Mark Diehl’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
So this is a themed 70-worder, with four theme answers. You know what happens when you jam 50 theme squares into an open, 70-word grid? You get some nightmarish fill and crossings. 1-Across announces the sort of fill you can expect, as that [Blue dye] is crosswordese ANIL. (The opposite corner flails with SABOT ESSES IAMSO). If you don’t know that the fisherman of yore is IZAAK Walton and that the old game-show legend is Paul LYNDE, then you’d better know ANIL and you’d better know the spelling for SUZY Q CAKES has a Z, or you’re not finishing this puzzle correctly.
The tough clues would play a lot better if there weren’t so much awful fill in the puzzle. Clues that stymied me for a bit:
- 20a. [Heads to Nome, say], LEAD DOGS. “Heads” is a noun here, the heads on a trip to Nome. Can’t say I knew there are specific LEAD DOGS on a sled dog team.
- 5d. [Bills no more], ACTS. As in legislative bills, ACTS after they’ve been passed and signed into law.
- 27d. [It may be looped for a throw], ROPE. Raise your hand if you have ever formed a lasso to throw a rope. (I see the attempted mislead with “thrown for a loop.”)
- 32a. [Back on board?], DEE. As in the letter D at the end of board.
Did not know: 28d. [Green-conscious grp.], USGA. Is … is there a U.S. Golfers Association? Nope. This is the United States Golf Association, an org for golf courses and clubs. Why would anyone know about that? Also did not know this was a thing that existed: 30d. [Surveyor’s instrument], PLUMB RULE. According to my husband, the plumb rule is to always use a plumb line, which is a thing we have heard of.
So, that theme. Hostess SUZY Q CAKES, which are sold as Suzy Q’s chocolate cakes, so rather a bogus wording for a crossword answer. One singular Reese’s PEANUT BUTTER CUP, which is semi-bogus. Plural Mars 3 MUSKETEERS BARS, with a numeral and in the plural for no reason other than “that’s how it fits into a 15 to match the singular PEANUT BUTTER CUP.” And then the weirdish Nabisco OREO COOKIE, just the one. So as themes go, I suspect this would have been rejected out of hand in a ≥74-word grid. And none of this explains why a dentist is packing all this sugary junk food into his crossword! Tsk.
2.3 stars from me.
David Alfred Bywaters’s Universal crossword, “Very Funny”—Rebecca’s review
THEME: H and A added to phrases to make wacky answers.
- 17A [*Modest groundbreaking ceremony?] SHACK LAUNCH
- 25A [*Good name for a depilatory brand?] HAIR AWAY
- 40A [*Desperate canoer’s means of paddling?] HAND OAR
- 51A [*Terse order for two drinks without ice?] BOTH NEAT
- 64A [*”Cat on a Hot Tin Roof”? (Hint: Each starred entry has two added letters!)] SHINGLE PLAY
I solved this much like it was a quirky themeless – most of the puzzle fell really nicely and for the themers, the clues were clear enough that just a few crosses made each one solvable. After finishing the puzzle I was scratching my head a bit as to what exactly the theme was. For me it took the 2-letter comment in the last theme, the title, and the clue for 7 down [Hoped-for reaction to this puzzle] to get my aHA moment. Take the HA out of each themed answer.
Is this puzzle clever and well-constructed? YES
Did calling Cat on a Hot Tin Roof SHINGLE PLAY make me LAUGH out loud? YES
Did I understand the why of this puzzle? NOPE
But really I don’t need a why to enjoy a puzzle and the absurdness of these answers was great, with SHINGLE PLAY and HAND OAR definitely the stand-outs of the day. The only one that really didn’t do it for me was BOTH NEAT – BOTNET felt out of place among the other entries that were 2-word phrases and much more common.
Fill-wise I absolutely need to shout out the celebration of women that is the fill in this puzzle! Loved the clues for LATINA [Jennifer Lopez or Sonia Sotomayor] and DR NO [Bond film starring Ursula Andress] – as well as the inclusion of RUTH Bader Ginsburg and HEIDI Klum – JUST YES TO ALL OF THIS!
Didn’t love HASP, GESTE, or KOA – actually the P in HASP was my last letter filled in because no matter how many times I see HASP in a grid my brain can’t remember that it’s a word. Some beautiful long bonus entries like OVERWORKED and CLOISTERED here more than made-up for any of the less exciting fill.
3.75 stars from me today for enjoyment and wackiness
Natan Last’s New Yorker crossword — Rachel’s write-up
Themeless Fridays are the best because I get to do TWO themeless puzzles… except for today, when someone (not naming names, but they’re reviewed elsewhere in today’s post) apparently forgot that Themeless Friday is a thing. Fortunately, this beautiful themeless from Natan Last more than made up for my disappointment (and craving for Reese’s Cups).
