today’s AVCX puzzle has a meta element with a contest – our write-up will be up after the deadline for that has closed on May 31.
Alex Eaton-Salners’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Linking Verbs”—Jim P’s review
It’s been a while since we’ve seen AES’s byline. He usually brings us something a little bit unorthodox. Let’s see what he has in store.
Each theme answer starts and ends with at least two circled letters. The revealer at 60a is clued [Grammarian’s gripe, and a hint to the circled words] with the answer SPLIT INFINITIVE. Aha, so the two circled letters to start each entry are TO and the circled letters at the end are a verb to go with it. The two-part clues describe the base phrase as well as give a hint to the infinitive.
- 17a [Income source for many islands, or a reason for bringing a case?] TOURIST INDUSTRY
- 26a [Subprime mortgage, for example, or a reason for changing hands?] TOXIC ASSET
- 38a [“Wizard of Oz” plot device, or a reason for a performance?] TORNADO
- 48a [Can topper, of a sort, or a reason for using a can opener?] TOILET SEAT
For the most part, I like this. A couple of the clues are so vague that I’m still trying to make sense of them, though. For example, “to set” is a reason for changing hands? Is this a volleyball reference? Not sure. Also, “reason for a performance” feels like an awkward way to describe “to do” (although I can’t think of anything better). And it seems like the second half of the clue really should have some callback to the first half for maximum elegance. The last entry’s clue is the clearest, most unambiguous of the lot and ties in well to the beginning of the clue. I wish they were all like that.
As I was solving, I was also wondering if there was some connection between the verbs. TRY and DO seemed closely related. (“Do. Or do not. There is no try.”) And maybe SET could be thrown in there as well, I don’t know. But once I got to EAT, I surmised there was no such relationship. Thinking about it, I realized there probably aren’t enough legitimate theme answers around to make that happen.
So anyway, aside from some of the vagueness in the cluing, I liked the gimmick.
Our long non-theme fill includes ARTICULATE (clued as an adjective), XENOPHILES (nice to see this word rather than the more-common-in-our-society “xenophobes”), TERRAIN, PSALTER (which I think we just saw last week), MEDIATED, and OPTICIAN (with a nice clue [One who brings things into focus]). No bones to pick in the fill, so I’m good.
- 1a. [Footwear for Scrooge McDuck]. SPATS. Did not know this and never, ever would have guess it. Thank goodness for the crosses. I like the cluing angle though, especially since it comes at 1a.
- 1d. [Concerns for some srs.]. SATS. Fewer and fewer, it seems, as the weeks go on.
- 31d. [Where lavalavas are worn]. SAMOA. I only know this from WSJ puzzles, so I’m going to assume editor Mike Shenk was behind this one.
- 32d. [Be frugal]. STINT. See previous comment.
A little bit of wonkiness in the theme cluing prevented this from being fully enjoyable (for me, anyway, YMMV), but I liked it nonetheless. 3.6 stars.
Chris McGlothlin’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
FORGONE is the theme revealer, clued as 40a. [Relinquished … or a hint to 17-, 23-, 51- and 62-Across], and those themers are made by removing FOR (it’s “gone”) from familiar phrases:
- 17a. [“Your fins are nice” and “You’re a graceful swimmer”?], FISH COMPLIMENTS. “Fishing for compliments” is the more familiar phrase.
- 23a. [Done some lassoing?], THROWN A LOOP. Grammatically weird. “Thrown a loop” feels like it wants to be clued along the lines of “[I was thrown]”something rather than this “[I have] thrown” something.
- 51a. [Is unable to pronounce the name of a deodorant brand?], CAN’T SAY SURE. “Can’t say for sure” is common enough.
- 62a. [Actress Sandra emoting?], OH CRYING OUT LOUD. “Oh, for cryin’ out loud” is, in fact, a thing my grandma was wont to say. I was thinking of the Sandras Bullock and Dee and struggled to assemble the start of this themer. Would have been good to avoid having OH STOP in the same grid, no?
So the theme is okay but I didn’t love the execution.
I also didn’t love the fill, overall. OLEO crossing OLIO, ILO, TAM, ANNUS, plural YOGAS, Arthurian ENID, halved NANU, fragment -OLA, N-TESTS …
Four more things:
- 36d. [Commercial name that becomes another commercial name if you move its first letter to the end], AVIS. Turns into Visa. Pleased with myself that I figured this out with only the A in place.
- 18d. [Lyricist Sammy], CAHN / 51d. [“Give My Regards to Broadway” composer], George M. COHAN. Cahn changed from his original surname, Cohen. I always figured Cohan was another of the marvelous Jewish composers and songwriters of the early 1900s (the Gershwins, Berlin, etc.), but it turns out he’s Irish!
- 66a. [Standard things], USUALS. Pluralizing this feels even weirder than the plural YOGAS that crosses this entry.
