Richard D. Allen & Brad Wilber’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “System Folders”—Jim P’s review
Before I even started this puzzle I noticed the striking layout of the grid with its huge, wide open corners. Further, it was obvious the theme would be located in said corners due to all the circled letters therein.
The revealer, however, comes right in the middle: HOSPITAL CORNERS (38a, [Institutional bed-making technique, and a hint to this puzzle’s circled letters]). Each group of circled letters spells out a word that can precede “hospital” in a familiar phrase.
The four words are
- GENERAL (made from backwards RENEGE and RALEIGH)
- NAVAL (SATNAV and VALE)
- DOLL (IDOL and LLOYDS)
- ANIMAL (TIMPANI and SALAMI)
Of these, “doll hospital” is the only phrase that was new to me. I thought it meant playing doctor to one’s dolls, but looking it up online I see it’s a term referring to toy (and specifically doll) repair and restoration. We have a Toy Rescue Mission here in Tacoma, but nothing that’s called a “doll hospital,” AFAIK. Was this term new to you, too, or is it widely known?
With such big corners, I was prepared for some kludgy fill. But about the only thing I see in that category is the partial AN IN. Everything else is solid-to-quite-nice: EDAMAME, ALTOONA, CORN OIL, “I’M IN AWE, TINGLY, SIT PAT, PRUSSIA, and of course GUAM (I’m from GUAM, BTW). And there’s EARLOBE in the center as well. NOONTIME is a little uncommon, but it really reminds of a girl I knew in college who would never say “morning” or “evening,” it was always “morning time” or “evening time.”
Oh, I really resisted putting in XDIN [Filled, as a survey box], since crossword convention seems to favor “EXED”. That was probably the biggest sticking point in the grid.
Clues of note:
- 68a. [Juice providers]. OUTLETS. Not Orange Julius at outlet malls, but electrical outlets.
- 47d. [Half-asleep, say]. TINGLY. Cute. Not referring to a person, but a part of a person, e.g. a foot.
Impressive grid given the theme constraints and the openness of those corners. 4.25 stars.
Adam Wagner’s New York Times crossword—Ben’s review
We’ve got two shaded sets of squares in Adam Wagner’s NYT today, so let’s start with those and see what that leads us to:
- 7D: Hybrid creature of myth — MERMAID
- 42D: Hybrid creature of myth — CENTAUR
Well, that’s almost a theme. There are a few clues associated with each of these answers that makes things a little bit more robust:
- 17A: After the top half of a 7-Down, sophisticated lady — OF THE WORLD
- 30A: Before the bottom half of a 7-Down, tipple and then some — DRINK LIKE A
- 45A: After the top half of a 42-Down, circles around the block? — HOLE COVERS
- 58A: Before the bottom half of a 42-Down, keeps arguing after something has been decided — BEATS A DEAD
Aha! A MERMAID is half-woman, half-fish, and splitting it into its component halves, we get WOMAN OF THE WORLD (or a sophisticated lady) and DRINK LIKE A FISH (or tipple and then som). Similary, the half-man, half, horse CENTAUR allows us to make MANHOLE COVERS (“circles around the block?”) and BEATS A DEAD HORSE (“keeps arguing after something has been decided”). It’s all very lovely, and I loved discovering how this theme all fit together.
Other nice grid bits: HI MOM, SKEET shooting, WENT COLD, ISUZU, GET A ROOM, MAMA BEAR, and TV GUEST
Brooke Husic and Wendy L. Brandes’s USA Today crossword, “Full Frontal” — Sophia’s review
Theme: “Full Frontal” – The first word in each theme answer can follow “full” to make a new phrase.
- 16a [Genre with roots in the Chicago club scene] – HOUSE MUSIC (full house)
- 24a [Period right before a deadline] – TIME CRUNCH (full time)
- 49a [Some carpools] – RIDE SHARES (full ride)
- 63a [Discuss again at a later time] – CIRCLE BACK (full circle)
The theme here is pretty simple, but all of the entries are fun on their own, each of the created phrases is a real thing (and all are interesting phrases themselves, to boot), and the title made me smile and gave me a solid hint to what was going on in the grid. What more could I ask for?
This puzzle was stacked with great fill throughout. MAPLE SYRUP is the only condiment worth putting on pancakes in my opinion, and I am glad to see that this puzzle agrees with me. I wonder if any solvers would fall in to the picky vs. FUSSY EATER trap – Luckily for me I already had the first F locked in. (Side note that having to count two months before and after December for the answers OCT and FEB was… surprisingly difficult first thing in the morning). I didn’t know Andrea GHEZ, Ijeoma OLUO, or ADA Limon, but all the crosses were fair and I was happy to learn more about them! My favorite clues today were 12d [Round numbers] for ZEROES and 71a [___ positive] for SEX.
- I could immediately drop in that the Wabash River was in INDIANA because of Matthew Stock’s USA Today puzzle from two weeks ago! No idea why this publication is so into this river, but it helped me out so I’m not complaining.
