Winston Emmons’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Embrace Yourself”—Jim P’s review
Theme: As the title hints, the letters EM are added to well-known phrases.
- 17a. [Building block material for Soviet Army barracks?] RED CEMENT. Red cent. This was a confusing one to start with because at first glance it looks like the phrase has an added “ME” which jibed with “Yourself” from the puzzle’s title. The next themer quickly dispelled me of that notion.
- 38a. [“Evil spirit off the starboard bow!”?] “DEMON HO!” Don Ho. One singing “Tiny Beelzebubbles”?
- 62a. [Aria by Skeletor’s archenemy?] HE–MAN SOLO. Han Solo. My favorite of the lot. Unexpected and funny.
- 11d. [Impatient words to a long-winded software presenter?] “JUST DEMO IT.” Just do it. Meh. Probably my least favorite.
- 31d. [A thigh for a thigh?] FEMUR TRADE. Fur trade. Another good one. I picture two archeologists: “No, this bone goes with that skeleton, and that bone goes with this one!”
Overall, very enjoyable. Three of the entries were good for at least a chuckle, and that’s pretty rare for me.
Fill highlights: GOSSAMER is just a lovely word. Interesting—the top definitions mostly have to do with cobwebs, but I’ve only ever seen it referring to light, delicate fabric. I had no idea as to the clue’s [Diaphanous] definition, so I needed most crossings.
There’s a lot of other positivity in the grid—AFFIRMS, SNUGGLED, CREATES, UNCHAIN, RAKES IN, GREETS, LAP UP, and “IT’S OPEN!” Even CRIMPS gets an evocative clue [Fancifies, as a pie crust]. So it’s no wonder the solver is left with some good vibes. Oh, but wait, there’s also HATE, MAIM, CHEAT, LIED, SLASH, and ABASH.
Clues of note:
- 16a. [Not quite right?]. ACUTE. I take it the clue is angling for geometry, not pain types.
- 32d. [Colleague of Boris and Bela]. LON. The L was my last letter in the grid. For the life of me, I could only think of Boris Johnson, Boris Badenov, and Béla Károlyi, and I couldn’t imagine a colleague to match. Of course, the men in question are Karloff, Lugosi, and Chaney.
- 58d. [Maximum number]. MOST. Hmm. Wouldn’t ALL fit the clue better? As a matter of fact, according to Cruciverb, two WSJ puzzles used the clue [Maximum amount] for ALL in 2020.
An enjoyable puzzle with humor and good fill. Four stars.
Andrew Ries’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
I didn’t actually look at the circled letters or the revealer clue while I was solving, so I had no idea what the theme was till I poked around afterwards. 59a. [Logical contradiction … or an aural hint to what are found in 20-, 25- and 45-Across], PARADOX, that sounds like “pair o’ docs,” and the circled letters give us fictional Dr. EVIL and charlatan Dr OZ as one pair, hip-hop legend Dr. DRE and Bond villain Dr. NO as another, and … oh no. Dr. RUTH Westheimer, the sexologist, is fine, but there isn’t a “doc” named WHO. There is a TV show called Doctor Who, and the character is called “the Doctor.” I would pay $100 cash money to get all crossword constructors and editors to stop treating the concept of a character called “Dr. Who” as legitimate.
Anyway! Here are the interesting entries with those circled names:
- 20a. [“Satanic” nickname for the number 13], DEVIL’S DOZEN. Never heard this phrase in my life. Listen, I don’t worship Satan, I worship the baker and her dozens.
- 25a. [What a witness is sworn to tell], THE WHOLE TRUTH.
- 45a. [W.W. I-era battleship], DREADNOUGHT. Merriam-Webster doesn’t tell me why that word was applied to battleships, but it does reveal the existence of “a warm garment of thick cloth.” ‘Tis the season! (Winter.) Bring me my dreadnought!
Fave fill: TWEETSTORM, HOME DESIGN, WRAITH, GEN XER *waves Kermit arms wildly*, and VAPE PEN.
Five more things:
- 37a. [Chipotle competitor], DEL TACO. Yeah, no. Chipotle has over 2,500 locations, and Del Taco has under 600, mostly in the Western U.S. …That said, there are so many distinct foodborne illness sections in Chipotle’s Wikipedia article, I’d sooner eat at Del Taco even though I’d have to fly out of state. (Luckily, Taco Bell is close by!)
- 54a. [What Venus is sometimes mistaken for, due to its brightness], UFO. Dang, I had to work the crossings to see where this was going. Just me?
- 43a. [Effectiveness of a law, metaphorically], TEETH. Nice clue.
- 8d. [Ingredient in some pie crusts], LARD. Chicago’s legendary Hoosier Mama Pie Company uses butter, not lard. Their pies are also the very best.
- 10d. [Cash in?], REVENUE. Another good clue. Reads like a phrasal verb but it’s looking for a noun.
3.75 stars from me, with a quarter star docked for that doc WHO business.
Matthew Stock’s AVCX, “AVCX Themeless #54” — Ben’s Review
This week’s AVCX is a themeless from Matthew Stock that fully earns its 5/5 on the AVCX’s difficulty scale.
