Daniel Larsen’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
(When’s the last time there was a themeless NYT puzzle by a woman? It feels like it’s been awhile.)
I was surprised to finish this puzzle in under 4 minutes, since I kept mistyping things and had to fix my answers along the way. I assume that lots of folks might have set a speed record on this puzzle, and that the mega speed demons like Stella, Tyler, Dan, et al., might have ridiculously low times close to 2 minutes. (But you do you. Whatever way you like to do the puzzle is great! No need to time yourself if that doesn’t interest you.)
The puzzle opens with a retro vibe, since LOLCATS are very dated on the internet scale of time. My 20-year-old son says LOLCATS were big when he was in 7th, 8th grade. These days? Well, a great many of the memes circulating since yesterday feature Bernie Sanders doing his Vermont dadcore look at the inauguration, sporting a sensible parka and a cozy pair of patterned wool mittens. This, of course, will be passé by next week. The CDS in a tower at 4d is also dated. How many of us who still have music CDs are storing them in a tower rack?
Often themeless puzzles that are packed with 7s feel rather dull to me, but we do have some zing here. Fave fill: HASHTAG, IPAD PRO, E.R. NURSE, PERSEUS, BALL HOG, HOME GYM, LIP RING, PSYCHED, SANDBOX, BENGALI, and GEYSERS. On the down side, AGONIST, LOCATOR, EARLOBE, and assorted spoken phrases that we’ve seen in a number of puzzles before.
Five more things:
- 33a. [Two swings and a slide, maybe], PLAY SET. Now, I’d probably call it a swing set with a slide, but Lowe’s sells a bunch of things labeled as playsets.
- 31a. [Dangerous thing to catch], GRENADE. Also the title of Bruno Mars’s second hit off his debut album.
- 5d. [Some sign language users], APES. I … do not like this clue one bit. I imagine a great many Deaf people who use ASL would take umbrage at this. I checked with a hearing friend who knows ASL and he’s also not a fan. Christ, all the ways in the world to clue APES, you gotta evoke the Deaf community in the typical solver’s mind and then they discover you tricked them and it’s about APES? This is trash.
- 11d. [___ army, villainous force in Disney’s “Mulan”], HUN. Hey, guess what? In the Wikipedia plot summary of last year’s live-action Mulan remake, there’s no mention of a Hun army. You gotta look back to the 1998 animated movie. No idea why the clue doesn’t include the year (unless somehow there’s a Hun army in the second movie that’s just as prominent as in the first one). It is nice to stray from the usual Attila vibe, though.
- 40d. [Causes consternation], DISMAYS. I need to use this word more often. That 5-Down clue is dismaying.
3.75 stars from me, minus more for that terrible clue.
Bruce Haight’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up
There have probably been dozens of golf-pun themed crosswords, but I’d wager some of these reinterpreted answers are new.
- 18a. [Difficult golf-shot?] HARD DRIVE.
- 24a. [Breakfast spot for golfers?] DOUGHNUT HOLE. This one seems a little iffy. Hole?
- 38a. [Low-quality golf equipment?] MICKEY MOUSE CLUB.
- 49a. [Golf simulator shot?] COMPUTER CHIP.
- 60a. [Place to meet single golfers?] DATE RANGE. See also 21a [Approximately] CIRCA.
Further, there’s some bonus content via 31d [Golf balls, e.g.] ORBS and 54d [Formally records, as a golf score] POSTS.
These are fairly good, but it’s hard to get excited about the theme.
- 2d [Non __: not so much, in music] TANTO. Not a word I’ve seen too often in crosswords.
- 11d [“The Night Circus” novelist Morgenstern] ERIN. She’s shared a playlist relevant to the book on her website. Well, links to Spotify and 8tracks versions of said list. Since I’m not registered with either, I leave it to you to investigate.
- 41d [POTUS, per Article II, Section 2] CINC, Commander-in-Chief. I learned this and various associated initialisms when I read the first couple of Tom Clancy books when they came out.
- 63d [Mauna __ ] KEA. I’m a bit bored with this clue/answer combo, so here’s a photograph of and some information about New Zealand’s endangered sometime-predatory parrot, Nestor notabilis.
- 45a [Easygoing folks] TYPE BS. That looks rather awful in-grid.
- 55a [State in two time zones] IDAHO. A somewhat unexpected division:
- 67a [Like dungeons, typically] DANK. Or stereotypically. Can’t say I’ve encountered many personally.
- 29d [Top choices] POLO SHIRTS. This clue definitely fooled me.
- 36d [First answer in the first-ever published crossword] FUN. Everyone here knows this bit of trivia, yes?
Caitlin Reid’s New Yorker crossword – Rachel’s writeup
Good morning and happy Friday, folks! I want to start this post by expressing my solidarity with the New Yorker Union’s 24 hour work stoppage that ended at 6am this morning, which is the same time this puzzle was released. Their union is organizing to demand fair wages and an equitable salary structure at the publication. You can read more about it here.
Unlike inequitable pay structures, however, this puzzle was super fun! I loved the long entries and the cool sort-of-stack through the middle, but the thing that always stands out for me in Caitlin Reid’s puzzles is the cluing voice. I just find her clues so funny and accessible (especially on Fridays), and I enjoyed the heck out of solving this puzzle.
