Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “To Bead Determined” — wanna swap? – Erin’s write-up
Hello lovelies! I actually learned about this week’s theme from a young lady I saw at work a couple weeks ago. Let’s see what we find in the circled squares…
- 17a. [What yoga and deep breathing help with] STRESS REDUCTION
- 27a. [Filmmaker’s framing] CAMERA SHOT
- 49a. [1994 song by Live that reached No. 2 on Billboard’s Mainstream Rock Tracks chart] ALL OVER YOU
- 65a. [Accessory where you’d see the three circled words (designed to look like one of these, sorta] SWIFTIE BRACELET.
These friendship bracelets are usually worn stacked and feature words related to Taylor Swift. “Red” and “Lover” are songs of hers, and the Eras Tour concerts (and movie showings) are full of Swifties exchanging friendship bracelets.
- 15a. [Character voiced by Charles Martinet until 2023] MARIO. Martinet voiced Mario and Luigi from 1994 until 2023, and also was the voice of Wario, Waluigi, Baby Mario, and Luigi, among others. He retired this year from voice acting to become a brand ambassador for Nintendo.
- 10d. [“The ___-Weed Factor” (1960 John Barth novel)] SOT. Sot-weed is tobacco, and I’m glad we have another way to clue this besides the derogatory term for someone who chronically overuses alcohol.
- 69a. [Crossword theme type (but not in Jonesin’ — I’m not that mean] REBUS. I’m sure some solvers would get salty if they found a rebus puzzle, but I bet a lot would be excited for it.
- 24d. [Largest lake in Europe] LADOGA. TIL that Lake Ladoga is near St. Petersburg, Russia.
Until next week!
Addison Snell’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Animal Control”—Jim’s review
Theme answers are familiar phrases about less-than-becoming animals. The revealer is GROOMERS (61a, [Service providers needed for the five pets in this puzzle]).
- 18a. [Rotten fink] DIRTY RAT.
- 23a. [1970s dance in which “you flap your arms and your feet start kicking”] FUNKY CHICKEN.
- 35a. [Phoebe’s coffeehouse song on “Friends”] SMELLY CAT.
- 41a. [Long, rambling and ultimately pointless, as a story or joke] SHAGGY DOG. Never heard of this usage of the term. I only know it as the old Disney movies.
- 50a. [Misfit with unappreciated potential] UGLY DUCKLING.
Ha! Fun theme! Kinda reminds me of this puzzle. This is one of those wish-I’d-thought-of-it themes. How cool is it that FUNKY CHICKEN and UGLY DUCKLING fit symmetrically. That’s serendipity at work, folks!
I liked seeing DEL TACO in the fill (never eaten there, though) but I’m doubtful that it’s a nationwide chain. Fave entry goes to “I CAN’T SEE!” clued [Child’s complaint at a parade].
I did notice quite a reliance on crosswordese such as APIA, ENIAC, ETRE, YPRES, and ESE. But I enjoyed the theme enough to give it a pass. I was going to comment that spelling ALECKS with a K seemed odd to me, but according to this site, the OED accepts both that version and the K-less spelling, and in fact the version with the K is used four times as much. In either case, the A is not capitalized.
Clue of note: 8d. [TV accessory not made since 2016]. VCR. I guess it’s surprising they were still making them as late as that.
Fun theme! 3.75 stars.
And now, here’s Chrissie Hynde learning to play SMELLY CAT.
Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle (Week 650), “Area 51″—Ade’s take
Hello there, everybody! Hope all of you are doing well as the holiday season fast approaches!
Love the theme of today’s grid, and especially the fourth of the five theme entries since it’s right down my alley with some of the music I grew up with. Each of the five theme answers is a two-letter entry in which the first two letters in each of the words are “LI,” which also translates to 51 in Roman numerals.
