David Alfred Bywaters’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Chop Logic”—Jim P’s review
Bleh. There are a lot of things that irked about this one. Let’s start with the revealer: TAKES COVER (60a, [Shelters, or (with another space) makes phrases like five in this puzzle]). The re-parsed version is TAKES C OVER, and somehow that’s supposed to mean taking the C that starts a word in a given phrase and move it somewhere else in the phrase, thus making a wacky new phrase. Here are the results.
- 17a. [Automatic stable feature?] OAT CHANGER. Coat hanger. This one’s fine even though, presumably, one doesn’t need to change the oats, but replace the ones that have been eaten. Still, I’m okay with it.
- 26a. [Vegetable-overcooking result?] CHARD ASH. Hard cash. This one was so hard to see because the clue makes you think CHAR is part of the phrase. And the base phrase should be “cold, hard cash,” not just “hard cash.”
- 36a. [Low comedy based in a gym?] AB FARCE. Cab fare. Grr. There is zero surface sense in the phrase AB FARCE. This is the entry that lost me.
- 39a. [Schism for cool people?] HIP SECT. Chip set. I’ve never seen a sect referred to as a “schism.”
- 52a. [Sassy department head’s response?]. CHAIR LIP. Hair clip. This one’s okay I guess.
I’m a fan of wordplay, but these felt tortured and forced, especially the revealer.
Top fill: BARNACLE, FANATICS, ACADEMIC, TOO FAR. Bottom fill: IT’S AN, LIANAS, DUHS, EELERY, OPE, OENO.
Clues of note:
- 45a. [Judoka’s degree]. DAN. I wonder when was the last time a Mike Shenk-edited puzzle had DAN clued as someone’s name and not with a martial arts reference. Feels like it’s been a while.
- 55a. [Stocking goods]. TOYS. I thought this was going to be TOES at first, and I was prepared to gripe about calling toes “goods.” But I actually like this clue.
This one was not for me. 2.75 stars.
Peter Gordon’s Fireball crossword, “Girl Talk”—Amy’s write-up
Jenni’s on vacay so here’s a quick recap from Amy. The theme is two-layered (or three-?): 110a. [What each answer to the starred clues is an example of, in more ways than one] clues FEMININE RHYME, and the starred/italicized clues give you female names that have “feminine rhymes,” which I just learned are two-syllable rhymes (vs. single-syllable masculine rhymes like hot/shot or pee/wee). There’s the kid-lit character JUDY MOODY, doll BETSY WETSY, fairy tale character HENNY PENNY, kid-lit’s FANCY NANCY, and TV character MARCY DARCY. Amelia Bedelia must be a nonbinary rhyme.
The black squares in the center of the .puz file are red squares on the PDF (I have a B/W laser printer so…), with three pink squares (circled in .puz) inside 62a. [Supplier for a pescatarian restaurant [and in the highlighted letters: Pronoun for every name in this puzzle’s clues and answers]], FISHERY, with SHE‘s clue tipping us off that every name in the grid and clues is female.
Four stars from me.
Johnn Guzzetta’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Amy again, filling in for Ben. Our Thursday trickery this week is sort of a reverse rebus—a letter doubled despite the word only needing a single instance of it. The revealer is 57a. [Inseparable … or like three pairs of answers in this puzzle?], JOINED AT THE HIP, and there are six paired entries in this 16×15 grid (including 57a) that contain HIP. The Downs crossing each pair of HIPs only need a single H, I, or P, but they get two. The other HIP answers are HIPSTERS, HIPPOPOTAMUSES, PARTY WHIPS, SHIPWRECKS, and PITA CHIP. The wackadoodle Downs are:
- 1d. [Get back into shape], REHHAB. Or, when you join the two Hs, REHAB / 2d. [Come up], ARIISE / 3d. [Lukewarm], TEPPID.
- 27d. [Exhibited relief, in a way], EXHHALED / 33d. [It can be heavier in the summer], AIIR / 21d. [Admits], ACCEPPTS.
