Patti Varol’s Inkubator crossword, “Themeless #4″—Jenni’s write-up
I really enjoyed this puzzle. My only complaint is that it went by too fast, which surprised me since there were two long answers that were completely new to me.
First I have to register my VIGOROUS disagreement with 8d, [Hobbes, for one]. Hobbes is NOT an IMAGINARY FRIEND. Hobbes is very real. Just because the other people in Calvin’s world lack the imagination or empathy or wisdom to realize it doesn’t mean he’s not real. Harrumph.
I do vaguely remember reading or hearing about COCKALEEKIE SOUP. I had no idea how to spell it and certainly didn’t know it was garnished with prunes. According to Allrecipes, it’s chicken soup made with leeks, so I guess the “cock” is the chicken. Allrecipes doesn’t mention the prunes, and I don’t think I’ll add them to the chicken soup I’m making for Rosh Hashanah.
A few other things:
- 9a [Pioneering brand supporting some marathoners] is the aptly named JOGBRA. The original is now in the collection of the Smithsonian. The article reports that it was made by sewing together two athletic supporters (the article says “men’s athletic supporters,” but I think that’s redundant).
- 13a [“The West Wing” role inspired by Dee Dee Myers] is C J CREGG. That probably means that Danny Concannon was inspired by my college classmate, Todd Purdum, who was a White House reporter when he met Dee Dee Myers, to whom he is now married.
- Something about the symmetrical pairing of J JONAH JAMESON and EVA MARIE SAINT strikes me as funny.
- 28d [Small diamond] is a DEUCE, not a rock or a baseball field.
- The Pierre in the clue for 33d, [Pierre’s South Dakota?] is a Frenchman, not a city. The answer is ETAT.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: see above re: Scottish chicken soup. I also hadn’t heard of JEANINE TESORI (I’m so ashamed) and I didn’t know that the airline EL AL is named after a passage in HOSEA.
Jack Mowat’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
This weekend, I’ll leave the NYT puzzles in the capable hands of Matt and Jenni. For now, I’ve got your Friday puzzle to discuss, a 70-worder. I still need to pack for tomorrow’s road trip (we have an alarm system, don’t get any felonious ideas), so let’s be quick here.
Did not know, despite having majored in English: 23d. [Traditional literary theme or motif], TOPOS. I suspect I’m not alone here.
Fave fill: STRESS BALL, U.S. CAPITOL, CHOCOLATE RABBIT (it’s an American tragedy how few chocolate bunnies are dark chocolate instead of insipid milk), GREENWASH, ICE-BREAKER, MAKES A MINT, NON-GMO CORN (this isn’t a green-paint entry because corn is such a huge crop here), TAG-TEAMED, BRENDA LEE, and URBAN DECAY (which I’d have clued as the makeup brand).
Unfave fill: PUT BY, OTOE, plural IANS, SSR. That last one is mildly topical, at least, with people asking this week whether its the Ukraine or just Ukraine. It’s the latter—the “the” was used during the Soviet era, when it was the Ukrainian SSR.
Three more things:
- 35a. [Person put in a box], JUROR. Technically, I believe the jurors walk into the box themselves and sit down. Imagine if the bailiff had to lift each juror into the jury box.
- 46d. [“Say hello to ___” (ad slogan of 1998)], IMAC. No recollection of this. I’m hearing it in the dulcet tones of Al Pacino in Scarface.
- 31d. [Like good cakes and bad cellars], MOIST. Those of you who cringe at this word, I want to know: How the hell do you describe good cakes and brownies? MOIST MOIST MOIST MOIST.
3.5 stars from me, over and out.
Evan Kalish’s Universal crossword, “3-D Printing”—Rebecca’s review
THEME: Each theme answer is a phrase of 3-Ds.
- 16 [Ellipsis, informally] DOT DOT DOT
- 26A [Doorbell prank] DING DONG DITCH
- 40A [Not just a challenge] DOUBLE DOG DARE
- 54A [Dramatic sound effect] DUN DUN DUN
This works as a theme, with all of the answers entertaining and legitimate, but for me the best thing about this puzzle is it’s overall construction.
We have a very low word count, at 72 answers, which is normally what we see for themeless puzzles rather than themed ones. On top of that the only Ds in the puzzle were the ones found within the theme answers. The fill is really impressive given these constraints.
Favorite among the fill for me was DO YOU THINK, JARGON, I’M DEAD, and JOIN NOW – but really every area of the puzzle had something interesting to find. Some nice adjacent words today with things like VISA next to RATES and LUGE beside SNOW. Great clue for DE MILO [Venus statue’s missing parts?].
In things that will give away my age – I refuse to accept [Solar system octet] as the clue for PLANETS, because Pluto will always be a planet to me – but the puzzle is forgiven for its YOYO clue [Toy with an “Elevator” trick].
Erik Agard’s New Yorker crossword — Rachel’s write-up
Well, it took a few weeks, but I finally got an UMLAUT in my New Yorker puzzle! (Yes yes I know I was wrong and it’s actually a diaeresis). This puzzle from Erik Agard was delightfully crunchy, with some marquee entry/clue pairs that I adored, and a few proper names that I struggled with, making this slightly harder than previous Friday New Yorkers (which, as we’ve discussed, are usually easier than the Mondays).
