Sam Ezersky’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Was this puzzle harder than you expected, or did I just give myself trouble with all the wrong turns? I had WAIST DEEP rather than WAIST HIGH (pools go with DEEP, not HIGH!), MORDOR for MT DOOM (hang on, did Tolkien abbreviate that, or was it always Mount Doom? note that the clue has no suggestion that the answer’s abbreviated), LEGO KIT for LEGO SET, and LION TAMER for STRONGMAN. Too many derailments!
Highlights in this 66-worder: SCRAPPY, MARATHONER, PEPSI COLA (I like the baseball mislead: [Name on a vintage red, white and blue cap]), I AM LEGEND, and of course POOHBAH. Not so keen on “A PITY,” MADCAPS (plural, a noun form? So unfamiliar in that fashion), SUABLE, NAGGERS, WORSE TO COME, the green-paintish ITALIAN MEAL, and ONE EGG.
Five more things:
- 47a. [Men’s grooming items], BEARD COMBS. The puzzle overall had a male vibe, from STRONGMAN on through the various people in the clues. Rachel Carson popped up in an EPA clue, the Valkyries are cited in the NORSE MYTH clue. and there’s a generic LASS, and that’s it for women. (I’m not counting WHELPS as representation.)
- 39a. [Dish rack accessories], TEA TOWELS. If you need another kitchen towel and you like science, you might like these products.
- 43d. [Toxic protein prepared on “Breaking Bad”], RICIN. That was an awful story line!
- 4d. [Some bars returned to again and again?], THEMES. As in TV theme songs. What’s your pick for the best, most memorable TV theme? My vote goes to instrumentals like the themes for The Rockford Files, Sanford and Son, and Barney Miller. Not sure I can choose just one!
- I AM LEGEND, “I SEE NOW,” “I’M OUT.” I’m out!
3.25 stars from me.
Kyra Wilson’s & Sophia Maymudes’s Inkubator crossword, “Themeless #19″—Amy’s write-up
It’s Amy filling in for Jenni, and how lucky for me to be treated to a fun Inkubator themeless! Sophia and Kyra, who met at Carleton College eons after I went there, have teamed up before, and they sure get good results. Lots of fresh and young and woman-friendly content in this puzzle: THIRST TRAP (if you’ve ever swooned from looking at a photo, you’ve seen a thirst trap), LGBTQIA (dang it, I jumped on ROY G. BIV for [Rainbow initialism], even though ROY G. BIV doesn’t fit the definition of an initialism), TikTok star ADDISON RAE (who I just heard of for the first time this week—perfect timing!), SAFE RIDE on campus, THE SQUAD of Congress. There are also clues that resonated—can’t help wondering if the pleasure I take in a puzzle written and edited by women is something that men have been grooving on in crosswords by men all this time?
- 14a. [Like the poetry of Sappho], HOMOEROTIC. I feel like we rarely see this word used in reference to women! It’s a nice change-up.
- 20a. [Org. that released a Gwen Ifill stamp in 2020], USPS. I believe I bought a book of these.
- 30a. [Home of the Huskers: Abbr.], UNL. Huh?? Never seen this abbrev for University of Nebraska–Lincoln before. Do most people just call it (University of) Nebraska? (I say this is tied with -EAL for worst fill.)
- 62a. [Ones who go stag when they couple up?], DOES. Boooooo! Terrible pun. I love it!
- 3d. [“Love that for you”], “I’M GLAD.” I feel like “Love that for you” has strong Alexis-on-Schitt’s Creek vibes.
- 24d. [Frees the nipple], GOES TOPLESS. Indeed!
- 28d. [Home state of Beyoncé: Abbr.], TEX. Houston, in particular. Per the lyrics of “Formation,” her dad had Alabama roots and her mom, Louisiana. I’ve never been clear on how that adds up to a Texas Bama.
- 29d. [Elle and Vivian, for most of “Legally Blonde”], ONE-L’S, as in 1-L’s, first-year law students. Usually hate seeing ONEL in a puzzle, but the movie clue freshens it up a bit.
- 36d. [Those of us without a blue check mark], NOBODIES. Ha! I did enjoy this one. Yes, I’m on Twitter without the (technically) white check mark in a blue badge.
- 37a. [Jumps done by Starr Andrews], AXELS. Not a skater I was familiar with. I like this routine, skated to the Mickey Guyton country song, “Black Like Me.”
4.25 stars from me.
Robyn Weintraub’s New Yorker crossword – Rachel’s writeup
Well, folks, it’s Friday, it’s a Robyn Weintraub themeless New Yorker gem, and it’s my last day as the regular blogger for the New Yorker here at Team Fiend, so I have a lot of feelings! First, the lovely puzzle:
The long entries today are all super fun; I *loved* WHERE’S THE FIRE??? (question marks implied), and also enjoyed SARDINE CAN, BATTLE CRY, SELF-SERVE, FREE THROW LINE, RELAY RACES, AVANT GARDE, and ICE MACHINE. These are all pretty satisfying entries, and they were mixed in with some equally enjoyable medium fill, like WEDGIE, DEAL ME IN and SPIN ART. Just a bunch of fun little choices in the construction of this puzzle! We also have some classic Robyn Weintraub cluing, including the is-that-a-dirty-joke? clue on RICHARD [Dick but longer], the clever misdirect of [Revolutionary painting?] for SPIN ART, and the perfect colloquial context clue [Question that might follow “Hey, slow down, buddy!”] for WHERE’S THE FIRE???. Great stuff!
