Note: Fireball is a contest this week. We’ll have our usual review after the submission period closes.
Robert Won’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “I’ll Hazard a Guess”—Jim’s review
Theme: (SHOT) IN THE DARK (53a, [Wild guess, and a hint to four of this puzzle’s squares]). The word SHOT doesn’t appear in the grid. Instead, it takes the place of four specific black squares in order to satisfy the adjacent clues.
The four SHOT squares are as follows:
- 1a [Debunked] DOWN and 13d [It holds about 1.5 ounces] GLASS. (SHOT) DOWN and (SHOT) GLASS.
- 24a [Close enough to be picked up] WITHIN EAR(SHOT). 12d [Take the front passenger seat] RIDE with 31d [Cause to race] GUN give us RIDE (SHOT)GUN. I didn’t expect 12d to span all the way down to include 31d, but that’s clearly what is intended. The clue for 31d is satisfied simply with GUN and not SHOTGUN.
- 36d [Elite group of wildfire fighters] HOT with 57d [River sport] CREW give us HOT(SHOT) CREW. I’ve never heard this phrase and it doesn’t exactly sound legit…until you find that the term has its own Wikipedia page. We also have the revealer at 53a here.
- 70a [Hardly a favorite] LONG and 52d [Y-shaped weapon] SLING. LONG (SHOT) and SLING (SHOT).
Nice theme. It was fun being befuddled right from the start at 1a, then sussing the theme out and having an aha moment. I wasn’t sure if I liked the little twist at 12- and 36d, but it’s grown on me, and it’s especially nice how the two phrases (RIDE SHOTGUN and HOTSHOT CREW) fit symmetrically in the grid.
Fun fill in LASER BEAMS, “DARN TOOTIN‘” (I wanted “durn tootin'”), WEAK TEA, ALTER EGO, YAKITORI, DRONED ON, and CASSAVAS. Plenty to like there on top of the nifty theme.
I didn’t know the proper name at 29a, nor the J. Lo album at 21d, so that made their crossing a bit ambiguous. But A seemed the likely choice to make both TEENA and UNA, and thankfully, it was the right one.
Clues of note:
- 32a. [Years, in Poitiers]. ANS. I had to double- and triple-check the crossings on this before I was satisfied with it. This isn’t a very common cluing angle for this entry. Cruciverb shows it was last clued this way in 2018.
- 66a. [Prepare to drop, maybe]. DRAG. Took me a long time to pull up the phrase “DRAG and drop”.
- 17d. [Debut, in Variety-speak]. BOW. No idea on this one. Is Variety magazine the only place that uses this word in this way?
- 44d. [Basic diet, for diabetics]. ANAGRAM. Nice one.
- 54d. [Cup, in Cannes]. TASSE. Knowing the word demitasse helped with this one.
Good puzzle all around. Four stars.
Simeon Seigel’s New York Times crossword — Zachary David Levy’s write-up
Difficulty: Difficult (17m49s)
Today’s theme: UPPERCASE and CLOCKWISE (How this puzzle’s grid must be rotated in order to read the answers to the starred clues, when written in 17-Across)
- WUZWUOZZH (innocence)
- ZOUUHEOU (Comic Con)
- EOONEOON (“Zoom-zoom”)
- WEOUZHWZO (one income)
Really enjoyed this. A proper Thursday challenge with a twist that required me to stop and think through the revealer. Some people don’t like entries that are nominally gibberish, but I’m not one of them. I had to turn my head and squint to make the H into an I and the W into an E, but it all works in the end.
Plus — and it’s partly my own alphabetic bias talking — look at all those Zs! Count ’em: 8! It just zips and zings and leaves you with zero regrets. HUZZAH!
Cracking: SPRITZ — I know what an Aperol spritz is, and I’ve heard the term “wine spritzer” before. but I didn’t realize that the spritzes were a broad group of Prosecco-based cocktails. The more you know.
Slacking: SAD IRONS — and not dour presses.
Sidetracking: RIZZO –> The Muppets Take Manhattan –> “Peoples is peoples”
Elizabeth C. Gorski’s New Yorker crossword – Kyle’s write-up
Good morning! Elizabeth C. Gorski has the Thursday New Yorker slot this week. Let’s see what’s in this puzzle:
- 34A PIANO TEACHERS [Coaches for benched players?] – a wonderful central entry. The clue is pitched just right for an easy themeless.
- Among the longer entries, I liked HAVE NO FEAR, BASKETBALL, PARASAIL, IRISH SEA. There are also a handful of 6-7 letter entries that I haven’t seen much in puzzles, like EAR EXAM, MAMBOED, and CURSOR, which added to the fresh feeling of the grid.
- The bottom central region with MBAS/BAMA/AMAL/SARS felt like a potential trouble spot, particularly as BAMA is clued with reference to 20th-century college football trivia.
- PERTEST (12D) feels iffy as the superlative form of pert. “Most pert” sounds more natural to my ear. According to Onelook pertest has some support in online dictionaries, although it doesn’t appear in Merriam-Webster.
- 56D MOW [Trim the lawn] – on my to-do list now that spring has arrived in Chicago!
Thank you, Elizabeth!
Dan Schwartz & Shannon Rapp’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary
Dan Schwartz & Shannon Rapp’s sixteen-wide puzzle features re-duplicative spoken-word phrases, four of them. All of them use a cute, but somewhat imprecise [Double…] clue, which does add a second layer. So:
- [Double bond?], PROMISESPROMISES.
- [Double check?], TESTINGTESTING.
- [Double fault?], EXCUSESEXCUSES.
- [Double jump?], SURPRISESURPRISE.
