Evan Kalish’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Pretty good themeless here. Anyone else find themselves dramatically slower in the northwest quadrant? For example, 15a. [Oklahoma tribe originally from the Southeast], CHICKASAW. CHEROKEES also fits, CHOCTAWS is too short unless you try to wedge a K in there. All three of these nations were forcibly dislocated from their ancestral homes in the Southeast to Oklahoma. The tricky clue for RELAY RACE (17a. [An anchor is at its end]) also duped me. And that sorta misleading “the alphabet” in this clue: 2d. [Letter found between two vowels in the alphabet]. Even when you figure out it’s the Greek alphabet, well, hell if I know exactly which Greek letters are vowels and what order everything’s in. (THETA is between eta and iota.)
Fave fill: “TO BE CONTINUED,” “WHAT SHOULD I DO?” (which puts me in mind of Nirvana’s “On a Plain”), CHEMICAL PEELS (I would never), DATA MINER, TELEPORTS (my #1 pick for the best superpower to have), “WHERE AM I?” (shout-out to the late Ross Perot’s running mate, Admiral Stockdale), THE MATRIX, CHANCED IT, and NOSE STUDS.
Really smooth fill overall, with no entries that are straight-up junk. I might’ve preferred not to have three entries with the first-person pronoun I and two with IN, but that’s not a big issue. A solid 68-worder.
Five more things:
- 49a. [This clue’s number divided by this clue’s answer], SEVEN. I was told there would be no math. Why isn’t this just [This clue number’s square root]?
- 61a. [Kind of cup], DIXIE. Other than Dixie Carter, perhaps the best way to clue this entry. Although Dixie cups are sold by the Koch brothers’ company, and I haven’t bought them in years.
- 6d. [Like a rock and many a roll], HARD. I wonder if the typical crusty hard roll is harder than our softest mineral, talc. Jenni, please ask your household geologist to weigh in.
- 27d. [Valkyries, e.g.], MAIDENS. Have you seen Thor: Ragnarok, with Tessa Thompson as a hard-drinking, bad-ass Valkyrie?
- 48d. [Colorful Hindu festival], HOLI. I was at Chicago’s Navy Pier this spring when there was a Holi festival. A zillion people, many of them desis, with vividly hued powders tinting their skin, hair, and clothes all sorts of colors. I managed to avoid picking up any colors, because I am no fun.
4.3 stars from me.
Neville Fogarty’s Universal Crossword, “All Tied Up”—Judge Vic’s write-up
THEME: Two-word phrases that run vertically lead with (that is, they have at their tops) words descriptive of knot types. And, of course, there is a reveal, which allows us to lead with it:
- 39d [Hairstyles literally featured in 3-, 8-, 14- and 24-Down?] TOP KNOTS
- 3d [Leave surreptitiously] SLIP AWAY
- 8d [Activity for four couples] SQUARE DANCE
- 14d [One of Queen Elizabeth II’s homes] WINDSOR CASTLE
- 24d [Crisp green apple] GRANNY SMITH
Cute, Neville! 8-11-13-11-8 is a mass of theme in the Down arena. Plus, kudos on the good stuff elsewhere. Including
- CSI MIAMI
- NO-DRAMA Obama
- ON LOAN
Bruce Haight’s LA Times crossword – Jenni’s write-up
This crossword combines so many things I dislike that I almost lost count. I don’t like stunt puzzles. I don’t like anagrams. I don’t like unchecked crossings. I don’t like roll-your-own phrases. I don’t like unnecessarily cutesy obscure clues. I did not like this puzzle.
There is only one theme answer, or all the answers are theme answers, depending on your point of view. 64a is [Country spelled with the only nine letters used in this puzzle’s answers] and the answer is SINGAPORE. That’s it. That’s the theme. This was no fun.
A few other things:
- The roll-your-own is 10d [Early personal milestone] for AGE ONE.
- The cutesy obscure clue is 11d [Word in medicine that sounds bad but is often good] and the answer is REGRESSION. This is true, but it is a ridiculous clue for this word when there are a lot of other options. And yes, we know, it’s just HILARIOUS that in medicine it’s bad if something is “positive” and good if it’s “negative.” We get it. Those of us who actually have to deal with the consequences of these misunderstandings just have no sense of humor.
- The constraints of the theme mean we have a lot of similar words: GONG and GANGS, AGORA and ANGORAS, PARSE and PRAISES….you get the idea. It’s monotonous.
- 29d [Goes back and forth] is PING PONGS. At least that’s a legit plural.
- 49a [Letters near zero] are OPER. Does that mean anything to people under 40?
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that PINESAP is an herb in the wintergreen family. Pretty!
Aimee Lucido’s The New Yorker crossword—Judge Vic’s write-up
A fun, relaxed, almost-too-easy Lucido to kick off the weekend!
The central Across entry, THE BACHELORETTE ([Franchise in which episodes typically culminate in a “rose ceremony”]), surprises me. I’ve never watched a full episode of it or its masculine counterpart. Both shows have always struck me as perpetuating gender-based stereotypes. YMMV.
But, since it’s there, I found it fun to combine other terms that run consecutively, either horizontally or vertically, looking for other elements of surprise.
- T.S. ELIOT PACKS HEAT–Tabloid headline about “The Wasteland” poet?
- PALMS ARSENIC–What a magician who literally slays the audience does?
- HOT TRAIT HONEY–Sweetie with some very appealing characteristic?
- GUEST STAR SKI MASK DILEMMA–Perennial issue for talk show hosts who interview perps?
- PENAL STONE SOUP–Gruel served to inmates?
- SLEEP DEBT GMAIL–Unrecalled notes written on Ambien?
- OAFS N-TEST INTL–Grp. that really shouldn’t have a blast?
- I OWE TOTO–Quote from Dorothy Gale to the press on her return to Kansas?
The one entry I wish Aimee could have avoided is APPEASER, simply because it’s not a word that people use regularly and, being eight letters long, it stands out. The one partial, I OWE, is fine. AOC is good, clever, and sneakily educational (can’t believe it’s been in a previous puzzle, but it looks like Jonesin’ used it earlier this year).