John Guzzetta’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
The general vibe here was “lots of 2- or 3-word entries that didn’t do anything for me”—ON BALANCE, WHO CAN SAY, IT DEPENDS, WHAT GIVES, SO GOOD, LAPS UP, ON SALE NOW (doesn’t feel like a good entry to me). Now, I did like DRAGON EGG, SPANGLISH, STILETTO, and WRIT LARGE, but they were overshadowed by the first set of entries, and shorter stuff like UNHIT and MAZY, sort of oddball word inflections. GLASSED and STABLED, not as interesting as the -EDless forms of the words. Overall, I didn’t have much fun, or much brain-wrecking challenge, while working this puzzle.
Three more things:
- 3d. [Something that might be “dropped” prematurely in a relationship, in slang], L-BOMB. “The L-word,” sure, but I’ve not see L-BOMB used before. Is this a “kids these days” term or what?
- 41d. [Descriptive of some flakes and hair], FROSTED. If you’re still frosting your hair in the year 2019 …
- 10d. [Recurrent musical theme], LEITMOTIV. Your higher-end vocab word of the day.
I’m out of thoughts on the puzzle. 3.3 stars from me.
David Alfred Bywaters’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Jenni’s write-up
It feels like I’ve done a lot of DAB’s puzzles lately. I usually like them and this one was no exception. The theme is more complex than I originally thought. I wouldn’t have figured it out without the revealer: 37a [Source of the fairy-tale sequence that creates four long puzzle puns], GIANT. Think about what the giant said in Jack and the Beanstalk.
- 17a [Bingeing on chicken pieces?] is WING FEEDING (wing-ding).
- 26a [Roman naturalist’s baseball-playing namesake?] is PLINY THE FIELDER (Pliny the Elder). This one made me laugh.
- 43a [Prize coveted by competitive trees?] is BEST OF THE FOREST (best of the rest). That base phrase didn’t ring any bells for me. Google tells me it’s a Lynyrd Skynyrd album.
- 57a [Sports Officialdom Illustrated cover image?] is PHOTO OF UMPS (photo ops). Back to baseball. How about them Nats?
The giant said “Fee, fi, fo, fum…” and each of those is added to a base phrase in order going down the grid. A complex theme and construction that was fun to solve. Nice!
A few other things:
- 1a is [Bewildered]. I dropped in AT SEA and the corner made no sense at all because the answer is actually DAZED.
- 6d [Arab leader] is SHEIKH, which confused me because I’m not used to seeing it with the H on the end. According to Google Ngrams, that’s the marginally more popular spelling. There was a marked spike in use in the 1830s.
- 23d [Web prefix with cat] is LOL. There is, of course, academic writing on the linguistics of LOLcat.
- Could we please stop with the ECASH? Could also have done without MGT, since the abbreviation is usually MGMT.
- In 51d, [Dove home], “dove” is a noun, not a verb, and the answer is COTE.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: see above re: Best of the Rest. I also did not know that Jessica LANGE won an Oscar for “Blue Sky.”
Debbie Ellerin’s Inkubator crossword, “She’s Entitled”—Jenni’s write-up
This was a nice way to ease into Friday: not too hard, very smooth, enjoyable. Just like this cup of coffee.
Each theme answer starts with an honorific used for women.
- 3d [Title of a porcine Muppet] is MISS PIGGY.
- 14d [Title of a marvelous comedian] is MRS MAISEL. No, I still haven’t seen it. Yes, I think I would like it. Someday.
- 24a [Title on a newsstand] is MS MAGAZINE. I’m ashamed to admit that when I dropped in the MS from crossings I immediately took out the S, thinking it had to be wrong. I hadn’t yet sussed the theme. Just goes to show you how deeply the patriarchy is embedded.
- 55a [Title in the House] is MADAM SPEAKER. All hail.
The Inkubator doesn’t shy away from variations in grid size. This one is rectangular: 18×14. It’s an interesting change. I liked this puzzle a lot.
A few other things:
- 6a is the timely [Impeachment investigations]: PROBES. Thank you to Debbie and the editors for not cross-referencing this with 55a.
- HS juniors and seniors and their parents may run screaming from the room at AP TEST and college application ESSAYS.
- 41a [Tops for Hanukkah] are DREIDELS. Is that the AP style for transliterating Hanukkah/Chanukah/Hanuka/Chanuka?
- 45a [One may be obtuse or right] is not a political clue. The answer is ANGLE.
- 48a [French folded fare] is a CREPE. That definitely passes the breakfast test. Mmm.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that there’s a European rocket called ARIANE.
George Jasper’s Universal crossword, “Warm Turnovers”—Rebecca’s review
THEME: Things are heating up in this puzzle – something that burns hidden backwards in each theme answer.
