themeless, let’s talk about it like a themeless.
- 1A being SMTWTFS (as in “Series seen on many a planner or pill container”) feels like it should have been disqualifying for this as a theme. That is fourth-rate fill, and slightly incorrect at that – a lot of pill containers swap out an R (as in thuRsday) for that second T to cut down on confusion. No me gusta.
- I did like the longer fill in this grid – PROTOZOAN, LITMUS TESTS, TEXAS BBQ (mmmm…”Seasoned smoked beef brisket or pork ribs, e.g.”? Yes, please.), STOP-LOSS, and ST PAULI GIRL are all nice finds that gave this some character.
- I didn’t love CHICA as a “Friend for un muchacho”. Why not a CHICO? There’s nothing specific to that particular clue.
Duran Duran, ft. Simon LEBON
This was just okay for me! And that’s fine. What did you think?
Peter A. Collins’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary
Simple enough concept with the winter solstice (summer for most of you) coming up – CHANGEOFSEASONS. The four seasons (opting for autumn rather than that dull American-ese Fall) are scrambled across two or more words in four theme answers. They’re quite chunky, which explains the infelicities of plural PORTWINES and HUMATUNE.
[Groovier part of a 45?], SIDEA. I don’t quite get this. I get that records have grooves, and that groovy is 60’s slang for “cool” but what makes side a groovier?
[Decide that one will], ELECTTO; [Preoccupies a lot], EATSAT; [Reaches after getting away, as a safe haven], ESCAPESTO – quite a lot of real estate given to those blah trailing preposition phrases.
[Quarterly Nielsen ratings periods], SWEEPS. This isn’t in my ken.
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword, “You Suck'”—Andy’s review
Late review this week, my apologies! We’ve got a hyper-current theme this week, playing on the 15-letter dangerous VACUUM CHALLENGE trend [Viral video trend that involves people wearing trash bags, and an alternate title for this puzzle]. Here, that’s interpreted as four phrases with the AIR removed (see 69a, [Thing sucked out during a 38-Across (and from the theme answers]):
- 18a, WINE PINGS [Sonar sounds made while drunken?]. Wine pairings.
- 23a, IN NEED OF REPS [Has to lift weights at the gym?]. In need of repairs.
- 49a, FLY CERTAIN OF [Insect knows for sure?]. Fairly certain of.
- 60a, KICK UP STS [Promote canonized folk with a boot in the rear?]. Kick upstairs.
A couple of those theme entries are pretty dang stretchy. Favorite non-theme entries were LES ASPIN, SWINE FLU, IL PAPA, and NCIS: LA.
Until next week!