Victor Barocas’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Driven Back”—Jim P’s review
The title indicates that something is probably going to be going backwards and that is certainly the case. Theme answers are phrases that end with a rental car company name written in reverse. This is revealed by 111a RENTAL CAR RETURN [Airport sign that inspired this puzzle’s theme].
- 22a [Home of the Masters Tournament] AUGUSTA LANOITAN (National)
- 34a [Frequency of American electrical current] SIXTY ZTREH (Hertz). Not exactly an in-the-language phrase and it’s never spelled out, but if you’ve travelled outside the U.S. and wanted to plug something in, you probably know this fact.
- 49a [Coin produced from 1971 to 1978] EISENHOWER RALLOD (Dollar).
- 65a [Starship originally designed by Matt Jefferies] USS ESIRPRETNE (Enterprise). Trekkers know that the network of narrow crawlways and ladderways aboard the TNG-era Enterprises are called Jefferies Tubes after the art designer of The Original Series.
- 83a [Battle of San Jacinto cry] REMEMBER THE OMALA (Alamo)
- 96a [Likely to upset the CFO, perhaps] OVER TEGDUB (Budget)
Not a bad theme, but it gives the gimmick away early on and from then on, it feels pretty straightforward. However, it’s pretty apropos for me as I’m visiting my daughter in St. Paul this weekend and am driving my Hertz rental car around. It’s interesting how most of the major car rental companies are regular words. Missing: Avis.
The long fill is mostly good as one would expect. Top hits include CINCO DE MAYO, BURNS RUBBER, TEA GARDEN, and TRIPTYCHS among others. But I found myself distracted by kludgy bits like LIRR, ENOL, EMAG, HTEST, and the like. Starting the grid off at 1a with SFC is not the most promising sign either. And I actually did Natick at CAPEK crossing LAI (COPEK crossing LOI sounded more feasible to my ear).
I’m afraid I’ll have to leave it there. The theme is solid, but it doesn’t provide long-lasting enjoyment, and some of the uglier fill takes away from the good bits therein. 3.4 stars.
Andrew Ries’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
If you enjoyed this puzzle—as I did—you’ll want to check out the brand-new Queer Qrosswords fund-raising puzzle pack, which includes another crossword (“Themeless 2,” a 16×15) by this constructor. I haven’t done the QQ2 puzzle pack yet, but I’m looking forward to digging in!
The Times puzzle is also an odd size, 15×16, with four staggered 10s spanning the center. Fave fill: PET PROJECT, ADAM WEST, “NO PRESSURE,” DEGREE MILL, SIERRA CLUB, FANFIC, TORI AMOS, the WAPO, ADVIL PM, and a BONANZA.
Let me try that xword Bechdel test, comparing the tally of presumed straight white men in the grid to that of everyone else. ISAAC Funk, ADAM WEST, John RAE, Bill Gates in the SUCCESS clue, SERGIO Leone, –5. Fictional Miss SAIGON, tragically murdered Brandon TEENA, OMAR Bongo of Gabon, singer TORI AMOS, lesbian TV PRODUCER/creator ILENE Chaiken, actress J.LAW, the SERENA SLAM, generic ELLIE (would have been nice to clue this as an actual person), FRIday clued in relation to a Norse goddess of wisdom, +9. Andrew wins, +4. Thanks, Andrew! (Omitting Nabokov’s fictional ADA, as the book is apparently about an 11-year-old girl in a “sexual affair,” per Wikipedia, with her 14-year-old brother. Ada or Ardor: A Family Chronicle? Nabokov was messed up, man. If only this had been clued as the early computing pioneer, Ada Lovelace.)
Five more things:
- 18a. [Usually nonremunerative undertaking], PET PROJECT. Oh! Like Queer Qrosswords—the constructors, editors, test-solvers, and designers all volunteered their talents, and all the money is going directly to LGBTQ+ orgs.
- 28a. [Characters in “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World”], COMMAS. I very nearly filled in COMICS, not knowing what this ’60s movie was about. Typographical characters, gotcha!
- 45a. [Sound around a cradle] DIAL TONE. Kinda wishing that cell phones had incorporated the dial tone for no reason other than nostalgia and continuity.
- 5d. [Newspaper with the slogan “Democracy Dies in Darkness,” in brief], WAPO, the Washington Post. The NYT slogan is “All the News That’s Fit to Print.” As Media Matters reported this week, an Esquire excerpt of an upcoming (10/22 pub date) book details an additional 43 women reporting sexual assault or harassment at the hands of Pres. Trump—and the news media has pretty much ignored it completely. I just did a search for trump sexual assault at both WaPo and NYT, and indeed, there are no post–October 9 stories on the topic. The Post had a brief 2-sentence squib at the end of a news round-up, and the other leading papers hadn’t covered it as of Thursday.
- 26d. [Down pat], MASTERED. This is weird, cluing MASTERED as an adverb or adjective rather than a verb. “She had it down pat / she had it mastered,” feels awkward. “She’d mastered it” feels more reasonable to me, better fits the expected substitution test.
4.25 stars from me.
