Jillian Greenspan & Erik Agard’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Played Out”—Jim P’s review
There have been numerous puzzle themes based on board games over the years, but a quick search over at Cruciverb shows there hasn’t been one in any major publication with ENDGAME as its revealer. Here it’s clued via the recent Avengers film: [2019 Avengers movie, or what each starred answer has]. Each theme answer ends with a well-known board game.
Oh, by the way, this looks like it’s a debut for Jillian Greenspan! Congratulations on a very nice grid!
- 24a [*Assuming all liabilities] AT YOUR OWN RISK
- 30a [*Glass program] THIS AMERICAN LIFE
- 51a [*Preventers of misreporting] FACT CHECKERS
- 67a [*Warning against recklessness] BETTER SAFE THAN SORRY
- 85a [*”No idea”] I HAVEN’T A CLUE. I love this one partly because it reminded me of the BBC Radio 4 programme, “I’m sorry, I HAVEN’T A CLUE” which in turn features the esoteric London-based game, Mornington Crescent, which I never did figure out the rules for.
- 105a [*”This looks bad…”] HERE COMES TROUBLE
- 114a [*It’s hard to say] TONGUE TWISTER. Subtly sneaky clue here; I love it.
What a great and lively set of themers! Each one is fun in its own way, so kudos to our constructors for homing in on such an entertaining bunch.
If I had one nit to pick, and it’s the nittiest of nits to pick, it’s that each of the games is a branded board game except one—checkers. And if we want to get even nittier, all the branded games are Hasbro games except one—Twister, which is a Milton-Bradley game. But I like the set of themers too much to be bothered by this.
The fill isn’t so flashy when there are seven long themers, but neither is it ho-hum. If you get past the little bit of violence in LASHES OUT and STAB AT (which is actually clued [___ Mater (Latin Hymn)]), there are some fun moments to be found. I like the combo of LAYLA and LOLA, children’s author Beverly CLEARY, savory MASALA spices, colloquial “BEER ME” and “MY HERO“, the slangy GLADS (for gladiolas), the playful TUSHIE, as well as ROOT OUT, MASCARA, and AL DENTE.
I had no idea on ARO [Not prone to crushes, for short]. Apparently it’s short for aromantic, i.e. someone for whom romance is neither here nor there.
Clues of note:
- 64a [Last name associated with dieting]. SPRAT. I really thought this was going to be the name of a famous dietician, since we had the same clue for ATKINS earlier in the grid. Even after I filled in the last letter on this one, I was confused for a time before the light bulb slowly came on. Nice one.
- 76a [Forum provocateur]. TROLL. Fancy description for bad behavior.
- 88a [“You saved me!”]. MY HERO. I like that the clue is genderless.
- 92a [Sleep unit?]. ZEE. Another playful clue.
- 123a [Firm for diners]. AL DENTE. Followed immediately by 124a [Iron production]. STEAM. Lots of trickery in those clues. Well done.
Fun theme and grid. Four stars from me.
Trenton Charlson’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Aww, the constructor was so close to lining up five straight Q’s from square 22 to 37, but that one J snuck in. That Scrabbly vibe also gets a Z in the BYZANTINE EMPIRE, but despite the stunt angle with those Q’s, the only fill that left me cold was IGER, OREM, “I RULE” (this is an entry that needs to go away as quickly as it arrived), and lifeless HASP. I would pick on IDIO– but the [Prefix with -cracy] saves it—the 2006 movie Idiocracy was scarily prescient of the direction society was taking, though it seemed implausible at the time. I should watch it again soon.
Fave fill: a candidate who’s WRITTEN IN, the AISLE SEAT that I’ll have tomorrow, TAKE-NO-PRISONERS, QUAGMIRES, “COME QUICK,” CLOUD NINE, QUIDDITCH, and QB SNEAK.
Four more things:
- 16a. [Bulb unit], CLOVE. As in garlic, not light bulbs.
- 51a. [Not likely to be upset], TOP-SEEDED. Yeah, I was thinking of “calm and even-tempered” rather than sports upsets.
- 7d. [Incredible person], LIAR. I filled in LULU with a scowl, and was glad when it turned out to be wrong. A LIAR is not a credible person.
- 12d. [Medgar who said “You can kill a man, but you can’t kill an idea”], EVERS. Dr. King would be so sad to see how much backsliding has happened, how much progress towards justice remains to be accomplished, don’t you think? We’ll get there eventually. I hope.
4.25 stars from me.
