John-Clark Levin’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Authentication”—Jim P’s review
Each theme entry is clued with a component of what is considered a strong password. But the meanings (and sometimes the pronunciations) of said clues are not what we might expect.
- 17a. [*Letter] LANDLORD. Someone who lets out a residence.
- 25a. [*Number] NOVOCAINE. With a silent B.
- 39a. [*Capital] DOLLARS. We don’t normally just say “capital” when we mean “capital letter.” And usually we say “uppercase letter” when talking about passwords.
- 50a. [*Special character] SUPERHERO.
- 63a. [*Pass words] “NO THANKS.” Is this meant to be a revealer? I’m not sure.
This feels very confused and confusing. We have differences in meaning, differences in pronunciation, and a re-parsing in the final clue. And above all, I’m not seeing a rationale for why all this is occurring. I wanted something to tie it all together, but it’s just not there.
There is a lot of nice fill, however, such as LEND AN EAR, DEAR SANTA, MASTER KEY, MOMBASA, DECAF TEA, and ASHTRAYS. There were also some eyebrow-raisers as well. I’d never heard of an ICE CANOE [Winter race vehicle], but it’s interesting to learn about the sport. Didn’t know [Manning’s “helmet catch” receiver] was David TYREE (here’s a video of the play which starts at 1:13). And
LA SHAT LASH AT is yet another preposition-ended phrase I’d rather not see. It’s also probably time to let go of Robert URICH [Robert of “Vega$”].
Clues of note:
- 22a. [Ichabod’s rival]. BROM Bones from The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.
- 7d. [Grant’s co-star in “Houseboat”]. LOREN. That’s Cary Grant in the clue, not Hugh Grant.
- 40d. [The “so few” in a WWII speech]. RAF. The full line is, “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”
There are some definite assets to this grid, but the theme left me scratching my head. Three stars.
Alex Bajcz’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
I paid no mind to the theme and forgot to eyeball the circled letters to see what the theme was until after turning here to start writing. Oh! Circled letters spell out PINBALL and I guess there are pinball-related words within the five longest answers:
- 18a. [Deals with fries and a beverage, maybe], COMBO MEALS. COMBO seems more likely to relate to pinball than MEALS, but it’s been too long since my collegiate pinball heyday to have any recollection of what it might be in this context.
- 23a. [It may lead to a “no catch” ruling], INSTANT REPLAY. Ugh, hate the clue, which I presume is basebally. Or maybe footbally. No idea. If you are lucky, you’ll get a free REPLAY of a pinball machine.
- 36a. [Fight a needless fight, metaphorically], TILT AT WINDMILLS. If you bang the machine around too much, it will inform you via TILT that your play is over. Wasted your quarter.
- 44a. [One with a quintessential McJob], BURGER FLIPPER. FLIPPERs are the things with side buttons that propel the pinball back up, away from the drain.
- 53a. [Extra-bountiful harvest], BUMPER CROP. Okay, a pinball machine’s BUMPERs are, I think, the round things the ball can bounce off of, racking up points and whatnot.
The pinball-related words sort of pinball back and forth between being the first word in a themer vs. the last. You’ll need to supply your own bells and lights for the full effect. I think the circled letters are meant to look like you hit the ball with the flipper down at the bottom (P), sending it ricocheting off the left wall, arching up towards the top and bouncing off the right wall, then zooming straight towards the Pit of Despair in the bottom middle. Neat theme. Certainly not one of those “variation on a common theme” sorts of puzzles.
Fave fill: MEANS WELL, “I’LL SEE YOU.”
Three more things:
- 11d. [Tuft & Needle competitor], SEALY. It’s a good thing Consumer Reports pointed me towards Tuft & Needle when I was shopping for pillows last month, or I’d never have heard of it. Still waiting for those pricey foam pillows to finish off-gassing the chemical smell so I can actually use them! Sigh. (No tufts in my pillows, no needles used in their crafting. I guess they sell mattresses too.)
- 5d. [Pretty trim], LACING. I tried SVELTE first, but the clue is looking for a noun. However, I think of LACING as what’s on shoes and footballs. Pretty trim on clothes, etc., would be LACE. (Lacing on a bridal gown? No. Lace.) Not sure why this wasn’t clued as a verb.
