Michael Dewey’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Deconstruction”—Jim P’s review
The simple addition of DE- to the start of various base phrases creates crossword wackiness.
- 17a [Work out the kinks at the Ocean Spray plant?] DEBUG JUICE. Bug juice. I’ve heard “bug juice” many times, but couldn’t pin down a definition. I take it to mean some sort of mixed drink, alcoholic or otherwise, whose ingredients are questionable. The liquid version of “mystery meat”, I suppose.
- 24a [View kaleidoscopes with loathing?] DETEST PATTERNS. Test patterns.
- 38a [Spray graffiti from coast to coast?] DEFACE THE NATION. Face the Nation. Ha! This one I like.
- 50a [Cast aspersions on Wall Street?] DEMEAN BUSINESS. Mean business. I was thinking “mean” was an adjective and thought this one was iffy. Then I realized it’s a verb. But it still feels like a partial without a leading pronoun.
- 60a [Impede ovulation?] DELAY AN EGG. Lay an egg.
Works well enough. Each altered word in the base phrases has its meaning sufficiently altered as well. Solid and consistent.
However I had the feeling there was a heavy reliance on crosswordese throughout the grid. Case in point: SSR crossing ERAT with AT SEA thrown in for good measure. Also, the NE and SW corners each have only one way in and out and cross only three theme squares. With that low level of constraint I would think entries like OLEAN, EIDER, RIA, and ADZE could all be avoided in favor of fresher fill. Plus elsewhere in the grid there’s SHU, ENID, ONO, MICA, A-ONE, partials OR I and AS YOU, and plural French TETES.
I did like NUDITY, JOSTLE, SIGNET, EDIBLES, CADETTE, and BEANIE (the propeller kind). I want to like “I QUOTE” [“The exact words were…”], but it feels like it’s missing the leading “And”.
And then there’s HAJIS at 1a [Returnees from Mecca]. Every source I looked at included a version of this definition. That’s fine. But there’s also the derogatory definition, and once again, once you enter the word into the grid and separate it from its clue, you run the risk of unintentionally causing offense. So why go there if you don’t have to? Since it’s not crucial to the structure of the grid, I’d replace it with something else. REGIS works.
In the end, I feel this grid has a decent theme, but it would greatly benefit from some cleaning up. Three stars from me.
Edited to add: The theme brings to mind this classic Monty Python song:
David Kahn’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Toni Morrison died last week and David Kahn writes a lot of posthumous tribute puzzles, so I figured that’s what we had here. When 5d RAZE gave me a Z in the 4th circled square of 17a, I promptly filled in J-A-Z for the three prior circled squares, Jazz being a Morrison novel I liked. Alas, 17a. [Casserole dish in a trattoria] wasn’t going to work with JA*Z*Z***, and BAKED ZITI put Joan BAEZ’s name into play. SANTANA, Joe COCKER (does anyone ever just call him Cocker?), and Janis JOPLIN fill the other circled squares, and they all played at WOODSTOCK, which, apparently, took place in THE CATSKILLS 50 years ago. Raise your hand if you never had the foggiest idea that Max Yasgur’s farm was anywhere near the Catskills.
This 15×16 grid’s unrelated (except for the hidden names) themers are solid. Not mentioned above are SANTA MONICA, CLOCK TOWERS, and a JOB APPLICANT.
Least fave fill: AMAHL, plural abbrev INITS, EL-HI, ARB, ODIC, BIG A, INIGO, ADZE.
- 9d. [Some mixed martial arts grips], CHOKEHOLDS. Rather unpleasant, that.
- 10d. [Actress Anderson], LONI. Hey! There’s another LONI out there now, comedian Loni Love. She’s been on TV five days a week, on The Real, for six years.
- 36d. [Holes out on the green], SINKS A PUTT. Lop off that S there, for SINK A PUTT, and you’ve got yourself an embedded KAPUT. There’s gotta be a theme there.
3.5 stars from me.
