Robyn Weintraub’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Quick and breezy! A shame—it would have been nice to have to spend more time piecing together Robyn’s puzzle.
Fave fill: NAIL POLISH (followed by the “ladies’ fingers” clue for OKRA), CASE DISMISSED, “LET THAT SINK IN,” GO ON STRIKE, EXPRESS TRAIN, LEFT TOWN, EATING FOR TWO. LEAS, EFT, ANAT, and ESSO were on the “meh” side, but overall I did like the puzzle.
Five more things:
- 37a. [One-fourth of KISS], STUPID. This is not an insult aimed at Gene Simmons, no. It’s “keep it simple, stupid.”
- 44a. [Kitty food?], POKER CHIP. Cute clue.
- Did not know: 52a. [___ Sarnoff, Warner Bros. C.E.O. beginning in 2019], ANN. Have made a note of it now.
- 12d. [Nation conspicuously missing from the Wilson-proposed League of Nations, in brief], USA. For real? “I came up with this great idea for a club! You’re all in it! Yes, all of you. … What, me? Uhhh… look over there!”
- 40d. [Herb often used in preparing potatoes and omelets], CHIVE. Blech. You can have my share.
Four stars from me. Happy Friday, people!
Victor Fleming, Marya Doery, and Carla Frechette’s Universal crossword, “You Can Say That Again!”—Jim P’s review
A little bird told me that Judge Vic’s co-constructors are two sisters. Checking the database, they had their debut back in July in the Inkubator.
This one is a breezy, clean solve with a simple theme: Six-letter words preceding nine-letter words which are actually the first words plus a three-letter prefix. If you’re keeping score, they each add up to 15-letter grid-spanning entries.
- 20a. [Retired actor?] FORMER PERFORMER.
- 36a. [Many chicks and calves?] SPRING OFFSPRING.
- 49a. [Kindhearted mixologist?] TENDER BARTENDER.
Cute and tidy. I happened to just see the latest James Bond film the other night (first time in a theater in gods-know-when), and I can’t help repeating each of these entries in Bondian fashion. “TENDER. BAR TENDER.”
Surely, a fourth grid-spanning entry could have been found, but three makes for plenty of theme material, and a fourth might have gummed up the works.
As it is, the fill is clean with nice entries CROW’S NEST, “OH CRUD,” and HOT POT. I’m okay with STOMPED IN [Entered loudly], but I really wanted it to be STORMED IN.
Clues of note:
- 19a. [Red Sox Hall of Famer Martinez]. PEDRO. My last name is Peredo, which gets mangled in many ways. I think the one I like best is when people look at my name and somehow come up with PEDRO. Works for me.
- 44a. [Shortened facial hair?]. STACHE. Fun clue and entry. But [Trimmed facial hair?] might have been a touch better.
- 42d. [“___ all the same”]. THEY’RE. Anyone else go with THANKS? I was convinced of it for a long time.
Whoa. Just noticed there are no three-letter entries in the entire grid. Don’t know if I’ve ever seen that before. A nice little feat that.
Alexander Liebeskind & Jeff Chen’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up
What goes around comes around, as they say.
- 19a. [*Failed-delivery words] RETURN TO SENDER.
- 37a. [*Arrives back at square one] COMES FULL CIRCLE.
- 53aR [*Bamboozled … and what the circled letters, when connected in the proper sequence, can be?] THROWN FOR A LOOP.
Traveling clockwise from the first circled letter reveals BOOMERANG as the name and shape of the object in question.
Can’t say I’ve seen this theme before, and it works well.
Time for my customary tour around the grid.
- 9d [Iced tea brand named for a Florida neighborhood] SOBE. One, I didn’t know this. Two, I’m guessing the derivation is SOuth BEach? Three, the BOOMERANG outlined in the grid sort of resembles Florida, don’t you think?
- (Four,) Does that mean there’s a minor duplication in the clue at 24d [Beach lotion meas.] SPF?
- 47d [Where to see strikes but not strikeouts] ALLEYS. Bowling, not baseball.
- 55d [“No shirt, no shoes, no service,” e.g.] RULE, but I tried SIGN first.
- 57d [Demolish] Tried RAZE before getting WHUP via crossings.
