Evan Birnholz’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Lots of colorful fill in today’s puzzle from Evan Birnholz (who makes both themed and themeless crosswords at his Devil Cross site—the latest one a mega-sized themeless!). My favorites: COW TIPPING, FANTASY FOOTBALL, SUZY Q, PLAYBOY MAGAZINE with a Jimmy Carter interview clue, SWEET SPOTS, tasty ROLOS (I was so close to buying some today), DANCE CRAZE, F-BOMB, GROUPONS, and HAAGEN-DAZS (which I spelled right on the first try). You could add some BARQ’S to your ice cream for a root beer float, or just have the SUNDAES instead. SO MUCH SUGAR IN THIS PUZZLE. (And I used all caps because today is International All Caps Day.) Sweet spots, indeed. At least five answers that are problematic for diabetics. Five other notes:
- 14d. [New Orleans N.B.A. team, informally], PELS. What? People call the Pelicans “the Pels” for short? That’s terrible. Can’t they trade names with the Utah team already? The New Orleans Jazz, the Utah Honey Bees. There, sorted.
- 11d I’M BACK plus 39a STEP BACK? That’s too much BACK. I see from Wordplay that Evan originally had EMBARK at 11d, which gets rid of that dupe, but at the cost of including an NBA player who retired 18 years ago. Not Hall of Fame caliber, I don’t think? Meh.
- 31a. [“Democracy in fashion,” per Giorgio Armani], JEANS. Great clue! So, too, is the clue for SPACE: 23a. [“The breath of art,” per Frank Lloyd Wright].
- 20a. [One-named singer who was a muse for Andy Warhol], NICO. If you never bought the Velvet Underground and Nico album, you can listen to it here on YouTube. Nico sang lead vocals on “Femme Fatale,” “All Tomorrow’s Parties,” and “I’ll Be Your Mirror.” Banana cover art by Warhol.
- 30a. [Looking at it a long time might make your head hurt], OP ART. I tried to fit CROSSWORD in here but it wouldn’t work.
Finn Vigeland’s BuzzFeed crossword — Jim’s write-up
Another Friday, another wild themeless offered by Caleb at BuzzFeed. This one comes from Finn Vigeland and, while it’s not quite the tour de force that Paolo Pasco gave us last week (honestly, I’ll be comparing a lot of themelesses to that one for a long time), it’s still very good.
Check out that center with its staggered 11s of SWIPES RIGHT, SLEPT AROUND, and KEY AND PEELE. Modern, in-the-language, and smooth. (Nearly) all the verticals passing through the center are winners like LIL’ KIM, I’LL STAY, AIR DOCK, GO PRO (with it’s provocative clue), and I even like BRANG. It’s not until you get to JITNEY where I have to call foul. A regional bus line? Ouch. And the crossings on the J and Y were not obvious. So that was tough for me, but I got it in the end. Also, D-LISTERS is a bit roll-your-owny, but it works. It looks as though Finn has subscribed to the Patrick Berry method for making a themeless: build a strong, but wide-open center then work on each corner separately. I think I like the SW corner best with GAY SCENE, ORDER OUT, and SKI PANTS (which my brain wanted to parse SKIP ANTS). DINGOS and LADY DI are great crossers, but ACCRA, CREON, and A NUT are unfortunate side effects. The other corners are similarly solid but suffering from a couple of iffy entries. In the NW, H-TEST is holding it back, but everything else up there is nice. In the NE, BHT and IN OT are icky, but I like MAN BUN (though not MAN-BUNs; I mean, they’re nice and all, just not my thing…). And in the SE, FREE OF is legit I guess, but it’s just not as good as BAD SEX (I mean, what is, really?). SLY FOX is great, but couldn’t it have been SPY FOX, the secret agent star of the Humongous Entertainment kid computer games? It would have changed SIL to SIP—way better. Oh well, missed opportunities.
The cluing is much less wordy today than it was last week. I wonder if that’s a conscious effort by Caleb in response to some criticism. I’m sure it’s a fine line to walk—being personable without over-selling it. Still, another great themeless BuzzFeed puzzle. 4.25 stars from me. Oh, if you haven’t seen the Obama anger translator bit from this year’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner, here’s a clip of this now-classic bit!
Jeffrey Wechsler’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up
This is a rather basic theme (no weak pun intended), especially for a Friday. Four phrases begin with army ranks used in other senses. The only slight twist, is that the ranks are abbreviated in the grid. The phrases are kind of blah: GENKNOWLEDGE, PVTENTERPRISE, CPLPUNISHMENT and MAJDISCOVERY.
1A, [Locale of TV’s Krusty Krab restaurant] was strange. It wants to be Bikini Bottom, but actually it’s the generic SEABED.
I find the clue [Presumed threats to letter carriers] interesting. It’s such a well-worn media trope. I immediately think of Blondie, but it appears all-over. And yet, how common is it really? [Daily threats to vets] is a very accurate irl clue; especially when dealing with toy poms and landsharks, aka min pins!
Are you buying the clue / answer pair [“… according to my abilities”], ASICAN, because I am sceptical!
Anyone else have the [Hammer of baseball] as ROSEN first? Apparently that’s the >Hebrew< Hammer. My bad. And I was so happy to “know” a baseball answer.
[What a piece of work is a ___!”: Hamlet, MAN. Or, nearly, Hair!
Simple theme, but solidly made puzzle: 3.5 Stars
Gareth, leaving you with one of those songs that was hugely successful but usually features prominently in worst song of all time lists… Because.