Robyn Weintraub’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Ahh! I may have forgotten to watch Drag Race tonight, but a Friday puzzle by Robyn is also something to look forward to on a Thursday night. I’m not alone—Brian Cimmet tweeted that she should write all the puzzles. He’s not wrong.
Fave stuff: CLEAR SKIES, MARGIN OF ERROR, shopping SPREE, “BEFORE I FORGET…,” “OH, IS THAT SO?,” travel GUIDEBOOKS, CAKE TOPPERS, “ANSWER ME!,” and a RED HERRING.
Surprised to see a crosswordese prefix in the grid, but lo and behold it isn’t clued as a prefix: 16a. [Greek goddess who could turn water into wine], OENO. Seems like someone every fraternity or sorority house should have a shrine to, no?
Seven more things:
- 6a. [Bars that close], CODA. Bars of music. Coda is also the title of Marlee Matlin’s new movie, on Apple TV+. I’d like to see it.
- 19a. [Chef Lewis who wrote “The Taste of Country Cooking”], EDNA. I’d never heard of her, but wow, her life story is amazing!
- 23a. [Something you might flip over], MAT. I think this refers to gymnastics/tumbling, that sort of flipping on a mat.
- 6d. [Stuck-up couples at weddings?], CAKE TOPPERS. Stuck up on the top of a cake, of course.
- 27d. [View from the Oval Office], ROSE BUSHES. With none of the bottom letters filled in from crossings, of course I plunked in ROSE GARDEN. Didn’t we all?
- 33d. [Make a turnover, say], BAKE / 34d. [Turnovers, e.g.], STAT. Sports statistics or pastry? The choice is easy.
- 54d. [Tool that makes the sound “scr-r-ritch, scratch, scratch, scritch” in “The Tale of Peter Rabbit”], HOE. Long clue for a short answer! I love it.
Four stars from me.
David Alfred Bywaters’ Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up
68-across is [Analyze, in a way] PARSE. The question-marked theme clues are minimal, and the key is to PARSE them properly. Crossings are most assuredly necessary to get a handle on them.
The terse clues are the result of removing the first and last letters from slightly longer words, and the answers are sort of a literal representation of what’s occurred.
In cryptic crosswords, removing the first letter is called beheadment and doing the same for the final letter is curtailment. Or at least those were the terms in vogue when I was more active with cryptics. So these cryptic-flavored themers combine the two.
- 17a. [Hi?] THIN SKINNED (thin). This one is anomalous, as we’ll see, since it places the modifier second.
- 24a. [A?] REDUCED FAT (fat).
- 36a. [In?] CLIPPED WING (wing).
- 51a. [Lower?] CUT FLOWERS (flowers). As this is the longest clue, it’s probably the entry point among the themers for most solvers.
- 58a. [Lea?] CLEAN SHAVEN (clean).
I liked the theme okay. Moving on,
- 3d [Happening all over] EPIDEMIC. Based on a literal reading of the clue, I first entered PANDEMIC. Also had a mis-fill for the symmetrically paired entry: 39d [Abandon] GIVE UP ON instead of GIVE OVER.
- 9d [Eponymous people of the Southwestern U.S.] UTE. Speaking of which, there are a pair of Utah-shaped blocks in the grid. Mirror images of the state contour, anyway. Would we call such a shape a HATU?
- 32d [Blown lines, say] FLUFFS. Not FLUBS? Either?
- 15a [Way to go] ROUTE, 21a [Ways to go] GAITS. Little strained.
- 19a [Org. that began as the National Congress of Mothers] PTA. Did not know this relatively useless information.
Considered sharing the the AWFUL (?) (6a) Leonard Nimoy version, but as this is DoaCF, here’s AL HIRT doing his best to cover pop hits of the day in 1968:
Andrew McInty’re’s Universal crossword, “Star-Crossed Lovers”—Jim P’s review
Theme: Famously doomed couples cross at key letters.
- 17a. [14-Down’s lover, in a medieval story] TRISTAN and 14d. [Lover of 17-Across] ISOLDE.
- 18a. [8-Down’s lover, in a Greek myth] ORPHEUS and 8d. [Lover of 18-Across] EURYDICE.
