Julie Bérubé’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “It’s a Stretch”—Jim P’s review
Welp, guess I was wrong about having Halloween-themed puzzles for the rest of this week. This one’s about stretchy things stretched out to span the grid.
- 17a. [Stretchy rope] BUUUUUUNGEE CORD.
- 26a. [Stretchy pants part] WAAAAAAAISTBAND.
- 43a. [Stretchy facts] THE TRUUUUUUUUTH. I like this one best because “stretch the truth” is an actual phrase.
- 56a. [Stretchy superhero] ELAAAAAASTIGIRL. I went with Plasticman at first, but I like this answer better.
I like the idea here, but as a solver, the number of “stretched” letters felt random. Maybe I could’ve realized that we were going for grid-spanners, but during the solve, that didn’t register. Which letter got stretched also feels random, other than the fact that they’re all vowels. Relatedly—and maybe this isn’t fair—but I wanted the stretched letters to spell something appropriate (a stretchy sound, perhaps?), but I can’t come up with any reasoning behind why U, A, U, and A are the letters in question.
The fill isn’t especially sparkly, but CUISINE and “AS USUAL” are nice. However, the puzzle lost me when I got to 61a [Org. that supported Prohibition]. This turned out to be WCTU which is just a collection of random letters to me. I discovered it meant the Women’s Christian Temperance
Movement Union which, per Wikipedia, aims “to create a ‘sober and pure world’ by abstinence, purity, and evangelical Christianity.” Yeesh. I can see why this entry hasn’t been seen since 2014. The other reason may be that, again per Wikipedia, worldwide membership of the WCTU stood at a mere 5,000 as of 2012. This entry is in such a small, easily-reworked section of the grid that I’m surprised it stayed in. It didn’t take me long to replace it with MENU and the word below it with PREP.
Clues of note:
- 53a. [Shilling, in slang]. BOB. Sure, the shilling hasn’t been used in the UK since 1971, but you still hear the slang for it on TV and in song lyrics, so it’s nice to be reminded of this on occasion.
- 46d. [Firkin or furlong]. UNIT. Never heard of a firkin before, but enjoyed learning about it. It has different meanings in the UK vs. the US.
I like the playfulness in the theme, but I wanted something more to tie the theme entries together. Three stars.
Johanna Fenimore’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
For my money, the funniest thing on SNL in the last couple seasons was Bowen Yang as the iceberg that the Titanic hit, on “Weekend Update.” It doesn’t break down to a single, crisply memorable short line that everyone quotes, but it’s so perfect. Today’s theme is SNL catchphrases:
- 17a. [Classic line from the Superfans sketch on “S.N.L.”], “DAAAAA BEARS!” You gotta make that S super-sibilant. And no, I don’t know if there is a single accepted spelling of DAAAAA, with those five A’s.
- 24a. [Classic line from the Delicious Dish sketch on “S.N.L.”], “SCHWEDDY BALLS.” A tad surprised to see this one in the crossword since it’s obvious in the sketch that the whole point is that these treats sound like “sweaty balls.” Going gonadal, are we? Also, I just watched the sketch, and I wouldn’t call SCHWEDDY BALLS a “classic line.” It’s a classic phrase included within some lines of dialogue, like “No one can resist my Schweddy Balls.”
- 38a. [Classic opening line from an NBC sketch show], “LIVE FROM NEW YORK.” This is sort of a quasi-revealer, as the clue is different from the other four. Given all the tradeoffs in the fill, I’d vote to scrap this and just play with the other four “classic lines.”
- 49a. [Classic line from the Wayne’s World sketch on “S.N.L.”], “WE’RE NOT WORTHY.”
- 60a. [Classic line from the Blue Öyster Cult sketch on “S.N.L.”], “MORE COWBELL,” as spoken by Christopher Walken. Will Ferrell is a gem on cowbell.
I think the Schweddy and cowbell ones were one-offs, while Superfans and Wayne’s World were recurring sketches. I had fun with the themers, though 38a feels like an outlier and crowds the grid.
I appreciated WRAP SKIRT but the other fill mostly left me cold. I did a Google news search for IMPULSION and learned that this word is far more common in French and Spanish than it is in English—not sure I’d ever seen that form of the word before. UNLET, I IS, plural SRIS (not sure if that’s legit in Indian English), OSRIC crossing SRIS, LEA, -OLA, FEU… eh.
2.75 stars from me.
Natan Last’s New Yorker crossword—Matthew’s review
Whoo, this was a fun one. Dense as heck with tidbits of knowledge, I learned a bunch of stuff, and the New Yorker could have run this with a “Constructor X” byline and we all would have known it was Natan. With apologies to the last few puzzles I said this about, my favorite in some time.
Edit: looking at it again, I do see a potential trouble spot at DIRAC (47a- Nobelist Paul who helped develop quantum mechanics), which crosses three proper nouns and a movie (or musical) reference I didn’t know. But those answers collectively touch on a variety of topics, and it’s not like there are *too* many possibilities.
I’ve also got the AVCX today (scroll down!) so getting right into notes, which are going to be lengthy:
- 1a- (“___, like dreams, are made of desires and fears”: Italo Calvino) CITIES. I’m not very well-read, but I adore Calvino, and love this as a 1-Across.
- 12a- (Crucial trial) ACID TEST. This still hasn’t clicked for me. An idiom I’m unfamiliar with? Or a double meaning of “crucial”?
- 19a- (“Word”) AMEN. Including this to plug Natan’s crossword book from 2012; Word.: 144 Crossword Puzzles That Prove It’s Hip To Be Square.
