Chase Dittrich’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Patchwork”—Jim P’s review
The revealer is HOLES IN THE WALL (48a, [Dingy bars, or what the circled letters can help fix]). The other themers are familiar phrases with circled letters that spell out items needed to repair a wall.
- 20a. [Cereal mascot trio] SNAP CRACKLE POP. Spackle.
- 25a. [It’s fed on the sidewalk] PARKING METER. Primer.
- 42a. [“Oh, be quiet!”] “PUT A SOCK IN IT!” Paint.
Pretty straightforward Monday theme, and I like the wordplay in the revealer (plus the fact that it reminds me of one of my favorite movies, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid).
I admit that I want a repair job to take as few steps as possible, so I’ll generally look for a way to not have to use primer. But I’ve also been fortunate enough over the years not to have to contend with very large HOLES IN THE WALL. By the way, if you don’t want to rely on a crossword for DIY advice, here’s a nice little video on repairing drywall.
ATTACK AD and BACKSTOP top the fill. Not so keen on RETAP.
Clue of note: 47a. [“I’m with ___”]. HER. For a time, I had SPIN_ at 38d [Twisted, like a thrown football], which made this entry HEN. I’d like to see the clue for the phrase “I’m with hen.”
And that’s all I’ve got. A quick, smooth solve today. 3.5 stars.
August Miller’s New York Times puzzle– malaika’s write-up
Hey friends! I solved this puzzle in a cloud of hangar steak and shallots and champagne and crispy potatoes and chocolate lava cake so take everything I say with a grain of salt. Solving music was this.
Actually, I don’t really have Big Picture thoughts beyond “haven’t we seen this before… like, recently…..?” so let’s just do bullet points.
- Some fun mid-length fill with LET SLIP (this just immediately puts a picture in my head), ASHTRAY (entry was meh, but clue was nice, [Once-standard feature not found in most newer vehicles]), HAPPY stacked atop IRATE, PARTY BUS (so good!!!), ALL THAT, SUDOKU, BRUNO with the “Encanto” reference (here you go)
- Some really painful short fill. This is a Monday, no?? TKO? PDAS? EAU? SOFT G? YER? TEC??? Are you kidding me???? It is unreal to me that in this age of “We Receive 10000000000000 Submissions Per Hour, The Bar Is Higher Than Ever,” the Times is publishing puzzles with the entry TEC at all, much less on a Monday.
- Everyone has their own unique definition of “crosswordese” (and let’s never agree on one definition, please! Otherwise, what would we fight about in the comments??); for me it’s terms like RAP CD and MLB TEAM— some people like to call those strings of consonants “crunchy,” but I like to call them “made up” or “convenient.” Call me the next time you hear someone say “rap CD” instead of “CD” or “MLB team” instead of “baseball team.” (I’m coming for you next, “NFL-ers”!!)
- An ambitious layout, I think? About a third of the down answers are crossing two theme answers, and two of the down answers are crossing three of them. This is the kind of thing that means nothing to me as a solver, but I can be like “Okay, nice job” as a constructor.
Oh, let’s do a proper noun round-up:
- People I haven’t heard of: Amanda PEET, the poet ATTAR, JOSEF K., ITALO Calvino, Stephen REA
- People I have heard of: MAYA Rudolph, Kafka, MR. T, ELENA Kagan, Uncle BRUNO, Nas, Lil Kim, WOODY Guthrie
David Alfred Bywaters’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up
I noticed two things about this puzzle within the first ten seconds. First, the byline was a nice surprise: I associate “Bywaters” with “clever and fun.” Second, that 1-Across, AROSE, gave me a little deja vu, since it’s my starting word in Wordle.
Anyway, this puzzle is a delightful throwback to the days when “Monday” didn’t always mean “revealer.” I think the theme is pretty self-evident without one: In each two-word theme entry, the first word is a compound in which the second word is the first syllable of the compound, and also those second words are all some kind of synonym for “aficionado.” Like so:
- 17A [All-you-can-eat restaurant regular?] is a BUFFET BUFF.
