Freddie Cheng’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Indulge Yourself”—Jim P’s review
Thanksgiving Day is nigh upon us, and here comes a puzzle giving us the go-ahead to indulge…as long as we’re partaking of the ZERO CALORIE (62a, [Dietary info for some treats, and for the starred answers?]) “foods” listed in this grid. Of course, these aren’t actually foods, but food nicknames for people.
- 17a. [*Whiz] SMART COOKIE
- 21a. [*Muscly man] BEEFCAKE
- 34a. [*Honey] SWEETIE PIE
- 43a. [*Sexy fellow] STUD MUFFIN. Almost synonymous with BEEFCAKE, yeah?
- 53a. [*Attractive accompanier] ARM CANDY. This one is potentially offensive, but a generic clue is the right approach. At the very least, it’s an equal-opportunity offender.
I thought this was fun and lively. I like that all the foods listed are sweet treats as opposed to an entry like WET NOODLE. What are some other food-based sobriquets (sweet or savory) for people?
WEAR A SMILE and METALCRAFT are the marquee long Downs, but I think I like FANBOYS a bit more and PAROLEE gets a great clue [Someone who doesn’t finish a sentence]. ZSA ZSA makes an appearance for you scrabbly types. Have you ever noticed how hard it is to type ZSA ZSA?
Clues of note:
- 1a. [Grumpy response to being roused]. I’M UP. I went with a surly WHAT!?
- 63d. [Guest accommodation]. COT. One, you shouldn’t be having guests, but two, put them up in a real bed, not a COT.
Sweet—but not too sweet—puzzle. 3.75 stars.
The WSJ takes the holiday off, so I won’t be dishing out any posts tomorrow. For those of you partaking in the festivities, have a safe and peaceful Thanksgiving.
John Guzzetta & Jeff Chen’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
I like the theme idea much better than the execution. The basic concept is taking a two-word phrase or compound word, changing each part to a homophone, and flipping their order, ending up with (ideally) familiar phrases:
- 16a. [Prince, e.g.], MALE HEIR. Not Prince the musical legend, alas. The simple clue got my hopes up!
- 25a. [Stamp on an envelope [and 16-Across flipped]], AIR MAIL. Solid pairing.
- 31a. [It takes a glider up to launch altitude], TOWPLANE. My dad took glider lessons when I was a kid.
- 44a. [Basic kind of shoe [and 31-Across flipped]], PLAIN TOE. I was going to call bullsh*t on this because it’s not a term I’ve ever seen. I Googled it—the clue really ought to have specified men’s shoes, because this is not a phrase that’s used for women’s shoes.
- 50a. [Golf reservation], TEE TIME.
- 63a. [Herbal drink full of antioxidants [and 50-Across flipped]], THYME TEA. I have a whole bunch of thyme in my fridge from a farm-oriented delivery service right now, yes, but I can’t say I’ve ever heard of thyme tea. This can’t possibly be something that even 1% of solvers have had in their home, can it?
Are there other possible pairings that work better than some of these (even if the letter counts don’t fit this theme layout)?
Kind of an odd grid, with eight Down answers of 8 to 10 letters intersecting a theme of 7s and 8s. I like BALLGOWNS (my kingdom for a Billy Porter clue instead of [Concerns for Cinderella and her stepsisters]!), SLOUCHED, and PAST TENSE. ARID ZONE is awfully … arid, isn’t it?
Three more things:
- 15a. [Polar ___ (weather phenomenon)], VORTEX. A phrase that strikes terror into the hearts of Midwesterners every winter. You eyeball the weather map, and you see warmer temps up in Arctic Canada than down in Chicago, and you weep.
- 4d. [Buck ___, first African-American coach in Major League Baseball], O’NEIL. I watched Ken Burns’ Baseball with my husband back in the day. All I remember of it is that I adored Buck O’Neil.
- 28d. [Greeting south of the border], HOLA. A very Anglo friend of mine has been using this greeting for years, and she lives in Minnesota. I daresay millions of Americans, Latinx and otherwise, also use the word. Someone else, maybe on Twitter, was recently pointing out the ethnocentricity of assigning foreignness to words and foods. You know how Chinese food words typically get “restaurant” or “menu” clues, as if nobody’s doing home-cooked Chinese food? Something to think about while writing (or editing) clues.
