Wayne Bergman & Gary Otting’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Clear Skies”—Jim P’s review
The revealer is RAIN OUT (59a, [Ballpark bummer, and a hint to making sense of the starred answers]). The other theme answers are familiar words or phrases that feature the four letters RAIN, but the clues are such that they makes sense only if those letters aren’t there, leaving behind the rest of the letters that spell a different word.
- 16a. [*Bit of concert merch]. T
- 19a. [*Hustled] SP
- 28a. [*Scorpion attack] ST
- 41a. [*Look kindly on] B
- 53a. [*Whistle blowers] REF
Nothing was working for me at the start, so I ended up getting to the revealer without a clue to the theme. That aha moment was what I needed to go back and finish the job.
A puzzle is more fun for the solver when the theme answers are lively and interesting. STRAINING and REFRAINS aren’t quite that, but there probably aren’t that many potential long entries for this theme. So…a solid theme, maybe not the most thrilling, but solid wordplay.
However, fill like EAT DIRT, “HOW RUDE!,” RICOLA (“Riiicolaaaah!”), and “CAN’T WAIT!” are a lot more fun. I have always liked the word COHORT [Roman legion division] for some reason, going all the way back to my high school Latin class days.
Clues of note:
- 1a. [House work]. ACT. I had LAW here for too long which made for a slow beginning.
- 34a. [Kilt accessory]. TAM. Hmm. AFAIK, the TAM has nothing to do with the kilt other than being made with the same tartan. A sporran is definitely a kilt accessory, but I wouldn’t call a TAM one.
- 48a. [“You ___ kidding!”]. WEREN’T. What did you try first? I wanted GOTTA BE, then AIN’T, before landing on the right answer.
- 56a. [Young bandmate]. STILLS. Of CSNY fame.
- 46d. [___ of fact (juries)]. TRIERS. Gave this one the side-eye, but I googled it and it checks out.
Jeff Chen’s New York Times crossword—Ben’s review
Jeff Chen has a solo grid as today’s NYT, and it’s got a cute little theme:
- 16A: Mood setters for a romantic dinner — CANOODLES
- 24A: Actor Cooper — BOO RADLEY
- 46A: Torn and ragged clothing — TATTOOERS
- 56A: Quarter-pound things at McDonald’s — PATOOTIES
- 34A: Photosynthetic process “inflating” 16-, 24-, 46- and 56-Across — OXYGENATION
Each of these clues has an answer that’s undergone OXYGENATION and had an extra oxygen molecule added (oxygen is O2, after all, since it needs two oxygen atoms) to the final entry in the grid — CANDLES, BRADLEY, TATTERS and PATTIES become what we see above
Here’s the latest TED-Ed (57D, “___-Ed (animated talks for kids)”) video on dumplings.
Amanda Rafkin’s USA Today Crossword, “Colorful Characters” — Sophia’s recap
Editor: Amanda Rafkin
Theme: Each theme answer is a superhero with a color in their name.
- 17a [DC Comics archer who sometimes dresses like Robin Hood] – GREEN ARROW
- 29a [Marvel sorceress portrayed by Elizabeth Olsen] – SCARLET WITCH
- 48a [Fantastic Four ally with metallic skin] – SILVER SURFER
- 63a [Avenger aka Natasha Romanoff] – BLACK WIDOW
Top TIER puzzle from Amanda today. This is a great set of characters spanning multiple franchises, and I can’t believe how well their names line up. I appreciate the different angles Amanda took in each of her theme clues. Even though all these characters are superheroes (and thus, pretty similar), one is clued by the actress who plays her, one by her secret identity, and two by what they wear. It’s a nice touch that makes a “list” theme puzzle feel fresh as opposed to repetitive during the solve.
