Robyn Weintraub’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
I’m always pleased to see Robyn’s byline, especially on themelesses, and this puzzle is a good example of why. Just the right balance of freshness and smoothness, some nifty cluing, and pitched right into the Friday NYT sweet spot.
Fave fill: CLOWN CARS (whose clue, [High-occupancy vehicles?], had me thinking this was about weed), RETROGRADE, fall FOLIAGE (past its peak in Chicago, but there are still some gorgeous colors to be seen), the IDLE HANDS that get you into trouble, WAIT-LISTED TEENAGERS, INSOMNIACS, greasy FUNNEL CAKES (I really don’t get the appeal), “WHO GOES THERE?”, CANDY CANE, GLASS CEILING, and TOURIST TRAP.
- 20d. [Breaking it might be cause for celebration], GLASS CEILING. This week, journalists breathlessly reported that the House of Representatives will have a record number of women in 2019, 100 or more! Why, before you know it, those little ladies might get ideas and insist on making up a whole third of the legislature, instead of being content with this improvement to less than a quarter. (Those countries where the legislative bodies are at least half female are onto something.)
- 14a. [Some high-rise constructions], TREEHOUSES. This city person was envisioning steel and glass, not branches.
- 11d. [Setting for “Siddhartha”], INDIA. Had to read that for a high-school class. (You, too?) Fresh angle for an INDIA clue, literary.
- 27a. [Touchy sort?], MIDAS. Which reminds me, I grew up with a dad who worked for Midas (the muffler company, not the king from Greek mythology). You haven’t lived till you’ve had merchandise that says “our work is exhausting” on it. Is this the root of my pun tendencies?
- 54a. [Something found near the tongue?], LACE. On a shoe.
- 52d. [Romeo’s was “a most sharp sauce,” per Shakespeare], WIT. Solid quotation FITB clue.
Between the “Jingle Bells” clue for O’ER and that CANDY CANE, this puzzle feels like you’ve walked into a store a week after Halloween only to be besieged by Christmas merchandise and music. Too soon!
Four stars from me.
Brian Thomas’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Latin Breakdancing” — Laura’s review
Today you get a very very quick post on a very fun puzzle. The names of dances from Latino culture are split across two entries, like so:
- [17a: Cereal mascot with the catchphrase “Follow your nose!”]: TOUCAN SAM + BAABAA: [19a: Bleated syllables]
- [24a: Bilk]: FLIMFLAM + ENCORES: [26a: Reruns, euphemistically]
- A triple-step! [38a: Lee or Laurel]: STAN + GOTCHA* + CHAT: [43a: Breezy back-and-forth]
- *[41a: Prankster’s cry of triumph]
- [56a: Membrane repaired via tympanoplasty]: EARDRUM + BASILICA: [58a: Catholic pilgrimage destination, maybe]
- [64a: Fast-food order with “two all-beef patties”]: BIGMAC + ARENA ROCK: [66a: Styx’s domain?]
Lovely theme idea, well executed, and that’s all I have time for!
Bonnie L. Gentry & Victor Fleming’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up
These quasi-rebus puzzles aren’t seen often in the LA Times. That may be one reason for a revealing BLOCK in the bottom left of the grid. During the solve, I was initially puzzled as to which blocks were thematic, and why they only worked across, but not down. From what I can see, it’s when they’re the only black square in that row (all columns have multiple black squares). It’s subtle, but it’s consistent. If you haven’t yet fully grasped things, mentally add BLOCK before/after the across entries where the block is brown in the grid to the right.
The longer theme entry choices are all colourful. I didn’t know [BLOCK]BUSTERDRUGS, but a quick Google search now confirmed its idiomaticness. We also have a Biblical STUMBLING[BLOCK] (from Leviticus, and referred back to in the New Testament), and an American [BLOCK]PARTY; SUN[BLOCK] pairs the previously cited [BLOCK]BUSTERDRUGS; NEWKIDONTHE[BLOCK] goes with filler [BLOCK]AGE (could have been a revealer?); lastly medical NERVE[BLOCK], which I feel like I only learnt in vet school so I don’t know how familiar it is to laypeople, though dentists use them not infrequently and physics 101 phrase [BLOCK]ANDTACKLE round off the set.
I do like the grid design itself, which facilitated a fairly dense theme without feeling too “blocked off” or straining certain areas unduly. This leaves the puzzle feeling smooth as butter, and difficult fill is reduced to isolated pieces of crossword-ese (isolated being the important word, I never have an issue with an ALMA or an ILONA when it’s one word holding up an otherwise reasonable section.