Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Speed Bumps”—Jim P’s review
Synonyms for “speed” are found in the circled letters spread across two entries with an added “bump” in the middle.
The synonyms in question are QUICKNESS, HASTE, DISPATCH, and VELOCITY. The first one is a rather drab choice, but it’s made up for by its interesting components: YANQUI and KNESSET. The LANDIS / ATCHISON combo is also worth noting.
I think this would have been a lot more fun to work out without the circles, providing the solver with added ambiguity and therefore more of a challenge. Maybe if this grid ran on a Thursday we could have had it in such a way. But now I see that HASTE would have been difficult to find since its components are not long entries.
My toughest moments in the solve were the ELIE / PIC crossing since I have never heard of Lebanese fashion designer ELIE Saab and [Shot] is an ambiguous choice for PIC. The other tough entry for me to parse was END-TO-END (clued as [In a tight row]). Needed every crossing before the light came on.
Fave entries include DOG-EARS, SEA SALTS, GIRDLES, FREE SPACE, SQUAB, REPUBLIC, and BUCKEYES (as an entry, not as a team).
Clues of note:
- 42a [Polo heading]. EAST. That’s Marco Polo, the Italian merchant/explorer.
- 49d [Phillipa who played Eliza in “Hamilton”]. SOO. New clue alert! Previous clues for this entry only ever referenced Jack SOO of Barney Miller fame or the Great Lakes’ SOO Canals.
And that about does it. The circles took most of the challenge out of this making it more straightforward than it needed to be. As it is, there’s just not a lot to grab your attention. 3.25 stars.
Evan Mahnken’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Many the types of logical fallacies (hello, definist fallacy!) don’t lend themselves to any sort of playful approach at all. The constructor’s chosen four that use familiar things in them, and clued them in a literal way that also works as an example of the logical fallacy in question, I think. The puzzle really needed a title, and maybe a replacement for STRAW MAN FALLACY so “fallacies” could have been in the title. Feels more like a Chronicle of Higher Education crossword sort of theme (but alas! the Chronicle will be discontinuing its crossword next year) than a newspaper puzzle theme.
- 17a. [“Scarecrow thinks the only thing one needs is a brain. Not so!”], STRAW MAN FALLACY. The Scarecrow in Oz (a character stuffed with straw) wants a brain, but nowhere does he suggest what’s in the quote, so that’s a straw man argument.
- 28a. [“If we let our kids go sledding, what’s next? Extreme skiing?”], SLIPPERY SLOPE. Moralistic slippery slope arguments generally bug the crap out of me.
- 43a. [“As you can tell from these few examples, Bings are better than maraschinos”], CHERRY PICKING. Lop off the first clause, and that is absolutely correct! Both Bing and Rainier cherries are better than maraschinos, which are dyed and sweetened garbage (sometimes made from Rainiers, destroying their goodness in the process).
- 58a. [“Expanding the bleachers isn’t enough. We need to relocate the whole stadium”], MOVING GOALPOSTS. This phrase is incomplete without “the” in the middle.
Five more things:
- 34d. [Solemn agreement], PACT. “Solemn”? That seems like a weird inclusion in the clue.
- 35d. [Group concerned with things that are NSFW?], OSHA. As in actual things are are unsafe for workers, vs. “not safe for work” online content you don’t want HR to catch you looking at. Cute clue.
- 42d. [Metaphor for a segmented market], PIE. Is pumpkin pie season behind us now? Please say yes.
- 51a. [Elvis’s middle name], ARON. Yeeeeeaaaaahhh, not so much. On early-life documents, but when Elvis had a say, he went with the biblical Aaron spelling. You can clue ARON as Aron Ralston (the guy whose story was told in the movie 127 Hours), a character in Steinbeck’s East of Eden, or a Pokémon, but hardcore Elvis fans will call you out on using ARON for Elvis. (In other words: Constructors, consider downgrading this entry in your word lists.)
