So many crossword announcements today!
- Matt Gaffney writes, “I’m doing a Zoom Q&A Tuesday, June 29, from 7:30 to 9:30 PM ET, hosted by the Muggles Forum, answering questions from solvers about contest crosswords. All are welcome but we are limited to 300, so if you are unable to get a spot, the talk will be posted in full on Wednesday. Zoom link here.
- The New Yorker has added a weekly cryptic crossword to its puzzle mix! Here’s the announcement and here’s the first puzzle, constructed by Patrick Berry. The other constructors on the cryptics roster are Emily Cox & Henry Rathvon, Neville Fogarty, Joshua Kosman & Henri Picciotto, Paolo Pasco, Trip Payne, and Stella Zawistowski. These folks are all great at writing cryptics! You can solve the puzzles online or print them out. (Sign up for the Crosswords newsletter to get a handy email whenever a new puzzle is available.)
- This Thursday, July 1, a new weekly indie crossword called Crucinova begins. Crucinova is the brainchild of longtime puzzler Lisa Bunker, and these will not be your grandmother’s crosswords. Lisa gave me a sneak peek at the first two puzzles—they’re well-made and fun, and the grids are not your standard square crosswords. I signed up! $29.99 a year after the first free month. Check it out. Also: Constructors with really creative ideas (which newspaper puzzles often cannot accommodate) are encouraged to submit their work to Crucinova. Explanatory submission guidelines here.
Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle (Week 526), “Edgy Vacation Venues”—Ade’s take
Hello everyone! Just like that, half of 2021 is over! More importantly, hoping all are doing well and keeping as cool as possible, especially those reading who are in the Pacific Northwest!
I am sure that many of you would not mind taking an island vacation, and today’s grid gives you a list of wonderful getaway spots to head to. As a matter-of-fact, all of the entries that make up the edges of the grid are all names of actual islands — though are not clued in reference to geography — and the BLOCK entry acts as the reveal (31D: [___ Island (New England vacation spot and a visual hint re the eight answers on this puzzle’s edge]).
- MANHATTAN (1A: [Whisky-and-vermouth cocktail])
- CAPRI (10A: [Cropped pants style])
- ISCHIA (14D: [Hipbone sections])
- MOLOKAI (47D: [___ Mike (rum, orange juice and brandy drink)])
- SANTORINI (71D: [Final novel by Alistair MacLean])
- SAMOA (63A: [Caramel-and-coconut Girl Scout cookie])!
- RHODES (48D: [Scholarship awarded to Rachel Maddow and Bill Clinton])
- MADEIRA (1D: [Dessert wine])
Doubt that SECLUDED was part of the theme, but definitely an added bonus in the grid given the direction the puzzle went (35A: [Out-of-the-way, as a vacation spot]). Can’t say that I’ve ever gone to a location that could be described as such, but hope to do so one day and have fun taking that trip. Any out-of-the-way suggestions?
The concept of the theme allowed for stacked nines — along with other vertically-stacked long entries — in the northwest and southeast, with WABI-SABI (41D: [Asian concept that finds beauty in imperfection]) definitely being a highlight, even if its crossing with LEW being a possible spot of bother (40A: [“Ben-Hur” author Wallace]). A nod to a journalism legend, Jimmy BRESLIN, brought a NYC flair to the grid, which is never bad for this New Yorker (46D: [Tough-talking newspaper columnist Jimmy ___]).
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: ACES (8D: [High cards]) – Though the Las Vegas Aces play in the latest city to host a WNBA team, they are one of the founding members of the league. Of the eight teams that were in the inaugural season of the WNBA in 1997, one of the squads was the Utah Starzz (the double “z” mimicking the NBA team’s nickname, Utah Jazz, and the name mimicking the former ABA team, Utah Stars). In 2002, the team moved to San Antonio to become the San Antonio Silver Stars, with the nickname shortened to “Stars” in 2014. In 2018, the team moved to Las Vegas and is now one of the league’s best, finishing as league runner-up last season to the Seattle Storm.
Thank you so much for the time, everybody! Have a wonderful and safe rest of your day and, as always, keep solving!
Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Rising Costs”—Jim P’s review
I am traveling today and didn’t bring my laptop charger, so this will be a brief recap.
Theme: Familiar phrases (in the Down direction) have the trigram PAY going Up. The revealer is PAY UP (50d, [Settle a tab, and a feature of the answers to 3-, 6-, 10- and 30-Down]).
- 3d. [Film for which Mira Sorvino won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar] MIGHTY APHRODITE
- 6d. [Halloween treat] CANDY APPLE
- 10d. [Reason to request seconds] HEALTHY APPETITE
- 30d. [Speak with one’s head bowed, perhaps] SAY A PRAYER
Hidden words aren’t particularly thrilling when it’s the same word in all theme answers and the word is only three letters long. That said, I do like all these theme answers for their liveliness.
Top fill: INNER PEACE, GOT BUSY, PRIVATE EYE (with the good clue [Spade or Hammer]). Did not know TELMA Hopkins of Gimme a Break!
Alan Arbesfeld’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
A plea to constructors: Please don’t jam six theme entries into a 15×15 grid unless you’re, say, Patrick Berry or Lynn Lempel. It’s too much, and it doesn’t let the surrounding fill breathe. There is so much stuff in this puzzle that’s wildly out of place in a Tuesday puzzle (heck, the theme is too hard for a Tuesday, too). My solving time was way out of whack for a Tuesday.
The theme is “X in the Y” phrases presented by putting the “X” word between “THE” and the “Y” word, so it visually represents the “in.”
- 17a. [Toy with a spring, literally], THE JACK BOX. Jack in the box.
- 24a. [Put an early stop to, literally], THE NIP BUD. Nip in the bud.
- 31a. [Interfere, literally], THE BE WAY. Be in the way.
- 40a. [Undecided, literally], THE UP AIR. Up in the air.
- 48a. [Unrealistic, as wishes, literally], THE PIE SKY. Pie in the sky.
- 55a. [“Years ago …,” literally], THE BACK DAY. Back in the day.
I do like the entry JINGLE, but wasn’t finding a whole lot to like in this grid. Didn’t care for IS IT A GO (though it Googles okay), ENOTES, ONE RATE (beg pardon? 3d. [A fixed fee]?), ECTO-, LEY, ESTES Park, or SHAY (35d. Two-wheeled carriage]). And in a Tuesday puzzle!! That’s just wrong. I wouldn’t like the fill better on a Wednesday, but at least the folks who are new to puzzles might not be scared away.
Three more things:
- 50a. [Language from which “curry” and “catamaran” come], TAMIL. Thank you, Tamil, for sharing these with us!
- 52a. [Norman of the Clinton and Bush cabinets], MINETA. Secretary of Transportation, I want to say? *checking* Yes, Transpo under Dubya, and Secretary of Commerce for Clinton’s last six months.
- 32d. [Sorcerer’s concoction], ELIXIR. I love this word! But I resent it because I filled in POTION first and it took too long to figure out what 31a was with that P in place.
2.5 stars from me.
Ori Brian and David Gold’s Universal crossword, “Going Both Ways”— Jim Q’s write-up
*This puzzle is part of Universal’s Pride Month series.
Another celebration of bisexuality today!
THEME: Phrases that have both “BI” and “IB” in theme.
- 17A [*Kitchen pot products? (Theme hint: See this answer’s circled letters)] CANNABIS EDIBLES. I’m sure the theme hint is edited in the widely published version of this puzzle and asks the solver to count letters. Which, ya’ know… weird.
- 28A [*“Out of the Blue” singer] DEBBIE GIBSON.
- 45A [*Home of the Krusty Krab] BIKINI BOTTOM.
- 60A [*Moving collections of literature?] MOBILE LIBRARIES.
Nice finds! Especially enjoyed CANNABIS EDIBLES (not literally… I’ve never tried one. It’s on my list of things to do). And who doesn’t love a DEBBIE GIBSON throwback? I saw her as Belle in Beauty and the Beast on Broadway a very long time ago. She was going by “Deborah” then. Wonder what she’s up to these days…
BIKINI BOTTOM is a bit of an outlier as the backwards BI bridges the phrase, but I hadn’t even noticed that until typing it out. Looks fine in the grid.