- 15a [Searches, like a pig does for truffles] ROOTLES. Such a good word. Alas, major duplication with 1d [Wilbur of “Charlotte’s Web,” e.g.] PIG.
- 26a [Home of Triple-A baseball’s Rainiers] TACOMA. Was able to get this one with only the T, thanks to geography knowledge.
- 50a [Folk tail?] -LORE. Cute. Maybe my favorite clue here.
Erik Agard’s USA Today crossword, “Fresh Starts”—Darby’s write-up
Edited by: Erik Agard
Theme: Each themed answer is comprised of two words that begin with RE and DO respectively and the key is the first two letters of each word. Together, we get some “fresh starts” with REDO.
- 25a [“TV show starring Paulina Alexis, Lane Factor, D’Pharoah Woon-A-Tai and Devery Jacobs”] RESERVATION DOGS
- 36a [“Metaphor for high turnover”] REVOLVING DOOR
- 47a [“Something might be proven beyond one”] REASONABLE DOUBT
This was a tricky theme, but I thought that the theme answers were awesome. Both RESERVATION DOGS and REASONABLE DOUBT were excellent grid-spanners. I also appreciated the complexity of the title of the puzzle. The fact that “Starts” is plural is key to decoding and looking at the first bits of each word in the answer. I’d say that this theme is more difficult than usual for the USA Today puzzles, which is a good thing, I think, for a puzzle running at the end of the week.
I love the shape of this grid so much. In these early days of my constructing adventures, I’m always really nervous about having too many black squares together, so I was stoked to see the two bracket-shapes cordoning off the center segment of the grid. I almost expected to see a secret code in the letters descending diagonally from each corner. But can we also talk about EERIE TROLL appearing together in the top corner? One could even say that the pairing is [“Strange in a scary way”], per EERIE’s 12a clue. It’s ~spooky season~, y’all.
Some Friday faves:
- 1a [“Mvskoke for ‘thank you’”] – MVTO kicked off this puzzle with an answer that I didn’t know, but I appreciated the reference and the chance to talk about the importance of preserving Indigenous language. The United Nations highlights that Indigenous languages are not only “methods of communication, but also extensive and complex systems of knowledge,” and, as a result, the decimation of Indigenous language is a colonial practice. The Mvskoke (or Muscogee) Nation runs a Mvskoke Language Program to “preserve, maintain, and revitalize the language of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation by connecting with tribal elders, encouraging adult citizens, and teaching our children the significance of reading, writing, and speaking in the language of our ancestors.”
- 18a & 19a [“Big name in cookies”] – I love when constructors challenge the hegemony of OREOs in puzzles by referencing popular cookie brands like Famous AMOS. It always feels a little bit like “Yeah, we include you all the time, and it’s to the point where we can make fun of that.”
- 25a [“TV show starring Paulina Alexis, Lane Factor, D’Pharoah Woon-A-Tai and Devery Jacobs”] – I haven’t had a chance to watch RESERVATION DOGS, but it’s high on my end-of-the-semester list. Notably, it features all Indigenous writers and directors in addition to a mostly Native cast.
- 22d & 24d [“Palindromic first name”] – Y’all know I love a BOGO clue, so AVA and ANA crossing RESERVATION DOGS was a high key win (^see OREO and AMOS above and also any time I’m on when these appear), and with 48d & 66a’s [“Nickname for Edward”] (EDDIE and NED) and 40a and 62a’s [“Single-digit perfect square”] (ONE and NINE), Erik went for one more than a hat-trick, which is supposedly called a “haul.”
CIAO (29a [“Ta-ta!”]) for now, y’all! Have a great weekend!
Robyn Weintraub’s New Yorker puzzle– malaika’s write-up
Happy Robyn Day to all who celebrate!!! A Times themeless and a New Yorker themeless! This puzzle rocked, with the caveat that there were a few pieces of fill that I think are too obscure / tricky for an easy puzzle. I wasn’t a fan of EWERS (35A: Widemouthed pitchers), MORES (41A: Social conventions), ROW A (2D: It’s nearest to the front of the stage), AS MAD (5D: Comparable to a hatter or a wet hen). I’ve solved enough puzzles that I could drop those terms in, but I don’t know that they’re super in the lexicon.
