Hello! The Washington Post puzzle for this weekend is actually a two-page puzzle suite with a meta solution. Jim Q has devoted a separate post to the WaPo write-up. It can be found here.
Alex Eaton-Salner’s New York Times crossword, “Choice Words”—Nate’s write-up
Happy Halloween, everyone! I hope you all have wonderfully fun, spooky plans for the day… or that you’re at least looking forward to tomorrow’s discounted candy aisles like I am. :)
This puzzle was fun for me, though I’ll admit it took me a bit to figure out what was happening. How cool that there are five triads of entries per themer: one that is of the form of a common “A OR B” phrase and the other two that each use one of these choices in the same box, depending on if you’re looking at the across or down clue. It was a nice touch to have the OR phrase and the related across entry in the same row. Pretty ambitious! And, the constructor pulls it off well, I think.
23A: HIT OR MISS [Haphazard], which goes with:
– 21A: THE WHITE ALBUM [Noted Apple release of 1968, to fans]
– 4D: REMISS [Negligent]
43A: DO OR DIE [Desperate], which goes with:
– 45A: LIVER AND ONIONS [Traditional British entree]
– 35D: TIDIEST [Least messy]
70A: MORE OR LESS [Approximately], which goes with:
– 68A: MOUNT RUSHMORE [Noted U.S. rock group?]
– 64D: BLESSES [Consecrates]
96A: IN OR OUT [“You game?”], which goes with:
– 90A: MARCHING ORDERS [Military dismissal]
– 79D: SHOUT AT [Berate blisteringly]
116A: WIN OR LOSE [Regardless of the outcome], which goes with:
– 118A: WHIRLWIND TOUR [Hectic trip abroad]
– 114D: CLOSETS [Places hangers hang]
What lovely theme density. I’ll admit that I’m sometimes hit or miss on this constructor’s puzzles, but count me as a big fan of this puzzle – both as a solver and as a constructor who doesn’t think he could have pulled this off as well.
– I appreciate clues like [Living ___] WAGE that normalize/legitimize ideas (by the fact that they are “good enough” to be in a NYT puzzle) and help shift the Overton window on them.
– My students tell me that the Face with Tears of Joy emoji (in the clue for LOL at 53A) is only for “old people”… though I’ll admit that it’s my favorite and most used emoji. It is not, according to my students, the HOTNESS.
– Apparently, the Northern SPY apple might have been named after an abolitionist. Listen here for more! (I was worried it’d been named after someone from the confederacy.)
That’s all from me for now – let me know in the comments sections what you thought about the puzzle. Happy Halloween!
Victor Barocas’ Universal crossword, “Sink Your Teeth Into This Puzzle!”— Jim Q’s write-up
I vant to solve zis puzzle!
THEME: VAMPIREs, and the things they fear.
40-A (revealer-ish) = VAMPIRE.
17A [What a 40-Across wouldn’t order at a bakery] GARLIC BREAD.
11D [What a 40-Across wouldn’t want to see at a salon] MIRROR IMAGE.
60A [What a 40-Across wouldn’t want from a tailor] CROSS STITCH.
25D [What a 40-Across wouldn’t do with an insurance agent] STAKE A CLAIM.
Well, I don’t think the CROSS STITCH or STAKing A CLAIM is gonna harm the vampire, so I can’t see why he wouldn’t want either of those. GARLIC BREAD might be an issue. Guess it depends on how heavy handed we are with the garlic. And… do MIRRORs harm vampires? Or is there simply nothing reflected back? I really don’t know much about vampires. There seems to be a different set of rules for each vampire in the various movie/book/TV series to which they belong.
I jest. This puzzle is fun and timely, of course. And there’s a bit of a crossover between this one and the WaPo Meta Puzzles(s) that I’m so close to finishing (that’s not a spoiler… go solve it!). Maybe this one will help push me in the right direction for the final step of the other.
- MOIRA not clued as Rose?! I think she should be the only MOIRA from now on. There’s so many ways to clue her. Like OREO.
- SCOOTS really sounds like the name of a jazz trombonist if you ask me.
- AND SCENE! doesn’t sound nearly as final as THAT’S A WRAP! for a [Director’s last words]
Have a safe and happy Halloween!