A few more things:
- While I get the clue [It gets shorter the more you accomplish] on TO-DO LIST, it does not feel true to life; I feel like every time I cross something off a TO-DO LIST I find myself adding three more items to replace it!
- Looove that we have a non-Scarlet O’HARA we can use from now on
- KATIE Ledecky is an amazing athlete and I am *so excited* for the Olympics this summer!!!
Overall, tons of stars from me. The long stuff is sparkly, the short stuff is also fun, and the clues are Friday-yet-clever.
And now some brief sentimental stuff: I started writing for Fiend a couple years ago when Amy was looking for someone to cover the New Yorker puzzles regularly. As the New Yorker puzzles were (and still are) my favorite mainstream puzzles in the business, I was thrilled to have a chance to think critically about what made them so good. I’ve learned so much writing for Fiend, as a crossword-critiquer, as a constructor, and as a member of the wider crossword community. Having the opportunity to think and write about my favorite puzzles 2 and then 3 times per week has been an a joy, and I’m grateful to Amy and the rest of Team Fiend for putting up with my possibly sometimes maybe overly-positive write-ups (?). I’m sticking around as an emeritus member of the team, and will probably pop in now and again to cover the New Yorker or another puzzle as needed. I’ve got some exciting crossword-related news coming soon, so if you’re worried you won’t be able to go on without my crossword commentary, rest assured it will be returning soon! (And in the meantime, you can always follow me on Twitter). Thanks again to Amy, Team Fiend, the outstanding New Yorker constructor slate, and the commenting community here— it’s been an honor. See you on the internet!
Bruce Haight’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up
Today’s theme features phrases ending in /īz/ and replaces them with homophones, to wackiterious effect.
- 17a. [Assorted caustic solutions?] PACK OF LYES (… lies). I was thinking of “Have you tried turning it off and on?” and “Just think about where you last saw it.”
- 23a. [Receiving annoying questions?] GETTING WHYS (… wise). See, annoying questions call for caustic solutions.
- 34a. [Agreements just between us?] PRIVATE AYES (… eyes). Although the answer seems as if it could be related to 28a [Mil. category] NCO.
- 48a. [Quick and unexpected exits?] IMPULSE BYES (… buys).
- 57a. [Pretense of being a brute] TOUGH GUISE (… guys).
All sorts of spelling variations among the originals and substitutions, but there are a couple of duplications. Not a big deal, but it crimps the style a bit.
Thing I noticed about the crossword was the amount of clever-type clues. Maybe it was a little too much, because I found it perhaps just a tad distracting. On the other hand, I always appreciate a well-turned clue. Anyway, here’s a sampling: 11d [Raise canines?] TEETHE, 31d [Seize like Caesar] CARPE, 41d [Like some winks] SLY, 43d [Incoming words] I’M HERE, 50d [Jacket material] BLURB, 51d [Short-lived ’80s–’90s cars that sounded like they should always work] YUGOS, 59d [Medium strength?] ESP, 1a [Bill collectors?] TILLS, 46a [Soap dish?] TV IDOL, 63a [Look the wrong way?] LEER, 64a [Space balls?] ORBS. Maybe a bit overwhelming?
- 37d [Gas-absorbing mixture] SODA LIME. Hmm. Soda, lime … add some mint, sugar, and white rum, a little panache (plus a glass) and you’ve got yourself a mojito. Yum.
- 24d [Retired, maybe] IN BED, 65a [Power-saving mode] SLEEP.
- I just double-checked, and there are no extraneous /īz/ sounds in the grid or clues. Conscientious!
Adam Wagner’s Universal crossword, “Eye-Opening”—Jim P’s review
It still took me a few moments post-solve to grok the theme. The revealer clue at 67a is [Reaching an agreement … or, parsed differently, what the starts of 20-, 34- and 40-Across are?]. The answer is COMING TO TERMS. I tried to re-parse the last two words but got nowhere. Finally I realized that all is needed is a hyphen in just the right place: COMING-TO TERMS. The other theme entries start with terms that are synonyms for “coming to” (i.e. awakening). (Does adding a hyphen constitute re-parsing?)
- 20a. [Muster enough courage] GET UP THE NERVE.
- 34a. [Suffering from cabin fever] STIR CRAZY.
- 40a. [You may balance on one in the water] WAKEBOARD.
This was a pretty stealthy theme, at least for me, and I liked the aha moment, even if it came after the solve.
