Brendan Emmett Quiqley’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Ooh!”—Jim P’s review
Ooh, we don’t see this very often. A WSJ with a BEQ byline. And check it out. This standard-sized grid has a whopping eight (count ’em) eight full-length theme answers. The theme is quite clear just by looking at the theme answers.
- 18a. [It’s bound to be educational] SCHOOLBOOK. I would think a ? was in order here.
- 23a. [Resting position?] FOOTSTOOL.
- 32a. [“I see nothing here to complain about”] “LOOKS GOOD.”
- 40a. [Napoleon Dynamite wore a pair of them] MOON BOOTS.
- 47a. [Clear the table, perhaps] SHOOT POOL.
- 57a. [Toucan Sam’s bowlful] FROOT LOOPS.
- 10d. [Designed to be extremely easy to use] GOOF PROOF. “Foolproof” would seem more common to me. I wonder why it wasn’t used.
- 31d. [Modern-day conference centers?] ZOOM ROOM.
That is a crazy amount of theme material with the two Down entries crossing two other entries (granted, they cross at O’s, but still). I’m sure I’d find another example of this theme if I went and searched Cruciverb, but I can’t imagine finding another one on this scale.
So of course with eight theme entries, there are some eyebrow-raisers in the fill. How could there not be? I’m looking squarely at TEN ONES [Change for a Hamilton] and SNOOK [Thumbing-the-nose gesture]. The first seems quite random and the second quite obscure. I wonder what is the relationship between the gesture and the game of snooker?
Elsewhere we have a couple of stacked proper names (EGAN and MODI) and a weird partial THE KNOT [Site for a bride-to-be]. Oh, it’s a website. Hmm. Well-known enough to be crossword-worthy?
Despite these, I’m still impressed with the grid for the sheer amount of theme material.
Clues of note:
- 53a. [During the before times]. AGO. There was once a time when we weren’t fighting a pandemic. It’s true!
- 64a. [Sidekick played by Bruce Lee]. KATO. From The Green Hornet TV show of the 60’s.
Impressive amount of theme material here. 3.75 stars.
Ori Brian’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Yay! I worried that the unusual feature of this puzzle wouldn’t play well in the .puz version, but it worked just fine. I know I’ve seen this sort of theme before, but two years into a pandemic, my brain’s gone and I sure couldn’t tell you when or where I saw it previously. The themers are “X and Y” phrases where the X and Y words share their first letter, and they’re placed in the grid such that the two words intersect at the initial:
- 1a. [Reposition an icon, maybe], DRAG and DROP. 1d shares the same clue.
- 5a. [Key inspiration?], STARS and STRIPES. As in Francis Scott Key, “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
- 10a. [Genre with a Hall of Fame in Ohio], FOOT and BALL. No, ROCK and ROLL.
- 27a. [Principle of complementary duality], YIN and YANG.
- 42a. [Pleasantly concise], SHORT and SWEET.
- 51a. [Combine, as versatile wardrobe pieces], MIX and MATCH.
- 59a. [Fashion accessories in a 1940s #1 Dinah Shore hit], BUTTONS and BOWS. It was a hit song 74 years ago! Dinah Shore is not in the ROCK and ROLL Hall of Fame.
Entry I wish would vanish from constructors’ word lists: EAPOE. He’s known as “Edgar Allan Poe” or just “Poe.” E.A. Poe isn’t a thing anyone uses. This entry is trash and you all know it!
Four more things:
- 20a. [One who wasn’t due to arrive, informally], PREEMIE. Clue is a little off. A preemie is of course due to arrive! (Just some weeks later.) My kid was born two months early, but he absolutely had a due date. Add a “yet” to the clue and it works better.
- 55a. [Medieval adventure tale], GEST. Raise your right hand if you learned this word from crosswords. Raise your left hand if you did not know this word before this puzzle. If you haven’t raised either hand, congratulations! You might be a medievalist.
- 30d. [Did some crunches at lunch?], ATE. Crunching and munching.
- 34d. [Chewy Easter treat], PEEP. That singular usage of the trademarked PEEPS is a bit sketchy, but then so are Peeps. One notch above circus peanuts, people.
3.5 stars from me.
Taylor Johnson’s Universal crossword, “Seeing Double” — pannonica’s write-up
Theme answers are literally doubled to suggest phrases that go “double __”.
- 18a. [*Like swords with two sharp sides] EDGED EDGED (double-edged).
- 29a. [*Spy on the inside] AGENT AGENT (double agent).
