Peter A. Collins’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Troubled Waters”—Jim’s review
Theme answers were originally two-word phrases where one of the words was (or could also be) a body of water. However, said bodies of water have been anagrammed (i.e. “troubled” per the title) to make new crossword-wacky answers.
- 17a. [Improved health from eating a salad?] KALE EFFECT. Lake-effect.
- 31a. [Snooty game played with mallets and Mustangs?] MOTOR POLO. Motor pool. Not sure why we need “snooty” here.
- 43a. [Pilot?] JET MASTER. Jet stream.
- 57a. [Birch bark, maybe?] CANOE LINER. Ocean liner.
A good little workout. I was going crazy with the last one trying to anagram “liner.” By that point in the solve I had forgotten that the first entry altered the first word as well. But that’s on me, and I don’t mind that two first words and two second words were altered; at least it’s balanced.
What I’m not too keen on is the fact that two of the original words were not bodies of water (pool and stream), while the other two are. With the title “Troubled Waters,” and two of the entries referring to a lake and an ocean, I would expect the other two entries to be similar.
I loved seeing MOUNTEBANK in the fill, though I needed a lot of crossings to trigger it. It’s a nice contrast to the CLASS ACTS in the next column. There’s plenty of other nice fill like AUTO LOANS, POCKET DOOR, OSCAR NOD, HOLOGRAM, DELUSION, and Bob Marley’s ONE LOVE.
I didn’t know CORDAGE [Ship’s rigging]. However, USAA [Insurance co. for military families] was a gimme, having been a member since 1992. But what say you? Is it fair game for a crossword? I’m pretty sure I’ve seen ads for the company in non-military venues (like during sports broadcasts).
Clue of note: 48d. [Kite catchers]. TREES. Just ask Charlie Brown.
Nice enough theme, though I wanted more consistency. Very nice fill. 3.75 stars.
Alex Eaton-Salners’s New York Times crossword–Amy’s recap
This puzzle is a mash-up between a classic Merl Reagle “fill in the blanks in the theme clues to flesh out a funny little story” theme and a “stunt puzzle crafted more as a constructor challenge than an entertainment for solvers.” Instead of there being theme answers fleshing out the story, every single Across entry is part of the narrative, but the story did not amuse me and bits like 25A. [and school was hardly an ___.] EDEN fell flat. (Nobody says their high school is “hardly an Eden”!) The need to make every Across answer work its way into the narrative meant that the Down fill suffered in service to the Acrosses. This one’s not for me, as I had to refuel the Scowl-o-Meter by the end of the puzzle.
There are some highlights in the fill, such as NERF BALL, YIDDISH, and NOOGIE. Then the lowlights jump out: UMIAK is an Alaskan word that’s long been crosswordese. BIRD IN HAND is less a phrase than “a bird in the hand.” POINT A, RIDABLE, NOTEDLY (not NOTABLY??), plural EDGINGS, LEO V, SER, GEST, TSARS … oof.
Two stars from me. (Not one star! Because there are some good points, and it’s not as if the theme includes HITLER and DIARRHEA. Not unpublishable, though really not a puzzle for me.)
Daniel Hrynick’s Universal crossword, “Body Temperature” — pannonica’s write-up
- 59aR [TV news figure literally hinted at by 31-across, 40-Across, 3-Down and 12-Down?] WEATHER PERSON.
- 31a. [Sustained period of luck] HOT HAND.
- 40a. [Friendly quality] WARM HEART.
- 3d. [Sudden loss of nerve] COLD FEET.
- 12d. [Asset during a crisis] COOL HEAD.
I feel there’s a bit of a disconnect between the revealer and the theme answers, as the latter match a body part with—as the title indicates—temperature quality, rather than other kinds of weather phenomena. Not that I can think of many metaphorical phrases that invoke such phenomena—BRAIN FOG? So I guess my critique here is that the revealer is unsatisfactory.
