Dave Bardolph’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Markdowns”—Jim P’s review
Someone’s having a rough semester as things wind down this term. Every single grade has been marked down by one whole letter. A lot of schools went Pass/Fail this term, but apparently not this one.
- 17a [Bridge table assistant?] BID WORKER. Aid worker. I solved this entry first but couldn’t guess the theme.
- 22a [Limited edition reproductions of Miss Scarlet and Colonel Mustard?] CLUE PRINTS. Blueprints. I solved this entry next, but erroneously put in BLUEPRINTS (the crossing of BDS seemed like a sorry but acceptable abbreviation for “bonds” [S&L offerings]). In the heat of the solve, my stupid brain was telling me that scarlet and mustard (the colors) make blue. DUH!
- 35a [Wood fastener for the socially awkward?] DORK SCREW. Corkscrew. I felt like a DORKSCREW this morning (actually most of the day), trying to do some DIY plumbing under the kitchen sink and botching the job over and over again—including causing a minor flood before I could get the water turned back off. I eventually got everything put back together and in order, but it was an iffy thing for awhile.
- 50a [Prep cook in a seafood restaurant?] FISH WASHER. Dishwasher. Convenient not to have an E letter grade as making that change would have been harder than going from D to F.
Clever theme. I like the consistency in having the changed letter be the first one in each answer. And I really like the constructor’s solution in dealing with a 14-letter revealer. Having one of those is often a real challenge, but it breaks up nicely here, and the second half is symmetrical with the first theme answer. Not necessarily an ideal solution, but definitely worth considering if you find yourself with an awkward-length revealer.
Quite nice fill with COPPER ORE and PEELS AWAY in the marquee spots. DISNEY, ASTUTE, and YUCCA are nice as well, and hey look, there’s NIKKI Haley at 5d. Those of you who did last week’s Wednesday NYT should know how to spell her name now.
But I’m really admiring those NE and SW corners as expansive as they are and yet with really nice fill: WADDLE, IBERIAN, SILENCE, SNEAKED, AT PEACE, ANDREA Mitchell, RUN DEEP, NOMADS, WRANGLE, HUMORED, and ANIMATE next to DEAD ON. Only AMIE looks like crosswordese in the whole lot. Either one of those corners would be something to be proud of, but the two together are impressive indeed. Nice work.
Clues of note:
- 1a. [Leaves time?]. FALL. Nice start to the cluing with a tricky one. It didn’t get me, but it set a good tone for the grid.
- 20a. [Hawaiian diced raw tuna entree]. POKE. I’m happy to see this bit of Hawaiian culture make its way into a grid. Just know that it’s pronounced “poh-kay,” not “pohk” and not “poh-kee.” And there’s no diacritical on the E, as this chef explains. Read the article to learn more about the dish and why the recent surge in popularity is causing concerns for some Hawaiians.
- 26d. [Rash soothers]. TALCS. Ah, but did you hear that Johnson & Johnson is doing away with its famous talc-based baby powder? The company is fighting thousands of lawsuits claiming asbestos in the talc itself has caused cancer—particularly ovarian cancer—in long-term users.
- 30d. [Removes carefully, as a bandage]. PEELS AWAY. Evocative clue, but I might have gone for the trickier [Opposite of “rips off”].
Really, this was a lovely grid with a well-executed theme, beautiful fill, and solid cluing. Four stars.
Amanda Rafkin & Ross Trudeau’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
I figured out what the theme was with the back end of the first themer, which definitely helped me fill in the other three. Pop culture!
- 18a. [Second-in-charge, as at a restaurant], ASSISTANT MANAGER, with the ANT-MAN portion circled and spanning the word break.
- 30a. [Boundary marking the limits of a black hole], EVENT HORIZON. I knew THOR would be one of the circled 4s.
- 49a. [Toss the pigskin perfectly], THROW A SPIRAL, with the WASP. Somewhat inelegant since there was a recent MCU movie called Ant-Man and the Wasp, so they are a close pair of Avengers, but Thor is an outlier.
- 62a. [Classic comics rallying cry … or a hint to 18-, 30- and 49-Across], “AVENGERS, ASSEMBLE.” Solid theme revealer, and certainly more fun than the typical revealer. Also! There’s a wonderful story that I believe is true, in which “Avengers, assemble!” plays a key role. Read it, you’ll love it.
