Paul Coulter’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Let’s Revisit That”—Jim P’s review
CIRCLE BACK is the revealer (60a, [Return to a subject in conversation, and what this puzzle’s author did to make the examples stand out]). The other theme answers have a synonym for derrière in circles.
- 16a. [Unfortunately the case] SAD BUT TRUE
- 26a. [Wimbledon official] CHAIR UMPIRE
- 36a. [Pets and livestock, e.g.] DOMESTIC ANIMALS
- 43a. [Nature personified] MOTHER EARTH
Yeah, no. As much as I partake in sophomoric humor, this doesn’t work for me. One’s “back” is different from one’s “backside,” or else I’ve had the meaning of “You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” wrong all these years.
Seriously, where do people call their butts their “back”? The “back” is a very specific part of your body from your hips up to your shoulders.
Ok, I’ll grant you Sir Mix-A-Lot’s 1992 “Baby Got Back”, but that was nearly 20 years ago, and as far as I know, that slang didn’t take. And besides, as used, it was sexist and objectifying. Hardly what you’d want to build a puzzle around.
So the revealer is a non-starter even though the theme answers are all lively and fun.
In the fill, BILGE PUMP is fun as is RED-HANDED, DRAGNET, ALBUMEN, and DISCMAN (though, weirdly, it’s not cross-referenced with the nearby CDS).
Clues of note:
- 18a. [Dolly’s last name in “Hello, Dolly!”]. LEVI. Did not know this. I like the different angle here as opposed to the usual jeans clue.
- 23a. [Scotland Yard org.]. CID. Not sure I can say the same thing here. I have no idea what this initialism stands for despite having watched many hours of British crime shows. I’m going to guess Counter-Intelligence Directorate? *Looks it up.* Ah, nope, it’s the Criminal Investigations Department. I’m going to go out on a limb and say American solvers shouldn’t have to know initialisms from other countries unless they’re nearly universally known.
- 57a. [What you have if you don’t get the yolk?]. ALBUMEN. Totally fooled by this. I was expecting some kind of punny answer. Got me good.
It’s a nicely constructed grid, but the theme doesn’t work for me at all. 2.8 stars.
Hal Moore’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
The theme revealer is OPEN AND SHUT CASE, 58a. [Easy-to-resolve situation … or a hint to the progression found in 20-, 23-, 43-, 46- and 58-Across]. Those five entries start/end with CASE/, CAS/E, CA/SE, C/ASE, and then, in the revealer itself, /CASE:
- 20a. [Poem subtitled “A Ballad of the Republic Sung in the Year 1888”], CASEY AT THE BAT. Don’t think I knew that subtitle existed.
- 23a. [Discard], CAST ASIDE.
- 43a. [Some winter travelers to the U.S.], CANADA GEESE.
- 46a. [Restaurant request], CHECK, PLEASE. This is also the title of a Chicago restaurant-review show. A wide assortment of locals give their restaurant recommendation and review the meal. It’s a great show!
The theme layout is unusual, forcing left/right symmetry rather than the usual rotational. During Monday night’s interview with Boswords constructor Brooke Husic, Brooke talked about her choice of diagonal symmetry (across the NE-to-SW axis, not rotational symmetry) for her finals puzzle. Brooke likes to use such a layout because it allows more 14s and 12s, which are tough to accommodate when rotational symmetry is used. It boggles the mind that she’s only been constructing for a year! (If you like tough themelesses, check out Brooke’s blog o’ crosswords.) Hal’s theme set here is 13/9/11/11/15, which rules out rotational symmetry.
How come I could crack the 3-minute mark on this Wednesday puzzle but not on either of the easy 15×15 puzzles at ACPT last weekend? Hmph.
Fave fill: NO ACCIDENT, FRESCO, JABBER, FIRE ESCAPE.
Five more things:
- 17a. [Number that, in Chinese languages, is a homophone for “longevity,” and is thus considered good luck], NINE. I did not know this. Neat! If you double it to 18, you get a number that (along with its multiples) is considered good luck in Judaism.
- 3d. [Moon goddess], LUNA. Did you go outside Monday night to see the supermoon? I didn’t.
- 6d. [Ready-___ (convenient food option)], TO EAT. I don’t quite know what this means. Is this a specific term that people are using? For what foods?
- 21d. [Pencil holder, at times], EAR. I almost put JAR. Seeing EAR, though, puts me in mind of the English builder who competed on Great British Bake Off, typically stashing his pencil behind his ear. (You need a pencil and paper for the schematics of more complex cake constructions.) When will the next season of GBBO make it to Netflix? I am impatiently waiting!
- 42d. [___-backwards], ASS. Maybe a tad surprising to see in the Gray Lady? I don’t object, though.
