Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “Lex and Balances” – Erin’s write-up
We have a themeless this week! The thing that pops out right away is the neat symmetry of GUZ KHAN [British comedian who plays Ivan on “Our Flag Means Death”] at 1-Across and GUS KAHN [Lyricist who wrote “Ain’t We Got Fun?” and “Makin’ Whoopee”] at 56-Across. That being said, I didn’t know either of these answers and needed every single cross and a couple guesses to fill them in. I took twice as long as normal to complete this grid, partly due to the above names and the rest due to figuring out Kyle Kusch was actually KYLE BUSCH and KRE-Z was really rapper and actress BRE-Z. Several other names gave me trouble, like CAIT O’Riordan, Midge URE, and SAMARA Weaving. DWAYNES, on the other hand, came easily to me, from knowing that Wade’s first name was spelled Dwyane.
- 31a. [Symbols of September] SAPPHIRES. “Symbol” here refers to birthstone.
- 49d. [___ Paqcha (Peruvian mountain0] INKA. This mountain with an elevation of over 14,000 feet sits in southern Peru about 100 miles from the coast.
- 36d. [It got its current half-oval shape in 1629] LETTER U. According to dictionary.com, the letter V was used to represent both V and U in all parts of a word until 1386, when the Gothic alphabet began to use the rounded form in the middle of words. The V remained the representation for U at the beginning of words until 1629 when printer Lazare Zetzner began using the rounded U at the start of words as well.
- 17a. [Wool extract] LANOLIN. Lanolin is secreted by a sheep’s sebaceous (oil-producing glands) and it’s collected by shearing the sheep and spinning the wool in a centrifuge. It’s a great moisturizer and barrier, which is why it is the main ingredient in nipple creams used to protect and soothe the area during and after nursing, and is found in many other moisturizers. Because I find it oddly soothing to watch, please enjoy this video of sheep shearing stories from the informative and enthusiastic Katie McRose of Right Choice Shearing.
Simon Marotte’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Love the theme! The revealer is ROCK BOTTOM, clued 11d. [All-time low … or a musical hint to the answers to this puzzle’s starred clues]. The second word of each Down themer (the “bottom”) is the name of a rock band:
- 5d. [*Trixie Mattel, e.g.], DRAG QUEEN. Dang it! I blanked on how I knew that name and needed crossings, and that’s despite knowing her from RuPaul’s Drag Race, the YouTube show she does with her fellow queen Katya, and the Queen of the Universe competition show she judged. She’s the one with the wa-a-a-ay overdone makeup in the video below (caution! adult content! Paul Hollywood is blatantly sexualized!). And yes, the band QUEEN is amazing.
- 25d. [*Contact-free smooch], AIR KISS. The one band whose members wore even more garish makeup than Trixie Mattel.
- 28d. [*Seasonal confection that may say “I Luv U”], CANDY HEART. Ann and Nancy Wilson, legends.
- 36d. [*Sensation after consuming too many Pixy Stix, perhaps], SUGAR RUSH. If you don’t know how Rush’s Geddy Lee came by that unusual first name, read up. It’s a wild story.
All four rock bands had their heydays in the 1970s and 1980s, but this is not a complaint from me. That was my heyday for listening to Top 40 radio! The theme phrases are all colorful and tons of fun.
Couple entries felt out of range for a Tuesday puzzle: non-S plural ASYLA, [Sacred choral work] MOTET.
Three more things:
- 41a. [Freshwater fish with a colorful name], REDFIN. I suspect solvers are more familiar with the real estate website called Redfin than with one of the assorted names by which the European perch is known. I’ll bet a dollar the constructor submitted this with a clue along the lines of [Zillow competitor]. Clued as the fish, this feels way too arcane for a Tuesday puzzle.
- 42d. [Follows some dentists’ advice], FLOSSES. Okay, who are these dentists who say “Eh, flossing doesn’t matter, don’t bother”?
