Rich Proulx’s New York Times crossword—Jim P’s review
Jim P. here sitting in for Amy. It’s been a long time since I blogged a NYT puzzle, so bear with me (see what I did there?).
Right off the bat you should’ve noticed that happy-looking face. That immediately put me in a good mood because it looks like a friendly teddy bear. Winnie the Pooh, maybe? What do you see?
However, I wanted a little more in the grid that related to the face. The closest I see is CHARACTER SKETCH [Literary profile] at 13a, but that’s about it. ART TEACHER (with the nice clue [One who might grade on the curve?]) might be related since the grid seems like one of those art tests we used to see in old magazines and newspapers. But still, I wanted something more specific.
But it was never to come. I had to be satisfied with the heavily interconnected and stacked long fill which, as it turns out, is quite good. In addition to the aforementioned, we have STATE LEGISLATOR, AUTO PARTS STORES, NEAR DISASTERS (which was hard to parse), INTIMATE APPAREL, SOLO PERFORMER, and REPUTATIONS. Also, TILT MECHANISM which is a phrase I had to infer, and STARLITERS which maybe I heard once or twice in my life but certainly didn’t remember.
I had no clue on AEOLUS [Greek god of the winds]. If you didn’t know the crossing GESSO, you might’ve gotten stuck on the E. But most everything else is fair.
There are few modern references in the grid aside from DAMON Wayons, APU, and Wookiees. In contrast, there’s GERITOL, actor LEE Majors, STARLITERS, SHANE, and Leroy Brown skewing things to the older crowd.
Clues of note:
- 17a. [Links things?]. CARTS. Who else put CLUBS first?
- 43a. [Woman’s name in English that’s a man’s name in Catalan]. JOAN. I’m wondering about the pronunciation, because I’m certain they’re not the same.
- 27d. [Member of the South Asian diaspora]. DESI. Didn’t know this one either. Per Wikipedia, “Desi are the people, cultures, and products of the Indian subcontinent and their diaspora… it is accepted that the desi trace their origin specifically to the Indian subcontinent, the countries of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Maldives, Sri Lanka and Nepal.” I’m glad to learn this usage of this name.
I was won over from the start with the grid design, and the fill, while not terribly sparkly or modern, is executed cleanly and impressively given the grid’s openness. Four stars from me.
Robyn Weintraub’s New Yorker crossword – Rachel’s writeup
Oh, this was a fun one. I loved all of it– the long stuff sparkles, the short stuff is clean, and the clues! are fantastic! Thank you for this gorgeous lightly challenging puzz to ease us into the weekend.
Long stuff: Most of the long entries are vertically aligned, which I love to see. It makes me move through the grid in a different way than I normally would (although not to the extent that diagonal-symmetry grids do, which I’ve recently learned and am excited to continue solving!). The longest entries are THE JURY IS OUT and MUNCHKINLAND, both of which are A+. Other longish entries include: LOCKS HORNS / DANCE CLASS / BLACK HOLES / NEAT AS A PIN / FRAT PARTY / ALONE TIME / ONE BEDROOM / FREE SAMPLE. I’m not sure I’m 100% on board with [Wrangles] as the clue for LOCKS HORNS — I think of wrangling as what a cowboy or cat-herder does, while locking horns is what the cows (or metaphorical figheters) do? Also, I am personally full up on ALONE TIME, and RIP grocery store FREE SAMPLES, yet another casualty of COVID-19, and
A few more things:
- SCHLUMP is such a fun word
- Ok the clue on ARIEL [Non-human Disney protagonist] really sent me on a spiral about the ontology of mermaids. I concede that she is non-human at the beginning of the film. But at the end? Does she become human? Or is she a mermaid with legs? This is going to keep me up at night.
- Favorite clues:
- [Beam at?] – LASE
- [Purchase made while window shopping?] – PANE
- [They’re really big and they totally suck] – BLACK HOLES
- Somehow I managed to live 30 years on this earth without learning what a pangolin is, and now I know, and I am forever grateful to Robyn Weintraub for bringing this creature into my life.
- There were places in this puzzle where it was clear that a choice had been made to include more feminine entries (e.g., cluing TOAD as a momma toad instead of Mr. TOAD, giving us Tyne *and* Tim DALY). I think overall it still read “neutral,” but there were no entries that gave me pause like, say, Tonto did on Weds)
- No names I didn’t know/fill I could live without today!
Overall, all the stars from me for an interesting and solidly-constructed puzz! Happy weekend, team.
Enrique Henestroza Anguiano’s Universal crossword, “Swirling the Glass”—Jim P’s review
Now this is a theme I can get behind! WINE BLENDS is the revealer at 59a and is clued [Mixed drinks? … or a hint to each circled set of scrambled letters]. The other themers contain scrambled grape varietals.
- 17a. [College rejection notice, often] FORM LETTER. Merlot.
- 28a. [Traditionally yellow flower] CHRYSANTHEMUM. Syrah.
- 46a. [Groups of actors in the “Avengers” movies, e.g.] ENSEMBLE CASTS. Malbec.
