Gary Larson’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Job Openings”—Jim P’s review
Not gonna lie. This played tough for a Wednesday. Either I’m just on the wrong wavelength or the cluing seemed more apt for later in the week.
Regardless, our theme is phrases whose first word is a slang term for a job. The second word in each phrase also changes meaning to create crossword wackiness.
- 17a [Cloak for a psychiatrist?] SHRINK WRAP
- 24a [Chauffeur for a prison guard?] SCREW DRIVER
- 34a [Comfortable shoes for a mariner?] SALT FLATS
- 52a [Beard for a gumshoe?] DICK VAN DYKE
- 59a [Stimulant for a shady politico?] FIXER UPPER. Ha! I wonder how many of these Giuliani takes.
This works, although I will admit to not knowing that a prison guard can be called a screw. (Here is one explanation of the origin of the term.) And it might have been more appropriate to clue “driver” as a golf club rather than as another occupation. But otherwise, a most enjoyable theme.
Loads of 6s and 7s in the grid like CURRIER, SIAMESE, REEBOKS, AIMLESS, BUCOLIC, TENURE, TYRESE, “AMUSE ME,” etc. Nothing extra sparkly though.
I had to give HARD PAN [Drainage hinderer] a very long side-eye, even after I filled in the last letter. To me it seemed like a green painty sort of answer, but apparently it’s actually an earth science term (and it’s actually one word: HARDPAN) referring to “a dense layer of soil, usually found below the uppermost topsoil layer” (thanks Wikipedia!). Well, you learn something new every day.
Clues of note:
- 32a. [Maker of waves]. SINE. Math majors, does this feel legit to you?
- 2d. [“Well, ___-di-dah!”]. LAH. Just once, I’d like to see the full and correct version of this clue: [“Well, ___-di-frickin-dah!”].
- 18d. [Proof of proof, perhaps]. KICK. Still scratching my head at this one. Anyone?
Strong theme, solid—but not sparkly—fill. 3.6 stars.
Johanna Fenimore’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Cute theme. The revealer is THE BIG BAD WOLF, 57a. [Fairy tale villain associated with the ends of 20-, 27- and 49-Across]. He threatened to huff, puff, and blow the Three Little Pigs’ houses down, hence:
- 20a. [Storms out], LEAVES IN A HUFF. It occurs to me that I’m not sure we ever saw Presidents Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush, or Obama do that.
- 27a. [Airy snack item], CHEESE PUFF. I have a thing for Cheetos, but prefer the crunchy ones. Here are our place, we eat them with chopsticks to avoid the orange fingertips.
- 49a. [Singer whose 1980 single “The Breaks” was the first gold record rap song], KURTIS BLOW. Shout-out to 1980s kids/teens! Did we all know how to spell Kurtis?
While I was solving, it felt like I was encountering a lot of women and people of color in the puzzle: ETTA James, SOFIA Coppola, AYN Rand, IDA Lupino, themer KURTIS BLOW, NIKKI Haley, and OMAR Epps. We also have Jared LETO, Richard GERE, VASCO da Gama, and Michael Caine and Jude Law’s ALFIE character. I don’t feel there are so many names in the grid that we couldn’t have handled PATSY Cline instead of [Easy mark], but the PASHA crossing might have snagged some solvers.
Not wild about quizzing people on a British [Hunting cry], and I’m fairly confident that tween is far more commonly used than TWEENER. The 1970s kid in me enjoyed SKY HIGH because it made me think of the Jigsaw hit song.
Favorite clue: 28d. [Starting point for a German count], EINS. I blame Sesame Street and Count von Count for making me think of Teutonic nobles.
Four stars from me.
Ella Dershowitz and Aimee Lucido’s AVCX, “Herb Blend” — Ben’s Review
It’s Wednesday! We’re here. Today’s AVCX is from Ella Dershowitz, who’s making her AVCX debut with this co-write with Aimee Lucido. Congrats, Ella!
