Big announcement! Crossworder Nate Cardin has assembled a fund-raiser puzzle pack called Queer Qrosswords. Donate $10 or more to an LGBTQ+ charity, forward your receipt to Nate, and you’ll get a PDF packet of 22 brand-new crosswords by LGBTQ+ constructors. The roster includes all-stars like Trip Payne, David Quarfoot, and Tracy Bennett along with newer puzzlemakers like Jenna LaFleur, Claire Muscat, and Becca Greenstein. The Queer Qrosswords site includes links to nearly 50 orgs you might donate to, though you’re free to choose another LGBTQ-focused charity that’s near and dear to your heart.
Nate was kind enough to send me the entire puzzle pack when I asked for a couple sample puzzles. I just did the themeless by Quarfoot (how I’ve missed his puzzles!) and themed puzzles by LaFleur & Finn Vigeland, Bennett & Cardin, and Greenstein & Sam Trabucco—a lively batch of crosswords, sprinkled with clues, answers, and themes that embrace the gamut of queer life. Along with 17 themed puzzles, there are 5 themelesses (♥). I look forward to solving them all! (And of course I will follow up with a donation—probably to Center on Halsted, which does so much good right here in Chicago.)
Congrats to all involved in creating and test-solving Queer Qrosswords, including Team Fiend’s own Dave Sullivan and Andy Kravis. Kudos to Nate for actively seeking out women to contribute puzzles; the bylines come a lot closer to gender parity than the newspaper crossword venues do.—Amy
Robyn Weintraub’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Robyn’s byline is one I look forward to seeing on themeless puzzles, and this 70-worder didn’t disappoint. Not much in the way of “wow, never thought I’d see that in a crossword” entries, but still lively. FRESHENS UP, puzzle lover SONDHEIM, FLOORS IT, MACINTOSH, the LIVING DEAD, CLASS CLOWN, “IN ANY EVENT,” VEGETARIAN, KING ARTHUR, and SOUND BITES all appealed.
- 44a. [Largest moon of Pluto], CHARON. Dang, I needed so many of the crossings to get this one. Why are we still being quizzed on Pluto as if it were a legit planet?
- 33a. [Restaurant cook on TV’s “2 Broke Girls”], OLEG. We saw the beginning of one episode in syndication and couldn’t bear to keep watching. In addition to the racially obtuse characterization of the diner’s Asian owner, there was the way the waitress protagonists talked smack about a table of customers (they were nerds! *faints*) who were about six feet away. I can suspend disbelief for plenty of sitcoms but servers who are that blatantly rude get written up on Yelp and probably get fired, in addition to earning no tips from the customers they slag on.
- 43a. [Three-ingredient sandwich], BLT. Technically, it’s at least five. Bread (which itself contains a bunch of ingredients), bacon, lettuce, tomato, and mayo.
- 4d. [Where you might hear someone say “Duck!”], POND. We would also have accepted HARBOR or LAKE. Last weekend, I might have seen some red-breasted mergansers in a Lake Michigan harbor. Huge birding hotspot over there. (Still have never seen a SMEW, TEAL, or ERNE.)
- 26d. [Menu heading], VEGETARIAN. I filled in VEGETABLES first. Anyone else? I feel like I see vegetarian items mingling within the general menu sections, with a little “V” or something to convey meatlessness. Granted, vegetables are probably listed under Sides rather than Vegetables.
Filler words like ETD URSA ESTE are pretty dull, but they’re used sparingly here so I can abide it.
3.9 stars from me. How’d it treat you?
Roland Huget’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up
The theme concept is very clever, though the revealer is a little generic – TURNABOUT . Four two part sports answers can make other real phrases when their parts are re-arranged. The re-arranged words are in the grid, but the clues match the original.
Sport 1, handegg – [Prepares to pass the football], DROPSBACK. Sport 2, [Baseball position], SHORTSTOP. #3, [Strokes in tennis], OVERHEADS. #4, FASTBREAK is a [Basketball strategy].
Curiously specific clue of the day – [Amino acid used in protein biosynthesis] for ALANINE. All the twenty standard amino acids (plus another two) are used in protein biosynthesis so that’s hardly needed in the clue. I guess there are actually more non-proteinogenic amino acids, but they’re not ones you’ll likely come across.
Factually incorrect clue of the day – [Picadilly Circus statue], EROS. Nope, the statue is canonically of Anteros, his brother.
Most hilarious mistake I made… [Derby VIPs], dOnKEYS not JOCKEYS. Um, I rationalised that it was some sort of jocular slang that they must use…
Ugliest fille zone: SCABBED clued as a verb, with BORGE, odd prefix AGRO, and DIDOS as [Pranks]. OK then.
Victor Barocas’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Broadway Intermissions” — Jenni’s review
Quickly, because I’m late for work:
I REALLY liked this theme. Thanks, Victor and Brad! We have Broadway show titles with an “intermission” between the two words of each title.
- 17a [2002 Tony nominee for Best Musical] is MAMMA. That’s not right. Next door we have MIAMI VICE, which gives us MAMMA MIA.
- 25a [1991 Tony nominee for Best Musical] is SAIGON, and this time the addition is at the beginning of the title. Take the last letters of REMISS and you get MISS SAIGON.
- 39a [2007 Tony nominee for Best Musical] is POPPINS, preceded by PRIMARY, for MARY POPPINS.
- 52a [2004 Tony winner for Best Musical] is AVENUE, followed by QUIRKY, so that’s AVENUE Q.
- 65a [2003 Tony winner for Best Musical] is SPRAY, preceded by HIGH CHAIR, for HAIR SPRAY.
Consistent, fun, amusing, and different from anything I’ve seen before. The fill was also good.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that SEMIRAMIS was a queen. How did I not know that?