Erik Agard’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Are you like me, kids? Do your eyes light up when you see Erik’s byline, especially on a themeless puzzle? We’re in luck!
Erik strives to make his puzzles inclusive and representative, and he succeeds wildly. RAZOR gets clued as [Product from Bevel or Oui the People], which are companies serving the skin care needs of diverse populations. The Reconstruction ERA was, horrifyingly, counteracted with things like the Wilmington massacre targeting Black elected officials and a newspaper owner. Poet RITA Dove is Black. REPARATIONS are long-needed. DE LA Soul is old-school hip (cute video, below, from 1989). Mary LOU Williams was a jazz pianist; you can listen to her Greatest Hits here (I am 23 minutes into it and I’m digging it). There’s the [Online magazine co-founded by Henry Louis Gates Jr.], THE ROOT—I love The Root! They’ve got some brilliant writers. For example, here’s a new piece from Michael Harriot (who’s also a great storyteller on Twitter) about Charlie Case, the Black man who (SPOILERS alert) pioneered stand-up comedy in the vaudeville era. James EARL Jones, The Talk host EVE, and SOLO ACT Beyoncé are here. Islam gets FATIMA and Ramadan FASTS. PROF gets a Spelman College clue, referencing the HBCU (historically Black college/university). Sherpas get a shout-out for NEPAL. PLUMES are a distinctive feature of Marcus Garvey’s helmet. Kenya exports lots of TEA, and the TAO Te Ching is Asian. I liked seeing every one of these people, places, and things in the puzzle.
Five more things:
- It wouldn’t be an Agard themeless without clever clues. 13a. [Pop up a lot, perhaps?] clues NEW DAD, a pop who is up a lot at weird hours with the baby, but the clue sure sounds like it’s got a verb phrase in “pop up a lot.”
- 29a. [What you’re in when you’re in the zone], FLOW STATE. Pretty sure Erik is in a flow state whenever he’s competing in a crossword tournament, like last weekend’s Boswords Winter Wondersolve (where Erik did amazingly, again).
- 3d. [A fine way to discourage foul language?], SWEAR JAR. Great answer, great clue. The swear jar enacts a small monetary fine. I personally do not believe in the swear jar because I find swearing useful.
- 9d. [Underground rap?], SECRET KNOCK. Another great clue that tempts your mind in the wrong direction.
- 31d. [Language in which you might be greeted “Hullo, hoo are ye?”], SCOTS. Is it bad that I needed plenty of crossings here?
Fill I liked, in addition to everything mentioned above: SHELL OUT money, COVER LETTER, “I’M ALL EARS,” and ROAD TEST. Good stuff. This is a 66-worder (tougher to fill than a 72-worder) and there is no iffy fill. Like, none at all. An impressive grid.
4.5 stars from me. Keep ’em coming, Erik!
Caitlin Reid’s New Yorker crossword – Rachel’s writeup
Fridays are just the best days. Themeless puzzles are the best puzzles.* Caitlin Reid is one of the best themeless puzzle-makers in the game, and this is one of the best themeless puzzles I’ve done all week (along with today’s NYT by @E_A_RLY, which was also gorgeous). HAPPY THEMELESS FRIDAY, FOLKS!
Part of what makes this puzzle feel so fun is that it’s just. so. smooth. Every bit of fill is splendid and fits perfectly into the ~mood~ of the grid. What does that even mean? I’m not sure, but it feels right! The long entries are fun, although I tried to get cute and throw in the spanner without any crosses, putting in I MUST BE DREAMING (also 15) instead of AM I SEEING THINGS (the correct 15). [Note to other constructors, I will be using that seed immediately, plz don’t scoop me]. I also love SKIP TOWN, HEAR HEAR, ARE WE DONE, ALLIGATOR, HOLE-IN-ONE, and PINOT NOIR (which always makes me think of the Tituss Burgess song from Kimmy Schmidt).
A few more things:
- Favorite clues:
- [“A lively comedy about a guy who isn’t,” for “Weekend at Bernie’s”] for TAGLINE
- [[Who cares?]] for SHRUG (not *quite* as good as ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ but I still loved it)
- MIRO has popped up a few times in the past week. Baader-Meinhof?
- I enjoyed the repeated clue [Dot(s) on a map] for ISLE/CITIES
Tons of stars from me, happy Friday, enjoy your weekend!
*I don’t actually mean that, I think, I’m just on a themeless high right now. All puzzle-types are good and valid and beautiful in their own way.
Gary Larson’s Universal crossword, “Grist for the Mill”—Jim P’s review
GRAIN ELEVATOR (19d. [Farmer’s storage facility, and a hint to the starred answers’ backward hidden words]) is the revealer, indicating that the circled words in the other theme answers are grains going in the Up direction.
- 4d. [*Greek morsel with a meaty texture] KALAMATA OLIVE. Oat.
- 14d. [*Tour for a speaker] LECTURE CIRCUIT. Rice.
- 8d. [*Longtime cover artist for The Saturday Evening Post] NORMAN ROCKWELL. Corn.
Nice. All of the chosen theme answers are well-known and in-the-language, and the keywords span both words in each entry. Simple but effective.
There isn’t much in the long non-theme department aside from “I PRESUME” and FOREGONE. There is some crosswordese as usual (LAO TSE, ET AL, OP CIT). On the whole, the fill is pretty much straight over the plate.
Clues of note:
- 1a. [You may feed them bread crumbs]. DUCKS. But only in moderation, please.
- 25d. [Third baseman Longoria]. EVAN. Wait, there’s an EVAN Longoria and an Eva Longoria? There’s gotta be a theme there somewhere.
Solid theme. Everything else is fairly standard fare. 3.5 stars.