Gary Larson’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Say Cheese”—Jim P’s review
Pronunciation-change theme as “sh” sounds become “ch” sounds (or “tch” sounds).
- 22a [Sick from too much junk food?] CHIP-WRECKED. Ship-wrecked. Good one. Works equally well with American potato chips, and British-style chips.
- 24a [Dishonest baby furniture salesman?] CRIB CHEAT. Crib sheet. Anther chuckle-worthy entry.
- 35a [Doing a fine job casting spells?] WITCHING WELL. Wishing well. Solid.
- 51a [Spot for cooking a luau pig?] BAKING DITCH. Baking dish. This requires some knowledge of the process of roasting a luau pig.
- 67a [Discussing ecological issues?] EARTH CHATTERING. Earth-shattering. A bit facetious since “chattering” is the gerund form of the verb and “chatter” is the noun, but I think it works.
- 85a [Reservation at a restaurant, say?] CHAIRHOLDER. Shareholder.
- 99a [“The Old Man and the Sea,” for example?] CATCH ACCOUNT. Cash account. Had trouble parsing this one.
- 113a [Entry on a honey-do list?] CHORELINE. Shoreline.
- 116a [Difficult maneuver for the nonmultitasker?] WALKING CHEW. Walking shoe. Shoes usually come in pairs, so I felt this one would have worked better as a plural. Plus, it’s just an awkward clue. Something referencing trail mix might have worked better.
Mostly pretty good theme-wise, I’d say. Some worked better than others, but on the whole, a positive experience.
The fill, also, had some hits and misses.
Turn-ons: BARE-NAKED FREE LOVE, GOOD COP, NOSE CONES, NAMASTE, ERITREA, PATINA, CONGAS, EMERALD, SIT OUT, and ICE POPS.
- URI [Canton on Lake Lucerne]. Unfortunately, we should have this memorized, but I can’t seem to accomplish this. It appears just rarely enough that I have always forgotten it from the last time it was used. I wish it was just outright abolished.
- PGH [The Steel City, in brief]. Bleh. See also GPO [“Congressional Record” printer: Abbr.].
- YAR [Maneuverable, to mariners]. I thought YAR was an exclamation before “Mateys!”
- LAI [Old French poem].
- SOON AS [When, colloquially]. I think we just saw this recently, and I still think it’s ucky fill.
- EBAN [Foreign minister under Meir]. A foreign minister from another country 45 years ago. That’s digging too deep.
- IDED [Named, briefly]. When would you ever see this written this way, I ask you.
- All the superlatives: SANER, DEAFER, SWEATIER, SCARCEST, BOSSIEST. That’s about four too many.
So that’s more turn-offs than I’d like to see even though the theme worked and there are some really nice high points in the fill. I’m of the opinion that a smoother grid is preferable, even at the cost of flashier fill. 3.2 stars.
Byron Walden’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
This bonkers grid has 58 words, meaning there are only six answers in the 3- to 4-letter range, and more than half the entries have 6+ letters. Typically a low-word-count grid is marred by questionable fill—words that are woefully obscure, words with dull prefixes and word endings tacked on (this latter category is what I call “roll your own” words—I’d include RELET except that’s more like junk crosswordese we see too often). Byron has managed to have very little junk in the puzzle, however. 1a starts things off right with a bouncy BOING and progresses through all sorts of other solid to lively fill.
Mathy word I absolutely did not know and wouldn’t much care to see again: 34d. [In base 6], SENARY. Also did not know 29d. [George ___, co-star with Bette Davis in 11 films, including “Dark Victory” and “Jezebel”], BRENT.
Favorite entries: CURSIVE writing, a golf TEE BOX, SAPPHIRES, CRIME BOSS, LOAN TRANSLATION (37a. [Linguistic borrowing, as “earworm” from “Ohrwurm”]), NOBEL PRIZE, BINGE EATER, and a BLUEBOTTLE fly.
