Paul Coulter’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Better Luck Next Time”—Jim P’s review
I don’t recall seeing a Wednesday puzzle (or maybe even any puzzle) with this much kludgy fill. It started off with odd plural IAMBI at 14a and didn’t improve from there. Let’s see: SEI, LENTO, ITAL, DHS, SET BY, SOMA crossing old slang SOCKO and KLM, ALB, URI, and finishing off with a stack of LBO, CLIO, and OBOL. (I’m going to give HDL a pass because, since I can never remember my HDL from my LDL, my error gave me the crossing LARD KNOCKS, which I found humorous.)
Oh yeah, there is a theme. The tri-part revealer is THAT’S THE WAY / THE / BALL BOUNCES (17a, [With 38- and 57-Across, “Rotten luck!”]). Other long theme answers have the same [Rotten luck] clue, and the circled letters simulate a ball bouncing while spelling out the word REBOUND.
- 11d. [Rotten luck] HARD KNOCKS.
- 27d. [Rotten luck] TOUGH BREAK.
But I don’t quite equate the revealer phrase with “Rotten luck!” First, it feels less common than “That’s the way the cookie crumbles,” at least in my experience. But second, both phrases feel more synonymous with “C’est la vie!,” that is, they have an air of resignation about the situation, as if to say, “That’s how things are; there’s no need to get upset about it.”
There are some niceties in the grid like DEEP SEA, CORN COB, OBTUSE, and NOT BAD.
Paul is a prolific constructor and he comes up with many clever theme ideas and finely polished grids. This theme is fine, but I feel like it needs some work, and it’s so overshadowed by the unpleasant fill that it’s just not so noticeable.
Chase Dittrich’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
The gimmick in this theme is that the first word of each theme answer is found in the circled letters interspersed throughout the remaining words:
- 17a. [Info typically not found in the Yellow Pages], (HOME) PHONE NUMBER.
- 29a. [Creative activity for grade schoolers], (ARTS) AND CRAFTS.
- 45a. [Reason to sleep with a night light], (FEAR) OF THE DARK.
- 60a. [Prized possessions for numismatists], (COIN) COLLECTIONS.
Fave fill: JAWS OF LIFE, TAROT CARDS, NINTENDO, DANSKO. On the other end of the spectrum, I’m never excited to see EFTS (no matter how cute salamanders are) or ESSO (even when clued as an Italian word).
Five more things:
- 6d. [Only living creature in the genus Dromaius], EMU. I needed to write a fresh EMU clue today. Did you know that the females do the courtship routine to attract a male, the males quickly take up brooding duties once an egg is laid, and the females may well go out and find additional mates while the first guy is occupied with his incubating? Also, the chicks start out at about 5 inches tall, but reach full size within months! They must eat a ton.
- 9d. [City near Provo Bay], OREM. So … Utah has bays?? Hmph! Google Maps shows me that Orem is closer to Utah Lake itself than to the small bay that borders Provo. Weird clue.
- 10d. [Vintage military planes], WARBIRDS. This is a generic term I’d never seen before.
- 38d. [Early vehicle that could take up to 30 minutes to start], STEAM CAR. I was only faintly aware that there were steam-powered cars before the internal combustion engine came along.
- 25d. [Neighbor of Ire.], ENG. Beg pardon? You can have neighbors that are 40 miles away across the water? The UK borders Ireland, but only via Northern Ireland.
3.5 stars from me.
Hoang-Kim Vu’s AVCX, “AVCX Themeless #63” — Ben’s Review
It’s a themeless week at the main AVCX, and this week’s grid from Hoang-Kim Vu was deliciously chewy as I worked through its tricky clues.
- We’ve got MICHELIN-STARRED and COUPLES MASSAGES (“Group therapy sessions?”) providing some steady anchoring on the downs, and “IN THIS ECONOMY?“, a delightful punchline, keeping things steady in the middle.
- DICED ONION is fine in GUAC, just don’t put any peas in there – it ruins the ATMOSPHERE
- “Forks over cheese” is a delightful clue for PAYS
Spain earned a well-deserved 3rd place at this year’s Eurovision with Chanel’s “SLO-Mo”. Warning: some strobe effects present in this performance.
Mark Valdez & Enrique Henestroza Anguiano’s USA Today Crossword, “On the Rocks” — Sophia’s recap
Editor: Amanda Rafkin
Theme: The final word of each vertical theme answer can precede ROCK in a phrase.
- 3d [Lesbian bar or GSA meeting, e.g.] – QUEER SPACE (space rock)
- 18d [Kitschy cult film] – CAMP CLASSIC (classic rock)
- 30d [June greeting to celebrate the LGBTQIA+ community] – HAPPY PRIDE (Pride rock)
Words cannot express how much I loved this puzzle; it’s the perfect thing to kick off pride month. Besides the wordplay I mentioned in the theme section, each theme answer is also connected to queer culture, and as a queer woman, seeing this type of representation is incredibly important to me. And this commonality in answers is on top of a solid USA Today level theme! I’m actually curious if folks will miss the “rock” part of the theme and just focus on the pride content; I myself probably would not have seen it if not for the puzzle’s title. The only part of the theme I had trouble with was CAMP CLASSIC as I thought it might refer to a particular film rather than a genre. But overall, an amazing puzzle.
- I just realized each theme answer references a different type of rock – a general rock type, music, and a specific pop culture reference. So, so elegant.
- I loved how much queer content was sprinkled throughout the rest of the puzzle too! On a cursory glance I notice RUPAUL, SLAY (referencing a ball), “Will and Grace”, and I DO in reference to two grooms.
- I’ve gotten really into the podcast “Maintenance Phase”, which discusses health and diet myths (including misinformation about the PALEO diet) and how little we scientifically know about wellness. I strongly recommend if you’re interested!
- DREAM TEAM and WILDCARDS are the platonic ideals of strong bonus puzzle answers.
HAPPY PRIDE, everyone!
Mike Graczyk & Christina Iverson’s LAT crossword – Gareth’s summary
Mike Graczyk & Christina Iverson offer us a crossword theme whose title may have been “Collective Nouns” if there was one. OUTFIT, PACK, CIRCLE and ASSOCIATION are words for a group of people, but today they’re in phrases using them in other senses, although the clues are reimagined to be about groups…
- [Group for cardboard toy enthusiasts?], PAPERDOLLOUTFIT
- [Group for Roomba enthusiasts?], VACUUMPACK
- [Group for big-rig enthusiasts?], SEMICIRCLE
- [Group for Merriam-Webster enthusiasts?], WORDASSOCIATION
The puzzle stretches out for some imaginative longer entries: [High vantage point], LOFTYPERCH and [Picture-perfect spot], SCENICAREA make a pair of a sort. The other two long downs are proper nouns: [Baseball film featuring a bat named “Wonderboy”], THENATURAL & [Online source of study guides], SPARKNOTES.
My favourite moment though was actually the extra-effort clue [Yoga pose that requires balancing on one foot], TREE.
Patrick Berry’s New Yorker crossword—Matthew’s review
Awful day, dropping the grid in, hope to get back for a review later.