Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “Almost Paradise” – Erin’s write-up
Hello everyone! This week’s theme involves eight-letter words and phrases that are one letter away from being anagrams of PARADISE:
- 19a. [Made it to the bonus round?] GOT A PAY RAISE. PAY RAISE requires changing the Y to D before anagramming to PARADISE.
- 28a. [Plot point in some sci-fi horror films] ALIEN PARASITE. Again, it involves replacing a letter with a D, this time T.
- 47a. [California’s fourth-highest mountain] (and part of a chain sharing its name with a “Pacific” city)] NORTH PALISADE. Change that L to a R.
- 55a. [“Weird Al” Yankovic’s stock-in-trade] SONG PARODIES. The O needs to become an A.
- 27a. [“Duck Hunt” console, familiarly] NES. The original Nintendo Entertainment System was fully released in America in 1986, just in time for me to still have painful memories of the “Duck Hunt” dog laughing at me when I missed.
- 66a. [“I’m ___” (bakery-themed tune from “The Amazing World of Gumball”)] A BUN. “The Amazing World of Gumball” chronicles the life of a blue tween cat named Gumball Tristopher Watterson.
- 12d. [___ Kennedy and The Conspirators (backing band for Slash)] MYLES. The Guns N’ Roses guitarist left the band in 1996, did a bunch of side projects, released solo albums with Myles Kennedy (including this year’s album “4,”), and rejoined Guns N’ Roses in 2016. Busy guy.
- 51d. [Elmo’s inanimate nemesis] ROCCO. Oh, the Sesame Street drama! Rocco is Zoe’s pet rock, and Elmo is tired of years of ignored and pushed aside thanks to Zoe’s make believe world. This link has some examples of Elmo losing it thanks to Zoe and Rocco’s ridiculousness. “Rocco?! Rocco’s a rock, Zoe! He won’t know the difference.”
Until next week!
Joe O’Neill & Jeff Chen’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Plant Life”—Jim P’s review
Theme: Familiar(ish) phrases hide parts of plants.
- 17a. [Where to view Degas’s “L’Absinthe” and Manet’s “Olympia”] MUSÉE D‘ORSAY.
- 24a. [What quarterbacks demand their wide receivers run] CRISP ROUTES.
- 36a. [“Slow down and do it right the first time”] HASTE MAKES WASTE.
- 47a. [Issuance from someone in dire straits] PLEA FOR HELP.
- 57a. [Inferior, militarily] OF LOWER RANK.
This is a pretty ambitious theme because each of the hidden words is at least four letters long, with two of them being six letters. Further, the theme entries are in growth order—from SEED to FLOWER—so they’re cemented in place and can’t be moved around. Kudos to the guys for making the theme work.
That said, these aren’t all exactly in-the-language phrases. I’ve watched a lot of football in my time, and maybe I’ve heard the phrase CRISP ROUTES in passing, but nowhere near enough to make it stick. A “call for help” seems far more common than a PLEA FOR HELP (Google’s ngram viewer backs me up), and OF LOWER RANK feels manufactured. I’d’ve been fine with OVERFLOW ERROR (a computing term) for that last one; it’s at least as good as CRISP ROUTES. (But then that would mean having 13-letter entries as your first and last theme answers which would make construction even more difficult.)
Ambition in a theme translates into constraints which result in crosswordese and iffiness in the fill. Yes, there’s some here like partial YET TO, weird plural MAAS, and ELY Cathedral. And I’m not sure that “IT’S A BEAUTY” is something people actually say. But there are highlights as well: COIN TOSSES, MINION, NATURAL, MILANO, and HMONG.
Clues of note:
- 21a. [More urgent than ASAP]. PDQ. Hmm. I would’ve said the opposite was true. What say you?
- 65a. [NASA mission refresher]. TANG. I don’t keep up with what astronauts are consuming these days, but I gotta believe they’ve moved on from TANG.
- 10d. [App that collects data without users’ knowledge]. SPYBOT. I’m not familiar with this term and Googling it results in hits for a specific spyware removal program, not this generalized definition.
- 29d. [Unaffected]. NATURAL. I’m thinking musical notation for this one, but maybe there’s a better interpretation.
Ambitious theme results in some compromises, but it works. 3.5 stars. Oh, and it’s a debut for Joe O’Neill, so congrats!
Andy Kravis’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Sometimes you just have to head the project, and “[body part] the [X]” phrases are today’s theme:
- 18a. [Pay for something expensive, FOOT THE BILL.
- 26a. [Confront unpleasant consequences], FACE THE MUSIC.
- 40a. [Take responsibility for a misdeed], SHOULDER THE BLAME. A 16-letter phrase, so a wider grid than normal.
