Alan Arbesfeld’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Getting a Head Start”—Jim’s review
Jim here sitting in for pannonica who’s taking the weekend off. Theme answers are familiar phrases with an H added to the beginning.
- 22a. [Closet organizer’s concern?] HANGER MANAGEMENT.
- 37a. [Conditions befalling mustangs when broken?] HALTERED STATES.
- 44a. [Result of some late-winter hunting?] HIDES OF MARCH.
- 66a. [Person monopolizing the wig trade?] HAIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLER.
- 84a. [What might catch a hunter’s eye?] HART MOVEMENT.
- 93a. [Cooperstown institution, say?] HALL FOR THE BEST.
- 114a. [Part of a house demolition project, perhaps?] HEARTH SHATTERING.
Fairly standard add-a-letter fare. The consistency helped prevent it from turning into a slog, but I can’t say I got any yuks from these. I think I liked the first one best as it hits a little close to home. The wig one is pretty good, too.
Top fill goes to FIBONACCI though I always want to spell it with two Ns and one C. Also good: “HOLD ME,” MEAL TRAY, “HUSH UP” Count CHOCULA, BIG THREE, LUMIERE, POLENTA, and Angela BASSETT.
Clues of note:
- 28a. [Like hobos’ clothes, perhaps]. IN TATTERS. This is kind of a downer. I really wish a different angle was taken.
- 72a. [Strings along a hula dancer?]. UKES. Not sure that this actually works.
- 10d. [“Beauty and the Beast” character voiced by Jerry Orbach]. LUMIERE. I only know the actor from his Law & Order role, so I’m surprised to learn he was a bona fide Broadway star (I did know he voiced LUMIERE, though, and his French accent is on point). He also sang “Be Our Guest” for the film. (See video below.)
- 86d. [Hospital delivery]. MEAL TRAY. Ha.
- 115d. [___-80 (old Radio Shack computer)]. TRS. Hence the epithet “Trash 80”.
Hoang-Kim Vu’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap
Cool puzzle, lots of good stuff in it, on the hard side.
Fave fill: ZOOM HOST, HE/HIM (tough clue, [Certain descriptor after a signature nowadays]), FRIENDSGIVING, DRAMATIC PAUSE, “HOW WAS IT?”, FOAM PARTY (is that specifically a gay bar/party thing? that’s my only context for it), MAELSTROM, VISUAL GAG, ON THE RISE, and DEETS as shorthand for details.
Clues of note:
- 28a. [Brown-y points, for short?], TDS. As in the Cleveland Browns of the NFL.
- 62a. [Sessions of congress?], TRYSTS. This is not about House Rep. Pete Sessions!
- 5d. [Treatment for someone in transition, in brief], HRT. Hormone replacement therapy. The term HRT is also used for postmenopausal cis-women taking estrogen, and for all I know it also gets applied to cis-men taking testosterone for whatever reasons.
- 35d. [Gamer’s post-purchase add-ons, for short], DLC. No idea what this is, a new abbrev for me. Downloadable content? A great guess! That’s it exactly.
- 46d. [Sharp point on a kite], TALON. Kites are birds of prey as well as flying toys.
Four stars from me.
Universal Freestyle 99 by Spencer Leach, norah’s review; untimed
- ESCAPEROOM 26A [Team-building exercise that you want to get out of ASAP?]
- PISTACHIOS 41A [Nuts in some baklava recipes]
- IMINLOVE 33D [Smitten person’s declaration]
IGOTAJOB X GETSADATE is a little too dupey for me. Not much else to say about this one!
Thanks Spencer and the Universal team!
Steve Mossberg’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”—Amy’s recap
It’s Amy filling in for pannonica today.
I solve the Stumper almost every week. Usually I can get through it in the 10- to 20-minute range without Googling anything. Not uncommonly, I use the “check” function to highlight incorrect letters. Most of the northeast quarter was either empty or had incorrect letters when the rest of the puzzle had been filled in right. Oof! So my solving time of 22:22 gets an asterisk because I did use “check” along the way.
And almost every week, I wonder why I persist in doing the Stumper, when it’s more a gnarly challenge than a fun one. I think most Stumper regulars can relate!
Fave fill: OVERSELLS, “POINT TAKEN,” “AMIRITE” (not keen on the clue, [Modern verification solicitation]), POOLHOUSE, ANDES MINT (a childhood favorite), PROSPECT, GAMING TABLES, DUNKIN.
Can’t say I knew that a PAMPAS CAT was a thing, nor a SELFIE STUDIO, nor the S’MOREO (though I filled in the OREO part pretty swiftly). Didn’t know natural gas was found in a SALT DOME. Not sure I’ve seen the word form INFINITUDE.
20a. [Where underground bands get together], the mineral GNEISS. I had GARAGE for the longest time.
47a. [Air ender], BNB. Uh, no. I reject this entry as invalid. It’s not a suffix, it’s not a dictionary entry. Airbnb is a thing, yes, but you can’t just pull out the last three letters and plunk them in a grid any more than you could use DUNKIN’s -NKIN.
Tom Pepper & Zhouqin Burnikel’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up
I think this might be the first time I’ve seen Zhouqin Burnikel use her Chinese name, rather than “C.C.,” in her LAT byline. (I forget why she made the exception for LAT.) Whatever the byline is, there’s a lot to like in this puzzle, with some very fun cluing angles:
- 12A [___ sum] seems like a very Burnikel way (food!) to clue DIM.
- 24A [Covered with beads?] is SWEATY. Hee!
- 29A Likewise, [Sound quality?] is a nice clue for HEALTH.
- 31A [Place where people might exchange rings] is a PAWN SHOP. The wordplay hits just keep on coming! This one is all the more fun for not having a question mark to tip off the solver.
- 37A I figured early on that [Field that involves drawing and folding] was not a reference to art, but it took a while to land on the correct answer of PRO POKER.
- 55A [Prehistoric beast with a large bony frill] is the very cool and evocative TRICERATOPS.
- 10D [Senators’ supporters, most likely] is a reference to hockey, not politics: OTTAWANS is the answer.
- 24D [Pipes down?] is a clever way to clue SEWER.
- 46D [Gp. whose alphabet includes Romeo and Juliett] is NATO. I recently learned that the reason “Juliett” is spelled with two Ts in the NATO Phonetic Alphabet is so that it can be pronounced the same way by French speakers (since the T in a word ending in -et would be silent) as everyone else.
With the exception of the two entries noted above, I wasn’t crazy about the SE corner: NATURAL AREA didn’t have that elusive (and hella subjective) “sparkle” to me, and OSCARS HOSTS felt hard to parse. (I also thought the more common phrasing would be OSCAR HOSTS, but the two versions get very similar numbers of hits when Googled with quotation marks.) But otherwise, liked this one a lot!