Tom Pepper’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
There was only one this in this puzzle that was unknown to me till learning it just now: 38a. [Football tactic to prevent a long return], SQUIB KICK. I read the clue to my sports-fan spouse and he nailed the answer right away. Those of you who know sports terminology but not names from pop culture: I knew all the names of people and places in this puzzle. That B crossing was a little tricky, too: 39d. [Mini production company], BMW refers to the Mini Cooper line of cars that BMW sells, but that veiled capital M might have you thinking about small film/TV production companies and having no idea what letter goes at the start.
Fill I appreciated: HOPSCOTCH, TOPAZ, RAMADAN (timely! Ramadan mubarak!), KATHIE LEE Gifford, CALZONE, PARTIED DOWN, PUNCH IN, TROJAN HORSE.
Seven more things:
- 26a. [Former name of Kazakhstan’s capital], ASTANA. The capital was moved to Nur-Sultan. Hey, NYT constructors, you want to ease off on the “Kazakh cities most solvers won’t necessarily have a reason to know” fill? Another recent puzzle had ALMA ATA, which was changed decades ago to Almaty.
- 36a. [One team in an intramural match], SKINS. Shirts vs. skins is generally a gendered thing, as most women’s sports are hard-pressed to accommodate half the players being shirtless.
- 1d. [Reaction to someone tapping a microphone, maybe], HUSH. As in the audience hushing, not the audience telling the person at the mic to hush.
- 3d. [Tiny fraction of a min.], PSEC. How many of us dropped in the more commonly seen entry NSEC? PSEC isn’t good fill, and neither is NSEC.
- 28d. [Mapo ___ (traditional Sichuan dish)], TOFU. I’ve had this once. Spicy!
- 42d. [Discipline with postures like White Crane Spreads Its Wings and Grasp the Sparrow’s Tail], TAI CHI. I hope there are other versions of this move in which, say, the Tibetan Rosefinch’s Tail is Grasped, or the Nonggang Babbler’s Tail is Grasped.
- 56d. [Quantity that sounds like an expression of relief], FEW. The express lane is for phewer than 15 items.
SHAQ O’Neal ([The Big Aristotle of the N.B.A.]) is in the puzzle, so here’s a clip from Shaqtin’ a Fool:
3.7 stars from me.
Annemarie Brethauer’s Inkubator crossword, “Themeless #18″—Jenni’s review
I’m popping in from vacation to write about this delightful themeless. Even though I didn’t find it as challenging as the email suggested, I really enjoyed it. Fun!
- ANGELICA Schuyler crossing ELAINE May. I found that very pleasing.
- SLINGS clued as [Items that help you wear a baby]. There are men who use slings for baby-wearing. Mostly it’s women, and this is the kind of thing the INKubator does better than anyone else – clue ordinary words with a non-male worldview.
- Maxine Hong Kingston’s wonderful THE WOMAN WARRIOR spanning the grid in the middle.
- Maya Aneglou’s STILL I RISE anchoring the SE corner.
- [Frosty the Snowman’s eye makeup?] for COAL.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that a COUGAR is also called a catamount. How did I not know that?
Anna Shechtman’s New Yorkre crossword — Rachel’s writeup
Very quick writeup today, just the major points:
- SECOND GENTLEMAN is an excellent spanner!
- Also loved AVOCADO PITS, OVER THE MOON, LIVESTREAM, DOOMSCROLL, DOT DOT DOT, and SPARE KEYS
- TINILY is not a thing
- I feel like I have this conversation a lot, but I’d prefer not to see 66-Across in puzzles because it contains an ethnic slur
- More complicated feelings about Harry Potter references in puzzles that I don’t have time to explore in this post today (re: 36-Down)
- LABOR SONG – more updates on the New Yorker Union here
Overall, plenty of stars for this one. Have a good weekend, folks!
P.S. triweekly plug for These Puzzles Fund Abortion!
Mark MacLachlan’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up
- 56aR [Sign of deceit, and a phonetic hint to four puzzle answers] SHIFTY EYES.
- 16a. [Cycling route for Broom Hilda?] WITCH TRAIL (witch trial).
- 23a. [Romantic locales for Miss Piggy?] DATING STIES (dating sites).
- 32a. [Place to harvest your deepest secrets?] DIARY FARM (dairy farm).
- 48a. [Equipment for identifying genuine island wreaths?] LEI DETECTOR (lie detector).
