Erik Agard & Alison Ohringer’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Plus One”—Jim P’s review
FORK (71a, [What the letters added to the four “stirred” words in this puzzle spell]) is the revealer, but I wasn’t sure what it was getting at at first. It took a few moments, but then I realized what was going on. The theme answers are all two-word phrases whose second words comprise the letters of the first word plus the added letter all “stirred” together (i.e. anagrammed).
- 22a. [Shining expanses formed by evaporation] SALT FLATS
- 32a. [Peak times for jams] RUSH HOURS
- 44a. [Turquoise, e.g.] COOL COLOR
- 56a. [Rutted road] CART TRACK
Pretty cool theme, although COOL COLOR sounds a bit green paintish.
I wasn’t sure about the significance of FORK, though. You can stir with one, though you usually do that with a spoon. I’ve settled on the phrase “stick a fork in it,” even though it’s not alluded to anywhere in the grid or clues.
Lots of fun fill: BALLET SHOE, PUNCH CARDS, DAHLIAS, TRIUMPH, FLIP-TOP, SOFT TACO and TARAJI P. Henson of a lot of things including Empire, Hidden Figures, and Person of Interest. Oh, and ART TEST which makes me think of those old Tippy the Turtle drawing tests you’d find in old magazines and newspapers. Apparently, Art Instruction School shut down three years ago after 103 years in operation.
Overall, I liked this interesting theme. It was elusive at first but provided a nice aha moment. 3.9 stars. Stick a FORK in me, I’m done.
Joe Kidd’s New York Times crossword—Ben’s review
You needed to fill in all of the squares to get credit for solving this Thursday’s NYT on the app, but technically, you could have left the special squares in the grid blank:
- 19A: Sounds a bit off — DOESN’T ◯ TRUE
- 8D: Network of secret agents — SPY ◯
- 26A: Hora, for one — ◯ DANCE
- 26D: Unite in defense — ◯ THE WAGONS
- 40A: Colorful bit of cereal — FROOT ◯
- 10D: Caught off guard — THREW FOR A ◯
- 55A: Offer at the bar — THIS ◯ IS ON ME
- 57D: Bring to fullness — ◯ OUT
There’s a nice bit of mental subversion here, with the circled squares used to represent words that mean “circle”, whether that’s actually CIRCLE (as in CIRCLE DANCE and CIRCLE THE WAGONS), RING (DOESN’T RING TRUE, SPY RING), LOOP (FROOT LOOP, THREW FOR A LOOP), or ROUND (THIS ROUND IS ON ME, ROUND OUT). It’s also nice to mentally see the clue “Hora, for one”, absentmindedly think “that’s a circle dance, but that won’t fit in the…wait a second…” and crack the theme.
- As someone who typically only encounters the word SCRUM in a software development sense, it’s weird seeing it clued in its original incarnation as a rugby term.
- Becoming Dr. SEUSS, a fantastic biography of Theodore Geisel’s life and work, is out in paperback. I really enjoyed it when it came out last year.
Peter Gordon’s Fireball Crossword, “Themeless 140”–Jenni’s write-up
Lather, rinse, repeat, Fireball constructor is male.
I was surprised to look at the timer when I finished. It felt longer than 6:16. Puzzles always feel harder when I can’t get an immediate foothold in the NW. The longest answers in this grid are 8 letters, so it’s not at all wide open.
When I looked over it to find entries to comment on, I realized the top and bottom rows are anagrams: IN TEARS and TIN EARS matched with ABDOMEN and BAD OMEN. That was a fun AHA moment ( ___ moment as the clue for AHA was also fun).
A few other things:
- 1d [“Hmmm …”] is the kind of difficult clue I like. It’s not trivia and it’s not misleading; it’s just – vague while being totally accurate. The answer is I WONDER, not LET’S SEE, which was my first shot.