- 45a. [*Betray] CROSS CROSS (double-cross).
- 57a. [*DNA shape] HELIX HELIX (double helix).
Gentle theme, good for new solvers. Feel as if I’ve seen this one a few times previously.
- Strange to have 49a [Comedic bit involving a sprayed beverage] SPIT TAKE in the crossword, as it’s a close relative of DOUBLE TAKE.
- 1d [Largest hot desert in the world] SAHARA. Thus avoiding the Antarctica rebuttal.
- 6d [Took the subway] RODE, 10d [Amusement park attractions] RIDES.
- 26d [Guitarist Segovia] ANDRÉS.
- 31d [Close temporarily, like a theater] GO DARK. Not quite the same thing, but timely: Broadway Theatres to Dim Lights January 19 in Honor of Sidney Poitier
- 36d [Gondoliers’ needs] OARS. There has been some controversy about OARS vis à vis POLES, but Wikipedia states (without citation, I’ll note), “Contrary to popular belief, the gondola is never poled like a punt as the waters of Venice are too deep.” Factette: the name of the oar is rémo, which is certainly crossword-friendly.
- 54d [Term length for a Supreme Justice] LIFE. This is problematic, and if you doubt me, a simple websearch will return many strong arguments in favor of limiting terms (and also expanding the court).
- 59d [Clairvoyant’s skill] ESP. No qualifier?!
- 42a [Earhart known as “Lady Lindy”] AMELIA. Clue echoes the theme, at least visually.
Zhouqin Burnikel’s USA Today Crossword, “Junior Class” — Sophia’s recap
Editor: Erik Agard
Theme: The end of each theme answer can mean “offspring of” in different languages.
- 17a [Place for discounted items] – BARGAIN BIN
- 25a [Hometown hero] – FAVORITE SON
- 48a [Unrealistic goal] – PIE IN THE SKY
- 61a [Mortgage giant founded in 1970] – FREDDIE MAC
I normally don’t read other folks’ crossword write-ups before I post my own thoughts, in order to keep myself from being influenced by outside puzzle opinions. But today, I solved the puzzle and had absolutely no idea what was going on with the theme, so I checked out Sally Hoelscher’s USA Today blog to get a hint… only to find out that she had been totally stumped today too! So it’s nice to know I was in good company. Looking at the puzzle now, I have seen these terms used before, but at midnight last night when I first solved this puzzle, my brain was not making those connections. The answers today feel solid if not spectacular – PIE IN THE SKY is probably my favorite because it reminds me of my grandma who would say it.
- 36d [Nath, etc.] was a complete mystery to me, and I needed every cross for NOSE RINGS. I was not expecting a plural, so that was a fun surprise.
- The VIETNAMESE zodiac is similar to the Chinese one, but replaces Ox with Water Buffalo and Rabbit with Cat. I was born in the year of the ox, so I’m personally excited to know this!
- It took me forever to get that 34a [Word after “web” or “panda”] was CAM, but once I had it I was very happy to think about pandas.
- Between parade FLOATs and RIDES there were a lot of theme park clues today!
David Poole’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary
Today’s puzzle by David Poole: the best part is the revealer, a jaunty number by the cruciverbally under-utilized ZEZ Confrey with a cute name. The puzzle unfolds though, as merely “cat” on the letters a to g, this doesn’t allow too much in terms of playful entries beyond CATCHASCATCHCAN, and places an astonishing amount of stress on the grid. Two of the CATS are in [Future docs’ exams], MCATS and [Old Venetian coin], DUCAT, which is already showing the puzzle giving way under thematic weight. The MCATS intersects with USOC. I’d run a long way to not have intersecting non-acronymic abbrs.
There are so many trite to annoying answers in the short to medium fill: CLI is not a lexical chunk. FHA is one of a million FDR-era TLA’s. In one corner we have ETO and ITO with TINORE for company. And I do hope you haven’t forgot about NYAD!
Brooke Husic and Enrique Henestroza Anguiano’s AVCX, “Paving the Way for the Future” — Ben’s Review
Today’s AVCX is from Brooke Husic and Enrique Henestroza Anguiano, and it’s a clever grid that definitely earned its 3.5/5 difficulty:
- 17A: *Facetious demand to a dog who’s torn up the sofa — EXPLAIN YOURSELF
- 24A: *”What’s the point, anyway?” — WHY BOTHER
- 34A: *High-intensity road illuminators — XENON HEADLIGHTS
- 48A: *Giulia (not Juliet) automaker — ALFA ROMEO
- 58A: Trailblazing, as some family members … or a feature of the answers to the starred clues when you say them out loud — FIRST GENERATION
Each theme clue here starts with a phonetic “Generation” – Gen EX, Gen WHY, Gen XE, and Gen ALFA.
