Gary Larson & Amy Ensz’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Land Reform”—Jim’s review
Theme: Land puns. Theme answers are familiar phrases in which one of the words can also be used to identify an area of land.
- 17a. [Online real estate listing?] PARCEL POST.
- 26a. [Vacation properties?] LOTS OF FUN.
- 35a. [Holy lands?] RELIGIOUS TRACTS. “She’s got huuuuge…tracts of land!”
- 51a. [Savvy real estate investments?] WISEACRES.
- 61a. [Surveyor’s tool?] PLOT DEVICE.
That works. Each keyword has a significant change in meaning, and all the phrases are solidly in-the-language. But the best part of this theme is that it got me to re-watch one of the most classic scenes from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. I could just show you the parts with the discussion about land, but the whole scene is so expertly written and executed, it’s worth a re-watch. (See below).
Top bits of fill include CLASSICO and FINESSE. I struggled in the NE and the North sections, mainly due to cluing, not because of any awkward bits of fill.
Clues of note:
- 5a. [Start of Kalamata]. KAPPA, Did not realize this was in Greece, so this crossing KALE (clued as slang for money) plus the golf clue for APRON, really made the North section tough to fill.
- 19a. [Senior moment?]. PROM. Nice clue there.
- 3d. [Velocity for free fall]. TERMINAL. *grumble* Velocity is a noun. The answer shouldn’t be an adjective.
Caryn Robbins & Matthew Stock’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap
Fun Wordplay theme, taking words that end with -nce and changing them to sound-alike -nts words:
- 17A. [What’s found under Casper’s Christmas tree?], GHOSTLY PRESENTS.
- 27A. [Rule that forbids singing hymns to the devil?], NO CHANTS IN HELL.
- 47A. [Doctor’s concern when a rival clinic opens up next door?], LOSING PATIENTS. So glad this isn’t about a bad surgeon.
- 59A. [Evidence at the robbery crime scene?], PRINTS OF THIEVES.
27a and 59a were the best in my book.
Fave fill: CARTOONING, “NICE TRY,” CALZONES (had one the other day, did not use a dipping sauce), TINSELTOWN. A singular PITA CHIP feels weird, but I’d love it in the plural. Fairly smooth fill overall.
Needed the crossings for 32A. [Filmmaker ___ Lily Amirpour], ANA. Still fairly early in her career, probably very few of you have seen any of her works. I’m rooting for her, though! I can always use another pop-culture ANA clue angle.
3.75 stars from me.
Brendan Quigley’s AV Club Classic crossword, “Special Ops”—Amy’s recap
Change each O to a P in familiar phrases to get the theme entries, goofball phrases clued accordingly:
- 17a. [Floppy golf clubs?], LIMP DRIVERS. From limo drivers. Good luck at the tees.
- 24a. [Quietly noble skin condition?], UNSUNG HERPES.
- 38a. [The brains behind the brains of the Knesset’s computers?], ISRAELI CPU’S CPUS. Nice switch-up from couscous. I mean, CPU’S CPUS is terrible, but finding a way to play off couscous is cool.
- 49a. [Frozen storm of HIV-prevention meds?], PREP BLIZZARD. PrEP = pre-exposure prophylaxis and I’m a big fan of the approach.
- 59a. [Festooned a telephone wire with Charmin?], TP’ED THE LINE.
I enjoyed this theme.
- 57d. [Generation that grew up with ColecoVision], XERS. Yes! My friend Robin’s household had ColecoVision and there were some fun games. Kristin’s household had Atari (Frogger!), and it was harder to find someone with access to Intellivision. (At my house, all we ever had was … Pong. Hand-me-down Pong, at that.)
- 50d. [Beast that makes a “mmwonk” sound when happy], RHINO. Did not know!
- 11d. [Blues Traveler frontman also famous for rejecting all empirical philosophy … wait, different guy there], JOHN POPPER. I only know the musician. Who rejected all empirical philosophy?
Four stars from me.
Chad Hazen and Jeff Chen’s Universal crossword, “Letter Drops” — pannonica’s write-up
- 33aR [Form phrase that hints at which letters to ignore in the starred clues’ answers] NOT APPLICABLE. The bigram NA is to be dropped from the entries for them to answer the clues.
- 17a. [*Pizza alternative] CANAL ZONE (calzone).
- 19a. [*Surplus] ON AVERAGE (overage).
