Warren Houck’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Change of Direction”—Jim P’s review
Looks like we have a WSJ debut today. Congratulations, Warren!
The title had me thinking we would have entries that turned corners, but that’s not the case. Warren has taken phrases that have a directional word and anagrammed that word into something else, with resulting crossword wackiness.
- 18a [Film festival movies based on “Ratatouille”?] STEW INDIES. West… Kind of an odd clue, but I like the change in meaning of “indies”.
- 20a [Support structure for climbing roses?] THORN POLE. North…
- 33a [What a stuffed animal sits on?] FELT BEHIND. Left… This one feels the most natural, so I like it best.
- 43a [Brews for Adam and Eve?] TEAS OF EDEN. East… “Eden” doesn’t really change meaning here. I wonder if EATS OF EDEN would have lent itself better to a more humorous clue.
- 59a [Place to release your aggressions?] SHOUT PARK. South…
- 62a [Protection provided by a snug belt?] GIRTH GUARD. Right…
I was thrown off for a bit by the inclusion of “right” and “left”; those were the last two I got. It seems odd to include them without “up” and “down” (which obviously wouldn’t work with the theme constraints). And I know it’s not really possible or necessary, but a part of me wanted the directional portions of the entries to be in their respective places in the grid: THORN POLE in the north, STEW INDIES in the west, etc.
With six long theme entires, the surrounding fill isn’t so sparkly, and BOSC at 1a portends rough sailing ahead, but all in all, it wasn’t so bad. I did like HELIPORT (though I wanted HELIPAD), NECTAR, and NOOB.
Clues of note:
- 5a [Yoga pals for some, nowadays]. GOATS. I did hear of this, but know nothing about it. I think I’ll try to keep it that way.
- 23a [Pope who convinced Attila to turn back his invasion of Italy]. ST LEO. So which LEO was this? I? IV? XIII?
- 25d [Response to “I just…”]. DID YOU. I’m just not feeling this one.
- 44d [Kind of 28-Down or 57-Down]. FLAT. 28d is SHOE, 57d is TIRE. I really dislike this kind of clue, and I downright refuse to believe that FLAT is a kind of TIRE. Bleh!
- 61d [Japanese pasta]. UDON. I’m also disinclined to believe that a noodle not originating from Italy can be called a “pasta.”
Some nits could be picked here, but in the grand scheme of things, not a bad debut. 3.5 stars.
David Kahn’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap
Quick write-up, got an early morning tomorrow. Theme is 36a. [Subject of this puzzle (1917-2019)], I.M. PEI, who died just under a month ago. The themers are strewn about the grid, with two 6-letter themers noticeably shorter than the quartet of non-thematic 8s that also run Across. There’s the DALLAS City Hall, with the clue repeating a key word of the ROCK AND ROLL / HALL OF FAME. There’s the LOUVRE PYRAMID, and the awkwardly split BANK OF / CHINA TOWER. And then to fill in the theme symmetry, there’s STARCHITECT, which isn’t a term I’ve seen, I don’t think. (Gonna use it for bakers who craft structured desserts with plenty of starch.) The three spots (I’ve circled them) where the themers intersect is a Kahn trademark, but I honestly don’t think such intersections bring much delight to solvers.
Likes: LOSE FACE, BIG DAY, GROMIT. Not keen on seeing in the grid, particularly outside of a tough themeless: ISOLE, IRAE, MAA (can we please kill this entry off? show me the children’s books where we learn that goats make that sound), SKUA, AFTS.
2.9 stars from me. G’night!
Joe Rodini’s Universal Crossword, “History Lesson”—Judge Vic’s write-up
I like quip puzzles, and this is one with a twist. I am unfamiliar with the constructor’s name, so this could be a debut. As you can see in the solution, Joe gives us “a very literal warning:
THOSE WHO CANNOT
REMEMBER THE PAST
ARE CONDEMNED TO
IT IT IT IT IT IT (read that repeat it)
Other good Across stuff:
16a [Lead person in the Middle Ages?] ALCHEMIST–This is cute, as lead here means the substance that humans have always hoped to change into gold.
58a [Physical locations?] EXAM ROOMS
The longest Down answer is six letters, so not much to report on there. But this puzzle is CATCHY. It has OOMPH. And, frankly, all the shorter fill seems just fine to me.
From a fan of quip puzzles, here is a 3.75-star rating, Joe. Welcomed to the club!
Alan Olschwang’s LA Times Crossword – Gareth’s summary
Your typical word-scrambled-across-the-middle-of-theme-phrases puzzle. The revealer is colourful and apt: DEUCESWILD tells us to scramble DEUCE, with “wild” being a common cryptic anagram keyword. It is quite a large chunk to hide, so the theme entries lean towards the functional: SUEDECLOTH, PRODUCEEVIDENCE, full-name BRUCEDERN getting centre-billing, and COLLEGEEDUCATED.
- DISS clued as [Ph.D. hurdle] and not [Insult]. Who abbreviates dissertation like that?
- [Ancient city on the Nile], THEBES – My first encounter with this was the PC game Civilisation; I’m guessing Greek mythology is a more common entry point.
- [The heck], ONEARTH – are people saying this? My grandfather was fond of “What the?”
- [Oyster or clam], MOLLUSK – the terminal ‘K’ threw me, though I think this is an Americanism?
