Paul Coulter’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Portals”—Jim’s review
Central to each theme answer is some sort of “portal” identified by the circled squares in the Down direction. The actual theme answers are phrases that start at the top of the portal and end at the bottom of the portal.
- 1a/19a. [Something said while escorting…. / …someone out your home’s 4-Down?] “GOOD / RIDDANCE” (with 4d being DOOR).
- 29a/47a. [Words when welcoming… / …a guest through your home’s 31-Down?] “HI, HOW ARE / YOU DOING?” (with 31d being ENTRY).
- 55a/70a. [Enjoying some nightlife after… / …stepping through your home’s 57-Down?] OUT ON THE / TOWN (with 57d being EXIT).
Neat concept. It’s a little bit weird to conceptualize greeting someone with a “HI, HOW ARE” then walking them through the ENTRY before finishing with a “YOU DOING?” But we can shorten that timeframe in our minds to make it flow better.
What felt more clunky to me was that last entry. The first two were lively, colloquial phrases that you could imagine being used when going through a door, so I expected the same from the third one. But the phrase OUT ON THE TOWN really has nothing to do with a doorway, so it’s an outlier in my book. And no one thinks of their front door as an EXIT, so that was weird, too. I’m not sure what could go in its place, but it just doesn’t work for me.
PONDEROSA, RAILROAD TIE, and ARACHNE are strong bits of long fill. But I have never heard the phrase SHEET ANCHOR [Spare stopper at sea] and didn’t know the George Jones song “MY COUNTRY,” but at least it was pretty inferable after getting a few crossings.
On the less-fun side we had a noticeable amount of crosswordese like STOMA, OREL, IDEE, and OTOE, plus rarer UNU and EMERG. Toughest of all was that ARCARO / ORTON crossing which did me in. I tried ARCANO / ONTON at first.
Clues of note:
- 9a. [Magazine contents]. ARMS. Meh. It just seems weird to refer to ammunition as ARMS, when the word is an apparent shortening of “firearms.”
- 66a. [911 occasion: Abbr.]. EMERG. It’s not great fill to start with and then to seemingly evoke 9/11 wasn’t a fun moment. I realize it’s 911 the telephone number, but during the solve it felt like it could go either way. And the word “occasion” makes it seem festive. A real downer of a clue. [Reason to call 911] would work better, IMO.
Cool idea for a theme, but it didn’t quite stick the landing for me. Three stars.
Kiran Pandey’s New York Times crossword — Zachary David Levy’s write-up
Difficulty: Challenging (20m03s)
Today’s theme: The last word’s the thing!
- ZILLIONS (Slang, for many = slang term for the word “many”)
- ROMAN NUMERAL (I, for one = I representing “one”)
- ELECTRICAL FAULT (Scientific definition, for short = the technical term for “short”)
- SEVEN LETTERS (Length, for example = length of the word “example”)
- ANCIENTS (Anagram, for instance = anagram of the word “instance”)
Had a real rough go of this one. Even after finishing the puzzle and (mostly) grasping the theme, I have a hard time explaining it (usually an indication that you don’t really understand what’s going on.) The theme answers all play off a crossword cluing trope (X, for Y), but in this case, a literal example of Y becomes the answer itself. Like cluing BUFFALO WINGS as (Option, for starters). You get the idea.. or you sort of get the idea.
I do think there’s something slightly incongruous about the theme set. To wit: ANCIENTS is an anagram of “instance”, check; SEVEN LETTERS is the length of “example”, check; ELECTRICAL FAULT is the scientific definition of “short”, check; ZILLIONS is a slang term for “many”, check; but that’s where it falls apart. ROMAN NUMERAL is not the “I” of “one.” What I mean is, trying to use a consistent phrasing device that works for every theme answer is either impossible, or eludes me (not a tall order.)
Edit: On further reflection, “I, for one” is a great way to clue ROMAN NUMERAL for a Friday or Saturday puzzle.
Cracking: BZZT — like the sound in my head during my first five attempts to define the theme in coherent terms.
Slacking: EAPOE — nearly a palindrome, which somehow makes it even less gratifying.
Sidetracking: KANSAS — still the greatest/second greatest “medical show” of all time, depending on how you feel about M*A*S*H
Robyn Weintraub’s New Yorker crossword – Kyle’s write-up
Thanks to Robyn Weintraub for today’s ultra-smooth New Yorker crossword. I noticed that there are no 6-7 letter entries in this grid. Every entry of 8+ letters crosses at least one other long entry, and the rest of the crosses are short common words or familiar names. If you’re getting started constructing themeless puzzles, this is a good grid layout to practice with finding a balance between colorful long entries and clean short fill (especially if you are working with a scored wordlist).
- Those long entries are: BOBBLEHEADS, STREET FAIRS, TAKES A KNEE, HOME REMEDY, TENNIS BALL, STORE BRAND, ZERO WASTE, SNOWBIRD, YOGA MATS, CLEAR A PATH (raise your hand if you live in the Snow Belt!), HACKED INTO, GAMEKEEPER, “ALMOST DONE”, and MISERABLE.
- The Weintraubian conversational clue of the day: 56A “ALMOST DONE” [“One more minute and I’ll be finished”]
- 8A SPOT [“Out, damned ___!] (line uttered by Lady Macbeth]. One of my favorite Macbeth productions is Trevor Nunn’s 1979 TV adaptation featuring Sir Ian McKellen (who was recently in another Thursday New Yorker) as the title role, and Dame Judi Dench as Lady Macbeth. Here is Judi Dench performing the sleepwalking scene with the famous line in question.
Adam Wagner & Rebecca Goldstein’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary
Adam Wagner & Rebecca Goldstein give us a more ambitious version of the letter sequence hidden inside theme answers trope than usual today. The revealer is OILANDWATER, and each answer has all eight letters of OILWATER scrambled in their centre:
- [*Pronoun for a spokesperson], EDITORIALWE
[*Decorative touch made with a small paintbrush, e.g.], DETAILWORK
- [*What “we are living in,” per a Madonna hit song], MATERIALWORLD
- [*Wraps at a spa], HAIRTOWELS. I have no idea what those are, but they sound disgusting…
There were actually several more mysterious answers for me today. I’m still not sure what [Where teens are treated like royalty?], PROMCOURTS are, but they sound barbaric. I also thought [Bughouse chess, but not classic chess], might be a cardGAME; I’m guessing it’s a kind of fairy chess? No idea on [iOS personal avatar], MEMOJI, either; those are far far too expensive for me those devices.