Christina Iverson & Jeff Chen’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Blending In”—Jim P’s review
I’m sure I’ve seen some MIXED DRINKS puzzles in the past, but only a handful show up in the cruciverb database. This one is tightened up by the fact that the phrases all hiding the drinks are locations or events where one might have such a drink. That’s a really nice touch! The revealing clue is [What 17-, 28-, 40- and 55-Across literally contain]. In other words, the circled letters are anagrams for the alcoholic drinks mentioned in the clues.
- 17a [Where you might have a brandy Alexander] TRE(NDY BAR). Shouldn’t that be a “Brandy Alexander” with a capital B?
- 28a [Where you might have an ale punch] P(LEA)SURE CRUISE. Ale punch? Pass.
- 40a [Where you might have a gin and tonic] COM(ING) OUT PARTY
- 55a [Where you might have a port flip] GAS(TROP)UB. Never heard of a port flip. Apparently it contains one raw egg yolk. Again, pass. But this clue is especially apt since “port” is flipped backwards. Very cool.
It would have been nicer if all of the drinks were longer than three letters; GIN and ALE seem a little too easy. But I’m sure it’s no simple matter to find anagrams for longer entries. And with the added constraint of using base phrases that are drinking locations, that’s a real limitation. So all in all, a nice, tight theme, that works well.
The fill is good, as you’d expect. I’m liking HOT TIP, MILIEU, MALICE, TINGLY, “YES, BUT…,” SCOTTIE, LEAD DOG, and CABOOSES. That last one felt weird to put in. Why can’t the plural of “caboose” be “cabeese”?
I like G’NIGHT, but it sure looks weird in the grid, as if you replaced a silent K with a silent G. And I’m not sure I’ve ever seen knell as a verb (12d, KNELLED), but it checks out. And I was never going to know ACCRA [Ghana’s capital] nor ADDY [American Girl doll with a back story on the Underground Railroad] but that leading A where they crossed seemed like the only logical choice.
Lots of fun and interesting clues of note, such as:
- 1a. [Rural layer]. HEN. A tricky start to the grid set the right tone. Very nice.
- 14a. [20/20, say]. ONE. More trickiness. It’s math, not eyesight or news programs.
- 31a. [Green section of a Risk board]. ASIA. Fresh clue (I think) on this old standby.
- 39a. [Crewmate of Picard and Riker]. DATA. I tried TROI first. If you were thinking SULU, sorry. Wrong show.
- 49a. [Like a piggy just waking up]. TINGLY. Cute.
- 61a. [Mustachioed “Simpsons” character]. APU. I forgot he had a mustache. I guess because it’s not much of a mustache. I went with NED.
- 63a. [“On my way” and “LOL,” perhaps]. TEXTS. I use “On my way” enough that I made it into a keyboard shortcut on my phone. That way, all I have to type is “omw” and it comes up properly. Another one I use is “shrug” for ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. Do you have any good keyboard shortcuts?
- 18d. [Europa Clipper planner]. NASA. The Europa Clipper mission will explore the moon of Jupiter and especially the ocean of water hidden under the layer of ice. Scheduled for launch in 2025. Find out more here.
- 29d. [Bird’s music maker]. SAX. That’s legendary jazz musician Charlie Parker, aka “Bird.”
Nice tight theme, strong fill, and fresh clues. Four stars.
Ross Trudeau’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap
In brief: The theme revealer is USED FURNITURE, 52a. [Some garage sale goods … or what the answers at 15-, 19-, 33-, 41- and 62-Across have done?]. Those entries have used items as furniture as consecutive letter strings within them:
- 15a. [Get major hang time, in snowboarding lingo], CATCH AIR. Chair.
- 19a. [Brief hookup], ONE-NIGHT STAND. Nightstand.
- 33a. [“The Scream” and “The Kiss,” for two], WORKS OF ART. Fart. No, wait. Sofa.
- 41a. [Nonsense line sung by Frank Sinatra in “Strangers in the Night”], DO BE DO BE DO. Coupla beds.
- 62a. [Verses-vs.-verses competitor], SLAM POET. Lamp? Is that furniture? I’d argue that lamps are home furnishings, accessories, flirting with the “appliance” category, but not furniture.
Didn’t care for COWLINGS (do we really need to be quizzed on someone who’s a footnote in a news story from 25 years ago?), ALL RED clued as [Totally embarrassed] rather than [Noted attorney Gloria], ODEON, German TOD, CLARO, AIG.
Did like PROCEDURAL, dumb DENIERS, HOTFOOT.
3.5 stars from me. Good night!
MaryEllen Uthlaut’s LA Times Crossword – Gareth’s summary
Is there much to say about this theme? A [Compact] is a MAKEUPCONTAINER, a FORMALAGREEMENT and a SMALLAUTOMOBILE. It is indeed those things, though note the theme avoids the more typical adjectival meaning.
The rest of the grid opts for a fairly safe design, with precious few multi-word phrases. Not a lot to note really.
Ben Tausig’s AVCX, “Swingers” — Ben’s Review
AVCX head honcho Ben Tausig has this week’s puzzle, a 17×17 grid ranked at 2/5 on the difficulty scale. Let’s take a look at how “Swingers” swings:
- 19A: Massive, costly ensemble of xylophone-like instruments that only ever plays a couple of notes? — MARIMBA BOONDOGGLE
- 25A: Hole-making accessories in a certain DC Comics utility belt? — BATMAN DRILL BITS
- 69A: Customized jingle to let you know when Lord Buddha is calling? — GAUTAMA RINGTONE
- 77A: Water conduit into the shows of a Genius Grant-winning performance artist who uses the pronoun “judy”? — TAYLOR MAC AQUEDUCT
- 49A: Keep Away by another name, and a feature of each of this puzzle’s theme answers — MONKEY IN THE MIDDLE
MONKEY IN THE MIDDLE neatly describes what’s going on in each theme answer. There’s the name of a monkey. It’s in the middle of the answer. I tried to see if the theme answer minus the monkey was anything. As far as I can tell, it’s not – they’re just kind of goofy answers with a monkey in the middle. That’s okay. It was nice to see Taylor Mac (who yes, uses “judy” as judy’s pronouns) get a shout-out – I have a friend who’s very into the performance piece where judy performs the American songbook one decade at a time for 24 hours.
I had to “werk” to remember that in addition to “Claudia, Linda, and Cindy”, Rupaul mentions NIKI (as in Niki Taylor) in their song “Supermodel”. I was trying to figure out what kind of rebus squares were needed in the grid to make NAOMI Campbell fit.
Elsewhere the fill:
- One of my favorite music trivia facts is that NENEH Cherry’s “Buffalo Stance” started as a remix of the Morgan McVey song “Looking Good Diving” that became its own thing (or at least more of a thing than the original)
- I mostly know that ASANTE is Swahili for “thank you” because of The Lion King.
- I liked the down stacks of BAD OMEN, ANEMONE, and TYLENOL on the left side of the grid, and their partners of AC DELCO, SALADIN, and AVERAGE on the right side.