Jacob Stulberg’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Am I tired, or is this Friday puzzle more like a Saturday for you, too? We’ve got a mini-theme, with OVER THE MOON opening the puzzle and UNDER THE SUN closing it out. Nice!
Favorite fill: CAMERA-READY, TIPS ONE’S HAT, AGE OF REASON, BOWL A STRIKE, ARMCHAIR critic, “MY PRETTY,” EMPIRE clued as the TV series (which I’ve yet to watch but hear such great things about), DC COMICS, and SUDOKU.
- 21d. [Kind of calendar], JULIAN. This is timely, given that this Sunday is Christmas for Eastern Orthodox adherents.
- 59a. [Fish ___], FRY. I know this term mainly from Wisconsin, where Friday fish fry is commonplace.
- 28d. [Ovary’s place], PISTIL. Only if you’re a plant.
- 7d. [“Thanks in old age – thanks ___ I go”: Walt Whitman], ERE. I like literary/notable quotation clues, but am not keen on “age” being repeated in AGE OF REASON. Plenty of other ways to clue ERE.
- 13d. [Venomous swimmer], SEA SNAKE. The worst kinds of snakes are the ones that swim in the water. Just as alarming? Tree snakes. Why can’t snakes let us have “in the water” and “off the ground” as safe places? Also, did you ever see that video where a bunch of small snakes are menacing a marine iguana? This BBC Planet Earth video will have your heart in your throat! (Because I am thoughtful, I’m not showing the video here, just giving you the link in case you want to see A WHOLE LOT OF FAST SNAKES.)
Janie Smulyan’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “I Like Icon” — pannonica’s write-up
In a series of statements that comprise the theme, the solver is addressed in the second person:
- “I’m familiar to you, but my face isn’t, since I almost always appear ___”] IN SILHOUETTE.
- 28a. [“That’s me, helping you through traffic ___”] AT CROSSWALKS.
- 37a. [“If you’re wondering where to go, I’m providing clues ___”] ON RESTROOM DOORS.
- 45a. [“For hikers, I mark Point A ___”] AT TRAILHEADS.
So who’s the mysterious stranger?
- 56aR [“You guessed it! I am ___”] HELVETICA MAN.
Well that threw me for a loop. I’d gotten some of the theme answers and the HELVETICA part of the revealer, but it wasn’t coming together. Helvetica is an iconic typeface, and ‘face’ as mentioned in the first theme clue seemed as if it could be a pun. It appears frequently on signage in public places, but I was sure that it wasn’t used in all of those inventoried contexts.
It turns out that ‘Helvetica Man‘ is a colloquial name for the most famous standardized figures seen so many places, introduced by the AIGA (American Institute of Graphic Arts) in 1974. It has no connection to its namesake typeface but acquired the appellation by virtue of its analogous ubiquity. Incidentally, I find it interesting that the AIGA seems to shun use of its full name, instead consistently pairing the logotype with “the professional association for design”.
The notion of personifying the figure reminds me of the quirky Japanese series of room-escape games from No1game known as ‘Find the Escape-Men’.
- 16a [Tanked up] OILED. Despite both terms being automobile-related, the way in which they’re connected here is as synonyms for inebriated.
- 25a [Topic for an X’s-and-O’s session in football] GAP. Kind of a weird clue, even though it’s accurate.
- 51a [Card game akin to crazy eights] MAO, but of course I first filled in UNO.
- 63a [Bear with a hard chair and bed] PAPA. Liked this clue very much.
- 4d [Welcome sign of aging?] PATINA. Not sure why it should be welcome, even with the question mark, though often a patina can enhance an object’s aesthetic appeal.
- Arbitrary but convenient triple-S version of PSSST at 27d [“Yo, buddy, over here”].
- Surprising trivia: 29d [Play in which Spencer Tracy made his Broadway debut] RUR. Now, speaking of the crosswordy hit parade: ETUIS, ELIE, ISMS, AGOG, NEET, OMOO, OSIERS. (36a, 62a, 65a, 66a, 68a, 6d, 8d)
- 34d [What “fresh as a daisy” is, ironically] TRITE. Cute.
- 38d [Place for some of Beethoven’s trumpets] EAR. Eh? What’s that you say?
- 58d [“The longest distance between two places,” per “The Glass Menagerie”] TIME. Interesting quote.
Time’s up. Good puzzle.
Gary Schlapfe and C.C. Burnikel’s LA Times crossword
There are four arbitrary [Bridge] definitions: CARDGAMEFORFOUR, HELMSMANSPOST, RIVERCROSSING and DENTALAPPLIANCE.