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.
NYT: I hate myself. I had to check puzzle upon completion because I was locked in on AREWECOOL. It made WOOLS for golf bag supply and CLAD for showy blossom. I was guessing on the flower (as far as I know GLADs don’t grow here, but I certainly get it now that I see it), and WOOLS seemed like a good name for those socks golfers put on their drivers. Rough beginning to the weekend!
I too had ARE WE COOL for a long while. But something about it felt a little off, and when I finally landed on GOOD, it sounded much better.
I didn’t know AGENDER (and the autocorrect wants to change it as I type it) but I was glad to learn it.
Thank goodness for AIRCOOL falling quickly in the NW, or I’d have been in that trap as well.
NYT: Individually, Caitlin and Erik are such great puzzle constructors. Together: Just awesome! What a delightful Saturday puzzle!
NYT: I had the NE all messed up and slowed with dropping in NEONS for those lights, and NADA for the down crossing, and DEN for the wolfs place. Not familiar with Scandal so that crossing was no help, NONAPOLOGY came easily after I erased all my first tries. I also started with Tripod for the camera stand in the SE, but that UX, even though I didn’t know what it was, changed my mind for that after I decided it wasn’t an English translation of some foreign phrase.
Fun puzzle, just hard enough but overall fair crossings on the hard things. I DID know GLADS so I didn’t fall into the “cool” trap.
IMO NYT one of the best puzzles in a while. Nice new stuff and creatively clued on both the new and old fill. This is a 5 in my book.
Newsday – gotta admit that solving these Saturday monsters is often very frustrating. Today’s, though, makes up for it in the “aha” moments and the knowledge gained. 1A women pursuing eagles LPGA was inspired. Never heard of the “how catch em” variety of crime stories. ELAL carries missile defense systems – wow! Isaac Stern saved Carnegie Hall. Who knew who worked on Mt Rushmore?! Nicely done, Mr. Newman.
USA Today: Just for the record, Jessica Goldstein constructed at least two previous USA Today puzzles. She had a solo puzzle 7/1/2021 and a co-construction with Olivia Mitra Framke 4/19/2021.
Can anyone help me understand the theme for *yesterday’s* Newsday puzzle? The title is “Fully Modest”, and I’ve been racking my brain with no success to connect it to the grid.
This is a wild guess… but there are no “I” s in the grid or the clues. So modesty forgoes the personal pronoun “I”?
Like I said, a wild guess but that’s all.
I’m sure you’ve got it right, marciem.
I think that’s it! I kept looking for some connection in the grid-spanning long answers, but the absence of “I”s is too conspicuous to not be it. Thank you!
61 d was the revealer, if I’m right.
It is. I totally overlooked that clue/answer combo in my focus on the long answers.
NYT: Never heard of UNIPOD, I call them monopods. I had a great one, but it was hard to fly with after 9/11. Now I have switched to much smaller cameras.
WSJ: Nobody’s mentioned the constructing debut of Karen Steinberg, mother of the wunderkind David. Mazel tov!
FWIW, this was at least her second published puzzle. She did the Universal puzzle on 4/1/2020.
Thanks, Martin! It’s my first in the WSJ (published two others in Universal and the Orange County Register a while back), and I have two upcoming solos in the NYT. David has been a terrific teacher!
It was timely when I read Amy’s take on saying words that hurt real people. Now that I am into my seventies I get particularly annoyed at a *certain* talk show host belittling Pres. Biden for being 78. That’s downright ageism. I’d like to see *him* run a country when *he’s* 78. Oh and the other *host* who greets his audience with Hi Guys? That’s just plain frat boy slang & should not pass any writer’s desk & esp. in NYC where the audience is all over the map. PS – both hosts are 47 – grow up dudes.
Thank you for reading my rant. Now I have to find my glasses…
I found the NYT really enjoyable for a novelty. It seemed at first to be filled with associations that have become trite to regular solvers. Surely yet again to spill was to TELL, the utmost degree was NTH, zip was NADA leading easily to NEON for bright lights going across, the company bigwig was a CEO (or maybe CFO), the supply in a golfers bag was TEES, and more. (All but the last, of course, fit.) But nope, I had to think again. That’s a nice feeling. (Well, maybe ICE POPS are still things I encounter more in puzzles than in life.)