Peter Wentz’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Proper Fridayish level of difficulty and a modicum of zippy fill to start the weekend off right.
Fave fill: GEEK OUT (How do I geek out? Let me count the ways … there are at least five regular avenues for me), BANJO PICK, CLAYMATION, SLACKED OFF (best combined with geeking out), DOGNAP (which feels like it isn’t at all a dupe of WETNAP), BIONICS, TSK TSKS, and FLAT TOP. SVEDKA vodka feels fresh, too.
Less keen on ON ITS END, HAVE A GO, AS ONE, TO A MAN, and FATHEAD.
Six more things:
- 41d. [Hairstyle that’s cut short on the sides], FLAT TOP. I really wanted some form of FASHY to fit here, as it’s the only hairstyle that came to mind (and then I would have deplored that getting cred in the NYT crossword).
- 27a. [Extreme devotee, in modern lingo], STAN. Yes, I did think of this definition when STANS was in the puzzle the other day, clued as those Central and South Asian countries. That link goes to Merriam-Webster, who plops an “often disparaging” in both the noun and verb definitions. I’ve definitely been seeing plenty of positive first-person usages of the term. For example, in a conversation about Mike Shenk or Patrick Berry’s puzzlemaking legerdemain, you might say “I stan a legend” with zero disparagement intended.
- 4d. [Going places?], JOHNS. Helpful reminder: Do you have to pee? Go ahead and get up. The blog will be here when you come back.
- 25d. [Restriction on mobile phone use], DATA CAP. Makes sense, but I don’t know that I’ve seen the term before. Data limits, maybe.
- 37d. [Charles Darwin contemporary], ASA GRAY. This is a name I learned from crosswords of yore.
- 57d. [Org. targeted by Moms Demand Action], NRA. Great clue. The group outspent the NRA in its home state of Virginia this election, and elected a #GunSenseMajority in the state’s legislature this week.
Let’s take a peek at the Bechdel stats for this puzzle. We’ve got little in the way of people’s names in the grid. The only straight-white-man action is ASA GRAY along with clues containing Aesop, Dylan Thomas, Eminem, and Darwin. There are no specific women in the puzzle at all, just a mention of Moms Demand Action (which was founded by a woman named Shannon Watts, but the group isn’t just women).
3.75 stars from me.
Aimee Lucido’s New Yorker crossword – Rachel’s writeup
I was really into this puzzle until I finished it, was told I had an error, and spent two more minutes figuring out what it was. Turns out, in the world of this puzzle, the person who would say “thx” in a text would also say “PLS” instead of the far-more-logical “plz” (if the final letter of thx is one that isn’t actually in the word “thanks,” surely that is an indication that the final letter of the short form of “please” should also change!). And since PLS crosses an abbreviation of “tons,” I rationalized PLz/TNz as an abbreviation I just didn’t know…because it’s only one letter shorter than the full word “tons,” so whyyyy would you abbreviate it? And if you must abbreviate it, why not stick a Z at the end for lolz?
This is mostly meaningless grouching about my own solving experience— the rest of the puzzle was great, and this one square, while problematic for the aforementioned reasons, did not tank the otherwise mostly exciting grid (although the fill, in many cases, was a bit worse for the wear).
A few notes:
- As a person who is very online, I also liked seeing SHEEPLE, SUBTWEET, and YOU DO YOU in the grid. BUTT DIAL and METOO were also strong and modern entries
- I loved seeing AALIYAH at 1-Across, and also was delighted to be reminded of sigur ROS, a band I haven’t listened to since maybe high school and will now revisit.
- I would have liked some indication that 17-A referred to a Yiddish word (MESHUGA), especially given the abundance of other non-English words in the grid
- Which brings me to my main issue with the fill: PLS and TNS aside, there was so much non-English short fill that I was starting to wonder if it was a mini-theme: SES/LAS/DER/ETA/UNES — not ideal. Also not great: ADE, ITHE, CLE
- Not a fan of plural EMILYS or EDIES
Overall, the fresh entires outweighed the less than sparkling short fill. Not my favorite puzzle of the week, but still entertaining and fun to solve. Several stars from me.
P.S. In other New Yorker puzzle news, congrats to Liz Maynes-Aminzade on becoming the Puzzles and Games editor!
— Michael Luo (@michaelluo) November 7, 2019
Zhouqin Burnikel’s Inkubator crossword, “Character Study”—Rebecca’s write-up
THEME: Nine answers in today’s grid are clued as descriptors of their final characters
- 1A[Sassy character?] PERT H.
- 6A [Lanky character?] SLIME E
- 68A[Tardy character?] LATE X.
