MaryEllen Uthlaut’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Splitting the Profits”—Jim P’s review
THE SPOILS is our revealer (62a, [They’re divided by victors, and divided in four rows of this puzzle]). The four rows in question have circled letters—separated by a block—that spell out words that are synonyms of “spoils” (as in, treasure). The title is a spot-on hint to the theme as well.
The pairings are:
ALPHA / ULTIMATUM. Haul.
- PEEKABOO / TYRANT. Booty. The funnest pairing of the lot. I just can’t stay mad at a peekaboo tyrant.
- ANGELO / OTTOMANS. Loot.
- THE SPOILS / WAGER. Swag.
The revealer, THE SPOILS, didn’t sit well in my ear because it just sounds like a long partial from the phrase, “To the victor go the spoils.” But I guess “divide the spoils” is also idiomatic. That phrase would actually be a grid-spanner, but then it couldn’t participate in the theme as it does, so it makes sense to use the clue to hint at “dividing.”
Personally, I don’t get too wowed about themes like this with little wordplay and words hidden in multiple other words. But when the chosen words are fun and surprising (like PEEKABOO TYRANT), that starts to make up for it. But the theme is solid overall.
Top bits of fill include STALWART (a lovely word), STOWAWAY, CRAYONS, ISLAMIC, and the Drake/Rihanna duet TOO GOOD.
Clues of note:
- 22a. [Boxful for drawers]. CRAYONS. I wasn’t sure what direction this clue was going, possibly because my mind somehow thought it said “Drawerful for boxers.”
- 70a. [Agent of an uprising?]. YEAST. Nice clue.
- 3d. [ChapStick target]. LIPS. Hmm. Seems like the clue should be plural to match the entry.
Brandon Koppy’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Fun theme, though the .puz format sucks when it comes to accepting a numeral in a square. RT(wo)-DT(wo), better known as R2-D2, and C-T(hree)PO, better known as C-3PO, are the Star Wars droids whose names inspire a collection of celebrity initials:
- 10a. [Sci-fi sidekick … or a hint to 20- and 34-Across], R2-D2. Celebs with R.R. (R2) and D.D. (D2) initials follow. Number crossings are 2 AM and 2ND.
- 20a. [Star of the “Deadpool” films], RYAN REYNOLDS. We would also have accepted my husband’s name here, same initials and letter count. (He has not, however, starred in any movies. Yet.)
- 34a. [Postmodern novelist who wrote “White Noise”], DON DELILLO. I read that back in the 1980s—Santa Claus gave it to me in college. Here, we would also have accepted DONALD DUCK.
- 65a. [Sci-fi sidekick … or a hint to 42- and 53-Across], C-3PO, beneath two apt names. Number crossing is WW3.
- 42a. [Fashion icon with a numbered fragrance], COCO CHANEL. This one is actually a big cheat because she didn’t change her name from Gabrielle to Co-Co. There’s a third C, yes, but it’s not an initial letter like the rest of the themers.
- 53a. [Stand-up comedian who voiced Remy in “Ratatouille”], PATTON OSWALT. I mostly enjoy Patton on Twitter. Last weekend, he live-tweeted a viewing of the Bob Odenkirk thriller Nobody, which I recommend if you’ve enjoyed the John Wick movies. Supremely violent, but against bad guys.
So that’s the theme. Always nice to have a fresh riff for a theme, but it’s best when the theme is ironclad. That coCo thing bugged me. If you’re just going with “letters in the name” rather than initials, then Patton Oswalt would correspond to POO, since his first name also contains an O.
Likes: ANNA WINTOUR, ESTROGEN, MATING DANCE, SWEET RIDE.
- 17a. [Lisa of “High Fidelity”], BONET. She’s been in the spotlight more recently because of sheer envy: Her current husband, wildly handsome Jason Momoa, is besties with her ex-husband, wildly handsome Lenny Kravitz. Co-parenting is easier when the current and ex spouses like each other so much.
- 9d. [Fox hunter’s cry], TALLY-HO. Eww. If the fox hasn’t been actively preying on your chickens, leave it alone!
- 11d. [When clocks “spring forward” for daylight saving time], 2 AM. I absolutely started with the ABBR for March, MAR, here.
- 25d. [Type who’s prone to “the munchies”], STONER. We note that this puzzle is dated 4/21 but was indeed released online on 4/20.
- 30d. [T’ang dynasty poet], LI PO. Also transliterated as Li Bai. Enjoy “The Green Water,” above.
- 40d. [Heavy-duty cutters], CHOP SAWS. Never heard of these before.
- 60d. [Rapper who’s half of Run the Jewels], ELP. Hmm? Apparently he is El-P. Not a name I knew. Run the Jewels, I’ve heard of, but they don’t seem to get any mainstream success for individual songs (but their albums sell well). It bears noting that El-P released an EP called Shards of Pol-Pottery. Wordplay!
Fill like STENO, UVEA, LEO I, COTAN, and A DUE never enchant me, and I’d rather there were fewer such entries here. 3.25 stars from me.
