Jake Halperin’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Like a Boss”—Jim P’s review
Hardly a month goes by when there’s not a problem with the WSJ puzzle on their site. Martin, our resident puzzle acquirer, can sometimes finesse the problem such that the .puz version we get works just fine. Sometimes, the .puz version is messed up as well, like today (as of this writing).
And the problem never seems to be the same thing twice. This time around, there are no Down clues after 5d. Go figure. And while people complain in the WSJ comments section, no one in authority seems to monitor those comments, and the problem goes unsolved for hours.
Anyhoo, all that is to say that I solved today’s puzzle via a combination of the .puz version for the Across clues and the .pdf version for most of the Downs.
The title of the puzzle is “Like a Boss” and each theme answer is a familiar phrase in which the final word can be a synonym of “command.” The clues are colloquial phrases that either are or are being interpreted as commands.
- 17a. [“Hold your horses”?] CURB APPEAL. An appeal to “curb” (one’s enthusiasm, presumably). I’m not so keen on this one because an appeal is not a command, it’s a plea.
- 27a. [“Pass the potatoes”?] CONSUMER DEMAND. Good one.
- 45a. [“Praise the Lord”?] RELIGIOUS ORDER. Also good.
- 58a. [“Come in”?] DOOR CHARGE. Not bad. It definitely works, but people don’t regularly use “charge” to mean “command.”
Even though the first one’s a little wishy-washy, I like the theme as a whole. It took a while to suss everything out (especially with the cluing problems), but it was worth it, and the puzzle provided a nice little aha moment.
There’s some good stuff in the fill, especially PIG IN A POKE, ON ALL FOURS, CABERNET, Mr. Peanut’s MONOCLE, “I’LL SAY,” and ORLANDO. The SE corner is a little rough though with green paintish MUD STAIN, new-to-me ETNAS [Bygone lab heaters], OSTEAL, ERNO, and AGOG clued weirdly [Eagerly curious] (to me, it means visibly stunned or dumbfounded).
Clues of note:
- 19a. [Sly and the Family Stone’s “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf ___)”]. AGIN. Whoa. Is that really the whole title of the song? That’s bonkers.
- 26a. [Subject of a Las Vegas museum]. NEON. Wow. A whole museum dedicated to a gas? Looks interesting.
- 29d. [Question marks?]. RETEST. Hmm. I don’t see how taking a test again is questioning one’s marks. There are numerous reasons why a RETEST might be warranted.
- 30d. [Radio number]. NINER. As in, “Breaker one-NINER.”
- 46d. [“True dat!”]. “I’LL SAY.” I like the entry, but the clue feels very dated.
Fun theme, mostly strong fill (but with a few clunkers). 3.8 stars.
Tracy Gray’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
The revealer is tucked down in the bottom left: 67a. [Alberto ___ (hair care brand) … and a hint to 16-, 27-, 38-, 46- and 61-Across], VO5. (The 5 is also in the golf clue, 56d. [The 18th at Pebble Beach, notably], PAR 5.) Those five themers have V.O. initials:
- 16a. [Kidney or heart], VITAL ORGAN. Go drink some water! Unless you’re on dialysis, it’s good for your kidneys.
- 27a. [Georgia’s official vegetable], VIDALIA ONION.
- 38a. [Suddenly change course], VEER OFF. The only themer that isn’t a noun phrase.
- 46a. [Inexpensive table wine], VIN ORDINAIRE. Not sure I’ve ever encountered this term before.
- 61a. [Specialized lab equipment for drying], VACUUM OVEN. Don’t know this thing, either.
The theme would be a lot more fun if all the theme answers were as zesty as a VIDALIA ONION. And the rest of the puzzle would be more enjoyable if the six thematic entries didn’t lock down so much of the grid. Plural SESAMES, cognates AMIGA and AMIE, FLAT CAP ([Short-brimmed hat known as a bunnet in Scotland]?!), RAMMER (is this an actual thing, this [Powerful tool for compaction]? it’s not in my vocab) … just felt like there were a few more compromises than I like to see.
Five more things:
- 25a. [Lollygag], IDLE. Pet peeve: That the variant spelling lallygag is demanded by the NYT Spelling Bee puzzle. It irks me every time I enter those letters. You might have wanted LOAF to be the answer here, but it’s the crossing, 26d. [It’s more than a pocketful of rye]. Now picturing someone with their pants pockets jammed full of bread. Also, if “a pocketful of rye” leaves you wondering what the hell that could possibly mean, it’s from a nursery rhyme. Not all solvers grew up with old English and American nursery rhymes, after all.
- 2d. [Genre featured at Tokyo’s Comiket convention], ANIME. The Comiket convention is new to me, but I still found the clue easy. The general comic-con concept evokes anime.
- 10d. [___ torch], TIKI. Is Tiki Barber still on TV, doing sports commentary? I feel like the white supremacists who invaded Charlottesville a few years ago kinda ruined TIKI torches.
- 23d. [Strategic starting piece in a jigsaw puzzle], EDGE. If you’re a badass puzzler, you put the edge pieces off to the side and save them for later, rather than connecting your borders straightaway. You also try to complete the puzzle without referring to the picture on the box. (I love this clue!)
- 54d. [Colorful flower with a “face”], PANSY. Pansies are adorable!
3.25 stars from me. Enjoy your Wednesday!
