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!
The rare triple Nattick.
might as well throw JEAN in there while you’re at it, make it a quadruple
For me it was ALBUS crossing TEAM JACOB and TRU. Yuck. Somehow OLY hasn’t reached my NYC consciousness either. I’ve read Les Miserables and can’t say I recall the phrase there, but eventually I shrugged and entered the name. (I’ve never seen the musical.) I’ve quite forgotten the hit by the Gap Band, but crossings and likely endings to the title were not hard.
Yep, OLY got me too, and certainly not helpful that I’m generally terrible with names of sports figures (could that PABLO have not been a Neruda or Picasso?).
In case you care, “Who Am I” is sung by JEAN VALJEAN in the musical.
Yeah, I figured it was going to be the musical and not literary culture. I was surprised how lyrical, even experimental, the novel is. I keep meaning one day to try Notre Dame de Paris (The Hunchback of Notre Dame), although his books are SO long.
Weird as it sounds, I read Les Miserable (a library copy) in French on a two-week vacation in Germany, mostly Berlin. I just figured I’d have time on my own to tackle a long book, and maybe it’d help free me (with minimal German at best) from my monolingual English.
Now I want to try in French the writer I’d never heard of whose name was a long central entry a couple of days ago. No copies in the New York public library except for reference, though. But it’s only 100 pages.
NYT: I think the theme is so clever! Distinctive and funny. And there were many cool entries in this puzzle.
But since the theme is all proper nouns, it feels like there were too many more in the rest of the fill— JACOB, KARL, EWING, ELWAY, ALBUS, LASALLE, etc. Each of them is not a problem as such. But for people like me who are bad at them, it makes the solve less enjoyable. And it detracts from the lovely theme.
It’s like wearing plaids and stripes– they don’t typically help each other.
I agree. I had such mixed feelings doing the puzzle. And I want to point out that ELWAY crossed NAW, which, except for the odd look of ELHAY or EL HAY, I would prefer to have been NAH. And as Lee Glickstein points out, so many of these cross each other.
ATELIERS is direct from French – attic (literally); also the highest end products from a designer such as atelier Alain Mikli eyewear
In French “atelier” also means “studio” or “workshop”.
I’ve never seen ATELIER used to mean attic, rather than workshop/studio (or, occasionally, the work crew that might fill one). It’s also not in my Larousse de Poche or the fat Cassell’s in that sense. Attic is mansarde or less commonly soupente.
You may see it as a subject for painting, too, most famously in a dark fantasy version of his studio by Gustave Courbet. Francis Picabia in an effort to be shall we say biting altered the inscription in one of his works to ratelier de l’artiste, sometimes translated as the artist’s false teeth.
No problem with ATELIERS — I see the term a lot in reference to art galleries and the like, so the clue worked for me — but COCA clued as Caribbean dance music? No bueno!
Oops, I see now that it’s SOCA, not COCA. My bad. A new music genre, at least to these ears + a baseball Hernandez other than Keith = double blind spot. :-)
NYT: Fun debut! Amy, I’m sure I’m not the only one who must DEMUR re: your dismissal of “I Am What I Am.” It’s a legit iconic song in the gay community and beyond, having been a big highlight of “La Cage aux Folles” on Broadway before being covered by Gloria Gaynor. Give it a listen, check out the lyrics, or watch one of the many drag renditions online. It won’t take long to see why it is considered by many to be as much an anthem as “I Will Survive.”
Thank you for the context! I did watch about half of a performance video (included in the Wordplay column) and liked the self-affirming vibe. If it’s been used for a Lip Sync for Your Life on “Drag Race,” I didn’t recall it.
NYT: Does anyone really actually use IDEATE anywhere besides crossword puzzles?
Fwiw, I just tried googling on the search phrase
“we ideated” -crossword -puzzle -definition -conjugation
and got almost 9000 hits.
Definitely comes up in mental health discourse, but the context there is too dark for a crossword, albeit very common in the therapy context.
Yes, I was going to say something about those types of “ideations”…
I’d had no idea!
In the LAT puzzle, one clue just read “Rx” for the answer “scrip”.
When I began hearing this word often sometime in the past couple of decades, I thought that’s what I heard — “script”. But when I’ve tried looking this up, I’ve always found the listed word to be “script” instead.
(I *wish* it were “scrip” — informal words should be easy to pronounce!)
Arrgh — I meant to write
… that’s what I heard — “scrip” …
rather than what I did write.
scrip is ad hoc currency, no?
Yes, “scrip” can mean a currency substitute. But Merriam-Webster has it as a short form of “prescription” going back to 1917 (and 1887 for “script” in that sense).
The American Heritage Dictionary doesn’t list the Rx sense for either word.
Universal: Why in the world is AXE clued as a variant?
Don’t know, but I see it described that way a lot.
My thought is that it can be spelled without the E. Both axe and ax are valid words, but since there are 3 boxes in the grid for the clue, I hardly think one would need the notation of “variant.” Do you think anyone would not know that ax could have an “E” on it?
I have another question about a Universal entry. 25 across: Why would Naomi Osaka hit a lob on a return? I might do it accidently, but she’s a professional.
Look at the Wikipedia entry on “Lob (tennis).” If someone of Naomi Osaka’s caliber hits a lob, it’s probably intentional.
I balked a little at that clue also. I’m sure you’re thinking of “return” in the context of “return of serve” (as it’s most frequently used when discussing tennis), but I suppose a return can also be thought of as just any tennis old shot. I wrote it off as “close enough for crosswords”.
When I saw the clue and the three empty boxes, I thought “It can’t be ax/axe, can it?” for the same reasons as above. I considered “adz” which I think fits the “variant” qualifier better.
If I remember the tennis lessons I took as a youth correctly, I think one would hit a lob to drive one’s opponent back away from the net, which is an advantageous offensive position.
All editors have their quirks. This is one of David’s. He feels “ax” is the standard spelling and “axe” is a variant. He’s very consistent.
I hadn’t realized that a common factor was the venue. Thanks, Martin.
Dictionaries do prefer AX, so seems legit.