Gary Larson’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Spell Binding”—Jim P’s review
I BEFORE E (60a, [Part of a spelling rule, and a hint to this puzzle’s theme]) makes for a cute revealer and basis for adding an I to certain phrases. I’m imagining someone learning that rule and then rampantly applying it whenever they encounter an E.
- 17a. [Open-face, lattice or deep-dish, say?] PIE CLASS. P.E. Class. Meh. Surely another entry could have been found that doesn’t require such torturous re-parsing?
- 22a. [Bearing typified by Mafiosi?] FAMILY MIEN. Family men. Meh. “Family mAn” is far more in-the-language than “family mEn.” And whole families can have a mien? Come on.
- 36a. [Interconnected negotiations?] TIED TALKS. TED Talks. Meh. Just…humorless.
- 53a. [Tribal shaman?] MAGIC CHIEF. Magic Chef. Meh. One, I’ve barely heard of Magic Chef, the appliance company, and two, I’m not keen on any entry that uses Native Americans or indigenous peoples for a laugh. It perpetuates the notion that they are different, that they are other, that they are weird, and their cultures aren’t worthy of respect. At least clue this with respect to a Kansas City football player or a Navy NCO.
I wanted to like this, I really did. I think the revealer makes a good basis for a theme. But each of these entries has its own problem. And while I appreciate that the pool of potential entries is limited because extraneous E’s must be avoided, there have to be better choices than these. (How about AIR BASIE [Big band leader’s line of basketball shoes?] just for starters?)
The fill is quite nice. I especially like starting off a grid with BADASS. Elsewhere, I spy “MAY I SEE?,” “DREAM ON!,” HAGGIS, TOOLBAR, POITIER, AZORES, and SCHNOZ. Fun entries. REPASTE falls on the blah side.
Clues of note:
- 27a. [Red October, e.g.]. SUB. From Tom Clancy’s The Hunt for Red October and the film of the same name.
- 8d. [Queeg’s command]. CAINE. I had trouble with this because I mixed the character up with Queequeg from Moby Dick. Captain Queeg’s ship is the subject of Herman Wouk’s The Caine Mutiny.
- 55d. [Skein formers]. Not YARNS but GEESE.
- 61d. [Uploading letters]. FTP. File Transfer Protocol. I still use it on occasion, but I suspect the vast majority of solvers have no idea on this one.
This could have been a fun one, but the theme entries were problematic. Three stars.
Alex Eaton-Salners’s Fireball Crossword, “Parts of Speech” – Jenni’s write-up
I had no idea what was going on here. I wandered around the grid kind of at random until something started to make sense. The clues to the theme answers form part of the first word of each two-word phrase and the second one meets the definition. That’s confusing. Here, let me show you with Peter’s grid.
- 17a [One?] is TELEPHONE NUMBER.
- 26a [Han and Cal?] are MECHANICAL MEN.
- 46a [Loon?] is a BALLOON ANIMAL.
- 55a [Mi and so?] are PROMISSORY NOTES.
I haven’t seen a theme like this before. I’m not sure what I think of it. It was challenging but not all that much fun to solve. I do like the one/two/one/two pattern of the answers.
A few other things:
- 1a [Link in a food chain?] is a great clue for WURST.
- 21a [Head cases] are CRISPERS. As in heads of lettuce.
- The Trademark Peter Gordon Very Long Clue is 51a [“All labor that uplifts humanity has ____ and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence”: Martin Luther King Jr.] The answer is DIGNITY. Great quote.
- 41d [Polar pair] are CLAUSES, as in Santa and the Mrs.
- 63a [Crawled, maybe] is SWAM.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that SCYTHIA was a region north of the Black Sea during the Iron Age.
Sheldon Polonsky’s New York Times crossword—Ben’s review
This is a pretty straightforward Thursday NYT, as far as these things go, with some phonetic fun going on:
- 17A: Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello, and Raphael? — RENAISSANCE FOUR
- 25A: Polishing the chandelier in “The Phantom of the Opera” and laundering uniforms in “Hamilton”? — MUSICAL CHORES
- 44A: Result of a poorly planned invasion of the Body Snatchers? — NO TIME TO SPORE
- 58A: “I’m tired of all this negative media coverage” — THE BAD NEWS BORES
The “A” sound of RENAISSANCE FAIR, MUSICAL CHAIRS, NO TIME TO SPARE, and THE BAD NEWS BEARS becomes the phrases above. Done and dusted.
The theme is pretty straightforward, but there’s a lot to like elsewhere in the fill, too. HTTPS, I HAD NO IDEA, PISMO Beach, Port SALUT cheese, DIDO, GEESE going across, and OSIRIS, SAFFRON, TANTAMOUNT, and RUBBER TREE going down.
Erin Currey and Matt Johnson’s Universal crossword, “Taste the Rainbow” — Jim Q’s write-up
*This puzzle is part of Universal’s Pride Month series.
**Unless I’m mistaken, this appears to be a debut from both of these constructors. Very rare to see a collaboration with two debuts! Congratulations.
THEME: Skittles colors and food/drink
- RED CABBAGE.
- ORANGE SODA.
