Trip Payne’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Not-So-Eminent Domains”—Jim’s review
Ooh! Haven’t seen Trip’s byline in a good long while. You’ll remember him of course from Wordplay. These days he’s co-editor of the Zynga app “Crosswords With Friends” alongside our very own Amy. So if you don’t happen to know his name, you can rest assured he knows his way around a grid.
Today he brings us a cheeky little puzzle with familiar phrases whose final few letters are also one of the more well-known internet domains (you know: org, edu, com, etc.). That part of the entry is separated from the main phrase by a rebussed DOT, and the whole thing is clued as if it was an apt website.
- 19a. [Website listing the best places to store alcohol?] LIQUORCABI(DOT)NET.
- 31a. [Website that collects funds for retired tennis players?] BJORNB(DOT)ORG. I like this one a lot because I can see someone referring to the tennis star as “Bjorn B”. Therefore it makes sense that his website is bjornb.org.
- 40a. [Website about the American Depression?] GLOOYMG(DOT)US. This is odd. I’m assuming the clue is referring to what I know of as “The Great Depression.” Never heard it referred to as the “American Depression.” Maybe the clue needs to refer to America since it’s a .us domain. But what is the connection between “gloomy gus” the phrase and The Depression, anyway? The Depression and depression in general are…kinda depressing. I would’ve gone with a clue like [Website for pessimists in America?]
- 51a. [Website discussing “Fawlty Towers” and “Absolutely Fabulous”?] BRITISHSIT(DOT)COM. Here’s a list of “the top 50” Britcoms. What’s your fave? Mine comes in at number 42, sadly, although we all know that 42 is the ultimate answer to life, the universe, and everything.
I enjoyed this, especially the aha moment when I found the DOTs and saw the ensuing domains. And for me, the Bjorn Borg entry alone is worth the price of admission. A fun set.
Top bits of fill include Carl Sagan’s PALE BLUE (DOT), GAY ICON, and ON A STREAK (to a lesser degree). The computer nerd in me loves WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get), but I’ve never heard it used outside of discussions regarding computer operating systems. Is it known to the general public? Crossing that second W with proper name WEEB might be impossible for some solvers.
Speaking of crossing proper names, crossing BEBE and BELLA at square one is a tough way to start. Thankfully, B makes the most sense there.
Clues of note:
- 5a. [It could reduce the price of a diamond]. FLAW. I fell into the trap of believing “diamond” referred to baseball. I’d say 9 times out of 10 it does in a crossword clue, but this time it didn’t.
- 36a. [Like cutlets]. BONED. I would say de-boned, but maybe that’s just me.
- 60a. [Hard liner, in baseball lingo]. ROPE. New to me, but sure, I guess.
- 46d. [Its heel is near its butt]. RIFLE. Near as I can tell, the heel is the top corner of the butt (closest to one’s shoulder when holding the gun) and the toe is the bottom corner (at one’s armpit).
- 53d. [“Naked and Afraid” structures]. HUTS. Not familiar with this Discovery Channel reality show. Apparently, two strangers must strip down before they meet and then survive 21 days together in the wilderness. Not sure why they have to be naked…just for the sake of the title?
- 54d. [Insult that Kim Jong Un memorably used about Donald Trump]. (DOT)ARD. I never thought I’d enjoy a clue referencing Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump…but here we are.
Good puzzle. Four stars.
Drew Schmenner’s New York Times crossword — Zachary David Levy’s write-up
Difficulty: Tricky (15m41s)
Today’s theme: SLEEPING CARs (Accommodation for a long train trip … or a hint to entering a certain letter 14 times in this puzzle)
- I(BM W)ATSON — ZZZ
- UP (FOR D)EBATE — ZZZZ
- S(KI A)REA — ZZZ
- I CL(AUDI)US — ZZZZ
Wow, did I enjoy this or what. Really nice Thursday level twist, and kept me on my toes the entire time. There was only one point during the solving experience that I really balked, and that was when I couldn’t make SLEEPER CAR fit, and was forced to settle on the (apparently) much more idiomatic SLEEPING CAR (if Google hits are anything to go by — and they usually are.) So I guess that one’s on me. I was also slightly distracted by the paired vertical fill at 2- and 35-down that are the same length as their adjacent theme entries, but that’s also a pretty minor infraction and something I’m guilty of violating all the time.
