Sam Acker’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Hidden Figures”—Jim P’s review
Are you stumped, as I was, as to what the theme of this puzzle is? I’m not totally sure I’ve figured it out, but I’ll give you my best guess.
My solve proceeded thusly: I had filled in nearly the entire left half when I got to the revealer at 65a CHAMELEON [One of three hidden in this puzzle, based on its surroundings]. So we’re looking for chameleons, eh? But I could see nothing on the left side that pointed to anything hidden.
Next, I came to 13d LEONE [Currency in Africa’s Freetown]. Aha! Could this be part of a CHAMELEON? But where was the rest of it, and why didn’t I see any other parts in other sections of the grid? I decided to finish off in the SE.
After some struggles with ERNANI, especially crossing NYK and RACES (clued opaquely), I again saw no other parts of a CHAMELEON. I decided LEONE was a red herring.
Chameleons change colors, right? And there are three long entries with colors in theme: BROWN RICE, GREEN-LIT, and GRAY LADY. So that must be it. Are the letters in the colors somehow changed from the letters in CHAMELEON?
Try as I might to change letters around, nothing worked.
The revealer says “based on its surroundings.” So, what’s around those colors? Well, nothing above or before or after each color seems to pertain, but below each “color” phrase is another entry of the same length: BROWN RICE & STICK IT TO, GREEN-LIT & GRASSLEY, and GRAY LADY & ROCK STAR. A stick is usually brown, grass is usually green, and a rock is often (though hardly always) gray. Okay, I get that. But how are those things chameleons?
My guess is that each of those items are not actually those items in the grid. “Stick” is actually a verb in the grid, “grass” is part of a last name, and “rock” is the musical genre. Therefore they are “hidden” in their entries, but the colors help us to identify them in the grid. So those items are the chameleons. Does that make sense?
I’m not sure I totally buy that explanation, so if you have something better, pray tell.
Fill-wise, I love that SW corner with “HOT DAMN!” and ESPERANTO. DRY CLEANS is nice in the NW and SMIDGEN in the NE. ON A TIRADE feels a bit artificial, but it works. I didn’t know ELSTON but the crossings seemed fairer than ERNANI’s.
Clues of note:
- 48a. [Baseball’s Blach, Buttrey and France]. TYS. Notably absent: Cobb.
- 64d. [Retiring]. SHY. Not familiar with this usage.
Well, I often like something different, and this is definitely that. It did require a fair amount of post-solve cogitating to sort out (at least on my part) so I’m not sure it totally works, but it gets points for ingenuity. Four stars.
Adam Wagner’s New York Times crossword—Ben’s review
We’ve got nothing going on in today’s NYTXW:
- 18A: Paradise — HEAVE[N ON E]ARTH
- 10D: Home of more than 16,000 slot machines — RE[NO NE]VADA
- 22A: Bland — VA[NIL]LA
- 3D: Targets of some waxing — BIKI[NI L]INES
- 40A: Proverbial assessment for whether or not an idea can be taken seriously — L[AUGH T]EST
- 32D: More likely to get coal, perhaps — N[AUGHT]IER
- 64A: Hot tub shindig — JACUZ[ZI P]ARTY
- 49D: Almond confection — MAR[ZIP]AN
- 35D: Ambitious email goal, and a hint to four squares in this puzzle — INBOX ZERO
Each of these phrases contains a word meaning “zero” in one of its boxes – NONE, NIL, AUGHT, and ZIP.
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Crossword #1497, “Spot of Tea”—Darby’s review
Theme: Each answer adds a TEA sound to a common phrase.
- 20a [“Problematic time-tested book?”] FAULTY CLASSIC / FALL CLASSIC
- 25a [“Tiny cow?”] JERSEY SHORTY / JERSEY SHORE
- 43a [“Ill-defined states?”] MISTY AMERICA / MISS AMERICA
- 50a [“Fourscore in an orgy”] FUCKING EIGHTY / FUCKING A
As always, this is an interesting theme, though it was interesting that the title focuses on tea as in the drink but the added letters are the homophonic TY. I thought that FAULTY CLASSIC and and MISTY AMERICA were fun, and as always, I forgot how many years make up a score (this feels like one of those facts that just doesn’t want to adhere in my brain),so it took me a minute to fill in FUCKING EIGHTY.
