Erik Agard & Miriam Estrin’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
May I grouse for a moment about the NYT crossword’s parochial insistence on pretending the rest of the puzzleverse barely exists? Tonight’s Wordplay post says, right in the headline, “Miriam Estrin makes her crossword debut.” She actually debuted in February, with a Universal crossword co-constructed by Andy Kravis. Congrats on your NYT debut, Miriam! And congrats on choosing such terrific partners—Erik and Andy are two of the kindest and most talented crossword professionals out there.
Anyway—this puzzle is one square wider than usual, to accommodate the central IMPOSSIBLE BURGER. If you’re going to include a patty of some sort in your grid, where better to place it that right in the middle, between the buns and such?
Other fill I’m partial to: BEAR HUGS (and right near an OTTER!), DEEP-SIXES, TAKE THE L, SHEBANG, GLAMPING, and SET PIECE.
Lots of clues really shone, too:
- 1a. [Something Old, something New?], TESTAMENT. We’ll also need a Blue Testament and a Borrowed Testament.
- 16a. [Get in contact, so to speak], HOLLER. As in “If you want to borrow that book I told you about, HOLLER at me.”
- 50a. [Gripping experiences that take your breath away], BEAR HUGS. They sound rather less affectionate with that clue!
- 1d. [Queen or knight], TITLE / 11d. [Patrician], NOBLE. Dang it! I filled in NOBLE at 1d, and the -LE bit worked with the crossings.
- 27d. [It’s a whole thing], SHEBANG. I like the clue’s mislead that leans on contemporary usage. “Did you know there are people who livestream their speed-solving of crosswords? It’s a whole thing now.”
- 39d. [Like a side hustle], PART-TIME. If you sell your quilts or give guitar lessons but that’s not your day job, it’s your side hustle. Between HOLLER’s clue, “it’s a whole thing,” and “side hustle,” this puzzle is steeped in current language.
- 45d. [Martyr complex?], SHRINE. Aah! Great clue.
Did not know: 31a. [Bollywood’s ___ Rukh Khan], SHAH. Nice to see an alternative to the pre-Revolution Iranian emperor (and Persia still gets its shout-out with poet RUMI). Also did not know 40d. [Portmanteau for an arrangement of cans in a dorm room, maybe], BEERAMID. Google tells me there’s also a drinking game by that name involving a pyramid of playing cards? I lost interest in learning more.
I love 12d. [Mozart’s “Rondo ___ Turca”], ALLA—and I will confess to you that I first heard it on a Baby Einstein video, so in my mind’s eye, I see little plastic penguins on a roller coaster throughout the piece.
Not wild about bits like NEZ BOS ELIA, but they’re legit fill. 4.2 stars from me.
Christopher Adams’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
I have linked to Chris’s website before, so you should know who this is by now. If not, rest assured that this is one of the rising stars in puzzle construction. He mentions on his blog that he does a livestream of solving while drinking, which I have not seen yet, but sounds hilarious. I will have to turn on Twitch notifications for him! This puzzle was a little thornier for me that usual Saturday LAT puzzles, but still not Stumper level. Maybe it was the tequila that slowed me down? 4.6 stars for this one.
A few highlights:
- 1A [Pureed condiment] FISH PASTE – This sounds disgusting. I don’t think I have ever had it. What do you put it on?
- 15A [“Gracie’s Choice” Emmy nominee] ANNE HECHE – Whatever happened to her? I haven’t seen here in anything for quite a while. Then again, I don’t watch much TV, even during this shutdown. IMDB says she is still actively working, but not prolificly.
- 17A [Dangerous bar] THIRD RAIL – There are no subways in Indiana, so I am safe!
- 32A [Esther who co-founded In-N-Out Burger] SNYDER – Here’s hoping this comes to the Midwest soon! Had this in LA a few years ago, and they are excellent burgers!
- 48A [Muslim face veil] NIQAB – I can never remember this veil’s name. Also, not many sightings of these in Indiana at all. Amish, yes. Muslims, not so much.
- 3D [Dudley’s nemesis, in toons] SNIDELY – As in Snidely Whiplash, the foe to Dudley Do-Right, the RCMP’s best man! Find these old cartoons to watch; they are classics!
- 6D [Aptly named American Eagle store] AERIE – This is in a mall, where we used to go to shop …
- 8D [“I’m writing so you’ll know … “] “THIS IS JUST TO SAY …” – Great casual phrase!
- 38D [Swampy “Star Wars” planet] DAGOBAH – The latest Star Wars movie is on Disney+ now, so maybe I will watch this weekend. Not the biggest fan of these movies (a few of them I consider horrible!), so this took a second.
- 44D [Certain intradermal exams, for short] TB TESTS – Wouldn’t it be nice to have this type of test for coronavirus instead of the swab into your brain? I have not been tested, nor do I want to be if this is how they do it!
That is all for now! Maybe I will see you on Chris’s next Twitch stream!
