Peter Wentz’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Oh, hey! It’s Peter Wentz with another themeless. I just enjoyed his Boswords Spring Themeless League puzzle Monday evening, and that one was easier for me than most Boswords themelesses, but still tougher than most Saturday NYTs. I don’t often sneak under the 4-minute mark on Friday (there are a number of hotshot solvers who can go under 3 minutes), but here I did, so I’m feeling very much on the Wentz wavelength this week. We learned from his Boswords Twitch interview after the puzzle (which starts around the 50-minute mark in this video) that he doesn’t typically start with a seed entry he wants to build around. Which is wild, because looking at tonight’s grid, the 9s, 10s, and 11s all have a vibe of “yeah, that would be cool to see in a puzzle.”
Fave fill: “WOE IS I,” HOT POCKETS, “Y’KNOW,” QUINCY JONES, CRASH HELMET, NIPSEY Hustle and Russell (for all generations!), “TRUE THAT,” HO CHI MINH with a neat clue (5d. [Nom de guerre roughly translating to “bringer of light”]), PEP SQUAD, and JIMMY DEAN. Oh, yeah, there are a lot of proper names and titles (at least 16), which means “this is a trivia test” solvers are mad as hell (I see you!) but I breezed through it.
I kinda dug the AGHAST, AGLEAM, ABLAZE trio. Makes me want to do a jig with my arms AKIMBO.
Eight more things:
- 17a. [Frozen food brand famously lampooned by comedian Jim Gaffigan], HOT POCKETS. I just played the comedy bit again for me and my husband and we laughed. The clip is below, for your enjoyment.
- 24a. [Complaint after a tough workout], I’M SORE. Feels a bit contrived, I think. What do you say?
- 32a. [First person to garner 80 Grammy nominations], QUINCY JONES. Black History Month is over, but Black excellence is forever.
- Did not know: 39a. [Self-help guru Ferriss], TIM. Got him via the crossings. Not gonna lie, have never had much interest in self-help guru types. Just looked at a video of his for morning routines: He says start out by making your bed and then, like Tony Robbins says, do 10-15 push-ups or sun salutations. He’s lost me by citing Robbins. Buh-bye.
- 2d. [“Little bunny” of a nursery rhyme], FOO-FOO. I actually learned this one from crosswords! It just wasn’t in the Mother Goose nursery rhyme book we loved when I was a kid.
- 11d. [One getting the lead out, say], ORE MINER. My least favorite entry here, since “ore miner” sounds so weird to me. I feel like if it were a common term, we’d see it in FITB clues for ORE.
- 18d. [Court entertainers], PEP SQUAD. At first I thought this was referring to homecoming court, but I think it might mean basketball courts. Are there maybe pep squads who sit in the bleachers and lead cheers from there?
- 34d. [Meryl Streep or Lupita Nyong’o, collegiately], YALIE. I don’t think “collegiately” applies to graduate school. Lupita went to Hampshire College and Meryl to Vassar College, and then they both attended Yale School of Drama for their MFAs. (Trivia mavens: What university or college has graduated the most Oscar-winning thespians?)
Four stars from me.
Caitlin Reid’s New Yorker crossword – Rachel’s writeup
Super smooth puzzle from Caitlin Reid today! When the worst thing in your puzzle is the objectively-totally-fine EWERS, you know it’s a solid grid. I also love the grid design here, with the diagonal slash of black squares through the middle. And as is frequently the case with these easy Fridays, the clues are better appreciated upon reviewing the puzzle, because the solve just goes so quickly!
The long entries today are the stacks of 9’s in the NW/SE: CHEAP SHOT / EARTH TONE / DRIVERS ED / I CAN’T EVEN / THREEPEAT / OUTSMARTS. All excellent, although my clear favorite is I CAN’T EVEN. I once had a trivia team of bioethicists called “Literally Kant Even” and, years later, it’s still my favorite team name I’ve ever used. Other notable entries today include I’LL BITE, HOT MESS, HIT HOME, and TWERK. Such fun entries all around.
