Alex Bajcz’s Fireball Crossword, “It’s All Greek To Me” – Jenni’s write-up
The title tells us that the Greek alphabet will figure in the theme clues and indeed it does in a way I don’t remember seeing before. I like this theme a lot; it includes one extra twist that adds to the fun. And the puzzle is generally nice and crunchy.
Each theme answer insert a Greek letter into a phrase. Wackiness results.
- 17a [Secret orchard pest?] is a CLASSIFIED APHID. Classified ad.
- 23a [Vacation retreat where a lot gets left unsaid?] is an ELLIPSIS ISLAND. Ellis Island. Can’t you just see the dysfunctional family group ignoring each other? Or is that just my family?
- 41a [Certain terrier during a scorcher?] is a BAKING TIBETAN. Baking tin.
- 61a [Confederation of Labyrinth dwellers?] is the MINOTAUR LEAGUE. Minor league.
- 66a [Trump daughter with Crunchtadas?] is TIFFANY & DEL TACO. This is sheer brilliance. The unexpected rebus crossing UP & UP. The image of Tiffany Trump at Del Taco. I am in awe.
Some puzzles are feats of construction and not very much fun to solve. This one is a feat of construction that was a great deal of fun to solve. Thanks to Peter and Alex for livening up my afternoon.
A few other things:
- The central northern section was the last to fall for me. I tried CHAFING for 6d [Rubbing the wrong way] and could not see MIFFING for the longest time.
- 10d [Manchester-by-the-Sea locale] is CAPE ANN. Massachusetts, not the UK. I’m sure I’ve mentioned that geography is not my best thing.
- I’m sure I’m not the only one who filled in IRA_I for 25d [Olympic wrestler Hassan Yazdani, for one] and waiting for the crossing to tell me which country I was looking for. The Middle East version of Mauna __a.
- Foxes! REYNARD and the ARCTIC FOX, hunter of lemmings.
- I liked the puzzle so much that even the Roman numeral math at 63a didn’t bother me. Much.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that RILKE was once Rodin’s secretary. This is the kind of trivia I live for.
Alan Arbesfeld’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Outnumbered”—Jim P’s review
Let’s look at our theme entries before we sort it out, shall we?
- 17a. [Act 1] MISBEHAVE.
- 25a. [Take 5] ELIMINATE.
- 36a. [Pick 6] RECOGNIZE.
- 49a. [Figure 8] DETERMINE.
- 59a. [Hang 10] SOCIALIZE.
I finished the puzzle not fully understanding the theme. You can see each theme answer is related to the word in the clue, but it’s not quite on target. Let’s look at the first one. “Act” doesn’t quite mean MISBEHAVE. “Act up” does, however. “Take out” could mean ELIMINATE. “Pick up on” seems to go with RECOGNIZE, “Figure out” for DETERMINE, and “Hang with” for SOCIALIZE. Those were my first takes.
But there’s no consistency there, and it still seems off.
Somewhere along the way, I had my aha moment. “Out” is the keyword (as noted in the title). Yes “act up” can mean MISBEHAVE, but so can “act out.” Similarly, we get “take out,” “pick out,” “figure out,” and “hang out.” So there’s your theme. Remove the number and replace it with “out.”
Pretty nifty in the end. I wanted the numbers to mean something (I kept looking to those numbered squares in the grid for help, to no avail), but it’s sufficient that they join with the words to form phrases and that they can be replaced by “out” to form different phrases. And it’s mildly amazing that the numbers are in numerical order. It helps that all the theme entries are the same number of letters (nine), but they didn’t necessarily have to be. I suppose theme entries were specifically chosen to allow the numerical progression. That’s an elegant detail that I appreciate even though the entries themselves fall on the ho-hum side.
