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.
I can’t tell you how bummed I am that all the acrostics and variety puzzles are now gone from the NYT website. The archives went back to the late 1990s. I can see why the NYT might not want to spend money to add the new puzzles each week, but I don’t understand why they eliminated the ones that were already online, especially on short notice.
And I think this decision deserved to be announced differently. They just put up a banner on the puzzles archive section one day with a sentence or two that the puzzles would be disappearing shortly. No explanation about why this was being done, no apology or acknowledgement that the archives was one of their selling points for a Games subscription. I’m sure a bunch of casual users didn’t even realize it was happening until it was too late.
It feels like the NYT doesn’t care about their subscribers. There are other ways this could have been handled that wouldn’t be so off-putting.
Totally agree. Sunday delivery of the physical paper is far too expensive for me to even think about, and where I used to live (N. Va) it was horribly unreliable too.
Today they’re touting that sudoku is now available in the app. Can’t be coincidental. It’s clear where their priorities are.
Can you explain what you mean by the app? I solve the crossword by going to the NYT website on my computer, and then I do Wordle and the Spelling Bee in the same way. Sometimes I do the Sudoku but not always.
Is there a way of accessing the puzzles that’s separate from what I normally do?
It’s an alternate way to access (some of the) NYT Games material via mobile devices. I don’t actually use the app on my phone, but I saw an announcement about sudoku’s introduction to it.
Yes—there’s an iPhone / iPad (probably other cellular type devices too) app that contains the crossword, along with archives, the daily mini crossword, wordle, spelling bee, and now soduku. It’s how I do the crossword, mini, and wordle from time to time. That said, the other variety puzzles mentioned by the OP weren’t on the app before.
True, but it’s still indicative of where the NYT is investing its energy and resources.
Thanks. If I’m traveling I do the puzzles on my tablet but I access them the same way — from the website.
It’s likely not a coincidence that the new priorities involve puzzles and games with much, much lower costs of construction.
Not nearly so major a complaint, but they’ve also made finding the day’s crossword so much more difficult. Until this past holiday season, a link to it appeared at the top right of every article and every section page, next to log in/account. But then it switched to a link to subscribe to the NYT (not specifically the puzzle) or, currently, to make it a gift.
Agreed that the former layout was a bit of an overkill, as if everyone’s priority was the crossword. But they then didn’t add the link somewhere else. It’s still in the drop-down menus, but you better look hard, as it’s in a second drop-down list accessible from the first via “more,” on top of which moving to the second drop-down could make both vanish unless your mouse is really responsive. (A games link is also in the sitemap, which I have bookmarked, and in the main menu bar’s small print above the Times home page, where personally I never go.)
Yes, it’s harder than it should be to access the crossword. You have to scroll to the bottom of a very long screen. I also don’t understand how you go from WordleBot back to the main NYT page or the main Games page. When you get to the end of the Wordlebot analysis, it says you can do Spelling Bee or takes you to some random unrelated article, with no other choice as far as I can tell.
And they never had a link, as far as I could tell, to go directly from the Acrostic page to the Wordplay column discussing that acrostic. Which undoubtedly affected traffic to that column. When they finally put a direct link to the Spelling Bee column, traffic went up enormously.
I’m still not a rebus fan; the TASTEMAKER / SOLAR SYSTEM one clicked in for me, but I had to really search for the others. Rebuses just give me this vague unsettling feeling that I can’t count on any of the lengths being right… it’s like this scene from the West Wing:
I was genuinely surprised to see that I finished under my average Thursday time despite the rebus… it did not feel like a fast fill to me. I did like some of the clues, such as for ODE. And GHOST EMOJI did make me chuckle a bit :-)
I was delighted with the rebus, so there. Like Amy, I got the revealer early and before the theme itself, but then it got interesting! I did have lot of little things I didn’t know. I had trouble with the crossing of UP-TALK and GOPRO, but now I feel bad that I didn’t know them.
NYT: Like Zachary David Levy, I’m not a roller coaster fan. Seven Dwarfs Mine Train was right at the edge for me, particularly the last part. Afterwards, I was like, “They allow innocent children to undergo that experience?!?!” ; )
I enjoyed that movie and even had the thought that I MIGHT be able to go on that with my 4 year old grandchild… :) . Then again, probably NOT. I was glad to see it without riding on it LOL, and it didn’t make me sick!!
NYT and WSJ both seemed awkward today, not hard just maybe not-well-thought out or constructed. I dunno, didn’t care for either. NYT 24D gave away the entire puzzle when THE became required
and I thought EXOTIC was a word on the Stanford list
Tomorrow’s Friday yay
BEQ: Second week in a row with problem for me on his themed one. This time I don’t see the theme at all, after completing the puzzle pretty easily. “Machine shop” title. Any helps?
I hadn’t paid any attention to the theme until you asked. Each of the theme answers include the name of a computer (‘machine’) manufacturer. I thought the last one was defunct but apparently it’s still around, although acquired by another company.
Thanks! :) I never would have gotten there. I as looking for something that was in a shop class or machinery.
I remember Gateway now that you mention it… wasn’t their logo a cow for some reason? I remember the black and white pattern.
Yes, they had a black and white cow motif going on with all their packaging. I used to have a Gateway. I think they were based in the Midwest somewhere.