Lewis Rothlein’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Character Deficiencies”—Jim P’s review
Nicest puzzle of the week, IMO, starting with the title which has all kinds of fun possibilities. In this case, each theme clue is deficient in that each is missing a letter I. The revealer at 59a tells us where to place each missing letter: I BEFORE E [General spelling rule, and what must be imagined in the starred clues to make them accurate]. Ergo, look for the starred clues, find the one and only E in each clue, and put an I before it to get the real clue.
- 14a. [*Funny moves] COMEDIES. Movies.
- 19a. [*Phones on a wall] ART FORGERIES. Phonies.
- 32a. [*Many of Manhattan’s top stores] PENTHOUSES. Stories.
- 37a. [*Chefs’ location] KANSAS CITY. Chiefs‘ (football).
- 48a. [*Starting points for many patents] WAITING ROOMS. Patients.
In my case, I found myself at the final theme answer just before getting to the revealer. I put in TESTING ROOMS which seemed to fit the clue as stated. The revealer then set me straight, and I was off to find the other answers.
To be fair, the theme is still rather loose; there are a lot of potential theme clues and entries that could work. But these are all well chosen and the fake clues are completely plausible on their own before the aha moment reveals all. So it’s a winner in my book. And the fact that there is only one E in each clue is a necessary—but still elegant—touch.
Beyond that, the fill is quite impressive. Check out the NW and SE corners where we have LAUNDERS and DO NO HARM stacked between theme answers. You almost never see such long fill answers sandwiched between theme entries. Yes, it results in ESSE, NOBU, and MRES, but those are all gettable and not beyond the pale, it being Thursday and all.
Elsewhere we find OTHELLO, “SAYS YOU,” PEACOAT, ASTAIRE, RICOTTA, and ELLY MAY (I thought it was ELLY MAE). Oh, and BIG AIR, “NO NEED,” “OH YEAH?” and even ET ALIA, which is redeemed with a clever clue (see below). All in all, a fun solve all around.
Clues of note:
- 16a. [Name-dropper’s phrase?]. ET ALIA. Ha! Cute angle I hadn’t seen before.
- 28a. [“Whiteboards are remarkable,” e.g.]. PUN. *groan* Dad joke alert!
- 36a. [River through Devonshire]. EXE. Yikes. Don’t think I’ve seen this tough cluing angle. Luckily for me, I know that Exeter is in Devonshire. What I didn’t know was that the name Exeter is similar to the names Dorchester and Gloucester and that the suffix –ceaster comes from the Roman castrum meaning military camp or fort. So Exeter was the site of a Roman fort on the River EXE. I wonder if it was ever spelled Exchester and the Brits just shortened the pronunciation and spelling.
- 58a. [Madeleine Albright in 1948, e.g.]. EMIGRE. I know she led a remarkable life coming from war-torn Czechoslovakia at a young age and rising to be the highest-ranking woman in American politics at the time. If you’ve read her memoir, please share your thoughts below.
Fun wordplay in the theme, fun fill, and fun clues. 4.25 stars.
Chase Dittrich and Jeff Chen’s New York Times crossword—Zachary David Levy’s review
Difficulty: Average (13m49s)
Today’s theme: X in the Y (plus fill in the b___ks)
- KICK IN THE PANTS — _N___ERS (kick missing from knickers)
- ACE IN THE HOLE — CRAWL SP___ (ace missing from crawl space)
- PAIN IN THE ASS — _EABR___ (pain missing from pea-brain)
- HOLD IN CONTEMPT — COLD S__U__ER (hold missing from cold shoulder)
Pretty clever in that they matched common phrases with literal examples of X missing from Y, and clued each item with the missing components as blank spaces. Slight incongruity in the theme with the final entry missing “the”, but I’m sure it wasn’t easy coming up with a better 14 letter alternative. This played tough mostly because of the fill — ZEN KOANS was not easy to parse, and yields only 125k Google hits. I don’t know the minimum number required to be considered idiomatic — Bruce Haight once told me he thought 400k was the cutoff. That’s obviously arbitrary, but something to think about.
Cracking: FUTZ — I am a professional FUTZer around the house. FIXing is a tall order, but I can FUTZ with the best of them.
Slacking: PLINTH — Pretty shocked that this has 27 prior appearances in the Times. Has anyone uttered this word in real life? “Oh, it’s a beautiful marble bust, and just look at that exquisite PLINTH it sits atop.”
Sidetracking: FISK — It pains me, as a Yankees fan, to admit this, but I can’t see FISK in print without picturing “Pudge” FISK waving his arms like a maniac, trying to will a ball fair in the 1975 World Series.
