Chase Dittrich’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Tax Brackets”—Jim P’s review
It’s Tax Day! Or at least it is in an alternate non-COVID universe. Here in our universe we still have another month to go.
Regardless, we have a a Tax Day theme with H AND R BLOCK (63a, [Tax giant, as well as a hint to four squares in this puzzle] as the revealer. Four squares in the grid have the letters HR squished together, rebus-style.
The entries these squares affect directly are: ENGLISH ROSE crossing ATHROB (wha-huh?), BIRTHRIGHT crossing THRU, FRENCH REVOLUTION crossing LAHR, and HIGH ROLLER crossing THRUSTS.
It’s nice to see a rebus in the WSJ; we don’t get too many of those, so it definitely comes as a surprise.
I like this one fine as rebuses go, but a couple things: The company is actually H&R Block with the ampersand, so that’s one nit. The other nit is: ATHROB.
In the fill, you hope that the 1a entry is a lively one, or at least a regular word. A few days ago it was AWS. Today, PMS. However you clue it (in this case [Brit. bigwigs]), it’s still an awkward abbreviation and doesn’t set a good tone for the grid. Right below it is III, clued [George opposed by Washington], which doesn’t sit well with me, either. I mean, who refers to a monarch by their Roman numeral (the following video notwithstanding)?
I did appreciate the correct pluralization of the French “water” as EAUX instead of EAUS. I also liked the CODE NAMES entry and especially its clue [Celtic and Capri, for Joe and Jill Biden]. The Bidens’ names are holdovers from their vice presidential days.. Kamala Harris is “Pioneer” though I couldn’t find her husband’s name in a quick search.
Clues of note:
- 4a. [They do their banking on the move]. PLANES. Good clue, but I so didn’t want the answer to be PLANES because that cemented ATHROB at 6d.
- 28a. [How a Marine’s address might end]. MIL. Got me with this one. I stuck with SIR for a long time.
- 66a. [Jersey, e.g.]. A surprising number of possibilities with this clue. It ended up being KNIT.
Good theme, but ATHROB. 3.6 stars.
Brendan Emmett Quigley and Ben Zimmer’s New York Times crossword—Ben’s review
Today’s NYT is from BEQ and Ben Zimmer, and in the words of BEQ, I know these guys! They’re okay. Let’s see what BEQ and Ben have cooked up for this puzzle
- 17A: City transport, redundantly — TAXICAB
- 18A: Most common mineral in the human body — CALCIUM
- 22A: Gentle, mild-mannered soort — PUSSYCAT
- 33A: Warm-up time for pro athletes — PRESEASON
- 41A: On a need-to-know basis — TOP SECRET
- 49A: Camping pests — NOSEEUMS
- 55A: Happy, as bygone days — HALCYON
- 58A: Starting point for a piano student, or a phonetic hint to 17A, 18A, 22A, 33A, 41A, 49A, and 55A — MIDDLE C
“Phonetic” does a lot of the heavy lifting in the revealer – mentally walk your way through each of the theme entries and you’ll find the middle sound in each is a “C”, whether it’s the XI in TAXICAB or the SY in PUSSYCAT. I honestly thought something was going on with the entries because I did not believe a NOSEEUM was a thing. A quick google search proved otherwise.
53A: Bell Biv DeVoe or Bananarama — TRIO
Other fill of note: SURE DID, MACABRE, ME AGAIN, SPROUTS (which can go on any burger, not just a vegan one), DUCHY (as in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg), and STURGEONS, which I learned were once nicknamed “Albany beef”.
Kimberly Dunn’s Universal crossword, “Triple Meaning” — Jim Q’s write-up
A swell puzzle. In more ways than one. This also appears to be a debut puzzle, so congratulations, Kimberly!
THEME: Phrases that start with a synonym for the word “Swell”… or things that swell… something like that.
- GREAT APE.
- SURGE PROTECTOR.
- WAVE A WHITE FLAG.
- (revealer) ALL’S WELL. Read differently, it’s ALL SWELL.
I found this very odd in a number of ways. First, building a theme off of the word SWELL just makes me cock my head a bit with a half-smile. One of those “Really? Sure! Why not?” expressions. Then, I’m not entirely sure whether the theme is asking us to accept the words at the beginning as synonyms or not. I mean, GREAT is a synonym for SWELL. Like “That’s GREAT!” = “That’s SWELL!” But is it a synonym for WAVE? I’m honestly not sure. I thought ocean WAVEs SWELL in a verb sense. And the revealer seems to suggest SWELL as a verb. Then there’s the fact that WAVE in the context of the entry has nothing to do with ocean WAVEs or sound WAVEs at all. And does SURGE mean SWELL? There seems to be a distinct difference, that is if this Wikidiff (?!) website is to be trusted at all.
So yeah… weirdness abounds in the theme. The more I think about it, the stranger it gets. I think it’s best if you don’t overthink it. Or perhaps ignore it altogether.