Laura Zipin and Ross Trudeau’s Universal crossword, “Leadership Summit” — pannonica’s write-up
Terse write-up today, as I have an early appointment which will occupy most of my day.
- 10dR [Top of an organizational chart, and a hint to the first words of 3-, 8- and 17-Down] UPPER MANAGEMENT. One of those gimmicks that relies on the less-common vertical arrangement of theme answers.
- 3d. [Title for Obama’s satirical assistant Luther] ANGER TRANSLATOR.
- 17d. [Competition within Miss America but not Miss Universe] TALENT PORTION.
- 8d. [3/4, e.g., in music] TIME SIGNATURE.
Solid theme, with talent management being notably less common a phrase than anger management or time management.
- 26a [Sphynxes may sit on them] CAT TREES. The ‘y’ in sphynxes indicates this is the rex-derived breed rather than the figure from mythology. 24d [Sound from a tabby] MEOW.
- 45a [Middling] SO-SO. 60a [“All right already!”] OK OK.
- Young(ish) woman representation! AYESHA Curry, LEXI Thompson, SWEDE (Greta Thunberg). (19a, 59a, 28d in the center)
- 11d [ ___ common denominator] LEAST, which is less common a phrasing than lowest common denominator.
If I knew more about the music group MGMT, I might have shared one of their songs here. No time to explore!
Brooke Husic’s AVCX, “AVCX Themeless #56” — Ben’s Review
The AVCX has another guest puzzle this week, this time a crunchy 4.5/5 difficulty themeless from Brooke Husic:
- We’ve got some great long answers spanning the grid in each direction – ASK ME AGAIN LATER, PORTRAIT GALLERY, and BEEZUS AND RAMONA going across, and TAKE IT OR LEAVE IT, LEAGUE STANDINGS, and PATRISSE CULLORS (the co-founder of Black Lives Matter and founder of Dignity and Power Now) going down
- A “Thing faithfully rolled out?” would be a PRAYER MAT
- Other nice bits running through the grid: CATHARSES, UNDERCUTS, ARIOSE, RARE BIRDS, and learning that Maya Rudolph and crossword regular Cheri OTERI only overlapped at SNL for one season.
ELLA Mai, named for Ella Fitzgerald, and her Grammy-winning song “Boo’d Up”
Aimee Lucido’s New Yorker crossword – Rachel’s writeup
Helloooo everyone, quick writeup today. The solve felt a little clunky for me, I think because the grid shape is a tad awkward? Not totally sure why, but it just didn’t flow that well– but I don’t think that’s a reflection of the entries or clues, which were all around excellent, so much as a reflection of a sort of wonky grid shape. Still an entertaining and fun solve!
The long entries today were ASIAN PEAR / BINGEABLE / CROSSROAD / OPEN-ENDED / WILD CHILD / SEA SHANTY in the NW and SE, and OVERPOWERS / TEA TREE OIL / RITA MORENO / YOU CAN’T WIN as the long downs in the SW and NE. All great! I particularly loved BINGEABLE and SEA SHANTY (clued to TikTok sensation “The Wellerman,” which is now deeply stuck in my head). I also love the scent of TEA TREE OIL.
A few more things:
- I enjoyed the callback on T.S. ELIOT‘s “The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock” with [Poet who wrote, “Let us go then, you and I, / When the evening is spread out against the sky / Like a patient etherized upon a table”] and then, later, [“Like a patient etherized upon a table” and others] for SIMILES.
- Favorite clues:
- [Competitive programs?] for GAME SHOWS
- [Cries upon burning one’s rugelach] for OYS — Aimee Lucido knows a little something about this; see the cover of her forthcoming children’s book “Recipe for Disaster”
- [Like some little red fish] for SWEDISH
- Fill I could live without: NHA, SLYS, MEDE (??), AVEO, NEAP
Overall, an enjoyable if not entirely smooth solve. Lots of stars from me!
Matt Skoczen’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary
I like the slangy example of the “words with” theme concept used here. GIMME (which is rude, not sassy) a HAND/BREAK/BUZZ/SIGN, although some of those are more typically rendered as GIVEME. SIGNSYSTEM is notably dry and technical.
The puzzle features a cavalcade of abbreviations, foreign bits and other crossword clichés. When you balance USDA/NCAR over ARN you should really think about redoing a section. Similarly, HQS/QUE/OUI.
NYT: I like the theme but this is a lot of crossed proper nouns. Way too many for a Wednesday in my opinion.
Hated it for that reason.
Add a small number rebus and it won’t be widely popular.
NYT cw blog ought to be interesting for this one.
Plus, those names cover the gamut
I disliked it reflexively because, meh, Star Wars…
Worth noting that Brooke’s AVX interlocks 6 (!!) 15s in a hashtag at 9 (!!) intersections. Truly wild.
Agree, that’s a remarkable themeless. Lots of standout 8’s and 9’s as well.
I was pretty excited for an RTJ clue in the NYT. I’ve had RTJ4 in heavy rotation since it dropped last summer amidst the BLM protests, it’s just packed to the gills with righteous rage and I am here for it. Got it on vinyl too, for when I pick up my dad’s old turntable one of these days.