Gary Larson’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “No Contest”—Jim P’s review
Our theme consists of two-word phrases whose second word is normally some type of contest. However, each one is clued with a different meaning (ensuring the phrases are “no contest”), and the first word’s meaning may change as well.
- 17a. [Load wild animals onto the ark?] BOARD GAME.
- 30a. [Possible eharmony date for Nicolas?] CAGE MATCH.
- 43a. [Follow an unfaithful spouse on a tryst?] TRACK MEET. This is awkward without an article (“a” or “the”).
- 57a. [Centaurs?] HORSE RACE. Unlike the others, the first word doesn’t change meaning here.
Everything about this makes sense and flows from the title. I just wish there was some funny here to go along with the wordplay.
I do like the fill, though. MT. ARARAT goes along with the Noah’s Ark entry, and there’s also TORE IT UP, SATANIST, ODYSSEY, VIRULENT, IPAD PRO, KLEPTO, CUBIST, PEACHY, CAMDEN, SALAAM, and “I WANNA!” That’s a heavy dose of sparkly fill.
I didn’t know AURA LEE [Civil War song whose melody was used for “Love Me Tender”]. I tried ANNA LEE first, but was able to sort it out before too long. You can listen to it here.
Clues of note:
- 25a. [Black Mass participant]. SATANIST. We also would have accepted [Purchaser of Lil Nas X shoes, possibly].
- 34d. [Series that included “Great White North” and “Monster Chiller Horror Theater”]. SCTV. I vaguely remember the “Great White North” segment, but not the other. I doubt anyone under, say, 40, would know this. Here’s some Evil House of Wax (in 3D!) for your enjoyment.
The theme works (though it just didn’t sparkle), but the the fill is very good. 3.4 stars.
Trenton Charlson’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap
BUILDING BLOCKS is the name of the game, and those six Lego-shaped chunks of circled/shaded squares spell out, clockwise from top left, 6-letter types of buildings: PALACE, PAGODA, SCHOOL, CASTLE, TEMPLE, and CHALET. I’ve not been in all of those! The central revealer is clued 41a. [Smaller parts making up a larger whole … with a hint to the six groups of circled squares in this puzzle].
Nothing else is thematic, I don’t think. Trenton managed to get some good longer stuff packed into the grid, like SLAM-DUNK, GRIMACE, and “I LOVED IT.” Just a few bits of fill that irked, like OATEN and KEPIS. The six sections with the 6-blocks are remarkably smooth, though.
I know the ACACIA tree, sure, but it doesn’t mean I don’t forget that it and AÇAI exist when I’m playing the NYT’s Spelling Bee puzzle. Who’s with me?
Four stars from me.
Aimee Lucido’s AVCX, “It’s All Relative” — Ben’s Review
Aimee Lucido has this week’s AVCX, and it’s a pretty straightforward theme:
- 20A: Rich seafood soup — LOBSTER BISQUE
- 34A: “The Bell Jar”, for one (that’s why it was initially published under a pseudonym) — ROMAN A CLEF
- 42A: What Grogu had darn well better grow up safely to become!! — JEDI KNIGHT
- 57A: The Bradys or the Jenners…and a hint to this puzzle’s theme — BLENDED FAMILY
The Brady Bunch and the Kardashian-Jenners are both examples of a BLENDED FAMILY, and each theme entry’s circled squares are the “blended” letters of another word for family – TRIBE in LOBSTER BISQUE, CLAN in ROMAN A CLEF, and KIN in JEDI KNIGHT.
Other nice fill: ACME Looniversity (the main setting of Tiny Toon Adventures), SALSAS like pico de gallo and xnipec, STEPPE, CHEESE LOG, DODGEBALL, and NO ENTRY
Erik Agard’s New Yorker crossword – Rachel’s writeup
Hi all– First, we’ve heard from members of the New Yorker union that although a strike has been authorized, negotiations are currently continuing in good faith, and they’d prefer that we continue solving and blogging the puzzles for the time being. I’ll update Monday’s post with Natan’s puzzle soon, and in the meantime, here is Erik Agard’s puzzle for today.
Short write up again because, as often happens on Wednesdays, I have to teach in half an hour and, as often does NOT happen on Wednesdays, there are men jackhammering in my basement to fix a water problem!
- Gorgeous grid! Love this shape.
- SITI BINTI SAAD [Musician known as the Mother of Taarab] is a new name for me, and I really enjoyed reading her Wikipedia page afterwards (I also didn’t know what Taarab was, so I spent some time there as well). Every single cross was impeccable.
