Jim Holland’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “By the Numbers”—Jim P’s review
Theme: Phrases with certain numbers in them have that number replaced by a single Roman numeral. WHEN IN ROME is the revealer at 64a, clued [Beginning of travel advice appropriate to the starred answers].
- 17a [*Agent, traditionally] X-PERCENTER. Ten-percenter, referring to an agent’s typical cut.
- 27a [*Field divider] L-YARD LINE. 50-yard line of American football.
- 49a [*Conflict between the Houses of Plantagenet and Valois] C YEARS’ WAR. The Hundred Years’ War, which actually lasted 116 years from 1337 to 1453.
- 10d [*Performing flawlessly] BATTING M. Batting 1000.
- 39d [*Biggies of big business] FORTUNE D. Fortune 500.
Nifty theme which I enjoyed. When it comes to Roman numerals, I used to always get D and L mixed up. But now it’s a point of pride for me that I can remember that D and L stand for 500 and 50 respectively. What cemented it in my mind was the 2005 Super Bowl, the “Extra-Large Super Bowl XL.” Knowing that we are nowhere near the 500th Super Bowl, I’m now able to remember that L is 50 and therefore D must be 500. If I’m still around for Super Bowl D, I might start getting confused again.
With six theme entries in a pinwheel design, there’s not much room for long flashy fill. We get HANDBILL and TIED ONTO, which are fine, but not terribly exciting.
Cluing felt heavily reliant on trivia today, which sometimes happens on a Thursday. These in particular I did not enjoy:
- 42a. [Allan Lane spoke for him]. MR ED.
- 51a. [Twelve Oaks neighbor]. TARA.
- 5d. [Haggard book]. SHE. This one, especially, irked me. I assumed it was a book by country singer Merle Haggard. Nope, it’s referring to 19th-century writer H. Rider Haggard and his 1886 book She: A History of Adventure. I’ve never heard of either. I’m not saying a puzzle should only have things that I know about in it, but this seems unusually off of anyone’s radar. Correct me if I’m wrong.
- 24d. [Athol Fugard’s “A Lesson From ___”]. ALOES. I think I’d rather have it clued as the plural of ALOE.
Contrast those with the clue for NILE: [Shadoofs raise water from it]. Yes, it’s trivia, but at least it’s interesting and I learned from it. A shadoof is a pole with a bucket and a counterweight, making it look vaguely like a trebuchet.
Favorite clue goes to 45a [Dirty mouth output?] for SILT. Cute.
Nice puzzle with a satisfying trick for a theme. Fill is on the average side and trivia in the clues sapped some of the fun out of it. A mixed bag for me. 3.4 stars.
Trip Payne’s Fireball Crossword, “Cuckoo Crossword”–Jenni’s write-up
April Fools! After last week’s brain-crushing meta, Peter and Trip team up to give us utter wackiness.
I love these puzzles. There are just enough “normal” entries to give me a foothold and then I’m off and running to cloud-cuckoo-land, giggling all the while. This was just the right medicine for the middle of another week that feels like it’s going on for years.
My favorite entries:
- 1a [“Mike Pence approves the Republican National Committee’s purchase of a Hummer,” for short] reads like a Variety headline: USA VP OKS GOP SUV.
- 2d [Person who orders drinks from an automaton bartender] is a SALOON ROBOT USER.
- 6d has my favorite clue: [How you would introduce a 1960s TV kid to an ancient Greek physician (I don’t know, maybe it’s time travel or something, just go with me on this)]. The answer is OPIE, GALEN. It helps to know your ancient Greek physicians – this one was actually a gimme.
- 18a [Note that Jim Davis left for his cartoon dog before he’d finished inking its face] is IOU EYES ODIE.
- Timely entry: 44a [Quarantine the mascot with the top hat and monocle] is ISOLATE MR PEANUT. He may not have an N95 mask, but he has gloves.
Yay for pure fun!
Evan Mahnken’s New York Times crossword—Ben’s review
It’s Thursday, y’all! We’ve almost made it through another week. Let’s talk about the NYT crossword, which is from Evan Mahnken this week. Our revealer at 57A points to “the contents of some special squares in the grid” having “Fancy-schmancy language”. I’m more familiar with those being TEN-DOLLAR WORDS, but times have changed and apparently those are now FIVE-DOLLAR WORDS. Anyways, as suggested by that, five squares in the grid have “dollar words”:
- 9A and 9D both have NOTE (“Places for to-do lists” — [NOTE]PAD, “Tryst locale” — [NO-TE]LL MOTEL)
- 17A and 18D share BUCK (“Social media fad that went viral in 2014” — ICE [BUCK]ET CHALLENGE, “Cowpoke” — [BUCK]AROO)
- 24A and 27D feature BILL (“Large-beaked bird found in Africa” — HORN[BILL], “TV host once with with an “Explaining Jokes to Idiots” segment” — [BILL] MAHER)
- 28A and 28D have SINGLE (“Only card of its suit in a hand” — [SINGLE]TON, “Places where business is picking up?” — [SINGLE]S BARS)
- and finally, 38A and 38D use CLAM (“Ado” — [CLAM]OR, “Manhattan, for one” — [CLAM] CHOWDER)
I liked this one! NO TELL MOTEL was my aha into what was going on, and figuring it out early followed by BUCKAROO shortly thereafter meant that this felt pretty easily, though CLAMOR/CLAM CHOWDER took forever to click for me. My brain thinks “cocktail” for “Manhattan” before it thinks chowder. Throwing in ALS at 61D was a nice touch to go along with ICE BUCKET CHALLENGE.