- LITERARY LIONS (15A: [Influential novelists and dramatists, say])
- LING LING (24A: [Giant panda in 1970s headlines])
- LILY-LIVERED (35A: [Cowardly])
- LISA LISA (46A: [Hip-hop pop diva who performed with Cult Jam])
- LIQUOR LICENSE (55A: [Permission to sell screwdrivers and rusty nails])
As always, showing Africa some love will always score extra points with me and that is the case today with the addition of SENEGAL (30A: [Dakar is its capital]). Laughed out loud at the clue for BIAS given the direction that that journalism profession has gone towards for so long, where bias/hot takes/arguments-for-argument’s-sake sells as journalism over and over, which this classically-trained journalist can’t bear most times (1A: [Journalistic no-no]). Don’t know whether this is awesome or horrific, but seeing ZOD has my mind replaying on loop the scene from Superman II where General Zod’s character yells “KNEEL BEFORE ZOD!” (27A: [One of Superman’s foes]). Oh, you too? See, I knew I wasn’t alone…
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: HERB (6D: [Salad dressing ingredient]) – One of the biggest “what ifs” in the history of baseball is how great the career of Herb Score would have been if he had never been injured. Score pitched for the Cleveland Indians from 1955 to 1959, and in his first two seasons in the league (including his Rookie of the Year campaign of 1955), Score led the American League in strikeouts. Injuries derailed a promising career, the most notable one occurring during a 1957 game against the Yankees when Score was hit in the face by a line drive off the bat from Gil McDougald, forcing Score to miss the rest of the season. Score eventually got into broadcasting, and worked on Cleveland broadcasts on TV and radio from 1964 to 1997.
Thank you so much for the time, everybody! Have a wonderful and safe rest of your day and, as always, keep solving!
Aidan Deshong’s Universal Crossword *DEBUT* – “Lost in Translation” – Matt F’s Review
I’m trusting Fiend’s tagging system to tip me off when we have a new constructor. As far as I can tell, this is Aidan’s first published puzzle. Congrats, Aidan, and welcome to the scene!
Today we have a substitution theme where the back half of common American English phrases have been replaced by the equivalent British English noun.
- 20A – [Basketball court marking, in Britain?] = FREETHROW QUEUE (line)
- 26A – [Laptop component, in Britain?] = COMPUTER CRISP (chip)
- 44A – [Typo catchers, in Britain?] = SPELL-DRAUGHTS (checkers)
- 53A – [Online activity tracker, in Britain?] = BROWSER BISCUIT (cookie)
I learned today that checkers, the game, is called draughts in Britain. These phrases were fun and I think accessible for most English speakers, from whichever side of the pond they’re solving from. Bonus slots are well-utilized and the grid is clean, with IMPECCABLE and IN DISGUISE both crossing 3 theme answers – a tough task! I go ta kick out of the 55-down clue – [Name that can be parsed as “the the” in Spanish] = ELLA.
Thanks for the puzzle, Aidan, and congrats again on the debut!
Matthew Linzer’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap
I’m guessing this constructor is the same person as the Matt Linzer who’s already in the constructor bylines tag bank at Fiend. It violates my sense of order when different venues present a constructor’s name different ways! Middle initial or no, shortened or full first name, one last name or two. Chaos!
Darling theme for a Tuesday. MAKE A WISH when you see a SHOOTING STAR, or on a stray EYELASH, or when you see a LADYBUG, or when the clock reads ELEVEN ELEVEN, or when you blow a DANDELION head’s seeds into the breeze. It’s quite pretty, with the cosmos and nature taking three spots in the theme.
Fave fill: MARIGOLDS! I photographed a robust bush of marigolds on Halloween … orange blooms barely peeking through the snow. (Of course the snow was gone the next day, because this isn’t North Dakota or Canada.) The clue helped me only because of the movie The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, which takes place in India: 9d. [Flowers prominently used in Indian weddings]. I’ve not been to any Indian weddings and was unaware that the marigold is popular.
Least favorite bit: 35a. [Rows #13-#16 in a theater], MNOP. That MNOP crossing with the triple-O OOOH … ooof.
3.5 stars from me.
Patrick Berry’s New Yorker crossword — pannonica’s write-up
This one was decidedly more gentle than the ‘moderately challenging’ rating. It’s a well-made puzzle, but not as advertised.
- 12a [Classic grilled-cheese-sandwich accompaniment] TOMATO SOUP. Pass on that pairing.
