Sid Sivakumar has a new crossword gig. There’s an online publication called the Juggernaut, “smart media for the South Asian diaspora.” Follow this link, key in your email address (you’ll be added to their mailing list, but can unsubscribe if it’s not your vibe), and try Sid’s South Asia–friendly crossword. Sid will be taking puzzle submissions from other constructors, and he’ll be the Juggernaut’s crossword editor. I solved this April 2021 puzzle in a Fri/Sat NYT amount of time despite not knowing a great many of the Indian etc. fill. That’s the mark of a well-made puzzle, if someone who just plain doesn’t know a bunch of things can still manage to finish it! Enjoy.
Johan Vass’s New York Times crossword, “Rare Find”—Amy’s write-up
Today’s constructor is a Swede making his American crossword debut, though he’s been making Swedish puzzles forever. It’s a nifty theme, centered on NEEDLE IN A HAYSTACK, 103a. [Item hidden somewhere in this puzzle (where is it?)]. This rectangular grid (20×22) also includes these thematic pieces:
- 25a. [Popular action film franchise … or what trying to find the item in this puzzle can be described as], MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE.
- 29a. [“There’s no use” … like trying to find the item in this puzzle?], IT’S A LOST CAUSE.
- 50d. [With 44-Down, making futile attempts … and an extra hint to this puzzle’s theme], GRASPING / AT STRAWS.
- Six entries with a circled/shaded HAY, stacked up: CATHAY, SHAY, SASHAYING, SHAYNE, HAYLEY, and the HAY in 103a.
- 99a. [“As you can imagine …”], NEEDLESS TO SAY …, with that hidden NEEDLE sandwiched amid the stack of HAYs. Now, that wasn’t hard to find at all! Heck, it’s visibly spacing the last HAY apart from the others, and it’s the symmetry buddy of IT’S A LOST CAUSE.
There’s room in the grid for plenty of longer, colorful entries in the fill. To wit: MINI OREO, ADAM WEST, Subway FOOT-LONGS, CANCEL OUT, THE MUSES, ANGEL EYES, JAWBONE, PBS KIDS. And “MM-HMM.”
Six more things:
- 87a. [Man’s name that anagrams to HYENAS], SHAYNE. Random anagram clue? There’s no famous enough SHAYNE out there? LearnedLeague was created and is run by trivia master Shayne Busfield, but he doesn’t have a Wikipedia page. An NHL player named Shayne Gostisbehere does, though, and Wiki tells us his French Basque Country father emigrated to Florida to pursue a jai alai career—this is your crosswordese tie-in of the day.
- 6a. [Second person in the Bible], THOU. Grammatical second person, not the second human.
- 46a. [Experimental offshoot of punk], NOISE ROCK. I have never heard of this in my life and I think I don’t care for it. Certainly gettable enough, though.
- 27d. [Sheepish response to “Where did the last cookie go?”], “I ATE IT.” I feel like this was a line from some 1970s commercial. Anyone remember what I’m thinking of?
- 75d. [The titular bad guy in “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly”], ANGEL EYES. Entirely news to me. Played by Lee Van Cleef. Did you notice the “Angels” dupe in the ANAHEIM clue, 62a. [City of Angels]? I did.
- 99d. [It never occurs above the Arctic Circle during the summer solstice], NIGHT / 91d. [It’s constantly breaking around the world], DAY. Nice pair, that.
There were a few clunky bits in the puzzle: GOT TO, ON TOE, the alarming RAT BITE. Overall, though, a smooth grid. Four stars from me.
Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Corporate Retreat” – Jim Q’s Write-up
You don’t have to solve this puzzle alone, but you should do it without company.
THEME: Company names are removed from common phrases and wackiness becomes the new CEO.
- 21A [Meadows where entertainer Arsenio or musician Daryl frolics?] HALL FIELDS. MARS is removed from [MARS]HALL FIELDS.
- 37A [Victory for making a fast-food order from one’s car?] DRIVE THRU WIN. DOW was removed from DRIVE THRU WIN[DOW].
- 47A [Bovine college?] OX UNIVERSITY. FORD was removed from OX[FORD] UNIVERSITY.
- 64A [Vietnamese soup served at an electronic dance club?] TECHNO PHO. BIC was removed from TECHNOPHO[BIC].
- 88A [Rodents that express favorable opinions?] APPROVAL RATS. ING was removed from APPROVAL RAT[ING]S.
- 96A [Chirps and tweets from a small bird?] WREN LANGUAGE. ITT was removed from WR[ITT]EN LANGUAGE.
- 117A [Last spring?] CLOSING HOP. UPS was removed from CLOSING [UP S]HOP.
- Companies that are missing are found in other areas of the grid and clued with a cross-reference.
Fun grid and over-the-top wackiness, as is par for this type of theme from Evan. Lots of cross referencing with the companies being found in other parts of the grid. I didn’t find that to be of much help because I would forget where I’d seen the “missing” company in the grid by the time I got to the answer it was removed from, and it was too time consuming to go find it mid-solve. So I either appreciated them post-solve or just figured out what was missing without the help of the cross-reference, which was easy for entries like OX[FORD] UNIVERSITY or DRIVE THRU WIN[DOW], but much harder for CLOSING [UP S]HOP and [MARS]HALL FIELDS (especially with the latter base phrase being unfamiliar to me).
