Drew Schmenner’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Take a Hike”—Jim P’s review
Theme: Familiar(ish) phrases that have the initial letters of Q and B. The revealer is STARTING QB (60a, [Brady or Mahomes, and a hint to 17-, 31-, 37- and 45-Across]). Oh, so close! As of last week, Tom Brady is a STARTING QB no longer. Of course, it being Super Bowl week, the clue could have offered up Sunday’s starters of Joe Burrow and Matthew Stafford, but I for one wouldn’t have known those names.
- 17a. [Party appetizers] QUICK BITES.
- 31a. [Scholastic competition] QUIZ BOWL.
- 37a. [It runs through Sunnyside and Forest Hills] QUEENS BOULEVARD. Not knowing this entry, it sure started out looking like QUEENSBORO something.
- 45a. [Arctic Cat Alterra 450, e.g.] QUAD BIKE.
That works, and a I like the title as well. The interesting challenge here is how all the Qs are handled in the grid. QATARI is the nicest of the lot, but the rest are fine. What’s most surprising is that only one of the crossing Q entries has a U after the Q.
POTATO SACK and SEES ACTION are fun, lively entries in the fill. I also like LAB RAT and M’BAKU though I needed most of the crossing for that last one. Readers of the Black Panther comic will recognize the character as the sometimes-opponent of the superhero.
Clues of note:
- 6a. [Glass in a radio booth]. IRA. Are you trying to trick me? It won’t work.
- 14a. [Explorer Marquez]. DORA. Okay, you tricked me. I was looking for a non-cartoon explorer. I had no idea she had a last name.
Apt puzzle for Super Bowl week. 3.5 stars.
Grant Thackray’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Lots of animals have common names that aren’t scientifically accurate. For years, we were told that “panda bear” was wrong because pandas weren’t bears, until eventually pandas were categorized as bears after all. (We await full bear recognition for the “koala bear.”) This theme examines some AQUATIC creatures in this vein:
- 1a. [With 6-Across, underwater creature that’s not actually a 6-Across], JELLY / FISH. I call foul since jellyfish is one word and the other themers are all two-worders.
- 23a. [With 25-Across, underwater creature that’s not actually a 25-Across], ELECTRIC / EEL. Any crossword constructor or editor who’s searched for good EEL clues probably knows this.
- 36a. [With 38-Across, underwater creature that’s not actually a 38-Across (nor a 36-Across, for that matter)], MANTIS / SHRIMP. I like the two-fer here.
- 47a. [With 48-Across, underwater creature that’s certainly not a 48-Across], SEA / CUCUMBER.
- 64a. [With 65-Across, underwater creature that actually “is” a 65-Across despite a common misconception], ORCA / WHALE. *record scratch* Hold up, who’s been calling it an orca whale? It’s either orca or killer whale. This one just plain doesn’t work for this theme. A tad surprised the puzzle was accepted with this aspect. When something like 95% of NYT puzzle submissions are rejected, the published themes need to be closer to flawless.
Moving on to the rest of the puzzle, here’s my fave fill: MILLER TIME, AB NEGATIVE, PIQUE.
Three more things:
- 56a. [They’re chucked in a chuck and bored in a board], DRILL BITS. Nice clue. How much wood would a woodchuck drill if a woodchuck chucked drill bits in a chuck?
- 7d. [It’s often made hot and served cold], ICED TEA two spaces over from 9d. [Insight from an insider], HOT TIP. And then another two spaces over, TEA in another language, CHAI. I’d be happy without “hot” in the ICED TEA clue.
- 24d. [That, in Italian], CHE. That reminds me, I haven’t watched last week’s And Just Like That… episode yet. Sara Ramirez is compelling as Che Diaz, a nonbinary comedian and podcaster on the show.
2.5 stars for me, after the judges’ deductions for the one-word JELLY FISH and non-phrase ORCA WHALE.
Kameron Austin Collins’ AVCX, “AVCX Classic Themeless #61” — Ben’s Review
The new era of the AVCX kicks off next week! KAC is here with another of his very solid themelesses to close out this era of things, and it was a doozy. I’d expect nothing less – even his empty grids are beautiful.
- I loved all the film references in this puzzle like The LONG GOODBYE, Michael MANN, and BRIE Larson.
- Two grid-spanning down clues provide the central spine here – EMOTIONAL APPEAL (“Call from the heart”) and IN BITS AND PIECES (“Rent”)
- I also loved the long three-stacks in the upper and lower corners of the grid – it took me far longer that it should have to get APPLE GENIUS for “Bar employee since 2001”, and it turns out THE WANDERER has the same length as TRAVELIN’ MAN, the correct song-about-a-guy-who-gets-around Kam was looking for.
Billy Bratton’s Universal crossword, “Food Fight” — pannonica’s write-up
Phrases composed of x + y, where x is a foodstuff and y is a plural noun (or present tense verb) that might be witnessed in a skirmish.
- 20a. [Steak house offering that shares its name with a type of facial hair] MUTTON CHOPS. I doubt we’d see that on too many menus nowadays. The second sense is typically rendered as a compound word.
