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.
I have a small problem with AUS being the abbreviation for Austria. AUS is the official 3 letter code for Australia. AUT is the 3 letter code for Austria. Having worked in an international organization with both of these countries as members, this stuff does matter. As a solver seeing a three letter abbrev. answer, shouldn’t I expect the official abbreviation as opposed to a colloquial one?
NYT: I initially had AUT in the grid because that is the official code for Austria, but couldn’t “settle” on an answer for 38A until I begrudgingly put the “S” in there.
I don’t know if the opposite of official is colloquial, but “Aus” has a long history of abbreviating “Austria” in English. The clue doesn’t say enough to distinguish between AUT and AUS (the “Mauna ___” effect?), but for Friday it seems quite reasonable.
Will Shortz has used this clue for this entry often, and hears about it every time, so I think he’s quite aware that the entry is not ISO 3166-1 compliant.
I agree with Martin. RHUD has Aus. as an abbreviation for Austria but not Australia. And it does ask for an abbreviation, presumably with a period at the end, not a postal code or other official designation. Besides, I got it right away, while I hadn’t a clue that AUT might mean Austria. To me, that would have been obscure to the point of unfair.
56A: I confidently entered CICADA off the two Cs, as this is *the* year the 17-year Brood X will emerge in Maryland in late May. I’m excited while my wife is terrified.
9D: Is this the longest FITB answer in the Shortz era (or ever)?
I have a feeling that the NFL marketing team will force them to give up the Roman numerals by the year 2046 when they’re on Super Bowl LXXX haha.
Actually though, the most annoying part of the Super Bowl Roman numerals is the graphics department refuses to acknowledge that the Lombardi Trophy looks like an I. For instance, the logo for this year was L (picture of Lombardi Trophy) V which looks like LIV.
Duh?. I got totally thrown thinking “hot streak” was a theme answer so I didn’t see how the circled letters worked.
@Rachel (New Yorker) – If you have a well you will need a water softener at a minimum. If your water supply comes from a water main somewhere (city water) you may need a water softener. Inexpensive kits are easily available. I use this one: (in lieu of putting a long URL here,) google “Industrial Test Systems WaterWorks 481108 Total Hardness Test Strip” in Amazon. They’re around $10. Soft water increases effectiveness of soaps and detergents, feels better in the shower, and leaves less deposits in sinks and toilets.
Feels a little weird discussing practical ideas here, but I wouldn’t feel weird posting this in any of the other forums I frequent. You guys have helped me when I’ve had questions, and, though this isn’t crossword-related, here it is.
Thank you, Doug!! This is super helpful. I’m ordering strips now!