Karen Steinberg’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Moonlighting”—Jim’s review
The theme revealer is SIDE HUSTLE (69a, [Extra job, and a hint to what each starred answer is for many (and literally is, in this puzzle)]). Those starred answers around the perimeter of the grid are all Internet Age gigs.
- 1a. [*Person whose work is picking up] UBER DRIVER.
- 14d. [*Someone with net income] EBAY SELLER.
- 71a. [*Crafty individual] ETSY ARTIST.
- 27d. [*Person whose place you take] AIR BNB HOST.
Good gravy! Four 10×3 stacks including one where a theme answer is stacked with the revealer? What an impressive construction!
Sure, only one of the theme answers (UBER DRIVER) feels like an in-the-language phrase, but they’re all inferable and the fact that each of them is 10 letters long as is the revealer, is quite serendipitous. And yes, there are the occasional bits of glue (BDS, ONEA, THA, SSE), but that’s remarkably little given the constraints…
…And given the other wonderful fill as well. SPORTS BEAT on top of SIDE HUSTLE and ETSY ARTIST?! With crossers “ZIP IT!” and BIG SUR? Yes, please. In fact all of the 10s are assets to the grid with STARED INTO being the least nice (and it ain’t all that bad either). Plus there’s an OAK TREE and USED CAR thrown in to boot. This could almost pass for a themeless, there’s that much good long fill.
Clues of note:
- 11a. [Stadium name that anagrams to a nearby former stadium name]. ASHE. That other stadium being SHEA.
- 21a. [Game in which each player has four pawns]. SORRY! Good misdirection with the word “pawns” making me think it was some sort of chess variant.
- 4d. [Checks for letters]. RENTS. “Letters” meaning those who let (rent out) dwellings.
- 13d. [Lyric from Nat King Cole’s “Call the Police”]. HURRY HURRY. I don’t know the song, and I’d’ve gone with a circus clue, but let’s see what the song is about (see video).
- 25d. [Sonata with a change of title, say]. USED CAR. Ooh, nice misdirection. We’re talking the Hyundai Sonata here.
Nice theme and a really impressive construction. 4.25 stars.
Barbara Lin’s Fireball Crossword, “Repeat Business” – Jenni’s write-up
I’ll be brief because a) I’m tired and b) I don’t like typing on my iPad. I also don’t like lugging my laptop on a plane so here we are. I enjoyed this puzzle – it’s not blazingly hard. It was just right for my mushy brain today.
All the theme answers have repeated letter strings.
- 16a [Palm fruit dish at a luau?] is AL FRESCO COCONUT.
- 22a [Hindu teacher with a pro-country message?] is a GURU RURALIST.
- 36a [Director’s cut of “GoodFellas”?] is SCORCESE EDIT.49a [Paystub?] is an INCOME MEMENTO.
- 60a [Creamy pasta sauce acceptable to Muslims?] is HALAL ALFREDO.
And the revealer: 70a [Filling fare, or what’s filling five answers in this puzzle] is a THREE-COURSE MEAL. Three each of CO UR SE ME AL. Nice!
Sam Buttrey’s New York Times crossword — Zachary David Levy’s write-up
Difficulty: Very difficult (24m56s — possibly my slowest Thursday ever)
Today’s theme: TRADING PLACES (Classic 1983 comedy … or a hint to what the answers to four pairs of starred clues are doing)
- BILL and TED
- LAUREL and HARDY
- CHIP and DALE
- PENN and TELLER
My solve was incredibly slow, choppy, and disorganized. I didn’t really understand the swapping premise at first, and even then, the answers that were swapped seemed arbitrary.. it wasn’t until after I was finished that I noticed the four pairs of swapped theme answers are notable duos (and I even used PENN AND TELLER once as the impetus for an entire puzzle.) Lots of obliquely clued short fill to boot. And the longer entries.. LISTERIA crossing NINEVEH — the former I only know as a physician, and the latter I only know as a crossword junkie (and even then, initially wrote MINERVA.)