- The marquee entry ELECTRICSCOOTER made me smile; it’s a fresh 15-letter entry, and it also felt a little like a crossword inside joke about putting E- in front of everything to make new fill, as if the constructor were saying “look, you can actually write out the whole word!”
- *Loved* seeing ILHANOMAR in the grid, and putting her across from to LABORSONG (a new one for me as well) really punched up that middle section.
- I struggled briefly with CATCHERSBOX because I had a mental image of Tiger Woods crouching and was convinced that this was a golf clue.
- CHOMSKYAN was a little iffy for me– I had CHOMSKY– and could not figure out how to adjectify him. Maybe if I were a little bit better at theoretical linguistics I could have theorized a suffix!
- Last section to fall for me was the NW. For some reason my pre-coffee brain was *convinced* that you needed an EPEE for a biathlon? Turns out it’s SKIS and rifles, but how much more fun would it be to watch people ski and fence??
- Other miscellaneous loves: ACTNORMAL, GORDITAS, IAMSOTHERE, FAMILYSTYLE, the 90s music clue on IRIS, AWMAN, … I’m about to list all of the entries if I keep going, so I’ll leave it there.
Overall, fantastic, satisfying, non-snackfood-filled (did you see that BRAN muffin tho? That is a *choice*) Themeless Friday.
Olivia Mitra Framke’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Puff Piece”—Amy’s write-up
This theme would have worked without the revealer, since CHE is a venue that uses puzzle titles. But CENTRAL AIR is in there, clued as 60a. [Perk highlighted by real-estate agents … or a hint to this puzzle’s arrangement of circled letters], and there’s AIR in the exact center of five rows. The themers are SPLIT HAIRS, DAIRY FARM, STATE FAIR RIBBON (my cousin, her husband, and their kids just won five ribbons at the Will County Fair!), SOLITAIRE, and PAIR OF ACES. All solid.
The fill doesn’t suffer much from CENTRAL AIR being stacked atop the final themer—you could grouse about partial A PEAR and prefix PETRO if you were so inclined.
Five more things:
- 1a. [Limerick rhyme scheme], AABBA. Did we all start sounding out a limerick in our heads to make sure we had this right?
- 59a. [Food-warming fireplace shelves], HOBS. My pick for most obscure entry in this puzzle.
- 12d. [Channing of Hollywood], TATUM. Generational test: Did you think of Carol Channing before Channing Tatum came to mind?
- 30d. [Mormon settler’s adversary in the 1853 Walker War], UTE. According to this Wikipedia piece, Walkara/Wakara, the chief the war was named for, was not a Ute at all. She article section on the war, though, refers to the Ute plenty.
- 40d. [Chili morsel], BEAN. Some chili fans are ardently opposed to beans. I’m not much for meat, though, so bring on the beans!
Four stars from me.
Bruce Haight’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Jenni & Amy’s writeup
Jenni: I wrote this draft once and WordPress ate it, and now I’m out of time, so here’s the theme:
Literal football players.
- 18a [Philanthropic football player?] is a GIVING BACK
- 24a [Football player who’s PR-savvy?] is a MEDIA CENTER.
- 36a [Football player with a line?] is a FISHING TACKLE.
- 50a [Football player with management skills?] is a BUSINESS END.
- 57a [Football player at the beach?] is a COAST GUARD.
Amy: Here’s the solution grid.
I wasn’t too keen on some of the multi-word answers, like ON ME, SAME AS, AIMS AT, I AM TOAST, and TAKEN TO. And there was A BIT of a stodgy-fill vibe, with RIA, ESTER, SSNS, SOUSE, and SAHIB. I did like BE NICE, I NEVER, ON COURSE, and PANACHE, though.
CLAM ROLL frightens me. I don’t do shellfish, and I’ve never seen CLAM ROLL on a menu here in Chicago.
Three stars from Amy.
glad the NYT didn’t overdo it with the names
i had a DNF at that USGA/SOLARIS crossing. pOLARIS seemed just as likely a Clooney movie from 2002… oops.
i was predisposed not to love this one from 1A.
NYT: Given the food vibe, I stared at PLUM BRULE as it emerged from the crossings, wondering if it was a variant of Crème brûlée.
Ha! Love it!
There’s also a Girl Scout cookie in the grid (DO-SI-DO) that’s not thematic. Unless it’s counterpart (GLUTEN) is also a snack.
CHE: I would like to thank the constructor (who has a really cool name!) for cluing 23d “Rod for roasting” instead of using an expectoration-related clue. It’s so much more palatable.
It was an enjoyable puzzle, overall.
