David Alfred Bywaters’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Beastly Belongings”—Jim P’s review
Our theme is two-word phrases (or compound words) whose first word is an animal and whose second word starts with S. The S shifts to become part of the first word (with an assumed apostrophe) and the remainder of the second word spells out a different word. Got it?
- 17a. [Equine gardening equipment?] HORSE’S HOE
- 25a. [Walruses?] SEALS’ KIN
- 34a. [Mice, maybe?] CATS’ KILLS
- 48a. [Bolos for boars?] PIGS’ TIES
- 57a. [Implement for an amphibian?] TOAD’S TOOL
Fun wordplay. I’ve seen this type of theme before, but not with an added constraint where the first words are all in the same category (animals, in this case). That tightens the theme and makes it more enjoyable. Good choices for entries, too. I especially liked CATS’ KILLS.
I was impressed with the fill, too. The long Downs, LOSES OUT and LUNGED AT, aren’t especially sparkly, but there is a huge load of 7s throughout, including nice entries OSHKOSH, MOON PIE, FLAGONS, REGATTA, UNICORN, and PENANCE. I also liked “GO ON IN” [Doorman’s directive].
I just now noticed SONE [Unit of loudness] which would’ve raised an eyebrow if I’d seen it during the solve. With ECUA and ETRE, they make for the clunkiest bits of fill in the grid.
Clues of note:
- 5a. [Tiffany creation]. I went with SONG at first, thinking of the 80s teen icon behind the hit cover, “I Think We’re Alone Now.” The correct answer is LAMP.
- 28a. [King succeeded by Joffrey on “Game of Thrones”]. ROBERT Baratheon. I’ve read all the books and seen all of the episodes, but it still took me a few crossings to come up with this name. And I bet those who aren’t fans didn’t appreciate this trivia, so why go there with such a common name?
- 11d. [Hidden, like a Klingon starship]. CLOAKED. I imagine that the general public aren’t all that aware that the Klingons have cloaking devices, but I enjoyed this clue.
- 25d. [Harry Potter, Cedric Diggory and Cho Chang, in Quidditch]. SEEKERS. So we’ve touched on Game of Thrones, Star Trek, and now Harry Potter. Where’s LEIA when you need her?
- 34d. [Bounders]. CADS. Wasn’t aware of this definition. I assumed I was looking for some sort of variation of “jumpers.”
- 38d. [It’s just what you think]. OPINION. Nice clue and answer pair.
An enjoyable theme with strong fill and cluing. 3.8 stars.
Will Nediger’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
About today’s constructor: Will Nediger edits a weekly crossword for the NYC spy museum, Spyscape. You can check out the puzzles dating back to January of 2019 here.
It doesn’t take much spycraft to crack open the theme in this puzzle. FRUIT is the revealer, clued 60a. [Type of food whose outsides are suggested by the outsides of 17-, 29-, 43- and 55-Across]. And the first and last 2 letters in each themer spell out a 4-letter word for a fruit’s outside.
- 17a. [Classic 1960 platinum-selling Miles Davis album], SKETCHES OF SPAIN. Flanked by SKIN. Did not know the title here, had to lean on the crossings.
- 29a. [Small stones used for driveways], PEA GRAVEL. I was picturing much bigger stones, pavers, so it took a while to find PEA GRAVEL and its PEEL.
- 43a. [Spirit of the age], ZEITGEIST, and ZEST.
- 55a. [“Like … now!”], RIGHT THIS SECOND, and RIND.
I can’t think of other terms for a fruit’s exterior. Can you?
I liked the fill for the most part, but I know the “this puzzle is a trivia test” people will be riled up by all the proper nouns here, about 20 of them. I accidentally went with HAKAO before the crossing reminded me it’s HAYAO Miyazaki, and jumped at KAY for 21a. [London district whose name sounds like a letter] instead of the correct KEW (sounds like “Q”).
