Mary Lou Guizzo & Erik Agard’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
So much to like in this 70-word themeless! We’ve got PADMA LAKSHMI, Burroughs’ weird NAKED LUNCH (never read it, saw the movie, remain haunted), MASTER BREWER, “I BLAME MYSELF” and “WE’RE ALL SET” (both incredibly natural spoken remarks), AUTO WORKER, and APPALACHIA. Raise your hand if you didn’t know [Pittsburgh is its most populous city] because you didn’t know Appalachia encompassed Pittsburgh.
Just five things because I’ve got an early morning ahead:
- 51d. [Muay ___ (martial art)], THAI. Not a common clue for THAI. I like it!
- 30a. [Big name in cosmetics], AVEDA. Timely, as my friend who swears by Aveda hair products is celebrating her birthday on February 7. I might quibble with the clue, though. Aveda is primarily about hair care, with some skin care. I view cosmetics as meaning makeup. The Aveda website has a Makeup tab … but there are no products listed there.
- 1d. [Tanning agent], SUN. We would also have accepted [Burning agent] or [Carcinogenic agent].
- 49a. [Comics title character who says “Getting an inch of snow is like winning 10 cents in the lottery”], CALVIN. Cartoonist Bill Watterson did not forget what it’s like to be a kid. As an adult, mind you, I much prefer an inch of snow to getting enough snow to declare a snow day.
- 57d. [Intensifying suffix, in modern slang], ASS. That’s a wholeass thing, you know. This wasn’t quite an easyass puzzle, compared to my expectations for a Friday puzzle. It was right on target for Friday difficulty.
Four stars from me.
Joanne M Sullivan’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Switch-Hitters” — pannonica’s write-up
Wow! Very impressed with both theme and construction here. There’s a lot going on here. Let’s run through the theme entries first, then discuss.
- 17a. [Chronicle of skid row that hit the market in 1983 … and 1987] IRONWEED.
- 26a. [Father-daughter grift caper that hit the market in 2002 … and 2003] MATCHSTICK MEN.
- 44a. [Zest-for-life tale that hit the market in 1946 … and 1964] ZORBA THE GREEK.
- 56a. [Cultural-enrichment group expressing what’s contained in each set of circled letters (two answers “share” correctness, affecting four Downs)] BOOK / FILM CLUB.
- 56d [Sleuthing hindrance in “The Hound of the Baskervilles”] BOG / FOG.
- 53d [Join inextricably] BOND / BIND.
- 54d [Punishment for a potty mouth] SOAP / SLAP.
- 38d [Unbroken line] STREAK / STREAM.
Hi. Me again. So we’ve got (1) a Shrödinger revealer with BOOK and FILM, endeavors which are incidentally common fodder for the Chronicle and its sadly departing crossword. The two years in each of the other clues refer respectively to the dates of publication for the books and film adaptations thereof. (2) each of the titles contains a word that can be considered a type of CLUB: iron, stick, bat. That last is echoed by the title, as baseball has ambidextrous switch hitters as well as bats; further, switch signals the two possible letter sequences that precede CLUB in 56-across. As a fun bonus, the clues for the three titles use the formulation “hit the market”.
Impressive stuff, and well executed. My only nit would be the way the (admittedly complex) theme is explained in the parenthetical hint of the revealer. As I was solving, I thought the “two answers” were two of the three themers above, rather than the potential answers for 56-across itself, which then led me to wonder where—let lone what—the heck the four down entries would be. Only after figuring it all out was I able to parse that correctly.
- 1a [Homer, e.g.] POET, 1d [Wave-function symbol in the Shrödinger equation] PSI. Yeh, I went with TOON and TAU. Also, tacit nod to the theme!
- 64a [Self-important minor official] TIN GOD. Not a phrase I’m familiar with, though it seems related to tinpot dictator/despot/etc. Did cause me to flash on the bands Hindu Love Gods (basically Warren Zevon + ¾ REM) and Têtes Noires, whose 1987 album Clay Foot Gods contains probably the best song ever about a wet t-shirt contest.
- 66a [“__ and Georgette Magritte With Their Dog After the War” (Paul Simon ballad)] RENÉ. Strange. I had been under the impression (or perhaps the surrealism) that the name of the dog was actually After the War (or, Après la Guerre), but that seems a misapprehension as I can now find no evidence for that.
- New clue alert! 13a [NASA telescope lunched in 2018] TESS, Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite.
- 22d [Israeli “A Tale of Love and Darkness” memoirist] AMOS OZ, not often seen in crosswords as a full name.
- 24d [Giant who was 5′9″] OTT. Cute clue, and one I’ve not seen before.
- Less thrilled with the cleverness attempted by 45d [“Athlete” likely to make a quick buck?] BRONCO. Can’t quite explain why.
