Kameron Austin Collins’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Hello again! We’re back with another themeless puzzle in Black History Month’s week of NYT puzzles crafted by Black constructors. This one’s by Kameron, who’s a themeless specialist as well as a Rolling Stone film critic. It played easier than Erik’s Friday puzzle for me, but perhaps I’m just channeling Kameron’s wavelength by virtue of doing pretty much all of his New Yorker puzzles.
(Side note: Kameron Austin Collins and Brendan Emmett Quigley both have 7/6/7 letter counts in their tripartite names.)
Lots of fresh fill here. I liked the chatty entries, “BE PATIENT” and “GREAT WORK!” Other colorful entries include HERSTORIES, the BORSCHT BELT, THE WEST WING, DISH IT OUT crossing DISSED, NERDCORE (new to me: 50a. [Music genre that includes “geeksta rap”]; see the MC Frontalot video below, with full captioning), HOT-WIRING, and HERBAL TEA.
Did you notice how wildly open this grid is? Long things intersecting other long things, great flow around the racetrack and into the NE and SW annexes. There aren’t a lot of 3-letter entries crossing all the stacked pairs of long answers, and this was not an easy grid to fill cleanly. The worst thing in the grid is EFTS, a bit on the crosswordese side, but it pretty much stands alone. I don’t love plural NANOS. The rest ranges from rock-solid to sparkling like a ONE-CARAT diamond.
Five more things from clueland:
- 5d. [Home of the Nez Perce Indian Reservation], IDAHO. I like centering the Nez Perce Tribe here. Last week, President Biden impressed me by talking about “the states, territories, and tribes” in his vaccine plan. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a president really pay heed to the many indigenous Nations within the US borders and the colonized territories. Representation matters.
- 24a. [A real cinematic tour de force?], STAR WARS. As in “may the Force be with you.” Cute.
- 41a. [Government program?], THE WEST WING. Clever mislead in the clue. TV program with a government setting, not a federal program.
- 7d. [More venerated … or ventilated?], HOLIER. I tell ya, Swiss cheese needs the airflow.
- 16d. [Getting started the wrong way?], HOT-WIRING. Good clue.
4.25 stars from me for this NO-NONSENSE puzzle with an impressive grid layout.
Ezra Brauner’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
This is another new name to me, and this puzzle took me few beats longer to solve. His name was in the database, so there may be some other LAT puzzles that have the same byline. I count 70 words in this one, with 12 entries that are 9- or 10-letters long. I didn’t realize this until opening this one up in some software, but there are 28 5-letter words here! Two corners are chock full of them. This one pushed back slightly, but ended up being a fun solve overall. Looking forward to more puzzles from Ezra! 4.3 stars today.
A few notes:
- 15A [Early program marketing method] SHAREWARE – Now I think there are free demos that accomplish a similar purpose.
- 38A [Justice who clerked for Thurgood Marshall] ELENA KAGAN – She is definitely crossword famous at this point. Look at all of those vowels!
- 44A [Uses Venmo, say] PAYS – These types of payments are so easy now. I worry that I will need cash when a disaster hits and the power is out for an extended period of time.
- 51A [Harley-Davidson’s NYSE symbol] HOG –
- 59A [Shemar’s “Criminal Minds” role] DEREK – This puzzle went up several notches in my mind after this entry was solved!
- 7D [Marketing tailored to personal tastes] TARGETED AD – These are the ads that pop up on Facebook that you never Googles but said something out loud about and your phone heard you!
- 12D [“We’re cool”] “IT’S ALL GOOD” – Great casual phrase!
- 39D [Ballet whose title heroine dies in Act I] GISELLE – Tom Brady’s wife has only one L, in case you were wondering.
- 45D [With 48-Down, only its Touch is still in production] APPLE – See next clue …
- 48D [See 45-Down] IPOD – They still make this? I just looked it up, and they do still sell this iPhone without the phone part. Why would anyone buy this?
- 56D [Saigon New Year] TET – This is in 6 days, I believe. This is the lunar new year, right?
That is all! Enjoy your weekend!
Greg Johnson’s Newsday crossword, “Themeless Saturday” – Derek’s write-up
Under ten minutes! One side effect of the easier “Stumpers” is my time footprint is a wee bit smaller. This frees up time to do other puzzles! I am getting on Greg’s wavelength a bit, so that helped for this one. Great 68-worder today. 4.5 stars from me.
A few things:
- 8A [Publisher sponsoring the National Spelling Bee] SCRIPPS – This is coming up in May. I don’t remember how they treated this last year. Was it virtual or just canceled?
- 31A [Team of 10] LACROSSE PLAYERS – I had exposure to lacrosse in grade school, but it is way more popular on the east coast than here in the midwest. Not at all sure why. It is on tv every so often, although probably not recently due to the pandemic.
- 54A [Converted to an MP4 file] ENCODED – I spent an hour trying to do this very thing Friday night and STILL didn’t know what this was!
- 2D [Place for a photo] LOCKET – Vague clue, but accurate nonetheless. Do people still do this, or is putting someone on your phone’s wallpaper the modern equivalent?
- 5D [Question heard while leaving work] “HEADED HOME?” – Terrific casual phrase!
- 13D [Alternative to regular drip coffee] POUR OVER – Is this like Sanka?
