Hal Moore’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Crescendo”—Jim P’s review
Our theme today consists of song titles that build from “silence” to a “shout.” Musical notation in parentheses reinforces the increase in volume.
- 16a. [The Four Seasons, 1964 ( )] SILENCE IS GOLDEN. Couldn’t remember the tune to this one, but looking it up, yes, I’ve heard it. Alternatively, Depeche Mode’s “Enjoy the Silence” could’ve fit here.
- 26a. [George Michael, 1984 (ppp)] CARELESS WHISPER.
- 33a. [Destiny’s Child, 1999 (p)] SAY MY NAME.
- 54a. [The Beatles, 1964 (fff)] TWIST AND SHOUT.
Nice theme. I’m not musically inclined, but between the title and the musical notation, I figured out what was going on. By the way, (ppp) stands for pianississimo (very very quiet), (p) is piano (quiet), and (fff) is fortississimo (very very loud).
It would have been nice if there was one more entry on the loud side, but I can’t think of a word that would be between “say” and “shout” volume-wise, let alone a song title. Unless the “shout” entry was marked (f) and another entry got the (fff), say Billy Idol’s “Rebel Yell.” Katy Perry’s “Roar” would be better thematically, but it’s an unfortunate four-letters long, which wouldn’t work with the left/right symmetry in this grid.
Stacks of sevens in the corners are mostly nice. I especially liked BLUESMEN next to RED TAPE as well as CANTINA, CALTECH, MONACO, and OH DAMN [“Did that really just happen?!”], though I wanted it to be “OH SNAP!” And MEDLEY deserves a shout out for being theme-adjacent. Never heard of the term NET LEASE [Commercial realty agreement] which is a situation where the lessee pays for taxes, insurance, and maintenance costs in addition to rent.
Clue of note: 17d. [Coward knighted by Queen Elizabeth]. NOEL. Nice use of the old “disguised proper name” trick.
Enjoyable puzzle. 3.75 stars.
Ekua Ewool’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
What a fun theme! Debut constructor Ekua Ewool takes us through the emotional journey of a new solver tackling the Monday through Friday puzzles:
- 16a. [Newbie crossword solver’s thought on a Monday], “I’VE GOT THIS!”
- 23a. [Newbie crossword solver’s thought on a Tuesday], “WISH ME LUCK!” Getting a bit tougher.
- 35a. [Newbie crossword solver’s thought on a Wednesday], “I’D LIKE SOME HINTS,” in a faintly pleading tone.
- 50a. [Newbie crossword solver’s thought on a Thursday], “WHAT IN HELL…?” Gimmick puzzles can really throw you a curveball.
- 58a. [Newbie crossword solver’s thought on a Friday], “GOOGLE TIME!” It’s not cheating, it’s learning. So much smarter to look up what you don’t know, and learn some new things, than to leave a puzzle unfinished. (Note: This doesn’t apply to crossword tournaments.)
So tell me: What does the newbie say when the Saturday NYT puzzle hits?
- 30a. [Holder of tent sales], REI. They sell camping gear and other outdoor sportsy stuff.
- 18a. [“Veep” actress Chlumsky], ANNA. I finally started (and finished!) Veep this year and loved it. A good 95% of the characters are essentially dirtbags, selfish and crude and thoughtless careerists always looking for their next angle; basically the polar opposite of The West Wing. I learned a lot about how government works! (Do not watch this show if you don’t want to hear astonishingly rude, crass language.)
- 6d. [Department store chain that began as a corner grocery], KOHL’S. Did not know that! My husband probably did, as the first Kohl’s department store was in his Wisconsin hometown.
Amanda Rafkin’s Universal crossword, “That’s Twisted!”—pannonica’s write-up
- 52aR [Superpower that can alter material existence … and a feature of the starred clues’ answers] REALITY WARPING.
- 18a. [*”… and then something funny happens”] HILARITY ENSUES.
- 23a. [*Kosher restaurants observe one] DIETARY LAW.
- 46a. [*Evidence of laundering] MONEY TRAIL.
I’ve circled the relevant squares containing the jumbled letters.
On the one hand, I’m impressed with the quality of the phrases—they’re in-the-language and they contain a relatively long string of required letters. On the other hand, the revealer feels weak and forced.
Theme adjacent? 39a [McKellen who played Magneto] IAN, 25d [Hidden bonuses in many Marvel films] EASTER EGGS, 7d [Accessory for Thor or Storm] CAPE, 30d [Individual frame in a comic book] PANEL, 36d [Marisa who plays Aunt May] TOMEI.
- Unfamiliar to me: 42a [“__ to the Women on Long Island” (Olivia Gatwood poem)] ODE, which partially duplicates 5d [Art form that might be in free verse] POETRY.
- Also unfamiliar: 48d [“The Last Five __” (off-Broadway Musical)] YEARS.
- But at least I’d heard of 58a [Ruth who played Lady Macbeth] NEGGA. I believe this was opposite Daniel Craig earlier this year.
- 59a [Lion’s bellow] ROAR.
- 61a [Barely defeated] EDGED. Not sure that I see it without a helper such as ‘out’ anywhere outside of crosswords.
- Appreciative of the symmetrical pairing of 8d [Hospital trauma pro] ER NURSE and 41d [Prioritizes by severity] TRIAGES.
- 35a [Hollywood fame] STARDOM, which can cause one’s reality to warp, I’d say.