Let’s take a look at what’s going on with the circled squares in today’s grid:
- 17A: Second cup of coffee, at some diners — FREE REFILL
- 26A: Products consumed in an extremely dumb viral challenge — TIDE PODS
- 36A: Clare Crawley will be the lead on its next season (whenever that happens) — THE BACHELORETTE
- 50A: Frito or Bugle — CORN CHIP
- 63A: Make trouble … or what you’ll do in this puzzle’s circled squares — STIR THE POT
Each set of circled (or in the above breakdown, highlighted) letters is another way of saying “pot” that’s been anagrammed – REEFER, DOPE, CHEEBA, and CHRONIC. I feel like I’ve absolutely seen something like this theme before (maybe even in the AVCX?), but this was a solid answer set and grid, so I didn’t mind at all. Remember the Tide Pod Challenge? Those were the days. The days where teens joked about eating Tide Pods despite not actually eating Tide Pods so much that Tide hired Rob Gronkowski as a spokesperson for Not Eating Tide Pods on Twitter:
One final note: is a BEER MILE an actual thing? I never ran track and figured that one out by treating it like a Something Different clue (“fratty” and “tradition” probably means BEER, and a MILE is something that did pop up in gym class/running).
Dexter Coleman’s Universal crossword, “Sweet and Spicy” — pannonica’s write-up
- 46aR [Heat measurement system, or a hint to the pepper types at the starts of 20-, 24- and 42-Across] SCOVILLE SCALE.
- 20a. [Fourth installment of the “Mission: Impossible” franchise] GHOST PROTOCOL.
- 24a. [Dessert served in a boat] BANANA SPLIT.
- 42a. [Popular pants in the ’60s] BELL BOTTOMS.
Just three samplings to keep the grid manageable. As one would expect, the three representative peppers appear in descending SHU order, with GHOST peppers ranging frp, 855,000 to 1,463,000 Scoville Heat units, low-tier BANANA peppers at 1,000–2,000, and sweet BELL peppers not tipping the scales at all, with zero SHU.
Here’s one of the few decent charts I found that didn’t have either a cutesy pepper or thermometer shape:
- 9d [The continents or the seas] SEPTET, 35a [Initial number of cards in an Uno hand] SEVEN. And SEVEN is a PRIME, just (19a) [Like the number 19]. (35 and 9 are not, though.)
- Can’t decide whether I like or dislike 18d [Help pay for] GO IN ON.
- 24d [Centers of operations] BASES. 56d [Surgeons’ workplaces] ORS. Hmm.
- 31d [Shooting __ (certain Lucky Charms marshmallows] STARS. (to self: “I sure hope their color is indigo so I can reference the clue for 62-across DYES“) As everybody knows, these are orange, sort of like a naga viper pepper’s pungency per the chart at right.
- 39d [Get better] HEAL. 47d [Word after “health” or “self”] CARE. Hmm.
- 42d [People with trousseaux] BRIDES. Your vocabulary word of the day.
- 34a [Anarchist action] RIOT right above 37a [Ruling group after a coup] JUNTA. uh-oh.
- 17a [Ages and ages] A LONG TIME. 38a [Time line divisions] ERAS. 59a [Of all time] EVER. Hmmm.
- 40a [Truffle part that may be fruity] CENTER. Would these be the chocolate-type truffles? A cake? Certainly not the fungus, I know at least that much.
- 4d [ __ mi (Vietnamese sandwich)] BANH. Haven’t had one in a long while. Putting it on the mental list.
Robin Stears’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary
Today’s Wednesday puzzle felt a lot easier than most, both in grid design and in theme type. The repeated AU’s I found easy to pick up on, and they helped guide later answers. All four theme answers: PAULGAUGUIN, LAUGHLAUGH (by one of many forgotten Garage-y / Bubble-gummy late 60’s groups, the Beau Brummels), AURORAAUSTRALIS and SAUERKRAUT; as well as the revealing GOLDENHORDE make for an interesting and varied set of answers. As a revealer, GOLDENHORDE is a little vague – there isn’t anything indicating the double part of the theme, as such; though I guess 10xAU makes a horde?
Not a lot else to highlight. As noted previously, it’s an early week grid, with many smaller corners that fill easily. HEPA is an answer I’m surprised we don’t see more. I guess filters and their (in)effectiveness are a hot topic now?
NOTE: My version didn’t have stars in the clues. At some point, this was corrected. I don’t know what the print versions looked like.
Proof of proof, perhaps- the stronger the liquor, the higher the alcohol content and the greater the KICK.
“beard for a gumshoe”.
After I got DICKV, I really wanted it to be ‘dick veneers’ instead of dickvandyke
NYT: I enjoyed this puzzle. I did get a bit hung up on EINS though ?
