Sophia Maymudes & Kyra Wilson’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
My solving time would have been 30 seconds faster if that blank square hadn’t eluded my eyes! It’s a miracle I was able to solve any of it, actually, since my sightline includes the TV that’s showing A Quiet Place, Part II and there is a lot of screaming. (It’s from me.) Far too many jump scares and I can’t take it!! — Oh, it’s over! Whew. I only saw the last half hour and I. am. spent.
Moving on to the puzzle—Highlights! We got ’em. FRAME-UPS, AEROSMITH, and CLEOPATRA (17a. [Last of the Ptolemys], and I can only assume the editorial team looked up the proper way to pluralize Ptolemy) are only the first cool corner stack. ICE DANCE, MALLRATS, and PLAY-TEST are great, and so are the other stacks. Those bottom stacks taught me a couple things:
- 33d. [Make an unwanted appearance in a video call], ZOOM-BOMB. I assume that this is mostly cats, dogs, or kids, and that they are all welcomed by others on the call.
- 54a. [She’s the responsible one in the group, colloquially], MOM FRIEND. Does this mean a young person’s peer who behaves more responsibly than the rest?
Non-stack stuff I liked: ZIP TIES, TOTINO’S (clued as [Big name in pizza rolls]; uh, are there other names in the pizza roll arena?), PLAIN JANE, and PITFALLS.
Four other things that caught my eye:
- 27a. [Sweat ___], BULLETS. As in the idiom sweating bullets.
- 31a. [Bites, in a sense], REACTS. Not quite sure how this one plays. As in saying “Okay, I’ll bite,” responding to someone else?
- 42a. [Cardinal pts.?], TDS. As in the Arizona Cardinals of the NFL, touchdowns, and not the St. Louis baseball Cardinals, the redbirds, Catholic leaders, or the cardinal directions.
- 59a. [Animal in the suborder Vermilingua (“worm tongue”)], ANTEATER. Because its tongue is long and skinny, like a worm. Eww.
Brooke Husic & Stella Zawistowski’s USA Today crossword “Tea Sets” — Darby’s Review
Theme: All of the themed answers have two sets of double TTs in them.
- 26a [“Idle gossip”] SCUTTLEBUTT
- 39a [“Vegetable with silky leaves”] BUTTER LETTUCE
- 51a [“Odor-absorbing stuff in a box”] KITTY LITTER
When I first saw that “Tea Sets” was the title of this puzzle, I was immediately worried. As a fervent coffee drinker with little tea experience, I wasn’t sure that the theme would come through as quickly for me. I didn’t really use it as a key to my solving, but looking at the completed grid, it makes for a fun bit of Friday wordplay.
Brooke and Stella also gave us some fun clue combos, like 13d [“Fill with glee”] and 17d [“Creme de la creme”] to ELATE us to an ELITE level. 32d [“Alabama’s country”] and 33d [“Abu Dhabi’s country”] paired two country abbreviations (USA and UAE).
One of the qualities of USA Today constructors that I come is the use of creative examples, and I felt that 18a [“Go or Indigo”] was another great example of using words that 1) aren’t your common BOARDGAME examples and 2) are words with entirely different meanings. Even googling Indigo the game, Google immediately autofilled to “Indigo GameCube,” so I had that walk down gaming memory lane. Once I pulled myself out of that, I checked out Indigo, and it is a tile-laying game where everyone is trying to build their own maths in order to move gemstones. It looks like a lot of fun, and I can’t wait to find a way to try it.
Interestingly, this is the second SEGA (44a [“Genesis maker”]) I’ve seen this week. It also appeared in Amanda Rafkin and Ross Trudeau’s Wednesday NYT puzzle (also a very fun solve if you’re interested). Sonic’s creators must be hovering in the crossword hive mind.
Some of my other Friday faves included:
- 34a [“Gaming console for Halo”] As you might be able to tell based on my GameCube comment from above, I wasn’t necessarily on Team XBOX as a kid (and was truly rubbish at first-person shooters), but I loved the subtle gaming trifecta we got from BOARDGAME, SEGA, and XBOX.
- 56a [“Super cool”] It was pretty RAD to see this classic piece of slang.
- 70a [“‘Jojo Rabbit’ director Waititi”] I’m mostly familiar with TAIKA Waititi’s work on Marvel films (and am very much looking forward to Thor: Love and Thunder, especially since he’s called it the “‘craziest’ film he’s ever done,” according to AV Club. However, now I’m super excited to Jojo Rabbit to my list, so that’s my plan for the weekend if you need me.