What’s going on is that the letter i is shifting its location by one spot in each wackified phrase.
I was going to complain that this isn’t really a phonetical relocation and more of a typographical one, but then I realized that the “phonetic hint” of the revealer is simply indicating that eyes should be read as [the plural of the letter i]—a step that I, veteran puzzler that I am, had already done without consideration.
- 1a [Annie Lennox, e.g.] Was wondering right off the bat what this would be. DIVA? ALTO*? SCOT? Turns out it was the last. *Also, her vocal range is listed as contralto.
- 15a [Crack from the wind, perhaps] CHAP, but I was envisioning flags, probably from the preceding clue: 14a [Flag bearer] POLE.
- 25a [Maker of a fine cheddar?] GRATER. Haw haw. 39a [Like many dad jokes] STALE.
- 28a [Eye affliction] STYE. Sure, this is a crossword staple, but in this particular puzzle, I would have striven to avoid it, infringing as it does on the theme.
- 46a [Hit as the gas] STEP ON crossing 42d [Fifth, often, for manual transmissions] TOP GEAR,
- 52a [Hungarian mathematician Paul] ERDŐS. Anyone among our readership with a respectable Erdős number?
- 6d [Kinkajou cousin] COATI. Both are in the raccoon family. Kinkajous are one of the relatively few non-primate mammals that possess a prehensile tail.
- 30d [Olive __ ] OYL. I spelled it OIL, not examining the crossing themer. Had to hunt up the error at the end.
- 36d [Word from the Greek for “two assumptionS”] DILEMMA. I knew this, but it’s good to be reminded of etymologies, as they often help increase and reinforce one’s understanding.
- 38d [Tube tops?] TV IDOLS. Cute, but maybe a bit too forced?
Decent but kind of forgettable crossword. Maybe I’m just sliding into the weekend.
Lana Pivarnik & Matthew Stock’s Universal crossword, “Xword Puzzle”—Jim P’s review
One of our collaborators is making their debut with this puzzle. Congrats to Lana on the occasion!
Theme: Certain words that end -CKS have those letters replaced with an X resulting in an entirely different word and, of course, crossword wackiness.
- 18a. [Jazz instrument made of rough fabric, informally?] BURLAP SAX. Not quite sure how that would work as a musical instrument.
- 24a. [Movie extra’s breakfast bowlful?] BACKGROUND CHEX. Maybe from a scene in The Breakfast Club?
- 39a. [Portfolio for a manicurist, slangily?] HAND PIX. Nice one.
- 52a. [Bagel topper made with sockeye and king salmon, say?] COMBINATION LOX. Also good.
- 58a. [Formal attire at Cannes, casually?] FRENCH TUX. I have never heard of a French tuck, fashion heathen that I am. The Internet tells me it’s a shirt tucked in at the front but left hanging in the back. Sounds like the clothing equivalent of a mullet. Pass.
Solid theme, and I like how most of the X’s are handled in the crossings with SPANX, CRUX, and TIMEX. Only XFL is on the meh side.
Other fill is very nice, especially SMELL TEST and the SUNSCREEN / TANLINE duo. Also good: NATALIE Portman and TRINKET.
Clues of note:
- 15a. [Second Twitter account, in slang]. ALT. It seems like the older I get, the more I rely on crosswords to teach me slang.
- 8d. [Koto or cello part]. STRING. The koto is also known as the “Japanese harp.” Here is a short video if you want to hear it.
An enjoyable grid. Four stars.
The capital of Kazakhstan wasn’t “moved” to Nur-Sultan, Astana was renamed Nur-Sultan in honor of the authoritarian strongman that has run the country since the fall of the USSR (although he is no longer officially the president he still controls the ruling party). If he should ever face justice, the capital could very well go back to being Astana.
Oh, wow. Did not know that, and should have. Thanks, Ethan.
Note that Burundi moved its capital from Bujumbura back to Gitega, which had been their capital previously. (I try to stay up to date on national capitals because there are so many Sporcle.com quizzes that require that familiarity.)
NYT: In the Cheng Ming T’ai Chi form that I do, it is called “Grasp the Peacock’s Tail.” It’s a beautiful part of the form (well, not so much when I do it) which repeats several times, as does White Crane Spreads Its Wings, which really does evoke a tall bird spreading wings out, one side at a time.
