Richard D. Allen’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Cassette Playing”—Jim P’s review
Theme: The “kuh” sound is added to familiar phrases.
- 20a. [Swimmers’ strokes?] POOL CANOODLES. Pool noodles. Hmm. Canoodles are strokes? Meh.
- 33a. [Skewered dish made from cleaning aids?] SPONGE KABOB. Spongebob. Ha! This one was worth a chuckle, though.
- 41a. [Group churning things up in the dairy industry?] BUTTER CABAL. Butterball. Solid.
- 55a. [Instrument creating coast-to-coast buzz?] NATIONAL KAZOO. National Zoo. Good one with a fun clue.
It took me a while to sort this out, since I solved it in an airport and was not on the right wavelength. But it’s a fun theme executed well. I like that it’s balanced with two CA additions and two KA additions.
I liked HEY DUDE, OLDSMOBILE, and AREA MAP in the fill, although I briefly considered FREE MAP for the last one [Concierge desk giveaway].
Clues of note:
- 23a. [Thinker’s determination]. I AM. Assuming said thinker subscribes to Cartesian philosophy.
- 39a. [One with a mouth in another tongue?]. RIO. Yikes. Is this some weird form of French kissing? No, RIO is “river” in another tongue (Spanish), and rivers have mouths. (In case you’re wondering, “mouth” in Spanish is “boca.” When my wife was doing her pediatric internship in Los Angeles, she brought home the phrases “Abre la boca. Saca la lengua.” “Open your mouth. Stick out your tongue.”)
- 2d. [“Thanks for that absolutely terrible suggestion”]. UM…NO. Ha! A perfect clue for this phrase.
A pleasant puzzle. 3.75 stars.
Max Chen Lauring & Benjamin Chen Lauring’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap
The revealer is ONE PERCENT, clued as 56a. [Small amount], and the other four themers are things that ONE PERCENT can apply to:
- 17a. [56-Across, to a dairy farmer], LOWFAT MILK. Make mine skim.
- 22a. [56-Across, to a smartphone user], DYING BATTERY. 1% battery is alarming!
- 34a. [56-Across, to a gambler], UNFAVORABLE ODDS. This and DYING BATTERY feel a little weird as crossword entries, more like phrases that should be part of crossword clues instead.
- 46a. [56-Across, to Occupy protesters], THE ULTRA-RICH. It’s really quite obscene.
- 53d. [Professor ‘iggins], ’ENRY. Terrible entry, would love to see it vanish from grids and word lists. Crossing IDYL, too? That’s a tough spot for newer solvers.
- 13d. [Attractive, fashionable man, in modern parlance], ZADDY. Were you paying attention when this word was in the 10/25 New Yorker crossword? Anna Shechtman’s clue was better, as it incorporated the age angle: [Slang term for an attractive, often older man with a certain je ne sais quoi]. Another tough crossing if you don’t know your modern slang and NYC delis like KATZ‘s.
- 60a. [Pharmacist’s workplace in a hospital], DISPENSARY. Ha. These days, at least in states where medical and/or recreational marijuana is legal, the dispensary is where you go to buy it. (A little weird to have random 10-letter fill stacked with theme entries of the same length.)
3.5 stars from me.
Neville Fogarty’s AVCX, “An Unsatisfying Conclusion” — Ben’s Review
Neville Fogarty has this week’s AVCX puzzle and I liked it a lot:
- 25D: The Russian Revolution, for one — REGIME CHANG[E]
- 32D: Fireboat device — WATER CANNO[N]
- 33D: Part of a simple machine that converts torque to linear force — SCREW THREA[D]
- 27D: Full facial features that might be achieved with literal venom — BEE STUNG LIP[S]
- 20A: Theme of this puzzle, in more ways than one — LOOSE ENDS
We’ve quite literally got LOOSE ENDS at the bottom of the puzzle, as E, N, D, and S from 4 of its down entries are “loose” from the grid.
Other nice fill: GAMBIT (of the Anya Taylor-Joy “Queen’s” variety rather than the X-men kind), SAMOA, OOH LA LA (clued delightfully as “Very fancy possibly French thing!”), COROLLAS, and SOCIABLE.
Drew Schmenner’s Universal crossword, “Deal Breaker” — pannonica’s write-up
The circled squares span the gaps and the letters spell synonyms for ‘deal’.
- AC|CORD formed from 17a BIG MAC and 18a CORDUROY.
- CON|TRACT via 23a GAY ICON and 27a TRACTOR.
- TREA|TY out of 53a ERITREA and 56a TYPHOON.
- PA|CT contributed by 62a MEA CULPA and 64a CT SCAN.
The cluing was almost entirely businesslike and just-the-facts-ma’am, so for convenience and haste’s sake I’m going to keep this write-up short as well.
- 5d [It isn’t ursine or feline, surprisingly] BEARCAT. Not sure why there’s a ‘surprisingly’ qualifier there, as there plenty of biological misnomers out there. Anyway, this is the binturong, which is a Southeast Asian viverrid. Might be the largest member of the viverrid family, can’t recall. Some factettes: one of the few non-primate mammals to have a prehensile tail; they are listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN; supposedly they are docile enough to make good pets (but don’t get any ideas!); their urine smells like buttered popcorn. Photograph below, by Joel Sartore, is of a juvenile.