You ever see a truck transporting port-a-potties? I hereby decree that we call those LOO MOVERs henceforth. Sure, 38d. [Affect in a distant, menacing way], LOOM OVER, that works, but it’s not funny. And then there’s 29d. [Prefix with god or john], DEMI. Now, a demijohn holds 1 to 16 gallons of liquid, but shouldn’t it really be the name for a port-a-potty that holds even more? “Hold your nose—here comes the loo mover with a load of demijohns.”
Fave fill: MALIBU, ELI ROTH (could someone who knows Hebrew tell me if ELIE and ELI ROTH constitute a dupe, or if Eli and Elie are entirely distinct names?), RAGE-QUIT, “I’D LOVE TO,” BEAT BOXERS, HIT THE DECK.
3.9 stars from me.
Caitlin Reid’s Universal crossword, “Moving Right Along” — pannonica’s -upwrite
Two elements to this theme. First, we have homophones of \ˈrīt\. Second, the positions of said homophones travels left-to-right, both within the relevant entry and in its absolute position in the grid.
- 19a. [Baptism or wedding] RITE OF PASSAGE. Starts the phrase, and is aligned with the left edge of the grid.
- 36a. [Deduction on an IRS form] TAX WRITE-OFF. Center, and center.
- 56a. [One half of a noted aviation team] ORVILLE WRIGHT. You can see for yourself.
The additional dimension elevates it beyond the simple—perhaps expected—midweek theme.
The rest of the puzzle is rather no-nonsense, relatively free of flashy entries and twisty clues. The only question-marked punny ones are 4a [Lasting impression?] SCAR (which tends to be raised, anyway), 60a [Move to tears, say?] BORE (pretty good, that one), and 37d [Beyond rare?] RAW (also good). Perhaps three of these is a good amount, and it’s just that the rest of the clues feel so dry.
- 3d [Proposal joint] KNEE, 11d [Hoped-for proposal answer] YES.
- Thought the echoed double letters of the symmetrical 13d [Treatment for upper facial hair, informally] BROW WAX and 38d [Infested, as with weeds] OVERRUN was rather nice.
- Subtle duplication with 32a [Slangy pet name] BAE and 69a [Comforting touch] PAT.
- 29d [Subarctic forest zone] TAIGA. Just remember, no saiga live in the TAIGA, but some tigers do. (Some ELK (1a) as well.)
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s AVCX, “I Can Re-late” — Ben’s Review
It’s Wednesday, and that means it’s time for the AVCX. Today’s edition was a little late in arriving in my inbox, but with a title like “I Can Re-Late”, that was perfectly apt. BEQ helmed this 17×17 grid, so let’s check out what’s going on:
- 19A: Alley romance, candlepin sci-fi, and gutter horror? — BOWLING GENRES
- 31A: Concerned comment, when people are supposed to be social distancing? — THERE‘S A CROWD
- 37A: Pulled the curtain off of one’s spice holder? — BARED RACK
- 50A/56A: [P]romise that every male-identified person gets the same amount of food at a wedding? — ALL MEN ARE/CATERED EQUAL
- 72A: Parts of the melody to a song about one’s amigx? — COMPADRE NOTES
Each answer has a “late” RE making a normal phrase a little wacky – BOWLING GREENS, THREE’S A CROWD, BREAD RACK, ALL MEN ARE CREATED EQUAL, and COMPARED NOTES all get a quick transformation.
Elsewhere in the fill:
- I had never heard of a SADIRON (“Old-fashioned clothes presser with pointy ends and presumably an emo affect”) before, but having now seen one (see at right), I’ve totally seen those in any period piece where someone’s valet is using one to press their shirt.
- I briefly thought fresh lettuce was DIRTY, given that you’re pulling it out of the ground, but CRISP is also appropriate
Joe Schewe’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s theme summary
With this grid design, it was quite likely to be a “down” theme. I quickly saw HH repetition, but actually, it’s HHO, a non-standard way to represent H2O. This, together with the answers’ arrangement, makes them WATER/DOWN.
The grid design is quite conservative, but that’s often a good choice. Mostly we have one-word answers, but more colourful choices are included such as HONCHO, SERAPH and SACRISTY. I assume that [Hassock cousins], OTTOMANS means a HASSOCK is some other kind of furniture?