I found the grid to be quite breezy and easy. Anything of note? Let’s see…
I believe EVIE Carnahan and Mazie HIRONO were the only new names for me (in the grid itself anyway) which is low for WaPo.
Fun trivia clues included:
[National ___ Cookie Day (March 6)] OREO. Always love them OREO clues. Waiting for someone to clue it as [Cookie with a Lady Gaga variety]. Because that’s a thing now.
[Descriptor for a person from the Indian subcontinent, derived from the Sanskrit word for “country”] DESI. There’s a lot going on in that cl
[Chongoni Rock-Art Area’s nation] MALAWI. What’s Chongoni Rock-Art? Rock artfrom the late Stone Age / early Iron Age. Wild.
[Bacon seen in the 1982 film “Diner”] KEVIN. Unfamiliar with this film. He’s been in so many!
[Key of “Californication”] A MINOR. I think this may be the first time I’ve seen a MINOR/MAJOR entry clued with a pop song instead of classical.
[Tony-winning musical with the number “Welcome to Our House on Maple Avenue”] FUN HOME. Such a great musical. I saw it in a small downtown theater before it hit broadway.
Clue of the day right at 1-Across:
[Expert on labor pains?] MARX.
Fred Piscop’s Universal crossword, “Coin Return” — Jim Q’s write-up
THEME: Currencies can be found backwards in common phrases.
- SHARI LEWIS. Lira.
- TRAVEL BUREAU. Ruble.
- GOOSE PIMPLES. Peso.
- SUNKEN EYES. Yen.
I’m sort of predisposed to dislike puzzles that Universal publishes with circles since it can’t publish circles in the regular publications that most solvers get, and I find it to be a major disservice to both the solver and the constructor. You can only get the puzzle with circles here, on this site, which casual solvers are unlikely to be aware of. It feels to me like Universal publishes more circle-dependent crosswords than most of the other publications (tempted to say “combined” here), yet it is the only major crossword without the technology to actually circle the letters when necessary. Go figure.
So, with circles, this one was just fine. Anyone who has been solving for a long time has no doubt seen a few currency-based themes before. No new ground broken here. Some old-timey feeling answers with SHARI LEWIS (whom I loved as a kid, but I’d be surprised if anyone under the age of say… 36 were familiar with her). GOOSE PIMPLES seems like something my grandma always said too (I’ve always just known them as GOOSE BUMPS, which sounds less gross). And SUNKEN EYES doesn’t strike me as a strong stand-alone phrase.
- I don’t think people are texting YOLO as much these days.
- [Pig such as the 2,552-pound Big Bill] HOG. That’s fun trivia! Wowza!
- Is DEJA VU a [“Been there, done that” feeling] ? I always associated it with a more eerie, almost angsty feeling.
3 stars with circles. 1.6 stars without.
Freddie Cheng’s Universal crossword, “Conversation Partners”—Jim P’s review
Sorry for the late post; it hasn’t been a normal weekend around here. And for that reason, I’m going to make this brief.
Our theme takes phrases that are more or less colloquial and then adds the first name of a famous person at the end. But that addition also can be added to the last word of the phrase to make an entirely different word. The two-part clues cover both situations.
- 22a. [“Feel like enjoying the beach hut together?” / “Up for splitting the fare, Ms. Gasteyer?”] WANNA SHARE A CAB/ANA
- 30a/ [“Sit atop a caretaker’s shoulders!” / “Stay alert, Mr. Fleming!”] BE ON YOUR GUARD/IAN
- 48a. [“Switch the machine off and on!” / “Enough, Mr. Garfunkel!”] GIVE IT A REST/ART
- 68a. [“Don’t forget the deli spears!” / “Any is fine, Mr. Paul!”] TAKE YOUR PICK/LES
- 89a. [“Don’t reveal how you lost weight!” / “Persevere, Mr. Danson!”] NEVER SAY DIE/TED
- 107a. [“This fine three-story place is on me!” / “Enjoy your vacation, Mr. Luthor!”] HAVE A NICE TRIP/LEX
- 118a. [“You call this a mushroom?!” / “This seems dull, Mr. Grissom!”] NOT MY IDEA OF FUN/GUS
Pretty fun theme, eh? I wasn’t sure how idiomatic “Wanna share a cab?” and “Be on your guard” are, but aside from that I enjoyed the base phrases and their modified forms.
But what really stole the show is the top-notch fill: “HAND IT OVER,” TALL TALE, ROBOCOP, GOT HITCHED, MAKE A SCENE, SCOOT UP, KLEPTOS, MAIN EVENTS, and HIT A SINGLE. AVON LADIES is (or at least used to be) a well-known phrase, but it makes me wonder if anyone uses it anymore. Are there “Avon Gentlemen”?
I liked this grid a lot. Four stars.
