Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “D.C. United”—Jim P’s review
Theme: The letters D and C are inserted together into familiar phrases.
- 16a. [Guzzling act that leaves the whiskers frothy?] BEARD CHUG. Bear hug.
- 20a. [Good reputation sought by gardeners?] SEED CRED. See red.
- 36a. [Training for dispensary staff?] WEED CLASS. Wee lass.
- 56a. [Act of cutting the deck?] CARD CHOP. Carhop.
- 61a. [Scarf to keep your hair neat on a breezy day?] WIND COVER. Win over.
These were mostly groan-worthy puns, but I appreciate the wordplay. One nit I will pick is that the title doesn’t quite feel accurate. It implies (to me, anyway) that D and C already exist in a phrase and are then put together. The theme as is is more like “D.C. Added” (but that’s not a real thing).
Fill highlights include DEAR GOD and BEDEVIL (at appropriately opposite spots in the grid), DUCT TAPE, OREGANO, MAGNETS, SOMALIA, MADNESS, YOWZA, and PARADOX.
Clues of note:
- 9a. [Sunbow producer]. MIST. I was thinking this was going to be company’s name.
- 33a. [Knight’s backers]. PIPS. Gladys Knight, that is. Now there’s a first name you don’t see much nowadays. One website I looked at said the name was the 11th most popular girls’ name in 1901 but that only 80 girls were named that in the U.S. in 2012. Is it time for a resurgence of poor old Gladys?
- 68a. [Race starter]. ADAM. Couldn’t we put a “, biblically” at the end of that? The puzzle shouldn’t assume everyone adheres to that creation story.
- 3d. [“Heavens!”]. “DEAR GOD!” We also would have accepted [XTC hit song that sparked a religious backlash].
Alex Eaton-Salners’s Fireball crossword, “Revolution 9″—Amy’s write-up
Hello! Amy filling in for Jenni tonight. I get the theme but I don’t see how the title relates to it. The theme entries involve “revolution” in that the ends of three themers sort of “revolve” through the grid, but while two of them sort of draw a 9, the third one would be a backwards 9. Here’s the theme:
- 66a. [When tripled, a #1 hit for the Byrds … and instructions for completing three answers in this puzzle], TURN. The song is “Turn, Turn, Turn.”
- 20a. [Bases, e.g.] are ARMY INSTALLATIONS, with the LLATIONS part looping up counterclockwise and ending in the phrase’s earlier S.
- 35a. [Song that follows “On the Balcony of the Casa Rosada” in a Tony-winning musical], DON’T CRY FOR ME, ARGENTINA. After the G, it loops back to the first A in ARG(ENTINA).
- 51a. [“Never stop believing!”], KEEP THE DREAM ALIVE, with EAMALIVE looping down and clockwise this time.
Neat theme. I was perplexed after ARMYINSTA was parked at 20a, but the ending of DONTCRYFORMEARG was obvious and then the theme gimmick popped out at me.
Did not know this week’s “Peter Gordon tries to have all new clues” clue for KEN, 34d. [Yes, in Hebrew]. There’s a decent chance Jenni would have known this one.
Three more things:
- 2d. [Like someone who’s missed the boat], ASHORE. Literally! Not the idiomatic “missed the boat” on something. I liked the quasi-mislead.
- At first glance, 30a. [BBC rival], ITN intersecting 31d. [Dutch painter Gerard ___ Borch], TER looks like a terrible crossing to puzzle out. But it turns out that T, and all of ITN, is triple-checked thanks to the ARGENTINA loop. So you can’t complain too much here.
- 28d. [“Space monkey” follower in “We Didn’t Start the Fire”], MAFIA. I generally like Billy Joel but I entirely missed out on that album and this song being a radio hit. Needed every crossing to get this!
Four stars from me.
Aaron M. Rosenberg’s New York Times crossword—Ben’s review
After a few weeks of trickier themes, this Thursday’s NYT felt a bit on the slighter side, though in a good way (and it’s a debut! Congrats, Aaron!):
- 19A: At the party where the scientist was demonstrating her new shrink ray, [ZAP!] the punch ladle turned into a… — LITTLE DIPPER
- 28A: When the appetizers were passed around, [ZAP!] the potato wedges were turned into… — SMALL FRIES
- 38A: When the main course was ready, [ZAP!] the six-foot hoagie turned into an… — ATOMIC SUBMARINE
- 45A: When the dessert was brought out, [ZAP!] the pudding cake turned into a… — MERE TRIFLE
- 53A: Finally, when the still-hungry guests went back for more, [ZAP!] the additional helpings turned into… — MICROSECONDS
The attempt at a narrative here is charming, though I really want a Sunday-sized version of this puzzle, since the pun quotient here feels VERY Sunday and this was very charming. As it is, I blasted through this in under six minutes, but had a great time.
