David Alfred Bywaters’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Surprise Billing”—Jim’s review
Theme answers are familiar phrases whose second words are synonyms of “charge” (in a monetary sense). The first words change meaning (and sometimes pronunciation) to wacky effect.
- 17a. [Line on a laundry bill?] DECREASING COSTS. The costs to remove creases.
- 26a. [Line on a hypnotist’s bill?] ENTRANCE FEE. The fee to entrance someone.
- 43a. [Line on a Greek columnist’s bill?] IONIC CHARGE. This one’s different than the other entries in that both words change meaning.
- 57a. [Line on a bus driver’s bill?] STOPPING PAYMENT. Imagine how much a bus driver would earn if everyone had to pay them just to stop the bus!
Nice wordplay. I do wish that third one was in line with the others, though. COVER CHARGE would fit in that same spot, and I’m sure a suitable clue could’ve been devised, perhaps [Line on a Witness Protection Program bill?]? But overall, I like the theme, especially the last entry.
Not much in the long fill department, but I like SEES FIT, HAGGLED, STAY ON, and UNHOLY which makes a nice contrast to SAVIORS.
Clues of note:
- 23d. [Phone feature]. SCREEN. Well, it certainly wasn’t going to be DIAL, was it?
- 28d. [Capone foe, briefly]. T-MAN. I ignored the “briefly” and went with NESS. When was the last time anyone used T-MAN outside of crosswords?
Solid puzzle. 3.5 stars.
Noelle Griskey’s Universal Crossword – “Mixed Grill” – Matt F’s Review
Solve some cryptics and you quickly catch on to anagram tip-offs, like “mixed.” Because of this, I suspected the title was hinting that we’d find some anagrams in the puzzle. Well, let’s get into the meat of it shall we?
Turns out we have a collection of grillable meats mixed up inside our theme answers! Here is the full theme set:
- 18A – [Vouchers for later use] = RAINCHECKS (chicken)
- 26A – [Venomous lizard of the Southwest] = GILAMONSTER (salmon)
- 42A – [It intercepts unwanted emails] = SPAMBLOCKER (lamb)
- 54A – [Jamaican music genre] = ROCKSTEADY (steak)
Yum! I hope you enjoyed the food related theme, and perhaps you’ll find a few more opportunities to use your grill before we dip into the cold season.
These anagrams are wonderful finds, especially for chicken. I would have never thought it could be anagrammed so smoothly. I appreciate how each meat shares both syllables of the theme answers; a nice touch if the theme doesn’t split word breaks. The grid is a bit segmented thanks to those long zig-zag blocks, but it still flowed smoothly and I didn’t get trapped in any one section. I hope I’m not insulting your grilling skill by saying this puzzle was really well done!
Thanks for the puzzle, Noelle.
Michele Govier’s New York Times crossword–Amy’s recap
How clever to see a pair of corner-touching black squares as essentially a BOW TIE. The four black-square bow ties in this grid adorn the middle(ish) of the names of notable people and characters known for their bow ties.
- 19A. [With 21-Across, “The Simpsons” character who is a children’s TV host], KRUSTY / THE CLOWN.
- 26A. [With 29-Across, fast-food spokesperson with a goatee], COLONEL / SANDERS.
- 45A. [With 49-Across, silent film star who portrayed the Little Tramp], CHARLIE / CHAPLIN.
- 54A. [With 56-Across, title Dr. Seuss troublemaker], THE CAT IN / THE HAT.
Overall, quite an easy puzzle in my experience. Went quicker than a Tuesday usually does for me. If you eschew popular culture, you might have had a tougher time of it.
Fave fill: ICE WINES, which takes me back to a Niagara winery with a deliciously sweet ice wine that’s the only red wine I’ve ever enjoyed.
Did not know: 37D. [Herb named for its medicinal properties], SELF-HEAL. Never heard of this by any of its names, but you can read about it here.
Four stars from me.
Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle (Week 639), “Here, Mon Ami!”—Ade’s take
Hello there, everybody! Hope you’re doing well! Currently in the midst of US Open reporting madness, so I’ll see how much I can write before I Have to power down, get a couple of hours of sleep, then go back to the tennis center again tomorrow morning … and repeat that cycle for 12 more days after that.
We have a French flair to today’s puzzle, with the letters making up French word for “here,” ICI, spanning two words in each of the theme entries. Also, ICI is a down answer in the grid that acts as the reveal (33D: [Puzzle theme hidden in four long answers]).
- CUBIC INCHES (17A: [Gallon fractions])
- BASIC INSTINCT (24A: [Sharon Stone film that Roger Ebert likened to a crossword puzzle: “It keeps your interest until you solve it”]) – Nice description!
