Karen Steinberg & David Steinberg’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Read My Lips!”—Jim P’s review
Hidey ho! Jim P. here sitting in for pannonica who is otherwise engaged.
The title had me thinking about taxes, but there’s not a clue about George H. W. Bush in sight. Instead we’re greeted with a grouping of circles (or shaded squares depending on the version of the puzzle you get) which appear to be in the shape of lips. And in fact, we’re told they belong to the CHESHIRE CAT (32a, [Character whose incorporeal grin prompted the quote in the shaded spaces (reading upper and then lower arcs, left to right)].
Those arcs spell out IT’S THE MOST CURIOUS / THING I EVER SAW IN MY LIFE. Here’s the full quote:
“Did you say pig, or fig?” said the Cat.
“I said pig,” replied Alice; “and I wish you wouldn’t keep appearing and vanishing so suddenly: you make one quite giddy.”
“All right,” said the Cat; and this time it vanished quite slowly, beginning with the end of the tail, and ending with the grin, which remained some time after the rest of it had gone.
“Well! I’ve often seen a cat without a grin,” thought Alice; “but a grin without a cat! It’s the most curious thing I ever saw in my life!”
I would never have recognized that quote, but I thoroughly enjoyed this for its inventiveness and fun. I’m impressed with how our constructors managed to build the smile, especially at the corners of the mouth which comprise SMITHIES and CASEFILE. There’s a slight hiccup in the middle of the upper lip with the raised S, but otherwise it’s an impressive feat.
Oh, and by the way, not to be forgotten are two extra-sparkly, extra-long, theme-related entries: NOW YOU SEE IT, NOW YOU DON’T (a rare 21-letter grid spanner) and OUT OF BODY EXPERIENCE. Very nice touches indeed.
Lots to like in the fill, some of which cross both sets of lips, namely MAIL SORTER, THE MET GALA, SATANISM, and IRISHMAN. Elsewhere we have RAM IT HOME, PARENTAGE, POLAROID, STUNT CAR, HAS-BEENS, and DART GUN.
Clues of note:
- 61a. [Wrong answer to a sentry]. FOE. Ha! Just realized how dumb a question “Who goes there? Friend or foe?” really is.
- 73a. [Honorary deg. awarded by Harvard to Angela Merkel in 2019]. LLD. New to me. It’s a Doctor of Law degree.
- 100a. [Texas flag symbol]. STAR. Gotta include this quote from Twitter user @littlewhitty, “I’m starting to think the one star on the Texas flag represents its rating.” I would not disagree.
- 88d. [Extortionist’s technique]. PRESSURE. Bah! I read this as “Contortionist’s technique” and couldn’t understand what it was getting at.
- 1d. [What crosswords should be]. FUN. This one was. 4.25 stars.
Caitlin Reid & Erik Agard’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
This puzzle’s right up my alley, with so many entries and clues that I appreciate. Starting with that NON-APOLOGY (15a. [“Sorry if you were offended,” e.g.]) and flowing through the PALME D’OR, “ARE WE GOOD?”, the PLUS SIGN following LGTBQIA, “NO SPOILERS!”, ON THE FENCE, SCREW UP, “HEY, NOW!”, KRISHNA, a Philippines shout-out for MANGO, ICE POPS, and GO ROGUE. Are we good here? Yes. Yes, we are.
Seven more things:
- 18a. [Catchphrase for Olivia Pope on “Scandal”], “IT’S HANDLED.” I appreciate the Olivia Pope badassery, though I’ve never watched the show.
- 22a. [Wolf’s home?], CNN. Wolf Blitzer, that is.
- 57a. [Undesirable bedmates?], WEEDS. As in flowerbeds, not bedroom personnel.
- 6d. [Check for bugs], INSECT REPELLENT. Clever clue!
- 11d. [Like some nonbinary people], AGENDER. The crossword community includes quite a few people in the nonbinary, transgender, and other LGBTQIA+ categories. Please do remember that when you complain about inclusiveness in crosswords as too “woke” or whatever, your complaint lands right on the people in question. You’re not just tossing out some words that don’t have the power to hurt real people.
- 12d. [State capital near Bondi Beach], SYDNEY. I’m old enough to remember when Apple sold Macs in a color they called Bondi blue.
- 50d. [Part of UX], USER. Short for user experience, in software circles.
4.5 stars from me. Onward into the weekend!
Lester Ruff’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up
The Lester Ruff puzzles are usually “less rough,” but I found this one really tough. I am getting dumber, I think! Look at all the errors in this grid! I think I may be stressed out from work; that’s my story and I am sticking to it! I am taking a long weekend next week to recharge, so hopefully that will help! I will charge my Kindle and take a few puzzles along! But nice puzzle, Stan! 4.3 stars from me.
A few notes:
- 1A [Women pursuing eagles] L.P.G.A. – Great clue! Seems easy now that the puzzle is over, but a great “a-ha!” moment with this one!
- 17A [Rather soft] MEZZO PIANO – Because I am an idiot, I put in MOLTO PIANO in here. My Italian is not good!
- 34A [Olympic VIP] GOD – Can you be a VIP on Olympus if they are all gods??