Be well, all! Stay healthy!
Susan Gelfand’s Universal crossword — “Fantasy Sports” — Jim Q’s review
Fantastic puzzle! In more ways than one, of course.
THEME: Common phrases reimagined as if they’re “fantastic” sports plays.
- 17A [Made an extraordinary boxing play?] PUNCHED THE CLOCK.
- 26A [Made an extraordinary volleyball play?] SPIKED A DRINK.
- 42A [Made an extraordinary baseball play?] PITCHED A TENT.
- 54A [Made an extraordinary baseball play?] PASSED THE BUTTER.
A nice consistent set here. I must admit, I didn’t really understand the “extraordinary” part of the clues, but I suppose it goes along with the title. “Extraordinary” more of a synonym to “fantasized” than “great.” What other things are PASSED, PITCHED, SPIKED, and PUNCHED in common phrases? I know I initially wanted PITCHED A FIT and PASSED THE TORCH when I got the first words respectively.
Nice longer downs in the fill included SANITIZED (because that’s on all our minds right now!) and ART EDITOR.
Overall, 3.5 Stars. An enjoyable start to the day!
Alan DerKazarian’s LA Times Crossword – Gareth’s summary
JUMPSCARE is a really excellent entry, let alone revealer. The rest of the theme is a little more covert. Five synonyms for scare (n.) are presented, but hidden across two entries – “jumping” the black square.
This theme time tends to have few splashy entries. This is couple with a fairly taxing grid design. The frayed edges here are the bottom right with OSIER and ICHOR in one corner; both ALOAN and ADRAG , two arbitrary A ___ entries in one puzzle; a very name-heavy corner with ECHOSTAR and tough clues for LACROSSE and BOSCH.
I don’t fault SHE as fill. I didn’t know it, although I’ve heard of it somewhere or other dimly before, but the Wiki entry is long enough to suggest importance all by itself, and a quote there calls it one of hte most influential novels of modern literature. Themes of a woman leader and imperialism sound like contemporary concerns at that.
If I may add something, maybe it doesn’t matter. For me the test isn’t whether a clue isn’t something I know. It’s whether the density of factoids and proper nouns makes the puzzle a trivia contest and a slog, plus whether crossings are fair. Since neither applies here, I’m cool.
It was BUCKAROO for me. I love rebuses like this – it’s not an exercise in filling in the blank with the same word/letter combo each time. I like the “aha” moments when I figure it out. Fun puzzle!
It was BUCKET and BUCKAROO for me too. A very happy puzzle, fun.
Fireball – To echo Jenni, I also love the cuckoo crossword. What a treat each year. Thanks Trip and Peter for the welcome entertainment.
These are some of my favorites (in moderation, of course).
Plus, this one demonstrates exactly how far you need to go to fill a grid with 11 black squares :). That thing is insane!.
fireball — another fan here. i think of this as the ultimate green paint puzzle. OR TAIL? T-BONE NOR? GANDER MATE? PEEVELESS? all so bad, they’re good. “cuckoo” perfection!
I was extremely disappointed that the NYT on-line Newspaper page for puzzles did not recognize a solve when I filled the five squares with a “$” – WHEN IT TOOK THEM!!!!!
X L C M B – I just can’t figure out the Meta
Your B should be a D for five hundred.
ruined my own bad humor (had B on the brain for the HTML)
WSJ doesn’t come out til 4PM- Right? Or am I missing something.
Does anyone know how to fill in rebuses on Black Ink for Mac? I tried to use the “Edit > Enter Special Answer” and it doesn’t let me enter multiple letters, but when I use “Solution > Reveal > Show letter”, the rebus shows up.
WSJ: If you liked this theme, check out John Lampkin’s Friday 9/29/2019 LAT and Daniel Finan’s Sunday 1/4/2009 NYT puzzles. The themes in those two puzzles are more ambitious and, IMHO, more interesting.
BEQ: I just gave the BEQ my first 1 star ever. Reasons – 17A, 9D, and a whole lotta names. Pissed me off, and I generally like BEQ’s puzzles.
How about some other 1-raters of puzzles herein standing behind their ratings?!
Sorry to be two days late.
Sorry about that. Must be the staying at home getting to me. But I still say that anyone giving a rating below 2 stars should explain why.
Unfamiliarity with SHE probably reflects generational differences. When I was a boy, H. Rider Haggard remained a popular writer of adventure tales (KING SOLOMON’S MINES as well as SHE), along with Robert Louis Stevenson, Rudyard Kipling, H.G. Wells, and Edgar Rice Borroughs. Their books spawned Classic Comics, movies, and Saturday serials. Ursula Andress had the title role in a 1965 movie adaptation of SHE.