Alan DerKazarian’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Downpours”—Jim P’s review
Theme: Famous WATERFALLS (63a, [What the circles in this puzzle hold]) are named in the circled squares which form the appropriate shape in the grid.
The WATERFALLS are:
- ANGEL Falls comprised of 19a ARIANA and 17d MAGELLAN.
- NIAGARA Falls comprised of 20a MANIAS and 10d JOE’S GARAGE. Didn’t know the Frank Zappa opera, but it was not difficult to infer.
- VICTORIA Falls comprised of 42a VICUÑA and 38d TUTORIAL. Who else tried ALPACA at 42a first?
Pretty nifty execution of this theme. I can’t say I needed to rely on it to finish the solve, but it’s clean and clear and solid all around. Plus the title makes for a good bit of wordplay.
Since I barely looked at the theme, this solved like a themeless for me. Regardless of what goes on elsewhere in the grid, if you’re going to have NINCOMPOOP as a fill answer, you get a thumbs up from me. Also good: PENCIL CASE, AREA RUGS, IRON AGE, GALAXY, SAGUARO, GO GRAY, and CREOLE. I’m not a fan of AGLITTER and the weird ALL TOO, but hey…NINCOMPOOP.
Clues of note:
- 15a. [Boring drill]. ROTE. Got me with this one as my mind first went to power tools. Similarly, the entry below it, 18a [Some have electric organs] makes you consider musical instruments before going to the correct EELS.
- 65a. [Artemis program org.]. NASA. Aretmis is NASA’s program to return humans to the moon by 2025. Learn more here.
- 8d. [Crunch in a bowl]. CAP’N. Meh. Doesn’t seem accurate to me. “What’s CAP’N?” “It’s Crunch in a bowl.” Nope. Doesn’t work.
- 17d. [Armada de Molucca admiral]. MAGELLAN. Didn’t know this even though I claim MAGELLAN as my favorite explorer. The ships of the MAGELLAN-Elcano expedition were called the Armada de Molucca because their goal was to reach the Maluku (or Molucca) Islands (aka the Spice Islands) in the east of Indonesia. (Recall that MAGELLAN was killed in the Philippines, and it was the Spaniard Elcano who completed the mission and subsequently the first global circumnavigation.)
3.75 stars from me.
Andrew Linzer’s New York Times crossword—Ben’s review
Hello 2022! It’s a new year of Thursday NYT puzzles. If you’ve made a resolution to do the NYT, don’t get thrown off by some of what goes down on these days – Thursdays tend to see more rebus squares (yes, you can put multiple letters in a crossword square) and other trickery, but we’ll get through this together.
Andrew Linzer has the honor of kicking off this year’s set of slightly-more-out-there-than-usual grids:
- 17A: Genre for Agatha Christie or Arthur Conan Doyle — [CROW][CROW][CROW] MYSTERY
- 22A: June — [LION][LION][LION] MONTH
- 51A: Early 19th-century Australia, for one — PENAL [ANT][ANT][ANT]
- 60A: Intellectual conformity…or a hint to interpreting 17-, 22-, and 51-Across — GROUPTHINK
GROUPTHINK is a great description of how to parse what’s happening with each of these answers. A group of CROWs like we have here is a MURDER (as in MURDER MYSTERY), a group of LIONs is a PRIDE (as in PRIDE MONTH), and a group of ANTs is a COLONY (as in PENAL COLONY).
All the down clues crossing these entries take full advantage of the extra space – SCAL[LION], PAVI[LION], and A MIL[LION] BUCKS for LION, [CROW]D NOISE, MI[CROW]ATT, and ES[CROW] for CROW, and DOMIN[ANT] HAND, [ANT]ACID, and [ANT]HEMS (“Country songs?”) for ANT.
Galaxie 500’s “TUGBOAT“.
Alan Arbesfeld’s Fireball crossword, “Missing Links”—Matthew’s review
The new year of Fireball Crosswords starts off with bang, courtesy Alan Arbesfeld. The two-part revealer beginning at 43a [With 64a, constraint put on some writing contests, and read differently, on this puzzle as well] TWENTY FIVE / WORDS OR LESS.
Even with that, I still needed a key breakthrough to break into the tougher sections: this isn’t a rebus puzzle, but rather “OR” is removed from twenty-five answers; twenty-five words are “or-less”:
Acrosses: 1a. CLAM(or) // 17a. EXPECT(or)ATION // 19a. L(or)EN // 21a. CENS(or)ED // 22a. RES(or)T // 37a. FUDGE FACT(or)S //41a. FL(or)A // 56a. M(or)ASS // 59a. VAP(or)ING // 66a. T(or)IC
Downs: 4d. MO(or)E // 6d. (or)BITS // 7d. ST(or)IES // 9d. SEN(or) // 10d. M(or)ALE // 11d. AD(or)ES // 12. CANT(or) // 22d. RETAIL(or)ED // 24d. F(or)EIGNERS // 33d. ASS(or)T // 36d. T(or)IES // 55d. NEST(or)S // 56d. METE(or) // 58d. SECT(or) // 65d. LAB(or)
Let’s see … any tricky clues in that bunch? [Major league?] for T(OR)IES is quite good.
And of course, every entry in the grid itself is also a valid crossword entry. I could say it would still be an enjoyable puzzle if that weren’t the case, but I’m very glad I don’t have to. The most impressive aspect of all this to me is getting precisely 25 (or) entries into the grid. I’m not facile enough with the various constructing/coding tools to get a sense of how many options there are for this constraint.