I also loved how many other clues in the puzzle were superhero releated! 1d [Easter ___ (hidden bonuses in many superhero movies)] for EGGS, 65d [Batmobile, e.g.] for CAR, 35d [Telekinesis and telepathy, for two] for ABILITIES, and 56d [Like Hela and Thanos] for EVIL. Even 41d [Falcon, e.g.] for BIRD counts because of the Marvel character, right?
- The stacked long downs in this puzzle are lovely: LOSTATSEA/UNICYCLES and ABILITIES/HASITMADE.
- The only moment I was totally lost for was 67a[Vietnamese garment] for AODAI. Never seen that word before in my life.
- Pride month content!! Loved seeing Jojo SIWA, Jonathan Van NESS, and SKITs on “The Big Gay Sketch Show”.
David Tuffs’ Universal Crossword, “Broken Promise” — Jim Q’s write-up
Solvers will be indebted to this puzzle.
THEME: The vowels I O U are the only vowels found in common phrases (in that order).
- KING OF CLUBS
- GIRL SCOUTS
- VW MICROBUS
- KNIGHT’S TOUR
- (revealer) SHORT VOWELS
This one got a half smile fro me when I figured out the theme. I was glad to hit the revealer halfway through, but it still wasn’t immediately obvious to me what was meant by it. Shoulda peeped the title. I would’ve gotten it much faster. I like the idea though! Nice that those three vowels are the only ones that appear in each phrase at all.
VW MICROBUS… does anyone call it that? I’ve only heard of it as VW Bus… or the Mystery Machine for all you Scooby Doo fans.
KNIGHT’S TOUR was new to me, but I’m glad to know it.
Only nit… FOGY spelled that way looks totally weird to me.
Thanks for this one!
Peter Gordon’s Fireball crossword, “Shortchanging”—Amy’s write-up
Terrific theme! Familiar phrases ending with a shortened form of a word are reinterpreted as if the second word is short for an entirely different word:
- 19a. [Person who fixes dogs and cats in Hanoi?], VIETNAM VET. Veterinarian instead of veteran.
- 29a. [Reason for a scraping noise while driving?], LOW CARB. Carburetor, not carbohydrate.
- 31a. [Stand-up person doing time?], COMIC CON. Convict, not convention.
- 48a. [Small plate of fugu, if prepared incorrectly?], KILLER APP. Appetizer, not application.
- 63a. [Fill-in part-timer on the movie adaptation of a book by Emma Donoghue?], ROOM TEMP. Temporary worker, not temperature.
- 66a. [Put a data file online?], POST DOC. Document, not doctoral.
- 81a. [Public image of an ad agency client?], ACCOUNT REP. Reputation, not representative.
- 12d. [Do some fact-finding about Mr. Peanutbutter on “BoJack Horseman,” e.g.?], RESEARCH LAB. Labrador retriever, I assume, not laboratory.
- 36d. [Employee’s free ticket?], WORKER’S COMP. Complimentary item, not compensation.
Love the theme.
Fave mislead: 76a. [Pacific Coast state] is OAXACA, not OREGON. Not knowing XTRA detergent and not being super familiar with the MARIO franchise, it took a bit of work to unravel the state.
Not so keen on fill like SAONE, ELKTON (a small town in Maryland you’d have no real reason to know if you’re not from around there), red TAPISM (haven’t seen that form before), and APELET (!).
Toughest crossing: 41a. [“___ Dies Dreaming” (2022 debut novel by Xochitl Gonzalez)], OLGA. Hadn’t heard of the book yet. The O crosses a brand name, MIDOL (though I’m glad to see unembarrassed clues for MIDOL and a PAP smear). The L’s in a Spanish word. The G’s in a country abbreviation, and I sure didn’t know where the 2024 European soccer tournament will be (GERmany). The A is in the middle of 33d. [Soccer player Kelley], O’HARA, and if you don’t know the player, well, Kelley can be a first or last name, so you’d better hope you know the word HAPTIC to put this one together.
Four stars from me.