- 51d. [Run-of-the-mill], HOHHUM / 52d. [Upper echelon], ELIITE / 53d. [Took performance-enhancing drugs], DOPPED.
I like it.
Five more things:
- 17a. [Ones sporting man buns and ironic T-shirts, say], HIPSTERS. Or, you know, just regular guys. On Fresh Air today, Questlove said he likes wearing ironic T-shirts, and my husband ties his long hair up in a bun. I don’t think either one counts as a hipster.
- 20a. [Closest living relatives of whales], HIPPOPOTAMUSES. Did I know this? I feel like I should have, but did not. Here’s the lowdown.
- 34a. [Finely ground quartz], SILEX. I sure did not know this word or definition.
- 10d. [Petite, for one], DRESS SIZE. Uh, no. It’s a whole range of dress sizes. The category of dresses gets split into Misses (maybe sizes 6 to 16), Juniors (maybe 0 to 13), Women’s/Plus Size (sizes 14-28, maybe), and then Maternity and Petites, which can basically run the gamut of all the even-numbered sizes, with Petites adjusted to fit a shorter person.
- 6d. [Symbol that Mac users get by pressing Option + Shift + 2], EURO. To get the ¢ sign, use Option + 4. And just as Shift + 4 gets you $, Command + Shift + 4 summons up your ability to capture a portion of your screen. This is how I generate my solution grids for the blog—I think of it as the “money shot.”
Four stars from me.
Matthew Stock’s USA Today crossword — Sophia’s review
Theme: “Break Up The Band” – Each theme answer begins with “BA” and ends with “ND”, literally breaking the word “BAND”.
- 19a: [Make and serve drinks] – BARTEND
- 44a: [Droopy-eared dog] – BASSET HOUND
- 57a: [Playing field in “The Sandlot”] – BASEBALL DIAMOND
- 3d: [Yoga or gymnastics move] – BACKBEND
- 10d: [Organizations such as Free the 350] – BAIL FUND
Great descriptive title for a fun theme. I love how the grid layout allows for five theme answers of four different lengths – this choice means that Matthew could focus on picking colorful theme answers rather than ones with matching lengths, and I think all the answers are exciting ones! My favorite answer was BAIL FUND, which I personally can’t remember seeing in a puzzle before.
Despite having so many theme answers the grid is still super-smooth. I mentioned yesterday that we don’t always see wide-open corners in USA Today, but after today’s puzzle I might have to retract that statement. I love the value Matthew pulled out of the longer slots in each section. Max and his ANTLERS! Claudia RANKINE! PHARAOH, which I CANNOT spell correctly anytime I write it! This puzzle struck all the right CHORDS for me, and despite the number of long answers I ended up having my fastest USA Today solve to date.
- I love how many women are featured in this grid – besides RANKINE, DIANA Ross, TERESA Younger, ANNE Donovan, and MEL B make appearances. I think the only man even mentioned anywhere in the puzzle is King MIDAS – oh yeah, and the Grinch, of course.
- This puzzle started off a bit rough for me because I had absolutely no idea what 1a [River in Indiana] would be (it’s WABASH). Luckily, all of the crosses were fair and my lack of geography knowledge didn’t hold me up for too long.
- Favorite clues today were 5d [Awards show slights] for SNUBS and 30d [Game in which certain words are off-limits] for TABOO.
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Crossword #1385 “Energy Shift” — Darby’s review
Theme: In each themed answer, the letters spelling out “energy” are out of order (shifted).
- 19a [“Speculative fiction, e.g.”] LITERARY GENRE
- 26a [“1965 hit hat begins “People try to put us down”] MY GENERATION
- 40a [“Only NHL player to score 200 points in a season”] WAYNE GRETSKY
I am amazed by the creativity of this theme. I have some questions for BEQ about how exactly he came up with this one. When I first saw the title, I definitely thought I’d be out of luck on the theme. I don’t know much about energy (science was never my forte). Finishing out MY GENERATION, though, let me look back at the other two and see shift. Interestingly, WAYNE GRETZKY also includes EGRET, a red herring for 21d [“Wading bird with a S-shaped neck”].
