Today’s AVCX puzzle is a meta contest from Francis Heaney – we’ll have a review up once the window for submitting the answer has closed.
Evan Kalish’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “This Means War”—Jim P’s review
The title made me think we’d be working through a synonym-themed grid, but that’s not the case. In a surprise move, we have a stacked revealer starting at 59a: [With 65-Across, official who might order the vehicles that end the starred answers] SECRETARY / OF DEFENSE. The other theme answers end with a word that is also a vehicle used in war.
- 14a [*Help for deep breathing] SCUBA TANK. Nothing to do with relaxation or meditation.
- 17a [*Tool akin to a spokeshave] EDGE PLANE. Never heard of either tool, but I do recognize the latter.
- 11d [*This answer has a lot of letters] MAIL CARRIER. Ha! I see what you did there. Very good. Clue of the day for sure.
- 25d [*Saucy sandwich option] MEATBALL SUB
So that’s one for the Army, one for the Air Force, and two for the Navy, presumably because they have to carry the Marines around. I like how the three major services are represented.
And how about that stacking of theme entries? Quite impressive if you ask me, at the cost of only a few small bits of crosswordese: ESE, LCD, CDS, RSS—all of which we’ve seen many times.
My only quibble would be with the title which doesn’t really have much to do with the theme; i.e. I wanted something in the grid to “mean” war. To my mind, “War Machine” would’ve been a good title, or possibly “Made to Order.”
Despite the theme answers taking up most of the marquee positions, there’s still some sparkly fill: ADOPTEE, RIYADH, HAMLET, SCRATCH, DOODAD, ADWARE. I wasn’t sure about CEO PAY [Fig. often cited as a measure of income inequality], but I think I’ve heard it as a phrase before. And I’m with Amy in pooh-poohing all those preposition-ended phrases like TEAR AT (though I know how useful they are as a constructor). Not much else set of the scowl-o-meter.
Clues of note:
- 40a [Carnival rides?]. CRUISES. Carnival cruise lines. Nice misdirection.
- 23d [Blooper for the Braves, e.g.]. MASCOT. Tough one. Needed every crossing.
Fun, surprising, well-constructed grid. Four stars.
Margaret Saine’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
So at first I was bored by the clunky theme, and then I took note of the circled words. Ha! 17a. [Start of a long-winded musing from an author] clues EDITING A DRAFT OF / WRITING WELL IS / SURELY AN ART FORM. Terrible, right? Much crisper when edited down to the circled EDITING IS AN ART. Indeed!
Fave fill: FOLKSY, BOILER (just because I am so well acquainted with my building’s new boiler, which never wants to give us just the correct amount of heat), POLKA DOT, and WATER SKI.
Less keen on ODD MAN (basically a long partial) and ENID. And that WAWA—35d. [East Coast 7-Eleven competitor]?? Blurgh. Regional brand names kinda suck in crosswords with a broad audience.
Three more things:
- 24d. [Illustration for an ill tourist?], ANAGRAM. Dang it. I was duped here. I had the first A and thought “Tourist? Pictures? Must be the dreaded AREA MAP.” So glad it was a better entry, with a good clue!
- 12d. [“S.N.L.” cast member Nwodim], EGO. She’s pretty good. The video below, from last weekend, includes her. And you don’t get to complain that her name is here instead of the common noun ego, because the crossings are pretty unambiguous.
- 36d. [Jack Nicklaus, in 19 major golf championships], RUNNER-UP. Sports trivia I didn’t know but might be expected to know in a trivia competition sometime. That’s a lot of not-winning for someone who won a lot!
3.6 stars from me.
Zhouqin Burnikel’s Universal crossword, “Delicious!”—Rebecca’s review
THEME: Apple types turned over and hidden in theme answers
- 4D [Some are detectives] SPECIAL AGENTS
- 27D [Ordinary human being] MERE MORTAL
- 8D [Place to buy a slice] PIZZA JOINT
- 18D [Triangular fruit pastry, or a hint to the circled letters] APPLE TURNOVER
My expectations for a Zhouqin Burnikel puzzle are always high, and I am never disappointed. This puzzle was a real joy to solve. Great theme with a perfect revealer and so beautifully constructed. GALA was the apple I was most familiar with – but upon solving them, I knew of JAZZ and ROME so they all felt fair and the answers they’re hidden in are great.
As for the fill – so much to love. I love seeing APOLLO [Historic Harlem theater] clued for the theater over the god, and the long answers FRANZ KAFKA and AND SO TO BED are great. All of the mid and short length answers are also so enjoyable to come across and so smooth and clean.
Overall this puzzle is as its title says, Delicious!
My only complaint here is I understand many people don’t get the circles in Universal puzzles (unless this has changed?) which would be a big loss for this theme.
David Poole’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary
Apparently, tis the season to recall not very distinctive early 2000’s Christmas comedies. BADSANTA can be seen in cryptic crossword speak to mean “anagram SANTA”. However, SANTA only anagrams to SATAN, so instead the letter string is embedded in unrelated phrases. Boldly, three spanning entries have been chosen: AUGUSTANATIONAL and THEPELICANSTATE lend a Southern air, while BARBARASTANWYCK represents the Blue.
Tricky spots: RYAS are [Shaggy Scandinavian rugs] that were in fashion in the late 60’s and still are to some extent only in crossword-land. [Flutist Jean-Pierre] is RAMPAL, a not very guessable surname. Is [Comic-book store owner on “The Big Bang Theory”], STUART a major character? It wouldn’t have been my go-to STUART for sure!