Ruth Bloomfield Margolin’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Seeking Enlightenment”—Jim P’s review
We all need a little guidance from time to time, right? This puzzle seeks help from a higher power (Mike Shenk?) with the revealer GIVE ME A SIGN (62a, [Entreaty for divine guidance, answered by each circled word]). The other theme answers have road sign words hidden in common phrases.
- 17a [One who usually avoids meat, but might sometimes be persuaded] FLEXITARIAN. I don’t hear this one very often, but I believe I have heard it before. I needed most of the crossings, but that X was crucial. Fun entry.
- 24a [Criticizes ruthlessly] PICKS TO PIECES. Nice how the hidden word spans all three parts to this entry.
- 39a [Stays out of sight]
LIE SLOWLIES LOW
- 51a [President Eisenhower, e.g.] FORMER GENERAL. I can’t believe there are that many merge signs that use the actual word. Typically, it’s just done pictorially. Also, I have to give the term FORMER GENERAL the side-eye. Unless someone is stripped of rank, they keep that rank even after retirement. Even though Eisenhower took on an even higher title later in life (“President”), he could still be referred to as a general.
Despite my last little nit there, I enjoyed this theme. There aren’t that many single-word road signs, so this feels like an exhaustive set (if you can come up with something for DETOUR and YIELD, I’d like to see it).
COTILLION is a fun bit of long fill. OVERPOWER is less fun but still solid. Other highlights include TEXTILE, TONSIL, and CAN-DO. I did not know ODILE [Role danced in black]. I’ve probably seen it before but had conveniently forgotten it. It refers to the villainous role in Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake.
- 11a. [Its first cover identified it as “Humor in a Jugular Vein”]. MAD Magazine. Fun clue!
- 46a. [Classic brand in model rocketry]. ESTES. This name was buried way down deep in my little gray cells. My brother was heavily into model rockets when we were kids. He once put a little parachute guy in the tip of rocket. We went out to the dunes, shot the rocket off, and watched as the mini-paratrooper floated miles away…
- 10d. [Pain in the neck, at times]. TONSIL. Hmm. As cute as the clue is, I don’t know that the tonsils are actually in the neck.
- 60d. [Food for flickers]. ANTS. I really wanted this to be PEAS. It took me a while to come to the realization that flickers are birds. Pretty ones, at that.
Nice puzzle. 3.8 stars.
Zhouqin Burnikel’s New York Times crossword—Ben’s review
After last week’s multi-state grid with 16 possible answers, this week’s Thursday NYT from Zhouqin Burnikel is a little more straightforward. The revealer at 56D clues “‘Enough!,’ in Mexico…or a hint to 11 answers in this puzzle”. That’d be NO MAS, and indeed, 11 answers are missing their MAs, not that you can tell from looking at the grid by itself:
- 1A: Mugged for the camera, maybe — (MA)DE FACES
- 8A: Site administrator — WEB(MA)STER
- 40A: Large guard dogs — (MA)STIFFS
- 41A: Aches and pains — (MA)LADIES
- 70A: Feigns sickness to avoid work — (MA)LINGERS
- 71A: Much-traveled thoroughfares — (MA)IN ROADS
- 1D: Much-painted religious figure — (MA)DONNA
- 12D: Food cooked in a cornhusk — TA(MA)LE
- 32D: Stay behind — RE(MA)IN
- 36D: Evil intentt — (MA)LICE
- 58D: Wyatt Earp, for one — LAW(MA)N
There’s a few bits of fill I didn’t love here – the (admittedly) redundant SAT TEST, NOT A BIT clued as “0%” – but this is a pretty solid grid overall, and I enjoyed the theme.
What’s your favorite PANGRAM? Mine is “Sphinx of black quartz, judge my vow!”
Martha Kimes’ Universal crossword, “After Dark”—Jim Q’s review
A puzzle best solved at night.
THEME: Two word phrases where the first word can follow “dark.”
- SIDE EFFECT (dark side)
- KNIGHT RIDER (dark knight)
- SECRET AGENT (dark secret)
- MEAT LOCKER (dark meat)
Right over the plate today. I did momentarily wonder if BROKE EVEN was part of the theme. Doesn’t seem to work, and its symmetrical partner suggests they’re just along for the ride.
Also, how late am I to the party that I didn’t know OREOs had an annual mystery flavor? OOh… it’s a contest too! Guess the flavor! Last year’s winner won $50,000 after correctly guessing “Churro.” I’ll be on the lookout in 2020!
No frills puzzle here with a very simple theme. Smooth fill all around. Great puzzle to hook potential solvers!
Kurt Krauss’ LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary
Today we have a pretty straightforward theme. STORMYWEATHER is clued as the song and four other phenomena associated with storms are listed: DARKCLOUDS, LIGHTNINGBOLTS, THUNDERSHOWERS, and HAILSTONES. All four clues feature a snowclone-like construction with some form of [They’re ___-ous]. Partly, this is to make the clues less obvious, as STORMYWEATHER gives a lot away. I feel like this style of clue may be somewhat polarising for solvers? Some might enjoy the wordplay, but others may find it annoying and cutesy?
I liked [Ones seeing things] for TOURISTS – short, snappy wordplay! On the other hand, why are people using STOICAL when STOIC means the same thing?
Paul Coulter’s Fireball Crossword, “Double Back”–Jenni’s write-up
The Fireball has not joined the crossword Women’s March. I liked this puzzle anyway.
The theme answers appear to be random wacky phrases until you literally look the other way. They make sense backwards.
- 17a [Bounty given out in weed?] is a POT REWARD (top drawer).
- 21a [Rewrite a repeated section of code?] is EDIT LOOP (tide pool).
- 29a [Gave back yak?] is REPAID GAB (diaper bag).
- 41a [Busybodies who aren’t bald?] are TRESSED SNOOPS (dessert spoons). This is when I figured it out, and I said “aha!” and then I laughed.
- 51a [Compost heap items?] are PEELS ET AL (sleep late). I didn’t figure that one out until after I finished the puzzle. I got “sleep late” but couldn’t figure out what PEELS ETAL were.
- 60a [Pixar clownfish performing in person?] is LIVE NEMO (evil omen).
- 67a [Love god comes to a halt?] is EROS STOPS (sore spot).
That’s a lot of theme material – it’s a 15×17, so there’s extra room. The fill doesn’t suffer overly much – nothing that annoyed me while I was solving. A really good puzzle.
A few other things:
- 9a [Heated up?] is a good clue for ARMED.
- Are lawyer’s specifically more likely to wear SERGE suits? I found out yesterday that the San Diego Padres have brown as a team color because their founding owner wore brown suits. Who knew?
- 20a [Outer edges of greens] has nothing to do with food. It’s APRONS, which I presume is a golf thing.
- I like the long downs: INTRAUTERINE and GRAPESEED OIL. For the record, do . not use GRAPESEED OIL in your uterus.
- TSUNAMIs aren’t funny, but [Salt shaker?] is a funny clue for one.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that ELLA Fitzgerald won a Lifetime Grammy the year after Duke Ellington, and I’d never heard of Vantablack. Turns out it’s one of the darkest substances known. VANTA is an acronym for vertically aligned NANOtube arrays. According to Wikipedia, light bounces around the tubes and thus does not escape, so it’s very very dark.