Outside of all that theme, I quite liked [Golf foursome] at 42a for TIRES. I could have done without the Landmark Forum reference at 69a – goodness knows there are other ways to clue EST, even if the NY Sun and Fireball have gone through dozens of them by now. Kinda neat to see crossword staple D.C. CAB clued to someone other than Mr. T, but I’m not sure Bill Maher’s role is *that* significant. LUFF is a neat word.
Jenni will be back for the Fireball next week. Happy Thursday!
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Crossword #1433, “Bones Days”—Darby’s review
Theme: Each theme answer replaces a day of the week in a common phrase with a bone.
- 17a [“‘This week sucked!’ [forearm]”] THANK GOD IT’S ULNA / THANK GOD IT’S FRIDAY
- 25a [“Film with the second-best-selling soundtrack of all-time [shin]”] TIBIA NIGHT FEVER / SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER
- 42a [“Thoroughly or completely [calf]”] SIX WAYS TO FIBULA / SIX WAYS TO SUNDAY
- 55a [“Classic second-guesser [hips]”] PELVIS MORNING QB / MONDAY MORNING QB
It took me a minute to start putting the bones in the answers, and I was completely thrown at first at how SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER could not fit, especially once I filled in FEVER on the crosses. I didn’t know what a MONDAY MORNING QB was (it’s someone who criticizes after the fact), but got there off of that bottom right corner, which was the last bit of the puzzle to fall into place for me.
The top left corner was also especially tough, considering the number of names crossing one another. I knew 10d [“Literature Nobelist Glück”] was LOUISE and could reasonably fill in 16a [“Chancellor Scholz”] as OLAF once I got the L from I’LL SAVE YOU and the F from AFAR. I had no idea, though, on 12d [“Billy of ‘MacGruber’”] to save me with 10a [“YouTube star Koshy”], so it took a bit of plain guessing to figure out the LIZA/ZANE cross.
- 37a [“Two-time WNBA champ Jewell ___”] – I didn’t know who Jewell LOYD was, so I caught this entirely on the crosses. Still, it was cool to learn that she was the first pick in the 2015 WNBA draft, playing for the Seattle Storm, the 2018 and 2020 Champs.
- 31a [“Sign up; Var.”] – I had to look this variation up to find that ENROL with only one L is a valid verb form for ENROLL. The more you know.
- 51d [“Cookie sometimes dipped in mayo”] – As I’m sure many of you have felt by now, there are just something you don’t want to know about OREOs. I’d say this is one of them.
Overall, not my favorite BEQ theme, even though I love the subtle reference to Noodle the Pug and his bones/no bones days. I hope y’all are having whichever type of day you need!
Enrique Henestroza Anguiano’s USA Today Crossword, “Internet of Things” — Sophia’s recap
Editor: Erik Agard
Theme: Each theme answer ends with something that can be opened in a web browser
- 20a [Piece of metal that cracks open a soft drink] – SODA CAN TAB
- 38a [House feature with a nice view] – PICTURE WINDOW
- 57a [Newspaper section that covers playoffs] – SPORTS PAGE
As a software engineer this theme immediately piqued my interest! TAB, WINDOW, and PAGE certainly all fit the bill of being things that can be opened in a web browser. It took me a while to see the theme because I kept wanting something related to “pop top” for SODA CAN TAB, so I ended up having to abandon the top part of the puzzle for a while and come back to it. It might have been interesting to push the meanings of the words even farther from their internet relations – something like maybe “Elliot Page” over SPORTS PAGE? – but that’s a minor nitpick on a ver solid theme.
- Great long downs in the grid today. All the 8 letter answers – PARASITE, IN A SENSE, CREATIVE, WANNABES, ALTER EGO, and MAIN DRAW – are excellent and add some color to the puzzle.
- I made my first mistake of the puzzle right off the bat by dropping in “at ease” for AT HOME for 2d [Totally comfortable]. Yet another reason it took me forever to see SODA CAN TAB!
- This puzzle also had a great collection of food words in PHO, OREO, RYE toast, and TACOS. Is there a better type of fill? I think maybe not.
Jeffrey Wechsler’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s grid & theme summary
Jeffrey Wechsler gives us four descriptive entries clued as [Buzz]: NOISEMADEBYBEES, WORDONTHESTREET, ASTRONAUTALDRIN and MILITARYHAIRCUT. All four seem very much of a single origin.
Julian Lim’s Universal Crossword, “Widespread Outrage”— Jim Q’s write-up
THEME: The word MAD is spelled out every other letter in common phrases.
- GO COMMANDO
- CAME AND WENT
- FROM HAND TO MOUTH
- HAM SANDWICH
- (revealer) HOPPING MAD
Fun theme! Great title. Perfect revealer. Solid phrases (FROM HAND TO MOUTH was a bit of a downer).
One nit for the GO COMMANDO entry is that it’s not necessary to hop all the letters… there’s another M in between the M and the A. That’s a bit fussy though. I enjoyed that themer the most.
The big problem: This is a circle dependent puzzle and Universal is unable to publish circles. Asking solvers to count three letters and mentally circle them is, in my opinion, silly. It’s a big turn-off to newer solvers, as I have witnessed on so many occasions. So having a difficult time understanding why Universal doesn’t update their software. The webapp experience is pretty terrible.
Great fill in this one with fun clues! Though [It’s made in the morning] for BED is not accurate for me, who wakes up on a daily basis and says “Oh shit!” and runs around and *somehow* manages to get to work on time still. Bed making is not in the morning routine. Total afternoon thing for me. I had DEW, which made sense to me :)
Not sure if I’m ready to accept DM ME as crossword fill. Looks pretty ugly.
4 stars with circles
1.5 stars without.