Zachary David Levy’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Quiet Down!”—Jim P’s review
SHH! is the revealer at 68a, clued [Silent segment of five of this puzzle’s Down answers]. Each of the theme answers has that letter string spanning two words in well-known phrases. I’m not so sure about that clue though; SHH is never silent—not in the theme answers and not in real life.
- 3d [Craft brewery with a piscine logo] DOGFISH HEAD. I messed myself up here by reading “piscine” and thinking “porcine.” I know I’ve seen this brewery’s wares at the supermarket, but I don’t think I’ve tried any. If you’re not into craft beers, this was probably a tough one.
- 7d [Further unwelcome development] FRESH HELL. Really, this is a long partial from the question, “What FRESH HELL is this?,” which is attributed to Dorothy Parker.
- 14d [Ben E. King’s first Top 10 hit] SPANISH HARLEM. Classic. Listen below while perusing the rest of this post.
- 25d [Single-serving poultry buys] CORNISH HENS. I feel like I usually see this as “Cornish game hens,” but a Google search finds this phrase often enough.
- 35d [Cheap eatery] HASH HOUSE. Solid.
Nice fill today. I especially loved the conversational touches like “OH GROW UP!” and “NOT THAT!”. Other goodies include BANKSY, HO-HUM, POSEUR, and GREASE. I didn’t know of the Pitt film AD ASTRA, but of course I’ve heard the phrase, so while it was a challenge to parse at first, educated guesses helped me finish it off. OGLALA [Crazy Horse’s people] was also unexpected. I would have guessed he was from one of the more prominently known tribes. Ah, I see the OGLALA are a subtribe of the Lakota.
Clues of note:
- 5d. [Foot in a pound]. PAW. Whew. Good one. Not units of measurement, but animal anatomy.
- 47d. [2019 Grammy-winning album from Tyler, the Creator]. IGOR. New clue alert! Expect to see more of this given the prevalence of the entry in crosswords.
- 53a. [2015 World Series champs]. ROYALS. We would also have accepted [Lorde’s 2013 #1 hit] or [Lorde hit parodied by Weird Al’s “Foil”].
Nice puzzle. 3.7 stars.
Alex Eaton-Salners’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Okay, I’m gonna call the theme a failure because too many people just could not see what it was. Before I did the puzzle, I got a text message from my old boss: “I don’t understand the Wednesday theme.” So then I did the puzzle and … did not grasp the theme. I went to Wordplay, where Deb Amlen reported having had to ask the editors what the theme was. When three people with years of experience in the crossword biz are all perplexed … I’m not sure we’re the problem.
There are two revealer-type clues: 60a. [Reject romantically … or a hint to the starts of the answers to 18- and 35-Across, phonetically], SWIPE LEFT, and 65a. [Show interest romantically … or a hint to the ends of the answers to 20- and 44-Across, phonetically], SWIPE RIGHT. 18a and 35a are LYFT DRIVER and KNICK-KNACKS, while 20a and 44a are BLUE STEEL (lacking a Zoolander clue!) and KEYSTONE KOP. The explanation is that LYFT, KNICK, STEEL, and KOP sound like synonyms of “swipe”: lift, nick, steal, cop. So that’s fine, but it’s unsatisfying for someone who can figure out 99.5% of themes without having to ask anyone to get stumped by a mid-week NYT puzzle. Maybe the revealer clues needed to say “homophones” instead of “phonetically” as a cue?
What else is there? A few things:
- To quote a classic Seinfeld episode, “I had a pony.” The pony does double action, with 47a. [___ pony], POLO, and 51a. [Pony ___], KEG. Sporting horses and beer.
- 31a. [Not yet out of the running], IN IT (could also be clued as the abbrev init.) and 69a. [Suffix with senior], -ITIS (could also be clued as “it is”). These two in the same puzzle feel ungainly. The whole thing feels … ITSY.
- 2d. [Behind bars], IN CUSTODY. I.e., Blago no more. Sigh.
- 4d. [Hungarian horseman], HUSSAR. I feel this is a word I learned from old crosswords.