Fill-wise, there are a lot of interesting entries everywhere I look, starting with TELEPORT and “DO AS I SAY” in the marquee positions. Also good: EXPEDIA, KITCHEN, CAT TOY, SEEMS OK, and BEN-GAY. (Huh. Just learned that it’s now written as the hyphen-less BENGAY as of 1995. Maybe that’s where the hyphen came from for the revealer.) I particularly liked ALFREDO because that’s my go-to word when someone asks how to pronounce my last name of Peredo: “Rhymes with ALFREDO.” I never did get around to naming a son that.
Not so sure about AMPLER as an entry [More than more than enough?]. And RAP CD feels green-paintish. Oh, and [Woodworking tool: Var.] ADZ crossing proper name IDA might be a sticking point for some.
Clues of note:
- 5a. [Military trainee]. CADET. This is only for officers (via the academies or ROTC) as I understand. Those who enlist are just called “recruits.” I think?
- 68a. [Peak performance?]. YODEL. Great clue.
- 43d. [Sat on the throne]. REIGNED. That’s not what immediately comes to my mind, but of course it’s correct.
Solid grid. The strong fill outweighs the iffier stuff. 3.8 stars.
ITALIAN MEAL is a truly terrible crossword entry.
IM – Certainly was a gimme
Much more of a complaint with ONE EGG, implication of “extra” or relative uniqueness – chocolate chips, nuts, some weird word for marijuana, a flavored liquor? Obtuse, tangential but not cute or clever.
Is that a nice ITALIANMEAL you’re eating there? I love ITALIANMEAL!
Is it … breakfast?
My ringtone is the Rockford Files theme. Makes me happy every time I hear it.
ELEGIZE goes with the other words you mentioned. Ugh.
Being a kid of the ‘80s, I’m less familiar with that one, but man oh man do I love me a Mike Post composition. Guy was a genius. I mean, still is, I’m sure, but I don’t know how active he is anymore.
When I think Rockford Files, I immediately get “Battle of Who Could Care Less”, by Ben Folds Five in my head because there’s a bit of verse about that show, and it’s just a catchy song anyway.
I love the Rockford Files theme, too – also the one from Hill Street Blues (another Mike Post piece, I think).
But was I off base thinking that the clue/answer was getting at a theme in a piece of classical music?
I’ll miss your New Yorker writeups, Rachel – they’ve been consistently thoughtful and entertaining!
same here – years of smart, rigorous critique without ever losing sight of kindness, what a blessing it’s been to read and learn from. all the stars from me
Thank you all! Kam and Erik, it’s been an absolute pleasure to solve and write about your puzzles ❤️
One more thumbs-up.
Amy, thank you for posting that video. Wow.
Yes, beautiful and apt.
NYT: Thinking about this puzzle which is not receiving much love- In part it’s because it may be misplaced on a Friday. But I think it’s the cluing that makes things extra-vague, with so many options. It’s workable to have some of those strewn in, but the density makes it really hard to get a toehold.
And WORSE TO COME felt a little off (although I’m sure it’s legit). I’m more familiar with The Worst is Yet to Come, or Worse Comes to Worst, and it just threw me off.
Inkubator: UNL is very common and quite appropriate for the football team. NU has 4 campuses: UNL, UNO (Omaha), UNK (Kearney), and UNMC (Univ. of Nebr. Medical Center).
It’s also their domain (unl.edu)
Thanks for all the excellent New Yorker reviews, Rachel- they’ve been such a joy to read, and I’ll miss them!
❤️ thank you for reading them, Mollie!!!!!!!
I too will miss your write-ups Rachel!! I’ve learned to enjoy TNY’s New York bias, as a west coaster it is interesting! And your positive attitude is always a day-brightener.
I do look forward to doing the new puzzles you are creating, and wish you very well with that endeavor.
psst: put up a tip-jar :) .
Wow, thank you!!! I’ll talk to clr about a tip jar— they’re the brains of the operation ;)
NYT: Ha! I had REGROUT (34D) crossing STEW (56A). They both KINDA fit the clues, if you don’t stop to really think about them, which I didn’t: [Get back together] and [Go on and on bitterly].
Much not to like about the NYT puzzle today, but 46D I consider wrong. I had ESTE for the answer to “El de aquí, correctly, because if ESTO was wanted, the clue should have been “Lo de aquí.” “El” is a male pronoun, “LO” would refer to a “thing” in this construction. ESTO is a thing.
By the time that I downloaded the puzzle, NYT apparently had corrected this issue by changing the clue to “Que es __ ?”
Same here, actually “Que es ____?” (What’s this? Sp) as the whole clue. Maybe the early bird (zulema) catches the errors? :D .
I never know if it will end in o or a, I don’t know the Spanish rules that well.
I thought Ezersky’s puzzle was really good. He can make a tough puzzle but they’re almost always well done. One of the best constructors out there imo.
I gave it some more thought, say you are pointing at two objects, this one here and that one there, no humans involved, it would still be ESTE and not ESTO. I’ll leave it alone now.
I found the NYT hard for a Friday but totally fair. Good job.
The hardest for me was the entire left side, and I finished the NW last. I wasn’t familiar with UNISOM, ASPEN in that sense, or the ARAL SEA event. As Amy notes, MADCAPS in the plural is unusual, and parsing the clue leading to THEMES wasn’t easy either. But done.