Other clues on this Thursday:
- 18a [“Memphis’s location”] – If, like me, you spent some time scratching your head about fitting “Tennessee” or some variation of it into these five squares, you need to look no further than EGYPT, home to the ancient capital of Memphis. Just like 57a’s “Half of 50,” BEQ encourages us to stretch our minds for some unexpected but also clever answers, like ZERO. (Thankfully, the cross from 49d’s GAZA “Strip in the Middle East” gave me the hint there).
- 55a [“Church period?”] – This clue gets right to the heart of AMEN as a sentence ender and elicited a giggle from this student of religion and lifelong Catholic.
- 59a [“Toy that you can rock the cradle with”] – I naturally assumed this one was some new-fangled baby rocker, but one “yo” led to two for YO-YO.
- 8d [“In the Hall of the Mountain ____”] – I highly recommend the version of “In the Hall of the Mountain KING” used in the Social Network if you haven’t listened to it before; it’s what first made me appreciate Edvard Grieg’s 1875 piece.
- 42d [“Disney+ offering for teenagers”- This one was definitely not in my vocabulary, though, looking back, Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century probably foresaw that ZITCOM would become a turn of phrase meaning sitcoms for teens.
This was definitely one of my favourite BEQ puzzles so far, and if you’re still craving some spelling bee action, it should have you covered between its theme, 35a’s [“___ in a sentence”] (USE IT), and the reference to the NYT’s anagram mania through the Spelling Bee.
Ross Trudeau and Katrina Lee’s Universal crossword, “Straight Lines!”— Jim Q’s write-up
Looks like a debut today from Katrina Lee! Congrats and welcome!
THEME: Phrases that mean “Honestly!”
- BETTER BELIEVE IT!
- THAT’S A FACT JACK!
- YOU CAN BANK ON IT!
- LORD IS MY WITNESS!
Impressive construction here with the vertical pillars having to run through two or three themers each and abut one another to boot. Nice finds too (TOTINOS for the win! Love that SNL sketch!). The top half of the puzzle was so easy for me that I thought I was gonna break a speed PR. Then I got distracted by a housefly and completely botched the south. For AND SO FORTH I entered some variation of AND SO ON, tried to make YOU CAN BET ON IT work, KNIT instead of KNOT for the macrame clue, KENRI instead of KERRI as I assumed I?K was INK without reading the clue. And really wanted LORD AS MY WITNESS instead of the correct IS.
Mostly my own doing though.
Fun to see BOBA in the grid, especially next to BREW. HOOEY is always a delightful word and nicely juxtaposes the theme. Not sure why there was an anagram nudge in the TORI clue (anagram help is often reserved for more obscure names or a coincidental relationship between the anagram and the entry itself).
Fun fact for me was the clue for EWOK [“Return of the Jedi” critter that’s never named in the movie]. I still haven’t seen Star Wars, but I am very happy to have this gem in my back pocket.
New for me: GITA.
Well done, Katrina!
David Poole’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary
Today’s puzzle by David Poole is a variant of the “words” in corners theme. Today features CORNERSTONES: people with the surname STONE in corners. The circles and their odd placement vis-a-vis said corners threw me for a while. They’re there as a placeholder for you to start reading, I guess. So filmic EMMA, OLIVER and SHARON and musical SLY (not to be confused with SLY STallONE) can be spelt out.
- [Critical care MD], ERDOC. I feel like David was shooting for ERDOS…
- [Broccoli rabe], RAPINI. Is that the spelling we’re settling on then?
- [Eldest von Trapp child, in the musical], LIESL. It’s such a ubiquitous name here, it feels weird there aren’t tones of famous LIESLs.
- We also get full titles from the 70’s: LOGANSRUN & ERICIDLE…