Trent H. Evan’s Universal Crossword, “Slices of Pi”—Judge Vic’s write-up
See title and first words of themers:
- 17a [Genie’s offer] THREE WISHES
- 28a [Rules violation query] POINT OF ORDER
- 44a [Person skilled in only a single area] ONE TRICK PONY
- 59a [Monument in Colorado, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico] FOUR CORNERS
Now, say it aloud: “3.14.” Pi. Clever. Fun, And some other really good stuff to boot:
- 35a [Winter bar order] HOT TODDY
- 39a [Igpay Atinlay] PIG LATIN
- 11d [Simple swimming stroke] DOG PADDLE
- 34d [“Got it,” in radio lingo] ROGER THAT
Paolo Pasco’s AVCX, “AVCX Themeless #41” — Ben’s Review
It’s a themeless week at the AVCX, with Paolo Pasco taking the reins. This was given 4/5, but I would have given it 4.5 for difficulty – there was some tricky cluing going on here:
- “Maximum Security or Country House, subspecies-wise” are both HORSEs
- “Wasted words” as clue for I’M SO DRUNK was spot on.
- I loved the contemporary feel of fill like MEAL PREP, FLAVORTOWN, HERSTORY, and REKT, which is what the kids these days are saying when they’ve destroyed someone in
- Speaking of kids these days, I highly recommend reading Malcolm Harris’ Kids These Days if you’ve complained about Millennial WORK ETHIC – it’s an eye-opening view of how the generational narrative around “Millennials” (which, frankly, seems to just be applied to anyone younger than the complainer) is more complex than you’d think.
The cluing for WHAT NERVE (“[gasps, slaps you with a glove]”) made me think of this ditty from the Simpsons riffing on “Love Shack”
Craig Stowe’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s theme summary
Last week was RANDOMORDER, this week it’s DAILYJUMBLE. Same principle: DAILY is jumbled and hidden across two parts of theme answers: AS(ILAYD)YING, (LADYI)NRED, (DAYLI)GHTS, AND P(LAYDI)RTY.
Enjoyed the design choice of all four corners being 3×7 – phat stacks!
Happy birthday tomorrow, Amy!
HAJIS in the WSJ is a tough call. We wouldn’t want, say, “gook” in a puzzle even clued as slime, because of the (probably) etymologically unrelated Asian slur. But of course it isn’t just an acceptable term to some in Islam, the way some African American musicians have appropriated the N word, while leaving the word unacceptable in most contexts. It’s a downright term of respect in wide use. And while that may change given the slur (although many in the West won’t actually have heard of that), I doubt it, as “Hajj” itself is unavoidable, as an obligation at the core of Islam.
So what to do? Maybe this once it’d be better to publish the word’s real meaning like this more often and discourage the bad usage? You got me.
This one is in the category of terms that are denigrating, but probably not to the targets. I don’t believe most Muslims would feel insulted, even if they know what the speaker intends.
“Jew” is used similarly. Jews don’t feel the word “Jew” to be a slur, even though we know some use it as such. We are mostly amused at the strained locutions, like “Jewish person” or “Hebrew believer,” that people sometimes use to avoid offense. Should “Jew” become a banned word?
NYT: I liked yesterday’s WSJ Woodstock puzzle better. For one, the musicians’ names were there, not just picked out of longer words. Plus the tagline was fun.
I’ve been to the Catskills and I didn’t know that that is where the festival was.
Today for the third time in recent Universal puzzles, an unfair crossing for me of two proper names that was not inferable. 51 across and 51 down. That “K” for Kotb and Kate was too hard to guess. Took me 3 tries.
I went to Woodstock. My friends and I arrived late Friday and saw the concert from noon Saturday until about 3:00 or 4:00 a.m. Sunday. I saw Santana, but did not see Joe Cocker or Joan Baez. I came SE from Niagara Falls. By the time we arrived, if we had been coming NW from NYC, the route was closed. Santana, Sly and the Family Stone and especially Canned Heat were great during the time I was there; the Grateful Dead was the worst. My sisters always laugh because I did not even know there was a concert that weekend until one of my rock-loving friends asked me to go after we got out of work on Friday.
Fun puzzle for me.
Great Paolo Pasco puzzle AVCX. I’m near 70 and I didn’t find it tough at all. All the tough ones had footholds available. Great clues and fill. Thank you.
Only had a problem with SPF. Had it in mind but without abbr indicators I had to work around it.