Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Letter Rip!”—Jim’s review
Theme: The letters CAP must be removed from the theme answers for the clues to make sense. The revealer is DROP CAP (58a, [Large letter at the beginning of a paragraph, and what you must do to make sense of each starred answer]).
- 16a. [*Humiliating defeat] CRAP OUT. Rout.
- 22a. [*Unescorted] AL CAPONE. Alone. There’s an extra A here, but it’s quite clear that it should remain in place.
- 47a. [*It forks into two branches upstream of Arles] CAR PHONE. Rhone. Are car phones things anymore? Has anyone under, say, 35 even heard this term?
- 9d. [*Gin cocktail] SCALPING. Sling.
- 19d. [*Lease signer] CARPENTER. Renter.
- 35d. [*Nonet of myth] CAMPUSES. Muses.
Good theme, but it was slow going until I got to the revealer. I did manage to uncover CAR PHONE and CAMPUSES beforehand, but could make no sense of them. I appreciate the interesting theme answers (especially the first three) and the fact that the letters CAP remain in order in each one. Nice aha moment.
WOOL VEST and ANTIDOTE are the longest non-theme entries. Not terribly exciting, but not bad, either. Did not know ERO [Handel cantata “___ e Leandro”], I’m never keen on SSR [Latv. or Lith., once], and URGER [Pressing person] isn’t great. But this must have been a challenging construction with seven theme answers and one of them (CARPENTER) crossing two others. So…a nice construction considering.
Clues of note:
- 49a. [Industry with projected results]. CINEMA. Nice clue. I’m thinking it would warrant a question mark earlier in the week.
- 54a. [Yorkshire area]. DALES. I was expecting this one to be about dogs.
- 55a. [Trident, e.g.]. MISSILE. And I was expecting this one to be about gum.
- 38d. [Prussian blue, for thallium poisoning]. ANTIDOTE. New to me, Prussian blue is a dark blue pigment. Wikipedia says it was the first modern synthetic pigment and is the traditional reason why “blueprints” are blue.
- 59d. [Fragrant shrub]. RUE. Oy. Cruciverb lists only one other instance of this word clued as a “shrub” and 6 instances clued as a “plant.” It looks nice though. Here’s more info if you want to grow it in your garden.
Good puzzle. Four stars.
David J. Kahn’s New York Times crossword — Zachary David Levy’s write-up
Difficulty: Challenging (16m28s)
Today’s theme: CAPITAL / GAINS (With 31-Down, proceeds from the sale of an asset … or a hint to understanding six answers in this puzzle)
- MOSQUITO (MOs + Quito)
- RIGATONI (Riga + Toni)
- TIMBERLINES (Times + Berlin)
- BAKING STONE (Bae + Kingston)
- PARISHES (Paris + Hes)
- LOS LOBOS (LBOs + Oslo)
This played tough, despite being in my wheelhouse. There are also good finds here, although not all of the theme content lands (see: “HES” for “fellows”, and the abbreviations MOS and LBOS tucked into QUITO and OSLO.) On the other hand, KINGSTON and BERLIN in BAKING STONE and TIMBERLINES are nice touches.
As an aside, considering all the people and things that we have collectively(ish) decided are no longer appropriate puzzle content, how are we still referencing Michael Jackson in 2023? Especially for an entry like BEAT IT which could just as easily be “Scram!” or something along those lines.
Cracking: QUASH — being so close to SQUASH, which is used in reference to physical suppression/compression, whereas QUASH only refers to the figurative sense.
Slacking: ABOUND IN — awkward partials are always a safe bet.
Sidetracking: OSLO — I’ve been on a Travel Man kick for the last 18 months, as the show is on heavy rotation on Samsung TV’s Journy and Tastemade channels. Here’s Richard Ayoade (half Norwegian) on his home turf:
Max Schlenker’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary
Kind of a difficult to pin down theme today from Max Schlenker. Four phrases start with words associated with a specific class of organism. The second part is used to create a clue about hypothetical teaching procedure / aid by someone studying those organisms?
- [Teaching surface for an ornithologist?], BILLBOARD. Birds
- [Lecture given by an arachnologist?], WEBADDRESS. Spiders
- [Demonstration given by a herpetologist?], SCALEMODEL. Reptiles
- [Classroom icebreaker for a marine biologist?], SHELLGAME. Anything alive in the ocean?
Quite an uneventful puzzle fill-wise. I like how the clue for NAAN intruces […saag paneer] for future crosswords; ALOO is another useful Indian menu word. [Portable emergency kit], GOBAG is a flashy neologism. The [Nestlé bar…] AERO is hugely popular here, but I thought it wasn’t generally available in the U.S.?
Robyn Weintraub’s New Yorker crossword – Kyle’s write-up
Sorry for the late write-up today, one of those days!
Thanks to Robyn Weintraub for today’s puzzle. To be brief: I really enjoyed the long crossings in the NW and SE: SHOESTRING/TOWN HALLS/A STAR IS BORN/BERLIN WALL and FRAUD ALERT/DILL PICKLES/MODEL TRAIN/SILKWORMS. In a departure from Robyn’s usual style, this puzzle doesn’t have any long conversational entries, but it was delightful nonetheless.
