John-Clark Levin & Jeff Chen’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Stormy Weather”—Jim P’s review
Grid art! What was your first thought when looking at the grid? My first thought was anchor, but then an anchor would be facing down. My second thought was a Viking helmet with a noseguard.
Bzzt! Wrong on both counts. We get our answer via a pair of revealers at 9d and 114d:
- WET [Like somebody without an umbrella, and what’s added to four starred answers]
- DRY [Like somebody under an umbrella, and what’s added to four starred answers]
It’s an umbrella, and we’re to add either WET or DRY to the theme answers. As a helpful hint, the first word of each theme answer is one that can follow WET or DRY to form its own stand-alone phrase.
- 32a [*Use a hose at a nobleman’s bidding?] (WET) DOWN FOR THE COUNT. “Wet down” doesn’t feel as solid as the others. Plus, this being the first themer, it was a bit more difficult to suss out. Was “down” meant to imply bird feathers? Does “use a hose” really imply wetting something down? I feel the clue should be tightened up a bit somehow.
- 45a [*Party pooper’s refusal to accept reality?] (WET) BLANKET DENIAL. Good.
- 38d [*College football game for milquetoasts?] (WET) NOODLE BOWL. Is “noodle bowl” a common enough phrase? It feels green painty, but I may be wrong.
- 41d [*Procedures for dealing with spills?] (WET) FLOOR PLANS. Nice.
- 58d [*Quality test for a pepper grinder?] (DRY) RUN OF THE MILL. Good.
- 63d [*Remove moistness from vinyl?] (DRY) OFF THE RECORD. Hmm. Similar to “wet down” above.
- 74d [*Hammer made for plasterboard?] (DRY) WALL BANGER. Good.
- 76d [*Unemployment benefit?] (DRY) SPELL CHECK. Good. A strong finish.
Mostly good, yeah? A few nits, sure, but I definitely like to see something creatively different, and this fits the bill.
Plus, there’s theme-adjacent LENA HORNE at 62d [“Stormy Weather” singer]. Every time I see this song mentioned, I go right back to my military training in the summer of 1989. “Why?” you ask. Through some quirk of the universe, I was roomed with two other guys, and each of us knew most of the lyrics to this song, a song which came out 56 years earlier. We, as teens of the ’80s, had no business knowing that song let alone the words, but we did, and it was something we could bond over and belt out together when we had a particularly rough day of training. Ah. Good times. Good times.
Anyhoo, what else is good in the grid? OLIGARCH, LEAD ROLE, COOKIE TIN, SOTTO VOCE, SVENGALI, ONCE MORE, SEA DEVIL, ROD CAREW, the CHIFFONS, Beto O’ROURKE, AL PACINO, BLIND SIDE, and NO DRAMA (Obama). That’s a lot of sparkly fill!
I had trouble in the SW centered around DAB HAND [Expert, in England]. I don’t think this is a phrase I’d heard of, and I can imagine it causing grief with the likes of crossers OGLALA [Crazy Horse, e.g.] and MECHA [Anime genre featuring giant robots].
Clues of note:
- 36a [1965 novel featuring Paul Atreides]. DUNE. Earlier this summer, nearby Tacoma opened the DUNE Peninsula and Frank Herbert Trail in honor of the hometown author. Counter-intuitively, neither features much sand but gorgeous views of Puget Sound.
- 123a [Disquietingly bleak]. DARK. Have you been watching DARK on Netflix? My son got us into it, and it’s oh so very good. I recommend watching in the original German with subtitles. If you like stunningly good acting and tense, mind-bending, timey-wimey drama, you won’t find much better. Check it out.
- 22d [Mom and Dad, slangily]. RENTS. Nice one.
Good grid. 4.25 stars.
Michael Hawkins’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
I took a few wrong turns that slowed me down overall, and also struggled with an unknown-to-me term in the opening corner: 17a. [Modern young person vis-à-vis video games and smartphones], SCREENAGER. I don’t know who uses this awkward portmanteau. Anyone know?
Fave fill: WATER BIRTH, “ARE YOU SURE?”, ACOLYTES, FOLIE A DEUX, SMART MONEY, AIRLINE HUB, Maya Angelou’s “STILL I RISE,” and AMY POEHLER.
Six more things:
- 1a. [Maternity option involving a pool], WATER BIRTH. I really wanted to have a water birth back in the day, but it wasn’t in the cards. So I cosmically passed my unused water birth to a friend who was pregnant with her second kid and using the same nurse-midwife I’d seen. She ended up laboring so fast, she barely had time to reach the hospital before delivering in the ER. If anyone reading this has had a water birth since 2000, I thank you for balancing the universe for me.
- 4d. [Removers of some irritants], EYE BATHS. Yes! I took a squirt of hand sanitizer the other day, and somehow it shot upwards, under my eyeglasses, and into my left eye. Boy, that smarts! Turns out an old toddler bowl from the kitchen cabinet makes a suitable eye cup for irrigation. If this happens to you, rinse your eye out for 10-15 minutes, blinking and looking around in the water to distribute the water across the eyeball surface.
