Lee Taylor’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Body Blows”—Jim P’s review
Theme: Idioms involving potentially painful actions to various parts of the body.
- 17a. [Strenuous task] BACK BREAKER.
- 35a. [Painful dive] BELLY BUSTER. Hmm. I know this as a “belly flop.” Google’s ngram viewer agrees with me.
- 42a. [Hilarious joke] KNEE SLAPPER.
- 63a. [Powerful handshake] BONE CRUSHER.
- 11d. [Very close game] NAIL BITER.
- 34d. [Astonishing sight] EYE POPPER.
I have a whole list of these, because once upon a time I was going to make a puzzle entitled “Torture Chamber.” Other potential entries include: Chest pounder, spine tingler, head scratcher, tongue twister, ankle biter, brow beater, side splitter, etc., etc.
What’s impressive here is that our constructor got six of these into one daily-sized grid, including two pairs that cross.
Of course, that means there’s little to no room for long fill, but there are a few things to like: KIBOSH, GLUTEN, “IS IT ME?,” and JUAREZ crossing ZILCH.
I have to object to NIPS IN [Visits briefly]. I’ve heard of “nip in the air” and “nip in the bud” but have never heard “nip in” by itself. In my experience, one “pops in” for a brief visit. Elsewhere, EX-CUB is disappointingly un-fun fill. Constructors, if you don’t have EX-GIANT, EX-ORIOLE, or EX-DIAMONDBACK in your word list, then you shouldn’t have EX-CUB. Same goes for EX-MET which I’ve seen before.
Clues of note:
- 19a. [Sprain soother]. ICE. I wouldn’t have objected if this was clued with respect to the theme.
- 39a. [Keep out of sight]. LAY LOW. Correct me if I’m wrong, but the clue is present tense and the entry is past tense. The better entry would be LIE LOW or else the clue should be [Kept out of sight]. Discuss.
- 3d. [Organ pipes, e.g.]. CACTI. New to me. I needed every crossing and didn’t believe it when I put in the last letter. But it makes sense.
Rose Conlon’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
You know how it is when you get a new keyboard and the arrow keys are in a different spot? It slows you down in navigating a crossword grid, and it distracts you. I realize now that I have no idea what the theme even was, so let me see what’s what. OK, the central answer is a revealer clue: 37a. [Accept a package formally … or a hint to 17-, 29-, 45- and 62-Across?], SIGN FOR DELIVERY. Those four things are:
- 17a. [Sneaking suspicion], GUT FEELING.
- 29a. [An ironic punch line], THE KICKER.
- 45a. [Rough flight], BUMPY RIDE.
- 62a. [Reason to pause a workout], WATER BREAK.
It’s subtle verging on oblique, but I think it’s about pregnancy. Not sure exactly how GUT FEELING applies. THE KICKER is the fetus within, kicking. BUMPY RIDE is … the belly bump? And when one’s WATER BREAKs, the amniotic sac ruptures.
Is that the theme? If you think I’ve missed the boat entirely, please tell me what you think’s going on here!
Moving along to the rest of the puzzle, we’ve got some fave fill: BIG KID, MANSPLAINS, MIND’S EYE, URBAN CAVER. Till I located the revealer, I wasn’t sure that the 10s weren’t part of the theme.
Five more things:
- 1a. [Common hotel room item], BIBLE. Man! That was the last thing to come to my mind.
- 7d. [“Salt Fat ___ Heat” (popular cookbook)], ACID. I think I bought that. You think I should actually leaf through it?
- 32d. [Family name on HBO’s “Succession”], ROY. I haven’t ever seen the show, but it’s super-buzzy and I have read things about it. This is actually true about lots of things pop culture—I’ve read about them and retained some names and general info, but haven’t seen the movie, watched the show, heard the song, read the book.
- 54d. [Implement with a flat head], OAR. This is a hard clue for OAR, no? I had flat head screwdrivers on the mind.
- 62d. [Concave cookware], WOK. You know what’s hard to cook with? Convex pans.
