Emily Rourke’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Storybook Starters”—Jim’s review
Still under the weather, so this will be brief.
The revealer is ONCE UPON A TIME (53a, [Storybook starter, and what you’ll find three instances of in this puzzle]). Theme answers are in pairs with the top entry containing the letters ONCE and the lower entry including a period of time.
- PONCE and FINANCIAL YEAR.
- CONCESSIONS and FLEET WEEK.
- CONCEALER and AMATEUR HOUR.
Cute and well executed. While I can’t say this type of theme excites me much, it did definitely help me resolve that third pairing, and that’s the job of the theme anyway.
Joseph Gangi’s New York Times crossword–Amy’s recap
This crossword plays a trick: It pulls a RABBIT out of a hat, the black top hat in the middle of the grid. The theme clues can be long:
- 17a. [“Ladies and gentlemen, you are about to witness something extraordinary that has never been seen or attempted before!” (go to 34-Down)], “FOR THE FIRST TIME…”
- 34d. [“You will experience a great and unexpected surprise!” (go to 48-Across)], …BE AMAZED!”
- 48a. [“The spell is cast! Don’t blink or you’ll miss it …” (go to 15-Down)], “ABRACADABRA!”
- 15d. [Visual representation of this puzzle’s trick (go to 38-Down)], TIBBAR, or an upside-down RABBIT being pulled from the hat. I feel like the rabbit generally comes out head up, tail down, so I’m not sold on the upside-down word making sense.
- 38d. [“Presto!”], “IT’S MAGIC!”
The theme has some potential extras. 42d. [Rogers’s co-star in “Top Hat”] clues ASTAIRE, and those central blocks depict a top hat. 43d. [Tailcoat, vest and bow tie, e.g.] clues APPAREL, and maybe this is the get-up worn by some magicians?
Fave clue: 6d. [Hell of a poem?], Dante’s INFERNO. Much harder to clue Purgatorio!
Did not know: 30d. [Sunfish with colorful gills], REDEAR. Here’s its Wikipedia page. My angler husband has heard of it, but I don’t know that the redear sunfish (a bluegill cousin) inhabits the Great Lakes. Did you know that largemouth and smallmouth bass are also sunfish and not bass? The fish namers played fast and loose with logic. It’s like calling a tiger the “striped lion” or “striped leopard.”
The magician theme didn’t draw me in too much, I’m afraid. 3.5 stars from me.
Kiran Pandey’s AV Club Classic crossword, “Signs of the Times”–Amy’s recap
The theme answers render the concepts of single, double, triple, and quadruple without including them in the grid:
- 17a. [*Totally over one’s ex, say], just a single iteration of AND READY TO MINGLE, or “single and ready to mingle.”
- 27a. [**Ultimatum commonly issued by a middle schooler], DOG DARE DOG DARE, or double dog dare. Two asterisks in the clue for the double.
- 44a. [***Musical meter for a minuet or waltz], TIME TIME TIME, or triple time.
- 59a. [****Figure skating feat first accomplished in competition by Kurt Browning in 1988], JUMP JUMP JUMP JUMP, or quadruple jump. A quad toe loop, to be specific, but it’s hard to squeeze TOE LOOP TOE LOOP TOE LOOP TOE LOOP into the grid.
I feel like I’ve seen this sort of theme a number of times bef0re, but not with an unexpected usage like “single” not being used to modify a noun that follows it. Quirky.
Did not know: 31a. [Final stretch of a distance race], GUN LAP.
Fave fill: LUNCH DATE, “HIGHER LOVE,” ON THE MAP, DROWN OUT noise, DOORDASH with a clever clue, [Organization that issues stay-at-home orders?]. Could do without an entry like NODDER.
3.75 stars from me.
Erik Agard’s New Yorker crossword–Amy’s recap
Felt a bit harder than most Wednesday “lightly challengings,” more like a Fri NYT here. Terrific fill, standard crisp Agard cluing.