- 51d. [Pro golfer Calvin], PEETE. I started filling in PEETE, then backed up, saying to myself, “No, PEETE is football.” Was thinking of Rodney Peete, the NFL player who’s married to actress Holly Robinson Peete. Just learned this very moment that Calvin Peete, like Rodney, was also Black. No idea if they’re related at all.
4.5 stars for the theme, 3.25 for the grid.
Joseph A. Gangi’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Jenni’s write-up
This is a nice construction with a straightforward Tuesday- appropriate theme. The fill felt a little more challenging than I’d expect for a Tuesday, but we’ve already established that I’m not a great barometer of such things, so please speak up!
Each theme answer ends in the same sound.
- 3d [Catches a seasonal malady] is GETS THE FLU.
- 17a [Was completely crushed by the competition] is MET ONE‘S WATERLOO.
- 32d [Stuffed with ham and cheese] is CORDON BLEU. Mmm. Melty cheese.
- 39a [Actress who played Joan Watson on “Elementary”] is LUCY LIU. I’m looking for something new to watch and I’m years behind on TV. Should I try “Elementary”? I like mysteries, especially ones with less gore and more character development.
- 61a [Is hopelessly confused] is DOESN‘T HAVE A CLUE.
I like the placement of the theme entries – I enjoy grids with theme entries going both across and down. I also like the two 15s. All the answers are solidly in the language and the theme is consistent. Nice!
A few other things:
- You know you are Jewish when you see [Nova ___ ] and have S as the first letter and drop in SALMON. The correct answer is SCOTIA.
- Cluing EOS as the lip balm brand is both current and skews a bit female. I appreciate that.
- 14a [“Just gimme ___!] is the kind of conversational entry I appreciate. The answer is A SEC so it’s a FITB and a partial and I’m inclined to let both of those go because it amuses me. And of course it makes me think of this.
- Glad to see a new clue for LEA even if it’s also a FITB – [ ___ & Perrins steak sauce].
- 46a [“Gonna join us?”] is in the same vein. The answer is YOU IN?
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: I didn’t know the first name of LUCY LIU‘s character was Joan.
Stella Zawistowski’s USA Today Crossword, “Storm System“ — Emily’s write-up
Excellent puzzle with a great theme, fantastic fill, and fun cluing.
Theme: the first word of each themer appending with the word STORM forms a new phrase
- 18a. [1977 Triple Crown Winner], SEATTLESLEW
- 38a. [Someone you don’t know at all], PERFECTSTRANGER
- 59a. [Mind-bending puzzle], BRAINTEASER
Solid theme with a delightful themers, though I needing several crossings to complete them. Not knowing my horse champions well enough, I had a few in mind instead for SEATTLESLEW though with the theme we get SEATTLESTORM, the WNBA team from their namesake city. The second half of PERFECTSTRANGER was easy fill for me but I kept thinking “total” or “complete”, which was a PERFECTSTORM indeed. BRAINTEASER should have been quicker to get since it’s a great clue but just didn’t click this morning before enough coffee, which can also be crucial for a fruitful BRAINSTORM.
Favorite fill: RAITA, LANTERNS, and DUPLO
Stumpers: LURCH (needed crossings), VINYL (spelling tripped me up today), and OPERATIC (thought there was a second word instead of it actually being an ending)
Started off very strong for me, to the point where I thought I might have a p.r. today but alas that wasn’t the case as my speed slowed down in the middle and never quite picked back up. Still a very enjoyable solve!
John Ewbank & Jeff Chen’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Chiming In”—Jim P’s review
Theme: This puzzle RINGS / A BELL (38a, [With 41-Across, seems familiar, and a hint to the final syllables of the starred answers]). The other theme answers end in syllables that sound like a bell ringing.
- 4d. [*It factor] SEX APPEAL.
- 11d. [*Australian surf wear brand] BILLABONG.
- 22d. [*Handy way of predicting the future?] PALM READING.
