Andy Kravis’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
It’s Andy! Hi, Andy! Hello, Andy’s puzzle! This is an opportune time to mention a new venture Andy’s undertaking: the Grid Wars weekly grid-constructing challenge. Newbies and seasoned pros alike are encouraged to throw their hats into the ring. The inaugural challenge is to make a themeless grid where 1-Across is an ice cream flavor and the last Across is a body of water or a hot tub or something; assorted other oddball restrictions apply, and it’ll be neat to see how various constructors decide to meet the challenges. Readers will vote on which grid is their favorite. Sounds like a cool way for constructors to hone their skills and learn from their peers—so if you’re at all inclined to make crosswords, check out Grid Wars.
We now return to our regularly scheduled puzzle review. Highlights: A NAIL SALON right up top. The movie MOONLIGHT. A handy little SEWING KIT (although the clue, [Where to stick a needle], had me thinking of antecubital veins). The modern verb VAGUEBOOKS (an example would be making a Facebook that says only “Well, that’s a shame,” with no additional info or antecedent to give you any idea what motivated those sentiments). NEIL SIMON. LINOLEUM because of the Bert and Ernie “La La La” song. ASTI, because while it’s fairly stale crossword fill, I love a sweet white wine, with or without bubbles. INSTA, short for Instagram, because that’s what people say. The Key and Peele mention in the MADTV clue.
What I learned: That there is such a thing as the ALL-NBA TEAM, [Kobe Bryant made it 15 times]. This is more elite than the All-Star team, I gather. But ick, Kobe Bryant. The awesome Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (love his writing!) and Tim Duncan also have 15 nods.
Also did not know: 47a. [Title Roman tribune of an early Wagner opera], RIENZI. If you don’t know it either and want to see a synopsis or history, here you go.
I wonder who wrote the clue for TONGUE, [Mandarin or Mandingo]. I’m not sure that Mandingo is still in wide use—do we have any linguists with expertise on African languages who can weigh in? Wikipedia points towards Mandinka rather than Mandingo.
Matthew Sewell’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Cabin Boy” — pannonica’s write-up
Right away one notices the unusual grid. Four isolated squares dead center. That even number should also clue you in that it won’t have the standard 15 columns—indeed there are 16.
So what’ve we got?
That isolate, 39a, is the [Noted residence for this puzzle’s subject, found in the “walled-in” letters in left-to-right order] POND.
As I’d already been through much of the surrounding material and seen the other theme clues, I knew in general what the subject was even if I hadn’t fully filled in those answers nor did I understand quite how the circled squares worked, as the crossings seemed problematic.
Turned out there was no fancy multiple-letter-rebusing or transcendental Schrödingering—they were simply ignored for the down answers. Sometimes the answer is simplicity.
- 18a. [July 12, 1817 birthplace of this puzzle’s subject] THOREAU FARM. This also communicates the rationale for the puzzle, as it approximates the anniversary.
3d. [Make an effort] TR–Y.
- 24a. [Maine’s highest point, climbed by this puzzle’s subject while living at 39 Across] MOUNT KATAHDIN. Katadhin is Penobscot for “the greatest mountain” so the English name has a “Sahara Desert” thing going on.
19d. [Sun Devil rival] UT–E.
- 52a. [“Lead-ing” workplace for this puzzle’s subject before and after living at 39 Across] PENCIL FACTORY.
52d. [Father of Eros, in many sources] –ARES.
- 63a. [Where this puzzle’s subject had an involuntary one-night stay while living at 39 Across] CONCORD JAIL.
65d. [Babe of folk-tale fame, e.g.] –OX.
The subject is of course Henry David Thoreau.
As per the instructions, reading the circled letters left to right provides POND, as in Walden Pond, or as the revealer clue punned, ‘walled-in’. Ya, if you thought that was a groaner, the ‘lead-ing’ in 52a was far worse.
Not entirely sure how or even if ‘walled-in’ indicates that those letters aren’t to be used in the vertical answers, but I do appreciate how even with them included those entries are legitimate crossword fill: Troy, Utne, pares, and dox.
One additional theme-related entry: 64d [Monogram of the literary figure who was the landowner of the residence at 39 Across] RWE, Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Literariness! 11d [Metaphorical “goon” in Jennifer Egan’s “A Visit From the Goon Squad”] TIME, 17a [“__ the stuff to drink / For fellows whom it hurts to think”: A.E. Housman] ALE’S, 23a [“The Road to Emmaus” poet Spencer __ ] REECE, 46a [“1984” superstate inhabitants] EURASIANS, 71a [Bardic order to leave] EXEUNT … hmm, not much among the downs, 54d will have to suffice: [Site of Hercules’ lion-related labor] NEMEA.
- 1a [Movie monster shooting laser beams from her antennae] MOTHRA. 35d [Studio that spawned 1 Across] TOHO.
- 10d/22a [Throw some shade?] DIM, TINT. 29d [Indian spiritual teacher, perhaps] GURU, 30d [Egyptian spiritual teacher, perhaps] IMAM.
- Favorite clues: 69a [Places for clippers and cutters] SEAS, 6d [Org. for many residents] AMA, 1d [“It was my understanding that there would be no __” (Chase “SNL” line] MATH (Chevy Chase as Gerald Ford, debating Jimmy Carter (Dan Aykroyd)).
- 47a [Like some tubers] AFLOAT. Riparian recreation, people. However, for future reference:
A simple method that can be used to separate high and low specific gravity potatoes is to prepare an 11 percent brine solution of one cup salt per 9 ½ cups of water. The resulting solution will have a specific gravity of close to 1.080, the figure used to measure the high quality of solids content in a Russet Burbank potato. Potatoes that sink in the solution will have a high specific gravity and a light, mealy texture when cooked. Low specific gravity potatoes will float, have a lower starch content, and may have a waxy, soggy texture. – Idaho Potato Commission
- 59d [Diamond Head’s island] OAHU, 44d [Brian who produced Devo] ENO.
- 68a [“D’oh!” opposite] WOO-HOO, though I tried EUREKA for quite a long while. The correct answer is more precise, as it’s also a Homersimpsonism.
Good puzzle, but kind of busy in theme, especially considering the inspiration.
Jeffrey Wechsler’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up
The theme is simple – A becomes U in several theme answers. In each case, the changed vowel is found alone, though the sounds are not consistent. We have B(U/A)NKROBBER, D(U/A)NCEPARTNERS, B(U/A)NGLEBRACELETS, CLOTHESH(U/A)NGER and EXHAUSTF(U/A)N.
A lot of clues and areas felt quite tough today, although I didn’t finish too slowly, apparently. I thought IDIG was inapt for [Slangy “Got that?] but was slow to change. That made the top the last to fall. Also [“I sure don’t want that”] is weird for EEK. I had UGH, and was even more reluctant to move that. Just across, the [Mogul Emperor…] and, as clued, [Izu Islands city], which turned out to be plain ole TOKYO, were some tough trivia.
It got easier down below, but I’m sure I’m the only sports illiterate to look skeptically at TIANT as a plausible name…