Paolo Pasco’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Debt Limits”—Jim P’s review
It’s always fun to come across a Pasco grid. This one kept me guessing for quite a while but provided a satisfying aha moment.
Each theme clue is clued straight, however the answer is embedded inside other letters in the grid. Those other letters spell out a shade of red. This is all made sensical by the revealer IN THE RED (61a, [“Owing, like the answers to the starred clues”]). The clue answer + the shade of red combine to form a legit (though unclued) name or phrase.
18a [*Spot for shovels and wheelbarrows] RUSHED BY = shed + ruby.
- 20a [*German border river] BRODERICK = Oder + brick.
- 32a [*NBA Hall of Famer Archibald] RUN A TEST = Nate + rust.
- 44a [*Rodent control brand] WIND CONE = d-CON + wine. This caused me trouble as I’d never heard of a WIND CONE. I’ve always known it as a windsock.
- 58a [*Skater Henie] MASON JARS = Sonja + Mars. I like this one best, but is there really a shade called “Mars red”?
Pretty spiffy theme, even with the reliance on crosswordese like ODER and D-CON. A good Thursday theme will befuddle you for a while until you can manage to get yourself unfuddled. This fit the bill.
And the long fill doesn’t slouch either. We have NOT PRETTY, RIDES SOLO, STRIKES OFF (I wanted STRIKES OUT) and ENGINE ROOM [Scotty’s spot]. Because I wanted ENGINEERING for this one early in the solve, I was suspicious we had a rebus theme on our hands.
Other goodies: DRANK UP, NAT-GEO, and colloquial “C’MERE” and “YAY ME“.
New to me: MUNROE [Ororo ___ (real name of the X-Men’s Storm)]. I like to pride myself on my geek knowledge, but this was beyond me. Still, with the mainstream appeal of all the X-Men films, I’d say it’s still a fair entry. The other Marvel comics entry, STACY [Gwen ___ (“Spider-Man” character)], was a gimme.
Also, FLUKY [Happening by chance]? Even if it’s not a real word, I like the sound of it.
Let’s play a game of Guess Your Constructor’s Hobbies. Your clues are ONE AM [When some weekend parties end], DID [Downed, as shots], and DRANK UP [Emptied one’s glass]. Time’s up. Make your choice. If you guessed “macramé”, seek help.
And that’s all I have. Fun puzzle. 3.8 stars.
Ricky Cruz’s New York Times crossword—Ben’s review
Today’s NYT almost feels Wednesday-ish in difficulty, which is nice after a Thursday-ish Wednesday puzzle. And it appears to be an NYT debut! Ricky Cruz’s theme is pretty straightforward, though it took a few theme entries and some crossings to confirm exactly what was happening:
- 17A: London tabloid that Piers Morgan once headed — DAILY YLIAD
- 29A: Dressing room staple — VANITY YTINAV
- 48A: Interrogation room feature — ONE-WAY YAW-ENO
- 65A: Sci-fi anthology series on Netflix — BLACK KCALB
Each of these answers is a phrase where the word MIRROR has been replaced with a mirror image of the first word – DAILY MIRROR, VANITY MIRROR, ONE-WAY MIRROR, and BLACK MIRROR. I’m not sure how I feel about VANITY MIRROR – it’s a little green paint-y, and I think of dressing rooms as places with three-way mirrors in the mall instead of the mirror in a vanity – but the rest of the entries are solid.
ABIERTO (Spanish for “open”) was tricky, but the rest of the fill here felt pretty smooth. I liked the callback to the 2008 Olympic stadium, the BIRD’S NEST.
Happy Thursday, all!
David Poole’s Universal crossword, “Capitalists”—Jim Q’s review
ALL CAPS ALERT!
THEME: Actors whose names feature letters that, when capitalized, do no feature letters with curves… I think.
- 17A [“The Santa Clause” star] TIM ALLEN.
- 24A [“The Producers” star] NATHAN LANE.
- 49A [“De-Lovely” star] KEVIN KLINE.
- 59A [“The Man in the Iron Mask” star] ALAN HALE.
- 36A [Some actors … like the four in this puzzle, when their names are written in uppercase letters] STRAIGHT MEN.
Interesting? Actors whose names are devoid of the following letters: C, B, J, G, D, S, Q, R, U, O and P. Okay. That’s less than half of the alphabet. I’m not sure I care all that much. It’s one of those things that you look at, shrug your shoulders, and move on. The theme does not assist in the solve whatsoever.
Nathan Lane rarely plays the STRAIGHT M(a)N (that’s Matthew Broderick’s job when they’re paired up). And KEVIN KLINE certainly wasn’t the STRAIGHT M(a)N in In & Out! (haha). I’m not familiar with ALAN HALE.
Standard fill. Nothing really wrong with puzzle, though I found it somewhat difficult to decipher the revealer. Wasn’t excited by the theme at all, though.
Jeff Stillman’s LA Times Crossword – Gareth’s summary
Sigh. Another puzzle with ambitions, but kinda half-baked. First off, FIFTYPERCENTOFF is a wordy and awkward revealer. The other three answers start with numbers, but the numbers are half what they normally are: NINEWHEELER and SIXANGRYMEN work, but then there is TWENTYFIVESTARS. Well yes, Old Glory has FIFTYSTARS, but that’s not an in-use phrase at all. Were there NO genuine phrases that with new numbers came to 15 letters at all that this had to be resorted to? It seems such a wide-open theme there must be… a lot of options out there?