Trickiest crossing: 40a. [Popular gay dating app], GRINDR / 31d. [Rapper who forms one half of the duo Black Star], MOS DEF. If you haven’t heard of Grindr, it’s not an intuitive spelling, so you’ll need to know MOS DEF’s letters.
Three more things:
- 1a. [Breaking of mirrors, some think], OMENS. This feels off-kilter to me, with that singular “breaking.”
- 42a. [Green suits?], CFOS. Green as in money, chief financial officers. If you don’t know XFINITY, potentially another tricky crossing.
- 43d. [Gentle breeze], ZEPHYR. Such a cool word, that.
3.75 stars from me.
Aimee Lucido’s New Yorker crossword – Rachel’s writeup
Oh man I loved this puzzle! The long entries are all excellent, the colloquialisms are on the money, the clues are tight, and the fill is solid. 10/10 would solve again.
The long entries just really shine today: WHAT IN TARNATION occupies that central spot, paired with the excellent [“Jumpin’ Jehoshaphat!”]. The long downs include STAR STUFF, STEVEDORE, BRAINSTORMS, FASHION ICON, FREAKYDEAKY (lol) and my personal favorite, BEFORETIMES (which I parse as one word, but I am open to debate on that). There are more solid longish entries in the NW and SE corners like HAVE WE MET, AS AN ASIDE, UNDERWIRE, and FADES AWAY. Every single one of these is awesome! I’m not 100% there on the clue for UNDERWIRE [Boob tube?], but you know what, it made me laugh and I knew exactly what the constructor meant, so I’m into it anyways.The clues in this puzzle were also right on my cultural wavelength. FLOSSY! OTOWN! Let’s GET Loud! A reference to an Adrienne Rich poem! (About whom, btw, there was an excellent New Yorker piece a couple weeks ago) (omg, did I just admit that I *like* literature!?). And even though I feel very connected to the material in this puzzle, I don’t think there was a single unfair crossing in the entire grid.
A few more things:
- Favorite clues:
- [“___ the breaks”] for THEMS
- [Two for a buck] for ANTLERS
- Fill I could live without:
- -OSE, TES
- Normally I’d be iffy on I’D DO but I adore the clue [“And ___ it all again!”], so I am not mad about it
- I didn’t know that Emma Roberts is Julia Roberts’ NIECE but as soon as I saw the clue it was like, yes, of course she is, that makes perfect sense!
Overall, this is major puzzle #INSPO. Tons of stars from me.
George Jasper’s Universal crossword, “Widespread” — pannonica’s write-up
- 48aR [What a successor may have, and a hint to three letters hidden in each starred answer] BIG SHOES TO FILL. In this case, the shoes are of the extra-wide variety, seen so commonly in crosswords via the designation EEE. Accordingly, that unusual trigram appears in the three theme answers.
- 20a. [*Hearty breakfast option] THREE-EGG OMELET.
- 24a. [*Economic system with few restrictions] FREE ENTERPRISE.
- 42a. [*Disagree] NOT SEE EYE TO EYE.
If there’s a pebble in your shoe, is it more annoying if it’s a loose fit or a tighter fit?
- 7d [Like a 15-letter word] LONG. Alas, “Macropodidae” is but 12 letters in length. A bit of internet noodling, though, and I find that dermatoglyphics—the study of the whorls and loops and arches in the fingertips and on the palms of the hand and the soles of the feet—is a kind-of apropos 15-letter word.
- 9d [Source of a juicy summer fruit] PLUM TREE. But with PLUM–R–– in place I was astonished to think that this might be PLUMERIA, as I’d just been casually researching that yesterday. However, “a nonedible seedpod, the plumeria fruit reaches lengths of between 6 to 12 inches and features a dry, brittle covering. The brown seedpods do not attract any wildlife.” (source)
- 24d [Bilbo’s cousin] FRODO. I thought they were uncle and nephew, but I’m far from a LOTR fan, and I’m not even going to check on this.
- 36d [Round figure?] PIE CHART. Literally, as graphs and charts are often referred to in publications as figures. I liked this clue.
