Andrew McIntyre’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Bear Up”—Jim P’s review
I thought I recognized the byline, but the McIntyre in the database is a Patrick McIntyre. This appears to be Andrew McIntyre’s debut. Congrats! Any relation?
I would be surprised if this theme hadn’t been done before, but it was still pretty cool to solve, despite not knowing two of the three names for THE BIG DIPPER (21d, [Current name for the arrangement of the O’s in this puzzle]).
The other two theme answers have the same clue [Old name for the arrangement of the O’s in this puzzle], and they are THE SEVEN OXEN and THE GREAT WAGON. A quick google of those terms doesn’t net me the history of those names, so if anyone has more knowledge on them, please share in the comments.
The O’s in the grid are roughly in the shape that we all should recognize.* Given that two of the theme answers each has an O, the grid’s constellation shape is strictly limited. While it doesn’t quite look to scale, I’d say it’s pretty darn close, given this restriction.
Often, when such a common letter is limited in number in the grid, that means the fill will suffer notably. And there is a fairly high amount of crosswordese like RRS, STS, RTE, SRS, AAH, ERST, ASSN, ISBN, ETE, SAE, TARNS, and AREEL, but none of this really bothered me too much. I was more concerned with whether or not I would be able to make sense of the two unknown theme entries (and thankfully I did). And counted among the puzzles assets are REFERENDUMS and BIOSCIENCES. Very nice.
Clues of note:
- 13a. [To a significant degree]. RATHER. Kind of wish this was clued with regard to former newsman Dan who has become a very vocal online opponent of this administration.
- 51d. [Triple Grammy winner of 1996]. SEAL. We don’t see enough SEAL clues in puzzles. See below for his version of “Lean On Me.”
Nice puzzle with a nifty theme that rose above its gluey bits. Four stars.
*”All” except for people like my wife who suffer from retinitis pigmentosa which means, among other things, that they can’t see well (or at all) in dimly-lit situations. Even on the most star-studded night out camping, my wife has never seen more than a handful of stars at a time. Seeing all the stars in The Big Dipper is an impossibility for her, sadly.
Ross Trudeau’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
An unusual theme here. The revealer is 51a. [Cry while doing a stunt … or a hint to 2-, 7- and 12-Down], “LOOK, MA, NO HANDS.” (I’d give $10 to see a professional stuntperson holler that while doing a stunt.) Those three Down themers are all things that lack “hands” with various senses of meaning:
- 2d. [Something the ancient Egyptians used for keeping time], WATER CLOCK. No minute and hour hands.
- 7d. [Vessel found drifting without a crew], GHOST SHIP. No deckhands.
- 12d. [Audience unlikely to applaud], TOUGH CROWD. Not like to give a hand (applaud). Great entry!
Feels nonstandard to have the three Down themers all flanked by non-theme answers of the same length. Then again, a 10/9/10/13 theme set requires an untraditional approach to siting those entries in the grid.
Seven more things:
- 23a. [Bands at weddings], RINGS. As in the jewelry called a wedding band. Nice little mislead.
- 50a. [Place to count sheep?], BARN. Take your own blanket and pillow.
- 56a. [California’s ___ Woods], MUIR. Beautiful place—I loved the afternoon I spent there years ago. Its namesake, John Muir, was a racist, as were a number of the Sierra Club’s early leaders.
- 1d. [“The freakin’ weekend is here!”], TGIF. I learned from Twitter that it is still Tuesday. Why is it not Saturday yet?
- 11d. [Woman in a Sherlock Holmes story], IRENE ADLER. Speaking of women in Sherlock Holmes stories, there’s a new Netflix series called Enola Holmes, starring Stranger Things‘ Millie Bobby Brown as Sherlock’s sister Enola. Finally! We have a legit way to clue ENOLA that doesn’t relate to nuclear holocausts.
- 50d. [Actress Lisa], BONET. Her husband (Jason Momoa) and ex-husband (Lenny Kravitz) are close friends, and she and Lenny are also still close. You don’t see a ton of heartwarming divorce stories, but this is one.
- 52d. [It comes out of a pen, either with or without its first letter], OINK. A pig oinking in a pigpen, or ink from a writing utensil. Interesting clue angle!
Fave fill: GET SHORTY, along with IRENE ADLER. The puzzle overall felt pretty good on the representation front.
Four stars from me.
Elizabeth C. Gorski’s New Yorker crossword – Rachel’s writeup
Two back-to-back speed solves (this and the NYT above) probably both set Wednesday records for me, which is just the best feeling to kick off the day. Not that I mind challenging puzzles; I signed up for the Stormy division of Boswords, got my ass kicked, and am excited to go back for more next week! But there’s nothing like the feeling of absolutely tearing through a puzzle, and that’s what happened for me on this supposedly moderately but actually not at all challenging Wednesday puzzle from Elizabeth C. Gorski! It was a fun, fast, crunchy solve with excellent clues that were clever yet easy.
The long entries today were FOOT MASSAGE / IN ISOLATION / SELENA GOMEZ / GENETIC CODE / OVERREACHES / DESSERT CART / BEER SNOBS / FALUN GONG. A++, all excellent entries. IN ISOLATION is a little on-the-nose for early October 2020 (!), but the clue fortunately stayed away from our global pandemic nightmare. Also super relevant today is GENETIC CODE, as the Nobel Prize in Chemistry was just awarded to the scientists who developed CRISPR, the technique for modifying GENETIC CODE that has completely dominated the discourse (and funding!) in my field of bioethics. I loved seeing SELENA GOMEZ get the full-name treatment here, and did I detect a little Hamilton mini-theme with Leslie ODOM Jr and the clue on OVERREACHES [Flies too close to the sun]? I might just be primed to see Hamilton everywhere.
