Jacob Stulberg’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
I dunno, mang. This puzzle had a years-old vibe to it, with crosswordese ARECA expanding into a bigger role in ARECA PALM. Why?? This 71-worder is 16 squares wide to accommodate that central staggered stack, but I don’t know that the ungreat SEX AND VIOLENCE 14 (sandwiched between METABOLIC RATE and ENTREPRENEURS) merits the grid expansion. The corner stacks with 9-letter answers weren’t any more exciting, and starting out 1-Across with AT AN ANGLE having the dull/stretchy clue [Not true] … it lost me from the get-go. I was rendered dyspeptic from start to finish.
- 36d. [What may be salted away for a special occasion?], CURED HAM. Hey! You know what? If it hasn’t been cured, it isn’t ham, I gather from Wikipedia. (I don’t eat pork, so don’t @ me.) Useless word in the entry.
- 28d. [Establishment offering horses for hire], LIVERY. My great-great-grandfather owned a livery stable at 2560 S. Halsted back in the 1880s. I just looked it up on Google Maps and … that address is beneath the Stevenson Expressway. My ancestor died of pneumonia at age 34, leaving behind six children. We don’t want to abuse antibiotics, but they sure are useful for preventing that sort of death.
- 41d. [Like a good plot], ARABLE. I really wanted this to pertain to a juicy fictional plot, but no. A plot of land suitable for farming. Meh.
- 10d. [Mark Twain story that begins “My father was a St. Bernard, my mother was a collie, but I am a Presbyterian”], A DOG’S TALE. Inferrable from the clue, but I don’t think I’d ever heard of this story. Have you read it?
- 13d. [“Blithe Spirit” role], ELVIRA. Know your Noel Coward plays and the characters within them! Because this puzzle is quizzing you on that.
- 21d. [Reflective pair], MIRROR SHADES. What? No. MirrorED sunglasses or mirrorED shades. “Mirror shades” looks goofy.
- 44a. [“___ Conchos,” 1964 western], RIO. What the …? Never heard of it.
Favorite fill: MGM LION. Least favorite: ARECA PALM, SETTEE, ATL, TAE, EKES, A STAR, NAPAS, SEE ME, REROOT, PMS.
2.75 stars from me. I just didn’t have fun solving the puzzle. I did enjoy the themeless from Erik Agard and Paolo Pasco that arrived in my email this morning. You can get it from Erik’s Glutton for Pun site. If the Friday NYT left you wanting a freestyle palate cleanser, go to it!
Adam T Cobb’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “What Larks!” — pannonica’s write-up
“What larks, Pip! What larks.”
The internet tells me this is from Dickens’ Great Expectations. Hints that some avian-inspired fun is to be had herein.What’s going on is this: take the common name of a bird originally in the form toponym + type, transpose the two words, and clue the nonsensical result.
- 17a. Provide sudden stimulus for Justin Trudeau’s country?] GOOSE CANADA (Branta canadensis).
- 30a. [Opt against a Chinese-language course?] DUCK MANDARIN (Aix galericulata).
- 47a. [Suggest “Use your Prime account to watch ‘Mozart in the Jungle'”?] PARROT AMAZON (this would be a genus, Amazona, comprising
>checks Wikipedia<about 30 species). Guessing this particular show was chosen because it ticks a few boxes: ☑ Amazon-produced series, ☑ invoking Mozart for Higher Education vibe™, ☑ jungle ∼ Amazon, but that’s rather tautological in clue context.
- 61aR [What this puzzle may be accused of doing?] BIRD MOCKING. Also, mockingbird. So this is a quasi-revealer, quasi-themer. It doesn’t fully explain the theme (I suppose that’s one of the purposes of the equivocating ‘may be’), and it doesn’t work precisely the way the others do—although the mechanism is the same, it doesn’t contain a toponym and the original bird is a single compound word.
Got to admit that this theme seems better in concept than execution. How ironic.
- 21a [Nonprofit’s URL ending] ORG. Ideally this is so, and that was the original concept. However, (1) being a nonprofit isn’t a requirement to be allowed to use the
.orgdomain, (2) many nonprofits use (or also use) other domains, especially
.com, because they’re more easily located that way. Even so, the clue is certainly intuitively understandable.
- Check out MOOD and DOOM stretching away from the same black square. 2d [What an emoji often indicates], 24a [Ensure the failure of].
- 9d [One with shaving cream in his Christmas stocking, maybe] DAD. I have no idea if this is a gift or a prank.
- 40a [Kuwait or Abu Dhabi, e.g.] EMIRATE. 26d [Mideastern country whose with a dagger on its flag] OMAN, which is a sultanate.
- 41d [Selectric typewriters, e,g,] IBMS. Grew up with a Selectric II in the household. See also the misdirecting 3d [Small unit in typing?] BLOOD CELL.
- 51d [Like the smell of burned rubber] ACRID. And of course the similar-sounding Akron, Ohio is—or was—the rubber capital of the world.
- 59d [Swimming-pool meas.] LGTH. Ouch. Was imagining some four-letter abbrev. for gallons or liters, not thinking at all of linear dimensions.
This version by TAJ Mahal and ETTA James, original by INEZ and Charles FOXX. Was also covered by ARETHA Franklin and RAY Johnson.
John Lampkin’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up
This is one of my favourite LA Times “?” themes of late. I started this sedated on adcodol (codeine, caffeine, paracetamol cocktail), but I was jolted awake soon enough. The theme riffs on “unfinished symphony”, but instead of a revealer, it is only hinted at in the clues, leaving more space for grid fun. Each classical work is truncated by two or three letters, creating new wacky compositions: MADAMABUTTER[FLY], THEMAGICFLU[TE], THEFOURSEAS[ONS], MOONLIGHTSON[ATA] and FURELI[SE].
The grid is a pinwheel, and lacks the bigger swathes of open real estate that later-in-the-week grids are associated; which is to say that, theme or not, it didn’t play too tough. It is also worth noting that the grid is extra-wide to accomodate 12-letter pinwheel arms. I did start with EMUS not LAMB, which does not even fit the clue properly (Adcodol!) I finished at FLEABAG, because I think of a FLEAPIT as a hotel, and a FLEABAG as a dog. [Oral soporific?] for LULLABY is a cute clue situated directly below.
[Persian murmur], PURR. As in cat. I have a scar just lateral to my left eye now from a new tiny stray kitten, about six weeks. Cattery assistant wanted me to listen to breathing, which led kitten to promptly slap me upside the head. He now goes by the name Swiper (No swiping!) In other stray kitten news, we also have a Canapé, who was rescued from the jaws of a neighbourhood pitbull without so much as a scratch!