- 28A [Cemetery connoisseur?] is a HEADSTONE HEAD. This one’s a little weak IMO — HEAD doesn’t quite mean “one who likes [first theme word]” in the way that the others do.
- 41A [Obsessive Christmas-season ballet attendee?] is a NUTCRACKER NUT. Pro tip from a casual ballet fan: Skip the NUTCRACKER unless you have a kid you’re trying to get interested in ballet. You’ll get charged twice as much for a performance that’s half the length.
- 54A [Trumpet flourish aficionado?] is a FANFARE FAN. Might I suggest becoming a FAN of Copland’s FANFARE for the Common Man if you aren’t already?
I enjoyed having a Monday theme that’s easily graspable and yet not made of very common in-the-language phrases, so my comment on 28A is a quibble. Smooth grid with a minimum of proper nouns, too.
Zhouqin Burnikel’s Universal crossword, “In a Sense” — pannonica’s write-up
Bracketing each of the longest across answers is one of the traditional five senses. To help us out, the grid has those letters pre-circled.
- 16a. [Red ingredient in meatloaf] TOMATO PASTE (taste).
- 23a. [Insomniac’s frustration] SLEEPLESS NIGHT (sight).
- 38a. [Excessive] TOO MUCH (touch).
- 50a. [Very sad] HEARTWRENCHING (hearing).
- 60a. [He played a shape-shifter in “True Blood”] SAM TRAMELL (smell).
Among the other physiological senses that are recognized, the most notable is proprioception. This theme works, however, because of the cultural persistence of the ‘five’. Further, these are all external senses, which seems appropriate as they are at the extremities of the entries in the grid. I have no idea if this was intentional, as it isn’t made explicit anywhere; benefit of the doubt dictates that I should consider it so.
The last across entry is tantalizing: 69a [Rudolph’s is red] NOSE. It’s the organ most associated with the sense of SMELL, and that’s the closest theme answer! If that could have been accomplished for the other four themers, this crossword would have been superlative.
- 17d [Like trout or tuna] OILY. Not excessively so, in my opinion. However, they both appear on Wikipedia’s index page of oily fish, which mentions criteria of food standard agencies.
- 39d [Remove from office] OUST, 51d [Choose by voting] ELECT.
- 56d [Facial roller gemstone, often] JADE. Um, ok.
- 62d [May 8, 2022, VIP] MOM. Yesterday!
- 12a [Address the UN assembly, say] ORATE.
- 49a [Not yet eliminated] INNIT, I mean, IN IT.
- 13a [Color of honey or mirin] AMBER, 15a [Magenta or mustard] HUE.
- 64a [Seven Dwarfs’ leader] DOC; 67a [M.D. treating laryngitis] ENT; 46d [Medical research org.] NIH. No dupes detected.
Kameron Austin Collins’s New Yorker crossword—Amy’s write-up
Ooh, a tough one, as advertised. Last Monday’s New Yorker puzzle wasn’t nearly as challenging as this one—and this one puts up a fight, which is what I’m looking for in a “hardest of the week.”
First off, let me say that I appreciate the SEWS clue, [Secures a weave, say]. That’s the sort of thing that is likely to be much more familiar to Black solvers than to others (it’s about hairstyling), and I like that the puzzle isn’t assuming a white audience resistant to references that don’t cater to their background.
Fave fill: RODEO CLOWN, CREME DE MENTHE (halfway expected this answer would be the name of an insect pigment, but no, our grasshopper is the minty cocktail), “NOT TODAY, SATAN,” ECHOLALIA, CHEATING ON, Art BRUT, SIDE DISH, a FLAT REFUSAL, the STOOGES, and TONE IT DOWN.
Did not know: EHUD of the Book of Judges, H-BAR that’s the [Symbol used to represent the reduced Planck constant].
Three more things:
- 27d. [Language spoken by millions of Ghanaians], EWE crossing CREME DE MENTHE, morning DEW, and [Flew], TORE—yes, I needed the crossings for EWE, but I’ve seen it before and the crossings were eminently fair. TORE could have been clued as [Ripped], making both TORE and TORN equally plausible, so good call on [Flew].
