David P. Williams’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Floating Upstream”—Jim P’s review
The revealer is RISING TIDE (49a, [Reportedly, it lifts all boats, as evidenced by the starred answers]). The rest of the themers are comprised of two entries: the main Across entry, and a Down entry whose letters are used going upward as part of the Across entry. The Down entries themselves are all types of boats.
- 19a. [*One liable to erupt] ACTIV(E VOL)CANO with 9d [Type of boat for sweethearts] LOVE.
- 24a. [*Endeavor that can lead to swimming with the fishes] (DEEP S)EA DIVING with 13d [Type of boat for smugglers] SPEED.
- 41a. [*Grounds keeper] COFFE(E FIL)TER with 33d [Type of boat for survivors] LIFE.
There’s a lot going on here, so it took some time to sort it out. And I’m not sure I’m on board (haha) with what’s going on here conceptually. Does reading the letters of a boat upwards mean the boat is “lifted”? Wouldn’t it make more sense if the boat type itself went upward (e.g. if 13d was DEEPS instead of SPEED)?
Another of my problems is that I’m turned off by clues of the sort [Type of ___]. Is LIFE really a type of boat for survivors? “Hello, excuse me sir, what is LOVE?” “Oh, it’s a type of boat for sweethearts.” Bzzt! No, it just doesn’t work. What’s wrong with each boat being clued with a simple [___ boat]?
Those nits aside, I was able to look past them, and I really did enjoy sussing out this theme.
And there’s plenty to like in the fill as well: TIE CLIPS, CRIMINAL, “HONESTLY…,” “I SAID SO,” INFIDELS, CAT TOY, SAMURAI, IRON AGE, and PALERMO. That SE corner with EXHIBIT, LIBRARY, and STOOGE is quite nice.
I also enjoy seeing IT ME [Recognition of oneself, modernly]. I can’t imagine this phrase having long-lasting staying power, so let’s just enjoy it while it’s here. On the other hand, I could do without pretentious SOLI [Divas’ pieces].
Clues of note:
- 17a. [Severely censures]. REVILES. Today I learned the meaning of this word. I had thought it simply meant to hate or abhor.
- 21a. [Setting for NY Yankees double-headers]. EDT. Why double-headers, exactly? Are those only played in the summertime when there’s more light?
- 1d. [Floats through town?]. PARADE. Nice clue.
- 43d. [Foe of the Jedi]. EMPIRE. Hmm. I’d argue the foe of the Jedi are the Sith. The EMPIRE is the foe of the Rebellion.
Nice puzzle, though not without issue. 3.5 stars.
Alex Eaton Salners’s Fireball Crossword, “Down-Shifting” – Jenni’s write-up
Well, this is what I get for complaining that the last Fireball was too easy. I struggled with this one for quite a while even after I understood the theme – or at least thought I did. I figured out what I needed to do to get the theme answers. I opened the answer sheet Peter sends out because I figured his grid would be easier to see than mine. That’s when I realized I missed a whole dimension to the theme.
First the gimmick: each theme answer is missing some letters. We have to look at the row below to find them.
- 16a [It might be full of crap] is POOPER SCOOPER.
- 32a [Jeep alternatives] are RANGE ROVERS.
- 45a [About to be called, perhaps] is NEXT IN LINE.
- 58a [Hall of Fame pitcher with a record six consecutive shutouts] is DON DRYSDALE.
- 74a [Was dead to the world] is SLEPT LIKE A LOG.
I thought that was pretty cool and I noticed that the dropped letters were all the same in each entry and different from all the other entries. I didn’t notice that the dropped letters are P R N D L – the gears on a car. Park, Reverse, Neutral, Drive, Low. I liked the theme before I knew that and I like it even more now. Really well done.
The fill was challenging in a good way. [Solo player] for FORD (Harrison, playing Han). OBIE clued as a rap artist rather than a theater award. [Completely] for CLEAN. A worthy struggle.
A few other things:
- [Pitch] for TAR is one of those totally fair and challenging clues because there are so many possible definitions.
- 41a [Cultural icon?] is PETRI. I hadn’t completely sussed the theme yet and this one left me scratching my head until I thought of the dish. Duh.
- 46a [Number on some faces] is I I I I. Thanks to Alex and Peter for not making me do Roman numeral math – which I guess they couldn’t have anyway because that’s not the way Roman numerals write the number four.
