Gary Larson’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Passing the Bar”—Jim P’s review
Our theme is common phrases whose first word can be a slangy synonym for “drunk” or “stoned.”
- 18a. [Regular guys on a bender?] SLOPPY JOES
- 28a. [Police detainees on a bender?] STIFF COLLARS. Meh. I’ve heard of a stiff drink, but I’ve never heard “stiff” used to mean “drunk.” Plus, the entire phrase feels like “green paint.”
- 48a. [Undercover operatives on a bender?] POTTED PLANTS
- 62a. [Committee heads on a bender?] HIGH CHAIRS. This one I like.
I’m not exactly sure why, but the whole puzzle feels very “bro-ey”, maybe because of the drunken bender theme but also because of action star Jason STATHAM, REPO MAN, some sown wild OATS, belligerent “IT’S ON!,” and gang members the JETS. I did however appreciate seeing LORDE, cruciverbalist Lisa LOEB, and Aisha TYLER of Criminal Minds, though I know her from Whose Line Is It Anyway?
I have yet to figure out why APORT and PUT are in the grid when they could’ve easily been ABORT and BUT. Other detractors: BESO and OTOE.
On the plus side are SCALLIONS, TAKE-OFFS, and BLONDE ALE.
Clues of note:
- 12d. [“Hasta ___!” (“Adios!”)]. LUEGO. Not sure why MAÑANA doesn’t have a similar, if not the same, clue.
- 13d. [“Oh, now the gloves are off!”]. IT’S ON. But leave the mask on at least, please.
- 37d. [Noah count?]. TWOS. I think the clue is meant to be a homophone of “no account,” yes?
A mixed bag for me. 3.4 stars.
Lee Higbie and Jeff Chen’s New York Times crossword—Ade’s take
Good day, everybody! It’s Ade here filling in for your fearless Fiend leader for the day. (Don’t leave yet!!)
Today’s puzzle, brought to us by Lee Higbie and Mr. Jeff Chen, is one that is about to erupt!! Also, I hope people solving did not erupt in anger in trying to figure out what was/is going on. The visual concept involves circled letters in the top half of the grid spelling out ASH and, towards the bottom of the grid, two pairs of circled letters adjacent to each other (but in different entries) appearing to spell the word LAVA. It looks like there’s a little MOUNT that’s formed in the middle of the bottom of the grid as well (5A: [Start of many volcano names]). I’m sure SIERRAS making up the “base” of the volcano has a role in the visual as well (61A: [Western range]).
- MEDIA SHY (5D: [Avoiding the press])
- TRASH ART (9D: [Creative works made of recyclable parts]) – I guess I was a up-and-coming trash artist years ago, when my brothers and I would take cereal boxes in the house and turn them into action figures, usually robots from The Transformers. Was there any trash art that you remember crafting?
- TEXAS HOLD EM (25D: [Alternative to five-card draw]) – For all the poker fans out there.
- PEA SHOOTERS (26D: [Toys that can be dangerous])
- SPATULA (21D: [Spreader of frosting or plasters]) + BRAVA (38D: Cheer at an opera house]) = LAVA
- WILLA (40D: [Author Cather]) + CAMPER VAN (34D: [Mobile home?]) = LAVA
I’m sure the payoff left something to be desired for a number of solvers, especially with the absence of a standard “reveal” entry, and even I had to scan the grid to make sure I did not miss anything after completing the solve. (I might still have missed something!) However, I’m normally a fan of these visual concept/artistic grids and I didn’t mind this one at all. There was a hang-up of my own creation that cost me some time, as I confused characters from The Sopranos, initially putting in “Carmine” instead of CARMELA (23D: [___ Soprano (Edie Falco role)]). I could have looked at the clue for DIAPER BAG (31D: [Accessory that’s good for changing times?]) to make life easier, but I ended up running through the vowels to make sure I knew the third letter to SHIBUYA, which I am sure is the area of Japan where the busiest train station in the world is located as well (37A: [Commercial district in Tokyo known as a fashion center]). Hopefully COLOR was in everyone’s comfort zone, even for the non-sports inclined (49A: ___ commentary]). Probably my favorite clue/entry occurred with one of the shortest answers, with the towers reference for CDS (34D: [They’re often stored in towers]). I still have a couple of CD towers at my place. Now when am I going to pop in one of those music CDs next? I have no idea!
