Puzzle fans, rejoice! Patrick Berry’s got a new puzzle extravaganza for sale at his website. Nine variety puzzles along the lines of the ones he publishes in the Saturday WSJ, plus a wacky “Anything Goes” crossword as a bonus. $15 for hours of brainy fun, with $5 of each purchase going to COVID relief. This is one of those “shut up and take my money!” situations, if you ask me. Enjoy!—Amy
Kameron Austin Collins’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Kind of an odd puzzle here for Kameron. First off, it’s 72 words, and he has (had?) a preference for making low-word-count grids. Second, there’s some fabulous stuff I love, but it’s peppered with a little clunky stuff instead of being across-the-board great. I have sky-high expectations for the top echelon of themeless constructors! And Kameron’s definitely in that group.
Fave fill: “OKAY, I’LL BITE” is terrific. I like MEGALOPOLIS, MISE EN SCENE, CHINTZY, BOUNTEOUS, ULTRAVIOLET, TIN PAN ALLEY, CLOISTER, and COCHLEAS with an etymology clue ([Parts of ears from the Latin for “snail”], must be cognate to French coquille for snail shell).
Having OMSK right in the top row started me off feeling that “crosswords from 30 years ago” vibe. And … okay, that’s really it for the clunky stuff. It takes an expanded bit of headspace when it’s one of the first things you see in the puzzle! This is why I criticize puzzles with a dreadful opening corner—if you’re gonna have some subpar fill, don’t put it where your solvers encounter it before you have a chance to win them over with the rest of the puzzle.
Six more things:
- 1a. [Sandwich originally named the Aristocrat], BIG MAC. This is a lovely bit of trivia I didn’t know, and a great way to kick things off at 1a.
- 16a. [Tom and Jerry, e.g.], DUO. Did you know there’s a Tom and Jerry movie out now? You can catch it on HBO Max if the idea of a Tom and Jerry feature film calls to you, or you can peek at the trailer (below) and call it a day.
- 23a. [City that’s been home to four N.F.L. franchises], ST. LOUIS. Another piece of trivia I didn’t know. The Cardinals, the Rams stolen from L.A. before being stolen back, and … two others? I got nothin’.
- 2d. [___ effect, bias toward products that consumers assemble themselves], IKEA. Also new to me. Is this the consumer’s bias, or the manufacturer/marketer’s bias?
- 12d. [Like Morocco and the Maldives, religiously], SUNNI. That’s a neat clue.
- 26d. [Places to bear witness?], ZOOS. This clue is goofy. “Bear witness” to mean “witness some bears”?
Four stars from me.
Alex Rosen’s Universal crossword, “Not So Musical”—Jim P’s review
(Pro tip: Press play on the video below)
Young man, now it’s time for a song
I said, young man, now don’t get it wrong
I said, young man, just follow with me
And you’ll solve the puzzle easily.
Young man, now you’re looking perplexed
I said, young man, there’s no need to be vexed
You can do it, ‘cuz it’s your time to shine
So just let it out; you’ll be fine!
“It’s fun to stay at the YMAC!”
“It’s fun to stay at the YCAM!”
You just can’t do a thing!
Oh, this song you’ll destroy
You’re just shouting a bunch of noise.
“It’s fun to stay at the MYCA!”
(I REST MY CASE.)
“It’s fun to stay at the ACYM!”
Oh, I can’t dig this scene,
There’s just no hope for you.
You can’t do what ever you feel.
Well, that’s enough of that. You can tell I enjoyed the theme. For the record, the theme revealer is YMCA, clued [Popular sing-along song that’s butchered in the starred answers?], which is why I felt I could butcher the song above.
Bonus points to you if you followed along and did the gestures in the wrong order, even if you kept flubbing it, like me.
On top of the humorous theme and fun theme entries, the fill shines too: PLAYDATES, PEPÉ LE PEW, MR HYDE, STYMIE, SKEPTIC, and MARSALA wine. I can look past the odd SAD-EYED for all that goodness.
Clues played it straight for the most part, but there were some nice fresh ones in there.
Four stars from me.
Mark McClain’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up
- 35dR [Chemistry class measurement (it’s 5 for this puzzle’s grid])] PH NUMBER. The bigram PH appears five times in the grid, including this revealer entry. But a simple enumeration of course is not how PH is actually measured. In the other four instances, those paired letters have been inserted into phrases to wacky effect.
- 16a. [Analytical diagrams of Tuesday rush hour traffic in Paris] MARDI GRAPHS (Mardi Gras).
- 30a. [Deli favorite with a floral garnish?] BAGEL AND PHLOX (bagel and lox).
- 38a. [Rodent that’s a Broadway star?] THEATER GOPHER (theater-goer).
