Evelyn Rubin & Ross Trudeau’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “No Funny Business”—Jim P’s review
Theme: HAs are removed from familiar phrases. I didn’t find the revealer to be necessary, but it’s STIFLED LAUGHTER (36a, [Suppressed guffaws, and a hint to 16-, 22-, 47- and 58-Across]).
- 16a. [High fashion in Salt Lake City?] UTE COUTURE. Haute…
- 22a. [Giggling during one’s “Saturday Night Live” sketch?] BREAKING THE BIT. …habit. I’m reminded of the Chris Farley sketch where David Spade and Christina Applegate struggled to keep it together.
- 47a. [Conflict between bee colonies?] BATTLE OF STINGS. …Hastings. The year was 1066, and William the Conqueror invaded the south of England forcing the Anglo-Saxon king, Harold Godwinson, to march (hastily) south after defeating the Norwegian king, Harald Hardrada, in the north at the Battle of Stamford Bridge. Harold got an arrow in the eye, and, needless to say, this battle is how William earned his moniker.
- 58a. [Backing away from a belligerent boar?] STY RETREAT. Hasty… Hmm. Boars aren’t necessarily in sties. I’d have gone with a simpler [Pigpen pull-out?].
Top fill: AU NATUREL, TIC-TAC-TOE, and STARBOARD.
Clues of note:
- 1a. [Field goal]. CROP. Nice clue, especially to start the grid.
- 40a. [Black Hawk’s tribe]. SAC. Did not know this, and it seems to be written more often as Sauk.
- 29d. [Cell feature]. BARS. This could work for prisons or mobile phones. But I still think it should be [Cell features].
A nice theme and grid. Four stars.
Max Carpenter’s New York Times crossword—Ben’s review
It’s Thursday! Let’s see what Max Carpenter’s puzzle has in store today:
- 1A: “Delish!” — [YU]M [YU]M
- 21A: Southern newspaper that William Faulkner once contributed to, with “The” — TIMES PICA[YU]NE
- 39A: Cultivars known for their yellow flesh — [YU]KON GOLD POTATOES
- 48A: Quantity that’s tied to one’s carbon footprint — ENERG[Y U]SE
- 1D: Southwest desert plant — [YU]CCA
- 3D: Metric of grossness — [YU]CK FACTOR
- 10D: Neaten — TID[Y U]P
- 27D: Easy two-pointer — LA[YU]P
- 36D: Popular hot-and-sour Thai dish — TOM [YU]M SOUP
- 57A: What a solver might growl after catching on to this puzzle’s theme? — WHY YOU LITTLE
Are there a lot of squares with a little “YU” in them? Yes, but there’s something a bit haphazard about the placement here that felt fine, but a little unsatisfying.
On the OTHER HAND, I liked the appearance of LHASA APSO and LACROSSE in the grid.
Quiara Vasquez’s Fireball Crossword, “P.S. I Love You” – Jenni’s write-up
Took me a while to sort out all the base phrases for this puzzle (at least I think I have them sorted. Let me know if I’m wrong). The theme answers are punny. I had to say them out loud to catch on to a couple.
- 17a [Chum in a church choir?] is PSALM BUDDY (somebody).
- 24a [Shows that try to cash in on the success of a USA detective series?] are PSYCH CLONES (cyclones).
- 35a [Dent in a trident-shaped letter?] is a PSI DEFECT (side effect).
- 49a [What you might say when introducing Biden’s press secretary to the junior senator from Pennsylvania?] is PSAKI, TOOMEY. (sock it to me). I live in Pennsylvania and this is the first time that senator’s name has ever made me smile.
- 58a [Sham overthrow?] is PSUEDO COUP (sudoku).
I’m not sure if my struggle to figure this out means my brain is stuck in low gear or this is a hard theme worthy of the Fireball name or they’re really strained puns. Once I got them, I enjoyed them all.
A few other things:
- 1a [Words said while pretending to play a tiny violin, perhaps] is SO SAD. I love a good 1a entry. It makes me predisposed to like the puzzle.