I was *thrilled* to see AUTOSTRADDLE in the grid; if you’re not familiar with the site, it’s an independent, reader-supported online community for queer women. I’ve been reading AUTOSTRADDLE since college, and seeing it in a crossword puzzle just brought so much joy to my queer little heart.
I also loved the clue on THE DAILY SHOW, which is obviously better known than an indie website, but which was clued to highlight the contributions of the hilarious Jaboukie Young-White. His twitter presence makes Twitter feel less like a hellscape.
Erik’s focus on recognizing and uplifting the work of people that don’t often get included in puzzles, exemplified by this marquee pair, really elevates his puzzles for me.
A few other notes:
- Names I didn’t know: TERENCE Blanchard, ELIUD Kipchoge.
- I thought Dundee was in Australia because of Crocodile Dundee, but it seems there are multiple Dundees, so a “Denizen of Dundee” is a SCOT. Along the lines of “things in Northwestern Europe I didn’t know: TAOISEACH
- The clue on SARCASTIC was a good misdirect. I definitely say “thanks for the invite” completely earnestly, but only when I’m flaking on plans.
Overall, loved this puzzle, despite the tricky stuff.
David Alfred Bywaters’s LA Times crossword – Jenni’s writeup
If the constructor’s name followed the theme rules, it would be David Alfred Bywaterz. Each theme answer has an S replaced by a Z. Wackiness results.
- 17a [Really terrible wine?] is UNPARDONABLE ZIN (unpardonable sin). I thought this was going to have something to do with chardonnay (don’t ask me why). It’s better than that.
- 27a [Dad jokes?] are POP ZINGERS (pop singers).
- 46a [Hardware store window feature?] is a DISPLAY ADZ (display ads).
- 56a [Power nap?] is a MAINTENANCE DOZE (maintenance dose). Not sure I understand what that has to do with “power,” but the answer is amusing.
Aside from my consternation about the clue for 56a, I like this theme a lot.
A few other things:
- I thought 3d, [35 to 5, say] was some kind of odds. It’s SEPTUPLE.
- Could have done without SMIT in the grid. Also the clumsy partial ADD A, clued as [ “__ pinch … “: recipe direction] and, right next to that, MAZY.
- 5d [“Teen Angel” or “Leader of the Pack”] is SAD SONG. So sad.
- 37d [Charlatan’s curative] is SNAKE OIL. I used that term at work the other day and no one understood it. Sigh.
- 59d [Little League leaders?] is a non-Ernie clue for ELS.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that Nikos Kazantzakis wrote “ZORBA The Greek.”
Andrew Kingsley and John Lieb’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Everything’s Swell” — pannonica’s write-up
It’s a musical theme, duly noted.
- 16a. [Artists who use the notations suggested by the circled squares] COMPOSERS.
- 36a. [Informal request that often leads to a 57 Across] PUMP UP THE VOLUME. Also a 1980s sample-heavy hit song, by crossword-ready MARRS (or M|A|R|R|S, if you prefer).
- 57a. [Gradual increase represented by the bottom-to-top progression of circled letters] CRESCENDO.
Accordingly, proceeding from the lower left to the upper right we get pp, p, mp, mf, f, ff – pianissimo, piano, mezzo-piano, mezzo-forte, fortissimo. Among those not included in this standard 15×15 grid: the extreme pianississimo and fortississimo. Here’s Wikipedia’s section on dynamic markings. While their vectors are obviously correct, I as neither a musician nor a music reader can’t speak to the accuracy or appropriateness of the left-to-right spacing or the bottom-to-top spacing of these notations.
Seems there’s a popular Singaporean musical/drama television program called Crescendo. Just watched a 4-minute version of the theme song with video montage, and to be honest it’s kinda draggy despite including periodic but brief crescendos throughout. So instead of including that in-post, how about a song from the early rock ’n roll band, the Crescendos? No, not the Nashville quintet of the late ’50s, silly! The early ’60s Singapore quartet (natch):
- 20d [Most NPR stations] FMS. So close to FMP (diminuendo!).
- 50d [Disruptive forum visitor] TROLL. 5d [Doomsday for Caesar] IDES. 29d [Wednesday, metaphorically] HUMP.
- 1d [Wilde who quipped “The world is a stage, but the play is badly cast”] OSCAR; referencing Shakespeare’s As You Like It. 56a [Speaker of Shakespeare’s “I am the man” soliloquy] VIOLA.
- Some clever question-mark clues this week. 40a [Diamond thefts?] BASES, 47a [Spot of gold?] FIRST, 30d [Discontinued item?] EXES, 52d [Noticeably rare?] PINK, but …
- … my favorite clue didn’t feature one: 48d [Spread with hands] RANCH. Also very good: 9d [Swinger at a sock hop, say] PONYTAIL.
- 22a [Mascot dancing in Queens] MR MET, near to 27a [Namesake of the world’s largest tennis stadium] ASHE.
- 17d [Tailless rabbit cousin of mountainous areas] PIKA.
- Seeing 54a [Disk jockey no-no] DEAD AIR in the context of this crossword’s theme puts me in mind of the famous finale of the Beatles’ “A Day in the Life”. You know how it goes.
- Oh, and MysteryVibe makes this product. If you think it’s 12d NSFW, I think you may need to relax.
Fine puzzle, but the theme is not exactly in my wheelhouse.