- 27D [Part of an FDR collection] STAMP ALBUM – He was a stamp collector??
- 32D [Daughter of Oedipus] ANTIGONE – I kind of knew this, but the podcast Two Girls, One Crossword discussed this at length a couple of weeks ago, so it was fresh in my mind!
- 33D [Trust placed] CREDENCE – This was slightly tough. PRUDENCE also fit, and I wasn’t sure which was correct.
- 42D [Motley] RAGTAG – Is this one word or two?
Everyone have a safe and healthy weekend!
Randolph Ross’ Wall Street Journal crossword, “Post Office Boxes” — pannonica’s write-up
One might presume from the title that this would involve rebus squares, but that isn’t the case. The boxes in question are just regular crossword squares, and the theme is postal reinterpretations of common phrases, to varying degrees.
- 23a. [Post office birth?] SPECIAL DELIVERY.
- 32a. [Postal directive for some Jersey-bound parcels?] SHIP TO SHORE.
- 47a. [Post office’s folder for advertising flyers?] CIRCULAR FILE.
- 69a. [Post office collectible celebrating restaurants?] FOOD STAMPS. Kind of like the current issue fruits and vegetables series:
- 85a. [Post office patron from the University of Oklahoma?[ NORMAN MAILER.
- 105a. [Good buy at the post office?] PACKAGE DEAL.
- 115a. [Do some shoving at a post office box?] PUSH THE ENVELOPE. Yah, I sometimes used to joke that I was pushing the envelope, but just desultorily about the desk.
- 16d. [Speech by the Postmaster General after coming back from vacation?] RETURN ADDRESS. Reminder: bad dude (111a [They’re not nice] NASTIES) Louis De Joy is still occupying that position. Unclear whether he’ll remain.
- 56d. [Item in a Washington post office?] CAPITAL LETTER.
These are just moderately entertaining to me. Kind of like the post office at its best—getting the job done without being fancy about it.
- 1d [Persnickety person] FUSSPOT. Now there’s a word I haven’t seen in a while.
- 8d [Worth a look] SCENIC. Nice little clue. Economical and clever.
- 29d [Eurydice’s husband] ORPHEUS. Getting close to the time of year when Rio’s Carnaval would in non-pandemic times be celebrated, so why not drop in a little music?
- 35d [Equestrian’s attire] HABIT. Did not know that.
- 74d [Hellish, in a way] DANTEAN. Another word I haven’t seen much of. You’d think there’d be more call for it. Or maybe it’s just a bit too awkward for common usage.
- 94d [Programmer’s backup] APP CODE. Needed almost all the crossings for this one. Makes sense in retrospect.
- 95d [Spruce up, as the walls] REPAPER. Uh-huh. I of course tried REPAINT first.
- 96d [Remnants of rivers] DRYBEDS. Arroyos is nicer (bit it can also refer to a flowing river). Wadi is closer; not as common in crosswords as it once was.
- Manhattan geography! 8a [Tourist attraction on 5th Ave.] ST PATS, 86d [Cultural attraction on 53rd St.] MOMA.
- 20a [Poirot’s last case] CURTAIN. Kind of wanted it to be a COFFIN. Perhaps I’m too morbid.
- 40a [Dorm arrangement] MEAL PLAN. Doesn’t have too much to do with a dormitory, though. Both are associated with college campuses and … well, I guess it’s fairly likely that a dorm resident is going to also have a meal plan. But the clue still feels weird to me.
- 44a [Duds] for GARB is rendered significantly less tricky as it follows 42a [Skimpy sleepwear] TEDDIES.
- 57a [Shot putter?] SALOON. Too much of a stretch?
- 80a [Booby relative] GANNET.
- 114a [Prefix with arch or linear] MATRI-. Can’t say I’ve seen that much in crosswords either, but it seems fine to me, with a solid clue.
- 5d [Period when dinosaurs appeared] TRIASSIC. Wondering if some solvers perhaps confidently put in JURASSIC. (Not I.) 2d. [Board, in a way] ENPLANE.
Richard D. Allen’s Universal crossword, “Digital Connection” — Jim Q’s write-up
THEME: Phrases that share the name of a digital device that has a screen.
- INFLATABLE TOY. Tablet.
- KEEP HONEST. Phone.
- DRIP COFFEE. PC.
- (revealer) SCREEN SHARING.
Odd that the term “SCREEN SHARING” is so commonplace now, for me anyway as a teacher. Last year, this very revealer wouldn’t have struck me as something “in-the-language.” Now it’s very much a part of my day-to-day life, sharing my screen in my Google Meets and Zooms to serve as a chalkboard in a sense.
Still this wasn’t my favorite puzzle with this sort of concept. For starters, the themers seem to be sharing the device, not the screen. The screen is part of the device, but they could also be sharing all sorts of other stuff besides screens. PC in particular is so short in comparison to TABLET and PHONE that it doesn’t seem to belong. Also it’s an abbreviation where the others aren’t.
And lastly, my age-old plaint that Universal is still running crosswords that are dependent on circles, yet they are asking the bulk of its solvers to count and circle their own letters. I was given an alert that this would be changing, but that was about a year ago.
Fill on this was just fine, and I solved very steadily north to south. Nice K-POP / PSY cross :)
2.4 Stars today.