Priyanka Sethy & Matthew Stock’s New York Times crossword, “Study Breaks”—Amy’s write-up
Hello! First up, a housekeeping note: Starting next Sunday, Nate will be back in the weekly blogging rotation (yay, Nate!) to cover the Sunday NYT each week, and I’ll pick up the (non-contest) Fireball puzzles.
Priyanka and Matthew bring us a collegiate (or high school) academics theme, with circled letters amid otherwise unrelated entries “break”ing up various fields of “study” (hence the title). When you take all those circled letters together from top to bottom, they spell out CUT CLASS, which is exactly what those letters are doing in their themers:
- 21a. [Function whose output is 45° when applied to 1], ARCTANGENT. The circled C interrupts ART class.
- 26a. [Premium membership designation], ELITE STATUS. The U cuts STATS.
- 42a. [It lets you see the sites], INTERNET CONNECTION. T cuts ECON.
- 60a. [Holders of multiple passports], DUAL CITIZENS. C cuts LIT, my favorite.
- 74a. [First openly lesbian anchor to host a major prime-time news program], RACHEL MADDOW. L cuts CHEM.
- 92a. [Ones fighting for change], POLITICAL ACTIVISTS. A cuts CALC.
- 108a. [Hempseed product], CANNABIS OIL. S cuts BIO.
- 119a. [Bringing up the rear], LAST IN LINE. S cuts Latin.
Cute theme. Zero objection from me for using the shorthand words like calc and econ and chem, since you surely will find a great many college students who use the shorthand far more than the full words.
Puzzle seemed easier than usual to me. A wavelength thing, or did it go more quickly than you were expecting, too?
Fave fill: SWEARING IN (… depending on the year), the GREAT BASIN, POOR DEAR—not a lot of longer fill in the mix here, though.
Seven more things:
- 58d. [Tometi who co-founded Black Lives Matter], OPAL. Just learned that she now goes by Ayọ Tometi.
- 66d. [Traditional attire for some martial artists], JUDOGI. A new term for me. I know judo, I know gi, didn’t know the combo.
- 39d. [Extended-wear manicure options], GELS. A gimme. If you didn’t know this, that’s on you. You know it now!
- 110d. [“Duh!,” in modern slang], OBVI! OBVIously fits right in with this CALCulus (etc.) theme.
- 36a. [Language of the 18th-century poet Mir Taqi Mir], URDU. The name is new to me, but there are only so many 4-letter language names that pop up in crosswords and feel right for the name. Here are some of Mir Taqi Mir’s poems transliterated into our alphabet and, for some of them, translated into English.
- 57a. [Contents of some banks], SNOW. Too soon! Too soon! Summer just ended, and already we gotta get out the shovels and salt, is that how it is?
- 18d. [Summer ___], INTERN. Oh, look! We’re thinking about summer again. My kid had a great nursing internship over the summer and is currently putting in 20 hours a week at another internship during the fall semester. I tell ya, his dad and I couldn’t be more proud.
Four stars from me.
Zhouqin Burnikel’s USA Today crossword, “Carb Loading”—Darby’s write-up
Theme: Each themed answer finishes with a carbohydrate-heavy food.
- 19a [“No big deal”] SMALL POTATOES
- 36a [“NFL wideout with 22, 895 career receiving yards”] JERRY RICE
- 56a [“Lord’s Prayer sustenance”] OUR DAILY BREAD
Creative Sunday theme here, with 2 13-letters taking the top and bottom thirds of the grids in SMALL POTATOES and OUR DAILY BREAD. Both of these were great, fun answers. For those unfamiliar with the Christian “Our Father,” I fought that the Down answers did the work to balance out OUR DAILY BREAD nicely. JERRY RICE felt especially apt, given that there will be much football today. (As always, go Bills!)
I thought that this was a friendly grid layout. It was very smooth sailing from start to finish with only a few skips as I started my way through the Across clues. 17a [“Trees with coarse-grained wood”] ELMS held me up, but once I got one letter, that was no problem, and now I’ll file that fact away in my mental tree folder (which is filled mostly with knowledge gained from puzzles). I wanted to fill 29a [“Groups of mountains or restaurants] with RANGES because that was what first came to find for mountains, but I quickly pivoted to CHAINS. I appreciated this clue because restaurants clearly put me in the right direction, and it was a good way to group the CHAINS.
Other clues that stood out to me included:
- 15a [“Its logo is an M in Google colors”] – Google recently changed all of the logos for its services, and I can’t say that I’m the biggest fan. Having all of them in Google colors versus differentiated took me a minute to get used to, but I have also now adapted so maybe I just don’t like change. Anyway, I thought that this was a clever use of the logo (which had an M in GMAIL even before the new icon dropped).
- 43a [“Enjoy nian gao, for example”] – Nian gao is a Chinese New Year Sweet Rice cake that looks like it would be delightful to EAT. I feel similarly about the Japanese dish found in 25a [“Chankonabe holder”]. Chankonabe is a hot POT dish and looks very welcoming as we approach fall.
- 60a [“Forugh Farrokhzad’s country”] – Forugh Farrokhzad was an IRANian poet who rebelled against the male-dominated societal norms of mid-20th century IRAN by discussing “the innermost world of women” that was constantly left out of art and poetry at that time. You can read more about her and her work here.
Overall, a solid Sunday puzzle! Have a great week!
Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “One-Two Combo” – Jim Q’s Write-up
About time SUPERCALIFRAGILISTICEXPIALIDOCIOUS was featured as a grid-spanner. Why did it take so long?!
THEME: ALI appears twice in common phrases.
IT’S ALIVE! IT’S ALIVE!
