David Alfred Bywaters’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “No Fooling”—Jim P’s review
It’s April Fools’ Day, but here we have essentially the opposite of that. With an apt title, phrases that normally have the word “fool” in them, have that word replaced with a similar-sounding word.
- 17a [Like one playing basketball in a suit of armor?] FOUL-PROOF.
- 24a [Jack and Jill’s mishap?] FALL ON THE HILL.
- 40a [Cat food?] TOM FUEL. This is the only iffy one for me. In my world, a tomfool is much less well-known than “tomfoolery.”
- 51a [Meadow with plenty of room for trotting?] FOAL’S PARADISE
- 64a [Tax return?] APRIL FILE
I like this theme quite a bit. Sure, there doesn’t seem to be a rhyme or reason why any particular F-word (for lack of a better term) goes in which phrase (I’m sure decent-enough clues could be constructed for FOUL ON THE HILL or FUEL ON THE HILL), but during the solve, you don’t realize this. You simply work with the clue you’ve got until you get the answer, and it flows. Although it strikes me that this could’ve been a vowel-run theme with FAIL, FEEL, FILE, FOAL, and FUEL. Interesting.
Regardless, I like the theme entries for the most part, and the clues make sense. Lastly, the title pulls everything together to give the puzzle purpose.
Really fun fill as well with SALVAGE (just a good word in and of itself), TRUE/FALSE, DRACHMA, GRAPEVINE, and a toddler’s “ALL GONE!” Good stuff. EASEFUL [Affording peace] sounds a little far-fetched, and URIEL [One of the archangels] is well out of my wheelhouse, but the crosses helped with those. Cluing was mostly straightforward.
A fun theme and strong fill on this one. Four stars.
John Ficarra & Patrick Merrell’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Wishing you all a gentle April Fools Day on Wednesday, because none of us need any unpleasant surprises this week. The puzzle’s theme reverses the usual prank, by making you think the puzzle will be impossible but turning out to be of standard Wednesday difficulty (if not a tad easier):
- 17a. [Historic town in Veszprém county, Hungary, noted for its baroque architecture], ARE YOU KIDDING ME? I would tell you what answer actually works for that clue, but I only got as far as seeing that this county’s legislature is controlled by the country’s far-right party, and the anti-Semitic party also won a few seats, and got angry with the country. Don’t travel there no matter how much you might like baroque architecture.
- 40a. [Left tributary of the Vitim River in Irkutsk Oblast, Russia], WHO THE HELL KNOWS? Siberia! The river basin had an “event” in 2002 that’s thought to be from a bolide (a bright meteor that goes kaboom, and a word I did not know).
- 63a. [Village between Kruszyna and Jacków in Silesian Voivodeship, Poland (pop. 305)], I HAVEN’T GOT A CLUE. Częstochowa isn’t too far from there, in case you wanted a little more Nazi-related content beyond the Hungarian clue. (Kinda wishing the clues had included, say, somewhere in the Amazon and somewhere in the Indian Subcontinent.)
So anyway, we’re all glad we weren’t actually being quizzed on geographical obscurities. I’ll bet Eugene Maleska would have known the answer to at least one of these!
Three more things:
- 54a. [Piñata smasher], BAT. Say what? Who’s doing that? Just use a broomstick like Dios intended.
- 3d. [Like Gruyère or Grandpa], AGED. “What’s that smell?” (I like the clue.)
- 26d. [Enjoying the great outdoors … indoors], RVING. I’m close to finishing season 2 (2009) of Breaking Bad, which does involve an RV. Yes, I’m 11 years behind on the show. What of it? It’s a good time for a distraction, and wow wow wow, the acting and the cinematography (do they call it that in TV?) blow me away.
- 53d. [Kind of chip], NACHO. I’m only a month or two behind on the Breaking Bad prequel, Better Call Saul, which features a character named Nacho Varga who’s one of my faves.
Not wild about some of the fill: plural IRES, ENOS, AGIN, BIG A, ETHNO-, VSO, HOU, NEW TO, and the wildly arbitrary IS SAD (IS + adjective as an entry? I’ll pass).