Cracking: I REPEAT, c-r-a-c-k-i-ng.
Slacking: DISMAYING did cause me varying degrees of dismayment and dismayfulness.
Sidetracking: Methuselah is the oldest non-clonal organism on Earth — a single life form that, at nearly 5,000 years old, almost predates all of written history, which is a mind-boggling thing to RUMINATE about. Only slightly less impressive (in my mind, at least) is the colony of quaking ASPEN in Richfield, Utah that has an 80,000 year old root system and weighs about 6,000 tons, making it both the oldest and heaviest clonal organism alive.
Patrick Berry’s New Yorker crossword – Kyle’s write-up
Thanks to Patrick Berry for today’s New Yorker puzzle. This is a classic Berry themeless grid design: four corner triple stacks, two entry/exit points out of each corner. Plenty of long answers to keep a solver’s interest, while also insuring against getting stuck in a region.
- Really liked the conversational clue/entry 20A [“Well, that answer didn’t make things any better”] “SORRY I ASKED“. Other conversational entries include 50A “ANYONE HOME?“, 3D “COME TO PAPA!” (although neither one gets a spoken phrase for a clue) and 25D [“___ where you’re wrong!”] THAT’S
- Good range of subject matter for the proper names in the puzzle, many of which get appropriate beginner-level clues. The trade-off, for me, was that not many of the trivia/cultural reference felt especially current: HARLEM SHAKE is already 10 years old, Post MALONE released “Rockstar” in 2017, etc. I think the freshest thing in the puzzle might be cluing RYAN Reynolds with respect to Wrexham AFC, the Welsh football (read: soccer) team that he co-owns with Rob McElhenny. The team is the subject of the documentary series “Welcome to Wrexham”, which is about to air its second season. They won their league last season and are currently touring the US playing against the likes of Manchester United and winning over legions of American fans in the process.
- I liked the intersection of ABBA and “Dear ABBY“. What kind of advice would a “Dear ABBA” column dispense?
Will Eisenberg and Shannon Rapp’s Fireball Crossword, “Closing Time” – Jenni’s write-up
I made this one much harder than it was with a couple of errors and a complete brain cramp. Since the brain cramp struck in the NW, I stumbled around for what felt like forever and solved the puzzle bottom up and once I found the revealer I was off and running. It’s a fun puzzle!
Each theme answer starts and ends with circles. The pattern in the grid is not just for decoration.
- 18a [1980s arcade game sequel] is DONKEY KONG JUNIOR.
- 33a [Subtitle of Robert Palmer’s “Bad Case of Loving You”] is DOCTOR DOCTOR.
- 51a [Pet-sit for, say] is DO A FAVOR.
And the revealer in the bottom row, plus some additional help: 71a [It comes to a close in this puzzle] is DOOR. 70a [With 72-Across, a warning…and a hint to this puzzle’s theme] is STAND CLEAR. I enjoyed this! Once I got 71a I was able to fill in all the circles, and that cleared the fog for me in the upper third. Solid and fresh. Fun!
A few other things:
- 2d [Joule, e.g.] is EPONYM. Since it has a circle I kept thinking there was something funky going on with the theme and it was going to be some kind of UNIT. Nope.
- 28d [“On Beyond Zebra!” letter] is a tricky clue for ITCH especially since that particular Dr. Seuss book is now out of print.
- 38a [Fisher’s general role] is LEIA. Carrie Fisher. The lower-case g held me up for a while.
- 59a [They’re usually left on all night] is a cute clue for PJS.
- 66a [’70s child] is an XER. I was born in 1960 so my cultural references are mostly from the 1970s and I tend to think of myself as a 70s kid. XERs were, of course, born in the ’70s and I’m a tail-end Boomer. I was also a late-onset mom so my kid is Gen Z, I think. My family apparently skipped the XERs completely.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that Don McLean went to IONA.
