Brian Herrick’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Action!”—Jim P’s review
Brian Herrick makes his WSJ debut with this grid. Congrats! He’s brought us well-known phrases that have been re-imagined as having to do with the acting profession.
- 17a [IMDb proof that an actor had a minor role?] EXTRA CREDIT
- 24a [Keys for an actor?] PLAYER PIANO
- 35a [AWOL star actors?] LEADS ASTRAY
- 44a [Queue for actors who help light the scene?] STAND-IN LINE
- 54a [Payment for a stunt actor?] DOUBLE CHECK
I like this theme quite a bit. It’s solid and demonstrates good, consistent wordplay.
The only nit I’ll pick is the clue for STAND-IN LINE. Not being at all familiar with acting terminology, I didn’t know the exact meaning of the term “stand-in.” I assumed it meant an understudy of a sort. But that’s not the case. A stand-in is used (in film and television anyway) prior to filming so that the technical crew (lighting, photography, sound) can make adjustments to the equipment before the actual actors are called in. This is all done off-camera, unlike a “double” who replaces the actor on-camera when needed. But I had to look all this up and I don’t think it’s quite fair to assume a solver should know that a stand-in helps “light the scene.” I’d think a straighter clue of [Queue for actors’ proxies?] would have worked better.
But that little nit aside, I enjoyed this fun theme.
There’s quite a bit of long fun fill in the corners here, especially that swath from “I’M GOOD” in the NE down to ESPAÑA in the SW to include FADE AWAY, LEBANESE, and CUT A RUG. In the opposite corners we find “OK THEN” crossing the LAKERS as well as RUMPLE, MUSCLE, and GEYSER. Not bad. I like COOTIE at 1a as well, but it looks odd in the singular. I could do without ETRE and NUS, but those are small potatoes.
- 56d is a theme-adjacent CUE with [Actor’s prompt] as its clue.
- 48d‘s IRL [Personally, not on the Internet, for short] stands for In Real Life.
- Fave clue goes to 43d [Kool customer]. My first thoughts were of Kool and The Gang and then Kool-Aid. I needed most of the crosses to realize we were talking about a cigarette-buying SMOKER.
Fun theme and fill. 3.9 stars.
John Wrenholt’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Here’s a theme for plumbers: There’s a winding pipe traversing the grid, made of words that are followed by pipe to fit their clues, and then there’s a revealer, 53a. [How a perfect pitch comes … or a hint to the missing parts of the circled answers], DOWN THE PIPE. No idea what baseball pitches have to do with this, and Merriam-Webster doesn’t seem to know, either.
- 3d. [Feature of a skate park], HALFpipe.
- 24a. [Muffler attachment], TAILpipe.
- 29d. [Hat worn by Abraham Lincoln], STOVEpipe.
- 45a. [Weapon in Clue], LEAD pipe.
- 49d. [Trachea], WINDpipe.
Oh, hey! I just realized there was more theme here. The OIL PLATFORM, WATER TOWER, and GAS STATION all involve pipes, too. Thumbs-up to the constructor for separating the short pipe words by black squares rather than smushing the fill in a section to coordinate with more intersecting themers.
What else? Let’s see:
- 37a. [Bed smaller than a queen], TWIN. This is just plain weird. The next size smaller than a queen is full/double, and FULL has four letters. Why not [Bed smaller than a California king], then?
- 39a. [Poles, e.g.], SLAVS. Raise your hand if you’ve got the Slav in you! *hand raised*
- 61a. [Feast without yeast], SEDER. Who doesn’t enjoy a rhyme clue?
- 36d. [Popular mixer], CLUB SODA. Have I ever had that? Is that the fizz in a Tom Collins?
- 40d. [They may follow shots], CHASERS. Yes! You can have a drink after you get your flu shot, if you’re generally OK with alcohol. It is flu shot season and I’m planning to get my inoculation in the next week.
- 54d. [Have the best time, say], WIN. Like the best time in the marathon. But hey! If you are having a great time, you’re also a winner.
Four stars from me. Cheers!
Neville Fogarty’s Universal crossword, “Let’s Get Loud”—Rebecca’s review
THEME: Answers use the initials ff and are clued with their volume in mind
- 17a [*Game show with a loud “Strike” sound effect] fAMILY fEUD
- 11D [*March Madness round with especially loud crowds] fINAL fOUR
- 33D [*Unruly cafeteria event with loud students] fOOD fIGHT
- 38A [*Meal where you hear the loud sizzle of batter] fISH fRY
- 60A [Very loud, in music … or a hint to the starred answers’ initials] fORTISSIMO
I loved this puzzle. Starting with the theme, which I adored – it works twice, with answers literally represented by ff as their initials, and all are clued in ways that draw attention to their loud nature. Before I got to the revealer I was able to anticipate that it would be FORTISSIMO, but knowing that didn’t take anything away from solving – and it made me smile so much. Just perfect.
Even before I got to the theme, I knew I’d love the puzzle from the start with JAFAR crossing AZALEAS in a corner that’s very scrabble-y without any junk answers – absolute beautiful. I also enjoyed seeing both STEFFI Graf and Arthur ASHE so soon after the US Open.
Overall, the fill and clues were straightforward. Every unknown proper noun was crossed fairly, so I didn’t have any sticking points throughout the puzzle. The layout of the grid is also really nice. I’m not always a fan of mixing down and across answers for themes, but it works for me here and the design allowed for a really smooth solving experience.
Wyna Liu’s AVCX, “AVCX Themeless #42” — Ben’s Review
Ben Tausig promised that today’s themeless puzzle from Wyna Liu was a 5/5 and it absolutely delivered on that, both in difficulty and quality. Let’s run through some of the highlights of this grid:
- I don’t know how I pulled either SPACE CAMP (“Educational program located at Tranquility Base in Alabama”) or YO LA TENGO (“Indie band named after a bit of 1960s New York Mets apocrypha”) from those clue with no crossings, but I did and it felt spectacular.
- “Way down in a well?” was a great tricky clue for STAIRCASE
- POTEMKIN VILLAGE came together for me almost entirely based on the acrosses – “It’s a front!” got me nowhere.
Solid fill and solid cluing, y’all.
Did Sum 41’s “IN TOO DEEP” start playing for anyone else once they got 69A? Just me?
Peter A. Collins’ LA Times Crossword – Gareth’s summary
The puzzle goes long to accommodate two 16 letter theme answers. The theme concept is simple enough – four #1 (very) oldies – each with an adjective from GREAT to BAD. I feel like POOR should have gone before BAD, though that messes with the letter counts. I didn’t know POORSIDEOFTOWN – the only Johnny Rivers I grew up with was his folk covers album “Johnny Rivers Rocks the Folk”. The other 3 are definitely iconic songs from their era, though.
I struggled a bit in the SSA area which also features an awkward plural abbreviation – GDPS. The puzzle was unsurprisingly heavy on filler, given four spanning answers.