Max Carpenter’s AVCX, “A Cure for Inertia” — Ben’s Review
This week’s AVCX is a guest puzzle, a massive 22×22 grid from Max Carpenter, so you’re getting a super-sized shot of the grid to the left. There’s some circled squares that lead the way to all of what’s going on:
- 27A: Inedible bit in a sundae — MARASCHINO STEM
- 57A: Star of “Bonjour Tristesse” and “Breathless” — JEAN SEBERG
- 60A: Sony-owned label for 61D [ASAP] FERG and 61D [ASAP] Rocky — RCA RECORDS
- 92A: Influential carceral uprising of 1971 — ATTICA PRISON RIOT
- 114A: Any of four places in this puzzle in need of a kick, so to speak — SEAT OF THE PANTS
Looking in the four black squares below each circled type of pants, you could definitely place a KICK to make the clue next door make more sense:
- 33A: Go to a better place, as they say — (KICK) THE BUCKET
- 63A: Foot-powered instrument often muffled with a pillow — (KICK) DRUM
- 67A: Right-hand person — SIDE (KICK)
- 98A: Patreon alternative — (KICK) STARTER
I didn’t catch it on my first pass through the grid, but I really liked discovering it after the fact.
Weird Al’s “Tacky” is using PHARRELL‘s “Happy” as source material
Other fill notes:
- CANDIDA yeast cause thrush
- RC Cola: a distant third place in the COLA WARS
- I loved seeing the Zimbabwean FINGER HARP (or Mbira) pop up in a grid
Wyna Liu’s New Yorker crossword – Rachel’s writeup
I love waking up to a Wyna Liu puzzle!!! This one was full of fresh entries and fun clues, with a few bits of fill I could live without, but nothing deal-breaking! I especially loved the abundance of crunchy long entries: NAM JUNE PAIK / I’D RATHER NOT / ICE CUBE TRAY / FENCE SITTER / FLEA CIRCUS / ID BRACELET / PERSONAL AD / BEAUTY TIPS / POETASTER / GIVE THE OK. That’s a whopping *10* excellent long entries. Whew!
This definitely took me longer than the average Wyna puzzle, partly because it’s a Wednesday instead of a Friday, but also because that NW corner was a doozy. I didn’t know NAM JUNE PAIK or the (truly incredible) word POETASTER, and I had NAVY instead of USNA for the majority of my solve (should have noticed “Sch.” at the start of that clue). I also wanted IKEA for SAAB (lol), and never watched the X-Files, so my solve in this corner was just a mess. I went through so many possible answers instead of POETASTER [One whose feet really stink?], none of which actually made sense but which cracked me up anyways: PODIATRIX (??), PODCASTER (lol), PODTASTER (?!)… the list goes on. After the solve I googled POETASTER and found that it means “a person who writes inferior poetry,” and now I give that clue 12/10 stars and will be incorporating this word into my daily vocabulary.
A few more things:
- Fill I could live without: SERTA, TNOTE
- Proper crossing that might be trouble for some solvers: SELES / DEBS
- Favorite clues other than the one on POETASTER:
- [“Don’t neglect your elbows” and “De-puff your eyes with raw potatoes,” for two] for BEAUTY TIPS — wait are these real? I have some potatoes, I think…!
- [Fox on Fox, in the nineties] for MULDER (even though I never watched X-Files I can appreciate that this is an excellent clue!)
- [Attraction invented by sixteenth-century watchmakers to showcase their miniature wares] for FLEA CIRCUS – this is a fun fact!!!
Overall, tons of stars from me. Happy Wyna Wednesday, everyone!
Julian Lim’s Universal crossword, “Set List” — pannonica’s write-up
- 61aR [Inflatable river ride, or what 18-, 24-, 38- or 51-Across contains?] INNER TUBE. The letters T-V are split across the gap of the two word theme answers.
- 18a. [Reason for a hung jury] SPLIT VOTE.
- 24a. [“Slaughterhouse-Five” novelist] KURT VONNEGUT.
- 38a. [Prominent members of orchestras] FIRST VIOLINISTS.
- 51a. [Spirit with Pepper and Mandarin flavors] ABSOLUT VODKA.
Solid theme, and not a bad set of sets.
- 2d [Cute sound?] LONG U. Dammit, this one fooled me today.
- Really liked the somewhat simpatico symmetrical pair of 5d [Try hard] STRIVE and 50d [Is of benefit] AVAILS.
- Literature crossing! 22d [“White Noise” novelist DeLillo] DON crossing themer KV. Have been feeling the need to reread the excellent White Noise for a while now.
- 63d [Cinco – cuatro] UNO, 67a Binary digits] ONES, 57d [The second “O” of YOLO] ONCE, 25d [What the animals boarded Noah’s Ark in] TWOS, 36d [ __ leches cake] TRES, 33d [Three or four, say] A FEW.
- 49d [“I could keep going but I won’t”: Abbr.] ETC. Sort of the opposite of a Beckettian sentiment.
- 28a [Attended, or departed] WENT. Elegant little clue.
- 29a [Punishment for a toddler] TIME OUT. Often a TV time out.
- 59d [Predator of the deep] ORCA. They spend the bulk of their time in shallow depths, only occasionally diving somewhat deeper. I get that the clue could be referring to the ocean metaphorically as ‘the deep’ but I still feel the clue could be rewritten for clarity of accuracy.
Freddie Cheng’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary
I’m not up with current TV, so I hadn’t even heard mention of this show, THEUMBRELLAACADEMY, until now. That said, it seems to be a current “a-list” show. The idea of an alternative fictional team of superheroes (in a more loose sense) who literally have an umbrella as a trademark is a brilliant repurposing. The three figures are from much older pop cult: MARYPOPPINS, JIMINYCRICKET and JOHNSTEED: a cast iron and varied set.
The rest of the puzzle seemed to play very easy, possibly due to the name-y theme? The fill was also squeaky clean, with few squirmy moments.
BURJ, [… Khalifa] – worth noting if you didn’t know it yet. It will appear again.
FRED, [“Best in Show” actor Willard] – meta-answer!