Here’s a performance of the song in 70a. Actress Sissy Spacek did her own singing when she portrayed Loretta Lynn in the movie by the same title.
2.75 stars from me.
Erik Agard’s New Yorker crossword – Rachel’s writeup
Another cool grid shape! New Yorker is on a streak with these different-looking grids, today’s featuring a pretty segmented design with four corners and a middle section, and two grid-spanning (15s) connecting the N/S on either side. Very visually appealing!
The puzzle features MARIAME KABA, a prison abolitionist and activist, in the central position. It actually took me a couple of tries to find her using google after the solve because I had mentally parsed her name as Maria Mekaba, and then Mariam Ekaba. When I got it right, I realized I had read some of her work in the NYT over the summer re: conversations about defunding/abolishing the police. It’s a powerful piece, and I recommend reading it! Other women of color featured in this puzzle include Claressa SHIELDS, ASHANTI, Audre LORDE, DANA Davis, and my personal favorite, Peppermint, the first out transgender woman to compete on RuPaul’s Drag Race. As usual, Erik’s puzzle shines from the intentional inclusion of historically underrepresented people. There are a million and one ways to clue SHIELDS, and the choice to use a name that some solvers may not know, and to cross it with completely gettable downs because she deserves to be in a crossword puzzle, is quintessential Agard.
The grid-spanners today are INSTANT MESSAGES [Slacks, e.g.] and CENTRAL AMERICAN [Like Costa Rica], and we also have longer entries STRAPPED IN and ONLINE GAME. Solid stuff!
A few more things:
- Love the casual inclusion of delicious foods that I didn’t know about in the clue for ATE [Enjoyed some mangú, say]. Mangú is a Dominican dish made of mashed plantains.
- The clue on TPING is also excellent [Decorating with white squares, for short]
- ARO is short for Aromantic, which describes a person who does not feel (or rarely feels) romantic attraction.
Overall, all the stars from me. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! See you Friday.
Ben Tausig’s AVCX, “Spoiled Rotten” — Ben’s Review
Happy Wednesday! I hope you’re all staying safe as we prep for an unusual Thanksgiving weekend. AVCX Editor Ben Tausig has today’s grid, and there’s an appropriately food-y theme:
- 20A: Run away from Vermont’s junior senator during a game of tag? — FLEE THE BERN
- 34A: Classic Fender electric axe, right off the assembly line? — FRESH STRAT
- 41A: Food catcher worn by one’s especially fanatical toddler? — BIB FOR A NUT
- 52A: Jokes about pads used to expand the backs of nineteenth-century women’s dresses? — BUSTLE HUMOR
- 67A: Go bad, kind of like the foods circled in this puzzle — TURN
Each of these answers has a food (EEL, TART, TUNA, SUB) that’s “turned” inside of it, causing it to turn from a more well-known phrase (FEEL THE BERN, FRESH START, Star Wars henchman BIB FORTUNA, and SUBTLE HUMOR) into the zanier answers above.
Giving you the sweet, sweet
BIB FOR A NUT BIB FORTUNA content you crave.
other fill/cluing I enjoyed: “Scoring highlight” for ORGASM, STORKS, “Extremely adorable predator” for KITTEN, PLAUDIT
Ardeshir Dalal’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary
There is a good puzzle in here, but some of the execution baffles me. Admittedly, it already put me off the 1A says [See 62-Across]. The puzzle connects the Mary Poppins phrase “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” to the TV show (not clued as such) SUPER/NANNY. I can’t fathom why the theme answers are in the order they are, other than construction convenience. As presented, they spell out: “supercaliociousisticfragilexpialid”, which is just goofy. I also feel if your puzzle layout requires you to have MXXI (and crossing EXED), you redesign.
Interesting that MOOR refers to Noyes “The Highwayman” and ROAD to Frost’s “The Road Not Taken”, both poems I associate as High School English staples.
[Web surfing tool] – MODEM. Hello, the 20th century wants their clue back.