Emma Oxford’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Doing Without”—Jim P’s review
The theme answers today consist of a noun preceded by an adjective which is that same noun followed by -LESS.
- 20a. [Unrivaled lighter?] MATCHLESS MATCH.
- 34a. [Cruel Babe?] RUTHLESS RUTH. I like this one best. It flows well and has good surface sense. I wonder if a theme based on famous names could’ve been developed to include LAWLESS (Jude) LAW or HOPELESS (Bob) HOPE. Ooh, wait a second. Lucy Lawless and Jude Law. There’s a theme there somewhere. Have at it!
- 42a. [Energetic spare?] TIRELESS TIRE.
- 56a. [Quiet waterway?] SOUNDLESS SOUND. I live in the Puget Sound area. Around here we hear a lot of “sound” puns. For example, the local NPR station’s tagline is “Sound Stories. Sound Voices.”
A nice theme, but it was quick to resolve. Once I got the first one, the second one was very easy, and the third took barely a moment. The last one slowed me down only because I was stuck thinking about a river or brook, despite where I live. So as easy as this theme was to sniff out, it probably should’ve gone earlier in the week.
With only 13- and 14-letter theme entries, it’s good there are only four of them. This allows the outer ones to go in the fourth and twelfth rows and allows the constructor to fill the corners more interestingly. We get the two 8-letter double-stacks as a result with BLACKOUT and DINOSAUR being the highlights.
The two middle entries are pushed close together though, and that makes that central section a bit thorny with AT ME, MOOCH, SLOSH, and ECTO.
Clues of note:
- 1a. [Problem for a plumber]. DRIP. I went with CLOG at first. But I’m happy to report that I recently fixed a DRIP in a bathtub faucet by simply replacing a gasket that only cost $3. Of course, I spent 10 times that replacing other parts that ended up being okay. Oh well. It beat having to call the plumber.
- 2d. [Marriott rival]. RAMADA. Is there really much of a rivalry here? Marriott seems much bigger to me. But at least RAMADA isn’t calling me up to scam me every other day. (I know the Marriott calls are not actually coming from Marriott.)
A quick solve, for a Wednesday. 3.5 stars.
Eric Bornstein’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Ugh, I hate seeing “[See notepad]” notations in place of clues. I generally don’t look at the notepad message unless I can’t figure out the theme on my own. This one was easy enough and I didn’t look till afterwards. It says “In the print version of this “uniclue” crossword, the clues appear in a single list, combining Across and Down. When two answers share a number, they also share a clue.” I didn’t use the print version, but when the convention is “look here for the Across clues, look over there for the Down clues,” and I am comfortable with that convention, having a “uniclue” (terrible word) set of clues seems uninteresting. Basically, the “northwest corner” squares that start both Across and Down answers anchor “X and Y” phrases, where the X and Y words start with the same letter and the word “and” is omitted. STOP and STARE, PRIM and PROPER, STARS and STRIPES, SWEET and SOUR, BORN and BRED, SOCKS and SANDALS, DRINK and DRIVE, TRIED and TRUE—all clued straightforwardly at the Across spot in the electronic versions. It’s a nice enough theme, but I just don’t get the point of the “uniclue” stunt.
Meanwhile, in the rest of the puzzle:
- TRUTV and TRIED/TRUE overlap. TruTV began with lots of “true” reality/doc programming. I might’ve avoided cluing INDIA by its 28 states with ETAT so close by in the grid.
- 29a. [Second-level], TIER TWO. Not convinced this entry is legit crossword fill. See also: I ATE, TOO FAR. Singular ODOR-EATER is a big questionable, like a singular Q-TIP, given those plural brand names. Have we all made peace with that compromise?
- Crosswordese klaxon blaring: ESSENE, RIATA, TARE.
- 8d. [Raised one’s spirits?], MADE A TOAST. Great entry, fine clue, but I had a typo with NEPNS in place of NEONS and figured 8d was about seances, cost myself some time for sure. Oops.
- 50a. [Country with 28 states], INDIA. I’m reading a fascinating New Yorker article about DNA analysis of old bones found near or in a lake high in the Himalayas. Some scientists believe the bodies belonged to people from Greece, centuries ago! And this is an inhospitable location, a challenging religious pilgrimage for faiths not associated with the Greeks.
My rating tonight, 3.5 stars.
Natan Last’s New Yorker crossword – Rachel’s writeup
Good morning! Today’s New Yorker puzzle is a moderately challenging grid from Natan Last. It’s got a cool grid design, it’s packed with crunchy long entries, and overall it was an enjoyable solve!
For starters, let’s talk about this grid. We have four “staircase” blocks in the puzzle, two in the NW/SE corners and two in the middle, creating a unique and nifty grid shape. This design facilitates the 13/14/11/14/13 lengths of the long acrosses (AMERICAN WOMAN / TRANSMASCULINE / TRIBAL NAMES / COUNCIL HOUSING / INTERNET SLANG) and just looks friggin cool. We also get three long downs with AMAZON PRIME / CAPITAL FLIGHT / HOTEL CASINO. Of all of these long entries, I was unfamiliar with COUNCIL HOUSING and CAPITAL FLIGHT, but both were more or less inferable (particularly CAPITAL FLIGHT). I loved seeing TRANSMASCULINE in the grid and I appreciate the clue’s acknowledgement that not all trans experiences are the same (with the word “some”). INTERNET SLANG is also a great entry, today paired with the wordplay clue [In lines online?].
