Joe DiPietro’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Beats Me!”—Jim P’s review
Three Across entries have no clues and are therefore UTTERLY CLUELESS (57a, [Lost, like three answers in this puzzle, literally and figuratively]). It turns out those answers are synonyms for UTTERLY CLUELESS as well. As a bonus, we find SENSE at 64a [This puzzle might not make it at first].
- 17a  SLOW ON THE UPTAKE.
- 27a  ADDLE-BRAINED.
- 43a  HAVING NO IDEA.
My first thought was that there was some error in puzzle production once again at the WSJ. Occasionally we get a grid that’s lacking Down clues after a certain number, so I thought something similar was going on today. I stopped mid-solve to go check the PDF from their website just to be sure, but everything there was the same as in the PUZ version, so I kept going hoping things would make SENSE in the end.
And they did. The meta revealer provided a nice AHA moment and made the earlier struggles worth it. Well done!
I enjoyed GRAB-AND-GO and LEAVE A TIP in the fill as well as “GO AHEAD,” “IN HERE,” and OCTOPI. And there’s nary a piece of clunky fill in the grid. Quite smooth all around.
Clues of note:
- 1a. [Dope, datedly]. PHAT. I guess I dated myself by going with INFO at first.
- 35a. [Group of subs]. B-TEAM. Nice. Was thinking sea-going vessels and sandwiches the whole way.
- 51a. [“What’s stopping you?”]. “GO AHEAD.” I’d prefer it if a statement answer got a statement clue. I suppose the question is rhetorical, but still.
- 61a. [Appropriate]. ANNEX. I have a hard time reading that clue as a verb without any context.
- 10d. [Zoological plural frowned on by sticklers]. OCTOPI. Per this site, the word originated from the Greek októpus which means the correct plural really should be octopodes.
Nice puzzle that made you work for that AHA moment. Four stars.
David Steinberg’s New York Times crossword — Zachary David Levy’s write-up
Difficulty: Easy (8m47s)
Today’s theme: ROUNDABOUT ROUTEs
You can take your CAR to one of three “exits” in each roundabout, to yield the following:
Very interesting puzzle, particularly the way perspective makes some of these answers look like gibberish at first (i.e., 26A as RAC, because the CAR is driving from east to west). But once it clicks, the direction the theme entries take is quite intuitive. The fill was otherwise clean and the puzzle didn’t take too long to get through. On a personal note, the breeziness of the puzzle stands in stark contrast to some of the more mind-bending roundabouts I’ve had to traverse — there’s a particularly lawless traffic circle in Tangier that still haunts my dreams.
Cracking: SANTA HAT — it’s the reason for the season!
Slacking: I WAS HAD — really want this to be either I’VE BEEN HAD or I WAS DUPED, though Google tells me that I WAS HAD is the more idiomatic turn. Whatever you say!
Sidetracking: NOIR — I’ll take any opportunity to be reminded of Edward G. Robinson’s monologue on actuarial tables from Double Indemnity:
Caitlin Reid’s New Yorker crossword–Amy’s recap
Another breezy Thursday themeless. The New Yorker crew does a terrific job at calibrating the difficulty level for the easy Thursday crossword–my solving times are almost always under 3 minutes on these. And they’re almost never under 3 for a Tuesday NYT!
Fave fill: ORION’S BELT (the Wintermaker in Ojibwe lore! Learn about Ojibwe constellations here), the BIG DIPPER (Ojiig the Great Fisher to the Ojibwe), PINSTRIPE, “HOLY TOLEDO,” ATTICUS, JAY LENO (apparently doing quite well after his recent burns), MARIE ANTOINETTE, SLEEPS IN (it’s a lifestyle choice), RED DAWN, and Tom Cruise’s “CRYSTAL” reply to Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men.
Four stars from me.
Wendy L. Brandes’s USA Today Crossword, “Above Board” — Emily’s write-up
A longer solve for me today but a fun one with an excellent theme!
