Paul Leistra’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “On the Rebound”—Jim P’s review
We have a debut today, and oddly, we’re keeping with the basketball theme of yesterday. I wonder why these two puzzles weren’t saved for March Madness.
The revealer is BACKBOARD (37a, [Hoop holder, and a hint to the first four letters of each asterisked answer]). The indicated letters of each theme answer spell (backwards) a word that can precede “board.”
- 17a. [*Thwart] FRUSTRATE. Surfboard.
- 21a. [*Overly harsh] DRACONIAN. Cardboard. I’ve always liked that word. (DRACONIAN, not cardboard. Pfft.)
- 56a. [*Teens’ rooms, often] RATS‘ NESTS. Starboard.
- 62a. [*Business section stories] TRADE NEWS. Dart board.
A nice set. The first one threw me for a moment. I thought, “What are we trying to spell with FRUS?” Then I had my aha moment.
It’s curious that those key letters weren’t circled, but on the other hand, I like the consistency of each “board” word being four letters long, thereby eliminating the need for any circles cluttering up the grid.
There are plenty of long entries (7+ letters) to enjoy. Topping my list are CHIMERA, AMATEUR, SPIDERS, CANTINA, and “I MEAN IT!” I don’t remember seeing PICOT [Lace loop] before, and I needed every crossing. Cruciverb lists it as appearing once (in the NYT) in the last six years.
- 30a. [Ron Weasley’s greatest fear]. SPIDERS. I didn’t remember this, but there couldn’t have been that many choices for terrifying creatures when SNAKES didn’t fit. (And snakes were Indiana Jones’s phobia.)
- 9d. [Hoppy the Hopparoo’s neighbor]. DINO. I don’t mind cartoon-based clues, but that’s a pretty deep cut. Hoppy was the Rubbles’ pet on The Flintstones.
A nicely constructed puzzle and a satisfying theme make for a fine debut. Four stars.
Rich Proulx’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
This 16-square-wide puzzle centers a COAT OF MANY COLORS as the theme unifier for a WHITE COLLAR ([Worker designation coined by Upton Sinclair], interesting clue), GREENSLEEVES ([Traditional folk song played by British and Australian ice cream trucks]), a SILVER LINING ([Upside, when down], good clue), and YELLOWTAILS ([Some sushi menu fish]). I did not know that Joseph’s technicolor coat was an [Envy source in Genesis 37…].
Fave fill: “OH, I GET IT!” feels fun. BLOOP SMASH SASS makes for a zippy first row. LA TRAVIATA and an ACTIVE ROLE are also solid.
A thing I want to talk about: Constructors in recent years have turned more to answers with a preposition tacked on, and I’m not loving it. PLEDGE TO? PLEDGE, sure, but with a TO?
Some tough vocab in the mix here, maybe making this play a little harder than a standard Wednesday, particularly for newer solvers: ECCE, ECARTE, geometric TORI, LAHR, TARSI, SCRY and SCREE. Plus I count almost 20 proper nouns, and name-dense puzzles often stymie many.
Four more things:
- 60d. [Simu ___, star of “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings”], LIU. I’m glad Marvel cast him so we have an alternative to using Lucy in all the LIU clues. (Long Island University is a non-starter for most venues outside New York, I would think.) I also enjoyed the movie quite a bit!
- 13d. [Rocky debris], SCREE. Specifically that which has slid off a cliff, in case you wondered.
- 28d. [Plug receptacle], JACK. My brain was stuck on electrical plugs and their sockets, so I needed plenty of crossings to remember this sort of JACK.
- 43a. [They’re placed in locks], OARS. You know and I know that KEYS goes better with this clue, and the über-crosswordy OAR is never exciting to uncover. How many of us have actually ever placed an oar in an oarlock and knew that’s what we were doing? I’m not sure I have.
3.5 stars from me.
Zhouqin Burnikel’s USA Today Crossword, “Outscore” — Sophia’s recap
Editor: Mollie Cowger & Erik Agard
Theme: The letters GRADE make up the outer part of each theme answer.
- 16a [March with many rainbow flags] – GAY PRIDE PARADE
- 35a [Indulges in a long rant] – GOES ON A TIRADE
- 60a [International commerce] – GLOBAL TRADE
Cute theme today – a grade in class is a score, so the score is on the outer part of each theme answer, get it? It might have been nice to have a different letter split besides G/RADE somewhere in the puzzle, but I also don’t mind the consistency. GAY PRIDE PARADE is of course my favorite – between that and the clue for ALTARS at 46d [Places where grooms might exchange vows], there was a fair amount of LGBTQ+ representation in the puzzle.
