Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “Skill Sets” – Erin’s write-up
Hello lovelies! This week’s Jonesin’ theme involves replacing a W in common words and phrases with SQU.
- 17a. [Really close group of friends?] TIGHT SQUAD (tightwad)
- 19a. [Equilateral unit of steam?] VAPOR SQUARE (vaporware)
- 35a. [Response to “Are my shoes really that waterlogged?”] YEAH YOU SQUISH (yeah, you wish)
- 53a. [Sound from an ocean predator imitating a mouse?] SHARK SQUEAK (Shark Week)
- 57a. [High-pitched cries of joy during summer?] HOT SQUEALS (Hot Wheels)
- 4a. [Adult Swim’s “Joe ___ Talks With You”] PERA. In this Cartoon Network show, comedian Joe Pera discusses run-of-the-mill things like reading church announcements, watching internet videos, and second fridges.
- 64a. [Nair rival, once] NEET. Some European countries marketed the product as Veet from the start, but it was Neet in North America until 2002. The active ingredients in Veet are calcium hydroxide and potassium thioglycolate. The calcium hydroxide causes swelling of the hair follicle and removes a proton from the thioglycolate, and then the thioglycolate’s now free sulfur atom breaks down the hair’s disulfide bonds, dissolving it. Neet…er, neat! In “I can’t believe this crap still happens in the 21st century” news, last decade Veet was criticized for a “Don’t risk dudeness” ad campaign where a female actor in different situations like hailing a cab or getting a pedicure, upon admitting to body hair or stubble in different areas, was replaced by a hairy male actor in the same clothing. Thanks for that, Veet.
- 51d. [“Hey! Over here!”] PSSST. This bothers me for reasons I can’t quite define. It’s not wrong. There can be as many Ss in the sound as you want. It seems like it’s always PSST in grids, though. (Note: As I said “Psst” and “Pssst” out loud, my cat Luma hopped up and started kneading me.)
Hoang-Kim Vu & Jessica Zetzman’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “This Wasn’t My Order!”—Jim P’s review
Theme answers consist of familiar food-item phrases that we don’t generally use to refer to food. What’s more, each entry’s clue is another familiar phrase of the form “___ food” used punnily as if the theme phrase was actually about food. Got it?
- 17a. [Frozen food?] COLD TURKEY.
- 25a. [Super food?] BIG CHEESE. Is there ever a situation where you would use BIG CHEESE to actually refer to some cheese? This place claims they can sell mammoth wheels weighing as much as 12,000 lbs. Now that’s some BIG CHEESE!
- 37a. [Baby food?] SMALL POTATOES. Ha! Cute.
- 48a. [Junk food?] BAD APPLES.
- 58a. [Spoiled food?] SOUR GRAPES. Aww, this one doesn’t work quite as well since “spoiled food” isn’t as much an in-the-language phrase as the others. But it’s close.
I really enjoyed this with all the wordplay going on at multiple levels. Fun entries and imaginative cluing make for a great pairing. Well done!
And the fill is on par with the theme. Plenty of fun entries all over the grid like DIRTBAG, TUSKEGEE, OPOSSUMS, STRATEGO, MAL DE MER (which I only learned recently from WSJ crosswords), GONDOLA, BLASTER, HECTIC, and SNOPES.
Clues of note:
- 33a. [Han Solo’s preferred weapon]. BLASTER. “Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good BLASTER at your side, kid.”
- 66a. [1-Across mainstay for 46 yrs.]. SNL. The show’s been around for 46 years?! Wow, I’m old.
- 1d. [Sign at some retailers]. NO CASH. Are there some major retailers that don’t allow cash? I very rarely use cash since the pandemic started, but I wonder how many retailers don’t accept cash anymore.
- 3d. [Bird, for his entire playing career]. CELTIC. That’s Larry Bird, not Charlie Parker.
- 45d. [Myth-debunking website]. SNOPES. Oh hey. Did I mention I’m responsible for a busted myth on SNOPES? A couple years ago I came across an excerpt from Larry Fine’s autobiography claiming The Three Stooges played the halftime show at the very first Super Bowl. I could find no other corroborating evidence so I asked SNOPES. They came up with this answer.
