Jake Halperin’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Gig Economy”—Jim P’s review
Theme: COMPRESSED FILES (38a, [Contents of some archives, found four times in this puzzle]). The other theme answers are familiar phrases that hide common computer file types squeezed into one square in rare (for the WSJ) rebus style.
- 17a. [Album whose first track was “Material Girl”] LIKE (A VI)RGIN crossing BE(AVI)S. I feel like not as many people will be as familiar with the .avi file extension. It’s a video compression file type and an alternative to .mpeg or .mov.
- 25a. [Private instruction?] S(EX E)DUCATION crossing (EXE)RTS. Ha! The clue made me laugh out loud. Instruction on what to do with one’s privates. *snort*
- 54a. [Invitation to a cozy chat] LET’S (DO C)OFFEE crossing (DOC)TORS. I had a hard time with this one. I was thinking “get coffee” or “go for coffee.” I’ve heard “do lunch,” but not “do coffee” so much, though I imagine people do say it.
- 64a. [“The odds are against it”] THAT’S A BI(G IF) crossing (GIF)TS. A nice find.
All these were nice, to be honest, and the revealer makes a solid basis for the rebus. A rebus in the WSJ is so rare that it’s completely unexpected, so it was a fun aha moment when I figured it out.
Also, I love the title! A “gig” obviously refers to computer storage space and “economy” here means the careful or sparing use of a resource. So “Gig Economy” means conserving computer storage space. Perfect!
MAKE ROOM, LEAST BIT, and DAYS OFF are our marquee fill entries. Not super sparkly, but solid enough. We have some additional long entries in the Across direction: EMAIL LIST (also solid) and SPACE CASE (wonderful). ERTE and A FATE fall into the crosswordese category.
Clues of note:
- 20a. [Colon component]. DOT. Interesting that this was not clued with respect to the theme since a DOT usually precedes the file type.
- 60a. [“___ I a Woman?” (Sojourner Truth speech)]. AIN’T. Nice to be reminded of her. Read more about Sojourner Truth’s speech here.
- 4d. [Judge character]. BEAVIS. The show Beavis and Butthead was created by Mike Judge. Tough clue if you didn’t know that, especially with the rebus in the middle.
- 30d. [Rapper Sweatshirt]. EARL. New to me, but he has garnered widespread praise for his multiple albums. I found it interesting that his mom, a UCLA law professor, sent him to boarding school in Samoa after he released his debut at the age of 16.
- 35d. [Triggers again, as a computer bug]. REPROS. Never heard this before. I was never in IT, but I’ve spent more time with computers than most. If someone asked me to “repro” an error, I’d be annoyed as heck.
- 37d. [Vehicles that might be beamers?]. UFOS. I went with UTES, as in Sport-UTES. I’m sure BMW makes some of those, don’t they? Calling UFOS “beamers” (i.e. spaceships that might “beam” you up) is a pretty far stretch.
- 39d. [Joint guardians?]. PADS. Still not sure what they’re going for here. Like a kneepad or shoulder pad?
Nicely executed theme. Four stars from me.
John Westwig’s New York Times crossword—Ben’s review
I see what John Westwig is aiming for with the theme of today’s puzzle, but the clues themselves feel just a bit too complex for their own good:
- 17A: Equestrian is wanted to… / Experience needed: conducting — TRAIN A RIDE
- 23A: Baseball pitcher is wanted to … / Experience needed: negotiating — DEAL A STRIKE
- 46A: Carpenter is wanted to … / Experience needed: flying — PLANE A BOARD
- 12D: Museum curator is wanted to … / Experience needed: freestyle dancing — MOVE A BUST
- 31A: Nurse is wanted to … / Experience needed: philanthropy — CHECK A CUT
- 56A: Change careers, or a hint to this puzzle’s theme — SWITCH JOBS
Each of these is a phrase that’s had its component pieces flip-flopped – RIDE A TRAIN, STRIKE A DEAL, BOARD A PLANE, BUST A MOVE, CUT A CHECK. Those phrases are (kind of) clued by the “Experience needed” section of each clue, while the “is wanted to” part hints at the flipped meaning. It felt weirdly both underclued AND overclued, at the same time. This also had some weird choices of fill – AD BIZ? “In HAEC verba”? This one was not my cup of tea.
If you play with the RPMS (“33 1/3, 45, and 78, for short”) on one of the old Chipmunks 80s covers albums, you get a pretty solid post-punk/goth cover compilation.
Paul Coulter’s Fireball Crossword, “To Scale” – Jenni’s write-up
The theme answers are….sort of like cryptics? With a twist? I am dipping my toe in the cryptic waters so I am no expert, and I had to look at Peter’s answer sheet to even begin to understand what was going on. Peter doesn’t always explain the theme. To my relief, he did this time. He said “…all the clues with question marks need to be interpreted as a single letter, followed by the rest. So “Clay?” is really “C” and “lay” leading to the answer DOWAGER (the note DO and WAGER).” That’s part of it. The rest I figured out of my own with a little help from the title. The first letters of the clues are notes on the C major scale and each theme answer begins with the corresponding note in solfege. You know solfege even if you don’t realize it.
Peter explained 1a, DO WAGER.
- 16a [Dale on the dark side?] is RE PORTER (porter as in beer).
- 24a [Ego like lightning?] is MI SPRINT.
- 38a [Farms of World War II?] is FA STENS (as in guns).
- 49a [Gold cars?] is SO CRATES.
- 58a [Acorn pests?] is LA BORERS.
