Prasanna Keshava’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Twist of Fate”—Jim’s review
Our theme consists of four groupings of circled letters all of which spell out LUCK, but in a slightly different formation. The two-part revealer is WHEEL OF / FORTUNE (32a, [With 37-Across, card in a tarot deck, and a hint to each circled letter set]). The intent is to visualize the letters LUCK within a spinning wheel (as opposed to a group of squares).
I like the concept and (most of) the grid design! The left-right symmetry seems appropriate, given the theme. Now, if we could’ve had radial symmetry, that would’ve been really appropriate.
What I found challenging with the grid design was the two northern corners being so segmented off. And with the stacked theme words causing more than the usual amount of abbreviations and crosswordese in the fill, I found that NW corner especially challenging.
Thankfully, once I realized that the circled letters in each grouping were the same four just in different positions, I was able to get myself unstuck.
Topping the fill are those two marquee entries: KITE SURF and TOP SHELF. Down at the bottom is the fun “BEER ME,” and I also liked REDUX and TROPE. As I said, there was a lot of crosswordese to get through like BUCO, ENTRE, NENEH, ECKO, TGI, DAK, but it was all gettable in the end, and the cluing seemed fair.
Clues of note: 19a. [Hard rock instrument?]. PICKAXE. Ha! Fun clue. See also [Plant putting out records] for ROBERT and [Pod rich in caffeine] for K-CUP. Tricky stuff!
It’s nice to have something a little bit different. 3.5 stars.
Vasu Seralathan’s New York Times crossword — Zachary David Levy’s write-up
Difficulty: Average (13m50s)
Today’s theme: SOLVE FOR X (Common directive in 17-Across … or what to do with five squares in this puzzle)
- AIR X (kiss)
- X PAN (times)
- RENT X (strike)
- LAXE (cross)
- ANXNA (ten)
I never really excelled in MATH CLASS, and Elongated Muskrat has soured me on the letter X lately, but I enjoyed this puzzle. It was a rebus without being a rebus, which makes the grid look cleaner to my eye.. at the very least, it will sit well with newer solvers who (like myself, once upon a time) respond to the existence of rebus squares with abject incredulity. No such problem here, though — to quote Paul Simon, the cross is in the ballpark!
Cracking: DEAD SEA, in which I floated once, every minor abrasion feeling like a fire ant jamboree.
Slacking: IIII, not technically incorrect, but as far as fill goes, woof.
Sidetracking: every time REN calls Stimpy an eediot, because I am an aesthete par excellence.
Bill Pipal & Jeff Chen’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary
Bill Pipal & Jeff Chen give us a well-executed “clue/answer reversal” puzzle. Why? Beaut of a revealer: THATSMYJAM; also, all the definitions are real answers, not contrived / awkwardly phrased chunks. We have: GRAPEJELLY (Jelly and jam are different here, with jelly typically being runnier, and the fruits differing); RUSHHOURTRAFFIC; SLAMDUNK; and ADILLYOFAPICKLE, which I’ve not heard of, but it’s in dictionaries as old timey. Cat’s pyjamas!
- [Texter’s “My bad”], SRY. I prefer “soz”.
- [Laundry room convenience], UTILITYSINK. What makes it “utility”?
- [X-ray __: gadget advertised in classic comic books], SPEX. How were those adverts legal?
- [City with the world’s largest naval complex], NORFOLK. I think it shows up a lot in NCIS?
- [Genre that’s an element of Kawaii metal], JPOP. Kawaii is a sort of “cute” aesthetic in Japanese culture.
Kate Hawkins & Taylor Johnson’s USA Today Crossword, “Keep It PG” — Emily’s write-up
Hope your hungry for a tasty puzzle today!
Theme: each themer has P—G—
- 20a. [Starchy Italian dumpling dish], POTATOGNOCCHI
- 34a. [What beer is often served in], PINTGLASS
- 51a. [Item often next to a saltshaker], PEPPERGRINDER
What a delish themer set! In addition to its theme, they also form a well-seasoned meal that comes with a drink. This is the first time that I’ve encountered POTATOGNOCCHI, PINTGLASS, and PEPPERGRINDER in a crossword and it’s delightful that they are today’s set.
Favorite fill: AREACODES, ANTHILL, CLIPART, and AESOP
Stumpers: NONEVENTS (cluing new to me), UNSPENT (needed crossings), and BALM (first thought of “aloe”)
Acrosses gave me more of a challenge, leading to a longer solve for me, though the downs were smoother to me and helped with crossings to break into more of the puzzle. Cluing was excellent, even if a bit tougher for me in some cases today. A fantastic and enjoyable puzzle overall. Nice collab!