AUSTRALIAN SEA LION.
The theme here is simple. A repeated letter strain within a phrase isn’t particularly groundbreaking. So the funkiness of the grid is what truly sets this puzzle apart from others. Evan is very lucky with the freedoms he has in comparison with limitations of other publications. And although SUPERCALIFRAGILISTICEXPIALIDOCIOUS was a gimme if I’ve ever seen one, I was not at all confident with the spelling of it, so I had to use a little fill/theme synergy to help me out there.
Heck, eeven Julie Andrews isn’t confident in the spelling. Check her out as a guest speller in Broadway’s 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee:
Part of me wonders if the theme was born out of the grid spanner. Reverse engineered in a sense. Like, did Evan examine that word and find a quality in it that he would likely be able to find in other phrases? While just fine, the other themers are not nearly as fun (that’s a very tall order though) or they seem repetitive like ALIGN ALIGNER and ALIVE ALIVE.
Some fun curveball clues today:
[Name spelled in midair?] IDA. The name is hiding in mIDAir.
[Match point?] RING. Boxing matches are played in RINGs. I had RINK first, which made sense to me as I thought it was referring to a hockey game (but I don’t think they’re ever referred to as “matches”).
[Date around?] CIRCA. Very clever. Date is a noun in this sense
[Rest stop?] CRYPT. A touch of morbidity fun.
New names for me:
CHE Noir and Rosamund Pike. Is that it? There’s usually more.
Love that BONNAROO is Creole slang for “a really good time.” That was fun to learn.
Thanks for this one!
And Happy Birthday, Evan! 38 ain’t that bad. Two more years before things that shouldn’t hurt start to hurt.
Jake Halperin’s Universal crossword, “In-Flight Entertainment” — Jim Q’s write-up
Send ups going down!
THEME: Spoof movies.
THIS IS SPINAL TAP.
(revealer) VERTICAL TAKEOFF.
I uncovered SPACEBALLS first (a movie I love despite having never seen any films in the Star Wars franchise). Then the revealer. That with the title had me believing for more than a few moments that the already-tight theme was taking it next level and all of the spoof movies were going to have to do with flight or space or something.
But no. Still, a fun little love note to the under appreciated spoof genre.
TRIO SONATA and VICTORIOUS are doing their level best to hide amongst the fill and not look as if they’re theme answers, but that’s a tall order being as they’re the same length as two of theme and they’re very much in standard theme territory.
New to me in fill: HALEP Simona.
Is LIT still a thing? It had a good run, but I think it’s gone into PHAT-land. Don’t hear it said much in the high school halls anymore.
Rebecca Goldstein’s Universal Sunday crossword, “Let’s Do the Time Warp Again”—Jim P’s review
Theme: Units of time are “warped” (i.e. anagrammed) within familiar phrases.
- 22a. [Surgery requirement (Theme hint: Unscramble each set of circled letters)] INFORMED CONSENT. Second.
- 35a. [Starbucks’ Skittles Frappuccino, e.g.] SECRET MENU ITEM. Minute.
- 45a. [“Cheers!”] “TO YOUR HEALTH!”. Hour.
- 63a. [Comply without resistance] ROLL OVER AND PLAY DEAD. Day.
- 84a. [Certain dumbbells] SHAKE WEIGHTS. Week.
- 95a. [Where to see a room with a view] WATERFRONT HOME. Month.
- 113a. [Opportunity to make first-round picks?] PRIMARY ELECTION. Year.
Very impressed with this set! Fun entries (well, SECRET MENU ITEM feels a little forced), but I’m most impressed with the temporal progression from SECOND to YEAR. That’s an elegant touch I wasn’t expecting, but it elevates the theme tremendously.
I enjoyed the long fill as well with BROWNIE MIXES, GLASS CEILING, GREEN TAX, A LOT TO DO, AT IT AGAIN, and BELITTLED. Some of the proper names got me like actress Mireille ENOS, actress/writer Robin THEDE, chef Samin NOSRAT, and director Chloé ZHAO, but I’m glad to learn them.
Clue of note: 101a. [Japanese honorific]. CHAN. I was only aware of SAN as an honorific. Here’s a good guide to all of them. Specifically, CHAN is used for people and animals one finds adorable and cute, like one’s children or pets.
Solidly constructed grid all around. Four stars from me.
I can’t think of SHAKE WEIGHTS without recalling the SNL parody commercial. NSFW. NBC tries to keep control of videos of its shows, so the link above goes to their site, but you have to sign in. Here’s a video someone made of the video. Apologies for the sound quality.
Michael Lieberman’s LA Times crossword, “Elongation” – Gareth’s summary
Today’s puzzle by Michael Lieberman features a pretty standard letter addition theme. I wondered if, given the title of “Elongation”, we’d have lengthened vowel sounds. Instead, the digram “el” is added to make answers with new, “wacky”, clues. I liked entries 1,3 and 7 the most: the bookending HANDELSANITIZER and CATCHAFEWRELAYS plus the scrabbly ORTHODOXJEWELS. The remaining were more functional: SALADDELAYS, FELINEPRINT and VOWELOFSILENCE; with only ROCKYRELOAD being grammatically strained.
- Other tidbits:
[Award for good plays], OBIE. I had TONY here first. ESPY also fits, albeit more loosely.
- [Greenish-blue], TEAL. Here is a picture of a blue-billed teal from a recent trip to one of our local sewage works.
- [Providers of liquid assets?], IVS. I don’t think this clue lands, even with a “?”
- [Sticky home?], NEST. As in it is made of sticks. Ow, I liked it!
- [Biscuit whose name describes its shape], MILKBONE. I believe this a dog biscuit brand?