Sterling MacLean’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Signs”—Jim P’s review
New byline alert! Pretty cool that it contains near synonyms (sterling/clean). With that kind of a name, this better be a super smooth grid (just kidding).
But it is a nice theme based on CROP CIRCLES (43a, [Phenomenon represented four times in this puzzle]) with the (roughly) circular-shaped groups of circles spelling out various six-letter crops. These are COFFEE, ORANGE, COTTON, and POTATO.
Bothered by the fact that the CROP CIRCLES in the grid aren’t actual circles? Well, remember that actual CROP CIRCLES come in a variety of shapes.
In addition to all that stuff, we have ALIEN VISITS [What some think 43-Across are signs of]. Kind of a weird entry (I wanted ALIEN VISITORS), but I’m not too bothered by it. I also picked up on the fact the puzzle shares a title with M. Night Shyamalan’s 2002 film which involved—you guessed it—CROP CIRCLES. Fun theme which I enjoyed sussing out.
Elsewhere, we’re treated to COCONUT OIL FAVORITE SON, OFF AND ON, and WIDESCREENS. I also liked sussing out INDISCRETE [Not divided into parts] which I incorrectly filled in as IN ONE PIECE to begin with.
I don’t recall seeing EVS [Lightning and Bolt, for short] in a puzzle before, and cruciverb.com shows only four previous uses—the latest from 2019. I expect we’ll be seeing it more in the future. (FYI, the Ford Lightning is a pickup truck and the Chevy Bolt is subcompact.)
Clues of note:
- 4a. [Pebbles’s pop]. FRED. From The Flintstones, my young ones.
- 39a. [Head turner, of a sort]. REIN. Nice clue.
- 13d. [Diminutive, for short]. SYNONYM. Very nice clue. I need a majority of the crossings before the penny dropped.
- 26d. [Hit from a spray hitter]. LINER. Baseball? Yup, baseball. A “spray hitter” is a batter who has the ability to hit the ball to any of the various fields.
Nice puzzle. 3.75 stars.
Karen Steinberg’s New York Times crossword–Amy’s recap
What an interesting word theme–English words that have entirely different meanings in other languages:
- 16a. [Vintage car, in German … or veteran,
in English], OLDTIMER. This one bugs me because they clearly borrowed the term from English and gave it a slightly different meaning. Alt = old, so Oldtimer must be a loanword.
- 25a. [High school, in Danish … or building
for indoor sports, in English], GYMNASIUM. It’s also the German word for high school.
- 35a. [Competition, in French … or agreement, in English], CONCURRENCE. Whoa.
- 47a. [Plywood, in Dutch … or theater with several screens, in English], MULTIPLEX. I should ask my Dutch-born uncle, who builds things, to confirm this.
- 58a. [Vacation, in Swedish … or half of an academic year, in English], SEMESTER. Cool.
Enjoyed the overall vibe here, with SWOOSH and SKOSH, a SAMOSA and GINGER cookies, CALLER ID. Timely, when blogging here in my JOURNAL after the Georgia Senate runoff was called: [Was defeated by], LOST TO. Did not know the Vegas casino called O’SHEAS (and I want that to have a possessive apostrophe too, though a two-apostrophe wouldn’t’ve looked good).
Four stars from me.
Jeff Chen’s Universal crossword, “Sound Connections” — pannonica’s write-up
This was a very fast solve, but I wasn’t able to figure out the theme as I was going along. Scattered entries had parenthetical numbers introducing them, but nothing obvious linked them. Perhaps it will be more evident in repose.
- 3d. [(1) Raisin brand] SUN-MAID.
- 33d. [(2) Partied hearty] MADE MERRY.
- 7d. [(3) Longtime “Entertainment Tonight” host”] MARY HART.
- 34d. [(4) Thump of one’s ticker] HEARTBEAT.
- 11d. [(5) Really blushing] BEET RED.
Okay, I see it. It’s a ‘before-and-after’-type sequence of homophones. The W-pattern they make in the grid is, I gather, supposed to evoke an oscilloscope’s display. Thus there is naturally left-right symmetry.
SUN-MAID/MADE MERRY/MARY HART/HEARTBEAT/BEET RED
I am not from a part of the country that pronounces “merry” and “Mary” the same, and I find it exceedingly weird. Otherwise I found the theme all right, but not particularly substantial.
Overall, the cluing and fill were straightforward. Solid—or should I say sound?—construction.
- 17a [Type of bean used in some mooncakes] MUNG. As we learned in yesterday’s New Yorker crossword, red beans may also be used.
- 36a [They engage in machines] GEARTEETH. Somehow this is interesting as a central, non-theme entry, but I don’t really know why.
- 46a [Final word in many fairy tales] END. Was confused because AFTER doesn’t fit. Just wasn’t considering the formal coda.
- 21d [Plot device?] HOE. Cute little clue.
