Jack Reuter’s New York Times crossword, “Hidden Tactics”—Amy’s write-up
So this theme is something that doesn’t display well in the .puz format, but I don’t really care to spend more time eyeballing this puzzle by seeing how it plays in other formats. The notepad says “The print version of this puzzle contains multiple visual elements that this software cannot reproduce. We recommend using the New York Times app or desktop version, or printing out the PDF. The instructions in the print version read as follows: “The center of this puzzle represents a 70-Down/55-Down, in which you can achieve a 122-Across by moving the 25-Across.” What is visible from the theme in this format is:
- 25a. [Possible move in 70-Down], KNIGHT TO B-EIGHT. Lost me already, with a weirdly spelled-out number where you’d expect a numeral.
- 122a. [Possible result of 25-Across], CHECKMATE IN ONE. Good lord, can we not have the final letter crossing ONE ON?
- 55d. [Equipment for 70-Down], BOARD.
- 70d. [Subject game of this puzzle], CHESS. On the right side. So that you see them in the grid as BOARD CHESS instead of CHESS and BOARD or, heck, finding a space for the 10-letter word CHESSBOARD.
Presumably the center of the grid has chessy action with shaded squares or something? Don’t care. Not into chess. Am into crosswords. Crosswords that work as crosswords. And there was too much sketchy fill in this puzzle to hold my interest. Chess aficionados who solved in another format, tell me how you liked the puzzle. I’m not looking it up because the chess angle just isn’t going to interest me much.
So there’s some sparkly fill in here, yes. TIDE POD, “I CONCUR”, CHIPS AHOY, CHEROKEES, NOSFERATU, the wicked COWBIRD, FREE TO GO, glacial ICE BLUE, SEPPUKU, and ROGUISH.
But it was offset by the clunkier stuff, like E-NOTE (nobody uses this term! constructors who use word lists, kill this entry), ESTOPS, EROSE, plural ANSELS (even though there is finally a second famous one), AKU ([When doubled, a Thor Heyerdahl book], for real?!), OATER, MATIC, AS A UNIT, plural TETLEYS, plus that ENA PCT CTO RETOTAL and plural OUIS combo in the opening section of the grid.The old Scowl-o-Meter rattled back to life here. I mean, what the heck is 11d. [Touch up, as styled hair], REGEL? It’s not a word, that’s what. And I’m not convinced that SORE KNEES is anything other than an arbitrary formulation. BAD KNEES and BUM KNEE feel better to me.
Note that the grid is 22×22 rather than the customary 21×21. If the puzzle took you a bit longer than your average, that’s why.
2.5 stars from me, without seeing whatever the other formats present.
Tracy Gray and Jeff Chen’s Universal Crossword, “Candy Crush”—Judge Vic’s write-up
From two vets who’ve teamed up a good bit over time, a 144-answer grid, with a few too many blocks–a sign that filling the grid may have been difficult. I’m thinking a 23 x 23 may have been needed for this theme.
Not certain what the crush is (I misread it first as crunch), but you can’t miss the candy.
First, we must look at these three items:
- 18a [Having no intermission (Hint: Enter a digit in square 1!)] 1-ACT,
- 22a [Reduce to nothing (Hint: Enter a digit in square 1!)] 0-OUT, and
- 25a [Higher than the Celsius freezing point (Hint: Enter a digit in square 6!)] ABOVE 0.
That done, we know that a 100 will be in play somewhere and we are now ready to look at the following:
- 10d [Tagline for “Baywatch”?] BIG HUNK LIFESAVERS–Two candies. I’d not heard of the former.
- 14d [Bangles for space cadets?] AIR HEADS CHARMS–Two candies.
- 18d [Monumental bout of retail therapy? (Hint: Enter digits in squares 1-3!)] 100 GRAND SPREE–Two candies. I’d not heard of the latter.
- 23d [Rich-but-dense playboys?] SUGAR DADDY DUM-DUMS–Two candies.
- 33d [Nova in our galaxy?] MILKY WAY STARBURST–Two candies.
- 47d [Lies about making big bucks?] PAYDAY WHOPPERS–Two candies.
- 51 [Snide sounds from Trekkers?] NERDS SNICKERS–Two candies.
There is some other high-quality stuff of note:
- ONLINE ADS
- ALL DONE
- SAL SODA
- HAS DIBS
- IS IT ART
- ROOM KEY.
There is some stuff I’d rather not note:
- GT CARS
- AT ARMS
- OLD MAP
There are also 44 three-letter entries, and quite of few of them are–well, you know.
What an ambitious enterprise! Though, I am still unclear what the crush is–unless it’s just that there is a lot of candy in this puzzle.
P.S.–The law of unintended circumstances at play? The Crossword Compiler solution grid has the word ZERO in successive vertical blocks. I loved Zero candy bars when I was a kid!