- 10d [Toy membranophone] is a KAZOO. There are membranophones that aren’t toys? Well, hey, it turns out a membraphone is “any musical instrument which produces sound primarily by way of a vibrating stretched membrane” which includes drums. This Wikipedia article taught me many things.
- I suspect I’m not the only one who popped in KISS for 18d [Smooch]. Nope. It’s BUSS.
- 31a [Hard-boiled egg?] is a CYNIC.
- I would not want to eat a meal that included kishke, kugel, kasha varnikes, and a KNISH. My father, on the other hand, would have loved it. The food of my forebearers is not light fare.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that the empire of MALI was ruled by Mansa Musa.
Nate Cardin’s USA Today crossword, “Rhyme Time”— Sophia’s review
Theme: “Rhyme Time” – Each theme answer is a rhyming phrase in the form of “[X] and [rhymes with X]”
- 21A: [Restaurant combo featuring seafood and red meat] – SURF AND TURF
- 27A: [Call out a company for supporting restrictive voting laws, for example] – NAME AND SHAME
- 43A: [Event for a queen at DragCon] – MEET AND GREET
- 50A: [Result of day-to-day use] – WEAR AND TEAR
The theme today is pretty basic – I had to look over the answers a couple times to make sure that I wasn’t missing an extra layer anywhere. That being said, I love the answers Nate chose here! NAME AND SHAME and the clue on MEET AND GREET certainly helped a somewhat retro theme feel fresh and modern.
I had such a fun time solving this puzzle! I started smiling at COUNT ME IN and LET’S EAT in the northwest corner of the puzzle, and never stopped. My favorite clues today are probably 23D’s [Prefix for “god” or “sexual”] for DEMI and the bonus rhyming at 20A [Bear’s lair] – DEN. The fill overall is incredibly smooth and there aren’t many places to get caught up in proper nouns.
Looking at the puzzle after solving it, it’s interesting to note just how closed off it is – put a black square at the U in the GLUED/SCUBA crossing, and you’d have two completely separate puzzles. Oftentimes constructors try to have several entries into each section of the puzzle, so that the solver doesn’t need to rely on getting a single answer in order to get a foothold in a new grid area. On the other hand, a puzzle that’s more sectioned-off has fewer constraints on the fill, meaning that said fill is often cleaner and more exciting. Crossword construction – it’s all about the trade-offs!
- I somehow didn’t know that ARIA meant air in Italian! Always fun to know more facts about words that pop up all the time in puzzles.
- I recently binge-watched “The Circle” season 2 (I recommend), so ALERT (31A: [“The Circle” notification]) was a gimme for me. I also appreciate how the clue is written to give a hint to those who don’t watch the show – “Notification” on its own is a fine clue.
- Speaking of TV I’m watching, my family and have been into “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series” in which there is a character named BIG RED, so that’s my current association.
- …. Was anyone else’s first though for 60A [ ___-Pong] beer? Just me? Ok.
Will Eisenberg’s Universal crossword, “The Animals”— Jim Q’s write-up
I saw Eric Burdon and The Animals in concert once. I would rank it as in Top Five worst concerts I’ve ever attended. I think it would’ve been better if it had the backup band that is featured in this puzzle.
THEME: Creatures whose names sound musical are reimagined as if they belong to an orchestra… or a band. Not sure which.
- 18A [Critter leading the string section?] FIDDLER CRAB.
- 28A [Critter in the percussion section?] SNAPPING TURTLE.
- 45A [Critters in the brass section?] TRUMPETER SWANS.
- 59A [Critter on backup vocals?] HUMMINGBIRD.
Actually has more of a Pet Sounds feel to it than anything from The Animals. Brian Wilson did bring a bunch of animals into the studio, after all.
