Debbie Ellerin’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Hey, I liked this puzzle! So much fun fill. “IS THAT A THING?” is a thing I do actually say (sometimes right here on the blog, when there’s an entry of questionable crossword merit). And the answer to that question, for my favorite entries here, is “yes, that is a thing”: EL CHAPO, LEONARD COHEN, “I CAN’T EVEN,” OLD SCORES to settle, GANESH, SUSHI BAR, TRUE LOVE, my winter PALLOR, DATA SCIENTIST, GINS UP, CREWCUT, and VAPE.
What I didn’t like: Who really uses LATEN? I do not. “It’s getting late.” (Who really uses OBEAH? People whom you shouldn’t let hear you suggesting the word is illegitimate.)
Five more things:
- 26a. [Rather racy, say], RATED R. Often not, though. You can argue that The King’s Speech isn’t “racy” just because of that one scene with cuss words.
- 36a. [Foul moods], SNITS. Which makes me think of SMITS, and ponder whether JIMMY SNITS could at all feed into a theme.
- 35a, 37a. [Indication of another name], NEE and AKA. Nice two-fer.
- 51a. [Ida for whom a massage therapy is named], ROLF. Hey! I never knew that Rolfing was created by a woman.
- 1d. [Island to which one is able to return?], ELBA. As in the dopey old palindrome, “Able was I ere I saw Elba.” Idris Elba, by the by, has ceded the title of People’s Sexiest Man Alive to John Legend. Daniel Ortberg has been writing a series of dark humor bits each year, describing the ritual in which the new Sexiest Man Alive must slaughter his predecessor, because only one Man who is Alive can hold the superlative title Sexiest.
Four stars from me. Good night!
Patrick Berry’s New Yorker crossword – Rachel’s writeup
I maintain that I have the best and the trickiest review job here at Fiend. The best because these puzzles are so. damn. good. and I always, without fail, enjoy solving them. The most challenging because how many ways are there to say “this is an excellent puzzle!!!”? I’ve only been reviewing the New Yorker crosswords for a few months, but I think I may be running out, in no small part thanks to puzzles like this one from Patrick Berry. This is an excellent puzzle!!!
My favorite entry was I’M IN NO MOOD, which is 100% something I say when I’m cranky. I love the colloquialisms in the New Yorker puzzles, and this entry exemplifies why they’re so fun. It’s informal and in-the-language but also has such a clear definition (“Cut that out, right now!”). Lovely.
Other entries I enjoyed:
- PANDA CAM, although the clue is sadly outdated; pandas Bai Yun and Xiao Liyu have been repatriated :(
- DRY CEREAL: just thinking about eating “handfuls” of dry cereal makes me feel a little nauseated, but it’s a good entry!
- ADAM/EVE: I liked this clue/entry pair a lot, although I got to EVE first, so the cleverness of the pair was a little wasted on me during the solve.
The cluing, as one might expect, was also universally excellent. I especially appreciated the clever clues for longer entries:
- MEMORY FOAM – It’s impressed when people lie?
- TABLE READ – The cast generally won’t stand for it (I lol’d)
- CAR STEREO – Travelling player? (curious why they went for the British spelling of travelling. Is this a New Yorker style thing like the non-umlaut diaresis?)
A few other things:
- The elegant grid design jumps out right away. Much clean, very parsimony of black squares, wow!
- Fill I could do without: ATRA (and that’s it! Absolutely a worthy price of admission for this puzzle).
- ANN Patchett has an excellent bookstore in Nashville that I go out of my way to visit every time I’m in Nashville and I just wanted to mention it because it’s fabulous
- Things/people I didn’t know: SNIPE hunt (but having now read the Wikipedia page, I would very much like to send someone on a SNIPE hunt. Any volunteers?), Phoebe CATES, ERROL Morris
Overall, This is an excellent puzzle!!!™ Lots of stars from me.
Joe Deeney’s LA Times crossword – Jenni’s write-up
I enjoyed this theme. It’s not Friday-tough, but then it’s not the NYT. Each theme clue is a kind of line, and the answers are not what you’d expect.
- 16a [Clothes line?] is HOW DO I LOOK?
- 24a [Tag line?] is YOU‘RE IT.
