Joe O’Neill & Jeff Chen’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Creature Feature”—Jim P’s review
The theme revealer is PACK ANIMAL (59a, [Beast of burden, and a hint to 17-, 25-, 36- and 49-Across]). The other theme answers originated as familiar 2-word phrases whose second words started with the same letter as the final letter of the first words. That first letter is dropped leaving behind animals as the second words.
- 17a. [Insect addicted to posting online?] TWITTER ANT. Twitter rant.
- 25a. [Slitherer prone to blunders?] BLOOPER EEL. Blooper reel. I don’t think of eels as slitherers. Don’t you need to be on land to slither?
- 36a. [Schmoozy snake?] SOCIAL ADDER. Social ladder.
- 49a. [Fish with a sweet tooth?] DESSERT RAY. Dessert tray.
I like the wordplay, but I still can’t see what makes these PACK ANIMALs. The closest I can figure is this meaning: “the main body of competitors following the leader or leaders in a race or competition.” But that still seems like a stretch, and doesn’t really explain why the first letter gets dropped. If you’ve got a better clue than me, please share in the comments.
Fill feels more solid than sparkly but I liked SLAMMED (in its slangy sense) and LEAP DAY. Francophiles got to enjoy MAL DE MER (which I learned from crosswords) and ENFANT with its nice clue [Minor in French?].
Clues of note:
- 20a. [Headed for the fence, perhaps]. HOT. Pretty sure I’ve seen this clue before here in the WSJ. Then, I’d never heard the word “fence” being used to mean “deal in stolen goods,” but I picked up on it immediately this time.
- 22a. [Big seller of licensed sports headwear]. LIDS. Hat retailer in many malls.
- 57a. [Spike Lee got his from NYU]. MFA. Hey, for all I knew, Spike Lee got an MBA there, so that’s what I went with at first, leaving me with French ENBANT at the crossing.
- 3d. [Trader Vic’s specialty]. MAITAI. Hmm. According to their website, this restaurant chain has three (count ’em, three!) locations in all of the US. (There are 11 in the Middle East, though.)
- 9d. [Western decline?]. SET. Also hmm. Feels like this needs to be SUNSET.
I like the wordplay in the theme, but I’m still puzzled by it. 3.5 stars.
Kevin Patterson’s New York Times crossword — Zachary David Levy’s write-up
Difficulty: Hard (17m29s)
Today’s theme: TAKE THE L (Accept defeat, in modern parlance … or a hint to entering five answers in this puzzle)
- NAI – L – EDIT
- FOOD CO – L – ORING
- GRAMMAR PO – L – ICE
- POT DEA – L – ER
- NUC – L – EAR
Another week, another toughie. What jumps out immediately is the unusual grid design — it’s asymmetric and choppy, with those cascading L shapes — so when something that looks like this runs on a Thursday, alarm bells go off. I actually missed the revealer at first, not expecting to find it at 1D, and had already jumped around and cracked NAILED IT before going back to TAKE THE L. Bonus points for working in BOW WOW WOW.
You know what fill really suffers from the lack of a space? TWOD and LOWPH. I twod into the bakery, looking for a lowph of bread.
Cracking: GRAMMAR POLICE — I don’t think this is a grammatical point per se, but my little evergreen swath of pretentiousness is that you are raising the question, not begging the question. Although pretty soon, it’ll go the way of irregardless, and will just be one more thing about which I am off base.
Slacking: ORING — what’s worse, ORING or ORANG? Don’t sweat it, it’s a trick question.
Sidetracking: OMAR — the great Sharif, immortalized in a thousand different ways, including this number from The Band’s Visit. Shout out to original cast member Bill Army, who was kind enough to take us backstage after the show.
Joe Deeney’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s review
Joe Deeney gives us one of the more common LA Times theme types – “scrambled letters between two parts of long phrases”. Today it’s EPRSU, revealed at CHANGEPURSE. I have never heard that phrase before; the dictionary calls it “North American”. I’d call that a purse, maybe a coinpurse? Anyway:
- [*Research without direct application], [PURES]CIENCE
- [*Czechoslovakian movement of 1968], PRAG[UESPR]ING
- [*Helpline offering], CUSTOM[ERSUP]PORT
- [*Commerce imbalance], TRAD(ESURP)LUS
- [Striped pet], TABBY. Was so relieved this wasn’t TIGER!
- [Father of the Muses], ZEUS. Why am I not surprised?
- [Response heard during a pool game], POLO. Swimming pool. Being monaural, this game was nigh impossible for me.
- [Word on an Italian menu that means “hunter”], CACCIATORE. Similar to CHASSEUR?
- [Center of a 3-4 football defense], NOSETACKLE – sounds more like a technique than a player from here?
Robyn Weintraub’s New Yorker crossword—Amy’s recap
Hmm, nowhere near dipping below the 3-minute mark today. I shall blame the cold/rainy/sleety/snowy day, because Robyn and the TNY editors have been awfully consistent with the Thursday puzzle’s easy-peasy challenge level.
