Sarah Bridger’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “First Week of July”—Jim’s review
We have an INDEPENDENCE DAY themed puzzle today (36a, [What 20- and 52-Across and 10- and 44-Down celebrate every first week of July]), but it’s not marking America’s independence. Rather, we’re looking at other countries that gained their freedom from their colonizers during this week in history.
- 20a. [July 5, 1975/Portugal] CAPE VERDE.
- 52a. [July 5, 1811/Spain] VENEZUELA.
- 10d. [July 6, 1964/United Kingdom] MALAWI.
- 44d. [July 1, 1962/Belgium] RWANDA.
A pleasant enough theme, but I just didn’t find myself engaged by the fact that other countries have their INDEPENDENCE DAY near ours. If they all shared July 4th as their day of festivities then that would be something, but just because these happen to be in close proximity to ours…well, it just feels a bit random. It didn’t help that I didn’t know CAPE VERDE was a country (it’s an archipelago off the westernmost coast of Africa).
Fave fill has to be THE RAVEN followed by STEEL TOE from “steel-toe boot” fame. Plurals TARS and WRATHS were odd, and I didn’t know the actor CHAZZ Palminteri from The Usual Suspects (but I recognize the face).
Clues of note:
- 1a. [They may pave the way]. TARS. It would make so much more sense to me to clue this as a present-tense verb than as a plural.
- 10a. [Fields Medal field]. MATH. I don’t think I knew about this award. It’s sometimes regarded as the “Nobel Prize of Mathematics” but winners have to be under 40 years of age. Interesting.
- 12d. [Tattered]. TORE. So “Tattered” is a verb here? I don’t think I’ve ever seen it used except as an adjective.
Congrats to our constructor on the debut! It’s a nice grid, though the theme didn’t grab me. 3.25 stars.
Joe Deeney’s New York Times crossword–Amy’s recap
I like the theme! Familiar phrases that begin with language/nationality names are clued (I presume) with the phrase’s second word rendered in the language/alphabet. (I assume this theme presentation doesn’t work in .puz format.)
- 17A. [Кукла]. RUSSIAN DOLL.
- 23A. [أرقام], ARABIC NUMERALS.
- 36A. [跳棋], CHINESE CHECKERS.
- 46A. [לאומי], HEBREW NATIONAL. I believe that’s a hot dog brand. Can’t say I see it much in Chicago groceries.
- 56A. [Γιαούρτι], GREEK YOGURT.
Fave fill: The ballsiness of dropping an AGLET at 1-Across, kind of a big “eff you” to folks who haven’t learned this word from either crosswords or a fondness for knowing oddball little words for things. Actress HONG CHAU; I shan’t watch The Whale but she was also good in The Menu. “MIND BLOWN.” And a VR HEADSET, which is not for me.
3.75 stars from me.
Dylan Schiff’s Universal crossword, “The Quiet Game” — pannonica’s write-up
Not being familiar with the title—at least not by name—I had to check to determine if it was what I suspected it to be. Yup.
So the theme is the names of games appearing within larger words or phrases, and those containers will still spell valid entries—in fact, the ones that are clued—without the presence of those names. It’s more elegant in practice than description.
- 20a. [Divvying up fairly (in this answer, ignore letters 4–7)] PRO-RATING (Life, proliferating). ASIDE (15a): ‘proliferating’ and ‘life’ have related meanings, although they aren’t etymologically aligned.
- 25a. [Membership fees (… letters 3–7)] DUES (chess, duchesses).
- 42a. [“Don’t __ on it!” (… letters 2–5)] BET (Risk, brisket). “Bet” and “risk” are synonyms, so this conglomeration has huge potential for a cryptic clue; I’d be surprised if it hasn’t been thus exploited numerous times already.
- 49a. [Thankless sort (… letters 1–2] INGRATE (go, going rate).
As none of the theme entries are of the same length, left-right mirror symmetry was sensibly chosen for the grid.