- 23a. [Where the Marx Brothers famously spent a night], OPERA / 57d. [Grand Ole ___], OPRY. Oof, that’s a glaring dupe.
Bechdel glimpse: male vibe to JIM, LAMAS, ENO, Marx Brothers, Odysseus, Lincoln, ASHE, Elvis, Willy WONKA, LOWE, BUCS, and Sean ONO Lennon; female vibe to DEBRA and ANN Landers. 12 to 2, that’s a –10. Bzzzzzt! Wild to go with a less famous man rather than his mother Yoko ONO. ALLEN could have been clued as actress Karen instead of the wrench.
Always nice to see THE RAVEN, BLAST OFF is good, and I like having PRAGUE here since a friend just moved back there. Overall, 3.25 stars from me.
Jeff Eddings’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary
Christmas creep means it’s considered normal to blast these songs on the 4th of December. At first it just seemed to be three Christmas/winter songs: ISAWTHREESHIPS (just weird lyrics that one), FROSTYTHESNOWMAN and OCHRISTMASTREE which is pretty thin gruel. The bonus that ties it together is very clever though – they are NOELS with NOEL (no ‘l’) in their titles.
My favourite moment was [Summer songs?] for DISCO, given a few of the other short clues being somewhat thematic this was a fun fake-out.
Lastly, I’m not sure I’ve heard of a >CHEST<BUMPthough I think I can visualise it.
Victor Fleming’s Universal crossword, “Intriguing”—Rebecca’s review
THEME: A puzzle of intrigue today, with each theme answer ending in a SCHEME
- 17A [Shade arrangement?] COLOR SCHEME
- 11D [Place to grow vegetables, perhaps] GARDEN PLOT
- 29D [Level creation and such] GAME DESIGN
- 62A [Purchase option where you pay later] LAYAWAY PLAN
This puzzle was a joy to solve. I see the theme while solving, but thought it was well done once I finished. Really nice mix of of unrelated things coming together.
The fill on the puzzle is fantastic – DEAD SET ON, CAN DO, WELL PUT, and LOOK OUT were my personal favorites, but this was so incredibly smooth all over and really a lot of fun.
Some great clues I have to mention as well – TRE [Amount past due?], CREW [All hands on deck], and ALOE [Vera’s leader?] were all fantastic to come across while solving.
Some ETHEL Merman for your evening
Ben Tausig’s AVCX, “Stacks of Singles” — Ben’s Review
Howdy! Thanks to back-to-back meetings, this is going up late, but better late than never. This week’s AVCX from Ben Tausig clicked nicely with my music-inclined brain, though I understand why an easy remix got sent out to make things clear. Here’s the revealer:
- 68A: Puzzle solver’s revelation, or how to describe the brief success of an ’80s hit song represented visually three times in this puzzle — AHA MOMENT
Well, when I think of ’80s songs that involve A-HA, there’s only one I think of – “Take on Me”. Appropriately, there are exactly 3 spots in the grid (which were neatly marked with circles if you selected the easy remix) that illustrate that song title:
- 18A: Mushrooms often braised in oyster sauce — SHIITAKES
- 21A: Politician’s activity, after e.g. supporting stop-and-frisk forever but now they would like to be elected president, so — FENCE MENDING
- 38A: 1996 De La Soul album on which Mos Def broke out — STAKES IS HIGH
- 42A: Troll’s locale — MESSAGE BOARD
- 62A: What Jack has always been, apparently, in “The Shining” — THE CARETAKER
And of course, AHA MOMENT contains the ME needed for that final representation of “TAKE on ME” in the grid.
I’m leaving things there, but one fun piece of trivia to fill out one of the clues: as noted in 51A, LA BAMBA (specifically, the Los Lobos cover) is “One of three Spanish-language songs ever to reach #1 on the Billboard Hot 100”. The other two? “Despacito” and “Macarena”. I’ll leave you with this moment of zen – happy Wednesday!