- 34d [One concerned with art prices?] ART DEALER. One of the few exceptions, and it’s quite clever.
- 47d [Indie film fan in vintage clothes, maybe] HIPSTER. Seems rather specific. I needed plenty of crossings.
Solid, if sober, crossword.
Zhouqin Burnikel’s USA Today crossword, “No Question About It” — Sophia’s recap
Editor: Amanda Rafkin
Theme: Each theme answer ends with a word that sounds like a question
- 16a [Millennials] – GENERATION Y
- 24a [Supermodel with over 25 million followers on Weibo] – LIU WEN
- 44a [Tiny unit of power] – MICROWATT
- 60a [Red Wings legend known as “Mr. Hockey”] – GORDIE HOWE
Here’s my question – what happened to “who” and “where”??? I’m joking, but the theme set feels a little incomplete without them. I know approximately four hockey players but luckily GORDIE HOWE is one of them, so once I had a few letters I could put in his name. I didn’t recognize LIU WEN as a theme answer for a long time because it’s a shorter answer without a symmetric pair (MICROWATT is a row higher than it). I’ve talked about my thoughts on asymmetric puzzles before, and those thoughts are still present here – I like the theme and know that a symmetric theme set would probably include worse entries, but the grid design on the whole can feel a bit inelegant and random/confusing.
Things that tripped me up today: “wheels” over WEDGES for 45a [Shapes of many blocks of cheese] and “welds” over MELDS for 29a [Fuses together]. I liked LAST STRAW, BEAR WITH ME, NOT A CHANCE. It took me a while to see DRY AIR for 9d [Low-humidity environment] because I feel like that’s a part of a desert climate, not a climate itself? But it’s crossed with CORGI so I can’t be too upset. Oh, and I will always be a fan of cluing RENT in relation to the musical.
Kurt Krauss’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary
Kurt Krauss’s LA Times theme today is a simple “vowel progression” theme where we go from PACK… to PUCK…, mostly in longer words. The odd black square chunks in the middle of the grid are likely a design choice affected by the central nine, PICKCLEAN.
- [The fox in Disney’s “The Fox and the Hound”], TOD feels like a mostly forgotten movie. Anyone remember anything else about it?
- [Mozart, in his day, e.g.], POPSTAR is rather too precious as clues go.
- Between [Like neatniks], ANAL and [Neatnik’s possible condition, briefly], OCD this puzzle seems to be waging a lone war on neatnesss.
Aimee Lucido’s New Yorker crossword—Matthew’s review
I love the way the long entries interlock in this grid from Aimee Lucido: each corner has two 10s intersecting a 10 and a 14.
And — you know what I’m going to say now — what great conversational entries filling those slots! IF I WERE YOU, WOULD YOU RATHER, IT’S ALL OVER.
I particularly liked the balance of WOULD YOU RATHER and LOWEST OF THE LOW, given that the clue for the former (20a- Lead-in to an often terrible choice) had me thinking “worst” for a while.
Lots of neat stuff from a variety of knowledge areas, too: MEIOSIS, YU-GI-OH!, LOLITA, CAROLE KING, the irresistible TV show NAILED IT.
I could see the DES’REE (9d- “You Gotta Be” singer) and ILENE (15a- “Empire” executive producer Chaiken) crossing being a challenge for some, but now you know it for next time, and “You Gotta Be” is such an earworm! I’m probably harder than most on entries like OF AN (14a- In the blink ___ eye) and GO MAD (5a- What Ophelia and King Lear both do). The clue style for the latter is also a pet peeve of mine, but at least it’s not (Who has walked on Mars?) for “NO ONE”. Anyway, your mileage may vary.
- 27a- (Enjoying some biltong, say) EATING. I didn’t know this jerky-like dried meat dish, but I’m glad to learn. It’s a southern African word from a Dutch etymology.
- 58a- (Rolled sushi) MAKI. Maybe I don’t regret not getting to this until after the work day, because this might be dinner.
- 62a- (Jennifer’s “The Morning Show” co-star) REESE. That’s Jennifer Aniston and REESE Witherspoon. I’ve caught the first two episodes – I know Amy is a fan – and I’ll get the rest eventually.
- 63a- (Folksinger Guthrie) ARLO. It’s almost Thanksgiving, which means it’s almost time for Alice’s Restaurant!
- 4d- (Provided with) ENDUED. This really hung me up. It’s not “imbue” or “endow,” but ENDUE. It’s related to “induce”.
- 10d- (“You got this!”) DON’T STOP. Maybe “TYING UP” at 35a is as far as the New Yorker will go, but I can think of a good number of indie blogs who may go a little more risque with this entry.
- 24d- (January’s “Mad Men” character) BETTY. Do I know the difference between Peggy Olson and Betty Draper? Sure don’t!