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?
NYT might have been ok if it had’t come within a week of the last Thursday and Sunday puzzles. Today it just feels tired to me.
Was today National Pun Day? Nobody told me….
TNY … It seems to me that if you feel the need to ask an anonymous internet mob the question “AM I THE ASSHOLE” for validation of the way you’ve behaved, you probably are.
Actually, they are often amusing tales … and the person asking the question is seldom the asshole, which only goes to show how many assholes there are in the world causing trouble for other people.
Most of the letter writers are people who didn’t give someone else what they wanted, and the person is writing in saying, “This other person is really mad at me; are they justified in being mad?”
Usually, the answer is no. But there’s a fair amount of what they call ESH: everybody sucks here. The other person is overreacting, but the letter writer didn’t handle it well, either. It’s an interesting website that’s worth exploring.
Can someone explain how to parse 45A in the New Yorker puzzle? Does HIP HOP ERA fit the clue? HI PH OPERA? I’m baffled.
It’s a portmanteau of hip-hop and opera.
That was new to me, as was VIDEO NASTY (as I’m guessing we parse this), and I’m not sure I know why CLEAR precedes a shock. I’m still pondering VCS, which to me are Vietcong. So can’t say I enjoyed that sector. (Don’t care much for TV, but at least JERSEY SHORE coming down into that sector is a familiar phrase on its own.)
Oh, wait. I guess it must somehow be venture capital in the plural, where I’d say venture capital firms, but whatever. Still nowhere near the top among VC meanings in a Web search.
I’d guess CLEAR has to do with the use of a defibrillator – on TV at least, someone always yells “CLEAR” before they administer the shock.
Thanks! I’ve seen EMTs in action often enough, but never heard of that. I guess I don’t watch nearly enough TV for puzzles.
I was guessing that maybe someone shouted clear to get people to leave when an aftershock was expected from a quake, say. But no question that was a stretch.
Universal: Pannonica writes, “I’m not a fan of punned business names in general, as they’re typically so awful . . . .”
Whenever my husband and I encounter such a name, one of us is sure to comment about which side the Tuffnell-St. Hubbins line the name falls on. (If you don’t get that reference, you haven’t seen “This is Spın̈al Tap” enough times.)