- 4d [“Blues guitarist Baker”] Another ETTA of music fame, changing up the clue from its typical reference to Etta James. Etta Baker was an African American musician who could play piano, violin, guitar, and banjo. She is recognized as one of the greats of the Piedmont blues style and is said to have impacted the music of legends like Taj Mahal and Bob Dylan. Her music first appeared on Instrumental Music from the Southern Appalachians in 1956, but she wouldn’t release a solo album until 35 years after that! You can check out some of her music and a little more about her here.
Overall, I’m glad I got my morning tea from this puzzle. I love that it ended with 73a [“Verb on a tea packet”], and I’m sure that the theme continued to STEEP in my brain for the rest of the day.
Craig Stowe’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up
There was something 1a [Off] AMISS here earlier this morning—I mistakenly wrote about tomorrow’s LAT crossword instead of today’s. Oh, the IRONY (71a).
In my feeble defense, the email attachments (yes, we have early access to a week’s worth of the LATs) were out of order, with the puzzle for the 13th in the final position, so that the one for the 17th was in the Friday file’s location. Also, I’m expecting a package on the 17th and I checked its status in the wee hours this morning, where it informed me it was arriving ‘tomorrow’, which my sleep-addled brain interpreted as Friday, so perhaps I didn’t quite shake that notion from my noggin. But that’s ancillary; the main issue was the misplacement of the attachment.
This was a significantly faster solve than the Saturday puzzle—no surprise there. Didn’t catch on to the theme until reviewing the grid at length, as I filled in the revealer without reading its clue, and there aren’t any obvious theme entries.
- 64aR [Hands-free greeting aptly depicted five times in this puzzle] ELBOW BUMP. Accordingly, the letters E-L-B-O-W form a little arch over single black squares. This fractured arrangement necessitates a rather high word count of 78.
- The LBO trigram appears in the following entries, with the E and the W contributed by the ends and beginnings of entries directly underneath:
- 16a [Obsolescent collection site] TOLLBOOTH. (I SEE, WHAT’VE)
- 18a [Unexpected profession, in modern lingo] L-BOMB. That’s L for “love”. (WHAT’VE, WCS)
- 33a [Clothing chain founder Rudolf or Nancy] TALBOT. (OIL BASE, WASTREL)
- 51a [“Tuesdays With Morrie” writer Mitch] ALBOM. (ODE, WAHINE)
- 52a [Frodo inherited his ring] BILBO. (WAHINE, WHO’S)
It’s quite an impressive construction, and to think it completely eluded me.
- 2d [Herd voices] MOOS, 15d [Pasture cry] BLEAT. 3d [Hardly working] IDLE, 7d [Found work] GOT A JOB.
- 11d [Transmission repair franchise] AAMCO. The founder used the first three initials of his name, plus co. for company. Later he reversed those initials when he founded MAACO, which does auto body work.
- 28d [Bone head?] TAIL. As in tailbone. Not convinced this clue works well enough.
- 57d [“Other people,” to Sartre] HELL. Can confirm, with the proviso that it’s a matter of degree.
- 9a [Bygone ruler] TSAR. Perennially bygone, they are.
- 14a [Short site?] LOC, abbrev. for location.
- 41a [Spendthrift] WASTREL. Such a strange word, spendthrift, considering its definition. m-w’s discussion: “One sense of thrift is ‘careful management especially of money,’ and spendthrift was coined in the late 16th century to refer to someone who recklessly flouts such efforts. Synonyms of spendthrift include prodigal, waster, and wastrel. Prodigal also has the suggestion of such enthusiastic waste that it would deplete even the most lavish resources, whereas both waster and wastrel imply that in addition to wastefulness, the person has such dramatic character flaws as to be a good-for-nothing and a drain upon the community.”
- 55d [Bobbie Gentry wrote one to Billie Joe] ODE. In song form.
- 53d [Not up] IN BED.
Nothing special, but the best I could do.
David P. Williams’s Universal crossword, “Getting Up for the Day”—Jim P’s review
Call this The Grid of the RISING SUN (57a, [Early-morning sight, or a hint to the word that turns up in 17-, 28- and 45-Across]). The main theme entries are familiar phrases that feature the trigram -SUN- somewhere inside, but said SUN turns upward at the S.
- 17a. [Falls apart] COMES (UN)DONE with 3d ONUS.
- 28a. [What “I’ll be,” in an expression] MONKEY’S (UN)CLE with 14d BONUS.
- 45a. [2010s Anthony Bourdain show, familiarly] PARTS (UN)KNOWN with 31d GNUS.
