Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Heart Breaking”—Jim P’s review
In Mike Shenk’s signature style, we’re presented with phrases whose beginning or end can be a term of endearment. These words are separated from the main phrase and given the clue [Sweetheart]. The title is the indication that something is “broken off” from something else.
- 17a [One might have designs on your floor] / 19a. ORIENTAL CAR / PET. Nice clue. But I think I hear the term “Oriental Rug” more than this one.
- 29a [Spot for a stud] / 32a. PIERCE / D EAR
- 46a / 47a [Price leader]. DOLL / AR SIGN. This is the entry where I figured out what was going on, even before I fully sussed out the answer.
- 63a / 64a [Rooms for romance] HON / EYMOON SUITE. I guess a suite is typically more than one room, and I guess romance can and does happen in multiple rooms.
I’m usually on alert for this type of theme when we get a Mike Shenk grid, but I guess I was caught napping. I was slow to catch on. And with the many opaque clues, my time suffered. But on the whole, an enjoyable theme and puzzle.
In theme-adjacent news, we have a couple of EXES at 12d, another couple that’s MADE UP at 22d, and another one just getting started: MARRY ME at 44d. Presumably, the RANDY couple is on their way to the HON /EYMOON SUITE so they can romance in multiple rooms.
Other goodies in the fill: THE STRIP (in Vegas), LANDMASS, and re-learning that Dionne Warwick is Whitney Houston’s COUSIN. I did not know [Kaz who homered on the first pitch of his MLB career], but I must have heard the name MATSUI before. That’s a fascinating stat, too!
Clues of note:
- 53d. [Gag reflex?]. LAUGH. Great clue there. Don’t think I’ve seen that before.
- 1a. [Berth place]. SHIP. Not such a great clue there, because I put in SLIP and never remotely thought it was wrong. The crossing, 2d [Trickster of African folk tales], made me think I was looking for an African trickster god, for which LARE seemed perfectly reasonable. It is Thursday after all.
- 41a. [Capital of Troy?]. TAU. I fell for that one. I put in TEE.
- 50a. [Shell competitor]. OAR. I still can’t square that answer with that clue. A shell is a small racing boat, sure, but OAR refers to a person?
An enjoyable Valentine’s Day puzzle. 3.8 stars.
Amanda Chung and Karl Ni’s New York Times crossword—Ben’s review
It’s Thursday, you know the drill. There are shaded parts in this grid! Let’s determine what that means:
- 17A: Times when teachers go to school but students don’t — IN-SERV(ICE D)AYS
- 23A: Vessel for dipping at a dinner table — SAU(CE DI)SH
- 36A: Reference that arranges words by concept rather than alphabetically — REVERS(E DIC)TIONARY
- 51A: Cousin of a sno-cone — SHAVE(D ICE)
- 58A: Take a chance…or a hint to the letters in the shaded squares — ROLL THE DICE
Each of the theme answers does the crossword equivalent of a roll in order to take in all the letters of DICE as it passes by the shaded squares. I didn’t know that there was such a thing as a REVERSE DICTIONARY, but they even exist online.
Elsewhere in the grid:
- I learned that ALAN ALDA is in “Marriage Story” from this crossword. I spent way too much time trying to figure out if there was some sort of rebus-y thing going to to allow ADAM DRIVER in the grid somehow
- Every time my eye catches E-INK sitting as EINK in the grid, it looks wrong
Paul Coulter’s Fireball Crossword, “Made-for-Cable Movies”–Jenni’s write-up
I had to look at Peter’s answer sheet to figure out what the heck was going on with this puzzle. I finished it and got Mr. Happy Pencil, but the theme made no sense.
Each theme answer has punctuation and the square for the punctuation is included in the grid. The program I use to solve won’t allow me to put punctuation in, so here’s the grid with the letters from the Down clues.
- 17a [1955 Gordon MacRae film] is OKLAHOMA!.
- 28a [2017 Michael Fassbender film] is ALIEN: COVENANT. Didn’t help that I’ve never heard of this movie.
- 48a [1968 Mia Farrow film] is ROSEMARY’S BABY.
- 65a [2009 Jared Leto film] is MR. NOBODY.
The Downs crossing the punctuation marks all refer to the telegraph, so I figured that was where the “cable” from the title fit in. I’ve highlighted the crossing letters.
- 8d [Telegraph verb] is SEND.
- 25d [Telegraph message] is WIRE.
- 41d [Telegraph sounds] are DITS.
- 58d [Telegraph parts] are KEYS.
The letters make a word (sort of) – NITE. That doesn’t have anything to do with the title, and I did not find it enlightening. I looked at the clues and nothing jumped out at me. So I finally looked at Peter’s explanation.
The symbols in the grid (!, :, ‘, and .) become Morse code symbols reading Down (dash dot, dot dot, dash, and dot). So 8-Down is SEND, 25-Down is WIRE, 41-Down is DITS, and 58-Down is KEYS.
I would never have figured that out because I don’t know Morse code. I guess if I’d thought of it, I could have looked it up, but that never occurred to me. Every now and then I run into a puzzle that I admire as an impressive feat of construction and do not enjoy solving at all. This is one of those.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: well, Morse code and the existence of ALIEN: COVENANT. I also didn’t know that APPLE was the first company with a market capitalization of $1 trillion.
Benjamin Kramer’s Universal crossword, “Say a Few Words”—Jim Q’s review
THEME: Units of volume can be heard in the first syllable(s) of common phrases.
- 20A [Golf tournament displays (read the first two syllables aloud!)]
LEADER BOARDS. “Leader” sounds like “Liter”!
- 28A [February 13th observance for “ladies celebrating ladies” (first two syllables)] GALENTINE’S DAY. Timely! And GALEN/GALLON.
- 47A [Good place to watch Jazz players (first syllable)] COURTSIDE SEAT. COURT/QUART.
- 55A [Reveal a lot (about), or a hint to this puzzle’s punny theme] SPEAK VOLUMES.
Great revealer to an overall fun puzzle. I figured out the idea of the theme, but the revealer was a nice surprise. In addition, some sparkly fill included FLAT SCREENS (plural maybe a touch awkward), DEAD TIME, and PEARLY GATES.
I suppose this puzzle was run today due to the timeliness of the GALETINE’S DAY entry. That phrase is new to me this year, but man, I’m hearing it non-stop (quite possibly even more than VALENTINE’S DAY.
Thanks for this one! And happy V.D. y’all!
Kevin Christian & Howard Barkin’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary
Repeated definitions are on record as one of my personal least favourite theme tropes. When I am confronted with them I prefer already-acceptable answers like HUMBLEPIE and BLACKBIRD. SINGERSHERYL is simple enough, though BOASTWITHJOY is more like the annoyingly weird phrasing typical of the theme type.
I appreciate that Scrabbly letters were not used gratuitously, but rather to include interesting answers like XEROX, OKGOOGLE, JAYZ and OZARKS.