- 18a [People who may not be able to vote] FELONS. I think the issue is whether ex-felons may have that right.
- 26a [North and South Dakota, e.g.] RED STATES. But of course there are no purely ‘red’ or ‘blue’ states; the minority populations are typically drowned out and essentially held captive. I’m reminded of Sarah Kendzior’s observation in The View From Flyover Country (2018) that “America is purple—purple like a bruise.”
- 30a [Parent’s reprimand after being disobeyed] WHAT DID I JUST SAY? ooooOOOOooo!
- 40a [Shadow of gloom] PALL. Kind of poetic.
- 48a [Lamborghini feature that opens up?] CAR DOOR. Here are descriptions of 11 types of car doors.
- 52a [One who needs a hand at work?] PALM READER. Nice.
- 4d [Richard J. Daley and Richard M. Daley, for two] MAYORS. The Chicago way.
- 13d [“The Lehman Trilogy” collected five of them] TONYS. Clue was confusing to me, as I hadn’t heard of the play.
- 30d [Durable cloth made with hard-twisted yarn] WHIPCORD. I had no idea it was a cloth as well as a cord. m-w.com shows both senses.
Margi Stevenson’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Jenni’s write-up
I figured out the theme and did not predict the revealer. It’s a nice solid Tuesday theme! Looks like this might be Margi’s debut, at least here on Fiend. Congrats!
The theme answers:
- 16a [*Device that crushes pungent cloves] is a GARLIC PRESS.
- 24a [*Go swimming in one’s birthday suit] is SKINNY–DIP.
- 48a [*Perm style popular in the 1980s and early 1990s] is the JHERI CURL. Kids, ask your parents.
- 58a [*Very little, informally] is DIDDLY–SQUAT.
And the revealer: 38a [Come to a satisfying conclusion, and what the answer to each starred clue literally has] is WORK OUT IN THE END. PRESS, DIP, CURL, and SQUAT are all weight-lifting moves. Consistent and satisfying. Also painful. No, not the puzzle – the weight-lifting.
A few other things:
- A nasty crossing especially for a Tuesday: IRV Gotti crossing Lil Uzi VERT. I got it because IRV rang a dim bell. That’s a toughie especially since both names come from the same corner of pop culture.
- 22d [Golfer’s gouge] is a DIVOT. Not on purpose, I trust.
- I put in RABBI at 35d where the puzzle wanted REBBE.
- [Make a minister] took me a minute to parse. The answer is ORDAIN.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that Katie COURIC guest-hosted Jeopardy!
Kavin Pawittranon & Nijah Morris’s USA Today Crossword, “Mill Around”- Darby’s write-up
Editor: Jared Goudsmit
Theme: Each theme answer begins with MI and ends with LL, putting MILL around the other letters.
- 21a [“No reason not to”] MIGHT AS WELL
- 38a [Wise guy] MISTER KNOW IT ALL
- 53a [Proverb that describes a fruitless task] MILKING THE BULL
This was cute and included a nice set of themers. MIGHT AS WELL is an evocative answer, making me think of a shrug and YOLO moment. MISTER KNOW IT ALL was fun, and it worked out well to put it right in the middle of the grid, though spelling out MISTER initially threw me for a loop. MILKING THE BULL was also new to me, but the theme helped to fill that in without too much putzing around the lower third of the grid. It’s also impressive how MILKING THE BULL stacks over 59a [Childish] IMMATURE and 60a [Ripped to pieces] TORE UP, given that they’re slightly longer.
It’s been fun speeding up to consistently being around three minutes in my USA Today solving, and it’s certainly due to how clean the fill is. I wasn’t off to my best start, wanting the too-long IT’S OKAY to go where I’M CALM is at 1a. I also wasn’t sure about 14a [Big commotion] HOOPLA, but it came on the crosses once I had IHOP, CODA, APP, and LLAMA. The 6d [Barbie ___ Dreamhouse] MALIBU was also especially relevant.
Other fave fill included 10d [Tightly bonded] CLOSE KNIT, 11d [Heat ___ (“The Year Without a Santa Claus” character)] MISER, 45d [Maori dance] HAKA, and 35a [Sheep’s sound] BAA.