Gary Larson’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Stirring Things Up”—Jim P’s review
If this puzzle seems familiar to you, it may be because you’ve done it before. Due to a snafu on our site a couple weeks ago, we had this puzzle linked to on our “Today’s Puzzles” page, and I even went as far as writing and posting the review before I was made aware it was the wrong puzzle. So here it is again on the correct day.
Most of what follows is what I wrote back then.
Our theme takes common words ending in -STERS and re-defines them based on the first part of the word.
- 17a [Hip actors?] HAMSTERS. Some actors, typically bad ones, are hams.
- 26a [Hip wallflowers?] SHYSTERS. Wallflowers are shy.
- 35a [Hip publicists?] SPINSTERS. Publicists spin.
- 49a [Hip ghosts?] BOOSTERS. Ghosts go “boo.”
- 59a [Hip tennis players?] LOBSTERS. Tennis players lob.
I like the play on words, but frankly, I didn’t get the “hip” connection. Adding “-ster” to something makes it “hip”?
Let’s say I like to jog. (I don’t, but work with me here.) So you could add “-ster” to “jog”, call me a “jogster” and that makes me “hip”? I’m not following.
“Hipster” ends with “-ster” but I’m not seeing how that relates to these entries.
So the theme confused me. I do like the title, and I think it’s sufficient to indicate what’s going on here. If the clues left out the “hip” aspect, the whole thing would have worked better for me.
In the fill I liked DOMINIC (my son’s name), “TOO TRUE“, CARPORT, SHARONA, EPHESUS, and MALARIA. I’m not so keen on NO HOPER and TILERS but DEBATER feels more legit.
3.4 stars from me.
Sam Donaldson’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
I don’t quite gEt thE thEmE hErE. I see that the themers with “E-___” clues contain no vowels other than E’s, but the relationship between the clues and answers has eluded me. Let’s take a look:
- 18a. [E-book?], THE SECRET. There’s a book called The Secret, and I cannot respect its thesis, which is basically that wishing for things will bring them into your life. And yet people die of diseases, and struggle in poverty, no matter how much positive thinking they try.
- 20a. [E-waste?], DELETED SCENE. Is … the deleted scene from a movie somehow considered “waste”? I’m not sure what the term e-waste means, either.
- 27a. [E-filing?], TERM SHEET. Is this … some legal phrase, a thing that gets filed for who knows what purpose? Contract negotiations? A glossary of terms? I’ve never encountered TERM SHEET before. E-filing is for tax returns.
- 37a. [E-mail?], REFERENCE LETTER. Letters in the mail, okay.
- 45a. [E-sign?], ENTER HERE. E-signing is appending a virtual signature to a document. Not sure I’ve seen ENTER HERE signs posted, but a Google Image search supports them as a real thing.
- 52a. [E-business?], MERCEDES-BENZ. Technically, Mercedes is a division of a business called Daimler AG, and not a business unto itself. It’s also not the first thing anyone thinks of for Mercedes-Benz—we think of the car.
- 58a. [E-mag?], SEVENTEEN. I loved Seventeen magazine as a teen, but I do deplore e-mag. Nobody uses that term!
I find myself wishing that TERM SHEET and ENTER HERE had been dropped from the theme, as a five-piece theme is plenty and it would have allowed more wiggle room for the rest of the fill. Plural DNAS is awfully questionable, the EOS SCH ESTD OCHS SHECAT chunk is also unfortunate, and there are still more abbrevs throughout the grid (FTC ATF AFL EDT). Plus there’s OOX, -ERN, ‘ENRY, and variant ENURES. Too much!
The grid perked up with LITE FM and HOBNOB, but overall I think the theme density crowded out more good stuff.
Four more things:
- 9a. [Black-and-white swimmers], ORCAS! We would also have accepted [Diary of a Crossword Fiend awards program run by this puzzle’s creator]. You rock, Sam!
- 1a. [___ talk], CHALK. No idea what chalk talk is. My husband suspects it’s the X’s and O’s on a football coach or commentator’s blackboard. Yes? No? Please educate me!
- 5d. [___ Berry Farm (California attraction)], KNOTT’S. My mom was just reading to me from a letter she’d sent her SoCal sister back in the early ’70s, saying she hoped to avoid spending any of our money supporting That Guy. All I know is that “panning for gold” there was an awesome experience, but I’m sorry it vexed my mother to help enrich Mr. Knott of the John Birch Society. (You see that I have been liberal since early childhood.)
- 67a. [It’s no miniature gulf], ABYSS. Ha! That is terrible. Sam, I assume this was your clue?
2.8 stars from me.
Jake Scheele’s Universal Crossword, “Rolling in the Aisles”—Jim P’s review
Theme: Comedic partnerships meet up at the corners of the grid.
- 1a & 12d [Ice-skating comedy duo half] FRICK / FRACK. This was the last corner for me as I’ve never heard of this duo. I had FRITZ at 1a for quite a while. I have heard of both words used as substitute curse words, though.