Theme: the word BOARD can be added to the end of the last word of each themer to make a new phrase
- 4d. [Add to a huge lead], RUNUPTHESCORE
- 14d. [Selection process that might involve a bag], RANDOMDRAWING
- 18d. [Heartwarming news item], FEELGOODSTORY
While it’s a good clue, it took me a few crossings before filling RUNUPTHESCORE. A RANDOMDRAWING is usually typical this time of year for white elephant parties or for secret Santas. Puppies and kitties are a common topic for a FEELGOODSTORY on the news. With today’s themer, we get: SCORE BOARD, DRAWING BOARD, and STORY BOARD.
Favorite fill: ARTIFACT, ALLUDE, HOSTEL, and AGAVE
Stumpers: OLEG (needed crossings), LABRAT (needed crossings), and SOONER (needed crossings today)
The NW corner stumped me and was actually the final section that I filled in. Sometimes just enough isn’t clicking that a whole section is unfillable for a while, then there’s either a breakthrough and it trickles in or it’s a true stumper and becomes a did-not-finish—thankfully it got it today after all, though I had a sense of dread for a couple of minutes at the end. A great puzzle, and maybe you all had an easier time. Given that 2022 is wrapping up, and the holidays are upon us, it’s been extra busy and my brain sometimes only has so much to give. :D
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Crossword #1533, “Here’s the Kicker”—Darby’s review
Theme: The theme answers are all parts of a MITCH HEDBERG quote about THE ULTIMATE STOCKING STUFFER.
- 19a [“Start of Christmas shopping advice by 51-Across”] A SEVERED FOOT
- 26a [“More of the advice”] IS THE ULTIMATE
- 43a [“End of the advice”] STOCKING STUFFER
Revealer: 51a [“Stand-up comic who’s the source of the quip”] MITCH HEDBERG
I’ve definitely never been told that A SEVERED FOOT IS THE ULTIMATE STOCKING STUFFER, but there’s a first time for everything. It’s definitely appropriate for the season, and the title, “Here’s the kicker,” conjured up quite a hilarious image. It was also a nice quip in that it was pretty easy to discern once I had a few of the crosses, particularly in filling in SEVERED, which was crossed by BENEDICTION, VISAS, ATTEST, BOHR, AMIE, and TEED, all of which were more than fair. It took me a bit longer with ULTIMATE off of TOM TOM (I was a Garmin user) and AT NINE (I had NINE AM initially), but we got there.
Lots of really fun stuff in this grid. My buddy Josh ALLEN appeared in 63a [“Bills QB Josh”] and we got a double Star Wars reference in 22a [“Lightsaber builders”] JEDIS and 30d [“Forest moon with a Death Star shield generator”] ENDOR. I lean more on JEDI as the plural, but some dictionaries do accept JEDIS plural. 36a [“Insurance company with a spokesgecko”] made me giggle over GEICO, as it always does.
That’s all from me for today, but I had a great time with this. Not sure I’ll be taking the advice though.
Freddie Cheng & Caroline Sommers’ LA TIMES crossword – Gareth’s summary
Freddie Cheng & Caroline Sommers’s theme concept is a little offbeat. PRUNINGSHEARS is the fourth long across answer, and it indicates that each of the previous three began with 4/6th of the letters of SHEARS: SHEA, HEAR, EARS. I think that’s it, right?
- [*Strawberry’s field, once], SHEASTADIUM
- [*”Listen, I can explain”], HEARMEOUT
- [*Warning that could come with a “Shush!”], EARSAREFLAPPING
- [2020 and 2022 WNBA MVP A’ja], WILSON. Alert! New AJA clue inbound!
- [British lav], LOO. Isn’t LAV also strictly Commonwealth?
- [Bravo’s “__ of Sunset”], SHAHS appears to be a reality show about Persian Americans…
- [Flour for roti], ATTA. I forgot this crossword weejit.
- [Shakshouka ingredient], EGG. Been seeing this on posh menus, but it seems far too rich for breakfast?