Fave fill: PHONE TREE, new-to-me “WE CHARGE GENOCIDE,” “WAIT FOR IT…” (which I like enough to overlook the HOLD IT overlap), DASHCAMS. CHERUBIC, PLATE TECTONICS in an apt spot (is there a shifting fault between those 14s in the middle?), THIGH-HIGH BOOTS, and DICE ROLL with a fun [Cast of “Jumanji”?] clue. “THAT’S ALL.”
- 1a. [Word after fun or face], FACTS. Tricky because “fun facts” is a noun phrase while “face facts” is a verb phrase. A little mind-twisting at 1-Across.
- 59a. [Cactus used in tacos], NOPAL. More commonly seen in the US as the plural nopales, I think.
- 67a. [“Miss Juneteenth” star Beharie], NICOLE. A gimme for me because she’s in the current season of Apple TV+’s The Morning Show. I see that Miss Juneteenth has terrific reviews and is on Netflix; I’ll watch it soon.
Four stars from me.
Gregory Smith’s Universal crossword, “Musical Quartet” — pannonica’s write-up
The theme features for “as a” similes referencing musical instruments.
- 7a/67a. [*… very healthy] FIT AS A | FIDDLE.
- 20a. [*Easy to hear] CLEAR AS A BELL.
- 39a. [*Spotless] CLEAN AS A WHISTLE.
- 57a. [*Taut] TIGHT AS A DRUM.
I like the variety of lengths here—one grid-spanning entry, two 13-letter entries, and a shorter one split symmetrically.
- 2d [Fastest Amtrak train] ACELA. But rather paltry compared to high-speed trains elsewhere in the world.
- 35d [Punishment-related] PENAL. 17a [Like some summer school courses] REMEDIAL. Growing up, I felt the prospect of REMEDIAL classes (which I fortunately never needed—except for a semester of organic chemistry in college)—was akin to punishment, until I realized that REMEDIAL had the same root as remedy. (That realization came much earlier than college, of course.)
- 16a [Fester and Scar] UNCLES. Attempted misdirection.
- 19a [Kind of balloon or therapy] SPEECH. Just hoping that there’s no such thing as balloon therapy.
- 52a [Lifeguards guard them] POOLS. Took me a few beats to get this since I reflexively think of beaches and the seashore.
- 68a [“A centipede!”] EEK. Interesting trigger choice.
- 49d [Rise to one’s feet] STAND.
Josh Goodman’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary
Josh Goodman’s puzzle features a typical earlier-in-the-week LA Times theme trope. Revealed at COMMANDCENTER, three answers have, in their exact centre, commands given to a dog: SIT, DOWN & HEEL. These were found in:
- [“No one told me!”], HOWWASITOKNOW
- [Had a new proprietor], CHANGEDOWNERSHIP
- [Run errands during a bad storm, say], BRAVETHEELEMENTS
The puzzle played typically easy, with fairly constrained areas partly due to the long (16, 13) across themers.
New to me was [Bryant of “Human Resources”], AIDY; although I didn’t notice it while solving..
Rebecca Goldstein’s USA Today Crossword, “Core Memory” — Emily’s write-up
Boot up before solving this one!
Theme: each themer contains –RAM–
- 12a. [At no time ever], NOTFORAMOMENT
- 30a. [Request in a deli sandwich order], EXTRAMAYO
- 50a. [“Sister, Sister” star], TAMERAMOWRY
This set is brought together by the theme and each is a fun three themer on its own. NOTFORAMOMENT fell right into place for me while EXTRAMAYO took me a few crossings since it’s not a common request that I’d think of (compared to “hold the…” or “no…”). TAMERAMOWRY was another gimme for me today and serendipitous since I recently borrowed one of her cookbooks from the public library (and she also has a memoir if that’s your jam!).
Favorite fill: TAHINI which sits across from POCKET, IMHYPED which crosses with WOOHOO
Stumpers: CAMEO (needed crossings–I forgot he was even in it since it was so subtle and sparse a role), NOKIA (also needed crossings), and RAE (new to me)
What a fun puzzle and stellar grid design! Loved all of the bonus fill, especially the lengthy ones, and the cluing was on pointe! Fantastic!