A few more things:
- Favorite clues:
- [“Seinfeld” character whose dancing is described by George as “a full-body dry heave set to music”] for ELAINE
- [Pattern for many a flannel shirt] for PLAID — these two things are so closely related to me that when I was a kid, I thought flannel *meant* PLAID.
- [Safe kind of job?] for HEIST — love this misdirect
- [Make the rounds?] for TEND BAR
- [Dumpster fire, as it were] for HOT MESS — literal lol at “as it were”
- Fill I could live without: idk, I was mostly kidding about EWERS above. They’re truly fine, just one of those words you only really see in crosswords. This puzzle is super clean!
Overall, this was a lovely, clean grid with lots of fun cluing and exciting entries. Tons of stars from me!
(and if you have the chance to solve today’s Inkubator puzzle from me and Brooke Husic, I hope you enjoy it!)
Paul Coulter’s Universal crossword, “Unexpected Turns of Events”—Jim P’s review
There’s no actual turning involved with this theme. However, various social gatherings are re-imagined as (turned into?) something else.
- 16a. [Builder’s sign on a vacant lot?] HOME COMING. Good one.
- 27a. [Sport where everyone dresses like a catcher?] MASKED BALL. We also would have accepted [Sport in the time of COVID?]
- 46a. [Political group focused on supplying schools with building toys?] BLOCK PARTY. Sounds like a much simpler time in America.
- 63a. [Small bathroom fixture?] BABY SHOWER. This is worth a chuckle. I’m imagining a toddler: “I’m gonna go hit the shower, mommy.”
Cute. Solid theme entry choices, consistent execution, and a dash of humor. That works.
Plenty of sparkly fill to like: MAGIC EYE, PAPER BAG, “AWESOME!,” THE MOB, EMERSON College, SUCKLE, COBRAS, ICEBERG, and APOSTLE. And nothing much to dislike.
Clues of note:
- 41a. [Some run between Olympic races.] ADS. Cute.
- 2d. [Gunk]. GOOP. An anti-Gwyneth clue?
- 7d. [’90s optical illusion fad]. MAGIC EYE. Hey, it’s still around.
- 48d. [School lunch holders]. TRAYS. My kid’s been back at school four days a week as of a couple weeks ago. I don’t think there are any plans to bring back hot lunches any time soon.
Good theme, solid grid, and clean fill. 3.8 stars.
Jeff Stillman’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up
Phrases that normally end in a certain noun are modified to a performer of said thing and the results are wackily reinterpreted.
- 16a. [West Coast footballer on an RV vacation?] ROAMING CHARGER.
- 26a. [San Fernando counterfeiter?] VALLEY FORGER.
- 41a. [Fisher who won’t take advice?] OBTUSE ANGLER.
- 52a. [Indecisive European?] BELGIAN WAFFLER.
I appreciate that in each instance an effort was made to distance the new noun from the original one. This is not to say they don’t have etymological connections, as they certainly do.
Some stacked vertical nines in the NW and SE corners. 1d [City near the Mount of Olives] JERUSALEM, 2d [Steel, e.g.] IRON ALLOY; 31d [O’Hare arrivals] AIRLINERS, 32d [Former name of an arid-region Afro-Asian rodent] DESERT RAT. That last seems like a definition lifted right from Wikipedia or some other source, but it is a bit off-putting to me, as it can also refer to other groups. Here it’s referencing the Gerbillinae—which includes the nominal gerbils, as well as jirds and sand rats—but it can also indicate unrelated (well, not so closely related) species in North America and Africa. This is why common names are a land mine. Perhaps just this once it would have been preferable to go with one of the military connotations?
- 7d/1a [Flash] SEC, JIFF. 5a [Hustle and bustle] RUSH.
- 10d [Mystery writer’s first name] EDGAR, 29a [Mystery writer’s middle name] ALLAN. Poor POE!
