John Lieb’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Lots of pop culture peppering this grid. Sam Shepard’s play TRUE WEST crossing MILHOUSE from The Simpsons and Dr. Dre’s THE CHRONIC. CON AIR the movie rather than Conair blow dryers. Peanuts TOONs Linus and Lucy, ANITA from West Side Story. URKEL from Family Matters. ARES clued as [Mission name in “The Martian”] (I didn’t remember that). TERRY CREWS of Brooklyn Nine-Nine beside General LEIA Organa. And Paula DEEN? Eww, no thank you on that last one. Anyway, pop culture’s in my wheelhouse, and these helped me go faster than usual on a Friday NYT.
There were a smattering of clunky entries along the way, like AGA, MCI, LETT, ALBS, REEDIT, YSL, and AS AM I. Some of those are pretty hardcore crosswordese, if you ask me.
Other zippy entries includes mustache MOVEMBER (men growing mustaches in November to raise awareness of prostate and testicular cancers as well as suicide prevention), SLOW CLAP, NASCAR DAD, and LITE BRITE (which I seriously contemplated buying last year; now available in modern flat-screen!). Not as keen on GRAYBEARD ([Wise elder]), since none of the wise elders in my family can grow a beard.
Five more things:
- 1a. [Fall guy?], STUNTMAN. (Gendered term.) Clue felt like pop culture (and helped me to the answer) thanks to the 1980s TV show The Fall Guy, featuring fictional stuntpeople who moonlight as bounty hunters. Should I get a side hustle as a bounty hunter?
- 37a. [“Same here”], AS AM I. My husband is solving this crossword right now and had a rant about this one. ME TOO or DITTO, entirely plausible answers. Rarely is anyone going to say “as am I.” AS DO I and SO DO I are kinda junky entries too. Try to make your puzzles without these, folks!
- 26d. [Spring feast], SEDER. I like the generality of the clue, rather than labeling it as Jewish to distinguish it from a Christian-centric default of Easter.
- 45d. [Musical “repeat” mark], SEGNO. Husband says that in his music and band classes, this was simply called the repeat sign. How about you, if you studied music?
- 55d. [Ed.’s stack], MSS / 50a. [Cut again, say], REEDIT. Two not-great entries near each other, and the clue for MSS has an abbreviation for “editor” duplicating that reEDIT. Feels sloppy to me. Yes, I know Will Shortz doesn’t care about such overlaps, but to a lot of us, it feels sloppy and wrong.
I think I’d have preferred a little less of the sparkle in the grid if it would facilitate clearing out the clunkers. 3.4 stars from me.
Olivia Mitra Framkes Inkubator crossword, “Do the Right Thing”—Jenni’s review
I figured out the theme from the blurb in the EMail – “touches on a movement important to all of us.” I figured it had to be Black Lives Matter, and it was. I enjoyed the way she worked it in. We have three grid-spanning theme answers that end in the relevant words.
- 16a [Descriptor for Miss Mary Mack] is DRESSED IN BLACK. This feels to me like a woman-centric clue. I never saw a boy play the hand game that goes along with the rhyme.
- 38a [2014 hit by Ne-Yo and Pitbull] is TIME OF OUR LIVES.
- 60a [Mantra for those struggling to find inner strength] is MIND OVER MATTER.
And the revealer, for those who didn’t see what was going on: 51a [Initialism for a racial justice movement, and this puzzle’s theme]: BLM. I smiled at the front page of the NYT today for the first time in months, because of this picture.
A few other things:
- I’m not locating my lattes in a CAFE these days; on the rare occasions that I indulge, it’s all drivethrough
- Lots of Black artists represented in this grid and clues: Ne-Yo and Pitbull, referenced above; RENEE Elise Goldsberry; W.E.B. Dubois; AVA Duvernay; TEACAKE from “Their Eyes Were Watching God”; Cuba Gooding; Nina Simone. We also have Michelle Obama and her daughter Malia cluing MOM, and I have to think the M O M in the names is not accidental.
- My daughter persists in saying that I SASS her. This is not possible; SASS only flows uphill.
- If you’re not familiar with Judith Butler’s work on GENDER, you should be.
- Is it just me, or does IMHO signal that the O is not really H?
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: the name of the Ne-Yo/Pitbull album; that there was a character called TEACAKE in “Their Eyes Were Watching God;” that W.E.B. Dubois wrote SCI–FI.
Kevin Salat’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up
- 37aR [Joint protection … or, in a way, creators of four puzzle puns?] KNEECAPS. The phoneme /nē/ caps off phrases to wackified effect. Weird that a word deriving from ‘head’ is used to signal appending something to the back end of a word, but that’s language for ya.
¤¤ You know, puns. 61a [It may not be intended] DUPLICATI– I mean, PUN. You know. ¤¤
- 18a. [Embrace Love?] HOLD COURTNEY (hold court).
- 57a. [Is unable to sign the top-billed star for an “Ocean’s 13” sequel?] HAS NO CLOONEY (has no clue).