Stella Zawistowski’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up
Stella’s puzzles are super hard anyway, so it is only natural that she construct Stumpers! The puzzles on her site are super tough, so if you like the sort of head-banging challenge that these Stumpers provide, you will be in hog heaven with her puzzles! I think this is the second Stumper she has made in her construction renaissance, but here’s hoping for many more as we move forward. Got this one done in a little over ten minutes, which is a great Stumper time for me, but I have done a lot of her puzzles, so I think I get her clue “vibe” fairly well. As long as Stan doesn’t change too much during the edit process! Started this unique grid at about 9:00, then worked in a counter-clockwise manner until finishing in the NW corner. There are a lot of great clues in here, too many to mention below, but this Stumper was a joy to solve. A robust 4.7 stars from me.
Lots to talk about!
- 15A [Careless?] INSOUCIANT – Careless means sloppy, so the question mark here to indicate a slight pun is well used, since this word literally means not caring. Well done, although a tough word that isn’t often used in daily conversation.
- 17A [It’s pitched low] BASS FIDDLE – This made me smile when I finally got it! Nice clue.
- 26A [Nazarene, for instance] ISRAELI – This clue has you thinking something Biblical, but it is purely geographical!
- 61A [Backup, as a medical treatment] SECOND LINE – Timely clue. For COVID-19, we still need the first line of defense!
- 1D [Marches, in lit] SIBS – This is a Little Women reference. I have seen a clue or two similar to this before, but regardless, still one of the better clues in the puzzle.
- 2D [Bump on a log] KNAR – You should only be able to get away with this word in a Stumper! I tried KNOB, like I’ll bet a lot of you out there did, too!
- 7D [What might be asked of a judge] “DID I WIN?” – Great entry. This surprisingly has one NYT occurrence; I figured it wouldn’t have any!
- 11D [National Guard contingent] ARMORED UNIT – This sounds like too much firepower for the National Guard.
- 22D [Magnavox introduction of 1972] GAME CONSOLE – Fun fact! I only vaguely remember hearing this before. Plus, in ’72, I turned 3, so I don’t remember too much from then!
- 23D [Flag] NEED A NAP – This sounds like me on most weekends!
- 24D [”I got no quarrel with them Vietcong” speaker] ALI – People forget that this stance cost him a lot of money. In the end he was lionized, but in the late ’60s and early ’70s he was vilified.
- 33D [Southern superfood] OKRA – A buffet restaurant that is now out of business used to have fried okra on the menu. I miss eating that!
- 38D [Take punishment on the field] RUN LAPS – Yes, this is usually punishment, but in the end it is a sneaky ploy to improve a team’s fitness. My running is in the tank after meningitis a few years ago. But I will get back in shape this year!
Everyone have a safe and healthy weekend!
Pancho Harrison’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “As They Sigh in the Outback” — pannonica’s write-up
They probably would sigh, or groan, at the accent-based puns here. To my Unitedstatesian ears these sound like reasonable if slightly exaggerated representations of the lingo.
- 23a. [What an Aussie undercover cop might do while wired?] MIKE A CONFESSION (make a …).
- 32a. [Special magazine edition featuring Aussie youngsters?] TYKE ISSUE (take issue).
- 39a. [Aussie parent raising pigs in his house?] STY AT HOME DAD (stay at home …).
- 56a. [Film snippets of an Aussie flutist?] PIPER CLIPS (paper clips).
- 79a. [Aussie mountain guide’s preparation list?] CLIMB CHECK (claim check). Can you call a checklist a ‘check’?
- 92a. [Growing number of baptisms at an Aussie church?] RITE INCREASE (rate increase).
- 98a. [Aussie judge?] TRIAL BOSS (trail boss).
- 114a. [Strongly partisan Aussie track athletes?] MILE CHAUVINISTS (male …).
And then there’s 116a [ __ Work (Aussie pop group)] MEN AT. So I guess I’m supposed to put one of their songs here.
- 6d [Cyclotron bit] ION, 50a [Small matter] ATOM.
- 64a [Engineer who introduced the term “horsepower”] WATT. That’s an interesting piece of trivia.
- 25d [Sound heard twice in “Aruba”] SCHWA. The sound change that’s going on in the theme answers is a long a to a long i.
- 35d [Spectrum Center player] HORNET. So is everyone panicking about Vespa mandarinia?
- 1d [Play the siren] TEMPT, 42d [Charm] ENTRANCE.
- 43d [Time piece?] DAY. Double-fake-out! Nothing to do with the magazine.
- 76d [Largest section of a Risk board] ASIA. Is it not the Pacific Ocean? </smartass>
- 4a [Large conduits] MAINS, not MINES. 34a [Bat-producing tool] LATHE, not LITHE. 36a [Course] WAY, not WHY. Et cetera. No, I’m not suggesting the puzzle should have done this. No, no, no.
Does what a crossword is supposed to do. Entertain, provide a bit of a challenge.
Okay, fine. Here’s a mediocre song from their 1985 flop, Two Hearts.