Will Treece’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Standard Friday difficulty level for me. And you?
Fave fill: BINDI, RITZ CRACKER (although who ever heard of just one single cracker?), A CHORUS LINE, WE THE PEOPLE, CROP CIRCLES, THE FORCE (are you more Jedi or Dark Side?), GRANDKID, and “HELL, NO.”
Least favorite: B-TWO. Nobody ever spells out vitamin numbers. (Doing so makes one look like a MANIAC.) Also not keen on the plural ANEMIAS ([Weaknesses], my ass) and BRUTALITIES, or –IOR.
Bechdel balance feels good on first glance. Let’s tabulate: Shakespeare’s OPHELIA, Alice MUNRO, Hindu women in the BINDI clue, classical Greek literature’s ISMENE, mythical Cassandra the SEERESS, Wonder Woman in the OSS clue, ETTA James, and Issa RAE; vs. Peter LORRE, fictional ZORRO, and a generic THANE, REY, and UNCLE. That’s 8 vs 5, a +3 win. Nice!
Four more things:
- 43a. [Bees make it], HUM. I don’t think of the HUM sound as an “it.” Does this work for you? Am I missing some angle?
- 54a. [Baseball or basketball, but not football], ORB. Nice clue for a word that’s hard to clue with any sort of flavor. My favorite ORB usage is in the movie (haven’t read the book) Cold Comfort Farm, where our plucky heroine Flora is an aspiring writer who meanders about the farm trying to write, and calls the sun “the golden oooorb.”
- 2d. [Program that started as SoundJam], ITUNES. Trivia I didn’t know.
- 35d. [Article of furniture first used for medical purposes], WATERBED. More trivia I didn’t know.
3.75 stars from me.
Kevin Conway’s LA Times crossword – Jenni’s write-up
The theme is solid and the answers are amusing. The revealer (which wasn’t necessary) makes absolutely no sense to me. We didn’t have a tag for Kevin Conway. Is this a debut?
Each theme answer has an L inserted into a phrase. Wackiness results.
- 17a [Lawyer’s missing text?] is LOST CLAUSE.
- 22a [Offer from one unwilling to negotiate?] is STICKLER PRICE.
- 44a [Military directive?] is BATTLING ORDER.
- 54a [Another name for the five-second rule of dropped food?] is MORSEL CODE.
And then this: 35a [Calendar period that 17-, 22-, 44- and 54-Across are celebrating?] is L WEEK. What the heck is that? Google was no help and the resident teenager is still asleep, so I can’t check with her to see if this is something the kids say. If they wanted a revealer (which, again, is unnecessary) L WORD would have been at least comprehensible.
A few other things:
- 1a [Sports headwear retailer] is the mall staple LIDS. That’s where I got the cap with YANKEES spelled out phonetically in Hebrew.
- 34a is [Hot __] MIC. I did a puzzle recently that had HOT MIKES as an answer, and that threw me because I’m accustomed to seeing MIC.
- At first I was annoyed because SIGN is in the grid and I thought it was a dupe for a clue. Turns out that clue was in today’s NYT. Too many puzzles. Not enough coffee.
- [Indigenes] is not a word I’ve seen before. I didn’t have any problem coming up with NATIVES for the answer.
- The SE gave me fits because I put in ON IT for 51d, [“Already taken care of”]. Turns out it’s I DID, which I’m not too fond of but which does fit the clue better and of course makes the rest of the corner work just fine.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: still don’t know what L WEEK is.
Elizabeth C. Gorski’s New Yorker crossword – Rachel’s writeup
Ah, the regular New Yorker themeless is back! How I missed thee! And true to form, this puzzle was packed with lovely long entries, some of which I had never heard of (INSPECTOR BUCKET?), some I know and love and could drop right in (ADA LOVELACE, YOSEMITE SAM, GOGO DANCERS), and of course at least one opera (IL TROVATORE). All of the long entries were fabulous, and the fill mostly holds up. Have I mentioned how much I love this publication?
A few notes:
- I have not read “Bleak House,” so didn’t know INSPECTOR BUCKET at all, but that won’t stop me from making an “INSPECTOR BUCKET? I ‘ardly know ‘er!” joke.