- 49a. [Bet on every competitor but one], BACK THE FIELD. This isn’t a phrase I’m familiar with. It’s also the only themer that doesn’t feel like a negative experience.
- 62a. [Conforms to expectations], TOES THE LINE.
Fave fill: SAUERKRAUT, DOG HOTEL (it’s wild that Don Cheadle is in both Hotel for Dogs and Hotel Rwanda—I like to call these his “Hotel” movie franchise), RAGE-QUITS.
Three more things:
- 38d. [“Who, me?”], “AM I?” This clue doesn’t fit the answer so well. I feel like “Who, me?” has lots of uses that aren’t synonymous with “Am I?”
- 2d. [“What did the ___ do when it was still hungry? Went back four seconds!” (dad joke)], CLOCK. This is terrible! And I can’t believe I hadn’t already heard this joke a zillion times.
- Hamlet! We’ve got “HOIST with his own petard,” “To be or not to be” cluing IAMB, and the BARD in a single puzzle.
Overall, the fill feels better suited to a Wednesday puzzle or beyond. IONE TSAR OPORTO APIAN EEC? Also a smattering of fill best-known to the older generations of solvers: A-TESTS, ENLAI, BIL KEANE.
3.25 stars from me.
Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle (Week 581), “Blissful Thinking”—Ade’s take
Hello there, everyone! Some serious heat is either upon us or on its way, depending on where you’re living, and I hope you all are stay and beating some of that heat now.
From the second I got the second and third entries, I kind of feeling of what was going on, but the reveal is just absolutely magical and one of the better ones I’ve come across in doing crosswords. In the grid, the first three theme entries are multiple-word answers in which the final word is an idyllic setting. The final theme entry, THE SHANGRI-LAS, acts as the earworm-inducing reveal (53A: [“Leader of the Pack” pop group of the ’60s…and an alternate puzzle title]).
- TEARS IN HEAVEN (20A: [Eric Clapton elegy with the lyric “Beyond the door/there’s peace, I’m sure])
- SAL PARADISE (26A: [Narrator in Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road”]) –
- ANTHONY EDEN (47A: [Prime Minister who succeeded Winston Churchill]) – War horse.
The reveal was amazing, as I said before. Also, how about the SIX other 10-letter entries that were not part of the theme?!? Very IMPRESSIVE, indeed (31D: [“What an accomplishment!”]), and definitely worthy of HIGH PRAISE from any crossword solver (9D: [Top accolades]). Seeing GUST made me think about how I recently learned the term “gustnado” from a friend in Arizona who was telling me about some of those tornado-looking whirlwinds that has wreaked having there in the past (57D: [Sudden wind]). No matter what puzzle it is, I’m always hesitant to type in the final two letters for a five-letter entry meaning goodbye, with ADIEU and “adios” being options, and I usually always initially lean on the latter to start (4D: [“Farewell!”]). Not time to say “auf wiedersehen” just yet, so I’ll leave you with this…
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: TORII (15A: [Shinto shrine entrance]) – Though not named after the shrine entrance, former Major League Baseball player Torii Hunter stood out for his play of the field, and he put up close to Hall-of-Fame numbers by the time he retired after the 2015 season. Hunter was best known for his amazing defense in center field, as he won nine consecutive Gold Glove Awards between 2001 and 2009, playing mostly with the Minnesota Twins in that span. He was no slouch at the plate either, amassing 2,452 hits, 353 home runs and 1,391 runs batted in. Given that the Major League Baseball All-Star Game is tonight, here’s a clip of, almost certainly, the most memorable play in Hunter’s career: robbing Barry Bonds of a home run in the 2002 All-Star Game played in Milwaukee. (Yes, the game that ended in a tie.)
Thank you so much for the time, everybody! Have a wonderful and safe rest of your day and, as always, keep solving!
Nancy Serrano-Wu’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Jenni’s write-up
Today’s theme is wacky and fun with one entry that seemed a little tough for a Tuesday. There was no Fiend tag for Nancy – I think this is a debut. Whether or not it’s her first puzzle, I look forward to seeing more from this constructor!
Each theme entry has a word for “goodbye” rhymed with an animal. The clue tells us what language we’re looking for.
- 20a [Wild “adios”?] is MANANA PIRANHA.
- 24a [Wild “goodbye”?] is LATER ALLIGATOR.
- 41a [Wild “auf wiedershen”?] is TSCHUSS OCTOPUS. I don’t speak German and TSCHUSS was completely new to me. The crossings were totally fair, which makes it perfectly fine from my standpoint and still a bit much for a Tuesday. It was also the one that made me laugh out loud because it’s so absurd, so there’s that.
- 47a [Wild “au revoir”?] is ADIEU COCKATOO. The rhyme doesn’t quite work here, at least not the way I speak French.
