Becca Gorman & Hemant Mehta’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “What a Deal!”—Jim P’s review
Theme: It’s a half-price sale at the WSJ today. Every theme entry is FIFTY-PERCENT OFF (36a, [A good deal, and a hint to 17-, 23-, 46- and 57-Across]).
- 17a. [An abbreviated nap?] TWENTY WINKS
- 23a. [Not-so-lucky find?] TWO-LEAF CLOVER.
- 46a. [Tight-fitting cowboy accessory?] FIVE-GALLON HAT.
- 57a. [Partly escapable situation?] CATCH-ELEVEN
I’m pretty sure I’ve seen a similar theme at some point or at least similar jokes in various forms (a FIVE-GALLON HAT sounds like something from a Looney Tunes cartoon). But the last one was a new one on me, and I welcomed it. As a puzzle theme it works well enough though I think it might have been better placed earlier in the week.
In the fill, ELECTRIFY isn’t quite electrifying, but it’s nicely sparkly. POSITIVES isn’t quite sparkly, but it falls on the positive side. There isn’t anything overtly negative to gripe about.
Clues of note:
- 6a. [It means “ocean” in Mongolian]. DALAI. I don’t think I knew this and am glad to learn it.
- 19a. [Joplin song]. RAG. Scott, not Janis.
- 42a. [“Raiders” reptiles]. ASPS. Raiders of the Lost Ark, not the football team.
Solid grid all around. 3.75 stars.
Alex Vratsano’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
The theme is that there’s a blocky letter Z made out of black squares in the center of the grid, there are four 15s that include a ZZ, and the internal angles of the big black Z are unchecked squares containing Z. Here are those grid-spanners:
- 14a. [Old pro], GRIZZLED VETERAN. Bring me a grizzled newbie and we’ll talk.
- 17a. [Raucous music style similar to boogie-woogie], BARRELHOUSE JAZZ. Never heard of it. You?
- 53a. [The titular Nelsons of a classic sitcom], OZZIE AND HARRIET.
- 60a. [Dish with tomatoes and mozzarella], NEAPOLITAN PIZZA. I will never forget the neighborhood restaurant that added a new pizza oven and a lineup of Neapolitan pizzas … printed on the menu as “Neoplotian.” Proofreading is your friend!
I like the letter Z, grew up with that as part of my initials. But the payoff here is slight, since the grid’s jam-packed with too much compromise. RETEE, NEB, UTNE, ORANGELOS (never heard of this either), ALP, ROAN, TERAOHM (!!), and MNEMONIZE (?!)? Most of these should have no place in a Wednesday puzzle, and heck, I wouldn’t even like them in a Saturday puzzle.
Fave fill: The RAMONES (had a nurse Monday morning named Sheena, and you will admire my restraint—I did not ask if she was a punk rocker, nor if her baby takes the morning train), BIRCHBARK canoe, DEJECTION (see also: the Phoenix Suns and their fans Tuesday night), and SEA BREEZE.
- 62a. [British meat pie], PASTY. Not a fan of the meat pie. Bring me a pasty complexion instead!
- 39a. [Potato ___ (appetizer)], SKINS. Man, with the SK in place, I was stumped and could only think of SKORT!
- 42a. [Lowest-ranking G.I.], PVT. Short for private. I was thinking this morning, whilst working the NYT Spelling Bee, that privacy should also be a word referring to the accoutrements of a private, or the things they do. Who’s with me?
- 51a. [___ Reader], UTNE. I subscribed to the print magazine in the 1980s, but now? It’s online only, and I haven’t seen anyone post a link to it in many years. If ever. Constructors, it’s high time to chuck this one out of your word list (or downgrade it severely).
- 15d. [Passions], ZEALS. I’ve never had more than a single zeal.
2.5 stars from me. The gimmick didn’t have the payoff I’d have liked.