- 12d. [Casual topper for Elizabeth II?] QUEEN BEANIE (queen bee).
- 25d. [Consume some deli meat?] DOWN BOLOGNA (down below). Counter-intuitive how well this one works homophonically, provided one uses the schwa ‘version’ of below (for me, whether it’s a schwa or long e is dependent on context).
Tally: 2 -NEY endings, 1 -Nie, 1 -(G)NA; 3 root spelling changes (all save COURT)
Moderately entertaining theme. Not convinced it’s remarkable enough to justify a deviation from the standard 15×15 grid to 16×15, but here we are.
- Longdowns are both good: 10d [Stayed out too long?] OVERSLEPT (cute clue!) and 34d [Concern for lefty writers] INK SMEARS (I might have gone with ‘left-handed’ as this is starting to look like a convoluted reference to libel against liberal authors or something).
- How do we feel about both 33a [“Lawdy!”] GAWD and 40d [“Jiminy cricket!”] EGAD appearing in the grid? ASL (American Sign Language) having ‘signals’ in its clue (50d)?
- Seeing 44d SWEEPS right after 40d and now I can’t shake off the awful pun of ‘jiminy sweeps’. Sorry.
- More clever clues: 34a [Ready to go back?] IN REVERSE, 43d [They may pick up speed] SENSORS. Among my favorites here.
Fun fact: there are apparently no worthwhile remixes of Monty Python’s The Knights who Say ‘Ni!’ available, ergo no music video to cap things off today.
Jim Holland’s Universal crossword, “T for Two”—Jim P’s review
Theme: Two-word phrases starting with Ts.
- 17a. [Rain on one’s parade?] TICKER TAPE
- 27a. [One may hold a TV dinner] TRAY TABLE
- 49a. [Crime scene clue left by a vehicle] TIRE TRACK
- 64a. [Solution for someone who’s stuck in the past?] TIME TRAVEL
- 10d. [One may pull an Escape] TOW TRUCK
- 39d. [Fishy story] TALL TALE
Solid, if straightforward theme. The hardest part, since it started off with a tricky question mark clue, was realizing there wasn’t actually any wordplay going on in the theme entries. But these comprise a nice themeset.
With six themers, there isn’t much room for sparkly fill, but I do like STRIDENT, THRICE, MACRON, and REVAMP.
Clues of note:
- 17a. [Rain on one’s parade?]. TICKER TAPE. Great clue! Realizing “Rain” is a noun here was the challenge.
- 2d. [Crosswalk verb] starting with a W. “WALK!” Uh, no. It’s WAIT.
Fun, clean, straightforward grid. 3.5 stars.
Anna Shechtman’s New Yorker crossword – Rachel’s writeup
Hellooooo it is Friday! Congratulations team, we can cross another week off our perpetual covid purgatory calendar. And we can solve this puzzle from Anna Shechtman, which had some excellent long marquees and medium-long entries mixed with a rather frustrating amount of short fill! Quick writeup today as I’m running behind on life.
I went for 17A first, and immediately filled in TURTLENECK..??? SHIRT?? without even looking at the crosses. And then I looked at the crosses, and just as quickly managed to replace it with BLACK TURTLENECK, which was correct. I imagine some people who are less ~online~ may have managed to avoid the burden of learning who Elizabeth Holmes is, but even the luddites among us probably know about Steve Jobs and his trademark BLACK TURTLENECK. This is a fun, easy long entry appropriate for Friday’s lightly challenging puzzle. The other long across is VIRTUE SIGNALING, which is my specialty, as I publicly and ostentatiously track the representation of gender and race in this crossword puzzle. SORRY NOT SORRY! (Also a great entry).
Some other solid medium-long length entries here include AEROSOL, TECH STARTUP, DAIRY AISLES, MOLE RAT, AGES AGO, BASMATI, YUCKIEST, and RIPS ONE (which I lol’d at, child that I am). The cluing is also excellent; I particularly enjoyed [It might be hatched in an incubator?] for TECH STARTUP, [Gives up on, as a Tootsie Pop] for BITES INTO, and [Places to put all your eggs in one basket?] for DAIRY AISLES. Good stuff!
A few more things:
- The price for all of this crunchy good stuff was a parade of less-than-ideal 3- and 4-letter Fill I Could Live Without, including: STB / TAC / ITI / RCS / VAS / SES / RTS / ENTR / STOA
- White men: Steve Jobs, Benjamin Franklin, Wil Wheaton, Billy Wilder, Jeff Bridges, Roy Lichtenstein, Steve Martin
- Everyone else: Elizabeth Holmes, VIET Thanh Nguyen, Kris Jenner, RuPaul, Spike Lee, Sam Cooke, Kris Humphries (Amy moved KH to this grouping, he’s biracial) [Rachel thanks you and apologizes for the error!]
Overall, a solid, lightly challenging Friday puzzle! I enjoyed it a lot. Plenty of stars from me, SORRY NOT SORRY.