- 64a [Circular medium] is a DVD. My husband figured that one out. I was stumped.
- 57d [Performer noted for their gag reflex?] are STOOGES. I really wanted it to be SWORD SWALLOWERS which I guess is kind of the opposite.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: oh, so many things. Never heard of RHEA Seehorn. Did not know that GAS–X has a competitor called Wind-eze. I’ve certainly heard of DON DRYSDALE but didn’t know about the shutout record. I’ve also heard about Chekhov’s writing advice, quoted as “One must never place a loaded rifle on the stage if it isn’t going to go off. It’s wrong to make promises you don’t mean to keep.” I did not know that his play IVANOV concludes with a gunshot (never heard of the play, to be honest). And LEAL is completely new to me. Dictionary.com confirms that it means faithful and that it is Scottish. Also archaic. The crossings were eminently fair, for which I am thankful.
Daniel Mauer’s New York Times crossword — Zachary David Levy’s write-up
Difficulty: Challenging (12m30s)
Today’s theme: ANTICI / PATION
- ALMOST THERE
- WAIT FOR IT
- NOT QUITE YET
Wasn’t sure what was going on here during the solve; I figured it was something jokey, given the first few themers — it reminded me of John Ficarra and Patrick Merrell’s April Fools puzzle from 2020. ANTICI initially looked like gibberish to me, and I was sure I had made an error somewhere in the first row of vertical answers (between INGA and TRISTAN, maybe). After PATION fell into place, it clicked, although ANNA SUI was unknown to me and I questioned whether I had made an error in that corner as well. Overall, the fill put up a lot of resistance.
Cracking: BRET — can’t see his name without hearing Jermaine Clement pronouncing it “Brit”, in the deadpan Kiwi fashion. Could have used a few more seasons of that show!
Slacking: PYE — Given _YE, there are 25 other possibilities I would consider before PYE. Give me RYE, DYE, LYE, NYE, BYE, AYE, EYE.. oh, it’s PYE? Ok, sure.
Sidetracking: CONCHS — one of my favorite little chapters in the history of obscure Americana took place on April 23rd 1982, when Key West seceded from the U.S., formed the Conch Republic, declared war on the mainland, and then immediately surrendered. Conch Republic flags can be seen all over the keys to this day, bearing the motto “WE SECEDED WHERE OTHERS FAILED”.
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Crossword #1527, “Modern-Day Monsters”—Darby’s review
Theme: Each theme answer is a monster combined with a modern technological innovation or trend.
- 17a [“Rejecting societal expectations and living in an unkempt, hedonistic manner”] GOBLIN MODE
- 27a [“They’re not paying attention while they’re swiping”] PHONE ZOMBIES
- 43a [“Insincere commenter”] CONCERN TROLL
- 57a [“They don’t appear to be made by anyone”] GHOST CALLS
I thought that this was a great theme, even if it gave me a solid dose of existential dread when it comes to thinking about what technology has done to us. Ironically, maybe my WiFi signal is giving me a hint about this, given that it’s gone out a few times this morning already. GOBLIN MODE and PHONE ZOMBIES are the most familiar to me, and though at first I filled the first half of the latter with GHOST since I knew the theme. GHOST CALLS was also relatively easy, and I caught the CONCERN of CONCERN TROLL on the crosses.
There was a lot of good fill in this grid. I struggled with the center section. 35a [“Big daisy”] OX EYE and 30d [“Perceptual psychologist Karl who created cards to test ESP”] ZENER were tough for me. I also was hung up on 38d [“Raised one’s shoulders”] SHRUGGED because I was thinking about shrugging as both a raising and dropping of the shoulders. Ultimately, 9d [“Boxers bite down on them”] CHEW TOYS, 28d [“Off”] NOT ON and 29d [“Be joyful”] EXULT helped to fill this area.
The other area where I struggled was the SE corner, but GHOST CALLS cracked this wide open. I initially had 55a [“Alternative to gruit or a gose”] IPA rather than ALE, and I struggled to remember 47a [“Aromatic tree resin”] BALSAM. My favourite clue is also in this area: 45d [“Final passage?”] OBIT.
Other fave fill: YORICK, JEST, BBQ RUB, JILL, and LAWN PARTY. It was a really fun time, and a great way to start my Thursday.