- 17A [*Setting of “Wine Country”] NAPA VALLEY lava
- 32A [*Reward for tanking, in basketball] LOTTERY PICK pyre
- 47A [*They’re web-cast] ONLINE VOTES oven
- 63A [Low-priority place, and a hint to the starred answers’ circled letters] BACK BURNER
Really clever theme today, with a perfect revealer. This is another example of a puzzle that I wish was larger so that I could have more answers to discover. Looking at the answers, my ONLINE VOTES feels the least exciting, but the fantastic clue there [*They’re web-cast] makes up for it.
I’m always a fan of interesting grid designs and this one definitely worked for the puzzle and gave us four really strong corners. LANCELOT, AMARETTO, and DEPEND ON right out of the gate made for a great start to the puzzle, and it’s opposite corner, TAP DANCE, ALOE VERA, and SKEWERED lived up to its counterpart. Weaving through the grid with so much excellent fill and a really fun theme made for a super smooth and very enjoyable solve – great puzzle overall.
Here’s one of my favorite TAP DANCE performances “While I have The Floor” by the phenomenal Ayodele Casel
Natan Last’s New Yorker crossword – Rachel’s writeup
I’m writing this review from the back row of a plenary session at a bioethics conference, so I’m gonna be quick! I tend to love Natan’s puzzles, and this one was no exception. There were a few entries I adored and a couple that didn’t do much for me, but the cluing was (as usual) exceptional across the board.
- BLANK SPACE – Obviously the greatest T. Swift song don’t @ me
- DESTINYS CHILD/BILLIE HOLIDAY – I loved the staircase through the middle (although I didn’t know BELLES LETTRES, it was easy enough to infer with a limited knowledge of French. I also enjoyed the female musician mini-theme.
- HYPOCRISY – Loved this quote
- SORCERY – A+ wordplay on the clue (Spelling practice?)
- GRIND – cringed remembering my own middle school dances and then lol’d at the thought of some solvers having to google this.
Some tough spots (for me):
- HEC RAMSEY – Utterly unfamiliar with this program, to the point where I parsed it as HE CRAMSEY in my head and assumed it was about a macho dude named CRAMSEY (which appears not to be too far off the reality?)
- NOH – I can *never* remember this, no matter how many times it appears in puzzles.
Overall, a solid and fresh puzzle from Natan, as usual. Many stars from me.
Bill Zachar’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “An Elementary Education” — pannonica’s write-up
Playing off the familiar (but not appearing in the books—it’s a latter-day product) Sherlock Holmes line, “Elementary, my dear Watson”, we get a lesson plan of four titles, each conveniently of the crossword-friendly 15 letter length. To be fair to the crossword’s title, Conan Doyle had his protagonist say elementary quite a bit, just not that iconic phrase verbatim.
- 17a. [Holmes story about tracking down the elusive “Mr. Angel”] A CASE OF IDENTITY.
- 25a. [Debut Holmes story] A STUDY IN SCARLET. This may be a debut for Bill Zachar, as the name has not heretofore been part of the DOACF tag library.
- 43a. [Holmes story in which a Pinkerton infiltrates a secret society] THE VALLEY OF FEAR.
- 57a. [Story in which Holmes and Moriarty grapple above Reichenbach Falls] THE FINAL PROBLEM. A fitting way indeed to end the sequence.
So it seems to be merely a list of a few titles in a category, nothing more—no sequence, no additional theme, no deep educative quality. All fine but I daresay elementary (ooh, meta!).
Possibly theme-adjacent: 35a [Dear one?] DIARY, 10d [Character in many drawing-room mysteries] BUTLER, 33d [Law-enforcement shocker] is the often gruesome TASER, not a twist ending (unless you count writhing and twisting on the ground, plus occasional deaths).
- One across begins with the nonintutitive consonant sequence SPQR (Senātus Populusque Rōmānus), clued as [2015 best-selling history of ancient Rome by Mary Beard]. Strangely, the Wikipedia article about the phrase makes no mention whatsoever of the book (though it has its own article there). Is this an example of the site’s long–documented bias against women?
- 25d [Teen’s stereotypical emotion] ANGST crossing 37a [Like Edward Scissorhands] GOTH.
- CHE Vibe™: 26d [“Gossip enough I have heard, in __ …” (Longfellow)] SOOTH. “… yet am never the wiser“. 28d [“An __ Husband” (Oscar Wilde play)] IDEAL, 50d [Claudio’s bride in “Much Ado About Nothing”] HERO.
- 30d [Lindy-hopping Harlem ballroom] SAVOY.
- Affixes crossing! 46a [Suburban add-on] -ITE (nice misdirection) and 41d [Feminine prefix with -lineal] MATRI-.
- 39d [Deets] INFO, 34a [Statistical distractions] NOISE, 19d [“Impossible!”] NO WAY!
“When you have eliminated all which is impossible, then whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” —SH