Erik Agard’s New York Times crossword—Jenni’s review
Team Fiend’s own Erik “Slicks” Agard has today’s puzzle, and it’s a good ’un. Smooth as silk for a Monday, with a theme that’s straightforward and still interesting.
Each theme answer has a different pronoun.
- 19a [Message on a giant foam finger] is WE’RE NUMBER ONE. Knowing Erik, he’d prefer to see that foam finger at a WNBA game.
- 35a [1999 rom-com with Freddie Prinze Jr. and Rachael Leigh Cook] is SHE’S ALL THAT.
- 43a [“Anything Goes” song] is YOU’RE THE TOP.
- 57a [Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes slogan] is THEY’RE GRRREAT! This was my favorite, and I suspect it was the seed entry. I don’t know if Kellogg’s has a standard number of R’s or if Erik added enough to create the symmetry, and I don’t care. It’s just plain fun.
Monday-accessible and fun for us crossword nerds, too. Thanks, Erik!
Howard pointed out in comments that each theme entry ends with a synonym for GRRREAT, which makes the theme even better and 57a a sneaky revealer. Love it. Thanks, Howard!
A few other things:
- 13a [“Ingredient” in molten chocolate cake] is LAVA. I think of this as 80s restaurant food. I still like it, though.
- 10d [Award-winning sports journalist who went from ESPN to The Atlantic] is JEMELE HILL. You can count on Erik to include under-represented groups in his puzzles.
- If you don’t like rap artists in puzzles, and you’re perfectly OK with 14d, [Signature accessory of Carmen Miranda], then you’re a hypocrite. The answer is FRUIT HAT. Carmen Miranda doesn’t exactly represent great enduring art. I think Eminem has made a greater contribution.
- 55a [Grp. that might give you a hand on the shoulder?] is a great clue for AAA.
- I’m also glad to see MAXI pads in the puzzle. It’s time we normalized women’s experiences.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that JEMELE HILL has moved from EPSN to The Atlantic.
Ricky Cruz’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Hit the Deck”—Jim P’s review
We have a WSJ debut today, so congrats are in order!
Do you have a burning question today? Like, “What should I do if I’m burning?” Well, this puzzle is here to help.
- 17a [Request from a passenger who wants to get out] STOP THE CAR
- 29a [Intensify, as in many electronic songs] DROP THE BASS. Not sure I’m totally familiar with this phrase, but them I’m an old guy, and our constructor is fresh out of school. But the clue makes it inferable.
- 46a [Take one’s chances] ROLL THE DICE
- 58a [Subject in which the first words of 17-, 29- and 46-Across are sage advice] FIRE SAFETY
I love the consistency here where each phrase is of the same form and each of those reflects the title. It’s a little weird not having the phrase in its entirety (“stop, drop, and roll”), but I think it works fine as is.
Strong fill, especially with GOOGLES, BAZAAR, SYDNEY, ESPAÑA, SELLATHON, and TIGER BEAT [Teen fan magazine that went online-only in 2018]. My sister used to read that way back when. Can’t believe it’s still around.
In the eyebrow-raising category, there’s only one entry, but it’s a doozy: ZEROTH [It comes before first, in mathematics]. I will take your word for it, puzzle. It’s new to me, but then I wasn’t a math major. Despite that, it makes for a fun entry.
All in all, a simple theme, but a good start to the week with plenty of fun, sparkly fill. I expect we will see a lot more from this constructor (based on this and previous NYT outings). Looking forward to it. 3.8 stars.
Andrew J Ries’s Universal crossword, “Going Green” — pannonica’s write-up
Nothing to do with green in the sense of ECO-tourism (6d). No, cast your eyes further down, over in the southeast corner of the grid: 65a [Deadly sin that’s a hint to the starred answers’ “initials”] ENVY, i.e., N-V.
- 18a. [*Bette Davis film on AFI’s “100 Years … 100 Passions” list] NOW, VOYAGER. The source novel was written by OLIVE Higgins Prouty. (53d [Muffuletta morsel])
- 23a. [*What the eye’s rods are helpful for] NIGHT VISION.
- 37a. [*Seemingly silly poetry] NONSENSE VERSE.
- 50a. [*”My Big Fat Greek Wedding” writer/star] NIA VARDALOS.
- 57a. [*Mecca for wine lovers] NAPA VALLEY.