Fun puzzle all around. Four stars.
Lou Weiss’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
I like the three themers ending with categories of musical instruments, but I’m not sure that the revealer has a tight enough connection to hold them together. 63a. [Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Do-Re-Mi” show, with a hint to this puzzle’s theme], THE SOUND OF MUSIC—STRINGS are not a “sound of music,” so 63a feels to me like a random 15-letter phrase ending with the word MUSIC. Would ORCHESTRAL MUSIC have made more sense, or less?
- 17a. [Air currents from the most typical direction], PREVAILING WINDS.
- 27a. [Resorted to good old-fashioned know-who, say], PULLED STRINGS.
- 49a. [Top military leaders in Washington], PENTAGON BRASS.
Overall, a quick solve here.
Fave fill: SNL HOSTS, TOOK HOLD.
Three more things:
- 20a. [Big part of many kids’ cereals], SUGAR. I miss sugared cereals! Even just Frosted Flakes … but also Cap’n Crunch, Froot Loops, and Corn Pops. Oh, and Special K Red Berries—it pretends to be a grown-up cereal, but it’s plenty sweet!
- 42a. [Some labor leaders?], DOULAS. Here’s where I mention that there’s a doula side character on the Apple TV+ drama Severance, but she’s not the reason the show is so dark and twisty. If you appreciate Black Mirror, this is basically a long-form version of that.
- 59a. [G sharp equivalent], A FLAT. I never care for entries like this (see also: the xMAJ(OR) and xMIN(OR) entries). Some of us don’t have that musical literacy and wait for the crossings to tell us which letter/note goes at the start!
Four stars from me.
Julian Lim’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Jenni’s write-up
This was a smooth and enjoyable Tuesday solve. I didn’t know the song at the heart of the theme, and that was OK.
- 17a [*“In my uninformed opinion…”] is I’M NO EXPERT.
- 23a [*Challenge to someone suspected of lying] is LOOK ME IN THE EYE.
- 50a [*Become a better person, say] is BUILD CHARACTER.
- 62a [*Thoroughly refute] is PROVE FALSE.
The revealer is in the middle: 39a [Marvin Gaye classic, and a hint to the last words of the starred clues] is CAN I GET A WITNESS. EXPERT WITNESS, EYEWITNESS, CHARACTER WITNESS, FALSE WITNESS. The starred answers and resulting combos are all solidly in the language. I know the phrase and have never heard of the song – clearly a gap in my classic R&B education.
A few other things:
- I’m sure I’m not the only parent who was deeply relieved when their kid outgrew ELMO. That voice. Shudder.
- I like TETCHY. No reason. I just like it.
- Nice to see YAS Queen! When I retired, one of my NP colleagues gave me a cross-stitch plaque with that sentiment. The pattern came from a book called Feminist Cross-Stitch that apparently was too edgy for Michael’s to stock in their craft/hobby stores. Humph.
- 32d [“Whatever!”] is LIKE I CARE. Seems like we went straight from ELMO to this in our house. The kid in question is now 22 and delightful company.
- I have a nagging rib injury that has forced me to VEG out for several days. It was fun at first and now I’ve had enough, which probably means I will overdo it and the cycle will start all over again.
Here’s Marvin Gaye, of course, and that’s what I didn’t know before I did this crossword.
Brooke Husic’s New Yorker crossword — pannonica’s write-up
Billed as ‘moderately challenging’, this week’s Tuesday offering seems to me calibrated more or less properly. The solving experience was characterized by filling in large, cohesive clumps with a few gaps that needed to be worked in as additional bordering areas fell.
- 14a [Name that sounds like its second and third letters] ARTIE. One of those clues/entries that takes too long to think about prima facie and is best left to revisit after a few crossing letters are entered. Time-release crosswording!
- 15a [Greeting on the first day of Tishri] SHANA TOVA. Didn’t know what religion or culture this was, but again after a few letters I recognized the Hebrew phrase.
- 16a [Electronic-music pioneer Suzanne] CIANI. Vaguely recognized this one. I recall listening to some of her recordings a few years ago and finding them not-so interesting or appealing. I can see how at the time of their release they would have been more compelling.
