Gary Larson’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Cross Reference”—Jim P’s review
If you don’t care for cross references in your puzzle, you’ll probably want to give this one a pass.
The theme answers are words that should be re-parsed as two “words.” The first word is a verb and is a synonym for “change,” and the second “word” consists of letters to anagram to form another actual word in the grid.
- 15a. [Produce 13-Down?] CONVERT IBLE. Converting IBLE gets you BILE which is at 13d.
- 23a. [Make 26-Down?] REFORM ING will get you 28d GIN.
- 35a. [Assemble 52-Down?] AMEND MENT gets you 52d T-MEN.
- 51a. [Concoct 28-Down?] DOCTOR ATE gets you 28d TEA.
- 60a. [Generate 45-Down?] ALTER CATION gets you 45d ACTION.
I finished with an error because I went for DEFORMING at 23a. The crossing initial letter came from TADS at 16d with the clue [Gobs]. While TADS is a terrible entry, it made some sense to me because TADS and gobs are both ambiguous amounts (though gobs implies a lot more than tads). Imagine my surprise to find that it was actually REFORMING and TARS. TARS is a synonym for “gobs”? I don’t get it, and I still think TADS—a terrible entry to be sure—makes more sense. Here’s an idea, just clue TARS as a verb that people will understand.
My other nit with the theme is T-MEN. Theme answers should be fun and satisfying. T-MEN is neither fun nor satisfying.
Aside from those two gripes, I actually like the theme and its wordplay, especially the final entry with its six-letter anagram. More of that, please.
Moving to the fill I had the same love/hate reaction. I enjoyed entries like RAT RACE, “IT’S ON ME,” ORIGAMI, DUST-UPS, and GO EASY. But there was way too much clunky crosswordese like ALB, ROTO ([Old newspaper photo section], whatever that is), Einstein’s birthplace ULM, ITT, and TOR. Sigh.
Clues of note:
- 20a [Old newspaper photo section]. ROTO. Seriously, how old do you have to be to know what this is? It’s Wednesday; clues shouldn’t be so arcane. What’s wrong with [___-Rooter]?
- 58a [Carnaval site]. RIO. “Carnaval” being Portuguese.
- 36d [Flight suit acronym]. NASA. I would think most flight suits don’t bear that acronym.
- 61d [Gymnast Sunisa] and 62d [Mark of perfection]. LEE and TEN. A nice back-to-back combo seeing as she was the all-around gold medalist in 2020.
I like the theme concept, but there’s too much detracting from its goodness. Three stars.
Christopher Youngs’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
I honestly did not make any sense of the theme till after I’d finished the puzzle! The letter string IUM is added to the end of the first part of familiar phrases or compound words, with the resulting made-up phrase clued accordingly:
- 17a. [Group of winners at a film awards show?], PODIUM CAST. Podcast. This one doesn’t quite work for me because the winners’ podium is for the Olympics and not used at the Oscars, etc.
- 27a. [Target for William Tell?], CRANIUM APPLE. Cran•Apple is an Ocean Spray “juice drink” (23 g of added sugar in every 8 oz!) and they have recipes for cooking things like shrimp scampi with juice drink. (Yes, I went to their website to see if cranapple was hyphenated.)
- 46a. [Where séance leaders get their degrees?], MEDIUM SCHOOL. Med school. This one’s kinda funny. Lab sessions in medium school must be bonkers.
- 62a. [Lo-o-ong lecture from a parent?], TEDIUM TALK. TED Talks.
Fave fill: SCRIMSHAW, SALAAM.
Four more things:
- 6d. [One-named ancient satirist … or a Pokémon character], LUCIAN. Whoa, a Wednesday clue with two references and I’ve never heard of either one? Surprised it wasn’t painter Lucian Freud (who, I just learned, was Sigmund’s grandson; he was named after the satirist.
- 11d. [Convert into a higher-level language, as computer code], DECOMPILE. I understand this not at all, but it makes perfect sense to my husband.
- 55d. [Aria da ___], CAPO / 64a. [Early Ron Howard role], OPIE. Might be a tough crossing for some, that P.
- 1d. [Itinerant musician with a flute], PIPER. Is this still a thing? Certainly the NYT Spelling Bee puzzle insists that we know FIFER.
- 43d. [Territory ceded by Spain to the U.S. in 1898], GUAM. Ah, yes. One colonizer “ceding” the island and its peoples and resources to different colonizer.
3.5 stars from me.
Hanh Huynh’s Universal crossword, “Redefinition” — pannonica’s write-up
Just as the title promises.
- 64aR [Discovers oil … or another answer to each starred clue] STRIKES.
- 17a. [*They’re marked with Xs] HIDDEN TREASURES. Is this applicable to baseball in addition to bowling?
- 23a. [*Labor options] WATER BIRTHS.
