Robyn Weintraub’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
I don’t always head to the Times’s puzzle page with great anticipation, since 9 pm is the end of a long day and who is truly excited about fulfilling an obligation (volunteer blogging!) at that hour? But it’s a treat to find Robyn’s byline awaiting me, because then I know there’s a 99% chance I’ll like the puzzle quite a bit. Thank you, Robyn! Keep doing you.
Nice to see Olympic GOLD MEDALS near the top as we approach the Tokyo opening ceremonies in two weeks. (With … not much in the way of a live audience in Tokyo. But the world can see the spectacle on TV. And the geography/language/EYE CANDY aficionado in me always relishes the Parade of Nations. Will the Tongan tae kwon do competitor be back, carrying his nation’s flag and hopes? Tune in to see!
Other fave fill: GO WITH THE FLOW, BEDSIDE MANNER, EPIPENS, SNAIL’S PACE, PI DAY, “DON’T GIVE UP,” PODCASTS, PADDLE BOATS, MARKET PRICE, the LESSER EVIL, and I’ve got a soft spot for SOFT SPOT. Plus there’s GWEN Ifill (plus another woman in journalism whose name was unfamiliar to me, BROOKE Baldwin).
Five more things:
- 16a. [Line for a sleigh ride], REIN. A literal, physical line made of, I dunno, leather or rope, and not a queue or a spoken line like “C’MON, it’s lovely weather for a sleigh ride together with you.”
- 35a. [Light brown seals], CORKS. Good clue, because it confused the hell out of me. Seals in wine bottles that are typically made of the light brown tree bark stuff called cork, and not marine mammals.
- 4d. [“This American Life” and others], PODCASTS. With the P in place, I considered PRI (Public Radio International) SHOWS, though apparently Ira Glass’s show is not still distributed by PRI. I’m always irked by cluing PODCAST via a radio show that happens to also be distributed in podcast format. I’m also irked by the popularity of podcasts, period. Not sure you’ll find many people with hearing loss who embrace the concept of an all-audio presentation of information or entertainment. Grr.
- 32d. [Capital of the Philippines], PESO. Currency, not capital city. You should know that in the Philippines, the coins and paper money use PISO, the local name. I even have a couple two-piso notes (no longer in circulation) on my desk!
- 44d. [Irrational thing to celebrate?], PI DAY. What a fun clue! Irrational numbers, so mathy.
Four stars from me.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “Get It Together” – Derek’s write-up
It is finaly time for the write-up dealing with this week’s Jonesin’! There is something going on here, so a full update will be coming early next week. But here are the theme entries:
- 20A [Disinfected / Completely wasted attempt to make angry?] STEWED RILE
- 62A [Stabilizing, with “up” / Got out a piece of jewelry?] SHOWED RING
- 9D [Angelic figure / Ate the spice mix before preparing the meat?] CHEWED RUB
- 34D [Drinking vessel at Renaissance Fairs / Imperfect geometric shape?] FLAWED-GON
This may (or may not!) give you a decent idea of what is going on, as there is clearly a word being added to some common words to make the theme entries. Whatever is going on? As mentioned earlier, lets treat is as a contest puzzle. Full explanation coming early next week!
Kevin Christian & Tracy Bennett’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up
- 51aR [Org. that includes each part of four puzzle answers] WNBA. Somewhat sensible phrases are created by listing two team names—identified parenthetically in the clues—sequentially.
- 20a. [Longing at a dull lecture? (N.Y., Atlanta)] LIBERTY DREAM.
- 32a. [Talented meteorologists? (Seattle, Las Vegas)] STORM ACES.
- 38a. [Lightning? (Chicago, L.A.)] SKY SPARKS. I thought ‘Lightning’ itself sounded like it could be another team in the league (no I was not confused by the Tampa NHL team), or possibly a MLS team, but neither is the case.
- 48a. [Features of a Roman god’s boots? (Phoenix, Dallas)] MERCURY WINGS.
I’ve got to suspect that the original inspiration for this theme is the felicitous combination of the Indiana and Atlanta teams for Fever Dream, even if it didn’t end up in the final product.
Since I’m not particularly familiar with the teams, I needed to rely more heavily on crossings before I could complete the theme entries. The combination of that and some more-oblique-than-usual clues among the ballast fill resulted in a relatively protracted solve for me.
