Steve Mossberg’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Ease In”—Jim P’s review
This looks to be a debut for our constructor, so kudos to Steve!
He brings us a revealer-less grid that, at first glance, seems to contain an anagram theme. But taking the title into account, we come to realize that the final E of each base phrase was moved inward two spots to create the new wackified phrases.
- 18a [Congressional pork?] HOUSE MEAT. Mate.
- 20a [Flippered friend who won’t stop going through your stuff?] RUMMAGE SEAL. Sale.
- 32a [Skarsgard playing Pennywise the Clown in “It”?] BILL OF FEAR. Fare. This was tough because I didn’t recognize the name. Haven’t seen the newer film yet, but probably will at some point.
- 42a [Personalized drink for Beowulf?] CUSTOM MEAD. Made.
- 52a [Baby who keeps swiping toys from the crib?] RATTLE SNEAK. Snake. Ha! Love this one.
- 59a [Color of Tinker Bell’s new outfit?] FAIRY TEAL. Tale.
Solid wordplay and I like the consistency employed when moving the Es inward.
My solve proceeded smoothly except for that northwest corner which seemed to have a heavy concentration of ambiguous clues with a little bit of un-signaled French and trivia thrown in. Eventually, it was sussing out the theme (and guessing SEDATION correctly) that gave me the inroads I needed to complete the grid.
With 60 squares of theme material, you might expect a troubled grid, especially in those areas where theme entries are stacked. Yes, there’s NEUE and A TUNE, but beyond that, everything else feels legit. The longer fill seems workmanlike, owing to the amount of theme material, but I liked GNARLY, and AMNESIAC is fun given its clue [Staple character in soap operas].
Clues of note:
- 16a [Alexa’s apparatus]. ECHO. You can have Alexa on your Apple iPhone or Facebook Portal or other non-Amazon device, so I balked at the possessive in the clue. I think [Alexa apparatus] would have worked better.
- 2d [“Castle Rock” home]. HULU. I wasn’t aware there was a TV show with this name, so added to the thorniness of the NW corner. But knowing that “Castle Rock” is the fictional town and setting of many Stephen King works as well as the name of his production company, I was finally able to infer it. It, as featured in 32a, is not set in Castle Rock, but in also-fictional Derry, Maine.
- 12d [Lose, as a tail]. SHAKE. I believe this is referring to being followed, but I can’t read it without thinking of my daughter’s new anoles. We just got back from a long weekend road trip and had given her pet lizards to a friend’s kid to watch. We were informed yesterday that one of the lizards “lost” their tail. I suspect that a lizard doesn’t just lose its tail randomly but because it was grabbed or held down. Perhaps it was picked up by the tail and given a good SHAKE. We will find out more of the story later today when we pick them up.
A very nice debut puzzle. 3.8 stars.
George Jasper’s Universal Crossword, “Diversion”—Judge Vic’s write-up
A diversion is a change of course, no? Yes:
- 20a “Tough luck, buddy!” YOU’RE SCREWED
- 28a “This is between us” IT’LL BE OUR SECRET
- 49a Judge Marilyn Milian’s reality show THE PEOPLE’S COURT
- 55a Veer, and a hint to the circled letters in 20-, 28- and 49-Across CHANGE COURSE
Clever theme. Required finding phrases featuring bridges made up of scrambled versions of COURSE.
Other stuff that caught my eye:
LET’S SEE, WAS A, STAY AT, SSE, OVA, ROMA, LAIC, EHS, FTS, IT FITS, ISAO, EER, OTC, CALI.
Timothy Polin’s New York Times crossword—Ben’s review
The cluing on today’s NYT was not on my wavelength, so this grid’s theme took me waaaaay too long to crack:
- 17A: *Boo during a baseball game — WILD PITCH
- 25A: *Tin has been in them since 1929 — COMIC STRIPS
- 37A: *Tar remover — DENTAL HYGEINEIST
- 51A: *Ken, for one — LOGIC PUZZLE
- 62A: *Can components — HIGH KICKS
- 60A: With 19A, reconsider…or a hint to the starts of the five starred clues — THINK/TWICE
As soon as I realized the revealer was THINK TWICE, all the half-filled theme clues I had in the grid immediately fell into place – it’s not “Tar remover”, it’s “Tartar remover”! That’s a DENTAL HYGIENIST. Similarly, a boo-boo during a baseball game is a WILD PITCH, Tintin has been in COMIC STRIPS since 1929, Kenken is a LOGIC PUZZLE, and a can-can consists of HIGH KICKS.
I struggled with the top part of this grid – I couldn’t remember that PEPE is a nickname for José, couldn’t grok PACE as an answer for “going rate” (I kept wanting EACH or FARE), and despite my love of OP ART I couldn’t make the connection needed for “Motion pictures?” to work for me as a clue. Elsewhere in the grid, I liked the cluing of AVON as “Company with a for-profit foundation?” and the pair of “Law school class” clues for EVIDENCE and ETHICS, which made me think of this fascinating article I read earlier in the week on Elizabeth Warren’s career as a law professor.
This year’s Eurovision Song Contest is now on Netflix, but you won’t spot SLOVAKIA there – they haven’t participated since 2012 (above), when they placed failed to qualify to the final for the fourth consecutive year.
Roland Huget’s LA Times Crossword – Gareth’s summary
The puzzle’s theme was revealed a lot more obliquely than usual. It is a hidden word theme, but unlike many, the hidden word isn’t circled. The revealing clue for RANDOMORDER, [Ideal deck-shuffling goal … and a hint to a hidden word, and how it appears, in the four other longest answers], is also quite cryptic. It turns out that it is simply the word RANDOM that is scrambled across the four two part answers. The best part of this theme is, despite quite a long hidden string, the answers don’t feel overly forced. In fact, CYBERMONDAY is an answer that would look good in any themeless puzzle. I feel like good theme answer choices is sometimes overlooked relatively in themed puzzles. If it fits it sits is for the cats!
I feel like I’ve bagged on the fill of some of Mr. Huget’s puzzles before. This one, despite a busy theme, had some fun bonuses: CABLECAR (which I read as San Francisco airport first???), OVERPAR, ARTDECO, BOOYAH. Nothing crazy, but still a nice collection of fill nuggets.