Chase Dittrich’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Making Amends”—Jim P’s review
I love the title on this one because it’s perfectly apt. We are literally making AM-ends as we write in the theme answers. Each one is a well-known phrase with an added AM at the end.
- 19a [Parents in need of galactic transportation?] MOTHERS-TO-BEAM. I don’t know of any sci-fi shows or films where people “beam” across a galaxy. Not even a solar system, I don’t think. Most of it is done ship-to-ship or planet-to-orbiting-ship. Out of curiosity, can anyone come up with an example of a much longer distance “beaming” in sci-fi? Possibly in the film Contact with Jodie Foster? Note that we’re not talking wormholes here.
- 25a [Driver acting just for you?] PERSONAL ADAM. Yes, but Adam’s failure will eventually lead to your own Personal Jesus.
- 36a [Nickname for an interpretive psychoanalyst?] DR. DREAM. Not to be confused with Dr. McDreamy of Grey’s Anatomy.
- 45a [Female kangaroo?] HOPPING MADAM. I don’t know who’s referring to kangaroos as “madams” but whatever floats your boat.
- 54a [Hudson debris?] NEW YORK JETSAM. Rivals to the New York Flotsam?
Nifty theme that works because the title works so well. I didn’t find any of the entries to be lol-funny, but they were clever enough and none of them felt forced. Nice job.
My time was much too long because I got hung up at 22a STAUB [Original Expo nicknamed “Le Grand Orange” by fans] crossing 20d T-BOND [It takes years to mature]. It also didn’t help that I had HOLE at 1a [Round activity] for much of the solve instead of the correct GOLF.
LEE MARVIN and VOLDEMORT comprise the marquee long fill answers and they make for a good pairing. One for the older crowd, one for the younger. We have a case of THE YIPS at 42d which, not being a GOLF watcher or player, I only know from crosswords. I could do without OONA and plural PEKOES, but most everything else fell within the norms for a standard puzzle these days.
Clues of note:
- 15d. [Pythagorean square?]. AGORA, meaning a Greek marketplace. Nice clue.
- 56d. [The giant Enceladus is buried beneath it]. ETNA. Speaking of the Greeks, I had to look up this character from Greek mythology. Enceladus was the traditional foe of Athena, and despite being dead and buried, his rumblings are the cause of Mt. ETNA‘s tremors and eruptions (per Wikipedia and Virgil).
Excellent use of a title to drive the theme. Good puzzle. Four stars.
Alan Arbesfeld’s New York Times crossword—Ben’s review
There’s a lot going on in this Thursday’s grid, and more than I initially thought when I thought I had cracked what was going on. It started out with three sets of paired clues:
- 33/35A: Cole Porter musical — KISS/KATE
- 42A/44A: “You can wait to show your gratitude” — THANK/LATER
- 54A/56A: Clothing item for the youngest in the family — HAND/DOWN
I saw these and figured, since each had two black squares between the two words, the ME missing in each phrase (KISS ME KATE, THANK ME LATER, and HAND ME DOWN) was somehow represented there. Not so! One part of two seemingly identical clues reveal what’s going on:
- 19A: “Don’t be a stranger!” — KEEP IN TOUCH
- 69A: “Don’t be a stranger!”…or what you have to do three times in this puzzle — DROP ME A LINE
All of the MEs have dropped a line, making words that make sense in the grid, but don’t line up with their associated clue’s answer:
- 38A: ___ Na Na — SHA ME
- 48A: Repeated word in the Ten Commandments — THY ME
- 59A: Denial of responsibility — NOT I ME
Once I saw the full picture of what was going on, I was impressed.
One final note: I have never encountered the phrase “RAW RECRUITS”, even in the context of being new in the work force. Is this actually a thing?
Be well, all!
Peter Gordon’s Fireball Crossword, “Themeless 137”–Jenni’s write-up
I’ve lost track of how many Fireball crosswords by men we’ve seen since we last saw one with a woman’s sole byline. Peter certainly has the right to publish his own work, which I usually enjoy (not so much today. More on that below) and he certainly could do more to publish women when he’s not running his own puzzles. The last time I mentioned this, he Emailed me and said he’d love to get more submissions from women. Since that seems to be all he’ll do to reach out while other editors (Ben Tausig at AVCX and Erik Agard at USA Today, at least) are doing more, I’ll repeat it here and link to his spec sheet.
