Chase Dittrich & Jeff Chen’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Is There an Echo in Here?”—Jim’s review
I’m starting to wonder if there are any constructors out there who haven’t teamed up with Jeff Chen?
Anyhoo, the theme revealer “came as a surprise” to me, because I thought the theme was one thing, but it turned out there was more to the story. Theme answers are familiar phrases that have some repeated letters (identified by circles). I thought that’s all there was to it, but the revealer is REPEAT AFTER ME (57a, [“Do as I do,” and a hint to what the circled letters do]). Those repeated letters all follow ME in their respective phrases.
- 19a. [Was hardly expected] CAMEASURPRISE. Came as a surprise.
- 27a. [Snapshot, of sorts] MOMENTIME. Moment in time.
- 38a. [People on a paleo diet] MEATERS. Meat-eaters. Ha. I actually have a meater (an app-enabled meat thermometer for bbqing), and it works quite nicely.
- 47a. [Foot bones] METARSALS. Metatarsals.
Nifty theme. I caught on to the repeated letters with the first entry. Needless to say, I found the phrases with three repeated letters more interesting than the ones with just two. At that point, the themed seemed interesting, but not especially noteworthy. Then the revealer made me look again and provided the real AHA moment. Very cool.
Fill is solid with highlights TATER TOT, Mary CASSATT, SHIATSU massage, and “TOP THAT!” I also liked seeing “WELP” [Modern sigh], which I use on occasion.
Clues of note:
- 67a. [Dazzler and Jubilee, e.g.]. X-MEN. I’m someone who used to read comics. Particularly Marvel comics. But I never got into the X-MEN, so these two names are new to me.
- 70a. [Ask too much of someone?]. PRY. Ha! Nice.
- 4d. [No matter, so to speak]. VACUUM. Also nice. Geek humor.
- 11d. [Source of samaras]. ELM. Oh cool. I never knew what those things were called. Pictured is a samara from a maple tree. ELM samaras look a bit different.
- 28d. [Notation used for Unix permissions]. OCTAL. More geekery, but not as funny.
Nice puzzle. Four stars.
Simeon Seigel’s New York Times crossword — Zachary David Levy’s write-up
Difficulty: Challenging (16m24s)
Today’s theme: EXCHANGING RINGS (Sharing in a symbol of commitment … or what four rows in this puzzle are doing to form new phrases)
- HOR(N)ET + RAI(S)ERS = HORSE TRAINERS
- (G)RAVE + LA(T)ENCY = TRAVEL AGENCY
- (P)ITCH IN + G(H)OST = HITCHING POST
- B(I)LLETS + L(A)PPER = BALLET SLIPPER
Wow, was this ever tough. So you take the letters in each of the two rings on the four theme lines, swap them, then read the words together (except with the black square shifted once to the left or right) in order to come up with the four theme novel answers. I don’t know what ties these four phrases together, and I’m not sure how the letter shift plays into the idea of EXCHANGING RINGS — which is to say, I don’t think that it does.
I like SCRAP PILE, but I want it to be SCRAP heap. I also spun the OCHER/ochre wheel the wrong way this time. Thanks for playing!
Cracking: RAN WITH IT. Went with the flow. The Dude abided.
Slacking: the TIGONS / SABOT cross is brutal, regardless of how inferable TIGONS was from the clue.
Sidetracking: OK GO!
Richard D Allen’s Fireball crossword, “Not (Soon) Enough”—Matthew’s review
Filling in for Jenni today, and it’s an interesting one. I had the gist of the theme but needed the revealer to understand it. Let’s see if I can recap it succinctly:
Themers are phrases with the letter string -TOO-, and “TOO” is crammed into a single rebus square. Additionally, the letter in the phrase that normally comes after -TOO- is moved before it. So TORONTO ONTARIO becomes TORONN[TOO]TARIO.
Really tough to see mid solve, but consistent across the themers, and we’ll start with the revealer, which fits nicely and is presumably the starting point for the constructor:
73a [Inadequate and untimely (and a hint to this puzzle’s theme)] TOO LITTLE TOO LATE
The themers themselves:
- 18a [Times to make snap decisions?] PHOP[TOO]POTUNITIES “Photo opportunities”
- 28a [Author of the 2022 book “We’ve Got to Try”] BER[TOO]OURKE “Beto O’Rourke”
- 40a [Where the 1993 World Series ended] TORONN[TOO]TARIO “Toronto, Ontario”
- 48a [Tortilla espanola, for example] POTAM[TOO]ELETTE “Potato omelette”
- 58a [Get very high, in a way] GOINR[TOO]BIT “Go into orbit”
Five themers and a revealer is no joke to fit into a grid, even a bit oversized. A little bit gluey in the fills, but this many themers really forced me to make sense of things rather than just work around it, so I like the overall experience.