So I have a couple of fairly minor complaints that didn’t get in the way of my enjoyment. Fun, fresh, original theme!
Aimee Lucido’s New Yorker crossword — pannonica’s write-up
The two marquee entries are sort of like flip sides of a coin, for different ages:
- 28a [Conflicted response to seeing a cursed meme] THANKS I HATE IT.
- 33a [“Things were way better in my generation!”] KIDS THESE DAYS.
And by flip sides of a coin, I don’t mean that they express the same sentiment—just that they will likely have different resonances for different demographics.
Tuesday crosswords at the New Yorker are billed as moderately challenging, and they do seem to be pitched at about the same difficulty from week to week, but they aren’t really too tough for us fanatics.
- 23a [One of twenty-six on certain parts of Texas’s Katy Freeway] LANE. That’s … a lot.
- 42a [Ecstasy, by another name] MDMA, for 3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine, which is not as difficult to say as it first seems.
- 49a [Pounding, poetically] ATHROB. So close, here:
- 51a [Defeated decisively] ACED OUT. New terminology on me.
- 6d [Line up] AGREE. Misfilled as ARRAY for a time.
- 27d [Nineties toy whose name includes the Japanese word for “egg”] TAMAGOTCHI, which means, literally, ‘egg-watch’. Wikipedia tells me that they are still in production. Sushi aficionados will recognize tamago as the egg part of the name.
- 37d [React to a jump scare] STARTLE. This is the intransitive verb sense.
- 46d [What Nietzsche warned would gaze back, if gazed into] ABYSS. The original mentions staring at length. Anyway, I think about this and quote it relatively often these days. We all have a bit of the abyss in us.
David Gold’s Universal Crossword, “That Again?” — Jim Q’s write-up
THEME: Two grid entries are repeated five times over, but one appears sans RE- as a prefix, though it is clued as if it is present.
- PAIR / (RE)PAIR
- LIABLE / (RE)LIABLE
- TREATED / (RE)TREATED
- MEMBER / (RE)MEMBER
- PEAT / (RE)PEAT
Cool puzzle! Love this idea, and it’s bound to delight solvers who haven’t been introduced to those “Thursday” type themes that Universal gently sprinkles in here or there. You know, puzzles that break the rules a bit.
Very interesting to see themers in rows 1 and 15, which is rare I think in a standard themed 15x. I was quite stumped on 5A [Fix, as Bob the Builder would] when I had PA?R. But then, the lightbulb AHA moment came quick once I peeped the title.
I completely understand what the clue is going for in the reveler: [Do over, and a hint to the two letters missing from the starts of (the five themers… including this entry)] but it’s really hard interpret the directions literally. It just winds up hurting my head. Instead, I just think Yeah… I get it and accept that it makes sense to people wiser than I. Sorta like the whole premise of Back to the Future. Just accept, and enjoy the movie. Don’t overthink all the weird plot holes and paradoxes that automatically come with Time Travel motifs.
Fill was fine. Unremarkable for the most part. I DIG a FREE SAMPLE at Costco myself once in a while. AT A (clued as a partial here) is rough fill to swallow.
Really liked the-puzzle and the idea overall though. 4.5 stars.
Kelsey Dixon’s USA Today Crossword, “Indeed“ — Emily’s write-up
A fun, asymmetrical puzzle with lots of great fill!
Theme: themers are contained within the word DEED, hence the title “Indeed”
- 18a. [Like many state fair foods], DEEPFRIED
- 45a. [Attentive to the small stuff], DETAILORIENTED
- 58a. [Completely exhausted], DEADTIRED
My instinct was “on a stick” because that’s what the Minnesota State Fair emphasizes but DEEPFRIED with my second guess. DETAILORIENTED filled in easily for me, despite being DEADTIRED myself and it’s only Tuesday. Let’s hope that everyone gets a good night’s sleep tonight!
Favorite fill: MANATEES, POPS, FROSTY, and FREE
Stumpers: YAPS (I tried “bark” and “yips” first), TONETAGS (needed crossings, as this was new to me), and LINED (hung up on “grid” for some reason)
Overall a fun puzzle with lots of bonus fill and wonderful entries and cluing. I was racing through it until the bottom half, then I started to slow down but keep filling things in here and there, making steady progress with crossings except for the east section. PYTHON was not one that I could fill on its own, and many of the crossings weren’t filling in for me either. I only had SRI in that section for the longest time. Even OOZE evaded me, as I always think of as “slow” as molasses so couldn’t get past that strong reference. Interestingly, the “f” in AFL and FROZE was the last letter for me today, though looking that section over again now, it doesn’t seem like it should have been as hard as it was for me and that the cluing was more than fair.
How’d you all do with this one today?