Bruce Haight & David Steinberg’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
This one’s not a themeless puzzle—it’s got a mini-theme of two 15-letter entries (SPREAD ONE’S WINGS and BATS IN THE BELFRY) and the trio of flying bats drawn in black squares in the center of the grid. Luckily, the rest of the puzzle lives up to our expectations for themelesses, with such fill as LEFT JAB, “ALLOW ME,” ELROND, SNO-CONE, MENSWEAR, CAR LOAN, MARS BAR, DR DREW, A.P. EXAMS, WENT PRO, MR. GREEN from Clue(do), and the underused word ANODYNE.
It’s late because I was watching the second Dem debate tonight, and it’s time for a bedtime snack. So just three more things:
- 27a. [Tourist center handout], AREA MAP. I know it’s more than half vowels and thus useful, but this entry feels like it’s in puzzles far out of proportion to how much any of us actually use the term. “Do you have a map?” That’s what we call it. A map.
- 35d. [Ohio town that was the first permanent settlement in the state (1788)], MARIETTA. This is pretty incorrect, no? Are you going to claim that none of the indigenous people living in that area had “permanent settlements”? Clue should say “first permanent white-people settlement.” Also, few of us have heard of this town of 14,000. The Atlanta suburb by the same name is likely more familiar.
- 34a. [Salon offering], PERM. Heh. The salon I go to does not offer perms. Perms are outmoded, no? At least in big cities, perhaps?
Four stars from me.
Stella Zawistowski’s Universal Crossword, “Making the Grade”—Judge Vic’s write-up
The USDA’s grades include Prime, Choice, Select, Standard, and a few more. Stella’s puzzle uses these four as first words in in-the-language stand-alones (ILSAs), clued punnily.
- 17 [Top-quality integer, per the USDA?] PRIME NUMBER
- 61a [Average cooking fat, per the USDA?] STANDARD OIL
- 11d [Very good vocabulary, per the USDA?] CHOICE WORDS
- 25d [Pretty good organization, per the USDA?] SELECT GROUP
Nice theme to display in a pinwheel grid, allowing for good stuff elsewhere. Including MALAISE, ONE–UPS, DISAVOW, ON A DIME, CD RATES, DOG–EAR, AD COPY, COME OUT, NARRATOR, THE A-TEAM, and a couple other, shorter entries.
Nice job, Stella! 4.1 stars.
Patrick Berry’s New Yorker crossword—Jenni’s review
A Berry smooth Friday solve to ease us into the weekend. It was lots of fun to solve.
There’s no junk in the puzzle and not much of the “do you know this?” stuff that often annoys some of our commenters. The 10-letter stacks in the NW and SE are solid and fresh, and the whole thing flowed, as I said, smoothly. Let’s start with the NW:
- 1a [Outbuilding that usually has vents but no windows] suggested OUTHOUSE to me, but is actually SMOKEHOUSE.
- 15a [Waymo and Venmo, for two] are MOBILE APPS.
- 17a [You don’t come back from it] is a ONE-WAY TRIP.
- 50a [Latin phrase seen on headstones] is ANNO DOMINI. PSA: outside of cemeteries, please use CE (Common Era) and BCE (before the Common Era) rather than AD and BC, in recognition of the fact that Christianity is actually not the only way of seeing the world.
- 53a [Pithy excerpts from a speech] are SOUND BITES.
- 55a [Avalanche of posts on social media] is a TWEETSTORM.
A few other things:
- 1d made me smile. SMOOCH is just a fun word.
- 13d [Homemade music compilations of old] are MIXTAPES. Kids today just don’t understand.
- 29a is the one clue I thought might exasperate the folks who are often exasperated by New Yorker puzzles. [“Saint ___” (Sartre biography of a literary colleague)] is GENET.
- 32d [Laundry product labelled a health risk by the C.D.C.] are TIDE PODS. Not a health risk when used as intended.
- 45a [“I’d just as soon kiss a Wookiee” speaker] is a fun clue for LEIA.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that there are four volumes of ODES by Horace.
Michael Paleos’s LA Times crossword – Jenni’s write-up
It took me a while to hunt down all the theme answers in this puzzle. Thank heavens for symmetrical placement. It’s a fun theme!
The central entry tells us what to look for: 38a [Splitting with one’s group … or a hint to the theme found in four puzzle rows is BREAKING RANKS. Four of the rows have military ranks split across two answers.
- First, we have DILEMMA JORDAN.
- Down a few rows, we find RECAP TAINTED.
- In the bottom half of the puzzle, we have PICCOLO NELLY, which reminded me of a very silly camp song.
- And at the bottom: EUGENE RALLIES.
Satisfying and solid.
A few other things:
- We’ve been talking about the lack of representation of women in puzzles, and at 8d we have an actual woman’s name clued without reference to an actual woman. [Spinning __: weaving innovation] is JENNY. COME ON.
- 14a [Whale-watching excursion, say] is an ECOTOUR. My father just didn’t understand the allure of whale watching. “So you…see whales. That’s it? That’s the whole thing?”
- ODES showed up in the LAT and New Yorker today. Here it’s clued as [Lyric tributes].
- I’m not crazy about ACNED. Who says that?
- I once listened to an audiobook in which the narrator repeatedly pronounced EROICA as EROTICA. REPEATEDLY. If it had been a physical book, I would have burned it.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that Joe NAMATH is the only Jet to ever be named Super Bowl MVP.