Sophia Maymudes’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Sophia’s one of those bright, new faces in Themelessland, and there’s plenty of fun stuff in this puzzle. That top stack! RIDE OR DIE sandwiched between TRASH TALK and an ICED LATTE, with a dash of Olivia Newton-John (you don’t fool me with that [Literary utopia] clue for XANADU). That bottom stack, with the great SAVE A SEAT between an ADULT SITE and MEAN GIRLS. And then the other two corners have stacked 10s; SEEMS LEGIT.
Clue angles I don’t think we would have seen in an NYT crossword just a few short years ago: 18a. [Sephora product], TONER, to refresh and tone your skin, of course. 49a. [Tampon alternative], PAD. I’d love to be compensated for all the years of OTT by a similar quantity of unashamed-of-menstruation clues.
Other entries I liked seeing: MARIO PARTY, ANGELA Davis (31a. [Davis who said “I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I cannot accept”]), LASER TAG. Not wild about “I WANNA LOOK,” which feels contrived to me, and crosswordese Russian city OREL.
Five more things:
- 15a. [Person who will do anything for you, in modern slang], RIDE OR DIE. I have not used this phrase. I don’t think I’m allowed to—there’s gotta be an age limit to such slang, yeah? I can understand it when it’s used, but if asked to explain the definition or to use it correctly … I might have a little trouble.
- 35a. [Things not allowed in New York’s Central Park], CARS. I was working the crossings to put this together (those roads that traverse the park misled me!) and had CATS. “Wow, how odd! I guess because they eat birds?”
- 64a. [Mexican sandwich], TORTA. Thank you for including this one, Sophia. We have been waiting so long for Sam Ezersky to add TORTA to the word list for Spelling Bee.
- 1d. [Magician’s favorite cereal?], TRIX. Boooooooo! Groooooan! Terrible grade-school pun material. I loved it.
- 12d. [It goes for a short run], MINISERIES. Seems like that term has largely been dropped in favor of limited series, which might be an anthology show with different casts/settings from one season to the next, or might be a straight-up miniseries. The M-word has a sort of 1970s vibe to me.
Four stars from me.
Pawel Fludzinski’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
My work has been hectic the last couple of weeks, so I feel literally stupider as I solve. So either that was the case, or this was a tad thornier than normal. But I will take a time of 7 1/2 minutes, considering the background info I just told you! Haven’t seen a puzzle by Pawel in awhile, so it is nice to see his byline again. I enjoyed this solve, even if there were just a couple of thorny spots. I solved a lot of this while watching some of the US Track & Field Championships that just started; it should be an interesting week for sure. 4.5 stars for the puzzle, though!
A few notes:
- 1A [Epidemiologist’s “ground zero”] INDEX CASE – I wonder who the INDEX CASE of COVID-19 is? Have they ever said?? I think all we know is that it is someone from China.
- 10A [Swiss city that hosts the World Economic Forum annual meeting] DAVOS – Also the mean corporation behind the parks in Westworld, I believe. Don’t quote me.
- 15A [Tourist income source for some farmers] CORN MAZES – There are tons of these around where I live come late September.
- 29A [Eli of “The Magnificent Seven”] WALLACH – I liked him better in The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly!
- 54A [“Glassheart” singer Lewis] LEONA – Not her most famous song. Admittedly, this song is virtually UNknown to me!
- 60A [“All good?”] “ARE WE COOL?” – Great casual phrase!
- 7D [Surveyor’s measurement] AZIMUTH – I work with a surveyor. I will ask him if he knows what this is!
- 10D [Laptop screen meas.] DIAG. – Why do they measure these things diagonally? TV screens are the same. Weird …
- 29D [Sci-fi passages] WORMHOLES – These make for great plot development. You can go literally anywhere!
- 48D [Heroic 1920s sled dog] BALTO – Wasn’t this a Disney movie?
Going to try and find some time to do some puzzles later today, but its a busy day for us! (Who am I kidding? Of COURSE I will do more puzzles later!)
Anna Stiga’s Newsday crossword, “Themeless Saturday” – Derek’s write-up
I thought the Anna Stiga surname (“Stan Again!”) were slightly easier? Or, maybe I am just losing my mind after a busy day at work? The lower half was easier; I finished in the NE and then lastly the NW corner. This was solved over a couple of sessions (I paused the timer!), so some entries pop out to you after looking at something else, so that was surely the case here. But kudos to Stan for a wide-open grid with nothing too difficult in here, just tough clues! 4.6 stars.
Some stuff I enjoyed:
- 30A [Clears up, with ”out”] IRONS – Tricky since it starts with a vowel!
- 33A [Oral dismissal] “IT DOESN’T MATTER” – Great casual phrase!
- 36A [Rolex alternative] MOVADO – The alternative in that I cannot afford either of them!
- 44A [Weapons with bell guards] EPEES – I thought this was STENS! I actually did a tiny bit of fencing in grammar school, but that was 8 zillion years ago …
- 52A [Big name in the TV business] A.C. NIELSEN – Does Nielsen still publish ratings? Can they track what I watch on YouTube??
- 3D & 47D [Shania Twain, e.g.] ALTO & VIRGO – Clever! The same clue was used twice here, and I had no idea what either one meant until I had several crossings!
- 5D [Designer of the Mae West Lips Sofa] DALI – I had to look this up! Now I want one! See below for an image of one. (I am just kidding; this is too gaudy for me!)