- There’s lots of great, crunchy long fill spanning the grid, including BONSPIELS, I’D RATHER NOT, DON’T YUCK MY YUM, AMATEUR HOUR, and HOT TAMALE
- There’s also a TON of clever cluing happening in the puzzle to ratchet the difficulty up a notch. “Park with lots of brickwork” for LEGOLAND, “Flipped phones, say?” for UPGRADED, and “Dough for a samosa, say” was great cluing for RUPEE.
- Other fun fill: POSSE, RESOAKS, TINGLE, BOARS, PLAIDS, SEX STRIKE, TIKTOK, MALE LEAD, U MIAMI, and OTTER
Elizabeth C. Gorksi’s New Yorker crossword – Rachel’s writeup
Good morning folks, short writeup today.
This puzzle made me feel old! I knew MEAN JOE GREENE (because Steelers fan), and did not know TIKTOK CHALLENGE (because refusing to download TIKTOK out of desire to maintain some modicum of screen-free time and would definitely become obsessed). Those were both fun long entries, as was MAKES WAVES [Has a ripple effect?]. CONTACT LENSES and REPELLENTS in the NE were a bit more staid, but also solid. Other good long-ish entries include ARPEGGIO, GREASIEST, FREE MEALS, MASSENET, and OTTERS (ok, OTTERS isn’t that long, but aren’t you glad you got to think about OTTERS for a second? With their whiskers? Holding hands in the water?)
A few more things:
- I had an error at the LIRA/MASSENET cross, not knowing MASSENET and never able to remember which country has LIRE (Italy, turns out) and which has LIRA (Turkey!).
- Fill I Could Live Without: AMIN (which is clued about as well as possible, with reference to Forest Whitaker’s role in “The Last King of Scotland,” but in general I could very much live without references to brutal dictators in crossword puzzles), the inelegant partial A LEAN, the “I just need more vowels!” EEE, AMFM, JUVIE (not a fan of cute nicknames for the detention of children), OTOH
- The hyper-abundance of consecutive vowels in SEA EEL really had my doubting myself in that corner!
- Favorite clues:
- [Has a ripple effect?] for MAKES WAVES
- [“Well, ___ that special?”] for ISN’T (to be read in Dana Carvey voice)
Overall, a fun solve marred by some fill I could live without. Several stars for the long stuff! See you Wednesday.
Jesse Goldberg’s crossword, “Bite Encoding” — pannonica’s write-up
- 69aR [Forgo cooking … or, read with spaces after the second and fourth letters, a theme hint] EAT OUT, or EA to UT. So it’s a bigram substitution.
- 21a. [Isn’t thorough when cleaning an ashtray?] SKIPS A BUTT (skips a beat). Ew.
- 25a. [Closed-down arena?] SHUT STADIUM (Shea Stadium). Much more than shut-down; it’s no longer standing. But that’s not a functional aspect of the clue, so it’s ok.
- 45a. [Glowing alien of Jabba’s species?] RADIANT HUTT (radiant heat).
- 53a. [Where one might get a dog?] MUTT MARKET (meat market).
Little weird that three of the four end up wit -UTT formations. But the only somewhat viable alternatives are PEAT MACHINE or PEAT BRECCIA, and those are way too obscure. (55d [Like good Scotch] AGED) Conversely, there’s balance in that half of the altered words are the first ones and half are the last. This theme didn’t excite me, even if am now thinking of the famous Rutt’s Hut in Clifton, NJ.
- 6d [“Crime __ pay”] DOESN’T. Unless, y’know, it’s committed at a large enough scale.
- 43d [Coins that cost more than seven cents to make] NICKELS. There’s a bit of trivia. In 2019 the production price of a nickel was 7.53¢ – and at 2.06¢ per, it was relatively even more costly to make a penny. There’s something proposed called the Currency Evolution Now To Save [CENTS] Act—why do lawmakers insist on creating groanworthy acronyms?—that would allow the U.S. Mint to economize by changing the metallic composition of all American coins. Size and weight would of course be required to remain the same.
- 14a [Haitian religion involving sorcery] VOODOO.
- 32a [Chatty bird] MYNAH. Mynas are a medium size group of genera and species, but it is not a natural taxonomic one.
- 44a [Trap, as by a winter storm] ICE IN. Topical. Have you seen any of those videos of Texans trying to prove that the snow and ice that blanketed the state last week is ersatz? I want to think that they can’t be that misguided and are instead trolling for social media engagement. Bizarre.
I’ve got nothing else, so here’s a self portrait by Jean Restout.
Bryant White’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary
The theme and grid design aspects are a tad more intricate than is typical for a Wednesday LA Times. Although in essence the puzzle is a list of four things that hang: a VAMPIREBAT, a CHANDELIER, a STALACTITE (c for ceiling, g for ground!) and the largely fictional JUNGLEVINE trope. These are HANGINGAROUND. The grid design is clever. By using left/right symmetry, there are four theme answers hanging from the top of the grid and a discrete area for the revealing 13 letter revealer without needing a symmetrical mate.
Anyone else have GUARGUM before GELATIN for your “Gummy bear”? Apparently both serve the same function.
Although a lot of them were cliches, there was a playfulness to the clues we don’t always see as much I’d like. A CROC is a [Shoe that’s full of holes]; a MINER digs hard rock and CBS has an eye on TV.