Gary Larson’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “If I Mussed…”—Jim P’s review
Theme: Phrases that have a word normally ending in –ST have those letters changed to –SED forming new, wacky phrases.
- 17a. [Failed to recognize one’s turn to speak on a walkie-talkie?] MISSED OVER. Mist over. I didn’t uncover this one until late in the solve, and it didn’t do much for me. The base phrase doesn’t register as being as colloquial as, say, fogged over or fogged up.
- 24a. [Hired Greyhound to relocate?] BUSSED A MOVE. Bust a move. Ha! This one surprised me and was worth a laugh.
- 35a. [Bundled daily papers for delivery?] TRUSSED ISSUES. Trust issues. Almost as good as the previous one.
- 50a. [Took a shot in the dark in astronomy class?] GUESSED STAR. Guest star. Not quite as good because the resulting phrase feels like it’s missing an indefinite article.
- 59a. [Walked through the cereal aisle?] PASSED LIFE. Past life. There are a lot of other cereals you passed as well.
On the whole, I liked this, mostly based on the strength of the second and third entries.
Fill: Not so much flash, but I do like RHETORIC, ENSCONCE, and “NO LUCK.”
Clues of note:
- 4d. [Wee]. ITSY. That’s a better answer for [Wee] than yesterday’s EENIE.
- 37d. [Halvah ingredient]. SESAME. I don’t know Halvah, but it sounds yummy.
- 60d. [Show shifter]. DVR. “Shifter”? Meh. Shifting is not the primary purpose of a DVR, however you define it.
Good theme. Fill is solid but not remarkable. 3.7 stars.
Leslie Rogers’ New York Times crossword—Ben’s review
Look at the left-right symmetry on this Thursday’s NYT grid from Leslie Rogers! It’s not the trickiest Thursday theme I’ve seen, but it’s cute:
- 17A: 1940 Arthur Koestler novel set during the Moscow Trials — DARKNESS AT ONE PM
- 29A: Short stubble — SIX O’CLOCK SHADOW
- 54A: Work very late — BURN THE ONE AM OIL
- 60A: Observe daylight saving time, in a way … as in 17-, 29- and 54-Across? — SPRING FORWARD
reminder that Daylight Savings Time starts this weekend! All of these names/phrases/etc. have had their times shifted forward an hour.
Other nice grid bits: OSHA (“Org. with lots of inspectors”), PHO, SWOLE, DESI, MAD RUSH, SURTAXES, TEACAKES, SHEEPDOG, and PULSAR
Sara Cantor’s Fireball Crossword, “A-ha!” – Jenni’s write-up
This is Sara Cantor’s debut in our reviews, and it’s a great start. Before I get to the puzzle, I want to acknowledge that the roster of constructors for the Fireball is more diverse than it previously has been. I’ve criticized Peter’s male-dominated bylines and he deserves credit for making a change. I know it takes work and attention. Sara is non-binary and uses she/her or they/them pronouns. As I said, they gave us a whiz-bang of a puzzle today!
I realized there was something missing from each theme answer and I thought it was a rebus. I also had some errors that got me in trouble and made it more difficult to figure out what was going on.
- 8a [Hired killers] are BUTTN, or BUTTON MEN. This was one of the last ones I got because both 11d and 12d were unfamiliar to me so I wasn’t sure what they were looking for until I grokked the theme.
- 16a [Employees in a closed shop] is UNIMBERS in the grid, which expands to UNION MEMBERS. I thought that was UNION LABORERS, which confused me.
- 22a [Nickel, for example] is TRANSITITAL or TRANSITION METAL. I banged my head against that one for a while because I thought it should be TRANSITIONAL METAL. Nope.
- 47a [Blair Waldorf portrayer on “Gossip Girl”] is LEIGHTESTER which I didn’t realize was a theme answer until I looked at Peter’s grid. The last Blair I remember on TV is from “The Facts of Life,” so I didn’t know who LEIGHTON MEESTER was.
- 63a [Main ingredient in some high-protein burgers] also foxed me. I thought they were looking for a vegetable. Once I realized that 8a was a theme answer and that the themers were symmetrical, I went back to BISAT and saw BISON MEAT.
The revealer saved me. 58a [1985 #1 hit for a-ha…or what you have to do to fit six answers into this puzzle]: TAKE ON ME. Aha! (so to speak) I looked at the 16a and 22a again and realized I had the base answers wrong, and I also realized it wasn’t a rebus – I had to take the letters ON ME out of each answer, so the crossings work with one letter in each box. What a great theme idea. It’s brilliantly executed and would not have been an easy puzzle even without the twist. There are a couple of compromises in the fill and I don’t care a bit. I suspect there will also be distress over the proper names from current pop culture, several of which either intersect or make up theme answers and did, indeed, slow me down. You know what? That’s on me (so to speak) because I’m a old-ish white woman. Constructors are not obligated to play to my strengths. Sara taught me a few things and that’s totally cool.