NYT: Nice one. I knew right away that 1D had to be MOS, but left it blank because it obviously didn’t fit. Got most of the NW filled in without understanding why QUITO was there until I got the revealer.
I’ve been a fan of LOS LOBOS since “How Will the Wolf Survive?” and knew the answer to 41D was LBOS — but it took me a while to pull OSLO out of there.
It didn’t seem particularly hard to me — took about ¾ of the typical Thursday.
After unGAINING the capitals, three core theme answers are: HES, BAE and MOS. Do those have the heft to satisfy a NYT puzzle theme.
I agree. I thought the theme was very clever, and I loved RIGATONI. But trying to parse out some of the others was a bit of struggle with the short abbreviated answers. In a variant on Downs Only, I ended up doing Unthemed Only and basically ignored the theme answers. Which became a problem because I’d never heard of BAKINGSTONE. But got it done eventually.
I’d never heard of it either nor cared for the three-letter theme answers. Quite generally the SW was really tough for me, what with the two descending names. Besides, given the geography heavy theme, I could have lived without CEYLON and, less familiar, SRI by itself.
A BAKING STONE is a wonderful thing to have if you like to make pizza. We use ours for other things, too.
Perhaps I misread some of your previous comments, but I’m guessing you are somewhere around my age (64 in a few weeks)? I remember when Sri Lanka was called CEYLON, but maybe that’s because all the maps and globes we had when I was a kid were from the 1950’s. (The name changed in 1972.)
The NYT was not in my wheelhouse at all. Possibly this would have been less painful if a parenthetical at the end of each themer had given the country whose capital needed to be inserted. That might’ve made it more of a Wednesday, but it would have been much more enjoyable (for me anyway). Having essentially more than half of the theme entries unclued (MOS vs. QUITO, for example) made this really frustrating for me. Did not like it. But hey, not every crossword can be for everyone.
If you did not do yesterday’s Universal Syndicate puzzle, check it out. You might really like it.
I did do that one! And you’re right, I did like it! :)
Having that parenthetical is a really good suggestion. It would have made it into a great Wednesday rather than a confusing Thursday.
I found David Kahn’s New York Times to be quite challenging and, ultimately, highly rewarding. I struggled, with no idea as to what the puzzle was about – even after unearthing “capital gains” – and finally solved the puzzle successfully with the crosses to the six themed answers.
Then I tried to figure out what the heck it all meant. The epiphany came when I saw “Toni” in “rigatoni.”
One of the best Thursdays.
Got the trick from LOSLOBOS, and went ahead from there. Agree that the three-letter ‘cores’ in theme entries is not great.
Cannot cry down enough the paucity of substance in the left overs post CAPITAL reduction
Clever puzzle? Sure, but too little reward
NYT was a good theme. Got the revealer and the NW corner by working the crossing clues. What threw me off was that the themes in the NW corner are at the beginning and end of the answers. Very clean. Messed me up for 18 and 59-A and 41-D.
Completed the NYT puzzle with one error but don’t know how I did that. Never got the theme, even after reading the posts. Don’t understand many of the answers. Don’t care.
I think NYT was frankly bad to be honest unless I’m missing something. No cluing on the capitals so there’s no way to actually try and guess them and no consistency on how the capitals were put in. Three were the answer and the capital simply pushed together and three where the capital is stuck in the middle of the answer. My least favorite puzzle in… maybe ever.
What’s wrong with parishes? In addition to its religious use, it’s the same as counties in Louisiana.
I know – I actually live in one – but the clue is “fellows” and I can’t get to “parishes” from “fellows.” Help wanted.
“Fellows” is just cluing the HES at the end of PARISHES. (And it’s a pretty weak clue for HES, which is a pretty bad entry on it’s own.) The CAPITAL “gained” by HES is PARIS, hence PARISHES. The capital itself is unclued, which was my major issue with this puzzle. I think there probably is a way to make this theme fun and clever (see the Universal puzzle from May 3), but this is not it.
WSJ: I made no sense of the theme while solving, but it was fairly obvious once I was done and gave it a bit more thought.
“WOOL VEST [is one of the] longest non-theme entries. Not terribly exciting, but not bad, either. Did not know ERO . . . .” I don’t have many articles of clothing that I really like, but my Smartwool vest, in snazzy olive green, is one of my favorite things to wear. Too bad it’s usually too warm in Texas for it.
ERO took me longer to get than it should have. I don’t know the cantata, but I sort of know the story of Hero and Leander, and the clue was a giveaway.
Universal: Pretty simple theme — common phrase with the last letter changed as if going up a musical scale. SAUVIGNON BLAND made me chuckle. I’m not sure that STATE OF GRIEG works as well. The base phrase doesn’t seem like it’s that common.
The Times puzzle was really divisive. Many adored it – not me – and many really hated it! I had no idea what was going on and had a rare DNF for a Thursday. When I looked over the blogs to see what was what, I still didn’t appreciate the puzzle because of answers like LBOS. I do appreciate the effort and the concept, just not the execution. Parentheses might have helped, but that doesn’t excuse some of the slop.