- 15a [Comedian Eisenberg who hosted NPR’s “Ask Me Another”] OPHIRA. Eisenberg is also one-half of the commentary team for the finals of the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament each year.
- 17a [Floral ring] LEI. I have referenced a coming move in some recent reviews. It is to Hawaii, and the day is upon me — I fly Saturday. My pets traveled safely Tuesday, but were not greeted with LEI.
- 22a [Pippen’s rookie-season kicks] AVIAS. This is a bit of trivia I’ve seen before, but enjoy relearning, and a fun, lesser-used angle on a common piece of crossword fill.
- 26a [Eldest of the sisters in Haim] ESTE. Haim is a big deal, no? I’m surprised we haven’t seen more of ESTE. I’m sure there are some ESTAs and ESTOs willing to step out.
- 32a [Call a bomb, say] PAN. Interesting syntax in this clue; the reading is something like “Call [a film] a bomb, say”. The misdirect is along football terminology.
- 37a [Literature Nobelist born in Mexico City] PAZ. Octavio PAZ is entirely new to me. Got some reading to do.
- 47a [Eponym for the Billy Possum stuffed animal] TAFT. This is also new to me. Seems “Billy Possum” was a Taftian follow up to Roosevelt’s “Teddy Bear”
- 53a [Event with a lot of basting] BEE. As in a Quilting Bee
- 67a [Five ____ (highest rating for a hip-hop album in The Source magazine)] MICS. I quite like this. Of course many genres of music use MICS, but the image of an MC holding one, or of a “mic drop” makes the hip-hop inclusion more image-rich.
- 69a [Bird often seen on the back of a rhino] EGRET. “Often”?
- 79a [Bean, e.g.] MAINER. I guess this is in reference to L.L. Bean, who was a resident of Maine?
- 4d [Taste a rusty nail?] SIP. In reference to the cocktail, featuring scotch and Drambuie.
- 6d [Valley that’s home to the French Laundry] NAPA. The French Laundry being the flagship restaurant of Thomas Keller, and one of the best in the world.
- 45d [Blue Devil rival] TARHEEL. A little local flavor from this North Carolina-based constructor. The Blue Devil is the mascot of Duke University, while UNC’s teams are the Tarheels
- 50d [Rick and Morty, e.g.] TOONS. Cartoon Network’s Rick and Morty is widely regarded, and seemingly has more seasons in the hopper.
- 67d [They can catch heat] MITTS. As in baseball gloves, aka MITTS, catching fastballs.
- 74d [Cal. col.] TUE. As in a “calendar column,” not as I read it, a “California college.” Well done.
Hoang-Kim Vu & Jasper Davidoff’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary
Hoang-Kim Vu & Jasper Davidoff’s LA Times crossword features a fairly intricate theme. The final entry, PARTYLINES, explains most of the heavy lifting: the first part of three otherwise real phrases is a party, the second is a verb related to speaking, and the clues reflect this second state of reality.
- [“Pour the tea!” and “Let’s pick a new topic of conversation!”?], SOCIALCUES
- [“Would you pin on my corsage?” and “May I have this dance?”?], FORMALREQUESTS
- [“They’re going to make such good parents!” and “What a cute onesie!”?], SHOWERREQUESTS
A few of the trickier entries:
- [__ Villa: Premier League team], ASTON, for those not following EPL.
- [Willie who broke the NHL’s color barrier], OREE is not a name I remember seeing, despite its letters.
- [Naan flour], ATTA is old-fashioned crossword-ese, but seems to be making a comeback of late, I guess because Indian cuisine is very popular lately?
- [Merediz of “In the Heights”], OLGA is a new OLGA angle for me.
- [Mozart’s “Rondo __ Turca”], ALLA is something you may be super familiar with, even without knowing its name!
Stella Zawistowski’s USA Today Crossword, “Heat Storage” — Emily’s write-up
Is it hot enough for you? Wouldn’t it be nice to bottle some and save it for a colder part of the year?
Theme: each themer contains —HEAT— within it
- 18a. [Feathered friends that might get their meals form the ocean], FISHEATINGBIRDS
- 38a. [First Black published poet in the U.S.], PHILLISWHEATLEY
- 52a. [“Don’t sass me!”], LOSETHEATTITUDE
Today’s set is a mix of themers. FISHEATINGBIRDS took me a several crossings because I saw them dive-bombing in for this entry. This year is the 50th anniversary of the PHILLISWHEATLEY Poetry Festival this November in Jackson, MS. LOSETHEATTITUDE sounds like a teenager being chastised for rude behavior.
Favorite fill: SASHAY, PAPI, GALBI, ANGIE, and VOILA
Stumpers: TERRY (only “cotton” and “linen” came to mind), ENDIT (needed crossings), and ELISE (new to me)
Solid puzzle with nice cluing and was overall enjoyable. The themer set was just okay for me today, as they felt too random and their commonality of the shared theme word felt too mundane and lacked a bit of sparkle for me.