Fireball is a contest this week. We will have a review after the submission period closes.
Gary Larson’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “To the Letter”—Jim P’s review
Take a phrase whose first word is a homophone for a letter, and replace it with that letter. Now clue it in such a way that the latter part of the phrase relates to a word in the clue. That’s our theme today.
- 18a [Middle of hurricane?] I OF THE STORM. The letter I is in the middle of the word “hurricane.” (I just noticed that the clue also works for the base phrase “eye of the storm.” This is actually inconsistent with the other entries and therefore a cause of confusion during the solve.)
- 24a [Beginning of bliss?] B IN A GOOD MOOD. This is the weakest base phrase of the lot, but “bliss” can be described as a “good mood,” and B is the beginning of “bliss.”
- 38a [Start to cherish?] C OF LOVE. To cherish is to love and C is the start to “cherish.”
- 50a [Second among humanity?] U OF ALL PEOPLE. Humanity means “all people,” and its second letter is U.
- 58a [Face of Yahweh?] Y IN GOD’S NAME. Best for last! To some, God’s name is Yahweh and Y is the “face” of “Yahweh.” (I guess. I would’ve gone with [Origin of Yahweh?]).
There were a few layers to this theme and I quite enjoyed unpacking them. The theme was unexpected, interesting, and fun, especially with its multiple aha moments. There are a couple little nits to pick, but overall, this was a good time.
Highlights in the fill include WAGON TRAIN, TAKES PAINS, OFF DAY, and STUN GUN. You may like CRINOLINES [Stiff petticoats], but that was a tough one for me.
The stacked 10s in the NW/SE corners result in some sub-par fill, so I’m not sure that they’re worth it. The SE isn’t as bad with only super-stale SST, but the NW has SSW, HUA, ERG, ELISA, and RENT TO. (CRINGE.) Elsewhere, OMOO and OEUF make their presence known.
Clues of note:
- 20a. [Cut]. MOWN. Just a reminder that you always have to be thinking not only of the possible meanings of a word, but what part of speech it might be, or what tense it might take.
- 36a. [Ben Stiller’s mom]. MEARA. Rest in peace, Jerry Stiller. Serenity now!
- 21d. [Big brand in hair clippers]. WAHL. How is everyone doing with their personal grooming these days? I used to own some WAHL clippers but didn’t have much success with them. I’m sure it was user error because it’s supposedly a good brand.
- 24d. [German luxury auto, familiarly]. BEEMER. It’s time for your Chamorro lesson of the day! On Guam, the letters BMW are too hard to say (must be the heat and humidity). And BEEMER is just too fancy. To sound like a true local, refer to the car as a “beam dobbloo.”
- 32d. [It may be within your grasp]. HANDLE. I am hereby predicting that doorknobs will be a thing of the past in the very near future.
A fun, layered theme and some good fill raise this puzzle above the lesser fill. 3.8 stars.
Andrew Kingsley’s New York Times crossword—Ben’s review
Happy Thursday, all!
Today’s NYT from Andrew Kingsley played easy for me, but had enough going on in the theme that it still felt like a Thursday kind of puzzle rather than a Wednesday:
- 16A: Sycophant — GREEN NOSER
- 27A: Classic gin-and-grenadine cocktail — WHITE LADY
- 44A: Military Medal — BLUE HEART
- 59A: Annual Florida football game – YELLOW BOWL
- 37D: Organization with three Nobel Peace Prizes…or what “corrects” the answer to each of the starred clues — RED CROSS
I almost think you could get away with not shading the down RED squares in PREDATOR, FREDDY, REDEEM, and REDO and having that be a fun AHA moment for what all’s going on here. Each of the theme answers lists a color that, when combined with the RED CROSS happening with the answer, forms the correct color for the phrase. GREEN NOSER becomes BROWN NOSER with the addition of red, and PINK LADY, PURPLE HEART, and ORANGE BOWL all follow suit
The story behind FREDDY Fender’s “Before the Next Teardrop Falls”, which (as 21D notes), went to #1 on both the pop and country charts, is a pretty interesting one – Stereogum covered it as part of its current The Number Ones series.
Take care, all!
Ross Trudeau’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary
GOTOTHEMAT is a colourful revealing answer for what is in essence a familiar theme concept. SHOWER, WELCOME, PRAYER & YOGA can have MAT added. The clues try to add another layer and get cute by incorporating GOTOTHEMAT in them via cross-referencing, but the result for me is vague and awkward. COUPLESYOGA is also a top tier entry theme or no.
Some tough names from all over appear today: IDOMENEO the [Title king in a Mozart opera] has tricky vowels! RAVENCLAW is something I haven’t seen in a puzzle before, with a suitably leading clue. From a similar era, do people still remember ERAGON?