Emma Oxford’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Gareth’s summary
Emma Oxford’s theme concept is quite simple: R is deleted (as explained at 63A, R-OUT) from the second parts of five answers and the results get the “wacky” treatment. I’m sure the possible theme entries here are innumerable; what this does mean is you can (and should) pick some answers with strong imagery, which Ms. Oxford does. I say that not just because 55A is possibly a shout out to a certain blog owner:
- [*Frying pans anyone can use?], PUBLICWO(R)KS
- [*Group that attends Mass together every week?], SUNDAYB(R)UNCH
- [*Discussion about what fruit to bake for dessert?], PIECHA(R)T
- [*Fitting motto for Pisa’s tower keeper?], LIVEANDLEA(R)N
- [*Devil on one’s shoulder?], CLOSEF(R)IEND
New clues and answers:
- [Shrimp and __], GRITS. That’s a weird combo of really expensive and really cheap…
- [Sherlock’s sister, per a 2020 Netflix film], ENOLA. Enola Holmes is based on a recent retconning novel series by Nancy Springer…
- [“Just Putting It Out There” comedian Nancherla], APARNA.
- [List that may be accessed by scanning a QR code], MENU. Only experienced this once, and it was the most annoying and inconvenient way of doing things imaginable. Never been back…
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Why Be Cross?”—Amy’s recap
It’s Amy subbing for Darcy this week. Theme answers are formed by changing a Y (“why”) to “be” an X, or “cross,” explaining the title:
- 18a. [Do a floor job in Oregon?], WAX OUT WEST. Way out west.
- 23a. [Purr of approval from a tailless cat?], MANX THANKS. Sort of rhyming. Many thanks.
- 38a. [Lunch stuffed with circulars and letters?], P.O. BOX SANDWICH. Po’boy sandwich.
- 53a. [Ease up on fun runs?], RELAX RACES. Relay races.
- 60a. [Selfie of a no-name product?], BRAND X SNAP. What’s a brandy snap? Is it a cookie?
Fun theme. Especially liked the po’boy–to–P.O. box shift.
Pet peeve: 20a. [Shiraz resident], IRANI. Show me documentation that IRANI is commonly used to refer to Iranians/Persians, vs. an “ethno-religious group of Zoroastrian Iranian ancestry in the Indian subcontinent.”
3.75 stars from me.
NYT: Another nice touch is that the only O’s in the grid are in the theme answers.
I thought it was fun but on the easy side for a Thursday. In his constructor’s notes, Jeff Chen says it was about four years between the time he submitted it and the time it was published, and he struggled with solving it.
Robyn’s New Yorker themeless was indeed easy! Finished it in 2:55, faster than most Tuesday NYTs for me. (I seldom do the Mondays anymore, so who knows how long those take me.) Lots of terrific fill!
Yes, it was easy – but – it may be the best fill in an easy puzzle and the best easy puzzle that I have ever seen! I don’t speed solve and I carefully check my typing – 6:55
ACDC RUM LES ALS OGRE EPEE APES is the worst fill I can find, all nicely not rottenly clued
I don’t like being negative, but I thought it worth mentioning the NYT’s double standard with approving asymmetric themers for new submitters vs. veteran submitters. 3 of the 4 themers are plural. It seems like veteran constructors can get away with it, while it’s an automatic rejection if the byline is lesser known or unknown. I’ve had quite a few puzzles rejected based on asymmetry alone. I personally don’t mind too much when solving a puzzle and the themers are asymmetric, but there seems to be inconsistency and bias when it comes to accepting puzzles based on the byline. Someone convince me I’m crazy and I’m overthinking this.
I’ll be the first to check myself and apologize for an unwarranted rant. I’m noticing that CANOODLES is exclusively a verb and therefore obviously not a plural. I thought CANOODLE could be a noun. Sorry for the negativity.
