Magician and crossword constructor David Kwong will be putting on a show called “The Enigmatist” next month—part illusions, part puzzles and riddles. It’s in NYC at the High Line Hotel, Friday and Saturday nights in January. Click through to see a teaser video and buy tickets.
Andrew Ries’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
What is this, Tuesday? I’m not an Erik Agard or an Andy Kravis who is accustomed to polishing off themelesses in under 3 1/2 minutes. I’ve done a number of Ries themelesses, sure, but I wasn’t expecting to zip through.
Andrew, by the way, has several lines of puzzles now. Visit the Aries Puzzles site to check out the options. He’s taking his Rows Garden subscription weekly in 2019 … and also his freestyle/themeless puzzle subscription. Every other week, he’ll have a free cryptic crossword, too.
Fave entries: HAIR BOW, TUPPERWARE PARTY (are those still a thing?), SOCIAL IQ, AIRPORT CODE instead of the usual three-letter airport code in the grid, WAYNE’S WORLD, NED FLANDERS‘s full name, “SO FAR, SO GOOD,” and those stick-on NASAL STRIPS I’ve never tried.
- 42a. [Like cinnamon trees], ASIAN. What an interesting clue angle.
- 43a. [Family name of classic TV], RICARDO. When the old reruns on Nick at Nite are Friends, is it time to redefine “classic TV” well beyond the ’50s and ’60s?
- 47d. [Wildflower of the primrose family], OXLIP. You may be asking yourself, as I just did, “Does this flower look like a cow’s lip or something?” Well, oxlip and cowslip’s names do relate to bovines, but the etymology goes back to Old English oxanslyppe, literally, ox dung, from oxa ox + slypa, slyppe paste or slime. #TheMoreYouKnow
Not all the fill is “hooray!” Some of it is “meh.” Like LOY SPRIT ETAS REPRO SOT SHA LEA. But it didn’t slow me down, and Friday solvers can typically knock these off just fine.
Four stars from me. That’s an average of over 1 star per minute spent! An uncommonly high ratio for a themeless puzzle.
Dani Landman’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Mental Gymnastics” — Laura’s review
I zipped through this one! Cute concept and not-too-challenging in the Fill Department, though I got a nice workout for my brain, as befits the title.
[18a: Film parody with the line “May the Schwartz be with you!“]: SPACEBALLS
[25a: Time of youthful inexperience, as coined by Shakespeare’s Cleopatra]: SALAD DAYS
[39a: Apparatus supporting Olympic handstands, or what is represented visually by this puzzle’s paired series of circled squares]: PARALLEL BARS
- [54a: Precursor to crowd surfing]: STAGE DIVE
- [64a: Rich source of humor]: COMEDY GOLD
Four kinds of BARS, placed parallel in the puzzle: the SPACE BAR on your keyboard, a SALAD BAR for lunch, a DIVE BAR for whenever it’s 5 o’clock somewhere, and a GOLD BAR that you can mail to my home address, thank you. I sure went to plenty of DIVE BARS in my SALAD DAYS; and Spaceballs — pure COMEDY GOLD!
Chronicling the Chronicle-y fill:
- [48a: Commoners, collectively]: HOI POLLOI. For the longest time, because this phrase is in another language (Greek), and because I’d only heard it said by, say, monocled aristocrats in old movies from the 1930s, I thought it meant the elite.
[69a: Feminist media critic Sarkeesian]: ANITA. She was targeted, harassed, and doxed for her work on the representation of women and female characters in video games — by the same troll factory that was responsible for #Gamergate. Why are people like that? Why are assholes?
[6d: “Becoming” memoirist Michelle]: OBAMA. Nice to see Michelle get some clue love. Did you hear about the eight-year-old girl who dressed as Michelle Obama for her school’s “heroes day”? Adorbs and inspiring.
[8d: Song standard danced to by 6 Down during 2009 inaugural festivities]: AT LAST. Here you go:
Ed Sessa’s Friday Los Angeles Times crossword—Judge Vic’s review
Gareth has been detained by a work commitment, and I was happy to volunteer to spell him. (H-I-M, haha.) I spent just over 13 minutes (13:05, to be precise) enjoying the cool theme here. F’s become PH’s. And vice versa:
- 19a [Paramount paramour?] ALPHA ROMEO.
- 24a [Greek goddess carrying a pick?] AFRODITE.
- 36a [Program for young readers, and a hint to five puzzle answers] PHUN WITH FONICS.
- 51a [Online scammer’s tool?] PHISH NET.
- 56a [Dispensers of horse pills?] FARMACISTS.
In the non-fill arena, there are a fair amount of noteworthy items, mostly pluses:
- 26a [Applies with force, as brakes] SLAMS ON.
- 11d [Early Apple audio player] IPOD MINI.
- 37 [Starts without a key] HOT-WIRES.
- 38d [True-blue teamster, say] UNION MAN.
- 43 [Overhead stadium equipment] SKYCAM
That’s about it, folks. Very capably constructed, as smooth as it needs to be. Clued cleverly but not audaciously so. Nice, but nothing thrilling or exciting. And, for me to finish a Friday in under 15 minutes–well, it’s become clear to me that the L.A. Times “wants” to be solvable by average solvers. 2.5 stars.