- 35A [Starter for two NBA teams] LOS – As in LOS Angeles Lakers and LOS Angeles Clippers. NBA starts on Tuesday!
- 56A [Crime story where the perpetrator is revealed early] HOW CATCH ‘EM –
- 1D [Partner in eye health] LOMB – Should have gotten this instantly! I have been wearing contacts on and off for 30 years!
- 7D [Amuses with a tale] READS TO – I wrote in REGALES immediately, and it was dead wrong!
- 10D [Big name in big heads] BORGLUM – This is the sculptor for Mount Rushmore! (I had to look it up!) Now the clue makes sense!
- 25D [They may get into a jam] FIGS – Don’t know if I have ever had fig jam, but I like fig newtons, so we should be good!
- 26D [Number associated with Yale] BOOLA BOOLA – Isn’t this the Yale fight song or something? I didn’t know this very easily at all. Doesn’t hurt that “number” in this case means song!
- 43D [Media partner] CO-HOST – This wasn’t that hard, but I thought it was kinda clever!
That is all for now! Off to do more puzzles!
Bill Pipal’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
We have a new name in the database! If this is a debut, congrats! Not too hard, but still thorny enough for a Saturday LAT puzzle. Nice to see the timely CANCEL CULTURE right across the middle of the grid, as that has come up a lot in recent times. The moral of the story is don’t write anything you might later regret, which is what they have been saying since I was a child! I had a little trouble in the SE corner, but all in all a fun puzzle. Feel free to make more puzzles, Bill! 4.4 stars from me.
- 27A [2018 film for which Alfonso Cuarón won Best Director] ROMA – Still haven’t seen it. One of these days!
- 32A [“The Color of Money” game] NINE-BALL – Used to watch a lot of this on ESPN. It is a fun game to watch when you watch people that know what they’re doing; not so fun to play if you don’t!
- 52A [Tireless assistant] SIRI – I don’t us any of these talking gizmos. The world is not that quiet! Maybe if I lived by myself it would be different …
- 63A [Alicia Keys label] ARISTA – Does anyone know record labels anymore? Does anybody buy records???
- 1D [Oscar winner as Woolf in 2002] KIDMAN – This Oscar was for her work in The Hours, another movie I have never seen. Perhaps this weekend!
- 3D [Common name for a cockchafer] MAY BUG – Believe it or not, I don’t know this term. I think these are doodle bugs as well, but I don’t think I know these bugs that well. I also don’t care for insects much, so maybe that is why!
- 7D [Gymnast who won four golds in Rio] BILES – Another timely entry, as the Olympics are still fairly recent and she made headlines by actually NOT competing in all events. Even after that, though, still one of the greatest gymnasts ever.
- 12D [Setting for a Billy Joel classic] PIANO BAR – We are going to see Billy Joel in 2022, after the concert was cancelled twice due to COVID!! (At least I hope we are!)
- 37D [Curt summons] “COME HERE!” – Great casual phrase! Or urgent, if you’re the one being yelled at!
- 50D [Feminist poet Lorde] AUDRE – She has quite the bio. I am not that familiar with her work, but she passed away in 1992, and growing up in the Midwest you aren’t going to learn about people like her too easily.
- 57D [Dixie bunch?] Y’ALL – This isn’t THAT Southern; I say it all the time!
Everyone have a safe and healthy weekend!
Jess Goldstein’s USA Today crossword, “P.A. System”—Matthew’s review
Is this a print debut for Jess Goldstein? I know her blog Cross Angel: Mind Freak, and thought I’d seen her on other sites, but she’s not in our tagging system here. Until today.
Theme: All eight words comprising four two-word themers start with PA-
- 14a- PAST PARTICIPLE (“Biked” or “swum”, grammatically)
- 26a- PAISLEY PARK (Prince’s estate)
- 42a- PAJAMA PARTY (One might involve a pillow fight)
- 53a- PARCHMENT PAPER (Cake pan liner)
Four fun, colorful theme entries, nice to see when (I think) you wouldn’t be too constrained in finding phrases that fit the bill. I was particularly surprised that I could drop PAISLEY PARK with no crossings. Don’t know where that’s been living in my brain!
I have to be quick today, so no notes. Enjoy your weekend!
Paul Coulter’s Universal crossword, “Ding! Ding! Ding!”— Jim Q’s write-up
THEME: Text shorthand found in common phrases
- DEMI MONDE. IMO.
- FALL FROM GRACE. OMG.
- TO PUT IT MILDLY. TMI.
- TEXT ALERTS.
Fun phrases and nifty hidden word idea. I like how we’re not simply hiding the same word again and again. The revealer is doing a little extra duty in trying to tell the reader that they need to be “on ALERT”… If I were a betting man, I think that’s to avoid using circles, which most puzzles like this one would have. Hey, as long as they’re not asking me to count letters and mentally circle, I’m a happ(ier) guy.
Like the fun fact for AFRO [Simone Williams’ record-setting hairdo]. That’s a recent record, and it’s fantastic.
LOBSTER BIB for LOBSTER POT caused me to stumble and I never quite recovered, clocking in at over 5 minutes. Is “IT’LL be a cold day…” a phrase? I think “… in hell” is missing, and I feel like it needs it.