Paul Steinberg & Karen Steinberg’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Continuing Education”—Jim P’s review
Theme: ADVANCED DEGREES (36a, [Post-college goals, e.g., or a hint to what the starred answers are progressively “awarded”]), specifically Masters of Arts degrees—or MAs—are “awarded” to familiar words and phrases, turning them into something else. Further, these “degrees” are added in such a way so that they seem to “advance” across the grid as during the solve.
- 17a. [*More legible, say] MANEATER. Neater.
- 27a. [*Spiral seashells] COMANCHES. Conches.
- 44a. [*Attorney general Garland] MERRIMACK. Merrick.
- 60a. [*Sans-serif font used in Absolut, Best Buy and Supreme logos] FUTURAMA. Futura.
My first instinct was that 1a SEX was involved in the theme because of its placement and because it can precede the word “education” found in the title. But that quickly fell by the wayside when I saw the asterisked clues.
My second instinct, after hitting the revealer, was that we’d see an advancement from Bachelor’s degrees to Master’s to Doctorates, but that idea was dashed as well after unveiling the second theme answer.
Finally, I realized what “Advanced” was referring to, and I was somewhat mollified. I still wanted more than just MAs for some reason, but the theme works well for what it is, and the choices of theme answers are really quite nice, especially the MERRICK/MERRIMACK find. All in all, a tidy execution.
Top fill includes “WE’RE HERE,” EUROVAN, CRESCENT, PATINA, PROCTOR, and “MISS ME?” followed by a sarcastic “I’M SURE.” Nice job all around.
Clues of note:
- 16a. [Interstate speed limit in Montana]. EIGHTY. Prior to 1999, the state-wide speed limit was whatever was “reasonable and prudent.”
- 43a. [Area behind the stumps, in cricket]. END. No matter how many times my old British neighbour tried to explain cricket to me, it never stuck. Maybe if I paid closer attention I could’ve gotten this answer correct without needing crossings.
- 65a. [Vulcan, e.g.]. PLANET. There is no IRL Vulcan though it was once theorized to exist between Mercury and the Sun. Einstein’s theory of relativity proved that oddities in Mercury’s orbit were not caused by another planet but by the Sun itself. Per Wikipedia, “Today, the International Astronomical Union has reserved the name ‘Vulcan’ for the hypothetical planet, even though it has been ruled out, and also for the Vulcanoids, a hypothetical population of asteroids that may exist inside the orbit of the planet Mercury.”
- 3d. [Warrior killed fighting a samurai army]. XENA. Wow, spoilers. Though I guess if I haven’t watched the show in the 20 years since it left the airwaves, I’m probably never going to watch it.
Nice puzzle. Four stars.
Frnk Lng’s Frbll Crsswrd, “Vwllss Crsswrd” – Jnns wrt-p
No, I’m not going to do the whole review without vowels. I think about it every time. Maybe someday.
I never know quite what to say about these. I enjoy them! It’s a fun challenge. I like the way my brain sort of shifts gears partway through and I can start entering answers in the grid just like normal. I like the odd combinations of letters and the way long words get much shorter than I expect. I like working backwards when I’ve filled in something by crossings and I have to figure out what the word is from the consonant pattern. They’re not everyone’s cp f t, f crs.
Peter gave us three versions: no help, with multiword tags, and with enumerations. I did the “no help” version because of course I did. A few things I liked:
- 1a [Date in 2013 when Twitter announced Twttr, a consonant-only service, because “we believe that by eliminating vowels, we’ll encourage a more efficient and ‘dense’ form of communication”]. It’s a Peter Gordon Trademark Very Long Clue and the answer is PRLFRST (April first), which made me laugh.
- TMZ representing ITEMIZE instead of the gossip channel.
- Timely entry and Scrabble-licious QNLZBTH, clued as [Great-grandmother of Princess Charlotte].
- [Real deal] showing up twice. Answers: GNNRTCL and BRGN for GENUINE ARTICLE and BARGAIN, respectively.
- GLTT (glatt) kosher. I liked it; I suspect non-Jews and truly secular Jews did not.