Lots of 7+ letter down answers today. I have never heard of chabichou cheese, so GOAT MILK was a total guess for me, and I tried to put in “goat’s milk” first before I realized it was too long. The puzzle had a few other food references too – 7d [Enjoyed roujiamo, e.g.] for ATE, 9d [Pineapple discard] for CORE, and 24a [Chinese New Year dinners] for FEASTS. That last one tripped me up a bit as I thought the answer would be a specific type of food! Also, EYES ON ME plus a COYOTE gave the top half of the puzzle a fun “get the kindergarteners to be quiet” mini-theme to me.
Ben Tausig’s AVCX, “Expanding the AV” — Ben’s Review
The AVCX expansion is here! It’s fitting that Ben Tausig’s first puzzle in this new era is all about AV expansion:
- 18A: Garment worn by the winner of a Coney Island sausage-eating contest? — NEW YORK’S BRAT VEST
- 25A: Light source fueled by bioluminescent juvenile bugs? — LARVA LAMP
- 36A: Distaste for passive personalities? — BETA AVERSION
- 50A: Forfeit your opportunity to hustle someone at the bar? — WAIVE POOL
- 58A: Tend to some boo-boos using ointment? — SALVE THE CHILDREN
Each of the more common phrases (NEW YORK’S BRAVEST, LAVA LAMP, BETA VERSION, WAVE POOL, and SAVE THE CHILDREN) has had its AV expanded, with letters spelling out “TRAIL” – not sure if there’s a fun reason for that (there wasn’t a clue or a note sent with the puzzle indicating any importance), but I did find it satisfying that it spelled something out.
47D: Like Siouxsie Sioux, style-wise — GOTH
Jon Pennington’s Universal crossword, “Sounds About Right” — pannonica’s write-up
Well, would you look at the time? It’s gramogram o’clock again! I know! So soon, it seems.
In today’s edition of letters-sounding-like-words we have five theme answers, with the central entry needing no accessory words.
- 20a. [Address for an ambassador, very briefly?] YOUR XLNC (… Excellency).
- 26a. [Indie band led by Ben Gibbard, very briefly?] DEATH CAB FOR QT (… Cutie).
- 35a. [Ocean predator named for a flower, very briefly?] CNMNE (sea anemone).
- 43a. [Process that may create alpha particles, very briefly?] RADIOACTIVE DK (…decay).
- 51a. [English composition assignment, very briefly?] FORMAL SA (… essay).
Some imbalance, as three of the theme answers end with a two-letter gramogram, while the first is a QUAD (28d [Squarish college green]) and the central one (very nice find!) has five. As good as 20-across is, I’d have preferred the consistency of using another 2-letter ‘homophone’ there.
- 32a [Bird symbolizing Athena] OWL, 30d [Baloo or Pooh] BEAR. You’re not gonna believe this, but …
- 11d [Setting of the film “Skatetown U.S.A.”] ROLLER RINK. With —ERRIN— in place I thought it might be a place in California named something like SAN TERRINO.
- 36d [Pleasant] NICE. Just like I said about the central themer, which this intersects.
- 42d [Newspaper revenue stream that Craigslist disrupted] AD SALES. Predominantly classified advertisements.
- 45d [“Dibs on this fly ball!”] I GOT IT.
- 52d [Ancient U-shaped harp] LYRE. Just this morning learned some new vocabulary from the Haggard Hawks twitter account:
(I knew a couple of those already, yay me.)
And off I go.
George Jasper’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary
I managed to guess the revealer in George Jasper’s puzzle was HIDDENVALLEY despite not knowing that was a food brand of any kind. I already had VALE and GLEN (but not DALE) so it seemed inevitable. GOOGLENEWS and BRIDALEXPO were fun entries, with NAVALEMBARGO more staid. YOUAREHERE and EARLYTOBED are not thematic.
[Whitman’s Sampler choices], CARAMELS. Apparently these are chocolates.
Patrick Berry’s New Yorker crossword—Matthew’s review
Faves: LOVERSLEAP, HERESHOWTOORDER, THATSSORAVEN, Sonia BRAGA, but generally a pretty nondescript puz for me, unfortunately.