Greetings, Friday solvers! I’ll bet many (most?) of you are fans of meta contest puzzles like Matt Gaffney’s Weekly Crossword Contest. The MGWCC puzzles are free to non-subscribers for the month of March, for the puzzles released on the Fridays from the 6th through the 27th. Visit Matt’s Patreon page to sign up for the puzzles, and if you are so inclined, stay on afterwards as a Patreon patron of Matt’s cruciverbal arts. (You can cancel by March 31 and you won’t be charged … but also won’t have access to subsequent MGWCCs.)
Caitlin Reid’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Sometimes a blogger just cannot summon up the mood to blog. Nevertheless, I’ll persist.
Fave fill: CLOSE-KNIT, “I DON’T HAVE ALL DAY,” STINK-EYE, MOCKTAIL, and TEA TOWELS. Current mood: Irritated at all the public restrooms that have only air dryers, when cloth or paper towels help kill germs after hand washing. Should I carry a TEA TOWEL everywhere I go?
Overall, a solid 70-worder.
Three more things:
- 2d. [An exhausted person might be on it], AUTO. As in “running on auto(pilot).”
- 4d. [They’re in good hands], STRAIGHTS. Why, it works for poker and for any society where heterosexuals have most of the power.
- 15d. [Threat bearing small arms?], T. REX. I love this clue.
3.8 stars from me.
Patrick Berry’s New Yorker crossword – Rachel’s writeup
Ahh, a Weekend Crossword from Patrick Berry. Such a lovely way to just slide into the weekend, coasting through another of Berry’s signature, faultlessly clean themeless constructions.
This one featured the really strong 15 ANGELS IN AMERICA in the N and and the somewhat less exciting CANNED FOOD DRIVE in the S, although the latter was saved from “meh”ness by the clue (“Charitable effort that involves raiding the pantry”).
The long stacks of 11s right above/below those 15s are also super solid and impressive. We have CROP DUSTERS / HORROR NOVEL in the NW and SEATTLEITES / TAX SHELTERS in the SE. Side story: I used to live in the Mississippi Delta surrounded by corn fields, so the NW really brought back some memories; a bunch of teachers living in the middle of corn fields with no neighbors for miles often felt like the set up for a HORROR NOVEL, and my housemates and I would regular get dive-bombed by CROP DUSTERS. Below is a picture taken from my Mississippi driveway. Anyways, this lovely puzzle! I didn’t know Seattle was called the Emerald City, so on 52-A I tried for an embarrassingly long time to fit MUNCHKINS into 11 letters.
We also have some great long downs in the NE/SW with SAILOR SUIT / ACCEPTABLE and DIGITAL AGE / MOOD SWINGS. These last two had fantastic clues: “Computer time?” and “You won’t be happy with them for long,” which is both true and a nice bit of misdirection! Did Disney ever explain why Donald Duck wears a SAILOR SUIT? I never understood that. Is he in the Navy? Is he cosplaying Sailor Moon? Does he just enjoy boating? The people want answers!
One more personal story that this puzzle brought up for me and then I swear I’m done: one year, when my youngest brother was still in high school, my mom told him he needed to read 6 chapters of Beowulf before Thanksgiving dinner because it was assigned over the break. He spent the entire afternoon in his room reading, and then at dinner she asked him what happened in those six chapters. He responded, “I have no idea, something about GRENDEL,” and when we asked how he could possibly not know what he had read, he replied, like it was the most obvious thing in the world, “Well I wasn’t reading for comprehension!” and to this day he has not lived it down. GRENDEL!
A few other things:
- Names I didn’t know: LACEY (Also Daly? I googled, and apparently this is Tyne Daly who played LACEY on “Cagney and LACEY”), RONA Jaffe, Abba EBAN
- Name I only know because I reviewed the NYT for Rex Parker today: NESS! Clued almost identically in both puzzles (“The Untouchables” role / Co-author of the 1957 memoir “The Untouchables”), and in nearly the exact same position in the grids as well. I hereby declare today Eliot NESS day!