Very cute visuals. I especially like the SNAPPING TURTLE. I picture him with sunglasses and a fedora snapping to some jazz, despite the fact that the 3/4 of the clues suggest that they are in some sort of orchestral arrangement. The HUMMINGBIRD, on the other hand, is joining a gig that has backup vocals, which I don’t quite associate with orchestras. To that, I don’t really associate HUMMING with backup vocals either, but whatever.
No complaints about fill. Was unfamiliar with Buster POSEY. It’s an old-timey sounding name, but he’s actually only 34 years old. Fun to learn. Wouldn’t mind seeing Parker POSEY in there either.
Nothing too flashy in the fill, but a fun puzzle for sure.
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Crossword #1383 “Creature Feature”— Darby’s review
Theme: Every themed answer included an animal’s name (the “creature”) and a body part (the “feature”).
- 17a CROW’S FEET
- 21a RABBIT EARS
- 33a DOG TEETH
- 46a CAT’S EYES
- 59a TURKEY LEGS
All were tied together by the revealer, 66a [“What you might enter should you get 17-, 21-, 33-, 46-, and 59-Across”]
BEQ ranks this as a medium puzzle, and I think that’s a fair estimation. The grid left with three-letter spots to provide some support for the longer ones. Plus, once I got one of the theme answers, I had a much better sense of what those longer Across answers would look like.
I thought there were some creative walls down memory lane with the callbacks to Dr. DRE’s musical past in 50a [“Dr. whose career started in the World Class Wrecking Cru”], SWIT in 9d [“M*A*S*H star”], and BESS in 39d [“Partner of Porgy”].
6d’s ETEA [“Philosopher Zeno’s hometown”], 12d’s SCURF [“Dandruff”], and 71a’s THEAS [“Coliseum athletes”] were the toughest for me today overall.
Other fun clues include:
- 29a [“Results of some ints.”] This felt like a little bit of a stretch with the clued abbreviation, but once the interceptions connected, TDS was a clear goal.
- 35a [“Theoretical destination”] This clue sent me right from Point A to POINT B.
- 60a [“Historian’s balliwicks”] ERAS is a common crossword answer, but “balliwicks,” which means “the sphere in which one has superior knowledge or authority,” is also such a fun word that I will be working into my everyday vocabulary.
- 3d [“Keeping others informed on a project’s progress”] I heard someone recently refer to “direct report” as modern business lingo and LOOPING IN feels like that in some respects too.
- 56d [“‘Us’ director”] Jordan PEELE is also the director of Get Out, and I thought that this was a great contemporary film director reference. Edgard WRIGHT also appeared in 65a [“Director Wright”], and, I’ll be honest, the only reason that I knew the answer is because he initially signed on to direct Ant-Man. I love me some Marvel films.
Anyway, BEQ’s puzzle brings some solid wordplay with a really fun theme. That starts with classical composer BACH in 1d [“Juggler’s props”] crossing with a goofy reference in 1a [“Juggler’s props”] BALLS and the solve only gets more interesting from there.
Grant Howell’s LA Times Crossword – Gareth’s summary
The LA Times typically has a “no rebus” policy, but Grant Howell’s puzzle is pretty close to one. In one direction you read the answer as “EYE” and the other a regular letter I in four and a half answers: EASYONTHEIS, BIRDSIVIEW, APPLEOFMYI, SNAKEIS and one half of ANIFORANEYE, the revealer.
Things that might need some ‘splainin:
- MII was clued as [Early 11th-century year], which is a non-answer; but given it’s an inferable answer as a Nintendo avatar, I have no idea why it is clued that way.
- [The “A” in CDA, to an Idahoan], ALENE. I think this refers to Coeur d’Alene? But what does CDA mean to a non-Idahoan??
- [Mr. Krabs’ nemesis], PLANKTON. Google suggests a rival restaurant owner rather than generic organisms. I knew Mr. Krabs was from Spongebob Squarepants but I’ve never watched the show.
- [Asian nurse], AMAH or AYAH – a rarely seen answer in modern crosswords, and not considered a word in Spelling Bee, and actually is more akin to nanny. The answer would have been more familiar to those enveloped in British colonial culture.