Zachary David Levy’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Let’s Motor!”—Jim’s review
Theme: CAR TALK (38a, [NPR show from 1977 to 2021, and a description of this puzzle’s theme]). Theme answers are familiar phrases clued as if they were car parts talking to one another.
- 17a. [What did the last gallon of gas say to the tailpipe?] “I’M EXHAUSTED!”
- 23a. [What did the burned-out clutch say to the gearbox?] “END TRANSMISSION.” I like this one. Straight and to the point.
- 47a. [What did the shot suspension say to the strut?] “SPRING HAS SPRUNG.”
- 58a. [What did the flat tire say to the lug nut?] “SPARE CHANGE?” It would’ve made more sense to me if this was clued [What did the flat tire ask of the jack?], because what’s a lug nut going to do about it?
Nice. I enjoyed the creativity here, especially after I got to the revealer which cemented the theme and made it all make sense. And remembering that great radio show is always a good thing. Of course, since I never knew much about cars, I especially loved the end credits.
BREAD BOWL tops the fill as well as COLLEGIAL and AFFLUENCE both of which I find to be fun words. However, I ended with an error at the crossing of ARCARO [Only jockey to win two Triple Crowns] and REE [Food Network’s Drummond] because ARCANO seemed legit to me, and I never went back to check the crossing (nor would it have helped). I feel like I’ve seen a lot of crossing of proper names lately, and that’s not a trend I’m enjoying.
Clues of note:
- 32a. [Find My, for one]. IPHONE APP. I believe it used to be called Find My Phone but it’s been broadened to include laptops, tablets, earphones, and anything attached to an AirTag. But why couldn’t they have called it “Find My Stuff” instead?
- 40a. [Org. that may say no to drugs]. FDA. Good clue. I was thinking this was going to be about an insurer not approving coverage for a medication, but this makes more sense.
Good puzzle. 3.75 stars.
Barbara Lin’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap
Fun puzzle from Barbara for midweek, with a theme that focuses on the beginnings and ends of goofball phrases rather than their middles. She’s crafted the theme entries by swapping syllables in four 5- or 6-letter words to form another word (or part of one) at the phrase’s other end. The middle letters are there to make everything flow, no other apparent job for them.
- 16A. [Starting with an X in the corner, say?], TIC-TAC-TOE TACTIC. TIC/TAC, TAC/TIC.
- 25A. [Rocket launcher that makes a whimsical buzzing sound?], KAZOO BAZOOKA. KA/ZOO, ZOO/KA.
- 46A. [Become a leading citizen of North Dakota?], GO FAR IN FARGO. Fargo is indeed the state’s largest city. I’ve gone bowling there!
- 60A. [Disrespected adviser?], TORMENTED MENTOR. Goodness! Torment sounds much worse than disrespect.
Fave fill: STACEY Abrams of Georgia, tasty POLENTA, MOLLIFY (if someone at a rave has taken molly, have they been mollified?), and Rep. CORI Bush. OUTDOORSY is clued [Like hiking, bird-watching and similar activities]; I’ve started watching a Nat Geo Wild series on Hulu called Extraordinary Birder, hosted by Christian Cooper (he’s the guy who was Karened in Central Park a few years ago) and it’s all right, friends. (He makes the point that it’s birding, not bird-watching, and meets up with a blind birder who can identify a zillions bird species by their calls alone, even when they’re in the background of other bird calls.)
Four stars from me.
Hanh Huynh’s AV Club Classic crossword, “Power Rank”—Amy’s recap
A quartet of 4-letter cheeses are spaced out within the theme entries, with an apt revealer at the end:
- 20a. [Solar or wind, for example], RENEWABLE FUEL. The circled letters spell out BLEU (no thanks).
- 25a. [Care the slightest bit], GIVE A DAMN. This one contains EDAM, and I’m still mad with envy that England sells sliced Edam (ready for sandwiches!) in little corner shops while our giant supermarkets can’t be bothered to.
- 37a. [Pioneer route from Missouri to New Mexico], THE SANTA FE TRAIL. FETA? You can have mine.
- 46a. [Classic toy with a pair of adspeak words in its name], LITE BRITE. I was really tempted to buy myself Lite Brite a couple years ago, but I resisted the temptation. Should I do it? I think yes.
- The delightful revealer is CUTS THE CHEESE, [Makes a stink … or what each of this puzzle’s theme answers does]. The cheese is “cut” within the long entries, with one letter sliced off from the other three contiguous ones. Maybe you’re too squeamish to find farts funny, but this is a fun theme.