- GLYCEMIC INDEX (45A: [Scale that ranks the number of carbohydrates in foods])
- COSMIC IRONY (55A: [Literary device that involves the universe having fun at our expense])
There was so much long fill going down in the this grid, and they all were good entries. Probably a shout out to MILK CRATE, as I attest that you haven’t had real joy in playing the game of basketball if you didn’t use a milk crate that was hung up on an tree or electrical pole as a basket for a pick-up game (12D: [Dairy container often upcycled as a nightstand]).
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: ESP (61A: [Mentalist’s claim]) – Congratulations to the Spanish women’s national soccer team for winning the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup on August 20, defeating England 1-0 in a heart-stopping final on August 20 in Sydney.
Thank you so much for the time, everybody! Have a wonderful and safe rest of your day and, as always, keep solving!
Amanda Cook’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Jenni’s write-up’s
A solid Tuesday offering. The theme didn’t figure into my solving at all; the revealer makes sense. I’d say this one evoked a nod of recognition rather than an “aha!” or a giggle. We didn’t have a tag for Amanda Cook – is this a debut? If so, I look forward to more from Amanda! I look forward to more whether or not this is a debut, to be honest.
- 18a [Java joint] is a COFFEE SHOP.
- 26a [In-demand spot at a busy bistro] is an EMPTY TABLE.
- 46a [Source of lumbar support] is a BACK PILLOW. This is when I realized it wasn’t a restaurant theme.
And the revealer: 58a [Deliberately ambiguous language, and an apt description of 18-, 26-, and 46-Across] is DOUBLE TALK. COFFEE TALK, SHOP TALK, EMPTY TALK, TABLE TALK, BACK TALK, and PILLOW TALK. Solid, consistent, well-constructed, and totally Tuesday-appropriate.
A few other things:
- Raise your hand if you had BE COOL at first instead of BE CALM for 2d [“Don’t freak out”]. STAY CALM sounds better to my ear.
- I filled in SERA from crossings and was thinking medical lingo. The clue is actually [Italian evening]. That’s better.
- I love a HOT STONE massage. Mmm.
- ADAR is a fun month! Purim falls in the middle and everything is supposed to be upside-down.
- Don’t like STROBED as a verb.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that LIN-Manuel Miranda appeared in “His Dark Materials.”
Wyna Liu’s New Yorker crossword — pannonica’s write-up
Not too challenging, some cute/clever clues that are both pretty good but also feel as if they’re trying too hard.
Can’t compare this to Monday’s offering because I was away all weekend and did not solve any crosswords—I’ll probably tackle that one after this write-up is done.
- 10a [Side dish that may or may not include mayo] SLAW. Ew, despite the wordplayfulness in the clue.
- 19a [Business that might carry yellow pages?] RARE BOOK STORE. See what I meant?
- 33a [Blue chip authority?] COOKIE MONSTER. Ditto. Ther’re others, but I’ll refrain from calling them out.
- 39a [Earliest known land mammal to have vocal cords] FROG. This I did not know.
- 46a [Prick on social media?] EGGPLANT EMOJI. Hey that’s a bit racy.
- 55a [God represented by a disk whose rays terminate in human hands] ATEN. Those hands generally are small and stylized. All those Egyptian names that end in -aten? Blame this guy.
- 56a [11-Down encounter] TRYST. 11d [Facility that may charge an hourly rate] LOVE HOTEL.
- 2d [Bloom makeup] ALGAE. Minor misdirection?
- 16d [Online-marketing concern] SEO, search engine optimization.
- 33d [Couple of hiccups?] CEES. Fooled me, although I’m not sure why since I usually key in on such literal letter-based clues.
- 41d [Nash who wrote, “Some tortures are physical and some are mental / But the one that is both is dental”] OGDEN. D’you think he was invoking the sense of mental meaning: of or related to the chin?
- 47d [L.G.B.T.Q.+ grp. for students] GSA, Gay-Straight Alliance.
A nice way to slide back into the crossword groove.
Malaika Handa’s USA Today Crossword, “Big Ups” — Sophia’s recap
Editor: Anna Gundlach
Theme: Each vertical theme answer begins with a synonym for “big”, so the “big” word is at the upper part of the answer.
- 3d [NBC sitcom starring Nicole Byer] – GRAND CREW
- 7d [Novels with bigger-than-average font] – LARGE PRINT BOOKS
- 35d [Head butler] – MAJOR DOMO
Good title! The only one of these theme answers I knew off the bat was LARGE PRINT BOOKS – for some reason I tried maitre’d first instead of MAJOR DOMO??? GRAND CREW was unfortunately cancelled recently, but ran for two seasons on NBC. It feels a little off that MAJOR DOMO is situated so low in the puzzle, but the “major” is still in the upper part of the word, so it gets a pass.
Fave fill: STRAWBERRY, GREEN TEA, COCKAPOO, TRIATHLONS
Fave clues: [Frog and ___ (queer-coded kid-lit pair)] for TOAD, [Language in the documentary “Deaf Jam”] for ASL
New to me: The SAREE Room, actress Amy RYAN, AKA clued as a historically Black sorority.