Announcement! There’s a new crossword-related Kickstarter I wanted to let you know about. Hayley Gold, whose “Across and Down” puzzle cartoons you might remember, has created a 128-page graphic novel called Letters to Margaret. The characters include crossword bloggers (!), there’s a Margaret Farrar angle, there’s wit and romance, and the book includes crosswords that are made expressly for the graphic novel (by Andy Kravis and Mike Selinker) and figure into the storyline. Read all about it right here and pledge your support by March 30 to get a print or digital copy of Hayley’s book. I’ve read a draft and thoroughly enjoyed it. If you’ve been hankering for a graphic novel with insider jokes about crosswords, this one’s for you!—Amy
Chase Dittrich & Jeff C. Hen’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “B-East”—Jim P’s review
The theme is ANIMAL / RIGHTS (37a, [With 39-Across, PETA focus, and a hint to the theme answers]). The other theme answers are words or phrases that end in an ANIMAL (on the right, get it?) while the first part of those words or phrases comprise a different word. In three out of four entries, this involves re-parsing (i.e. moving the first letter of the second word to the end of the first word).
- 17a. [Excellent bird?] SUPERB OWL. Super Bowl. I’ve seen this before (not necessarily in a crossword), but it’s still a good one.
- 22a. [Insect that’s into witchcraft?] COVEN ANT. Covenant. This one’s the outlier. Too bad a fourth similar entry wasn’t found. Still, could be the basis for a sequel to A Bug’s Life.
- 53a. [Chicken coordinating a big shindig?] EVENT HEN. “Even then.” I came across Miss Prissy in a puzzle recently (can’t remember where). Maybe she’d be up for this.
- 62a. [Bunny working at a New York paper?] TIMES HARE. Timeshare. And this would make a good title for a Bugs Bunny short.
Cute theme. Too bad about the one. If you’re going to have the same mechanism in three of your theme answers, it really would be better if the fourth did the same thing. I found SEXT APES would fit and could lend itself to a humorous clue (no doubt, something with bonobos), but it requires the use of the plural to fit.
Fill likes: Sarah SILVERMAN, STOPLIGHT, “GOSH DARN,” BAVARIA, SPUTNIK, ACTIVISM, tickled IVORIES, “GRACIAS,” and NOOBS.
Clues of note:
- 13a. [Place on a scale?]. PITCH. Lots of possibilities with this clever misdirection.
- 40d. [“Heck!”]. GOSH DARN. In my experience, this clue would better fit “GOSH DARN IT.” GOSH DARN is more of an adjective, as in “That GOSH-DARN so-and-so!”
- 44d. [Neuschwanstein Castle’s setting]. BAVARIA. This is the one built by Mad King Ludwig and which Walt Disney styled Cinderella’s castle after.
- 54d. [Wee]. EENIE. Wait, what? There are 70 instances of this word in the Cruciverb database and not one clues it as a synonym of “small.” Makes me wonder if this was EENSY in a previous iteration.
I like the theme though it’s not entirely consistent. Fill is top notch. 3.5 stars.
Nancy Stark & Will Nediger’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Fun theme! The starts of three familiar old sayings are presented, and the endings that are omitted all kick off with spoil, ergo the SPOILER ALERT revealer, 54a. [Warning you might give before revealing the endings of 20-, 29- and 45-Across?].
- 20a. [Start of a saying about getting in the way], TOO MANY COOKS … spoil the broth.
- 29a. [Start of a saying about negative influence], ONE BAD APPLE … spoils the barrel.
- 45a. [Start of a saying about parental discipline], SPARE THE ROD, … spoil the child.
The theme feels fresh and unexpected, a neat way to repurpose the phrase SPOILER ALERT.
Fave fill: IRISH PUBS and a SPORTS BAR, MESHUGA (I was proud of myself for remembering the word schmegegge the other day), BIG “IF,” HOT TAKE. Overall, smooth fill throughout.
- 40a. [Stereotypical clown name], BOBO. Did we all plug in BOZO first?
- 62a. [___-American (like about 6% of the U.S.)], ASIAN. I’d have omitted the hyphen, which is AP style and sort of removes that “hyphenated-American” vibe, allowing someone to fully embody both Asianness and Americanness rather than just some of each. My household is 67% Asian American.
- 5d. [Polysemous words have multiple of these], MEANINGS. High-end vocabulary word, that.
- 10d. [They’re usually packed on St. Patrick’s Day], IRISH PUBS. In Chicago, 2020’s St. Patrick’s Day weekend was the last hurrah for bars before covid lockdown began. Pissed me off to no end that the bars were packed. How many people got sick and died who otherwise wouldn’t have if the bars hadn’t been open that weekend? See also: 32d. [Place to watch a game with friends], SPORTS BAR. If you’ve all been fully vaccinated, maybe.