Erik Agard’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
I have been saying that these LAT puzzles have been taking longer than normal, but this one took me longer because it is an Agard puzzle! Tons of great stuff in here, and there may or may not have been a new word or two to me. This is a 70-worder that seems to effortlessly mesh together by one of the true masters of our day. And yes, I noticed that the Washington Mystics just won the WNBA title this week, surely making one of their superfans (Erik!) extremely happy! But enough about sports: let’s discuss a great puzzle! 4.5 stars today.
That promised discussion:
- 25A [Yogurt-based condiment] RAITA – I don’t know Indian cuisine as well as I should. I don’t think I have ever had this.
- 30A [Forensic workplace] DNA LAB -It seems like you see this entry quite a lot. 11 NYT hits alone for this entry.
- 38A [Sci-fi science] ALIEN TECHNOLOGY – This would be cool, but there is still no proof that they exist, is there?
- 53A [Part of UCSD] DIEGO – UC San Diego is where Kiran Kedlaya teaches, isn’t it??
- 62A [Small tuft] PLUMELET – This is that new word I learned!
- 3D [Defiant refusal] “I WON’T DO IT” – Great casual phrase
- 7D [Competitions in which batting is forbidden] STARING CONTESTS – As in batting your eyelids or eyelashes! Great clue here.
- 8D [Goalpost look-alike] CAPITAL H – This is slightly misleading. The only goalposts that look like this now are old ones from the 50s at some schools that don’t have money for the newer ones. I call foul on this one!
- 35D [“Excu-u-use me!”] “DO YOU MIND!” – Another great casual phrase.
- 37D [Triangular chart user] EYE DOCTOR – I suppose that chart IS triangular, somewhat, but it also seems like a reach. Am I crazy? Looks more parabolic:
- 44D [“Let’s”] “I’M GAME” – Lots of great phrases in this puzzle. It seems like I am using quote marks a lot more than normal in this post!
I could go on, but there is sports on today! The Kona Ironman Triathlon is also today. This would be on my bucket list if I knew how to swim!
Garrett Estrada’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up
Erik has more than one puzzle in print that this blog covers today; he is half of the pseudonym “Garrett Estrada”; Brad Wilber is the other half. I am guessing at the time of 13 minutes because I was so mentally worn out after solving this that I forgot to stop the timer. Which begs the question: WHY DOESN’T THE TIMER IN MAC ACROSS LITE TURN STOP WHEN THE PUZZLE IS DONE??? Yes, it is a bit of a pet peeve with me; maybe I will just switch to using Black Ink going forward!
But I digress: there is a LOT I liked in this puzzle. Some of these clues seem very well thought out, and I was thoroughly fooled my more than one of them! This puzzle was also a lot of fun, and I would expect nothing less from these two prolific and talented constructors. 4.7 stars for this one.
Some of my favorite parts:
- 1A [MovieWeb or CinemaBlend] FILM BLOG – I had FILM SITE, which is technically correct …
- 9A [Dinner-and-a-show platform] TV TRAY – I thought this was terrific! You can have your own personal “dinner and a show,” which in my case the show sometimes is Jeopardy!
- 20A [Long-term asset] PATIENCE – The accountant in me was tricked!
- 29A [Synagogue props] MAZEL TOV – This one had me fooled to. MENORAHS fit, but the crossing letters were wrong!
- 40A [Red candy made to be worn] WAX LIPS – This, like 9A, literally made me laugh out loud! I haven’t seen this candy in years!
- 55A [Red (or brown or black) snapper] BULL WHIP – This was another terrific clue. The word “snapper” made me think about fish!
- 8D [Forest, vis-à-vis the trees] GESTALT – I had the ending T, so I thought for sure this would end in -EST. I was wrong! Another stellar clue.
- 10D [Nickname from the Latin for ”spring”] VERN – This is a great example of an entry you can get after you think for a few minutes. This type of mental agility is what makes puzzles fun!
- 12D [Profited handsomely] RAKED IT IN – My first thought was MADE A MINT. But this works too … !
- 14D [__ Sid (”Fantasia” sorcerer modeled on Uncle Walt)] YEN – Yeah, I don’t know what or who this is … I have seen Fantasia though, so that is something I don’t normally say!
- 33D [Motion capturer with cameras] C-SPAN – Another phenomenal clue, although my perception is Congress doesn’t get much done, so perhaps motions are few and far between!
That is all! Have a great weekend!
Brian Thomas’s Universal crossword, “Making the Cut”—Jim Q’s review
A reminder that my beard is getting a bit scraggly.
THEME: The word CLOSE is being “shaved” with each theme answer.
- 17A [Fall behind] LOSE GROUND. CLOSE minus the C.
- 32A [Town near Santa Fe] LOS ALAMOS. CLOSE minus the C and E.
- 38A [“Whaddya know?”] LO AND BEHOLD. CLOSE minus the C,E, and S.
- 42A [Willa Cather classic of 1913] O PIONEER. CLOSE minus the C, E, S, and L.
- 60A [Thorough trim, or a hint to the starts of 17-, 32-, 38- and 42-Across] CLOSE SHAVE.
One of those puzzles where the revealer is a head slapper. I assumed it had something to do with phrases starting with LO, so when I dropped those two letters in automatically at 42A, I got stuck for a few moments with a genuine “huh?”
Definitely fun to realize what was going on. Great revealer, and although the “shaving” doesn’t consistently come from the same side, that’s just fine. My shaving is rather haphazard.
4.1 Stars. Well done!