- 49a. [42-Down’s lover, in “Hunger Games” books] PEETA and 42d. [Lover of 49-Across] KATNISS. Not so sure about this one. Their love story—if you want to call it that—was of a much lower priority than Katniss’s bigger objective.
- 51a. [47-Down’s lover, in a 1920s novel] DAISY and 47d. [Lover of 51-Across] GATSBY.
Wow. There’s a lot to this. I’m not going to lie and say I was knowledgable on all these couples to decisively say they’re star-crossed or not, but some cursory Wikipedia searches confirms they are, more or less. And to have them all cross at the letters S, T, A, and R is an elegant touch.
Of course, one would expect to see Romeo and Juliet in this group, and hey! They can cross at the E, you say. Ah, but there’s no E in STAR which are the letters used in the crossings of the other pairings. So Romeo and Juliet were so star-crossed that they were doomed to not appear in a star-crossed lovers crossword puzzle.
I’m not so keen on the weird revealer THEME (38a, [This puzzle’s has a bonus if you read the letters where the lovers cross in order by column]. I’m not so sure that this is necessary, but even if a revealer was needed, surely something better could have been found.
Non-theme likes: LOOSE ENDS, SOUNDTRACK, HOUSE PLANT, IMPEACH, TOMATOES. Pretty impressive to have all those crossing themers and still have enough room for this much nice long fill.
Clues of note:
- 41a. [“___: Vegas” (2021 TV reboot)]. CSI. Whoa. First I’ve heard of it. I guess it’s a limited run series set to start in October. Expect to see more clues along these lines.
- 11d. [One plays in “Toy Story 4”]. SOUNDTRACK. That’s an odd clue. I guess there’s a play on words with the words “plays” and “Toy,” but still, meh.
- 28d. [Kitchen pot filler that isn’t cooked]. HOUSE PLANT. Hmm. Nothing about a HOUSE PLANT requires that it be in the kitchen. Meh, again.
Impressive construction in this grid, and plenty of long non-theme fill to sink one’s teeth into. Four stars.
Zhouqin Burnikel’s “Sit Up Front” USA Today crossword—Darby’s write-up
Theme: The first letter of each word in each theme answer comes together to spell out “SIT.”
- 15a [“Communicating regularly] STAYING IN TOUCH
- 27a [“Specialty”] STOCK IN TRADE
- 43a [“Preemptive action that saves nine, in an adage”] STITCH IN TIME
This wasn’t necessarily my favorite theme. While creative, I would have liked to see more variation with the I of SIT since it was “IN” for each answer. STITCH IN TIME was a really fun answer to punch in, however.
Overall, I found the fill to be challenging in some areas, with a few answers throwing me back to SAT prep. Top two words I’d bet to find on a high school junior’s flashcards include 21a [“Off the mark”]’s ERRANT and 22d [“State confidently”]’s ATTEST.
There were also a few DUETS (38a [“Songs sung in pairs”]) that I enjoyed quite a bit. First and foremost, the dual appearances of ERIE and EERIE. I loved that 7d was clued as [“Great Lake with 871 miles of shoreline”] since, as I’ve said before, it’s my favorite Great Lake. Paired with its [“Shudder-inducing”] homophone in 34a, it was a great combo of clues. The same could also be said for 35a [“Peeled with a knife”] and 39a [“Trap”] (PARED and SNARE) respectively. The near-rhymes also were connected as branches of PSST (35d [“Furtive ‘Look over here!’”].
Other Fridays Faces
- 54a [“Brand of canvas sneakers”] – These are not the TOMS you’re looking for; instead, I got KEDS on the crosses in a solid throwback to the classic white sneakers I was really only allowed to wear for those classic 90s family portraits.
- 4d [“Okara ingredient”] – I didn’t know what okara was, but learned that it is a simmered Japanese dish that includes SOY pulp, vegetables, mushrooms, and seaweed. It is also vegan friendly! It can also be frozen and added to other simmered or stir fry meals. You can check out this site for more recipes and uses for it.
- 28d [“Goes by taxi”] – I definitely kept reading CABS IT as CAB SIT, as if one was babysitting a taxi, so clearly I haven’t had enough coffee today.
That’s all from me *MIC DROP* (41d [“Triumphant move after a great performance”]). Have a good weekend!