Three reds. It would have been nice if a fourth themer was added to provide a balance of whites and reds, but I’ll take this.
Despite our (my wife’s and my) enjoyment of all three of these wines, these were hard to unscramble, especially the last one. In fact, I didn’t even try to do it during the solve, but returned to them afterwards, and even then it took some doing. And so, if you don’t know your wines—and even if you do—the theme might be of little help during the solve.
But that’s okay because the crossings are all fair and the cluing is straightforward enough. And the fill is plenty fun, too. I like OPEN-EYED, GAG REEL, LEGO SET, MOONSTONES, SNACK BAR, PARADES, PAGODA, BEANIE, and even HERBACEOUS (maybe because it sounds snooty and pairs well with the snooty wine theme).
Clues of note:
- 41a. [Birthday helper?]. DOULA. Nice clue.
- 42d. [A ton of bricks, perhaps?]. LEGO SET. Ha! Another good clue. It do be like that sometimes. And yet, the completed set is always smaller than expected.
- 53d. [Gear that can prevent sliding]. PARK. “Sliding?” How about “rolling”?
- 61d. [FDR’s fair practices org.]. NRA. I resisted the N because the NRA that we know today doesn’t fit that description. But the clue is referring to the National Recovery Administration which was created to reduce “destructive competition” in business and set fair practices. It was later struck down by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional, but not before empowering unions and workers. Anyway, I appreciate that the clue is trying to go a different route than the norm, but the NRA is the NRA, love it or hate it. Trying to avoid it feels forced and unnecessarily tricky.
Kristy McGowan’s Inkubator crossword, “Letters for Gloria and Dorothy”—Rebecca’s review
The letters MS are found in each themed answer – the title referring to Gloria Steinem and Dorothy Pitman Hughes, founders of Ms. Magazine.
- 21a [Woman-inclusive end of the world?] is DOOMSDAY.
- 23a [Woman-inclusive university in South Carolina?] is CLEMSON
- 42a [Woman-inclusive woman?] is DAMSEL
- 59a [Woman-inclusive detective?] is GUMSHOE
- 62a [Woman-inclusive Viola Smith feature?] is DRUM SOLO
- 4d [Woman-inclusive wheel-runner?] is HAMSTER.
- 11d [Woman-inclusive beachwear?] is SWIMSUIT
- 41d [Woman-inclusive origin of Eve?] is ADAM’S RIB
- 48d [Woman-inclusive shade of red?] is CRIMSON
Once I caught onto the theme, it gave me a smile – but it took longer than I should admit for me to get to figure it out. I was also impressed that the MS in each answer is either right in the center – or in the case of the odd-numbered words, as close as possible, with the matching word having the opposite layout. My favorite answers of the bunch were DOOMSDAY and ADAM’S RIB – the latter because it makes me think of the Katherine Hepburn movie – not so much because of the biblical reference.
Interesting grid shape, with some extra room at 16×15 making for a smooth solve. I struggled more in the north east than any other part of the puzzle – but no unfair crossings to be found. Bonus long downs of SWEET TOOTH and LABOR PAINS were fun to come across, though I was expecting them to be themed because of their length.
Overall a thoroughly enjoyable puzzle!
Nancy Stark and Will Nediger’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up
Super-solid theme and execution here.
- 65aR [Oscar-nominated film whose title hints at the wordplay in three other long answers] IMITATION OF LIFE. (Remade by Douglas Sirk in 1959.)
- 17a. [Minty green cocktail?] ASTROTURFHOPPER (from grasshopper).
- 27a. [Easier to swallow?] ASPARTAME-COATED (not sugar-coated).
- 49a. [Puritan teacher involved in the Salem Witch Trials?] POLYESTER MATHER (né Cotton Mather)
Why is the theme so good? (1) the wordplay is consistent, with the ersatz items widely accepted as directly correlated to the originals, (2) the phrases and names are solidly in-the-language, (3) the resultant entrees are all 15-letter grid spanners. Really impressive stuff!
No real junk among the ballast fill, either. Always a plus.
- 18d [Word after bowl or blow] OVER. Nice subtle touch, taking a blah entry and common clue type but doing something extra with it: bowl and blow are anagrams of each other, differing only in the location of the letter l.
- Also good when two example words in a clue themselves form a (potentially misleading) phrase: 53a [Bobs and weaves] DOS.
- 31d [Demi of “Ghost”] MOORE. Is a faithful re-recording of a song (due to, say, licensing issues) by the same artist an imitation?
- 69a [Yankee Candle emanation] AROMA. Or ODOR, your choice.
- 72a [Frisky swimmer] OTTER. This erstwhile mammalogist is so ready for new OTTER clues, up to and including arcane ones.
- 10d [Sleeveless garment] CAPE. I feel that this was calculated to get solvers to fill in VEST.
- 25a [ __ King Cole] NAT. Today I looked up his full name and can report that it’s Nathaniel Adams Coles.
So here’s an unironic 1975 cover of Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell’s “Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing” by the Dynamic Superiors. While it may be more dynamic than the original, I feel it’s inferior.