Gary Larson’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Why Bother?”—Jim P’s review
Theme: Y sounds are added to well-known phrases.
- 23a [Norwegian tour guide?] FJORD ESCORT. Ford Escort. Good surface sense on this one.
- 25a [Sound from a cat fancier’s phone?] MEWED RING. Mood ring. This is the first one I uncovered, and let’s just say it’s surface-sense-challenged. When I wrote this one in, I was afraid the puzzle was going to turn into a slog.
- 37a [Some prehistoric sheep?] PRIMORDIAL EWES. Primordial ooze. A little far fetched, but definitely imaginable. Works for me.
- 67a [Reclusive tycoon’s favorite color?] HUGHES HUE. Who’s Who. This was tough to parse. As it enjoys the center spot in the grid, it’s a little different in that both words are modified. It also works for me.
- 93a [Unsavory urges?] GROSS YEARNINGS. Gross earnings. The clue makes this one work.
- 112a [Score in charades?] MUTE POINT. Moot point. Yup, I’d say that’s true.
- 116a [Custer’s problem at Little Bighorn?] FEW FIGHTERS. Foo Fighters. I loved finding this more modern entry.
- 40d [Anna and Elsa’s quarrel?] FROZEN FEUD. Frozen food. Very timely, though I don’t know if the sisters feud in the new movie.
- 45d [Slogan of supporters of Russia’s status quo?] NYET CHANGE. Net change. Chuckle-worthy.
As you can see, my fears of a slog were unfounded. I liked nearly all of these entries which had good surface sense and a dash of humor here and there. A well-chosen themeset. Huzzah!
And the fill is praise-worthy, too. Highlights include CIVIL CASE, ODOR EATER, “SO SUE ME!,” PORRIDGE, IN BETWEEN, PROLIFIC, ARGYLES, BEEF PATTY, TIM RICE, “STAY HERE,” and BLUE TITS [Colorful Eurasian birds]. When I lived in England we had a family of BLUE TITS that would come and nest in our birdhouse every year.
ORE ASSAY [Miner’s evaluation] was the most challenging bit of fill for me but it made sense once I got most of the crossings. OBELUS [Printer’s dagger] is another one I hadn’t heard of. (It’s that cross-like symbol used to indicate a footnote.†) TRICOT [Underwear fabric] doesn’t exactly spring to mind either, but I must’ve seen it somewhere. HSI [Chu ___ (Chinese philosopher)] was a challenge as well, especially with that S crossing ORE ASSAY. (The name is also spelled Zhu Xi.) But it was the only thing that made sense. I wonder of Chu Hsi’s mother chose Jif.
Clues of note:
- 26a [Cruise vehicle]. MOVIE. I tried MOPED at first. Good misdirection.
- 46a [University in Bethlehem]. LEHIGH. Same comment. I was thinking the West Bank city the whole time.
- 57a [Retired prof’s title]. EMERITA. I see what you did there. Well done.
- Back-to-back DC comics clues: 80a [Smallville girl] for LANA and 81a [Gotham City tycoon] for WAYNE. The comic collector in me enjoyed those two.
A most enjoyable puzzle with an engaging theme. Some challenges in the fill, but the good far outweighs the bad. Four stars from me.
Ryan McCarty’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
I had a hard time getting started in this puzzle, with the NW corner empty till I finished the whole rest of the puzzle. 1a is FBI CHIEF, though the job’s actual title is Director of the FBI. That crossed two French things—FRERES and BEL AMI—and it stopped me cold. Oof!
I’m overtired, so straight to the bulleted list:
- 17a. [110, humorously], ELEVENTY. Had no idea this jocular number was supposed to represent 11 10s.
- 27a. [Malarkey], BILGE. Maybe Joe Biden will change his campaign bus to say NO BILGE.
- 35a. [Try to punch], HIT AT. I have lost all patience for these “3-letter verb + AT” phrases that have become too common in crosswords. LAPAT, NIPAT, HITAT, just stop at that.
- 54a. [Possible result of bodybuilding gone wrong], ROID RAGE. It’s not the bodybuilding that’s gone wrong, it’s the chemicals the bodybuilder is injecting into their body.
- 14d. [Drunk], UNSOBER. Raise your hands if you’ve ever used this word to mean intoxicated. Anyone? Bueller?
- 30d. [Frozen dessert with a rhyming name], CHOCO TACO. I don’t think it really rhymes in a Chicago accent. Chaw-co tah-co, not chah-co.
- 33d. [Spare], EXTRA ONE. This … is not really a thing. I don’t think it rises to the level of “phrase that should be in a crossword.”
Fave fill: ELEVENTY, DEAR EVAN HANSEN, TAXPAYER MONEY, VERBOTEN, GREEN MONSTER, ARNICA.
3.3 stars from me.
Ed Sessa’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
A little quicker this week! I updated my Black Ink software on my Mac, so maybe that is the reason! I’ve done a lot of Ed Sessa puzzles, and I don’t think I have ever met him in person. Perhaps someday! 4.4 stars today.