- 9d. [What a curse might lead to], PG RATING. Great clue. Not a hex curse, a $%@& curse.
Fave fill: COOKIE JAR and TIKTOK.
Not sure what sort of rating to assign a puzzle whose theme was so elusive. Somewhere in the range of 3-4 stars?
Winston Emmons’s Universal crossword, “Double and Nothing”—Rebecca’s review
THEME: Double letters are added to doubled words to make up the theme answers
- 20A [The perfect guy possibly will?] MR RIGHT MIGHT
- 35A [What to wear at the mountaintop?] SUMMIT SUIT
- 45A [Sound from a laid-back cat?] MELLOW MEOW
- 54A [Gambler?] BETTING BEING
I struggled a lot with this puzzle – and didn’t get quite enough enjoyment from the theme to overcome the problem areas I came across. The theme feels very random here. We have double letters added to doubled words in to make an odd selection of theme answers here that are neither real nor very entertaining. I didn’t see a reason for the letters that were added here beyond just being able to be added and still have words that sort of make sense? And then we have MR RIGHT MIGHT which does not fit with the other the themers which are all just two words with the first word having the extras. If there is something extra going on here that I simply missed I’d love to know what is.
The fill of the puzzle isn’t bad, it just was not on my wavelength at all as far as the cluing, so it took a while for me to get through. I don’t think there was a single area of the puzzle where I didn’t feel like I got stuck. Looking at the grid after solving, other than being a little choppy, nothing sticks out as egregiously bad or difficult, so I think some alternate clues would’ve made it more enjoyable for me, but if I wasn’t reviewing this I doubt I would’ve completed it.
Francis Heaney’s AVCX, “Roll Film!” — Ben’s Review
Today’s AVCX is a Francis Heaney grid. No meta this time! This week’s 3.5/5 puzzle, “Roll Film!”, is a nice little tribute to an iconic film scene:
- 25A: Location in the opening sequence of a famous film — DEADLY CAVE
- 52A: One threat encountered in the 25-Across — DARTS
- 63A: One threat encountered in the 25-Across — SPIDERS
- 6D: One threat encountered in the 25-Across — SPIKES
- 64A: One threat encountered in the 25-Across — PIT
- 56A: Item grabbed in the 25-Across, setting off a trap whose effect is depicted along one of the long diagonals in this puzzle — GOLDEN IDOL
- 19A:Item used (unsuccessfully) in an attempt to safely remove the 56-Across without setting off a trap — SAND BAG
- 45A: Item used to brush off 63-Across, and to get across the 64-Down — WHIP
It’s opening scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark! The diagonal spelling ROCK in the upper left corner following a path of black squares diagonally to INDY in the lower right is a lovely touch. There’s even a few clues that aren’t as cross-referenced but still tie in with the movie as a whole:
- 9D: “SNL” actor with a cameo in “(mumble mumble) and the Temple of Doom” — DAN AYKROYD
- 29A: Parody, as Weird Al did to the subject of this puzzle in the opening sequence of “UHF” — SPOOF
Elsewhere the fill:
- I support Francis’ proposal of the new slogan “You can’t spell soulmates without ULM“
- Remember PSY and how we all got super into “Gangnam Style” in 2012?
- DOUG Jones’ pre-senate work for civil rights justice gets featured heavily in the new book Race Against Time by Jerry Mitchell – I really enjoyed it, and if you’re interested in true crime, it’s a fascinating read.
Roland Huget’s LA Times Crossword – Gareth’s summary
Today features another “scrambled letters found inside longer phrases” theme. Initially, this seemed pretty basic with GEARSHIFTS (the clue for which needs an “in the US” qualifier) indicated that GEAR is scrambled and found in the long answers. One element is quite pleasing, the letters in GEAR shift one at a time from top to bottom. I’m not sure why FRINGEAREA lacked circles, so I added them. Apart from FIVESTARGENERAL, the theme answers are pretty functional, a victim perhaps of the more precise theme requirements.
Better answers today include THEBFG, JUNEAU (whether it’s worth AMAJ is debatable) and DEEPSIX.