Samuel A. Donaldson’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Tell Tales”—Jim P’s review
Today’s theme answers STRETCH THE TRUTH (54a, [Exaggerate, and a command followed three times in this puzzle]). Each one is a familiar word or phrase that contains the four letters FACT somewhere within. In each case those letters are doubled, thereby taking up twice as much space in the grid.
- 17a. [Quantity offering statistical wiggle room] FUDGE FFAACCTTOR.
- 27a. [Fabricate] MANUFFAACCTTURE.
- 42a. [Sidelined by injury, say] OUT OFF AACCTTION.
I imagine if this was in the NYT, they’d figure out a way to have those key letters actually stretch across two squares each. But this worked well enough for me, and the theme did its job by helping me fill in the lower two entries. I’m imagining someone taking liberties with the facts, and that seems to match up well with this theme.
Stan Lee is famous for saying ‘NUFF SAID, so I happily thought of him and my comic-book-reading days when I uncovered that entry. Also good: LOU GRANT, TECH SHOW, and Alexandria OCASIO-Cortez. If you wanted to get your French on, you could enjoy the ARDENNES, GATEAU, and HAUTEUR, which is entirely new to me. On the staler side, we find AS AM I crossing I TRY at the I. Meh.
Clues of note:
- 23d. [“A Sorta Fairytale” singer Tori]. AMOS. I don’t need much of an excuse to embed a Tori AMOS video, but this one’s on the bizarro side.
- 46d. [“You know better!”]. “TSK TSK!” I did not pick up on the accusatory tone in the clue. To me it sounded deferential.
An unusual theme today. 3.5 stars.
Michael Paleos’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap
Theme revealer: 57a. [They’re always ready for a good time … or a description of 18-, 25-, 35- and 49-Across?], PARTY ANIMALS. The four themers start with words that can relate to partying and end with animals: ROCKING HORSE, WILD TURKEY booze, DRUNKEN CHICKEN, RAGING BULL. I wouldn’t use “raging” about a party but then I’m middle-aged.
Fave fill: BLOWS IT, Cristiano RONALDO (soft spot for names that kinda sound like “Reynaldo”!), ONCE-OVER.
Alternative to DUSTIN Hoffman, who might be a little icky(?): Screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, whose latest project is the Hulu true-crime limited series Under the Banner of Heaven.
3.75 stars from me.
Byron Walden’s AVCX, “Strong Structure” — Ben’s Review
Byron Walden has this week’s AVCX Classic, and it’s a 2/5 in difficulty? This definitely played easier than his usual puzzles for the venue. Let’s look at what unites all the circled squares in the grid:
- 17A: Five-footer? — PENTAMETER
- 24A: Establishments like Xquisite in “Magic Mike” — STRIP BARS
- 36A: Span that’s about two weeks for opossums and almost two years for elephants — GESTATION PERIOD
- 46A: Quality of many fish and reptiles — SCALINESS
- 55A: Commonality of elves and Vulcans — POINTY EARS
- 3D: Like a matte finish — NON-GLOSSY
- 9D: Taxing demand — STRAIN
- 25D: Three-element vacuum tubes — TRIODES
- 37D: Beyond baggy — TOO LARGE
- 34D: Electricity source … or what this puzzle’s highlighted squares form — POWER GRID
Yes, we’ve got an interconnected GRID of words that can be proceeded by POWER (POWER LINE, POWERPOINT, etc.), inside our interconnected grid of words. Impressive work!
Will Nediger’s USA Today Crossword, “Mainframes” — Sophia’s recap
Editor: Erik Agard
Theme: Each theme answer begins with MA and ends with IN
Hi folks! I’m back from vacation and ready to jump back to blogging, and what a lovely puzzle I get to start with!
- 19a [Producer who was the first cover star of Essence’s Girls United] – MARSAI MARTIN
- 37a [Antarctic creature with a pasta in its name] – MACARONI PENGUIN
- 53a [Actress in “Children of a Lesser God” and “CODA”] – MARLEE MATLIN
Classic USA Today theme today executed expertly by Will. Two of the theme answers were completely new to me – MARSAI MARTIN and MACARONI PENGUIN – and yet I still finished in a pretty average time, and learned some cool things to boot. USA Today in general does a great job of incorporating things that haven’t been seen in every other crossword before while still keeping puzzles easy, and it’s very refreshing to see (take it from me, somebody who really has to scrape for interesting things to say at times about each of the NYT’s Monday puzzles). I did know MARLEE MATLIN, although more from growing up in a family of “The West Wing” fans than from either of the productions mentioned in the clue.
- Normally the standout answers in a puzzle are the themers and the long downs, but today a lot of my favorite moments were in the short fill. UP TOP, GAMIFY, DUDE BRO, LGBT, and COMMS were all standouts to me.
- My biggest issue with the puzzle was with 1a [___ up (prep for a race)] – I had “warm” rather than CARB. Is carb up a phrase? I’ve heard carbo-load before, but never this version.
- This puzzle had so many literary moments! “Where Rain Clouds Gather” by Bessie Head, “Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your ASS” by Meg Medina, “Friction” by Anna Tsing, and “Forget the ALAMO: The Rise and Fall of an American Myth” are all mentioned. I’ve never read any of these but I’m inspired to now! If you have read and recommend any, let me know in the comments.
Robin Stears’ LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary
Some by-lines always excite me to see. In the LA Times, Robin Stears is one who always exudes attention to details. Today’s puzzle is one of the less popular varietals – the quip theme. Like usual, I solved around the quip, which didn’t make the puzzle as frustrating as that technique is wont to do. The quip works better than most, as it has a few layers to its central mom joke. The only part I still don’t get is what it has to do with “climate change”. Anyway, AMINDCONTROLLED / AIRDEODORIZER / MAKESSCENTSIF / YOUTHINKABOUTIT. It’s an “air deodorizer” so it makes scents, and as it’s mind-controlled, it does so when you think about it.
There weren’t too many tricky spots in the rest of the puzzle, which is a good design choice for this kind of theme. I liked the [Neither here nor there], ENROUTE clue / answer pair. ALCOPOP and PANPIPE were my other favourites of the medium-length answers. There did feel like quite a few longer names, but I personally only struggled with FREEMAN, but managed to guess it, with the last letter being that F.