Evan Mahnken’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Solid 68-worder with staggered 13s in the middle and a couple 15s for good measure.
Favorite fill: “BETTER YOU THAN ME,” Africa’s VICTORIA FALLS, the movie sound artist’s pet WILHELM SCREAM (you’ve probably heard it in any number of horror movies), basketball THREE-POINTERS, DISAPPEARING ACT, COP TO, IVORY TOWER, BATMOBILE, WENCESLAS, VIRTUOSOS, and whole AER LINGUS instead of an AER fill-in-the-blank clue.
Most awkward crossing: 3d. [Fix, as a pool cue], RETIP / 21a. [Taste], SAPOR. [Two rather uncommonly used words, one insider jargon.
Six more things:
- 11d. [Carol king], WENCESLAS. Cute clue!
- 22a. [“30 Rock” co-star], FEY. Really the Emmy-winning lead actress on the show … and also its creator, Emmy-winning executive producer, and Emmy-winning writer. “Co-star” minimizes Tina Fey’s achievements here.
- 55a. [Rod or reel], UNIT. Does this mean unit of measure? The rod is one of those antiquated measures, but I’m not seeing a definition of reel as a specific measurement. A reel containing an undetermined length of tape or line? That can’t be it.
- 12d. [Provide heat for, in a sense], ARM. So many different meanings of the word, and we gotta go with the gun? I wish we wouldn’t.
- 44d. [First black Disney princess], TIANA. From The Princess and the Frog. I think this is the first time I’ve seen the word black in a TIANA clue. I’m good with it. Now, that word “first” is misleading, because there hasn’t been a second one yet. *tapping fingers impatiently*
- 53d. [Comments around cute babies], AWS. Meh, plural interjection, not often seen outside of crossword grids. There’s also the AWS that’s Amazon Web Services, their cloud computing venture. Perhaps little known to those who aren’t in the technical arena?
Four stars from me.
Yoni Glatt’s Universal Crossword, “Study Up”—Judge Vic’s write-up
Nine colleges grace the top three lines of the grid–ELON, BATES, PACE, IONA, EMORY, TROY, DUKE, EMORY, RICE— while the bottom line features schools of a lower order–PREP, GRADE, PRE-K. And … there’s a reveal:
- 39a Category for this grid’s top three rows, but not its bottom row HIGHER EDUCATION
What a clever, unusual, and wholly unexpected theme! Nice going! Yay, Yoni!
- 30a Lickety-split IN A SNAP
- 34a Kind of garage TWO-CAR
- 45a 2000s TV show set in Baltimore THE WIRE
- 48a Pronoun used for emphasis ITSELF
- 10d Letter-shaped sink pipes P-TRAPS
- 21d Ancient Samaritan ISRAELITE
- 22d Right in front DEAD AHEAD
Very nice! Is this a debut? (I used to research that kind of thing, didn’t I?)
Erik Agard’s New Yorker themeless crossword—Amy’s write-up
Another excellent puzzle from Mr. Agard, whose twin hallmarks are modern and inclusive fill along with frightfully clever clues. Two ordinary English words are rendered more entertaining via clues. For example, 2d ASKING is clued [“__ for a friend”], the thing people used to say when they were trying to hide that they were really asking something embarrassing for themselves, and which people now use on social media to signal winkingly that they’re absolutely referring to themselves. For example, “Does anyone know how to get mustard stains out of silk lingerie? Asking for a friend.” And then there’s boring ol’ FORMATION, livened up with the lyric [“O.K., ladies, now let’s get in __”: Beyoncé].
Favorite fill: BISCOTTI, which means “twice cooked,” just like biscuit and Zwieback. “IN A WORLD …” from far too many movie trailers. BEER GARDEN crossing BAR, with parallel clues. GOING ALL IN, ‘NUFF SAID, Milne’s PIGLET, and Ursula K. LE GUIN.
Clues that stood out:
- 23a. [“Come at the __, you best not miss”: Omar Little], KING. Omar’s the character on The Wire. Never watched the show and didn’t know that this is where that line came from—but have heard the line plenty.
- 33d. [Prepare for Shavasana], LIE FLAT. I googled Shavasana after finishing the puzzle. It’s the “corpse pose” in yoga and hey! We did that at the end of every yoga session in high school gym class (I have attended a grand total of one yoga class since high school), and I still use it if I’m having trouble sleeping. LIE FLAT, relax, loosen up any and all muscles that are feeling tense.
- 36d. [“Wait, here’s a desperate idea …”], UNLESS. “Shoot, I locked myself out of the house, nobody’s home, and I need to get my car keys to go to work. People who have spare keys are all at least a half hour away, and I don’t have time to wait for a locksmith, either. Unless … maybe I can contort myself to squeeze through the dog door.”
- 46d. [Rumble in the cat café].. PURR. Were you picturing a gangland fight between opposing factions of kitties?
4.25 stars from me.
Jeffrey Wechsler’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Jenni’s write-up
For this crossword, we need to mind our P’s and….well, just our P’s. Each theme answer has a P appended to the front of a phrase. Wackiness results.
- 17a [Gratitude for a well-played role?] is PART APPRECIATION.
- 27a [Crackin’, peelin’ and fadin’?] is PAINT MISBEHAVIN‘. This is my favorite. The phrase made me laugh, and I like the way the clue signals the dropped “g.”
- 45a [Couples therapist?] is a PAIR CONDITIONER. The answer is fine. The clue left me scratching my head. How does a therapist “condition” people?
- 55a [Extreme example of layering for cold weather?] is PANTS IN YOUR PANTS. My second favorite. When we went to Iceland last March, I wore leggings under hiking pants under windproof/waterproof pants.
[NASCAR drivers are entertained during a race]: pits all in good fun.
A few other things:
- I dropped in HOSE for [Irrigation need] at 1a and CORE for [Heart] at 14a. Um, no. Correct answers would be PIPE and CRUX.
- 4d [Nonresident doctors] is EXTERNS. Is this true outside the US? It’s not a term widely used in the US for physicians.
- If there were a breakfast test, NAPALM would flunk. And [Controversial combat material] for the clue reminds me that there are people who are pro-napalm. Ugh.
- 49a [Like Macbeth in “Macbeth”] is a cute clue for TITULAR.
- I like 64a [“Holy cow!”] for YIPES.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that PILATE said “Ecce homo.”