Note: Fireball is a contest this week. We’ll have a review after the submission period closes.
Brian Rom & Jeff Chen’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Coast to Coast”—Jim’s review
Theme: Circled letters in familiar(ish) phrases spell out the four CONUS time zones. The revealer is TIME TRAVELING (15d, [Sci-fi trope, and a hint to the circled letters]).
- 3d. [Chess move also known as “the Greek gift”] BISHOP‘S SACRIFICE. I don’t play enough chess to know this move, but it was inferable once I had enough crosses. And it’s a great phrase to learn. Plus, how many phrases are going to hide the word “Pacific”? I bet not many. A nice bit of serendipity here.
- 5d. [Attraction synchronizing water, sound and light] MUSICAL FOUNTAIN. I’m more familiar with the term “dancing fountain,” but Google’s ngram viewer shows both phrases getting roughly equal usage.
- 7d. [Warning on a shipped package] CONTENTS FRAGILE. Don’t those warning stickers usually just say “Fragile”? Wouldn’t “Contents” be assumed?
- 10d. [Pro with lots of experience] SEASONED VETERAN. The only phrase I knew off the bat, and a solid grid spanner.
I guess the time zones are “traveling” because the circled squares aren’t consecutive? I guess? Let’s go with that. Or maybe we’re just traveling across the time zones as we go across the grid. I guess that works, too.
I was having trouble getting a foothold wherever I went in the grid. So much so that I thought the theme was causing some of the clues to be weird. But then I resolved EASTERN in the rightmost entry, glanced at the title, then filled in the other time zones in a jiffy. It wasn’t until the end that I got the revealer, and to be honest, it didn’t do much for me nor do I think it’s necessary.
Four grid-spanners and a 13-letter revealer make for a lot of theme material, so there’s not much room for long fill. I did like a peacock’s EYE SPOT, EXOTIC, and “I FEAR SO.” Didn’t know OLE ELO [Compilation album of 1976], but it makes for an interesting factoid.
Clues of note:
- 4a. [Network for film mavens]. AMC. Hmm. I had TMC here, and I believe it’s more apt, is it not? TMC shows more films than AMC does, I would think.
- 26a. [Peacock feather feature]. EYE SPOT. Not sure why, but I was expecting a more scientific answer. Is there one? Yes. They’re called ocelli.
- 30a. [20-hundred-weight unit]. TON. This was the clue that made me think there was something weird going on in the clues. See also the clue for HAIKU.
- 42a. [Parks’ partner, for short]. REC. I don’t believe there are as many clue/entry dupes in the WSJ as in other publications, so it was surprising to see this clue right above PARK.
- 6d. [Twins-lion go-between]. CRAB. Think the zodiac.
A nice debut for one of our co-constructors, featuring an impressive theme set. 3.75 stars.
Malaika Handa’s New York Times crossword — Zachary David Levy’s write-up
Difficulty: Hard, then Easy (18m29s)
Today’s theme: STEM CELLS (Subject of some medical research … or a description of this puzzle’s theme?)
- SOLAR SY(STEM)S
- TA(STE M)AKER
- GHO(ST EM)OJI
- LOSE ONE(S TEM)PER
- IT(S TEM)PTING
- THE LA(ST EM)PEROR
The puzzle played hard before I hit on the rebus, and even after I filled in STEM CELLS, I was still trying to make sense of the theme. Once I dropped the first STEM in THE LAST EMPEROR, however, I was off to the races. TASTE MAKER and GHOST EMOJI are fun entries; a little less thrilled about anything containing the indefinite pronoun ONES, or a hidden string/rebus that doesn’t span more than one word (i.e. SYSTEMS).
Initially put in TESLA for the battery pioneer, and thought I would tie that to SERBS in the write-up, but it wasn’t mean to be. Incidentally, VOLTA is a charging infrastructure company whose stations primarily service TESLAs, so bam, we’re back in business.
Cracking: GHOST EMOJI — I like it so much, I’ll cite it twice. Here’s the little guy! 👻
Slacking: AM SO and the awkward plural AMS, almost next to each other in the top center section. All the cutesy symmetry in the world can’t save you.
Sidetracking: HIHO — I am roller coaster averse by nature, so I was very proud to psych myself up enough to ride the Seven Dwarves Mine Train in Magic Kingdom a few weeks ago (along with all the other toddlers in the park).
Desiree Penner and Jeff Sinnock’s Universal crossword, “Working Class Hero” — Sophia’s write-up
Theme: Each theme answer is an everyday job that could be described by a superhero name.
