Katherine Baicker & Jeff Chen’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Production Assistants”—Jim P’s review
Alternative title for this puzzle: “Makerspace.” Each theme clue is a familiar phrase of the form [___ maker?], and each answer is the punny result of changing the meaning of the first word.
- 20a. [Cabinet maker?] PRIME MINISTER.
- 28a. [Basket maker?] POWER FORWARD.
- 45a. [Play maker?] SCRIPT WRITER.
- 55a. [Ice maker?] DIAMOND CUTTER.
Very nice. Each clue and answer is solidly in the language, and the puns are easily recognized without being groanworthy. Works for me.
Highlights in the fill include LAURA DERN, LIP READER, RADIO ERA, MEAT SAUCE, and FLAME WAR. Do people still use this last phrase? I remember it from way back in the Usenet days, but I don’t recall hearing it too often lately. Also, EXIT DATE. I can only think of it in military terms, like when the US pulls out of whatever country it’s in. Any other examples of the term you can think of?
Clues of note:
- 36a. [Advantage that keeps competitors at bay, in business lingo]. MOAT. Totally new to me. Needed every crossing.
- 58d. [Makes out, in a way]. TAGS. “Out” as in baseball.
Solid, punny theme and strong fill. 3.75 stars.
David Tuffs’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap
The theme here hinges on letter banks, with five movies clued by way of movie or TV show titles that contain the same letters. Not the same number of each letter, though, so not anagrams.
- 17a. [1987 thriller featuring the same characters as TV’s “Californication”?], FATAL ATTRACTION. One’s got 3 i’s and 1 t, while the other has 1 i and 4 t’s—definitely not anagrams. But both are made from the bank acfilnort. The clue’s “characters” are letters in the alphabet.
- 23a. [1992 comedy featuring the same characters as the film “Secretariat”?], SISTER ACT.
- 39a. [1990 action film featuring the same characters as the film “Collateral”?], TOTAL RECALL.
- 54a. [2003 Marvel movie featuring the same characters as TV’s “Riverdale”?], DAREDEVIL.
- 61a. [1952 musical featuring the same characters as TV’s “Stranger Things”?], SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN. “If you liked Singin’ in the Rain, you’ll love Stranger Things!”
I like this sort of wordplay, and the “same characters” fake-out.
I liked the fill as well, though those solvers who don’t tend to know all the proper nouns might be feeling a bit frustrated here. I counted about 17 names, and it seems that complaints pick up after about 14 propers in a puzzle.
11d. [Survey used in election night coverage], EXIT POLL. I’ll bet I’m not the only one opting for movies and other non-news diversions Tuesday night. I already watched Captain Marvel and now I may turn to Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues. Special effects sci-fi superheroes and silly comedy? Yes, please.
Four stars from me.
Will Eisenberg & Shannon Rapp’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary
Today’s theme by Eisenberg-Rapp is an old chestnut – PRNDL – with a few newer twists:
- PARKHAESOO is, the puzzle informs me, the [Actor who plays Cho Sang-Woo on “Squid Game”]
- There is something called a REVERSECOMMUTE which is [Travel that largely avoids rush-hour traffic], which was pretty guessable at least.
- NEUTRALMILKHOTEL are a [Cult-favorite indie band formed by Jeff Mangum]. I only know their twee “In An Aeroplane Over the Sea”. I had to look up to be sure Jeff Mangum wasn’t the same person as comedian Jonathan Mangum.
- DRIVEUPTHEWALL is a more broadly common phrase meaning [Infuriate].
- [“Plug me in soon!” warning] is LOWBATTERY
For the most part, the rest of the puzzle played quite straight-forwardly. A few trickier or hipper spots included [Culture essayist Tolentino], JIA. I considered an R there; [Art that may be covered by a boot], ANKLETAT; [Submit, in an MMA match], TAPOUT; and misdirecting [Hallway runner], RUG.
Zaineb Akbar’s USA Today Crossword, “Drop Top” — Emily’s write-up
An excellent puzzle that’s a fun and fresh solve!
Theme: the word “drop” can be added to the first word of each themer to form a common phrase
- 4d. [CLUE], RAINCATSANDDOGS
- 14d. [CLUE], LEMONMERINGUE
- 18d. [CLUE], EYEOFTHETIGER
Themers are in the downs today, hence the apt title hint. We’re enjoying the last days of nice sunny weather in Ohio before tomorrow when it will RAINCATSANDDOGS and finally cool off into fall/winter weather it seems. I prefer my LEMONMERINGUE with more filling and less topping but it seems like many recipes are just the opposite. The cluing of EYEOFTHETIGER wasn’t as effective since its other lyrics are more iconic for me but perhaps many of you recognized it right away. With today’s theme, we get RAIN DROP, LEMON DROP, and EYE DROP.