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s AVCX, “Q-Tips” — Ben’s Review
There’s just something right in the universe when BEQ has a puzzle that’s all about replacing a letter in common phrases with a Q:
- 18A: Ability to see how things will go during the audience participation portion of a talk? — Q AND A VISION
- 26A: “Copy that, long-nosed orange video game hopper” — ROGER, QBERT
- 37A: Create memes about how the Copernicus crater was personally shoveled by Bill Gates to hide all the lunar gravity? QANON THE MOON
- 50A: Shiny metal Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes statues? — QBS OF STEEL
- 59A: Extremely large letters at the bottom of a proof? — KING-SIZED QED
that’s WANDAVISION, ROGER EBERT, MAN ON THE MOON, ABS OF STEEL, and KING-SIZED BED, each given a Q-tip.
The Online Crossword Reviewers Board of America asks members that if a theme revolve around the letter Q that we also post Stacy Q’s “Two of Hearts” in the post. Enjoy!
There were a few places in the grid where my expectations didn’t match the fill. I always think of it as “Cor blimey!”, but it can also be “GOR, blimey” (34A, “Word that can proceed “blimey!””) when expressing surprise British-ly. Elsewhere, “unconfident utterances” (43A) wasn’t um, uh, or er, but EH, which I suppose works as well.
Adrian Johnson’s Universal crossword, “Smoothing Things Out” — pannonica’s write-up
After seeing the first long across entries, I glanced at the title to confirm I’d correctly inferred the theme. This made the third one even easier, and I had a weak suspicion about the fourth.
- 20a. [Reminisce about the good old days] WAX SENTIMENTAL.
- 34a. [Intense concentration] LASER FOCUS.
- 41a. [Mollusks with long shells] 65a.
- So I thought this one might be threading, which is typically limited to one’s eyebrows. Instead it turned out to be a revealer, which is a better approach. 57a [Predicament that might be avoided using the starts of 20-, 34- and 41-Across?] HAIRY SITUATION.
All very depilatory. Some of these procedures could take place at a SPA, which is located in the central spot (36d) with the clue [Self-care destination]; I choose to believe this is an intentionally theme-adjacent entry.
Oh, and as a loose end, that threading idea is echoed (for me at least) at 49d [Leaves hanging by a thread?] TEA BAG, which is an excellent clue.
- 9d [Where to sit back and enjoy a flight?] WINE BAR. Funny, I don’t think of wine for tasting flights. Beer or booze, sure, but not wine for some reason. Makes sense that it should be called that, though.
- 33d [Dance move that some call “webbing”] JAZZ HANDS. Honestly, I don’t know which is worse.
- 27d [Storm, Sky or Sun] TEAM. 54d [Jays, e.g.] BIRDS.
- 59d [Sushi fish] TUNA. With the T in place, I confidently completed it as TORO. Perhaps I was influenced by the early across pair of 15a [Unleavened Indian bread] ROTI and 16a [Leavened Indian bread] NAAN? Anyway, it momentarily bollixed up that southeast corner just before I finished.
- 25a [Unwelcome campground visitor] BEAR. Of course, they were there first. Yesterday this happened. Not so unusual, alas. 42d [Bring up, as young] REAR; 4d [Places to hibernate] DENS.
- 65a [Aconcagua is their highest peak] ANDES. Per Wikipedia: “The origin of the name is uncertain. It may be from the Mapudungun Aconca-Hue, which refers to the Aconcagua River and means ‘comes from the other side;’ the Quechua Ackon Cahuak, meaning ‘Sentinel of Stone;’ the Quechua Anco Cahuac, meaning ‘White Sentinel;’ or the Aymara Janq’u Q’awa, meaning ‘White Ravine’.”
- 68a [Like tonic water] GASSY. Strangely, DELICIOUS WITH GIN AND LIME did not fit here.
- 26a [Change from red to green, say?] DYE.
Zhouqin Burnikel’s USA Today crossword — Sophia’s write-up
Theme: “Get Your Money Right – The last word in each theme answer is a synonym for money.