Some cool things to learn in the fill today! For me:
- Is there a prune juice-DR. PEPPER connection (or lack thereof) that I’m unaware of? Apparently so! A rumor worthy of a Snopes debunking.
- Wyoming’s MOTTO is “Equal Rights.” That’s a good one. Beats “Virginia is for Lovers,” which I always found rather off-putting. Makes me visualize a retired couple snogging in the bushes. I dunno. Just sayin’.
- I didn’t know MAYFLOWER as a company. I pictured a company of pilgrims (in the “army” sense of the word) when I read the clue.
- IMACS used to have numerous ports. Or types of ports anyway. I just got a new one and didn’t examine it closely before purchasing. The only ports on mine are USB-C. Then you have to buy adapters. Grrrrr.
Then there’s some rougher stuff:
- ON TV, THE EU, WAS AT, SEA TRAVEL, EDAMS, OFFS, ERS, etc. The fill in general has a very default-construction-software-dictionary feel to it.
An off-beat puzzle for sure today. While it wasn’t quite for me, I look forward to more from Kimberly Dunn. Thanks!
2.5 Stars from me.
Mike Peluso’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary
ITSAJOB is an excellent revealer, but is only employed to lead us to phrases with “___ JOB” words. I’m not convinced “grease job” is an at all common way of referring to a lube job. The other three jobs are: inside, nose and snow. Apart from several more edgy entries, the most obvious exclusions were DAY and DESK, which were probably deemed too bland?
This puzzle’s conservative pinwheel design, with two across and two down themers, is mostly seen earlier in the week. It leads to a fairly easy to solve puzzle. Despite the design, there are some endangered entries on display: SMA, IPANA, OENO and DEWED with ADORBS freshness in stark contrast.
NYT: I sailed through most of this like it was a Monday, then got stymied in SE… NOSEEUM didn’t help… Whatever trickiness is expected of a Thursday didn’t come through during the solve but it involved a few head-scratching moments after the fact.
Liked the clue for Michigan!
That SW quadrant was a doozy. Had it not been for that, I would have shaved off the seconds I needed in order to best Ben’s time, which would have been the small victory I needed on this miserable day.
NYT: We’ve been over this before—NEAT is not synonymous with “straight up”. (30d)
NYT. King-like is MACABRE. That took me far too long to understand! I get it now.
Could you explain? Still in the dark here.
King refers to Stephen King.
Oh gosh, duh. Thank you!
I know it’s correct, but I always wince just a tad when I see words like “sturgeons”. It feels more natural to me to use the singular form as plural – like “deer” or “fish”. (“Fishes” seems like a verb – like “He usually fishes on Saturday afternoon”. If he goes fishing for sturgeon, could we say “He usually sturgeons on Saturday afternoon”? And “how many sturgeon did he catch?”)
“Fishes” is the proper plural when referring to multiple species. This extends down the taxonomical ladder, as well. Three brook trout are “trout,” but brook, brown and rainbow are three trouts.
The landings of “Albany beef” in the Hudson caught by Redcoat seamen might have include two sturgeons: the Atlantic sturgeon, Acipenser oxyrinchus and the shortnose sturgeons, Acipenser brevirostrum.
Your point about the plural of fish is debatable, to say the least. MW gives the plural as fish or fishes, without distinguishing any difference in meaning. Personally, I would say that brook, brown and rainbow are three kinds of trout; three trouts doesn’t sound idiomatic to my ear.
It’s not my point. It’s English.
Oh, come on. That’s just one random website. The idea that there’s a hard and fast rule here is just silly. Even the site you cite doesn’t claim it’s an absolute distinction.
It’s not an absolute distinction. But it’s a distinction. Here’s another random website, Merriam-Webster, using “trouts” without a fuss.
NYT: The crossing of two Japanese names at 64A/51D was rough. I breezed through the rest of the puzzle and then spent a good 20 seconds running the alphabet on that crossing before I finally pulled something out of the back of my head that I recognized as a name I’d heard before. If you don’t know those there’s no way to infer the consonant that goes there.
I was happy that Seiko popped into my head as a well-known 5 letter Japanese brand.
There are actually three Japanese crossers in that corner, including the one that got me the “close but no cigar” message of Edo/Eto.
NYT: One of those theme ideas that is at once so simple, but also feels new and different.
WSJ Why does it always take me so long to figure out that the puzzle is a rebus? Aargh!
I kept trying to think of an alternative for THRU (23D) and it finally dawned on me.
Jim P, the AND in H&R doesn’t bother me so much. I suppose we “say” the others, like
$, %, and @. Then we had RNR (38D).
54A London-based financial giant? The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation?
Really? That can’t have been an intended entry. I’m supposed to know that?
Along with IRENE Bedard and who is celebrated on the ninth day of Chaitra.
I failed miserably today. (sigh)
Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation. Well I learned something. I always thought HSBC was Hang Seng Banking Company.
I just googled it. I have no clue if it’s correct.