Michael Paleos’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Round Trip”—Jim P’s review
Our theme is spelled out in the mountain-shaped set of circled letters in the center of the grid. This turns out to be BOOMERANG, and the three long Across answers are common phrases that echo a boomerang’s action.
- 17a [Arrives at one’s starting point again, and the first clue to the puzzle theme] COMES FULL CIRCLE
- 38a [Slangy reciprocation of a compliment, and a second clue to the theme] RIGHT BACK AT YA
- 63a [Rejects a delivery, and a third clue to the theme] RETURNS TO SENDER
I found this to be a pleasant enough theme that worked quite well. All the phrases are common yet lively, especially the middle one.
My only nit is the added S’s in the first and third entries strictly to make them 15-letters long. I think the puzzle would be stronger with the 14-letter versions COME FULL CIRCLE and RETURN TO SENDER which are both more commonly used, especially since one is the name of a famous song. This would undoubtedly require adjusting the grid by moving those two entries toward the center, but with only three main theme entries, my instincts tell me the constraints wouldn’t be egregious.
Aside from that, the fill is strong with exclamatory “YOU DID IT!” and “ENGARDE!” (with a great clue [Pointed warning?]). I also liked seeing Vince LOMBARDI [Namesake of the Super Bowl trophy], though I will admit to thinking it was Guy LOMBARDI. (Bzzt! Nope, it’s Guy Lombardo.) Other goodies: BRUNEI crossing FREYA, KRAMER crossing PAC-MAN, and ON HOLD.
Clues of note:
- 33a [Transmitted sound]. AUDIO. Tricksy usage of “Transmitted” as an adjective, not a verb.
- 11d [He eats fruit and ghosts]. PAC-MAN. Only blue ghosts, mind you.
- 23d [Play around]. TOUR. I like this clue, but I’m thinking it needs a ? since “play around” is already a common phrase.
- 50d [Listening to bad music, maybe]. ON HOLD. Lately, I’ve noticed that I keep hearing the same instrumental music when on hold with unrelated companies and organizations.
Fun grid. 3.75 stars.
Ross Trudeau’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Hello, solvers! Some of you might be thinking of trying your hand at constructing crosswords. If you’re part of a group that’s underrepresented among published puzzlemakers (e.g., you’re a woman, a person of color, and/or LGBTQ+), Ross Trudeau is keen on collaborating with newbies in those groups. You can find his contact info—and that of a bunch of other helpful constructors—at the Crossword Puzzle Collaboration Directory.
Today’s theme revealer is 38a. [Three-screen cinema … or a hint to 17-, 26-, 46- and 61-Across], TRIPLEX (the word’s pronunciation varies regionally). The four themers contain XXX:
- 17a. [Raciest classification], XXX RATING. Not a technical classification—it’s self-bestowed. Gotta ding the puzzle for also having RATE at 56d. 56d could have been the metal band RATT crossing START.
- 26a. [Hip-hop artist with the 2006 hit “Ms. New Booty”], BUBBA SPARXXX. One top-10 hit almost 15 years ago … if you didn’t know the name, we forgive you.
- 46a. [Contest in which the Cowboys beat the Steelers 27-17], SUPER BOWL XXX. I will never not think it’s dumb for the Super Bowls to be labeled with Roman numerals instead of just, you know, years. The Bears won the ’85 Super Bowl. I sure couldn’t tell you what Roman numeral that one was.
- 61a. [Article of clothing at the very end of the rack], XXXL SHIRT. Feels rather green-painty, as SHIRT is arbitrary. Could be track pants, jackets, swim trunks, etc.
I like some of those X crossings—I remember ARANTXA‘s heyday and her spelling, THE X PRIZE is cool, and I’ve long loved the word ELIXIR.
I don’t love ZEE and ZED doubling down on the RATE/XXX RATING duplication. NAPPERS is a little weird as a plural, but NAPPERS/NEE could have cut ZEE from the grid. Also not keen on the phrases END AT, ICE IT, and RAN BY.
Three more things:
- 30d. [Affectionate sign-off], XOX. What? No. The choices are xoxoxo, xoxo, and xo, or, in Commonwealth countries, just the x’s without the o’s.
- 42a. [Puccini title heroine], TOSCA. I had been seeing TOSCA for years and years in crosswords, and somehow only figured out that TOSCA was a woman in the last couple years. I have seen two operas in my life—Turandot in Chicago, and The Marriage of Figaro (I think?) in Prague. I should go to more operas!
- 11d. [Mobile payment service owned by PayPal], VENMO. If you hadn’t heard of this, take note. It seems to be more popular than its rivals, which include Zelle. What’s hilarious is that some people insist on sending and receiving money via Venmo because, they say, they refuse to use PayPal. (See also: The people who’ve sworn off Facebook but use its subsidiary, Instagram.)
3 stars from me. I didn’t enjoy this one as much as I’d hoped to. It lost me right at 1-Across, NTH, and struggled to win me back.
Juliana Tringali Golden’s AVCX, “eCHo” — Ben’s Review
Juliana Tringali Golden has another guest puzzle for the AVCX this week, after her previous (themeless) debut. This was rated a 3/5 on the difficulty scale, but fell pretty easily for me as soon as I figured out what the theme was:
- 20A: Cuban dance performed by puffy little dogs? — CHOW CHOW CHA CHA
- 36A: Encouragement, at a frat party, to gulp down the juice of some Jamaican gourds? — CHUG CHUG CHO CHOS
- 51A: British toast delivered with a haughty air? — CHI-CHI CHIN CHIN
Pretty straightforward – once you figured out how the “echoing” in each themer worked, it was easy to fill in the letters you didn’t have based on the ones you did have.
Some assorted fill notes:
- I liked the longer bits of down fill in this grid – ICE CRUSHER and POUND SIGNS in particular, but SNOOPING (which I absentmindedly entered SNOOP DOG in at first, despite the “Gin and Juice” rapper spelling his moniker with two Gs) and CROCHETS weren’t bad either
- It’s a nerdy nit to pick, but it’s DOCTOR WHO (spelled out), not DR. WHO, even if that fits in the grid. Thinking on abbreviations, I also don’t love things like QUES where you have to clue it as a different abbreviation of another abbreviation (“Q&A part, briefly”)
- Nice up-to-the-minute cluing of BETO (“Rival candidate of 10-Down (well, until last Friday, anyway)”) and KAMALA.
- I thought I had learned something new when I entered MANGO in as the answer to “Popular Japanese export”. In what makes much more sense, they’re a big exporter of MANGA. Always solve after caffeinating.
Happy Wednesday, all!
Gary Larson’s LA Times Crossword – Gareth’s summary
Today features a less common wrinkle on the “phrase with heterographs in” theme. The set, rendered in IPA, is “raɪt”, and two pairs are swapped creating “wacky” answers. Answers 1 and 3 are WRIGHTAID and RITEBROTHERS – switch those around to find the normal answers. The same goes for RIGHTLETTERS and WRITEHOOK. The clues are quite thoroughly tortured, but it’s an interesting theme variant nonetheless.
Most of the clues and answers today felt quite simple, perhaps because it’s unusual to have a Wednesday theme in the LA Times with “made-up” phrases. [Chow line?] for LEASH and [They’re often loaded] for SOTS are among the trickier clues, but still fairly transparent.
Not a fan of [Piglike forest dweller] for TAPIR. Not sure what makes them piglike. They’re Perissodactyls and pigs are Artiodactyls…