Byron Walden’s New York Times crossword, “Wide-Open Spaces”—Amy’s write-up
We’ve got a plus-sized themeless puzzle here, roughly twice the number of entries as a standard Walden Saturday puzzle. Alas, the clues are pitched more to a Wednesday-ish level, because you’d expect Byron’s themeless clues to make this puzzle take a lot longer than the typical Sunday puzzle. And for me, it fell more quickly than most Sundays.
There are some awkwardnesses like FIZZER and ANSWERER and BARTERER’s -ERs, and that plural CONGO REDS. I also question whether bitcoin belongs in the E-CURRENCIES clue; Google results suggest that e-currency is used to refer to all sorts of things that have nothing to do with the cryptocurrency called bitcoin. Also, starting 1-Across with the flatness of AT PAR isn’t great.
Likes: Yalitzia APARICIO, WENT AT IT, KING HUSSEIN, USAIN BOLT, ZEPPO MARX (though the ZEPPO/ZAMFIR crossing likely snagged a zillion younger solvers), MUZZLED, EXTRA-LARGE PIZZAS (I haven’t had pizza since last Sunday’s Lou Malnati’s deep-dish! it’s been too long), and SPLURGES.
I’m not finding myself with a whole lot to say about the puzzle tonight, and the family has started playing blackjack without me so I BETTER GO. 3.5 stars from me. Would have enjoyed it more with twisty Byronesque clues peppering the puzzle.
Adam Vincent’s LA Times crossword, “Illegal Tender” – Jenni’s write-up
Man, have I had enough of staring at this screen – and I have a Zoom book group this afternoon and a Zoom meeting this evening. This review will be brief.
All the theme answers are phrases with slang words for money.
- 22a [Mad money?] is STEAMED CLAMS.
- 28a [Grant money?] is WISH BONES.
- 40a [Hot money?] is BUFFALO BILLS. That one took me a minute.
- 52a [Ransom money?] is SPRING ROLL.
- 76a [Old money?] is STALE BREAD.
- 87a [Paper money?] is EDITOR‘S NOTES.
- 100a [Bad money?] is SOUR DOUGH.
- 109a [Smart money?] is SHARP CHEDDAR.
A solid, enjoyable theme that did not telegraph the answers. Nice.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that BONES is a slang word for money.
Gary Larson’s Universal crossword, “Back Talk”—Jim P’s review
Our theme is phrases whose second word can indicate something spoken (similar to this recent super-fantastic puzzle) after a change in meaning.
- 24a [Something heard … at a paint store?] FINISH LINE
- 30a [… on a movie set?] CAST ASIDE
- 71a [… at a clock tower?] SECOND STORY. This is the weakest of the lot, I think. The relationship between a clock tower and seconds lacks primacy. I doubt that most (any?) clock tower clocks have second hands.
- 111a [… at a support group?] COPING SAW
- 122a [… at a seance?] MEDIUM TERM
- 3d [… at a spa?] FACIAL EXPRESSION
- 6d [… on a fishing trip?] BANK STATEMENT
- 44d [… in a chemistry lab?] COMPOUND SENTENCE. This is an outlier. The second word doesn’t change meaning at all.
- 62d [… from Olympic skier Picabo?] STREET ADDRESS
A good set, I think, and (mostly) consistent. A few things are a little off target, but it’s still enjoyable. It’s also impressive that two of the Down entries cross two other theme entries (each) without sacrificing the fill much, if at all.
Plenty of goodies to admire here: SKITTISH, KABUKI, TAILFIN, KISSCAM, THE FLY, “HOORAY,” TATAMI, “NO GIFTS,” SYNCS UP, GONDOLA, and SMUGGLER. And nothing of significance to scowl at. Good fill.
Clues of note:
- 13a. [Stake holder, perhaps?]. This one took me a few seconds to suss out once I got the Y. I wanted SLAYER to be clued with respect to the metal band, but then I realized the clue referred to a vampire SLAYER, which is good, too.
- 89a. [Apt flowers for an optometrist’s office?]. IRISES. I think if I was an optometrist, I would do this…and have lots of Van Gogh paintings on the walls.
- 25d. [“Is anyone in here?”]. “HELLO?” I like an evocative clue like this. Nice one.
Solid theme and strong fill. Good puzzle. 3.7 stars.
Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Last Dance” – Jim Q’s writeup
Title was a dead giveaway for this one! A breezy over-the-plate offering appropriately placed in the mix.
THEME: Phrases where the last word is a dance.
- 24A [Continue to be unresolved] REMAIN IN LIMBO.
- 33A [1973 song by the Pointer Sisters with a message about the need to come together] YES WE CAN CAN!
- 62A [Discontinued Apple product that could hold many tracks] iPOD SHUFFLE.
- 67A [Trivia website with an Amazing Fact Generator] MENTAL FLOSS.
- 97A [Hairdo often held together with bobby pins] FRENCH TWIST.
- 105A [Extra-income activity that may have started as a passion project] SIDE HUSTLE.
- 109A [Question about drafts] WHAT’S ON TAP?
- 129A [Ballroom dance spelled out by the last letters of this puzzle’s dances] ONE STEP.
Gotta say, I did not see that revealer coming! Even though it is certainly not the first time Evan has used that conceit (not even close), nor will it be the last time (not even close), it totally- and pleasantly- caught me off-guard in an otherwise simple puzzle.
This is a good one to hook newer solvers, which the WaPo is careful to include amongst it’s more… shall we say… inventive themes. If I had one nit to pick, it would be that TAP as a style doesn’t seem to gel as well with the other, more specific, dances.
The real joy in this was the cluing for the fill. Some solid trivia, and some cleverness all around.
I apologize for the late write-up and the brevity!