Seven more things:
I like the seasonal fake-out of 1a. [Spring report], BOING and 6a. [Bad fall], HEADER. A coil spring, not April, and a tumble, not autumn.
- 15a. [Place for driving lessons] TEE BOX. Such as you might find at the driving range, golf balls whizzing by.
- 6d. [Dances taught by a kumu], HULAS. I was guessing, having not encountered the word kumu before. If you read Hawaiian news, you might know the word.
- 14d. [Body in our solar system that was considered a planet in the first half of the 19th century], CERES. It took Pluto a lot longer to get demoted from planet status.
- 22d. [Certain obsessive-compulsive], BINGE EATER. I have never heard of binge eating as part of OCD. Just me?
- 25d. [Maker of rows], FARM PLOW. That feels a tad contrived, no? It’s just a plow. How many places are plows used other than farms? I suppose parkland might get plowed, but it’s not as if it’s an entirely different piece of equipment that gets used on farms.
- 27d. [Believers who practice ahimsa, strict nonviolence to all living creatures], JAINS. A regular Fiend commenter uses the display name ahimsa. Hello there!
- 30d. [Unesco’s ___ Fund for Girls’ Right to Education], MALALA. There’s also Malala Yousafzai’s own organization, Malala Fund, if you’d like to donate to a more directly Malala-ish Malala Fund.
4.4 stars from me.
Roland Huget’s Universal Crossword, “Hard Scramble”—Judge Vic’s write-up
THEME: The letters of the word concrete are arranged differently in three long phrases that are followed by the reveal,
61a Foundation foundation? … or a hint to the starred entries’ circled letters CONCRETE MIX. In the print version, the parenthetical refers to “the starred entries’ indicated letters”; the theme clues say “see letters 1-8,” etc.; there are no circles. I give editor David Steinberg credit for his creative work-arounds. However, a vocal group of solvers in this locale treat clue parentheticals, lack of circles, and other aberrations from the straight-and-narrow with resentment and hostility. They don’t like answers that jump over blocks, anagrams, scrambled letters or, words that are spelled backwards. They view the local paper’s alternative to the New York Times as their accessible puzzle. For years it was the Tribune Media commuter puzzle, edited by Wayne Robert Williams. When that series bit the dust in 2008 due to TMS’s bankruptcy, this solving group totally rebelled against the Los Angeles Times’ puzzle, which was unceremoniously inserted into the paper as a replacement for what they were accustomed to. A great many solvers hit the Thursday Wall and complained. The compromise reached by the paper to appease this group was the Universal Crossword, edited by Timothy Parker–known at the time for being editor of USA Today’s crossword and the primary consultant for Merv Griffin’s crossw0rd-based TV game show. It was not a great puzzle, and we know now the fate that awaited Parker. Enough on this thread for now.
Here are the theme entries:
- 17a *Prominent place for an NBA team’s logo CENTER COURT
- 28a *Farm family’s food source, perhaps SUBSISTENCE CROP
- 48a *Certain jazz piece TRUMPET CONCERTO
I Googled the last of the three. Looks like concerto can follow any instrument and, arguably, be an acceptable phrase.
“Hard Scramble” made me think eggs were involved. Or that “Hardscrabble” was intended. Hardscrabble means non-arable, as soil. A hardscrabble golf course can feel like concrete! But hard scramble? Without a d on the end?
I’ve heard scrambled hard from people ordering eggs. I’ve heard hard scrambled eggs. And I may have seen hard-scrambled. But take away that d at the end and … not so much. A Google search for hard scramble gets a respectable number of hits, but some early ones refer expressly to hard scrambled eggs–with the d. One refers to a book, The Hard-Scrabble [sic] of Elm Island. Another is a blog post referring to the “Hard Scramble Method” of cooking eggs (I’d argue the writer is making up an adjective, needs a hyphen … and erred in omitting the d).