- 33d. [Potted succulent], ALOE PLANT. The PLANT feels extraneous to me. What say you?
Four stars from me.
Zhouqin Burnikel’s USA Today Crossword, “Hip Bridge” — Sophia’s recap
Editor: Erik Agard
Theme: The theme answers are all two words, the first of which ends in HI and the second of which begins with P.
- 17a [Fusion food with a fried rice crust] – SUSHI PIZZA
- 26a [Spicy and crispy Korean snack] – KIMCHI PANCAKE
- 62a [Capital city home to Mazar-e-Quaid] – KARACHI PAKISTAN
Is “hip bridge” a thing? I’ve only ever heard the stretch called “bridge pose” in yoga. Anyways, the HIPs do successfully bridge the two words, so that’s nice. I liked how the first two theme answers were both foods with an element of fusion, which led a fun double meaning to the “bridge” part of the title. I was a little disappointed when KARACHI PAKISTAN was the last one, as I was hoping for another food answer.
I’ve gone on record at this point saying that I don’t love puzzles that are asymmetric for no real reason. Today, the top middle of the puzzle feels very closed off, likely to accommodate the two Z’s in that area. I can understand the desire to keep the fill clean, but it made the puzzle feel choppy to me today. Surely there must have been some layout that was a bit more open? That being said, it did give us the stack of SPARE KEYS and TUMBLEWEED, so I can’t be too upset.
- I misread 9a [Sports card factoid] as “sports car factoid”, and spent quite a bit of time trying to think of car facts.
- There were a lot of folks that were new to me in the grid and the clues today – KAI Cheng Thom, Yuan Yuan Tan, ADA Limon, Nisi Shawl. Despite this, I finished with a pretty average time.
- TUTU crossing TATA is cute.
- Thanks a lot, puzzle, for getting Mariah Carey stuck in my head with that “I DON’T want a lot for Christmas” clue….
Paul Coulter’s Universal crossword, Rotary Club — pannonica’s write-up
I figured out the theme gimmick about halfway through the solve, but then it turns out that the final theme answer provides a nearly explicit explanation, which for me—let’s say a veteran solver—diminishes the fun. But I can see how more casual solvers might appreciate it.
- 17a. [*Keep?] LOOK THE OTHER WAY. Unfortunately this crosses 3d [Job with three consecutive double letters] BOOKKEEPER. And then there’s the quirley SUBBOOKKEEPER for four in a row.
- 27a. [*Spam?] FLIP CHARTS.
- 46a. [*Pool?] CIRCLE BACK.
- 62a. [*Sega? (Hint: Read each starred clue differently and interpret its answer as an instruction)] TURNAROUND TIMES.
As you can see, these are all reversals—peek, maps, loop, and ages. The answers are all fantastic. These could all be elements of excellent cryptic clues; one needs only to add the definitional component.
- 1d [Island south of Borneo] BALI, but I confidently plunked down JAVA, which prompted 1a [Taiwanese tea type] to be JADE rather than BOBA. Although it seems plausible, there’s no distinct type of tea called jade tea, although some varieties are described as having a jade color (e.g., Tieguanyin from China’s Fujian province, and Japanese Gyokuro).
- 10d [Continent with the shortest coastline] AFRICA. Good trivia!
- 25d [What Zapzyt treats] ACNE. These names, I tell ya.
- 32d [Prepares to be painted] SITS. Little tricky, that one.
- 23a [What the world’s largest animal eats] KRILL. Blue whales (Balaenoptera musculus), like all baleen whales, is a filter feeder and krill are shrimp-like zoöplankton.
- 42a [“The loneliest number“] ONE. 🎶“Two can be as bad as one, It’s the loneliest number since the number whu—UHHHHHHHN”
- 54a [Sandbar] SHOAL. 37a [Word before “cord” or “current”] RIP.
- 69a [They fly in V formations] GEESE.
