Ben Zimmer’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Musical Soundalikes”—Jim’s review
Theme answers consist of made-up phrases that sound like actual band names.
- 20a. [Network connection not working, sounding like “Just a Girl” singers?] NODE OUT. No Doubt.
- 25a. [Liquor lamentations, sounding like “Blitzkrieg Bop” singers?] RUM MOANS. Ramones.
- 34a. [Dutch granola bits, sounding like “Private Eyes” singers?] HOLLAND OATS. Hall and Oates. I’ve heard “haulin’ oats” before but not this one.
- 50a. [Tale of a love god, sounding like “Dream On” singers?] EROS MYTH. Aerosmith.
- 55a. [Description of this puzzle’s theme answers, sounding like “The Look” singers?] ROCK SET. Roxette.
I enjoyed this quite a bit, in part because all of these bands fall squarely into my wheelhouse, but also because I found a couple of the entries to be humorous. I even recognized all the song titles. I get that not everyone will have the same connection, so your mileage may vary. But it sure worked for me.
Fave bits of fill include MAIN DISH, TENSED UP, SAD STORY, and “IS IT ME?” plus MOJO and DOJO. A number of pop culture references skewed older like Cat BALLOU, BENJI, and ALIENS, so I appreciated Matthew MODINE being clued via Stranger Things.
Clues were on the tougher side for this Wednesday, or at least I was on the very wrongest wavelength. For example, I had CAR for the longest time in response to the clue [One might be jam-packed]. It turned out to be JAR. And that’s just one of several that got me.
More clues of note:
- 18a. [Swift specialty]. IRONY. That’s Jonathan Swift, not Taylor.
- 23a. [Make a father]. ORDAIN. Took me a long time to see this because I had ACH instead of OCH in the crossing [Scot’s exclamation].
- 5d. [1986 sequel that takes place on the moon LV-426]. ALIENS. I love a clue that hits my geeky bone.
- 61d. [Messi motivator]. “OLE!” Tricky, but I like the fresh angle.
Four stars from me.
Kavin Pawittranon & Nijah Morris’s New York Times crossword–Amy’s recap
The name of the game is PAC-MAN (68A.
[Where to find the starts of 17-, 28-, 45- and 58-Across?]), and Pac-Man travels through a maze eating PELLETs and FRUIT, trying to eat GHOSTs before they get him, and the sound is something like “waka waka.” The themers are a zoo’s food PELLET DISPENSER, a GHOST OF A CHANCE, the FRUIT OF THE LOOM brand, and rapper WAKA FLOCKA FLAME. Certainly a fresh theme concept!
Fave fill: ASTROTURF, SAFE WORD, EIGHT BALL (tricky clue: 19D. [Last thing to go in a pocket, one hopes], as when shooting pool).
Newer usage: 55A. [“Whoops,” in a text], MY B, as in “my bad.”
Name I either didn’t see in the 2014 and 2018 Winter Games, or just forgot: 29D. [Yuzuru ___, first skater to successfully land a quadruple loop in competition], HANYU. Two gold medals in men’s singles!
Four stars from me.
John Hawksley’s AV Club crossword, “AVCX Classic Themeless #69
Bonkers grid! The word count is just 58, and that middle swath has five Across 11s crossing another five Down 11s. The fill is quite a bit smoother than I’d have expected.
Taxonomy: 15a. [It has a duck face and a normal face], LOONIE. Technically, while the loon is a waterbird, it’s not in the same order as ducks.
Fave fill: MINNESOTA, DISASTER GAYS (term I hadn’t heard before), STRESS EATER, STOCK TIP, DESERT PLANT, WINTER’S TALE, DINNER GUEST, new-to-me YETI BOOTS.
A few odd word forms here, such as TACTILELY and PONDEROSITY, not terrible but not great.
Four stars from me.
Jared Goudsmit’s Universal crossword, “Spelling Bees” — pannonica’s write-up
Reparsing phrases as if they were describing the locations of letters within one of the words:
- 17a. [B?] BROADWAY OPENING.
- 28a. [E?] END OF TIME.
- 49a. [E?] REC CENTER.
- 62a. [S?] SPIRITUAL LEADER.
