Trip Payne’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Mixed Foursomes”—Jim P’s review
Take a phrase that contains a four-letter word (but not that kind of four-letter word) which can be anagrammed to a common initialism. Put that initialism in the grid, clue it wackily, and you have our theme today.
- 17a. [Comment to a student about algebra, reading, grammar, etc.?] IT’S ALL IN THE PSAT. …past.
- 30a. [Letter carriers who have to hike along their routes?] USPS IN BOOTS. Puss… My favorite of the set.
- 40a. [Hiding an antifur group?] MASKING PETA. …tape.
- 54a. [Paper that proves the weekend is welcome?] TGIF CERTIFICATE. Gift…
Cute. I got hung up on that first one because I thought it was playing off the phrase “It’s all in the wrist,” but the second answer cleared things up quickly. Some people object to anagrams in a crossword, but I don’t mind, especially when they’re on the shorter side and it’s obvious what they were originally, like in this grid.
POLI SCI, “GOT MILK?”, and MAIL CAR top the fill today. STEP-INS [Moccasins, e.g.] was hard for me to parse, especially since I would normally refer to them as “slip-ons.” KAPUT is always fun, as is KNISH, and I liked seeing LOUIS / PRIMA [“Jump, Jive an’ Wail” singer], even though he’s cross-referenced.
Speaking of Mr. PRIMA, I will always know him as the singer of “Señor Santa Claus.” Back when my sister and I were little kids (1973-ish), that was one of the first records we owned, and we sang along to it countless times. Of course, being kids, it got knocked around a lot and ended up with all kinds of scratches. But that didn’t bother us; it added to the charm. We knew every scratch and skip in the song and memorized it that way. Hearing the song now—without the scratches—is super weird for me, but I still love it (despite the fact that yes, it’s admittedly racist).
Clues of note:
- 14a. [Two-ton beast]. HIPPO. Anyone go with RHINO first?
- 49a. [2015 title role for Cate]. CAROL. The film was simply titled CAROL and I’m not at all familiar with it.
- 1d. [Dental : tooth :: mental : ___]. CHIN. Wha-huh? Apparently, the Latin word for CHIN is mentum. Thanks, Caesar.
- 7d. [Zimmer with 11 Oscar nominations]. HANS. He won one Oscar for The Lion King.
- 12d. [Take out of context?]. ERASE. Ooh, I like that one.
- 23d. [Game with a common “Australia strategy”]. RISK. Fun clue. Because the continent of Australia has only one connecting point (via Siam) on the board, it’s relatively easy to hold onto it and start racking up the armies.
Nice grid. 3.8 stars.
Jeremy Newton’s New York Times crossword—Ben’s review
I blame *waves hands in the general direction of everything from the last few days of 2020* for why I didn’t pick up what today’s NYT was putting down more quickly. Let’s explain it in reverse again:
39A: Symbol formed by four crossings in this puzzle — HASHTAG
Four squares in this puzzle can be replaced by the HASHTAG symbol (#) in the grid, interpreted as an = going across, and II going down:
- 17A: Translation of the Latin phrase “ceteris paribus” — ALL THINGS BEING =
- 13D: Traveling between the poles? — SK(II)NG
- 27A: Doctrine that was found unconstitutional in Brown v. Board of Education — SEPARATE BUT =
- 26D: Kristen formerly of “S.N.L.” — W(II)G
- 46A: Fair for everybody — = OPPORTUNITY
- 43D: Some Nintendo consoles — W(II)S
- 61A: Organized effort for justice under the law — = RIGHTS MOVEMENT
- 49D: Branch of Islam — SH(II)SM
I caught that something was going on with the downs (an SNL Kristen is only going to be WIIG, but with three squares, something had to be doubled up. I couldn’t see how an answer could end in a double-I, so I kept trying to make WI squares work in the grid. Apparently I had Wisconsin on the brain. Even once I figured out that the across squares were equals signs, I somehow couldn’t mentally superimpose the symbols on top of one another to get the hashtag/pound sign.
45A: Bluesy Redding — OTIS
Happy Thursday! The end of the week draws close.
Jerry Edelstein’s LA Times crossword—Ben’s review
I don’t quite get how JACKSPRAT works as a revealer. Counting it as just another themer makes more sense to me. Five answers’ second parts are words using the same five letters: STRAP, TARPS, PARTS, TRAPS, SPRAT. Not a lot of great entries with TARPS, it must be said.
- [Toaster, often], EMCEE. As in one who toasts, not the appliance.
- [Taj Mahal location], ASIA. We all reflexively answer AGRA at this point.
- [Cause of disgrace], OPPROBRIUM. I struggled mightily to spell this, to my chagrin.
Could really do without: ADROP and APIN in one puzzle.