- 1a [Motel arrival?] ROACH. Was not expecting something like that to start the proceedings.
- 23a [How J.Lo performs] IN HEELS. Is this a salient fact? Otherwise, the clue seems kind of random, and the answer flimsy.
- 36a [“Rappa Ternt Sanga” artist] T-PAIN. Presumably this is ‘rapper turned singer’?
- 62a [“The Gold-Bug” name] ALLAN. As in Edgar Poe, the story’s author.
- 12d [If you don’t like it, you can go to Helvetica] ARIAL. Ironic, as Arial (1982) was created as a sort-of clone of the expensive-to-license typeface Helvetica (1957).
- 4d [Most suave] COOLEST. 46d [Not cool at all] TENSE. No, not cool at all.
Carly Schuna’s Universal crossword, “Meet in the Middle”—Jim P’s review
We have a debut today, and it’s an impressive one. The revealer is CROSSWORD (65a, [This puzzle, or either answer in each pair of starred entries?]). The other theme answers are paired off (as indicated by the number of stars in the clues), and not only do they cross each other, but they are also words that can follow the word “cross.” Further, each crossing occurs exactly in the middle (hence the title), and when you highlight them (as I did in the picture), each pair forms a cross—not the Christian symbol, but a generic plus-sign shape.
- 30a [*They never blow parallel to something] WINDS and 3d [*Transferring small grains between flower varieties] POLLINATING. Crosswinds, cross pollinating.
- 38a [**Sharing in multiple Facebook groups, say] POSTING and 25d [**2D slice] SECTION. Cross posting, cross section.
- 47a [***Skull’s companion] BONES and 27d [***Aggressive interrogation] EXAMINATION. Crossbones, cross examination.
Very nice! I love the multiple layers to the theme, and once you see the three crosses, it’s all the more impressive. This isn’t the type of grid you normally see in a debut. This took some skill and time to put together and to keep the surrounding fill clean.
Speaking of which, there’s plenty of lovely stuff to admire: ADORKABLE, SOLO ALBUM, PERPLEXED, PGA TOUR, APPLETINI, GO NUTS, KAYOS, and KAPOW!
Clues of note:
- 1a. [Young doggos]. PUPS. Hmm. Young doggos are puppers in my world.
- 21a. [Chick that puffs up in the microwave]. PEEP. Ack! Who, pray tell, is microwaving marshmallow peeps?! Ah, people on Youtube of course.
- With an informed clue like [It’s different from gender] for SEX, it’s surprising that PMS gets the awkward clue [Nighttime hrs.]. One, nobody refers to nighttime hours as PMs, and two, everyone knows what PMS is. Why not clue it that way? I think it’s time. Perhaps, [Cyclical struggle for some, familiarly] would work.
- 63d. [Number of words in this clue?]. TWO. I’m not sure if I’m interpreting this correctly, but I’m guessing this could be written alternatively as [Number of words in “this clue”]. Any other interpretations on this one?
Beautiful puzzle and a wonderful debut. 4.25 stars from me.
Claire Rimkus’s USA Today crossword, “Find Your Way Around”— Darby’s review
Theme: Each themed answer includes WAY at the beginning and ending of the word or phrase. (Thanks for Craig in the comments for pointing this out!)
- 17a [“Became lost”] WENTASTRAY
- 30a [“Daughter of Morticia Addams”] WEDNESDAY
- 46a [“Flowering pond plant”] WATERLILY
- 61a [“Gathering with a TV”] WATCHPARTY
My Friday Faves:
- 16a [“Word before ‘stick’ or ‘cello’”] It’s been a long time before I’ve used a POGO stick, and today I learned about a POGO cello!
- 51a [“Apartment inhabitant”] I thought RENTER at first, then LESSEE. As a serial apartment dweller, I finally asked myself, “What am I?” (a serious question for a Friday morning) to realize that it was TENANT. Overall, a fun one for scrolling the mental thesaurus.
- 68a [“Fluctuates wildly”] I had no clue about this one until I got the cross from 62d TRY [“Make an attempt”] and 63d CEO [“Rosalind Brewer’s title at Walgreens”], but once I had that second “yo,” YOYOS became much more apparent and is a clever way to clue the word.
