Gary Larson & Amy Ensz’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Padded Cells”—Jim P’s review
Theme: As I surmised by glancing at the title, it should be read as “P-Added Cells.” The letter P has been added twice to various words.
- 17a. [Manipulating others with sullen behavior?] POUT PLYING. Outlying.
- 27a. [Wrap gifts?] PREP PRESENTS. Represents.
- 46a. [Scene locations in “The Birthday Party” and “Betrayal”?] PINTER PLACES. Interlaces.
- 60a. [Glib reaction to a vaccination?] PRICK PSHAW. Rickshaw.
I did not care for this one. The theme entries are overly strained, and apart from PRICK PSHAW, which was irksome in its own right (can we retire PSHAW already?), the base phrases are mundane. Adding two Ps to words is a challenge for the constructors, but if it results in uninteresting entries, where’s the joy in it?
Long fill consists of SAMPLERS and OAT GRASS which are fine but not exactly sparkly. Nothing else really captures my eye. Oh yeah, not a fan of seeing Nazi sympathizer LINDY in the puzzle.
Clues of note:
- 14a. [Old Speckled Hen, for one]. ALE. Oh hey! Shout out to the brewers of Old Speckled Hen, the Greene King Brewery, which was just down the road from us when we lived near Bury St. Edmunds, England.
- 15a. [Dahl of “Bengal Brigade”]. ARLENE. Well, ROALD didn’t fit. I thought this might be the name of a young actress I hadn’t heard of, but no, she was active starting in the 1940s. Turns out her son is actor Lorenzo Lamas.
- 7d. [Nawiliwili necklace]. LEI. If you’re Nawiliwili nice, I’ll tell you what Nawiliwili means. Basically, it means “the place of the wiliwili tree.” The wiliwili is a tree native to Kaua’i, and its orange-red blossoms and seed pods are used to make LEI.
This puzzle wasn’t for me. 2.5 stars.
Kate Hawkins’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Theme revealer: 61a. [Accept and let go of something … or a hint to the starts of the answers to the starred clues], FIND CLOSURE. The starred answers all begin with things that can be clothing closures:
- 17a. [*Drivers’ process when two lanes of traffic become one], ZIPPER MERGE. Service journalism here: The zipper merge is mathematically sound! You should use it! Don’t stay in the backed-up lane cursing the people who zoom ahead in the shoulder lane—cars should occupy all the space available in both lanes, and then take turns for which lane’s car goes forward at the merge point.
- 26a. [*Garden plant that opens and shuts its “mouth” when squeezed], SNAPDRAGON. Great clue for this flower.
- 38a. [*White pizza toppings], BUTTON MUSHROOMS. I don’t like white pizza and I don’t like mushrooms.
- 49a. [*Design on some baseball uniforms], PINSTRIPES. Not being a New Yorker and being anti-Yankees, I wasn’t too keen on YANKEE being in the puzzle with an x-ref to this. Haberdashery suits can have pinstripes, too!
Solid theme, with two compound words and two two-word phrases being balanced.
Fave fill: Those long, nonthematic entries are nice. WORDPRESS, AFFOGATOS, SUSHI MENU, STEINBECK? Good stuff.
Five more things:
- 55d. [Very corpulent], OBESE. Okay, this is a rude and incorrect clue. I weigh about 10 lb more than I’d like. If I gained another 24 lb, my BMI would be 30.0, “obese.” What the hell is this “very corpulent” phrasing? I’d like to request that the puzzle editors word their OBESE clues more sensitively.
- 48d. [Daughter of Joe and Jill Biden], ASHLEY. No idea. I feel like I somehow missed entirely hearing that the Bidens had a kid together. She’s 41!
- 31a. [Syria’s Bashar al-___], ASSAD. Gross. He claims he isn’t a war criminal. Does anyone side with him?
- Did not know: 60a. [Brown who wrote “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee”], DEE. A Southern man, if you were wondering.
- 35d. [Wine vessel], TUN. TUN! Been awhile since I saw this one in a puzzle. Can’t say I missed it.
Four stars from me.
Billy Bratton and Erich Bratton’s AVCX, “I Woke Up Like This” — Ben’s Review
Today’s AVCX is a debut by Billy and Erich Bratton – congrats!
There’s a pattern to what’s going on with the theme entries in the grid:
- 17A: Modern schedule fillers — ZOOM MEETINGS
- 29A: “Maybe … maybe not” — WE’LL SEE ABOUT THAT
- 45A: All-time NBA 61-Across leader — RUSSELL WESTBROOK
- 61A: Feat achieved by 17-, 29-, and 45-Across (in two ways, in the last case) — TRIPLE DOUBLE
Each of these has 3 sets of double letters, which also (triple?) doubles as a basketball feat accomplished by RUSSELL WESTBROOK many times.