- I was embarrassed that I put BRAVOS for 9d, [Chorus following an aria?], without realizing it could be BRAVAS. Internalized misogyny is a thing.
- 19a [The time of Nick?] is a great clue for NITE. Who put NOEL first?
- 21d [Superhumanly strong] is ATLANTEAN. I kept trying to get ATLAS in there somewhere. Are the residents of Atlantis purported to be unusually strong? Or is there something in the water in the state of Georgia that I don’t know about?
- 39d [Turkey lover’s favorite dessert?] is the delicious and sticky treat BAKLAVA.
- We have an EERO system and we’re very happy with it.
Representation! Let’s start with the names who are not white men: Gwyneth PALTROW, HASAN Minhaj, Captain JANEWAY, Gabriela SABATINI, Manuel NORIEGA, Don LEMON. White men: IBSEN, NAT Faxon, DR SEUSS. I’m impressed.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that the WOODHEN is called a weka in New Zealand, that Gwyneth PALTROW is a foodie (and I don’t care) or that PIKACHU was Japan’s mascot for the 2014 World Cup. I’ve also never heard of HASAN Minhaj.
Stella Zawistowksi’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary
This is an unusually wide open grid. Barring the four helper squares (preferred LA Times terminology for the black squares that do not make new words), it would be a fairly typical grid. Despite this, there is a typical four part theme going on, explained at KETO: [Diet that involves eating fat, cutting carbs, and avoiding the ends of the answers to the starred clues]. The use of “and” seems to imply that avoiding the ends of the answers is independent of “cutting carbs”, but, broadly, that’s what each of those four foods are: RICE and POTATO are starchy vegetables sensu late; COOKIE is a processed food usually made with a flour source (starch) and simple sugars; and a BANANA is a fruit rich in simple sugars.
A good touch that might be missed, but is the sign of careful, considered construction is how each of the things is not a food, per se. COUCHPOTATO, SMARTCOOKIE and TOPBANANA are all terms used to describe people and JERRYRICE is an actual person (who could, one assumes be eaten.)
As mentioned initially, this is a very wide open grid, which, coupled with the thematic constraints makes for a difficult grid to fill. For the most part, some of the medium entries still manage to be more than functional: OROMEO, TVRATINGS, CATCALL, IPECAC as examples. There are a few things like PARTII and SPITSAT that could be labelled as filling contrivances, but nothing egregious.
- [Number system in Programming 101?], BINARY. 101 in binary is 5 in decimal.
- [Tyler, the Creator work that won the 2019 Grammy for Best Rap Album], IGOR. Latest meaning of IGOR; will go down in history as being at least as notable as AJA…
- [River of Flanders], YSER. Geographically, not very notable, being all of 80km long. As the backdrop to a WWI battle, dramatically important. Against all likelihood, the Belgian army held off the numerically superior Germans, although the upshot was the creation of the long and deadly stalemate on the Western Front.
- [Small Spanish house], CASITA. It seems to be in dictionaries as an English (loan)word as well…
WSJ: 5a [Union foes] SCABS. I’ve highlighted this sort of thing before. Really tired of unions and ‘scabs’ characterized as foes or enemies.
It’s the companies that are the common foe of both, artificially pitting those two in opposition. The same dynamic writ large is one of the main factors for (13d) GROSS income, wealth, and class inequality at the societal level, to the overall detriment of the nation’s well-being. Who do you think benefits politically and economically by stoking racial tensions among working class populations?
I appreciate your larger point, but having spent some time, many years ago, as a supervisor in a UAW factory, I’m pretty sure those union members would have no problem with the characterization of scabs as “foes” or “enemies.” The scabs would probably not have seen it the same way.
Precisely. It’s the deceptive framing of the narrative, and people buying in to that.
I think you’re making pannonica’s point even stronger: That the establishment strives to pit unions vs. scabs, because then it’s the working class being divided, rather than uniting against the owners.
