Eric Bornstein’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Got a Zoom meeting in 15 minutes (it’s Friday morning in Bangalore, you know!), so I’ll be brief.
Likes: EL CAPITAN, VILLANOVA, PORCH SWING, THIRD STRIKE, GRASSHOPPER, FINAL DRAFT, COME AND GO, “HEAR ME OUT,” “I IMAGINE SO” (though the SO-SO crossing is ungreat), “THAT’S RICH,” and POLICE TAPE. Pass the HOOKAH.
I’ve grown so weary of “I NEED A NAP”—seems to pop up every couple weeks in another puzzle these days, doesn’t it? It’s the new A LOT ON ONE’S PLATE.
Did not know: 27d. [Oniomania, n. the uncontrollable desire to ___], SHOP.
Did not remember: 34d. [___ the Exhorter, character in Ralph Ellison’s “Invisible Man”], RAS.
3.75 stars from me. Seemed to be a bit less enjoyable than I like, and that LIDA at 2d (I don’t know my showtunes) got me off to a faintly annoyed start. Ciao!
Michael Dewey & Kevin Christain’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up
During the solve I ignored the cross-references to the revealer at 52-down, so it was unclear why each of the two-word breakfasty phrases was separated by an i, or was it meant to be a vertical | bar, the typographical character sometimes called a pipe?
- 18a. [Item served at 52-Down] POACHED I EGG.
- 24a. [Item served at 52-Down] FRENCH I TOAST.
- 38a. [Item served at 52-Down] BANANA I PANCAKES.
- 47a. [Item served at 52-Down] TURKEY I BACON.
And it turned out that the notorious 52-down is the crossword-friendly [Chain with an alternate 28-letter name … and what you need to write five puzzle answers?] IHOP, the International House of Pancakes. So the gimmick is that we’re just supposed to hop over the I in each of the theme answers. Kind of weird, but points for creativity. I must have mentioned this before, but as a child I thought that the International House of Pancakes was like the cafeteria at the United Nations, and that it was some sort of franchise version for the masses.
Puzzle theme might have felt stronger if those four instances of I were the only ones in the grid, obviously a much more challenging construction.
- 10a [Yankees’ foes] JAYS. Not REBS.
- 17a [Ring star] ALI.
- 8d [E. African land] ETHiopia. Alternative approaches to cluing this would be as a biblical suffix or the ancient letter that looks like a d with a line through it: Ð ð. Both are kind of hoary and not necessarily better than a three-letter country abbrev. Among other remoter possibilities, there’s apparently a Canadian rock band called Enter the Haggis, which although quite interesting-sounding, is something I doubt will be coming to a Crossword Near You™ anytime soon. Maybe one by BEQ?
- 21d [ __ kingdom] ANIMAL.
- 30d [Best way for something to work] LIKE A CHARM. Somehow I doubt the IHOP offers Lucky Charms cereal.
- 51d [Early seat belt material] NYLON. Nowadays its woven polyester, which is less prone to getting stretched out and to abrasion. I did not know this and looked it up.
So here’s a globe-hopping Ernie Kovacs just trying to get a simple breakfast:
Stella Zawistowski’s “Break Dance” USA Today crossword — Darby’s write-up
Theme: Each themed answer begins with “D” and ends with “ANCE,” literally breaking up the word “DANCE.”
- 18a [“Health insurance for teeth”] DENTAL INSURANCE
- 37a [“Netherlands-based movement during World War II”] DUTCH RESISTANCE
- 58a [“First performance”] DEBUT APPEARANCE
Maybe it’s because I’ve been paying even closer attention to theme since I started writing about them so frequently, but this one was particularly easy to spot. “Break Dance” as a title is clever, and the puzzle provided a break from the usual morning routine.
Diagonal formations in grids are some of my faves, for some reason, even though I sometimes feel that it walls off answers more than I’d like it to, something I noticed today as well. Stella’s clues, however, still make good use of the crosses with the center themed answer (DUTCH RESISTANCE). I’ve not seen the word “CRUD” (33d [“Filthy gunk”]) in a long time, but it provides a nice example of this, meeting the themer at its R. I also enjoyed the inclusion of 35d [“‘Dracula’ author Bram”] STOKER. Despite my English degree, I’ve never read the classic vampire story, but I loved Bram’s inclusion in The Sherlockian, in which he teams up with Sherlock Holmes author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
My Friday faves for today are as follows:
- 9a [“Dial-up alternative”], 24a [“Cassette, e.g.”] & 49a [“Canvas shoe brand”] – I loved this throwback trio in DSL,TAPE, and KEDS respectively. I was just talking about the new exhibit coming to the Missouri History Museum called “St. Louis Sound” and the way it draws on the nostalgia around the different ways people have listened to music. I of course said that crosswords always give me that sense of nostalgia with clues about cassette players, and, well, here we are this morning.
- 1d [“Happy-sounding flowers, for short”] – I’d never heard of GLADS before this morning, but I’m sure you can guess my feelings about it. They’re cool flowers, and you can learn more about them here. If nothing else, I’d recommend a quick Google image search. You’ll sure be GLAD you did (okay, I’ll stop now).
- 39d [“Chain with Doritos Locos shells”] – You cannot go wrong with a TACO BELL reference when it comes to me, though I’m more of a classic soft shell, personally.
- 7d [“Skirt for Misty Copeland”] – Misty Copeland is the first African American female principal dancer with the American Ballet Theatre, which is really cool. Plus, as a ballet dancer, her inclusion via TUTU is perfect for this dance-oriented puzzle. 70a’s ([“What I Am” singer Brickell”]) EDIE and 19d’s ARETHA ([“‘Respect singer Franklin”]) also add a few more musically-inclined female artists to this puzzle, which is fun to see.
- 37d [“Lenny, to Zoe Kravitz”] – I’ve loved this fact since I first learned it about the Big Little Lies and High Fidelity star, so I felt like it was an excellent example to pull in cluing DAD. If you haven’t seen High Fidelity, I highly recommend it. It’s another music-focused show, and it’s an awesome adaptation of Nick Hornby’s 1995 novel of the same name.
Definitely worth the break in the day to solve this puzzle, especially if you add in happy dance accompanying a successful finish. Have a great weekend! I’ll see y’all on Sunday.
Simon Marotte’s Universal crossword, “Bodybuilding”—Jim P’s review
This one’s for the biology majors. As the title suggests, we’re looking for the building blocks of the body, and the grid presents them from smallest to largest.
- 17a. [It’s represented by bars] CELL SERVICE.
- 30a. [Kleenex purchase] TISSUE BOX.
- 45a. [Pulled part of a church instrument] ORGAN STOP.
- 59a. [Certain computer problem] SYSTEM ERROR. “System” seems like such a generic word, but it’s the right one (see: nervous system, digestive system, etc.)
Very nice. All entries are familiar phrases and yet the keywords in question all change meaning (more or less). Solid execution.
Tons of fun fill, especially if you like alcohol: BEER RUNS, PARTY BUSES, and HENNESSY. FREEGANISM [Anti-consumerist ideology] rounds things out and is also fresh, fun fill. Nothing to scowl about in the fill (well, maybe ETRE), so I’m suitably impressed with this constructor’s sophomore effort (he had one NYT grid in March of this year).
Clue of note: 5d. [Island of ___ Toys (place visited by Rudolph)]. MISFIT. Factoid I just learned via Christmas Specials Fandom: In the original broadcast of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, the toys only appeared in the scene where Rudolph and co. accidentally land on the island. Their subplot is resolved by “Santa Claus promising to find homes for them after Rudolph tells him about the island, and later saying that the island would be his first stop on his annual run that year. When viewers complained about not seeing the full resolution to this, the following year’s broadcast added a new scene to the ending, showing Santa arriving to pick up the Misfit Toys, which has remained in all subsequent releases of the special.”
Smooth, clean puzzle with a solid theme. Four stars.
Caitlin Reid’s New Yorker puzzle– malaika’s write-up
Good morning, besties! When I opened this puzzle I noticed there weren’t very many long answers. (There’s only three that I’d call “long,” one thirteen-er along the middle and two nines. There are eight eight-letter words and seven seven-letter words, but I consider that “mid-length” fill.) Sometimes a themeless puzzle can drag if there aren’t long flashy entries, but WOW that is the OPPOSITE of the case with this puzzle. It was so much fun to solve. I still don’t have a good definition for a “sparkly” puzzle beyond “I’ll know it when I see it” but this was a very sparkly puzzle.
Things that made me smile:
- ROTTEN EGG (17A: Last one in, idiomatically) was super fun, especially as clued
- PIXEL (28A: Unit on a screen) is great fill
- The central entry, THATS MESSED UP (35A: “So not cool!”) was super fresh
- [Kitchen counter?] for OVEN TIMER (58A) is my absolute favorite type of question mark clue, where the text of the clue itself is a very common phrase that has been repurposed to mean something else. (Same vibes as Robyn Weintraub’s [Batting equipment?] for FALSE EYELASHES, a clue that I think about once per week.)
- BOB ROSS!!! (1D: Bushy-haired painter of “happy little trees”)
- SLAPDASH (3D: Hastily and carelessly done) is very fun to say, and somehow sounds like exactly what it’s describing
- [Musical based on the songs of ABBA] is MAMMA MIA (37A), which I just re-watched a month ago. I first saw the movie version when I was in middle school, so I didn’t realize until now how incredibly star-studded that cast is.
Things that made me say hmm:
- I had TOP SEED rather than ONE SEED for [Tourney team deemed most likely to succeed] (56A) and I am not really convinced that ONE SEED is a thing.
- That’s it lol. This puzzle rocked.
- I haven’t heard of POTSY before (50D: New York variant of hopscotch) which was a bit surprising to me as I’ve gone down a Wikipedia rabbit hole on New York variants of sports. I couldn’t find a lot of information about POTSY, but if y’all have time you should read about 9-man, a cool variant of volleyball played by Chinese immigrants.
- PIANO MAN (27A: Billy Joel tune that starts “It’s nine o’clock on a Saturday / The regular crowd shuffles in) reminds me of when I put the entry PETER PAN in a puzzle and clued it as “Character whose name comes from a musical instrument” because a lot of people were tripped up and put PIANO MAN instead.
NYT: Flowed better than expected, and I enjoyed a lot of the phrases in the answers. I had RAY instead of RAS and wondered how come I had not heard of a cocktail called GRAY SHOPPER, should have been right up my alley :)
I liked the “Paper Cuts” clue.
Agreed, I really enjoyed today’s puzzle. I take Amy’s point on “I need a nap”…but also find myself saying that more and more these days. & any reference to The Music Man is fine with me -looking forward to the (postponed) revival with Hugh Jackman and Sutton Foster in 2022. Happy weekend. G
I’m not a big fan of INEEDANAP. I was reading somewhere (and I apologize if it was here) that called phrases like that “conversational,” meaning that they were made up of shortish, common words but aren’t an idiom or really in the language as a phrase. I’m sure they are a lifesaver for constructors, but I don’t like them as a solver because there are so many variations on what it could be (I wanna nap, I need naps, I should nap, Let’s go nap, I need rest, etc) and the individual words are short so you need a bunch of crosses. Most people don’t mind them, but they aren’t my favorite.
I haven’t studied it, but they seem more common now than a decade ago as it seems crosswords have become more and more informal. But my impression that they are more common could be off.
+1 … and we got three of those conversational “I” phrases in this grid … weird and a little annoying, at least to me.
Actually, I NEED A NAP sounds to me like something a real person might say. I smiled on getting it. Still, a hard puzzle for me, with much beyond my ken. I got RAS from crossings, although I read and loved the book a long time ago. I also had “skunk” in the NE for winning big, which made that corner all but impossible, but so it goes. I finished, sorta.
In TNY, I’m a native NYer and never heard of POTSY, and I suspected PATSY, not knowing RITA ORA.
I really enjoyed seeing 1-Across. I watched the documentary THE DAWN WALL about the free climb of The Dawn Wall by Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson. They used ropes only to catch them if they fell. The most amazing thing for me was that Caldwell had accidentally chopped off part of his left index finger in a home accident. I have a close friend who is a serious mountaineer and asked him if they were the best climbers and he said check out ALEX HONNOLD.
He also mentioned Adam Ondra.
Yes, Steve, Alex Honnold was the climber featured in the documentary “Free Solo.” IIRC, he didn’t use ropes at all.
I thought LAT was pretty clever and fun overall…but was that just a big ad for ihop?
Don’t know…but I am really glad I solved this AFTER I ate breakfast.
cannot seem to find usa xword edited by erik agard
when i hit the link, it takes me to puzzle page, but i don’t see erik’s puzzle??
link please, TIA
Stella’s “Break Dance” is indeed today’s USA Today puzzle. I know Amanda Rafkin is working with David Steinberg on editing the Universal puzzles, which are (like USA Today puzzles) in the domain of Andrews-McMeel. Maybe Amanda is also editing some of the USA Today crosswords.
but what is the link, i can’t seem to get there
As seen on here on this site, under “today’s puzzles”. Erik isn’t mentioned in today’s byline.
that brings me to a page with a lot of puzzles, but not the daily usa today puzzle
i am baffled
It doesn’t say “USA Today crossword” on it, and the Friday puzzle doesn’t have Erik’s name as editor. But look at our post and look at the USA Today link. The puzzle title and constructor’s name match! Do not be baffled. Open Stella’s puzzle, edited by Amanda, and move ahead with your life.
NYT – as an ITHACAN solving while on my PORCHSWING, I definitely got a kick out of today’s puzzle!
As a former Ithacan I too got a kick out of that. My accommodations in Ithaca sadly didn’t run to a porch swing.
LAT: Not only does IHOP offer Lucky Charms cereal, they’ve even done a special Lucky Charms pancake: https://www.bakemag.com/articles/13146-ihop-introduces-limited-time-cereal-pancakes-and-milkshakes
Shows how much I know!