Things I remained puzzled about after solving:
- 2d [Opposition to the flow of alternating current in a circuit]. The correct answer in the grid is RCTNC. I was pretty sure it ended in ANCE and equally sure it wasn’t RESISTANCE. My physical-scientist spouse is a geologist who said, and I quote, “A/C current is not my thing.” Google rescued me. It’s REACTANCE.
- I’m still not sure about MTPS for [Pork-filled pastries] and it’s not Google-able since I don’t know the starting letter and there are lots of pork-filled pastries. Hlp.
- 44a [“Forget about it!”] is NSP. Google was no hope. As I started to type this, I realized it’s NO SOAP.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: see above re: REACTANCE. I also did not know that the redroot, cascara and jujube plants are part of the BUCKTHORN family. To be honest, I didn’t know there was a jujube plant. I only know the candies.
Jeremy Newton’s New York Times crossword—Zachary David Levy’s review
Difficulty: Challenging (12m42s)
Today’s theme: ITS A LOT TO UNPACK
- AND THATS SAYING [A LOT] (“Which is a big deal, considering!”)
- CALIFORNI[A LO]TTO (Contest for millions on the West Coast)
- ALOE VER[A L]OTION (Popular skin moisturizer)
Ok, so you gradually “unpack” A-L-O-T as you progress through the themers, with each rebus containing fewer letters. It wins me over by instantly evoking a suitcase, which sets off a cascade of travel-related sentiments. And it played tough, mostly because I got to the center, and simply couldn’t wrap my head around pets having LICE (pets have ticks and fleas, children have LICE), a SCAN somehow being a “good look” (my mind wants it to mean something closer to a glance, even though I know that’s not correct), and an EDGER being the tool in question (and not an AUGER). The downside is the dupe on A LOT in the first theme entry and the revealer, but it’s hard to find anything else long enough that ends in A-L-O-T while also changing the meaning of that sequence. I’m sure you also instantly came up with SNUB-NOSED CACHALOT, but count again — it’s just off the mark.
Cracking: IHOP — the food is never great, but this place has the kavorka. Maybe it’s because pancakes and waffles always look good on TV. Just seeing it in a grid makes me want breakfast.
Slacking: TECHNO BAND — this rubs me the wrong way, perhaps because so much electronic music is the product of solo artists. It also sounds like it wants to be TECMO BOWL but gets lost along the way.
Sidetracking: ANTI — speaking of LABELs, ANTI is the label for a handful of Tom Waits gems, including “Alice” and “Blood Money”. They also remastered a few of his underrated early albums, my favorite being “The Heart of Saturday Night”.
MaryEllen Uthlaut’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary
It took me a while to get into the rhythm of today’s theme by MaryEllen Uthlaut. It features terminal geographic terms that are common in American settler place names. Once I found that rhythm I enjoyed it for its creativeness:
- [City for delinquent library patrons?], FINEPOINT
- [City for look-alikes?], DOUBLEPARK
- [City for undercover agents?], MOLEHILLS
- [City for bank managers?], SAFEHARBOR
- [City for feather-bed manufacturers?], DOWNFALLS
- [__ list], WISH. Is it bad my first instinct was “shit”?
- [Lack of societal values], ANOMIE is some uncommon vocab. The vowel-first pattern means it shows up in crosswords relatively frequently.
- [Cook fast, as tuna], SEAR. Only eaten seared tuna once. It was a wild ride…
- [911 responders, briefly], EMS. I’m not used to this being a two-letter abbr.
- [Some pretzels], RODS. Non-pretzel-shaped pretzels remain weird to me.
Robyn Weintraub’s New Yorker puzzle– malaika’s write-up
Good morning, folks! I absolutely flew through this puzzle– I don’t think I ever stopped typing. I love a center stack, and I particularly love a center stack of thirteens. Here we get DEEP SPACE NINE, HANG BY A THREAD, and MONSOON SEASON. I have only experienced the latter one time, when I was visiting India. It felt otherworldly.
Other things to note: [Memory-storage unit?] for SCRAPBOOK is an incredible clue. This puzzle had two long answers in each corner, and my favorite corner was the combination of BUTT DIALED and FRIED RICE. What was yours?
