Gary Larson’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “See Things”—Jim P’s review
Theme: Certain words starting with S are replaced with their soft-C homophones. Wackiness ensues.
- 17a [Relinquish government headquarters?] CEDE CAPITAL. Seed capital.
- 39a [Bail money?] CELL OUT. Sell out.
- 60a [Rolling pennies?] CENT PACKING. Sent packing.
- 11d [Medium for Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel crayon drawings?] CEILING WAX. Sealing wax. Good one. I can imagine the parents of young Mickey Angelo arriving home to find the lad standing on a table and crayoning the ceiling.
- 28d [Berth place for Cap’n Crunch?] CEREAL PORT. Serial port. Ha! This one was good for a chuckle from me, though I don’t know how many solvers know what a serial port is since few computers have one these days. But once upon a time, you connected your mouse, keyboard, or modem into a serial port.
The first three are solid if unexciting, but the last two are worth the price of admission. I like the consistency of the soft-C homophones throughout.
Entries like EERO, HIED, and AIRE irk me, but there’s more than enough to counterbalance them. Goodies include: ELITIST, EMERSON, MEERKAT, PALPITATE, and ECHINACEA.
Is that a dupe I see in TYPE A and A-LISTER? I suppose it’s pretty minor, but they are rather close together (46a and 55a).
Cluing felt a little more Thursdayish than Wednesdayish, or maybe I’m just having an off day. But I did note these few:
- 11a [Hotel extra]. COT. Not the posh kind of extra you were thinking of.
- 26a [Its shell may be hard or soft]. I went with CRAB before the crossings corrected it to TACO. Are there any other options?
- 33d [Believer in a nonintervening creator]. DEISM. I had thought DEISM was simply a belief in God, but didn’t know about the “nonintervening” distinction. Basically, it’s a belief that there is a God who is creator of all things, but who does not interact with (via embodiment or miracles) said creation.
- 15a [“Ah! perfido,” e.g.]. ARIA. The lower-case word makes it difficult to recognize this as a title. But it turns out to be a concert ARIA by Beethoven. If you didn’t know (like me) that Beethoven wrote any operas, he did in fact write one, Fidelio, but this isn’t part of it. It’s meant to be performed as a stand-alone piece.
Fun wordplay in this theme and some strong fill. 3.75 stars.
Daniel Grinberg’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
The US Open has begun, Serena has already walloped Sharapova yet again (complete with her husband trolling Sharapova by wearing a drug-abuse prevention T-shirt), and the puzzle’s theme relates to 62a TENNIS. The other four themers include words that are tennis terms:
- 8a. [1995 cyberthriller about espionage], THE NET. Noun, net. Placed last.
- 20a. [2004 film about a group of street dancers], YOU GOT SERVED. Verb, served. Placed last.
- 36a. [2014 romance about two teens with cancer, with “The”], FAULT IN OUR STARS. Ugh, the dreaded with “The”. Noun, fault. Placed first, if you don’t count the THE that’s been lopped off.
- 52a. [2003 Christmas-themed rom-com], LOVE ACTUALLY. Noun, love (the score). Placed first.
I’m not wild about the inclusion of those lively 8- and 9-letter Acrosses—AL JOLSON, ACOUSTICS, LUSITANIA, and HATE MAIL—since they look more like themers than the 6-letter themers do. Also not keen on the YEA/YES overlap.
Five more things:
- 2d. [Alnico, e.g.], ALLOY. I’m guessing it’s an aluminum/nickel/cobalt mix.
- 40a. [Slowing down, on a score: Abbr.], RIT. I wonder which one more crossworders know: this musical terminology abbrev or the fabric dye brand name Rit. I’m in the dye camp.
- 21d. [Monkey named for a king in Greek myth], RHESUS. I’m not sure I knew this! Good to pick up bits of trivia.
- 37d. [Italian dishes that are simmered], RISOTTOS. I’m in love with the risotto from a local restaurant—diced summer squash, cherry tomatoes, basil pesto, and a big gob of delicious burrata on top. Ate the leftovers for lunch today!
- 9d. [Hell Week hellion, say], HAZER. Can we not try to gussy up ugly words with cutesy clues? “Hellion” really understates the seriousness of hazing. Forty Americans died from hazing in the 2007-2017 period, mostly from alcohol poisoning. Drowning, head injuries, heatstroke—these things also have killed hazing victims in recent years. Go ahead and look up hellion in the dictionary and see if it’s appropriate here.