David Steinberg’s Universal Crossword, “Minitheme”—Judge Vic’s write-up
In this grid, which has 72 answers, 11 of which are 8 letters long or longer (the benchmarks, imo, of a themeless puzzle), a clever 3-unit theme runs:
- 18a [Southern peas and rice dish] HOPPING JOHN
- 34a [18- or 52-Across, perhaps?] BOUNCING BABY BOY
- 52a [Exercise where the hands touch overhead] JUMPING JACK
Could it be that some friend or family member of David’s has recently had twin sons? And named them Jack and John?
Lots of good stuff here:
- OH STOP
- ACE HIGH
- OSCAR NOD
- IN SPIRIT
- TAKE BETS–This has appeared only once before, per Ginsberg’s database.
- WALK UP
- ON TAPE
- PEANUT OIL
- INNER TUBE
- MATE-IN-TWO–I was surprised to see in the database that this has appeared twice before.
Paid for with EOS, PED, SYS, HEBE, and OSTEAL. Still, a most effective effort overall!
P.S. — Just finished solving the NYT. What are the odds that MATE-IN-TWO and MATE-IN-ONE would bed in two different puzzles published on the same day?
Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Opening Set” – Jenni’s writeup
Jim is getting ready to bike all over the UK, so I’ll be covering the Washington Post puzzles until he gets back. This is fun one to start with! Each theme answer is a two-word phrase that starts with the letters in the clue…it’s more fun to do than to explain. Let’s see:
- 23a [DC athletes?] are the DALLAS COWBOYS.
- 34a [LA woman?] is a LEAD ACTRESS.
- 49a [FM band?] is FLEETWOOD MAC.
- 53a [With 84 Across, PA system?] is PHONETIC ALPHABET.
- 70a [TV show?] is THE VIEW. I didn’t immediately realize this was a theme answer.
- 88a [CD player?] is (or was) a CASSETTE DECK. Raise your hand if you were SO excited to get a cassette deck installed in your car. My dad was a music and gadget lover, so we had cars with eight-track players, and then cassette decks, and when he bought a car with a six-CD changer in the trunk he started driving home the long way from work.
- 105a [AP physics subject?] is ATOMIC POWER.
- 118a [US military members?] are UNION SOLDIERS.
It’s not a particularly tricky theme, which is fine. It’s fresh and fun and all the answers are solidly in the language.
A few other things:
- 16d [Red star, once] is PETE ROSE. Hmm. Shouldn’t that be [Reds star]? The team is the Reds, not the Red.
- It seems fitting that we also have [McCarthyist epithet] at 41d. That’s COMMIE, of course.
- 52d is [Moon seen on “Frasier”]. No, not that. It’s DAPHNE.
- I love conversational entries like 82a: [“It’s not a big deal”]. I’LL LIVE.
- I’ll forgive a fill-in-the-blank when it’s The Boss: 128a [“‘Cause ___ like us, baby we were born to run” (Springsteen lyric)] is TRAMPS.
What I didn’t now before I did this puzzle: that The Cars bassist is Benjamin ORR (yay! Not a hockey clue!)
Also: props to Evan for cluing SHOE and SENATOR with women (WNBA stars and Gillibrand, Harris, and Warren, respectively).
I leave you with this song, which Evan pointed out is particularly apt for this puzzle.
Garry Morse’s LA Times crossword, “Deliberate Lying” – Jenni’s write-up
Each theme answer adds “ly” to a base phrase – deliberate-ly.
- 23a [Enjoy prettifying the gifts?] is GLADLY WRAP (Glad wrap).
- 28a [Wrinkled Sunday dinner?] is a RUMPLY ROAST (rump roast). This made me laugh when I finally got it – I had L instead of R for the first letter so it eluded me for a while.
- 38a [Skinny, loose-jointed club golfer?] is a GANGLY MEMBER (gang member).
- 65a [Dishes like a 28-Across?] are HOMELY COOKING (home cooking).
- 91a [Just taps on the door?] means one HARDLY KNOCKS (hard knocks).
- 107a [Texas Hold ’em in Texas?] is DRAWLY POKER (draw poker). I think of Texas as having more of a twang than a drawl, but I’ll take it.
- 114a [Bird that returns fire when hunted?] is a DEADLY DUCK (dead duck).
All the base phrases are solid and the wacky entries are amusing. A fun Sunday theme.
A few other things:
- We get [“Piece of cake”] cluing both NO PROBLEM and EASY PEASY.
- 28d [Took off] is ROSE, not LOST, as I first thought.
- 82a [Sandburg’s metaphorical fog carrier] are CAT FEET. The Sandburg in question is Carl, in case you’re not familiar with the poem.
- 79d [42-Down features] are HORNS, because 42d is RHINO. One RHINO would only have one HORN, though.
- 87d is [Horror film reaction]. I had the initial S and tried SCREECH. It’s actually SHUDDER.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that Thor has a son named MAGNI, at least in the comics.