There’s a brand new EP released today, and I’m not talking about the DJ Khaled album. It’s Andrew Ries’s Stagger Sessions, a set of 20 themeless puzzles you can buy for $10. The full set even comes with record-style liner notes! Or you can download individual “tracks” for a buck apiece (and the first puzzle on the EP is free). Andrew constructed these as if he were laying down album tracks, and the project is called The Stagger Sessions because each grid is built around a midsection with staggered long entries. I’ve solved the first three already—good fill, inventive clues, and as tough as Friday/Saturday NYT puzzles. Buy the whole set and you can gorge yourself on a feast prepared by a cruciverbal chef.
James Mulhern & Ashton Anderson’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Whoooosh! That’s the sound of the puzzle practically filling itself in. The grid design provides for great flow and interconnectedness, so that getting some answers makes it that much easier to work the crossings and fill in plenty more. There’s some pop culture and some accessible sports and some zippy phrases, and nothing stymied me. And this one here was right in my wheelhouse: 35a. [Request to Dad, maybe], CAR KEYS. The 17-year-old doesn’t like my classic janitorial set of keys, so he hits up his dad.
Favorite fill: SWEATPANTS, “HOW DO I LOOK?”, ONE-MAN ARMY (despite its gendered nature—Rambo, in the clue, was a dude, though), SPINAL TAP, “GOO GOO GA GA,” “UPTOWN GIRL” (we would also have accepted UPTOWN FUNK, with a different clue), BUST A GUT, THE ROOTS, IPAD AIR, the loathsome TOM BRADY, and the interesting SKY ATLAS.
Four more things:
- 19a. [Word with hatch or room], ESCAPE. I have never done one of those escape rooms but I really ought to! What are the best ones in Chicago, and how many people make for the optimal group size?
- 37a. [Modern-day home of the classical poet Hafez], IRAN. Never heard of him, but the name looks Persian enough. You can read three of his poems via this page.
- 38a. [Jobs in tech], STEVE. Is this about IT guys?
- 10d. [Figures usually held in one’s head], PINS. I still haven’t figured out what this clue means. Oh! PIN numbers for your debit card, yes? A bit surprised that there’s no hint at all that the answer’s abbreviated.
- 49a. [Edible seed of a pumpkin or squash], PEPITA. Yum!
The worst stuff in this grid is just stale bits like ROAN, APO, and OGLE with a beach clue. Overall, quite a smooth 70-worder. 4.25 stars from me.
Julie Bérubé’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Pieces of Silver” — pannonica’s write-up
Straightforward theme here, dropping the letters AG—the symbol for the element silver is Ag, from argentum (yes, that’s where Argentina derives its name)—into phrases.
- 17a. [Like radioactive sugar?] SWEET’N AGLOW (Sweet’n Low).
- 23a. [Bit of small change attacked by wild animals?] A PENNY SAVAGED (a penny saved).
- 49a. [“Check out the slow parts of this score, chums”] ADAGIOS, AMIGOS (adios, amigos).
- 60a. [Nickname with no trace of a religious reference?] PAGAN HANDLE (pan handle).
Subtle reference to the theme: 5a [Argentine grassland] PAMPAS. From there, speaking of grasslands: 20a [Plain conical figure?] TEEPEE.
- 26d [One-fifth of “If music be the food of love, play on”] IAMB. The line is, of course, in iambic pentameter. Spoken by Duke ORSINO in Twelfth Night. 5d [Nicholas widely considered to be the first editor of Shakespeare] ROWE.
- Did you know 44a [Hedin who mapped parts of central Asia] SVEN? I sure didn’t. Perhaps if I’d ever read this book I bought years ago I might have encountered him, though it’s more of a contemporary account.
- Another unfamiliar personage: 57d [Maxwell credited with popularizing the scavenger hunt] ELSA.
- How about 32d [Machu Picchu rediscoverer Bingham] HIRAM?
- 47a [Australian floral emblems] ACACIAS.
- 65a [What framed Roger Rabbit?] CEL. Factette: the book title was Who Censored Roger Rabbit?
- I felt these clues were crafted well, strongly suggesting the answers via invoking associated words: 8d [Looks inferior by comparison] PALES (‘pales in comparison‘), 34d [After careful deliberation] ADVISEDLY (careful deliberation, careful consideration, take under consideration, take under advisement).
- 60d [Newborn in some rookeries] PUP. I’m thinking pinnipeds here.
