Brendan Quigley’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
I was hoping the Friday puzzle would improve my mood, but alas (or “OH, ME,” said no one ever), it really only made me cranky. For a 68-worder, I expect to see pretty smooth fill with a modicum of zippy stuff. The contrived ONE SOCK duplicating a word in the maybe-contrived HAVE ONE, uncommon BAILORS, crosswordese N-TESTS and ESSE, fairly dated SIPE, and lifeless H-BAR were the worst bits (along with that OHME). Oh! And MISLAYER. [Lousy floor contractor]? Give me a &%*$ break. And WII-ITIS has a rather 2007 vibe. ACE VENTURA is older than Wii, but I’m more sanguine about pop culture’s staying power even though I never did see any of the Ace Ventura movies. Lots of Scowl-o-Meter action here.
Favorite fill: PIE A LA MODE (warm strawberry pie with dark chocolate ice cream sounds good, no?), MULTIVERSE (which I’ll bet Brendan put into this grid long before the multiverse movie Spider-Man Into the Spider-Verse came along), Italian soccer club JUVENTUS (I hadn’t known that its name meant “youth,” but I always wanted it to), CARDI B, Norse SKALDS, and STAYS MAD (mainly because the Twitter use of “stay mad,” with or without hashtag format, is so good).
Three more things:
- 42a. [Easter Island statues], MOAI. Not to be confused with MAOI, a monoamine oxidase inhibitor.
- 22d. [Old World animals sometimes called toddy cats], CIVETS. Had never seen the term toddy cats before. Filing away for future trivia use.
- 48d. [Pacific island that’s also the name of part of the body], UVEA. A friend is currently recovering from uveitis, and I think this is the first real-world mention of the UVEA I’ve encountered (outside of medical dictionaries, websites, etc., and crossword puzzles). The island, which I’d never heard of, is part of the French territory Wallis & Futuna. Nobody invited the French to go there in the first place.
3 stars from me.
Robert W. Harris’s The Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Sky Boxes”–Judge Vic’s write-up.
With this puzzle, Robert Harris MOONS us (see 37a) with
- 17a [Maneuver disallowed in much of amateur wrestling] FULL NELSON
- 28a [Item in a Pillsbury tube] CRESCENT ROLL
- 43a [Bangorean or Bostonian, e.g.] NEW ENGLANDER
- 57a [Aristocrats] BLUE BLOODS
FULL MOON, CRESCENT MOON, NEW MOON, BLUE MOON.
Fun stuff, as are the following: ARCADIA, CUISINE, SAND ART, IDEOLOGUE, ERIE CANAL, TAIWANESE. Good fill all around, excellent cluing, as always.
One word I didn’t know, and I won’t criticize it, is IOLE. I see it was in a CHE puzzle a couple years ago and that Hercules loved her, so she can’t be all bad.
I’d love to write more, but I need to pack up for Stamford!
Evan Kalish’s Universal Crossword, “Lowest Rung”—Judge Vic’s write-up
Hmm. We have Utah north and south and a short ell east and west. I wonder what this is about. I solved it by hand a few hours ago and did not get the theme then, so bear with me. Let’s start with the reveal:
- 26d [’70s fad that hints at the ends of 3-, 8- and 17-Down] BELL-BOTTOMS–This is hyphenated. I know that from research somewhere earlier in life. So, now we need to be mindful of the ends of three more entries. And … something to do with rung, probably a bell-related rung, rather than a ladder as suggested by the title.
- 3d [Historic torchbearer?] LADY LIBERTY–Okay, then. What are the ends of this? Or, for one answer, do I need to worry only about one end? L, Y? TY? BERTY?
- 8d [Crunchy Mexican dish] HARD-SHELL TACO–All right, what’s the end here? Or ends? CO, ACO? At this point, I got nothing, folks.
- 17d [Decides to change lanes, maybe] SEES AN OPENING–How does BELL-BOTTOMS hint at the end or ends of this phrase? Aha! The end of each might also have been referred to as the last word of each. Voila:
OPENING BELL, TACO BELL, LIBERTY BELL ... And we’re just not going to talk about whether and to what extent this theme works, if at all, only because the theme answers are vertical. It is what it is, and it took me a long time to get it. YMMV.
Let’s not overlook the value of the rest of the fill. OH GREAT! IT’S HOT! AT NO TIME LEAN OVER the BIRD CAGE. Just appreciate the EPHEMERA of the MONA LISA and the ID BADGES. And LEAVE NOW! Or, rather, right after HAT TIPS to the constructor and the editor.
Stephanie Cerra’s Inkubator bonus puzzle, “Cryptic #1″—Amy’s recap
(We don’t always blog bonus puzzles, but this one’s a debut and we wanted to mark that.)
This is an easy cryptic, with many anagram clues that jump out at you because of unusual phrasing. For example, 11a. [Pelican heist goes wrong, resulting in brain disease (12)], ENCEPHALITIS—what the heck is a “pelican heist”? How would a heist gone wrong lead to neurological disease? And 20d. [Blended carb makes cranky person (4)], CRAB—what’s “blended carb”? Cryptics are trickiest when the surface sense reads more like a plausible sentence. The surface sense is less present in the non-anagram clues, too. E.g., 3a. [Oaf going around vault to reveal four-leaf clover, say (4,4)], GOOD OMEN, GOON around DOME. Can you envision an oaf going around a vault, and that vault perambulation somehow uncovering a clover? I cannot. The MAWKISH clue hinges on “Kim Shaw,” which is less effective than using a famous name like Meg Ryan (who famously anagrams to Germany).
The best of the clues, perhaps, is 24a. [Big smile from red head captivated by alcoholic beverage (4)], GRIN. The “head” of the word red is the letter R, and it’s “captivated” within some GIN. You can easily envision a redhead (question for cryptic experts: could the one-word redhead serve as fodder for R, or does the head have to be a separate word?) beaming at a cocktail the bartender has placed before them.
I need help understanding how we get from 15d. [Lacking luminance at both ends, gem miller fails to shine faintly (7)] to the answer, GLIMMER. Anyone?
Peter Koetter’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up
Always nice to see a more intricate theme in the LA Times puzzle. I got a whiff of the theme early, as I spidered down to ISLAMAB and realised something was likely going on with ADs. I thought the AD was going to be hidden in the central square initially, but was quickly put to rights. I also can’t be the only person who also mulled over ISFAHAN for that square since it is a (provincial) capital, but the geographical directions are wrong even if it is fairly proximate to Kabul. As it is, the ADs POPUP into adjacent down answers. The first two I found, ISLAMAB(AD) and ELIJAHMUHAMM(AD) had a Muslim subtheme going, but that doesn’t extend to STALINGR(AD), UNDERGR(AD) or STARKRAVINGM(AD).
Despite the busy theme, we get plenty of action in the long downs: ABEVIGODA, SMARTALEC, DARKWEB (I’d quibble that it’s not limited access, since no-one is specifically denied access to it, the people using it are just difficult to trace, at least directly). BURNER is also a punchy answers, much beloved by the alphabet soup shows – NCIS, CSI etc.
On the other hand, there are many inane short answers: WASI and APIN are bottom of the barrel partials for starters.