Will Nediger’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
There’s a muted M vibe in this puzzle, with PENUMBRA and RUMINATE and BLUES MUSIC and ROSEMARY branching through the grid. Somehow these are the entries that called to me, more than the showy BIZARRO WORLD, NERD PROM, and “GEE, YA THINK?”
Moving along to some things:
- 4d/16a STEVE KERR seems to be a good guy. He was rather less distinguished as a Bulls player amid superstars, but looks to be a good coach.
- 20a. [Insects that may lack mouths], MOTHS. Sounds … nightmarish?
- 28a. [The Atlantic, but not the Pacific, for short], ZINE. What? No. The Atlantic is a magazine. A zine is a different thing altogether. I’m an online subscriber to the Atlantic, which has some great politics and science writers. Their best-known science writer, Ed Yong, is on book leave, but other capable writers are working the COVID beat. Here’s a Katherine Wu article on how our antibodies and such adapt to virus changes.
- 27a. [Word with red or reason], SEE. I like this clue, but see here, when RED SKY is across the way, that memorable clue means you sort of feel like RED is already in the puzzle when you hit RED SKY, and it’s not a good echo.
- 51a. [Upbraids], REPROACHES. I wanted REPRIMANDS off those first four letters, which also put me in mind of REPROVES. You know who’s on the receiving end of these REPR- verbs? Reprobates.
- 31d. [Stuff in stuffing], ROSEMARY. Dammit, I’ve only been using sage. And now you tell me, three months after Thanksgiving, that rosemary should be included? I do like the herb.
- 36d. [Popular ice drink], SLURPEE. Finally! Too many ICEEs in crosswords, not enough Slurpees.
- 17a. [Holiday production?], BLUES MUSIC. I had never sat down and listened to Billie Holiday singing “Strange Fruit” till tonight (and I read the lyrics at the same time). Wow, is that heartrending. The song, which of course is about lynching, was written by one Abel Meeropol, the son of Russian Jewish immigrants and onetime professor to James Baldwin. If you haven’t heard the song, or Holiday’s rendition of it, do check it out.
Four stars from me.
George Jasper Universal crossword, “Language Barrier” — Jim Q’s write-up
THEME: Languages are “broken” within rows of the puzzle
- MARITAL / IAN HOLM. Italian.
- NIAGARA / BICYCLE. Arabic.
- STEIGER / MANDELA. German.
- MACHINE / SEA SALT. Chinese.
The title and the circled letters gives the theme away before beginning on this one. Normally I gripe that the widely published version of the Universal puzzle doesn’t circle its letters (when it should). In this case, I think it would be more fun to let the solvers find the languages without the added nudge.
These types of themes are much more difficult to construct than they appear. Where it looks light on theme (with only four words, right? Italian, Chinese, Arabic, and German), there are actually eight words occupying four entire rows. That puts a lot of strain on the grid, especially with fill that has to cross multiple entries. However, this one stands strong with impressive finds like GREEN DAY and AL PACINO each crossing themers.
Gary Larson’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Shoe Last” — pannonica’s write-up
The form this theme takes is two-word phrases ending in a word that can be reinterpreted as a type of shoe. The whole thing is thus recast punnily.
- 22a. [Footwear for housekeepers?] VACUUM PUMPS.
- 24a. [Footwear for plumbers?] SINK CLOGS. Ack! I just wrote about a punny plumber theme yesterday.
- 42a. [ … for ad agency workers?] PITCHING WEDGES. Had to look this up to understand the original; it’s a type of golf club.
- 67a. [ … for dentists?] DRILLING PLATFORMS.
- 97a. [ … for Alaska fishermen?] COLDWATER FLATS.
- 118a. [ … for spa workers?] MUD SLIDES. Mudslide is typically one word.
- 122a. [ … for coin makers?] MINT JELLIES.
This feels like a very standard theme, but it’s done well enough.
- 1d [Like linen] WOVEN, though my first impulse was to write in CRISP. Talk about advertising pitches.
- 8d [Capital once called Philadelphia] AMMAN. This was a fact I briefly knew long ago.
- 15d [Brooks with an EGOT] MEL. Is an EGOT something you have or something you are?
- 24d [Underlying theme] SUBTEXT. None of that going on in this crossword, as far as I can tell.
- 45d [Moth repellent] CEDAR. My first instinct—no matter the length of the entry—is to try either PDB or PARADICHLOROBENZINE, then CAMPHOR. It makes no sense. But CEDAR is far less dangerous.
- 52d [Shoe locale] HOOF. Not part of the theme.
- 68d [Maker of many bricks] LEGO. Google suggests there about 400 billion Lego bricks in the world. Not sure how recent that tally is.
- 72d [Purple competitor] SERTA. So now I’ve learned that Purple is a mattress brand.
