Will Nediger’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Good Sports”—Jim P’s review
Today we get another snazzy double-themed puzzle. Each theme entry is a well-known phrase where the first word is a loose synonym of “fantastic” and the second word can mean a place to play certain sports.
- 19a. [Fantastic place to play tennis?] SUPREME COURT
- 38a. [Fantastic place to play baseball?] FLAWLESS DIAMOND
- 53a. [Fantastic place to play cricket?] PERFECT PITCH
Very nice finds! I was disappointed there wasn’t a fourth entry (ELECTRIC FIELD, maybe?), because I wanted more, but better to have three solid entries than three solid entries and an iffy one. Besides, symmetry.
It’s unusual to have stacks of unthematic 9s going in the same direction as the themers, but that’s what’s happening here. I didn’t know the name ALAN PATON [“Cry, the Beloved Country” novelist] but I did spend a few minutes post-solve learning about his novel set in 1948 South Africa, just before the onset of apartheid. Below that is the nice PENCILS IN. In the other stack we have KAMA SUTRA (which I do know about) and FRONT PAGE. Elsewhere, PIRANHA, WIDGET, ALPACA, and MULLET are fun entries.
I also didn’t know—or didn’t remember—CAFTAN [Beachgoer’s coverup]. Wikipedia says it’s Persian in origin and is worn throughout Asia and Africa. Here is An Ode to Meryl Streep’s Golden Caftan in ‘The Post’.
Clues of note:
- 6a. [Food that may be served al pastor]. TACO. The “al pastor” apparently means “shepherd style” and uses Middle Eastern spices in addition to Mexican ones.
- 23a. [Croque-monsieur component]. HAM. The sandwich is basically a grilled ham and cheese and the name translates to “Mr. Crunchy.” The croque madame adds a poached or fried egg on top. Here’s Alton Brown cooking up some sandwiches.
- 47a. [Project MKUltra drug]. LSD. The project was the CIA’s series of mind control experiments in the 50s and 60s. Here’s Weird Al’s Party in the CIA, because…well, just because.
- 62a. [What this clue’s subject and verb doesn’t do]. AGREE. I wonder how many speed solvers failed to notice this.
- 52d. [Ring engagement]. FIGHT. Good misdirection. It took a few seconds to wrap my head around the correct answer.
“Fantastic” puzzle. 3.8 stars.
Mike Knobler’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
The theme is neat. Take three phrases with “under/below/beneath” in them, and put them under an apt word to make it sort of meta:
- 17a. [Despicable … or where this answer goes?], BENEATH CONTEMPT. The word SCORN is centered above 17a.
- 39a. [Sick … or where this answer goes?], UNDER THE WEATHER, with a MONSOON above it.
- 62a. [Latent … or where this answer goes?], BELOW THE SURFACE, with a FACET above. Technically, SURFACE and FACET are etymological siblings. but I didn’t notice that while solving. Something like VENEER might’ve worked better, but you need an odd number of letters for the centering.
Fave fill: Lemme give you a NOOGIE, 52a. [Knuckleheaded act?]. Also liked JANE FONDA, TUMMYACHE, and FUNK with a quote clue: 61a. [“I only got a seventh-grade education, but I have a doctorate in ___”: James Brown].
Fill I wasn’t wild about: AGAR, I AM SO, CHE clued as the Italian word, WDS, UEY, ’TWERE, ARE NOT, CST, plural AHAS, NSEC, and EKE BY.
Three more things:
- 34d. [One of a pair of towel markings], HERS. Ah, yes, probably a shout-out to the heteronormativity of “his” and HERS towels. Can’t say I have ever actually seen a pair of embroidered “his” and “hers” towels in anyone’s bathroom, mind you. What’s a good clue for HERS that doesn’t discount a variety of relationships?
- 18d. [“Poor venomous fool,” to Cleopatra], ASP. I need to use “poor venomous asp” as an insult. Who’s with me? Speaking of insults, tonight my family and I watched the first “Fuck” episode of the Netflix documentary series, History of Swear Words. If you enjoy etymology and slang and comedians, check it out. We all enjoyed it. Each of the six 20-minute episodes features a different swear word.
- 41d. [Drive … or drive mad?], TEE OFF. Tee off at the golf course, or by making someone angry.
That’s all from me. 3.5 stars, mainly for the theme.
Ben Tausig’s AVCX, “Living Up To Our Own Time” — Ben’s Review
AVCX Editor Ben Tausig has today’s puzzle, and it’s a lovely tribute to Amanda Gorman’s “THE HILL/WE CLIMB” (56A/60A), the poem read at the inauguration last week.