- 6a & 15d [“Up in Smoke” comedy duo half] CHEECH / CHONG.
- 43d & 62a [“Laugh-In” comedy duo half] ROWAN / MARTIN.
- 63a & 47d [Radio/early TV comedy duo half] BURNS / ALLEN
Nice theme and a well-executed grid. I love the grid design.
I wonder what other partnerships were considered. Laurel and Hardy seem like they could have fit in well. Hope and Crosby as well. But finding a symmetrical partner for Abbott and Costello probably wasn’t possible. And I would have loved to have seen a more modern example like Key and Peele, but again, a symmetrical partner would be needed.
Other goodies: FRIZZLE, HOMERIC, RITE-AID, UNTRUTH, OAKLAND, MIRACLE, AIR HOLE, HAT SIZE, NUTELLA, ANTIGEN, FRIJOLE, RITALIN, CRUSH ON, HIT HARD, SNORTED, SEA STAR, “I RESIGN.” Oh, and best of all, DELOREAN and CHUTZPAH. PENTIUM and ENCARTA are nice but they’re well past their prime.
Some snoozers snuck in there, though. I could do without ever seeing AJA [Steely Dan’s best-selling album] again. REDATES is roll-your-ownish. KLIEG [Filming light type] was hard because of its crossing with FRICK and FRIZZLE. EDDA is tired crosswordese made worse into plural EDDAS. But it’s all a balancing act, and with the solid theme and that boatload of strong fill, these few clunkers are okay.
- 12a [Curl tightly]. FRIZZLE. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard this used as a verb. Of course, if it was clued [“The Magic School Bus” driver Ms. ___], I would’ve gotten it immediately.
- 22a [Klink and Sanders: Abbr.]. COLS. I found the clue humorous for some reason. Sounds like a good comedy duo name. Maybe because it makes me think of the British comedy duo French and Saunders.
- 26a [“A Fish Called Wanda” star Kevin]. KLINE. And of course that film ranks as one of my all-time favorite funny films. “Don’t call me stupid.”
- 8d [Revivalists, for short?]. EMTS. Brilliant clue there.
Very good puzzle. Four stars.
Laura Braunstein’s AVCX, “Agency Reform” — Ben’s Review
This week’s AVCX had an interesting headnote that, after solving the grid, totally goes along with the theme. Ben Tausig noted that this week’s constructor, Laura Braunstein, was “donating her payment from this puzzle”. Let’s look at the grid to talk about why:
- 16A: The sign on Monsieur Bonaparte’s door, back when he was busting students for smoking weed in their dorm rooms? — NAPOLEON RA
- 22A: Comedian Margaret’s greatest resource — her bold and outrageous satire? — WEAPON OF CHO
- 35A: “Ok, I confess: I plagiarized my tenure file”? — PROF ADMISSION
- 47A: Fitting actor Patel for a costume in a Harry Potter film? — CLOAKING DEV
- 58A: Political movement advocating elimination of a certain DHS branch, particularly since it began implementing inhumane policies toward refugees, migrants, and their families; or, a hint to this puzzle’s theme — ABOLISH ICE
Each of these answers features a more common phrase that has “abolished” ICE – NAPOLEON
IC ERA, WEAPON OF CHO ICE, PR ICE OF ADMISSION, and CLOAKING DEV ICE. As noted in the revealer for this puzzle, ICE has implemented policies that have torn apart families and placed children in cages along the border, and it needs to be completely abolished.
In line with this, Laura is donating her payment from this week’s puzzle to the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (https://www.raicestexas.org/)
Elsewhere in the grid: it was great to see a 30-50 feral hogs reference for the clue to HOGWILD, KESHA‘s “Rich White Straight Man” (which I tried to attribute to LIZZO), and DADBOD show up in the grid.
Salt n Pepa’s “SHOOP” is an absolute classic.
Happy Wednesday! ABOLISH ICE!
Jim Bordoni & C.C. Burnikel’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up
A 60th anniversary for America’s 50th state – the ALOHASTATE, Hawaii. As good a reason as any for an H/I initials theme. There are five themers (plus a revealer), but they’re on the shorter side: HOLIDAYINN, HOOFEDIT (the weakest entry, IMO, though the shorter theme entry lengths is probably why it’s here), HEATINDEX, HALEIRWIN (with a US Open fake-out since the tennis tournament is next week), and HOTISSUE.
As with most puzzles with Zhouqin’s name on them, there is a lot of interesting fill worked in outside of the theme (regardless of it being quite busy). METOO is a bit more than just an [Anti-harassment movement], anti-abuse/rape too? COLDFRONT and IMISSEDIT are the longer down pair. I personally liked seeing RAPA Nui; strangely, despite its letters, MOAI has never appeared in any puzzle I can find.
Clue of the puzzle: [Have more People come to the house?], RENEW, even though variations of this pun have been done before, it felt like a fresh wrinkle.