The marquee entry today, positioned (unusually) as a down, is CLOSE BUT NO CIGAR, a fun phrase that I am now going to look up to learn its origins. Ok, apparently it comes from the early 20th century, when carnivals would hand out cigars as prizes at game booths. I love that!!! Not giving out cigars at carnivals, don’t do that, smoking is bad for you etc, but what a colorful phrase and fun origin story! Other colorful phrases in this puzzle include: DO I HAVE TO?! / AS PER USUAL / LET IT RIDE / HAND ME DOWN / RARIN TO GO. All crunchy, in-the-language phrases with pitch-perfect clues, including my favorite, [“Ugh, is this really necessary?”] for DO I HAVE TO?!. I’ll list more favorite clues below, but wanted to flag in this main text that first runner-up is [¯\_(ツ)_/¯] for NO IDEA. A few years ago I taught my phone and computer to autocorrect the word “shrug” to ¯\_(ツ)_/¯, and I have no regrets.
A few more things:
- Love to see BLOGS clued as [Many WordPress sites] because hey, this is a blog that is a WordPress site!
- Only hard thing for me in this grid was LASORDA, a person I have never heard of, but the crosses were totally reasonable
- More favorite clues:
- [“Well, lookie ___!”] for HERE
- [It might go over your head] for HOOD
- [Old school?] for ALMA MATER
- [“Typical!”] for AS PER USUAL
- No iffy fill at all!
Overall, I loved this puzzle. Such a smooth start to the weekend! All the stars from me.
Erik Agard’s Universal crossword, “College Expenses”—Jim P’s review
College puns! But wait, there’s more. Each one is related to the cost of higher education.
- 16a. [Tuition at a Wisconsin school?] MARQUETTE PRICE. Market price.
- 25a. [Tuition at a Texas school?] BILL OF RICE. Bill of rights.
- 32a. [With 33-Across, tuition at a Pennsylvania school?] PITT / COIN. Bitcoin.
- 43a. [Tuition at an Iowa school?] COE PAYMENT. Co-payment.
- 52a. [Tuition at a Louisiana school?] GRAMBLING DEBTS. Gambling debts. Best entry, IMO.
I love a nice, tight theme. It wouldn’t be so hard to come up with phrases based on college name puns, but to link them together with an additional constraint adds to the constructor’s difficulty and the solver’s payoff.
I also like the fact that with an 8-letter central revealer, the two 14-letter entries are placed in the third and thirteenth rows (as opposed to the fourth and twelfth rows). This results in the slightly unsightly columns of blocks in the NE and SW corners, but it allows for more breathability in the center of the grid.
That said, we don’t get any long extra-sparkly fill (mainly because of that split central revealer), but Erik makes good use of his 6s and 7s, such as Alan RICKMAN, DEAD AIR, QUEBEC crossing QATARI, BODEGAS, BAY AREA, BIG DEAL, and BEST BET. I also liked learning RECENCY [___ effect (memory bias toward items at the end of a list)].
Clues of note:
- 18a. [Actor or senator Jones]. DOUG. The actor plays Saru on Star Trek: Discovery. The senator…is no longer a senator as of January 3rd. He lost to Trumpist Tommy Tuberville. (Don’t forget that through January 31st the Universal 15×15 puzzles are re-runs from the old Puzzle Society site of a couple years ago. I know editor David Steinberg updated some clues, but this one must’ve just slipped by.)
- 38a. [Pinkie’s where?]. HAND. Ha! A fun play on the phrase “pinkie swear.”
- 39a. [You might hold one in captivity, or vice versa]. BOA. Another clever clue.
- 50a. [Dorsey of TV]. OMAR. Good to have another cluing angle for this crossword staple. See also AERIAL [ ___ Powers, aptly named women’s basketball star].
Very nice puzzle. Four stars.
Jenna LaFleur’s Inkubator crossword, “Themeless #15″—Jenni’s review
This is a fun puzzle. I didn’t find it particularly challenging, and that was OK. It’s been a long day and I was happy to have a relaxing few minutes of solving. I’ve done Jenna’s puzzles before so I was surprised to realize she didn’t have a tag for our blog. That’s because she’s previously contributed to Queer Crosswords and the Puzzle Society. Welcome to Fiendland, Jenna!
There’s something about the NW stack of POSTPUNK, INTERPOL, and CONTESSA that’s very appealing. It sounds like the summary of a very cool neo-Noir film.
Other things I liked:
- 22a [“I almost forgot!”] for OH, WAIT.
- 39a spanning the grid with NOT ONE‘S CUP OF TEA, clued as [Far from a favorite].
- Crayon nostalgia at 42a. [Italian town that lent its name to a color] is, of course, SIENA.
- Two photo finishes: MATTE and SATIN.
- Everything old is new again: 56a [Practice social distancing, in a way] is CLOISTER.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: never heard of any of the POSTPUNK bands mentioned in the clue for 1a (Priests, Preoccupations, and Protomartyr). Also did not know that MOSCOW has the busiest metro system in Europe or that INTERPOL‘s emblem features a globe and scales.