Rachel Fabi’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Hey, hey, hey! It’s Team Fiend writer Rachel Fabi here with a themeless as crisp and fresh as a Honeycrisp apple. There’s also a science vibe permeating this bioethicist’s grid: TRI clued as a scientific prefix, OCEANOGRAPHERS, ATOM with an interesting clue ([Subject of J. J. Thomson’s “plum pudding” model]), the TURING TEST, OVA clued well as [Monthly releases of a sort], RNA, and TOE clued with [The smallest one is called a minimus] (if you know Bob Petitto in the National Puzzlers’ League, this was a gimme).
Non-scientific highlights in the fill: K-POP, RED BEAN paste, THE MANDALORIAN (season 2 comes out next month), “DON’T GET CUTE,” PRIDE PARADE. Also nice to see Stanley TUCCI, who costars with Colin Firth in the upcoming film Supernova that looks to be a heart-wrenching one.
Eight more things:
- 1a. [The “stuf” in Double Stuf Oreos], CREME. Hey! Oreos are demoted to clue status for a change.
- 17a. [High anxiety?], ACROPHOBIA. I was absolutely cool about heights until I got old enough to realize that heights are scary.
- 21a. [Lowest rating in showbiz’s Ulmer Scale], D-LIST. I did not know there was an Ulmer Scale! It sounds so scientific. I want to know who’s on the C-list.
- 5d. [Avant-garde], EXPERIMENTAL. You’d think the scientist’s puzzle would clue EXPERIMENTAL in a sciency way, but no.
- 7d. [Berlioz’s “Queen ___” Scherzo], MAB. From Romeo and Juliet. Here’s the “horn soli” bit, below.
- 29d. , THREE SCORE. My least favorite entry, as it’s essentially just a random number. Might as well be FIVE DOZEN.
- 30d. [What Ralph Nader did in 2000, 2004 and 2008], RERAN. Thanks, buddy! Really appreciate third-party candidates running in tight elections where a Republican walks off with the electoral college win. *side eye*
- 54d. [Lump near a lash], STYE. How timely! I’ve applied a hot compress to my eye twice already today.
4.2 stars from me. Keep constructing themelesses, Rachel!
Wyna Liu’s New Yorker crossword – Rachel’s writeup
I have to say, I was *really* hoping today’s New Yorker was by Wyna, and I am SO EXCITED that it was! I know it’s hokey, but Wyna is my crossword soul sister, and I’m super happy to be reviewing this fantastic puzzle today. We definitely see EYE TO EYE on this one!
Honestly, I don’t even know where to start, there is so much to like here! AVA DUVERNAY/ LET’S BE FAIR / LION DANCES / BECHDEL TEST / DOUBLE DATES / APPALACHIA / EDITORIAL WE / PLAYS CUPID are *all* bangers. I laughed out loud at EDITORIAL WE, which I have never heard of, but which is so obviously a thing and a fabulous entry.
A few more things:
- Fill I could live without: lol nah I am not about to say anything about anyone else’s fill, today of all days
- Representation: We talk a lot about BECHDEL TESTs over here on Team Fiend, and Wyna brought us the whole-ass BECHDEL TEST origin story! Also AVA DUVERNAY and LION DANCES and Gwen IFILL and lots else
- I just keep finding more things to love about this puzzle. RANDO! CORGI! CURIO!
- Favorite clues:
- [“Credit where credit is due … ”] for LET’S BE FAIR (such a good colloquial translation)
- [Canoodling on the M.T.A., say] for PDA — more canoodling in puzzle plz!
Ok I could keep going forever because I adore this puzzle and Wyna, but honestly my brain is mush right now from the serotonin/repeated dopamine hits from people saying nice things about my NYT debut on the internet, so I need to stop. (And, in case you missed it, today is my NYT debut! Thanks to Amy for the kind writuep. I also have today’s USA Today puzzle and a puzzle on Matthew Stock’s Happy Little Puzzles blog, so if you want to solve more puzzles by me that are all vastly different, follow those links!).
Catherine Cetta’s Inkubator crossword, “Garden Variety”—Jenni’s review
Welcome to Crossworld, Catherine! The Email from the Inkubator team says that Catherine Cetta started constructing during quarantine, so she’s brand-spanking-new. I look forward to seeing more from her!
The title refers to a variety of anagrams for “garden.”
- 17a [Look, quaintly] is TAKE A GANDER.
- 28a [Perilous situation] is MORTAL DANGER.
- 46a [Grammy-winning “thank u, next” vocalist] is ARIANA GRANDE.
- 60a [Backfired, in a way] is BOOMERANGED.
And one extra that’s sort of a revealer: 45d [Raised ground for planting vegetables or flowers within this puzzle’s theme]: BED.
This is a nice, consistent theme with all the entries solidly in the language. For once I agree with the difficulty rating – this is “lightly challenging” and was fun to solve.