The last thing to mention is the clue for ORGY which was [It’s hardly an exercise in moderation, though it might be good exercise]. I love how this implies that having sex with just one person is a moderate dosage of sex. Imagining two lovers in bed and they’re like “Glad we showed some restraint!”
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Crossword #1509, “Why I’m Late”—Darby’s review
Theme: The Y arrives late in the answer, having moved to the end of the first word of each answer instead of being the second letter.
- 17a [“Squalid hope”] DINGY WISH / DYING WISH
- 25a [“College head’s tumbler”] PREXY GLASS / PYREX GLASS
- 35a [“November event for the ‘Black is King’ singer”] BEY ELECTION / BYE ELECTION
- 47a [“Acquire some wild felines from a store”] BUY COUGARS / BYU COUGARS
- 55a [“Cafeteria item leans a bit”] TRAY BANKS / TYRA BANKS
It took me a long time staring at these theme answers to figure this out. I had some sense about TRAY BANKS and TYRA BANKS from the beginning, but it wasn’t clicking. Ultimately, I thought it was something with the Y replacing another letter, so I googled DINGIWISH, which suggested DYING WISH as the alternative. From there, it all became clear. I really like that the Y moves to the end from being in the same letter position in each answer, though I didn’t know what a BYE ELECTION was until I googled it. (It’s a British term for an election to fill a vacancy, put simply).
Even though BEQ rated this as a medium difficulty, five themers made for a difficult fill. The SE corner was the one that came together the quickest for me, with TWINGE, WICKET, and ONE SEC. ESTELLA was also a fun literary bonus, in my opinion. I also liked 2d [“‘Songs In ___’ (Alicia Keys album)”] A MINOR and the cluing on 11d [“Band that infamously stipulated ‘no brown M&Ms’ in its riders”] VAN HALEN. The grid itself feels a tad closed off in the NW and SE corners, with black squares allowing for an intersection at APHEX, DINGY WISH, and ERN in the former and UNO, GOT ME, and TRAY BANKS in the latter.
Overall, a tough theme to crack but the payoff is high.
Brooke Husic & Will Nediger’s USA Today Crossword, “You Put My Love on Top” — Emily’s write-up
What a collab duo today! I figured that going in it would be more challenging while still being an enjoyable and satisfying solve—and what a treat it was!
Theme: each downward themer starts with a term of endearment for a sweetheart
- 4d. [Sweet and tangy sauce], HONEYMUSTARD
- 18d. [Day of the Dead decorations], SUGARSKULLS
- 23d. [Golf great with Olympic golds in hurdles and javelin], BABEZAHARIAS
A tasty theme with a fun themer set! HONEYMUSTARD took me longer than it should have, as the cluing had Chinese food with “sweet and sour” on my mind for a while, and begins with HONEY. With the theme in mind, SUGARSKULLS filled right in and gives us SUGAR. BABEZAHARIAS was new to me, so I relied on crossings, and from which we get BABE. Also, the hint to it in the title was helpful, considering the plethora of bonus fill in the acrosses as well.
Favorite fill: IMGONE, DAYONE, YESAND, and IHEARYOU
Stumpers: TEASTRAINER (seriously stumped—“tea kettle”, “tea ball”, “tea steeper”, even tried “tea spoon” as some are steepers then had to move on and wait for crossings), TWEAKS (had “re—“ on the mind: “redo”, “reworks”, etc.), and ALBANIA (clearly don’t know country flags as well as I thought)
The southeast quadrant gave me trouble and given the down themers, I was switching back and forth on the fill. I broke into that area once I began on the eastern down 3s and the southeast down 4s. Not sure why the acrosses were harder for me in this puzzle. Loved the grid and layout though, especially with the pair of 11s for bonus fill.
Adam Simpson’s Universal crossword, “That One Game” — Sophia’s write-up
- 4d [Uno card that’s always playable, and a hint to letters 4-7 of 20-Across] – WILD
- 20a [*Trail of clues] – BREADCRUMBS
- 13d [Uno card that switches the play order, and a hint to letters 10-7 of 35-Across] – REVERSE
- 35a [*Fast-paced Winter Olympics event] – BOBSLED RACE
- 55d [Uno card that bypasses a player, and a hint to letters 4-7 of 53-Across] –SKIP
- 53a [*Render useless] – DISCARDABLE
So, there are three Uno cards in the puzzle, each of which crosses a long theme answer. Said theme answer contains the word CARD mutated in an appropriate manner. It’s kind of high concept, and I didn’t really get what was happening while I was solving because I didn’t want to count letters, but afterwards I appreciated the construction (and the unique black square pattern, can’t say I’ve seen that before).
