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!
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.