These letters, of course, spell “BEES”.
It’s a cute theme, but it really requires most of the crossing letters to be in place before being able to have an inkling about the key entries.
- 1a [Pre-K lesson] ABCS. Appropriate to the theme, and a nice way to open the grid.
- 22a [1,440 minutes] DAY. Right now, that doesn’t seem so long. But I’m sure it’s very much a situational sense.
- 67a [“It’s a __ country”] FREE. Is it? Our freedoms are being eroded at an alarming pace. Especially when it comes to intellectual pursuits and healthcare. Guns, not so much.
68a [Name found in “camaraderie”] MARA.
- 70a m[Boast, slangily] FLEX. 2d [“You just got roasted!”] BURN.
- 12d [“You can’t see me!” wrestler] CENA. I know him only as an actor; is he still active on the wrestling scene?
- 29d [Jones of jazz] NORAH. The curse of being too familiar with a subject. Needed a lot of crossings here.
- 50d [Far from a celebrity] NO NAME. 8d [Low-budget film such as “I Was a Teenage Werewolf”] B MOVIE.
Despite what I mentioned about crossings for the theme entries, overall it was a smooth solving experience and a solid offering.
Enrique Henestroza Anguiano & Brooke Husic’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary
So we see a lot of puzzle themes similar to today’s by Enrique Henestroza Anguiano & Brooke Husic. There are words split across parts of longer answers tied together by a revealing answer. Today’s are THREE/TWO/ONE tied up at HIDDENFIGURES. I’m guessing that there aren’t many answers that fit this theme either, given the puzzle has resorted to left-right symmetry. GWYNETHREES is new to me, generally we try to keep theme answers as broadly known as possible, but maybe I’m an outlier? The others are two fifteens: FAMOUSLASTWORDS and WALKONEGGSHELLS.
There a few other tricky proper nouns today:
- [“227” actress Reed Hall], ALAINA. There sure are a lot of variations on this name.
- [Type of roof with dormer windows], MANSARD
- [“A Wrinkle in Time” woman], MRSWHO. The name of the work seems dimly familiar?
- [__ Smiths: Adidas tennis shoes], STAN. Managed to work this out; 1970’s tennis star. Not sure I’d recognize his shoes like I would Lacoste and his shirts…
Patrick Berry’s New Yorker crossword–Amy’s solution
Smooth puzzle, lots of terrific fill, plenty of interesting/fun clues. 13d clues ANGELA Bassett as [Tina’s portrayer in “What’s Love Got to Do With It”], and today we got the news of Tina Turner’s passing. A legend!
I don’t care for +AT entries like YAP AT, but that’s offset here a slew of good 8s and 9s.
Four stars from me, that’s all I’ve got time for today.
There’s a flat error in the LAT for 5/24/23 at 29D:
Q: “Midsize car”, A: “Sedan”
NO — There are many midsize sedans, but not all midsize cars are sedans (they could be hatchbacks, coupes, or wagons), and certainly not all sedans are midsizes (they could be compact or full-sized).
Anybody who agrees or disagrees, or knows how to send this complaint directly to LAT, please respond.
Agree. Also felt like a lot of obscure proper names….obscure to me, anyway.
I completely agree. That’s a terrible clue.
FWIW, I posted my slowest LAT Wednesday solve time in more than three years (February 2020). I also had more than my usual number of fill-in-the-blank answers. That’s a very bizarre combination. It was a real “you know it or you don’t (and can’t even guess)” solve for me. So many abbreviations, initialisms and proper names. Oof.
WSJ puzzle was superb.
I went to solve this one, based just on Ben Zimmer’s name and this comment. Sadly, it turns out that I am squarely outside of the puzzle’s target demographic: although I am familiar with the names of four out of five of the theme bands, I didn’t recognize *any* of the five song names. In a sense, the saddest part is that the band name I didn’t know of was the one for the revealer. Ah, well…
My experience exactly.
The NYT theme was completely lost on me, ignorant as I am of PACMAN. But that didn’t present any major solving issues, at least, although the SE corner was a little tricky. MYB was (sort of) inferable, I guess.