3.75 stars from me.
Byron Walden’s AVCX, “Program Placement” — Ben’s Review
Byron Walden has this week’s AVCX and it’s a 17×17 blast:
- 20A: Activity necessitated by a blowout at Indy? — TIRE SWAPPING
- 30A: Airship that’s losing a race quite badly? — LAPPED ZEPPELIN
- 52A: “Sweet Caroline” crooner with a guest verse on Megan Thee Stallion’s latest? — DIAMOND RAPPING
- 65A: Fever and chills outbreak in New York City? — BIG APPLE AGUE
- 4D: Statement accepting the condition of a soccer field after it rains? — MUD HAPPENS
- 42D: Pointless illegal contact against the other team’s best free-throw? — CRAPPY FOUL
It took me until typing this up to figure out exactly what was going on. With “Program Placement” as a title, I knew something was up with the “PP” in each entry, but then I realized it was an “APP” in each entry. As in a program. Dropping that from each phrase above gives more normal phrases like TIRE SWING, LED ZEPPELIN, DIAMOND RING, BIG LEAGUE, MUD HENS, and CRY FOUL.
Wow, I am not ready for the IPOD to be clued as a “retro Apple product” just yet
Other nice fill: ADOPTEE, RAKE IN, DE FACTO, LOTIONS, OXIDIZE, ADAGIO, and CHARLI XCX
Patrick Berry’s New Yorker crossword – Rachel’s writeup
First of all, congratulations to constructor Patrick Berry on receiving the Merl Reagle Memorial Award for Lifetime Achievement in Crossword Construction at the ACPT this weekend. One highlight of the competition, for me, was his acceptance speech, the entirety of which was “Really I’m no speech giver at all. I just wanted to say thank you very much, I’m very honored.” Patrick Berry really knows how to pick his words!
The words he picked for today’s long entries were also classic and precisely woven together; we have: THE VATICAN / AUTO-RACING / BRAKE PEDAL / APPEAR TO BE / DEER SEASON / EARTHA KITT / OBEDIENCE / NOLAN RYAN / AGRIPPINA / BEAU IDEAL / NICE AS PIE / LINT TRAPS. While none of these jump out at me as particularly flashy or exciting, they are all NICE AS PIE. AGRIPPINA was new to me, as was BEAU IDEAL, and I don’t think anyone actually says NICE AS PIE, so I struggled a bit in the NE, but I got there eventually. Also complicating that section for me were LAMA [Shangri-La resident, in James Hilton’s “Lost Horizon”], ANG LEE clued for a movie I haven’t seen [“Lust, Caution” director], HAINAN, and BABE [___ Didrikson Zaharias (two-time Olympic gold medallist in track and ten-time major winner in golf)]. The rest of the grid was easy AS PIE, but that section really took some doing.
A few more things:
- Favorite clues:
- [Lab’s focus in school?] for OBEDIENCE — my dog just came home from 10 days at a board-and-train facility and she is VERY tired! She’s not a lab, but this answer came to me immediately.
- [Time cards?] for INSERTS — do these actually work? WHY must we have these in every magazine? I’m looking specifically at you, New Yorker.
- Uh, [What the gray line in the center of Humboldt Fog cheese is composed of] is ASH?! I’m sorry, what??? Why??
Overall, this was a relatively quick solve all over *except* the NE, which presented a fun challenge. Plenty of stars from me!
Adrian Johnson’s Universal crossword, “Letters of Communication” — pannonica’s write-up
Small theme, but it’s done tidily and well.
- 19a. [Guns N’ Roses power ballad] NOVEMBER RAIN.
- 29a. [Leading woman] ALPHA FEMALE.
- 43a. [Class you can’t get through alone?] TANGO LESSON.
- 50a. [Galas for movie stars] OSCAR PARTIES.
The first words of these phrases are from the NATO phonetic alphabet, and also, in order, spell out NATO using that same system.
There’s no revealer, and I leaned on the title to figure out the theme. Probably would have been able to see it without that hint, but it definitely hastened the process.
- 2d [Treat that had a watermelon flavor] OREO. Had to remind us, yeesh.
- 21d [Some sounds from a Lab] ARFS. Making it more noticeable by not phrasing the clue with Lab first, veiling the capital.
- 26d [Start of, as symptoms] ONSET. Received my second vaccine shot yesterday; so far, no side effects aside from a dull pain in the injection shot.
- 52d [Need for a house or a story] PLOT. Favorite clue here. Reminds me that I wanted to read the massive four-part novel by Richard House called The Kills.
- 22a [“The __ is as close as we come to another world” (Anne Stevenson)] SEA. It’s true. we know more about the moon than the benthic regions of the oceans.
