Gary Larson and Amy Ensz’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “O, Snap!”—Jim’s review
Theme: Familiar phrases of the form x OF y are given the Irish treatment. That is, OF is shortened to O’ and the F moves to beginning of the last word. Wackiness ensues.
- 17a. [Encyclopedia, in Ireland?] BOOK O’ FACTS. (AKA Acts of the Apostles)
- 27a. [Airline hub, in Ireland?] CITY O’ FLIGHTS.
- 46a. [Plastic surgeon, in Ireland?] DOCTOR O’ FLAWS.
- 61a. [Gardening jacket, in Ireland?] COAT O’ FARMS.
Huh. Where’s the WEB O’ FLIES? I would’ve thought that would’ve been on the must-include list.
Anyway, this is a standard bit of wordplay at the expense of the Irish, but I have to say I think it works fairly well. And since tomorrow is St. Patrick’s Day and everyone gets to pretend they’re Irish for a day, maybe we can be excused for reading these in our best (or worst) Irish accents. I like the last one best since it seems the most natural.
By the way, if you need a bit of help with your Irish brogue, take a few tips from actress Saoirse Ronan (see video below).
Fill highlights include BASS SOLO, PORSCHE, SYSTOLE, AND SO ON. I had never heard of POONA [Where Gandhi was jailed under colonial rule], and that’s not even the city’s name anymore. As of 1978, the official name is Pune (though I admit I’ve never heard of that either).
Clues of note:
- 10a. [Where the Irish Examiner is published]. CORK. Not thematic, but theme-adjacent, I suppose.
- 14a. [O’Donnell of the “CBS Evening News”] NORAH. See above comment.
Rebecca Goldstein’s New York Times crossword — Zachary David Levy’s write-up
Difficulty: Easy (6m6s — Thursday personal record)
Today’s theme: TUMBLEWEED (Plant seen rolling through this puzzle?)
- SP(EED W)ALKING
- TANGL(ED WE)B
- WOUL(D WE E)VER
- T(WEED)LE DUM
Well that was fun! I’m not a speed solver by any stretch, so a 6-minute finish on a Thursday is a big outlier. I was probably aided, in part, by remembering a similar puzzle by Amanda Chung and Karl Ni a few years ago in which the letters D-I-C-E rotate through shaded squares, culminating in A ROLL OF THE DICE. I’m not sure why that puzzle has stuck with me, but it pops into my head all the time, particularly when I’m constructing myself.
In any event, I went from NW to SE without missing a beat, and would have finished even sooner if I caught my mistaken spelling of Mort SAHLs last name (as opposed to the more Hebraically typical SAUL.)
Cracking: SUH-WEET — ironically, my SAHL error had this spelled out as SUU-WEET, which not only looked plausible on a quick scan, but even struck me as good fill at the time.
Slacking: Can I pick nothing? I guess if I had to be a stickler to (my own) format, I would pick the partial AIRES, but the fill was pretty clean from start to finish, which was also a big contributor to my personal best.
Sidetracking: ILSA — while the actual city of Casablanca is neither romantic nor awe-inspiring outside of the grand mosque (which is a truly jaw-dropping destination), the classics will never die — just like the world will always welcome lovers.
Hanh Huynh’s Fireball Crossword, “Burn After Reading” – Jenni’s write-up
This is much more my flavor of puzzle than last week’s. I knew something weird was going on when I got to 31a, and didn’t figure out what it was until I found the revealer. It’s an impressive feat of construction and fun to solve.
There are fifteen squares in the puzzle that seem to be blank – each theme answer is missing three letters. Peter’s grid shows it better than mine.
- 20a [“That was lucky!”] is GOODTH_ _ _ ING.
- 31a [Pizzas] are PI _ _ _ ES.
- 25d [Ring up?}] is W _ _ _ ED. Tricky clue + theme shenanigans = difficult. In a good way.
- 46a [Ran in water] is BL _ _ _ ED.
- 30d [Messy place] is ST _ _ _ Y. This one really confused me since PIGSTY fits.
And the revealer: 52a [Secret message medium…or a hint to 15 squares in this puzzle: INVISIBLE INK. Those “blank” squares give us GOOD THINKING, PINKIES, WINKED, BLINKED, and STINKY. All the crossings also work with and without INK. Really well done.
A few other things:
- It always throws me when I can’t fill in 1a, and I don’t know the X-Men, so Ororo Munroe did not give me STORM and I felt off-balance from the start.
- I compounded my problem by putting in PINTS for 17a [Cans of Newcastle], especially since we also have ALE at 12d for [Contents of a can of Newcastle]. The correct answer is ARSES.
- 24a [America’s couple?] is SCHWAS. Fun tricky clue.
- I did know WEEB Eubanks, for some reason.
- My favorite theme-adjacent clue was [“This doth suck”] for AL _ AS, which turns into ALIAS.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: see above re: STORM. I also did not know that Lech WALESA was the only non-American to win both Time’s Person of the Year and the Nobel Peace Prize in the last 50 years. I was all set to take Peter and Hanh to task for forgetting about Malala Yousafzai, and then I looked it up and realized she shared the Peace Prize with Kailash Satyarthi.
Katherine Baicker & Ross Trudeau’s Universal crossword, “Teaming Up” — Sophia’s write-up
Theme: Each theme answer is the name of a sports team, but using the team’s collective noun instead of its name.