- 25d [Some video files] MPEGS. The one of the oscilloscope, above, happens to be a gif. Hm, is a gif considered a video file or an image file?
- 39d [Optimal option] BEST BET. I appreciate how the clue primes us for an alliterative answer.
- 43d [Energy snack with a crescent moon in its logo] LUNA BAR. Not to be confused with a mooncake or a moon pie.
I mistakenly recalled this video as featuring an oscilloscope, but it seems I was mistaken. But it’s so darn infectious (if a bit jarring for morning listening) that I can’t resist including it.
The New Yorker Crossword by Patrick Berry – Matt F’s write up
Patrick Berry delivers the goods in today’s “lightly challenging” themeless. My solve started off smoothly and seemed to slow gradually as a I moved into the SE corner. The clues were tame for the most part, but there were still a few head-scratchers. If I had to guess the seed today, I’d put money on 19A [“I’m getting to that!”] KEEP YOUR PANTS ON.
I was hung up most by the square at 9A/9D. JENN-AIR is the [High-end appliance brand owned by Whirlpool] that probably should’ve come to me, but I started with HEFES at 9A, and I didn’t know until researching that JEFES is the standard Spanish spelling for [Barcelona bosses]. I’d say the trickiest clue was at 43A [Team-building exercise?] which works out to FANTASY FOOTBALL. I also liked 42D [Get in line for a party, maybe] for CONGA. Elsewhere in the fill I loved FIRST CHAIR, LAST MINUTE, SAFETY TIP; and the double-9 stacks ALARM BELL/SOCIAL CUE and TINKER TOY/IN GENERAL.
The only miss for me was 34D [Like many show dogs] TRUE BRED — this doesn’t feel right because PUREBRED is much more common. Yes, a purebred dog is the result of “true breeding,” but I don’t think anyone would say, “This is my true-bred dog.”
Curious what other solvers thought of this one!
Rich Norris’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary
Editor emeritus Rich Norris returns as a constructor today. It features a thing which is clearly going to have a vertical wrinkle from the outset. As it happens, three sets of circles spell out RICE, CRAB and LEMON from bottom to top: UPSIDEDOWNCAKE(S). Interestingly, two of the three are savoury. They’re contained in: [Itinerary for touring speakers], LECTUR(ECIR)CUIT; [Brunch dish with ham and peppers], WESTER(NOMEL)ET; and [Flatbed scanner relative], (BARC)ODEREADER.
Three of the four downs in the “fat” top-left bottom-right are quite creative: WAVEHELLO, ONENATION (kind of a long partial, kind of not); MAINENTRY. MEDICATED is a one word answer.
Not too many tricky answers or cute clues today:
- [Counterpoint melody], DESCANT is tougher music vocab.
- [2007 U.S. Women’s Open winner Cristie], KERR. is LPGA not WTA.
- [Footnote abbr.], OPCIT is one of those mysterious abbrs. in this case it means, see bibliography for full citation or similar.
Zhouqin Burnikel’s USA Today Crossword, “The Third Part” — Emily’s write-up
A longer solve for me today but still enjoyable!
Theme: the word “third” is split (or parted) in each themer, starting and ending the entries
- 17a. [“…huh.”], THATSWEIRD
- 39a. [Added on social media pulley out of attraction.], THIRSTFOLLOWED
- 61a. [Does some serious pondering], THINKSHARD
In an odd trend with solving today’s themers, I got the first half long before the second half of each and needed a few crossings. THATSWEIRD, right? THIRSTFOLLOWED makes sense as a completed phrase but during the puzzle I kept thinking “trap” or “friended” and couldn’t help but see “allowed”. The cluing for THINKSHARD had me thinking “deep”. The theme has a bonus that each themer is split at a different point, which is fun!
Favorite fill: ABOBE, AGITATE, CORGI, and CHILIMANGO
Stumpers: PALM (stuck on “mind” and “head”), IFNOT (needed all the crossings, kept thinking “about it” or “it’s ok”), and TACH (new to me)
Nothing was particularly tough but everything just took me a bit longer to fill so it all added up. I also got tripped up in the western section, the second themer crossings. Felt like a smooth solve and I really like the grid design and flow of the puzzle.
Would it be possible for this blog to further separate the NYT and The New Yorker lines in each day’s line up? I’ve noticed a number of times when The New Yorker gets a rating on the prior evening when their puzzles aren’t released until the next morning. I’m fairly certain this is someone putting their rating on the wrong line due to the similarity of names. I’m pretty sure I’ve done that in the past (not tonight).
I agree! The lines are not in alphabetical order, and I don’t know that they’re in any particular order.
Does anyone else have issues with The Washington Post’s crosswords? I can’t download them now, nor can I check the answers. This happens with both the L.A. Times and Merl Reagle’s puzzles.
I use Washington Post crossword for both puzzles and no problem.
I, too, just use the Washington Post app to access the crosswords; it’s a little clunky, but overall works.