Easy-peasy Monday theme.
- More letter-awareness: 14a [Single-consonant car make] AUDI, 15d [Single-consonant berry] AÇAI. But why not “Single-consonant musical instrument” for 19d OBOE [Double-reed instrument]?
- 17a [Communion or confirmation] RITE. Now I’m thinking of the (unintended) implicit consumerism of business names such as ShopRite and Buy-Rite.
- 34a [“Skip to My __”] LOU. I like to think of this as someone walking funny to the bathroom, trying to hold it in.
- 44a [Early photograph] TINTYPE. They have a distinct look and aesthetic. There are—not so unsurprisingly—contemporary photographers/artists working in that medium. You can find them with a quick internet search.
- 66a [ __ and cream cheese] BAGEL, 55a [Hand-played drum] BONGO. Come on, this is too easy.
- Long- and longish downs are 4d [Get hitched] TIE THE KNOT, 9d [From the country west of Suriname] GUYANESE, 31d [Astronomers can’t directly detect it] DARK MATTER, 38d [Story with plants, perhaps] SPY NOVEL (no MOLE*, but there is a [Small rodent] VOLE (4⁄5 of NOVEL!) at 24-down.
And that’s all she wrote.
*Do not for a moment think I don’t know that moles are not rodents.
Elizabeth C. Gorski’s New Yorker crossword – Rachel’s writeup
This puzzle is so cool looking and satisfyingly crunchy! I’m a little bummed that I got stuck on so many proper noun crossings though– I added probably 3 minutes to my solve trying to figure out my errors (and there were several) at crossings of names I just didn’t know.
But the long stuff! It’s so joyous! THE SUSSEXES, HERE’S ONE EXAMPLE, ARE YOU SATISFIED, EXISTENTIALISTS, RENEWED INTEREST, GLOSSES OVER. All really fun to crack, and I’m telling you, nothing beats the satisfaction of throwing in the letters for a grid-spanner.
The proper noun crossings/”nearings”(™) that tripped me up were:
- LEMAT/UNSER (also LEMAT/SETAE, although SETAE is just a regular noun)
- BASIA in close proximity to UTO, neither of which I knew, which made BATS IN almost impossible to see
Favorite clue: More to the point? for SHARPER
Despite the somewhat frustrating hunt for errors at the end, I really liked this puzzle and enjoyed the solve. Most of the stars from me!
ps. Today’s USA Today is a meta puzzle in celebration of Pride month that I wrote with Erik Agard. Check it out! And if you like it, donate to a bail fund! Pride is intersectional and recognizes that the liberation of LGBTQ+ folks is bound up with the liberation of all oppressed people.
Jesse Goldberg’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Nate’s write-up
17A: PENALTY BOX [Where hockey punishments are served]
22A: CORNER STORE [Local retailer]
36A: DROP IN THE BUCKET [Insignificant amount]
46A: BICYCLE RACK [Car rooftop attachment for a Schwinn]
58A: KICKSTARTS [Reinvigorates, as an economy … or a hint to the beginnings of the answers to the starred clues]
Sorry for my delayed reply! It’s been quite the week and it’s all I can do to think about anything other than the most pressing matters at hand. (And I’m healthy thankfully!)
In this, the year 2020, we are apparently still referring neutrally to plantations like TARA without mentioning the brutal history of slavery and everything that came with it. That our nation and economy would be nothing if it weren’t for those systematically oppressed on plantations. That we have done nothing to atone for 400 years of treating Black people as less than – and that’s putting it nicely. Constructors and editors: if you’re going to mention plantations, there’s no neutrality. Black lives matter too much for this.
Each of today’s themers starts with a type of kick, hence KICKSTARTS: penalty kick, corner kick, dropkick (!), bicycle kick. Three of these are soccer moves. One of them is violent.
Also, with all the talk of Republicans trying to “kickstart the economy” by sacrificing citizens to COVID to benefit their own bank accounts, the clue for the revealer felt tone deaf to the current moment.
Apologies to Jesse Goldberg for my delayed review of this puzzle. A few different clues (which may have been you or the editor) and this puzzle would have been much more enjoyable.