A few more things:
- I liked the parallel between the entries TWO EDGED and ONE PAIR
- Fill I could live without: SLRS, LOA, AMS, A CAT, AT ‘EM, CCC
- Also, what is CCC? What is happening in this clue [MD ÷ V]? I didn’t even see this while solving but am now v confused. Is this… mass times density divided by volume? mass times distance divided by velocity? equals…? I seriously just spent several minutes googling and still can’t figure out what is going on here! Google offered this very helpful answer: Lots of articles on the difference between and MD and a DO.
- Representation: SELENA GOMEZ, BOB Marley, Shaquille O’NEAL, IDA B. Wells, Leslie ODOM Jr. Success!
- Favorite clues:
- [Ones who may say “You’re drinking that?”] for BEER SNOBS
- [It takes the cake?] for DESSERT CART
Overall, tons of stars from me. This puzzle was super fun — I almost wish it had lasted longer to draw out the entertainment! See you all on Friday.
Frank Virzi’s Universal crossword, “Last Movement” — pannonica’s write-up
Venerable theme type this time.
- 64aR [Retreat, as from a position … or a hint to what can follow the end of each starred clue] WALK BACK. That wouldn’t be a physical position or location so much as one of opinion. On the other hand, to “walk back the cat” is to retrace the development of a complicated event or situation to better understand it (or—in the context I first learned it— that of an espionage operation to find the source of the deception).
- 17a. [*Group founded by Clara Barton] RED CROSS (crosswalk).
- 25a. [*K-12 overseers] SCHOOL BOARD (boardwalk).
- 40a. [“I need some time alone”] GIVE ME SOME SPACE (spacewalk).
- 50a. [*”The Black Swan” star, 1942] TYRONE POWER (power walk). I presume that’s something akin to power ties, power lunches, and power naps?
With the exception of the last, these were all very familiar to me, and made for a good example of the form.
- 5d [ __-mo] SLO, 39d [Low-__ image] RES.
- (65d [Burner setting] LOW.)
- 37d [Zoom annoyances] LAG. It seems that, against my inclinations, I’ll be installing Zoom so that on Saturday I can watch a virtual concert that was postponed because of—not COVID-19—snow earlier in the year. Wish me luck.
- 41d [Word heard in “demeanor”] MIEN. Cute, I like it. Except for the presence of 13d [Got wind of] HEARD. Also, turns out that mien and demeanor share a direct etymology; the former is derived from the latter. So that’s kind of interesting.
- 48a [Part of FWIW] IT’S. Please to enjoy some best vintage Soviet cheeze:
- 14a [Unpleasant smell] ODOR. Just in case you were wondering, yes I’m still never happy with exclusively pejorative definitions of “odor”.
- Three items is the threshold for compelling me to include them as a recap item: 20a [Greeting accompanied by a 24-Across, perhaps] ALOHA, 24a [See 20-Across] LEI, 58a [Hanauma Bay’s Hawaiian Island] OAHU.
- Here’s another triad, which happens to be clustered together: 60a [Low-stress course] EASY A, 62a [Elite rosters of guests] A-LISTS, 61d [The basics] ABCS. Oh heck, here’s a tenuous fourth: 21a [“Jay Leno’s Garage” network] CNBC.
Kyra Wilson and Sophia Maymudes’ AVCX, “AVCX Themeless #51” — Ben’s Review
It’s a themeless week at the AVCX, this time from Kyra Wilson and Sophia Maymudes!
- Relatively even distribution of black squares means that there’s not any particularly long fill entries in this grid going across, but I did like TURDUCKEN and UNDERBOOB going down
- “Herb-infused treats” could apply to (pot) BROWNIES, as I attempted to start with, but it also applies to the wider (correct) category of EDIBLES.
- Apparently my literary sense was off while solving this morning – it took me forever to grok “Tall, thin Crane” as ICHABOD, and next-door neighbor “literary sucker” as DRACULA
This had a nice combo of knowledge areas in its fill, so this puzzle was a SLAM DUNK for me.
It turns out the Flo Rida and Sia song is “Wild Ones”, not WILD ONE, but it’s what started playing in my head when I entered 63A in the grid.
Ed Sessa’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary
BREAKINGTHEBANK is a grid-spanning revealer (without the -ing it is a twelve, which would have caused its own problems) that indicates another three answers spell out BANK at their poles. The opposite entry is BANGFORONESBUCK, which would look and sound more natural as BANGFORYOUR… but that is more challenging to fit in. BLANKETYBLANK is pretty funny to see written out. On the other hand, BALLERINAPINK seems to only barely be a colour (out of a near infinite amount of colours). BANANAHAMMOCK is the same number of letters, but that may have raised some eyebrows…
Not a lot of note going on outside of the theme:
- [Air Force NCO], TSGT is one of the less seen variations of ?SGT.
- [Priest’s white garment], ALB is not encountered often. Not a particularly busy corner to find it in either.
- [Dancing girl in “Return of the Jedi”], OOLA. Really an obscure bit character. I’d probably have rewrote the puzzle to avoid that!
- [It’s sung to the same tune as “Twinkle, twinkle”], ABCD – cute clue, but again, an awkward entry that doesn’t seem like it has to be there?