Fill-wise, I really enjoyed this puzzle. 4d [“Gets ready, as for an amusement park ride”] STRAPS IN felt like a visceral clue, and I thought 46d [“Good subject”] ETHICS was super clever. I also enjoyed 28d [“It might give you a leg up”] for STILT, 51d [“Male ___”] GAZE, and 64a [“TikTok dance participant”] TEEN. Plus, it was fun to see both 9d [“Seehorn’s ‘Better Call Saul’ character”] Kim WEXLER, and 62a [“Marie who coined the term ‘radioactivity’”] CURIE.
I’d definitely agree with 59d [“‘Was this puzzle fun?’ answer”]: YES.
Good morning folks! Let’s just do bullets today.
- I didn’t realize Titanic was only rated PG THIRTEEN. Doesn’t it have boobs in it? Or are those allowed for thirteen year olds?
- There was lots of bleh short fill in this, like the partials I LIE and DO A, plus INS as an abbreviation and ING.
- I love a layout with a triple stack of thirteens along the middle! All three of these were great: HANG ON A SECOND, PARKING GARAGE made sparkly from its clue [Tacoma, Malibu, and Tucson locale?], and WALK IN CLOSET.
- In the summer of 2020 I read my town’s budget and one of the items was a new FIRE ENGINE. I asked my friends to guess how much they thought it cost and I will never forget my friend saying “$10,000? Wait oh my god. That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever said.” (The answer was about one and a half million.)
- In math class in high school, we had to do an independent study and I wanted to film myself serving volleyballs, and then graph the resulting PARABOLAs. (My teacher said no.)
- SHEEP DOGS and HALF NAKED were also fun answers.
Jon Pennington’s Universal Crossword, “The Missing Link” — Jim Q’s write-up
THEME: The word “THE” is omitted from common phrases, and a new common phrase is the result, yet the phrase is still clued as if the word “THE” is there.
- 18A [Gain an upper hand, minus the secret word] TURN TABLES. Turn the tables.
- 24A [Gain an upper hand, minus the secret word] COOKBOOKS. Cook the books.
- 53A [Just in time, minus the secret word]] UNDERWIRE. Under the wire.
- 60A [Manipulate rules to get an edge, minus the secret word] GAME SYSTEM. Game the system.
- CENTRAL REVEALER: [2006 crime film starring Leonardo DiCaprio, or a theme hint] THE DEPARTED. That is, the word “THE” has “Departed” from the answers as clued.
I enjoyed this puzzle a lot more before I started explaining it right now. One of those that I think is best not overthought. I do think that the word “the” couldn’t be more bland of a “secret” word. My curiosity was piqued when I hit the first themer.. “oooh…. secret word! I wonder what it is!” and then it’s just…. “the.”
I’ve also been on the phone with the cable company for over two hours for what I thought would be a very simple issue, so if any frustration is seeping into this post, please forgive.
- 53A [“Eww, I can’t ___ that!”] UNSEE. Love that UNSEE is a word now. Really enjoyed SEEing this in the puzzle.
- 42A [“OMG, hilarious!”] ROFL. I think this entry is in need of retirement. This acronym was a somewhat brief thing when texting first appeared. I have never seen anyone use this in the modern era.
That’s all! everything else seemed fairly par for the course.
3.5 stars from me.
I’m still on hold.
Chase Dittrich’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary
The central fifteen of this puzzle is SCHOOLCROSSINGS, and there are circled letters spelling out ETMTRI, but those are just place markers for where the crossing occur. ELEMENTARY school crosses its posher cousin PREP school and an ACTING school. CHARM and MED schools intersect at the M. ART and TRADE SCHOOLs connect at the top T. JOURNALISM school has two crossings: HIGH and HEBREW schools.
The theme was certainly an intricate affair, although the lack of marquee answers beyond the 15 means the solve itself was more muted.