- 15d. [“America’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll Magazine,” per a 2019 documentary], CREEM. Interesting choice, to go with CREEM crossing BEER rather than CREAM and BEAR. If you’re curious about the defunct monthly, here’s the Wiki article.
- Austen trivia! 26d. [Character whose first name, Fitzwilliam, is used only twice in the classic novel in which he appears], DARCY.
4.25 stars from me.
Kelsey Dixon’s USA Today puzzle, “Cut a Rug”– malaika’s write-up
Congrats Kelsey, on her print debut! This puzzle has a kind of unsettling asymmetry, where things are just slightly off. It looks like the type of crossword the Other Mother would solve in “Coraline.” That is, of course, a compliment.
Here we have three phrases which have the word RUG bookended– RUNNING GAG, RUBE GOLDBERG, and RUIN THE ENDING. The former was my favorite, and had me thinking of what my favorite running gags are… The chicken dance on “Arrested Development” springs to mind.
- ABRA (cadabra) and (Rice-A-) RONI and (OB-)GYN were all entries that looked weird in the grid but were easy due to their clues
- BALLERINA and MIAMI SOL were great long entries. I expected a “here’s a cool person you may not have heard of” clue from USA Today, but we got the simpler [Dancer in a tutu]. (Also, lol, I have heard of exactly zero ballerinas. Could not name one if it were a life or death situation.)
- I liked IAGO because I just saw “Aladdin” on Broadway. Apparently they used two million Swarovski crystals in the costumes, and yeah, you could tell.
For a Monday NYT, too many proper names
Re the LA Times puzzle:
I feel the same way as Stella about the ending “-head”.
But also the 44A answer “satiate” is clued by “Fill to the brim”. This strikes me as a minor mismatch: Satiate applies to sentient beings who are satisfied and then some. Fill to the brim applies to inanimate things like a drinking glass.
Let me add that, despite my occasional carping, I find Patti Varol’s editing to be a breath of fresh air.
Agree 100%. Deadhead just does not translate outside that context IMHO. Still a nice enough puzzle for a Monday.
stathead? sneakerhead? metalhead?
Those are what came to mind for me too. And hip hop head.
Never heard of any of those, so obviously my frame of reference is not that of the constructor’s or the above commenters — and probably never will be. Cheers.
Stathead refers to a segment of sports fans who are into stats; metalhead, to heavy metal fans; sneaker- and hip hop head are straightforward. The point of mentioning these common, current terms is to give you examples beyond deadhead to consider. You didn’t know; now you know. Cheers, Grumpyhead.
I’m a dedicated carnivore, but please don’t call me Meathead :D :D .
I still enjoyed the puzzle, the ‘head’ part is a minor nit in a nice solve experience.
HEAD doesn’t work quite as well as the others, but in addition to Deadheads, there are gearheads and potheads (which may or may not suggest “afficionado”), and I’ve seen chilihead and gadgethead a few times. Jimmy Buffett fans are known as parrotheads, but at least part of that relates to wardrobe.
NYT: I drive a 2003 car. When I had only the initial A on the car clue, I unhappily put in AMRADIO, distressed that my next vehicle might not have this desirable feature. It was a relief to see that the answer was the (disgusting) ASHTRAY.
But it’s such a handy place to keep my peppermints ….
New Yorker: Particularly wonderful and a bit challenging puzzle from KAC. Loved it…even with a mistake or two I made. I sure thought 33D was “High Seas” so I couldn’t figure out what 33A could be. Also didn’t know 54A, so I had to leave that one blank. But, a great puzzle, nonetheless. Also, Zhouqin’s Universal puzzle was fabulous. Her output is prodigious, impressive and of high-quality. Nice debut from Kelsey Dixon at USA Today.
BEQ: can anyone explain the bill blockers = linemen clue? I don’t understand the “bill” part.
As in the Buffalo Bills — he fooled me on that one for quite a while!