- I love the clue on PALINDROMES. I have never read/heard of “So Many Dynamos!”, but the beauty of this clue is that, with a little reflection (ha! literally), you can infer its subject. Splendid clue.
- It’s always nice to see the full names of people with crosswordese first names in the grid; we see a lot of ADA, so it’s fun to get the full ADA LOVELACE here.
- Names I didn’t know: John TESH, SOL LeWitt, CHERYL Hines, DAG Hammarskjöld/Solstad, GERT Fröbe. Between those last two, we can add +2 to the running diaeresis/umlaüt count (yes, it’s combined).
- Fill I could live without: DVII, SHU, TGI, SPH, OTB. Not too many! I still have no idea what OTB is, so the crossing with the opera I didn’t know was a straight guess, but it worked out. Ok, I googled. Off-track betting? I mean, ok. Not a fan. I also hate Roman numeral math. Regardless, if this is the price of admission for all those lovely long entries, consider me willing to pay.
Overall, loved this puzzle. Lots of stars from me!
Side-note unrelated to the puzzle itself: I got the following cartoon as my “congrats on solving!” image, and it just felt terribly timely and also IS NOT WHAT A CROSSWORD PUZZLE LOOKS LIKE:
Andrea Carla Michaels’ Inkubator crossword, “Check Your Calendar”—Rebecca’s review
THEME: Women with months for first names
- 17A [Singer raised in “The First Family of Country Music”] JUNE CARTER
- 25A [Actress who portrayed Betty Draper in “Mad Men”] JANUARY JONES
- 44A [Skin care guru with a “Blue Cocoon” beauty balm] MAY LINDSTROM
- 60A [Fictional character played by Issa Rae in “The Hate U Give”] APRIL OFRAH
I enjoyed this solve – but found difficulty level a little inconsistent – with JUNE CARTER and JANUARY JONES gimmes, and MAY LINDSTROM and APRIL OFRAH much less known to me. The crossings for everything were really fair, so lack of familiarity didn’t prevent solving enjoyment.
This puzzle also lives up to what I expect from an Inkubator puzzle in terms of cluing. So many women-centric things going on here – including a lot of my favorite pop culture things. I’m always going to be excited by mentions of Regina King, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, and Ever After and where I think the Inkubator goes above and beyond is making space for exciting and inclusive cluing in words that generally don’t get that level of attention. ESSENCE [Magazine whose December cover featured Regina King], HATS [Oft-featured accessories in “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”] and EVER [Drew Barrymore’s “___ After”] are great examples of this.
This puzzle also solved my eternal “which AMY do I use?” cluing dilemma by including three of the best – Poehler, Schumer, or Sedaris – plus appearances by GAL [“Wonder Woman” actress Gadot] and JENJI [“Orange Is the New Black” director Kohan]- so much to enjoy.
I also loved the twin cluing for SPAM and TARO [ Popular ingredient in Hawaiian cuisine] and found overall this grid was super smooth – for me there were no sticking points and I thoroughly enjoyed it from start to finish.
Paul Coulter’s Universal crossword, “Making Connections”—Rebecca’s review
THEME: Objects that hold things together are hidden and split between adjacent answers
- 17A/18A [Make a member/Part of a sound system, once] INDUCT / TAPE
- 25A/29A [Committee head/Barbershop that either cheats you or gives you what you paid for?] CHAIR / CLIP JOINT
- 46A/49A [Story surprise / Layers] PLOT TWIST / TIERS
- 61A/64A [Small talk / It’s bashed at some bashes] CHITCHAT / PINATA
I enjoyed this puzzle, but most of the enjoyment I had came from the overall grid and not necessarily this theme. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a cute theme and it’s well executed – but it didn’t add much to the overall solving experience, as most of the answers around the theme are pretty great on their own. For me it felt like an easy themeless and I didn’t pay much attention to what was going on with the circles until examining the puzzle after the fact.
What a theme like this does to the grid is also great because there is a lot of opportunity for really standout mid-length answers all over the place. In addition to the ones that make the theme, we got STARSHIP, TAKE HOME, OIL BARON, DOSSIERS, BELL JAR and OSTRICH which all made for a really lively and fun solve.
Favorite clue absolutely goes to ZEDS [London drizzle features?].