Bill Thompson’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Flying in Formation”—Jim P’s review
Based on the title, I was expecting to see Vs in the grid, but the circled letters are in the shape of Js. When I realized CONDOR was in the first J, I was still confused. If we’re going to imagine condors flying in formation, why a J and not a V?
The answer is at 41a [Symbol of nakedness represented by the circled letters], or JAY BIRD. Ahh, now I see. Birds in the circled letters are J-birds.
The birds themselves are unclued but they are the CONDOR, PARROT, ORIOLE, and MARTIN. I thought this was pretty nifty and a good play on words. It definitely helped at the bottom of the grid knowing that I was looking for birds, even if they were unclued.
The fact that they’re unclued means the puzzle mostly solves like a themeless, so the fill takes on a bigger role. For the most part, its good though I admit to having trouble with the end of COCOA NIBS—mostly because I had SON where BOY was meant to go in the crossing.
The other tough one was ETOILE [Company’s leading dancer]. Brand new to me, uncultured swine that I am.
Easier to love are “I’M SO DEAD,” MALARKEY (a fave of President Joe), and UP A TREE. Also: RAMJET, SURFER, TOADY, and CTRL-C.
Clues of note:
- 1a. [Whodunit suspect, often]. HEIR. After the butler, I presume.
- 21a. [Language family including Swahili, Xhosa and Zulu]. BANTU. I just heard an NPR story yesterday (see below) about how South Africa’s Port Elizabeth will now go by the name Gqeberha (add it to your word lists now, constructors). It’s well worth a listen to learn how it’s pronounced and the reasoning behind the change. Or go here for a transcript.
- 44a. [One in a barrel, perhaps]. SURFER. Good misdirection. I was thinking of dwarves in The Hobbit.
- 52a. [Cuttlebone location]. CAGE. I had no idea on this one. I assumed it was referring to a ribcage, but that’s not the case. A cuttlebone is a calcium-rich dietary supplement for birds and other caged pets.
- 31d. [Cavy or coypu]. RODENT. Gimme for me since we used to have guinea pigs (cavies). Don’t know what a coypu is, though. Ah, I see it’s a nutria, which I have heard of.
Nice puzzle. The best of the week, IMO. Four stars.
Stella Zawistowski’s Fireball Crossword, “Themeless #147” – Jenni’s write-up
A Fireball themeless that is not by Peter Gordon! Don’t get me wrong. Peter’s themelesses are really good. It’s still nice to see someone else get a crack at it, especially when “someone” is Team Fiend’s own Stella Zawistowski. She makes, well, fiendish themelesses. This one is several shades easier than the puzzles on her website.
- 15a [Shouldered vehicle] is SEDAN, as in the kind of chair carried on the shoulders of bearers. Very colonialist.
- She had me at AWESOMESAUCE. Love this.
- 25a [Stick’s counterpart] is CARROT. Not really. The whole CARROT and stick thing is misunderstood. It’s the CARROT on a stick held out in front of the poor horse (or donkey). The animal keeps walking trying to get to the treat and never makes it. It’s not CARROT or stick.
- FRITO PIES are “cooked” right in the bag.
- I never realized that DOUBLE SPACES left room for edit markings. I presume this dates from the days when editing was done on paper.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that Sally Field voiced SASSY the cat in “Homeward Bound.”
Alex Eaton-Salners’ New York Times crossword—Ben’s review
Alex Eaton-Salners has today’s NYT – let’s take a look at what’s going on with these circled squares:
- 17A: Opposite of [circled letters] — WONDERFUL
- 25A: Opposite of [circled letters] — EFFECTIVE
- 30A: Opposite of [circled letters] — FEASTING
- 39A: Opposite of [circled letters] — PRURIENT
- 47A: Opposite of [circled letters] — ANIMOSITY
- 53A: Opposite of [circled letters] — COURTEOUS
It’s an interesting idea, but I found the actual solving of this to be a bit of a slog – the self-referential nature of the clues meant there wasn’t really a handhold besides crossings on these clues. I think it’s neat that each of these words contains its own opposite running through it in order, but otherwise it was a bit stodgy.