No real qualms about the puzzle, though I will say that I use “stand(s) pat” much more than I say SITS PAT (24A: [Hangs tight]). Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever used “sit(s) pat” before…well, before today!
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: STEWART (39A: [Actress Kristen of the “Twilight Saga” series]) – From a badass Stewart on the silver screen to a young legend on the basketball court, current Seattle Storm guard/forward Breanna Stewart, who arguably had the most-decorated career in the history of college basketball, is staking her claim to being the best women’s basketball player on the planet. While at the University of Connecticut, Stewart led the Huskies to four consecutive national championships (2013-2016), winning the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player Award in all four of those years while being named the national player of the year three times (2014-2016). Her exploits carried over to the pros, and in 2018, Stewart led the Storm to the WNBA championship while winning the WNBA MVP and WNBA Finals MVP. All this, and Stewart is just 25 years old.
Thank you so much for the time, everybody! Have a wonderful and safe rest of your Wednesday! Oh, and make sure to get your taxes filed today if you haven’t done so!!!!
Dexter Coleman’s Universal crossword, “Adult Swim” — pannonica’s write-up
People with piscine surnames.
- 17a. [Angel who was 2019’s AL MVP] MIKE TROUT. So he would be … an angelfish?
- 37a. [With 39-Across, noted abstract expressionist] JACKSON | POLLOCK.
- 61a. [Member of NSYNC] LANCE BASS.
A mere three themers—two of them shortish—so there’s plenty of room for the crossword to stretch out, or at least avoid compromised fill. Well, mostly. SJSU (31d) and some others are not exactly inspired.
However, three-for-three for menfolk. Off the top of my head I can think of singer Margaret Whiting and the fictional Ella Minnow Pea, of the eponymous lipogrammatic novel. The former would’ve made an impressive 15-letter central spanner in place of the estimable JACKSON POLLOCK.
20a [One is always seen with a trunk] ELEPHANT. Elephantfish are a rather prolific family. 28d [Gator cousin] CROC; you guessed it – there are crocodilefish. 67a [Noble gas with the atomic number 10] NEON; NEON TETRAS are crossword-famous fish, and quite popular among aquarium hobbyists as well. 47d [Kind of juice in a screwdriver] ORANGE; ORANGE roughy, anyone?
- ELEPHANT‘s symmetrical partner isn’t linkable to a sort of fish, but LURES is lurking within 58a FAILURES.
- 66a [Secluded valley] GLEN, 27d [Low-lying land] VALE.
- 4d [You might take them down] STEPS. Dang, misleading STEP and STAIR clues always fool me.
- 3d [“American Idol” runner-up Clay] AIKEN, 50d [“American Idol” winner Studdard] RUBEN. Wow, I recognize these names. No mean feat when it comes to American Idol stuff. Were they in the same season of the show?
And finally, I found an illustration of something called a logfish (61d [Cabin component] LOG):
Current taxonomy has it as Hyperoglyphe perciformis, the barrelfish.
Aimee Lucido’s New Yorker crossword – Rachel’s writeup
Hello everyone, and welcome back from the Steely Dan Wikipedia page, where I assume you all went immediately after solving this puzzle! I tried reading Naked Lunch several times in college and could never get past the second page, and I do not think this little fun fact has convinced me I should give it another go.
Unlike Naked Lunch, I thoroughly enjoyed this puzzle. The long entries are all excellent, and the cluing is overall quite clever. There is one dupe (which didn’t bother me at all, but which I suspect some solvers will take issue with), and one clue/entry combo that I sort of side-eyed, but otherwise this is a clean, enjoyable grid! Let’s dig in.