3.25 stars from me. I’d have liked a clearer revealer clue in the mix, because nothing about SIGN FOR DELIVERY screams childbirth. GUT FEELING was weird, and the RIDE in BUMPY RIDE feels off, and then the full phrase WATER BREAK (not as clued) relates directly to childbirth, rather than only part of a themer relating to it.
Zhouqin Burnikel’s USA Today Crossword, “Cut Loose” — Sophia’s recap
Editor: Erik Agard
Theme: The theme answers each start with “lo” and end with “ose”, literally cutting the word LOOSE.
- 16a [Part of a romantic bouquet] – LONG STEMMED ROSE
- 36a [Cross-legged asana] – LOTUS POSE
- 60a [Throwing a game] – LOSING ON PURPOSE
Did anyone else have the song “Footloose” going through their head the whole time they solved this puzzle?? The title works perfectly with the central theme concept, which is always satisfying in a USA Today puzzle. LOTUS POSE is my favorite theme answer – we often see “asana” in crossword grids, but rarely in the clues! Hopefully this will help newer solvers learn the word in context.
This puzzle was a lot more symmetric than CC’s often are, although there are a few black squares that appear in the top left corner of the puzzle that aren’t in the bottom right. In general I really liked today’s grid layout as it allowed for longer answers in each of the corners. The top half in particular is full of standouts – LEOTARD, MISS YOU, Indigenous PEOPLE’S Day, and SENSUAL massages.
- The biggest place I struggled in the puzzle, weirdly enough, was with 27a [Fireplace output]. I thought it was going to be “ash” or “smoke”, neither of which fit, so I left it for later. Turns out the answer was HEAT and I was overcomplicating.
- I didn’t know 53a [Reggae legend Tosh] for PETER or 46d [Uktena, the Horned ___] for SERPENT so I was worried when the answers crossed. Luckily I was pretty sure there wasn’t another possible letter other than R, and I was happy to learn some new things!
- I think this puzzle, for posterity, needs to be referred to as the “Yahya Abdul-Mateen II Stan Puzzle”. He’s mentioned in two different clues – 28d [Perform like Yahya Abdul-Mateen II] for ACT and 58d [Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, for example] for HUNK. Honestly, there should be more Yahya Abdul-Mateen II clues. I mean, look at him:
That’s all from an unexpectedly SLUSH – filled Seattle today. Happy Wednesday!
Kate Chin Park’s AVCX, “Opposite Day” — Ben’s Review
It’s an AVCX debut from Kate Chin Park today, and a lovely theme-dense debut at that. “Opposite Day” gives a great nudge as to what’s going on with the seven entries in the grid whose clues don’t quite line up with their final content:
- 8A: Sort who never leaves the house — NOMAD
- 15A: Hyperpartisan — NEUTRAL
- 22A: Terms understood by everyone — CODE WORDS
- 36A: “I just can’t wrap my head around what you’re saying …” — DUH THAT’S OBVIOUS
- 46A: Unequal playing field — FAIR FIGHT
- 59A: Agony — ECSTASY
- 63A: Words on an empty bathroom stall — IN USE
Each of these answers is the opposite of what’s been clued, and also features the abbreviation for a day of the week running backwards through the circled squares of the grid.
62A’s “Merchant of 10,000 Maniacs” — NATALIE
Paul Coulter’s Universal crossword, “High Cs” — pannonica’s write-up
The long theme entries are vertical, which is essential to the gimmick. It’s two-word phrases in which the first word contains the letter C, which is ‘elevated’ to the top spot, generating a new word and a wacky phrase.
- 3d. [Cool dude in the House of Commons?] CAT OF PARLIAMENT (act of parliament).
- 20d. [Genesis, in the Old Testament?] CREATION TIME (reaction time).
- 9d. [Warn a corporate department that works in Marketing?] CAUTION SALES (auction sales).