Fave fill: NORA who is Awkwafina from Queens, ILHAN in the grid instead of Omar, SNOWED IN, CUCUMBER (yes, it is botanically a fruit, akin to melons and squash).
Didn’t really know 50d. [Indigenous Mexican people], OTOMI. Read up on them. Also not familiar with 59a. [Counting Crows song with the lyric “somewhere in middle America”], but OMAHA sure is a crossword-friendly and vowel-rich place in middle America.
Four stars from me. This is Hanh’s first puzzle for AVCX Classic.
Emily Carroll’s Universal crossword, “Looks Good Enough To Eat” — pannonica’s write-up
- 35aR [Trendy dressers … or a hint to 17-, 21-, 54- and 60-Across] FASHION PLATES.
- 17a. [Arrangements of pork that are fit for a king?] CROWN ROASTS.
- 21a. [Cuts of beef that may be mini] SKIRT STEAKS.
- 54a. [Iceberg lettuce dishes for the well-heeled?] WEDGE SALADS.
- 60a. [Starch that pairs nicely with a starched shirt?] BOWTIE PASTA.
Adequate theme, but not especially interesting to this perhaps jaded solver.
Coincidentally, there is a Food & Fashion exhibit upcoming at FIT this fall.
- 8d [Final bit of coffee] LAST DROP. À la Maxwell House. Better than DREGS, eh?
- 40d [Vessel for cooking gumbo or goulash] STEW PAN. Is this the same thing as a stock pot?
- 58a [Tom Collins’ spirit] GIN. The apostrophe seems an unusual choice, but in no way invalidates the clue.
Wyna Liu’s New Yorker crossword—Amy’s recap
This one felt harder than a “lightly challenging” themeless to me. And you?
Never heard of JIM WOODRING, [Artist known for his surreal cartoons featuring the anthropomorphic character Frank]. Here’s his artwork.
Fave fill: BRAINTEASER, MOO COW, SKEWERED (though it would be more fun in the satirizing vein than the pierced-by-an-actual-skewer sense), WENT “PFFT,” AU CONTRAIRE, CLOUD SERVER, ROCK BALLAD and EARWORM (if you were an Eighties teen, these pair well), MARINE LIFE, and KFC’s mascot THE COLONEL.
Less keen on the partials (DARE I, DO AS), abbreviations (I think I counted eight), “SEE IT NOW,” and TERN (overused in crosswords vs. in American life).
FIVE-second rule is fun, though there is really no scientific basis for it. It’s more a matter of how much you want to eat the food that fell on the floor.
3.25 stars from me.
Mark Valdez’s USA Today Crossword, “In the Sent Folder” — Emily’s write-up
A great puzzle that had smooth flow and a fun theme.
Theme: each themer is contained within SE—NT
- 15a. [Mythical aquatic snake], SEASERPENT
- 33a. [Undercover operative], SECRETAGENT
- 57a. [“Get what I’m saying?”], SEEMYPOINT
What a fantastic themer set! Loving SEASERPENT, SECRETAGENT, and SEEMYPOINT.
Favorite fill: NUMEROUS, ANIMATE, HYPEMAN, and BOBA
Stumpers: BARB (new to me), PREFER (misdirected with physical movement in mind), and PARE (though of “peel” first)
Overall, lots of wonderful bonus fill and cluing. Felt a bit easier today, though perhaps I was just on Mark’s wavelength.
Brooke Husic’s LA Times crossword, Gareth’s review
Brooke Husic gives us a typical mid-week LA Times theme trope: WORKAROUND is the revealer and three answers are bookended by GIG, JOB, and TRADE. So:
- [“We’ve all been there”] is the snappy JOINTHECLUB
- [Element of some holiday traditions] is GIFTGIVING
- [Sentiment celebrated with pink, blue and white apparel], TRANSPRIDE
Trickier answers and clues:
- [Research on an adversary, for short], OPPO. Resisted that for a while.
- [Four-time FIFA Women’s World Cup champions], TEAMUSA. Mostly because I was expecting a simple country name.
- [Ogwumike of the Los Angeles Sparks], NNEKA. I don’t think I’ve encountered a name with an opening double n before.
- [Easy sammies], PBJS. Not encountered this, though we call them sarmies.
- [Mexican shredded meat dish], TINGA. Not a lot of Mexican food down this way.
- [Vacation hrs., e.g.], PTO. Around here, that means please turn over? Apparently this is paid time off. Isn’t that the default?\
- [Touch-oriented language], PROTACTILE. Never heard of this, but inferrable.
- [Actress Mireille], ENOS. Not sure which way the name is? Mireille Enos.