Christopher Youngs’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Best Play”—Jim P’s review
Theme: ESPY AWARDS (57a, [Honors for athletes, and a phonetic hint to this puzzle’s theme]). Each of the familiar phrases in the other theme answers has been awarded an SP at the beginning.
- 17a. [Pastel?] SPRING TONE.
- 25a. [Injury timeout?] SPRAIN DELAY.
- 37a. [Soft drink served on a flight?] SPRITE OF PASSAGE. For me it’s ginger ale when I fly, almost every time. I recently learned this is an actual thing, and not just my own personal tradition. For some, it’s tomato juice.
- 47a. [Bicycle gear supplier?] SPROCKET MAN. Had to smile at this one. We also would have accepted [George Jetson?] as a clue (since he worked for Spacely Space Sprockets, Inc.).
I enjoyed this. I caught on early, but couldn’t make sense of the title until I got to the revealer (“Best Play” is an ESPY Award). The revealer makes for a very nice play on words, and I also like the idea of “awarding” the theme phrases with the added letters. A subtle, but nice touch.
The fill is solid and smooth throughout, though there’s nothing longer than six letters to sink our teeth into. I would’ve liked to have seen at least a couple marquee long answers.
Clues of note:
- 16a. [Firefighter, at times]. HERO. Not all the time? Even when not actually saving lives, I’d say a firefighter does heroic work. But one shouldn’t generalize, and there are always bad apples in any group of people. So I probably would’ve gone with “often” in the clue.
- 49d. [Italic alternative]. ROMAN. Here’s me thinking ROMAN was an actual font (that would be Times New Roman). Wikipedia says the three main kinds of historical type in Latin script typography are roman (like what you’re looking at now), italic, and blackletter (also called Gothic script).
A solidly executed letter-addition theme. Some long sparkle in the fill would have been welcome. 3.5 stars.
Jack Murtagh’s New York Times Crossword- Jenni’s write-up
Amy’s off duty for a while so I’ll throw up a grid and brief explanation. Each theme answer is a PUN on a name.
- 17a [Cradlin’ a Salinger protagonist?] is HOLDIN‘ CAULFIELD. Holden.
- 21a [“Footloose” star cookin’ a fresh batch of brownies?] is KEVIN BAKIN‘.
- 34a [The Great Emancipator sharin’ URLs on his blog?] is ABRAHAM LINKIN‘.
- 51a [Bein’ in debt to a “Wedding Crashers” co-star? is OWIN‘ WILSON.
- 57a [Massachusetts senator wagin’ conflict?] is ELIZABETH WARRIN‘.
Fun and fresh idea! All the themers work. An enjoyable way to start the day.
And I know, I know that Will Shortz does not think dupes are a big deal. I still think SAVE ME and SPARE ME crossing each other is a bit much. OK, a lot much.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that India.ARIE has won four Grammys.
Zachary David Levy’s AVCX, “Recipe for Disaster” — Ben’s Review
Today’s AVCX Classic is a debut from Zachary David Levy for the venue, and it’s 2/5 in difficulty
- 17A: *Certain nightshades — EGGPLANTS
- 27A: *Andean legumes — BUTTER BEANS
- 38A: *Pod treats that grow in spring — SUGAR SNAP PEAS
- 50A: *Purple-flowering plant with medicinal applications — *Purple-flowering plant with medicinal applications — MILK THISTLE
- 60A: Cockamamie … or what the ingredients indicated by the starred clues should be to make a cake that’s actually edible — HALF BAKED
Taking the EGG, BUTTER, SUGAR, and MILK from the answers and leaving the rest, you’d certainly be most of the way to having a cake. I’m not sure if these all being plants gives us enough of a flower/flour thing going on to finish that off, but again, you’re most of the way there.
47D: “___-La-La (Make Me Happy)” (Al Green jam) — SHA
Jess Goldstein’s Universal crossword, “Late Meeting” — pannonica’s write-up
Have to brief this morning, but not due to any deficiencies on the puzzle’s part.
- 59aR [What’s after last call at a bar, and a theme hint] CLOSING TIME. In the other theme entries, the circled letters TI–ME inexorably move closer to each other. First they’re 4 letters apart, then 3, then 2, and finally are joined in the revealer.
- 18a. [What’s boring to play?] WAITING GAME. This one also feels like commentary on the theme itself.
- 24a. [Movie with a meet-cute] ROMANTIC COMEDY.
- 38a. [Tendency to recall only highlights, say] SELECTIVE MEMORY.
- 53a. [Extreme action] DRASTIC MEASURE.
That’s quite a lot of theme material–five answers all longer than 10 letters. 11×2, 14×2, 15×1. And it’s all quality material. The solve itself was quick and smooth.
- 4d [Bottom of a price range] LOW END.
- 12d [10-year old toon Turner] TIMMY. Needed to look this one up. It’s from The Fairly OddParents.