- 20A: Whence cheesesteak, casually — SOUTH PH
- 43A: Putting on ice once again — RECH
- 47A: Extremely cute Andean rodent — CHINCH
I didn’t quite get what was going on with these (though I had seen the circled HILL squares climbing up diagonally in the grid, a nice nod to the poem’s title), and then I realized these are hills you’re supposed to climb with each answer – SOUTH PH becomes the much more sensible SOUTH PHILLY by climbing the hill and taking the Y from WANLY. Similarly, RECH becomes RECHILLING with the ING from WALING (29A, “Ribs, as on corduroy”) and CHINCH is actually CHINCHILLA with the A from NOLA (38A, “City where Solange lives, informally”)
Other things to like in the grid: both KATE and ALLIE of 80s sitcom fame, SINUOUS, learning that U PENN is “near lots of delicious Ethiopian food”, WOLF SPIDER, and thinking about SCALLOPs seared in lemon-garlic butter.
Aimee Lucido’s New Yorker crossword – Rachel’s writeup
This puzzle is *packed* with bangers. The long entries are almost universally excellent and crunchy, and if some of the fill is a little iffy to make that happen, well, that’s a tradeoff I’m on board with today.
The two longest entries are the colloquials NOT GONNA HAPPEN and BE STILL MY HEART, which are both super fun. Other long stuff, and there’s a lot of it, includes: SLOW DANCES / V-FORMATION / SPORTSBALL / MAKES SENSE / SLEEPS ON IT / WHAT GIVES / ESSAY TEST / HOW GOES IT / DON’T GET UP. Wowowowow, let’s discuss. SPORTSBALL is probably my favorite — it’s just such a silly, irreverent thing that people who hate sports call sports, but in a way that (in my opinion) generally contains a bit of affection for those weirdos who enjoy sports. I also loooove the clue/entry combo for DON’T GET UP, which gets at the way this phrase can be said both innocuously and deeply snarkily. The only long entry here I would push back on is ONE NO TRUMP. Bridge terms are generally not my favorite, and this one seems even less of a thing that stands alone than most.
A few more things:
- The tradeoff for these long entries is a bit of meh fill, like WAL / STR / T NUT, but I think it’s worth it
- Loved that Aimee Lucido got Aimee MANN in her puzzle
- Favorite clues: oh man so many! Let’s go with four:
- [It’s not exactly humerus (but it’s close)] for ULNA
- [Something that’s not quite as easy as A, B, C?] for ESSAY TEST
- [Catchall term for athletic competitions, to someone who couldn’t care less about them] for SPORTSBALL
- [“No, no, please! I enjoy doing the dishes by myself!”] for DON’T GET UP
Mark McClain’s Universal crossword, “Go Fish!” — pannonica’s write-up
- 60aR [Like the fish hidden in 20-, 34-, and 51-Across, if you look up a row?] UNDERWATER. The circles make it very explicit.
- 17a. [Like some experimental cars] DRIVERLESS.
20a. [Seatback item] TRAY. Was going to say something about not finding marine rays in a river, but it turns out that there are a few freshwater species, including the aptly-named Potamotrygonidae (Gr. river + stingray).
- 28a. [Cereal whose box features a rooster] CORN FLAKES.
34a. [Ships’ backbones] KEELS. Eel under lake. If you take the clue literally, that would imply that a ship’s back is under water and the whole arrangement is upside-down, supine. But of course it’s more metaphorical, as the keel provides a significant portion of the hull’s integrity.
- 47a. [Consider carefully] PONDER OVER.
51a. [Roger, at times] CODE WORD. Pond, cod.
Going to tiny-ding the theme for fudging a little on the double-plural lakes/eels. The esses are there solely to get the entries long enough. Otherwise, a nice mid-week theme.
24a [In a foul mood] SULLEN.
- 37a [Word with “market” or “media”] MASS. But because of the theme, I had FISH on my mind, and it worked with market. So I put it in, heedless of the duplication in the title and revealer clue, and despite the fact that ‘fish media’ isn’t that big of a thing.
- 2d [“Pirates of the Caribbean” island] TORTUGA. Not to be confused with the Dry Tortugas, which would be nominally subversive in this watery crossword.
- 4d [Kind of air station] NAVAL. Sea and sky!
- 5d [Big initial in beer] PBR, yet 33a [Rebel __ (hoppy Samuel Adams beer)] IPA. There are a bunch of other ‘paired’ clues in the puzzle, but for once I won’t list them. Really, I prefer to hold off unless there’s a minimum of three. Too often, however, I concede for padding’s sake.
- 8d [Call it a day at the casino] CASH IN. Wouldn’t that be cash out?
- 42d [Netflix mailing] DVD. Do they still do that?
- 44d [Get the golf ball ready] TEE IT UP. Stretching things there with the pronoun.
- 46d [UCLA division?] LOS. Cute little clue.
- 64d [One-__ max (bodybuilder’s stat)] REP. I’m not sure what kind of repetition that implies.
Jeffrey Wechsler’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary
The puzzle theme features two similar pairs of homophones: two “DYOO” answers – LONGOVERDUE & MOUNTAINDEW; and two “DOO” answers – YABBADABBADOO & SOMETHINGTODO.
Elsewhere, we have a Holmesian pair of AFOOT & IRENE, the latter underclued in that context, IMO.
We also get SOULMAN and RITAMORENO as long musical downs.