- 10d. [Pine part flavoring a certain wheat ale?] CONE IN A BLUE MOON (once in a blue moon). Blue Moon is the Belgian-style white ale owned by the Miller-Coors brewing giant. My advice: go for the real thing. They’re easy to find nowadays and aren’t too expensive. Oh, also: 57a [Tavern brews] ALES. Oopsie. Or should I say upsie(-daisy)?
- 1a [Kid’s motorized wheels, informally] RC CAR. Is that remote control or radio control? Even if it’s the latter, I wouldn’t call foul as a duplication of 1d [AM/FM device] RADIO.
- 10a [They’re often found in jewel cases] CDS. I have jettisoned (actually, given away for free in an exchange arranged online) my jewel cases, as the CDs now live in special plastic sleeves that contain all of the paraphernalia and even show the spines. Result: collection takes up much less space and weighs far less!
- 15a [Pâté de __ gras] FOIE. Please don’t partake. Gavage is a cruel practice.
- 26a [Color, like a cartoon] INK IN. I believe this is incorrect. Inking is for the lines, while coloring is done with paint (or perhaps markers or colored pencils).
- 43a [Angular head?] TRI-. However, I’m reminded of MC Escher’s 1959 depiction of flatworms, which may be a bit exaggerated in its portrayal of planaria.
- 64a [“__ is not what you see, but what you make others see” (Degas)] ART. There is no end to epigrams about ART.
- 15d [Censored version of a certain curse word in “The Good Place”] FORK. I have learned something.
- 31d [“Ciao!”] TA-TA. 35d [Aides for profs] TAS (teaching assistants). I deem this not-a-dupe.
- 49d [“All Boys __ Blue” (George M. Johnson memoir)] AREN’T. Wikipedia: “All Boys Aren’t Blue is a  young adult non-fiction ‘memoir-manifesto’ by journalist and activist George M. Johnson … The book consists of a series of essays following Johnson’s journey growing up as a queer Black man in Plainfield, New Jersey, and Virginia. As you may sadly expect to hear, it’s been the target of book bans. I haven’t read the book, but I suspect my only issue would be the title, which I would prefer to see constructed as Not All Boys are Blue. It’s a semantics thing. On the other hand, since it’s professionally edited and published, I can only assume that this was an intentional choice.
Judy Hughes’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary
Today’s puzzle by Judy Hughes features a collection of four idioms that start with a word meaning “defeat”. The final one, HAMMEROUTAWIN, does double duty as a somewhat tenuous revealer. The distance between the words’ uses in the idiom and in the “to defeat” sense are often fairly similar, but idiomatic themes are always fun. The others in the set are WHIPINTOSHAPE, LICKONESCHOPS (would’ve sounded better as “YOUR”), and BEATTHEBUSHES. I hadn’t heard of the last one, but it’s in dictionaries as “North American”.
I don’t know if it was the all-horizontal 13/12/12/13 arrangement, which pushes the theme answers against each other, but there was a lot of ugly short stuff. It started with a top row of SDAK/TBAR/AGASP, continued with EELY, ONKP. SMA, ADES etc.
Aimee Lucido’s New Yorker crossword—Matthew’s review
Hot dang, I loved this puzzle. Let’s go right to notes:
- Delightfully tricky and perfectly on-point clue [Campaign manager?] for DUNGEONMASTER at 32a, playing on a well-known, but not primary use of “campaign. SUNDAY SCARIES and THE TIME IS RIPE are lovely complements to fill out the center stack, and note that nothing crossing the center is shorter than 5 letters!
- Cacao NIBS (44a) are a staple of my acai bowl order. I need to remember that as a lunch option more often!
- 8d [Busybodies] QUIDNUNCS. Great word! Not the first time I’ve seen it, but it didn’t come easy, either.
- 21d [Lake that can be seen from the CN Tower] ONTARIO. I traveled to Seattle on two separate occasions in 2021 and don’t think I ever managed to call the Space Needle by its correct name, my mind defaulting to a childhood in Western New York and the (much) taller CN Tower.
- 30d [Residence that may have voice-controlled lightning] SMART HOME. I have minimal, almost negative interest in these types of gadgets.