- 25a. [*Erase] RUNABOUT (rub out).
- 42a. [*Unsuitable for children] NARRATED (R-rated).
- 52a. [*Words that support a motion] IN A SECOND (I second).
- 55a. [*Viral things on the internet] NAME NAMES (memes). Finishing off with a double drop.
Nice spin on a common theme variety.
- 5d [Wine valley in Southern California] TEMECULA. Of the state’s wine valleys, certainly far behind NAPA and SIMI in terms of crossword appearances.
- 8d [Most excellent] A-ONE. 1a [Hollywood’s cream of the crop] A-LIST.
- 12d [Stuck at a cocktail party?] SPEARED.
- 24d [Green layer of a seven-layer dip, for short] GUAC. 21a [Spicy layer of a seven-layer dip] SALSA.
- 29d [It’s beside the point] ONES PLACE. For a brief moment I thought this was going to be ONE SPACE and envisioned lecturing everyone on why, in most contexts, it is unequivocally correct to use only one space (rather than two) after a period in a sentence.
- 38d [Sips some liquor] HAS A NIP, which I robotically entered with HAS A SIP, not realizing it replicates a word in the clue. Took some hunting at the end to uncover my error.
- 22a [Sleep stage, briefly] REM.
- 39a [Job posting inits.] EOE, equal opportunity employer.
- 59a [Antler, e.g.] HORN. Colloquially, yes, but anatomically there are significant differences. Simplified: antlers are made of bone and are shed annually, whereas horns have a bony core with a keratin sheath and grow throughout an animal’s life.
Jon Pennington’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary
It was quickly obvious that the circles in Jon Pennington’s LA Times puzzle today had the same set of letters, however they didn’t seem to spell any word. Turns out, it spells out two: LETSGO, with the revealer being Prince song LETSGOCRAZY:
- [Orange-yellow hue in 1970s kitchens], HARVESTGOLD. Is that what that was? I’m pretty sure a lot of our house was still that sort of shade in the early 1990s, but obviously colours stick around until being redecorated.
- [Place to purchase Pixel phones], GOOGLESTORE.
- [Make drowsy with a lullaby], SINGTOSLEEP.
What else I learnt in the puzzle? [Gelatinous tomato dish], ASPIC. I knew about the gelatin, not the tomato. Not a whole lot of sticking points today, but then it is only Wednesday.
Patrick Berry’s New Yorker crossword–Amy’s recap
I learned a newish term today: UBERIZES, or [Overhauls by means of mobile technology, as an industry]. “Disrupts,” grr. I also sure did not know the word ROLLWAYS, or [Inclines used by lumberjacks to get logs into rivers].
Fave fill: PUSH ON despite that OFF DAY (mine was Tuesday), RAY LIOTTA, PRIMA DONNA, Theodore DREISER, “I BEG TO DIFFER,” THE GO-AHEAD (you might ask whether that THE is extraneous, but who ever mentions “a go-ahead,” or multiple go-aheads?), and HONOR GUARD.
Who else tried BOD before AGE for [Figure on Tinder]? Similarly, [School gathering] had me thinking of proms, pep rallies, and assemblies rather than a school of FISH.
Four stars from me.
Bruce Haight’s USA Today Crossword, “Busy Busy Busy” — Emily’s write-up
An apt title for midweek!
Theme: every two-word themer starts with B—Z—, the sound of a bee (or a “busy” insect)
- 17a. [Neutral area between hostile forces], BUFFERZONE
- 35a. [Like temperatures that are beyond freezing], BELOWZERO
- 59a. [Electric insect-killers], BUGZAPPERS
A bit of a mixed bag for the themer set today. For BUFFERZONE, the “green zone” (it’s called the “green line” in Cyprus) and the “demilitarized zone” (aka the DMZ in Korea) first. BELOWZERO took me a couple of crossings to get, though BUGZAPPERS was an instant place which was fun for me.
Favorite fill: DENALI (especially for PBS’ Molly of Denali)https://pbskids.org/molly, UKRAINE, RESTDAY, and UNICORN
Stumpers: CRUD (only “goop” can to mind), ANEW (needed crossings), and DREDGE (usually think of this word in terms of a breading)
Fun puzzle with oh so much great lengthy bonus fill. It was a hard solve for me today though a nice overall flow, even if it took me longer than usual.