Gary Larson & Amy Ensz’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Head Fakes”—Jim P’s review
Theme: Familiar(ish) phrases whose first words (or two) are synonyms for “fake.” Clues are presented in crossword-wacky fashion.
- 18a. [Fake grip used in a professional wrestling match?] PUT-ON HOLD. Meh. No idea what a “fake grip” would be.
- 23a. [Substance sold by a duplicitous drug dealer?] CROCK POT. We don’t typically use “crock” as an adjective, but I like this one.
- 36a. [Father figures?] FAUX PAS.
- 51a. [Landscape item used for hiding a spare key?] SHAM ROCK.
- 56a. [Statue of Sitting Bull?] COPY CHIEF. Bleh. It would make more grammatical sense if it was CHIEF COPY, but that’s not a phrase. Although “COPY CHIEF” isn’t much of a phrase outside of what…military communications? I’m not exactly sure where this phrase is coming from.
Hit and miss with the theme, but those ones that missed are real groaners.
Fill highlights include the two 9-stacks in the NW/SE. “GOTCHA” and HOOEY are fun as well. Fill toughies include Portuguese ELA [She, in Lisbon], OPS clued [Harvest goddess], and KERF [Trunk notch], all in that middle west section, making for slow going there. I also struggled in the SW after I had EMPLOY instead of DEPLOY for [Bring into service] and SEA instead of SKY for [Blue shade].
Clues of note:
- 1a. [What the puzzle’s title hints at]. THEME. Putting this clue right at 1a was quite confusing as I thought the answer would be thematic.
- 17a. [Classic Ford]. T-BIRD. A “briefly” here would not have been amiss.
Three stars from me.
Nancy Serrano-Wu’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap
The name of the game is booze words that happen to appear at the end of sports phrases, with a “sports bar” in each clue to tie them together in a playful way:
- 20a. [Sports bar purchases?], FANTASY DRAFTS. Draft beers. I think several US sports have fantasy leagues and drafts.
- 33a. [Sports bar purchases?], PENALTY SHOTS. Shots of liquor meet hockey or maybe soccer.
- 41a. [Sports bar purchases?], STAR PITCHERS. Pitchers of beer or, if I may be so bold, sangria. Baseball pitchers.
- 56a. [Sports bar purchases?], TRIPLE DOUBLES. Doubles of hard liquor, basketball stats.
Works for me.
Three more things:
- 9d. [Tang, for one], DYNASTY. Chinese history, not a taste or a powdered drink.
- 11d. [Bee’s knees], CAT’S MEOW. We really need more such phrases. The koala’s nose. The sloth’s eyes.
- 38d. [Wanted for nothing], HAD IT ALL. I encourage you to check out the Twitter account @manwhohasitall, which upends the usual BS piled onto women. Here’s one recent tweet: “WORKING DAD? If you struggle to get your wife to do her share of the housework, why not write a chore list and give her tasks she enjoys?”
Four stars from me.
Emma Oxford and Will Pfadenhauer’s Universal crossword, “Too Much of a Good Thing” — pannonica’s write-up
Nothing too fancy here, ironically.
- 61aR [“So hypocritical,” or a hint to the starred clues’ answers] THAT’S RICH.
- 17a. [*Dessert named for its traditional amount of butter, flour, sugar and eggs] POUND CAKE.
- 27a. [*What Old San Juan has] STORIED PAST.
- 45a. [*Upper class] HIGH SOCIETY.
Points for each of the three entries embodying a distinct sense of the word rich.
- 7d [Sources of wrong answers to age-old questions?] FAKE IDS. Very clever clue. A measure of convolutedness keeps it from being great, but I like the wordplay.
- 59d [ __ the fat (chat)] CHEW. 31d [Go on and on] YAK. 52a [Chihuahua sound] YAP.
- 31a [Throw forcefully, in slang] YEET. Have seen this a few times in crosswords now., more so out in the world. Will it have staying power?
- 53a Rhyming Klondike treat discontinued in 2022] CHOCO TACO. Standard pronunciation caveat: this won’t quite work for everyone.
Solid midweek crossword.
Emma Lawson’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary
Emma Lawson’s puzzle today features a fairly typical LA Times midweek theme concept. ROCKTHEBOAT is the revealer and three encircled parts of answers can be unscrambled to make BOATS: YACHT, BARGE, and CANOE. No ships here!
- [Charitable undertaking that deserves support], WORTHYCAUSE
- [Bit of false modesty], HUMBLEBRAG
- [“Ugh, shut up already”], NOONECARES
- [“Weetzie Bat” series writer Francesca __ Block], LIA. Patti likes to spotlight recent(ish) literary names, this was another not known to me.