- NW: CATFISHES / CLEAN COAL / EASY PEASY
- SE: UNBUTTONS / LA LLORONA / STEELY DAN
- NE: MANSCAPED/ATROPHIED
- SW: LIVED IN SIN / PLAYS IT SAFE
- Middle downs: NICK AT NITE / ITEM BY ITEM
These are all so good! What an excellent set of long entries! Beautiful.
A few other things:
- The dupe occurs at the crossing entries EASE/EASY PEASY, which makes it somewhat more egregious (though as I said, I don’t super care about dupes)
- I’ve never captioned an instagram post MOOD but I think captioning an instagram post MOOD is itself a MOOD.
- Was tripped up at KEMO/THRO — I had THRU
- Appreciate the non-gun clue on RIFLE
- Favorite clues:
- [Band that’s named after a fictional sex toy] – I mean, come on, that’s absolute gold
- [Programming block with reruns of “Friends” and “Full House”] – “Friends” is on NICK AT NITE now??!? When I was growing up it was like, “I Dream of Genie.” Is this what aging feels like?
- [Shacked up, humorously (or very seriously)] – LIVED IN SIN. Yessssss
- I am conceding on the tallying point. It requires problematic speculation about race/ethnicity, and somewhat misses the bigger picture, which is that some puzzles (see Monday’s) are part of a larger body of work that centers white/male culture. So I’m not going to do this tally thing every puzzle, but will instead highlight entries/clues that are either positive or negative indicators of representation, or will note when we have an ostensibly “culture neutral” that isn’t really. So today, we have some positive representation with Justice O’CONNOR, LIL WAYNE, LA LLORONA, and NEHRU, among others. The negative is the clue/entry combo on KEMO [___ Sabe (the Lone Ranger, to Tonto)]. I’m not completely fluent in this issue, but my understanding is that Tonto is a pretty controversial character that embodies a lot of harmful stereotypes, so I was surprised to see this clue/entry.
- Fill I could live without: HOR, KMS, STE, IS AN, ALAE
- Finally, I can’t see the name FAY Wray without this song starting to play in my head, so now you get to experience that too:
Overall, lots of stars from me for an exciting and pretty clean grid! See you all on Friday.
Amanda Rafkin’s AVCX, “AVCX Themeless #49” — Ben’s Review
This week’s AVCX is a themeless from Amanda Rafkin that was described as “easy-ish”, but definitely played at the 4/5 difficulty it was given for me. Here’s some highlights:
- Two nice bits of longer fill along the top and bottom, with FREE THE NIPPLE (cheekily clued as “Top liberation campaign”) and RIGGED ELECTION along the top, and EROGENOUS ZONES and ALTERED STATES (“Trips, e.g.”) along the bottom
- I don’t know why my brain was adamant that “Possible gifts for budding architects” had to be some sort of pluralized drafting table, especially as someone who owns multiple LEGO SETS of architectural landmarks.
- If you’ve ever seen RITA ORA in a crossword (or just “Rita ____” in the clues) and wondered “who is that woman?”, I highly recommend Who Weekly?, a podcast that keeps track of her and all the other celebrities on that tier of fame where you see them in a People or Us Weekly and go “who?”
Ed Sessa’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary
As a romantic concept, BOYMEETSGIRL is trite. As a theme concept, it’s a lot more creative. Each entry has a boy and a girl name meeting in the middle: ANDY/FLO; ED/EVE; and AL/DEB.
The grid layout felt well-balanced, which enabled some interesting longer entries and few particularly knotty areas of short fill.
That said, the puzzle’s cultural frame of reference often felt different to mine (which happens). I have never encountered CANDYFLOWERS before, but it seems suitably American. Also not sure what a [Seafood boil..] is (nor would boiling be my ideal way of eating seafood), but “seafood” to CLAMS is not a big leap. Also never been in a hardware store with a PAINTMIXER, but I’m not exactly a hardware store habitue. Similarly, I’ve never heard of the “gravity wedges” in the HEELLESS clue, but my feet are sore just looking at photos of them. Ballet flats are way cuter in any case! Note that I’d count all of those entries as neutral to positives in the puzzle, puzzles are allowed to be about things outside of one’s frame of reference!