- 22a [Worker with an important Claus in their contract?] ELF. Ow, ow ow.
- 37a [7-Eleven and Speedway, colloquially] C-STORES, which obviously indicates convenience stores, although I’ve never heard them referred to this way.
- 51a [Pitching duel?] AD WAR. Great clue!
- 6d [Say mean things about] DIS.
- 27d [NSA whistleblower Snowden] EDWARD. Oh right, the guy who’s a Russian citizen now.
- 39d [Group born from 2010–’15, informally] GEN ALPHA. I can’t keep up with the names anymore.
Will Nediger’s New Yorker crossword–Amy’s recap
Fave fill: PAYWALLED, ASTROPHYSICISTS, RESULTS-ORIENTED, “I LIKE YOU ALREADY,” FLEETING GLIMPSE, “PRETTY IN PINK,” and the new-to-me WINDMILL DUNK.
Meh: ROOM TO LET (the US is a “rent” country, not “let”!), DEE as a letter, REDYE. Plus SYS and about seven other abbreviations, felt like a lot.
Difficulty: Just as advertised, “lightly challenging.”
3.5 stars from me.
AV Club Classic Crossword, “Snake Charmers”–Amy’s recap
This one arrived with a 2/5 difficulty level but I’d call it a 3.5. The theme answers are made by adding a couple snaky letters (SS) into familiar phrases, producing SASSY UNCLE, the clunky GRASSY MATTER, a CLASSY PIGEON, and (my fave) a GASSY PRIDE of farting lions.
Fave fill: DAL (yum!), TESSA Thompson and Charlize THERON, BANH MI, STAND-ALONE, MIND’S EYE, “ME THREE,” SPLUTTER, and PUERTO RICO.
Four stars from me.
Rebecca Goldstein’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary
I’m not sure if I was tired, or if this was clued harder than most LA Times Wednesdays. In any case, Rebecca Goldstein gives us foods that start with verbs, two associated with offense and one defense, tied together with FOODFIGHT:
- [Condiment often served with egg rolls], DUCKSAUCE
- [Budget beef cuts], CHUCKSTEAKS. They always seemed quite pricy to me? I’ll maybe buy something that fancy to cook with once every two months or so?
- [Vegetables that rank high on the Scoville scale], FIREPEPPERS. Inferrable, but never heard of these?
- Other tough spots:
[Pastry in a pink box, in Los Angeles], DONUTS. I think the rest of us are just supposed to read [Pastry…].
- [Cute nickname for a fuzzy pet], FURBALL. Wasn’t sure where this was going for a good while…
- [Reach new heights?], LEVELUP. Wanted DEVELOP here.
- [Day of the Dead symbol], SUGARSKULL. Fun answer. The initial S had me wanting something starting with SKULL.
- [Artist whose name is a homophone of a sculpture medium], KLEE. You mean it doesn’t rhyme with “pee”?
Nate Cardin’s USA Today Crossword, “Smart Foods” — Emily’s write-up
Hope your hungry for a snack today!
Theme: the first word of each themer is a synonym for “smart” and the second word is a food
- 17a. [Perceptive person], SHARPCOOKIE
- 37a. [Color of some traffic cones], BRIGHTORANGE
- 60a. [Sarcastic jokester], WISECRACKER
Today, it’s the full themer that’s part of the theme! Often it’s only a portion. SHARPCOOKIE was the most familiar to me and BRIGHTORANGE was easy enough to place, however, WISECRACKER took me longer with a few crossings needed since I typically think of it as someone made a “wise crack”. Overall a great set and fun theme! Love the title hint, too.
Favorite fill:DORITO, CURBSIDECHECKIN, and ONASEPERATENOTE
Stumpers: SARA (new to me), CROC (could only think of “clog”), and DETOUR (needed crossings though excellent cluing once I filled it in)
Lately we’ve been spoiled with lots of excellent puzzles with great flow as well as amazing lengthy bonus fill, today’s included. Nicely done, Nate!