This week’s Fireball is a contest puzzle. We’ll publish a review after the deadline.
Alex Eaton-Salners’s New York Times crossword—Judge Vic’s write-up
The theme is–well, the clues are DRAWKCAB, and so are the theme answers. To wit:
- 17a [RED ROOT] DEZIMOTSUC–Read the clue as TO ORDER, the answer CUSTOMIZED.
- 26a [SLIP UP] STNEDUTS–PUPILS … STUDENTS.
- 38a [DIAPER] DEGNEVA–REPAID … AVENGED.
- 51a [WENT ON] GNITSIXE–NOT NEW … EXISTING.
- 63a [NAME TAG] RETEPTNIAS–GATE MAN … SAINT PETER
I think it’s pretty clever. The puzzle went pretty fast for me, for a Thursday. Other stuff of note, positive:
- WHAT IF
- IN TOTO
- POLE AX
- WHEN IN ROME
- SWIM CAP
- OX TEAM
- LET’S NOT
Hmm, nothing in the fill really bugged me. So, no negative counterpart to the above.
Jeffrey Wechsler Universal Crossword, “Zoo-illogical”—Judge Vic’s write-up
Great title, “Zoo-illogical,” as the theme answers are all two animals rolled into one name, so to speak:
- 14a [*Cross between a striped cat and a rodent?] TIGERBIL–Tiger, gerbil.
- 20a [*Cross between an ape and an Andean animal?] GORILLAMA–Gorilla, llama.
- 27a [*Cross between a raptor and a Wonderland dozer?] CONDORMOUSE–Condor, dormouse.
- 38a [*Cross between a semiaquatic wader and a bivalve?] HIPPOPOTAMUSSEL–Hippopotamus, mussel.
- 46a [*Cross between a four-legged reptile and a legless reptile?] IGUANACONDA–Iguana, anaconda.
- 56a [*Cross between a crustacean and a bounding beast?] SHRIMPALA–Shrimp, impala.
- 69a [The starred critters, e.g.] CHIMERAS–Interesting word, chimera. Suffice it to say the clue feels apt enough.
That’s clever. And that’s a lot of theme–8-10-11-15-11-10-8. Seven theme entries with 73 letters almost justifies a 21 x 21 grid. Given that, the fill is not awful and, amazingly, features ONE BY ONE and LA LAKERS in horizontal spots.
MET IN is awkward and making its debut. It is joined by the unexciting-at-best ID NO. And then there are EOS, UDON, ARA, PEI, AAHS, PSST, AMA, ILE, PLO, IBID, ETD, APR, and good ol’ ANI DiFranco. Three of those would be okay, but beyond that, one has to ask if that amount of theme is worth the cost.
Evan Kalish’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “I Fold”—Jim P’s review
I liked this one quite a bit! The revealer is at 65a and gives us instructions we can safely ignore: DO NOT BEND [Mail instruction sometimes ignored, as suggested by the words in this puzzle’s circles]. The other entries each end in a word that is something that might be included in the (snail) mail and is bent either upwards or downwards.
- 17a [Key with a magnetic strip] ACCESS CAR(D)
- 26a [Bold piece of writing] BLOCK LET(TER)
- 40a [Tests boundaries] PUSHES THE ENVELO(PE)
- 52a [Potential law] DRAFT BIL(L)
While it was pretty clear what was going on when I solved the first theme answer, I still got the pleasure of an aha moment when I came across the revealer and realized each circled word was something you might put in the mail. The only nit I can pick is that I wish the circles weren’t employed for this. By Thursday, I would have thought most solvers would be able to discern a tricky theme like this one. It would have been more fun to find the bends on my own rather than have them spelled out for me. But still, this was a good time; bending themes can be thorny to pull off, and Evan does it nicely here.
In fact, look at that super-shiny fill! “I’M CURIOUS“, BUCHAREST, GOOSE EGG, DADS-TO-BE, TÊTE-À-TÊTE, and SLOW LANES. Very nice. And I like GO BALD and CASHEW, too. That’s a really impressive clutch of fill there given the trickiness of the theme. Well done!
LLOSA [Literature Nobelist Mario Vargas ___] was the hardest bit of fill for me, but hey, it’s Thursday, and I felt the crossings were all fair. Same with ODELL [Beckham of the Browns].
I really liked the cluing as well, especially in the NE corner. Here are some of the highlights:
- 4a [Visibility-reducing gear]. CAMO. Your first thought is, “Why would you use gear to reduce your visibility?” But it’s the other way around—gear to make you less visible to others. Nice.
- 23a [Cat’s pupil, on a sunny day]. SLIT. Had to think about this one, but it makes sense.
- 57a [Lose one’s ability to get a part?]. GO BALD. Getting a little cute with the wording here, but I think this one squeaks in on this side of fair.
- 11d [“Them” or “Us”]. MOVIE. Love this clue. Them! (with an exclamation mark, I believe) was a 1950s monster flick. Us is Jordan Peele’s latest horror film. I have yet to see it, but I hear good things, and Get Out was very good.
- 12d [Jake’s love in “The Sun Also Rises”]. BRETT. I never read the book, so I thought a homosexual romance was an unusual choice for Hemingway given his reputation for machismo. But the BRETT in question is Lady BRETT Ashley.
- 39d [Where many return after pass completions?]. SLOW LANES. Now this one goes a little too far in the cute department. And besides, around here (Washington state), drivers tend to pick a lane and stay in it, no matter what. It drives this Californian crazy!
Solidly tricky theme (made too easy by the use of circles IMO) with stellar fill and strong cluing. 4.4 stars from me.
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword, “Double Curves”—Andy’s review
From the title, I was pretty sure we were dealing with some S-based puns. Sure enough, where once there was one S, now there are two S’s to punny effect. Like so:
- 17a, YOGA POSSE [Group doing downward facing dog?]. Yoga pose.
- 25a, CHASSE BANK [Riverside where one does gliding steps?]. Chase Bank.
- 37a, PICK YOUR POISSON [Garcon’s line after handing a patron a menu with the heading “La Mer”?]. Pick your poison.
- 47a, DESSERT FOX [Hottie that only eats the last course?]. Desert Fox.
- 54a, LAB MOUSSE [Artificial chocolate concoction made by scientists?]. Lab mouse.
Great theme answers — PICK YOUR POISSON was my absolute favorite. Some really great non-theme fill in here too: PROP COMIC [One with a thing for jokes?], LEGO BRICK, ASS-KISSER. Loved seeing a reference to the new show “Los Espookys” and a new ANA clue [“Los Espookys” star/creator Fabrega].
A little bit of ugliness with C-SIZES next to EELERY and OJO crossing AJA, but overall I thought this was really nice.
Until next week!
Paul Coulter’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up
Today’s puzzle by Mr. Coulter features four puns based on bird sound effects: CHEEP for CHEAP; QUACK for CRACK; CAWS for CAUSE; COO for COUP. It’s an interesting choice to opt for two French phrases, which really stretches the “sensicalness” of the puns. On the other hand, foreign phrases are a lively vein to mine for interesting entries.
Not much else to note. INSPADES was the most interesting entry outside of the theme. The clue, [To a great degree], was vague enough that it took a while to emerge. The clues today had that feel a lot of the time, but my brain may just have been foggy. ASRARE is the hilariously contrived answer of the day. It is in an area with a lot of entries criss-crossing two entries, if that counts for anything. In obscure crossword-ese, it is worth noting EGER, as few of us are up on our Hungarian wine regions…