Some interesting entries:
- 1A [Ring in one’s ears?] CROP CIRCLE – This is actually one of the better clues, and to have this as 1-Across is fantastic!
- 18A [’60s pop singer Sands] EVIE – I don’t know who this is. Doesn’t even ring a bell!
- 36A [Sign that may have a dog silhouette on it] KEEP OFF THE GRASS – Usually that silhouette is on a “Beware of Dog” sign, isn’t it? Or is this a sign meaning keep the dogs off? I don’t own a dog, if you couldn’t tell!
- 55A [Tippling point?] ONE TOO MANY – Also one of the better clues.
- 60A [Green Hornet’s great-uncle] LONE RANGER – Is this true?? I have never heard this either.
- 3D [Jazz pianist Peterson] OSCAR – One of my favorite pianists. Found this YouTube video that actually shows the sheet music as it plays! Enjoy:
- 8D [Start of a pedestrian caution] CROSS AT THE GREEN – This sign doesn’t exist in Indiana. Is this a NYC thing?
- 11D [NYC landmark overlooking Central Park] THE PIERRE – This is also a NYC thing!
- 30D [Tailgating danger] REAR ENDER – This makes me think of that hilarious Allstate commercial about the tailgater tailgating! You can Google it yourself!
- 31D [Cell download, perhaps] IPHONE APP – I just got a new iPad, so there are some apps I can now run that I couldn’t before! And I need to organize the dozens of apps on my iPhone as well; I am not the most organized when it comes to stuff like that!
I must go take a nap now so I am ready for that jumbo NYT puzzle on Sunday!
Lester Ruff’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up
I struggled a bit with this one, but it wasn’t super hard. Actually, a time under 15 minutes is pretty good for me on a Stumper, and I did beat 15 minutes on this one. A couple of these answers made me smile, so all-in-all a fun solve. I’ll be next week will be a doozy. 4.3 stars for this one.
Some high points:
- 16A [Overposter’s affliction] BLOGORRHEA – This word made me almost laugh out loud! I know a couple of people that have this!
- 19A [Capital southwest of Timbuktu] BAMAKO, MALI – I need to brush up on my world capitals before I go on Jeopardy! IF I ever go on Jeopardy!
- 35A [ALW team, before 2005] ANA – The California Angels of Anaheim are now abbreviated CAA. They are in the news for poaching a free agent from the world champion Nats.
- 48A [Revolutionary War-era religious leader] ANN LEE – I don’t think I know this name. This page explains more about her.
- 54A [Hypoallergenic designer dogs] SCHNOODLES – I assume this is a schnauzer-poodle mix? Again, I don’t have a dog!
- 6D [How some pillows are made] U-SHAPED – These seem comfy.
- 13D [Word from Old Norse for ”place where water backs up”] EBB – A new fact!
- 24D [Only Oscar winner/Nobelist before Dylan] SHAW – Is this more prestigious than an EGOT?
- 31D [Dreamlike and distorted] DALIESQUE – I have never heard this word, but it makes sense!
- 55D [Egg __] CUPS – This was surprisingly tough. Is this what Poirot eats his soft-boiled eggs from?
Have a great weekend!
Stella Zawistowski’s Universal crossword, “Pop Divas Unite”—Jim Q’s review
MAN [“Boy howdy!”] (?) It’s been a long time since I struggled with a Universal. This one put me in my place.
THEME: Songs by pop divas are found in common phrases,
- 18A [Disappointing use of a 2004 Britney Spears song?] TOXIC WASTE.
- 56A [Tendency to belt out a 1986 Janet Jackson song?] NASTY HABIT.
- 4D [The vocal chops to sing a 1998 Madonna song?] FROZEN PIPES.
- 25D [Superfandom of a 1993 Mariah Carey song?] HERO WORSHIP.
I’ve heard of all the songs, but I didn’t know their titles (HERO rang a bell, but that’s it), so the theme answers were harder for me than usual. But coupled with some of the difficult fill, it turned into a grind. I’m sure this puzzle is on someone’s wavelength. Just not mine.
Also, I was very distracted by the longer across answers that *look* like they should be themers, but aren’t. Namely, REVELATION and ALMOND ROCA. They’re both the same length as the other across themers. And neither one seems splashy enough to warrant the “we look like theme answers but we’re not” deceit. Other offenders are MISGOVERN, PUT AT EASE, ALARMISTS, and HALEAKALA (?). At 72 words, the puzzle has a themeless count, and it could’ve benefitted from a couple more black squares imo, especially with the theme answers placed as they are.
NAMIBIA, MAN (as clued), HALEAKALA, LED TV, A MOOT (really? that’s in your word list?), CONGEE, CCCP, AMENS (awkward plural), AMS, ENG, and ALMOND ROCA.
I liked RAIL PASS at least!
Also, I don’t really understand the title. Maybe I’m missing something.
1.9 stars from me.