Grant Thackray’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
My solving time is likely longer than the puzzle’s difficulty level would merit. I am sleepy! Kept typing answers in the wrong space or wrong direction, or typing the wrong letters.
Alrighty then, what have we got here? Fave fill: PIE-HOLE, SPHINX, “DO THE MATH,” MANSPLAIN, PEACHY-KEEN. Less keen on ORT, EST, ROAN, YER.
- 1a. [Star Bucks, say?], NBA MVPS. As in the Milwaukee Bucks. Their star player is the Nigerian Greek Giannis Antetokounmpo, and I don’t watch much TV sports so I cannot pronounce that surname yet. Someday!
- 15a. [Gal Gadot, by birth], ISRAELI. And also by citizenship and primary residence, I believe.
- 34a. [Melon seeds?], IDEAS. Which type of melon does your head most resemble?
- 36a. [One of the few gemstones that naturally occur in a single color (olive green)], PERIDOT. Not quite true. My birthstone comes in a range of shades of sickly green. OH, TO be a November baby with topaz offering blue and pink in addition to the yellow/gold/amber/brown hues.
- 44a. [Sum of the first three prime numbers], TEN. I always want to include 1, but 2 + 3 + 5 = 10.
- 25d. [It’s usually around 9/10 of a pound], THE EURO. That definite article feels weird here. Anyone else trying to calculate 90% of 16 oz instead of seeing pound as the British currency?
What sort of vibe am I getting here? Let’s call it 3.8 stars. The puzzle felt rather more man-centric (even with MANSPLAIN in there) than I like, in terms of the overall fill and clues.
Jeffrey Wechsler’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up
I definitely recall at least one plumbing-themed crossword, but it wasn’t recent. So let’s go.
- 17a. [Morning beverage for a plumber?] PIPING HOT COFFEE.
- 26a. [Plumber’s response about connecting hardware?] FITTING ANSWER.
- 43a. [Like a successful plumber’s bank account?] FLUSH WITH CASH.
- 56a. [Where a plumber learns new moves?] TAP DANCE CLASS.
Dare I say workmanlike theme? Too late. But I’ll also say workwomanlike. Workpersonlike?
I’m tempted to say 23d [Donations to a fund drive, say] INFLOW is part of the theme, but as its symmetrical complement is Emma Thompson’s AGENT O, that’s a no. Instead I’ll rule INFLOW as theme-adjacent.
- 1d [Loose garment] CAPE. I’ve been looking for a fashionable CAPE for quite some time. Not so easy to find!
- 5d [Browning’s 44 “from the Portuguese”] SONNETS. That’s Elizabeth B.
- 9d [Millionth-of-a-meter measures] MICRONS. A COVID-19 virion is approximately 0.12 microns (μm) in diameter. Cheers.
- Check out the F-and-E cluster in the northeast!
- 30d [Raid victim?[ ROACH. Ouch.
- 49d [13-time NBA All-Star Dwyane] WADE. Also not a theme answer.
- 15a [One saying “Don’t do it!”] ANTI, followed by 16a [Say “Do it!”] URGE.
- Some crossword ringers, but the crossings are fair. Examples: In ESSE, ETERNE, OPA, LAO, EOE. (55d, 20a, 25a, 37a, 46a)
- 24d [Me time?] EGO TRIP. Seeing an opportunity for a cryptic clue. Something about a quadruple-threat’s obituary. If I had a little more time this morning, I’d try to work it out.
And speaking of little time, got to run. Honest, I tried to find a good plumbing song. Big Joe Turner’s “Call the Plumber” would’ve been nice, but the only version on YouTube was undesirable.
Anna Shechtman’s New Yorker crossword – Rachel’s writeup
Good morning, everyone! Today we have a lightly challenging puzzle from Anna Shechtman, and while I don’t always agree with the New Yorker’s puzzle ratings, I think lightly challenging is pretty apt for this one!
The long entries today were in the NW (CODE-SWITCH, ARISTOCRAT, NONPAREILS), SE (FACE TATTOO, OZONE LAYER, GENTEELEST), with a few others scattered throughout (SALT’N’PEPA, GOES IN FOR, MALE GAZE, CALLED IT!). I like most of these a lot, although I’m not sold on GENTEELEST. I enjoyed the NONPAREIL/SNOCAP cross-reference– SNOCAPs used to be my go-to movie snack, back when we could go to movies.
The higher-than-your-average-Friday difficulty for me is due to the knowledge base that Anna’s puzzles are built, which on is always a little outside my wheelhouse. Even her easier puzzles bring in arts-and-culture trivia that I get to learn from, instead of blazing through. See, for example, “The Burghers of Calais.” I know who RODIN is, but I’ve never heard of this sculpture, and now I’ve learned about it (and the event it commemorates, the siege of Calais during the Hundred Years’ War). Seems like a real missed opportunity that no one in Calais has opened a restaurant called the Burgers of Calais (I checked). See also the quote in the clue for MALE GAZE [It “projects its phantasy on to the female figure,” per the film theorist Laura Mulvey]. I didn’t know film theorist Laura Mulvey (and I couldn’t tell you why phantasy is spelled with a ph), so again I learned something new about a term I’d encountered before.
