Ross Trudeau’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Crimes Against the State”—Jim P’s review
Today we have a challenging but fun before-and-after theme involving world capitals and criminals. The last syllable of each world capital is a homophone for the first word of a type of criminal. This is hinted at with the revealer CAPITAL OFFENSE at 114a [Lawbreaking with serious consequences, as committed in the theme answers]. I didn’t think too heavily about the meaning of the revealing phrase, though if I did, I might’ve thought it was a bit too grim to be the basis for a puzzle.
- 23a [One committing grave crimes in Sudan?] KHARTOUM RAIDER. Tomb raider.
- 41a [One dealing in hot stones in Gambia?] BANJUL THIEF. Jewel thief.
- 55a [Ones taking stock in Russia?] MOSCOW RUSTLERS. Cow rustlers. Hmm. I think “cattle rustler” is more in-the-language.
- 79a [One organizing fowl play in Thailand?] BANGKOK FIGHTER. Cock fighter.
- 95a [One poaching Impalas in Senegal?] DAKAR JACKER. Carjacker.
I found this to be fun despite the obvious spelling challenges and having never even heard of Banjul.
Speaking of Banjul, I wonder if that J crossing at FRABJOUS as well as the L crossing at DACTYLS caused people grief. And there’s the N crossing at KNORR as well, so I wouldn’t be surprised if people Naticked in that area.
Other toughies in the fill include DJ SNAKE (the J was my last letter in the grid) OLERUD, and TAN OAK. I didn’t know ESSIE [Big name in nail colors], but I should probably learn it. BAG CHECK was also tough to parse given that opaque clue [Going:___:: coming:carousel], but it provided a nice aha moment once I realized what it was.
Overall, I loved the fill, especially some of the more modern touches like “WE COOL?” [“Everything okay between us?”] and L-BOMB [Word that takes a relationship to the next level, slangily]. Other goodies: SICK BAYS (though it’s odd in the plural), MOON SUIT (though “space suit” is probably more common), CARDIGAN, ASHANTI, ARMBAND, STUCCO, GET DOWN, and STYMIE.
Clues of note:
- 57d [It has secret items like the Skittles Frappuccino]. STARBUCKS MENU. Interesting factoid, but I’ll give that a hard pass.
- 73d [Senator Thune’s hometown]. PIERRE. This entry does get a political clue, but I would have loved to see a PIERRE Delecto reference.
- 87d [Lil Jon’s “Turn Down for What” collaborator]. DJ SNAKE. Wow. That video sure is bonkers…but hilarious if you suspend your disbelief.
Final note: It may just be coincidence, but a puzzle titled “Crimes Against the State” and with a CAPITAL OFFENSE theme reminds me of those in our own Capital causing offense. I am of course referring to the impeachment inquiry and the guilty verdict of Roger Stone. Chalk another one up for the good guys!
Good, meaty puzzle. Four stars.
Daniel Larsen’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Quick recap tonight, as I am tiiiiired. Grid features two pairs of 15s, all solid: ONE WAY OR ANOTHER, BREAKS OUT INTO SONG, ON A REGULAR BASIS, and HOMELESS SHELTER. This would play better if HOMELESS SHELTER were the second 15, so the set of four 15s would read as a sentence (or a wordy headline).
Likes: GUNS FOR, HOORAY, HOT MESS, CODENAME, RUSSIAN TROLLS, SHOUT-OUT.
- 56a. [Part of a Cinderella story], BALL. More like the Cinderella story rather than a Cinderella story.
- 36d. [Old RCA product], VCR. I just did another puzzle from this week or last week where an HDTV or something was in an RCA clue. Guess what? RCA doesn’t make televisions anymore.
- 10d. [Musical movement with a recurring theme], RONDO. I know one RONDO (I learned it from my kid’s Baby Mozart video!) and it’s also my favorite rondo.
3.9 stars from me. Good night, folks!
Debbie Ellerin’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
I thought this was a beautiful grid! I don’t often say this, but this one seems esthetically pleasing. I am sure I have seen this layout or something awfully similar before. Maybe it is because my glasses are broken and I am not seeing straight! I am going to try and hit the eye doctor’s office today! I don’t think I have had the pleasure of meeting Debbie Ellerin, but I would love to so I can tell her in person that I enjoy her puzzles. This was a great puzzle, and while not too difficult, it was just thorny enough to add to the enjoyment. A solid 4.6 stars from me today. Debbie, are you going to the ACPT?
Some high points:
- 14A [TV show set in a theme park] WESTWORLD – I got stuck on this one, and it is one of my favorite shows! Maybe because it takes HBO 2 years to get a season together, so it falls out of my short-term memory!
- 33A [Beyoncé and Jay-Z, e.g.] POWER COUPLE – There are a few examples you could use here, but this is not a bad choice!
- 36A [Symbolic gift, often] DIAMOND RING – Is the diamond losing it’s symbolic strength? It is all cultural, and some chose a stone other than this for a wedding band. Or no stone at all, which is also fine.
- 38A [Corporate espionage target] TRADE SECRET – The last of the central 11-letter stack, and all three are extremely common. Bravo!
- 45A [The “black” in black ice] TAR – This is a little misleading; the “black” just means you cannot see it, but this is usually the case on an asphalt road. But a concrete road can also be treacherous.
- 61A [Repurposed railway, perhaps] BIKE ROUTE – There are one or two of these around my local area.
- 3D [Character recognition?] OSCAR NOD – Nice little pun here! Believe it or not, it is almost Oscar season. Do they have a host yet?
- 12D [One needing orders] WAITER – Straightforward but tricky!
- 35D [x/x] ONE – I got this one straightaway. I haven’t forgotten my algebra from 35 years ago!
- 47D [First African-American major-league coach Buck] O’NEIL – I think he has passed away, but I remember seeing him do a lot of interviews when I was younger. I am revisiting a lot about race relations in the past few months. Reading a book now about a person with black relatives but who passed for white. Fascinating stuff.
I have to finish my Puzzle Boat 6, so I will stop here!
Matthew Sewell’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up
Almost 20 minutes for me this week, but I will take it. This one definitely “stumped” me, and I may or may not have learned a new word or two. This was not annoyingly difficult, but I did have a moment or two where I thought I might not finish! I finished in the lower left corner, which does seem like the thorny part of the grid. But all in all, a fun puzzle. A solid 4.4 stars from me.
- 1A [Symbol of culinary perfection] CHEF’S KISS – This invokes a wonderful image!
- 38A [Quack creation] NOSTRUM – This is that new word I was speaking about. I don’t think I have ever encountered this word!
- 41A [It borders Arizona’s Apache County] NAVAJO – Not at all familiar with this area of the US, but a map search shows the Navajo country is in New Mexico, I think. Don’t quote me.
- 45A [Explanation for passing] “I’M ON A DIET” – This is great!
- 59A [”__ idée” (fine notion, in Nantes)] RICHE – Also didn’t know this phrase. My French is rusty!
- 60A [Bursting in] IMPLOSION – One of the better clues. Very tricky.
- 63A [”When shepherds pipe on __ straws”: Shak.] OATEN – I say it all the time, but I don’t know Shakespeare. Would anyone know this immediately? Perhaps if one played this role in a play?
- 28D [One shooting stars] NINJA – Shoot as in throw1
- 37D [Veggie dish specification] OVO LACTO – This is a vegetarian that WILL eat eggs or dairy.
- 61D [47 NSW electees] MPS – Is this referring to the Aussie state? I don’t think I understand this clue.
As mentioned above, I have puzzles to do. Have a great weekend!