- [Dasani product], WATER. So they produce water. From what?
- Deals with freebies], TWOFERS. Not sure if this is intended as a bonus or not? Do STUDFEEs often come as TWOFERS?
- [Everyone, in Essen], ALLE. As in “Alle menschen wurden brueders…“
- [Frozen Four game], SEMI. Something to do with ice hockey? Is there NCAA ice hockey?
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword, “Hit Me Baby One More Time”—Andy’s review
Today’s theme is explained at 65a, DOUBLE TAP [Subtitle to the upcoming “Zombieland” sequel, and a hint to the crossings of certain squares in this puzzle]. Three long acrosses have the letters TAP in them, but those letters are doubled in the crossing down entries:
- 16a, WHAT A PITY [“Too bad”], crossing:
- TUT TUT
- A AND M
- 28a, MAGENTA PINK [Purplish-red color], crossing:
- LAILA ALI
- COW TIPPING
- 47a, NOT A PROBLEM [“I got this”], crossing:
- MEL OTT
- BALAAM’S ASS
A timely revealer, with a nice execution overall. The bidirectional rebus was a bit confusing at first, but I think it makes enough sense in hindsight.
A few other notes:
- Always nice to have a cute clue at 1a — here it’s [Here’s the kicker] for FOOT.
- I’ve never seen another [Playful river denizen] in crosswords other than the OTTER.
- I clued [Bar food?] as GRANOLA in a recent puzzle; here we get [Bar munchies?] cluing SALAD, using yet another meaning of “bar.”
Until next time!
NYT: VANITY MIRROR, in quotes, yields +121M Google hits, and is the 3rd auto suggested result after typing VANITY. Heck, here’s Walmart.com’s vanity mirror section:
IMHO safely non-green paint. :)
I was thinking that they meant VANITY mirror as one in a dressing room in a mall that makes you look thinner so you’ll buy the dress! This is a thing that stores do. I think they meant something like a lighted vanity mirror in a backstage theater dressing room, though.
Apropos of nothing, I thought some of you might enjoy An ODE to Crosswordese, by Julian Rosenblum.
Fun indeed – thank you!
I agree that Wednesday’s and Thursday’s puzzles were transposed. I pretty much knew that Wednesday’s was a rebus, but it took me a while to unravel it. I had the Y in YAWN right away and I knew the paper was the Daily Mirror, so it was easy to see what was going on. The duplication of letters made it especially easy. I thought it was a good theme but more suitable to an early week puzzle. I had no problem at all with Vanity Mirror, which is very much in the language.
Also Nathan Lane is openly gay, so imo describing him as a STRAIGHTMAN (even in a different context of that term) is not great as far as LGBTQ+ representation goes.
Would it then be equally as inappropriate to describe a heterosexual man as gay/happy? I don’t think so… Different meanings exist for certain words and can allow for harmless wordplay, as represented fairly in this puzzle, IMO.
Vanity Mirror is just fine, that’s exactly what is in a type of dressing room. Maybe a little old-fashioned, but perfectly OK.
Got that theme at BLACK although I didn’t know BLACKmirror the series. Stumped in NW because neither Blue Bell nor EDY’s is sold near me. I am a fan of palindromes so became a real snap to me, except I got sidetracked on what should have been an easy puzzle, the applet wouldn’t let me finish without checking nearly every square to correct tyops.
I really enjoyed doing that WSJ today. Figured that twist quickly as well, crunchy without too much junk. I really enjoyed parsing the clues. MARS RED seems legit to me.
Aside from a (certainly in this group) weaker solver – Amusing how often I finish the NW corner last as I did on both of these puzzles today (except correcting my tyops on NYT).
Universal – 59A ALAN HALE was a very popular character actor in the 30s and 40s who worked a lot (248 films according to IMDb). He’s one of those “oh yeah, that guy” actors that you’d immediately recognize if you saw him. He played Little John opposite Errol Flynn’s Robin Hood in 1938’s The Adventures of Robin Hood. His son, Alan Hale, Jr., was the Skipper on TV’s Gilligan’s Island.
I guess I haven’t been around enough, two times I’ve seen reference to clues being “green painty” or “green-paintish” and I have no idea what this means.
Any help? TIA
Green Paint is symbolic of any expression that does not stand alone as an idiom. If you had the clue ____ paint, you would not intuit that the blank stands for green. Wet paint on the other hand is idiomatic.
thanks… and for the explanation how it works :) . I kept trying to associate it with the wonderful “green-wash” or even “green screen” and it wasn’t working.
Jim P: fun review to a fun puzzle
I loved BEQ’s puzzle, and he’s pretty much one of my favorite constructors of all time, so this is NOT directed at him.
Can we all please agree never to use “Etta Kett” in a puzzle again? I mean, it’s not famous like older strips like, say, Peanuts or Beetle Bailey. I’m in my early forties and had never heard of it until I started doing crosswords- apparently it ended about four years before I was born.
Universal: “Actors whose names feature letters that, when capitalized, do no feature letters with curves… I think.”
Depends on how you make an upper-case M or A or E.