A few other things:
- The AMISH are not exclusive to Pennsylvania. There are AMISH communities in Ohio and New York, at least. They are often called “Pennsylvania Dutch,” which properly refers to their dialect and is a corruption of “Deutsch,” since they are of German origin. Some of my older patients speak with a noticeable “Dutchie” accent; when they were kids, they attended public school taught in Pennsylvania Deutsch.
- 9d [Terre dans la mer] is a fun clue for ILE.
- Since my daughter went back to San Diego, I’ve tossed out three bags of ACAI purée that were taking up space in our freezer.
- 51d [Mystery writing Oscar?] is a EDGAR. “Oscar” as in “Academy Award.” The EDGAR is named after Poe and is the mystery world’s equivalent of an Academy Award.
- English is weird, as 65a points out. [Writing e before i, they say … except when seizing leisurely caffeine. Weird.] The answer is ERROR.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that WILLA Cather wrote a book called “One of Ours.”
Jeffrey Wechsler’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up
This puzzle was more of a challenge—a welcome challenge—than I’ve come to expect from Friday LAT offerings. Really had to work through and revisit some sections with diligence.
The theme is rather straightforward but it was difficult to uncover the full entries; indeed, resolving those certainly helped break open the recalcitrant areas of the grid.
Phrases ending with the bigram -ST have those letters transposed, significantly altering their meanings.
- 18a. [Frenetic drummer’s output] SAVAGE BEATS (savage beast). Unsurprisingly, there is at least one band with this name.
- 25a. [Like a professional gambler’s life?] ALL FOR THE BETS (… for the best).
- 39a. [Consistently wins prizes for carrots, turnips, etc.?] RULES THE ROOTS (… the roost).
- 50a. [Specially designed Valentine’s Day burgers?] PATTY HEARTS (Patty Hearst). Of course these are a thing, too.
So here’s Questlove (founder (RULER?) of The ROOTS) and F. Knuckles with some arguably SAVAGE BEATS:
But of course the epitome of a “frenetic drummer” is this internet-famous guy.
- 2d [Official school color since 1894] YALE BLUE. The hexadecimal code for it is #0f4d92. RGB? That’s 15, 77, 146
- 4d [Stretch in therapy] SESSION. I was thinking of something like stretch goals rather than a simple duration of time.
- 37d [Sticky] GLUEY. Ironically, putting in GOOEY here slowed me down.
- 41d [“At the __ Core”: Burroughs novel] EARTH’S. Major cognitive dissonance, as I was thinking of William S, not Edgar Rice.
- Could’ve done without tough-ish short stuff such as 7d [Month between Shevat and Nisan] ADAR, 46d [Hematology prefix] SERO-, and 56a [Jumbotron displays, briefly] LEDS, and some others.
- 16a [Fountain with a wind] PETE. Pierre Dewey LaFontaine, Jr.
- 20a [Literally, half-year periods] SEMESTERS. Actually (yes, “actually”), the etymology is literally from Latin for ‘six months’ – which is the same as a ‘half-year period’ but not literally so.
- 35d [Ones who do things by the book?] LITERATI.
- 29a [Expected] DUE IN, 55a [ORD posting] ETA.
- 46a [Flat out?] SPARE TIRE. ‘Out’ as a noun.
… and that provides a segue to my own out.
Roland Huget’s Universal crossword, “All Wet”—Jim P’s review
The revealer is WATERFRONT (60a, [Harbor area, or a hint to what can precede either half of each starred answer?]). Each half of each of the other theme answers is “fronted” by “water.”
- 17a. [*Circle of hues] COLOR WHEEL. Water color, water wheel.
- 25a. [*Tripping concern at work] FALL HAZARD. Waterfall, water hazard. I’m giving this clue the side-eye. A tripping hazard is a tripping hazard. I’ve never heard of a FALL HAZARD, but OSHA says it’s a thing. Per Safeopedia.com: “Examples of fall hazards include weak or defective ladders, ledges without adequate railing, carrying heavy objects, stairways, using a fork truck without a proper personnel platform, failing to use a guardrail on a scaffold etc.” I’d argue none of those necessarily have anything to do with tripping. The clue could easily be fixed with [Workplace danger].
- 36a. [*Certain skin spot] BIRTHMARK. Water birth, watermark.
- 50a. [*Battery’s percentage] POWER LEVEL. Water power (more commonly known as hydropower), water level.
Nice theme. Maybe I’m in the minority, but I like this kind of theme and am usually surprised by the entries and how they all work together.
I’ve sure been seeing a lot of 9-letter central entries lately. These tend to bisect the grid making it difficult for the constructor to throw in long sparkly fill. We get the usual cluster of 7s in the corners, and they’re fine—even good, at times—but they just don’t have that certain je ne sais quoi that a long juicy entry has.
But on the whole, good theme and solid fill.