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.