“Union Station-Dupont Circle connector, in D.C.” was the clue, but Berlin’s “METRO” came to mind when I saw it in the grid.
Other nice grid bits: G SPOT, ACAI, GRAINY and COARSE next to one another, ALPO, CANDY BAR, and PRISONER
Brendan Emmett Quigley crossword (No. 1351), “Face the Music” — Jenni’s review
I stumbled around this one for a while because most of the theme-related musical references are unfamiliar to me. The crossings were fair, the wordplay is funny, and I enjoyed solving it nonetheless.
Each theme answer is a musician’s name altered so it contains a body part.
- 18a [“Watermelon Sugar” singer with a face for music?] is HAIRY STYLES. Harry Styles. I’ve heard of Harry and I know he’s the lead singer of One Direction. I did not know the song.
- 24a [Backstreet boy with a face for music?] is NECK CARTER. Nick Carter.
- 35a [“Bad Guy” singer with a face for music?] is BILLIE EYELASH. Billie Eilish.
- 47a [“You Raise Me Up” singer with a face for music?] is JAWS GROBAN. Josh Groban.
- 52a [“Barely Breathing” singer with a face for music?] is DUNCAN CHEEK. Duncan Sheik. Him, I knew.
One quibble: the NECK is not a part of the face. Fun theme! I’m sure a number of solvers disliked it because of the reliance on proper names from recent pop music. As I’ve said before, if I don’t know something in a puzzle, that’s on me. Doesn’t make it a bad puzzle. It makes me an old-ish white woman with some large lacunae in my knowledge base.
A few other things:
- 8d [Didn’t Zoom through work, maybe?] is SKYPED. That’s so 2019.
- 31a [Flare-up that’s behind you?] is BACNE. Good clue, fresh entry, gross word.
- I’m glad I’ve heard of Sarah Orne JEWETT because I have no idea who Ken JEONG is. JEONG also crosses 39a [Questlove’s group, with “The”] which I also knew (ROOTS) and which is inferrable if you get the rest of it.
- 50a [With 41-Across, “any” place?] is TEN/DOWN. The answer to 10d is, of course, ANY. Brilliant.
- Symbols for love and fidelity are SWANS. Awww.
Pretty much the entire theme was “what I didn’t know before I did this puzzle.” I also didn’t know that Amy ADAMS was in “Hillbilly Elegy.” I read and heartily disliked the book, so I have no intention of seeing the movie.
Emma Oxford’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary
It’s a clue/answer switcheroo theme today. These work best when the answers are not related. Thing is all three other answers are derived from the second: MALEMONARCH. The HIGHESTFACECARD, the POWERFULCHECKER and the TYPEOFCOBRA.
The rest of the puzzle is pretty basic, making the puzzle play quite easy. GLORYBE and ITGIRL kind of stick out because they aren’t one word answers.
Catherine Cetta’s Universal crossword, “Something is Fishy” — Jim Q’s write-up
Definitely a fishy puzzle :)
THEME: Common phrases where the first word can be unscrambled to spell a type of fish.
- DOC HOLLIDAY. Cod.
- TATER TOTS. Tetra.
- LOSE HEART. Sole.
- PATRON SAINT. Tarpon.
Enjoyed these entries, even though it took somewhere close to forever for me to see TETRA and TARPON hiding in TATER and PATRON respectively. The real winner for me was the fill and clues. Very fresh and fun imo.
- 22D [Word between “sorry” and “sorry”] NOT
- 22A [Sometimes-sassy assistant] SIRI
- 35A [Clay and Lacy, to one another?] ANAGRAMS.
- 65A [Reveal the identity of] UNMASK.
- 18D [The Atlantic, but not The New Yorker] OCEAN.
- 34D [Takes a turn for the worse] GOES SOUTH.
- 63D [iBeer, for one] APP. Not ALE as I originally entered :)
3.7 stars from me. I enjoyed it!