Robyn Weintraub’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
I do enjoy Robyn’s themelesses—though I barely had time to absorb the vibe since this one fell lightning-fast (for me—we won’t discuss Agardian solving times here). I did notice the cool mini-theme: MEET IN THE MIDDLE runs across the middle, and RACE TO THE BOTTOM crosses is in the Down direction. To include 29 thematic squares in a 70-worder and still nail smooth overall fill is impressive.
- There are a dozen other longish (7-11 letters) entries. CLEOPATRA, SWEET TALK (to your HONEYS), SPIT-TAKE, UMPTEENTH, SCATTERSHOT, and “JUST KIDDING” are all quite nice.
- 25a. [One of two polar opposites], ICE CAP. Rather more literal than the usual “polar opposites” usage.
- 42a. [One of the jacks in cribbage], NOB. The clue/answer are “meh” (I’ve never played cribbage), but! You should check out this news feature about constructor Andrea Carla Michaels, distributing pizza slices from San Francisco’s Nob Hill Pizza & Shawerma to the homeless people in her neighborhood.
- 9d. [Got into a pickle?], ATE. I would never. Maybe a pickled carrot, but that’s about my limit. Save your dill nonsense for someone who cares.
- 14d. [Orlando, in the music world], TONY. Boy, this one’s for the solvers in their 50s to 70s. Tony Orlando & Dawn was a pop group in the early ’70s. Video below!
4.2 stars from me.
David Liben-Nowell’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “4.0 Is the New 3.0” — Laura’s review
- [18a: News flash that a patient has revived?]: COMA OVER
[25a: Expresser of poetic condolences?]: SYMPATHY BARD
[39aR: What 18, 25, 54 and 64 Across represent]: GRADE INFLATION
[54a: Coupon for a free box of Uncle Ben’s?]: TICKET TO RICE
[64a: Lounging spots with fizzy beverages close at hand?]: SODA BEDS
In each themer, the “grades” (i.e. the letters in the circled squares) have been turned up a notch — from B to A, from C to B, from D to C, and from F to D. Why is there no E? At some universities, there is no E grade; at others (like where I work), there is no F — and E is considered the failing grade. (The vanguard of educational progress that I attended, some years ago, still has no grades of D, E, or F — just A, B, C, or “No Credit” for us snowflakes.) There are interesting debates among college professors and administrators regarding grade inflation (as well as regarding whether it even exists); I’d like to link to some of those articles, but much of the non-crossword content in the Chronicle of Higher Education is subscriber-only.
- How do you feel, solving community, about question-mark clues when the themer clues also have question marks? I find that they often make it slightly difficult to distinguish the themers, particularly when the grid has numerous longer entries.
- The circles make the changed letters easier to spot; what are your thoughts about having other instances of the changed letters in the same theme entry? Namely, in TICKET TO RIDE and SODA BEDS there is an additional C and a D, respectively; do solvers notice this? Or is it just something that certain editors do or do not tolerate? I have been asked by editors to make sure that the entries in “letter-change” themes not have any additional instances of the changed letters.
- Until a few years ago, [15a: Internet connection offerer since 2000?]: EHARMONY did not offer matchmaking services to same-sex couples, with the justification that since eHarmony promoted marriage, and same-sex marriage wasn’t yet legal nationally, they did not want to promote an illegal act — until a series of lawsuits, and then Obergefell, changed all that.
- In the state where [30a: Lincoln ___, former Rhode Island senator and governor]: CHAFEE served, a milkshake is sometimes called a [19a: Secretarial pool?]: CABINET.
[57a: NYC sch. that locked out its faculty in 2016]: LIU or Long Island University. The lockout was at the Brooklyn campus, just at the beginning of fall classes, and from what my librarian friends said about the experience, it was pretty terrible. Here’s an article from Inside Higher Ed that isn’t behind a paywall.
Susan Gelfand’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary
Short write-up: loved the theme, which is doohickeys in cars clued as though they were items of clothing. They make a lively set, with BRAKESHOES, HEATERHOSE, TIMINGBELT, AIRBAGS and a BATTERYCAP. That is a brilliant concept and execution.
Wish the puzzle was refined / edited more aggressively. With a pinwheel design, there shouldn’t be that much fill that is screaming “desperation”. ATLI would be fine as a single obscurity, but so many areas have nonce constructions of cruciverbal convenience: ITES, ISHOT, ETTES, OSIS, EPIS are truly bottom of the barrel.