- 22d. [Subj. of Charlotte Brewer’s “Treasure-House of the Language”], OED. A 2014 book from Yale University Press, it turns out. Despite the quaintly hyphenated title, Brewer follows the OED’s development up to the 21st century.
Four stars from me.
Erin Rhode’s AVCX, “Isn’t It Ironic?” — Ben’s Review
Erin Rhode has today’s AVCX, and as its title suggests, it is ironic, but perhaps not in the way you’d expect:
- 17A: Study of gargoylepodiatry … eventhough gargoyles can’t walk! — ROCK FEET SCIENCE
- 26A: Phobia of argent figurines … even though it’s the lead ones that will slowly kill you! — SILVER DOLL FEARS
- 43A: Donna Summer–themed birthday greeting … even though the recipient can’t go out dancing during the pandemic! — DISCO FEVER CARD
- 58A: Grotesque garden structure made to protect tomatoes… even though squirrels can climb right over the flying buttresses! — GOTHIC ROMA FENCE
While all of these clues feel “ironic” in the Alanis Morissette song kind of a way, each clue’s answer is iron-ic in that Fe (the atomic abbreviation for iron) has entered an otherwise normal phrase – ROCKET SCIENCE, SILVER DOLLARS, DISCOVER CARD, and GOTHIC ROMANCE all got a little more ferric.
Erin loves curling, so we got shout-outs to it airing on CNBC, the US team winning gold ONCE (so far), and that its rounds are called ENDS
other nice fill: BIOME, EASY CHAIR, ARTICLE VI, dropping TROU, and VERMIN
Gary Cee’s Universal crossword, “It’s Not About You” — pannonica’s write-up
- 63aR [“I’m not done,” or a hint to both words in 17-, 26-, 40- and 50-Across?] LET ME FINISH.
- 17a. [ABBA, for instance] RHYME SCHEME. Little misdirection to begin the procedings.
- 26a. [“The Simpsons” block?] PRIME TIME.
- 40a. [Facetious nickname for a singular couple] GREUSOME TWOSOME.
- 50a. [Round of buck-passing] BLAME GAME. That’s an AA rhyme scheme.
Nothing exciting, but it gets the job done, passes the time pleasantly. Not part of the theme: 4d [Super easy answer] GIMME; 34d [Possible meaning of “Meow!”] FEED ME.
What else have we got going on?
- 56a [Flood preventer] LEVEE.
- 3d [Color associated with Queen Charlotte] ROYAL BLUE. What’s that all about? (Consults—what else?—Wikipedia …) “Royal blue is both a bright shade and a dark shade of azure blue. It is said to have been created by clothiers in Rode, Somerset, a consortium of whom won a competition to make a dress for Queen Charlotte, consort of King George III.” Consensus does seem a bit muddled.
- 5d [One could be titled “To a Tee”] ODE. Cute meta reference to crosswords.
- 39d [Free lunch at the office, e.g.] PERK. Short for perquisite. Etymology: Middle English, property acquired by means other than inheritance, from Anglo-French perquisit, Medieval Latin perquisitum, from neuter of perquisitus, past participle of perquirere to purchase, acquire, from Latin, to search for thoroughly, from per- thoroughly + quaerere to seek. [emphasis mine] So the lesson is, there’s still no such thing as a free lunch.
- 35d [Bill signer’s need] PEN; 49a [Ballpoint filler] INK.
- 70a [“Akwafina is __ From Queens”] NORA. That’s Nora LUM, which seems as if it could be useful some time.
Missed a Photoshop opportunity on the cover. The guy clearly has a right hand there, and I strongly doubt there’s a third one lurking about.
Patrick Berry’s New Yorker crossword – Rachel’s writeup
Short writeup today because I have to take a very nauseous dog to the vet and I am worried enough about her that I was not particularly tuned in to the puzzle during this solve. Quick hits!
- Excellent sort-of-offset staircase stack through the middle: APRIL FOOLS / SPOON FEEDS / DEER CALLS / SQUARE KNOT / COUNTESSES
- Other long entries are ON THE WHOLE / WATER WAGON / VIVA LA VIDA / ECONOMY CAR / PAPERED OVER / DENTAL FLOSS. All pretty solid, definitely could not remember the title of VIVA LA VIDA and had PAINTED OVER before PAPERED OVER
- Confused FISA warrants with RICO in the south
- Not a fan of DORAL
- Otherwise the fill is good
- These bullet points aren’t doing anyone any good so I’m just going to go the vet. Here’s some vintage Coldplay:
Roland Huget’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary
I figured out most of the theme at the easily clued JACKSONFIVE. I went to the revealer anticipating DANCEAROUND and was correct. The dances are JIVE, SWING, CONGA, JIG – do they all have the same degree of specificity?