Fine crossword to solve, but to reiterate my initial assessment—not exactly an awe-inspiring theme.
John Lampkin’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up
Is RVTRADEIN a thing? RV’s aren’t a thing here, so I don’t know. Anyway swap R for V, clue humorously is the recipe followed. VICEARONI and VEALPOLITIK are not “complete” puns, relying on the original meaning to force some sense through; VIMSHOT and VAININSPAIN complete the set.
We have another dad joke today in [Referral from dad?], ASKMOM. FUSSPOT I assume is old-timey; I know it as a character from the British Beano comments (or was it Dandy, they kind of blur into each other – seems it was Whizzer & Chips; my apologies!) I presume LMS enjoyed [It’s never a poodle in the Iditarod] for LEADDOG.
As traditional, John Lampkin has shared some of his excellent photography, here of a Pacific RATTLER, and a Reddish EGRET.
Steve Jobs co-founder of Apple Computer. At least that was what they called it then.
You … don’t seriously think I don’t know who Steve Jobs was, do you? (It’s a reference to ITGUY raising some criticism in another recent NYT crossword.)
Honest mistake, yes? I thought the same.
I really thought I didn’t have a reputation as one who is slow to pick up on things in crosswords …
You don’t! Very apt comment, Amy. I enjoyed your review.
Highlights: GOOGOOGAGA (fun to type just now!) and BATCAVE. Also munching on PEPITAs while solving. Excellent Friday. NW took me nearly all the way through a full mug of coffee ;)
I meant to say NE. NW was a breeze. Sorry.
Thank you for explaining PINS — that mystified me.
I wasn’t sure of the rationale for saying that a PHASER was a particle beam weapon, but Wikipedia has an insanely detailed page on it and other Star Trek weapons. Reading between the lines, though, I have the impression that figuring out how phasers work was something that fans spent a lot of time on, and later versions of the TV series went along with their deductions.
I enjoyed a number of the downs also — two sycophants: TOADY & LAPDOG; MADCAP, Nancy’s pal SLUGGO, the ANTIPOPE, EWE LAMB… Nice variety!
Maybe I don’t know enough ecclesiastical history but how could any Pope be anti Pope? Does this have anything to do with the Avignon papacy?
There have been quite a few.
The most interesting thing for me in the article was that there was an anti-pope named John XXIII. I wonder if there was an anti-Vatican Counsel.
Fun, easy Friday puzzle. I knew most of the trivia, but did not know PEPITA.
NYT: Loved this grid, especially GOO GOO GA GA. But I got snarled in the SE when I put in LACKEY instead of LAPDOG and then considered PHOTON in place of PHASER. Eventually coming up wth DAIS got me out of that mess.
I don’t have a copy of the NYT style guide, but PIN feels like it may have made the transition from abbreviation to word, as it were. Yes, it’s still frequently in all caps, but I dunno, that one didn’t strike me as needing to be clued as “Figs. frequently kept in one’s head” or the like.
Big fan of the puzzle, lovely fill, maybe a *tad* easier than I’d prefer for a Friday. But super-fun!
Will Shortz tends to omit abbreviation signals for acronyms and initialisms, especially late in the week. He considers them words with abbreviation etymology, and not proper abbreviations themselves.
Real abbreviations have two characteristics not found in PIN, for example. They are printed with a period and they are not pronounced as written. A non-English speaker might not know to say “Thursday,” not “Thoo” for “Thu.” but will have no problem with PIN.
Thanks, pannonica… now I have *more* books on my reading list… There’s an interesting comparison of books (there were two) to movie on this site:
Ah, my memory was faulty. The verb in the original book’s title was censored, not killed. Post now edited..
Hafez may be a common name among Persians, but it is Arabic. It means “guardian” or “protector.” Hafez al-Assad, dictator father of Bashar, is a notable Arab with that name.
Cool, thanks for passing that on.
My Oxford dictionary includes the word hafiz, defined as “a Muslim who knows the Koran by heart.” And the origin notes match what you posted above.
I enjoy reading Sufi poets (in translation, of course) so that’s how I know about Hafez. I recommend author Vraje Abramian – http://www.hohmpress.com/authors-hohm-press/vraje-abramian-author.html
Only learnt PERCALE recently, shopping for linen…
Chronicle: does PAGAN really mean “with no trace of religion” per the 60A clue? Wiccans, and ancient Greeks and Romans, would be both pagan and religious.