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).
The NYT was delightful. So much good stuff. I also want teleportation as a superpower: I would travel a *lot* more if I could beam home at a moment’s notice.
“I teleported home last night with Ron and Sid and Meg
Ron stole Meggy’s heart away and I got Sidney’s leg.”
Great NYT today. Juicy stuff with zero junk. Well done.
Excellent NYT. I especially liked the middle stack. And the OXEN with the AXONS- I bet theirs are long and fat.
Add me to the chorus that considered this the best NYT offering of recent weeks. Great, great stuff.
Agreed that the NW quadrant was the hardest. The amount of time I wasted trying to guess whether it was VENI, VIDI, or VICI …
Started out on the wrong foot with Elena and elf. Once that got fixed it was smooth sailing. Loved 49a’s brain twisting. Great puzzle.
I did exactly the same, Tim,.
NYT: I loved it too. My favorite aha moment was when I realized [Something to set or pick up] was not DATE but PACE. That unlocked the NW for me.
I actually enjoyed the LAT, even though I typically don’t enjoy stunt puzzles. My only beef is that SINGAPORE wasn’t within the puzzle and was instead a cop-out “revealer” outside the grid.
LAT – Regarding SINGAPORE being outside the grid – I think the constructor wanted to give us an anagram to solve without the benefit of crosses. I thought it was a fun wrinkle.
Jenni- Even though it’s early, have a beer and a shot… Then take a short nap. After you wake up there’s a chance life won’t be so negative and ugly as a simple crossword. Here’s lookin’ at you kid.
Wow, that’s a hostile response.
So, yeah, it looks like Jenni put on her cranky pants this morning. But the thing is, I pretty much agree with all her criticisms of this unfortunate puzzle. I am of an age to recall when OPER was, indeed, near zero, but that has been a good long while ago now, and the clue would better have been qualified as “once near zero.” And anagrams, roll-your-own phrases, cutesy obscure clues, check, check, check. So, you made a puzzle using only 9 letters? Proof that not everything that CAN be done, should be done. The sacrifices required to make the gimmick work loom large, for very little payoff. IMHO.
Wow, “put on her cranky pants”? Way to be dismissive of someone you’re agreeing with.
Constrained stunt puzzles like this tend to be lifeless for the solver.
I think a review that begins with “so many things I dislike that I almost lost count” can reasonably be characterized as “cranky.”
Having blogged plenty of crosswords I hated, I’m going to suggest that the puzzle brought her the cranky pants on a silver platter and encouraged her to wear them.
@Jenni – PINESAPs, the one redeeming feature you found in the puzzle, is one you might not find so pretty in the wild. I’ve never seen one, but have seen their white cousins, the Indian Pipes. They’re interesting, eye-catching, ethereal, but not pretty. They look like the zombie plants they are – they are parasites which feed on other parasites. I found them so interesting when I first saw them I went home and dragged my wife out for a 2 mile hike in the woods to show them to her, but they’re not pretty. Maybe in red they are, who knows.
NYT – was sure 8D was ATAB. ?
Without getting into specifics, the WSJ puzzle today was the worst ever. I’m not even going to attempt the meta.
I wish you would go into the specifics. Solvers have different tastes, of course, but I thought it was clever and delivered the meta on a platter. I’m curious about what you disliked so.
PS. On Crankygate, I would only reiterate that solvers have different tastes. I really enjoyed the LAT, including fighting for the anagram. (I’m not the greatest anagram solver and looked for *******IA for way too long.)
Reviews are subjective, and it’s nice to get a personal take. (I take it that Jenni didn’t like it.) But I enjoyed this one too and some of Jenni’s and Amy’s comments might make a solver feel wrong to have enjoyed it. I didn’t find it lifeless and it didn’t make me cranky. I get that others’ experiences were very different and I appreciate their analyses. But I suspect some of the over-the-top responses here, while not excusable, result from that “no reasonable solver will enjoy this crossword” tone. I wouldn’t call it “cranky,” but maybe a bit uncompromising?
I didn’t think it appropriate to be specific yet as i might unintentionally
reveal a spoiler. See Monday.
Can’t wait. I solved the puzzle and have some vague idea about how the “AP” meta fits in, but obviously missed the platter it was served on – ha ha.
Enjoyed WSJ and LAT less than usual. Stared at NYT SW too long, AD HOC didn’t help nor the movie/musicals in that corner. Fun tho!
I’m still a newbie with slow solving times, but I love the puzzles and never fail to read the blog. It is delightful to read the banter, crankiness, and insightful commentary. Thanks to all. You make crosswords addictive!
Great NYT!!! Fave clue was “An anchor is at its end” and fave fill was CHANCEDIT. CHEMICALPEELS took me way too long to get and the upper left was challenging but satisfying. Thoroughly enjoyed it!