- 66a [Beaten, like some clothes?] is TI MOTHY.
And that brings us back to…..well, you know.
Phew. And likewise wow. A tricky layered theme that works – every one is solid. And a whole lot of theme material that doesn’t really compromise the fill. The only thing I stumbled on was RUGGEDEST and this is such a brilliant theme I’ll let it go.
Gotta run. What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that EEL blood is poisonous to humans.
Neville Fogarty’s USA Today Crossword, “…Something New” — Sophia’s recap
Editor: Amanda Rafkin
Theme: Each theme answer ends in a word meaning new, different, exciting, etc!
- 16a [“The Queen’s Gambit,” e.g.] – NETFLIX ORIGINAL
- 25a [London museum that opened in 2000] – TATE MODERN
- 43a [Stable molecule with an unpaired valence electron] – FREE RADICAL
- 56a [Guinness World Record holder who won the 2021 Scripps National Spelling Bee] – ZAILA AVANT GARDE
(Was anyone else worried for a second that USA Today was running a “something different” puzzle??)
My favorite thing about today’s crossword was how fresh and new each of the theme answers felt – apt, considering the theme! I’ve heard of a FREE RADICAL, but the specific definition was new to me so it took a while to get that answer. Not new to me, however, is ZAILA AVANT-GARDE, who is probably the most interesting 14 year old on the planet. Aside from being the first African American to win the National Spelling Bee, she also holds three Guinness World Records for her basketball skills! Truly incredible. Her name is also 15 letters long, which is perfect for crosswords.
There were also a bunch of great clues/references in today’s puzzle. To highlight a few:
- 22d [Word before “home” or “phone”] for MOBILE
- 1d [___ Diego Wave FC] for SAN
- 23a [Direction from L.A. to LA] for EAST
- 52a [Bananagrams, e.g.] for GAME
It’s great to see an easier puzzle that doesn’t get its easiness from using the same clueing angles that we see time and again in every single puzzle (Monday NYT take note!). “Something New” indeed, and I really enjoyed it.
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Crossword #1451, “I As In Île-de-France”—Darby’s review
Theme: Each of theme answers begins with JE, which translates from French to “I.” When the JE is removed, an item is left.
- 17a [“Legal job for Pope Francis”] JESUIT CASE / SUITCASE
- 29a [“iMacs for Steelers legend Bettis”] JEROME APPLES / ROME APPLES
- 47a [“Naively simplistic Volkswagen”] JEJUNE BEETLE / JUNE BEETLE
- 64a [“Shank on a seder plate”] JEWISH BONE / WISHBONE
This was definitely a slow burn for me, given that I have zero French skills and thought that the title “I As In Île-De-France” was alluding to pronunciation. However, I was excited to see JESUIT CASE, given that I’ve attended Jesuit schools since I was in high school (a strange fun fact about me). I was thrown off for awhile with JEWISH BONE because I thought the shank would be more specific. However, once I cracked the JE-code, it fell right into place.
I was also a tad preoccupied with the 13a [“Poem about the 36-Down”], 36d [“See 13-Across”] and 55d [“36-Down hero”] trifecta of ILIAD, TROJAN WAR, and AJAX respectively (for my Greek epic nerds out there, the question remains: which AJAX?). It felt a bit like a left-side bonus theme as I filled it in and was a great use of two of the many Js in this puzzle. More generally, I really liked this grid. The northwestern and southeastern corners felt a bit sectioned off, but both WON AT LIFE and TROJAN WAR made a huge difference in helping to fill them in. The inner diagonals were plenty open and spilled well into the rest of the grid as I finished my solve.
That’s all from me today! I’ll be back tomorrow with the USA Today.
Joe Deeney’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary
Today’s theme by Joe Deeney features a fairly standard LA Times theme trope with final revealer: [Neither lose nor gain…], BREAKEVEN means EVEN bookends four other answers. It felt to me like some effort was made to find more interesting, less obvious, theme answers?
- [“Snow White” antagonist], EV|ILQUE|EN
- [Relatable female character], not MARYSUE, but EVE|RYWOMA|N. Obligatory Chaka Khan link!
- [Toy sold with cake mix packets], E|ASYBAKEO|VEN. Wait, it really works? All the ovens I remember in pre-school were strictly ornamental?
- [Title teen in a 2015 musical], EV|ANHANS|EN
Difficult areas for me, a lot of which seemed to be brand names:
- [Energy snacks…] are LARABARS. Not sold here, so LAVABARS seemed more likely. Luckily I did know ARISTA, because AVISTA sounds quite plausible
- [Audio setup involving a horizontal pole], BOOMMIKE. This sounded so mysterious before it emerged with crossers!
- [Former flier], TWA. Had a Pavlovian SST for a bit…
- [Splenda alternative], TRUVIA. Not something I’ve seen here either.
- [Apt cooler brand], YETI. Another US-ian brand, but inferrable via a helpful clue.
David Distenfeld’s Universal Crossword, “Pick Me!”— Jim Q’s write-up
THEME: Things that can be picked.
- PLAYING CARD
- BASS GUITAR
- FANTASY TEAM
Glad to see that anything NOSE related was left off the list.
Cut and dry, but solid theme today. I like that all of the themers are “picked” in different ways. I don’t often see BASS GUITAR players using a pick, but I know that’s an option of course. I bet Primus went through a few picks in his day.
Fun clues for KEN–KEN and NAE NAE. Almost thought there was a little side theme happening.
EEK crossing EKES is icky imo. Surprised that tiny little area yielded that as the best fill.
3 stars today.