Fave fill: CARAMEL CORN, “THAT’S SO COOL,” OVER THE MOON, “IT’S A MIRACLE,” SILENT MOVIE, ALL-STAR GAME, RATTLERS, “LET ME GUESS…,” BBC AMERICA, RAISES HELL. A smooth 72-worder with lots of crisp, fresh fill.
Four stars from me.
Paul Hunsberger’s Fireball crossword, “Heart to Heart”—Amy’s write-up
It’s Amy filling in for Jenni today. This Fireball puzzle was sent out early, in time for Valentine’s Day, which the title and grid tell us is relevant to the theme.
There’s a grid-art heart, nicely displayed in editor Peter Gordon’s solution PDF (my printout is … grat). The boxed-off word in the center is LOVE, and “love” can replace the first word in each theme entry with a clue in italics. That’s the LOVE 114a CONNECTION. The answers to italicized clues are:
- LOST INTEREST, love interest — YOUNG CHILD, love child — “FREE / BIRD,” lovebird — BIG STINKS, “Love Stinks” — TRUE STORY, love story — REAL LIFE, love life — MAKE SICK, lovesick
Lots of long nonthematic fill in the puzzle, so sort of a themeless vibe to the venture.
- 65a. [Word with manual and drive], SEX. It’s not about cars!
- 102a. [Burns pictures, for short], DOCS. Ken Burns documentaries, that is.
- 118a. [They’re all about the bass], STEELHEADS. Fish, not the Meghan Trainor pop hit.
- 35d. [Michelin-supported restaurant?], TACO TRUCK. Michelin tires, not stars.
- 106d. [Steam engines], PCS. Steam is where you can buy a ton of video games for the PC.
Boo on 86a EMAG, 74d AH ME. These are kinda bogus entries. Is anyone saying these things?
Did not know: 8d. [One of six on Blue Origin’s New Shepard], SEAT. Apparently this is a space-tourism craft from a company I’d never heard of, and it’s Shepard instead of Shepherd in honor of astronaut Alan. Haven’t watched White Lotus, so 72d. [Testa di ___ (Sicilian vase seen in Season 2 of “The White Lotus”], MORO, was a complete blank for me. The first letter was a tough get because the crossing at 71a. [Forster mother] perplexed me. Turned out to be a generic MUM rather than a specific character in a Forster novel.
Four stars from me.
Erik Agard’s USA Today Crossword, “Sprint Center” — Emily’s write-up
A silly fun grid design today that had me “run”ning in place.
Theme: the middle of each themer contains the word —RUN—
- 20a. [Not happy], DISGRUNTLED
- 37a. [“Great, one more thing to be terrified about!”], NEWFEARUNLOCKED
- 50a. [Groups of organized workers], LABORUNIONS
DISGRUNTLED is a descriptor that really conveys its severity and not an entry I’ve seen in a crossword before—excited to see it as a themer. NEWFEARUNLOCKED is a meme that you can pursue (or not) at your own caution/level of comfort though some are funny or satirical. With all the recent employee-driven movements at various companies lately, LABORUNIONS filled right in for me today. The title not only hints at the commonality of the word within the themers but also the placement, as —RUN— appears in the center of each as well as the center of the grid itself, all lining up with each other. Nicely done!
Favorite fill: WES, BOSSA, and DIGRESS
Stumpers: FLORALS (needed crossings), and BLURB (kept thinking “about” or “intro”)
As a mobile solver, the grid is usually lost on me until the very end when the puzzle zooms out and was an additional delight when it did today!
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Crossword #1459, “Planning Board”—Darby’s review
Theme: Each theme answer is part of a polyomino with an abbreviation in it, playing on the notion of “calendar tetris,” in which you try to finagle all of your plans in your calendar.
I’ve been playing a lot of Tetris recently, just by happenstance, and so I appreciated the appearance of Tetris-like blocks in today’s puzzle. I was not familiar with calendar tetris before, and so I especially liked how BEQ really embodied it in this theme. Plus, it’s a perfect fifteen letter answer.
In terms of my usual BEQ solve, this felt much faster than normal, despite overthinking 16a [“‘___ Lisa (Nat King Cole song)”] MONA and 10d [“The Rock’s first name”] DWAYNE. I really have no excuse for the extra time I spent on those. I really liked 8d [“Character asked to ‘please shine down on me,’ in a children’s song”] MR. SUN, 44d [“Long lunch?”] HOAGIE, and 27a [“Source of many problems”] MATH TESTS. SHOE BAG and ROT GUT were less fun, but fillable.
The NE corner came together first for me. I relied on the crosses for 15a [“Shamblin who founded the Christian diet”] GWEN and 32a [“Capital of East Flanders”] GHENT. From there, I mostly moved in order, stumbling as usual on other proper nouns, but all of the crosses were fair.
Overall, it was definitely fun! And a very relevant use of CALENDAR TETRIS, complete with fun colorful squares.