- 69A [Statuesque character?] TALL Y
- 13D[Dishonest character?] SHAM U
- 22D [Acrimonious character?] BITTER N
- 28D [Showy character?] FLORID A
- 29D[Skinny character?] THIN K
- 49 [Stylish character?] CHIC O
A Zhouqin Burnikel puzzle for The Inkubator? I loved this – no surprise there. This theme is a lot of fun, and breaks the mold we normally see in puzzles by having the theme answers scattered around shorter words, rather the the longest answers in the puzzle. They all work so well both as answers we’d see without this theme, and as answers that fit this theme really well.
The long answers, while not part of the theme – are also quite lovely, LOVERS SPATS, ONION ROLL, TAMIFLU, ALPHA DOGS, RETURNS FIRE, and AVALANCHE, among others, made solving this feel a lot like a fun themeless – with the added bonus of a really clever theme.
Nothing makes me happier than full names of people who make regular appearances with their first or last so I was thrilled to see EDIE FALCO.
Barbara Lin’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Relocation Package” — pannonica’s write-up
Aside from starting off on the wrong foot regarding the theme, this was a very quick and smooth solve.
People with US states as part of their names, but ‘shifted’ geographically:
- 20a. [Billiards legend … headed east?] WISCONSIN FATS. Minnesota → Wisconsin.
- 26a. [Mrs Dalloway” novelist … headed south?] TENNESSEE WOOLF. Virginia ↓ Tennessee. More like southwest, but there is a roughly 100-mile east-west border for the two states.
- 41a. [“Pineapple Bud” painter … headed west?] ALABAMA O’KEEFFE. Georgia ← Alabama.
- 48a. [Movie archaeologist … headed north?] MICHIGAN JONES. Indiana ↑ Michigan.
Wrongfooting: Firstly, hadn’t looked at the title. Secondly, with just the right amount of crossings in 20-across—namely, S-C-O-N—seeing ‘billiards legend’ and disregarding ”heading east’ I reflexively plunked in the great Willie MOSCONI and that was quite incorrect.
Back to the theme. All famous people, all four cardinal directions represented. Solid.
Was mildly distracted by how a couple of the relocated states could be part of others’ names: playwright TENNESSEE Williams, cartoon songster MICHIGAN J Frog.
- CHE Vibe™: 27d [Prof’s first-class handouts] SYLLABI, 3d [“The Paper Nautilus” poet Moore] MARIANNE, 10d [Dreyfus Affair crime] TREASON, 39d [Namesake of some cages] FARADAY, 59a [Succumb to antibodies, as bacteria] LYSE.
- 57a [Nobel Prize subj.] ECON. Yes, this is debatable, as it wasn’t originally endowed by Nobel himself. See this passage on Wikipedia.
- 47a [Pub pastime] DARTS. Innit?
- 12d [With 34 Across, some insurance loopholes] ACTS OF … 34a [See 12 Down] GOD. Ah, but see also 17a [Demigod pal of Xena, casually] HERC(ules).
- Favorite clue: 23a [Buildup during vacation, maybe] EMAIL.
- 6d [Perform the Maori greeting called “Hongi”] RUB NOSES. Did not know this.
- 40a [Venue for venting, often] BLOG. This never happens. Never. Never! In fact the mere suggestion that it does really irks me and if you’ll allow me to explain until I’ve WRUNG (55a) the last excruciating details from my animus for … yeah, ok, never mind. Good clue.
Jeffrey Wechsler’s LA Times crossword – Jenni’s write-up
I give this puzzle a B. Actually, it gives us a B – more than one. There’s a B added to a base phrase to form each theme entry.
- 17a [Total confusion at the creamery?] is BUTTER CHAOS (utter chaos).
- 30a [Foot condition seen in oaters?] is a WESTERN BUNION (Western Union). This is funny but not quite consistent, since BUNION and union are pronounced differently.
- 35a [Comparison of a motor coach to all other travel options?] is BUS VS THEM (us vs them).
- 52a [Barista’s occupational hazards?] are COFFEE BURNS (coffee urns).
I don’t like the inconsistency; other than that, it’s a fine theme.
A few other things:
- ADULATE is one of the words I never see outside of crosswords. Yes, I know, it’s a real word. That’s not my point.
- I’m also not fond of FLEE and FLEECED sharing an F. I know it’s not a dupe, but it’s infelicitous.
- 22d [“Jo’s Boys” author] is, of course, Louisa May ALCOTT. “Jo’s Boys” is the final book in the “Little Women” trilogy. I re-read the trilogy every few years, along with “Eight Cousins,” “Rose in Bloom,” and “An Old-Fashioned Girl.”
- I do like seeing ILENE Chaiken in the grid.
- 44a [O’er and o’er] is a subtle clue for the poetic form in OFT.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that George Gershwin wrote SWANEE River; I always thought it was Stephen Foster.