AA LARGE (non-theme egg reference), TD PASS and UV RAYS are kinda nice, but LII, MDS, OBI, ELAN, PART I, SOS, ECRU, I DO’S, OPA and XED give the grid a crosswordesey feel.
Craig Stowe’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
Quick time today. Lots of stuff to like, and that’s what it’s all about! I’ll keep this short since I am posting this a little late. A solid 4.4 stars today.
Some of what I liked:
- 1A [Ostentatious suburban pads] MCMANSIONS – I think of huge mansions in Texas when I hear this term, since that was the focus of a 60 Minutes feature I saw years ago on this topic. The more house you have, the more to clean!
- 35A [Old portico] STOA – This is not great, but it’s pretty much the only objectionable entry in the grid, at least to me. But it still crosses great stuff.
- 36A [Advice from a cohort in crime] STICK TO THE STORY – This was awesome as a 15-letter entry. You hear this a lot in comedy movies!
- 49A [Mil. academy] OCS – Officer Candidate School? I had to look it up. I hope that is right!
- 65A [Ski resort offering] SEASON PASS – I do not ski, and I am not sure I have bought a season pass to anything.
- 2D [Zeus’ father] CRONUS – This I can never remember. And who is Cronus’ father??
- 12D [Work under] ANSWER TO –
- 14D [“Who knows”] “I CAN’T SAY” – Great casual phrase, which I always enjoy.
- 28D [A moment ago] JUST NOW – Same here. This is said a LOT, yet rarely seen in puzzles, even in partial form. This has 6 NYT hits, but the rarity might just be because of the “J”.
- 38D [Caterpillar also called a looper] INCHWORM – I solved this so fast I barely noticed this until the end. I have never heard the term “looper”.
Ran a 5k this morning! Enjoy your weekend!
Matthew Sewell’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up
Definitely a Stumper this week. Well over 20 minutes for me. Some of this stuff I just did not know. But I am not feeling the total frustration, even anger, anymore, so that is a good sign. Got a toehold in the SW section first, and had to dead ends toward the final stages at 56A and 7D, which I will mention below. Great puzzle overall, though. I would still love to meet Matthew someday. If he is at Boswords, tell him I said hi! 4.6 stars for this one.
- 17A [Paid Instagram posts, for short] SPONCON – Yeah, I don’t know what this is. Sponsored content, perhaps? I do know that companies pay someone, say Kylie Jenner, to wear something in an Instagram post, and then the lemmings all go buy it. Great way to make money, I suppose, but no one is sponsoring MY posts like that! Gee, I wonder why …
- 25A [Authentic, from the German] ECHT – If you say so. Never heard this term before.
- 28A [Station VIP] TV EXEC – I had AD EXEC, and slapped my head when I realized what the correct answer was.
- 30A [Come to question?] HOW MANY? – One of the best clues in the puzzle. I may have had HOW MUCH in here at some point, now that I think of it.
- 56A [Cafeterias for caterpillars] OAKS – Nice alliteration, if nothing else! This one totally fooled me.
- 61A [Pet rodent of the comics] RATBERT – I kept thinking of Itchy and Scratchy, and then Jerry, but then once I had a crosser or two this became evident. The cartoons have a lot of mice!!
- 3D [57 seconds, vis-à-vis commercial flights] SHORTEST – I would LOVE to know where this flight is!
- 7D [Spirit of fulfillment] GENIE – I had GE?I? and was stumped for the longest time before I got the misdirection in the clue. Very nicely done!
- 9D [Best of a bad lot] LEAST WORST – Another great entry. There are some dogs in the grid, but this makes up for some of them.
- 12D [Gets courses for quarters] EATS IN – Also one of the best clues in the puzzle. Yes, this fooled me too. There is a reason my solve took nearly half an hour. This was a hard puzzle!
- 57D [Two-quark subatomic particle] KAON – Yup, don’t know this either.
Whew! Time for a nap!