- 11d. [Like Al Capone’s face], SCARRY. Can’t help feeling like this is a really uncommon word, since scarred is perfectly serviceable. Google it and you get kids’ author/illustrator Richard Scarry (Lowly Worm!), Elaine Scarry, and “How to spell scary? Is it scery or scarry?” along with dictionary definitions of scarry.
- 12d. [Fair pay], HONEST WAGE. An honest wage for a honest day’s work. Not common enough!
- 50a. [Appropriates inappropriately?], ROBS. Nope, nope, nope. These verbs do not substitute for each other. You appropriate someTHING, you rob someONE or somePLACE.You can appropriate a car or steal a car, but you can’t rob a car.
- 7d. [Man’s name that comes from the Hebrew for “laughter”], ISAAC. I knew this! My friend’s son is named Isaac, and it’s such a great meaning for a name … although my own “beloved” is pretty good, too. My dad was a James, “supplanter,” and when I was a kid fascinated by baby name books, I figured that was some kind of farmer or gardener.
3.8 stars from me. How’d it treat you?
Paul Coulter’s Universal Crossword, “Watch Words”—Judge Vic’s write-up
“Watch Words” is the title. Could mean anything, right? Well, here, it seems, Paul is playing with something that is near and dear to my heart: pairs of words that come together, in this beautiful language of ours, and lead to in-the-language phrases or compound or hyphenated words. Ergo, three blanks per clue:
- 17 Realtors like to __ __, especially if they’re ____ SHOWPLACES
- 25 Imaginative children often __ __ in a ____ PLAYHOUSE
- 37 An orchestra member must __ __ before performing ____ MASTERWORKS
- 50 Chief inspectors sometimes __ __ that involve ____ HEADCASES
- 61 The king maintained a __ __ on power from his ____ STRONGHOLD
Nicely done. And, in addition, see
- 3d Stage storage space PROP ROOM
- 11d “For shame!” TUT TUT
- 13d Boomer’s kid, maybe GEN-XER
- 39d “Everyday People” performer SLY STONE
Very little junk along the way. Nice job!
Michael Ashley’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
Another crossword from the acrostic pro! Got through this in under 5 minutes, but that doesn’t mean it was that easy. Some of these entries certainly brought a smile to my face, especially 1-Across (see below!). I think I am in a mood to go solve the Double Cross by Michael Ashley in the new October Games World of Puzzles! (I get mine through a zinio.com subscription, so they come super early!) 4.4 stars for this crossword by the talented Mr. Ashley!
A few more things:
- 1A [Cute but nerdy] ADORKABLE – Aww! This word could describe me!! ;-)
- 23A [Animated queen] NALA – I am not in a hurry to run and see the live action The Lion King. Gee, I wonder how it ends … ?
- 37A [Apart from the rest] TO ONE SIDE – This is an odd sequence of letters with no spaces, so that made this a tad tough to solve. At least it looked odd to me!
- 39A [Title voice actor in “Puss in Boots” (2011)] ANTONIO BANDERAS – I think I DID see this movie, and if I remember correctly, it was really good.
- 41A [“Feels like” weather calculation] HEAT INDEX – I think the weather people use this as a tool to scare you and make you watch more weather. I’ll still take the hot over the cold!
- 9D [Online forgeries] E-MAIL HOAXES – But that dude from Nigeria said I would become rich!
- 30D [Casual parting words] “TATA FOR NOW!” – Best entry other than 1A!
- 51D [German idealism pioneer] HEGEL – This was really tough for me, since I have no idea who this is!
Have a great weekend!
Greg Johnson’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up
This one was hard. Not quite Longo hard, but it was difficult. I had all sorts of issues in the SE corner, as you can see by the error marks in the grid image. But that’s OK! It was still quite a fun puzzle, and most everything in here seemed fair in the end. It is a Stumper, so what else do we expect?? Another solid puzzle, Greg: keep ’em coming! 4.5 stars.
Some high points:
- 1A [Put under pressure] SQUISH – Could have been SQUASH, or even PUNISH with the letters I had in that I knew were right!
- 16A [Quebec Winter Carnival vehicle] ICE CANOE – You knew this was ICE something; what exactly even IS an ICE CANOE?
- 39A [Transaction journal] LEDGER BOOK – The accountant in me got this quickly!
- 61A [Made redder, say] RE-DYED – This word is an odd series of letters that I didn’t recognize, leading to my woes. The hyphen helps me, so I am leaving it in there!
- 1D [Not edgy at all] SPHERICAL – This is one of the better clues, since this isn’t what I was thinking at all. Nicely done!
- 3D [How some shrimp is served] UNSHELLED – Now I am getting hungry … but I am trying to lose 20 pounds, so time for some will power!
- 9D [One might hike once a year] RENT – Best clue in the puzzle!
- 10D [1-800-COLLECT introducer (1993)] MCI – I thought this might be AT&T or GTE, so this caused problems until I figured out some of the crossers.
- 13D [GPS forerunner] LORAN – I believe you. Never heard of this!
- 32D [Hopping brown toon] ROO – I had TAZ in here at first. He is also brown and kinda hops!
- 35D [Listened to Tolkien] HEARKENED – Is it me, or does this clue need a comma?
I’ll stop there! It’s a busy weekend!