Jordan Hildebrandt’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Got My Ion You”—Jim P’s review
I took a break from solving this week’s Fireball to do this puzzle…and gave myself a case of whiplash. The themes seem like mirror images of each other.
This one takes normal words whose first two letters are chemical symbols and whose remaining letters spell a different word. Cluing wackiness ensues.
All is revealed by the central entry CHEMICAL BONDING [Attraction suggested by this puzzle’s theme answers].
- 17a [Place to fill up party balloons?] HE ADDRESS. Helium. This is fine, but surely a funnier clue exists. Another word for “address” is “speech,” and a speech in a helium-fueled voice would be a funny image.
- 25a [“Foil is not for use in microwaves,” e.g.?] AL TRUISM. Aluminum.
- 49a [Battery-powered cat?] LI FELINE. Lithium. I think most Lucky Cats are solar-powered these days.
- 63a [Pasta that’s good for your bones?] CA NOODLES. Calcium. As opposed to California noodles.
This works, and I found the theme to be enjoyable. LIFELINE especially seemed to be a good find. However, I will point out that CHEMICAL BONDING occurs between two structures (atoms, ions, or molecules), so I would expect to see two chemical elements being bonded in each theme answer. But instead we have a chemical element bonding with…a regular word. I’m not going to fixate on that because I enjoyed the puzzle just fine, but it did give me pause.
My solve time is about twice last weeks, mostly because of more difficult cluing, but also because those clues skewed younger (and I’m a week older than I was last week ?). I liked the fresh-feeling clues, but they definitely were a challenge.
Plus, I didn’t know KID CUDI [“Day ‘n’ Nite” rapper] and that crossing with OAK was killer. (I’ll get to that below.) VIDEOCAM [Movie maker] was tough to suss out because I wanted VIDEOGRAPHER in there. (I don’t think a camera actually “makes” the movie.) DO THE DEW was another bright spot but tough to parse with the ambiguous clue [Slogan for a green-bottled brand].
Nothing much to grumble at. Another entry I didn’t know: NECRO [Post to revive a dormant forum thread]. I enjoyed learning that one.
Clues of note:
- 9a. [It’ll make you sweat]. GLAND. Another clue that’s got me wondering. Does a sweat GLAND actually “make” you sweat? Oh wait, maybe it means “it’ll make sweat for you.” Yeah, that works, and I like it a lot better now.
- 20a. [He called his cutlass “Johnny Corkscrew”]. SMEE. Wow, that’s a deep cut (ha!), but I love the new angle for this old standby entry.
- 22a. [Carano of “The Mandalorian”]. GINA. Any Disney+ watchers in the house? How is this show?
- 23a. [Leaves on a dime]. OAK. This clue! I was convinced this entry would end with an S and that’s what held me up in the whole NW section. I finally gave up the S and ran the alphabet to find the K, and that’s when the light bulb came on. Nice one. (I see another instance of this clue in the cruciverb database dating back to 2007 by Patrick Jordan. Sadly, it’s not new, but it’s still oh so good.)
- 28a. [Protection for your chips]. BAG CLIP. What kind of chips? What kind of protection? A straightforward clue, but still a fun one.
- 34a. [Mountain whose name was restored in 2015]. DENALI. It’s nice to be reminded of this, but I’m still hoping they’ll get around to restoring the name Tacoma (or Tahoma) to nearby Mt. Rainier.
- 43a. [Cotton from Ark., e.g.]. SEN. Tricky, but good.
- 61a. [Food processor, of a sort]. BELLY. Fun, but maybe not as accurate as, say, STOMACH. To me, there’s more to the BELLY than just the stomach.
- 10d. [Latina, exempli gratia]. LINGUA. I only just now recognized “exempli gratia” as the spelled-out version of “e.g.” Good, tricky clue.
- 28d. [Captain Fear is their mascot]. BUCS. Is that really the best they could come up with? Because that name can be interpreted in two ways—as someone who instills fear or as someone who is always afraid.
- 31d. [Gift basket item]. PEAR. And why is this? How often is the PEAR the last thing left until it turns soft and mushy?
- 39d. [1974 role for Marty]. IGOR. Marty Feldman. Young Frankenstein.
- 41d. [Tongue of the boot?: Abbr.]. ITAL. Another clever one. “Tongue” as in language, “the boot” meaning Italy.
Phew! That’s a lot of outstanding cluing! Add that to the solid theme (and the fun title I failed to mention) and we get a four-star rating.
Alex Eaton-Salner’s Fireball Crossword, “Head of the Table”–Jenni’s write-up
Another Fireball constructed by a man. Must be Thursday.
I figured out the theme early on and enjoyed it thoroughly. The “Head” of the title is the beginning of each theme answer, and the “Table” is the Periodic Table of the Elements. Each theme clue starts with the symbol for an element and the answers…oh, heck, it’s easier to show than to explain.
- 18a [ALMAY] is ALUMINUM CAN. AL is ALUMINUM and MAY is CAN. Well, not precisely. My mother would be horrified. She was the sort who would answer “Can I, Mom?” with “I don’t know. Can you?” until we asked “May I?” instead. That’s a tiny quibble.
- 28a [FEMALE] is IRON MAN.
