Note: Fireball is a contest this week. We will have a review once the submission period closes.
David Alfred Bywaters’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Stop Gap”—Jim P’s review
I’ve seen this theme type before and it’s usually good for some yuks. We have two-word phrases in which the second word’s beginning S switches teams and is read as the last letter of the first word (usually as an “apostrophe S”).
- 17a. [Mantises assume their characteristic posture?] BUGS PRAY.
- 24a. [Hide-and-seek consideration?] COUNTER’S PACE.
- 31a. [Winner of an altitudinous beauty contest?] MISS PEAK.
- 40a. [Football player’s jewelry?] BACK’S PIN.
- 46a. [Marijuana supply for holidays?] VACATION’S POT. There’s the pot we were missing yesterday!
- 58a. [Harsh review of a New York show?] TIME’S PAN (or TIMES’ PAN). Time Magazine? New York Times? Not sure on this one.
Solid wordplay. I was going to complain about the lack of consistency (the apostrophe issue) and the desire for another constraint to tighten things up when I noticed that there is another constraint.
Note that all the second words start with P, and that explains the title which we can now re-parse as “S-to-P Gap”. In other words, the “gap” between the S and the P is the issue in this puzzle.
Ok. I’m on board now. It’s a subtlety, and the casual solver might not catch on, but I’m in favor of the tighter theme. As for the yuks? Well, none for me, sadly, maybe you fared better.
Looking at the fill I’m thinking it could’ve been improved with fewer themers. Our long entries are SHEEREST and UPRISING, not the sparkliest of fare. Then there are all the A-words. How do I log thee? Let me count the A’s: AVAUNT, ARID, ANALYST, ARAB, AVEC, AVER, AVON, AARON, AMORE, A.A. MILNE, ASPIRE, APEMAN, ADELA, ATARI, ALDRIN, ACE, APEX, and AXES. That’s 18 out of 76 words for nearly 24% of the fill. I was beginning to wonder if this wasn’t part of the theme. Nothing against any of these words in particular (except maybe APEMAN), but it got to be a repetitive drag that could have been alleviated (ha!) with one fewer theme entry and a refresh of the fill.
Clues of note:
- 21a. [What every little breeze seems to whisper, in an old song]. LOUISE. How old? 1929 old, as sung by Maurice Chevalier.
- 26d. [Djellaba wearer]. ARAB. Wikipedia tells me a djellaba is “a long, loose-fitting unisex outer robe with full sleeves that is worn in the Maghreb region of North Africa.”
- 33d. [Grey, for one]. EARL. Today I Learned: The tea is probably named for Charles Grey, the Second Earl Grey and British Prime Minister from 1830 to 1834.
- 45d. [Early ancestor]. APEMAN. There’s got to be a better clue than this. Humans are apes, last time I checked.
- 4d. [“Owner of a Lonely Heart” band]. YES. I could do with a musical interlude right about now. But the video below takes a bizarro turn at about 1:15. Warning: Here there be maggots.
I like the wordplay in the theme, but too much of a good thing isn’t always best. The fill could do with a makeover. 3.25 stars.
Max Chen Lauring’s New York Times crossword—Ben’s review
Max Chen Lauring is behind today’s NYT, and we’ve got a SOLAR/ECLIPSE on our hands (30D: “With 41-Across, a celestial event … or a hint to four squares in this puzzle”)
As suggested, four black squares in the puzzle can be treated as a blocked-out SUN, affecting both the across and down answers:
- 20A: Annual pageant winner — MIS[S UN]IVERSE
- 4D: Surrenders — SAY[S UN]CLE
- 22A: Maker of Z-cars, once — DAT[SUN]
- 13D: Puccini aria popularized by Pavarotti — NES[SUN] DORMA
- 56A: Followers of the largest denomination of Islam — [SUN]NIS
- 34D: Catastrophic weather event potentially caused by a meteor crash — MEGAT[SUN]AMI
- 57A: Labor group for athletes — PLAYER[S UN]ION
- 45D: Receives an anesthetic, perhaps — GOE[S UN]DER
5D: Ukranian, for one — SLAV
Here’s what Ukraine’s Kalush Orchestra is sending to Eurovision this year.
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Crossword #1463, “Bending the Truth”—Darby’s review
Theme: The quips referred to in this puzzle spell out a quote from Ali Wong: “Yoga is Simon Says for adults who have lots of free time.”
- 17a [“Start of a quip by 34-Across”] YOGA IS SIMON SAYS
- 23a [“Quip, part 2”] FOR ADULTS
- 47a [“Quip, part 3”] WHO HAVE LOTS OF
- 57a [“Quip, part 4”] FREE
- 62a [“End of the quip”] TIME
Revealer: 34a [“Source of the quip”] ALI WONG
I think quote puzzles are so fun, even if you aren’t always familiar with the quote itself. I’ve seen a few of ALI WONG’s specials, but I wouldn’t have known that this was her quote without additional context. As a result, the grid is very dependent on the crosses, especially for the shorter parts of the phrase like WHO HAVE LOTS OF, FREE, and TIME. For FREE, with its crossings of FWD, HERE, and QUOTIENT, it wasn’t hard to infer the missing R. TIME was a bit more difficult, I think because of 42d [“Hearing aid?”] PA SYSTEM, but still not terrible.