A few more things:
- Fill I could live without: ERSE, IONE, A LEG (but ultimately worth the tradeoff)
- Lol’d at Natan’s choice to push the envelope on what is appropriate for inclusion in a mainstream crossword with the clue on LUBE [Bedside-table supply, perhaps]
- Also Natanish: putting both MARX and LENIN into the puzzle
- NET crossing INTERNET SLANG is not so elegant
- What a day for TURNOUTS [Vote counts]!
Overall, this was a fun, cool-looking, moderately challenging puzzle. Plenty of stars from me!
Olivia Mitra Framke’s Universal crossword, “Opposite Ends” —pznnonicz’s write-up
- 62aR [All-encompassing, or a description for each starred answer’s letter change?] FROM A TO Z.
- 17a. [*Inventory problem for an office supply store?] ZERO BICS (aerobics).
- 29a. [*Hotel honoring the first Latina EGOT winner?] RITZ MORENO (Rita Moreno).
- 45a. [*Motorized candy dispenser?] PEZ SHOOTER (pea shooter).
Turnabout, it would seem, is fair play.
- 26a [Exercised one’s right at the ballot box] VOTED.
- 7d [Ousts from office] UNSEATS.
- 9d [D.C. figure] SEN.
- 34a [“___ (“My Country, ’Tis of Thee”) AMERICA.
- 20a [Start of a new __] ERA.
Ella Dershowitz and Aimee Lucido’s AVCX, “X Files” — Ben’s Review
Happy New Year! Ella Dershowitz and Aimee Lucido have the first AVCX puzzle of the year, emphasis on the X:
- 20A: Promotional condom giveaway event? — LATEX NIGHT
- 22A: Darjeeling and chamomile from an oil town? — DALLAS TEAS
- 49A: Scratch a peach-and-eggplant-laden message on the cave wall for your special prehistoric friend? — SEXT IN STONE
- 52A: “When I’m online …”? — IN MY NET LIFE
- 76A: One shot wearing fancy watches? — ROLEX MODEL
- 80A: Those competing for second place at the Olympics? — SILVER FOES
- 91A: Be a brown-noser … or a literal description of the movement within this puzzle’s three pairs of theme answers — KISS UP
As suggested literally by 91A, in each pair of nearby theme clues, the X from the lower answer’s more common phrase (DALLAS TEXAS, IN MY NEXT LIFE, SILVER FOXES) has migrated to the theme clue above it (LATE NIGHT, SET IN STONE, ROLE MODEL), making things a little silly at either end. Theme-wise, this was cute, and I particularly loved SEXT IN STONE.
38A: Lizzo song with the lyric “take your ass home and come back when you’re grown” — JEROME
Other things to like in the grid: RED WINES (Lambrusco is one of my favorites – it’s sparkling! – which made that clue easy), APPLE PAY, HOOKAH, COSMOS, SPLICE, YEASTS, PILSNERS, JET LAG, PAELLA, and IGNEOUS rocks (“Like much of the rock at Joshua Tree National Park”)
Jerry Edelstein’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary
I don’t know if many people will read this blog, given everything else going on. I just hope that, when all is said and done, this means your country and the world will emerge stronger.
The puzzle? CALLLETTERS is the revealer, and there are four instances of the letters of call scrambled between two words. NELLCARTER is not someone I knew, but her career seems illustrious enough.
[“Her resume is clean and checks out”] is a weirdly specific clue for NOISSUES. I don’t really get why that specific phrase is the clue.
On the other hand, I enjoyed that [Sound meant to startle] for BOO acknowledges its usual ineffectiveness.
NYT: I agree that the Notepad is annoying. But I really enjoyed the theme and once you get the trick, it’s fun and straightforward, so points for that!
Straightforward is especially appreciated if you’re solving while watching election returns, an exercise in futility since nothing is decided until the last minute when the urban areas are counted.
I enjoyed it a lot, too. As a print solver, I’m no doubt biased, but I can’t see why it should raise hackles to have a theme intricate enough to benefit from or require a note. The contest puzzles others here love all have instructions, and it takes all of, what, 2 seconds?
I don’t have the fashion sense, so SOCKS and SANDALS was my last theme entry to fall, while TRU TV and FOMO were new to me, and I had to think about the Italian word, so that section of the puzzle took a bit longer.
I used to be a print solver — on my company’s toner — but because of Covid and WFH, now solve most in Across Lite (except for many meta puzzles).
However, whenever I see something conspicuous, like circles, I always go back and see what the newspaper version looks like to make sure I get the proper solving effect (the puzzle with the roundabouts a while ago is a good example).
I can’t wait to get back to the office and print crosswords again, oops, I mean see my colleagues and such.
NYT: 54d [Each] EVERY treads very close to the theme entries.
ESSENE is crosswordese? I basically needed every cross and still had to goofle it.
TIERTWO is a thing in the UK at the moment, because the different levels of Covid lockdown are officially called ‘tiers.’ But I agree it’s not a familiar phrase apart from that.
TIERTWO is definitely a thing in tech support. Tier One does all the by-the-book stuff (did you turn it off then on?) and then they forward you to the more experienced TIERTWO support once they admit you have a real problem. (And if you get to Tier Three, you’ve got a serious problem…)
WSJ … Did I sleep for five days? What’s this easy Monday puzzle doing in my Wednesday rotation? I beat my previous WSJ Wednesday best solve time by 16 seconds (154 puzzles).
NYT: Losing one’s license is maybe not the most important risk drunk drivers take.