Freddie Cheng’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Show Stoppers”—Jim P’s review
I like a theme that takes accepted phrases and reimagines them as something else. In this case, the phrases all become terse negative reviews of a theater performance. The revealer at 40a is THE REVIEWS ARE IN and is clued [“Critics have spoken,” as featured in 17-, 25-, 51- and 64-Across].
- 17a [“The music is uninspired…”] OLD SCORE. The phrase seems incomplete without “settle” before or after it, but I think it’s close enough.
- 25a [“The actors all seem mopey…”] DOWN CAST. “Mopey” isn’t a word you see too often, but it fits just right.
- 51a [“The objects the actors handle are bizarrely designed…”] MAD PROPS. Conversely, “the objects the actors handle” is ungainly at best, but whaddya gonna do? Being a more modern phrase, I wonder if this was the seed entry.
- 64a [“The whole show stinks!”] FOUL PLAY. A perfect conclusion from a cantankerous reviewer.
Very tight theme with strong consistency throughout, fun phrases, and imaginative to boot. Wonderful!
The long fill is outstanding as well, with RED PLANET, HOT SWAPS, TENT SALES, and VAMOOSES. I also liked “I’M BUSY,” TITIAN, NINJAS, and PHILIPS [Maker of Hue lights]. We’ve got a few of those in the house, and for the most part they work quite nicely.
The rest of the fill is smooth, too, so there’s nothing for me to grouse at. Let’s move on to the clues.
Clues of note:
- I did not know either OTTO [Porter Jr. of the Chicago Bulls] nor its crossing TINA [2019 Broadway jukebox musical], but the T seemed the most logical choice.
- 47d. [Printer’s insert]. Tricky. I was thinking of the desktop appliance the whole time.
This was a POWER GRID (i.e. a strong puzzle) all the way around, and a good time was had by all (meaning me). 4.25 stars.
Benjamin Kramer’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Rather subtle theme, no? The theme entries end with a writer’s output, ranging from the fewest words to the most:
- 17a. [Protection offered for a traveler in a dangerous area], SAFE PASSAGE. A passage might be a few sentences or paragraphs.
- 24a. [Group of Greek women], SORORITY CHAPTER. I started with SORORITY SISTERS, slowed myself down. Many books have chapters.
- 36a. [Member of the Apple family], MACBOOK. Now we’ve got the entire book.
- 50a. [1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, etc.], FIBONACCI SERIES. What’s your favorite book series?
- 59a. [Canapé, e.g.], HORS D’OEUVRE. A writer’s oeuvre comprises everything she’s ever written (or published).
I like it.
The long fill feels a bit hit-or-miss. I like WIN AT LIFE, THE BOMB, TOE JAM, A.A. MILNE, and STACCATO. Not sure I’ve seen OPEN-ENDER in that noun form before, VERDURE is rather uncommon, and ON AGAIN feels iffy. There are also some shorter entries I’m really not keen on: –CIDE, plural Latin abbreviation E.G.S (!).
Four more things:
- 30a. [Emmy-winning actress Uzo ___], ADUBA. She’s currently playing Shirley Chisholm on the Hulu miniseries Mrs. America.
- 44a. [Big name in name tags], AVERY. Avery is a much bigger name in the world of labels, but that clue avenue is foreclosed by UNLABELED on the other side of the grid. Might’ve felt tidier to go with animator Tex AVERY instead.
- 12d. [Question whose answer can go almost anywhere], OPEN-ENDER. Or, as most of us would term it, an open-ended question.
- 65a. [Hip-hop artist whose name once ended with “tha Kyd”], SYD. I didn’t know the name. She used to be in the Odd Future collective, and they had a hit album. As a solo artist, she flies under the radar.
3.5 stars from me. That EGS really dinged the puzzle for a lot. (This was the first time that entry has appeared in an NYT puzzle since 1993, which tells you something.)
Blake Slonecker’s Universal crossword, “Where to Begin?” — pannonica’s write-up
Quickie write-up, since it’s already late in the day.
63a functions as the revealer: [Major purchase for some newlyweds, and a hint to the starred answers] STARTER HOME. Accordingly, those themed answers begin with synonyms, mostly slangy, for ‘home’.
- 17a. [*Temporarily stop talking to] PLACE ON HOLD.
- 26a. [*Totally] FLAT-OUT.
- 32a. [*Tries to start a scandal, say] DIGS UP DIRT.
- 44a. [*They may have all the answers] CRIB SHEETS.
- 50a. [*Noodle dish that often contains peanuts] PAD THAI.
Solid theme. See also, 58a [Bit of nesting material] TWIG.
- 30d [End, to Brigitte Macron] FINIS. French speakers: is this correct, or is FINI what the clue wants? More French vocab in 12d [Parting word in France] ADIEU, 38d LES Misérables,
- 66a [ … ––– … ] SOS. Clue gave me PAUSE (50d) because I’m used to seeing the dots and dashes on the same line, more like ··· ––– ···
- 5d [Previously, in poetry] ERE, 32d [Paternal palindrome] DAD, 64d [Dynamite letters] TNT, 40a [Plastic __ Band] ONO, 66a SOS, 69a [London __ (big Ferris wheel] EYE.
And that’s all I’ve got.
Roland Huget’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary
I am DIY illiterate. WOODFILLER means nothing to me. I am the half of the household that rarely gets consulted on “projects”. Luckily, I do no a bit about programming, because we got not one, but two longish programming jargon terms: thematic BINARYSEARCH and IFTHEN going down. The theme features four circled woods, each with unrelated “filler” middles – PINE, ALDER, MAPLE & BIRCH. I appreciate the choice of longer trees rather than say OAK or YEW.
Other notables include two pairs of long downs: ADDEDVALUE/MEATEATERS and COMEHITHER/ADAGENCIES. Both juxtapositions create rather strange images in my head.
Other sticky spots for me: MEDEVAC, because I believed there was an “i” in the word; CHEDDAR, which is the most common variety of cheese here by far, because I believed Americans refuse to acknowledge its existence.
Rob Gonsalves and Jennifer Lim’s AVCX, “Found in Translation” — Ben’s Review
This was a pretty breezy AVCX solve for me, time-wise, and the theme found an interesting nugget of linguistic trivia:
- 17A: Always together / Siempre unidos — INSEPARABLE
- 59A: Warmly nostalgic / Cálidamente nostálgico — SENTIMENTAL
- 11D: State-sponsored lies / Mentiras difundidas por el estado — PROPAGANDA
- 28D: Made by humans / Hecho por humanos — ARTIFICIAL
- 37A: Either of the two languages used in 17- and 59-Across and 11- and 28-Down — ENGLISH/SPANISH
Yes, INSEPARABLE, SENTIMENTAL, PROPAGANDA, and ARTIFICIAL are spelled the same way in both ENGLISH and SPANISH. The grid even does one of those nifty things where the down clues that cross 37A can support either set of letters needed for the answer:
- 24D: Bananas — LOONY/LOOPY
- 25D: Superboy’s sweetheart — LANG/LANA
- 32D: Nation of Afr. — ALG/ANG
- 37D: Amtrak listing, briefly — ETA/STA
It’s very clever and cleanly executed.
With ENGLISH/SPANISH on the brain, Slate’s Hit Parade podcast had a fantastic episode on Latin crossover onto the pop charts a few months ago, dipping as far back as “Oye Como Va” and “Eres Tu”, ET AL, focusing on the explosion of Ricky Martin and Enrique Iglesias in the late 90s, and finishing with the current presence of artists like Bad Bunny and Rosalia in the current pop moment. It’s a fantastic listen and worth an hour or so of your time.