- Oh wait! I am just now seeing the revealer, the final across entry. 66a [Grp. spelled using its own alphabet at the starts of 19-, 29-, 43- and 50-Across] NATO. Well that spells out the theme more than adequately. Makes sense to include a revealer like this, as it makes little demand on the grid.
Jerry Edelstein’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary
My reaction while placing BUSLINESTRIKE and PLAYBASEBALL was that they seemed kind of arbitrary, unlike MANHOLECOVER. As it happens, this theme type, even in its regular form, is notorious for resulting in these sorts of “green paint” answers. Usually, we get two part answers where both parts can have the same word added. In this case, AIR can be added to all 3 parts: AIR(BUS/LINE/STRIKE); AIR(MAN/HOLE/COVER), AIR(PLAY/BASE/BALL). It’s the kind of puzzle that’s very tricky to make, but for not all that much solving pay-out.
The rest of the puzzle was rather a blur. Not a lot stood out, for better or worse.
NYT: I got the progression, but somehow the revealer didn’t do it for me. I mean I like the expression per se, but I don’t think it’s a good description of what went on in the puzzle. I’ll buy “open” for the opening part of the sentence, but “shut” doesn’t sound right for the ending…
The puzzle was well constructed, and I understand revealers are a matter of taste…
Amy, re READY TO EAT: I started to really see this expression during this past year, when we ordered food for a while from a delivery service that provided you EITHER with all the necessary ingredients and instructions to cook your own meal, OR with “ready to eat meals” that were already prepared and you just need to heat them.
NYT: Over on the “Horace and Frances Discuss the NYT Crossword” blog (http://crossword14.blogspot.com/2021/04/wednesday-april-28-2021-hal-moore.html?m=1), they make a good point about ass-backwards. I grew up in the Midwest always hearing it as “back-asswards.” Also, one’s ass is on one’s backside, so shouldn’t the expression be “ass-forward” to describe something done wrong?
It’s like the expression “head over heels,” which is actually the normal state (unless you’re my gymnast son who is constantly doing handstands). Heels over head is unusual.
Anyway, fun puzzle. And I grew up loving “Casey at the Bat,” but never knew about the subtitle until today.
Not that I’ve done due research, but I’d have guessed that “ass” in “ass backward” is meant simply as an intensifier, so not a puzzle or contradiction. Similarly, I’d have guessed that “head over heels” is meant to evoke a complete somersault, while asking to picture yourself standing on your head wouldn’t be all that romantic. (FWIW, I admired the NYT rather more than the consensus.)
M-W agrees that head over heels indicates a somersault or confusion, as with “ass over teakettle” (they equate the two phrases).
Bryan: “Midwest always hearing it as “back-asswards.”
Growing up I always heard “bass-ackward” spoonerism/euphemism , which apparently goes back even as far as Abe Lincoln
“Bass-ackward” here too.
Bass-ackwards is merely not really saying (tee-hee/ Heavens-to-Betsy) ass-backwards. So genteel, no?
Not to mention that “The Old Grey Lady”, her content and Will’s crosswords ain’t what they used to be.
Let’s not get started on the WSJ theme …
I could share my BBQ tee shirts with similar humor, but will only share Charleston’s Swig and Swine’s sublime “Horrifying Vegetarians since 2013” although I’ve suggested they change it to Vegans
Oh those clever Southerners …
(Day late, been flyng coast-to-coast)
LAT – I am puzzled by the theme “revealed” in 58A. I do see a few connections, but I’m sure I don’t get it. Anyone?
The word “air” can be attached (in front of) the three parts of the indicated answers….”putting on air(s)” .
The theme answers all have three components, each of which can be preceded by AIR.
edit: what marciem said
Thank you both! I didn’t see that connection.
How funny…. Ass not relating to a beast of burden in the NYT (first time I’ve seen it thusly) and a whole tush-related theme in WSJ!! What next, potty-humor? LOL!! ;)
For another take on today’s WSJ concept:
Ever since learning that the term ‘fanny’ has a different meaning in the UK than USA, I’ve shied away from calling them fanny-packs … bum bags they are LOL.
Oh dear! I had no idea. That definitely was not had in mind when I titled the puzzle! Haha. Thanks for that information!
I think its funny, only because nobody in the US pays any attention that that bit of trivia, they are trending now as fanny packs. Even the Kardashians are selling them… or maybe that is sooo last week?
I feel like I’ve seen iPod clued as “retro” or “bygone” in a few puzzles now, which is confusing because Apple still makes them. Only in the Touch variety, sure, but they’re still iPods.
CHECKPLEASE only makes me think of one thing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9wj0wD-X1cc
Thanks, Jim P. I was stumped by what BACK had to do with anything.
Struck out on CID crossing STRIA.