- Besides MAPLE SYRUP, today’s food roundup includes MOOSHU and MASHED potatoes c/o aloo bharta. Maybe I need to stop doing these puzzles pre-breakfast.
- I love the “Strange Planet” comics on Instagram, so I’m glad to see it get a shout out! Check out more here.
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s, “Eat Figures” — Darby’s review
Theme: Each answer takes a common phrase and twists it to include an “EE”/”EA” sound.
- 20a [“Grain that glitters”] – SPARKLING WHEAT (“Sparkling wit”)
- 25a [“Title holder standing next to a purplish salad salad fruit?”] CHAMP AT THE BEET (“Chomp at the bit”)
- 48a [“Reason one can’t stop thinking of linens”] SHEET FOR BRAINS (“Shit for brains”)
I loved the creativity of this theme, though I struggled (and am not 100% sure of) with SPARKLING WHEAT’s equivalent. However, I think that CHAMP AT THE BEET and SHEET FOR BRAINS make up for my confusion; that’s on me, not on BEQ.
The grid for this puzzle was great, and I thought that the corners provided great support for the rest of the puzzle and for the themers. I hit a really nice flow once I finally got BLED (1a [“God the red out?”]) in the top left.
Here’s my top clues (though this list could conceivably go forever):
- 17a [ “____ and the Lost City of Gold”] – I was not a DORA the Explorer fan as a kid, and I never would’ve expected her 2019 live action film to make it into the crossword, so this fill was accompanied by a “No way” of disbelief as I entered her name, which, for me, means that it’s a great clue.
- 27d [ “Bring the ruckus to your tuchus”] – This was hands down the best description of TWERKing that I have ever read, and I love that it is the direct center of the puzzle.
- 37d [“Bird of fable”] – I’ve seen the ROC mentioned more and more in crosswords lately, and I only learned about it recently when I read Zeyn Joukadar’s novel The Map of Salt and Stars (would recommend). The legendary figure, though, was also mentioned more classically in The Thousand and One Nights.
- 38d [ “1989 #1 hit by Prince”] – By including BATDANCE into this puzzle, BEQ has provided me with the soundtrack for the day. This track from the 1989 Batman soundtrack reached No. 1 in the U.S. and was initially released as a 7-inch single. Plus, Vicki Vale also always makes me think of this iconic (for me, at least) moment from 2007 NBC sitcom Chuck.
- 45d [ “Circles in space”] – I loved imagining a satellite as it ORBITS around us, and I thought this clue was a nice one to evoke that image in a creative way.
That’s my ALLOTment of words for today, and while I’d love to spend more time discussing this fun Thursday puzzle, I’ve got too many TASKS to do! Wishing y’all a speedy end to your week. I’ve put the link to “BATDANCE” below, and definitely recommend it if you need some hyping today.
Drew Schmenner’s Universal crossword, “Shuffling Papers”— Jim Q’s write-up
Just peeped the title. Is “shuffling papers” a phrase I’m unfamiliar with? Just googled it. Looks like it’s a popular ASMR activity. Fun!
THEME: The names of popular newspapers are anagrammed in the second word of a two-word phrase.
- 20A [Movement that empowered African American creators (Hint: Unscramble this answer’s last word and think “Toronto”)] BLACK ARTS. Toronto STAR.
- 33A [Tasks assigned at a meeting (… “New York”)] ACTION ITEMS. New York TIMES.
- 42A [One doesn’t work in a calm environment (… “Chicago”)] WIND TURBINE. Chicago TRIBUNE.
- 58A [Interstate oasis (… “Washington”)] TRUCK STOP. Washington POST.
I’m impressed that the word TURBINE can be anagrammed like that.
Solid enough for an unscramble-the-word theme. I solved the “New York” entry before the first one and was quite certain we were unscrambling baseball teams as I saw METS in the word ITEMS. Nope! Newspapers!
These types of themes typically employ circles in their grids. But the directions in that initial long theme-clue are clear enough and I do prefer the online webapp, print version, and Across Lite file in alignment (over one employing circles when the others are not able).
G’DAY MATE! Let’s have a PLAY DATE! Two solid pillar answers.
What I learned:
TRIATHLON is not spelled TRIATH[A]LON. Mind blown.
3 stars from me.
Sue Gelfand’s LAT Times crossword – Gareth’s summary
It took me a while to get into Susan Gelfand’s headspace and be able to piece together how her theme works. Maybe it would be easier to understand with a different clue style, but themed answers are job titles given a seemingly (but not actually) synonymous alternative in their clues: HAIRDRESSER/[…locksmith…], DISCJOCKEY/[…chiropracter…], LOANOFFICER/[…librarian…] and MANICURIST/[…file clerk…].
- [Chicago exchange, briefly, with “the”], MERC. Around here, it’s short for Mercedes-Benz.
- [James’ creator], IAN. Bond/Fleming rather unclear to me at the time given the number of James’s.
- [98th-percentile group], MENSA. Ugh.
- [Part of SATB], ALTO. New to me, but apparently that’s soprano, alto, tenor, bass.