Stella Zawistowski’s NYT puzzle– malaika’s write-up
I was actually just thinking about how I haven’t seen a Stella NYT in a while!! The last one of hers (link) absolutely s l a u g h t e r e d me (I believe I did not finish, and simply gave up), but I’m a better solver now so I wanted to see how I would fare. My first impression was that this grid is stunning. I care about Grid Aesthetics far more than I should, and that string of blocks down the center, and the stacks balanced with chonky corners…. simply lovely.
My first entry was BOX BRAIDS (17A: Black hairstyle with square-shaped sections), which I put in cackling because I just tweeted about this as a crossword entry. I thought the clue was far too easy / teach-y, fwiw, but glad to see it! Other no-crossings easy gets for me were KIM Possible (30A) and…. despite knowing zero French, LE MONDE (37A: Daily in Paris). This is because that newspaper was a plot point in the (incredible!) book Red White & Royal Blue which I just read. There were two other French terms in this, BETE NOIRE (1A: What’s not to like?) and AMOUR (50A: Affaire de couer). That’s a bit too many, I think.
I did not immediately know LOAD (25D: Important calculation for a weightlifter) but I know that Stella is a lifter, and I love when constructors inject themselves into the puzzle.
What else? The trickery of the clue “Grp. of Pelicans” (44D) for THE NBA didn’t feel very tricky because Pelicans was capitalized. To me, GET SOME (41D: Find satisfaction, slangily) means get laid. So it’s either a generational thing or that clue is pretty subtly risque. IMAGINE THAT (46A: “Well, there’s a surprise!”) was a simply delightful Weintraub-esque entry and “Dance around?” for HORA was lovely.
I don’t love random European vowel-y rivers (ELBE: River through Bohemia), I think Milton Friedman is a boring angle for ECON (2D), and Claude AKINS (48D) feels pretty irrelevant (actors from the sixties rarely hit for me), but no other complaints from me!
Prasanna Keshava’s Universal crossword, “Encircled”—Jim P’s review
Theme: Synonyms for “loop” are found at both ends of familiar phrases. The revealer is IN THE LOOP (52a, [Up to speed, and like all but four bookending letters of 16-, 22- or 41-Across?]).
- 16a. [Chance to accompany a firefighter] RIDE-ALONG. Ring.
- 22a. [Path toward redemption] COMEBACK TRAIL. Coil.
- 41a. [Gem from a farm] CULTURED PEARL. Curl.
Very nice. I love the consistency here with all four-letter words and each word being split the same way. And the theme entries themselves are fun. Nice finds all around.
Great long fill, too: BAD ACTORS, SLEPT IN, STUNNER, FOOTLOOSE.
Clues of note:
- 20a. [Celine whose first and last initials are apt?]. DION. …because she puts all her wealth in Certificates of Deposit? Okay, okay. Yes, I know it’s referring to compact discs. Do they even make those anymore?
- 27a. [Nasal noise]. SNORT. Who else went with SNORE first?
- 37a. [Laborious undertakings]. SLOGS. Thankfully, this puzzle wasn’t one.
- 38a. [Comes to room temperature, say]. COOLS. Why did I assume we were trying to warm something up here? Maybe because I just took some chicken out of the freezer for tonight’s dinner.
- 2d. [Bengaluru’s continent]. ASIA. Today I Learned: Bengaluru is another name for Bangalore.
- 24d. [Is polite after a boring play]. CLAPS. Why did I assume we were talking about sports here (tennis, perhaps)? I think the clue is referring to a stage play.
Margit Christenson’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up
Was initially mystified by the theme, but I figured it out by the time I got to the third and final of the modified entries.
- 57aR [Miniscule biters, and a clue to understanding 15-, 26- and 43-Across] NO-SEE-UMS. Not the angle I was expecting the revealer to take, instead anticipating something along the lines of disfluency removal software and speech recognition technology. That’s admittedly a more obscure and less elegant approach than the one here.
- 15a. [Otolaryngologist’s colleagues?] EARDRUMS (ear Drs).
- 26a. [Solid vestment choice?] THE WHITE ALBUM (the white alb). I also appreciate how the clue evokes ‘solid investment choice’—a distinctly more in-the-language formulation.
- 43a. [Rodent reduction measure?] VOLUME CONTROL (vole control).
To be explicit, if you don’t see—or ignore—the UMs in the normal-seeming theme entries, you get the wackified answers to the clues.
- 4d [Lipton product] SOUP MIX. Nothing to do with 26d [Poured-over leaves] TEAS this time.
- 9d [Tiny office printer] LABEL MAKER. Clue threw me, but it makes perfect sense.
- 11d [Sundance’s sweetie] ETTA. Sundance Kid, ETTA Place. Haven’t seen that framing in a while.
- 13d [Squirmed] WRITHED. Hands up for WIGGLED first?
- 14d [Certain break-dancers] B GIRLS. I’m reminded of Spike Jonze’s iconic video for “Praise You”
- 20d [Where hands may be brought together] BOAT DECK. Not really sold on either the clue or the entry. I see what’s intended, but does it work well enough?
- 36d [Decrease?] IRON. A chestnut, but still good.
- 38d [Sneaks] TENNIES. Yep, fooled me.
- 46d [Bash] PARTY, 46a [One getting smashed at a bash] PIÑATA.