Latvia’s rupjmaizes kārtojums is my favorite MERE TRIFLE, made with rye bread, whipped cream, and (traditionally) cranberries
Erik Agard’s USA Today Crossword, “Rough Patches” — Sophia’s recap
Editor: Erik Agard
Theme: The theme answers include the letters ROUGH, and they cross at the U to create a “rough patch”.
- 23a [Made totally clear] – BROUGHT HOME
- 54a [Beyonce song with the lyric “You and me could make it rain now”] – LOVE DROUGHT
- 4d [The whole time] – THROUGHOUT
- 31d [Without missing anything] – THOROUGHLY
Busy workday today so I only have time for some quick notes on the puzzle!
- I think this is the first USA Today puzzle I’ve done where the thematic answers cross! It was a fun change from the norm, and like any good USA Today puzzle the title ties in well.
- I figured out the theme about halfway through the puzzle, which allowed me to get 5 or so letters in each theme answer right off the bat. This was very helpful because there were a bunch of names that were new to me today! I didn’t know LORI Lee or Adrian Angelico (mentioned in the clue for OPERA). I also learned NITA of 67a [Protagonist in the “Young Wizards” books] and 26d [Da’Naisha in “My Monticello,” for example] for HEROINE.
- Speaking of things that were new to me, crossing UHURU and RNA with the clue 65d [Letters in bio class] is a little mean. The last minute of my solve was me searching for an error, which turned out to be “uhuru/dna”. I think a more specific clue for RNA would have been a better fit in that spot.
- Favorite fill in the puzzle today – SPELMAN, and having both TRAY and SLEDDED (for all you folks who also went to college in snowy places – iykyk).
Bruce Venzke’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary
I think Bruce Venzke’s concept is fine, but the theme as executed feels forced on several levels. Having the revealer, PUTINAGOODWORD(FOR), be 5/6 of a phrase is peculiar. Then, all the answers were also various levels of stilted and awkward as well: PITCHANOHITTER, PROMOTETOKING, PLUGUPALEAK – all things one can do, but not dictionary-level phrases.
Sub-theme – 70’s minutia:
[Patty Hearst alias], TANIA.
[1972 Derby winner __ Ridge], RIVA.
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Crossword #1445, “Brand Ex”—Darby’s review
Theme: Each theme answer included a brand name that ended in EX.
- 17a [“Nail polish brand used for fishing”] CUTEX BAIT
- 23a [“First-ever nasal decongestant”] ORIGINAL SINEX
- 38a [“Particulate matter that makes cleaning mirrors difficult”] DUST IN THE WINDEX
- 46a [“Hollywood tyes who use lip balm?”] BLISTEX ACTORS
- 58a [“Chef who prepares watches?”] TIMEX COOK
Each theme answer also includes a common title or phrase such as DUST IN THE WIND or B LIST ACTORS, which was a belated revelation of mine. It was relatively easy to recognize the theme as I solved, especially once I got DUST IN THE WINDEX and BLISTEX ACTORS. I also though that each of the downward crossing answers on the Xes were pretty fun, such as 33a [“When some hve dinner”] AT SIX and XFL, a See-also clue that teams up with TDS. Both cross TIMEX COOK.
A few other things I noticed:
- 14a [“Old shopping mall”] – I chuckled when I filled in AGORA here. A very old shopping mall, indeed!
- 3d [“‘Pump those brakes’”] – It was easy to breeze through this answer, even if it was saying, “Hey, NOT SO FAST.”
- 48d [“Pastel purple”] – I loved that LILAC crossed 51a [“Prince Harry’s daughter”] LILI. So close and so fun, especially since LILACs and LILIes are both flowers. However, LILI and “SHE-Hulk”’ are the only women in this puzzle, though 49d [“”The Tempest’ trickster”] ARIEL is sometimes play by a woman. For men, there’s Paul RUDD, EHUD Barak, Greasy NEALE, Logan ROY of Succession, and ADAM SCOTT, as well as clued mentions of Prince Harry and Joe and Hunter Biden.
That’s all from me today! See you tomorrow!