On to the puzzle. As I said, I usually enjoy Peter’s puzzles, including his themelesses. I want the Fireball to be “blazingly hard.” This one was almost impossible, and not in a good way. 5d [Top R&B Artist at the 2019 Billboard Music Awards] crossing 24a [Beastie Boys bandmate of Mike D and Ad-Rock] was an absolute Natick for me. I solved it through brute force – I entered every consonant in the alphabet until I got Mr. Happy Pencil. I do not object to pop culture in my puzzles. Both of those are completely legit entries. ELLA MAI is a big deal in current music and the Beastie Boys are iconic. It’s a lacuna in my knowledge base and one my brother would be horrified by. I admit that. Everyone has lacunae, and that’s why entries like that should be crossed with words that are accessible to people who don’t know pop music unless it’s in a specialized outlet. MCA is (or was) also a record label. I know Peter doesn’t like to repeat his own clues, let alone anyone else’s, but sometimes a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do to make his puzzles enjoyable. 29d [Hip-hop hit for Petey Pablo] was also new to me and also has pop culture crossings. Luckily I’m old, so I know the songs compiled on OLE ELO, and remember bad movies from my college years, which gave me PORKYS. (Petey Pablo recorded FREEK A LEEK).
Well, that’s a long couple of paragraphs of ranting! Here’s the grid and a few other things:
- 9a [Health professional?] is one of those sneaky clues where the first word is a proper noun, disguised by the convention of using upper-case to start clues. “Health” is a magazine and the answer is EDITOR. It would have been much harder without the question mark, which would have been fair.
- I’m pretty sure my mother had Frank Sinatra’s DUETS II album. I don’t remember hearing “Mack the Knife” with Frank and Jimmy Buffet. I don’t think I’ll listen to it again.
- 36a [Say “hi,” say] is a cute clue for ASPIRATE. It’s better than “inhale food or liquid into one’s lungs,” which is what I think of when I see that word.
- 45a [Oz creature] is COOKIE MONSTER. That’s Frank Oz
, of blessed memorywho is, happily, still alive, and was not the voice or body behind Big Bird. That was Carroll Spinney, who died recently. So sorry! And thanks to the commenters who set me straight.
- 61a [Dutch city where a peace treaty was signed in 1678] is NIJEMEGEN, which I’ve never heard of (geography is another lacuna. Gaps, I have them). All the crossings were fair, including 62d [Noodle with an ax], JAM. The “ax” in question is a guitar.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: see above, and above, and above. I also didn’t know that TULANE has a pelican mascot named Riptide, or that the CELICA was Motor Trend Import Car of the Year in 1978.
Mark McClain’s Universal crossword — “Fantasy Setting”
A puzzle that’s both out of this world, and yet also the complete opposite of that…
THEME: Phrases where the word EARTH is hidden in the middle.
- 18A [“Listen up!”] NOW HEAR THIS!
- 27A [Well-formulated ideas] CLEAR THOUGHTS
- 44A [Ancient battle skill] SPEAR THROWING
- 58A [Hobbits’ realm, or a hint to the word hidden in 18-, 27- and 44-Across] MIDDLE EARTH
I enjoyed this one, though in retrospect I didn’t know SPEAR THROWING was a thing! CLEAR THOUGHTS seems a bit vague too now that I think about it, but neither of those bothered me mid-solve. Also, I love the phrase NOW HEAR THIS! It’s so deliciously old-timey.
Loved the clue for 33D [One Way or another?] SIGN. Haha!
I do take issue with LGE being an acceptable abbreviation for “large,” but I’ve seen it in crosswords before. Not the puzzle’s fault!
Steve Mossberg’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary
Yesterday’s clue for POSTMEN provides an odd segue to today’s puzzle, which features pairs of AIL/ALE homophones being substituted. PREHENSILETALE and DELIVERTHEMALE were definitely strong entries, and I also appreciated the consistent way the theme was executed.
Things I don’t recall seeing before: ISS clued as the space station. TAI clued wrt sushi, also haven’t heard of this, but northern fish species are not common here. I haven’t heard of ROSELESLIE the actress before, and if I had only had half their name I wouldn’t have been sure how to assemble it!
Clue of the puzzle: [“Yo, Hadrian!”] for AVE.
Final note: I wonder if FARCRY was originally intended as the video game, but was clued to be more accessible, if somewhat awkward to clue.