- 8d [Awful smell] ODOR. My opinion on the exclusively pejorative characterization of this word is well-established.
- 36d [ __ predator (food chain topper)] APEX. ‘Food chain’ is a long-outmoded model. ‘Food web’ is more useful and accurate.
- 53d [Cursive and calligraphy are lost ones] ARTS. Would’ve preferred a “to some”-type qualifier in the clue.
- 47a [Mr. Potato Head’s chest] TOY BOX. Not his anatomical chest (which apparently he lacks), rather the kind of chest he might be associated with. 29d [Potato features] EYES. 43d [Tater __ ] TOT.
- 56a [Scroll in an ark] TORAH. Echoes the phrase “stroll in the park”.
Isn’t a little gentleness and quiet welcome after noisy festivities?
Patrick Berry’s New Yorker crossword—Amy’s recap
Fave fill: ATHLEISURE, FEEL FREE, PUMPKIN SPICE (you can have my share, though), CAMPS IT UP. Not keen on the term HEN PARTY, which isn’t used around these parts and who wants to be called a barnyard fowl? And I’m not sure I’ve ever encountered MISDO outside of a crossword puzzle.
57a. [Homemade papier-mâché adhesive], FLOUR PASTE. I’ll bet some of you grew up with your moms making some rice paste to use instead of store-bought. Not me—my folks bought the rice that promised to be “never sticky” rather than pursuing the sticky rice of Asia, and we had the paste from the school supplies aisle.
Didn’t know this Spanish: 50d. [Before, in Bogotá], ANTES. Nice to have a break from poker bets.
27d. [Philippine island where Magellan landed shortly before his death], CEBU. Many Americans learned in grade school that Magellan circumnavigated the earth, but no, Lapu Lapu had something to say about that and Filipinos killed Magellan midway through his planned journey. Magellan’s boat limped home with a small crew.
3.75 stars from me.
Alice Liang’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary
Alice Liang’s extra-wide crossword’s theme is a bit quirky, with a two part revealer and three entries. I feel like the opportunity to include MEASURETWICE/CUTONCE into the grid is its main attraction. The three entries themselves consist of two starting with a MEASURE and one starting with a CUT: [*Pampering massage after a long day], FOOTRUB, [*Neighborhood notice taped to a telephone pole], YARDSALESIGN, [*Chinese takeout choice], CHOPSUEY.
The grid design is quirky, too, with pairs of 10s and 11s that are long than two thirds of the theme.
- [On the rocks], OVERICE – not in trouble in any way. That comes later.
- [High-end Apple tablet], IPADPRO. Aren’t they all high-end?
- [Alternate nickname for the Windy City], CHITOWN.
- [Sushi bite that’s raw fish atop hand-pressed rice], NIGIRI.
- [Old West route], OREGONTRAIL. Where you coulddie of dissing Terry.
Brooke Husic & Will Nediger’s USA Today Crossword, “Secret Third Thing” — Emily’s write-up
Are you in the know? Solve today’s puzzle and you will be!
Theme: the last (or third) word of each themer can be paired with SECRET to form a new phrase
- 17a. [As expected], ACCORDINGTOPLAN
- 33a. [Warm, decadent banana split topping], HOTFUDGESAUCE
- 51a. [Indignant question to someone who just barged in], DONTYOUKNOCK
A fun themer set with ACCORDINGTOPLAN, HOTFUDGESAUCE, and DONTYOUKNOCK. With the theme, they become: SECRET PLAN, SECRET SAUCE, AND SECRET KNOCK.
Favorite fill: LOCS, EBIKE, and JUDOGI
Stumpers: REESE (new to me), GLO (needed crossings), and JAGGED (just couldn’t come up with it so needed crossings)
Loved today’s theme and themer set! Solid overall fill and cluing. Took me a bit longer to break into certain sections so didn’t feel quite as smooth to me, though that could be lack of sleep due to the late night yesterday for Fourth of July.