- 26a- (Org. for the Panthers) NFL. These are the Carolina Panthers, but could have also been “NHL” (Florida), or “ACC” (Pitt)
- 27a- (No. 1 hit for Migos featuring Lil Uzi Vert, with the lyric “Raindrop, drop-top” (BAD AND BOUJEE). I’ve never actually heard the song? But I knew it from the clue, and it’s a great marquee for a themeless.
- 1d- (Die Siedler von ____ (German board game created in 1995 and released in the U.S. the next year) CATAN. I’ve tried, but I’ve never been able to enjoy this game.
- 9d- (Local positions?) UNION JOBS. A play on “local”. I love it.
- 10d- (They may end a story) KILL FEES. I was unfamiliar with this term, and the PANTHERS ambiguity slowed me on it, but another nice misdirect.
- 30d- (One who succeeds in a performance) UNDERSTUDY. Another deft misdirect, on “succeeds”.
- 34d- (Musical genre that flourished after the Trujillo dictatorship) BACHATA. I like the music, I like the word, and I learned something.
Ben Tausig’s AVCX crossword, “Short Courses”—Matthew’s review
Matt subbing for Ben on a neat grid from Ben (T.) this week. I needed the revealer to make sense of the circles and the “unclued” entries contained in them.
The revealer is at REROUTING (53a- Word when the GPS finds a shorter path, such as the circled letters in this puzzle provide).
Looking back at the themers, there’s the clued entry, and then the circles REROUTING the entry through another that satisfies the clue:
- 1d- (Major African river) NIGER and NILE
- 22a- (Storied New York City avenue that runs through Harlem) LEXINGTON and LENOX
- 10d- (Speedy German option) AUTOBAHN and AUDI
- 37a- (Trail named for the indigenous people whose territory it partly sits on) APPALACHIAN and APACHE
My favorite thing about Schrodinger puzzles are the versatile clues that cover multiple entries, and it’s nice to get more of them.
- 1a- ([I can’t say it out loud right now, but hi]) NOD. Loved this clue – so much more colorful than just (Silent greeting) or something.
- 11d- (Certain benign growth) ADENOMA. I’ve probably seen this word before, but it wasn’t easy coming in the puzzle. Specifically, it’s a gland-related growth.
Enrique Henestroza Anguiano’s Universal crossword, “Above it All” — pannonica’s write-up
- 32dR [Wildly exaggerated, or a hint to two words that can precede each starred answer’s start] OVER THE TOP. Accordingly, “over the” can precede the vertical entries’ first words.
- 3d. [*Fictional lunar settlement] MOON COLONY (over the moon).
- 14d. [*Fast-casual restaurants offer it] COUNTER SERVICE (over the counter).
- 26d. [*Work week’s midpoint] HUMP DAY (over the hump). Hey, that’s today.
- 8d. [*Iris, in Greek myth] RAINBOW GODDESS (over the rainbow).
Very solid theme. Consistent, ample. The revealer took a little time for me to parse, I was I was interpreting the revealer as implying some other pair of words, no providing them outright.
- 10d [Kill it, in drag lingo] SLAY. As I sped through the clue it registered as a weird slang for ‘dragon’, which actually helped me get the answer even more quickly.
- 56d [Scam artist’s victim] DUPE. I must protest this blatant dupe in the crossword!
- 13a [Seemingly emotionless sort] STOIC. I appreciate the qualifier.
- 18a [Get busy, as a bee] POLLINATE.
- 64a [Negative person] CYNIC. Often said to be merely realistic. Anyway, it could have been tied to 13-across, but *sigh* I guess that would be expecting too much.
- 69a [Lovers’ quarrel] SPAT.
Zhouqin Burnikel’s USA Today crossword, “Minor In” — Sophia’s recap
Editor: Erik Agard
Theme: Each theme answer contains the word “TEEN”
- 17a [DVD extra] – ALTERNATE ENDING
- 39a [An ample amount] – QUITE ENOUGH
- 62a [Feature of some apartments] – PRIVATE ENTRANCE
Solid connection to the title, as there is a minor (a TEEN) in each answer. I liked that the TEEN was split up between words and thus changed its sound. Because of that change, it took me a minute after finishing the puzzle to find the theme at all, and at first I wondered if it was just phrases with EE in the middle. I’d hope newer solvers would be able to figure it out, but I’m not sure. I really like ALTERNATE ENDING, and it took me a long time to figure out the first word in QUITE ENOUGH (I kept wanting “just enough”).
- My favorite words in the puzzle today were the symmetric pair of QUAGMIRE and NAIL TECH, although I’ll admit that I had to get the TECH entirely off crosses after “artist” did not fit.
- A lot of food in today’s puzzle, featuring two I didn’t know: kabocha (a squash) and yum cha (a dim sum brunch). One food I will always know, however, is the choco TACO. Good to see it back.
- Wasabi the Pekingese won the Westminster DOG show this year! Here’s a picture of him with his ribbons in all his floofy glory.
Craig Stowe’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary
Craig Stowe’s puzzle has something of a stealth theme, with no obvious theme entries. The explanation is, in part, found at SPLITLEVEL. I think I’ve seen the term, but can’t really envision what such a house could be like. In any case, as indicated by the added circles, four words that satisfy “___ LEVEL” are found separated by a black square in four pairs of theme answers.
I appreciate the effort taken in including some interesting answers in the four pairs, as sometimes this theme type can make for staid entries. Here we have MIRACLE(GRO)/(UND)O, PRE(EN)/(TRY)ASIMIGHT, INFER(NO)/(ISE)ENOW, and CANOP(ENER)/(GY)ROS.
The rest of the puzzle played quite easy for me. There weren’t too many tricky clues or proper names to work around. I wasn’t familiar with the particular ARI who is the [“Hereditary” director, Aster], but they are worth noting as both first and last names are vowel-opening. I imagine some may have had to work around [Email program named after writer Welty], EUDORA but you do get two different bites at that apple.