Patrick Berry’s New Yorker crossword—Amy’s write-up
Hi ho! Amy filling in for the vacationing Malaika.
Smooth and rich as silky nutmeg ganache, lots of fun fill. Highlights for me include the always incredible MARIE CURIE, “SAFE TRAVELS,” OLD SOULS, A STAR IS BORN, PAPER TOWEL (product recommendation: Brawny sells paper towels that are perforated so that you can use a quarter or half sheet and I love it), Stokely CARMICHAEL (aka Kwame Ture), ERIC THE RED, EDITH HEAD, and EYE ROLLS. Also: JELLY SHOE! I had at least one pair at some point. They were cuter than Crocs, I’ll say that.
Five more things:
- 28d. [Size whose abbreviation sounds like too much, ironically], EXTRA-SMALL. XS = excess! Fun.
- 26d. [Supporter of Lions, Tigers, or Bears, e.g.], IVY LEAGUERS. Clever! Columbia Lions, Princeton Tigers, and Brown Bears.
- 1d. [1988 platinum single by Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock], IT TAKES TWO. I have zero recollection of this song, was more inclined to listen to albums than radio in 1988. Let’s have a look at the video. Oh! 1980s videos can be so quaint.
- 17a. [Product with a rabbit mascot], TRIX. Eveready batteries also have a bunny, but I’m mad at Eveready because in my current pack of their 2032 button batteries, two of the four batteries I’ve tried were dead on arrival. So weird. (They expire in 2030.)
- 9d. [“Can you believe this blowhard?” reactions], EYE ROLLS. I believe we are still waiting for an emoji that accurately encapsulates the eye roll.
4.25 stars from me.
CLEAR SKIES is something my husband is obsessed with– he’s an amateur astronomer. He recently shipped his telescope to Chile where it’s living in a telescope farm so he (and others) can use it to observe wonderful southern skies all the way from the American Midwest… Geeks are US!
Excellent puzzle, I agree. It is silky-smooth, with excellent fill, and I loved the clue for HOE, along with Amy.
I am in awe of the idea of a telescope farm and that your family, and others, can observe the southern skies. Thanks for sharing that! Geeks rock!
Such good puzzles by Robyn Weintraub
NYT: Went through every song in Sound of Music in my head before I realized… But “Doe” isn’t the first word of “Do-Re-Mi.” That’s “Let’s.” Is there something I’m missing/forgetting? (Probably.)
I guess it depends on where you start the song itself. songlyrics.com has “The” as the first word, but MetroLyrics has “Let’s”. I think most people who sing it start with “Doe”.
Might have been better to reference the chorus of the song in the clue.
Didn’t bother me a bit. Nice puzzle.
FWIW, I could pick nits to salvage the clue. Rogers and Hammerstein were reverting (motivated by story-telling, to be sure) to the common prewar songwriting in which songs in the theater began with a “verse,” meaning an intro with its own melody. And many of these have vanished in memory or in popular performance by solo artists, if not in all such (and if still of course in the sheet music). But mostly it just felt not worth worrying about. No big deal.
YES! Musical theatre nerd and drama teacher here. I had the exact same response that I may have shouted at my computer. Loudly. Not on topic, but I hate when people include “My Favorite Things” as a Christmas song. YOU CAN HAVE PACKAGES WITH BOWS ANY TIME OF THE YEAR. Whew. Glad I got that out of my system.
NYT: Robyn made me feel smart today — thanks!
Very enjoyable puzzle.
Ditto: : “Robyn made me feel smart today”… a very enjoyable and satisfying Friday puzzle!!
Then on to LAT. After solving, looking at it, reading pannonica’s detailed explanation, looking at it… still wasn’t sure I QUITE got the theme (and I do NYT Cryptos when they come up, so I’m not totally un-crypto). So that punched a huge hole in my “made me feel smart” feelings :D <— lauging at self. Not a satisfying or enjoyable puzzle… needed most crosses to get the theme fills since there was no real clue to them at all.
Both the NYT and the New Yorker Puzzles were excellent!
pannonica, you say “This one is anomalous, as we’ll see, since it places the modifier second.”
But, “58a. [Lea?] CLEAN SHAVEN (clean).” also has the modifier second.
This is correct. A big oversight on my part.
I thought that the White House Rose Garden was replaced by the previous occupants.