The fill feels pretty dense though there are no entries longer than seven letters. I like HOMAGES, “SO SORRY,” MASCARA, ICE MELT, EARLOBE, RIDES UP, MUTANT, DID TIME, and DENIZEN. I’d never heard of TILSIT cheese before, but don’t mind learning about it. It came originally from East Prussia, and this website says it’s similar to Havarti but with a “more intense flavor.”
Clues of note:
- 26d. [Troopers on highways, e.g.]. ISUZUS. Got me thinking of “staties” for a long time.
- 57d. [401(k) cousin]. IRA. Note that contribution limits to retirement accounts are going up for next year.
I had to suss out this theme, but I liked it in the end. 3.75 stars.
Barbara Lin’s New York Times crossword—Zachary David Levy’s review
Difficulty: Easy (9m15s)
Today’s theme: Quasi-Schrodinger squares (????) — that’s what I call them, anyway:
- BREA(K/D) — Break bread
- FAC(E/T)S — Face facts
- DO(N/I)T — Don’t do it
- TAL(L/E) — Tall tale
- (P/M)OWER — Power mower
- (G/T)OTOE — Go toe to toe
- Vertical theme entries use the rebus squares in consecutive order: SOC(K D)RAWER, CLOS(ET)S, INORGA(NI)C, S(LE)WS, A(PM)USIC, LOSIN(G T)IME
Ok, so I’ll admit that part of the reason that this played easy for me was that I just so happened to be looking at a similar puzzle by Sam Ezersky this afternoon, so the general premise was fresh in my mind as I got going. Saw we needed the rebus up front for INORGANIC, and it all fell into place pretty quickly after that. Sam’s puzzle used the alternating gimmick in both directions, whereas Barbara’s uses the vertical entries as traditional rebus squares. Both approaches make for an interesting solve.
Cracking: CAT CONDO — although I consider myself a dog person, my 15 pound cockapoo is more of a house cat than Garfield. And I’m sure he would love to just lie around in a DOG CONDO all day.
Slacking: INONE — it reads like INANE, appropriately enough.
Sidetracking: MONACO — covering less than one square mile, it’s one of the smallest microstates in the world. To me, there’s no place that evokes jet-set romance and intrigue like this tiny principality, where not one but two Bond movies were filmed.
Stella Zawistowski’s USA Today Crossword, “Mud Wraps” — Emily’s write-up
Fantastic theme with a fun set of four themers today!
Theme: the word MUD encapsulates each themer
- 17a. [Pull-down sleeping furniture], MURPHYBED
- 28a. [“I hope you do great out there!”], MAKEMEPROUD
- 49a. [Aromatic curry ingredient], MUSTARDSEED
- 65a. [Crime involving the postal service], MAILFRAUD
A strong set of themes today! Thankfully I had grandparents with a MURPHYBED so that filled in right away. The cluing for MAKEMEPROUD had me thinking of “…the best of it” but the title and a few crossings helped me out. Even with the title’s hint, MUSTARDSEED took me longer as there are many wonderful possibilities though to be fair this is probably the only one for the pattern. MAILFRAUD is not funny though it was a great way to round out this variety pack of a themer set. Who knew there was such a range of themers for this theme pattern? (Spoiler: Stella did—kudos!) It’s also fun that it alternates between the split of MUD: MU…D and M…UD.
Favorite fill: MINUSCULE, TUSKEGEE, KNACK, PREK, NOOK, and MURAL
Stumpers: USURP (“steal”, “take” and “grab” came to mind first), TAUPE (could only think of “khaki”), and SNUB (needed all the crossings, as I could only think of “omit”)
Having never had a mud wrap, I’ve now enjoyed four this morning! And I’m impressed with my time on this puzzle, considering Stella constructed it. Awesome job and I adored the plethora of fantastic bonus fill!
Amie Walker’s Universal crossword, “Comeback Crossword” — Sophia’s write-up
Theme: All the theme answers are common phrases missing the letters U and R.