- 20a [Ant Man?] – EXTERMINATOR
- 35a [Aquaman?] – LIFEGUARD
- 41a [Iron Man?] – PRO GOLFER
- 56a [Cat Woman?] – VETERINARIAN
Very cute theme! I figured out what was going on after just the first theme answer, but I was excited to keep solving and find out the rest of the jokes, which is the sign of a good puzzle. EXTERMINATOR is probably my favorite (this could also work as a Batman clue!), while LIFEGUARD may be the weakest of the bunch because “Aquaman” could really be any water-related profession. But overall, this was fun stuff.
Standout fill: HOBO BAG
Standout clues: [“Raspberry ___” (Prince song)] for BERET, [Titular Greek god of an Anais Mitchell musical] for HADES, the clue [“Fore!” for one] for ALERT crossing PRO GOLFER
Joe Hansen’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary
Joe Hansen’s puzzle today features a quirky theme. The central answer, REPEATAFTERME, explains most of it. Four answers have the pattern [letters+me+same letters]. Sometimes the ME attaches to the first part of the word, sometimes the second. Sometimes the first part is a word and the longer a phrase, sometimes the reverse. Anyway:
- [Line dance that’s actually a hustle?], CON GA|ME\CONGA
[Breakfast, lunch, and dinner for Pacino?], ALS\ ME|ALS
[Singer DiFranco, as portrayed in Japanese cartoons?], ANI|ME \ANI
[One inevitable bar of music?], A SURE\ ME|ASURE
- [Witch played by Elizabeth Olsen in Marvel films], WANDA. This appears to be the Scarlet Witch, Wanda Maximoff.
- [Cuba libre ingredient], COKE. That remains one of the most ludicrously fancy names for a rum and coke…
- [Beyoncé song that samples Schubert], AVEMARIA. Tough clue angle, given this is apparently an album track, but apparently the Schubert bit is also associated with AVEMARIA so… Okay?
- [California city on Humboldt Bay], EUREKA. That’s a mighty regional clue, but I suppose it is the >LA< Times, so they’re entitled to some regional stuff occasionally?
Robyn Weintraub’s New Yorker crossword — Jenni’s write-up
I should do the later-week New Yorker crosswords more often. Robyn’s puzzles are always delightful no matter the crunchiness level. This one is (of course) no exception. It reminds me that the difficulty in a crossword lies in the clues. I can see how this grid could be much harder.
- Four 15-letter down entries that feel fresh to me. TRANSISTOR RADIO, THREE–DAY WEEKEND, I MEAN IT THIS TIME, and ROGET‘S THESAURUS.
- [Taking a Greyhound at multiple stops?] is BARHOPPING. This kind of Greyhound.
- Loved [The original Goldfinger?] as a clue for MIDAS.
- And the lovely rhyming [Sway with your bae, say] for SLOW DANCE.
- Which might make you [Get all the feels, as it were], or TURN TO MUSH.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that Renée ELISE Goldsberry appeared in “She-Hulk.”
And “taking a Greyhound” brings this to mind, because I am a child of the 1970s (and I’m headed into NYC today). If you haven’t seen this version, it’s worth checking out.
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Crossword #1553, “Machine Shop” — Darby’s write-up
Theme: Each theme answer includes a brand of computer, making the grid a machine shop.
- 18a [“‘The Call of Cthulhu’ author”] H.P. LOVECRAFT
- 28a [“Excellent condition”] APPLE PIE ORDER
- 45a [“Penny Publications subsidiary”] DELL MAGAZINES
- 59a [“Marijuana, some say”] GATEWAY DRUG
I haven’t thought about GATEWAY computers in ages, usually associating the word with the nickname for St. Louis, so it took me a second to click with the theme here. H.P. LOVECRAFT was the easiest themer to fill, as I had not heard of APPLE PIE ORDERs or DELL MAGAZINES. However, I do think that this is a fun set of themers, just because they are so far removed from the computing context of the title.
3d [“Deadly serious”] NO FUN AT ALL was, contradictorily, very fun, though I feel like the definition nature of the cue doesn’t exactly align with the answer itself. Likewise, 21d [“Sworn statement”] DEPOSAL was confusing because I wanted to put in DEPOSITION, which is the more common term, I think, compared with DEPOSAL, which is more typically used to refer to a removal from office. REUBENS, DINOSAUR JR, and PIZAZZ were faves though.