Ann Shan’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
We’ve got an astrologically bovine theme today, though it’s a bit weird it didn’t run closer to the Lunar New Year. Why not February 10 or 17? Neither date overlapped with the six-day almost-a-week festival of puzzles by Black constructors.
- Revealer: 53a. [2021 in the Chinese zodiac, with a hint to 17-, 27- and 40-Across], YEAR OF THE OX.
- 17a. [Avoids, with “of”], STEERS CLEAR.
- 27a. [Good time on Wall Street], BULL MARKET.
- 40a. [Open audition, informally], CATTLE CALL.
With the non-bovine cluing angles for the themers, I didn’t realize what the theme was till I reached the revealer! Just me?
Nice-looking grid. I think this might be the constructor’s debut, in which case, wow! Those themers crossing the thick stacks with 8s and 12s? Some nice 7s to boot? Generally smooth fill? ENIGMAS, GALILEO, CHEESE GRATER, AGE WELL, FIRESIDE CHAT, ELOQUENT … good stuff. Moved me right past fixating on AGORAS, ALTA, EER, and SAYEST.
Five more things:
- 1a. [Body part whose name comes from the Latin for “little mouse”], MUSCLE. I think I used to know this? I knew it had to start with MU but then I blanked for a bit. I blame Murine eye drops.
- 22a. [With 9-Down, goose liver], FOIE / GRAS. Cruel, though. The French delicacy is abusively generated.
- 8d. [Not look bad after all this time], AGE WELL. I think I started moisturizing too late to really AGE WELL. Ah, well.
- 18d. [Mediocre grade], C PLUS. A commenter was just complaining yesterday that the NYT clues a C as “average” too much, when it’s below average. Does “mediocre” hit the right note?
- 25d. [Rapper in court], GAVEL. Loved this clue!
Four stars from me. Looking forward to more from Ms. Shan!
Stella Zawistowski’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Use Your Noodle”—Jim P’s review
Reading the title, I was hoping this puzzle was going to be about Sesame Street‘s Mr. Noodle, or at least Mr. Noodle’s brother, Mr. Noodle. (Oh, wait, I didn’t know there was a whole family of Noodles!)
Sadly, that’s not the case, but we do have a case of PASTA (52d, [Carb-heavy dish whose shapes begin this puzzle’s longest answers]). The other theme answers are phrases whose first word is a shape of PASTA (not the actual name of the PASTA, mind you).
- 17a. [Like some notebooks] SPIRAL BOUND. Fusilli or rotini. Of course, who could forget Fusilli Jerry?
- 26a. [Where to fill up with V-Power NiTRO+ Premium] SHELL STATION. Conchiglie. It’s nice to learn the Italian name; I’ve only ever heard them called “shells.”
- 44a. [Astronomical cloud in the constellation Cepheus] BOW TIE NEBULA. Farfalle. You know who wears bow ties? Mr. Noodle.
- 60a. [Serious effort] ELBOW GREASE. Macaroni. Do yourself a favor and use cavatappi instead of elbows next time you’re making mac and cheese.
A fun angle for a theme I would never have thought of. Solid, interesting theme phrases as well.
There isn’t anything too flashy in the fill, but I like TROUBLE clued as the kids pop-o-matic game, LA SCALA, NIMBLE, and PET SPA.
Clues of note:
- 5a. [Place to pamper a pup]. PET SPA. It’s not just for dogs, anymore. Do you need 5 1/2 minutes of cuteness in your life? Watch the video below.
- 40d. [___ Simbel (Egyptian temple site)]. ABU. I didn’t know this name, but it’s nice to have a different cluing angle than the Aladdin monkey one. The site is home to two impressive temples.
Cute puzzle. Not so sparkly in the fill, but solid all around. 3.6 stars.
Rachel Fabi’s AVCX, “Hide and Seek” — Ben’s Review
Our own Rachel Fabi makes her debut in the AVCX today, and it’s a delightful grid:
- 17A: Urgent sensation — BURGEONING
- 25A: Window unit — PAGE ONE
- 38A: Navigate the sea, perhaps — SAGE OIL
- 51A: Certain campaign swag — PIGEONS
- 59A: Scavenger hunt with coordinates … or a hint to four entries in this puzzle — GEOCACHING
Each of the four theme entries has GEO cached inside of the actual answer to the clue, leading to a different phrase in the grid. BURNING, PANE, SAIL, and PINS are transformed into BURGEONING, PAGE ONE, SAGE OIL, and PIGEONS.
The Goo Goo Dolls’ “IRIS” is about folk musician Iris DeMent
other nice fill: “Lace-fronts, e.g.” for WIGS, GNATS, AMBIT, SNL’s EGO Nwodim, DIPPED (“left early, in slang”), JITTERY, JEDIS, HOT MESS, LISTICLE, TEETERS, and POT SHOT
Aimee Lucido’s New Yorker crossword – Rachel’s writeup
What a week for Aimee Lucido! Her Boswords puzzle (which is still available for solving until 9pm tomorrow if you want to participate in Boswords this year!) opened the tournament on Monday, and this puzzle is a *triumph* (to my millennial, Taylor-Swift-loving sensibilities, anyways). I love the central staircase and the long entries in the NW/SE, and the clues are uniformly pretty great. Just a few pieces of fill didn’t totally work for me, but the majority of this puzzle is super clean.