Carly Schuna’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Gareth’s write-up
The theme in today’s LAT by Carly Schuna played kind of bland to me. Each of four answers start with the marque of a different brand of car and the clues are written as though the phrase refers to that car. The thing is, almost every generic word has been the name of some car at this point, at least it feels like it to me? And possibly, there’s also a disconnect because for the most part we have very different marque names to Americans, sometimes even for the same cars! Here is what is popular in RSA:
Anyway, the entries are:
- [Place that showcases certain Fords?], ESCAPEROOM
- [Beacon that illuminates some Hondas?], PILOTLIGHT
- [Starting line for a race exclusively for some Hyundais?], ACCENTMARK
- [Overall condition of certain Nissans?], ROGUESTATE
On the plus side, it was nice to see [__ gobi: potato and cauliflower dish], ALOO get some airtime. The dish is literally Hindi for potato (&) cauliflower though.
I did, however, enjoy the playfulness in the clue-writing. Sometimes the mid-week clues can feel a little by-the-numbers, but there were definitely a few grace notes on display today!
- [Marine mammal with the same colors as an Oreo], ORCA
- [Gear on a tour bus], AMPS
- [Leaves in a bowl], SALAD
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Crossword #1519, “Streaming Artists”—Darby’s review
Theme: Each theme answer is a musical artist who has a word related to “stream” in their name.
- 15a [“‘Friends in Low Places’ singer”] GARTH BROOKS
- 38a [“‘Everywhere’ singer/songwriter”] MICHELLE BRANCH
- 54a [“Weezer’s frontman”] RIVERS CUOMO
This was a pretty straightforward theme today. I filled in GARTH BROOKS after getting CARB, LEGOS, and KYLO REN, making it pretty easy to remember the country singer’s name. I was more dependent on crosses for MICHELLE BRANCH and RIVERS CUOMO, but I also appreciated how smooth of a solve it was. There was also a bonus musician in 9a [“With 66-Across, guitarist who started off in the Yardbirds”] and 66a JEFF BECK. I could tell I was only midway through my coffee since I kept messing up Across and Down answers, so I had JOGS initially in 9a rather than 9d [“Casual runs”], but it was an easy remedy.
There was a lot of fun fill in this grid. I knew from the moment I read the clue for 3d [“It can give you a novel experience”] that I was going to love it, and sure enough, LIBRARY CARD is such a fun answer. Let’s all support our local libraries!! While we’re in that corner, 2d [“Dr. Seuss titular character with a bushy mustache”] was fun for the LORAX. I also really liked 33d [“Wander around”] for AMBLE since I’m so used to ROAM in puzzle’s, and while we didn’t get ROAM, we got its homophone via 55d [“Circus Maximus city”] ROME.
This puzzle lends itself to a longer discussion of its great fill, from WHANGDOODLE to PIEROGI and much more. It was a great time.
Josh Bleecher Snyder’s Fireball Crossword, “That’s a Wrap” – Jenni’s write-up
This was a fun one! At first I thought it was a rebus puzzle with really long entries in the rebus squares, and then the light dawned. Each theme answer starts on the right side of the puzzle and wraps around to the next line down on the left. Peter didn’t tell us anything about Josh and Fiend didn’t have a tag for him, so this might be a debut – in which case WOW and “more, please!”
- 14a [Parent’s response to “Gimme!”] is SAY P LEASE finishing at 16a [It often lasts a year or two].
- 18a [Dazzle] is IMPR ESS connected to 19a [Consonant frequently replaced by a circumflex in French].
- 22a [Vindictive architecture] are SPITE HO USES – 24a [Doesn’t just deal].
- 28a [Like talc, according to Mohs] is SOF TEST for [Word before pilot or match], 29a. I’m not familiar with TEST MATCH but whatever.
- 44a [Wading shorebirds] are PLOV ERS, [Triage sites].
- 50a [Color negatives] are SEPA RATIONS, [Fixed allowances during shortages]. I was not familiar with this term. My husband grew up in a Kodak photographer family and used to print color slides; he knew it immediately.
- 55a [Stored crops] are SIL AGES, [Looks in the mouth of, as a gift horse]. You tell a horse’s age by looking at its teeth, or so I’ve been told. Gareth?
- 59a [Planters product is PEANU TOIL, [Hard work]. Not what I was expecting.
And if that wasn’t enough theme material for you, we have 36a [Cliffhanger caption…and a solving hint for this puzzle]: TO BE CONTINUED.
I really like this theme! It was fun and felt fresh to me. I particularly liked that the continuations on the left side of the puzzle were clued as words in their own right rather than having blank clues. I realize that made the construction much more difficult. Two weeks in a row Peter and his constructors have given us puzzles that are tours de force of construction and lots of fun to solve. A big round of grateful applause.