Me too I thought it was EINE
TORIC crossing VASCO? No. Disqualified.
never mind NIKKI crossing KURTIS on a wednesday
RED CARD, out of the game!!
Such whiners today!
So a gold-record artist and an international political figure are both too obscure? Seems to me they pull from different knowledge bases. Two rappers crossing in the NYT would be unfair, especially on a Wednesday. This is fine.
I knew both names, but for me, ‘c’ or ‘k’ was a coin toss. I find something that random very dissatisfying in a crossword puzzle.
I don’t see what’s “random” here, and I don’t get the complaint about the crossing. I didn’t know Kurtis Blow’s name, but I did know Nikki Haley’s – I just wasn’t sure how to spell it (bet I’ll know next time). Is that my problem, or a problem with the puzzle? I’d say the former.
NIKKI = Haley, former governor and UN ambassador
NICKI = Minaj, hugely successful rapper
NIKI = Caro, director of “Whale Rider” and Disney’s 2020 “Mulan”
NICKY = Nichols, “Orange Is the New Black” character played by crossworder/actress Natasha Lyonne
If crosswords expect us to somehow remember Leopold AUER and rivers like the LENA and ODER and EDER, while these women’s names that appear these days in the newspapers and magazines we read are somehow not fair game, I might have to go crawl into a dusty cave and never come back out.
Nope, SINE as a “maker of waves” didn’t feel legit to me in the WSJ. I’m not sure anyone would actually ask “amuse me” either.
I’d agree it was hard for a Wednesday, to me its redeeming value. I could see that in, say, OPA at a Greek wedding near a rapper and the correct term for a starfish’s arm or in Black Watch, although the answer was obvious.
Nice NYT puzzle. Would have zipped through it, but for the crossing of NIKKI and KURTIS, which is ‘K’, not ‘C’.
I enjoyed the NYT, but finished with an error. I’m not familiar with Kurtis Blow, and misspelled Nikki Haley’s name as Nicki (bad on me) – so had to have the app show me where I messed up.
I don’t see anything wrong with TORIC/VASCO on a Wednesday.
Gotta try Amy’s chopsticks-for-Cheetos approach – in my case it would not only eliminate orange fingers, but also dramatically slow consumption.
Shout out to Wondermark, the first place I saw the chopsticks idea: http://wondermark.com/601/
I think the NIKKI/KURTIS crossing is very poor editing. To assume that that letter is a C and not a K is an incredibly reasonable assumption. It baffles me how something like that could get past, or be allowed by, an editorial team and test solvers.
Just how notable does a woman have to be for the spelling of her name to be considered Something Learned Adults Should Know? Probably the editorial team and test solvers assumed we were all quite familiar with Nikki Hakey.
NYT: I enjoyed this theme, as I do most themes that harken back to our collective youth. But I so wanted the third themer to be COLON BLOW. Yup, fairy tales and poop jokes; I haven’t grown up.
Not sure that would pass the “breakfast” test!
Re Amy’s “Sky High” imbed: The choreography cannot be overstated! Bring back the 70s!
Is it just me, or do the puzzle ratings seem unusually low lately? At the moment, the Times puzzle has a 2.79 rating, which seems awfully harsh for this solid, enjoyable puzzle. And looking back at the last couple of weeks, there are some puzzles with scores that are much lower than I would have guessed.
I don’t know. Maybe people are just in a persnickety mood.
Everyone’s carrying some tension, temper, anxiety this spring. What’s surprising is that people can focus on crosswords enough to actually enjoy them and recognize their quality.
Kick as in jolt. And some days you learn three things, or more, e.g., that this constructor is famous and much admired.
H*ck yeah KURTIS BLOW! I have a few of his songs in my playlist for when I would go for my daily walk/run in the woods, which is no longer A Thing for me because people cannot social distance if their lives depended on it. And I have asthma that sent me to the ER already a few times in the last twelve months, so it’s not a risk I’m willing to take.
I’m well aware of PASHA because I watched the excellent The Great War channel on YouTube, which discussed the events of the war, week by week, a hundred years after they happened. Enver Pasha was the Ottoman scumbag who was instrumental in the Armenian Genocide, and he was a lousy leader and strategist anyway. It doesn’t really comfort me that he was beheaded later on, because he didn’t really face any justice for his atrocities. Not that the Turks every really owned up to the genocide anyway, but still.
My print LAT didn’t have any star either, Gareth!