First, that staircase: SPIN DOCTORS / FARM-TO-TABLE / TOGA PARTIES is great, and I love the clues on all three. [Gatherings whose guests are kept under wraps?] had me wondering if mummy parties were a thing I just hadn’t heard of, but of course, TOGA PARTIES makes vastly more sense. That said, anyone want to have a mummy party when all this is over? Other sparkly long stuff includes ELLIOT PAGE / I’M ALL YOURS / TALK IT OVER / DREAMSCAPE. Which brings me to the real triumph of this puzzle: featuring not one but TWO Taylor Swift albums that came out in 2020, which are the only two albums I have listened to since July. One of my favorite tracks off FOLKLORE features the lyric “Your integrity makes me seem small/ you paint DREAMSCAPEs on the wall / I talk shit with my friends / It’s like I’m wasting your honor.” So although the clue on DREAMSCAPE references Salvador Dalí, I’m going to pretend the clue was also a Taylor Swift reference.
Now, I acknowledge that Taylor Swift isn’t for everyone, so maybe the double dose was a dealbreaker for some solvers, but I would point out that the crosses are fair through both (with the possible exception of HCL, but like, what else could FOLK_ORE be?). Hopefully, for solvers who are apathetic towards Taylor Swift, the other crunchy entries and excellent cluing redeemed the puzzle. And for solvers like me, who adore her music, I hope this puzzle made you feel seen!
A few more things:
- Fill I could live without: HCL, AGRO, INCOG (unless this is a thing people actually say and I’m just not aware of it?), YOW
- Favorite clues (I had many):
- [Number of Super Bowl rings for Dan Marino] for ZERO. The shade!!!!
- [Image-manipulation specialists?] for SPIN DOCTORS
- [Candy eaten out of Santa’s head, perhaps] for PEZ – this is such a weird yet apt visual
- [Make one’s hair groovy?] for CRIMP
- [Michael of “Miss Congeniality”] for CAINE. Michael CAINE has been in *so many* movies, I just love that this is the one Aimee chose to highlight
Overall, I ADORE [Can’t get enough of] this puzzle. All the stars from me!
P.S. I wrote today’s AVCX — check it out and/or subscribe to AVCX if you don’t already!
Ed Sessa’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary
It took me a few goes to get the right answer to the revealing entry: PENTANGLES, aka PEN/TANGLES. So PEN is rearranged and found in five further entries. A subtle grace note is that all other five combinations of PEN are used. The themed entries are a little shorter, though that’s as expected given their number: CHICKENPOX, STEPNIECE, INPERSON, GENEPOOL, and odd-sounding SCOOPNECK.
Other unusual entries: FUNRUN was FUN. UNCS is questionably in use. [Like the mind’s “i”] for LONG is cutely clued.
Can’t find the WSJ puzzle on the WSJ site…
Not sure what’s going on over there, but we have it here if you click on “Today’s Puzzles” at the top of this page.
WSJ – CWF – link = Only on .pdf
I’ll solve dead-tree style, NYT did not impress, hope this will
are you using the “right click – open in new tab” work around for chrome? That’s the only way I can get some of the puzzles. Or at least the easiest, other than using a different browser.
for me it was the LAT that wasn’t there?
NYT: Nice puzzle, but I don’t get “Wallop” as a clue for BASTE. Is there an uncommon meaning of baste (i.e. not sewing or cooking) or of wallop?
Clobbering your opponent in a contest (usually sports).
I had PASTE there at first, which can mean the same thing — we pasted our opponents last night, eg.
WSJ: Attic and cellar in the same grid. Nice.
OK, NYT was forced and awkward with disappointing clue/fill pairs. WSJ proved to be full of newish prods, not knee-jerks making an increase in how clever and full of pizzazz it felt going towards a very coherent theme.
Aside: 26A is where my car happens to go to get what the clue offers; even without that I really liked the feel and freshness of fill.
Regarding Amy’s question. The average GP at 4-year colleges is 3.15 so a 2.5 is mediocre.
A couple of generations ago C plus was average– at least top-5 public University I went to. I guess Ann Shan is young and up-to-date.
LAT – I enjoyed the theme, the pun of a revealer, and that the five circled answers included all five of the possible Pen Tangles.
Since BASTE and PASTE have the same meaning in sports terms, here would’ve been a nice chance to clue it sewing-wise and not have it be confusing (tho I get it is a Wed, but you could have a wed-level sewing or cooking clue.)
Come to think of it, not entirely sure why this was slotted for Wed, seemed like a solid, wonderful Monday to me)
In another thought,
Not sure why Universal puzzles don’t get a write up here, but I have one in today! Maybe an opportunity for someone… after all, David Steinberg the editor makes sure they are on the same quality level as the NYT.
And if I’m not mistaken, are all the puzzles above written by women today????!!!!?!!?!
There usually is a write up of the Universal’s. It’s just a bit later than usual today.
Thank you for a very enjoyable puzzle, Andrea! :)
AVCX: Hi Rachel! Nice to learn there’s another geocacher in the group. TFTP!
omg, Jim, this is the best!!! I give you the FTF on this puzzle :)
I was in college during the height of the Vietnam War. Grades had morphed from the outdated “Gentleman’s C” to a “You did a very mediocre job. but your grade is still a B-.” It was always tough to get an A.
WSJ: I was happy to see ABU clued as something besides the animated character, actually thrilled to see the reference to Abu Simbel, which is tops among the wonderfully breathtaking sights/sites in Egypt. I’d never heard of it before going there, though I’m sure we’ve all seen pictures.
Well worth the 5-7 hour drive from Luxor.
Universal: No surprise — a terrific puzzle by Andrea Carla Michaels featuring one of my favorite movies and its and star, with theme entries that are not just consistent, but loads o’ fun! Thank you, Andrea o’ mine!