Randolph Ross’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
By the way, if you’re cranky that the NYT stopped providing .puz files, do look into the Firefox/Chrome extension called Crossword Scraper. It’s not perfect and it’s not guaranteed to always work (the caveats are explained in that link), but it works now and I appreciate that.
Fave fill: “NICE CATCH!” I use this far more in editorial circles than as a sports reference, mind you. “IT’S A PLANE!” is fun, particularly since my BFF was in Metropolis, Illinois today—home of a Superman statue. An article SIDEBAR, NOT FOR SALE, and SEE THINGS are also good.
Not keen on 55a. [Kowtowed (to)], TOADIED UP. The entry feels incomplete—TOADIED UP TO, sure, but hiding the “to” in the clue doesn’t work for me.
Five more things:
- Didn’t know 31a. [Surname of father-and-son N.B.A. coaches Paul and Stephen], SILAS. Also don’t know TIOGA County, 34a. [Border county of New York or Pennsylvania], and there’s really no reason I would.
- 24a. [Cowboys’ headgear], HELMETS. As in the Dallas football Cowboys.
- 25a. [Who said “The greatest victory is that which requires no battle”], SUN TZU. I had the SUN**U in place … and contemplated SUNUNU.
- 37a. [More widespread], RIFER. I wasn’t sure this was a legit inflection of the word rife, so I did a Google News search to see if it’s in use. It sort of is? But some of the most recent uses are in African countries and the UK, not so much in the US.
- 28d. [Covers with chimney grime], SOOTS. It’s a legit verb, but not one I’ve used and I’m not sure I’ve seen it being used.
3.25 stars from me.
Paul (and Ava) Coulter’s Universal crossword, “Baby Talk”—Jim P’s review
We’re informed by the byline that Paul had help in constructing this puzzle from Ava Coulter, age 2, who is, I presume, his daughter.
The theme answers are familiar phrases that hide some “baby talk.” I expect by age 2, Ava can speak more than just the circled letters in the theme answers, but given crossword publication timelines, maybe she was still a one-year-old when she constructed this.
- 17a. [Graduate’s school] ALMA MATER. Mama.
- 27a. [Became less emotionally involved with] GREW AWAY FROM. Wawa. I’m not so keen on this entry which feels a bit forced. TOW AWAY ZONE would be much nicer, but it’s not the same length as the next entry.
- 43a. [Juliet’s words before “That which we call a rose”] WHAT’S IN A NAME? Nana.
- 58a. [It celebrates 1867’s Constitution Act] CANADA DAY. Dada.
Cute, yeah? Not rocket science, but pleasant and fun.
Top fill: CARD TRICK, SODA BREAD, LAB COAT, WANNABE, PALM OIL, ON A ROLL, GERBILS, PUDGY, and SLINKY. CLAIRE’S, the jewelry store, is nice as well, though I screwed it up and went with CLAIROL to begin with.
Clues of note:
- 21a. [___ by the light]. BLINDED. Your earworm for the day.
- 39a. [Monk’s condition, briefly]. OCD. Not a religious monk, but the character Monk of television fame played by Tony Shalhoub.
- 27d. [Channel whose first letter stands for “Game”]. GSN. The specific identification of the G is probably necessary to help with the crossing and prevent solvers from putting in DREW AWAY FROM.
- 38d. [___ up one’s sleeve]. ACE. I’ll admit it; I went with ARM first.
Cute puzzle with loads of fun fill. 3.75 stars. Keep ’em coming, Ava! (And Paul, I guess.)
Whoa. Today I Learned: The song below was written and performed originally by Bruce Springsteen for his debut album. It was commercially unsuccessful and didn’t chart. However, the Manfred Mann cover version reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100—maybe because they turned the line “cut loose like a deuce” into “wrapped up like a douche.” (That was a joke.)
Robyn Weintraub’s New Yorker puzzle– malaika’s write-up
Robyn puzzle!!! Hooray!!!!! I haven’t reviewed one of her New Yorker puzzles before. This was a pretty layout with colonnades (Long down answers that are side-by-side) in two of the corners, and two spanners. When I think of a puzzle that is Weintraub-esque (Weintraub-ian?), that means it has conversational entries, cute question mark clues, and entries that create nice images. Let’s take a look at some of these:
- The two spanners were both conversational: WHATS UP WITH THAT (20A: “Weird, isn’t it?”) and I KNEW IT ALL ALONG (49A: “Told you so!”). I prefer the first one– I think I would say “I knew it!” without the final two words.
- It’s tough to do question mark clues in an easy puzzle (Fridays are the easiest New Yorker puzzle) because using a question mark to indicate a pun is a convention that only (I think!) exists in crosswords. This puzzle has one (OBIT: Passing remarks?), but it did have other nice wordplay-ish clues, like [Apt anagram for “enraged”] (25A: ANGERED)
- I liked the clue for PROM (57A: Event for a teen-age king and queen) and for NETS (52D: Safety equipment for trapeze artists). Each of these are words that have a zillion different cluing angles, and these create nice little pictures. I just finished reading “Crooked Kingdom” where one of the main characters is an ex-trapeze artist and insists that she does acrobatics best without a net.