- YELLOW PEPPERS.
- GREEN CURRY.
- PURPLE CORN.
And in ROY G. BIV order to boot!
Fun theme today… though I must say I feel like I saw a colored food theme very, very recently. Hmmm. I think it was a Burnikel puzzle. Let me check that…
Yup! About a month ago.
I rather enjoy coincidences like that, though I’m sure it causes distress for some constructors when they see a similar idea published soon before their own. Plus, both of these were enjoyable on their own merits. This version had the added bonus of rainbow order and included the colors in your original Skittles package (there’s a nudge to remind you of the Skittles connection in the last theme clue if you didn’t make the connection from the Skittles slogan in the title).
- 10 [Classroom cheater’s sound] PSST. These days it’s more the sound of a cell phone unlocking…
- 37A [Medium-ripe ingredients at a pizza parlor] YELLOW PEPPERS. I found this very oddly and specifically clued. I don’t really connect YELLOW PEPPERS to pizza parlors. Oregano, pepperoni, cheese, marinara…. sure. Maybe this is regional? Are yellow peppers a common pizza topping? Maybe on like a Sicilian pie…
- 43A [End of a sequel’s title] PART II. I’m gonna call a dupe foul. II is a dupe of the nearby TWO, even if it’s dressed in different clothes.
- 67A [Raggedy ___ (popular dolls)] ANNS. How many Raggedy Ann dolls is one expected to own? :)
Thanks for this one!
3.9 stars from me.
Brendan Emmett Quigley crossword (No. 1373), “Repeatedly” — Jenni’s review
Thanks to Stella’s #crypticlueaday on Twitter, I’ve dipped my toe in the cryptic waters. I’m still in the wading pool. I can finish the Puns and Anagrams puzzles, though, so that’s a win! I don’t know if I’m noticing more cryptic-ish clues in standard crosswords or I’m more aware of them now. Brendan isn’t cryptic at all about this theme. I knew there were anagrams somewhere and pretty much ignored the theme until I got to the revealer.
- 20a [“Sorry for hurting your feelings”] is I DIDN‘T MEAN IT. This is a perfectly fine crossword entry. It’s a lousy thing to say to someone you’ve injured.
- 29a [Freedom of speech protector] is AMENDMENT I. Far more often called the First Amendment. The original document says “Amendment the First.” Either I is a roman numeral that doesn’t appear in the original or it’s standing in for the numeral 1. Either way, I don’t like it.
- 35a [Struck it rich] is MADE A MINT.
- 45a [Spam, e.g., to a Brit] is TINNED MEAT. Sounds even more disgusting in British English. Don’t @me. I know people love it.
And the revealer: 51a [Repeatedly, or if read a different way, a cryptic way of signaling a letter bank for the other theme answers] is TIME AND AGAIN. As I said, I’m still a cryptic newbie; here’s my take. “Read a different way” would be TIME AND, AGAIN – all four theme answers are comprised of only those seven letters. I know more cryptic-savvy commenters will let me know if I missed something! I liked the idea of this theme despite my grumbling about AMENDMENT I.
A few other things:
- Hoist by own internalized sexism. When I saw 4a [Most-followed rapper on Instagram] I figured it had to be a man. Nope. It’s Nicki MINAJ.
- I was Naticked in the NW. I don’t know Fred ARMISEN or Chloé Zhao, so I put DONNA for 23a, [Lady’s name that means “wisdom”]. On reflection, I know that’s not what DONNA means. I didn’t know the derivation of SONIA, which is the correct answer.
- For a little while I thought we had a rebus theme because I thought 10d [How latitudes run] was EAST TO WEST. Nope. It’s EAST WEST.
- I’d just as soon never run into a PIRANHA in the wild, even if stories of their ferocity are overblown.
- Am I the only one who looked at the three letters for 56d [ ___ dye] and plopped in TIE? It’s AZO.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: see above re: SONIA and her crossings. I’ve also never heard of JASON Statham.
Michael Paleos’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary
Kind of mix-and-match theme today. Two quintessential mid-20th century live-media Sci-Fi spaceships: STARSHIPE/NTERPRISE and MILLENI/UMFALCON and pilots thereof: KIRK/SOLO. Then WORMHOLES shoehorned in to justify breaking those ships in half?? A weird twist to be sure.
Fireball – I liked this theme a lot. Though for me, the last one let down the side a bit. ONE is definitely a telephone number. It’s easy to imagine HAN and CAL as the names of mechanical men, and LOON as a balloon animal. But MI and SO, while certainly notes, have nothing to do with “promissory.” That said, finding these must have taken a great deal of research, and the extra layer isn’t necessary to make this a good FB.
Misplaced Mediocre Wednesday. Not a 1, but still a pretty croppy “trick”.
BEQ: No Jenni isn’t the only one who dropped in tie @ 66d, totally unexpected the fairly old crosswordese of azo.
Also not alone in thinking of male rappers first @4a, before that J dropped into place at the end.
Enjoyable puzzle, and pretty BEQ-centric in a cute way :) , with 5d “This guy right here” =”I’m it” and 55d “puzzle maker for yours truly” = “job” . I dropped in app for that one :P