Blake Slonecker’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Sounding Board”—Jim P’s review
The last time Blake Slonecker was here, he gave us a really nice grid. Let’s see what he has in store today.
Well, whaddya know. It’s yet another WOODSTOCK-themed (62a, [Aquarian event at Yasgur’s farm, and a hint to what’s formed by the circled letters]) puzzle. In Tuesday’s version, we had to find first names of performers. In yesterday’s NYT outing, we had to find last names of performers. What’s it going to be today? Middle names?
Hardly. It turns out the circled letters have nothing to do with the performers. Instead they are all trees, or “providers of wood stock”, as it were.
- 14a [Atlas inset that may define forested areas] MAP LEGEND. This feels a bit “green paintish” to me.
- 19a [1981 addition to the Windsor family tree] DIANA SPENCER. Very nice find, this.
- 34a [Cavorted like deer in the forest] PRANCED AROUND. Fun! But when I think of prancing, I can only think of…Deb Amlen
- 53a [Power source that won’t work in the forest] SOLAR CHARGER. I guess this is a legit phrase. But when I think of…the larch, I can only think of Monty Python (see video below).
Solid enough theme. I like that each tree is no less than five letters long; none of this three-letter ASH or ELM nonsense! Well done.
Beyond the theme we find some lovely fill. I like EL DORADOS (despite being plural) and UNSULLIED [Pristine]. But come on! We know who the UNSULLIED are! Those guys over there!
I also love the timeliness of SUPERBLOOM [2019 phenomenon in California’s Anza-Borrego Desert State Park] which occurred near my sister’s house in San Diego, as well as the lively BENCH PRESS [Lift while lying], SCAMPI, and “YE GODS!”
I had trouble with ELI [Broad with billions] (I’m glad that clue turned out to be a proper name), OGLALA[Pine Ridge people], and HEDY [Delilah to Victor’s Samson]. I couldn’t figure out what that last clue was asking for. Finally, after getting all the crossings, I realized it’s HEDY Lamarr who starred with Victor Mature in the title roles. I did not have trouble with URICH [“Vega$” star], because I remember this show, and his name pops up in crosswords every now and again. But I’m sure some of you young pups might (justifiably) complain.
One other clue of note: 38d [How to sell, idiomatically]. DEAR. I don’t think I know this idiom. Anyone care to clue us (me) in?
Solid grid though not quite as remarkable as Blake’s last offering. 3.5 stars.
And now…the larch.
Andrew Zhou’s New York Times crossword—Ben’s review
In hindsight, it took me too long to figure out what was going on with the theme of this Thursday’s NYT from Andrew Zhou:
- 17A: Easy quiz to grade  — TRUE OR FALSE TEST
- 23A: Bromantic activity  — MALE BONDING
- 34A: Drugmaker’s claim  — NO SIDE EFFECTS
- 46A: TV star with a museum in Jamestown, N.Y.  — LUCILLE BALL
- 55A: Take apart in order to reproduce…or a hint to what’s hidden in 17-, 23-, 34-, and 46A — REVERSE ENGINEER
I like what’s going on here – each phrase has the name of an engineer/inventor running in reverse through it — Nikola TESLA in TRUE OR FALSE TEST, Alfred NOBEL in MALE BONDING, Thomas EDISON in NO SIDE EFFECTS, and Alexander Graham BELL in LUCILLE BALL. I’m a little disappointed by the all-white dude slate of inventor choices here – I realize there are constraints on what works when it’s placed in reverse, but I would have loved to have seen Marie CURIE, Grace HOPPER, or George Washington CARVER representing a little more diversity in the grid.
Let’s do a quick tour through other interesting fill in the grid: we’ve got the Travelocity GNOME, APOLO Anton Ohno, ETSY, the novelETTE (which is longer than a short story, but shorter than a novella), OCEANAUT, MESDAMES, OUTRIVAL, and BEEF RIB.
That’s it for Thursday!
Mark McClain’s Universal Crossword, “The Hard Stuff”—Judge Vic’s write-up
See title and revealer:
- 55a Device that can find the hidden words in 19-, 28- and 45-Across? METAL DETECTOR
Now let’s look at the themers and try to detect the metal:
- 19a Blogger’s revenue source, perhaps GOOGLE AD SENSE. I’d not heard of this, but it’s a thing.
- 28a Aging GROWING OLDER
- 45a Policy for some dog owners PET INSURANCE
Lead, gold, tin. Clever. Fun. I like it.
