Trent H. Evans’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Bad Beginning”—Jim P’s review
In advance of tomorrow’s festivities, our theme today gives us phrases that begin with a traditional Halloween baddie.
- 17a [Aggressive persona assumed in competition] BEAST MODE. I love the use of this modern phrase.
- 28a [Nonchalantly reckless] DEVIL-MAY-CARE
- 46a [Vehicle with giant tires] MONSTER TRUCK
- 63a [Spawn of Satan] DEMON SEED. This is a little too on-point. Whereas the other entries are once removed from their evil-doers, this one is not masked in any way. A better entry, IMO, would have been something like WITCH HUNT, especially since its a phrase used by certain politicians of late.
Not much wordplay going on here, but an enjoyable outing nonetheless, especially since BEAST MODE got me in a good mood. Note also the apparently unthematic appearance of OGRE [Grimm baddie] in the grid.
The fill had much to like as well. I actually lol’d at 41d [Sworn enemy of the Smurfs]. I had to dig GARGAMEL out of the recesses of my brain, but thankfully he was in there somewhere. I wasn’t sure of the spelling, but somehow guessed right.
I also enjoyed seeing fully-named JACK RYAN [Role for Baldwin, Ford, Affleck, Pine and Krasinski] having read all those early Clancy books. Note that the current Amazon series of the same name will air its second season on November 1st.
I wasn’t so sure about SHOW PITY as an entry at first, but it’s grown on me, and HATCHETS gets a good clue [Small-time hackers?]. Another good clue is used for ALEXA [Answerer in an Echo chamber?] referring to the Amazon device.
I don’t think I’ve ever heard the phrase MAKE HAY [Capitalize on an opportunity]. Apparently the whole phrase is “make hay while the sun shines,” meaning take advantage of a good situation. I’ll need to remember that one.
One more clue worth noting: [Pythagorean square?] is cleverly used for AGORA. Apparently there is such a thing as a Pythagorean Square which is used in numerology.
Nothing much to gripe about, so I will leave it at that. Fun puzzle even despite the straightforwardness of the theme. 3.75 stars.
David Steinberg’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
You know those puzzles where you zip through with nary a hint of the theme, and it doesn’t matter because you don’t need the theme to solve the puzzle (you need it only to understand the theme)? Yeah, this was one of those. I zipped, and looked for the theme afterwards. 35a. CAMOUFLAGE is the theme revealer: [“Trick” used by the creatures found in rows 3, 5, 11 and 13]. I’ve circled the camouflaged animals hiding in the grid, spanning all the black squares in those four rows: a reptilian CHAMELEON, a cephalopod OCTOPUS, a buggy LEAF INSECT, and a mammalian LEOPARD. Neat. I definitely did not see the hidden animals while solving.
Toughest word in the puzzle: 14a. [Repetition of words at the starts of successive phrases, in rhetoric], ANAPHORA. I didn’t know it, but with the -HORA at the end, I suspected it might be that obscure word that was included in the answer list for a recent NYT Spelling Bee puzzle (both ANAPHOR and ANAPHORA! good gravy). Wikipedia explains: “The anaphoric (referring) term is called an anaphor. For example, in the sentence Sally arrived, but nobody saw her, the pronoun her is an anaphor, referring back to the antecedent Sally. In the sentence Before her arrival, nobody saw Sally, the pronoun her refers forward to the postcedent Sally, so her is now a cataphor (and an anaphor in the broader, but not the narrower, sense).”
Three more things:
- 24d. [2017 Disney/Pixar film set in the Land of the Dead], COCO. Newsflash! If you (like me) have not seen Coco yet, you should know that it’s leaving Netflix on November 29.
- 32a. [Late-night Starbucks choice], DECAF. Now, that could still keep you up. A grande Decaf Pike Place Roast has 25 mg of caffeine—less than a can of Coke, but certainly more than nothing. (The regular Pike Place has 310 mg, and my god, I don’t know how you people survive drinking coffee and getting that jacked up. You could drink a 2-liter bottle of Diet Coke and get 264 mg.)
- 37a. [Checklist heading], TO DO. I don’t write that at the top of my to-do lists. You know why? Because that would be one more thing to do.
Fave fill: PRO SHOP, BECHAMEL sauce, POSTDOC, GOES STAG, PAULINE Kael.
Overall, pretty smooth aside from the knotty ANAPHORA. Four stars from me.
Queena Mewers and Alex Eaton-Salners’s Universal crossword, “Chow Line”—Rebecca’s review
THEME: FOOD word CHAIN – taking us from
- 16A [*Reddish-purple dish often made with walnuts and goat cheese] BEET SALAD
- 22A [*Colorful pizza vegetable] GREEN PEPPER
- 33A [*Sub with sirloin, say] STEAK SANDWICH
- 46A [*Cereal whose mascot is Chip the Wolf] COOKIE CRISP
- 56A [Ecological diet sequence, or what you can form by linking the starred answers together?] FOOD CHAIN
Clever concept here – and very well done. I liked the variety of foods chosen for the puzzle – though I think the meal made by the chain – SALAD GREEN, PEPPER STEAK, and SANDWICH COOKIE is the preferable one here.
The southwest and northeast corners are beautiful and made getting across the grid a true pleasure. USURP happens to be a favorite word of mine, but that whole corner sings and then working down and left to the impressive southwest area displayed the construction SKILLS.
I really enjoyed the flow of this puzzle as well. Unusual arrangement of black square took me in unexpected directions throughout the solve which added another level of fun.
Loved the mention of Dolores Huerta in the clue for LATINA – if you don’t know her you should:
Morton J. Mendelson’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary
Mr. Mendelson has composed a simple enough theme for us today – three idioms in past tense defined by [Risked it big-time]: LIVEDONTHEEDGE; STUCKONESNECKOUT; and WENTOUTONALIMB. Nothing intricate, but all three are suitably idiomatic.
Some other somewhat odd, stilted feeling spoken-word entries: DENYIT, OHYESIDO. INTHEDUST is not spoken word, but also felt incomplete.
Rebecca Falcon’s AVCX, “Themeless #43” — Ben’s Review
Rebecca Falcon has a guest themeless at the AVCX today, and it’s a nice one! Here’s my highlights:
- All four of the longer anchor entries in this grid (MILLENNIAL PINK, ALLIGATOR CLIPS, CARMEN SANDIEGO, and PEOPLE WATCHING) were great, and also managed to immediately get Rockapella stuck in my head
- Putting LISA Simpson and MILHOUSE at opposite corners of the grid was very nice
- Other entries I liked:HOT PANTS, ARIETTAS, GLAAD Media Awards, TUTSI, STOPGAPS, I GUESS, Madeleine L’ENGLE, STALKERS, ATLANTIC, and DUAL ROLES
I’m keeping this one short and sweet. Happy Wednesday, all!