Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Skinny-Dipping”—Jim P’s review
What a great theme and grid from the editor himself! Each theme answer contains a hidden synonym for “skinny” (in the circled letters) which dips down to the row below before coming back up to be completed in the next Across entry. Cool stuff!
- 16a [Endures a series of…] / 18a […dangers or criticisms] RUNS THE GA / U /NTLET. I love this base phrase any day of the week. That it’s a grid-spanner and hides the theme word GAUNT, are added bonuses.
- 24a [Warning to encourage…] / 29a […early registration] SPACE IS L / I / MITED. SLIM.
- 42a [Person who’s skeptical…] / 4a […of accepted dogma] FREE T / H / INKER. THIN.
- 54a [Very short distance…] / 57a […for a shooter] POINT BL / A / NK RANGE. I didn’t know LANK was a word separate from “lanky,” but it’s right there in the dictionary.
Fun theme. It didn’t take long to suss out what was going on, given the title and the ellipses in the clues. But the interesting choices for entries made for an enjoyable solve from start to finish. Sure, it would have been even cooler if the “skinny” words all spanned other words (which is the case in only one entry), but given the complexity of the theme, this arrangement doesn’t bother me.
Plenty to like in the fill, too, with MYSTIC, THE PITS, fully-named OSSO BUCO, and BAND-AID NUDISTS ON TIPTOE.
I sure could’ve done with a TEST KIT this past week, since I was having COVID symptoms. Unfortunately, I didn’t merit a test in my area (Puget Sound), and so I continue to live in ignorance. Thankfully, the symptoms have passed; it just would’ve been nice to know if I was exposing my family to it. Gonna stay hunkered down for weeks to come, regardless.
BOP IN is one side-eye-earning entry. It’s clued [Arrive casually], and I get it. I just don’t think I’ve ever heard it used before. The other eyebrow-raiser is LA MISSION [2009 Benjamin Bratt movie]. I know the actor, just didn’t know the film. And I resisted that entry because the LA is Spanish, but Spanish for MISSION is misión. Or is it L.A. MISSION? Frankly, I just don’t care enough to look.
Only one clue I’ll note: 66a. [Suffered a selloff]. SLID. Am I being an idiot for not looking at my retirement fund lately? I just can’t bring myself to do it.
Nifty puzzle. 4.25 stars from me.
Alex Eaton-Salners’ New York Times crossword—Ben’s review
It’s Thursday, let’s crossword. Today’s NYT is from Alex Eaton-Salners and it goes a little something like this:
- 17A: Mercury or Sun, e.g. — WNBA TEAM
- 26A: Mercury or Venus, e.g. — ROMAN GOD
- 35A: Mercury or Earth, e.g. — INNER PLANET
- 48A: Mercury or Mars, e.g. — MUSICIAN
- 58A: Mercury or Saturn, e.g. — AUTO MAKE
I’m glad I solved this when it came out Wednesday night, because this felt like a Wednesday sort of a theme. The Mercury and the Sun are both WNBA TEAMs, Mercury and Venus are ROMAN GODs, (Freddie) Mercury and (Bruno) Mars are both MUSICIANs, and Mercury and Saturn are both AUTO MAKEs. There’s something that feels less than elegant about INNER PLANETS for Mercury and Earth – everything else is riffing on the fact that these are planets AND something else, so for it to be planets and…planets left me wanting a little more.
“Country singer Carly” PEARCE (16A). Admittedly I don’t listen to a ton of country, but I had no clue who this was. The crossings for this felt very fair and I needed all of them.
Fill I liked: Pontiac FIERO (though I would’ve loved a fresher reference to chef Guy FIERI), EURAIL passes, SOAKAGE, ADVERT, TRUE GRIT, and noting that Marcel MARCEAU is the only person with a line in Mel Brooks’ Silent Movie.