I was really thrown off with the first entry because the UN of 15a‘s END RUN made me think the missing letters were just one row above. That made me really question the second entry since it looked like MONKEY’S USCLE. It wasn’t until I hit the revealer that things started making sense.
Aesthetically, as a solver, I prefer a theme entry that stays in one piece, as it were. This type of theme—where the entry turns, but doesn’t return to the the main theme entry—forces the solver to mentally jump back to pick up the remainder of the themer. It’s certainly not a new theme type, but I find it to be slightly inelegant. But that said, this is a good example of this puzzle type.
Fill-wise, SPRAY TAN, BODY SCAN, PARABOLA, EVEN ODDS, PATOOTIE, and WAVESKI add loads of pizazz to the grid.
I needed all the crossings for PADMAN [Monica who co-hosts the “Armchair Expert” podcast] having heard of neither her nor the podcast. TRIOS and TRE feel like a dupe.
Clues of note:
- 44a. [One, to Gianluigi Buffon]. UNO. The name was unknown to me, but the nationality wasn’t so hard to infer. Wikipedia says he is considered to be one of the, if not the, best goalkeeper in the history of professional football.
- 55a. [Chihuahua’s greeting]. YIP. Tricksy. I was thinking the Mexican state the whole time.
- 64a. [Scantron smudges]. ERASURES. I don’t think I’ve seen the word “Scantron” since I was in school a few decades ago. Maybe that’s why I read it as “Scranton.”
- 18d. [Mango slicer brand]. OXO. I’ve considered this kitchen gadget, but I’m skeptical since mangos come in different sizes, and it seems like it would be difficult to line up the seed. However, the apple slicer is an item I’ve used a lot.
- 29d. [What seeing this answer may make you do (sorry, not sorry!)]. YAWN. Ha! Didn’t get me (at least not at first).
Patrick Berry’s New Yorker puzzle– malaika’s write-up
Good afternoon folks! I’m feeling in a bullet-point sort of mood today:
Things that made me smile:
- ONION SOUP (16A: First course that might have Gruyere floating on top) is one of my favorite foods, although I usually call it French onion soup. I made it a lot in college, once I realized that the ingredients are dirt cheap. Using my fake ID to buy $6 white wine so I could cook with it always made me feel kind of glamorous.
- PAWNEE (40A) is from the lovely Parks and Recreation. I am whole-heartedly on the side of “I do not want fictional shows to talk about COVID at all” but I will begrudgingly admit that I am curious to see how the citizens of Pawnee would have handled the pandemic.
- I am from the South. I am a simple girl. When I see SWEET TEA (43A: Popular beverage in the South) in a puzzle, it makes me happy.
- I was able to put in SHIH POOS (1D: Fluffy mixed-breed toy dogs) with no crosses, because Adam Aaronson had it in his 7xword.
- In this house, we stan GRETA (30D) Thunberg.
Things that made me say Hmmmm:
- There were a few question-mark clues that I felt didn’t need the question mark: [52A: Round number?] for ZERO and [37D: Door openings?] for KEYHOLES.
- TEAR GAS (47A: First World War weapon later prohibited by the Geneva Protocol) and WARZONE (42D: Where an embedded journalist reports from) were a LOT for one puzzle. Phew. TEAR GAS especially. I don’t think I would ever put that in one of my puzzles, even clued as a war crime.
- Is UNTRUTH (48A: Invention you can’t patent) a word? Or just a crossword-constructing construct.
Erica Hsiung Wojcik’s Inkubator crossword, “Themeless #21″—Jenni’s review
This is a fun and lively themeless from the Inkubator – just the thing for a hot and muggy evening that is close to vacation, but not quite there yet.
I liked the juxtaposition of the long Across answers in the NW and SE: MERE MORTAL above NAOMI OSAKA, and then AVID READER over RED HERRING. Since I’m a AVID READER of mysteries, I come across a lot of RED HERRINGS in my books.
Other things I noticed:
- 1d [Cowabunga dudes, for short] is TMNT which my aged brain finally figured out stands for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I associate “cowabunga” with Bart Simpson and since I’ve never seen either show, I have no idea which came first.
- 10d [Curses!] is CHOICE WORDS. I guess the ! is there to make it misleading, since it’s a pretty straightforward definition.
- 26d [Arabian Sea dweller] is a OMANI. That doesn’t seem quite right. Oman is on the shores of the Arabian Sea, isn’t it? I know it was also meant as misdirection.
- 32d [One who has a full rack?] is a WINE LOVER.
- 42a [It can be plucked, slapped, or caught] is a BASS. Music or fish.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: never heard of Sivan TROYE or ASIA Kate Dillon.