The 100-step form, in its entirety, is for me, calming and meditative, and has been a boon in this time of great stress.
Before COVID hit, I did yoga twice a week for two years in addition to many other classes. I and the other older men in the class are in good shape, but balance-challenged to say the least. I have only succeeded in holding WARRIOR 3 a few times.
My new obsession is TAI CHI, which I follow online every day. I have improved greatly from pathetic to bad. It is a wonderful practice.
NYT: this week I went digging through my photo boxes to locate a stash of prints from 1986 when I visited China as it was just opening up . I was looking for photos of a famous scientist who was on the same trip and whose memory is being honored today. I ran into street photos I had taken in Shanghai as I was walking around early in the mornings. There were hardly any cars back then, kids were heading to their school looking adorable. Food stalls would pop up in the morning on the pavements of narrow streets with a lot of people rushing around buying supplies for their day. As I walked and tried to take everything in, people would look at me as if I were an alien from outer space.
But there were also many people in open spaces doing TAI CHI. I had heard of it but never seen it and I stood transfixed watching people, including very old, in these amazing positions, exuding calmness in the middle of this urban setting. I felt it was beautiful, almost transcendent, and I thought I should learn to do this sometime.
I never have, but it’s not too late, I guess…
Huda, it is absolutely not too late. I started in 2017 at age 61, and there are students in our dojo who started decades later than that.
T’ai Chi is very adaptable to any sort of functional limitation – I have a bothersome left knee – and in my case, has resulted in posture improvement and increased muscle strength, both of which were so gradual that I have only recently noticed.
The pandemic has sent us to Zoom, and I’m grateful every day that I can still have instruction.
That was a lovely story!
Thanks for encouragement, Lise!!!
I will definitely think about it. I appreciate it.
I never paid much attention to Shaq or basketball – but I’ve learned that he is a pretty good guy. In a random act of kindness, he paid for an engagement ring for a perfect stranger; last year he paid the funeral costs of a young girl who was killed in a car crash – also a stranger to him. I heard an interview with him on “Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend” podcast; he said that his mother and the mother of Charles Barkley are good friends – and when he and Charles got into a public altercation on the court, he got a call from “Mama Barkley” admonishing him, and telling him to play nice. I’m now a fan.
NYT: JOHNNY OLSON? No, dammit, Rod Roddy (pbuh) forever! Also, was anyone else relieved that 31A (“Wild-goose chase”) was *not* WITCH HUNT? If I never hear that phrase again for the next decade it’ll still be too soon.
pannonica asked “Anyone among our readership with a respectable Erdős number?” As it happens, I have an Erdős number of 2 (my thesis advisor wrote a paper with Erdős).
I also have an Erdős Number of two.
I wrote a paper proving a theoretical bound on an optimization problem. There was one case with a logical gap I couldn’t bridge, so my advisory sent to his advisor, who had once published a paper with Erdős, and he solved it and was added to the paper as a coauthor.
My advisor once told this story at a large function, and I responded: “So if you want a low Erdős Number, all you have to do is not be smart enough to figure something out on your own.”
Really brought the place down. Funny because it’s true.
So the New Yorker puzzle clues EMI as a [Onetime competitor…] but Wikipedia tells me the label name was revived in 2020. I think they brought back a few AMOCO stations but the vast majority turned into BP stations years ago and remained BP. TIME INC was bought out a few years ago. Weird to have so many semi-defunct corporate entities in a single puzzle.
I’ve played a lot of intramural sports over the past few decades and never once gone shirts-skins. I don’t think that’s really a thing in intramural sports.
Clue would have been better if it had said “pick-up game” or “neighborhood match,” in my opinion
Agreed. Intramural teams usually wear coordinated colors, light shirts vs. dark shirts, or pinnies to distinguish teams. I can’t say I’ve ever seen shirts-skins outside of a pickup or kids game.
I loved the Inkubator. Very much on my wavelength. I was really hoping 37 down was APRES MOI, but alas no. Fun puzzle and a great way to start the day.
NYT – I know the dish as Mapo Doufu, but since it was only four letters went with just DOFU instead. Since I certainly didn’t know the Kazakhstan capital, it took me forever to figure out where the wrong letter was.
I don’t see why PSEC isn’t good fill. MilliSEConds and MicroSEConds are, sure, more common than PicoSEConds, but that makes it more challenging, because there is an alternative.
These are *all* examples of bad fill