- 11d [Superman player] REEVE. Seems a little weird to me how crosswords universally treat Christopher REEVE as the default Superman portrayer, when his last of four turns was back in 1987. Henry Cavill—as of this year—will have starred in an equal number of films since 2013. George REEVES was the first really popular actor to take on the mantle, back in the 1950s. Factette: the first live-action version was by the super-crossword friendly KIRK ALYN.
- 33d [Sleeps soundly?] SNORES. As someone has already referenced this in today’s comments, I’ll mention that the question mark indicates that the clue is intended to be punny, playing on a flexible definitions of ‘sound’.
- 39d [Marks in ancient manuscripts] OBELI. We know the obelus as the division symbol, ÷, but in this sense it’s used to indicate a questionable passage. Also, there’s some convoluted etymology associated with it.
- 44d [ __-Castell: office supply brand] FABER. Also a respected art supply brand. I happen to have a fancy-schmancy Graf von Faber-Castell mechanical pencil in my desk drawer, which seems to be worth considerably more now than when I originally got it as a gift for someone (subsequently, inexplicably, returned).
- Speaking of OBTUSE ANGLEs, I felt the clues for these were refreshingly oblique: 9a [Just] MERE, 21a [Considerable] GRAVE.
- 44a [Goal of regular exercise] FITNESS. Apropos for many of us considering emerging from our pandemic cocoons.
Modest but solid crossword.
Brooke Husic and Rachel Fabi’s Inkubator crossword, “Puzzling AF”—Jenni’s review
I loved this crossword, even though I found it more than moderately challenging because I don’t have the same cultural reference frame as Rachel, Brooke, and the Inkubator team. As I said on Wednesday, that’s on me. I figured it out in the end and I had a great time.
The theme answers are two-word phrases that start with AF with amusing clues.
- 22a [Soulful AF] is ARETHA FRANKLIN. Can’t argue with that.
- 39a [Powerful AF] are ALPHA FEMALES. The Inkubator POV is evident here.
- 51a [Erotic AF] is an ADULT FILM.
- 66a [Tenured AF] is ACADEMIC FREEDOM. I get the connection between tenure and ACADEMIC FREEDOM. I’m a little confused about the parts of speech. I don’t think “tenured” describe ACADEMIC FREEDOM as much as it describes a faculty member who has ACADEMIC FREEDOM.
- 89a [Cute AF] is an ARCTIC FOX.
- 96a [Tasty AF] is an APPLE FRITTER. Yum.
- 120a [Taxing AF] is APRIL FIFTEENTH.
Despite my quibble with 66a, I love this theme. It’s fresh and fun and playful and would not have shown up in a “mainstream” puzzle.
A few other things:
- I thought 1a [ [Woman Tipping Hat] or [Woman Dancing] ] was looking for an artist. Nope. It’s EMOJIS.
- Took me quite a while to figure out that [Dudes in uniforms] is MEN AT ARMS. That’s not a generational thing. That’s a me-being-dense thing.
- Juneteenth should totally be a Federal holiday, and I agree that RACISM is a probably explanation for why it’s not.
- 62a [Vanilla] is TAME. Have things evolved enough for that definition to show up in the NYT?
- The final square to fall for me was the intersection of THORNE and HAIM, since I’ve never seen “If Beale Street Could Talk” and never heard of the trio who recorded “Women in Music Pt. III.” Doesn’t mean it’s an unfair crossing – once I got the rest filled in, THORNE really couldn’t have been anything else.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: phew. So many things. Never heard of makeup artist/drag queen RAVEN. Did not know that Bong Joon-Ho called the Oscars a “very local” awards show before PARASITE won “Best Picture.” I was unaware that the Whitney Museum houses a sculpture called “Giant BLT” and now I want to see it. Had no idea that Lolo Jones and OBJ went to LSU. And see above re: THORNE and HAIM. I’m sure I missed some!