- 7d. [Gambler’s aggressive bet], ALL IN. We’ve been playing blackjack here at home (my son learned how to play from the video game Red Dead Redemption II, believe it or not), and even bought some poker chips for proper wagering, but none of us has ventured to go ALL IN yet. Should we learn poker next?
Three stars from me.
Dean Weiman’s Universal crossword, “Two Clever By Half” — pannonica’s write-up
This theme features homophones going in two directions, so to speak. The first parts are all the same—”para” for “pair of”—while the second parts take the roots from the legitimate para- word and substitute a homophonic plural.
I recall a visual puzzle like using this conceit in Games magazine a few decades ago.
- 17a. [Couple of store events?] PARASALES (parasails / pair of sales).
- 28a. [Couple of mooring platforms?] PARADOCKS (paradox / pair of docks). In the magazine, it was two doc(tor)s, surgeons as I recall.
- 45a. [Couple of brawls?] PARAFRAYS (paraphrase / pair of frays).
- 58a. [Couple of thin coins?] PARADIMES (paradigms / pair of dimes). This one was also in the Games puzzle.
It’s a simple concept to see, but a little tricky to describe. And I’d say it’s well done here.
- 1a [Olive stones] PITS. Slyly evoking Oliver Stone’s name.
- 66a [Sprout up] GROW, 49d [Seed, one day] PLANT.
- 1d [Soda, to some] POP. “Lucozade, I am your father”?
- 38d [Garment with strings] APRON. Funny how I needed almost all the crossings for this.
- 41d [Makeup-free] NATURAL. Maybe.
- 46d [Black-cake filling] FOREST. It goes between the two other words.
So I found this. It’s kind of blah techno, but I’d say it fits the bill:
Kurt Mengel & Jan-Michele Gianette’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary
Today features a set of five answers that begins with a synonym for “fling”: CHUCK, CAST, THROW, HURL, PITCH. In all cases, they are used at least somewhat figuratively. THROWASCAREINTO is new to me, it sounds very Southern…
My mistake: not checking crossing and having AGRI(business) because that’s what it’s called. If you google AGROBUSINESS it corrects you…
Comments on Amy’s NYT review: She may enjoy a 1942 movie biography of George M. Cohan, “Yankee Doodle Dandy” with James Cagney in the lead. Also, I figure that by about age 12 people should have been at least exposed to Checkers, Chess, Poker, Rummy (Gin or other), and Blackjack. “All in” is much more a Poker thing than a Blackjack thing.
Super movie! I’ve seen it a zillion times, and never tire of how Cohan tap-dances down the stairs of the White House after his cool talk with FDR!
Like Jim, I couldn’t make much sense of TO DO and even more so TO SET in the WSJ. It probably didn’t help that, of the remaining two, you use a can opener for the wherewithal to eating, but if you try a case, you are actually bringing it. Unfortunately, there we have the entirety of the theme entries. So not a stand-out.
You “change hands” to set a clock.
Thanks. I’d never heard of that expression, and online dictionaries have “change hands” only in the sense of trading things, but I’ll take your word for it.
Thank you! That one had me baffled.
NYT: The trouble with the “yogas” clue: Bikram yoga and hatha yoga are not two distinct “yogas.” Bikram yoga is merely a particularly ordered practice of hatha yoga by a particular teacher – the notorious Bikram Choudhury, who fled the USA in order to avoid multiple lawsuits alleging sexual abuse, racism and homophobia. Lovely person to have in the puzzle.
Not the best WSJ for a while, but a masterpiece next to NYT. Pfft.
I pretty much agree. Universal reminded me of organic chemistry wordplay from 45 years ago. In a good way.
Yes, that was a clever clean puzzle.
LAT – Pretty clean, and challenging for a Wednesday. I don’t understand why so many one star grades for this puzzle, and not one comment. People, if you’re gonna bitch, back it up!
Doug, characterizing someone’s subjective rating of a puzzle as “bitching” strikes me as an unduly strong and personal reaction to a simple difference of opinion. Seems that it would be “bitchier” to set forth a list of complaints that merely reflect one’s point of view. But since you “asked,” I found the theme to be dull, there was quite a bit of undesirable crosswordese (a tad, a few, aril, aha, noor, as well as agro – as pointed out by Gareth), and to me, the overall result was a puzzle that was lacking in fun. Solely my opinion, and not all that worthy of explanation.
Couple days late on the LAT: Decent idea for a theme but a few of the theme answers went over my head. I don’t think I’ve ever heard the expressions “CHUCK IT IN” or “THROW A SCARE INTO”, and I’d originally clued “PITCH A FIT” as “THROW A FIT”.
Top left was also a doozy as I had, at different times: YESNO for ‘Choice words?’; AIDED for ‘Supported’ (don’t like BORNE there); SOHO for NYC Neighborhood (the more well-known neighborhood bordering Houston); and REPLAY/REPEAT for ‘Football do-over’ (as in, “10-yard penalty, replay third down!” I’m not too familiar with football – is a rekick something that happens commonly?
Also noticed the AGRO/AGRI mix-up – tough as ENOKI’s a new one to me too.