- 52d [“Hey __”: classic hit] JUDE. Not on The Beatles (aka the White Album); rather, it’s on Let it Be.
- 56d [River isle] AIT. Now that’s crosswordese/Scrabblese. Etymology: Middle English eyt, from Old English *ēget, by-form of īggoth, igeoth, from īg island. It’s like a little ol’ dab of superglue in an otherwise smooth grid.
- 18a [Home-away-from-home vacation] RV TRIP. When I had DISH for 3d [Gossip] DIRT, I was worried there was going to be a blatant home duplication.
- 19a [Departure notice?] OBIT. Almost poetic, that clue.
- 37a [Member of a noted sailing trio] NOD. Hm? Is this Wynken, Blynken, and Nod? Hang on while I check … yes. The obvious evocation is of Columbus’ 1492 ships, but none of those is three letters long.
- 40a [Home of the Trop] ST PETE. Continuing my current mini-trend of including three songs per write-up:
- 51a [Donation drop-off site] TIP JAR. Aha, a much smaller-sized donation than anticipated.
- 55a [Afghanistan’s national airline] ARIANA. “Afghanistan Ariana Airlines eyes international links, female staff remain grounded“
- 60a [Nice ways to say yes] OUIS. The ol’ masked capital trick.
I enjoyed the different spin to the theme of this crossword, with the in-grid entries seeming normal but mismatched to the clues.
Malaika Handa’s USA Today puzzle– Darby’s write-up
First off, shout out to fellow Fiend Malaika on a great puzzle! This one was also edited by Erik Agard.
Theme: Each themed answer includes a way of hitting a ball in volleyball as the “final” word in the answer, ordered moving down so you move BUMP, SET, and SPIKE.
- 20a [“Colliding celebration”] CHEST BUMP
- 43a [“Kit with nail clippers”] MANICURE SET
- 61a [“Piece of metal for train tracks”] RAILROAD SPIKE
This was such a EUREKA-inducing Friday theme. Filling in CHEST BUMP and finding that it was the correct answer was an unexpectedly satisfying feeling. I wish that I’d put the theme together sooner, as I’m sure it would’ve helped me with the SET half of MANICURE SET, and I caught much of RAILROAD SPIKE on the crosses, filling in the vowels as it became clearer. It was a nice mix of creative cluing and rare (if ever used??) answer that could easily be filled in using the down answers.
I also thought that 25d [“Part of a pedi”] FOOT MASSAGE was a nice complement to MANICURE SET, bringing in a nice 11-letter answer. The other 11-letter column was NINETIES KID, which was clued as [“Person who still knows the Bagel Bites jingle by heart, perhaps”] in 27d. While I was a Totino’s Pizza Rolls child (so I tragically don’t remember the jingle), I thought that this was an incredible answer. NINETIES KIDS who watched KENAN and Kel, I think, will also appreciate 41a [“Thompson with a self-titled NBC sitcom”].
Other Friday faves include:
- 35a [“Tasty, in Hawaiian”] – This was a great inclusion to get us to think more broadly about ONO, rather than cluing it as a Yoko Ono-reference.
- 46a [“Language in Bad Bunny songs”] – Bad Bunny is a Puerto Rican singer who just last night took home ten wins at the Billboard Latin Music Awards. I enjoyed the grid setup here for this answer with SPANISH separated from 48a [“Pics often taken in a mirror”] SELFIES with just one black square. It’s nice grid-alliteration (gridderation?) having these one right after the other.
- 23d & 29d [“Revered figure”] – Get your thesaurus out. I’m a big fan of double clues. It’s a nice test of whether you can name more than one word for a definition and/or it’s a nice way of finding that even when the first word that comes to mind doesn’t fit in one place, you can still put it somewhere else. In my case, HERO came to me first for 23d, but it didn’t work with LOTR (which, nerdy me, already had filled in for 39a [“Fantasy film series shot in New Zealand, for short”]), but it fit nicely in 29d while IDOL took 23a.
That’s it from me, folks. This will probably be the most fun item I’ll check off my TO DO list today, so it made for a solid start.
Caitlin Reid’s New Yorker puzzle– malaika’s write-up
Good morning, solvers! I absolutely loved this puzzle from Caitlin. I was planning on doing highlights and lowlights but I can not find any lowlights. So, highlights below:
- ORANGE PEEL (14A: Old-Fashioned garnish) stacked atop LEGAL EAGLE (18A: Ace attorney) was a delightful start to this puzzle.
- GOES GAGA (31A: Absolutely loses it (over)) is one of those entries where the clue needs to be a little awkward. In this case, it’s worth it.
- “A” list? was a perfect clue for HONOR ROLL (34A). I think wordplay clues need to be really tight for easy puzzles (New Yorker does their easiest puzzles on Fridays) and this fit the bill.
- Upon finishing this puzzle, I added PUHLEASE (37A: Outburst accompanying an eyeroll, perhaps) to my word list. I think that was my favorite entry of the puzzle.
- “Man of the hour?” for FATHER TIME (53A) was my favorite clue of the puzzle.
- MAGIC CARPET RIDE: 1968 Steppenwolf hit that references “Aladdin’s lamp”
- ALA MODE (38D: Served with a scoop) always makes me think of the “Little Miss Sunshine” scene where she pronounces it “ala mo-dee.”