3.5 stars from me. Be well and wash your hands!
Karen Steinberg’s Universal crossword, “Minimize”—Jim P’s review
This appears to be a debut. Any relation to the editor?
This theme stymied me for far too long, but it makes good sense. DECLUTTER at 64a is clued [Get rid of unnecessary stuff, as you must do in the starred answers]. Each of the other theme answers is a phrase the includes a synonym for “rubbish” which you must ignore to make sense of the clues.
- 17a [*Fires]
- 29a [*Sights under tired eyes]
- 47a [*Cartoonists, at times]
I had large swaths of white in my grid as I tried to work my way down. I kept thinking the theme answers would make sense at some point. But it took me getting to the revealer to realize what was happening. Once I did that and sussed out GARBAGE BAGS, then the rest fell quickly. It’s nice when it works out like that.
Our long non-theme entries are INDIA INK, SILLIEST, LAY DOWN, ADD SALT, DECIMAL, and TROLLED. Not bad. I also like BAD DOG and CHAKA Khan.
I don’t think I’ve ever come across the name RENATA [Name meaning “reborn”]. Anyone have any examples of famous RENATAs?
- 4d. [Mild soap brand]. BASIS. New to me. Looks like its aimed at those with sensitive skin.
- 5d. [It’s written with a point in the U.S. but not in France]. DECIMAL. The clue threw me because France is not the only country that doesn’t use the dot as the decimal separator. Well whaddya know? There’s a whole Wikipedia article on the subject.
- 30d. [Russian activist Gorbacheva]. RAISA. This is the wife of Mikhail Gorbachev though I can’t find any information about the difference in spellings. Anyone with knowledge about Russian surnames out there?
Nice puzzle with a satisfying trick to it. 3.7 stars.
Debra Hamel’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary
Really fun theme today, albeit it has one very loose wheel. The first three entries follow the pattern [Greek mythological person]’s [thing], but the thing is pluralised and its meaning changed. A very tight and interesting theme. ACHILLESHEELS is a particularly creative entry. I’m not one who has ever encountered shots referred to as BELTS, but where else could you go with that? The wonky wheel is ADAM’SAPPLE(S); suddenly we switch to the Old Testament / Tanach. It feels forced to me.
[Grade of tea leaves], PEKOE. Oh? I thought it was a variety?
[Royal-ly made?], TYPED. Is Royal a typewriter brand?
[News article intro], LEDE. Nice to see this gain traction in puzzles.
Byron Walden’s AVCX, “We’re on a Roll” — Ben’s Review
I should have seen this AVCX theme coming, and I can’t say I’m surprised that this is what “We’re on a Roll” was hinting at, but I also was not expecting a crossword using recent TP shortages as a theme so soon. Anyways, here’s how this theme works:
- 17A: Genre for Billie Eilish and Florence + the Machine — AL[T-P]OP
“La La Land”“Moonlight,” for one — BES[T P]ICTURE
- 27A: Undercover inciter — AGEN[T P]ROVOCATEUR
- 50A: Vote buying, graft, etc. — CORRUP[T P]RACTICES
- 63A: Item regulated in the early twentieth century for fear suffragettes would use it as a weapon — HA[TP]IN
- 50A: Sought-after squares, of which there are six in this puzzle — TOILE[T P]APER
Each of these squares affects the downs as well, so OU[TP]ACE, AGI[TP]ROP, S[T. P]AT, BI[T P]LAYER, PA[T. P]END., and COA[T P]EG also fit into the grid nicely.
As far as the theme goes…it does the thing it sets out to do and it’s current. CORRUPT PRACTICES isn’t my favorite entry of the bunch, but as far as another 15 to match with AGENT PROVOCATEUR, it gets things done.
Elsewhere in the fill: it took forever for me to parse ATONOF, the answer for “Beaucoup” as A TON OF. I kept wanting it to be someone’s name.
C’est la vie – enjoy the rest of your Wednesday.