Other parts of the fill I enjoyed included 66a [“Danish word for a feeling of quiet comfort”] HYGGE, 22a [“Pig’s squeal”] OINK (it’s just such a fun word!), and 19d [“Ump’s reasoning for a safe call”] NO TAG (because baseball). Overall, a fun way to start the day!
Malaika Handa’s USA Today Crossword, “Mic Drop” — Sophia’s recap
Editor: Amanda Rafkin
Theme: The letters “mic” appear in each of the vertical theme answers, moving further down and to the right each time.
- 3d [“Calvin and Hobbes,” e.g.] – COMIC STRIP
- 7d [Motown’s home] – DETROIT MICHIGAN
- 32d [Pair of people who work well together] – DYNAMIC DUO
Great puzzle today by Team Fiend member malaika! All of the theme answers were exciting, particularly (and aptly) DYNAMIC DUO. The black square pattern is interesting – it made the middle feel a little choppy at times, but I love all the longer answers in the corner that the shape allowed. LEGO MOVIE, STONEWALL, SOURDOUGH, PACKRAT, HOW IS IT are all fabulous.
I’ve been working on a puzzle with longer stacked non-thematic answers like LEGO MOVIE and STONEWALL are here, and it’s rough to get clean crosses with exciting answers! That’s why I don’t mind the asymmetry in the bottom left – when optimizing for newer solvers, clean fill takes precedence for many constructors.
Busy work day today so gotta run! May all your crosswords be TYPO-less!
Stella Zawistowski’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary
Today’s puzzle is by Stella Zawistowski. It features popular American board games enjambed to make wacky phrases. All three are spanning entries, with BACKTOBACKGAMES as the very apt revealing entry. I think I have only seen IRL two of those games, OPERATION and MONOPOLY, here, and encountered battleship solely as a pencil-and-paper exercise; I’m not sure why a purchased board is needed, but I suppose it’s prettier? That said, I know of all of the games from crossword immersion, possibly even from similar themes, as this is a popular theme!
- [Mission to go after imaginary germs?], COOTIEOPERATION. My experience as a surgeon is that the operation OPERATION most trains you for is removing maggots from wounds…
- [Military vessel in terrible condition?],SORRYBATTLESHIP.
- [Antitrust lawsuit, perhaps?], MONOPOLYTROUBLE. The inventor of the original version of Monopoly, Elizabeth Magie, intended it as an allegory of the evils of capitalism…
There were a couple of crossword-ese deep cuts today:
- [Aptly named novelist Charles], READE. More remembered for his surname than any actual works these days.
- [Hungarian wine], TOKAY.
- [Number for soprano Pretty Yende], ARIA. A gratuitous South African! This clue is kind of an Olaf (clue which you only need to read the first part of, with the rest being mere colour) and helps us anticipate seeing her surname in future puzzles!
- [Nash of “When They See Us”], NIECY. I only recently became acquainted with her, when she hosted half a season of “The Masked Singer”.
- [Fashion desinger Jenny], YOO. Not a name I knew at all. Hope no-one tripped over the intersection of that and ETSY…
- [Energy snack brand for kids], ZBAR. Not seen it here. I always find it fascinating that “energy” is perceived as positive, but a synonym here is “fattening”
- [2021 award for Naomi Osaka]., ESPY. It’s been kind of anti-climactic that, after ten years in the WTA without strong rivalries at the top – basically since Clijsters and Henin retired – that we didn’t get to see more Swiatek / Barty / Osaka showdowns at the masters. Osaka is regrouping though, and I wouldn’t rule Barty out of unretiring again as she did after playing cricket for a year!
Sean Ziebarth’s Universal Crossword, “Joint Effort”— Jim Q’s write-up
This appears to be a debut for Sean! A solo one at that… not a “joint effort”!
THEME: Phrases with joints in them. The ones on the body. But this would’ve been great to run yesterday on 4/20 just for the title pun :)
- RUB SHOULDERS
- BEND YOUR ELBOW
- GET ON ONE KNEE
What I admire most about this grid- especially as a debut- is Sean’s inclusion of three theme answers (rather than trying to cram in more). That leaves the grid room to breathe and led to a joyful experience during the solve. The theme itself doesn’t beg for much figuring out of wordplay- it is what it is, and makes for a featured part of a rather languid ride.
That being said… When I think [Schmooze] the first phrase that comes to mind is RUB ELBOWS WITH… not the correct RUB SHOULDERS… which I’m sure I’ve heard. But I’ve heard about RUBbing ELBOWS waaaaay more.
And I’ve heard of TWISTING AN ARM to get someone to have another drink, not necessarily BENDing YOUR ELBOW… but I guess that accurately describes what the body is doing when one enjoys a sip. I am thankful that the dreaded pronoun ONE’S was avoided. I almost thought it was there for GET ON ONE KNEE but that turned out to be referring to the number “ONE.” Phew!
- Didn’t know there were 12 basic tenses in English. That seems (seemed? will seem? Has seemed? Is seeming?) quite numerous.
- “EVIAN is NAIVE spelled backwards” is a line from the movie Reality Bites (I think?) and it has synergistically helped me to spell both those correctly.
- SUE STORM is new for me… don’t judge. It sounds like a superhero, and that is a world I generally know little about, and I’m fine with that. Happy to learn it though.
Thanks, Sean! Solid grid today! And, of course, congrats on the debut.