NYT: Are the LEAD DOGS rotated out, I wonder? It seems as though the ones behind have a rather limited view.
Back in the day, I watched Hollywood Squares a lot. I always wanted to be as clever as Paul LYNDE, and wondered whether he had a heads-up about some of the questions so that he could come up with some of his quips in advance.
I think there was a disclaimer at the end of the show that said something about the celebrities were given advanced access to questions.
I fell into the SUSY/SUZY trap. Also, BAE? Also, technical nit, I’m well aware that you can place the effects of rotation on either side of the F=ma equals sign, but in my world, CORIOLIS is an acceleration, not a force.
I prefer to call it the Coriolis effect — it’s a fictitious force, and the acceleration only appears because you’re working in a rotating reference frame. But that’s too much technicality for an NYT puzzle.
It’s a real thing, though — witness the devastating rotation of hurricane Dorian.
I get a chuckle from the fact that I cannot add my 1 – 1.5 stars opinion for NYT today on the entry page. GOOD ONE!
OH WAIT, it’s there now!
What a mess, deceptive in rather unclever ways and I missed the Friday Theme memo and despite being a geek/nerd Star Wars is not really Sci-Fi it’s fantasy and bad fantasy at that – so it took me forever to put in that lonely ‘3’ character in the far SW.
Apropos my comments yesterday, I guess I do like order or respect for convention at least in my puzzles and their constructions. I didn’t/don’t know and probably won’t spend any more mental energy to know any more about this puzzle today except I am certain that it’s not what I (honestly) look forward to in Friday NYT – in my singular opinion, their most well done puzzles of the week.
Oh yeah, being the Golf Nerd as well, USGA is more concerned with far more than GREENS (Rules and competitions are really their thing, PGA is a money-making corporation as is LPGA). GCSAA – would be an insanely tough answer to that clue for non-golf geeks but would be 100% correct.
I could not decide between SOLARIS and POLARIS either.
The USGA is the administrator for the U.S. Open (men’s and women’s) and most of the top amateur tournaments. It is responsible for the Rules of Golf and if you play regularly and have an official handicap, it is your USGA handicap. The British equivalent is the R&A.
Professional golf is administered by the PGA TOUR. It runs the events you see weekly on television, including the Champions Tour and the so-called Korn Ferry Tour.
There is also a Professional Golfers Association of America (PGA of America) for club professionals. It runs the major championship called the PGA and the Ryder Cup.
For me, it is an alphabet soup not unlike boxing’s.
And one final note of dripping contempt. The USGA believes that shooting under par is anathema and has on several occasions tricked up courses to such a degree that they became unplayable. Think of Phil Mickelson’s meltdown a couple of years ago. It typically plays to a par 70 because it calls at least one 500+ yard par five a par four. I shudder to think of what it will do to Winged Foot next year, the site of the US Open. The last time it was held there, the winning score was five over par, a score that can only be shot by today’s unbelievably great players in a tornado or hurricane or perhaps on a course that the windmill turns too quickly.
*ahem* You omitted any mention of the LPGA, Steve.
I feel like PGA and LPGA show up in crosswords much more than USGA.
haha I didn’t, they are the best to watch, honestly.
And the comment about the USGA abhorring par is debatable, I have several friends at golf house, it is not an intent, but one cannot deny that the USGA and R&A have ‘dropped the ball’ on “THE BALL”.
U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball
U.S. Senior Women’s Open
U.S. Women’s Open
U.S. Girls’ Junior
U.S. Women’s Amateur
U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur
U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur
and in even years
Women’s Golf is very entertaining and rewarding.
Oh yeah, LAT entertaining and fun as usual even if testosterone-centric with American Football.
L.P.G.A. is in today’s puzzle: see the clue for 16A:ANNA. That’s not a good thing. Of all the ANNA routes you had to take the g*lf one when a G*lf Association is in the grid (28D)!? That’s a totally unforced error; esthetics aside, it would dissuade a solver from getting 28D if they had already seen 16A (which fortunately I did not).
Aside of that, and of the junky NW corner forced by 13A:SUZY_Q_…, I largely enjoyed this puzzle — happy to see a late-week puzzle that actually has something tying it together besides just a bunch of long interlocking words, and happy to figure out that I needed a 3 in square 53.
P.S. Also neat to have the French MARDI and MAÎTRE crossing at 41.
Why would anyone know about the USGA? I would guess because there are tens of millions of golfers in America. The USGA also has members in 180 other countries.
I hope the LAT will appear here sooner or later, I would like to see what the reviewer thinks of it. I thought it was amusing.
Posted now. Jenni’s out of town and it was your comment that prompted me to check the drafts for her Friday LAT write-up.