“The Lost Geese” (1973, Veljo Tormis) for two sopranos and piano
Eve Härma, Kadri Ratt (sopranid), Marrit Gerretz-Traksmann (klaver)
Pao Roy’s AVCX, “All Together Now” — Ben’s Review
Pao Roy’s AVCX was right in my guy-on-your-trivia-team-who-can-identify-all-the-songs-in-the-music-round sweet spot:
- 22A: Group that recorded the 1982 hit “The Message” with Grandmaster Flash — THE FURIOUS FIVE
- 30A: Act with the 1994 hit “Closer” — NINE INCH NAILS
- 45A: Group with the 1967 hit “Bernadette” — THE FOUR TOPS
- 56A: Group with the 1971 hit “Joy to the World” — THREE DOG NIGHT
- 66A: Group with the 2004 hit “Unwell” — MATCHBOX TWENTY
- 55D: Group with the 2001 hit “Fat Lip” … and the solution to this puzzle’s thematic equation — SUM 41
There was something that felt slightly anticlimactic about realizing that the total of all the numbers in these groups names wasn’t getting resolved in 66A, then realizing we had two numbers in the corner of the grid, rebus-style, but overall I liked this a lot.
Other nice fill: YEET, ZA’ATAR, BAHN MI, TO DIE FOR, NEBULAE, ROOMBA, and PARASOL
Will Nediger’s New Yorker crossword—Matthew’s review
This played about as the old Friday slot did, so a chunk quicker than the last few Wednesdays I’ve had. I was able to move pretty easily from long answer to long answer, so it feels like a colorful grid with fresh entries that don’t compromise the fill by being too sparkly, but I admittedly didn’t have to punch through short stuff to get crossing help as much as I might in other themelesses.
JUST RELAX and HESITATES do a lot of work in the connectivity here, and while I like the clue for the former ([8d “Don’t have a cow”]), my favorite access to the middle came from YAKETY SAX [36a Novelty song that often accompanies sped-up chase scenes] and HULK SMASH [32a Line from a green superhero who’s seeing red]. HULK SMASH is particularly fun in my mind because red is just not a color I associate with him – green of course, but also purple/blue clothing.
LAWYERED UP [14a Got an attorney] is a fun phrase. I have no idea how popular it is — I knew it — but it’s an example of verbification that I think has held up well in casual use.
Quick notes, because I’m getting slammed today:
- 1a [Character who’s told “hear my words” in a They Might Be Giants song] ANA NG. I do not vigorously subscribe to the idea that crossings need to be overly gentle — I think there’s plenty of room to ask a solver to make some inferences among multiple possible options — but I would have had no hope on this without gentle crossings. I didn’t even realize this entry had a word break until looking up the song just now.
- 28a [Pea soup] DENSE FOG. This is a widespread idiom, but for whatever reason today I’m imagining if someone were to learn it from this puzzle. Not a lot of explanation in crossword clues! I’ve learned a lot of slang for “money” from puzzles.
- 55a [Mireille of “World War Z”] ENOS. I just saw this ENOS angle in another puzzle this morning. I would have rather seen her here first and been quicker on the other!
Susan Gelfand’s LAT crossword – Gareth’s summary
Today’s crossword theme by Susan Gelfand features a well-worn concept: scrambled words spanning the centre of two-parter theme words. The connections between all the theme’s working parts seemed a tad on the loose side. The revealing answer, CHANGEOFVENUE, implies anagramming the circled letters, which all spell out >sports< venues: TRACK, COURT and RING. These are in the middle of three longer words:
- [Extremely expensive fungi], BLACKTRUFFLES
- [Injury-prone area for pitchers], ROTATORCUFF. And cricketers…
- [Novelist known for legal thrillers], JOHNGRISHAM
The grid design, at 42 squares, in part because of the revealing 13, is quite constrained, particularly in its centre. The advantage in construction is each area can be reworked separately. The disadvantage, especially in harder puzzles, is the solver may find it hard to break into areas.
- [“Night Sky With __ Wounds”: poetry collection by Ocean Vuong], EXIT. Beautiful “olaf” clue. You really only need “___ wounds”, but the rest adds colour.
- [Iowa senator Joni], ERNST. New ERNST alert (for many, anyhow)!