- 35a. [Default side for a Happy Meal] APPLE SLICES. This is the healthier option that replaced … what? Or was it an addition?
- 52a. [Cereal with the mascot Dig’em Frog] HONEY SMACKS.
Theme works, and it’s kind of nifty. The puzzle was a very smooth and quick solve; nothing too tricky or outré.
- 3d [Taiwan’s region] EAST ASIA. As one word, it could have been clued via Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, which I unfortunately feel more people need to brush up on.
- 5d [Crunchy morsel often used in baklava] WALNUT. I’m more on Team Pistachio.
- 21d [Surname that sounds like a conjunction] ORR. Ooh, crosswordese twofer. Evoking O’ER while cluing ORR.
- 32d [Yes, to Miss Piggy] OUI. I didn’t realize her French extended beyond MOI.
- 46d [Major producer of chips] IBM. Is it? I thought those were dominated by the likes of Intel and AMD, or is that only a certain kind of processor?
- 58d [Tut’s relative?] TSK. Cute.
- 50a [“Hamilton” actress Philippa] SOO. A much needed update from Barney Miller‘s Jack and upper Michigan’s maritime locks.
- 64a [Relative of an onion] LEEK. Marginally distracting, as a food item not part of the theme. (As was WALNUT, which I neglected to mention.)
Zhouqin Burnikel’s USA Today Crossword, “Repeat Business” — Sophia’s recap
Editor: Mollie Cowger & Erik Agard
Theme: Each theme answer has the letters INC in it twice
- 17a [Refrain from a 1967 Aretha Franklin hit] – CHAIN CHAIN CHAIN
- 35a [Gradually] – INCH BY INCH
- 59a [On some occasions] – IN CERTAIN CASES
After getting the first theme answer, I thought that the theme of today would be repeated words that were also types of businesses – you know, like chain stores. But no! The hidden INC is a nice length and makes the theme more satisfying than just doing this gimmick with, say, the letters “co”. Also, I had “Chain of Fools” stuck in my head for the majority of my solve, which I’m not mad about.
Notes on the puzzle:
- Besides the theme/title, there are a lot of consumer-related words in the puzzle today: STORE, HARD SELL, SOLD, SOLICIT.
- A typical trait of a C.C. puzzle is lots of food related clues and answers, and today certainly lived up to that. 24d [Mung or fava] for BEAN, 31d [Cheese-topped chip] for NACHO, 10a [Tamago kake gohan ingredients] for EGGS, 41a [Mentaiko pasta ingredient] for ROE, 42a [Like well-aged cheddar] for SHARP, and 49a [Cookie with an Apple Cider Donut flavor] for OREO. I’m… not sure how that last one would taste, but the rest sound awesome.
- One of my pet peeves in both life and crosswords is misuse of daylight vs standard time abbreviations, so shout out to 65a [Summer time zone in ATL] for EDT for including the time of year.
- A very topical northwest corner with 1d [Coveted Hollywood trophies] for OSCARS and 2d [Olympics competitor] for ATHLETE! I watched Nathan Chen’s figure skating short program a few nights ago and it was truly spectacular.
Natan Last’s New Yorker crossword—Matthew’s review
Just dropping the grid in and will have to return later with a better review, but in two sentences: lots of fun clues, bottom maybe a bit tougher than the top. See you later today!
OK, back: I had a good time with this one, particularly in the top half, and double particularly with the clues. Right to the highlights:
- 11a [Dropped shots?] DELETED SCENES. So good.
- 30a [Occasion for collaborating on a track] RELAY RACE. I especially enjoyed watching the biathlon relay earlier this week. On the other hand, the short track speedskating relay is too much chaos for me to accept, no matter how much the announcers try to tell me it’s supposed to be that way.
- 32a [Seek a second opinion?] APPEAL. As in a second *court* opinion. I love it.
- 44a [Emulate Jelly Roll Morton, in a way] SCAT. This wouldn’t have tripped my radar if I got the recap up this morning, but swing down to the comments for some knowledge on this.
- 52a [It’s wicked and smelly] SCENTED CANDLE. Beautiful, and Amy has rightly called attention to it in the comments already.
Few other notes: DESTINY’S CHILD is a lovely marquee entry. SOAP DOWN feels pretty dang green-painty to me. The EILEEN/TYSON crossing is a good example of how a square can be totally inferrable without knowing either answer (as I didn’t).
Peter A. Collins’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary
Peter A. Collins puzzle is plus-sized, but contains a quirky, minimalist theme. The left-right symmetrical grid features HOTPANTS with HOTLEGS, a HOTSEAT and HOTPOCKETS; flouting the convention to not repeat words in a grid. It is a remarkably neat little theme though.
The clues and answers are mostly quite straightforward today. Some of the more tricky spots, though, include:
- [Army leader sometimes seen in a bunker?], ARNIE. Rather dated reference to Arnie’s Army.
- [Promethium’s element class], RAREEARTH. AKA lanthanides – elements about 57 to 71 – mostly not routinely met with, so aptly called!
- [“The Big Chill” director], KASDAN. Apparently Lawrence. Tricky name!