- 7D [Willow-tree derivative] ASPIRIN – I knew this came from nature somehow, but I couldn’t remember which plant. Nice clue!
- 13D [Post stuff] COLD CEREAL – Best clue in the puzzle, and now I am getting hungry …
- 26D [Energy source since 1942] ATOMIC PILE – I don’t think I know this term, but I am sure it is tied to nuclear plants as well as the bomb somehow.
- 54D [Turkey purchase of less than a dollar] LIRA – This seems worded weirdly, but I think that’s on purpose! Yes, the LIRA is the Turkish unit of moolah.
Everyone have a safe and healthy weekend!
Lita and Tass Williams’s Universal crossword, “Pride Month Themeless III” — Jim Q’s write-up
This puzzle is part of Universal’s Pride Month series.
Totally forgot that today was going to be a themeless (as it will be next week, I’m sure). So still a pleasant surprise for the 3rd week in a row.
- 1A [Unnamed Phoebe Waller-Bridge character] FLEABAG. This entry for the win! I was lucky enough to see her one-woman show Off-Broadway (before I had even heard of the series). So awesome. I will say that I never realized her character went nameless until now, which makes sense. That must make for some difficult writing to never name a character.
- 24D [Warriors such as Wonder Woman] AMAZON. I had AMAZING, which works kinda sorta (but not really I s’pose).
- 38D [7-Eleven drink] SLURPEE, not to be confused with the Slushie, as Seth Meyers found out.
- 26D [Notable anniversary] JUBILEE. As it turns out, I don’t think I ever knew the meaning of this word, yet I know I’ve used it in the past on more than one occasion. Or perhaps I’m mixing it up with JAMBOREE. A JAMBOREE on a JUBILEE sounds fantastic.
- 29A [Word aptly hidden in “onboard”] OAR. A staple of Universal crossword clues is to find apt words hidden in other words. Love those clues. However, I always cringe at Universal’s other staple type of clue, which is the navel-gazing “Let’s-Meta-Reference-Crossword-Puzzles-In-This-One” genre. Today, it’s 9D [What two obscure puzzle answers shouldn’t do] CROSS. Ick.
Got myself in a fun jam in the SE corner. Had TOTEM for 50A [Lowest number?], which makes no sense. OVERATE instead of ATE A TON, TOO LATE? instead of AM I LATE? and YAPS instead of YIPS. Really slowed down there, but it was a delightful untangle.
4.2 stars. I really hope themeless Saturday extends beyond Pride Month.
Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “A Real Composer” — pannonica’s write-up
Not too much of a poser here. Simply drop in the trigram COM to alter the meanings of common phrases.
- 22a. [Dugout-emptying brawl?] BASEBALL COMBAT (baseball bat).
- 36a. [Place for a Pole’s powder?] WARSAW COMPACT (Warsaw Pact).
- 60a. [Navigational aid at the bow of the ship?] FORWARD COMPASS (forward pass).
- 71a. [Bartering at the garden supply store] TRADING COMPOST (trading post).
- 89a. [Pandemonium that takes a while to build?] SLOW COMMOTION (slow motion).
- 110a. [“Stop coddling those kids!”?] HOLD THE COMFORT (hold the fort).
- 16d. [“Watercolour” or centrepiece,” say?] BRITISH COMPOUND (British pound).
- 45d. [Acquiescent duo?] PAIR OF COMPLIERS (pair of pliers).
A solid but to my mind not an especially compelling theme.
- 6d [Platypus feature] BILL. The scientific name is quite literal: Ornithorynchus anatinus, meaning “duck-like bird-nose”.
- 23d [This answer, e.g.] ABBR. Meta!
- 31d [Triumphant call] I WIN. Hmm, why not “cry” in that clue? 32d [Mary Higgins Clark’s “__ in the Night”] A CRY. aha!
- 52d [Ring-tailed mammal] COATI. Scientific name here is the genus Nasua, referring to its large nose. South American species is Nasua nasua while the Central American variety is Nasua narica, in which the ‘narica’ refers to the nostrils.
- 64d [River under the Pont de Trinquetaille in Arles] RHÔNE. Van Gogh painted this area a number of times.
- 68d [The U.N. accused him of war crimes in 2013] ASSAD. Fat lot of good that did. But kudos to Shenk and the WSJ for framing the clue this way.
- 82d [Tree with samaras] ELM. Those are the distinctive bifurcated seed pods.
- 95d [Comerica Park player] TIGER. “Comerica” you say, hmm.
- 104d [Chain with a maple bacon milkshake] IHOP. Those are three wonderful words that should never be put together like that. No, no, no.
- 6a [Salerno store] BOTTEGA. Obviously a cognate to the more familiar (to some) bodega.
- 13a [Bazooka shape] BUBBLE. For a while I thought this might be TUBULE, but the bubblegum is what’s being referenced here.
- 24a [Throughout] DURING. O, temporal.
- 25a [River of southwest England] EXE. The terminal e is silent, as in the crossing 2d [Have __ to grind] AN AXE.
- Continuing in our taxonomic nose journey, there’s 103a [Snorkasaurus of cartoons] DINO.
- 118a [Miniseries end, perhaps] PART TEN. Kind of random. You know, greenpainty.
- 46a [Number line center] ZERO. I feel as if this needs, an ‘often’ qualifier.
- 47a [Give warning of] FORESHOW. I guess that’s the more demonstrative version of foreshadowing.