- 17a [Foundation for Black poets whose logo depicts a dog breaking loose from a chain] CAVE CANEM (beware the dog).
- 22a [Compacts] TREATIES. As in the Mayflower Compact.
- 26a [STEMM student’s homework] PSET (problem set).
- 42a [Drink that may be served in an ochoko) SAKE. Those are the small cylindrical cups.
- 49a [Keeps on ice?] SNOW FORTS. Nice wordplay: ‘keeps’ as in castle keep. 46a [Feature of Matsumoto Castle] MOAT.
- 59a [Many water-polo uniforms] ONE-PIECES. 37d [Bra, sometimes] TOP.
- 2d [Princess set to be played by Halle Bailey in a 2023 Disney adaptation] ARIEL. Cue outrage from some quarters.
- 56d [Only graphic novel to win a Pulitzer Prize] MAUS. Notoriously banned earlier this year by a school board in Tennessee. Cue outrage from other quarters.
- 3d [Feeling 🤩] STARSTRUCK. Not used to seeing emoji in clues. (I do the bulk of my solving from files in the .puz format.)
- 5d [Half of doce] SEIS. 27d [“Oui, mademoiselle,” across the Pyrenees] SÍ SEÑORA. 53d [“Hace __!” (It’s cold!”)] FRÍO.
- 11d [Leadoff single?] MONO-. Referring to the prefix.
- 23d [The mythological Jinshin-Uwo is a giant one that carries Japan on its back] EEL.
- 26d [Time for donning gay apparel?] PRIDE MONTH. The question mark indicates that we probably aren’t talking about Christmas and decking halls.
- 31d [Lead-in to Zumba or Velva] AQUA. Made me laugh.
- 47d [Didn’t assume] ASKED. Usually the better policy.
- 49d [G-__ ] SPOT crossing 57a [Get some exercise at the mall, say] POWER WALK.
(Original studio version not available on free streaming services. That’s ECM Records for ya. (see also: Tzadik)
Jon Pennington’s Universal Crossword, “Active States”— Jim Q’s write-up
THEME: Common phrases that feature STATE + VERB where the verb is acting as a noun.
- [Sushi bites made with crab and avocado] CALIFORNIA ROLLS
- [Popular dances of the Jefferson Era] VIRGINIA REELS
- [Southern rock band fronted by Brittany Howard] ALABAMA SHAKES
- [Home of the U.S. Air Force Academy] COLORADO SPRINGS
All themers are clued very straightforwardly, which I don’t understand at all. Especially when we’re trying to emphasize the verbiness of the phrase (per the title). Like, why not [The Golden State goes through revolutions?] for CALIFORNIA ROLLS? Or [Old Dominion stumbles?] for VIRGINIA REELS? [The Cotton State quivers?] and [The Centennial State leaps?] seem fun and interesting enough for the last two (though I’m not sure ALABAMA SHAKES is familiar enough a base phrase… Googles very well though… I’m awful with band names). The way it is presented feels so… unimaginative which is juxtaposed with a rather interesting set of themers.
So the theme just sat there. I had more fun with the fill, which was more difficult for me than usual. Had no clue Minnie Mouse had a dog that wasn’t Pluto. FIFI! (not FIDO, which I had assumed initially after the FI- appeared). Other new-for-me moments included OMAR Ilhan, ANNE Geddes and the scary sounding RAGEAHOLIC.
And if you don’t think SeniorITIS is a thing [Senior follower?], trust me… IT IS. Man… I was able to get through a whole two pages of Young Goodman Brown with my (regular level) seniors yesterday before their attention was completely sapped period 9.
I think Judge Lance ITO has left the building. I wish he would stop appearing in crosswords. He hosted an embarrassing circus of a trial decades ago, and that’s all he’s known for to the general public. I vote to delete him from the constructor dictionaries.
Some good moments, but this puzzle is slightly south of what it could’ve been imo.
2.75 stars from me.
Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle (Week 571), “Chain Reaction”—Ade’s take
Hello there, everybody! Hope all is well with you lately and that you’re staying warm and toasty…especially to those who are in places where springtime weather has yet to settle in just now.