Zaineb Akbar’s USA Today Crossword, “Serving Plaits” — Sophia’s recap
Editor: Erik Agard
Theme: Each theme answer starts with a word that can precede BRAID.
- 4d [Savory bowlful topped with bread and cheese] – FRENCH ONION SOUP
- 7d [Fluffy oven-baked pancake] – DUTCH BABY
- 10d [Valentine’s Day gift] – BOX OF CHOCOLATES
- 67a [Word that can follow the first words of 4-, 7- and 10-Down] – BRAID
Cute theme, and good title! I know all of these hairstyles so this wasn’t too much of a stretch for me, theme-wise. I liked that all of the theme answers ended up being types of food – at first, I thought that the theme was going to relate to that.
It took me a while to get going on the puzzle. There were a lot of words or clues I was unfamiliar with, such as ABAYA or Hilton ALS, and there were also a lot of clues in which I went off in the wrong direction: for example “prove” instead of EXERT for 19a [___ yourself (put in effort)] and “Tampa” instead of MIAMI for 53d [Major city in Florida]. So this one ended up playing harder than the usual USA Today fare for me, but I enjoyed the challenge!
Favorite fill: NAIL SALON, CATNAP, BOOK CLUB
Clues that I am going to think about for the rest of the day: 36a [Cookies used to model moon phases] for OREOS, 64a [“Don’t ___!” (prey’s plea)] for EAT ME.
Erik Agard’s New Yorker crossword—Amy’s write-up
I forget where my Wednesday New Yorker solving times usually land, but I think the “lightly challenging” should feel a bit easier than a Friday NYT. This one was right up there in the Fri NYT zone.
Entirely new to me: 34a. [Experimental film by Tourmaline about Mary Jones, a Black trans woman who lived in nineteenth-century New York], SALACIA. Salacia is also the name of a Roman goddess of salt water, not that I’d heard of that. Here’s an article about the film.
Fave fill: SCLC (the important Southern Christian Leadership Conference—though I half wanted SNCC here instead), KIDDO, “MIND BLOWN,” “WHO’S ‘WE’?”, “GOTTA GO,” ALOO GOBI, SHOOK ON IT, “DON’T FORGET,” BROWN SKIN GIRL, “I KNOW THAT LOOK,” “GO EASY ON ME.” Very chatty grid!
Four more things:
- 52a. [Country whose ten-gourde note depicts Sanite Bélair], HAITI. If you missed the long NYT article about the massive robbery of Haiti’s wealth on the part of large, white-majority nations (France, the US, more) a few months ago, it’s time to catch up.
- 45d. [Any of several characters played by Tatiana Maslany on “Orphan Black”], CLONE. Maslany also stars in Disney+’s 53d SHE [“___-Hulk: Attorney at Law”] series, which I’m enjoying.
- 46d. [Browse Miiriya or Cafe con Libros, say], SHOP. I don’t know either business name, but Cafe con Libros sounds like a bookstore. Miiriya turns out to be an online consortium of Black-owned businesses. And yes, Cafe con Libros is a feminist, intersectional bookstore in Brooklyn. Click through for books for adults and books for KIDDOs.
- 6d. [Marvel superhero paired with Dagger], CLOAK. Never heard of this pair, but cloak and dagger is super-familiar.
Here’s the sumptuous Beyoncé video for 18d:
4.25 stars from me. Fun puzzle with lots of layers to it.
Rebecca Goldstein and Brooke Husic’s AVCX, “All the Feels” — Rebecca’s Review
This week’s AVCX Classic from Rebecca Goldstein and Brooke Husic was a super smooth 3/5 difficulty.
I always love a puzzle that uses a non-traditional layout to get the point of the theme across. Rather than having a few long answers and a revealer, today we get a revealer and 4 ‘RINGs’ as the themed entries.
- 62A: Item of color changing
jewelry found four times in this grid MOOD RING
My only nitpick here is the choice of moods felt a bit random – but the puzzle was fun throughout and the ‘aha!’ moment when I got to MOOD RING was entertaining enough to make the puzzle great.
No surprise that there was some really fantastic cluing throughout the puzzle – my favorites:
- 10D: Travel company? — CARAVAN
- 23D: Control tops? — DOMS
- 33A: Character in a “Strange Planet” comic — ALIEN
- 55A: It’s shared by John Oliver and John Cena — AGE
- 30A: Monarchy with no permanent rivers: Abbr. — UAE
Here’s some Mötley CRÜE for your Wednesday
Susan Gelfand’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary
Susan Gelfand’s puzzle theme is quite basic. Four two-part’s foods’ first parts are surnames of singers. Given surnames are quite commonly basic nouns, this seems a low bar. In any case, we have:
- [Favorite vegetable side dish of singer Donna?], SUMMERSQUASH
- [Favorite leafy course of singer Al?], GREENSALAD
- [Favorite fish entree of singer Carole?], KINGSALMON
- [Favorite fruity dessert of singer Fiona?], APPLESTRUDEL
In general, this puzzle offered little resistance. There were a few trickier clues/answers, though: [Toepick-assisted skating leaps], LUTZES named for skater Alois Lutz; [__ Valley: puzzle game with optical illusions], MONUMENT was new to me, but I’ve heard of the place. It appears it’s a puzzle >video< game; [“Mayans M.C.” star Edward James __], OLMOS also rings only the dimmest bells.