Note: Fireball is a contest this week. We will post a review once the entry period closes.
Owen Travis & Jeff Chen’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Golden Touch”—Jim P’s review
Theme: The circled letters in the grid “touch” entries (both Across and Down) which normally start with the word “Golden.” Further, the five circled letters spell out the name MIDAS.
- 6a [General Mills cereal with ridged pieces] GRAHAMS crossing 11d [Ideal position between two extremes] MEAN. Golden Grahams, golden mean. Golden Grahams I know, but if I ever knew golden mean, it’s buried deep. The term originates with none other than Aristotle.
- 18a [California Historical Landmark since 1987] GATE BRIDGE crossing 14d [It was driven by Leland Stanford on May 10, 1869] SPIKE. Golden Gate Bridge, Golden Spike. Neat little factoid in the latter clue.
- 39a [Yellow fruit featured on a 2013 series of stamps] DELICIOUS APPLES crossing 24d [Huge blast from the past] OLDIE. I hope whoever named golden delicious apples and their cousins red delicious apples was drummed out of the fruit-naming business. As a kid you’d think, “Wow it even has ‘delicious’ in the name! This is going to be great!” only to find it tastes terrible, and then you’re put off of apples for years until you learn there are so many better apples out there. My current favorite is the Rockit Apple. Most stores here in western Washington carry these. Do you have them where you are? If not, what’s your fave apple?
- 57a [Prize for “1917” in 2020] GLOBE AWARD crossing 60d [Senior, informally] AGER. Golden Globe Award, golden ager.
- 68a [Shiny prizes found in five special Wonka Bars] TICKETS crossing 58d [Blondish retriever mixes] LABS. Golden Tickets, golden labs. ?”I’ve got a golden ticket! I’ve got a golden twinkle in my eye!”? Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is one of those movies I can and have watched over and over again. Recently I learned there’s a whole subreddit focused on hating on Grandpa Joe. It’s hilarious.
Multiple layers to the theme and a very nice aha moment made this fun to solve. And if you’re going to reference Willy Wonka, you get my vote. Well done, guys.
In the fill NEURALGIA [Shooting pain] is a new word to me but I’m glad to learn it. EASY READS and “I GIVE UP” are the other nice entries. I didn’t know LEVITRA [Its 2004 ads featured Mike Ditka] nor AVENUE B [1999 Iggy Pop album written while he lived in New York’s Alphabet City] which made that SW corner tough to crack.
Clues of note:
- 1a. [Nice place to get curled up?]. SALON. I was thinking bicep curls the whole way. Good clue.
- 69a. [Controversial missionary Junípero]. SERRA. Not only was he a missionary, but he was canonized as a saint in 2015 by Pope Francis. Having grown up in California, I’ve been to a number of missions over the years but never learned about the abuses SERRA is accused of such as forced conversions, corporal punishment, and cultural assimilation. The recent activism sparked by the murder of George Floyd spilled over into Native American activism resulting in the toppling of a number of statues of SERRA.
- 12d. [Volleyball stats] SETS and 13d. [Volleyball stat] DIG. Can you have a singular stat? Wouldn’t that be the same as saying a touchdown is a football stat? Doesn’t work for me.
- 48d. [Buffalo wing, e.g.]. SABRE. Ah, I just got this one. Hockey. Tricksy.
- 56d. [“___ plaisir!”]. AVEC. Translation: “With pleasure!”
- 59d. [Low dam in a river]. WEIR. Constructors, I’d say author Andy WEIR is crossword-worthy enough for a clue. He wrote The Martian which was adapted into a Matt Damon film and his latest is Project Hail Mary which is in the works as a Ryan Gosling vehicle. Both are excellent sci-fi books, and I especially enjoyed the latter one.
Wow. I was especially loquacious today. I’ll try not to do that again. Anyway, a nifty puzzle. Four stars.
Joe Deeney’s New York Times crossword—Ben’s review
Joe Deeney’s puzzle for today’s NYT is a big deal. No, literally, it’s a big deal. We have four sets of raised squares in the app version of the puzzle, and I suspect the print version looks like this as well:
- 20A: “I can’t believe I said that” — ME AND MY MOUTH
- 30A: “Hold it, buster!” — WHAT’S THE IDEA
- 39A: “This favor doesn’t come cheap” — YOU OWE ME TIME
- 51A: “Really can’t count on it, I’m afraid” — THAT’S A VERY IF
The slightly larger squares are indicate the word enclosed is BIG – ME AND MY (BIG) MOUTH, WHAT’S THE (BIG) IDEA, YOU OWE ME (BIG) TIME, and THAT’S A VERY BIG (IF). It was a nice AHA when I solved this, but I’m not sure the formatting of the grid really feels “big” to me.
In case you haven’t seen an ophicleide (the instrument largely replaced by the TUBA), now we’ve both learned something!
Other grid bits of interest: OWLET delightfully clued as “A little snowy, perhaps?”, curling RINKS, the ST REGIS hotel (which I was parsing forever as “Stregis?”), HOW ON EARTH, STAY ON TASK, and VLOG.
Ross Trudeau and Chandi Deitmer Universal crossword, “Change the Covers”— Jim Q’s write-up
THEME: The word TOPS is anagrammed at the top of theme answers.
- STOP DROP AND ROLL
- POST MALONE
- SPOT ADS
- OPTS OUT
- POTS OF GOLD
- (revealer) CONVERTIBLE TOPS
The theme isn’t anything new here, but the construction of this is remarkable in that there is A LOT of real estate being eaten up by all that theme, which (way more often than not) usually results in very cruddy fill. The fill here, however, sparkles for the most part.
