Patrick Berry has a new mini-puzzle extravaganza! For $10, you’ll get the “Sweet 16” PDF with 16 half-page variety puzzles (about the difficulty level of the variety puzzles in the Sunday NYT magazine) plus a meta-puzzle to tie everything together. Several of the puzzle forms were newly created for this set, because that’s just how the inventive Berry rolls. Click here to order “Sweet 16.”
Erik Agard & Anne Flinchbaugh’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Aww, too bad this wasn’t clued a bit harder and scheduled for Saturday. Doesn’t the diagram look sort of like a big “22” pasted together by REFERENDA? And here it is, clued to Friday the 21st.
Lots of good stuff in this 66-worder, what with all the 6- to 11-letter entries that far outnumber the 3s, 4s, and 5s. The whole enterprise feels fresh and contemporary, with plenty of zippy clues.
Eight things of note:
- 1a. [Caseload?], BOTTLES. As in a case of beer or wine. I wanted ATTACHE here first.
- 16a. [Time for warm-up shots, in more ways than one], PREGAME. You’ve got the basketball interpretation, and also the partying one. “Pregaming” before going out entails drinking cheaply at home so you needn’t buy so many overpriced drinks, I think. The only time I pregamed was when Tyler Hinman and I were going on WGN (a more respectable AM RADIO station) to talk crosswords, and we met up at a hotel bar near the studio (and he called it pregaming, which was an entirely new usage to me at that time).
- 17a. [Land that abuts four oceans], EURASIA. The clue had this geography trivia nerd stumped at first.
- 30a. [It’s a rush, appropriately enough], RUNNER’S HIGH. Yeah, I don’t get that. My husband’s a marathoner, loves running. I don’t get it.
- 40a. [Egyptian Nobelman?], Anwar SADAT.
- 50a. [G.R.E. sitters, e.g.], TESTEES. Terrible entry, but useful for making a wide-open swath work out. Also bored by EWERS, LADE, and TSARS (though the latter’s clue was cute: 4d. [They range from terrible to great]). And plural TAROTS felt unfortunate, and OVULAR is a word I’ve never had cause to use.
- 12d. [Trash], BAD-MOUTH. Great entry.
- 31d. [Recipient of a lot of #@&! money], SWEAR JAR. Fun clue.
Other entries I enjoyed seeing: FLORAL PRINT, JOSHING, EVIL GRINS, CHEAT CODE, ROLLED R’S, HIT HOME.
4.3 stars from me.
Erik Agard’s New Yorker puzzle – Rachel’s writeup
As happens pretty much every time I solve an Agard puzzle in the New Yorker, I ended up down a wikipedia rabbit hole reading about another incredible woman I had never heard of. This week, it’s SURYA BONALY, the central entry in today’s grid. The “memorable moment” referenced in the puzzle was her performance of a backflip in competition, an illegal move that is so challenging (and dangerous!) that she is the only skater in history to perform it in competition.
The rest of the puzzle also shines with interesting entries and new takes on standard entries. Some highlights:
- TCHALLA (King of Wakanda)
- IFTAR (Evening meal during Ramadan)
- COLOR (Holi is associated with it)
- STORY MODE (Episodic option in some video games)
- EQUAL PAY (Much-discussed goal during the 2019 World Cup?)
- YO TE AMO (Words to un querido)
- TESSA (Thompson who’s slated to play Marvel’s first out L.G.B.T.Q. superhero) [as Valkyrie]
A few other observations:
- The unusual left-right symmetry is pretty rad
- Today is a double-Agard day, as he also has the NYT with debut constructor Anne Flinchbaugh, see above
- I really wish we could get LEER (and OGLE) out of puzzles. Free LEER clue for anyone who wants it: “To read in Spanish?” (Inkubator used this a few puzzles back)
- Lol’d at NUGS (Pieces of pot, for short)
All the stars from me. Here’s a video about that backflip by SURYA BONALY:
Jeffrey Wechsler’s LA Times crossword – Jenni’s write-up
This was fun! I love pun themes. I don’t remember seeing a version of this one, but then I have a terrible memory for themes, so who knows? I enjoyed it.
Each theme answer is a pun that features seafood.
- 20a [Offering in shellfish worship?] is a PRAWN SACRIFICE (pawn sacrifice).
- 29a [Shellfish massage?] is a MUSSEL RELAXER. Now I want a massage. And mussels.
- 38a [Good name for a budget shellfish dealer?] is SHRIMP AND SAVE (scrimp and save).
- 52a [Like one who exchanges texts with a shellfish?] is WHELK–CONNECTED (well-connected). They saved the best for last.
All the base phrases are solidly in the language, all the puns are amusing, and it was a nice start to a Friday morning.
A few other things:
- 3d [Merchant’s assurance during a sale] is WE HAVE MORE. This phrase is a bit roll-your-own, and I don’t hear it much during sales. In my experience, merchants are more likely to say “if it’s not on the rack, we don’t have it” during a sale.