I’m not totally ignorant of PAC-MAN — I may have played it once, 40+ years ago — but you don’t need to know the game to solve the puzzle.
The theme didn’t leave me with any warm, fuzzy feeling, but that’s fine. I’m glad if other people enjoyed it more.
SAFE WORD seems a bit risqué for the NYT. I’d be happy with more fill like that.
When I was a kid I didn’t really go to arcades, but my dentist had a Pac-Man machine in his waiting room. So I have played the game on occasion. I just never would have transcribed that sound as “waka” so I didn’t have any idea how 58A fit.
I was vaguely aware of the rapper’s name; looking at Wikipedia, it doesn’t seem like he’s done much in the last ten years. How famous is he?
Famous enough that his name stuck in my head, though I probably wouldn’t recognize any of his songs. But I seem to retain unusual names fairly well.
I’ve never heard of the guy, but he had 2 Top Ten albums and a #13 single, so I think he’s fair game.
I’ve never heard of the Pac-Man sound being called “Waka Waka,” but that also seems fair game.
Turns out that I am somewhat familiar with WAKA FLOCKA FLAME’s “Hard in da Paint,” though I couldn’t have told you who did that song. (Most of the rap songs I recognize are ones included in mash-ups by Girl Talk. If you don’t know that artist, and you like popular music, it’s worth listening to. He borrows bits of songs from the 1960’s on; sometimes taking just a riff or a single word.)
Count me as one more solver who had no clue about this theme (or about the grid-spanning rapper either) in spite of having played PACMAN a few times with my kids. (I thought those were “dots” that they ate). The game obviously didn’t have much impact on me. I was startled when I saw that Jeff Chen gave it his “POW” so obviously it had much more impact for some. It seems pretty generation-specific, and I’m clearly not of that generation. But the puzzle was plenty easy in spite of that, so no problem to finish; just a complete absence of any “Aha!” at the end.
PAC-MAN came out over 40 years ago and has had a pretty big pop-culture presence since then. Which generation do you think it is specific to?
The PAC-MAN theme meant nothing to me, too, and I got it at the very end only through the revealer. That does mean mean it was no impediment, as Eric H. felt it. The rapper as a long entry and Pac-Man itself were bars to the SE, precisely where I went for help. MY B for bad was new to me down there, too.
Overall eminently solvable, but a touch harder than one might expect for a Wednesday (not that this matters) and not terribly rewarding. I just shrugged and wrote it off as not aimed at me. If it’s aimed at YOU, fine.
NYT: nice puzzle overall
I’m having trouble grokking 39a: Second-brightest stars – BETAS. Is this just a reference to the “beta male” (ugh) concept? Not sure what “stars” means – maybe the clue is too clever by half.
The brightest star in a constellation is designated as “alpha.” (Alpha Centauri, the star system closest to the sun, gets its name that way. It’s the brightest in the Centaurus constellation.) The second-brightest is “beta,” and so forth.
WSJ: I wanted to like this one. I’ve been a pop music fan for 50 or so years, so I’ve heard of most of the artists and songs. And I have a punny sense of humor; a lot of the themes I have tried to build puzzles around aren’t that different than this one.
But RUM MOANS was the first theme answer I got, and it’s one of the weaker puns in the bunch. That put me off a little.
HOLLAND OATS triggered a memory of a ski trip about 10 years ago. We spent four or five days at one resort, and every freaking time we went into the cafeteria, the music on the PA was Hall & Oates. I’d never much cared for their music, and that overexposure to it didn’t change my opinion.
EROS MYTH is by far my favorite of the theme answers. The IRONY is that I didn’t read the clue closely enough and originally spelled that answer EROSMiTH, which meant a hunt for my error (something I hate to do). I’m glad LILY was clued as the flower, because that made the last letter unambiguous.
AVXC: I probably spent more time on it than any of their puzzles (excluding their cryptics, which I can never finish).
Most of it was pretty smooth, but the SW took a long time. I had all but the last few letters of MONTREALERS (could have been MONTREALanS, for all I knew), and I assumed “crane game” was a Japanese thing, not an arcade/supermarket game. But probably what caused me the most trouble was that despite knowing damned well the difference between the GRE and the GED, I always read a clue for GED and enter GRE.