Just one announcement today, from Sid Sivakumar:
The Juggernaut, a digital publication focused on experiences of the global South Asian diaspora, has been running a crossword feature since April, with puzzles constructed by Sid Sivakumar. The Juggernaut Crossword is now accepting puzzle submissions from contributors of any experience level and cultural background; constructors identifying as South Asian are especially encouraged to submit. Sid will serve as crossword editor and has published a document with guidelines and specifications for constructors, as well as a South Asian-focused word list that anyone can freely use in crossword construction (including in puzzles not intended for The Juggernaut). Constructors should send theme queries to email@example.com. Pay per puzzle is [a generous] $500.
Jordan Hildebrandt’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Flicker”—Jim P’s review
DOOM SCROLLING is our theme (9d, [Habit of incessantly reading bad news online, and what’s happening in the circles]). Each successive entry has those circled letters—in order—scrolled down by one position with the bottom one coming back up to the top.
- 15d. [Energy-efficient home purchases] STORM DOORS.
- 25d. [Site of Britain’s annual Derby] EPSOM DOWNS.
- 18d. [Fox trot or tango] BALL ROOM DANCE.
Very nice. All of these are nice entries and the theme helps the solver fill in the later entries while being modern and fun at the same time.
What I don’t get is why the entries are laid out from right to left; it would feel better to me going from left to right. It makes sense that the entries are vertical since we scroll up and down on our screens far more than we scroll left and right, but I can’t think of a reason to have the entries going right to left.
Also, it would be nicer if the circled groups of letters were evenly spread out. As it is, DOOM is up at the top of the grid, with all the rest bunched up in the center. Maybe it’s just not possible to lay them out more evenly given the letters involved, but it ends up looking somewhat inelegant this way. Still, I liked the theme and the entry choices.
There’s some colorful fill here, but some of it felt iffy. EARLOBE is fun, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a GUTBUCKET [Washtub bass in a jug band] (though it’s a great entry). “SO SIMPLE!” and MR. SCOTT are also great, but “WHO ARE WE?” [Meaning-of-life question] doesn’t feel very much in-the-language (“Who am I?” yes; “WHO ARE WE?” not so much). And NEW REGIME feels somewhat green painty. But it was all gettable and interesting at the very least.
Clues of note:
- 4a. [The treasure-hoarding Tamatoa in “Moana,” e.g.]. CRAB. Didn’t remember this. He’s a villainous giant coconut crab.
- 23a. [Ring bearer, at times]. EARLOBE. Totally got me with this misdirection. Even after I filled it in with the crossings, my brain was still asking, “Who would use their EARLOBE as their wedding ring bearer?” Duh!
- 59a. [Stamping ground]. HAUNT. I’ve always heard “stomping ground” far more than “stamping ground.”
Fun theme with just a couple nits. 3.8 stars.
Christopher Adams & Adam Aaronson’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
The theme is pitched at fans of 1980s hit songs, and I was a teenager when one-hit wonder Tommy Tutone’s “867-5309/Jenny” was popular. The theme is fine/fun, with EIGHT-BIT, SIX-PACK, SEVEN SEAS, FIVE GUYS, THREE-PEAT, O CANADA (not a number!), and NINE WEST giving the phone number and JENNY clued as 57d. [Woman in a 1982 hit who can be reached using the starts of the answers to the starred clues].
Now, the problem with the theme is the song itself. The video doesn’t reflect the lyrics. In the video, Jenny slips the guy her phone number. But the lyrics say “I know you’ll think I’m like the others before / Who saw your name and number on the wall,” the wall message promising “for a good time call…,” and the guy sings, “I need to make you mine.” So gross, right? Especially when you’ve heard of women being harassed by some a-hole writing her phone number on the wall in the men’s room, guaranteeing that a bunch of random dudes are going to call her looking for sex when she’s not at all a sex worker. I’m mad at how incredibly distasteful so many of the hit songs of my youth turn out to be. (Elton John & Kiki Dee’s “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” doesn’t objectify or demean women. It’s a lovely 1970s tune! It’s not the norm.)
It’s a little bothersome that there are non-thematic 7s and 8s interspersed with the 7- to 9-letter theme answers. Putting that reservation aside, I liked THE SOUP, PUNTED ON and BOX IN, HATED IT (because of In Living Color), ISHMAEL, and the lovely SHY AWAY (from).
Does anyone really use the plural PODIA? I just did a Google news search and the first 20 hits include a bunch of Spanish-language links, one Polish link, and a couple talking about a company called Podia—so I’ll take that as a no.
Five more things:
- 66a. [*Former fashion retailer so-named for its 57th Street address in Manhattan], NINE WEST. I don’t understand this “former fashion retailer” thing. Nine West is a brand of shoes that until recently had a chain of retail stores. They’re not “former,” and “fashion” connotes clothing rather than footwear. Now, if all you know about Nine West comes from reading Wikipedia, this is exactly the sort of clue you’d go with. If you’d actually ever shopped for semi-dressy women’s shoes in the last few decades, you’d probably recognize the brand name instantly.
