David Alfred Bywaters’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Redistributed Middles”—Jim P’s review
Find a six-letter word whose first two letters are the same as its last two letters. Now take the middle two letters, reduplicate them thus forming a new four-letter word, and add that word after the first one to create crossword wackiness. That’s today’s theme.
- 17a [Translate a Pixar film?] DECODE COCO
- 27a [Woman with a garden full of heirloom plants?] TOMATO MAMA
- 44a [Viral GIF of the “Night of the Living Dead” director? ] ROMERO MEME
- 58a [Forbidden monkey business?] BONOBO NONO
This really doesn’t do much for me. I’m still trying to see the “why” of it. There’s wordplay here, and that’s good in my eyes, but it’s so much better when there’s a reason behind it. Why are we copying the middles of these words and forming new words from them? The title usually gives us a reason for the theme if a revealer doesn’t, but this title feels kludgy and inelegant. It’s certainly not an in-the-language phrase, and I’d argue it doesn’t even accurately describe what’s going on here. Without a solid motivation underpinning the theme’s action, I’m left just asking, “Why?” If it was laugh-out-loud funny, I’d be more forgiving, but I didn’t get that from these entries.
The fill makes up a little bit for what’s lacking in the theme. ROCK BOTTOM is great as is “TRUST ME,” KABOOM!, ASK FOR IT, SPACE LAB, and “I’M SOLD!” ALARM CLOCK is solid as well.
Clues of note:
- 20a. [Be just begging to be slugged]. ASK FOR IT. There’s gotta be a less awkward way to clue this. Any ideas out there? How about [Beg to be slugged, metaphorically]?
- 25a. [Glaswegian, e.g.]. SCOT. The first time I realized that people from Glasgow were called Glaswegians, I wondered how the heck do you get that word from that word. I still don’t know the answer. But you can’t not love the word “Glaswegian.”
- 46a. [Luxury cars on the Autobahn]. BMWS. Maybe some, but BMW makes a lot of cars for the German market, and they aren’t all the luxury cars that we get here.
- 49a. [Obvious hide-and-seek option]. CLOSET. That’s a fun clue that wasn’t so obvious at first.
- 52a. [Site of extraterrestrial experimentation]. SPACE LAB. I’m interpreting “extraterrestrial” as “not on Earth,” not as “alien.”
- 29d. [Inspector of British mysteries]. MORSE. I used to love watching Inspector Morse. Maybe because he himself was a crossword lover. But there sure was a pretty high murder rate in Oxford on that show.
- 30d. [Bedside convenience]. ALARM CLOCK. Time for another cluing challenge since this one seems pretty sedate. A phrase like this doesn’t get published very often, so it seems ripe for a really good clue. Can you come up with one? I’ll start you off with [Snoozer’s bane] or [It buzzes in your ear]. You can do better.
I really wanted something more from this theme than what felt like random wordplay. The surrounding fill and grid is nice though. 3.2 stars.
Joe DiPietro’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
The theme revealer is HALF OFF, 24d. [Discounted 50% … or a hint to the answers to the starred clues]. The starred clues lead to a bunch of 8-letter reduplicative answers (reduplication is the linguistic term for a phrase or word that repeats a word exactly or with a change), but only one 4-letter half appears in the grid:
- 5a. [*”Whaddya know …”], WELL.
- 16a. [*In rapid succession, in slang], BANG.
- 18a. [*Bonkers], CRAY. Fairly contemporary slang.
- 35a. [*”Cheers!”], CHIN. Oddly enough, Merriam-Webster doesn’t attest to the “Bottoms up!” sort of meaning.
- 37a. [*Dismiss lightly], POOH.
- 59a. [*Storied New York prison], SING.
- 62a. [*”On the double!”], CHOP. Probably best to root “chop-chop” out of your vocabulary, given the race and class ramifications of its use. I hadn’t been aware till today.
- 67a. [*”Amen to that!”], HEAR. If each of us had a nickel for every time we inwardly cringed to see “Here here!” written, we’d be loaded now.
Reasonable theme. With under 40 theme squares and 78 words, the fill should be pristine. It’s pretty good, though I didn’t love SO DO I, GLOOPS, IT’S SAD, and DAH.
- 8d. [Rolling textual coverage of an event], LIVEBLOG. I feel like this is still the term of art for when someone is live-tweeting something, like when they’re watching a movie or the Oscars.
- 36d. [Softball designation], SLO-PITCH. Judging by a cursory Google investigation, slow-pitch is the standard term, with Slo-Pitch being a specifically Canadian thing? The W-less version makes me want to call it slop-itch. Say it with me!
- 11d. [Typewriter roller], PLATEN. I wonder if my age group is the last to have any sort of broad familiarity with typewriter anatomy.
- 17a. [Sister channel of HBO and TBS], TRUTV (styled as truTV).My favorite shows on that channel include Impractical Jokers (four buddies make each other do nutty challenges), The Carbonaro Effect (magician on this hidden-camera show pranks people who can scarcely believe what they are experiencing), and Adam Ruins Everything (Adam debunks/explains things in an entertaining fashion).