Amanda Rafkin’s Universal crossword — “Stair Cases” — Jim Q’s review
Usually I grumble (loudly) when there are circles included in the Across Lite version of a Universal puzzle since (for some reason) they can’t be replicated in the versions that go out to most solvers. Oddly enough, I feel the opposite about this one. I like it better the way it appears in the Universal solving app/print.
THEME: Words that can precede “case” appear to be climbing stairs (represented by black squares).
- COLD. Cold case.
- SHOW. Show case.
- BEST. Best case.
- BOOK. Book case.
With the Across Lite version, I essentially solved this as a themeless, knowing that I’d have to read the circled letters when it was done and it would have something to do with a staircase. I think I would’ve liked the mystery more in the print/online version where the clue for 16A asks the solver to “…note the letter above every black square in each four-black square diagonal!” I mean, yes, those instructions are somewhat unwieldy, but I hadn’t even noticed that the themers rested on four black squares!
And the fill in this is great! This type of theme actually puts a lot of constraints on the grid, so it’s extra impressive to see four (!) grid spanners: GIANT SEA TURTLES, SEALED WITH A KISS, DIAGNOSIS MURDER and ANIMAL SIDEKICKS. I never heard of the last one as a stand-alone phrase, but it works for me. Add to that DIRTY COP, ALAN ALDA, BYE NOW, NO NAME, HAS A GO, and the general lack of cruddy short fill.
An extremely impressive grid.
Jeffrey Wechsler’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary
For those of you missing your sports, to day features the progression of a single play in baseball. WINDUP(toy), PITCH(black), SWING(band), MISS(muffet). STRIKEONE. Bonus clues are included for SPEEDS, EYES and ATAGAME.
Name to note: [“Insecure” actress/writer Issa ___], RAE. One of several current options for RAE. For a while, there were only a few!
Clecho pair: [Keep a Persian company, perhaps], CATSIT and [Take in, as a Persian], ADOPT. Most cats for adoption are moggies… at least here.
Brendan Emmett Quigley crossword (No. 1247), “AHH”—Ade’s take
Hello there, again! First and foremost, here is hoping you are doing well and staying as safe as can be. And for those who have been affected, directly or indirectly, by the effects of the coronavirus, know that I’m absolutely thinking of you and hoping for the best with those cases — and all cases around the world.
Apologies for the less-than-graceful segue, but here goes. Today’s puzzle has a little too much going on at the beginning, literally. Each of the four theme answers is a pun that’s created by strategically adding a couple of H’s to the first word in order to reimagine that word, and therefore, the entire phrase.
- SHEATHING AREA (19A: [Spot to put your sword away?]) – Seating area.
- HUSHED THE FORCE (26A: [Quieted police officers?]) – Used the Force.
- HUNH AMBASSADOR (43A: [Representative who goes, “wha?”?]) – UN Ambassador. I knew that “hunh” was an alternative way to spell “huh,” but I’ve never typed/used the former until today.
- HEATH LIKE A PIG (50A: [Slobbish Ledger?]) – Eat like a pig.
Some solvers might have balked at the “HUSHED THE FORCE” entry given the presence of the “H” in the word “the” and possibly believe that the theme was inconsistent. But I’m cool with it, especially since those tricky Hs apply to just the first word of each theme entry. Probably the entry that made me do a double take was HOOT AT (6D: [Holler to from afar]). Let me know if you’ve come across/used this phrase before, because I sure have not, even though I’ve been with people who have made hooting-like sounds when trying to get people’s attention. Just haven’t heard of the actual phrase. That crossing of PEGBOX (15D: [Where violin strings are attached]) and ILEX was a bear, though a bit of familiarity with the former made that less adventurous for the solving experience than what could have occurred (33A: [Holly plant]). Favorite entry of the day was the pleasing-to-the-eyes COMEDY GOLD (30D: [Instant classic joke]). Its paralleling entry was also good fill in the sense that most of us don’t get to see this person’s first name. However, the answer also is a reminder of what could have been on this Thursday: Opening Day of the 2020 Major League Baseball season.