- 41d [Label for some delicate material] R RATING. Equally applicable for some crude material.
- 59d [Carrie Fisher’s is a facsimile of a giant Prozac pill] URN. Factette! All the photos I could find seem to distant paparazzi-types from the funeral.
- 60d [Top seed’s privilege, often] BYE. Fittingly it’s the final clue in the puzzle. Remember, the final CHE crossword will be 28 February. I presume Brad will be preparing something special for the bittersweet occasion.
Elizabeth Gorski’s New Yorker crossword – Rachel’s writeup
There’s some good stuff in here, for sure, but this puzzle from Elizabeth Gorski didn’t quite do it for me today. I love ANTHONY BOURDAIN across the middle (although I totally disagree with his take on truffle oil), and some of the long entries are fun and clever, but the fill not what I’d hoped, and some of the long entries disappointed as well. That said, some of the cluing was top-notch, and I enjoyed the overall “voice” of the puzzle quite a bit!
Entries I liked:
- ANTHONY BOURDAIN – excellent grid-spanning 15 and a fun clue
- OBOE SOLO – not sure why, but I liked this a lot!
- SPYGLASS – I just finished reading Philip Pullman’s The Amber SPYGLASS, and I think this is a fun word
- MIDWIVES – Their work is labor-intensive?
- DESSERTS – Menu heading for crumbles, buckles, and fools
- NOSIEST – Most buttinsky-like
Things I didn’t like:
- GO AHEAD ASK – this just doesn’t read well to me. I think “GO AHEAD and ASK” is more of a thing, and as written, I just don’t think this is a standalone phrase?
- Similarly, WAS DUE TO feels a little contrived
- The “SO-SO” Fill: A TALE, A DEE, ON OR, ISE, IRT
- Speaking of IRT, I just had to run the alphabet at IRT/GIGUE, never having heard of GIGUE and not being enough of a New Yorker (ha!) to know IRT.
Overall, not my favorite puzzle of the week, but still several stars from me.
Andrew Linzer’s LA Times crossword—Jim P’s review
Jim P here, in for Jenni.
It’s Friday and that means it’s party time! Each theme answer in this happenin’ grid ends with a word that can be a synonym for “soiree.” The entries are then wackily clued as soirees for the people related to the first word in the term.
- 20a [Soiree for woodchip manufacturers?] SPLINTER PARTY. Ha! I like this one. A party celebrating splinters sounds painful but funny. Definitely need a few kegs for this event.
- 26a [Soiree for certain divers?] PEARL JAM. Nice.
- 37a [Soiree for spreadsheet creators?] CELL RECEPTION. Nice, but I think I would’ve gone with a prison angle like [Soiree in the Supermax?] perhaps. Or is that kinda depressing?
- 47a [Soiree for fake coin makers?] SLUG FEST. We would also have accepted [Soiree for malacologists?] (new word I just learned: malacology—the study of mollusks including snails and slugs) or [Soiree at U.C. Santa Cruz?]. Oh, wait. That’s a real thing.
- 55a [Soiree for army enlistees?] PRIVATE AFFAIR. Solid.
I should also note the theme-adjacent CATERER [Need for big dos] who is no doubt providing the snacks for all this frivolity. Fun theme with enjoyable cluing.
Fill-wise, highlights include NEWSPAPER, CASPER, LIFE VEST, FOIBLE, MOTEL ROOM, LOOK-SEE, and HARA KIRI [Samurai ritual]. This last one is always a challenge for me to spell. I think I tried HARI KARI at first because in my mind I want it to rhyme and sound like the name of legendary sportscaster Harry Caray.
The rest of the fill is strong, too, with nothing to draw a scowl. The AGRA/AGARS crossing isn’t great, but it’s a minor nit.
Clues of note:
- 5a: [Off-road vehicle maker?]. TONKA. I tried DEERE first. Good clue. Please make sure your kid’s TONKA is not driven on the road.
- 19a [Genesis problem]. Does this have to do with the Sega Genesis? The band Genesis? Or the Genesis device in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan? No, it’s the biblical book and all that RAIN Noah had to contend with (not CAIN like I tried at first who could be described as a problem child).
- 25a [Inspection]. LOOK-SEE. Hmm. The answer feels far more informal than an “inspection.”
- 30a [Govt. stipend]. SSI. That “I” is tough because it crosses HARA KIRI and because I associate SSI with Scuba Schools International from whom I got my diving certification way back in the day.
- 3d [Times, at times]. NEWSPAPER. I’m not sure about the “at times.” “For example” would make more sense to me, but I guess the clue is going for the repetition.
All in all, fun theme, strong fill, clean grid, and lightly challenging clues. A good time was had by all. Four stars.