- 27d. [*Marshall Islands coral reef] BIKINI ATOLL.
Two of these are onomatopoeic (bong and ding) while the other two are just words that we use for the sound of a bell. It would have been more fun if they were all onomatopoeic, but at least there’s some balance there. Very nice choices, as well.
I admit I stayed in the dark as far the theme goes because I solved the grid completely in counter-clockwise fashion, finishing in the middle. So I had a nice aha moment right at the end.
Note also that the grid has left-right symmetry and the black squares are roughly in the shape of a bell—to even include a clapper, the upside-down-T shape in the bottom center of the grid. Fun grid design.
The fill is pleasantly smooth as well. Those upper 7-letter stacks are quite nice, but even better are the two long Down entries starting from within the bell: KARATE KICK and TESLA COILS. Plus CALIBER, BUNGLES, GO DARK, and KAPUT. Lovely stuff.
Clues of note:
- 30a. [On the fritz]. KAPUT. Hmm. Those don’t quite equate to me. KAPUT means it’s dead, while “on the fritz” means it’s not quite dead but well on its way.
- 67a. [“You Really Got Me” band, with “The”]. KINKS. Ah, a good opportunity for a musical interlude. Not sure what’s going on at the end of the video, though.
Fun puzzle from start to finish. 4.25 stars.
Zachary David Levy’s Universal Crossword, “Would Not Recommend”— Jim Q’s write-up
This is a one star puzzle. Literally.
THEME: Dishes are reimagined as if they are being critiqued (rather harshly).
- [Say “The secret herbs should be kept secret. Also, get a better skillet,” maybe] PAN FRIED CHICKEN.
- [Say “This meat is dry as the Sahara. It deserves a Grade F,” maybe] ROAST BEEF.
- [Say “The casing is way too tough. The Germans would be appalled,” maybe] KNOCK WURST.
- [Restaurant reviewer, and this puzzle’s inspiration] FOOD CRITIC.
I love themes that cannot be (or are not easily) replicated. This would be one of those. I can’t imagine there are many more (if any?) entries that could fit this idea. The grid utilizes Left/Right symmetry, possibly because it was tough to find many more dishes that would allow for rotational symmetry. If I’m being honest, I was a tad bummed when I uncovered FOOD CRITIC because I was so hoping for a fourth themer rather than an unnecessary revealer, but it’s entirely understandable. And hey! I’m glad something relevant would symmetrically fit at all!
Other good stuff included SAW LOGS, and the fun FACTOID that “Millicent” is Barbie’s middle name. I wonder how EDITH’s crEDIT History is according to Credit Karma… ENOS Mireille is new to me. Just googled her… I have the names backwards. It’s Mireille ENOS.
Love this one! The theme might be about 1 star dishes, but it’s a 5 Star puzzle.
Patrick Berry’s New Yorker crossword — pannonica’s write-up
This is billed as the publication’s second-most challenging puzzle of the week, but it took me significantly longer to solve than yesterday’s, purportedly the hardest. I’d say over two minutes longer!
The grid features a a 14-/15-letter stack up top and a complementary 15-/14-stack below:
- 12a. [Author who won the 1980 Booker Prize, for “Rites of Passage”] WILLIAM GOLDING.
15a. [Never removed from the packaging, say] IN MINT CONDITION.
- 46a. [Idly] LIKE A BUMP ON A LOG.
48a. [Stands at the box office] TICKET COUNTERS.
- And crossing all four of those entries is 13d [Sixties TV show shot in part at Camp Pendleton] GOMER PYLE USMC.
And now the customary swing through the grid.
- 6d [Sister network of Sundance TV] AMC. I was quite confident that this was IFC.
- 11d [Most disparaging, as criticism] SNIDEST. I can think of worse terms, certainly.
- 14d [“The Sorrows of Young Werther” author] GOETHE. I feel fortunate that this was any easy get for me. Also, I always associate those Werther candies with sorrow.