Fill highlights: TAG TEAM, MEA CULPA, LIE TO ME. Loved the title too – that “one” game referring literally to Uno!
NYT: Loved it… An awesome Thursday.
jnni — thnk “swny tdd”… (“mr ht ps!!”)
Zachary David Levy — Like you, I got stuck in that center area, after flying through the rest of the grid.
I was pretty sure that FAD and EDGER were correct, but nothing crossing them seemed to work. Finally put the C in SCAN/LICE and there it was.
ON GOAL made perfect sense once I had the answer, but I struggled with that one, too.
Straight up today’s NYT is in my top-tier of favorite crosswords ever. Truly insane and original theme that made my jaw literally hang open. Such top-notch overall puzzle execution, from the great theme set to the very satisfying way the theme reads from right to left to the lowkey brilliant cluing throughout
NYT: What he said. Just an awesome Thursday puzzle! It doesn’t get much better than a great cup of coffee and a fantastic Thursday NYT puzzle. Thanks Jeremy!
Yep, intricate and rewarding. Only off note for me was that patently wrong, trying-too-hard clue for SCAN at 34-A, which was very likely not the constructor’s doing.
Oh, and 25-D: “Introductory remarks” for HIS. No idea what that’s about. Can someone please enlighten me?
The clue for SCAN is straight out of the dictionary, though it may not be the most common meaning of the word.
25D is the plural of HI, as in a casual “hello.”
Count me among the ‘loved this puzzle’! Took me a while to get to the aha moment, but when it came it was worth it.
Hard Thursday, but well worth it. I was stuck not just in the center, but also the SE. But totally original theme and overall terrific.
Doh! Thanks on both. Guess I’m so used to “… a cursory scan” and so forth that I’ve begun to ascribe the essence of the adjective to the word itself. My bad.
(Oops, this was meant as a reply to Eric H.)
Reminder – Nate is on Wheel of Fortune tonight. Unless news coverage has bumped it.
NYT: 34A-SCAN — think of it in the medical sense.
WSJ: I assumed the plural of “conch” is “conchs”, since it is pronounced “conk”. I wonder if “conches” is pronounced “conks”?
I’m suddenly craving snail salad (a Rhode Island delicacy featuring conch, AKA scungilli or sea snails).
conchiglia = ‘scungilli’
i’m kinda really stuck on TECHNO BAND in the nyt….it’s not really a thing at all! it comes up with hardly anything on google and as someone who has been a techno dj for like a decade and into all that rave-y stuff since like the mid-90s, i’m really rubbed the wrong way by that answer and i don’t really see how it made it into the puzzle (which is otherwise excellent!)
there are techno producers and techno djs and people do collaborate, but it’s extremely rare that people use the word “band” for any electronic music, especially techno. maybe “group” is more correct? but i’ve never heard anyone referring to a “techno band.” i dunno, i wish i wasn’t so hung up on this haha
WSJ–speed limit on interstate in Montana is just 65 in urban areas; 80 only in rural areas
L.A. Times review: A question about EMS as a 2-letter abbreviation in 18 down for 911 responders. I think it is actually a 3-letter abbreviation – Emergency Medical Services – the letters on the front of ambulances. It’s not a plural 2-letter abbreviation for EMTs.
Watching Nate on Wheel of Fortune! Very exciting!
Forgot that Nate was recorded on my DVR this evening! Will watch tomorrow, along with GBBO. A top-notch viewing day!
Popping in to rave about Frank’s latest vowelless puzzle. Finished the hard version in 10:44, which tells me it’s super-smooth and clued well. (I feel like 15+ minutes is more usual for me?) Enjoyed it much!
Good challenging Thu NYT but that West Coast contest is the California Lottery not California Lotto.