Hi, Johan here, constructor of today’s NYT. Glad you liked the puzzle! For what it’s worth I actually did clue SHAYNE in reference to Shayne Gostisbehere, but I guess the editing team decided to change it to an anagram clue in order to make that section a bit easier. I also had matching clues for NIGHT and DAY, no mention of Angels in my clue for ANAHEIM, and SHAY clued as Carly’s last name on “iCarly” in order to make that quite crosswordese-y answer a bit more modern. Overall though I think the editing team did a great job, and at least most of my favorite clues did make the final cut, such as those for FOOTLONGS, SCISSOR, CELLS, PBS KIDS and the OUI/MM-HMM pair. Using shaded/circled squares was also the editing team’s decision btw. I hope people think it was the right one. Anyway, super fun to have finally made my American debut!
Thank you for an interesting concept and a fun solve Johan! Some great clues. Personally would prefer no circles/shading, but I understand the editorial team’s decision. Looking forward to your themeless!
I agree it would have been fun after the fact to “find the needle in the haystack”, without the circles and would have helped the hint clues (mission: impossible, lost cause) make more sense, since that needle was easy to find with the circles (and once you had a couple hays, you knew what you needed) in that haystack :) , but I do understand the editors choice in this case.
Fun puzzle all around… thanks Johan!
That would have been awesome if Shayne was clued as Shayne Gostisbehere. Leader of my alma mater’s (Union College) 2014 National Championship hockey team! Still can’t believe that happened…
Johan: Very craftfully executed, I was impressed—especially with the bonus fill that went beyond many word lists. My compliments to the chef!
Congratulations, and thank you. To construct a good crossword in a non-native language to me is an achievement of genius.
“Second person in the Bible” is one of the best clues of the year.
Oh yay, a list of baseball team names. Zero stars from me.
I keep getting a paywall with the Themeless Saturday. Anybody else?
Try this, Brenda. It works for me.
NYT: Nice attempt, but that HAY stack is gonna blow over in the first wind. Guessed the theme at MISSION IMPOSSIBLE, and I was really hoping for a NYAH-NYAH running down as I got down to the annoying circles. Now that would have been a real needle in the haystack as opposed to the obvious one.
WaPo: Marshall Fields, regional department store based in Chicago for many years. One of many gobbled up by Macy’s.
WaPo: Great puzzle for sitting outside with a cup of coffee on this beautiful Colorado morning! Fun theme and it got my day off to a good start. Except I inadvertently gave it 3 stars instead of the 5 I wanted and couldn’t figure how to retract it. Oh well. (Sorry Evan!)
Curious about the numerous strong negatives on the NYT. I rather enjoyed the theme, including the long answers that weren’t all quite common phrases but idiomatic enough.
I did have to guess a crossing or two with ANGEL EYES, and I have to say I feel really fortunate that SHAYNE and SHAY were clued as they were instead of with proper name trivia.
LAT: I’m an old baseball fan and really enjoyed this one. I even got the pattern that on the three long answers, the first was two teams and the second was three teams. The only way to make this better would be to include DODGERS and ANGELS.
I completely get that the clueing had only to do with words, not with the teams themselves, but I still wanted to find some version of “Red Sox” in 74A, “…New Englanders…”. For it to turn out to be “Yankees” might have been a little cringe-worthy to die-hard fans.
I thought this was a pretty fun theme as well. Once I got the first one, I tried to guess (unsuccessfully, until I saw the later clues) which other baseball team names could be used as verbs. Pretty clever.
A minor complaint, but since the theme answers involved baseball team names, I would have thought other baseball team clues such as “Dodger great Hodges” and “Phillies’ div.” would have been avoided.
Very nice English debut! I know from trying my hand at solving French crosswords that the whole solve can feel very different across languages. However, this felt different in a cool way, as a nice departure from NYTimes concept of a Sunday puzzle. But I completely agree that it would have been way better without the circles…
Congratulations Johan Vass! looking forward to more.
Amy, I wonder if the old ad that was echoing in your mind was “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing”?
I also had that thought. A really really funny commercial.
“That was one spicy meatball” was another, though very un-PC.
Impressive English-language debut, Johan! I think the puzzle works have been even more fun without the shaded squares – they made of it too easy. The cluing was fun. Nice job!
Well, I was glad see input from Frank and Mark, at least I”m not the only one who does the LAT. I agree, I didn’t like it much either. I think maybe everyone is getting tired of having me point out that the LAT is missing here. Maybe I’ll just quit.
Well, I don’t know about everyone else, but I am getting a bit a tired of it. And you’re probably tired of being told that we’re all volunteers with other commitments and we’re doing our best. I went on vacation. I am not going to apologize for that. I’m likely to do it again as soon as possible. You’re welcome to discuss the puzzle here whether we review it or not.
And Joan, if you need to see the solution and a theme explanation, L.A. Times Crossword Corner (https://crosswordcorner.blogspot.com/) is always there as an option. You may certainly prefer the writers at Fiend, but I think all of us here have busy lives and jobs. I *think* some of the Crossword Corner folks are retired, so maybe they’re more able to avoid missing a day occasionally?