I do appreciate that the BI/IB pairs weren’t circled in every themer. That would be awfully boring. And I’ll skip my (longer) rant about Universal’s inability to publish circles in its grids today. I don’t think this puzzle suffers from pitfall that like they often do.
Fairly standard non-flashy fill. BREE Newsome is new to me. As is ISABEL Allende. I’m not all that familiar with BEAR culture, but I’ve heard of it in passing. And hey, it’s a culture with a flag. Let’s look that one up. Guaranteed it’s gonna be a good one. Sure is! Diggin’ those earth tones.
Solid, tight theme today. 4 stars.
*This appears to be a debut for David Gold. Congrats!
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “Pretty Cool” – Derek’s write-up
Yes, “pretty cool” indeed! The revealer is at the top at 11A, so it is fairly clear what is going on rather early in the solve:
- 17A [They’re coming to save the day] RESCUE SQUAD
- 63A [Colorful final track in most Mario Kart games] RAINBOW ROAD
- 11D [Leaving competitors in the dust] RACING AHEAD
- 25D [What “Dolittle” won in the category of Worst Prequel, Remake, Rip-off or Sequel, in 2021] RAZZIE AWARD
- 11A [“Awesome!” (and the letters seen on the outside of each theme answer)] RAD
Nicely done. All the themers are surrounded by the letters RAD. This was hip slang back when I was in high school – many millennia ago… Some interesting theme entries here, and I see no obscure trivia this week, so all of this made for a smooth solve. I will have to look up who won Razzies this past year, or if it was called off due to COVID! 4.3 stars today.
A few minor points:
- 32A [Cereal box activity, maybe] MAZE – Now I want some cereal – if nothing else, just for the puzzles!
- 42A [“Gandhi” character] NEHRU – I haven’t seen this in literally 40 years. I also don’t have 3 1/2 hours to re-watch it. Maybe in sections …
- 51A [___ souchong tea] LAPSANG – I knew this one! I spelled it wrong at first, but I knew this!
- 69A [Kemper who plays Kimmy Schmidt] ELLIE – Another show I just never got the chance to watch. I saw some of it, and it was pretty funny. I just don’t watch much TV anymore.
- 72A [“Black Velvet” singer Alannah ___] MYLES – Talk about a one-hit wonder!
- 23D [“La ___” (Ritchie Valens hit)] BAMBA – Almost a one-hit wonder, but A) he had another hit with “Donna”, and B) it wasn’t exactly his fault he died far too young.
- 67D [“Dawson’s Creek” actor James Van ___ Beek] DER – This reference is getting dated, but it is sadly his best known work. Proves you only need one big show and you’re set for life (especially with syndication royalties these days!)
Another Jonesin’ comin’ next week!
Gary Larson’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
The circles didn’t make sense until I saw the revealer at 38A, but I also wasn’t paying a ton of attention since I was trying to zip around during the solve:
- 18A [Kooks] DINGALINGS
- 20A [Where fingerprints may be analyzed] CRIME LAB
- 59A [Cheerleading team] PEP SQUAD
- 61A [Contest with a puck] HOCKEYGAME – Speaking of hockey, the Stanley Cup playoffs just started. Seems a little late in the year …
- 38A [Like a well-trained pet, and a hint to each set of circles] HOUSE BROKEN
So yes, digs, crib, pad and home are all synonyms for house. Again, it’s Tuesday, so let’s keep it simple! We don’t want to think this hard this early in the week! Nice puzzle, Gary. Keep ’em coming! 4.2 stars today.
Just a couple of things:
- 9A [Hip-hop headgear] DO-RAG – I never had the hair to wear one of these, and I am not so sure that my mom wouldn’t have found it tasteful enough for me to wear. I surely don’t need one now!
- 24A [Another name for the peyote cactus] MESCAL – I thought this was alcohol? Or is this the plant that it comes from?
- 1D [Neiman’s business partner] MARCUS – I think his partner is actually “Markup”!
