Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “When You Get the Chants…”—Jim P’s review
Theme: The mantra OM is added to various familiar phrases to wacky effect.
- 17a. [Typical shopper at a store?] GENERAL CUSTOMER. General Custer.
- 25a. [“How to Make Your Own Beer”?] HOMEBREW LESSON. Hebrew lesson.
- 42a. [Charity from a two-time Best Actor winner?] TOM HANKS GIVING. Thanksgiving.
- 56a. [Interior feature of a blockhead’s car?] IDIOT’S DOMELIGHT. Idiot’s Delight. I’m not familiar with the base phrase. It may refer to some forms of Solitaire (the card game) or an old 1930’s film and/or play.
Hey! This theme seems familiar, because I did it myself back in 2018…in the WSJ no less. See Laura’s review here. And also, here’s a similar puzzle which appeared the very day before mine. I won’t say which of the three is best, but two of the three kept the pronunciation of OM the same (i.e. with a long O), and one of those two is “just funnier” than the other (not my words).
What else have we got? I like MAVERICK, FLARES UP, CLAMOR, and MARACA. I’m vaguely familiar with the term KILL FEES which are not payments to assassins, but payoffs to writers whose projects get cancelled through no fault of their own. I’m less familiar with the word ATELIERS [Art studios], but I’ve probably seen it before in a crossword.
Clues of note:
- 32a. [Key ingredient?]. IVORY. Think piano keys.
- 25d. [Liliuokalani Gardens setting]. HILO. A four-letter Hawaiian entry? How many of us tried OAHU and MAUI first?
Addison Snell’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
The theme in this puzzle with left/right symmetry is real and fictional speakers/writers of “I am”/”am I” quotes/lyrics:
- 24a. [“Who Am I?”], JEAN VALJEAN. Fictional character in Les Misérables.
- 37a. [With 39-Across, “I Am What I Am”], GLORIA / GAYNOR. Never heard of this song. It was a 1983 dance hit, barely cracked the R&B chart, did not make it to the Hot 100. Most of us know the singer best for “I Will Survive.”
- 49a. [“I think, therefore I am”], RENÉ DESCARTES. Philosophy/math guy.
- 55a. [“I yam what I yam”], POPEYE. Classic cartoon character.
- 56a. [“I Am that I Am”], YAHWEH. From a scene with Moses in the Book of Exodus.
Fave fill: GUSSY up, LIP SYNC, LA SALLE (Chicago has a major street named for this [French explorer of the Great Lakes]).
Most discordant note: The clue for ALAS, 17a. [“Ah, me!”]. I feel like this is an attempt by the editors to rationalize the use of AHME in grids! Who says this? Anyone? Bueller?
Three more things:
- 42a. [Word with poison or pig], PEN. These are two wildly distinct uses of PEN, and that did not help me get the answer! I’m embarrassed I needed the crossings to figure this out.
- 66a. [“You Dropped a Bomb ___” (1982 hit by the Gap Band)], ON ME. Now, this early 1980s R&B hit, I do remember. And as they might say on RuPaul’s Drag Race, the band members’ outfits are stoned for the gods! (aka bedazzled.)
- 26d. [George, in Germany], JORG. It’s missing the umlaut: Besides Jörg, other German forms of George include Jürgen and Georg. Tough fill here.
3.5 stars for me. I’m happy to see GLORIA GAYNOR in puzzles, but the theme would have felt better to me if she weren’t here with a little-known song in the clue.
Aimee Lucido and Rafael Musa’s AVCX, “Big Boxes” — Ben’s Review
After last week’s diversion into diagramless solving, the AVCX Classic is back to a more standard style. Aimee Lucido and Rafael Musa have collaborated on “Big Boxes”, and you may need to click on the image at right to see what’s going on in the squares clued by the revealer:
- 55A: Cryptocurrency technology, or a literal hint to three squares in this grid — BLOCKCHAIN
As hinted by the above, three of the black squares hold the name of a “chain” that helps the nearby across and down entries make some more sense:
- 4D/21D: Going from page to page on a digital reference site — WIK[I HOP]PING
- 19A: “Way to go, asshole!” — [I HOP]E YOU’RE HAPPY
- 26A: 1983 Al Pacino film that is a loose remake of a 1932 film — SCARF[ACE]
- 9D/31D: Trendy spot — THE PL[ACE] TO BE
- 25D/49D: Totally losing it — GOIN[G AP]ESHIT
- 44A: Feature of Michael Strahan or Uzo Aduba’s smile — [GAP] TOOTH
Those chains would be IHOP, ACE Hardware, and the GAP. Cute!