- 41d [Bed-ins for Peace activist] YOKO ONO. Not often we see her full name in-grid.
- 44d [Art show boosters?] EASELS. “Boosters”? >squints and grimaces<
- 32a [“Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” actor Chris] PRATT. Wait. PRATT-Fall[en] … really?
- 35a [High pickleball shots] LOBS. Now I have to look up pickleball. Okay, some mélange of badminton, tennis, table tennis.
- 57a [Any ’60s song, in 2020] OLDIE. Heck, I think any ’90s song qualifies now.
- 63a [Young bird in a barn] OWLET. Factette: some species of small owls are called OWLETs—even the adults. Thus I present Xenoglaus loweryi, the (very endangered) long-whiskered OWLET:
John Guzzetta’s LA Times crossword – Erin’s write-up
Hi! It’s Erin Milligan-Milburn, filling in for Gareth today. Today’s 14×15 LAT has some doomsday vibes going on:
- 16a. [*Southeast Asian monarch] SULTAN OF BRUNEI
- 28a. [*Pentateuch peak: Abbr.] MT SINAI
- 46a. [*Guy who “Saves the World” on Netflix] BILL NYE
- 56a. [*Certain PAC-12 graduates] STANFORD ALUMNI
- 36a. [Warning on a street prophet’s sandwich board…or a hint to the answers to starred clues] THE END IS NIGH
Each of the theme entries ends in the sound “nigh,” and each ending is spelled differently, which is a nice touch.
Teaching moment for today:
- 5d. [American literary form inspired in part by haiku] CINQUAIN. It’s a five-line poem that may be constrained by the number of words or syllables in each line. Poet Adelaide Crapsey developed the American Cinquain while spending her last year of life in a sanitorium. Here is an example of her form of cinquain, “November Night.”
With faint dry sound,
Like steps of passing ghosts,
The leaves, frost-crisp’d, break from the trees
Idema I. Oclue’s AVCX, “Totally Normal AVCX Themeless #1” — Ben’s Review
Happy Wednesday! We’ve got a massive Totally Normal AVCX Themeless from Idema I. O’Clue, who apppears to be making their AVCX debut! Congrats Ide–
::puts hand to earpiece::
read the note that goes with the puzzle?
This week’s guest constructor seems to be covering something up. Say, has anyone
checked on the other AVCX constructors lately?
Okay, something might be happening under the hood here. Despite this being labeled a themeless puzzle, there are a handful of clues with slightly askew answers:
- 23A: Event in which pasta is crushed with bare hands? — SPAGHETTI SQUISH
- 38A: City that never sleeps? — LOUDSVILLE
- 48A: Regret going for three-pointers? — RUE SHOTS
- 84A: Occasion for some post-fiesta heartburn medication? — TACO TUMS DAY
- 111A: Peak in the Pyrenees with many streams? — MONT AGUAS
and we’ve also got a hint to what’s going on:
- 69A: Hit video game in which one must identify a saboteur … and literally, where to unmask this puzzle’s saboteur — AMONG US
If you haven’t played AMONG US this quarantine, here’s how it works. You’re part of a space crew where up to 3 fellow members of the crew are actually impostors (so, sort of like The Thing). If you’re a crew member, your job is to try and complete all of the maintenance tasks around the ship without getting killed by an impostor. If you’re an impostor, your job is to kill all the crew without getting caught/exposed.
With that in mind, looking at those theme answers again:
- SPAGHETTI SQUISH
- RUE SHOTS
- TACO TUMS DAY
- MONT AGUAS
AMONG U S in each answer is another letter, indicating that IDEMA is a saboteur! GASP!
Replacing each letter of IDEMA with the letter needed to make these normal phrases:
- SPAGHETTI SQUASH
- RUM SHOTS
- TACO TUES DAY
- MONT AGUES
Someone might want to check on Aimee Lucido, looking at the AIMEEs listed on the AVCX site. This was a fun concept for a puzzle!