Rachel- A recent puzzle review here, coincidentally, was described in words that can also easily apply to your NYTimes “Midi” debut Sunday in the “At Home” section of the paper and I quote:
“Overall, pretty much all the stars from me. No bad fill, lots of strong entries, A+ wordplay. So good!!!”
(Also posted on yesterday’s comments).
Oh wow, thank you!!!
question – why doesn’t this site do reviews of the USA Today puzzle? your puzzle today was/is so wonderful – I would love to be able to read more about it!
Hi thanks! I think we at Team Fiend are discussing the possibility of adding USAT to the roster, but nothing has been decided yet :)
NYT: Fun, light, positive. We need a touch of that nowadays.
There’s an incorrect letter in the NYT solution grid in 60D / 72A. It should be EASY / RYES.
Sorry! Had a computer issue while I was writing the review and had to do a hard reboot, lost the grid, and realized I hadn’t taken my screenshot yet so I filled it in again very quickly.
The NYT was so fresh and clean—and I’m also having fun imagining Toad’s IMTHEBEST from Mario Kart as the fifth, central themer.
NYT seems to be a double theme, the pronoun on the front, and a synonym for “grrreat” on the back, with the last being a kind of revealer :). Just wanted to put that out there.
Also great to see JEMELE HILL in there!
Oh! Oh! That’s so cool! Thank you! I amended the post with appropriate credit.
Did anyone do today’s BEQ? Would like to see some comments!
Rachel — very clever USA Today puzzle today. Took me a while to get the meta but it makes perfect sense.
hey thanks!!!! [theme of the puzzle] to you!!!
Hi Rachel, Sorry to be so obtuse, but I think I’m missing something about the USA Today puzzle. Can someone explain the meta?
It’s a tough one! The title is a hint– there are two sets of seven things in the puzzle, but one of the seven is missing from each set. Let me know if you need another hint!
Hi Rachel, thank you for your hint! I got another hint from your response to cyco earlier in this thread!
I kind of noticed the set of seven people when I got to 30D, because I thought to myself, “I’ve never seen that word except in that seven-person context.” But then I shrugged it off and didn’t notice the other people coming up. And I REALLY didn’t notice the second set of seven! It all seemed really natural.
So you have a 12-answer theme, without any awkwardness, all of which fit together for a meta-answer that applies to this month and is published on June 1! That is really, really clever. What a great puzzle! (and hats off to Erik Agard as the editor for getting it published on this date!)
Thanks so much! Erik is a fabulous editor, and he was definitely more of a co-constructor on this one (despite not giving himself credit on the by-line!).
Wow! I agree that’s a beautiful grid and theme! So many levels to it that I admit I didn’t see them at first. Should definitely be in contention for an ORCA. Great job!
BEQ — I had all sorts of problems in the SE. Never heard of NODDLE or TUILLE. I had NOGGIN first, then NOODLE, which I felt sure about. I thought XAEAXII was fairly crossed, thankfully.
Thanks, MT. I agree about NODDLE, that was the toughie. The Musks’ son’s name made big news when the state of California forced them to change it because names must be only from the alphabet. So they changed the 12 at the end to xii. No idea how it is pronounced. Absurd, but I could piece together that one. Never heard of DUNDERPATE. Otherwise, all typically good BEQ clues.
I rarely do the Monday NYT puzzle, but the Agard byline is always a drawing point. Such a smooth grid! Since it’s a Monday puzzle, we don’t get Erik’s trademark of tricky clues that bend our brains, but we’ll live. Neat theme. And JEMELE HILL was a gimme off the JE even though I didn’t know she’d landed at the Atlantic—a Black woman in journalism is an obvious inclusion in one of Erik’s puzzles, and I’d love it if more constructors would keep such names in their minds and in their word lists.
Erik’s based in Kansas City now, and if you’d like to receive some of his unpublished puzzles (certain to include those beloved twisty clues), email him (agarderik, gmail) your receipt for donating to 1StruggleKC’s legal defense fund:
Jemele Hill was all but booted from ESPN because she called Resident Trump a white supremacist on twitter and that hurt a bunch of racists’ feelings I guess. That’s pretty much how I remember it. Whatever, she belongs with The Atlantic anyway.
No LAT today—is Nate sick? I hope he doesn’t have this virus! The newspaper puzzle, which I do, is off also; it’s missing clue for five or six entries at the end. I presume the Times ran out of space! And I did want someone’s take on the theme!