The side effects from the bivalent booster are kicking my patootie at the moment and this is late going up, so I will go right to What I Didn’t Know Before I Did This Puzzle. I didn’t know that a PARSEC is a little more than 100 quadrillion feet. Now I do!
PS GET YOUR BOOSTER ANYWAY. Recommended for everyone. DO IT.
Rafael Musa’s USA Today Crossword, “Bottom Floor” — Emily’s write-up
Check out that starting triple stack bonus fill and the shorter triple stack finishing out the puzzle!
Theme: the word “floor” can be added after (or on the “bottom” of) the second word of each themer to make a common phrase
- 26d. [“Channel Orange” singer-songwriter], FRANKOCEAN
- 28d. [Gleeful jig], HAPPYDANCE
- 31d. [Fell behind], LOSTGROUND
FRANKOCEAN was hopefully more familiar to most of you but I needed crossings for him, however, I did my own little HAPPYDANCE while filling this in as an entire phrase after reading the clue, though I LOSTGROUND with this last themer and also needed some crossings to get me back on track. Since the themers are all in the downs today, the title hint means that we get the following theme phrases: OCEAN FLOOR, DANCE FLOOR, and GROUND FLOOR.
Favorite fill: POI, CHINESELANTERNS, KEEPSTABSON, and SEACOWS
Stumpers: SPINCLASS (“cycle” came to mind first), SYNCING (needed crossings), and STUCK (ironic that I needed crossings)
Smooth solve overall, though the middle slowed me down a bit and the C shared by my last two stumpers today was the final letter placed for me today. Loved the grid design too and how it allowed for so much great bonus fill!
NYT: ZDL asks about the obscurity of PLINTH. Well, to those of us who fancy ourselves audiophiles, it’s a fairly common term. It’s used for the top surface of a turntable.
And for those of us who studied architecture until we realized we had no talent for it, it was a fairly common term for a “column base.”
Yes, PLINTH has real BALUSTRADE energy.
I know it only as architecture myself, and I still have a turntable (along with no end of LPs). Unlike David, I also stumbled on ZEN KOAN right away, which was fortunate, as much of the fill just wasn’t on my wavelength (and yes, the last entry, without a THE, did slow me down substantially).
Can’t say why, but FISK, ELON, EMILE, and AUER took forever to come to mind. Less a matter of memory, I didn’t know the slang for drunk, the BETS, or GARDEN OF EAT-IN (never heard of it). At least ERICA had straightforward crossings. I’ve heard more often TIN EAR than NO EAR and (say) “hey, don’t cut in line” than No CUTS.
And question: why is an anchor LAST? Thanks. I was looking a direction on ship, but also thinking of a news anchor, who comes first to introduce the show or segment.
“Anchor’s position” is LAST in a relay race.
I remembered earlier this morning hearing PLINTH used to describe furniture like sofas and coffee tables that, instead of having legs, sit on a slab-like base that’s called a PLINTH.
The ‘anchor’ is the LAST position in a relay race (generally 4-person).
NYT: I liked!
KICK IN THE PANTS and PAIN IN THE ASS is quite the duo of entries. That alone deserves an extra star.
I wish the theme only had 3 elements and the cold shoulder entry had been dropped.
I thought the cold shoulder one was fine, but I didn’t care for PAININTHEASS, because it doesn’t correspond to the implied clue word ‘peabrain.’
Also, I am such a sensitive soul that seeing the word ASS in the NYT puzzles makes me unhappy.
I have the same view of ASS. It used to always be clued as referring to the animal but lately it often appears and refers to a “Peabrain” type. When did it become acceptable breakfast table fare?
Also, as an art historian, I’ve seen many exquisite PLINTHS.
Every dictionary I’ve looked in (three so far) has had “foolish or stupid person” or something to that effect as one of the definitions of ASS. Surely ‘peabrain’ is a plausible synonym by that meaning?
I guess so, but I think of ASS as someone with more malevolence than a mere dimwit.
I think you’re confusing ASS with ASShole. The latter definitely implies evil intent.
Right… but that’s not what “pain in the ass” means; in that case, the “ass” is referring to your own rear-end, and it’s a person or thing that’s very annoying. Which I *guess* is a peabrain but that felt like a bit of stretch. Oh well…
Zachery: I’ve used PLINTH many times in my art classes when dealing with Greek art/architecture. I also use it in regard to my own house, which has numerous vertical log columns that rests on plinths. It’s another one of those words closely associated with a particular knowledge that one may know or not, but is certainly fair use in a crossword, I’d say.
I tried to encourage creativity in all my classes. A student in my Art History classes gave an oral report on the nomenclature of Greek buildings. To illustrate the parts, he made a cake in the shape of a Greek facade and the other students ate it up!
My husband told me just this morning that he needs to make a plinth to submit a piece of glass art to a local show.