Cracking: probably PROPANE, because it reminds me of Hank Hill?
Slacking: last week it was SET TO, this week it’s SETS ON. The kid’s consistent!
Sidetracking: was there any doubt it would be anything other than the climactic commodities scene in TRADING PLACES?
Caitlin Reid’s New Yorker crossword – Kyle’s write-up
Good morning! Caitlin Reid brings us the Thursday New Yorker this week. It was pleasant sailing throughout this solve, with one little hiccup noted below. Thanks Caitlin!
- 34A BUSINESS AS USUAL [Standard operating procedure, so to speak] – The Cruciverb and Crossword Tracker databases indicate that this entry has appeared fewer than 10 times in mainstream media crosswords in the past 25 years (indies are not tracked). A bit surprising given that it’s pretty solidly in the language and has lots of useful letters to boot.
- Lots of conversational entries: 14A COUNT ME IN [“Let’s do it!”], 35D I DIGRESS [“Anyway, back to the topic at hand…”], 61A NEAT [“Cool beans!”], 2D EGAD [“Dear heavens!”], 36D SO AM I [“Ditto!”], 50D IT’LL [“___ cost you!”]
- I was slightly perplexed by the editorial choice on the cluing for the consecutive entries 23A POSTAGE [26-Across, e.g.] and 26A STAMP [Sticker on an envelope]. Since a POSTAGE STAMP is a thing, this could have been clued as a whole phrase starting from 23A: something like [With 26-Across, sticker on an envelope]. As it stands now, you have to get 26A in order to understand the 23A clue, forcing the solver to work backwards, which makes the solve just a smidge tougher.
In my write-up of last week’s Robyn Weintraub puzzle, I mentioned that she would be a constructor for this year’s ACPT (held last weekend). Robyn wrote Puzzle 7, with the final puzzle being constructed by her New Yorker compatriot, Kameron Austin Collins. Congratulations again to Robyn, Kameron and all the other ACPT constructors on setting a brilliant set of puzzles for us competitors!
Susan Gelfand’s Universal crossword, “Legally Binding” — Sophia’s write-up
Theme: Each theme answer’s first word can precede BAR and second word can follow BAR.
- 16a [Porsche 911s, for example] – SPORTS CARS
- 25a [Orchard pest] – FRUIT FLY
- 47a [Where to see saws] – TOOL ROOM
- 60a [Keyboardist’s seat] – PIANO STOOL
- 38a [Lawyers’ groups, or a hint to the word that can follow the starts and precede the ends of 16-, 25-, 47- and 60-Across] – BAR ASSOCIATIONS
A+ title and a good revealer today – I always love when folks find new ways to use crosswordese (count me as someone who only knows ABA from puzzles). Susan found some great phrases that fit this pattern, and I love how in particular the first words utilize BAR differently (TOOL bar vs SPORTS bar, e.g.). My only problem was with PIANO STOOL, which I really wanted to be “piano bench”, enough so that I convinced myself “bar bench” must be something that I had never heard of.
Fill highlights: TOY STORY, MORSE CODE, RIGATONI
New to me: Bermuda and brown ONIONs, Juan SOTO.
Trent H. Evans’ LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary
There sure is a lot of chatter in today’s puzzle by Trent H. Evans!
Firstly, the theme features three ways to say “COMEON!” going down, which is tied together neatly with game-show phrase COMEONDOWN. The three phrases are GETSERIOUS, GIVEMEABREAK and AREYOUJOKING. Am I the only one internally hearing these in the voice of John McEnroe?
Apart from these, in the acrosses we have JUSTCUZ (I wanted COS), IMALLEARS and LEMMEATEM. The latter is indelibly linked to Scrappy Doo in my brain.
NYT: The theme felt difficult to get much traction with, even having gotten the revealer, but the non-theme answers filled in smoothly. It’s an impressive construction, though I’m sure that not having to arrange the theme answers symmetrically gave a fair amount of flexibility. Fun puzzle, though.
