Joe DiPietro’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Long Way to Go”—Jim P’s review
Nice pun in the title. The revealer in the grid is STRETCH LIMO (61a, [Ritzy ride, and a hint to this puzzle’s theme]). The other theme answers are familiar(ish) names and phrases that feature the letters LIMO (as identified by circles) in key positions such that they seem to “stretch” as the solver proceeds down the grid.
- 17a. [Buffalo Bill’s real name] WILLIAM CODY.
- 27a. [1931 Jean Harlow film] PLATINUM BLONDE.
- 46a. [Influencing for quite some time] LEAVING A MARK ON.
Pretty impressive finds. Just think how many common phrases you’d expect to find with those key letters in perfect position (not many), and then of course everything has to fit symmetrically. And elegantly, each “stretch” is by one more letter than the previous entry, and all the letters are spaced out perfectly within each entry. Very nicely done.
I actually got to the revealer first before completing any of the theme phrases, so it definitely helped me in resolving each of them. (Yes, I should’ve gotten WILLIAM CODY without any help, but I guess I was being cautious or I blanked — or both).
The only nit – if you call it a nit — is that the revealer comes last where LIMO has been compacted again. Obviously it has to be this way; it’s just too bad from a thematic standpoint.
I liked “LET’S ASSUME…” as long fill, but was less keen on NO THANKS TO which awkwardly ends with a preposition (see also GEAR TO). DEAD AIR, NO DOUBT, and KEPLER are other goodies. However, I needed every crossing for SALADA [Tetley competitor], which I’d never heard of. I guess that’s on me because it gets plenty of hits.
Clues of note:
- 14a. [Seller of Klippan loveseats]. IKEA. We should make a crossword rule such that a constructor can only clue IKEA via a product they own or owned. Everyone owns some IKEA product, right? I know we’ve had a Micke desk or two. Our area rug in the living room is a Vollerslev (super shaggy and comfy).
- 20a. [Far from shore]. INLAND. Got me with this one. I was going the other way out to sea.
- 22a. [Chase flies, say]. SHAG. I’m more familiar with the British meaning than I am with the baseball meaning.
Chase Dittrich’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap
Imagine if GFEP spelled something! Those are the four circled letters in this theme, where each 8-letter Across entry also generates a (quasi-)legit 7-letter entry if you drop the first (circled) letter:
- 17a. [Alternative to 2% … with or without the shaded letter], GOAT MILK / OAT MILK.
- 31a. [It may be half of a blackjack … with or without the shaded letter], FACE CARD / ACE CARD. Never in my life have I heard an ace called an ACE CARD. Am I alone in that?
- 45a. [Things that might be raised in court … with or without the shaded letter], EMOTIONS / MOTIONS.
- 62a. [They might eliminate teams … with or without the shaded letter], PLAYOFFS / LAYOFFS. Those of you who work in the big tech companies, I hope you’ve dodged the many layoffs in recent months. This is depressing!
It’s a really neat theme idea, but that ACE CARD isn’t working for me.
The long Downs are terrific: BUTT-DIAL, JAW-DROPPING, “I MEAN, COME ON,” and UNDEROOS. They’re offset to a degree by filler like RILL and ESSO, and I don’t know that OLD GAG ([67a. [Whoopee cushion, for one]) is actually a crosswordable phrase.
3.5 stars from me.
Justin Werfel’s Universal crossword, “Toilet Humor” — pannonica’s write-up
This crossword is unusual in that it has a pair theme entries that are also revealers; they do double duty. Number One is 17a [*One way to dive in, or a theme hint] HEAD FIRST, and Number Two is 64a [*Tool used on a metal lid, or a theme hint] CAN OPENER.
So, the other themers follow the pattern of beginning with a synonym for toilet, but are not self-referential in the same way.
- 26a. [*Slow-cooked beef dish] POT ROAST.
- 40a. [*Part of, as a secret] PRIVY TO.
- 42a. [*Anonymous name in court] JOHN DOE.
- 50a. [*Classic vaudevillian who had a red nose] WC FIELDS.
Maybe a bit risqué as themes go? Or are we past such prudery?
- 25d [Nonexperimental groups] CONTROLS. They can still be part of an experiment, though.
- 27d [Book after Judges, or a former justice’s first name] RUTH. Cute.
- 58d [Classic reason for a day off from school] SNOW. Less common nowadays in part due to remote learning. Strangely, I couldn’t think of the correct answer with the S in place and landed on SICK, which doesn’t agree syntactically with the clue. Took a few extra beats to get to the right place.
- 9a [Gregor who “found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect”] SAMSA. The version I read in junior high translated that word as ‘vermin’, but the text eventually makes clear that it’s something arthropodal with multiple pairs of legs.
- 45a [Earth __ (brownish hue)] TONE. Not necessarily of course, but the clue is valid.
- 59a [Low-down joint] ANKLE. Ha.
- 69a [Monster with an alluring song] SIREN. Monster? Hmm, arguably.
- 71a [Infrequently spent bills] TWOS. I always have one of these in my wallet.
Zhouqin Burnikel’s USA Today Crossword, “Hidden Tattoos” — Emily’s write-up
A smooth solve with a fun themer set and a lot of great bonus fill!
Theme: each themer contains —TAT—
- 17a. [“Such an unexpected delight!”], WHATATREAT
- 27a. [“I was simply putting it out there”], JUSTATHOUGHT
- 60a. [Make some initial progress], GETATOEHOLD
WHATATREAT and JUSTATHOUGHT are common phrases without being too overused and a delight to see as themers. GETATOEHOLD is similar but took me a few crossings, as it is not one that I hear used as often as the others. It’s a fun set especially since they are are short and sweet phrases.
Favorite fill: STAYPUT, UPINTHEAIR, FLIT, and COBALT
Stumpers: HQS (misdirected and kept thinking about baseball) and PECLASS (usually think of this as a high school class so “course” threw me off until I had some crossings)
The grid design gives the puzzle a nice flow while allowing for excellent lengthy bonus fill in both directions too. Loved it!
Drew Schmenner’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s theme summary
Drew Schmenner gives us a simple enough theme concept: five entries end with Z-long-vowel-from-a-to-u:
- [Small dog with a French name], BICHONFRISE. It has an accent on the final e, although I usually hear it said as 3 syllables.
- [Stopped worrying], RESTEDEASY
- [Education activist who is the youngest Nobel Prize laureate], MALALAYOUSAFZAI
- [Leader of the Pink Ladies in “Grease”], BETTYRIZZO
- [To a great extent, informally], OUTTHEWAZOO. Only heard it as “up”?
Entry that made me feel super old: [Some TikTok teens], EBOYS.