- 25d [“Written so it can be read”] I never expected LEGIBLE to appear in a crossword puzzle for some reason, but it’s a great fill that hooks nicely through the center.
- 54d [“Hockey enforcer”] Okay, I definitely didn’t know that this was a hockey term, but as a self-described GOON (not of the hockey variety), this definitely elicited a long “ohhhhhh.”
Overall, a solid Friday, with a nice combination of classic answers like OREO and EKE with some creative clues that brought in a few new definitions.
Anne Rousseve’s Inkubator crossword, “She Bop”—Jenni’s review
The Inkubator team tagged this as “lightly challenging.” I agree except for one crossing that was a Natick for me – I ran the alphabet until I had it right. The theme and the rest of the fill was delightful – a very nice debut for Anne Rousseve!
The theme answers refer to pop song titles that describe a kind of girl.
- 4d [Relevant (Madonna)] is MATERIAL.
- 18a [Kellogg’s morsel (Tori Amos)] is CORNFLAKE.
- 40d [Cheese with a low melting point (Tom Petty)] is AMERICAN.
- 59a [One way to respond (Gwen Stefani)] is HOLLABACK.
and the revealer at 39a [They run the world, in a Beyoncé hit…and a hint to 18- and 59-Across and 4- and 40-Down]: GIRLS. Solid, consistent, and accessible – that all goes along with “lightly challenging.” It was also a lot of fun.
My sticking point was the crossing of 27a [Actress Ruth of “Loving”] and 28d [“NO WAY!”]. I’ve never heard of Ruth NEGGA and GTFO does not come trippingly off my tongue, especially since the O is crossing MOMA, which is clued as [N.Y.C. gallery co-founded by three women]. That’s a lovely thing to learn about the Museum of Modern Art, except that I don’t think of it as a “gallery.” So that whole section made me scratch my head and then bang it against a wall.
A few other things:
- I like the Spanish crossing of UNIDO and BODEGA.
- Additional music content at 1od [Blondie hit that’s 2/3 of a Carly Rae Jepsen hit]: CALL ME and 65a [Shakira’s don’t lie] – HIPS.
- Shout-out to FIEND! OK, that’s not what the clue says, but that’s what I’m going with.
- I say BRAVA to the Inkubator for opening the field to new constructors with puzzles of remarkable quality.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: see above re: Ruth NEGGA and the founding of MOMA. The three women were Abby Rockefeller, Lillie P. Bliss, and Mary Quinn Sullivan. I had also never heard of the Tori Amos song.
Wyna Liu’s New Yorker crossword– malaika’s write-up
Today’s puzzle showcases one of the things I love about New Yorker crosswords: their submission / publication process means that we can get really current marquee entries. In this case, the central entry: [Voting-rights and campaign-finance-reform bill blocked by a Republican filibuster on June 22, 2021] for FOR THE PEOPLE ACT. Such a great entry, with a straight-forward clue that still cuts. I liked that a political angle was also taken for DREAMERS: [Subjects of some immigration legislation].
This puzzle was filled with imagery! I love clues that paint a picture in my head, like [Makers of Instant Roads and Jet-Propelled Pogo Sticks] for ACME, [Like a bad day for tanning] for OVERCAST, and [One often depicted with pointy ears and shoes] for ELF. MAGICAL REALISM ([Genre for Salman Rushdie and Isabel Allende]) was another entry that made me smile. Allende’s short story “Two Words” is one of my favorites- take fifteen minutes to read it, if you haven’t before! And I feel like Wyna always has great conversational-y entries, like NOT OK ([“Very uncool”]) and BEEP BEEP ([[“Make way, coming through!”]]).
Now that I’ve been solving puzzles for a couple of years, I try to still think about words that were hard for me as a first time solver. 2019 Malaika would not have known APER ([Copycat]) or EDS ([Publishing bigwigs, briefly]) . And 2021 Malaika still doesn’t know EIRE ([Dublin’s land, to Yeats])– I had EYRE crossing PERSEYDS as an error that I couldn’t catch.
Other entries I enjoyed:
- [Make rapid strides]: POWER WALK
- [Grower unlikely to use a weed killer?]: POT FARMER
- [Sets aside, in a way]: EARMARKS