Jem Burch’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Circle of Life”—Jim P’s review
Theme: FOOD CHAIN (58a, [Ecological hierarchy, and a structure found in this puzzle]). The other theme answers are all familiar(ish) two-word food (or drink) items. Not only are they standalone items, but the second word of each phrase can be paired with the first word of the next phrase in the series, with the final word of the final phrase wrapping around to go with the first word of the first phrase…thus creating a FOOD CHAIN. Pretty nifty, eh?
- 16a. […juice and sometimes egg white/harvest festival…] SOUR CANDY.
- 22a. […treat sometimes covered in nuts/rich, moist…] APPLE BUTTER.
- 35a. […bakery offering/cinema…] CAKE POP.
- 49a. […snack/cocktail made with lemon…] CORN WHISKEY.
The chained-together items are a whiskey sour, candy apple, butter cake, and popcorn. The key is the forward slash in each clue and realizing that everything before it should be read with the previous clue and everything after it should be read with the next clue.
I thought this was wonderful! Those clues were beguiling at first, so it took me a while to eventually apply the title and then to have my aha moment. Once I did, I really appreciated the construction here. Not only do you have to have four two-word phrases, but you have to chain them together (second-word-to-the-next-first-word), and of course everything has to fit symmetrically. Really impressively done and a fun solve from start to finish!
But wait there’s more! Despite a dense, fun theme, we still get standout fill entries like ON THE ROCKS, “AM I LATE?,” “SAY WHAT?,” and PEGASUS. Also good: BOX STEP, PSY-OPS, FLUB, and BLIP. Lots to like here!
Clues of note:
- 6a. [Microchip factory, for short]. FAB. I was stuck on LAB here for a looong time. I don’t think I’m familiar with this use of FAB (being short for what…a fabrication plant?).
- 18a. [Over the top, in slang]. EXTRA. I’ve heard my kids using this, so that helped.
- 43a. [Not true]. ASKEW. The K made me put in FAKED. It took another length of time to sort that out.
- 47a. [He sprang from the blood of Medusa]. PEGASUS. I tried stretching Perseus to fit in here, even though I knew that made no sense.
- 65a. [47-Across, for Bellerophon]. STEED. Never heard of him. Some of these clues today are really more on a Thursday level.
- 23d. [Place for un pique-nique]. PARC. Ha! I had assumed pique-nique was the result of the French absorbing our word “picnic” into their language. But apparently, the reverse is true.
Really this was more of a Thursday puzzle, but I’m not complaining. 4.5 stars.
Dan Caprera’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap
Fun theme! This plus-sized puzzle (16×15 to accommodate the 12-letter themers) depicts TRACTOR BEAMS (58a. [Science fiction energy rays that might suck up earthly bodies, as depicted three times in this puzzle]) by having three UFOs sucking up a COW, MAN, and CAR in their tractor beams. [Science fiction vessel] clues FLYING SAUCER, MOTHERSHIP (which evokes George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic for me), and SPACECRAFT. Dangling below each is a circled 3-letter word that’s the end of the longer entries SCOW, “MAGIC MAN,” and BAR CAR.
Fave fill: JELL-O, KLEPTOCRATIC, NABISCO, BALLET DANCER, LOSE IT, CAPSICUM (check out Hot Ones on YouTube, a celebrity interview show during which host and guest eat hot wings topped with 10 increasingly spicy hot sauces—the questions are so different from the typical celeb interview, and the pain and sweating add difficulty to the whole process—and if you hate celebrities and pop culture, just think how much you’ll learn that could help you with crosswords!), and CHEAT SHEETS. Less keen on SMILERS, ETO, AAR, but the stacked 12s, those 11-letter Downs, and the three beamed-up words do constrict things. (It’s an 80-worder, though, above the usual limit of 78 but there’s an extra column adding three entries.)
Four stars from me.
Tracy Gray’s Universal crossword, “Musical Adaptations” — pannonica’s write-up
Pretty straightforward outing here. Titles of musical plays, their final word anagrammed.
- 16a. [Musical about photographer Leibovitz chasing her wildebeest?] ANNIE GET YOUR GNU (… Gun).
- 26a. [ … about a quirky golf shirt?] A STRANGE POLO (… Loop).
- 43a. [ … about where to become a sommelier?] SCHOOL OF CORK (… Rock).
- 57a. [ … about the private life of singer Ariana?] THE SECRET GRANDE (… Garden).
Nothing too exciting, but it passes the time.
- 25d [Chinese soup variety] EGG DROP. The least of the standard TRIO (4d), in my estimation. By a significant margin.
- 38d [Mouse-spotter’s shriek] EEK. 45d [Squeaky mouse, perhaps] CAT TOY.
- 56d [It’s often cut and dried] HAIR. Also the name of a musical.
- 1a [Whiskey serving] SHOT. Clustered nearby are POUR and OUNCE, and somewhat farther is BOG, which evokes whisky. (13a, 3d, 39a)
- 13a [Rain buckets] POUR. Minor misdirection, as the clue looks at first as if it calls for a noun.
- 19a [Inside job?] DECOR. Nice.
- 36a [Acted all lovey-dovey?] COOED. Lovers and doves coo.
- 42d [Boo-boo or blooper] ERROR. 44d [“My bad!”] OOPSY. How common is that spelling, versus oopsie? Ngrams to the fore!
Zhouqin Burnikel’s USA Today Crossword, “Lane Change” — Emily’s write-up
A fun theme and themer set today, along with great fill overall!
Theme: each themer contains the word “lane” with various arrangement (or change) of those letters
- 16a. [Tofu or chicken breast, for example], LEANPROTEIN
- 32a. [“Cryptonomicon” author], NEALSTEPHENSON
- 62a. [Singer who starred in “Stormy Weather”], LENAHORNE
I had the second part of LEANPROTEIN before I realized what today’s theme meant. NEALSTEPHENSON is an author with a plethora of works, though I’ve read only one or two so needed some crossings to get me started on this one. LENAHORNE is a name I recognize but the cluing wasn’t one I knew today—hopefully some of you did though. For the theme today, we get three “lane changes”: LEAN, NEAL, and LENA.
Favorite fill: PEKOE, NAILBITER, and KTOWN
Stumpers: SLYDOG (“sly fox” and “sly one” came to mind), BUDGE (kept thinking “slide” or “shift”), and WACO (needed crossings)
Great flow and cluing today. I enjoyed the theme once I saw it—a fun take and great title play on words too!
Wendy Brandes’s Los Angeles Times crossword–Amy’s recap
It’s Amy subbing for Gareth, and the three paragraphs I just wrote vanished when I inadvertently navigated off the blogging page. Oops.
Theme revealer in this 16×15 grid is TWISTED HUMOR, and the letters in the words WIT, QUIP, and PUN are “twisted,” or scrambled, in the circled letters within ONE-HIT WONDER, KEEP QUIET, and COINPURSE.
3.75 stars from me; sorry I lost those other paragraphs.