Some good stuff elsewhere, too:
- 5d 1914-18 conflict GREAT WAR
- 10d Not ready to serve UNDERDONE
- 33d Short fuse HOT TEMPER
- 39d Made soundproof DEADENED
Good short fill, also, though I have one complaint, and it’s probably against myself, not the constructor or the editor. I did not know KNORR or GARNI. So, I flew through this puzzle in just over five minutes, only to have one box open and feel clueless. So, I literally went letter-by-letter to complete the final box. Both answers have been in enough puzzles that I should know them.
Gary Larson’s LA Times Crossword – Gareth’;s summary
Today’s theme is kind of similar to yesterday’s. Words are hidden in the middle of long across phrases. They aren’t scrambled this time, and the words vary each time, making a Norman set: PORK, BEEF, VEAL, LAMB. The revealer is MEETINTHEMIDDLE (MEAT). Of the themers, I personally have never heard of a VAPORKIT, but then the fad was never aimed at me.
My favourite clue was the opening one: [“Cheers” cheer], NORM, which first had me scrambling for some kind of toast. On the other hand [“Mommie Dearest” mommie], CRAWFORD was a mystery. Looking it up, I kind of recognize it, with the clue referring to actress Joan Crawford, the subject of the biopic.
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword, “Under the Bored Walk”—Andy’s review
Quick review: today, we get beach-themed puns:
- 17a, NOT SO SHORE [Oceanfront that’s just an illusion?].
- 25a, NOTHING DUNE [Literally the least interesting hill of sand?].
- 37a, LONG TIME NO SEA [Really boring day where you wanted to go swimming, but couldn’t?].
- 51a, WITHOUT PIER [Like a spot where you can’t really go fishing?].
- 59a, BASIC BEACH [Totally, whatever place to go swimming?].
With HORNDOG, HIT ME UP, and OIL RUBS, this puzzle has a distinctively randy vibe.
In case you didn’t know: The world’s largest national park is in GREENLAND.
That’s all. Until next time!
In the constructor notes on Xwordinfo, Andrew mentioned that his original submission included a woman engineer who was deemed too obscure. In fairness to the editing team, I hadn’t heard of her, although I’m not a science person so there are doubtless many many worthy scientists I’ve never heard of.
Judith Resnick was the engineer who died on Space Shuttle Challenger.
HATED “oceanaut” and overall did not like the puzzle. The theme had nothing to do with the solve, really, and wasn’t Thursday-tricky except that the engineer names went backwards. Didn’t bother to try and find the engineers because that didn’t sound like fun. Not my jam at all.
Pretty much my reaction beginning with oceanaut. I guess these folks are engineers but I’ve never really thought of them that way. I’ve always seen them as inventors.
I almost mentioned that I thought of all the names included as being inventors rather than engineers, but engineers ARE inventors in many cases.
A marine biologist who comments over at Deb’s place calls himself an ex-oceanaut. Must be kind of weird to have so many people denying your past.
Or saying you’re being either ineffectively cute or annoyingly pedantic. I didn’t say it didn’t exist. ANOAs exist. I don’t want to see them in crosswords.
I just opened my online Arkansas-Democrat Gazette and see that Mark McClain’s Universal Crossword therein bears the title “Beep Beep Beep,” although the grid and clues are identical to the one I reviewed entitled “The Hard Stuff.” Hmm.
It looks like the title was changed after David uploaded the review copy. Until recently, I had been converting the puzzle at midnight to capture late changes but am now posting the review copy he uploads because access to the Universal data file had been spotty.
Hey, Vic. The Hard Stuff was my proposed title, but David changed it somewhere along the way. Perhaps that was the file name of the version you got. Oh, and you’ll find Knorr chicken bouillon and bouquet garni in my spice cabinet. Use them all the time. Thanks for the nice review!
Jim P: “Buy Cheap, Sell Dear” is the reference you’re looking for
Thanks. I hadn’t heard of this idiom either.
LAT. “ALer.” Ugh.
Absolutely loved the NYT except OCEANAUT – but my spellcheck deemed it a word! Who am I to argue with A.I.? Gave it six stars, just in case.
WSJ – a nice second take on WOODSTOCK for the week.
LAT – yet to do, but usually not comment-worthy.
Can someone please tell me what BEQ 59a BASIC BEACH is a “pun” for?
I think it’s a pun on the slang term “basic bitch”. Google it.
Me, too! I just can’t get that one.
It would be great to see tsiLEBON Marie CURIE in the puzzle, but she was a chemist and physicist, not an engineer. (Also good luck finding any acceptable crossword entry containing EIRUC. While I’m at it, ditto for REPPOH and REVRAC, which would be legitimate albeit lesser-known “reverse engineers”.)