Caitlin Reid’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
This is my first time blogging a puzzle by Caitlin Reid—Jenni had the pleasure of reviewing her previous themeless, an Inkubator puzzle I liked (and also her prior NYTs). I actually like this one even more. So much good stuff in the grid! And the clues were spot on.
My favorite entries are many: “I GOT DIBS!” “…NO REASON.” PREGGO. “CAN’T WIN.” BAD P.R., SHAM MARRIAGES (the [Actors’ unions?] clue is about a couple pretending they’re in love rather than actual thespians), and SEA LIONS. NOT DONE clued as [Simply taboo]. “WINK, WINK.” DEAD SEXY. “CAPISCE?” “HARD PASS.” A delicious MARG. EGO BOOST (nice little clue, [“I” lift?]). I like it when the puzzle talks to me in zippy language. (Note: Not a fan of spoken fill like SO AM I and AM TOO.)
Least favorite entries: Only MOUE popped out as one of those words I almost never see outside of crosswords. DAT is usually hardcore crosswordese, but here it’s clued [Informal object], a slangy “that.”
I don’t think I knew that [Pro QB Manning, by birth] was ELISHA rather than Eli. And I definitely did not know that [Reading Fightin Phils, e.g.] were an AA TEAM.
Five more things:
- 28a. [The key to making a quick exit?], ESC. Cute clue for a keyboard key.
- 59a. [Get down], MASTER. As in “Caitlin’s really got this crossword constructing thing down now.”
- 12d. [Pill bug or wood louse], ISOPOD. A.k.a. sowbug or roly-poly, or whatever you call those buggers where you grew up. If you want to freak yourself out, do a Google image or video search for giant isopod.
- 23d. [Mrs. Flintstone], WILMA. Instant gimme for me, and somehow I typed WELMA in the puzzle, which made CAN’T WIN hard to put together. Cost me some time.
- 26d. [Group who Mao Zedong famously said “hold up half the sky”], WOMEN. Only half? Hmm.
Overall assessment, this pupper earns 4.5 stars from me.
Erik Agard and Wyna Liu’s Universal Crossword, “Lending a Hand”—Judge Vic’s write-up
Erik and Wyna are spreading synonyms through unrelated ILSA’s. Take a look:
- 17a [*Rave scene] CLUB CULTURE
- 23 [*Salsa scooper] TORTILLA CHIP
- 40 [*Likeness illustrator] PORTRAIT PAINTER
- 51 [*Undiscovered knack] HIDDEN TALENT
- 63a [Assistance from a tutor, say … or a hint to the starred answers’ circled letters] OUTSIDE HELP
That’s a lot of theme. Other than that, these items are noteworthy, two strong vertical ILSA’s:
- 11d [Places of interest to ufologists] CRASH SITES
- 29d [Shift for special occasions, say] PARTY DRESS
Erik Agard’s New Yorker crossword—Jenni’s review
Team Fiend’s own Erik “Slicks” Agard has today’s New Yorker puzzle. I did not find it easy and in fact had to resort to Google for one crossing, so yes, it’s another New Yorker puzzle full of names. This is their brand, and it fits their content. No complaints from me; I enjoyed it.
I would have known this was Erik’s even without the byline.
My sticking point was the crossing of 38a [Sparks power forward who was named W.N.B.A 23-Across in 2016]. 23-a is MVP. 38a is NNEKA OGWUMIKE. 39d was my Natick: [Actress Fox or rapper Thee Stallion]. I now realize I’ve heard of MEGAN Fox, and I’m blaming the post-op pain meds for my inability to figure it out even after running the alphabet. I do love Erik’s passionate WNBA fandom, which regularly shows up in his puzzles and his sartorial choices.
Some of what I liked about this puzzle:
- The two grid-spanning Down answers: LAST BUT NOT LEAST and LET ME ASK YOU THIS. So breezy and conversational!
- OMAR clued with Representative Ilhan rather than the old poet.
- 20a [Unlikable protagonist] is an ANTIHEROINE.
- Learning that zeal is the collective noun for ZEBRAs.
- 41a [Like a movie review that gives away all the twists]: SPOILERY.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: see above re: ZEAL and NNEKA OGWUMIKE. Also DORIS Payne, a real-life jewel thief and all the references to rappers.
Jeffrey Wechsler’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary
I found the bottom answers first, which misled me slightly as to the theme. I thought it was merely “add a B sound” based on EITHER(B)OR(E), however it’s a little more intricate. The central entry is (B/E)SIDES, and you encircle the final word of each answer with a B and and E. It is a refreshing variant on the frequently encountered letter addition trope. The best change was actually first, with RULE becoming BRULEE. The other two are RIB to BRIBE and RUT to BRUTE. THESAMEOLD(B)RUT(E) feels a hair made-up as a base phrase, but probably just lands on the positive side.
- [Grainy side], PILAF. I’ve only made it as a main, but I’ve seen it as a side in restaurants…
- [Big improvement over a mop, for short], WETVAC. I’m not 100% sure what this is. I might own one??
- [Westernmost Aleutian island], ATTU. A pretty insignificant island, but forever embraced by the cross-world.