- 7D [24-hour news service] MSNBC – Does anybody actually watch this channel? I don’t know if I ever do. Too many other avenues to get the news these days.
- 21D [Common temple name] EMANUEL – This seems like a reach. It is true, but there are easier ways to clue this.
Everyone have a safe and healthy week!
I know the NYT has to appeal to a broad base of solvers — from teens to seniors. Tuesday’s NYT puzzle was so constrained that there was little breathing room for any clues – and many which were included were extremely dated. I’ve solved NYT since I was an 18 (I’m one of those darned millennials that is ruining America) so I was able to suss everything out, albeit with a much longer Tuesday time than usual – but I would presume that puzzle would be a major source of frustration to anyone, especially fellow millennials and Gen Z starting out with the Mondays and Tuesdays. I’ll give credit to Will Shortz for allowing more newer and/or younger constructors for debut puzzles and the good mentoring work that’s happening via Facebook. I know Arbesfeld has been submitting for 40 years, but hopefully he and other long-timers realize sometimes how dated their vernacular is to my generation and younger…
MINETA (who is of historical note – but I’d expect him to surface in Learned League and not the NYT), TOD (for lack of anything else that could fit), JACOB for Jacob K. Javits, Willy LEY… and REEFERS in a puzzle… good grief.
Maybe the issue was just with flexibility with six themers – but Erik Agard at USA Today and David Steinberg at Universal are a lot more in touch with younger and newer solvers.
Norman MINETA finished his time as a Cabinet secretary in 2006. That was only 15 years ago. He was the first Asian-American to be in a Presidential Cabinet, which only happened in 2000. It’s hard to believe how long it took for that to happen. I think he’s completely fair game for any puzzle.
TOD Browning is a significant film director who has a real legacy to this day. He’s not some ancient guy whom nobody cares about anymore.
I will grant you JACOB Javits and Willy LEY. JACOB Javits has so many things named after him that he’s a gimme for a New York resident, but the NYT crossword has a national audience, and there are many other ways to clue JACOB.
I was unfamiliar with MINETA and thought that TOCKS was an equally valid answer to 50-Down. So I was thrown that TICKS wasn’t clued less ambiguously to avoid an unfair crossing for people like me who don’t know MINETA from MONETA
That’s exactly what I was going to say, that Javits and the convention center are recognizable to New Yorkers. I presented a textbook at a conference there, in fact.
We had a bit of the continued debate over development, wealth, and Mayor Bloomberg’s commitment to one or the other when we extended the subway running along 42nd Street south and west to end on far West 34th Street. Would it bring new life to the center (and new income to the city) , or was it just pandering to the big money in Hudson Yards, then under construction? And why did it end up adding only one stop?
Good NYT puzzle with a great theme that was probably too tough for a Tuesday.
Agreed. Excellent NYT puzzle that probably should have run on Wednesday
The theme was OK but once you’ve got the idea you get the first three letters of every theme entry for free. It would have been more interesting, but much tougher, to omit the initial ‘the.’ Or to find similar phrases that don’t have ‘the’ in them, such as ‘cap in hand.’
And I agree with the considerably younger than me zevonfan above that the puzzle had too much fusty fill. I bet Norman Mineta would be surprised to find himself remembered in crosswords, if he ever does them.
NYT: I was surprised to see AIR in both 20A & 40A.
LAT: I was surprised to see HOUSE in both the (cute) clue for 47A (“White house?” for IGLOO) and the revealer.
Thanks for the note about the new puzzle site. I tried the topmost free sample, dated April 28. It was interesting to see a bar rather than black-cell puzzle. We see them in variety cryptics, but it violates the American ordinary puzzle requirement for checked squares only. Solvable regardless. I did have one problem, that printing it out lost the shading of theme squares. I should have taken that as a challenge to locate them! (I looked online instead.)
CN: Loved this one!! Well worth the extra effort, as Liz described in the email accompanying it :) . All those Islands, and I was happy to remember each one I had been to: Manhattan, Capri, Santorini, Molokai (pretty secluded areas there, even for tourists) , Rhodes … travel porn :) for now.
Did not know Ischia island … wow, thermal spas!!… wanna go!!