Greg Johnson’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
This 68-worder is a cut above those 7-dense themelesses that bug me, as it is instead laden with 8s and 6s. I rather like GOT MILK, SWADDLES, ROPES OFF, and PUMP IRON, but I’m still coming down on the side of preferring corner stacks of 9s, 10s, and 11s, because the fill here felt underwhelming.
Kinda (re)watching a movie (Spy, with Melissa McCarthy) right now, so let’s hit the list:
- 1a. [Centerpiece of a luau], ROAST PIG. A lively (though wildly non-vegetarian) 1-Across, but then 59a. [Opposite of “pig out”] (UNDEREAT) is awfully noticeable after that splashy PIG.
- 55a. [Not reside in the center of], OUTLIE. Say what? I know outliers, but I’m not sure I’ve seen the verb OUTLIE in the wild. And then [Out] is also the dull clue for RELEASED.
- 20a. [1970s rock band that launched the career of Sammy Hagar], MONTROSE. I feel like I knew who Hagar was before he joined Van Halen, but boy, this MONTROSE doesn’t ring a bell for me. I do know Chicago’s Montrose Beach, which has become home to a pair of piping plovers whose nest has been protected this spring and last spring. Monty and Rose’s egg just hatched, too!
- 32a. [Guess that costs $250], AN E. Did it used to cost less to buy a vowel on Wheel of Fortune?
- 38a. [They go down the tubes], OVA. I checked, and “down” is the correct direction for eggs to travel through the Fallopian tubes. Sperm may go up the tubes, and doesn’t “go up the tubes” sound wrong?
- 51a. [Former Portuguese territory], MACAO. Chicago’s one Macanese restaurant, Fat Rice, is closed after a slew of employees revealed the holy terror that the chef, Abe “neither Chinese nor Portuguese” Conlon was abusive and racist and and and. I do not regret never having tried the restaurant, which was a darling among food critics despite the chef being a massive asshole. Anyway! What’s your favorite little-known cuisine?
- 56a. [Neapolitan song whose first line translates to “What a beautiful thing is a sunny day!”], O SOLE MIO. Isn’t that lovely! Perfect for June.
- 3d. [Kazakh capital renamed Nur-Sultan in 2019], ASTANA. I never remember the new name—and I thought it was an entirely different city that became the capital, as opposed to Astana getting renamed.
- 12d. [Coat placed on the ground], FLOOR WAX. Yes. When there’s a puddle, a gentleman lays down a coat of floor wax for a lady to …
- 21d. [Counter action], ORDERING. Protesting, ordering carryout, whatever.
- 40d. [Group whose lies are much discussed on TV], PGA TOUR. Love the clue, but I’ll tell ya, golfers were not the first thing I thought of.
3.4 stars from me, over and out.
Robyn Weintraub’s (!!!) New Yorker puzzle – Rachel’s writeup
Check out that byline! This is the first New Yorker puzzle from the three new themeless hires and I am HERE FOR IT. This header says the puzzle is “lightly challenging,” as all New Yorker Fridays are meant to be, but I’d say that is “lightly accurate.” The solve struck me as decidedly not at all challenging; this puzzle flew by so quickly that I didn’t see probably half of the clues, which meant I ended up with an error that added a minute to my time.
Which is fine! Easy puzzles are part of a balanced crossword diet, although I think that in lightening up the challenge this far, the puzzle lost a little of the culture-snobbery that makes the New Yorker puzzle distinct. There were no Names I Didn’t Know in this puzzle, and a surprising number of entries that were Fill I Could Live Without. I think there is a happy medium where the New Yorker puzzles can be both lightly challenging and Very New Yorker™, which they achieve when they pair the usual mix of artists/authors/underwater basketweavers/what-have-you with extremely gettable crosses.
That said, the long entries in this puzzle were absolutely lovely. TRUST NO ONE / LOVE LETTER / POCKET VETO / ROOFTOP BAR / TWEETY BIRD / LOADED DICE / MODEL TRAIN / IT’S A KEEPER. I particularly liked TRUST NO ONE and the clue/entry combo on POCKET VETO [Passive aggressive bill killer] and IT’S A KEEPER [Hang on to that one!]. ROOFTOP BAR is also timely, as bars in New York are reopening and the only ones people should even consider going to are the ones with outdoor space, and even then, getting close enough for AIR KISSES is probably a bad idea.
A few other things:
- I absolutely did not notice that the clue for INDENTED was indented. I think this may work better in print than on the solving interface (and, since the New Yorker is not in print, it doesn’t totally work!)
- Was bummed to see LEER in this puzzle with a ? clue [Not look upon kindly?].
- Fill I could live without: ALAI / ACER / CLE / STS / DES / LTDS / SRAS
Overall, several stars from me. Robyn Weintraub is one of my all-time favorite themeless constructors, and I’m looking forward to her next one!
Pam Amick Klawitter’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up
Homophones and near-homophones for air.
- 19a. [What “You’re not leaving me enough!” demonstrates?] HEIR PRESSURE.
- 36a. [Learning to live with your mistakes?] ERR CONDITIONING.
- 52a. [Malady caused by overexposure to Brontë’s work?] EYRE SICKNESS.
It’s a theme.
And it works well enough.
- For June we have 14a PRIDE parade.
- Also: 49d [Empowerment hashtag] ME TOO and 62a [Socially conscious] WOKE.
- 25a [Obstacle for salmon] DAM. Hence fish ladders and, latterly, fish cannons.
- 30a [Tundra neighbor] TAIGA. Remember my (terrible) mnemonic about saigas and tigers?
- 35a [Backup ___ ] SINGER. For when your main sewing machine breaks down.