- [LPGA golfer Michelle], WIE. Such a bare clue. She (eventually) won a major in 2014 after being in the wilderness for a long time…
Goats say “maa”:
Mommies Say Shh! Board book – March 22, 2007
by Patricia Polacco (Author, Illustrator)
4.9 out of 5 stars 31 customer reviews
See all 5 formats and editions
$45.98 2 Used from $3.64 1 New from $45.98
• Board book
$7.99 66 Used from $1.12 36 New from $5.37
• Goats say “maa-maa-maa.” Birds say “cheep-cheep-cheep.” Horses say “neigh-neigh-neigh.” Rabbits say nothing at all! But when all of these animals get together and raise a honking, braying, neighing ruckus, what does Mama say? “Shhhhhh!” Now available in this adorable board book, Patricia Polacco’s fun-filled collection of animal sounds and beautiful rural landscapes is a perfect readaloud for beginning readers. They’ll want more-more-more.
Yeah. Without being able to give citations, I recall early in my career of learning sounds and how to spell them that goats say “Maa” and sheep say “Baa.” Granted, that does not make either stellar fill.
We’ve read “Little Blue Truck” about five hundred times, the goat says “Maaa” there too
(the book is highly recommended for those with little munchkins)
Not a big fan of quip puzzles, but the Universal was fun fun fun.
Universal – I’d like to second Judge Vic’s comments. I also love a good quip puzzle (or a bad one, if it’s a real groaner.) This one was clever. It was apparent early on what the quote would be, but I couldn’t see how the grid would contain it. Terrific twist at the end. If this was a debut, congratulations, Joe!
NYT – In the NW corner, I knew IRAE and ALASKAN, which set me up for some neat misdirection. I was confident in putting RITUAL in for 1A because it crossed nicely with “ROCK” for 1D. This of course gave me K-E _ _ S for 18A which was clearly KEATS. Ha. This was going to be easy! (Well played, Mr. Kahn!)
This was one of those puzzles that on the onset, I regretted not knowing more about I.M. Pei (I knew the pyramid, of course, and the Body & Roll Hall of Fame, but not the others) but after completing it I had a few refreshing moments with Google. I love it when that happens. Learning something new mitigates the frustration of not knowing even the more obscure trivia.
Sometimes, like this morning, I feel a little twinge of guilt (“I’m embarrassed that I don’t know more about this!”) but other times there’s a self-satisfaction to knowing something so obscure you could wait a lifetime for it to come up in conversation.
The WSJ theme appeared years ago in the LAT. However, this one is better.
NYT: I don’t know if I’ve ever heard SLEIGHT by itself, without OF HAND. Change RIFLE to ROIDS, ONAIR to OFFER, KALE to KATY and you have yourself an OF HAND you can cross-reference with SLEIGHT!
Little Blue Truck (huuuge series for young kiddos) has “maaa”-ing goats.
also STARCHITECT was an easy one for me, have come across that any number of places.
Still not blown away by the puzzle, but those two entries didn’t bother me in the slightest.
AVCX: Solid if unspectacular for me. Took a little longer than it probably should have to grok the theme. Hadn’t heard of 22A or 34A and could only sort of remember 55A, so it took a lot of picking away at the crosses to finish.
AVCX: What kind of tacky BS was 22A? I think politics should be kept out of crosswords as much as possible – it’s too divisive and can leave a bad taste in the mouth of solvers. But I thought 22A was not only obscure but grievously bad. To slyly attack the bi-racial son of a candidate for absolutely no reason is just beyond the pale, no matter what you think of the candidate. I mean this is not someone who is deserving of scorn like certain children of a certain politician who are frequently in the media being horrible and stealing from the American people. I’m frankly just surprised it got past the editors at all. It will honestly make me question if I want to solve anymore puzzles I see anywhere by this creator. It was just a dick move all-around and I don’t know why it made it to publication.
I also found the clue a bit off-putting and difficult to parse, but I don’t think it was intended as an attack on Dante – rather, it was mocking this tone-deaf attempt at relatability (which was roundly mocked on Twitter): https://theweek.com/speedreads/848929/2020-democrat-bill-de-blasio-asked-son-cringiest-debate-advice
I sincerely doubt Dante was involved in the stunt at all, considering all “his” texts sound like they were written by someone thrice his age.
AVCX: I did not like this puzzle. I see that this blog didn’t even bother to review it.
I get an email with the puzzle that described it as 3.5/5 difficulty. Well, that’s reversed for me (5/3.5).
This is my first ever comment on this blog, if that tells you anything about this puzzle.
I’m still trying to remember which movie the D-list celebrity Aidan Dabet appeared in.
Agreed. I almost never agree with the AVCX difficulty rating. This one was damn near impossible. I’d love to know how they set their difficulty ratings. I found absolutely no joy in solving this one. I’m not sure I will renew my AVCX subscription. The puzzles don’t seem to have the same edginess that they used to.
They have definitely been way downhill this past year. I’m wondering if I will renew as well. It used to be the puzzle I most looked forward to, but I think they are trying to expand outside their main core of creators and settling for some real mediocre puzzles.
AVX. It was tough and the theme answers were inconsistent.. All should have had double – Ds. And 22A was not in the least insulting and where does race come into it? Telling his father, who was polling below 1%, that he would have to do something dramatic to get noticed is clever. But agreed, it was more difficult than its rating.
Oh well I guess it’s fine to put some sarcastic shit about some mayor’s kid nobody outside the city has ever heard of in a crossword. I mean, since you checked the polls and all. I guess everything’s fine if the polls back it up. Thanks, for clearing that up for me, Trumpy.
I’m dying to see the AVCX review. I don’t subscribe, and with the fair amount of comments I’d like to put them in context. You never see average ratings under 2, especially with that many votes. Is this the lowest-rated puzzle ever on this site? I’m curious.
I rated it 1 star because I couldn’t rate it 0 stars.
My main beef with the AVCX was LAPP, and I was also not thrilled and BIS. Referring to people who are bi as bis? Maybe it’s just me. Had not heard that before and it feels odd.