Freddie Cheng’s Universal crossword, “We’re A Team” — Sophia’s write-up
Theme: Each theme answer is a phrase with US in it twice.
- 19a[*Dormitories and such] – CAMPUS HOUSING
- 31a [*It’s no joke] – SERIOUS BUSINESS
- 39a [*Bushy upper-lip growths] – WALRUS MUSTACHES
- 52a [*Likely culprits] – USUAL SUSPECTS
- 51d [“We also want in!” … and a phonetic hint to what’s found in the starred clues’ answers] – US TOO
Today’s Universal puzzle has a nice enough theme that is really lifted, in my opinion, by the stellar quality of the two grid-spanning answers. SERIOUS BUSINESS and WALRUS MUSTACHES are just so fun – and they’re only a row apart in the grid, so a bunch of answers have to run through them both! I’m so glad it worked out fill-wise because this puzzle would be worse without them. There are a fair amount of phrases with the double US string, so the puzzle might have been more interesting with a tighter theme set, but I like the ones Freddie chose here.
Highlight clues: 49d [Blessed sound?] for ACHOO, [Class-conscious org.?] for PTA (a great way to jazz up an overused answer!)
Highlight fill: RAVIOLI, TOASTY, UPQUARK (I didn’t know that one though)
Thing I’m still wondering about: Can you really take the GRE as an *alternative* to the MCAT or the LSAT? I thought they were for different things.
Erik Agard’s USA Today Crossword, “One and …” — Emily’s write-up
A fun title hint that’s really the full theme plus an awesome themer set made a delightful puzzle!
Theme: the first word or phrase can be added to the end of the puzzle’s title to create a new phrase
- 17a. [Lead single from Rihanna’s “Loud”], ONLYGIRL
- 28a. [“I’ll have what she’s having”], THESAMEFORME
- 47a. [bell hooks book published in 2000], ALLABOUTLOVE
- 64a. [It’s been agreed to], DONEDEAL
ONLYGIRL took me a few crossings to get, as well as THESAMEFORME since I kept getting distracted by the movie scene referenced in its cluing. ALLABOUTLOVE examines the concept of love and explores what it truly means. DONEDEAL is a great phase and also makes for a fun final themer to this set. With the title for the theme, we get: ONE AND ONLY, ONE AND THE SAME, ONE AND ALL, and ONE AND DONE.
Favorite fill: MANTIS, ENSUED, SLIMED, and TRINKET
Stumpers: ENIGMA (kept thinking in terms of puzzles or logic but a few crossings helped), RUNIN (needed crossings), and OTTO (new to me, needed crossings)
Loved the theme and themer set most of all today, though it also had an excellent grid design and nice overall fill.
Shannon Rapp’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary
Shannon Rapp’s puzzle feature’s a common enough theme trope, but with an excellent revealing answer. Each of four entries has the tetragram HAND scrambled within them, explained as a SECRETHANDSHAKE.
- [*Bounce around the Caribbean, say], ISL(ANDH)OP
- [*1983 film that won an Oscar for Best Original Song], FLAS(HDAN)CE. Rest easy, Irene Cara.
- [*School of Hindu philosophy], JAI(NDHA)RMA
- [*Was completely clueless], (HADN)ODIEA
- [Inca __: Peruvian soft drink], KOLA. Oddly, not cola flavoured…
- [Pack it in], EAT. Found this inscrutable. Pack it in… your mouth.
- [“Darkwing Duck” character Dr. __ Dendron], RHODA. Rather a deep cut, appearing in a single episode; but inferrable, based on the pun…
- [Cold temperatures], TEENS. In Fahrenheit; in centrigrade, merely cool; In kelvin… deadly.
- [50-50, facetiously], HALFSIES. Not sure what the “facetiously” part is doing in this clue?
Patrick Berry’s New Yorker crossword—Amy’s recap
Amy here, popping up a quick grid and some brief notes.
Easy-peasy! Quicker than I finish a Tuesday NYT (I rarely do the Monday NYT, so no sense of comparative solving times for Monday).
Fave fill includes MASQUERADE BALLS, “AS I UNDERSTAND IT…,” bizarre TV cook SANDRA LEE (Google her Kwanzaa cake video if you want to see some weirdness), MORAL OBLIGATION, BLACK FRIDAY SALE (skipped it myself, along with Cyber Monday), sports PLAYOFFS.
4 stars from me.