- 41a. [*Burger chain named for a father and his sons], FIVE GUYS, and possibly none of them know what Nine West is. I eat two things at Five Guys: the grilled cheese sandwich made on inside-out burger buns, and far too large a bag of fries (I wish they had a more moderate portion size!).
- 2d. [Science fiction writer Ted with four Hugo awards], CHIANG. A gimme! He’s the guy who wrote the story the Amy Adams flick Arrival was adapted from.
- 6d. [“A series of ___,” infamous analogy for the internet], TUBES. A classic! Uttered in 2006 by Senator Ted Stevens, who did not have as good a grasp of technology as he thought he did.
- 28d. [Big name in shoes and handbags], ALDO. Honestly? Nine West is a bigger name. … Okay, I checked Aldo’s store locator, and they look to be mostly in malls, which would explain why I haven’t seen their stores in years.
Four stars for me, without the “ew, this song does not hold up” deduction.
Rebecca Goldstein’s AVCX, “Sad Trombone” — Ben’s Review
Rebecca Goldstein is making her AVCX debut today! “Sad Trombone” was a LOT of fun to solve and figure out what was going on under the hood:
- 19A: Single dad wielding his kids to get a date? — PA FOR EFFECT
- 34A: Woe that might bring Bojack Horseman to the podiatrist? — HOOF BLUES
- 50A: With 51A, task on a *very* devoted child’s to-do list before a Bournemouth beach holiday? — WAX/MUM
- 63A: Equivalent of “strong gale” on the Gen-Z Beaufort scale? — BLOWING AF
- 12D: “Isn’t my partiality a problem for proclaiming penalties?” — HOW COULD I REF
- 33D: Song about the trauma of overpacking for holiday travel? — BAGGAGE CAROL
- 81A: “What’s the point?” or what you might exclaim upon solving this puzzle’s theme entries — THERE’S NO USE
Indeed, each of the phrases above is missing a USE that would make it more sensical — PA(USE) FOR EFFECT, HO(USE) OF BLUES, WAX M(USE)UM and BLOWING A F(USE), HOW COULD I REF(USE), and BAGGAGE CARO(USE)L. It’s a lovely debut, and has a lot of the great sense of humor I love from the AVCX puzzle
“Radio Free Europe”, from R.E.M.’s MURMUR
A few other nice grid bits: the word “freckles” is NORSE, the MOREL mushroom (state mushroom in MINN.), SEGA, STOOP, DARIA, “Weird FLEX, but OK”, the LGBT FLAG, and putting a FRIED EGG on breakfast pizza.
Kate Hawkins’ Universal crossword, “Pride Month Themeless V” — pannonica’s write-up
This puzzle is part of the Universal Pride Month series.
The grid features a full-spanning central across entry and triple-stacked 10s in the upper left and lower right.
The former is 35a [Organization the really delivers?] US POSTAL SERVICE. With diminished speed and efficiency under its current director.
The six stacked tens are nothing special individually, but it’s always nice to see hefty slabs like that in a grid.
- 6d [Russian headwear] FUR HAT. My erroneous inclination is to call it an astrakhan and I can’t seem to break myself of the habit. Ushanka is the name I can never remember.
- In addition to across tens, their are a pair of vertical ones lashing the works together as well. 11d [Aboveboard] ON THE LEVEL, 26d [Classic rock monument?] STONEHENGE.
- 12d [Speed demon, for instance (aptly!)] DAREDEVIL. But is one, really? Perhaps it depends on just how speedy the demonics are?
- 21d [Word following “hot” or “wing”] TIP. It’s always distracting (in a good way) when the two hint words also form a phrase.
- 43d [Sarah Waters or Patricia Highsmith] AUTHOR. A little Pride nod there.
- Ditto 21a [“If __ Walls Could Talk 2”] THESE.
- Dah-ditto for 46a [“All the Things __ Said” (t.A.T.u. song)] SHE. “According to Katina, Shapovalov was inspired to create the duo after the release of the Swedish film Show Me Love which focused on the romance between two school girls. After completing the duo, the producers decided on the name “Тату” (Tatu). Sounding like the English word ‘tattoo’, it is also a shortened version of the Russian phrase “Та любит ту” (ta lyubit tu), meaning ‘This [girl] loves that [girl]’. For the release of their first English-language album, they decided to go by t.A.T.u., using uppercase letters and periods to distinguish themselves from an already existing Australian band, Tatu.” (Wikipedia)
- 45a [Subway alternative] BUS. Sort of a double fake-out masked capital there.
- 55a [Substance on which it’s hard to lie?] TRUTH SERUM. On? Under?
- 61a [Pickled pepper picker] PETER PIPER. Not to be confused with the Pied Piper, whose name was Steve.*
- 15a [“Is everything all right?] ARE YOU OKAY. I was going to pick the Was (Not Was) song to share, but I gave it a listen and it’s even worse than I remember. So instead we’ll have Lucinda Williams with a close-enough title:
And yes, this crossword was more than alright.