UZO Aduba, DATING APP (with a stellar clue), JUMP ROPES, HALAL, AOC! Lots to like.
Not much to grumble at either. Chris CUOMO is now the CUOMO of choice in crosswords, though I find his lack of coverage about his brother’s misgivings off-putting (I wouldn’t care much were it not so juxtaposed with his lavish praise and constant invitations for guest spots on his show during the height of the pandemic). And I don’t think I’ve seen OOPSY spelled like that before. I’m more of an OOPSIE kinda guy.
I learned that AKITAS clean themselves like cats. That’s fun.
Enjoyable one today. 3.9 stars.
David Poole’s LA Times Crossword – Gareth’s summary
A fairly typical LAT theme is offered today by David Poole. LOOSE is an uncommon scramble signaler, but in any case, the revealer is LOOSELEAF and the word LEAF is hidden across four entries. Either A in PRIMALFEAR could be used to make LEAF, though the very specific text of the revealer suggests we use the second. The other entries are the obsolescent? YARDOFALE, the trickily clued as a standard PIRATEFLAG and PERSONALEFFECTS, which I don’t really associate with property insurance specifically, despite the clue.
With five theme entries, the grid was somewhat crowded, so not much too flashy. It felt like a lot of the medium length entries were names, albeit accessible ones.
Wish I’d done the Times online or on paper.
NYT: Looking at this puzzle, which I had printed, gave me a few moments of terror when I thought something had gone horribly wrong with my recent cataract surgery. My brain is trying to figure out how to see with my new bionic eye and my not-yet-bionic eye and various strengths of reading glasses, and the page seemed to wobble before my eyes.
I do like visual tricks, though, and I enjoyed this one very much. Also, I liked the clue for OWLET, especially as I heard a screech owl early this morning – those always give me the delightful shivers. And I learned about the ophicleide, which is an instrument of fascinating design.
Thanks for the fun (I think)!
I had no idea what was going on. I never look at the puzzle notes and Black Ink wasn’t able to reproduce the “big” squares. I thought there was a BIG rebus hiding somewhere. Luckily my husband uses the app and said “there’s something wrong with the squares in my grid – they’re a different size.” As soon as he described it I figured out the trick. It was a lot of fun once I worked past the limitations of AL.
NYT: Using Across Lite, and not looking for a note (they’re not that obvious), I had No clue that anything was supposed to be visually different… It just felt like BIG was missing and it left me bewildered…
Those notes should flash or something…
When I see something looks fishy, I go back to the website and ‘print’ the newspaper version to see if anything shows. And in this case, it then became clear.
Nice puzzle. I also wondered who would stay at the Stregis hotel?!? LOL
The thing is…sometimes the notes have info that feels spoiler-ish to me, so even if there were an alert I probably wouldn’t look at the note before I started solving. I understand why they don’t cater to AL solvers – they have their own software that can do these things just fine and there’s always good old-fashioned paper. I still find it frustrating but I can’t blame the NYT.
WSJ: I really liked this golden crossword and I liked all of Jim’s comments. I’m in the eastern part of the country (Philly) so we probably have different apples. Goldrush is my favorite. I never heard of Rockit.
Many years ago, my brother and I were working a puzzle (probably in the NYT). One of the clues was “Junipero” and the answer was “Serra.” We were totally flummoxed and had no idea what this meant and how the clue and the answer were connected. (Was it some kind of tree?) As I said, we live in the eastern part of the country and neither of us had been to California then.
NYT: I didn’t see the note until after I’d solved. Figured out pretty quickly that the word ‘big’ was missing but then expected some clever revealer. Like Huda, I thought was kind of a dud.
Apples: Red Delicious are awful, but a Golden Delicious, if not overripe, is pretty good. Don’t know Rockit, it seems to be fairly new. My own longtime favorite is the Fuji, which is a hybrid of Red Delicious, surprisingly, and something called Virginia Ralls Janet. Some years ago the Honeycrisp arrived with great fanfare, but I don’t like them. They are overly sweet and cloying, IMO.
NYT: Like Jenni, I hesitate to open Notepad in AL, lest it contain spoilers… but then I usually give in to temptation. When I skimmed the “count the squares” type hint, I closed it without reading further. And went on to THOROUGHLY enjoy the puzzle :) . Once I realized that “big” wasn’t a rebus anywhere, it all fell into place without counting squares but just knowing the idioms.
Also completely loved the WSJ once I got over the seeming randomness of the circles (I didn’t “get” the theme until “(golden) tickets” popped for me during my solve…) At finish I really smiled at the theme and the bonus layer of “Midas”.
UC: only interest was the factoid of Akitas cleaning themselves like cats :) . Spot anagrams come frequently it seems (I could be wrong).
NYT: I am wondering just which GRANT was meant by the clue for 6D: 50s president. Ulysses Grant was president from 1869-1877. Is it that he was in his fifties at the time? Or is it a president of some other country?
I rechecked the PDF and AL, and they both say “50s”.
Thanks in advance for showing me where I’ve gone wrong.
Grant is on the $50 bill
OMG good one!! I just fluffed that one over, thinking “ok, 1850’s” without really pondering at all, once I got beyond the 1950’s .
Ooh, thank you! That makes sense, now.
NYT: I printed the puzzle and thought there must be something wrong with my printer. But then I had the “aha” moment and sailed through this awesome puzzle!
LAT: I may be missing something, but for PRIMALFEAR, the clue specifies that the mixed up “LEAF” within the clue has to be PRIMA-LFEA-R and not PRIM-ALFE-AR . Is there some reason for that? Seems like a weird thing to specify.
If it’s that important for whatever reason, then I think that the theme answer should have been something other than PRIMALFEAR.