Alex Eaton-Salners’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Again and Again”—Jim P’s review
The letter A is added to each of two words in a common phrase or name.
- 23a [Montana hangout?] HELENA HAUNT. Helen Hunt. Ooh, that’s a nice find.
- 25a [Delivery vehicle for oranges from Valencia?] SPAIN DRAY. Spin dry.
- 46a [Problem with a runner on a flight?] STAIR FRAYING. Stir frying. Meh. Using the gerund form saps some of its power.
- 67a [Instrument of Syrian nationalism?] BA’ATH TUBA. Bathtub. This is the only entry that had an A extant. But doubling it up to turn “bath” into “Ba’ath” somehow makes it okay.
- 71a [Result of a beach cleanup?] NEAT COAST. Net cost.
- 95a [Got up after being dragged through the mud?] AROSE TAINTED. Rose-tinted. This was tough to parse. Grokking the theme definitely helped resolve this one.
- 116a [Zoo reporter’s gig?] BEAST BEAT. Best bet.
- 118a [Spare tire in Hawaii?] HAOLE PAUNCH. Hole punch. Ha! My favorite entry. Although, if I’m going to pick nits, haoles are mostly found stateside.
A nice set—consistent and with some flashes of cleverness here and there.
The fill falls squarely on the shiny side, but there are a few head-scratchers as well. I’m happy to CELEBRATE APERITIF, SCHUMER, TRADE WARS, VIDAL SASSOON, THROW SHADE, ATTACHE CASES, BOB CUT, THE REAL ME, INSECURE, BUFFALO, TIGRESS, WIN IT ALL, BIG TIPS, and COLD FEET. But BITUMEN [Asphalt ingredient] and AURATE [Ethically-sourced gold jewelry brand] took way more than their fair share of my brain power, especially where they crossed NAYA and TELEX respectively. Neither did I know BENCH TRIAL [Proceeding after a jury waiver], but at least I was able to infer that one.
I knew GRIESE [Last name of father-and-son quarterbacks Bob and Brian] off-hand, but I’m wondering if its crossing with TONGA [Its capital is Nuku’alofa] caused trouble for some solvers.
SMAUG [“The Hobbit” villain] reminded me that I had to take away my daughter’s nerd card this week. While playing Alexa’s Feel the Pressure, she got the question, “What kind of creature, starting with D, was SMAUG in The Hobbit?” She answered “dwarf.” D’oh! I have failed as a father. :(
Clues of note:
- 74a [Good things that come to those who wait]. BIG TIPS. I had BONUSES in there for quite a while. I’m thinking there ought to be a ? at the end of that clue.
- 79a [Wide-angle studio lights]. BROADS. Never heard this term for lights, but it’s definitely better than a clue based on the sexist use of the word. I also would have accepted [Series of waterways in Norfolk, England, with “The”].
- 6d [Chuck from New York]. SCHUMER. I’m wondering why they didn’t go with [Chuck out of New York].
- 70d [Sotheby’s signal]. BID. Hmm. I wanted NOD. I think a nod or a raised hand would be more of a signal indicating a BID.
Solid theme and a boatload of strong fill. 4.1 stars.
Joon Pahk & Erik Agard’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Is it just me, or was this one actually pitched to the easier Friday level? A spacious 66-worder with lots of fresh fill and fun clues, it worked for me.
1-Across kicked things off to a good start. (Not that I actually filled that in first, mind you. I think I started with BOEUF and TOMB.) TRACK DOWN is a creature that is 7/9ths consonants, an utterly familiar phrase and yet the entry has zero priors in the Cruciverb database, likely because of that vowel shortage. REPAIR SHOP, CALORIFIC, CAMERA CREW, MAJORING IN, TEAKETTLE, KUNTA KINTE, THE MASSES, TRIBECA, MALWARE, JABBING, BANH mi, EAT OVER, and LOW BLOW are also cool fill. The whole grid has just four 3s, which is good to see.
Nine more things:
- 36a. [Reading, to Brits], MAJORING IN. I thought this would be a jail/gaol answer of some sort. Not sure I knew this one.
- 22a. [It usually leaves crumbs], ERASER. Truth. But not crumbs you want to eat.
- 24a. [Baby buggy?], LARVAL. This is an odd clue. Buggy used as an insect-related adjective is fine, but modifying it with baby doesn’t quite work for me, regardless of the surface sense of the noun baby buggy.
- 10a. [You can’t make one by yourself], DEAL. This is a complete lie. You absolutely can make yourself a deal. “Okay, if I get this batch of puzzles done by 5:00, I’ll allow myself to watch the latest episode of The Great British Bake Off.” Don’t most of us sometimes make deals with ourselves?
- 49a. [Sun bloc?], WNBA. Erik is one of the two most ardent WNBA fans I know. The other one is a sportswriter.
- 3d. [Reacts to losing one’s hearing, perhaps], APPEALS. A court hearing, not the sense of hearing. I’m in a Facebook group for hard of hearing folks, so yeah, the clue was definitely pointing me in a different direction.
- 8d. [First object made by humans to break the sound barrier], WHIP. I did not know that. Neat trivia tidbit.
- 10d. [What a representative represents], DISTRICT. Any of you in Virginia Beach? I’ve been sending postcards to voters in the 85th District for the Virginia House of Delegates. A young man named Alex Askew is running (to replace his former teacher! she is running for a state senate seat now), and I just love that surname. If you are interested in doing postcards, phone banking, or on-the-ground canvassing on behalf of candidates in other states, sign up with the Sister District organization.