A few other things:
- Is an IPOD still a popular music player? Maybe it should have been tagged [obs.]
- There’s too long a list of things I didn’t know in the puzzle to save them all for the end. I had no idea that the IGUANA is called [“Chicken of the trees”]. That was fun to learn.
- One of the reasons I struggled to see UNION MEMBERS was that I couldn’t figure out the crossing at 17d [Call the blind]. Turns out it’s poker, and the answer is BET. I had MET, which didn’t work at all.
- I hope to see SFO sometime in the not-too-distant future.
- We have a Star Trek clue for IOWAN – [Captain Kirk, by birth] and not for BORG. Instead we got one that was in my wheelhouse: [Winner of five straight Wimbledons]. I grew up watching tennis with my mother and we were both in love with Bjorn Borg.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: see above. I also did not know that ANA de Armas appeared in “War Dogs,” or that Italy’s oldest soccer team is in GENOA.
Brendan Emmett Quigley crossword (No. 1347), “NO AND IN SIGHT” — Jenni’s review
I figured from the title that the theme answers would be missing the letters AND. I think I would have known that even without the FB theme fresh in my mind. I was right, and I still enjoyed the puzzle. Each theme answer has a base phrase that’s this AND that. Remove the AND; wackiness results.
- 11d [NFL lineman’s job?] is BLOCK TACKLE. I don’t need to tell you that the base phrase is BLOCK AND TACKLE, do I? Didn’t think so.
- 17a [Very tiny candy?] is a SHORT SWEET.
- 25d [Skip meals and have a bad attitude about it?] is FAST FURIOUS. I dunno. Seems to me it should be FURIOUSLY, even in wacky theme land.
- 35a [Scrunch up a necklace?] is BALL CHAIN, which I far prefer to the misogynistic base phrase (and don’t @me to say you’ve heard it applied to men. Maybe you have, but it’s overwhelmingly used about women).
- 40a [Noise that ensures a vault is secure?] is a SAFE SOUND.
- 55a [Do some polling on candidates least likely to win?] is TRACK FIELD. I presume the FIELD is the motley group trailing the front-runners, sort of like the peloton at the Tour de France.
Fun! Solid except for my one nit-pick at 25d. All the base phrases are definitely in the language and the execution is consistent. Six theme answers is a lot for a 15×15. I don’t think the fill suffers for it.
A few other things:
- Took me a while to parse DHING for [Job for a nearly retired Ranger, maybe]. The baseball team, not the state police.
- 26a [Ex follower] is WYE – phonetic spelling of the letters.
- Isaac HAYES and David BOWIE make appearances. The Soul Man and Space Oddity, both gone too soon.
- You’ll get a RED EAR from a sunburn if you fall asleep on the beach right after you get your shaggy locks shorn to look nice for your parents at graduation. No, not me – one of my husband’s college roommates.
- Are modems and BAUDS still a thing?
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that LYON‘s airport is named after Saint-Exupéry. Draw me a sheep!
Craig Stowe’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary
Today’s theme has just three entries, so we expect a tight set. It’s a tricky theme, with nothing seeming to fit initially. However, once you grok the theme, you get a lot of free letters! I guess that adds up to it running on Thursday not Friday? The first entry is G8SUMMIT, represented with eight G’s; my issue is that there is a G6, G7, G14, and a G20 so it isn’t that specific. V10JUICE is an American thing; I wouldn’t have guessed it was made by Campbell’s. The CANINEUNIT sounds like K9 and we have 9 K’s to represent that – an extra step compared to the other entries.
- [Young Adult novel by Carl Hiaasen about an owl habitat], HOOT. There are surprisingly few novels about owl habitats. I wonder if this is like Watership Down?
- [2016 US Open champ Wawrinka], STAN. He used to go by Stanislav, but dropped the -islav, delighting crossword writers everywhere.
- [Green on a weather map], RAIN. Not a standard I’ve observed here…
- [“Solutions and Other Problems” writer Brosh], ALLIE. Another new literary clue for me
- [Cinematographer Nykvist], SVEN. There aren’t many famous Svens so…
- [Mr. Potato Head piece], EAR. To clarify, the brand is now Potato Head, but one product they make is Mr. Potato Head
An excuse to post one of my favourite bands: