Gary Larson & Amy Ensz’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Icy Conditions”—Jim’s review
Theme: The letters IC are added to familiar phrases at the ends of words resulting in purported wacky physical afflictions.
- 17a. [Vocal paralysis caused by fear of singing?] PANIC PIPES.
- 26a. [Emotional disorder caused by excessive twerking?] MANIC BUNS.
- 35a. [Nervous condition that causes one’s hands to clench when trying not to appear threatening?] IRONIC FISTS.
- 51a. [Mental lapses caused when confronting sound reasoning?] LOGIC JAMS.
- 61a. [Stomach distress caused by bringing up a sore subject?] TOPIC KNOTS.
I found these to be tired and groan-worthy (not in a good way) with little to no surface sense. IRONIC FISTS? TOPIC KNOTS? I guess it was too much to ask to have three good puzzles in a row this week.
I do like FENG SHUI and SOFT SOAP. Not so sure about TEHRANI though. How many Tehranis do solvers know? Also not a fan of TRITER nor USE IN.
That’s all I have. 2.5 stars.
Aaron M. Rosenberg’s New York Times Crossword – Matt F’s write up
No revealer today – the theme spells itself out in the clues. Each theme answer is a common phrase, punned up with a clue from the voice of a court jester who asks solvers to parse each phrase as a title for a king:
- 17A – [Hark! And hear of the vengeful ruler who took great pleasure in expelling disloyal subjects, for he was the …] = PERSONAL BAN KING
- 28A – [Listen now! And I shall relate the story of the curious sovereign who adorned his castle with images of red fruit, for he was the …] = CHERRY PIC KING
- 47A – [Lend me your ear! And I will speak of the clumsy monarch who took twice as many golf strokes as his opponents, for he was the …] = DOUBLE PAR KING
- 57A – [Give heed! And listen to my tale of the mad tyrant who decreed that all toilets in his realm be installed the wrong way, for he was the …] = BACKWARD LOO KING
Look, puns aren’t for everybody, and these theme clues are loooong, so I wouldn’t fault anybody who took a downs-only approach to this puzzle and didn’t take a second look after finishing. You ended up with some -king phrases that sound right and you got the music. A solve is a solve! If you do circle back and take a closer look at the theme, it’s actually pretty cute. No shortage of creativity in crafting the intro for these four eccentric kings. I also looked up some golf trivia and apparently it’s de rigueur to pick up and move to the next hole after shooting double par (6 on a par 3, e.g.), even if you don’t hole out.
The fill has some sticky spots (37-D for me, though I’m no French major) but I found a lot to love. A few years ago I read Exhalation: Stories by Ted CHIANG, which I found to be an excellent collection of sci-fi short stories (very simpatico with my engineering brain). Anybody else think “womb” for [Bun holder, so to speak] before coming around to OVEN? The clue for 20-A takes the cake for me: [Apt recourse for a deal gone sour?] = LEMON LAW. Speaking of puns, I’ll leave you with this one that I can never un-hear when I see 40-D: “Where Anne hath a will, Anne Hathaway.”
Ben Tolkin’s AV Club crossword, “Scorched Earth”–Jenni’s write-up
Good morning! I’m sitting in for our esteemed blogmistress today and I thoroughly enjoyed this one. Maybe that’s because I’ve been married to a geologist for 38 years.
If the grid looks a bit narrow, that’s because it’s a 13×15 to accommodate three 13-letter theme entries.
- 16a [People’s 2016 Sexiest Man Alive] is DWAYNE JOHNSON. Allentown boy makes good!
- 32a [Some fiery summer light shows] are METEOR SHOWERS. The Perseids light up the sky in August in the Northern Hemisphere. There are others that I never think to look for because it’s cold out when they appear.
- 45a [Loot in “Speed 2: Cruise Control”] is STOLEN JEWELRY.
What do all these have in common? Ben tells us at 53a [Bestselling 1971 Rolling Stones compilation album, or an apt description of 16-, 32-, and 45-Across]: HOT ROCKS. DWAYNE JOHNSON is also known as The Rock and I presume the others are obvious. Fun theme worth concocting a special grid.
A few other things:
- I recently visited my daughter in San Diego where TENTs are not [Temporary lodging] for far too many people. We need to figure out how to make housing more affordably and accessible.