- [Temporada con nieve], INVIERNO. Fancy chunk of Espanol! My rudimentary DuoLingo Spanish has learnt INVIERNO and “con nieve” but not “temporada”, though that bit was inferred.
- [“Grace and Frankie” actor Waterston], SAM. I mostly know him from Law & Order. This show sounds kind of interesting though…
- [Makes less wobbly], STEADIES. Just got back from an (online) seminar on vestibular syndrome, so this seems apt.
- [Luck, to Shakespeare], HAP. Not General Arnold today.
Zhouqin Burnikel’s USA Today Crossword, “Cooking Vessels” — Emily’s write-up
Hope you’re hungry—this puzzle is packed with tasty morsels!
Theme: each food themer contains the word —SHIP— (a vessel)
- 16a. [Fusion food on a fried rice patty], SUSHIPIZZA
- 26a. [Juicy Asian fruit], NASHIPEAR
- 58a. [Instant base for miso soup], DASHIPOWDER
Even the themers are in on the title misdirection today! SUSHIPIZZA originated in Canada in the early ‘90s, which I wouldn’t have guessed. NASHIPEAR is delicious and also known by other names including Japanese, Asian, and apple pear. DASHIPOWDER is a base for Japanese broths. I was looking for “pots” and “pans” then noticed they all shared a —P— and then saw the —SHIP—. All themers are also Japanese, a further commonality for the set.
Favorite fill: MARINADE, SLURP, and DASHIPOWDER
Stumpers: EDIE (needed crossings), RUES (tried “woes” first), and WIE (new to me)
The other food related entries are added fun: PLUMTOMATO, ORZO, BLTS, LEEK, FILET, PALEO, GHEE, MARINADE, SLURP, and MENUS, and FEEDS. The solve was smooth and the grid had excellent flow. A real treat for mi-week!
NYT: I spent several seconds trying to interpret MRYUK as a word — something of Slavic origin, maybe?
Cute theme today.
I learned that the symbol is called “Mr. Yuk” today.
Uni … CHOCO TACO could qualify as a themer in this grid, no? I get that they were using different senses of the term RICH in the starred clues’ answers and that CHOCO TACO would duplicate POUND CAKE in that sense. I know next to nothing about construction, but I’m guessing it would have been a substantial revamp to replace that answer with something else. Still, it seems inelegant.
Funnily enough, I wasn’t paying very close attention and thought that CHOCO TACO and its symmetrical twin METAVERSE were both themers. The “that’s rich” usage for the latter would be the old one (“Leave it to Beaver” vintage) for “as if”.
New Yorker – (no review at this time)
Far from all CURAÇAO is blue; all blue curaçao is triple sec but not all triple sec is Curaçao.
COMBIER is the brand in my cabinet, that obviously didn’t work.
So, I find that a peculiar C/A pair. Half an answer where the other half is twice in the clue
Coincidentally – TRIPLE SEC was somewhere in a puzzle I did yesterday
BTW, blue Curaçao is usually quite inferior quality, often dyed blue, über-sweet/sugary and sticky awful stuff – ironically with little actual orange flavor – more suitable to set on fire for Crepes Suzette than drink
WSJ … I enjoyed the challenge here, but I thought it was kind of out in left field difficulty-wise for a WSJ Wednesday. It seems to me that it would have been more at home on a Thursday. Even then, I’d have given it a Medium-Challenging rating. I came pretty close to doubling my average Wednesday solve time and posted my slowest Wednesday solve since July 2021.
COPY CHIEF, KERF and NIP IN were particularly head-scratching. Is COPY CHIEF supposed to be some kind of reference to a copy editor at a newspaper or magazine? I don’t get it. KERF and NIP IN are also completely unfamiliar to me. As a monolingual English speaker, I’ve had enough Spanish and French in crossword puzzles to come up with relatively common answers in those languages, but Portuguese and Italian are a real challenge, particularly since many words in these languages have very similarly spelled counterparts in Spanish and French.
Copy chief is definitely a newspaper term, or it was when newspapers actually had copy desks.
OK, so maybe I did “get it”, but that phrase seems awfully esoteric to me for a themer in a Wednesday puzzle.
WSJ–I thought that “copy chief”referred to the fact that the statue is indeed a copy of the chief
It’s definitely been familiar to me as some sort of newspaper job for as long as I can remember. Not that I know newspaper work as opposed to book publishing, so I can’t tell you what it amounted to, but I’m not complaining about seeing it.
I didn’t care for KERF or indeed the clues for most of the themers, but I’m fine with the overall experience. I’m also not too worried about day of the week, but that’s neither here nor there.
TNY had a lot of name stuff for Patrick Berry, but finished within a Wednesday time.