Favorite fill: AMOK, POTION, ELIGIBLE, LAGOON, and HMART
Stumpers: MAMA (“wail” first came to mind due to cluing), CHINOS (“khakis” was all that I could think of so needed a couple of crossings), and ABIT (kept thinking along the lines of “kinda”, “sorta”, “-ish” and “like”)
So much great fill that I usually don’t see and a fantastic grid design! Lots of misdirection in the cluing so it took me longer to complete the solve today but I’m very happy with the puzzle so more than glad to be steeped in it for longer. Very creative and fresh! What did you all think?
Will Nediger’s New Yorker crossword—Amy’s recap
Breezy and fresh puzzle, perhaps a couple notches easier than I was expecting.
Fave fill: GOT ALL UP IN my business, GAMING PC, HIDDEN TRACK on an album, SAFE WORD, BEDSIDE manner (if you don’t have people skills, please do not go into clinical medicine!), jigsaw puzzle CORNERS (granted, it’s the clue angle more than the entry itself that I like), SQUID INK pasta, SOWETO.
Had not known the term NORMIE MEME till today. It’s any meme that’s dull, lifeless, overused, trite, unclever. I’ll assume I’ve encountered hundreds of them by now.
Also learned [New ___ (late-nineteenth-century feminist archetype)], WOMAN. Nothing says “new” like the 1800s!
Freshest clue for old cheese: [Cheese that’s a bad omen in “All Quiet on the Western Front”], EDAM. Please, nobody tell me the context. I’m concocting scenarios that are surely more entertaining than the truth.
Four stars from me.
Kelly Clark’s Universal crossword, “Surprise! A Test!” — pannonica’s write-up
Glad I didn’t see the title before solving this one. It immediately evokes the phrase that functions as the revealer.
- 53aR [Exam suggested by the first words of 17-, 24- and 44-Across?] POP QUIZ. Each of those words is a synonym for a unique sense of the word pop.
- 17a. [ 1) Name an idiom meaning “be overcrowded”] BURST AT THE SEAMS.
- 24a. [ 2) Which arachnid is also called a harvestman?] DADDY-LONGLEGS.
- 44a. [ 3) In the 1950s, where did teens order malts?] SODA FOUNTAINS.
Nice touch that the clues are presented as numbered questions, as they would be on a test. Because the revealer and the first theme answer are of differing lengths, it makes sense that a grid with left-right symmetry was employed.
- 7d [Pass along, as gossip] RETELL. 48a [Rumor is …”] SOME SAY.
- 29d [Foes] ENEMIES. Had I seen this one before 32d [Elmer, to Bugs] DOC, I wouldn’t have tried FOE there. On reflection, however, Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd—despite often being antagonists—aren’t really foes, are they?
- 19a [Fixes, as a pet] SPAYS. I never care for the euphemism/misnomer ‘fix’.
- 32a [Cook a lobster or two, maybe] DINE IN. 62a [Enjoyed lobster Newburg] ATE. What’s going on here? Kept waiting for a thermidor clue.
50a [Bing, bang or boom] NOISE.
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s AVCX, “Drinking Spots” — Rebecca’s Review
This week’s AVCX Classic was a perfect happy hour inbox delivery with a 2/5 difficulty from Brendan Emmett Quigley.
Each themed answer today combines a nation with a spirit that shares the same consonants. I’ll raise my glass to BEQ for finding this set of answers and fitting so many of them into the grid so cleanly. In addition to the below entries, we find VOWELS in the grid as well, clued as The only kinds of letters that differ between the two words in each of this puzzle’s theme
answers, in case you needed an extra hint for the connection between the places and drinks.
- 18A: Fermented alcoholic juice from Quito? ECUADOR CIDER
- 23A: Clear spirit from Conakry? GUINEA GIN
- 47A: Shaken or stirred drink from Nouakchott? MAURITANIA MARTINI
- 69A: Stout beverage from Valletta? MALTA MALT
- 75A: Light beer from Oran? ALGERIA LAGER
And here’s Toni BRAXTON‘s You’re Makin’ Me High