- 39a [OCHER FILM] took me a minute to figure out. It’s OXYGEN MASK, because “Mask” is a film starring Cher.
- 52a [SNARES ET AL.] is TIN GODS.
- 64a [CROCK TOPPER] is CARBON PAPER because paper covers rock in rock-paper-scissors. I’m sure Martin will explain the fine points of that game as played in Japan.
This was a fun theme – original and well-executed.
A few other things:
- 2d [Like “Jeopardy!” clues] is ALL CAPS.
- 6a [Father to brothers] is an ABBOT, the “brothers” in question being monks.
- 14d [What dips and nuts make?] is NO SENSE. It’s kind of a roll-your-own answer but the clue is great and they work well together.
- 43d [Hospital pro] is an ER NURSE. Today (Wednesday, May 6th) is National Nurse’s Day in the US. I became a candy striper when I was 14 and worked as a volunteer nurses’ aide until I graduated from high school. The most important of the many things I learned from the nurses I worked with was the value of learning from nurses. That’s still the best advice I give third-year med students and new residents: listen to the nurses. They will save you and save your patients.
- 45d [Wake up late] is SLEEP IN. Alternate clue: what quarantined college students do.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that Muhammad Ali starred on Broadway in a musical called “Buck White.”
I leave you with the music of my youth.
Bruce Haight and Peter A. Collins’ New York Times crossword—Ben’s review
Happy Thursday, all! We’ve almost made it to the weekend and Friday is in sight.
This was…not my favorite Thursday NYT. I feel like I’ve seen spoonerisms done before, and better, in this space, and which the fact that these spoonerize the same letters in each theme answer, the overall theme is just…fine:
- 18A: Australian’s caution against entering a battlefield? — BUT MATE, THERE’S WAR
- 36A: “Just a reminder: the golf course is reserved for the guys tomorrow,” e.g.? — MEN’S DAY WARNING
- 58A: “Would you mid getting that officer out of bed?” — CARE TO WAKE A MAJOR?
So, once again, spoonerisms of the Ms and Ws in the phrases BUT WAIT THERE’S MORE, WEDNESDAY MORNING, and CARE TO MAKE A WAGER. This felt underwhelming for a Thursday puzzle.
Elsewhere in the fill:
- “Banned supplement” EPHEDRA was nowhere near my mind, with TOE LOOP just as far away. It took me forever to get the upper corner.
- It was “Actress Betty of old Hollywood”, not “Actress Bette”, so this grid was looking for HUTTON.
- As far as crosswordese go, I’m good at spotting IONE, terrible at spotting IONA.
Yoko ONO‘s music often gets unfairly reduced in pop culture, but there’s some really interesting stuff like “Walking on Thin Ice”.
Be well, all!
Emily Carroll’s Universal crossword — “Do Drops”
I’m only now just noticing the title. I love it! It’s an example of a puzzle that doesn’t need a title per se, but it definitely doesn’t hurt!
THEME: Hair styles in “down” positions are embedded with in longer phrases
- 3D [Candy cane flavor] PEPPERMINT.
- 29D [One takes a stand on stage] MICROPHONE.
- 9D [Lara Croft, notably] TOMB RAIDER.
- 30D [Skims] SPEED READS.
- 7D [Loosen up, or a hint to the circled letters] LET ONE’S HAIR DOWN.
I liked all the long, down theme answers- especially TOMB RAIDER since we often see Lara Croft make appearances in the grid and TOMB RAIDER is usually in the clues. As soon as I got PEPPERMINT (no crosses necessary!) and saw the letters circled PERM, I knew exactly what the theme and the revealer would be.
This is a perfect puzzle for novice solvers IF Universal could find a way to circle the necessary letters in its regular publications. Yes, David is kind enough to do it for people who access the puzzles through our site here, but what novice would do that? I’ve seen several novice solvers try to interpret the Universal clues when they’re asked to count letters. They get frustrated and give up quickly.
Anyway, everything about the puzzle is perfectly fine. Laughably, I had SARAN for [Kitchen wrap?], which totally works, and it set in motion LESS instead of BIAS for [Partiality], which kinda works. So I had a hot mess down there for a bit.
My only nits are IT’S FUN! doesn’t really strike me as a thing people say and having a ONE’S pronoun is always awkward, especially in the revealer. Other than that, good times!
3.6 stars from me.
Blake Slonecker’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary
I feel I’ve seen the revealer a few times before, but usually we get colours. Today, MIXEDGREENS is five servings of salad – anagrammed and floating somewhere in the answers. CHIPSANDDIP (spelt without an ‘S’ here) with SPINACH? Not sure that’s a necessary addition! After that, in order, we have LETTUCE, KALE, ARUGULA, and spinach’s lower class chum, CHARD. I hadn’t come across the term “mesclun” before, but apparently it’s a French salad that can in fact include the anagrammed greens. That extra layer makes it more flavourful for me. At the time though, I was trying to figure out if it meant “mescaline”.
My mistake was at ?SN/?EADERS. [Web banners] didn’t help me a lot, so LEADERS seemed plausible. I get now that HSN is Home Shopping Network.
Favourite answers: ROLLEDR, HIMOM.