Gail Grabowski’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
Yup! I am getting slower in my old age! This one was another nearly 8 minute solve, and these LAT Saturday puzzles usually take me about 5 minutes. I don’t think I am actually in speed solving mode, but I do seem to have slightly lost a step. Or maybe I just need a vacation! Gail has made a great puzzle this week, and even if I found it a little harder than normal, still a joy to solve. 4.4 stars from me.
- 1A [Mirage sights?] CARD GAMES – I have never been to Las Vegas, and I need to go just to say I have been! One of these days …
- 27A [Name on the 1969 album “Clouds”] JONI – I figured this was either this (JONI Mitchell) or JOAN Baez. I had JO?? early on, but I don’t know the music of either of these that well. Slightly before my time.
- 31A [Former NHL forward Tikkanen] ESA – Talk about crossword famous! There is literally no other way to clue this, is there? Funny story: I played fantasy hockey once; I couldn’t pronounce anyone’s name on my roster! I was surprised at how many European players are in the NHL. They aren’t all Canadian!
- 53A [Regular beach walker’s resource] TIDE TABLE – I haven’t seen one of these in years, but I am nowhere near anyplace with a tide!
- 55A [They don’t sting] DRONE BEES – I still don’t trust them around me. I am highly allergic!
- 10D [Response to a bell] “WHO IS IT?”– Great casual phrase!
- 13D [Ship’s deck sometimes reduced to six letters] FORECASTLE – I think you might see this as fo’c’sle in literature. Again, being nowhere near the sea, I don’t encounter this term often. There are tons of lakes around here, but the boats on those are a lot smaller!
- 25D [Fictional detective often seen wearing an open aloha shirt] ACE VENTURA – Nice “a-ha!” moment here when I got this. Still take flak for the UPS driver delivery scene at the beginning of this movie, which is hilarious!
- 33D [Rights org. since 1909] NAACP – Very familiar with this organization; don’t think I realized how old it was. Nice!
- 42D [Eponymous vacuum brand] ORECK – They still make these??
I have a wedding to go to later today, so that should be fun!
Lester Ruff’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up
Not bad this week. Lester Ruff’s (Stan’s!) puzzle was certainly “less rough,” except for the NW corner. I had most of this filled in in about 8 minutes, but it took my another five minutes to suss out that last corner. I threw letters in at one point and checked them, thus the plethora of error marks in that area. Still a great puzzle; nothing overly difficult in this one. I think I was scared of this week being difficult, but that was not the case, so I am sure there will be a thorny one next week! 4.2 stars for this one.
A few things I liked:
- 1A [Edits substantially] RESHAPES – I had REWRITES in here. Maybe that is why that corner was so hard!
- 15A [Hooked, la Holmes] AQUILINE – Is this supposed to say “a la Holmes?” And is Sherlock Holmes specifically described in the books by Doyle as having an “aquiline” nose?
- 27A [Early success for Bill Gates] MS-DOS – Ah, this brings back memories of 30 years ago …
- 33A [”Nope”]” ’FRAID NOT” – Well done! This has a few NYT hits, but none since 2006!
- 35A [Anchor’s transition] IN A RELATED STORY – Didn’t find this too hard, but it is a great clue!
- 56A [Runtastic app offerer] ADIDAS – I don’t think I knew this. I have Map My Run/Ride/Walk on my phone, and those are owned (or sponsored?) by Under Armour.
- 58A [Just while] AS LONG AS – This is some sort of partial, so it looks weird seeing it alone like this, but it is definitely a phrase you hear quite often.
- 8D [Possible message under a red F] SEE ME AFTER CLASS – I never had this pleasure, I don’t think, but I did fail a test or two in my day!
- 12D [Romano, e.g.] ITALIANO – Yes: I thought this had to do with cheese!
- 35D [Apple chat choice] iMESSAGE – I use an iPhone, and yes, I have the blue messages! Hot tip: if you do switch to an Android phone, turn off the iMessage like a week or two before hand!
- 37D [What FDR talked through] AM RADIOS – It is hard for me to imagine a time when there was no TV and the radio was your source of information AND entertainment. This was nearly 100 years ago, though!
- 50D [__ Robbia (Renaissance artist family surname)] DELLA – Why not clue Washington Mystics player Elena ___ Donne?! Erik Agard certainly made her famous to the ACPT crowd when he wore her jersey in the finals! Also, Washington plays game three of the WNBA finals on Sunday!
I could go on; there was a lot to like! Have a wonderful weekend!