- 30d. [*Some pitches] COLD CALLS. Definitely baseball only for this one.
- 32d. [*Removes from the record] BLEEPS OUT.
Modest theme, solid results.
- 21a [Birth control method: Abbr.] IUD. Just above the related theme answer.
- 31a [Mythical sailor from Baghdad] SINBAD. I would like to know the story of ‘Sinbad’ vs ‘Sindbad’ spellings. I believe the latter is truer to the original.
- 42a [Diving side of the pool] DEEP END. Huh. During the solve I misread that as ‘dividing’ and thought it was a little weird but maybe ok.
The cluing overall is quite direct and literal; stuff like 62a [Yes, in France] OUI and 56d [Owned by us] OURS. The only one that gave me real pause was 7d [Full-body treatment at a Korean spa] SCRUB. From that I can extend to 13d [Prescription portion] DOSE and 63a [With 48-Across, certain pill] GEL | CAP and thence to
Malaika Handa and Parker Higgins’ AVCX, “Low Scores” — Ben’s Review
Today’s AVCX from Malaika Handa and Parker Higgins has a lot going on – there’s 5 entries clued with just “-“, suggesting something funny going on with the grid, and a bunch of clues talking about “deep cuts” for different professions. Let’s look at those first:
- 30D: “That’s a deep cut!” said the pizza maker — SLICE
- 57A: “That’s a deep cut!” said the shepherd — SHEAR
- 79A: “That’s a deep cut!” said the fry cook — HASH
- 85A: “That’s a deep cut!” said the director — EDIT
- 116A: “That’s a deep cut!” said the barber — SHAVE
Each of these is directly below one of the entries clued with a dash, and using the clue before each of those, we have music clues that start in their given squares, but need the deep cuts to bridge the gap over to their entries:
- 26A/27A: 2021 Olivia Rodrigo song off the album “Sour” —
DRIVER [S LICE] NSE
- 52A/54A: 1966 Marvin Gaye single — TAKE THI [S HEAR] T OF MINE
- 73A/74A: Second single off Talk Talk’s “It’s My Life” (1984) —
SUC [H A SH] AME
- 76A/78A: 2007 Linkin Park song with the lyric “I’ve opened up these scars” — BLE [ED IT] OUT
- 109/110A: 1960 rock-and-roll hit for “Queen of Rockabilly” Wanda Jackson — LET [S HAVE] A PARTY
The larger size of this grid also allows for some great contemporary fill like ICES OUT (18A, “Covers in diamonds”). If you’re not familiar with diamonds being called “ice”, just think of it as another way of expressing how OPULENT dripping in diamonds can be.
Zhouqin Burnikel’s USA Today Crossword, “Muscle-Bound” — Sophia’s recap
Editor: Erik Agard
Theme: The word CALF bridges the two words in each theme answer.
- 17a [Regular exercise helps maintain it] – PHYSICAL FITNESS
- 28a [Mango or papaya] – TROPICAL FRUIT
- 63a [Regional distinctiveness] – LOCAL FLAVOR
I have to run to an appointment this morning, so some quick overall thoughts on this puzzle:
- I like the theme and the title separately, but together it feels like there’s a bit more to be desired. Why is CALF the only muscle? It took me a while to see the theme, and I wasn’t totally satisfied once I got it. That being said, the theme answers are all quite nice.
- All the long down answers today were straight up standouts: ONE POT MEAL, OPEN SECRET, CHALLAH, TOEHOLDS. The main place I see TOEHOLDS mentioned in my life is folks talking about solving themeless puzzles, so it almost felt like a meta crossword shout out.
- I don’t like papayas, which ended up being a real disadvantage in the middle of this puzzle.
- “Set the SCENE, 3000 degrees” is a Beyonce/Andre 3000 lyric.
Lynn Lempel’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary
Lynn Lempel’s puzzle today was quite tricky for a Wednesday for me. It’s fairly simple to see what the theme is doing, but describing it is a tad more challenging. Five entries are in the form ADJECTIVE+NOUN but reinterpreted to be VERB+FIRST NAME of a male. So:
- [Make Todd stay home after a “Meet the Press” blooper?], GROUNDCHUCK. I think this is American-ese for “steak mince”?
- [Refuse to let Wood exhibit “American Gothic”?],
- BLOCKGRANT. Don’t know what it is, but it seems to be something to do with American politics?
- Make Garfunkel pay for breaking a recording contract?], FINEART
[Donate twice as much as Gates?], DOUBLEBILL
- Maneuver Phillips into telling how he got the “Dateline NBC” job?], CORNERSTONE
With five themers, the grid is pretty quiet, with two of the long downs creating the odd combo of PINTOBEAN/ONIONSOUP. The clues, outside of some names, were quite simple although I did want [Group of jurors] to be PEERS for some reason.