David Alfred Bywaters’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Organ Loft”—Jim P’s review
Our theme features two-word familiar phrases in the vertical direction where one letter from the second word is “lifted” up to the top of the phrase (i.e. to the start of the first word) to create a new, wacky phrase. The letters in question spell out ORGAN, hence the title.
- 3d. [Common pub sight?] OPEN PINT. Pen point. I wanted the answer to be based on the word pinpoint, because I don’t think of “pen point” as something people actually say. Pen tip or pen nib feel more common to me.
- 32d. [Surprising aquatic canine feat?] ROVER DIVE. Overdrive.
- 20d. [Ill-tempered endocrinologist’s tirade?] GLAND RANT. Land grant.
- 8d. [Like oaks?] ACORN BRED. Cornbread.
- 39d. [Cool attire?] NICE TOGS. Ice tongs.
I cottoned on to the theme pretty quick after only resolving the second themer and was thus able to put in the rest of the ORGAN. That helped sort out the rest of the themers. I like the wordplay here, and the fact that only certain letters are lifted up tightens the theme. But nothing got me chuckling which is something I always hope for when a theme features crossword wackiness.
The corners of the grid are fairly wide open with stacks of 7s and include nice entries TAPIOCA, OPOSSUM, and EARLOBE, but there’s nothing longer to sink one’s teeth into. Could’ve done without tired entries REUNES and ADMEN. Didn’t know author Greg ILES, but I guess it’s a nice change of pace from cluing the entry as a plural French word.
Clues of note:
- 13a. [Pudding choice]. TAPIOCA. Who else went with VANILLA first? It seemed like a good fit since it shares three of the same letters in the correct position.
- 19a. [Producer of many a spaceship]. CGI. Hmm. I don’t like the word “producer” here. CGI doesn’t produce images such as spaceships. Images such as spaceships are CGI. The initialism is “computer-generated imagery.”
- 28a. [Asteroid with a moon named Dactyl]. IDA. I wonder how long before we get a clue referring to the hurricane.
I like the theme, I just didn’t find the clues and fill to be all that lively. 3.5 stars.
David W. Tuff’s New York Times crossword—Ben’s review
We’ve got a debut grid from David W. Tuff today. Congratulations, David!
On first glance, it may not immediately be clear why the entries with circled squares have the clues they do:
- 18A: Fencer’s cry — ZEN GARDEN
- 27A: Style of diamond with a flat base — PROSECUTE
- 37A: Spot for a dinner plate — STABLEMATE
- 51A: Roadside restaurant sign — WEATHERED
These make MUCH more sense once you realize 60A asks you to think about the clues ENDLESSLY (“On and on … or how to read 18-, 27-, 37- and 51-Across to understand this puzzle’s theme?”). This wasn’t too hard for me – once I realized EN GARDE would fit between the circled squares, it was just a hop, skip, and a jump to realizing that you can stick Z and N on the ends to make ZEN GARDEN. Our other words that do fit the clues are ROSE CUT, TABLEMAT, and EAT HERE.
I spent a little too much time trying to figure out if other letters with rotational symmetry could be used in the squares to make this work for other clues, but that was just a little too specific to be the real theme.
FIONA Apple’s Fetch the Bolt Cutters album has been on my go-to playlist since it came out last year, and “Shameika” is one of its standouts.
Other lovely fill: the CONEY dog, VING Rhames, DON KING, Carl SAGAN, JEAN-LUC Picard. One nitpick: you can definitely SORT DATA with a spreadsheet, but that feels weirdly unspecific to me when described as a “Spreadsheet command”. OTOH, as someone who does a lot of data sorting in spreadsheets for a living, maybe that’s why I find it lacking when it comes to describing all that I do with regards to that.
Neville Fogarty’s USA Today crossword, “Follow The Money” — Sophia’s recap
Theme: “Follow The Money” – The first word of each theme answer can follow the word “money” in a common phrase.
- 17a [Devoted hooper’s motto] – BALL IS LIFE (Moneyball)
- 29a [Petition holder] – CLIPBOARD (money clip)
- 49a [Discusses work at happy hour, for example] – TALKS SHOP (money talks)
- 65a [Communal creation location] – MAKERSPACE (moneymaker)
Great execution of a simple theme. I love the theme answers Neville selected – TALKS SHOP and BALL IS LIFE feel fresh and fun (especially to this ex-basketball player). Even the least “sparkly” answer, CLIPBOARD, is given a specific, evocative clue that still took a few crosses to uncover. I kept thinking that “creation location” was going to be a biblical reference for some reason?? So I was utterly delighted to see MAKERSPACE, which is a well known term to me and something I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen in a puzzle before. A great aha moment.