- 37a [Border line?] is PASSPORTS PLEASE.
- 46a [Pick-up line?] is WHERE TO?
- 59a [Defensive line?] is I DIDN‘T DO IT. This is my favorite.
The wordplay is more in the clues than the answers, which is different and fun, and all the phrases are solidly in the language. Nice!
A few other things:
- 1a [River past the Museo Galileo] is a nice variation on the usual clues for ARNO.
- 3d [Ironic “This should come as no surprise … “] is NEWS FLASH. I like it when I can hear the tone of voice in an answer.
- I thought 23d [Reset] was past tense and was confused. It’s present tense: ZERO OUT.
- 34d [Ford carrier in the mid-’70s] refers to the President, not the car (or the director). It’s MARINE ONE. Gee, remember when the Republican party decided not to support a criminal president? I know, I know, it was after the shift in public opinion – but still.
- 48d [Heart Eyes or OK Hand] is EMOJI. I’ve never thought of the names for emoji. Emojis?
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that Time magazine dubbed Sonny and CHER the “It” couple of rock music in the 1960s. Last night this song popped up on a playlist curated by a friend of ours.
Stu Ockman’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Cracking the Case” — pannonica’s write-up
- 18a/27a/36a/42a/54a : [Tolkien riddle (whose answer is revealed in the circled squares) …] A BOX WITHOUT | HINGES, KEY, OR LID, | YET | GOLDEN TREASURE | INSIDE IS HID.
And then, irregularly across the bottom row, the circled squares spell EGG.
As riddles go, this one is all right I guess. “Box” is overly misleading, if you ask me. But the title is excellent.
Let’s have a look around the rest of the crossword.
- 17a [“A house that tries to be haunted,’ per Emily Dickinson] ART. Typically epigrammatic characterization from ED.
- Not long after, 23a GHOSTS is clued as [Pac-Man pack]. As all good trivialists know, they are Inky, Blinky, Pinky, and Clyde.
- 46a [Pen output?] OINK. Cute-ish.
- Vertical stacks: WE’RE HIRING / NOT LONG AGO, and INOCULATES / DETHRONING.
- 21d [Vice Admiral’s Army counterpart: Abbr.] LT GEN, 63a [Police dept. rank] SGT.
- 25d [Something a camper might strike] TENT. I’ve heard of striking camp, but is striking (a) TENT a thing?
- Favorite clue: 36d [Big jerk] YANK.
- Least favorite fill: 61a, plural ONE-AS [Prime draftees].
- Francophonia: 41d [Fraction of a Congolese franc] CENTIME, 43d [Succès de scandale in 1950s publishing] LOLITA. Bonus: 40d [Bookstore shelf label, often] GENRE.
Full title: Sontag in Sarajevo: Phospor, Lumen & Candle
Martha Kimes & Erik Agard’s Universal crossword, “Outer Planets”—Rebecca’s review
THEME: A quartet of the stringed objects make up the theme answers in this grid
- 17A [Listings with jackfruit dishes, often] VEGAN MENUS
- 30A [Fortune 500 goal] EARNINGS GROWTH
- 48A [General’s instructions] MARCHING ORDERS
- 65A [Full state (also, a literal outer planet!)] SATURATION
I adored this puzzle. When finished, I found myself wondering why this wasn’t a Sunday size with all the planets just so I could have been solving it for longer. The planet choices felt a bit arbitrary (if I’m wrong and there is a was a reason I’m missing – do tell). The Outer Planets start at Jupiter, which is acknowledged in the SATURATION clue, so if I wanted to be nit-picky, I’d say those would be the planets to use here – but the solve was so enjoyable I refuse to let astronomic details get in the way.
Excellent clues for SMURFS [Characters who are blue in the face?] and AIRSPEED [The going rate for planes?]. Also fun to see non-sunflower flowers clued for Van Gogh, with IRISES.
In examples of why we can’t have nice things – seeing the MONA Lisa in this grid made me think of this article.
Other entries I loved included IDINA, INIGO, SWOLE, REDACT and SARONG. So much good fill here, and a great grid design that really upped the fun factor in this puzzle.
The only clue I took issue with was the one for GEORG [Solti or Ohm], because to be me there is only one GEORG who matters: