Michael Hawkins’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Fairly breezy Friday puzzle, no trouble spots for me. Fave fill: CRUSHED IT, COSTA RICA, “NICE CATCH” (though I’m more apt to say “good catch” or “great catch” to my proofreader), BREAK ROOM (I work from home; gonna pick a room to be called the break room), water park’s LAZY RIVER, internet SPEED TEST (Ookla!), DABBLED IN, STARFLEET, DROP CAP (do people know this term if they haven’t worked in publishing?), and RIDESHARE.
Four more things:
- 59a. [Queen’s “We Are the Champions” vis-à-vis “We Will Rock You”], SIDE A. Naw, man. It’s the A-side and B-side, not side A and side B. Ah, those were great days on the radio, when you’d get both of these songs played in a row.
- 10d. [Letters that can fill in the blanks of “_A_D_ER” to make an appropriate surname], SNL. Do you know that Adam Sandler left SNL in 1995? That’s right—26 years ago. There are adults who are too young to have seen his seasons of SNL.
- 11d. [Elusive thing for a popular show], HOT TICKET. This clue feels off. Isn’t it the elusiveness that defines it as a hot ticket? Feels like the clue is saying that popular shows have hot tickets that are elusive … but they have tickets that are elusive, which makes them hot tickets. Tautology?
- 39d. [Elementium or obsidium, in World of Warcraft], ORE. Fictional metals are a hoot. Avatar had its unobtainium and Black Panther has vibranium. In science, we have elements with much less catchy names, like oganesson and ytterbium.
Four stars from me. Into the weekend!
Claire Rimkus’s “Baby’s First Words” USA Today crossword—Darby’s write-up
Theme: Each themed answer included the baby form of an animal as the first word or part of the clue.
- 19a [“Sad, innocent look”] PUPPY DOG EYES
- 38a [“Appropriate footwear for the catwalk”] KITTEN HEELS
- 55a [“Novice journalists”] CUB REPORTERS
This was a cute theme. With the title, I thought it would be more literal, but PUPPY DOG EYES quickly became apparent when I hit 19a and then, with 38a, I was sure of what the theme was, even though I had to look up what KITTEN HEELS were. (They are shoes with a thin, 1-2 inch heel, for the record. They also have an interesting history, which also happens to include some 17th century male fragility. If you’re interested, you can read more about it here.)
Structurally, I liked the longer down clues of this puzzle. I typically enjoy when one of the themed clues is highlighted in particular in the center, from a visual standpoint. It was a nice mix of short and long answers. I struggled in the left center segment, unfamiliar with 40a [“Run the World” channel] until I became so STARZstruck that the answer hit me. 41d’s “Pointer ” was a quick piece of clever wordplay. I’ll definitely take Claire’s TIP and remember it.
Clearly, I should’ve been sharper this morning, as I confused Junior Mints with Thin Mints, erasing the mental picture painted of GIRLSCOUT cookies season in 34d [“Seller of Thin Mints”]. This was a nice use of a longer word that really brought the section I was struggling with together. Parallel to it, I enjoyed filling in AGENDER for 33d’s “Like some nonbinary people.” It was a good casual clue, and for those learning about it, easily filled in that right center section by its crosses.
As always, my Friday faves were as follows:
- 14a [“Creature hidden in ‘squirrel monkey’”] – I definitely didn’t catch this when I did my quick scan and don’t think I’ll ever see ELMO clued like this again. It was a creative word combo and unexpected cluing for the Sesame Street star.
- 22a [“____ Donna”] & 28a [“____-haw!”] – How often do you see a PRIMA Donna and a “YEE-haw!” yelling cowboy sitting right next to each other?
- 42a [“Tavern mugs”] – With Claire’s inclusion of STEINS and Matthew Stock’s use of flagons yesterday, the USA Today puzzle is quickly becoming a collector of old drinkware. I expect that tankards and goblets are now forthcoming.
- 63a [“First Black player in the NHL”] – With recent news of several hockey players coming out, it’s nice to also see some Black NHL history highlighted in the puzzle today. William “Willie” O’REE first played for the Boston Bruins on January 18, 1958 when he was called up from their affiliated Quebec Aces after a player was injured. Again, in the 1960-1 season, he played 43 games with the Bruins, but spent the rest of his career in the minors, retiring in 1979. Worth mentioning is O’Ree’s comment that the “racist remarks were much worse in the U.S. cities than in” Canada, according to an interview he gave in 2007. The next black player to join the NHL was Mike Marson, who played for the Washington Capitals beginning in the 1974-75 season. O’Ree was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in November 2018.
Claire’s puzzle was not one that saw much LAG as I was working my way through it. Out of TEN, I’d say it was a solid eight. As much as I love a quick solve time, I’ve yet to meet a puzzle where I haven’t gotten SAPPY about a clue (hello, mourning PLUTO’s dismissal as a planet once again), and this one balances that sentimentality with good cluing, a light theme, and a nice mix of answer lengths.
Ed Sessa’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up
As marciem points out in the comments, earlier I mistakenly posted a write-up of yesterday’s LAT crossword. As I have some obligations this afternoon, this will be an attenuated review.
Common phrases containing a word with long-e sound formed by the vowels EA are replaced with a homophone spelled with EE.
- 17a. [Double vision?] TWIN PEEKS (Twin Peaks).
- 23a. [What EEE signifies?] NO SMALL FEET (no small feat).
- 39a. [Cesar Millan’s gift?] THE HEELING TOUCH (the healing touch). Definite article somewhat arbitrary here, necessitated by length.
- 49a. [Blind date?] MYSTERY MEET. My favorite clue/answer, for its succinctness and aptness.
- 61a. [His-and-hers concert souvenirs?] TEE FOR TWO. Novelty garments made for two people abreast are manufactured, but most of them seem to be sweaters or sweatshirts. They all seem rather silly and not worth sharing images of.
Pretty much obligatory:
Bandleader Lowell George’s feet were notoriously small, hence the inspiration for the name.
- 5d [Quakers in Colorado?] ASPENS. Playing on the initial capitalization. Whereas the capitalization is visible in 20a [Flying Solo] HAN.
- 6d [Puts an edge on] WHETS. Reminds me, I’m overdue for sharpening the kitchen knives on the water stone.
- 11d [Comforting affirmation] I CARE. This certainly depends on the delivery; could be ominous indeed.
- 27d [Apple core?] SEEDS >squints, wobbles head<
- 35d [Have on, to a Brit] FOOL. “Have on” is the Briticism.
- 40d [Supreme monarchs] EMPERORS; 21a [Brute’s rebuke] ET TU.
- 51d [E and FG, in sports] STATS. Alphabetic sequence derived from baseball errors and football field goals. More football with 8d [Extra NFL periods] OTS and 4d [First and __ ] TEN. More baseball with 6a [Infielder in a comedy routine] WHO.
- 1a [Japanese car whose name means “reward” in early German] MIATA. I’d just assumed it was word a of Japanese origin.
- 55a [Films partly made in stages] OATERS. ‘Stages’ being slang for stagecoaches, just as OATERS is a dated slang for westerns.
- 60a [Texas HQ of Frito-Lay] PLANO. Workers are currently striking.
David Poole’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up
Quite self-explanatory, this one.
- 37aR [Place to find a date … and any of four in this puzzle (circled letters are hints)] is not a singles bar or a phone app but the more literal CORNERSTONE. However, there are four people surnamed Stone gracing the corners of the grid; the aforementioned circled letters indicate their starts.
- EMMA Stone is formed via 17d [Tussaud title: Abbr.] MME and 1a [Sprayed defense] MACED.
- OLIVER Stone arises from 9a [With 65-Down, toon sister of Castor] OLIVE (OYL65d) and 13d [Undid] ERASES.
- SHARON Stone is composed from 45d [Inventor Otis] ELISHA and 69a [Pasta product suffix] -ARONI.
- SLY Stone comes from 71a [Eldest von Trapp child, in the musical] LIESL. (In real life, her name was Agathe.) and 65d [See 9-Across] OYL.
Tally: 2 women, 2 men; 3 associated with film (2 actors, 1 director (54a [Calls the shots] DIRECTS)); 1× 3 letters, 1× 4 letters, 2× 6 letters. Although I generally tut-tut cross-references encroaching onto theme material, I’m okay with it here, as both elements—OLIVE and OYL are directly involved, so it’s hermetic. Overall, neither a diverse nor cohesive group, but more than adequate for the puzzle’s purpose.
- 2d [Ventilates] AIRS OUT. I know I’m not the only one who put in AERATES first.
- Speaking of counting word lengths: 47d [Part of BLT] TOMATO. There’s BACON (5), TOMATO (6), and LETTUCE (7). I suppose if you had it on RYE (3) with MAYO (ewww, I mean, 4), perhaps for LUNCHEON (8), that would extend the sequence.
- 19a [Composer who, as it happens, died in March (1932)] SOUSA, AKA (6d) “The March King”.
- 52a [Author Elmore ___ ] LEONARD. His books often featured a curious Miami-Detroit nexus… 14a [Biscayne Bay city] MIAMI crosses 3d [Detroit founder] CADILLAC.
- 59a [Saint __, one of only two sovereign nations named for women] LUCIA. Anybody know the other, without looking it up?
I have the vague sense that I shared this one recently (it’s the only track from the album available on YouTube), so if it’s a repeat, I apologize:
But look! it was recorded in ULM!
Anna Schectman’s New Yorker Puzzle– malaika’s write-up
Good morning everyone! Here are some puzzle-y bullet points.
Things that made me smile:
- I put in GOODNIGHT MOON (19A: Classic bedtime story by Margaret Wise Brown) with no crossings. I don’t think I ever read that book as a child, but it still has an aura of peace.
- Love the wine angle for ROSES (41A: Pink wines). I had a wine tasting last night with some friends, and rosés were had by all.
- I really enjoyed the clue for ALLEGED (57A: Word included to prevent a lawsuit, maybe).
- Longtime Malaika followers know that I usually hate golf in puzzles. One of the exceptions is ARNIE (24D: Golfer Palmer, to his “Army”) because I associate him with the beverage, not the sport. An Arnold Palmer is half sweet tea and half lemonade. Love of my life and basketball player Giannis Antetokoumnpo has been ordering half Sprite and half lemonade with no ice, and I am hoping that we start calling that a Giannis.
Things that made me go Hmmm:
- ARTY (26D: Pretentious, in a way) is often in crosswords (mine included) and often clued like this but I never hear people say it in real life. I only hear “artsy,” and I don’t know that either has the connotation “pretentious” to me.
- I put IBEXES before IBICES (44D: Long-horned mountain goats). The word IBICES is only two edits from the word ICICLES (56A: Frozen spikes) but they are pronounced very differently.
- I don’t mind dupes in a grid, but I prefer for them to be more spaced out than REENACTED (5D: Performed again, as a historical event) and RENUMBER (36D: Put in a new order, perhaps) were.
- ORO was clued as a fill-in-the-blank: 28A: “___ y plata” (state motto of Montana). Very fair entry and very fair clue. Yesterday I was recently constructing a puzzle, and the full, ORO Y PLATA came up as fill for me. I decided that was too tough, but it was funny to see that phrase appear not even twenty-four hours later.
- SCUM MANIFESTO (51A: 1967 radical feminist text by Valerie Solanas that proposes to “destroy the male sex”) is a superb entry. So colorful and clued at a perfect Friday level. The Times would never, and their loss. The fact that it has the symmetrical slot with GOODNIGHT MOON makes it even more perfect. I didn’t put this in the Smile Bullet Points because I really struggled to parse this while solving, since I was reading the “man” as the word “man.”
- I got very, very stuck at the top middle, which had SOLARIS, THE WEST, ACETONES, ONO, and STOGY. A big tangle of proper nouns / difficult words for me.
Mark Valdez and Brooke Husic’s Universal crossword, “Royal Majesties”—Jim P’s review
Theme: Places where you’ll find “queens.”
- 20a. [Place to find queens] DECK OF CARDS.
- 34a. [Place to find queens] DRAG RACE. I’m assuming this is referring specifically to RuPaul’s Drag Race.
- 40a. [Place to find queens] CHESS SET.
- 52a. [Place to find Queens] NEW YORK CITY. Note the change in capitalization.
Solid set. I wonder if the constructors considered beds at all. HOTEL ROOM could have been a fifth entry, but it might have compromised the fill.
Speaking of which, it’s very nice. I love SIDE HUSTLE in particular, but APPLESAUCE, PANDORA, SPEEDOS, ROMCOM, and SPYCAM are all great. Nothing triggered the scowl-o-meter, resulting in a fun, smooth solve.
Clues of note:
- 36d. [Red Sesame Street resident]. ELMO. For a second, the clue made me think Red Sesame Street was a thing—perhaps the red light district of regular Sesame Street?
- 42d. [Popular swimsuits on Fire Island]. SPEEDOS. I don’t know Fire Island, but Wikipedia tells me it’s a barrier island off of Long Island. But why SPEEDOS?
Smooth and enjoyable puzzle all around. Oh, and a nice debut for one of our co-constructors. Congrats and four stars from me!
Barbara Lin’s Inkubator crossword, “Keep the Change”—Jenni’s review
This one was a bit harder for me than the average Inkubator. This is not a complaint and could be due to vacation brain on my part. In any case, it was fun!
The theme here is in the clues, not the answers.
- 16a [One experiencing a hot flash] is a SUPERNOVA.
- 23a [One picking up some weight] is a POWER LIFTER.
- 35a [One missing periods] is a RUN–ON SENTENCE.
- 48a [One not able to sleep all night] is a SHIFT WORKER.
All the women my age have figured this out already. The revealer is at 57a [Life phase that shares symptoms with this puzzles four longest answers] is MENOPAUSE. Nice, tight, consistent and certainly original theme!
A few other things:
- 1a [They might keep you from making an easy putt] are the YIPS. I don’t golf. This entry eluded me for a bit and amused me when I got it.
- 1d [Good answer to “Did you clean your room?] is YES, MOM. I’m sure I’m not the only one who hears a specific inflection with this phrase.
- 28a [Oft-hated spots] are ACNE. This one got me for a while because I was thinking geography, not dermatology.
- 31a [Cobbler alternative] is CRISP. Apples, not shoes. Also nom nom nom.
- 58a [Original lead sinner of Genesis] is EVE. I was very confused when I filled that in from crossings and then looked back and realized the clue says sinner, not singer. Nice.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: never heard of Martie Maguire, who apparently plays the MANDOLIIN, among other things. Google tells me she’s a member of the Chicks, so now I’m embarrassed, because I know their music. The only band member I’ve heard of is Natalie Maines. Here’s one of my favorites of theirs.