Jeff Stillman’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary
The core of today’s theme by Jeff Stillman is quite basic and list-y. Four theme answers are classic children’s games: HIDEANDSEEK, DUCKDUCKGOOSE, BLINDMANSBUFF and DOUBLEDUTCH. Three are clued as a specific vocation’s favourite, and then the fourth… isn’t.
The rest of the puzzle consists mostly of short answers, giving it an early week difficulty. I’m not sure the largely non-existent ENOTE was necessary for the grid, but ok.
Elizabeth Gorski’s New Yorker crossword — Jenni’s write-up
I found this a smidgen easier than most New Yorker Wednesdays. I’m often on Liz’s wavelength, which is a pleasant place to be!
- We’ll be part of the TRAVEL BOOM in a few weeks. I haven’t heard the term before. I immediately recognized it and Google tells me it’s a thing.
- Would you have OLIVE ROLLS with your MINT JULEPS?
- TOUCAN SAM is the mascot for Froot Loops, which definitely don’t go with MINT JULEPS.
- I filled in 27d from crossings and couldn’t figure out what an AC TV was. Then I looked at the clue and realized it was ACT V, clued as [Final segment of “The Tempest].
- I hope most of the people traveling this summer will be in GREEN ZONES.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that Henrik Ibsen is buried in OSLO. I am not surprised.
I must be getting old. Kept mixing this up in my head with The Marvelettes singing Beechwood 4-5789.
Me, too! You are not the only one.
Me three! That and Wilson Pickett’s very similar 634-5789 from 1966.
After reading the write-up, I am glad I have those two to remember and not the Jenny song :P .
Is the New Yorker cryptic going to enter the roster of Sunday write-ups here? I’d be happy to contribute because after the first one, it deserves more attention! I realize most here are traditional american crosswords though.
Didn’t realize they had started publishing cryptics, thanks! Even without a review it would be nice to discuss.
The New Yorker has been on-and-off with small cryptics for a long time, so I’d be only cautiously hopeful here. Is Monika Zook coming back?
Yes, considering Monika Zook was a pseudonym for Emily Cox & Henry Rathvon, who are among the roster of current New Yorker cryptic constructors.
I thought the Berry puz left a little to be desired, a couple of inelegancies that wouldn’t normally merit a mention if Berry doesn’t have such a high standard. I’m really not a big fan of the checkerboard 8×10 size either, but that’s not a dealbreaker.
NYT: An absolute classic! Brought me back to my teenage years! This puzzle really brought a smile to my face.
Count me among the fans of Universal’s Pride puzzles. There were entries and themes related to the overarching theme and I learned a few things, but mostly they were good puzzles written by constructors who happen to belong to one of the communities.
beautiful themeless by Hawkins
Agree. Five stars!
I totally agree with Amy about Nine West and Aldo. I only knew Aldo because I once worked at a Borders in a mall & Aldo was on the way to the food court. Never would have heard of them otherwise. And despite living in Manhattan and shopping in midtown for year, I couldn’t come up with Nine West because “fashion” is not “shoes.”
How funny, PODIA is in today’s LAT as well and I had the same question as Amy, is this really a legit word?
I found it amusing also, to see the same rare entry in both. It is a legit plural of podium, but probably nobody says it.
I’m hoping someone can help me with LAT 67a, how does SKIED equal “popped up” ? (is it late enough in the day to discuss without the write-up? don’t want to be a spoiler…)
Skied can mean “hit in the air” in various sportses, as can popped up.
I was thinking that “skied” was past tense of ski (hence my confusion over popped up), but I now figure it is pronounced like the past tense of “sky” (if there is such a thing?) … i.e. “went skyward”?
I mostly hear it in baseball referring to a high pop fly, particularly an infield fly that just goes up and not out. The long I sound is crucial to understanding! I read it as skiied (long E sound) first too.
One of the most annoying ear worms possible, I ought to give it a 1* – but the puzzle is pretty good
Please explain how “break of the fourth wall” is “aside.” Thanks.
In theatre, the “fourth wall” is the invisible wall between the stage and the audience. When an actor “breaks” the fourth wall, he/she speaks directly to the audience in an “aside.”
Thanks for expanding my knowledge.
Since I completed the NYT and have read Amy’s comments on it, and never knew the song involved, I have no idea what parts of the beginnings of the starred clues the JENNY clue refers to, or anything related to its meaning. I don’t believe I am missing anything important, but shouldn’t the theme be understandable at least in a general way? As for PODIA, it’s perfectly legitimate English and I entered it based on two crossing letters, but in my text here it got a red underline.
Based on a recommendation here (a few weeks ago perhaps), I’ve been working my way through Stella Zawistowski’s Tough as Nails themeless puzzles, which are published every other Wednesday. I’ve really enjoyed the puzzles, challenging but doable with a nice mix of wordplay and knowledge. I’m sure that at age 58 I’m older than the target audience. But I’ve learned a lot of new music from younger crossword developers!
As someone who is 68, I second KarenS’s recommendation. Doing Stella’s puzzles is expanding my range of knowledge.