- 27d [Indian breakfast cake] IDLI. I’ve had them for lunch though. No wait, I’m thinking of DOSA. Both are very good.
- 43d [Ivy with cafes called butteries] YALE. That’s ODD (1d) to me. Ah, I see. Derives from a medieval term.
- 48d [Positions on issues] STANDS. I feel STANCES is a better fit, except in letter length.
- 46a [Org. with a Feed Your Mind initiative] FDA. Makes sense.
Zhouqin Burnikel’s USA Today Crossword, “Left and Right” — Sophia’s recap
Editor: Erik Agard
Theme: Each theme answer is two words, the first of which can be preceded with “left” and the second can be preceded with “right”. This also means that the words are literally on the left and right sides of the answers.
- 16a [Period to focus on yourself] – ALONE TIME (left alone/right time)
- 28a [“This way!”] – OVER HERE (left over/right here)
- 45a [Public audition] – OPEN CALL (left open/right call)
- 64a [Not giving up] – HANGING ON (left hanging/right on)
A very layered theme today from USA Today! I didn’t see the theme at all until I finished solving, but once I looked for it I was impressed. I guess there are a fair amount of words that can pair with “left” or “right” to make phrases, but I wouldn’t have guessed that so many of them made phrases themselves when combined, especially phrases interesting enough that they didn’t stand out to me as forced as I solved the first time. ALONE TIME is my favorite theme answer, and HANGING ON is my favorite when it comes to the left/right answers.
- As usual in a CC puzzle, there are a ton of food related clues and answers. Today in the grid alone we have GUMDROP, PESTO, SPONGE CAKE, EGGO, and vegetable moo SHU.
- If anyone else is interested in the A-LIST (or the, uh, slightly less a-list), I highly recommend Clare Malone’s podcast “Just Like Us: The tabloids that changed America”. It’s a great analysis of 2000’s pop culture and how the treatment of celebrities has changed over time.
- I can never remember if GRAYER is spelled with an “a” or an “e” and have to get the vowel from the crosses every time.
- Biggest write-over today: “clay” instead of GLUE for 14a [Art class goop].
Seth Bisen Hersh’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary
Today’s sounds-alike theme by Seth Bisen-Hersh is a little lop-sided. It features three people whose surname is pronounced “KɑːN”. The revealer is CONARTIST, which is pronounced “KɒN”. There’s also the little matter that CAAN and KAHN are both variants of the Jewish surname COHEN from what I can tell. KHAN is also semitic, but if there is a connection, it’s more distant. On the other hand, it’s great to see SHAHRUKHKHAN get a full-name shout-out in an American crossword. The other two actors are JAMESCAAN and MADELINEKAHN.
There was an interesting assortment of longer one-word downs today: PAKISTAN, SYCOPHANT, SPIDERMAN and GALAXIES.
Oh and one clue [Linda Ronstadt’s “Blue ___”], BAYOU. Every Roy Orbison fan’s jaw simultaneously dropped…
Brooke Husic’s New Yorker crossword—Matthew’s review
After Will and Paolo, Brooke Husic makes her TNY debut today. This was a *bit* more of a challenge than past Fridays (if I understand the difficulty correlations correct) but ultimately an enjoyable addition between Brooke’s work at USA Today and brainbusters at her own site.
The grid shape dictated my path through the puzzle — the long downs providing connectivity from the corners to the middle, and the center entry holding it all together, were all highlights:
- 4d [“Don’t put it past me!”] MAYBE I WILL
- 8d [Long-lasting alternative to gloss] LIP STAIN. I wasn’t familiar with this, but “gloss” nudges toward lips, and “long-lasting” is a good hint, as well. We talk about gentler crossings often, but this is a nice approach, too.
- 32d [You might take one to relax] DEEP BREATH
- 38d [Dresses as a character] COSPLAYS. Every now and then I see some truly jaw-dropping cosplays from one con or another. I don’t think it’s for me, but it’s very cool to see what people can put together.
- 36a [It might never happen … but it’s fun to fantasize”] A GIRL CAN DREAM. A colorful, in the language entry that deserves a marquee spot like this, and gets an evocative clue that elevates it further.
This is not the first time I’ve seen LO-RES from this angle [12d Heavily pixelated, for short], but I couldn’t see the (implied) hyphen that I imagine the word has… fell for a trap with “CROCS” instead of CLOGS at 24d [Shoes often worn with scrubs] … a bit of serendipity with HOU YIFAN [56a Chinese chess prodigy who became a Grandmaster at fourteen], who I hoped to use in a clue for ELO in the puzzle Brooke and I had in the AVCX a few weeks ago.
Today in Things I Learned From Crosswords: Fashion designer ANNA Sui (23d, shoutout to Stella), and DARIA [35d 1997-2001 animated series with an upcoming “Jodie” spinoff], which I learned from a WSJ puzzle around New Years just a few months ago