- Grid was super clean, although there were a couple of awkward plurals that weren’t my favorite (CESSNAS, DENSITIES). In fact, there’s a whole string of S endings going up the lower part of the staircase, although those were all great.
- Favorite clues:
- [Joint pain relief?] for COMMISERATION
- [Word before ship or pants] for CARGO – thanks for the laughs, Ever Given
- I’ve never actually heard someone say GRATS but it seems like a reasonable thing one might say
Overall, tons of stars from me for a fun, fresh puzzle. Wish me luck teaching as the jackhammering in my basement and skull continue unabated.
PS. when I wrote the date on today’s puzzle, I initially and without thinking wrote November 31, 2020, so… take that fwiw I guess??
Brynn Diehl’s Universal crossword, “All Wrapped Up” — pannonica’s write-up
- 59dR [Sushi selection, and a hint to the last words of 20-, 25-, 45- and 51-Across] ROLL.
- 20a. [Eagles hit whose title is sung after “Welcome to the”] HOTEL CALIFORNIA.
- 25a. [“Colorful” PBS Kids series] READING RAINBOW.
- 45a. [1973 martial arts film] ENTER THE DRAGON.
- 51a. [Nursery rhyme character who “climbed up the waterspout”] ITSY BITSY SPIDER.
Tough to criticize a sushi-themed crossword, even if these futomaki varieties are not among my favorite types of makizushi. Of course I am now dreaming of sushi for lunch, but it’s been quite a very long time since I’ve had proper sushi. Curses!
- 27d [Part of the iPhone 12’s display] NOTCH. I have looked this up because this was unfamiliar. Am now wondering if it is properly considered part of the display, or is it part of the frame/case?
- 31d [Nocturnal hunter] ORION. Specifically the constellation version of the Greek mythological figure.
- 32d [Grocery store freebie] WIPE. Life in the time of COVID.
- 33d [Old TV component] TUBE “Greetings from your ORTHOCON tube!”
- 52d [It “wounds all heels”] TIME. Some spooneristic commentary.
- 9a [Thunderclaps’ noises] BOOMS. Of course I tried PEALS first.
- 35a [“Pitfall” console maker] ATARI, 13d [Genesis name?] SEGA.
- 43a [Canadian tribe] CREE. Since this is inevitably the answer in crosswords, I thought I’d share a list of First Nations peoples.
- Favorite clue: 44a [Break fluid?] JOE.
Fine, fun, yummy puzzle.
Now for a musical selection. So many options today. What to choose, what to choose?
Something about sushi? Something from the excellent SILOS (60a)? My favorite cover version of the otherwise execrable “HOTEL CALIFORNIA”? Some ONE BY ONE (37d) thing? So many choices.
Joe Deeney’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary
The plus-size revealing answer seems to have been the starting off point for this puzzle: FIRSTHINGSFIRST. Each of four answers’ first words satisfy “First ___” – FIRST PERSON, FIRST DOWN (apparently this is a gridiron thing), FIRST QUARTER, and FIRST STRING. That sure is a lot of sports, especially with QUARTERHORSE as well!
- [Toronto Raptors president of basketball operations Ujiri], MASAI. More sports. Do NBA fans know their presidents of basketball operations then?
- [NBC drama with two pronouns in its title], THISISUS. Also new to me; relatively current.
- [Castle queenside, in chess notation], OOO. You don’t see much of chess notation in puzzles. I hope this doesn’t spark a trend.
- [Can really play], HASGAME; [Shutout feature], NORUNS – more sportses
- [Crying need], TISSUE. I was always told that Americans never call tissues tissues.
- [Shake in fear over], QUIVERAT. A bit disappointing, as Q’s go, but it does intersect two answers.
NYT: A pedantic point, but “two thumbs up” works better as a clue for WE LOVED IT, since a movie would need the acclaim of both Siskel and Ebert to attain two thumbs up status. Of course, a movie could get two thumbs up if they both mildly approved of it, no guarantee that either “loved” it.
Despite the origin of “two thumbs up,” it is now used as clued.
WSJ: Online puzzle for Wednesday is a repeat of Tuesday’s “Sibilance” puzzle. Boo! Hiss! (PDF is correct “No Contest” puzzle.) https://www.wsj.com/articles/no-contest-wednesday-crossword-march-31-11616949089
Luckily, we get our own online version at the “Today’s Puzzles” link above.
I find it humorous that the WSJ seems to completely ignore the comments when things go awry with their online puzzle (as they often seem to do over there).