- 19A: [Become more accepted] – GAIN CURRENCY
- 36A: [Ice cream flavor with chocolate chips] – COOKIE DOUGH
- 53A: [Tepic or Topeka, for example] – STATE CAPITAL
A classic USA Today theme today in which the title is very helpful – each “money” word is literally on the “right” side of the theme answer. COOKIE DOUGH ice cream is one of my favorite flavors, so I’m happy to see that make an appearance. I also appreciated the international clue on STATE CAPITAL – Tepic is the capital of the state of Nayarit in Mexico. I always assumed that the phrase GAIN CURRENCY itself related to money in that “currency” equates to value, so the idea discussed is gaining worth/capital in society. But from some post-solve googling, it looks like the phrase actually refers to “becoming more current”. Who knew?
Maybe it’s because today was my first time using the new USA Today web solving interface, but the puzzle played harder than usual for me. Right off the bat, it took me forever to get FEMALES [1D: Ewes, for example] – I had the F and kept wanting some version of “farm animals”. Similarly, I needed a lot of crosses to see SO THAT’S THAT [25D: Phrase of finality], although once I got the answer I really enjoyed it. Because the puzzle has only three theme answers, they’re able to be placed pretty far away from each other, which gives more flexibility in fill. In this puzzle, that comes in the form of the larger NW and SE corners, which you don’t often see in USA Today.
- I enjoyed the BUSTED/REPAIRS crossing, which felt nicely connected.
- Speaking of BUSTED, this is the only thing that word makes me think about:
Erik Agard’s New Yorker crossword — Matthew’s write-up
Smooth solve for me on Erik’s puzzle today; lots of good stuff that I got a chance to learn and go down some post-solve internet rabbit holes.
The marquee answer, MARIYA RUSSELL (36a – [First Black woman awarded a Michelin star]) was plenty gettable from crosses, and even if it wasn’t, I’m glad to learn her name. She’s currently taking a break from running a kitchen, having left her Chicago restaurant in Summer 2020, but I hope I can get to her next venture, whenever and wherever it is. And speaking of folks who admirably manage self care in high-pressure jobs, the other entries in the middle stairstack; WOMENSSINGLES and LITTLE SISTERS, are elegantly both clued to tennis stars Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams.
Moving quickly to bullets today:
- 32d – WATERTAXI ([Boat that might be hailed]) is a colorful entry that brought a smile to my face. I’ve only ever ridden one in Baltimore, but I know other cities have them.
- 46a – The Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund (TLDEF) [N.Y.C.-based trans-rights org] does excellent work, and I’m grateful to see them in a puzzle.
- 26a – DEPOP ([App that’s been called “a little bit eBay and a little bit Instagram”) is 100% new to me, but it looks very cool, half online consignment shop, half social media, as Erik’s clue suggests.
- 29a – [Chaand Raat, e.g.] is EVE – in this clue’s case, the eve of Eid al-Fitr for Muslims.
Daniel Raymon’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary
Quite a “list-y” theme today by Daniel Raymon. It does have a punchy central title answer: ILLSECONDTHAT. The other four entries are all things associated with duality: a DOUBLEAGENT, a TWINSISTER, BINARYCODE and PAIRSKATING (with an Olympic clue, but that’s a winter event).
- [1974 musical based on a 1900 novel, with “The”], WIZ; if I hadn’t had an interlude already – I’d go for Jackson/Ross singing Easy on the Down Road.
- [Vivid dye], AZO. The group includes tartrazine, sunset yellow, brilliant blue and allura red most of which you quite probably encounter daily, depending on your dietary habits.
- [__ Savitskaya, first woman to perform a spacewalk], SVETLANA. A very common Eastern European first name; others with that name include 2015 Nobelist author Alexievich and two-time tennis grand slam winner Kuznetsova.
- [Wonderstruck], AWED!
- Anyone else foxed into thinking [Spectrum maker], PRISM would be a company?