We go on the loop-the-loop for today’s puzzle, as each theme entry builds off the previous one; the first word of a theme starts with the last word of the previous theme entry, and continues so until the cycle ends at the final theme entry, where its last word is also the first word of the first theme entry. Got it? Now I’m dizzy.
- RETURN DATE (17A: [Library receipt info])
- DATE NIGHT (24A: [Couple’s mini-vacation, sans kids])
- NIGHT OFF (32A: [Evening free from work])
- OFF TRACK (43A: [Parlor-based betting variety])
- TRACK BALL (50A: [Cursor control on a laptop])
- BALL RETURN (62A: [Bowling alley feature])
One of the most special, and oddest, gifts that I’ve ever received was when I was given a TAMALE by the mom of a high school student I was tutoring and helped her improve her SAT score (48D: [Cornhusk-wrapped cantina fare]). If I received a tamale for every time I helped a kid out, I might have made tutoring a full-time gig! A very pleasant earworm formed after completing my first entry of my solve, PERCY (1D: [“When a Man Loves a Woman” singer Sledge]). Normally, I love when Africa is represented in a grid, like what happened with CAIRO (51A: [Sight of Egypt’s al-Azhar Mosque]), but having to put in GHANA has me in a rage because its national soccer team, a.k.a. the Black Stars, defeated Nigeria in the final round of qualifying to make it to the World Cup, and at Nigeria’s expense (25D: [Accra’s nation]). OK, I better go to a grocery store and THUMP a few watermelons to release some of this tension (53A: [Check a watermelon for ripeness]).
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: NORTH STAR (36D: [Nautical guiding light]) – The perfect entry to reimagine with a sports clue for the unsuspecting! The National Hockey League team currently in Dallas, the Stars, was founded in 1967 in Minnesota as the Minnesota North Stars. The North Stars were one of the six teams that came into existence when the NHL first expanded, from the Original Six teams (Montréal, Toronto, Detroit, New York, Chicago and Boston) to 12 teams. The North Stars made the Stanley Cup Final twice during its time in Bloomington, Minnesota, in 1981 and 1991, with the 1991 team particularly remarkable because it finished 12 games below .500 yet still made the championship round. (They eventually lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the final, in six games.) After the 1993 season, the team relocated to Dallas and, sadly, one of the great logos in sports history was no longer an active one. Long live Mike Modano and Bill Goldsworthy!
Thank you so much for the time, everybody! Have a wonderful and safe rest of your day and, as always, keep solving!
Zhouqin Burnikel’s USA Today Crossword, “Taco Tuesday“ — Emily’s write-up
Extra tasty puzzle today with the most delicious theme and themers plus an overflow of bonus fill. Nothing better—except maybe the fantastic grid!
Theme: the end of each themer phrase is a part of a taco
- 15a. [Typical oyster presentation], HALFSHELL
- 23a. [‘80s Wendy’s slogan], WHERESTHEBEEF
- 48a. [Nickname for Celia Cruz], QUEENOFSALSA
- 61a. [Top dog], BIGCHEESE
It’s been forever since I’ve had HALFSHELL oysters (which may have to be remedied soon!) and in my opinion are best o’natural. WHERESTHEBEEF took me a few crossings to get though I remember the ‘90s slogan “Beef—it’s what’s for dinner” more. QUEENOFSALSA filled in last of the themers, though I certainly recognize her by face (and amazing moves!), if not by name so I need to work on that. The excellent cluing for BIGCHEESE gave me pause (due to the paws!), as usually “cheese” is not something I associate with dogs. Overall, a fabulous theme and themers!
Also, the first and fourth themers have two words and the second and third have three. What a fun bonus!
Favorite fill: TARO, BENTOS, OWLETS, SELFWORTH, and AISLESEATS
Stumpers: YEESH (needed crossings), UNA (wasn’t confident so waited for crossings to confirm), and COEL (unknown to me needed crossings)
This stellar grid allowed for so much wonderful bonus fill and delightful entries! Though not on our menu tonight, I still got my fill of tacos today! Who doesn’t like a Taco Tuesday?