Adrian Kabigting’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
This puzzle has so much great fill, I forgive the clunky bits in the glue. Look at all these cool entries: There’s the dreaded DATA BREACH (great clue, 1a. [Hack job]). “EXTRA, EXTRA, read all about it.” We learn a MEYER LEMON is native to China. PARANORMAL GONAD, feels like an insult. DEBRIEF is good, I love AIR QUALITY (gotta have a weather app that reports the AQI), THE BEAN from Chicago’s Millennium Park, “SCREW IT,” WINTERTIME, ALIENATION, SET DESIGNS, NBA REFEREE, QUIBBLE, Jacqueline DUPRE, WAIT-LISTED, SHOCKER, KAMEHAMEHA the GREAT, and Elsa PERETTI. PERETTI is close to my heart because my friend Susan (rest in peace, my dear friend) gave me her Peretti kidney necklace on the occasion of my kidney transplant.
Five more things:
- 24a. [Literally, “disciple”], SIKH. I don’t think I knew this etymology/translation.
- 30a. [Gives a hand], DEALS. I filled in CLAPS first. If you did that too, give yourself a hand!
- 56a. [Rain or shine], VERB. Great clue!
- 10d. [Name associated with boxers], HANES. Ah, yes, a third definition of boxers. I was thinking it had to do with either pugilists or dogs, not underwear.
- 27d. [Travel authority?], NBA REFEREE. Another great clue!
Little bits like NEY, ESE, RELIT, and SAW AS felt very meh indeed, but the overall experience was a good one. 4.25 stars from me. Keep the themelesses coming, Adrian!
Wendy Brandes’s USA Today crossword “Left of the Mark”—Darby’s review
Theme: All of the theme answers include a word that can comfortably be placed before (as in left of the)“mark” in a common phrase.
- 17a [“Info that determines your horoscope sign”] DATE OF BIRTH / BIRTH MARK
- 26a [“‘Peter Pan’ place that’s ‘not on any chart, you must find it with your heart”] NEVER NEVERLAND / LANDMARK
- 42a [“Something asked at a pub quiz night”] TRIVIA QUESTION / QUESTION MARK
- 56a [“Secretary of State, e.g.] CABINET POST / POSTMARK
I enjoyed this theme quite a bit and thought that the theme answers were creative and fresh. I was a bit confused in typing DATE OF BIRTH rather than BIRTHDAY, but it ultimately made sense. The clue for 26a was perfect – I immediately filled in NEVERLAND with a double NEVER.
I also really enjoyed this grid. Under 3 minutes is a new record for me (I’m no speed solver), and I feel like I went for a pleasant cruise through this one. However, it was both aesthetically pleasing in its diagonally-formatted center section and in a nice balance of clue lengths.
My Friday Faves are:
- 24a [“State that’s home to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame] – I’m originally from Cleveland, OHIO, so I’m always pleased to see it repped in a puzzle…even if I haven’t been to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame myself (which is definitely a ding on my Clevelander status, I know).
- 46a [“Guitarist Lofgren of the E Street Band”] – We’re big Boss fans in my house, so I’m always excited to see a reference to the E Street Band. NILS Lofgren joined the team as a guitarist right before the Born in the U.S.A. tour in 1984 (talk about timing!). Fun fact: Lofgren was a competitive gymnast in high school.
- 55a [“Where Claressa Shields most recently won Olympic gold”] – Shields, a boxer, took home gold in both London and RIO in the middleweight category. She is also the fastest fighter in boxing history to hold three world titles in three different weight classes. Shields is joined in this puzzle by fellow African American athlete 6d [“Tennis champion Althea”] GIBSON, who was the first African American to play in the U.S. National Championships. For some additional context, Gibson’s entry in the International Tennis Hall of Fame reads “What Jackie Robinson did for baseball by being in the Brooklyn Dodgers’s starting lineup at first base on April 15, 1947, Althea Gibson did for tennis when she made her historic debut, defeating Barbara Knapp, 6-2, 6-2, in the first round.” Some really cool historical and contemporary sports knowledge in this puzzle today, and I am here for it!