The AVCX has a near clue/answer dupe which might not have rankled if it hadn’t been in the same tiny corner. Really made an otherwise fine solve a little cloudy.
SUNS/Sundew in the SW? That didn’t bother me at all, but the only Khaled Hosseini title I know is “The Kite Runner.”
What *did* slow me down in that corner was having never heard of LEON Bridges and putting shOWS before GLOWS.
The diagonal symmetry was interesting. You don’t often see that.
Uni – I love the idea behind this theme, but I can’t think of any English-speaking region in which “merry” is pronounced as “Mary.” Do any of you say it this way?
Yes. And the Merriam-Webster dictionary has mer-ē as an option for both.
This wiki page has several examples of the Mary-merry-marry pronunciation differences across the US and elsewhere.
Thank you for that. I should have sought it out for the write-up.
David… THANKS for that page. It is very interesting and explanatory.
I’m a three-way-merger myself, and didn’t quite get the problem pannonica had with it. I also found very interesting the Philly ‘merry-murray’ merger, which excludes marry.
All four are distinct for me.
And that is why that page is so terrific. I get it now. :)
I’m also a three-merger on berry-Barry (Gary-Jerry)-bury.
That’s the west coast for you, and maybe why people say we have no accent, while other regions have distinctive accents to our ears.
I’m originally from Wisconsin, and pronounce Mary, merry (and marry) the same. When I was in college, I had a roommate, Jerry, who was from New Jersey and to him, our names did not rhyme. Caused some confusion when someone would call on the phone we shared and ask for “Gary” (rhymes with Jerry).
We also had discussions about Barry, berry and bury (which for him rhymed with furry).
I get it, but I think I’m just too lazy to open my mouth far enough to make the “a” sound different from the “e.”
I like the “merge” concept. I swear that if I told you that “I want to marry merry Mary” even Professor Higgins would not be able to tell the final three words apart. :)
Same with me , and I will bury Barry in the berry field.
how are you about Auto vs. Otto? To me they sound alike.
“Mary” is the only way I’ve heard people pronounce “merry” in the U.S. Merry like berry. These homophone puzzles always seem to be divisive due to regional dialects – very interesting!
While RHUD has only MAIR-ee for Mary, which is how I hear it, MW allows both that and a short e vowel sound, indeed leading with that. Both have only a short e for merry.
I think of it as Midwestern, particularly Chicago, and I think of that accent as not so much moving both to short e as having a broad sound in between both. It’s foreign to me, maybe even grating at times (and I can’t help thinking that the old commercial for Camry intended to thrust the accent in your face, to make it memorable and, er, truly American), but it’s out there, so fine in a puzzle.
NYT: Ah, now this ride at a German amusement park starts to make more sense.
Hey! It’s a ride about me!
The phrase you’re looking for is, “It me!”
Wow, I love this. Truly laughed out loud…
My work here is done.
I wasn’t sure how to react to the NYT. It’s ingenious and gettable, and I can vouch for the French. But part of me doesn’t like the overall thrust as requiring “well, I’ll take your word for it.” Still, call it a good Wednesday! I did have trouble with SKOSH, KASEM, and O’SHEA, but guesses worked. I also somehow couldn’t remember if it was CHINUA or Chinoa Achebe, but CULTURE resolved that in no time.
I pretty much agreed with you, JohnH, but you were luckier than me with those tough clues. I think that I only missed Casey KASEM. I spelled it “Casem” because I didn’t know SKOSH, and spelled it as “scosh.” Kasem might be more famous than I think, and so OK, but for these tough names it’s better to have good crosses. I don’t know SKOSH though maybe I should, and I see that the Urban Dictionary has an entry of “scosh.” However, overall, I think I liked the puzzle even better than you did. The theme was really interesting to me.
WSJ puzzle is superb.
NYT: I really like this theme!!!
One of the hardest things for me in transitioning from French to English was dealing with similar words with entirely different meanings, or at least different nuances of meaning. Like the word sanguine in English meaning optimistic about a specific something or situation. In French it’s more about appearance and temperament. So, you see this definition in Larousse:
“Tempérament sanguin, tempérament attribué aux individus corpulents au visage pléthorique et couperosé.”
Which Google translates to:
Sanguine temperament, temperament attributed to corpulent individuals with a swollen and blotchy face. (!).
For CONCURRENCE, I think it might come from “running together”? So, one can see how it can end up meaning either competing or coming together?
“Which Google translates to: Sanguine temperament, temperament attributed to corpulent individuals with a swollen and blotchy face. (!).”
And per your earlier comment, THIS had ME truly laughing out loud.
WSJ–9D I doubt that here is a lot of soap made from coconut oil.
Quite a few of moisturizing soaps, including some Dove soap bars, are made with coconut oil.
Can’t speak to how common it is, but my wife uses a soap made from coconut oil – it’s supposed to help keep her skin moisturized, I think.
There’s always some type of fat/oil – why not coconut?
ETA – marciem beat me to it. :-)