- 78d [Soft on a piano, e.g.] PEDAL. I thought this was going to be one of those wordplay clues because ‘piano’ means ‘soft’. But it’s straightforward. Oh, also not part of the theme.
- 2d [Foaming at the mouth] IRATE, 81d [Foaming-at-the-mouth feeling] ANGER; 89d [Whirling motion] GYRATION, 91d [Whirling motion] EDDY.
- 74a [Wish receiver] STAR. I’d say “addressee”.
- 82a [You might get it to go] GAS. Zippy clue.
- 89a [Flyer in a mask, e.g.] GOALIE. As in, Phillydelphia.
- 124a [Ingredient used by bakers of pizzelle cookies] ANISE OIL. I-S-E-O-I is a weird letter string to see in a grid. Good find.
Adrian Johnson & Jeff Chen’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
Adrian Johnson’s name was not in the database on this blog site; do we have a debut puzzle? If so, what a debut! I have had the pleasure of working with Jeff myself, and he is a pro. This is a stellar themeless with 6 15-letter entries interlocking in the grid. Lots of interesting fill in here even with the constraints of the long entries all over the place. Having made a few puzzles myself, I appreciate the art of filling the grid; it is not always easy! 4.5 stars from me.
Some comments, which may be slightly skewed toward the 15-letter entries(!):
- 17A [They may work on profiles] PORTRAIT ARTISTS – Slightly tricky clue, but not too thorny.
- 37A [Cause of a faux pas, perhaps] LAPSE IN JUDGMENT – I have had a few of these in my day …
- 40A [Draft portmanteau] KEGERATOR – I was going to buy one of these years ago, but let’s face it: I don’t drink that much beer! It would be a waste of money for me. But if you’re a beer drinker, it is always better on tap!
- 50A [Additional characters, in gamerspeak] ALTS – I don’t know this term, but I am not a gamer either! Thusly, I don’t know “gamerspeak!”
- 56A [Seatbelt campaign slogan] “CLICK IT OR TICKET” – This campaign is several years old. I remember being younger when this not only wasn’t the law, but shoulder belts and infant car seats didn’t even exist!
- 3D [Acting incentive] MORAL IMPERATIVE – Sometimes this is quite subjective to different people, but a great entry nonetheless.
- 7D [What might cause you to forget your lines?] BOTOX INJECTIONS – One of the best clues in the puzzle!
- 11D [One who’s typically up] POSITIVE THINKER – This is me!
- 33D [Really liked something, man] DUG IT – Sounds like something a hippie might say; I don’t think the “kids these days” say this much! But I have no idea; I am just a grumpy old man!
- 42D [Some choir members] ALTI – This is always a tricky plural. I don’t have an issue with ALTOS!
- 49D [Wafer giant] NECCO – I hate these things. My wife loves them, but I think they taste like sour chalk.
That is all! Time to do more puzzles!
Matthew Sewell’s Newsday crossword, “Themeless Saturday” – Derek’s write-up
Another sub 10-minute “Stumper” solve; I think I better set a new barometer for what it considered a good time on these. I used to be ecstatic to get one solved in under 10 minutes; I better shoot for 7 or 8 now that they are easier. But that is my time: if you find that it takes you longer, that is OK! The fun is the key. This one did have a few twists and turns in it to give a little resistance. I hope your fun level was as high as my enjoyment level was! 4.6 stars today.
A few favorites:
- 1A [Ill-fated Shakespearean spouse] DESDEMONA – Learn your Shakespeare! This is a character from Othello. I think.
- 15A [Non-mechanized, as meals] ARTISANAL – This fancy word has even been used by McDonalds to describe a burger or sandwich. The nerve!
- 17A [Top for telemeetings] ZOOM SHIRT – Great entry, and timely to boot! I will admit: I dont concentrate to heavily on what pants I am wearing when on Zoom!
- 22A [Unstinting] OPENHANDED – This broadly means “generous.” I don’t think I have ever used this word. Maybe that is a statement about me … ?
- 34A [Went unchecked] RAN RIOT – Did you have RAN AMOK in here too at first? I can’t be the only one!
- 36A [Italian cocktail named for a painter] BELLINI – I tried MARTINI first. I didn’t think that sounded right!
- 37A [Even more certain, in logic] A FORTIORI – This is a legal term for a surer argument? That was a question; I had to look this up in the dictionary! I told you this puzzle had some twists!
- 57A [Twist entreaty] “PLEASE, SIR…” – As in Oliver Twist. Another tricky clue! I think I like this one the best!
- 22D [Went too far] OVERREACTED – Also tricky: OVERREACHED fits here and also works!
- 31D [Not worth __] A RAP – I don’t know this phrase. Is there a work where this appears?
Everyone have a safe and healthy weekend!