Kyle Mahowald’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Well, if you didn’t like the entry PITY PARTY when it made its NYT debut seven days ago, you probably still don’t like it. Will and Joel, come on—space these puppies out a bit! Showy marquee answers are memorable for at least a few weeks.
Answers I like: JAMA (former medical editor here), “SMALL WORLD,” DATA SCIENTIST (my friend Doug Brown, an NYT solver, is a data scientist—read his interview here), JOE COOL, TREVOR NOAH, “AND … SCENE,” JESSE EISENBERG, “I’LL DRINK TO THAT,” MINECRAFT, and ALLEY CAT.
- 13a. [Seducer of Josef in Kafka’s “The Trial”], LENI. Who?? I guess it’s nice to be spared a mention of the Nazi propagandist Riefenstahl, but …
- 20a. [Tony’s cousin], EMMY. This is, of course, a Sopranos reference.
- 60a. [Enemy of ISIS, with “the”], WEST. An oversimplification. All those Syrian refugees? The Kurds? The Yazidi? They’re not Westerners.
- 24d. [Historic isle in the Tyrrhenian Sea], ELBA. Over at Daily Celebrity Crossword, our ELBA clues reference actor Idris rather than the island. At the Times, it almost always seems to be the island. Sigh.
- 28d. [Librettist for Verdi’s “Otello” and “Falstaff”], BOITO. LOL, no. I cannot name a single librettist.
- 48d. [Wardrobe item for which Obama claimed he was “unfairly maligned”], JEANS. No, that was fair.
3.7 stars from me.
David C. Duncan Dekker’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Space Invaders” — pannonica’s write-up
Before arriving at the revealer, it seemed there was a different pattern emerging among the marked theme entries. 15- and 42-across shared the same distinctive clue, so it seemed obvious there was a connection.
55aR [Urban square … or what the answers to the pairs of starred clues seem to have between them?] CITY BLOCK. And this seems to be a double entendre: each pair of entries combines to form the name of a city, so do the black squares (aka ‘blocks’, or at least components of larger ‘blocks’, in cruciverbal terminology) represent blocks associated with those cities, or are they blocking the cities from being cohesive entities?
- 15a. [*__ Blanc] MEL.
16a. [*Titular Ludlum amnesiac] BOURNE.
Melbourne, not to be confused with the actual Mel Bourne (né Melvin Bornstein). The original English Melbourne signifies “mill stream” (mileburne).
- 17a. [*Fashionable] CHIC.
15a. [*Fourth word of the “Star Wars” opening crawl] AGO.
- 34a. [*Dessert wine] PORT.
35a. [*Bring in, as a big client] LAND.
- 42a. [*__ Blanc] MONT.
44a. [*Unfeigned] REAL.
Montreal. Unlike most of the other theme entries, the MONT here means exactly the same thing in the clue as well as the city name.
- 62a. [*”__ vs. Wild” (Bear Grylls show] MAN.
63a. [*Laguna contents] AGUA.
Managua. Wikipedia informs me that “[t]he name Managua originates from the term Mana-ahuac, which in the indigenous Nahuatl language translates to ‘adjacent to the water’ or site ‘surrounded by water’.” Does that mean that the Nahuatl word for water was coincidentally close enough to the Spanish one that it could easily be adapted? Or was it a loanword? Curious, no?
- 64a. [*Relay-team position] ANCHOR.
65a. [*Most hope to do it gracefully] AGE.
Preceding the first theme pair is 14a [Entr’__ ] ACTE. Commentary? Winking introduction?
- 37a [Biopic starring Will Smith] ALI. Kids, don’t pronounce “biopic” to rhyme with “myopic”—it’s short-sighted. I made this observation many years ago, after hearing it in the wild, but was reminded of it fairly recently when a facebook acquaintance complained about it.
- 41a [Asparagus-like sushi veggie] UDO. Aralia cordata, also known as Japanese spikenard (spikenard!) and mountain asparagus. Nice to have a change from cult actor UDO Kier and other named folk. Also, I am irked by ‘veggie’, especially when I see it in more supposedly proper contexts (e,g,, store signage, restaurant menus). Get off my lawn, et cetera.
- Adjectives you don’t see every day: 10d [Adjective for traditional dice] CUBICAL, 22d [Peaked in the manner of ecclesiastical headgear] MITRAL (this is also the etymology for the eponymous valve in the heart).
- 30d [They have arms but no elbows] SOFAS. But sectional sofas can be described has having ells, for what it’s worth.
- Unnecessary cross-reference: 46d [48 Down light source, perhaps] OIL LAMP, 48d [Swinging-door establishment] SALOON. Despite being sequential in the clue list, they’re on opposite sides of the grid, which introduces significant separation. At least in the way that (I believe) most people tackle crosswords.
Solid puzzle, jam-packed with theme entries.