NYT: “Singer John whose middle name is Hercules”, “Herculean undertaking” and “Heracles, to Zeus” all in the same puzzle?
I see no problem.
I thought it was funny ? (and I can always use a laugh these days)
I see no problem either, but wonder if there is some underlying meaning!?
Nine more would be laborious.
PJ wins this thread!
NYT: Australia’s national floral emblem is the golden wattle – an acacia – so that was a gimme for me. Beautiful trees in the spring.
“This here is the wattle,
the emblem of our land.
You can stick it in a bottle,
you can hold it in your hand.”
© M. Python
Some of us would suggest those aren’t acacias, but Racosperma…
NYT: Got NATICKed on the DAB/BIALIK crossing. Never heard of DAB. _IALIK could have been anything for me.
That beat me, too.
Thanks for the TNY union updates. I was unaware that anything was going on.
Universal music suggestion – Brother Ray
LAT – I watch enough sports that I got most of them. Yes, NBA fans will sometimes know their team basketball operations lead. BUT, “queenside castling” is shown as 0-0-0, with zeros and hyphens. Fortunately, most chess notations include digits and so (hopefully) we won’t see them in puzzles.
I know very few NBA team operations people, but Masai made news for being roughed up by a California cop when he tried to join his team on the arena floor to celebrate their championship.
I really thought Erik’s New Yorker clue, [Joint pain relief?], would have something to do with medical marijuana, but no, it’s “joint” as in “together with someone else.” What a terrific clue for COMMISERATION! Erik is one of the cleverest cluers working today.
Before the latest wave of hospital mergers, one here where I had a break repaired was the Hospital for Joint Diseases. I always thought it should have meant diseases you experience together with someone close.
I’m looking for an explanation of all the low ratings for the New Yorker puzzle. A 62-worder, impressive grid, with no crap fill, peppered with great clues. Can it really be that some solvers ding a puzzle by 2 or 3 stars for introducing them to the name of a 20th century African artist they hadn’t known? I didn’t know the name either, but filled the whole name in perfectly via the crossings. And, as Rachel said, those crossings are solid. I don’t see anywhere someone would get “naticked” by not knowing either of the crossing entries. Was it (con)GRATS? Even if you have to run the alphabet, presumably you’d get there eventually and fill in that T.
My guess is it’s a negative reaction to Erik. Some people are like that. I remember a few years ago every BEQ puzzle had a one star rating *before* the puzzle had been published.
But as I said, that’s just a guess.
You got me.
Amy/Rachel: I thought today’s puzzle by Erik was terrific. I too had not heard of the African artist but the crossings were excellent. I have to admit I didn’t remember “conure” as a type of parrot, either, but again easy to get from the crossings. Since I do the USA Today puzzle daily, I’m used to Erik’s excellent assistance in figuring out unknown names, places, songs, etc.
I can’t explain it. I gave it four stars. I thought it was an excellent puzzle. I did not know the artist name but the crossings were very fair.
I didn’t rate the NYer, but it frustrated me, as CONURE was totally new to me (according to XWI, CONURE has appeared in the NYT only once, in 1976), and I was fooled by PART V, and GRATS and VERTS seemed weird. So for me the crossings on SITI BINTI SAAD were not at all “solid”. It also didn’t help that I had SALSED for RUMBAED for too long.
I have learned to tolerate the NYers penchant for relatively obscure cultural references, but if it’s a name in an non-Western language that’s hard to get from context, and it has one or more tough crosses, then that tends to leave it feeling unfair.
I’m late to the party, but I rated it 4.5, and don’t understand the lower ratings.
Nope I’d never heard of the singer but the crosses were fair to get it entirely, and I’m always happy to learn something new (not that I’ll remember the spelling of her name.). Loved loved loved the “joint pain relief”, expecting something cannabis related, so great fun! I knew conure but it took a few crosses to get it. Grats I could have lived without but same with a lot of “new words” around lately that probably stem from texting. (inspo, rando, rents) .
Again I thought it was a fun puzzle, and smoother for this west coaster than most of TNY xword fare.
NYER 41 D clue is “nochebuena” and its month should be DIC, for Diciembre, not DEC, even though “mo” was English, seems to me. The whole crossword was way too complicated for a Wednesday, seems to me again: VERTS???
While I was fine with the puzzle overall, those two confused me, too. I wondered for sure why that clues was needed for an ordinary English language abbreviation for the month.
I wonder if 22D in the universal. is correct. The one in the grid oversees the drug making, etc., but it is the DEA that governs prescriptions. At least thats my interpretation.