3.25 stars from me.
Debbie Ellerin’s Universal crossword, “Spinners”—Jim P’s review
Theme: PR MEN [Some image polishers, or a hint to the starred clues and their answers’ initials]. In other words, our theme is famous men who have the initials P.R.
- 17a [*Great writer who movingly captured the American dream in “Goodbye, Columbus”] PHILIP ROTH
- 26a [*Legendary five-time NBA championship coach] PAT RILEY
- 50a [*Reds superstar who came clean from his rocky past] PETE ROSE
- 60a [*Patriotic silversmith whose daring ride shaped American history] PAUL REVERE
At first I was thrown off by the unusually descriptive and biased clues. But then the penny dropped and I got the joke. Each clue was purportedly written by a PR man. Ha! I love the creative twist! Makes for a great PREMISE for the puzzle. It even makes the problematic entry of PETE ROSE a non-issue.
But speaking of him, I was wondering what he did that was so bad (I couldn’t remember). Wikipedia tells me he was caught betting on baseball, even as a manager, for years and that he denied doing such. He eventually fessed up in 2004 (as alluded to in the clue), but “the issue of Rose’s possible reinstatement and election to the Hall of Fame remains contentious throughout baseball.” I get that what he did was wrong. But there are a lot worse things that star athletes do. A lot worse. Should PETE ROSE still be so vilified? I’m just trying to understand here; I’m not trying to plead his case by any means.
Back to the puzzle. The theme entries are relatively short, so that leaves room for a bunch of fun fill which Ms. Ellerin delivers in spades: BLIND DATE, PARTING SHOT, URBAN LEGEND, and the crossworder’s favorite, AHA MOMENT. Also on the plus side: ENIGMA, OXYGEN, POPS UP, and LINUX.
All told, though the theme is fairly straightforward, it’s spiced up by the creative clues, and the strong fill throughout, making this a fun and accessible outing. 3.8 stars.
Aimee Lucido’s AVCX, “Off-Track” — Ben’s Review
The theme in this week’s AVCX from Aimee Lucido is masterfully executed and has a great throughline:
- 18A: Additions that make a mixed drink fruity as well as alcoholic? — TWIST AND SHOT
- 35A: Nudge Ms. J. Blige to release a new album? — PROD MARY
- 59A: Baseball team comprised of doofuses? — CLOD NINE
- 78A: “Watch out, goddess of heavenly heat and light!”? — HEY SOL SISTER
- 45A: Kelly Clarkson hit that turns 15 this year, and which influenced the changes to this puzzle’s other thematic songs — SINCE U BEEN GONE
Somehow, “Since U Been Gone” is 15 years old, and Aimee’s found a way to remove the U from four other songs in ways that make amusing theme material. “Twist and Shout” becomes TWIST AND SHOT, “Proud Mary” becomes PROD MARY, “Cloud Nine” becomes CLOD NINE, and “Hey, Soul Sister” becomes HEY, SOL SISTER. That last one doesn’t twist the original meaning as much as the others, but it’s a solid set all around.
Elsewhere in the grid, I loved seeing ARIANA Grande crossing a clue for WANT referencing the lyrics of her Rodgers-and-Hammerstein-referencing song “7 rings” (6D, “I see it, I like it, I ___ it, I got it”), and I liked seeing SIDE EYE and DAMN FOOL sprinkled through the down fill.
Enjoy your Wednesday!
Steve Mossberg’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary
The fairly generic RECIPEBOOK is used to indicate that a further five answers start with verbs associated with cooking instructions. It’s a fairly long list to pick from (cream, stir, fry etc. etc.), but the answers chose all lead to interesting answers. The answers are shorter than usual, but quite punchy: MINCEWORDS, DICEGAME, MIXTAPE, BEATBOX and BROWNBAG.
RAGNAROK is a good long across entry choice (as long as or longer than most of the themers). LONGCON is another interesting non-theme entry; I wasn’t familiar with the term, but it is inferrable. Also did not know MASCIS (Dinosaur Jr. is a big enough band that many people remember its members?), and of all the MOORE‘s I do know, boxer Archie is not one…