- 16a [Like vocals in Appalachian music, often] NASAL. Here’s a famous tune by a well-respected musician, although I’d say his vocals here are more falsetto than NASAL:
- 23d [Young sprouts] BUDS. I’d expected this to be metaphorical about children, but no—botanical.
- 31d [Response from a gofer] I’M ON IT. Had YESSIR at first.
- 32d [It may be open for dinner in the middle of nowhere] MESS KIT. Very tricksy clue.
- 34d [Junk drawer?] DOODLER. But doodles can inspire great ideas and works.
- 44d [Bring to light, with “up”] RAKE. Consider muckraking.
- 45d [One taken to lunch?] HOUR. Another tricksy clue. “For” would be a more obvious preposition, but “to” works too, providing a different meaning.
- 28a [Smuggler’s spot] HIDEY HOLE. With the terminal —O–E in place, it seemed likely that the entry would end in COVE.
- 45a [Bottled up] HELD IN. 12d [Trio in some fairy tales] WISHES.
A solid workout. Any proper noun or bit of obscuriana unknown to me was fairly crossed, so this tough crossword was eminently solvable.
Looking for a hook to hang some closing music on and I haven’t thought of much, so will build off of the GOMER in 11-down for Wes MontGOMERy.
Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle (Week 569), “That’s Ent-ertainment!”—Ade’s take
Good day, everybody! We’re back to early spring weather and some cooler air out here in the East, and hoping that things feel more springlike where you are.
Speaking of spring, the month of April is when we have both Earth Day and Arbor Day, and this Friday will mark the 150th anniversary of Arbor Day. With that, we have the inspiration of our theme, which can give you a little laugh as you go out and help plant a tree later in the week.
- WHAT DID THE TREE PEOPLE WEAR TO THE BEACH PARTY? (16- , 27-, 36-, and 43-A: [Arbor Day Riddle: Part 1, Riddle: Part 2, Riddle: Part 3, End of Riddle]).
- SWIMMING TRUNKS (55A: [Answer to riddle])
There’s a puzzle dedicated to the environment and, in it, there’s a leaf…well, sort of…with the LEAFLET entry (22A: [Brochure]). We have a stack of vertical 10s in the Northeast and Southwest, plus an adjoining 7-letter entry, and can’t help but have an (awesome) earworm develop when entering in ON BROADWAY (29D: [George Benson hit about a famed Manhattan street]). There’s music for almost everyone’s tastes in the grid, from SYD (62A: [Pink Floyd co-founder Barrett]) to ENYA (52D: [One-named “May It Be” singer]) to the Eagles mentioned in the clue for LYIN (61A: [“___ Eyes” (Eagles hit single)]). How long before we see clues mentioning Twitter’s takeover for entries like ELON, which, again, would be so much cooler if mentioning the North Carolina university whose nickname used to be the Fighting Christians (42A: [Billionaire Musk]).
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: HAM (47D: [Glazed Easter entree]) – One of the most memorable moments I’ve ever had watching the NCAA Tournament was 22 years ago, when Texas Tech University’s Darvin Ham shattered the backboard while dunking a basketball in a game against one of the blue bloods of the sport, the University of North Carolina. Texas Tech had only lost one game all season going into the game, but a lot of people questioned how good the Red Raiders were, and this game against the Tar Heels was supposed to be the barometer. Well, Ham broke the barometer, the backboard and UNC’s spirit with this play, on Texas Tech’s way to a win. Ham would go on to have a lengthy career in the NBA, win an NBA championship with the 2004 Detroit Pistons, and is currently the top assistant on the Milwaukee Bucks coaching staff. (The Bucks are the defending NBA champions.) Enjoy the video, and the low-key awesome one-liner from famed tennis commentator Ted Robinson…
Thank you so much for the time, everybody! Have a wonderful and safe rest of your day and, as always, keep solving!