Other things to mention: I love that this puzzle had the term NEW YORKERS in it, although I felt the clue (26D: Constituents of Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand) was not as exciting as it could have been. Also, this puzzle had TEAT at 50D (Suckling site). I run a bot that checks whether the New York Times puzzle has that entry, so it felt like something I should call out.
I’ll close by saying that I am about to go on vacation for two and half weeks, so some lovely Fiend-ers are stepping in for me. I’ll see you on September 10!
Sara Cantor’s USA Today crossword, “Cheese Sandwich” —Darby’s write-up
Theme: Every themed answer forms a “BRIE” sandwich, with the letters of the word split up between the beginning and end of the answers.
- 18a [“‘Three Little Pigs’ abode that thwarts the Big Bad Wolf”] BRICK HOUSE
- 29a [“Happy and successful time to look forward to”] BRIGHT FUTURE
- 48a [“Infuses with liveliness”] BRINGS TO LIFE
- 60a [“Exceptional intelligence”] BRILLIANCE
This theme was one of the reasons that I love crossword puzzles. It’s so fun that this reverses a cheese sandwich where BRIE is the bread. Plus, this has some really sunny and optimistic theme answers that make for a fun time.
I liked the shape of this puzzle and enjoyed the variety of answer lengths. The bottom left had a lot of LL combos between BRILLIANCE and 56a [“Memoir with juicy details”]’s TELL ALL, which I just thought was worth point out. PULL (63a [“Word near a door handle, maybe”]) perhaps felt left out.
Here are my Friday FAVs (10a [“Best-liked, informally”]):
- 22a [“Cookie brand with spokeselves”] – Obviously, the wide world of crosswords loves our Oreos, but it was fun to see those rascal KEEBLER elves sneak into this puzzle.
- 25a [“Future perfect, e.g.”] – One of my more nerdy faves, I loved that this reference to the future perfect TENSE (ex. I will have solved) is right near BRIGHT FUTURE. Normally, I don’t love it, but I like the idea of someone feeling the optimist vibes in this grid.
- 34a [“Florida, for one”] – If not for the crosses, I definitely would’ve started filling this in with “panhandle,” but the Acrosses make this a clear PENINSULA.
- 21d [“The ____ Black Girl”] – The OTHER Black Girl is Zakiya Dalila Harris’s debut novel that focuses on the story of Nella Rogers, the only Black employee at a publishing company, and what happens when another Black woman is hired.. It has already been picked up for a series on Hulu.
- 26d [“Org. that Sarah Thomas refs in”] – Sarah Thomas has a lot of firsts. She was the first woman to officiate a major college football game, first woman to officiate in the NFL, and the first woman to officiate for the Super Bowl, among others.
- 49d [“Chemistry Nobelist Hoffman”] – I feel like it’s unusual for ROALD to be clued as anything other than the author of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, BFG, and other children’s books, but using the crosses, I was still pretty easily able to make the ROALD connection and learned something new in the process.
As I’ve said, this was a bright puzzle with a cheesy (get it?) but fun theme.
Kate Hawkins’s Inkubator crossword, “Themeless #22″—Rebecca’s review
Tricky and fun themeless today! Kate’s puzzles never disappoint and today’s was no exception.
Now I have had Gilbert & Sullivan songs stuck in my head thanks to 11-Down [Was the very model of a modern Major-General, say], but I’m not going to hold that against the puzzle, since that’s a great clue for EPITOMIZED.
Really all of the 10s in the grid had fantastic clues. My favorite was probably PEACE MARCH [King’s speech setting], but ACTED ALONE [Was helpless?], and CENSUS DATA [It started including stats on same-sex couples in the US in 1990 with an “unmarried partner” option] are also great.
I also really enjoyed the symmetry of 33 and 9 Down – as all DRY SPELLs feel ILL-TIMED.
The bottom left side of the grid fell a lot faster for me than the rest – but I think a lot of that had to do with my familiarity with the work of Nick CORDERO and JAMES BALDWIN, because there were tricky clues throughout the grid. I loved the mix here of factual trivia-style answers and spoken phrases. Really kept me on my toes throughout the puzzle.
This grid is really a thing of beauty. The more I’ve studied it to talk about different answers, the more impressed I am. Every single area of the puzzle has juicy answers and there’s really nothing obscure, it’s just the clues here making the puzzle challenging. Just stunning all around.
My one nit-picky thing here – I did question the answer AZTECAN a bit. In my mind, the adjective here as Aztec, with AZTECAN used mainly for languages, but perhaps a linguist in the crowd could correct me here.
In honor of JAMES BALDWIN‘s appearance in the grid – here’s a trailer from Raoul Peck’s excellent documentary I Am Not Your Negro – if you haven’t seen it, move it to the top of your list