Wendy L. Brandes and Martha Jones’s Inkubator puzzle, “Mutual Funds”—Jenni’s review
I did this puzzle in AcrossLite, so I only saw circles. The PDF version has shaded squares as well. That makes the puzzle more esthetically pleasing but wouldn’t have affected my solve or my understanding and enjoyment of the theme.
Each theme answer has circled and shaded letters (circled letters in red, shaded in blue):
- 20a [Use the restroom with a polite excuse] is POWDER ONE‘S NOSE.
- 24a [Buried, as with problems] is PLOWED UNDER. I’m more familiar with SNOWED UNDER.
- 45a [Favored phrase?] is YOU OWE ME ONE.
And a revealer to explain it all. 54a [What a lottery winner might exclaim, or a literal clue to this] is WE’RE IN THE MONEY. You can see WE inside PESO, POUND, and YEN. Nice, solid theme and a smooth puzzle. Two thumbs up from me.
A few other things:
- The woman-centric cluing has not yet gotten old. ROSE clued for the #MeToo activist McGowan, Lorena OCHOA, DALE Evans, INA Garten, ANI DeFranco, Ariana Grande, a Serena Williams mention, and more.
- 31d [Boglike] is MIRY. Does anyone actually use this word? I don’t begrudge a constructor using to to get out of a corner, but I’ve never seen it in the wild.
- 34d [Silver’s home on the range?] is my favorite clue. Answer: SPOON REST.
- 36a [Words after whoop or cough] are IT UP. I was so stuck on whooping cough that it took me a while to figure out what that meant.
- 38d [Melted marshmallow, e.g.] is GOO. We would also have accepted YUMMY.
- 59a [West Point admitted the first women ones in 1976]: CADETS. I’m enjoying Nancy Weiss Malkiel’s book about the advent of coeducation in the Ivy League, Seven Sisters, and UK universities. Take a look at “Keep The Damned Women Out: The Struggle for Coeducation.”
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that Josephine Baker was born in MISSOURI.
Martin Ashwood-Smith’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
I was expecting stacked 15s, but instead we get a Ries-style staggered stack of 13s in the middle of this 68-worder.
Highlights: SAT SCORE; (raise your hand if you are ever) ILL AT EASE; DIXIELAND JAZZ and its neighboring MOBILE, ALABAMA; some shady DOUBLE DEALERS (these don’t pertain to the top two thirds of the stack, do they?); pretty GLISSANDI; useful WONKY; the only surviving brother, BARRY GIBB; Mrs. DOUBTFIRE; JUBILEE; MALADROIT; and JARED LETO.
Lowlights: That ALB/DAH crossing, and ALB being clued as if that’s the common abbreviation for Alberta (Alta.)—one wonders if Martin clued it as the crosswordese priestly garb, since he’s Canadian, eh. TRAYFULS/FOXILY also both felt awkward to me. And I need a ruling from Zulema as to whether singular TAPA is legit. OATEN, meh.
Five more things:
- 20a. [Comic Brennan], NEAL. Never heard of him. See also: 32d. [Ka ___ (southernmost Hawaiian point)], LAE. News to me.
- 15a. [Laser alternative], DOT MATRIX. I will grant you that we had laser printers at the office in 1989 when there was still a dot-matrix printer on site, but … *side eye*
- 15d. [Pickle flavorers], DILL SEEDS. I don’t care for dill, honestly.
- 10d. [Third-stringers], C-TEAM. Sports fans, tell me this: Do teams typically keep third-stringers around? Is this anything like a practice squad? Is it what Rudy was in the movie Rudy?
- 24d. [Gershwin title girl], LIZA. No idea what this is. *Googles* There’s a Gershwin song called “Liza (The Clouds’ll Roll Away).” I’d post a video but almost all of them are just piano, no lyrics, no “Liza.”
3.4 stars from me.
Ed Sessa’s Universal Crossword, “Playing with Fire”—Judge Vic’s write-up
What Ed has done, at the cost of Utah blobs high and low, is … well, you tell me. Here are the relevant highlights:
- 20a [1968 Rolling Stones hit] JUMPIN’ JACK FLASH
- 38a [Encouragements for a nursery rhyme character found twice in this puzzle] BE NIMBLE BE QUICK
- 53a [“Hit” man, perhaps?] BLACKJACK DEALER
- 18d [Hurdle for the nursery rhyme character] CANDLESTICK
It’s cute. It’s clever. It’s unusual. Kudos to constructor and editor!
That said, the Stones’s Jumpin’ Jack Flash is, I read somewhere, based on an actual person, Keith Richards’s gardener) The jack in Blackjack dealer, OTOH, is not itself a jack as such. It’s intangible, being the second part of a word that can mean a card game or a hand weapon. I can’t help but wonder why JACK-IN-THE-PULPIT was not the choice here. In the name of this flower, the jack is “the light-green spadix which sits in a darker green spathe.”
Elsewhere, (7a) A grasshopper may go on [a] BAR TAB. I AGREE that’s a nice clue, an effort at DRY WIT, perhaps. Did it BOOMERANG? Not to worry. I’m no BIG TALKER.
Rob Gonsalves and Jennifer Lim’s The Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Call It in the Air”–Judge Vic’s write-up.
Rob and Jen are new to the biz, having debuted with a Puzzle Society crossword back in December. With this puzzle, they soar to new heights with a heads/tails Schrödinger of all things.
- 39a [Result of a coin toss] HEADS / TAILS–Hitting this one early, I confidently inserted TAILS and moved on. That totally screwed up my time, as, getting no Mr. Happy Pencil, I raced around the grid, second-guessing other answers.
Of course, we need to acknowledge the crossers here:
- 28d Inhibit CR A/I MP
- 29d Antagonize RI D/L E
- 36d Large quantity M E/A SS
- 39d Giggle syllables H/T EES
Outstanding! The real beauty of this theme, though, is in the creative entries employed to flesh it out:
- 17a [1903 Kitty Hawk honor given to one brother over another by coin toss] FIRST FLIGHT
- 59a [Triple Crown winner whose ownership was decided by a coin toss in 1969] SECRETARIAT
- 23d [Pacific Northwest city christened by coin toss in 1845] PORTLAND
- 25d [An Alaskan incumbent lost one by coin toss in 2006] ELECTION
Good fill! Nice clues!
To boot, we find elsewhere BARE BONES; ZOOT and SUIT, clued with cross-references; and DESTROYER … and that’s more than enough, with this nice gimmick!
David Alfred Bywaters’s LA Times Crossword – Gareth’s summary
The central piece of wordplay here is particularly deft. INSIDERTRADING is interpreted to mean wacky answers that are made of two four-letter anagram pairs whose middle letters swap: G(AR)BG(RA)B is the most clunky of the set. S(AW)NS(WA)N, B(RA)NB(AR)N and C(AL)M(LA)M are less tortured.
Between a theme that actually gives you a lot of letters for free once you understand it, a well-connected grid, and very few difficult, misdirecting clues, this was a very easy Friday.
[Opposite of embiggen], PARE – we’re accepting this as a real word now…