- Even when I know the answer to clues like [Journey to the Kaaba] I don’t know if it’s HAJJ or HADJ. Transliteration is so much fun.
- We have colliding myths with 19a [Story from the Mahabharata, e.g.] and 8d [Like the goddesses Sif and Frigg]. Answers: LEGEND and NORSE, respectively.
- I’ve heard people say INSTA. Never heard anyone call it [“The gram”].
- I enjoyed 31a [Channel for following the Bills, perhaps] and 39d [Channel for following the bills, perhaps?]. ESPN and CSPAN. Too bad they couldn’t find a way to squeeze in CNBC for following another kind of bill.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that Sheila E plays the BONGO. Shame on me.
Jill Singer’s Universal crossword, “At the Salon” — pannonica’s write-up
Let me issue a caveat right at the start: I was tired of punny salon names decades ago—even called out the practice years ago on my now-defunct blog—so the theme of this crossword was bound to fall flat with me. In truth, I’m not a fan of punned business names in general, as they’re typically so awful, but it turns out that salons as a category are among the most frequent and worst offenders. (Fast-food establishments constitute strong competition.)
- 17a. [Apt salon name that puns on a phrase related to flawlessness] SHEAR PERFECTION.
- 26a. [Apt salon name that puns on a phrase related to embarrassment] CURL UP AND DYE.
- 48a. [Apt salon name that puns on a phrase related to navigation] FASTEST ROOTS.
- 63a. [Apt salon name that puns on a phrase related to tourism] MANE ATTRACTIONS.
- 6d [Himalayan ethnic group] SHERPA. I may have kind-of thought that it was reserved specifically for those involved with mountaineering, in which case I would have had been mistaken.
- 9d [Poem of tribute] ODE. 35d [Plath or Poe] POET.
Eesh. I’ve gone through all the clues and didn’t find anything too exciting or exceptional. They’re quite serviceable, but nothing to provoke, for example, a 10a [Amazed reaction] GASP. So, in tandem with my confessed lack of enthusiasm for the theme, this crossword was a clunker in my book.
- 19d [“Deja Vu” folk-rock quartet: Abbr.] CSNY.
Aimee Lucido’s New Yorker crossword — Jenni’s write-up
I really do love Aimee’s puzzles. While I’d always prefer a New Yorker Monday or an NYT Saturday because crunchy, I do every one of hers no matter the difficulty level. This one is as smooth and as much fun as I’d expect, and that’s saying something.
- I enjoyed seeing TACO TRUCKS over SOUR APPLE. No good reason aside from my warped sense of humor.
- Do you suppose J. S. Bach ever played his HARPSICHORD at a TALENT SHOW?
- The center stack is great: SANCTUARY CITY/AM I THE ASSHOLE/MEALS ON WHEELS. One of these things is not like the other. Also related to Reddit: my daughter recently introduced me to Two Hot Takes, which is fun for an advice column junkie like me.
- There are things that appeal to me about having a SMART HOME. A Bluetooth-enabled refrigerator is not one of them. Our (relatively new) stove periodically asks to connect to WiFi. I see no reason for this.
- I’m a child of the late 60s and early 70s. My first thought when I see VCS has nothing to do with startups.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: never heard of the Egyptian MAU breed of cat. Pretty cute!
August Miller’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary
I’ve never encountered the term [Not conforming to traditional male/female norms], GENDERCREATIVE so I was trying to stretch/wedge NONBINARY or GENDERFLUID into those squares. Other than that, the circles reveal a very common LA Times theme trope – they can be unscrambled to spell GENDER and span two parts of four long across answers:
- [Brilliant artist beset by personal demons, say], TORTU(REDGEN)IUS
- [Activities Rudolph was kept from joining], REI(NDEERG)AMES
- [Southern part of the Mariana Trench], CHALLE(NGERDE)EP
- [Leafy side], COLLARDGREENS
Others to note:
- [__ palak: dish of potatoes and spinach], ALOO. ALOO means “potato”.
- [Prison drama that was Jonathan Demme’s directorial debut], CAGEDHEAT. That’s a rather obscure choice that seems it was definitely “baked in” the grid early…
- [Time to celebrate with one’s krewe mates], MARDIGRAS. Took a bit to remember who used that funky spelling.
- [GIF alternative], PNG. Am I the only one who thinks of Papua New Guinea as the definitive PNG?