- I didn’t know the LIONS were the only NFC team never to compete in a Super Bowl. Man, that’s a bummer. Sorry Patrick Berry is rubbing it in, LIONS fans! And that I’m doing so again now!
Overall, another practically perfect themeless execution from Patrick Berry! I will say, having reviewed both this one and the NYT, that I preferred the NYT’s themeless today because it felt more lively– there is nothing at all wrong with this puzzle, but Caitlin Reid’s puzzle just had more personality and sparkle, in my view. Lots of stars all around today!
Jen McTeague’s Inkubator crossword, “Difficult Choices”—Rebecca’s review
THEME: Words with OR in them clued as choices
- 17A [Choice between a short-term employee and a true friend?] TEMPORALLY
- 29A [Choice between a record and an event where you might hear one?] DISCORDANCE
- 45A [Choice between what has already happened and romances that could happen?] PASTORSHIPS
- 57A [Choice between a misbehaving kid and the furniture they’re hiding under?] IMPORTABLE
Excited to have extra Inkubator puzzles this month! Strong start today with an excellent debut puzzle! Here we have words that are comprised of wordORword clued as the choice between the words. The best answer of the bunch for me – from both a clue and answer stand point – goes to DISCORDANCE [Choice between a record and an event where you might hear one?].
Some fantastic medium and long fill throughout. CANADA DRY and MINT JULEP running down, connecting areas of the grid were really strong. TEAM UP, NO VOTE, and THIGPEN were also great additions here. And I loved seeing JESSICA Jones in this puzzle.
Clue of the day goes to GROW A PAIR [For some cis men, it might be an insult; for some trans women, like this puzzle’s constructor, it might be #goals].
In honor of the clue for STAIRS [Stationary escalator, as it were], here’s one of my all-time favorite jokes from Mitch Hedberg.
Amy Schecter’s Universal crossword, “Nonstarter”—Rebecca’s review
THEME: DIS is MISSING from the start of each theme answer
- 9A [*Cut up, in Bio 101] SECT
- 16A [*Taking of land, say] POSSESSION
- 25A [*Gross] GUSTING
- 44A [*Found out] COVERED
- 61A [*Skew] TORT
- 56A [Releasing from class, or a hint to the starred answers?] DISMISSING
I really enjoyed in this puzzle – the literalness of that final theme answer is so perfect. When I figured out that the answers were missing the letters DIS I jumped down to the revealer and actually laughed when I realized it was DISMISSING. Truly perfect.
Overall the grid is super smooth. I was trying to pick a favorite area of the puzzle but the whole thing solves to beautifully it’s hard to pick one out.
Best clue goes to OVINE [Sheepish] – I love when a literal clue/answer combo like that can throw me off. Most accurate clue goes to ON TIME [Unlike many subways, sadly].
I can’t see the word OCELOT without thinking about Archer:
I think this another debut today! Wonderful work!
Ed Sessa’s LA Times crossword – Jenni’s write-up
The LAT does not appear to be participating in the crossword Women’s March.
I’m heartsick about politics, confused and anxious about the looming pandemic and the lack of reliable information, and on call, so it’s possible I was simply not in a mood to enjoy this puzzle. It may not be the puzzle’s fault that I found it not particularly fun.
Each theme answer is a phrase containing an S, clued as a possessive.
- 17a [What Dr. Frankenstein kept at his bar?] is MONSTER‘S ALE. I don’t need to tll you that the base phrase is MONSTER SALE, do I? I didn’t think so.
- 24a [Sass from a therapist?] is FREUDIAN‘S LIP.
- 38a [Uncle Buck, perhaps?] is DOE‘S KIN. Using a movie character in the clue makes this more confusing. I don’t think Uncle Buck was related to a deer, was he?