- 45d. [Some Caribbean islanders], TRINIS. I did not learn this term from a college friend who was from Trinidad. He was holding out on us! Can you imagine being from the Caribbean and opting for four years of Minnesota winters? (It builds character…) I also knew Carls from Honduras and South Africa. Brr.
4.5 stars from me.
Evan Kalish’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
The LAT Saturday this week is pretty wide-open, and maybe even a tad harder than they have been of late. It is definitely an odd looking grid, but there is probably no way to remove any of the black squares and not make the construction exponentially harder. The grid is symmetrical any way you turn it, so that is nice. There are a ton of 5 letter words in this grid, whereas only 10 entries are longer than 8 letters. That seemed low to me for such a wide-open design. All in all, I still liked it. 4.3 stars.
Some high points:
- 19A [Department store section] CARDS – They have cards in department stores??
- 30A [Competition involving pictures] CAPTION CONTEST – This is pretty straightforward, but I still enjoyed it! I always like to see some of the clever captions people come up with in these things!
- 43A [“War on Peace” author __ Farrow] RONAN – I think I remember reading somewhere that if this guy writes a book about you, you’re in trouble!
- 5D [“Wonder Woman” (2017) villain] ARES – I may have to re-watch this movie! There are more Justice League movies coming out next year, I do believe!
- 9D [Brown on the Food Network] ALTON – My wife’s favorite Food Network personality, hands down. His Good Eats show is back with new episodes.
- 15D [With all judges present, as at a Circuit Court] EN BANC – I only know this from crosswords!
- 21D [Lower-calorie cookie since 2015] OREO THIN – When do you ever see this in singular form? Who even EATS one of these in the singular?!
- 24D [Hardly Hollywood’s most wanted] D-LISTERS – Is this the Sharknado cast??
- 33D [Super Bowl LI performer] LADY GAGA – This one fooled me; I don’t think she wore a helmet in that game!
- 45D [Cuban hero José] MARTÍ – Never heard of him. But I don’t know much!
Have a great weekend!
Greg Johnson’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up
This was a tough one. My prediction last week was right – I thought this one would be a little thorny. There are tons of long answers in this one, including a nice 9-10-9-10-9 stack in the middle. The long answers weren’t too difficult, although I thought 14A started with BLANKET! But some of the shorter clues really gave me fits. It seemed to be a steady solve, but it still took me nearly 20 minutes. You should already know I like Greg Johnson puzzles, and even though this one was a bit tough, I enjoyed this solve. 4.5 stars today.
Just a few things:
- 1A [Where you can refuse to go] WASTE BINS – “Can” is a verb here. Best clue I have seen in quite a while. Bravo!
- 16A [Historic Charleston battleground] SUMTER – My dad used to live in Sumter, South Carolina, but the fort is actually on the coast, about 2 hours away.
- 23A [Diamond Head’s surroundings] DEES – Clever! I was thinking KONA and SAND and other weird things here.
- 28A [Seven OED chiefs] EDS – Not at all sure what the significance of 7 is here. Have there only been 7 all these years?
- 34A [NBC’s tri-tone and Leo’s roar, legally] SMS – I know TM is trademark, but what does SM mean??
- 52A [”Enough is enough!”] “STOP IT ALREADY!” – A great casual phrase! I am sure I have said this to my kids at some point!
- 10D [Groovy] FLUTED – I had RUTTED in here at the beginning. That caused problems!
- 31D [Its 1963 soundtrack includes ”Twisting with James”] DR. NO – Not at ALL what I was thinking!!
- 38D [Sir __ Grenville Wodehouse] PELHAM – I didn’t even see this was referrering to P. G. Wodehouse! I must be tired …
That is all!
Kathy Wienberg’s Universal crossword, “Treble Maker”—Jim Q’s review
Did you learn Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge? Or Every Good Boy Does Fine? I’ve heard them both used pretty much equally. Then of course, you put your FACE in the space. I learned these mnemonics dutifully as a tot, and my 5-year-old brain didn’t realize until years later that there was actually logic in how the lines were named. I wondered Why the hell didn’t my piano teacher just teach me the rationale behind the labeling of the staff?
I did fine though. And I wasn’t all that good a boy.
THEME: Classic mnemonic for the treble staff + something else = common phrase
- 18A [First part of a musical mnemonic + staff = ___] EVERY MAN.
- 24A [Second part of the mnemonic + Dolls’ musical partner = ___] GOOD GUYS.
- 38A [Second part of the mnemonic + Dolls’ musical partner = ___] BOY BAND.
- 52A [Fourth part of the mnemonic + tempo = ___] DOES TIME.
- 59A [Fifth part of the mnemonic + melody = ___] FINE TUNE.
I liked this theme! It’s always a good feeling when you know you have an edge in the theme answers, but they’re not all immediate gimmes either (I had the first part of each no problem, but still had to puzzle out the second).
I wish the second part of each of the themers had a connection. I thought after uncovering the first two, we were going for masculine words (MAN, GUYS) which would’ve been cool (albeit impossible) since the mnemonic revolves around a BOY right in the middle.
Still, a pleasant solve with a tight grid, although I’m not sure if the clue for 2D is accurate [Something you can’t do] TABOO. Don’t we do taboo things all the time? I mean, we shouldn’t, but we can!
P.S. As a piano teacher, I try to avoid using the mnemonic in favor of teaching the logic behind the naming of the lines/spaces. It rarely works, and I inevitably fall back on the mnemonic. Guess there’s a reason it’s been around forever.