Well—and Wendy queued this up perfectly for me—I’M OUT (15a [“Peace!”]). Have a great weekend!
Erik Agard’s New Yorker puzzle– malaika’s write-up
Good morning, solvers! I am back after a three-ish week hiatus. I was on the first vacation I’ve taken in over two years, and I feel rejuvenated as hell. Thanks to all the fiend-ers who stepped in for me so I didn’t have to worry about posting while I was out of the country.
A lot of the Erik Agard puzzles I solve for the New Yorker have a central (presumably) seed entry that is the name of a famous person that I have not heard of, fairly crossed. After I solve the puzzle, I like to look them up and see all of their accomplishments. Today’s was NICHELLE NICHOLS (35A: Actress whose work with NASA is the focus of the documentary “Woman in Motion”), who portrayed Uhura in “Star Trek” and had the first interracial kiss on TV. Even though I had not heard of her name, I have heard of that scene. She helped NASA to recruit more diverse employees, including Dr. Sally Ride.
This sparkliness of today’s puzzle came from the clues. SCARE TACTIC (32A) is a nice entry, for example, but the clue, “Something used to make a chicken stew?” was *chef’s kiss*. Similarly with “What computer users might click on?” for ONLINE DATES (39A). I always enjoy a reference to ANTI (15A: Rihanna album with the track “Kiss It Better”) because then I am reminded to rewatch my favorite video of all time, below.
I wasn’t crazy about OREIDA (2D: Frozen food brand that trademarked Tater Tots), LANAI (31A: Veranda that shares its name with a Hawaiian island), and TACH (27D: R.p.m. gauge). These are three words where, not only did I learn them exclusively from crosswords, but after about a year of solving, I still haven’t ever encountered them in the real world. Perhaps I should spend more time in the frozen food aisle. Or in Hawaii. Or in a car. (Lol as if, NYC public transit is too good.)
Other things: I loved the reference to “Where in the World Is CARMEN Sandiego?” (1D), MIRACLE (18A: Even a minor one is really good), and the clue for NO CHARGE (35D: Punchline to a joke that starts with a neutron walking into a bar). I have never heard of a CLAVINET (37D: “Superstition” instrument) (I’m listening to “Superstition” right now, what a bop), and I have just now looked up why the number TWO sometimes follows LBTQUIA (5D). (It refers to “two-spirit” which is a Native American term too complicated to summarize in a sentence.) I will close on a mildly fun fact, which is that “TUTTI frutti” (50D) directly translates to “all the fruits” from Italian. It’s like saying “todas frutas” in Spanish.
Gary Larson’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up
Rhotic replacement is the name of the game here, with an added twist of employing homophones, as necessary, to the results to transform them into real words.
- 56aR [Cartoon canine whose speech patterns inspired four puzzle answers] SCOOBY-DOO.
- 18a. [Deception at a dog show?] ROVER RUSE (overuse).
- 23a. [Top-shelf whiskey?] REGAL RYE (eagle eye).
- 34a. [Food staple storage areas?] RICE RACKS (ice axe).
- 51a. [Unexpected lopsided victory?] RARE ROUT (air out).
I saw the theme developing, but assumed it was just going to be an Rs-in-front-of-words thing, not expecting the Scooby-Doo connection, which gives it a rationale.
- 11d [’60s–’70s show with a Joke Wall, familiarly] LAUGH-IN. Because the full title includes Rowan and Martin’s …
- 19d [ __ lips] READ. >moue< Poor clue, eh?
- 26d [Pear variety] BOSC. Just picked up a couple, plus some bartletts. And apples too: gingergolds and … some other new-to-me variety that I can’t recall the name of—something with a W in it. (aside: there are a heckuva lot of apple varieties!). Autumn coming!
- 39d [Lawlessness] ANARCHY. This recent Twitter thread (and some of the replies) caused me to rethink this reflexive definition of anarchy.