- 20a [Michigan NFL players, when together as a group?] – DETROIT PRIDE (lions)
- 29a [Florida MLB players, when together as a group?] – TAMPA BAY SCHOOL (rays)
- 43a [North Carolina NBA players, when together as a group?] – CHARLOTTE SWARM (hornets)
- 53a [California NHL players, when together as a group?] – ANAHEIM FLOCK (ducks)
I was initially a bit underwhelmed by this puzzle’s theme (“collective nouns? That’s it?”) but the more I look at it, the more I like it. I think the puzzle is done no favors by its awkwardly worded theme clues – is there a way to make it punchier and maybe give the solver more of an aha moment? I am not sure, and it probably would have raised the difficulty of the puzzle enough that I’m not even sure it’s worth it.
It’s great that the puzzle incorporates a team from four different sports. I don’t follow the NBA or NHL, so the bottom half of the puzzle was a bit trickier for me. The chosen teams and collective nouns are all pretty well known.
I loved how much personality was packed into this puzzle! There are some puzzles (particularly ones written to be “easy”) where I struggle to pick out a single notable clue. Not here! Some favorites:
- 53d [Sanders’ little helper?] for AIDE
- 25a [Bread machine?] for ATM
- 52d [Stores where board gamers buy KALLAX shelves] for IKEAS (yes, I own these… but I don’t keep my board games in them!!)
There’s also a bunch of fun fill like ROWLF, SAMOSA, RUN DMC, and the longest answers of PORTMANTEAU and GO OVERBOARD. I was constantly entertained while solving, which is all I can ask for :)
Robyn Weintraub’s New Yorker crossword–Amy’s recap
Another breezy Thursday themeless from Robyn. A bit surprised to see the TSETSE fly in the grid, but I do like the clue: [Fly whose name is the Tswana word for “fly”]. I bet Team Fiend’s Gareth knows a little Tswana/Setswana, it being one of South Africa’s 11 official languages.
Fave fill: SECRET SAUCE, PAGE-TURNERS, MAD ABOUT YOU (anyone seen the reboot?), SIDESTEP, STARGAZER, YELLOW SUBMARINE, and UKRAINE.
42a. [Bear whose porridge was too cold for Goldilocks], MAMA. You know why her porridge was too cold? She probably served her family first, and by the time she could sit down and eat, the porridge was room temperature. (This does not explain how Papa Bear’s porridge was still too hot after the family had skedaddled before the home invasion occurred. Why were they in such a hurry, to leave their breakfast uneaten? I need to know. This fairytale logic is not working for me.)
Four stars from me.
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Crossword #1557, “Aw Yeah”—Darby’s review
Theme: Each theme answer replaces “OOR” with “AW.”
- 17a [“Very faint raven’s cries?”] CAWS LIGHT / COORS LIGHT
- 26a [“Error in a salon?”] CUTTING ROOM FLAW / CUTTING ROOM FLOOR
- 47a [“Things you hear and see when Garfield plays a song everybody knows on a piano?”] STANDARD AND PAWS / STANDARD AND POORS
- 62a [“Things a blackbird might win?”] DAW PRIZES / DOOR PRIZES
As always, I was impressed that four themers made it into this grid, especially two grid spanners. It’s very clean and uniform, and getting CAWS LIGHT first helped me to understand the mechanism of the theme. I particularly liked 47a STANDARD AND PAWS (because I particularly like Garfield), though I felt like it should be STANDARD APPLAUSE over STANDARD AND POOR’S, which I didn’t know until today was what S&P stood for (shows what I know!).
The upper left and right corners each gave me a run for my money, with 1a [“Taking for-ev-er”] POKY and 14a [“___ Winston (‘Sons of Anarchy’ character)”] OPIE being particularly troublesome, but the crosses came through (as they often do). I liked 9a [“‘Ice Ice Baby’ vis-à-vis ‘Play That Funky Music,’ originally”] B SIDE. 37a [“Petco Park player”] PADRE and 28d [“Big name in small trucks”] TONKA were also very fun.
Jeffrey Wechsler’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary
Jeffrey Wechsler’s puzzle is quite imaginative, featuring phrases of denial, and clued to be about different professions. I’m not sure the clues themselves quite did the theme concept justice, but it was definitely a more ambitious theme than most:
- [Start of a tennis player’s argument with a line judge?], THISISNTMYFAULT
- [Start of an artist’s argument with a gallery owner?], IMBEINGFRAMED
- [Start of a dress model’s argument with a tailor?], DONTPINITONME
- [Start of a geometry teacher’s argument with a student?], LETSSEETHEPROOF
- [Kid-lit writer Margaret __ Brown], WISE. I looked it up; the author of that “Goodnight Moon” book.
- [Good guess in Battleship], HIT. I was surprised to find this is a board game in the US. I grew up with it being played on pencil and paper and getting creative with other shaped vessels.
- [__ o menos: “more or less,” in Spanish], MAS. More Spanish vocab building from the LA Times!
- [Socials with cucumber sandwiches], TEAS. I had a weird craving for a cucumber sandwich this afternoon. I’m pretty sure they’re darn bland though.
- [Like Inti Punku], INCAN. Had to look it up – a ruin, not a person.
- [Tunneling rodent], MOLE. Wrong. They’re eulipotyphlans, and before that they were insectivores. I don’t think they’ve ever been considered rodents. In South Africa, what we usually refer to as moles are actually molerats, which are rodents though, but not moles. We also have golden-moles, which are neither, but afrosoricids.