Dan Caprera’s Universal crossword, “Bowwow!” — pannonica’s write-up
- 28dR [Yoga pose demonstrated three times in this puzzle?] DOWNWARD DOG. Hidden words in vertical entries, as indicated by the circled squares in the grid.
- 3d. [Start of a fatalistic saying] DARNED IF I DO (Fido) … darned if I don’t. More commonly with the slightly more intense damned.
- 5d. [Certain java] POUR-OVER COFFEE (Rover). I was thinking more in terms of regional varieties rather than methods of preparation.
- 15d. [Unqualified pro] ARMCHAIR EXPERT (Rex).
Along with Spot, these three are hoary, classic, almost generic dog names. As such, they are hardly ever used these days and it’s an act of ironic rebellion to name your pet so. Especially if it’s a cat.
- 19a [Huffed and puffed] BLEW. Not sure that this is correct. I mean, the answer is reflective because of the wolf’s utterances in the Three Little Pigs story, but aren’t huffing and puffing precursors to blowing?
- 25a [Return from Osaka, say?] LOB. The tennis star Naomi Osaka. Yep, this clue fooled me good.
- 52a [Thompson of “Thor: Ragnarok”] TESSA. Also of the new one, Thor: Love and Thunder, which is receiving middling reviews. I think Thor uses an AXE these days? 56a [Chopping weapon: Var.]
- 70a [Solo such as “Musetta’s Waltz”] ARIA. It’s from Puccini’s La Bohème.
- 72a [Nun’s relative?] MONK. Definitely needs that question mark.
- 68d [Base of modern society?] TEN. Probably of most societies through history, I would expect.
- 37a [Body Snatchers, e.g., briefly] ETS.
Elizabeth Gorski’s New Yorker crossword—Amy’s recap
Fave fill: “IT NEVER HAPPENED,” REVERSE ENGINEER, GOSSAMER, GREAT DANES, AMANDA PEET.
The word CRITICISMS is clued as [Remarks that are, ideally, constructive], so I’ll say that I’d have liked the puzzle better if it had fewer abbreviations, partials, foreign vocab, and other not-English-words. EGAL, SDI, IS A, TDS, PDA, ROI, ALLA, CTR, LBS, ONE-A, BDRM, A LID, IPOS, LTDS, LTR, CIA, EPS, and RST permeated the puzzle and gave a bit of a choppy vibe.
Fave clue: 27d. [Course in African geography?], CONGO RIVER.
2.5 stars from me.
Alexander Liebeskind & Jeff Chen’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary
Alexander Liebeskind & Jeff Chen give us a kind of clue/answer reversal theme today, but a more whimsical one. The revealer is THATSANORDER and each of four answers (one split across two entries) is an example of a kind of order: food FISHANDCHIPS, sorting FROMATOZ, sect KNIGHTS/TEMPLAR, and taxonomic PRIMATES (one of the only ones that is the same in English, sidestepping the need to use say CHIROPTERA or CARNIVORA). Very creative themeplay!
I found it a very easy Wednesday puzzle, in part because of the boxy grid design, which meant lots of medium length entries that fell quickly. Not too many unusual entries, THEAMISH, gets a definite article thrown in. TORO clued as sushi also tripped me up, but there were crossers. ESME as a Twilight character might be new for some, but I feel it’s been around enough that it has showed up in a few puzzles.
From a personal point of view, [Pfizer rival], MERCK is amusing as the companies are called Zoetis and MSD in my world. The latter is my main vaccine supplier.
Zhouqin Burnikel’s USA Today Crossword, “The Climb” — Sophia’s recap
Editor: Erik Agard
Theme: The last word of each theme answer is a thing that you can climb.
- 18a [Diagram with branches] – FAMILY TREE
- 26a [“This Kiss” singer] – FAITH HILL
- 48a [Place from which all directions are north] – SOUTH POLE
- 59a [Puzzle that involves changing one letter per “rung”] – WORD LADDER
I call upon the spirit of Miley Cyrus to solve this puzzle:
I liked this one a lot! It’s a nice touch that none of the base phrases refer to the physical, climbable thing – they’re all metaphorical, at least to some extent. I loved “This Kiss” in middle school so FAITH HILL was a no-crosses gimme for me. I liked the clue for SOUTH POLE because it reminded me of that old riddle about “what color was the bear?” – do other folks know that one? And of course as a crossword solver/constructor I’ve done my fair share of WORD LADDER puzzles, so it felt appropriately meta to see that as an answer!
- Man, was this puzzle obsessed with logos or what? 36d [Its logo features a swoosh] NIKE, 42a [Its logo features a boomerang] SPEEDO, and 19d [Its logo features an exclamation point] YAHOO all got theirs referenced.
- Some great extra fill in NEAR MISSES, OLD PROS, and SEE YOU SOON!