The design of the grid features big corners. There are quite a few adventurous long answer – EPICWINS, EYEDOC and SHIPAHOY – tempered with other long answers like SECEDER and PREENER as well as copious grit: YEO??/ECT/THERM/SERIO; crossing partials ILEDE and ALLUP. And finally GST – that’s sidereal time in case you’re wondering.
AVXW: Erin Rhode delivers on the most important aspect of a puzzle, with three curling clues!
(Also a cute theme that spices up a standard wacky entry type with appropriate fun clues and well chosen themers.)
NYT: MESHUGA? I have never heard this word even though I lived in upstate NY for five years.
I did like the theme though.
Yiddish, a common NYT inclusion. Partner of mishegas, I thought it crossing OED was dicey.
I often wonder whether Michiganders are mishegas. What’s good for one, as they say.
I thought crossing with GLOB which could easily be SLOB was dicey
NYT: I really wanted BOZO, not BOBO
I had a problem with some of the clues. “Mad as a Hatter” is insanity – the term comes from the insanity suffered by many of those who made felt hats, and used mercury in the process. “Meshuga” is simple craziness, foolishness.
Also disagree with “Too many cooks”. I don’t believe this is about “getting in the way”, as in a crowded kitchen. It’s about over-management, too many bosses making decisions. For a project to go smoothly, there needs to be one final authority, not many.
And finally, I was really hoping that “Irish Pubs” wouldn’t turn out to be the answer for 10-down. Does anyone else think this is promoting a potentially offensive stereotype? I’m personally fine with it – but I wonder why one like this is OK while others are not. (“Dutch treat”, for example).
But there are places that proudly identify themselves as Irish pubs — Murphy in the name, shamrocks on the wall, Erin Go Bragh and all that — and they tend to make a big thing out of St Patrick’s Day. I don’t see where there’s a problem with any of that.
Yes, according to Google Maps, there are at least 5 establishments with “Irish Pub” in their names within a couple miles of me. From the Irish people I know, I don’t get a sense that it’s offensive stereotype that pubs are popular or unique in Ireland, but I’d be open to hearing that perspective if it were out there.
Plenty of Irish bars around here, some of which I’ve frequented. Or did until my tastes shifted from Bass to craft beer. One is near famous for its hosting traditional Irish music. And lots of locals make a huge fuss of St Patrick’s day, to the point that I can’t drink out that evening. (Well, maybe more the “bridge and tunnel” / frat boy and girl crowd than locals.) So I can’t see it as at all demeaning. The placement across from SPORTS BAR was a nice touch.
The distinction between mad as a hatter and MESHUGA isn’t pronounced enough to trouble this NY Jew. And all the theme entry for TOO MANY COOKS presumes is a phrase involving “spoil,” so that seems fine, too.
BOBO, though, really stopped me in my tracks. Maybe I’m just out of touch again, but I’d never seen it before. I could see that the cross of GLOB and BLOB had to be right. Alternatives with a Z just aren’t words, they wouldn’t rhyme, and they wouldn’t mean the same as the clue requires. But then I just kept staring and staring wondering where I’d gone wrong.
OK, off topic, but I think of English pubs too as attractions for locals and tourists alike without calling that racist. There was a series by William Hogarth, the great 18th century printmaker, displayed a year or so ago at the Morgan Library, contrasting good old English beer with the evils of gin.
The undercurrent is that back then, before sanitation and indoor plumbing, it was hard to find safe drinking water, and beer was not terribly alcoholic. (Nor in Ireland is Guiness today.)
In Chicago, traditionally tons of young adults fly here to carouse on St. Patrick’s Day weekend. (I saw the huge line at Midway airport security one Sunday evening when I flew home from ACPT.) Pretty much every bar downtown or on the North Side pretends it’s Irish then. It’s primarily White People’s Binge Drinking Weekend, to be more accurate. Pass through a more Mexican neighborhood and there are hardly any inebriated people wearing green; visit Wrigleyville and everything’s packed.
This weekend, Chicago bars are at 50% capacity, I think?
It’s not a stretch to say that too many cooks/bosses get in the way of each other or get in the way of a successful outcome.
Is Gareth all right? What kept him from posting the LAT?
He did have a power outage after some storms Wednesday, Joan.