- 17a [*Regular pay for a rabbi or priest?] – HOLY WAGE (hourly wage)
- 25a [*Dodgeball prodigy, say?] – PE GENIUS (pure genius)
- 35a [*Request that a rollaway be delivered?] – ORDER IN THE COT (order in the court)
- 47a [*Aussie’s true friend?] – REAL MATE (real mature)
- 55a [Playground retort, and a phonetic hint to how each starred clue’s answer was formed] – NO YOU ARE
The revealer is a little lackluster, but the theme answers themselves are pretty funny, so I’ll take it. PE GENIUS and ORDER IN THE COT had me smiling as I solved. The title also effectively threw me off where the puzzle was going to go – I thought some of the words were going to be backwards, or something like that.
There were a lot of fun clues today – the top for me has to be [Organize labor on a small scale?] for MICROMANAGE, which is truly excellent. Other favorites for me were [Taylor Swift’s “___ Too Well (10 Minute Version)”] for ALL, [Karaoke night locale] for BAR, and [“Sweetie pie” or “Tony Pizza”] for PET NAME. (I had to Google the Tony Pizza thing. It’s a meme from over the Summer. It’s rare that a Universal Crossword makes me feel unhip, but this one has done that). Also, [Where wraps might be on the menu?] for SPA is a good clue, and also feels like a Universal/USA Today crossover (see the above puzzle!).
Michael Lieberman’s LA Times Crossword – Gareth’s summary
Today’s puzzle by Michael Lieberman is fairly open-ended, but has a strong visual impact. Four circled parts of theme answers spell out BUSINESSes that are UNFINISHED because they lack their terminal letter. The letters spell out YEAY, which I don’t think is anything.
- [100% guaranteed], INTHEBAG has 3/4 of EBAY.
- [Trade an aisle seat for a window seat, say], SWAPPLACES has 4/5 of APPLE.
- [Many night owls, in the morning], LATESLEEPERS has 4/5 of TESLA.
- [Doomsday prophecy], THEENDISNEAR has 5/6 of DISNEY.
- [“Never Feed a __ Spaghetti”: rhyming board book], YETI. The rhyming makes it accessible.
- [Scramble alternative], OMELET. Here we’d call it “scrambled”?
- [Cacio e __: simple pasta dish], PEPE. Apparently translates to cheese and pepper, and that appears to be all it is? CHEESE, PEPPER, PASTA and maybe butter.
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Crossword #1517, “Midnights” – Darby’s write-up
Theme: Each theme answer inserts PM (the “night” referred to in the title) into a common name or phrase.
- 17a [“Suggest adding one more spar on board”] PROPOSE A TOP MAST / PROPOSE A TOAST
- 37a [“Device that measures tempos?”] BPMS METER / BS METER
- 49a [“‘You Gots to Chill’ rappers takes the steering wheel”] EPMD HELMS / ED HELMS
- 64a [“Some computer pull-down aids for the ‘Iliad’?”] HELP MENUS OF TROY / HELEN OF TROY
This late post is brought to you by server delays in the puzzle’s posting itself and me not being able to get to it until late, but I feel like it’s appropriate considering the puzzle’s title.
That said, I liked this theme. BEQ did a nice job working in these two awkwardly paired consonants into each theme answer. I was definitely thrown off from the start since I had METRONOME instead of BPMS METER. I loved HELP MENUS OF TROY because it’s hysterical. The others are likewise good, and I like that the themers play both off of actions and people’s names.
Briefly, I liked the inclusion of 11d [“Deli selection”] PLAIN BAGEL, the purposeful intersections between 46d [“Disney song with the lyrics ‘I don’t care / What they’re going to say’”] LET IT GO and 1a ELSA, and 69a [“[You can’t mean!]”] GASP. I struggled with 20a [“Beersheba desert”] NEGEV and 29d [“LGM-118 Peacekeepers, e.g.”] MX MISSILES in particular, relying on the crosses. The NE and SE corners fell first and I worked my way around from there.
Overall, love the Taylor Swift reference in BEQ’s notes and thought that the theme was well-executed.