- 52a [Dracula’s haul in the poker game?] is a VAMPIRE‘S TAKE. Is VAMIRE STAKE a phrase? I know about stakes and vampires, but the phrase seems a bit roll-your-own.
- 62a [Big cat’s belly?] is a LEOPARD‘S POT.
The theme is consistent and mostly solid, and also a bit easier than I expect Friday puzzles to be.
A few other things:
- Are arcade games still COIN–OP? Are there still arcades?
- I like having AMOK and I‘M OK in the same grid. See also ACME and ACNE. I don’t know why I find that pleasing, but I do.
- Has anyone under the age of 40 heard of LARAINE Newman? Or under the age of 50, now that I realize I’m about to turn 60 and I was 15 when SNL came on the air. I still haven’t forgiven my parents for not allowing me to go when I won tickets in French class (our teacher’s husband went to college with Lorne Michaels).
- The long downs are interesting: VOCAL CORDS and ROACH MOTEL.
- Not sure I really get RAMROD for [Force (through)].
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: there’s not much movie, TV, or video game trivia in this puzzle, so I got nothing.
Towels kill germs?? Please explain further.
They’re better at drying your washed hands completely. You want to dry your hands all the way, not walk away with wet hands because the air dryer is taking too long. (Air dryers can also blow germs around, and they are sometimes gunked up with grime.)
I have read this and similar articles and understand the arguments against air dryers but to say that towels kill germs is not correct.
I’ve always found that air dryers work best when I’m wearing blue jeans. Never liked drying my hands on a pair of dress slacks.
Actually, the XLERATOR air dryers work pretty well, but they (a) feel like they might rip the skin off your hands and (b) could cause hearing loss if you use one for more than 10 seconds.
But it’s so much fun to see the skin on your hands get blown around. Well worth it.
Fairly easy puzzle for me.
I was surprised to see LOOFA. I have always spelled it LOOFAH. I checked on Google and it said that an alternative to LOOFAH is LUFFA.
For hi-lo poker players, low straights, particularly the wheel (A-2-3-4-5), are dream hands.
NYT: How does ILL describe BARELY (40A)?
I assume in the sense of “ill-considered” or “ill-tempered.” A fairly archaic use, I’d guess.
“I can ill afford …” and “I can barely afford …”, clean substitution.
In ill-considered and ill-tempered, “ill” feels like it means “poorly” rather than “barely.”
I can’t remember the last time I was doing a puzzle and I actually picked up my hands and literally applauded, but I did that for IDONTHAVEALLDAY. What a great grid-spanner.
HAIR TONIC sounded old-timey to me—I’ve invested a lot in men’s hair product in my life but had never encountered tonic. So imagine my surprise to Google it and learn it’s still very much a thing!
LAT: Did anyone besides me find this puzzle to be crazy easy for a LAT Friday? It played much more like a Tuesday or even Monday LAT than it did a Friday. Just wondering …
Just posted my review and yes. Way easier than expected.
Thanks Jenni … I share your thoughts about this grid. I barely even noticed the themers as I solved because the fill was just so fill-in-the-blank.
I also share your angst about the current state of our world. You say you’re “on call”. If it’s in the healthcare arena, please do take care. It sure would be nice if we could get a straight answer or two from someone who knows what they’re talking about as to how to go about doing that. One thing’s for sure, I can’t trust that I’ll get sound and reliable guidance from anyone representing our government.
LAT Can anyone help me understand ERLE? Clued as Creator of Perry and Della?
Erle Stanley Gardner wrote the Perry Mason series about a criminal defense lawyer/detective. Della Street was another character. The series and the TV series and TV movies based on the character were extremely popular; according to Wikipedia, the books sold 300 million copies. But the last book was published in 1973, and the last TV movie was in 1995. He’s not well-known today.
Thank you. I’ll file that away for future ref.
I know it’s the next day but I did Patrick’s NYer puzzle this afternoon. What a joy!!!