Despite the unwarranted rant, I do agree with you that there seems to be inconsistency in how veteran vs. newer constructors are treated, but I’m also willing to acknowledge I may be biased and frustrated because of the number of rejections I’ve gotten from the NYT. Then I see a puzzle the next day and think “my puzzle was better than that!” (Not all of them, to be fair. Many NYT puzzles I find myself thinking “wow that was really clever” – puzzles by both veteran and new constructors alike. And I did like today’s puzzle – the fact that there are no Os outside the themers is very elegant.) New vs. veteran constructor bias is a difficult thing to measure when the editing process isn’t public and when people generally don’t advertise their rejections.
You’d think if anything the NYT would want a few more new constructors. Based on their pay structure, it costs them less to publish a variety of newer constructors as opposed to a few veteran ones.
I’m not sure the payment rates really figure into it. (As you probably know, the NYT justifies their two-tier compensation structure with the argument that experienced constructors’ puzzles generally need less editing. I’m willing to accept that — a good part of my job for almost 3o years involved reviewing proposed legislation drafted by other attorneys, and experienced attorneys’ drafts almost always took less time to review.)
Even with their high for the industry rate of compensation, I expect that constructor compensation is a piddling amount compared to what the NYT earns from subscriptions and the sale of puzzle books.
When were your puzzles rejected? Jeff Chen’s puzzle was accepted about four years ago. Perhaps the standards are stricter now with the increasing number of submissions.
I had a similar sort of rejection from the NYT. The assistant editor said that the themeless puzzle I’d submitted had too many three- and four-letter answers. I compared my puzzle to the most recent Friday and Saturday puzzles (both from established constructors), and they each had about the same number of short answers as mine did. But for all I know, those puzzles had been sitting in the “accepted” queue for years.
I don’t know if the NYT makes any effort to strip the constructor’s name off a submitted puzzle before the editors see it. You’d think that would be easy to do. (On the other hand, stripping off the constructor’s name makes it harder for them to meet their goal of diversifying their constructor pool.)
I hope the NYT accepts one of your puzzles before too long.
Uni … I guess I’ll be the nit picker again … The theme here would make a lot more sense and been a lot more elegant if each of the vowel sounds in the themers were SHORT VOWELS, as the revealer kind of suggests. I suppose that’s a tall order, but papa always said, “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing it right.”
I thought they were SHORT vowels because you use them when you don’t have the cash … i.e., you’re short.
I was aware of that, but still stand by my point.
I agree with your nitpick of the Universal. I actually thought that was the theme when I read the revealer. (I hadn’t noticed the title yet.) The clue for the revealer was misleading by saying, ” the A’s in fat cat.” When I filled in 49 and57 and saw they had long “i’s I was very
I didn’t solve the LAT but read Gareth’s recap. What a fun theme! Add- or delete-a-letter themes can fall flat or they can be fun, depending on the constructor’s insistence on amusing imagery. Emma Oxford nailed it here.
Thanks Amy! And thanks for the nice review, Gareth! Other theme entries that were considered at various points in the construction process: GREEN BEETS (Oddly colored vegetables?), DAFT DODGER (LA ballplayer in la-la land?), OLIVE TWIST (Unusual cocktail garnish?), PETTY PENNY (Director Marshall being extra nitpicky?), COCOA BUTTE (Chocolate-covered hill?), CLOUD BUSTS (Police stings on a virtual storage site?), ENGLISH HON (Bae from across the pond?), and HEAT ATTACK (Sudden onset of sweltering weather?). GREEN BEETS and DAFT DODGER were rejected for having additional stray R’s. Thanks to Patti and Christina for going back and forth with me on these themers and fill. –Emma
LAT … Why on earth would anyone ruin perfectly good shrimp with GRITS? That’s a new one on me and I sure hope I’m never served that by any of my friends or relatives down south.
Oh, you have no idea what you’re missing. A good dish of shrimp and grits is wonderful on a chilly evening.
Yep, it’s a fine dish. I make it right here in the San Francisco Bay Area. Would you have the same reaction to shrimp with polenta?