Dan Ziring’s Universal crossword, “Enhanced Browsing” — Sophia’s write-up
Theme: The theme clues point to a particular answer, but the answer in the grid is actually [that word] + AD.
- 17a [*Service members since 1775] – MARINADES (marines + ad)
- 25a [*Just OK] – DECADENT (decent + ad)
- 51a [*Certain guitars] – BADASSES (basses + ad)
- 61a [*Blackjack request] – HAD IT MADE (hit me + ad + ad)
- 36a [Online privacy tool to use on each starred clue’s answer?] – AD BLOCKER
I like this concept! I’ve seen various takes on AD BLOCKER in the NYT and other outlets, so it wasn’t completely new to me, though. At first I was a little confused why the AD was being added to each theme answer rather than “blocked” (removed), but rereading the revealer clue I see that the solver is meant to remove the AD themselves.
I am of two minds about the final theme clue, HAD IT MADE. It’s a great find, but changing up the single “AD” pattern at the very end made that bottom right corner much harder to figure out than the rest of the puzzle.
Fill highlights: TIE-DYES, ARTEMIS, REAR END. Was it just me, or did it feel like there were a lot of short phrases in this puzzle (e.g ACTED IN, ON A TEAR)?
Clue highlights: [Homeric exclamation?] for DOH, [___ Diego Zoo] for SAN (any Crazy Ex-Girlfriend fans out there? Iykyk).
Matthew Stock’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary
The concept in Matthew Stock’s puzzle is a strong one: WHATISLOVE is a song that remains surprisingly popular, and each of three entries starts with a word that completes the phrase “Love Is A ___” to make a song. So the problem is, that’s very specific. I knew one of the three songs: the #5 hit by Pat Benatar “Love Is a Battlefield”, but I can bet a lot of younger folks haven’t. The others are “Love Is a Game”, which appears to be an album track on Adele’s most recent album. Am I mad to say very few people outside superfans are that familiar with album tracks. I bought 21 and I’d be hard-pressed to name all the tracks on it. The other is “Love Is An Open Door”, and looking back on it I do kind of remember it from Frozen, kind of. It’s not as iconic as say “Let It Go” or “For the First Time in Forever” though, but OK.
Other entries worth noting:
- [Greek yogurt brand], OIKOS. Don’t think this is sold here; it’s worth noting as being a crossword vowel dump, it may show up again.
- [Like slime-making kits], MESSY. Not sure what those are, but I’m willing to bet they are in fact messy.
- [John Travolta film…], BATTLEFIELDEARTH. Bad Science Fiction based on Scientology, which is a religion based on bad Science Fiction.
- [Justice impersonated by Kate McKinnon on “SNL”], RBG. Very few people rise to the level of being known as a monogram…
- [Most populous U.S. state capital], PHOENIX. I’m going to guess this is just a quirk of quaint historical boundaries rather than real functional urban area?
- [Hasbro toys that issue commands], BOPITS. New to me, but not surprising. It did come out when I was ten, though.
- [Papa, in Chinese], BABA. In Zulu as well, I think. Terms like this seem to be pretty universally similar?
Stella Zawistowski’s USA Today Crossword, “Left Behind” — Emily’s write-up
Very punny title today that might misdirect some solvers since it’s also a common phrase.
Theme: each across themer starts with (on the left) a word for a rear (or behind)
- 19a. [Pass the time idly], BUMAROUND
- 38a. [25C and 13D, on an airplane, e.g.], SEATASSIGNMENT
- 56a. [Engage in conflict], BUTTHEADS
Please be sure to not BUMAROUND when you already have your SEATASSIGNMENTS. Only real BUTTHEADS would be so obnoxious. This theme and themer set are just so playful today, I’m leaning into it—hope you enjoy it too! :D
Favorite fill: HINDUISM, AEROBICS, ALLIN, and SSAM (yum!)
Stumpers: UGH (only “eww” and “ick” came to mind), and PRO (needed crossings)
The cluing for SEATASSIGNMENTS was amazing—loved it! Overall, it was spot on for me today, as I find Stella’s tricker usually and they tend to take me longer but I was on a roll today and had a quick solve (for one of her puzzles) except for the NE corner which took me some crossings to break into.