One last note on cluing voice and difficulty levels: this week, my friend Brooke Husic and I also published a puzzle with (spoiler alert) ABRA in it on Amanda Rafkin’s indie blog Brain Candy. Because we knew our audience would mostly be indie-puzzle-solvers, and because we were trying to write a harder puzzle, we weren’t concerned about guiding the solver to the answer the way Anna did with her clue. She clued ABRA as [Pokémon that, aptly, evolves into Kadabra]. I love this clue because, for anyone not at all familiar with Pokémon, there’s an obvious connection from ABRA to Kadabra. Brooke and I clued ABRA as [Pokémon that might eventually become Alakazam], which is the evolution of a Kadabra. This clue eliminates the hand-holding but still retains an element of guessability if you get a few of the crosses and are familiar with “magic words.” I think this is a neat case study in ways to scale up or down the difficulty of clues, and in some of the more subtle differences between indie and mainstream crossword publications.
A few more things:
- Favorite clue: [Ingredient in the mortar holding together the Great Wall of China] for RICE – this is a neat piece of trivia!
- Roald Dahl, of the clue [What witches don’t have, in Roald Dahl’s “The Witches”], was pretty anti-semitic and not a person I would put into the puzzle unnecessarily (plenty of ways to clue TOES!)
- Fill I could live without: AS AN, A TEE, STA, HTS
Overall, I enjoyed this puzzle and learned some things along the way, which is not so common with these easy Fridays. Lots of stars from me.
Rob Gonsalves & Jennifer Lim’s Universal crossword, “Party Refreshments”—Jim P’s review
Happy Lunar New Year! It’s a good time to have a(n outdoor) TAILGATE party, per this puzzle (60a, [Pregame festivity site, and a hint to the inserted letters at the starred answers’ ends]). Each of the theme answers is a well-known phrase with a single added letter at the end. Collectively, those letters spell GATE. Thus we have a tail GATE. Got it?
- 16a. [*Chicken piece that’s simple to cook?] EASY WING. I made some tandoori chicken last week and was thinking of trying it on wings. Maybe not the easiest thing to do, though.
- 24a. [*Small portion of macaroni?] HALF PASTA. Pasta at a party? Why not?
- 36a. [*Glass of ale, after being knocked over?] ROLLING PINT. Nooo! Party foul!
- 49a. [*Autobiography for a competitive dessert eater?] LIFE OF PIE. Is his name Richard Parker?
It’s a pretty fancy TAILGATE party that has pasta and pie, but I’ll take it. At first, I didn’t get the party food connection, but the title makes it clear. I enjoyed that extra layer of thematic consistency once I spotted it.
An 11-letter central themer really messes with the structure of a grid. Our constructors dealt with it by way of those large chunks of blocks in the east and west. The end result is that the grid is nearly bisected and lacks any juicy extra-long Down entries. But on the other hand, there’s nothing too iffy anywhere, and we still get RED FLAGS and BANK SHOT which are nice.
Clues are fairly straightforward. I did like 17d [Animal in a pop song?] for WEASEL. Cute.
Layla Beckhardt’s Inkubator crossword, “Layer Up”—Jenni’s review
I enjoyed Layla’s solo debut! I learned a lot from this puzzle, none of which had anything to do with the theme. I had no idea about the theme until I hit the revealer, which told me which answers were theme answers. 43a [Final layer….or a hint to 3-, 10-, 22-, and 25-Down] is TOP COAT.
The theme answers:
- 3d [Vibe killer] is TURNOFF.
- 10d [Treat that may be left out for Santa] is SUGAR COOKIE.
- 22d [Contingency plan for inclement weather] is RAIN CHECK.
- 25d [Domestic confinement] is HOUSE ARREST.
TURNCOAT, SUGAR COAT, RAIN COAT, HOUSECOAT. Nice! Solid, consistent, accessible.
A few other things:
- 1d [Intro course?] is a fun clue for APP. My husband and I have planned a Valentine’s dinner like the one we did on New Year’s Eve, when we spent the afternoon and evening cooking and then eating various APPs and tapas. We have fun cooking together and we can eat a few different things, more than we’d usually make for just the two of us. We finished off that meal with a spur-of-the-moment chocolate soufflé. We’ll see what tomorrow brings.
- I would love to MIGRATE south for part of the winter. Sigh. Maybe next year.
- I use CNET a lot for device reviews. We’re also following their suggested order for the Marvel Comic Universe movies. Before the pandemic, we’d seen a few here and there but hadn’t followed the entire arc. We watched “Infinity War” last weekend. I think we’ll get to “Endgame” tonight or tomorrow. #quarantinegoals. Maybe after that we’ll start with Wandavision. Or The Mandalorian. Who knows?
- It took me a while to figure out 39a, [2:55, maybe]. It’s THREEISH.
- We have our KORMA with chicken or lamb, not okra. There’s a really wonderful Indian restaurant very near our house that I’d never heard of until we started looking for new sources of takeout. We very much want them to stay in business, so we make the ultimate sacrifice and order from them at least twice a month. It’s our civic duty.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that there’s a character named GRU in “Despicable Me” or that a SNOCat is featured in “The Shining.” I also had no idea that LEFOU was the first openly gay Disney character. I haven’t seen either the animated or live-action “Beauty and the Beast” because I’m not a fan of stories where abusive abductors end up as romantic heroes, even if the heroine is a book lover. Leaving my limited movie knowledge behind, I didn’t know that Outkast recorded an apology to MS JACKSON.