- 34d. [Last part of a machine wash], SPIN CYCLE. Shoot, I forgot to get my laundry out of the dryer. Oh, well. If everything is wrinkled, who cares? We’re not leaving the house so what does it matter if we wear a wrinkled top? #pandemicchic
3.5 stars from me.
Enrique Henestroza’s Universal crossword, “Dress for Success” — pannonica’s write-up
- 54aR [Perfectly qualified, or like the people in the starred clues?] IDEALLY SUITED. Double-entendre!
- 19a. [*Shoes for seminarians?] CROSS TRAINERS.
- 27a. [*Pants for pianists?] PEDAL PUSHERS.
- 45a. [*Hats for wildlife photographers?] DEERSTALKERS. Well, that’s kind of the original purpose of the headgear. Different kind of shooting, but the same general principle. Ergo, no wordplay on this one. At least the separation between piano PEDALs and bicycle PEDALs is more significant.
So. Two types of shoes, one hat—and the hat clue/entry is off. I call that a failed theme. Nice revealer, though. edit: Pedal pushers are of course pants and not shoes, as sanfranman59 helpfully comments below.
Oh, and maybe attire should have been avoided from the ballast fill? 9d [Floppy caps] BERETS, 17a [Knight’s protection] ARMOR. With just two it feels like sloppiness rather than going all-in and indulging the theme. Hmm, do HALOS (3d) count as clothing?
Let’s look around.
- 1a/18a [Drained of color] ASHEN, WAN.
- Nod to the feminist nods: 10d IDA Lupino clued as a filmmaker rather than actress (she was a producer as well). 31a [Place for two brides, maybe] ALTAR.
- 41a [James who wrote “A Death in the Family”] AGEE. He also wrote the screenplay for Night of the Hunter. 67a [Word you may have tattooed opposite “love”] HATE.
- I like both long(ish)downs: 10d [Journalism, collectively] NEWS MEDIA, 33d [Age indicators in a forest] TREE RINGS.
- Trivia! 58d [It uses 1.5 gallons of maple syrup per year] IHOP. Didn’t realize they had real maple syrup there, as opposed to high fructose corn syrup, ‘maple style’, boysenberry, and the rest. On the other hand, that number seems a little low, so maybe it’s just a small fraction of their syrup consumption?
- Technical musing: 6d [Sidetracks, like plans] DERAILS, A train shunted to a side track is still on tracks. Idiomatically the two are synonymous, but they’re kind of mixed metaphors.
Far, far from a bad puzzle, but I daresay it got derailed along the way.
Bruce Haight’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary
Today’s theme is MOVIETRAILERs, and four answers end in four-letter films, circled for your convenience. It’s good that the movies have something more in common, because there are a rather a lot of movies out there… M, W, Us, Up, It.
New answers or clues (there were quite a few today!):
- [“Baby Cobra” stand-up comedian Wong], ALI. Another ALI to add to the list!
- [Motor-assisted rides], EBIKES. I think I’ve vaguely heard of these?
- [Smug brew “expert”], BEERSNOB. New term for me, but with all the craft brewing going on the phenomenon checks out. All beer remains bitter and vile and I’m convinced anyone who says otherwise has Stockholm syndrome.
- [One of the Pep Boys], MOE. Apparently an American company with three blokes on it, a bit like Snap, Krackle and Pop.
- [Yelp alternative], ARF. So far I’m only founding a large shelter near San Francisco? Maybe Advertising Research Foundation? I’m lost here. Oh, wait, a dog’s bark can be a “yelp” I guess. Disregard.
Nate Cardin and Martha Kimes’ AVCX, “The Price of Freedom” — Ben’s Review
This week’s AVCX from Nate Cardin and Martha Kimes, “The Price of Freedom”, has a good cause behind its theme. In addition to that, it’s a debut in the AVCX from Martha – congratulations! Let’s dig in:
- 16A: Mexican sport with high-flying maneuvers — LUCHA LIBRE
- 23A: Overly literal literary maid who “dusts the furniture” by covering it in dirt — AMELIA BEDELIA
- 38A: Online compendium of momentous mishaps — FAILBLOG
- 48A:Widespread news censorship — MEDIA BLACKOUT
- 60A: Movement to end wealth-based pretrial detention … and a hint to this puzzle’s theme — BAIL REFORM
The Bail Project‘s work is particularly crucial in the midst of COVID-19 (for reasons outlined here), and I hope if you enjoyed this puzzle like I did, you consider donating. I thought the theme here was a great translation of the cause into a theme (even if I’m side-eyeing the heck out of FAILBLOG — I love Cake Wrecks as much as the next person, but I don’t think a failblog is enough of a thing on a level where it can be crossword fill)
I spent too long trying to figure out a five-letter word for TRIO that described the majority of songs by The Supremes. It turns out that all those songs are also OLDIEs
Be well, all! We’ve almost made it through another week.