I do happen to own a Hamster Theatre album. Probably best to listen to this track later in the day, if at all. Unless you’re a big accordion lover./li>
- 58a. [Mobile device for the unhip?] SQUARE PHONE (square one). I’m assuming 2010’s Motorola Flipout was a flop, since I’ve never heard of it.
Just for the record, pH stands for either ‘potential of hydrogen’ or ‘power of hydrogen’ and measures relative acidity. Phew!
- 12d [Frigga’s husband] ODIN. Some reverse distaff cluing here.
- 41d [Simona who won Wimbledon in 2019] HALEP. Didn’t know this and needed all the crossings here.
- 42d [Prefix with Pen] EPI. Note the capital P of Pen.
- 51d [Improved] HONED. I seem to be hearing “honed in on” more frequently of late. Aggravating. An Ngrams analysis suggests both phrases have been on the rise—roughly in parallel—for quite some time.
15a [Like the top stripe of the pride flag] RED. Or…
- 54d [Teal relative] AQUA.
- 20a [Apt rhyme for “sincerely”] DEARLY. >squint<
- 28a [One of two tarot groups] ARCANA. Wikipedia informs me that the Major Arcana consists of 22 cards without suits, while the Minor Arcana consists of 56 cards, divided into 4 suits of 14 cards each.
Anna Shechtman’s New Yorker crossword – Rachel’s writeup
Hello, happy Friday! Not a ton to say about this one— there’s a cool grid shape, but it means there aren’t any particularly long entries. We’ve got some stacks of 8s in the NE and SW, but otherwise, not a ton of excitement in this puzzle! I also felt it played tougher than your average New Yorker Friday.
The stacks today consisted of FREE SOLO / RUPTURED / UNSOILED and LISTICLE / PLAY FAIR / SKYLINES. These are all pretty good! I had a lot of feelings about FREE SOLO (some of which were due to not knowing how it ended before watching it, and some of which were about Alex Honnold’s relationship with his girlfriend, but regardless would definitely recommend it if you have not seen it!). RUPTURED had a fairly graphic clue that made me wince [Torn, as an eardrum], and I recently had LISTICLE in a puzzle of my own and think it’s a super fun word. I googled the clue [“29 Celebrities Who Are Secret Canadians,” e.g.] to see if it’s a real LISTICLE and, in fact, it is. Other non-stack long entries are PARTY GOER / COPY EDITS, which are pretty straightforward, although I enjoyed the clue on PARTY GOER [Ball girl, e.g.?].
A few things didn’t work for me today. The SE was particularly rough (for a New Yorker Friday, that is): not knowing TELFAR. and the possibility that SNOOTY could also have been SNOTTY, made this pretty intractable. The addition of RORY Gilmore, who I knew but many solvers may not, probably means some DNFs at the TELFAR/RORY crossing. I also don’t really care for PC USERS or its clue [People running MS-DOS, e.g.] — I’m no computer whiz, but I suspect very few PC USERS are running MS-DOS in 2021.
Overall, several stars from me. See you next week!
Julie Bérubé’s Inkubator crossword, “Themeless #17″—Jenni’s review
17 is my favorite number and this is a worthy puzzle. Quick notes before I head out to work:
True to the Inkubator’s mission, every name in the grid belongs to a woman. And yes, it matters. I don’t do the crossword Bechdel test because I always forget the scoring. I still notice that the majority of names in the majority of grids are male and that even words that could be clued as women’s names are not (see “quiche LORRAINE” from a recent puzzle). It matters until it doesn’t and we’re not there yet. Reverse sexism isn’t a thing and men as a gender will survive one puzzle where they are not mentioned. God knows we’ve survived enough where we are ignored. Don’t @me either about the content or tone of this paragraph. Just – don’t.
- I love COCO two lines above CAROB BEANS, even though it’s not COCOA. Just tickles my funny bone.
- 4d [Tish creater ___ Addams] is CHAS. The Tish in question is Morticia Addams from the eponymous family.
- 25a [Something to prove for Abel medalist Karen Uhlenbeck] is a THEOREM. Dr. Uhlenbeck is the first woman to win the Abel Prize, which is essentially the Nobel Prize for mathematics.
- 37a [Dizzy doodle] is SPIN ART.
- Could have done without EDATES.
- My favorite entry in this grid and one of my favorites of all time is 54a [Relative of bropropiating, in the workplace]: MANTERRUPTING. I’ve never heard either of those before and I know exactly what they mean. If you have to ask, you have either never been in a mixed-gender work meeting or you haven’t noticed the number of times women’s ideas are ignored until they are restated by men, or the number of times men interrupt women as if we aren’t speaking.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that JOAN DIDION is the subject of a documentary called “The Center Will Not Hold.”