- [Shady, in gamer lingo], SUS. Not to be confused with “sussed”, which is figured out.
- [Early Canon autofocus camera], SURESHOT. The camera to my right while solving this puzzle is a PowerShot, which I assume is a descendant?
- [__ James of “The White Lotus”], THEO was a new name on me.
- Similarly, [“Antiracist Baby” author Ibram X. __], KENDI. Seems he smooshed it together from a bunch of unrelated languages…
- [Where to hang on the line?], BUSDEPOT. This clue feels like a try hard…
- [Spanish “this”], ESTO. I thought it was usually est(e/a) so I looked this up . In sum, as a pronoun, it’s esto, but as a determiner it’s est(e/a).
Hanh Huynh’s Universal crossword, “Ho-Hum” — Sophia’s write-up
Theme: The first syllable of each theme answer sounds like a word that a bored person would say.
- 20a [Robotic monster of Japanese kaiju movies (Note the first 2 letters in this answer)] – MECHA GODZILLA (meh)
- 25a [Masks, fins, etc. (First 4 letters)] – SNORKELING GEAR (snore)
- 47a [City north of the Bronx (First 3 letters)] – YONKERS NEW YORK (yawn)
- 53a [Someone to bounce ideas off of … or a phonetic hint to this puzzle’s theme] – SOUNDING BOARD
I like this theme, but I have no idea why the theme clues are focused on letter counts rather than syllables! Especially when it’s part of the theme that none of the sounds are spelled like their “bored” word… I’m assuming there must be some behind-the-scenes reason for the choice, but as someone who refuses to count letters in Universal puzzles, I thought this made an elegant theme needlessly more complex. Side note that MECHA GODZILLA was totally new to me, but I love it as an answer.
This puzzle played easy for me, time-wise – I’m curious if other folks felt the same. I didn’t realize that KEYNOTES were always opening speeches – for some reason I just assumed that they were the biggest most important ones? – so that held me up a little.
Fill highlights: OK CUPID, I RECKON, ROSARIO Dawson
Fill lowlights: TEMPI, SHERO (This is just personal preference; I feel the same way about “herstory”).
Clue highlights: [“Sharknado” channel] for SYFY, [Addams family member with a child named What] – ITT. With all the Cousin Itt clues in crosswords over the years, how did I not know this?
NYT: Clever idea that *almost* works with the font used in the puzzle app. Some unfamiliar/less than familiar stuff in the fill (COZEN, THE BIGS, SAD IRONS, WIDOWER (as clued)) added to the challenge of try to read the sideways letters. (I forgot how easy it is to use the rotation lock on my iPad.)
I’m one of those people who “don’t like entries that are nominally gibberish.” I make an exception for puzzles that have an easy-to-understand trick that allows my brain to see through the gibberish. If my rotated W’s really looked like E’s, and if my E’s rotated to M’s, I’d be happier.
I enjoy rebus puzzles, but it’s always interesting to get a trick that’s not a rebus. This one doesn’t quite do it for me, but the basic idea is fine.
I really liked this one. I thought the theme was extremely clever.
Unfortunately for me, I had ADORE rather than LAPUP for 2D, so I had LOWERCASE instead of UPPERCASE, which of course makes no sense at all. So it took me quite a while to figure out what was going on.
WSJ: Gotta say, I don’t love the imagery evoked for GUN (“Cause to race”), even with the understanding that it’s a starting pistol.
I think that means “gunning an engine”, which causes the engine itself to race. I don’t think starter pistols have been used in races for decades – now it’s a tone.
An online search indicates that this is not the case. There are pages after pages of said pistols for sale. I found nothing to suggest that they’ve not in use, today.
We still use starter pistols for track races at high school and college level.
Agree the clue refers to revving an engine. Firing a starting pistol is not called “gunning.”
I guess it could be a synonym for REV, but in the case I referenced, the GUN is what causes you to race. It’s not using GUN as a verb. In any event, it seems as plausible as cause the engine to “race”.
SHOTs in the dark, are they not traumatic? I wondered if anyone would note that enough to come back today and see.
And we have [shot]GUN as well, I’m trying to learn
WSJ: “Basic diet, for diabetics” should be a Clue of the Year nominee. I also liked the inclusion of TOKING in the grid, given the date.
Where is my “laughing until I cry” emoji? I totes missed that one.
You’d think someone would have noticed that anagram before. It’s just too perfect.
I really like that one, too. Not just that I like anagrams, but that so sneaks up on you!
Loved the NYT puzzle today. Quite clever. COZEN and SADIRONS were new to me, but they filled easily with intersecting clues.
So what? Nice construction feat, I guess …
Curious as to what you are looking for in Thursday, that would turn that frown upside?
WSJ: “I didn’t know the proper name at 29a . . . .” Brandon TEENA is a name that anyone who gives a damn about the treatment of LGBTQ people should know.
I haven’t seen “Boys Don’t Cry” since it came out (1999), but I remember it being good and appropriately disturbing. It gets bonus points in my book because my sister-in-law has a scene in which she plays a driver’s license clerk.
Universal: I didn’t get the theme on my own. Part of that was the incongruity of ME and MECH-. Part was that when I say YONKERS, it doesn’t come out as Yawnkers. (But I can imagine someone from Lawng Island pronouncing it that way.) I suppose I just overlooked the “phonetic hint” of the revealer.
I’m not sure if I solved it particularly quickly. The timer on my AcrossLite sometimes gets weird; it tells me that I solved it in 1:57. There’s no way I was that fast. But it did seem fairly easy. I only got a little bogged down by SNORKELING GEAR; I had the end but “scuba diving” obviously wasn’t going to work.
Loved the NYT. Fun gimmick, well executed