NYT: I really liked it. It was a total mystery for the longest time. I basically ignored the starred answers and solved around them. I got PENN at some point, and then TRADING PLACES and it took me until I got down to TELLER to start putting it all together.
But it really was fun and the pairs are great.
NYT: Sam Buttrey was one of the three finalists on the Jeopardy Tournament of Champions. He’s a professor at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey and is an absolute delight. Way to go Sam!
Thank you for making the connection for the rest of us. I really enjoyed Sam’s run on Jeopardy. He is so likable as well as obviously talented, and reminded me of one of my favorite mentors (another California professor). Now, I’m even more glad that I loved the puzzle.
NYT hill I will die on: MEAD is made with honey, but that doesn’t necessarily make it sweet. Mead can be drier than wine made from grapes. It all depends on the fermentation.
I questioned that clue, too. On the other hand, I knew the answer they wanted with at most one crossing.
NYT: I also had one of my longest Thursday times in a very long time. I think part of the issue is that the theme is complicated, and the theme answers are both across and down and asymmetric. Solving online, you can’t see all the clues at once, and for me I can’t see the entire grid at once either on my screen, so there was a lot of scrolling back and forth trying to figure out what needed to be swapped and what went together.
It didn’t help that I had DALE instead of GLEN for the final Across answer for “valley,” and CHIP was the first theme answer I figured out. It had momentarily slipped my notice that there were theme answers as Downs, so I spent way too much time trying to figure out how to put that wrong DALE and CHIP together in a way that made sense for an overall theme.
An interesting theme, and well worth it in the end, but, man, that took forever!
WSJ — I was sure HURRY HURRY was going to play into the theme somehow (side HUSTLE); I’m torn between being impressed and distracted that it was completely unrelated.
I made the same mistake, and thus moved slowly — that and, as Jim says, the not quite in-language themers. The NW, though, took me longest, with having to get past a university abbreviation, something in BALI, and ERIC. All I could think of was that Ariel in The Tempest saves, or at least strands after the storm he and Prospero creates, a prince named Frederick. I imagine this is Disney, and I’ll go look it up.
Sterling work all around. Edgy in all the right ways!
NYT: I enjoyed this puzzle when I found the pairs were known duos.
Even though I was getting my neighbors NYT in real paper this week, I solved in the app. I agree that it makes this puzzle harder, being unable to see all the clues at once and pinpoint the starred ones.
But I don’t feel it’s the constructor’s job to accommodate apps. Traditional puzzles are meant to be done on paper with pen(cil). And I’m good with that!
I loved the NYT. It fell in stages, which I like especially. Almost right away, I guessed TELLER for the bank employee. It didn’t fit, and I dismissed it, but it may have been in the back of my mind waiting to help once I got a couple of crossings toward PENN.
So I had the idea that starred clues would lead to partners, but things still feel slowly, without being unfair. (It may help that I know NINEVEH just fine from outside puzzles, although I couldn’t have told you what I knew about it. LISTERIA looked familiar, too.) And I couldn’t justify the revealer. It seemed just a bit off until *oops*: I reached the bottom for the other halves. Nice.
(FWIW, the very fact that I worked down without skipping around for more I could solve means that it wasn’t too hard to be fair. I won’t be able to do that tomorrow.)
It is a rare event when my time (11m11s) is better than the reviewer here. I count that as a win.
I know that feeling. Some of the reviewers here are much faster than I will ever be.
Bravo to Sam Buttrey on today’s NYT barnburner! What a debut! I just loved it – a true challenge that left me feeling like I’d accomplished something thrilling. Great clues and fill and a themer trick that came together like a photomosaic.
Really enjoyed the NYT. Pretty much that perfect Thursday where I struggle to start, but then I get one answer, and then some crosses, and then I grok the theme, and then it steadily comes together.
NYT: With yesterday’s quirky TMI puzzle, and today’s Trading places, it feels like we got TWO Thursday puzzles this week… not a bad thing at all IMO. I love Thursday puzzles when they take their time falling but work out fairly and fun-ly and interestingly :) . Yesterday’s and todays did that for me :)