- 60a [Rocky __ ] ROAD. When I was very young I thought the name of the ice cream flavor was taken from Shakespeare. This was well before I’d actually read any Shakespeare, and I’d muddled the heard-somewhere quote from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, “The course of true love never did run smooth.”
- I also thought a PARAGON was sort of like an adjunct dragon. 14d [Perfect models] PARAGONS.
- 25d/57d [Mangia!”] DIG IN / EAT.
- 44d [Texter’s “Beats me”] IDK. What does this stand for? I don’t know.
- 49a [Bossy comeback] MOO. From the the Latin bos, which is also the source for the genus name, as in Bos taurus. The specific epithet there is Greek, which is why it’s inaccurate when people call scientific names “Latin names”.
Michael S. Gerber’s Universal crossword, “The Last Ward”—Jim P’s review
Theme: Letter Os are changed to As in the last word of each theme phrase, mimicking the title’s form.
- 17a [Jealous kid’s look on Halloween?] CANDY STARE. Candy store.
- 30a [Cluster of warehouses?] ORDER FARM. Order form.
- 45a [Real estate transaction in Delaware’s capital?] DOVER SALE. Dover sole.
- 61a [Especially violent slapstick production?] BRUTE FARCE. Brute force.
I feel like I’m missing some aspect to the theme because it seems pretty wide open. Changing a single letter is a pretty old gimmick in crossword-years; most puzzles these days would have some additional layer or constraint tying things together. For example, I was trying to determine if the changes were all related to the word “ward” somehow. But I can’t find any connection between the entries.
If there is no such connection or added constraint, I would expect the entries we’re given to be lol-funny or impressively clever. I’m sorry to say that these aren’t either of those things. They’re fine, but not especially memorable. I realize everyone’s sense of humor is different, but surely there’s something more interesting than DOVER SALE. I searched for a few minutes and came up with a few that might lend themselves to humorous cluing: KARATE CHAPS, PORT-A-PATTY, GRAPHIC NAVEL. Sadly, HOLD THE FART wouldn’t pass the breakfast test.
While I wouldn’t call the theme noteworthy, it is entirely solid and consistent. And the rest of the grid is similar. That middle stack of vertical 7s is nice, centered around CRUMBLE. And MANCAVE, RV PARK, and EROTIC add color. I also like BOCCE which you don’t see too often in grids since Cs are hard to work with. PODESTA [Clinton campaign figure whose emails were leaked in 2016] still feels like it has some currency, but I wonder for how much longer. Probably not much past the next election.
Clues of note:
- 1a. [“Little Women” or “Wonder Woman”]. Each of these is a FILM, yes, but neither started out as one.
- 37a. [Stomach, to a toddler]. TUM. Hmm. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone use anything but “tummy.”
- 38a. [Half of a record]. SIDE A. I was really trying to work WINS or LOSSES into this entry for much too long.
- 41a. [Blow like Eyjafjallajokull]. ERUPT. Whew! That’s a mouthful. Read about the 2010 eruptions of this Icelandic volcano here.
- 51d. [One may leave many things out]. SLOB. Oh, I just got this one. Nice.
I believe this is a debut, so congratulations are in order. The grid is well-constructed with strong fill and clues. The theme obviously works, but I feel it could be more (unless I’m missing something, which wouldn’t be the first time). 3.3 stars.
Julie Bérubé’s Inkubator crossword, ” ‘Themeless’ #8″—Jenni’s review
I loved this puzzle. I do have one quibble: it’s not really a themeless. (and as someone pointed out below, the word “Themeless” is in quotes so they knew that!)
We have three entries that seem to have something in common:
- 17a [“Straight talk”] is DOUBLESPEAK.
- 36a [“Absolute truth”] is ALTERNATIVE FACTS.
- 58a [“Marketplace of ideas”] is ECHO CHAMBER.
Four of the downs fit in as well.
- We have a pair of cross-referenced entries that are related: 5d [10-Down state] and 10d [Like many a totalitarian 5-Down]. That’s DYSTOPIA and ORWELLIAN, respectively.
- 11d [Tinpot despot’s dream state?] is SUPREMACY.
- 32d [Smoke-and-mirrors “realities”] are ILLUSIONS.
Knowing the Inkubator team as I do, I venture to say that any resemblance to the current US administration is purely intentional. Do not @ me in the comments to say that politics have no place in your puzzles and that we shouldn’t have opinions. If this isn’t your first visit here, you should already know that they do and we will. If it is your first visit, welcome. We are a feminist, anti-racist, anti-homophobic bunch, and we don’t intend to shut up about it. We do intend to keep calling out the utter hypocrisy of people who complain our commentary violates their sacred puzzle refuge from “politics” (by which they mean systems and practices that threaten the well-being of me, my friends, and my family) and believe those of us who find the status quo life-threatening should collaborate so they can maintain the illusion that there are refuges and safe havens. That’s privilege in action, boys and girls.
Back to the puzzle:
- I liked the two entries clued [Some fellas] – DUDES and BROS.
- Great to see feminist author and icon Virginia WOOLF.
- 35a, [Wind-formed, as dunes and caves] is EOLIAN. That’s a great word. I suppose it might be obscure if you haven’t spent the last 40 years going to the beach with a geologist.
- KLAXON always makes me smile. Very Roaring Twenties and a fun word to say.
- 61a [“Common Sense” author] is THOMAS PAINE. I finally finished Chernow’s book on Alexander Hamilton and he portrays Paine, post-Revolution, as an anti-Federalist and strong supporter of the French Reign of Terror.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: never heard of the Washington Rhinestone Club, and didn’t know DEANA Carter has a song called “Did I Shave My Legs for This?. Turns out it’s the title track of an album. I didn’t know that HANS was the German equivalent of John.