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: MOISES ALOU (3D: [Six-time baseball All-Star whose uncles also played]) – Today was supposed to mark the day that another member of a legendary baseball family began his career in Major League Baseball. Luis Rojas, the brother of MOISES ALOU, was named the newest manager of the New York Mets in January. The most recent member of the Alou family to feature in The Bigs, Moises, reached those six All-Star Games with five different teams: Montréal Expos (1994), Florida Marlins (1997), Houston Astros (1998, 2001), Chicago Cubs (2004) and San Francisco Giants (2005). Alou, who was a corner outfielder (left field, right field), finished third in the National League MVP Award voting in both 1994 and 1998, and finished his career with a slash line of .303/.369/.516 (batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage) with 332 home runs and 1287 runs batted in.
Thank you so much for your time, friends! Have a great rest of your Thursday, and hope you have a good weekend coming up! Oh, and wash your hands!
Minor nit with Ben’s NYT review: Mercury and Saturn WERE both auto makes, not ARE both auto makes. I have owned at different times a Rambler, Plymouth, Oldsmobile, and Saturn, thus becoming an expert on giving bad karma to automobiles. I also felt this was more Wednesday-like, I kept expecting other tricks with planets.
I’m hoping that you don’t currently own a Subaru.
No. My wife does but her choices seem immune to my bad karma. OTOH, we have both owned Toyotas and they seem immune to my bad karma.
In Ben’s defense, in crossworld the past is still with us. MAE WEST is an actress and LINCOLN is still a president. I find this a comforting cluing convention, and Ben has obviously internalized it.
Do car dealers run when they see you coming?
I thought the NYT theme was kind of fun. I don’t follow the WNBA very closely, so I wanted 17-A to be “newspaper,” but that didn’t quite fit. Ben – I see your point about 35-A, but 26-A is probably a bigger offender in that regard, as I’m pretty sure that both Mercury and Venus were Roman gods before they were names of planets.
Has anyone here ever used or heard the term SOAKAGE before today’s puzzle? Dictionary confirms it but, seriously? I did think it was cute to have it cross OSMOSIS.
i liked the fill in Universal but why was the ‘theme hint’ in the ALAN ALDA clue? had me wracking my brains trying to connect the diagonal words to MASH somehow. would have prefered circles!!
oops. didn’t mean to post as reply – apologies
I’d never heard of SOAKAGE either, but I don’t object at all. I like learning new vocabulary, and it created no unfair crossings. Well, I must admit that SIEGED meaning besieged felt a little odd, although it exists.
I didn’t mind at all including INNER PLANETS. It’s a useful phrase to know, and I can’t flaw the theme answers for including the planets in the sense of, well, planets. Indeed, if it didn’t we’d probably wonder at the omission (unless there were a spoiler entry in a different style to point to it). Besides, is the objection just that this meaning of those names is way more familiar than the others? I’m not sure about that, although I don’t follow cars or the WNBA. Is it that the other meanings derive from this one? Well, actually no. The planets are named for gods.
I did take a while to realize how to end AUTO _ given that it’s not that different from the actual answer taken by itself, and I’d never thought of “the” [sports team in the singular] before, as opposed to plurals like the Knicks and the Yankees. I kept wondering if it were a mistake. But if they slowed me down more than many a Thursday, all the better.
I have to congratulate Amanda Rafkin on a fantastic Universal puzzle today! Jim Q’s review said it all. It’s the closest I’ve ever seen to a perfect Universal crossword, and I’ve been doing them daily for 10+ years.
Someone should tell the WSJ that you run a gantlet, not a gauntlet. A gauntlet is a glove.
Yeah, I noticed that, too.
In British English, btw, ‘gantlet’ is basically unknown. Gauntlet is used in both senses.
Yes. I’ve heard North Americans say “gantlet” and assumed it was their pronunciation of “gauntlet “.