- CRAFT showed up in here and in the NYT today. The Crossword Conspiracy strikes again. When I do two puzzles in rapid succession and they contain the same answer, I think “wait! That’s a dupe!” and have to remind myself that no, it’s not.
- Bible time: we have THY for [Genesis pronoun] and the book of NUMbers.
- I liked MODEMS for 46d, [Surfing equipment].
- I know the Loch and Elliott are tired clues, but [Relative of -ity] for NESS is just odd.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that UPI was created in 1958 and that Brigitte Bardot was on the cover of ELLE at age 14. That was in 1950, and Wikipedia says she was 15. She was born in 1934, so someone’s got something wrong. Here’s the cover:
Kevin Salat’s Universal crossword, “Novel-ty Shops”—Rebecca’s review
THEME: Classic literary titles re-imagined as businesses
- 20A [Literary name for a burglar alarm company?] SURE LOCK HOMES
- 26A [Literary name for a pack animal feed shop?] DONKEY OAT HAY
- 49A [Literary name for a martini bar?] OLIVE OR TWIST
- 58A [Literary name for a demolition business?] EDIFICE WRECKS
I had a lot of fun with this one. The PUNs were all very entertaining and kept me smiling throughout. As soon as I hit SURE LOCK HOMES I knew this would be entertaining, and the whole puzzle did not disappoint. I’m trying to pick a favorite theme answer, but really they are all so so good. I think DONKEY OAT HAY made me laugh the most, but I would definitely go to a bar called OLIVE OR TWIST.
Fill was interesting and kept the puzzle moving. I have come to the conclusion that I will never remember how to spell VIEIRA [TV personality Meredith], no matter how many times that useful IEI shows up in a puzzle. I also enjoyed the inclusion of both WAKE UP [Early kind of call] and BED HEAD [Tousled hair condition].
In honor of DONKEY OAT HAY here’s Brian Stokes Mitchell at the 2003 Tony Awards singing The Impossible Dream from Man of La Mancha
Michael Schlossberg’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Brushes With Baseball Greatness” — pannonica’s write-up
Okay, right of the bat I’ve got to say this one didn’t quite work for me. It’s an attempt to bring together painting and baseball, presumably because of a few (but not enough, as we’ll see) fortuitous names.
- 17a. [“The Two Fridas” painter wins “Nighthawks” at auction … or makes a great play in the infield?] KAHLO BAGS HOPPER.
- 25a. [“Man, Mustache, Navel” Dadaist has a famous mother on his wall … or makes a screaming line drive look easy?] ARP OWNS WHISTLER.
- 43a. [“The Persistence of Memory” surrealist has nothing good to say about “The Gulf Stream” … or clocks one out of the park?] DALÍ BLASTS HOMER.
- 57a. [“Untitled (Skull)” painter puts graffiti on Cubist “Portrait of Alfred Stieglitz” … or makes a put-out at Tropicana field?] BASQUIAT TAGS RAY.
You see the inconsistency, yes? The object in each of these phrases is the key baseball part. Hopper, Whistler, and Homer (Edward, James McNeill, Winslow) are all famous painter’s surnames but also baseball terms—specifically, types of hits. But (Man) Ray is the name for someone on the Tampa Bay team.
The verbs in each phrase do double duty as well, straddling the baseball and art spheres of the theme, but in truth they’re malleable, all-purpose sorts of verbs. Nothing special there.
And then, the lead-off subjects. Also painters (Frida Kahlo, Jean (or Hans) Arp, Salvador Dalí, Jean Michel Baasquiat), but as far as I can tell they’re just there for the letter lengths and to slightly pad the gender and racial diversity stats.
If the puzzle had dropped that fourth themer and kept only the three ‘strikes’ it would have been much more robust and satisfying. Perhaps augmented with some theme-adjacent stuff in the regular fill. Maybe something about POP art? There must be some other opportunities, but I’m not going to spend time thinking about it or researching it.
One interesting thing the crossword highlighted is that surreal has entered the language fully enough to become lowercased, whereas Cubist and Dada have not.
- Favorite clue: 43a [Handle on lots of elevators] OTIS. The company name, yet it still compelled me to think of an old-school, manually-operated elevator.
- 1d [Lima follower in the NATO alphabet] MIKE, 4d [Peruvian currency] SOL.
- 6d [What Ptolemy called England in hist second-century “Geography”] ALBION.
- Colloquial THING IS and I’M COOL; [“Here’s what you need to realize …”] [“No worries, dude”] (42d, 14a)
- 46a [Eggy brunch casserole] STRATA. m-w.com says: “a dish that is made up of layers of bread, cheese, and meat or vegetables over which a mixture of eggs and milk is poured and that is usually refrigerated before it is baked”.
Recap: interesting theme, but it ERODEd (31d) before the final inning.