Sridhar Bhagavathula’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Interesting puzzle for a constructor’s debut. It feels distinctively unlike the typical themeless, with a nice set of vocab and names. In his notes at Wordplay, Mr. Bhagavathula says he built the puzzle around AKIRA KUROSAWA and “also had a little Shakespearean strain throughout the clues as an homage to Kurosawa, who is in many ways the Bard’s modern equivalent.” The crossword does have a rather scholarly vibe.
Fave fill: COLOSSUS, SLOVENIA (I need to brush up on 31d AUStria’s relative location, because neither this nor SLOVAKIA was feeling right to me), FLAGELLA (shout-out to Spelling Bee fans!), PERSEPHONE, BATIK, and a surfer who WIPES OUT.
Did not know: 3d. [Resource for music performers], FAKE BOOK. If it’s new to you, too, click through on that Wordplay link in my first paragraph for an explanation.
Seven more things:
- 21a. [Student’s burden, often], DEBT. During my four years of college in the 1980s, the cost of an expensive private school climbed from $11k to $15k a year. Roughly what you’d pay for an entry-level small car. My alma mater now costs almost $75k … which would easily buy you three brand-new small cars. If you’re one of those folks who doesn’t like the idea of wiping out people’s student loan debt because you paid your loans off without government help, ask yourself how it would’ve gone if you’d graduated with five times as much debt.
- 25a. [Co-performer with Shakira at Super Bowl LIV, informally], J.LO. I loathe the NFL’s insistence on using Roman numerals for Super Bowl designations. Sheesh! Just use the year. I know the Bears won the 1985 Super Bowl but I couldn’t tell you which Roman numeral it was. I think Shakira and J.Lo were there in 2020, but I’m not sure. The Roman numeral thing is just dumb. (Has Shakira Kurosawa ever been a Wheel of Fortune before-and-after?)
- 56a. [Case for an entomologist], COCOON. Oh. Not a mystery, as in a case for Encyclopedia Brown. The case spun by a caterpillar.
- 58a. [Plant that may yield oil], REFINERY. Great clue!
- 9d. [“If all ___ were laid end to end, they would not reach a conclusion” (quip attributed to Shaw)], ECONOMISTS. Cute quip.
- 36d. [Directly opposite point], ANTIPODE. I know, I know. I can hear some of you hissing that this singularized version of antipodes is illegitimate. A dictionary tells me that the backformation dates back to the 1600s or earlier, so prooobably it’s time to accept it.
- 57d. [“Hey there” equivalent], NOD. I like the clue.
4.25 stars from me. Looking forward to seeing more puzzles from you, Sridhar!
Robyn Weintraub’s New Yorker crossword – Rachel’s writeup
Quick write-up today! Loved the central stack, which had real Sunday picnic on the beach vibes with FRESH AS A DAISY / BEACH UMBRELLA / BALLOON ANIMAL. The other long entries are also excellent, although the highlight for me today is the cluing.
Aside from that lovely central staircase, we have NO-NONSENSE / OPEN HOUSE / HARD WATER / CAUSE A STIR / MAN HOLE COVER / ACADEMY AWARD / FELL FOR IT / SUGAR PILL filling out the long spaces. I recently learned that Robyn doesn’t use seed entries at all in constructing her themeless puzzles, which blows my mind, because she manages to get such solid long entries throughout! The wordlist curation and dedication that approach must require is just awe-inspiring.
Although the grid is obviously great, the clues are the real fun of this puzzle for me. Here are some highlights:
- [Professionals who conduct lab inspections?] for VETS (this took me a while to get, and then when I got it I literally lol’d)
- [Synonym of “obsessive” that you probably shouldn’t Google at work] for ANAL (also lol)
- [Co-star of Kristin in “Wicked” and Kristen in “Frozen”] for IDINA – that would be Kristin Chenoweth and Kristen Bell. Love this!
- [M.I.T. Mystery ___ (annual puzzle competition)] for HUNT – a little nod to the crossword community / Mystery Hunt crossover. As I understand it, this year’s winner was a team of crossworders, or at least was heavy on crossword representation.
A few more things:
- Cringed a little at the clue on NYS [Andrew Cuomo is its gov.] — feels like this clue needs a “(for now!)” tacked on to the end
- What’s the deal with HARD WATER. Is a water softener necessary? Should I have one? These are the questions I’m afraid to google but have no problem asking the blog.
I guess that’s all the things! Overall, great long entries and fun clues, tons of stars from me. Have a good weekend!
Andrew J. Ries’s Universal crossword, “Double Headers”—Jim P’s review
Today’s theme comprises words, names, or phrases with an initial two-letter word (or prefix) which is repeated at the start of the second word.
- 17a. [Scoring partner?] CO–COMPOSER
- 30a. [“My deepest apologies”] SO SORRY.
- 35a. [Libertarians’ 2020 presidential candidate] JO JORGENSEN
- 41a. [1992 Stacey Dash rom-com featuring a credit card con] MO‘ MONEY. I don’t recognize the name, but she’s been in a number of big-name films.
- 57a. [Like a straight shooter] NO–NONSENSE
Interesting that only the vowel O is used. I guess because two-letter words are more likely to end in O than any other vowel? Not sure that the theme excites me all that much, but it is fun to say the list of doubled words, “Coco, Soso, Jojo, Momo, Nono.”
Andrew’s a veteran constructor, so it’s no surprise the fill is strong. The long entries are nice and sparkly: “OVER TO YOU,” “SOME NERVE!,” TRIAL RUN, and JAM BANDS. I also liked MALLARD, TACOMA (my neighbor to the north), TIP JAR, and ERNESTO clued with respect to the thematic movie Coco.
One clue of note: 9d [Doneness option for a burger]. RARE. Not a good idea. Burgers made from ground meats should be cooked to at least 160°.
A very clean grid. The theme is straightforward, so it’s good for newer solvers. Veterans can enjoy the long fill. Let’s put the whole endeavor at 3.7 stars.
Lewis Rothlein’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up
- 63aR [Hair problem, and what three short puzzle answers each has] SPLIT ENDS.
- 19a. [One may reveal a secret] HOT MIC/HOT TIP.
- 10d. [“Sure!”] WHY YES/WHY NOT.
- 53a. [One often chosen for lightness] LAP DOG/LAP TOP.