Today in being slightly awed by how much time has continued to pass: Rihanna (or RIRI, if you’re being familiar a la 56D)’s “Umbrella” is 15 years old. 15!
Paolo Pasco’s New Yorker crossword—Amy’s write-up
Smooth, not-too-hard themeless today. Played like a Friday NYT for me.
Fave fill: TRASH PANDA, GRIM REAPER, MASCOT SUIT, GLAAD, WEST AFRICA, TINKER TOY (I loved TinkerToy!), “HARD AGREE,” IMPULSE BUY. Man, I miss impulse purchases! When you get 98% of your groceries via online orders and you don’t set foot inside the store, you miss out on the whole “SETS EYES ON, adds to cart, enjoys” experience.
Five more things:
- 17a. [“Or to take arms against ___ of troubles . . .”: “Hamlet”], A SEA. Given how few people actually use the word ASEA outside of crossword puzzles, I’m pleased to see a Shakespeare partial instead.
- 21a. [Geographic low points], DALES. Tried VALES first. Yet another pair in the roster of “Which one is it this time?” fill—AVER vs AVOW, SEETHE vs SEE RED, ESO vs ESA, etc. Could even have been DELLS here.
- 26a. [Performance style for Manila Luzon and Plastique Tiara], DRAG. Manila Luzon, as you might guess, is Filipino American. Other notable Pinay drag queens on RuPaul’s Drag Race include Jiggly Caliente and Ongina. Hey, who’s watching the current All Stars season? These queens are all so talented and funny!
- 8d. [Dating ___ (romantic video-game genre, for short)], SIM. Had no idea this was a thing. Are these games fun?
- 9d. [“Yes, absolutely this”], HARD AGREE. Not sure where or when “hard” picked up its use as an intensifier, but “hard pass” and “hard same” are also familiar to me.
4.25 stars from me.
Zhouqin Burnikel’s USA Today Crossword, “UN Assembly” — Sophia’s recap
Editor: Erik Agard
Theme: Each theme answer is a two word phrase. The first word starts with U and the second starts with N.
- 15a [Button encouraging users to download the latest version] – UPGRADE NOW
- 25a [“Baloney!”] – UTTER NONSENSE
- 62a [Bowlful often topped with tempura] – UDON NOODLES
Good title, cute theme, and interesting theme answers – what more do you want from a USA Today puzzle? It took me a bit to see UPGRADE NOW, because I was *certain* the first word in that answer was “update”. Combine that with having “nearest” over CLOSEST for 7d [Least distant] and “evil” over VILE for 13a [Despicable] (what can I say, at least they’re anagrams?), and it meant that the top half of the puzzle took a long time to come together. Luckily for me, the bottom half went much more smoothly. I was able to drop in UDON NOODLES without even seeing the clue once I had a few crosses.
Sticking points: “zinc” instead of ALOE for 51a [Sunscreen additive]. Also, it took me a long time to be convinced ORCS was correct, because I interpreted the “fantasy games” in the clue as video games as opposed to dungeons and dragons.
Favorite answers: NO LUCK, POINSETTIA (I can never spell that) and FOOTIE pajamas.
Favorite clues: 40d [Word before “food” or “mate”] for SOUL, 68a [Chloe, to Halle, for short] for SIS (Chloe x Halle is a band made up of two sisters).
Dave Taber & Laura Moll’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary
Dave Taber & Laura Moll’s puzzle really hit home at the revealing answer. I could see two puzzle themes – food dishes and dwelling places – but how did they relate? Answer: HOMEMADEMEAL, although HOMECOOKED sounds more natural to my ear.
- [Healthy starter], GAR(DEN)GREENS
- [Baked side], POTATOWITHC(HIVE)S. Not familiar to me as a discrete thing, but the dual nature of the theme makes me inclined to ignore a few rough edges.
- [Meaty entrée], TBO(NEST)EAK. Weird choice for a second starter?
- [Filled dessert], CHOCOLATEEC(LAIR)S
Other notable entries:
[American Eagle Outfitters lingerie brand], AERIE. My Google searches are going to be weird after googling this…
- [Flavor enhancer, for short], MSG. Glutamate is naturally found in many foods, so while it is an “enhancer” at times, this clues reinforces a lot of food fear propraganda.
- [Honolulu-born jet pilot who became a pop singer], DONHO. Weird that the clue makes it sound like his jet pilot gig is how he got famous?
- [“But it’s a dry __”], HEAT. Weird use of quotes, though maybe if you live in LA…