- 14a [Trunk with a chest] TORSO. Okay.
- 48a [Bordeaux wine] CLARET. Such an oddly appealing word; don’t know why.
- 49a [Classic light provider] CANDLE. “Classic”.
- 58a [Youngest French Open champ] SELES. Two young players in the US Open finals this year. An observation, also from Twitter:
That’s impressive, no?
All right, that’s all I’ve got this morning.
David Bloom’s Universal crossword, “Whirly Bird”—Jim P’s review
Theme: Birds are “whirled around” and found backwards inside familiar phrases.
- 20a. [Iconic fast-food logo (Theme hint: Read each set of circled letters backward)] GOLDEN ARCHES. Crane.
- 28a. [Dutch spirit named after its original still] KETEL ONE VODKA. Dove.
- 41a. [Often-complex details] INNER WORKINGS. Wren.
- 47a. [MTV series based on “An American Family”] THE REAL WORLD. Owl.
Cute and consistent. The birds all span more than one word and the phrases themselves are familiar if not fun. Generally in hidden word themes, the longer the hidden word the better, IMO. So I like CRANE better than OWL, but all in all, this is a nice set.
Speaking of sets, we get MINDSETS as the first nice long Down entry. Elsewhere there’s a Hawaiian PIG ROAST plus “I’M LATE!,” Teddy GRAHAMS, KOALAS, KIMONO, and FRESNO.
I’m not sold on DM ME [“Let’s chat privately,” on Twitter] being crossword-worthy. Thankfully the crossings were fair, but still, I hope not to see this again.
- 32a. [___ Pods (inedible laundry pouches)]. TIDE. I like how “inedible” is added in there. Can’t be too careful! (Yes, I know they’re attractive to tiny tots, but I presume none of them are doing this puzzle.)
- 9d. [Watch carefully]. OBSERVE. This would be more fun clued [“Watch carefully,” with flair].
- 11d. [Send via modem, perhaps]. FAX. I never put the two together, but yes of course, FAX machines use modems to communicate.
- 26d. [What a calavera depicts, on the Day of the Dead]. SKULL. Whoa. Mind blown. The main street through my home town (Milpitas, CA) is Calaveras Blvd. I never knew until today that we were always driving down Skulls Boulevard. Wikipedia says, “A calavera is a representation of a human skull. The term is most often applied to edible or decorative skulls made (usually by hand) from either sugar or clay…”
- 28d. [Kobe robe]. KIMONO. A very simple clue, but the difference in pronunciation is notable.
Cute puzzle with clean fill (minus DM ME). 3.8 stars. Oh, this appears to be a debut! Congratulations, David, on a fine grid. Keep up the good work.
Liz Vargo’s Inkubator crossword, “Aether Way”—Rebecca’s review
Lovely debut puzzle from the Inkubator this week! Congratulations, Liz!!
- 17A [Massage, perhaps] SPA SERVICE
- 28A [Enchilada accompaniment] SPANISH RICE
- 46A [Event that may include spear throwing and Atlas carries] SPARTAN RACE
- 62A [The universe beyond, or a hint to 17-, 28-, and 46-Across] OUTER SPACE
We have a bookend theme today, with the word SPACE split across the starts and ends of each theme answer, with the appropriate revealer OUTER SPACE. Very well-executed example of this style of theme that made for a really lovely easy puzzle.
We have some really great fill throughout. I love seeing so many long downs holding the puzzle together and IRAN CONTRA, EPIC DRAMA, GIVES A DAMN, IDA TARBELL, ICEBOX CAKE and SHARKSKIN were all great entries. Impressive in both variety, and volume.
- 53A [Group you may be inspired to join after watching “The Queen’s Gambit”] for CHESS CLUB – nothing tricky here – I’m just a huge fan of the show
- 54D [Happy Ending?] for HOUR – my favorite clue for HOUR ever
- 40D [Teddy material] for LACE – did you think we were talking about bears here?
Here’s that Savage REMIX for your listening pleasure