Other fill I liked today: K DRAMA (“Squid Game” or “Itaewon Class,” e.g.), CHIRPS, ALEK Wek, TOP RAMEN, TREE POSE, and G FORCE
Wyna Liu’s New Yorker crossword—Matthew’s review
Wyna! I’m sorry I’m so late and brief.
Loved the twin long downs of DRY ERASE MARKER and LAST DAY ON EARTH. There are other plusses in the fill for me, but the true joy in Wyna’s grids are the clues. A few highlights:
- 38a [Base pair?] GRUESOME TWOSOME
- 50a [Ones who share care] COPARENTS
- 59a [What often leads to an accidental subscription] FREE TRIAL
NYT: This was fun! And considering the number of theme entries, very smooth. A very nice change of pace!
NYT: Agree! What a nice way to start my Wednesday morning! I really enjoy these “uniclue” puzzles.
Yes, I thought it was terrific. At first I avoided the clues with two answers, not knowing how to approach them, and the puzzle without them was already a nice first layer of challenge. Then the discovery was a pleasure.
While “yet” would no doubt help the clue Amy mentions, I don’t begrudge them their wording all that much. “Due” is ambiguous, but no question we use it to mean NOW. “My rent is due” means I gotta pay it fast. Dictionaries support this.
Amy’s understandable objection to EAPOE caused me to look at the Wikipedia article on Poe. The signature they have for him is “Edgar A Poe,” which sounds almost as wrong as EAPOE.
It’s big in Philadelphia.
Interesting that the museum’s website gives the title of that as “Portrait of Edgar Allan Poe.”
Oddly, the USS Edgar Allan Poe was officially renamed the USS E.A. Poe.
Maybe they wanted to save paint?
Fun is right and so much easier than the explanation led me to believe. Some very cute clues too.
NYT enjoyable to do, but slower than usual with the cross references, sort of …. restart restart restart.
I had almost the exact same nits about cluing as Amy, our daughter was a PREEMIE, but was very much expected. It’s not “unexpected” rather “earlier than expected” very poor clue, ironically leading to one of the E’s being my final square.
Left hand raised.
Having once lived in the Leigh Valley, PEEP is a gimme, but yuck, I don’t think they’re for, no less a treat.
Lunch crunch ATE just awful
Quality of clues kept my stars down, fun theme, still very positive on this puzzle
WSJ excellent, although the knot came slowly
I didn’t think “ten ones” was out of order, but “The Knot” definitely was.
I assume TEN ONES was supposed to be tricky. Given the phrasing of the clue, “two Abes” was the obvious answer.
I’m an old fart, but I’ve been on The Knot website multiple times to get information about weddings of nieces/nephews or sons/daughters of friends. I think it’s been around for at least 15 or 20 years.
I love that Napoleon Dynamite scene. A little hackneyed, maybe, but iconic and moving nonetheless.
Hey all! Today’s Universal is my puzzle, hope you enjoy! Fun fact, it was my first puzzle accepted by Universal, and on my birthday no less!
That’s a cool birthday present! Congratulations!
It totally was!
Thank Pannonia for the review!
Hope it was ok; I’m a little discombobulated lately.
It was lovely! I always enjoy your commentary on entries/clues
I thought that your statement about the Life term of Supreme court justices: “This is problematic” is quite problematic. That is their term, and the notion that it might change does not mean that it’s wrong. The only constant in life is change.
Wait, I thought NYT was not doing puz files anymore?
Universal… fun puzzle!! I didn’t even notice the “rode/rides” almostdupe. :) . I had the same mental desire for “takes” to be doubled and be part of the theme, but I do love a good spit-take too :D .
Thanks pannonica for the beautiful Segovia tune to brighten reading and doing the rest of the puzzles!
Happy Birthday, Taylor!! And many more… birthdays AND fun puzzles! :)
AVCX – According to the above write-up, the title of the AVCX puzzle is “Go With the Flow.” As you can see in the image of the crossword, it should be “Paving the Way for the Future.”
my apologies! I’m recovering from running this year’s Mystery Hunt and forgot to change that while getting today’s post up. It’s been corrected.
NYT – Even if you wouldn’t want to eat a Peep, they are great fun to heat in the microwave! (Try it!)