And she’s spot on about racial tensions. What I’ve seen in Alabama all these years is the ruling class using race to distract working class whites from the deplorable conditions that exist in education and social services.
Communism is your government of choice ? Lots of great examples of that failing miserably and detrimental to the citizens. East Germany, Russia, Russian SSRS, Cuba, and Venezuela. I visited Estonia and Hungary post communist oppression – amazing to see how free enterprise improved their lot.
That’s quite a rhetorical leap.
If you are not a fan of full-bore Ayn Randian capitalism then you must be a communist. There is no room in between.
PS In Germany the law requires that companies (perhaps above some minimum size) must have union representation on their boards. There is friction, of course, but not nearly as much as here, and Germany is a pretty successful capitalist country. Well, wussy capitalism of a sort that Ms Rand would detest.
NYT: I thought it was great fun! In science, I like it when you think you’ve discovered something, but then you need to revise it and decipher something more complex. It turns out, I like it in puzzle themes as well.
I was irked when I first saw the NYT grid– which was obviously marking out the rebuses. But there was a good reason for it. A nice puzzle that fully allayed my initial irk.
NYT Thursday was very easy and smooth except for the SW where I hadn’t heard the phrase CIRCLE THE WAGONS before, along with OCHS, LIPPIZANER or HANSOM. This made the two quotes harder to grok and ended up taking me 10 minutes to fill that corner compared to 4 minutes on the rest :S
NYT was a fun thought but most of the fill was very quick after getting the trick, does each [IMAGE] have the same meaning in each direction? #DANCE and #THE WAGONS is why I ask, I don’t know Judiasm that well is Hora a Ring Dance or a Circle Dance and is either OK, does it matter? Nice trick.
Oh yeah, it’s very clever that the image of a circle/ring/round technically IS the rebus since rebus is picture puzzle (Like the old TV game Concentration).
I learned supercalifragileisticexpialidocious as
Super Cow a fragile lipstick x-pea alley $$ shush from the home game – which today could be a video screen, but then was a paper roll changed for each game. I was a part of the public school – taught phonics age.
Any other old farts here have this game?
Had a home version of “Concentration” when I was a kid. My brother and sister and I played it a lot until we had gone through all the puzzles once. Then it became a contest to see who could remember the puzzle from the last time we saw it.
Re: the question in your original post. I believe the [IMAGE] translates to the same word in both directions – although the sense of the word is not always the same (e.g., SPY RING and DOESN’T RING TRUE).
“circle the wagons” is a phrase I first heard in old “oaters” (a term I only learned from xwords :) ), when a wagon train was under attack from Native Americans, they would form a circle of the wagons as a defensive move.
What is a JDATE? 67A
JDate (J-Date?) is a dating site (service?) for Jewish people.
BEQ: I’m really confused about this theme! Ok, so there are phrases that start with SQU words that stay words if you remove the SK phonemes… But the second words seem random? Are “wad smack”, “whirl power”, etc actually things? “What’s cracking” is a phrase, but “wads smack” isn’t any better…
• godsmack (gobsmack is much more common)
• girl power (girl and squirrel are not rhymes for me)
• got cracking
• geek chic
• germ of an idea (which has a soft g, unlike all the themers)
Thanks, I didn’t get it either.
I was also baffled by the SE corner. No idea what a SLAY queen is or how cupid is associated with XMAS.
• “Slay queen!” is presumably some sort of interjection. Maybe it’s “Slay, Queen!”?
• Cupid is one of Santa’s reindeer.
“Slay, Queen!” was apparently the origin, but now “slay queen” is a thing.
Ha, somehow I convinced myself the phrase was “worm of an idea”!
NYT: If you were unfamiliar with this very old method of transportation, HANSUM/DUH was just as likely as HANSOM/DOH, with DUH an arguably better answer for its clue “How could I be so silly?”. Otherwise, a solid Thursday!
Fun fact: Dr. Seuss’ real first name is Theodor without an “e” at the end.