For me personally, there really were a 58d[Absence of snags] while solving this puzzle. The only real hold ups I had (besides the aforementioned MAKERSPACE snafu) were not knowing “Rosanna” was by TOTO and thinking that 22d[Fillet] was a noun and not a verb, which made it hard to see DEBONE. LOVE LETTER and NO RELATION are great bonus downs, and that’s in addition to a number of solid 6 and 7 letter entries: SEEN IT, PRESTO, SALAMI. There’s no section in this puzzle that has too many 3 letter answers or is so wide open a solver couldn’t get a foothold. Just well balanced, all around.
- I personally love when constructors are able to work their personal passions into the puzzle, as Neville did here with 57a [City home to the AUDL’s Mechanix] for DETROIT – AUDL is American Ultimate Disc League, for all you folks that didn’t go to a college with D1 Ultimate.
- My immediate thought for 42a [Cousins, aunts, etc.] was “fam” instead of the correct KIN. I may be too gen-z for my own good.
- 1725 Slough Avenue is the ADDRESS of the Scranton Business Park in “The Office”. According to the show’s wiki, the street name is a reference to the original British version of “The Office”, which was set in Slough, England.
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Crossword #1397, “Localized”—Darby’s review
Theme: Each themed clue includes a term in the language of the country in the themed answer, making it the “local” way of saying that word or phrase while also playing on common sayings or pop culture references.
- 17a [“With 26-Across, bùshi suoyou de chá] & 26a [“See 17-Across”] NOT FOR ALL THE & TEA IN CHINA
- 37a [“La lluvia”] THE RAIN IN SPAIN
- 50a [“Oki”] BIG IN JAPAN
- 59a [“Born”] BORN IN THE USA
The more time I spend with this theme, the more I enjoy it. I definitely didn’t get it until I had all of the clues in front of me, so it didn’t necessarily help my solve. For those who may not be familiar with each language, this puzzle is really dependent on the crosses. This was strong for the most part. I felt like 37d [“It’s often served with satay sauce”] was weak for THAI FOOD because I kept wanting it to be a more specific item and 51d [“Multimillionaire”] NABOB was too niche of an answer. However, clues like 38d [“Address for a duchess”] HER GRACE and 5d [“Like most Airbnbs”] SHORT-TERM were a great combo of challenging but also great for getting especially the first halves of the answer.
As I’ve done more and more BEQ puzzles, I’ve really come to appreciate the variety of word-lengths in his grids, which, if you’ve read any of my reviews, you know matters quite a bit to me. When the themes are not as obvious at first – and BEQ always has really creative themes – I really love having those shorter answers to fall back on to chip away at the longer themers. Yet, at the same time, when I nail a longer answer, it makes a huge difference.
As always, here are a few other clues I wanted to mention:
- 14a [“Tending to ride brooms and make brews with newts”] – I was not 100% sure that WITCHY would be correct when I filled it in because it felt like one of those words that aren’t actually real, but I thought it was a great anchor clue for me in that upper left section.
- 15a [“____ Mosely Braun (first Black female Senator)”] – CAROL Mosely-Braun was elected to the United States Senate in 1993, saying shortly thereafter that “I cannot escape the fact that I come to the Senate as a symbol of hope and change. Nor would I want to, because my presence in and of itself will change the U.S. Senate.” You can hear more from her by reading the transcript of her interview from the Women of the Senate Oral History Project.
- 35a [“Thurman who is surely due for a new movie or something so us crossworders can have a new clue”] – You just have to appreciate the dependence on our classic answers, and UMA is one of my favorites.
- 28d [“Present-day country where polo was likely invented”] – I thought that this was such an interesting, Western-world challenging fact. No one is exactly sure where polo originated (hence the “likely”), but scholars suspect that IRAN is most likely the answer. You can read more about the history here.
- 40d [“Bottle numbers that typically come 15, 30, or 50”] – I don’t know what it says about me that I want for MLS first before eventually getting SPF.
- 62d [“Where your buds might hang out”] – I tried bar, I tried car, and then I laughed as I got EAR in here. A clever clue.
That’s my ODE to BEQ for today! Also – as a side note – I’ve been listening to the Music to Play NYT Games by playlist on Spotify and absolutely would recommend as you’re doing your puzzles today.
George Jasper’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary
Today’s puzzle theme by George Jasper is a bit more paint-by-numbers. The revealer is the archaic CUTIN, and synonyms for CUT are somewhere IN four more answers: BRILlopAD, FRENchopEN, THATSThewAYITIS, TaxeXPERTS and HONEstabE.
Notable clues and answers:
- [One of the Tide’s rivals], VOL was completely opaque to me. Apparently it’s not the detergent brand but the Alabama Crimson Tide & the Tennessee Volunteers. At least that what Google tells me…
- [Rubber in the kitchen?], BRILLOPAD. In that it rubs. I recall it being a US genericised trademark for a scourer…
- [Rocker since the ’60s, familiarly], STONE. [Raises a glass to Charlie Watts]
- [Scrabble 8-pointer], XTILE. Awkward way to wedge an ex in…