Zhouqin Burnikel’s USA Today crossword, “Animal Food”—Darby’s write-up
Editor: Amanda Rafkin
Theme: Every theme answer includes an item that is the combination of an animal and a food.
- 17a [“Tropical fruit with white flesh and black seeds”] DRAGON FRUIT
- 38a [“Vanilla ice cream topped with caramel, fudge and pecans”] TURTLE SUNDAE
- 62a [“Sushi order stuffed with soft-shell crab”] SPIDER ROLL
When I first saw the puzzle title, I wondered if we were going to get answers that worked in words like “kibble,” “fish feed,” etc., and this was much more fun. I have to imagine that there are a number of possibilities that could fit within this theme, but I thought that this was a nice collection. Something I often think about with themes is whether or not the clue plays a little more on the words themselves instead of the exact definition, as we saw in this puzzle. The former is more fun, but there’s less of that “aha!” when you figure it out. Getting DRAGON FRUIT was huge for me, though, since I wasn’t exactly sure what a SPIDER ROLL was and likewise don’t eat a lot of sundaes.
Some clues and answers to think about:
- 6a [“Shape of a Halloween cookie, maybe”] – We got our spooky word of the day for Halloween with GHOST here. Maybe this puzzle is haunted?
- 32a [“Tense of ‘passed’”] – This was hands-down my favorite clue/answer combo of the day. It was a clever play on words that didn’t get PAST me, but I was still delighted by it.
- 48a [“Morally smug people”] – I definitely was not familiar with PRIGS before this puzzle, and I’d be curious to know how often this is used. Is it more common than I think?
- 3d [“‘It’d be my honor!’”] – GLAD TO here didn’t feel exactly synonymous with this phrase. I was sure it’d start with an I contraction for an “I’d be GLAD TO” or “I’m GLAD TO.” I felt similarly about 54a [“‘Heaven forbid!’”] with HOPE NOT. In the end, I caught these on the crosses.
Anyway, this was a fun puzzle with a relatively smooth solve, save for a few hiccups here and there for me. Happy Halloween!
Garrett Chalfin and Andrew Kingsley’s Universal Sunday crossword, “Bewitched”—Jim P’s review
Theme: Familiar phrases are punnily applied to a coven of witches gathering for Halloween shenanigans.
- 23a. [To assemble the witches, Hecate takes out her wand and makes …] CASTING CALLS.
- 32a. [Everyone has arrived by dawn, so the witches huddle together and commence their …] MORNING RITUAL.
- 52a. [Hoping to make mischief, the witches start …] STIRRING THE POT.
- 69a. [After mixing the ingredients, the witches ominously announce …] SOMETHING’S BREWING.
- 87a. [Having summoned their desired phantom, the witches cry …] THAT’S THE SPIRIT.
- 103a. [Tired of standing but not quite done, the coven …] SITS FOR A SPELL.
- 118a. [While resting, the witches reflect on all they learned at their …] CHARM SCHOOLS.
I’m loving the fill, especially BATARANG and SORCERER which make good Halloween add-ons. Also good: CROCODILE (and GATOR), “IS IT EVER!,” NOT ONE BIT, PARTY HOP, WHIMSY, and GETS CUTE.
Hmm. ARISE and AROUSE in the same grid and very close to one another (7a and 19a)?
- 1a. [Story full of plot holes?]. MAD LIBS. I’m not used to a challenging clue right off the bat in a Universal grid, but I liked this one.
- 127a. [Asexual, informally]. ACE. I’ll add this one to my collection of slang I’ve learned from crosswords.
- 17d. [“Mobius Strip II” insect]. ANT. I don’t think I’ve ever seen this work by Escher.
- 33d. [It’s casted and usually has lines]. ROLE. Not sure I would have used this clue with CASTING CALLS nearby.
- 99d. [Like a hungry chef]. IRONIC. Is it, though? M-W defines irony as “a situation that is strange or funny because things happen in a way that seems to be the opposite of what you expected.” Well, I expect a chef to get hungry on occasion. That’s probably why they became a chef! Let’s ask the expert. Alanis?
3.75 stars. Congrats to Garrett on the debut.