Robyn is associated with breezy, whimsical, conversational puzzles, so I wanted to take a look at a few of the things that contributed to this fun solve:
There were long entries that were super vivid in a fun way, like MALL SANTA, WATER BALLOONS, BLUE GREEN and UPTOWN FUNK. There were gently punny clues, like [They make a big splash] for WATER BALLOONS and [Hunter who sports an astronomically large belt] for ORION. And one of my favorite things, Robyn is great at taking words that can be a little downer-y and transform them into something fun. Obviously nothing is wrong with the entries DIRT (Crushed Oreos, whimsically, in some desserts) or POOR (“Give me your tired, your ___…”), but it’s nice how her clues bring to mind dessert and poetry.
Closing on an irrelevant story: Whenever I see something about corn / scarecrows (CROW: Unwelcome visitor in a cornfield), I remember part of a Laura Ingalls Wilder book where their cornfield is attacked by blackbirds. They will starve without the corn, so they have to run around the field with pots and pans, scaring the birds away. Eventually, Pa shoots some of them, and Ma cooks them into a pie. The description of the pie (you can read it here!) was so lush and detailed that it has been ingrained in my head for seventeen years and every now and then I am like “Damn I wish I could eat Ma’s blackbird pie.”
Margaret Seikel’s Inkubator crossword, “Leader of the PAC”—Rebecca’s review
Another great puzzle from the Inkubator this week celebrating one of my favorite organizations.
- 18A [Where one might mail it in?] POST OFFICE
- 27A [“Do you want kids?” on a first date, e.g.] BLUNT QUESTION
- 47A [Mickey’s rival in a 1936 short] MORTIMER MOUSE
- 59A [Group that fundraises for Democratic women who support abortion rights … or an apt description to the starts of 18-, 27-, and 47-Across] EMILY’S LIST
EMILY’S LIST theme today that put famous Emilys at the start of the themed entries. MORTIMER was definitely the most difficult of the three, but all worked really well with the theme and while Dickinson feels missing in any list of Emilys, I can’t think of any way to throw that name into a different phrase.
Solid construction throughout. Fun fill and cluing all around, if a little violent in the SE. Clean across the grid, with a nice mix of types of cluing which kept the puzzle moving. Loved the clues for AREOLAS [Nipple rings?], BRIDAL EXPO [Event for those otherwise engaged?], and TESS [Plus-size model Holliday].
Wilson wanted the USA in the League of Nations, but the Senate wouldn’t ratify the treaty.
Amy: you and the former First Lady. “Melania Trump once sent back a Dover sole because it was dressed with parsley and chives”. At Mar-a-Lago of course.
Oops. Actually it was at Trump’s hotel in DC. The quote is from the Washingtonian.
EFT and AFT bookending a row? No please.
I’ve never encountered EFT outside of crosswords – but I’m not a herpetologist.
Three-letter entries are rarely exciting, but I’m fine with AFT. Have heard it many times on airplanes, in the way it’s clued – “This one’s out of order, you can use the AFT lavatory.”
Good puzzle, overall.
NYT: Whenever I see Robyn’s byline on a Friday puzzle, I know I am in for a treat. A very nice way to start my day. Thanks Robyn!
my sentiments exactly.
USA Today: I eagerly await explanation of two things. What the heck is 1A about?* And what does the title of the puzzle mean?
NYT was good but easy for a Friday.
*oh wait. I googled. That just seems needlessly obscure and intended to make solvers think they must have made a mistake when they haven’t.
TNY: A second Friday puzzle by Robyn! Wow! How good is that? Just awesome!
NYT was a good puzzle— there’s a definite gap in the usual NYT daily progression at ‘easy themeless’.
NYT: Why is “Kitty food?” POKER CHIP? I can’t figure it out.
Kitty as in “fund” or in poker’s case, “the pot”
Wow. I don’t think I’ve ever heard that usage before.
I guess you’ve heard of the kitty. “Food” is just a pun to mislead.
I love chives, properly grown ones, some just taste of lawn grass and dirt, not those
NYT very easy but very good, almost no mistakes on first run through, and I have zero problem with that because it was so good. Very few 3 letter names etc, but some might claim an older biass of a few answers
Loved the New Yorker puzzle (2:23). The LLamas among us had an advantage on 22A because it showed up in the Museums MiniLeague yesterday.
It’s mind blowing how bad the USA Today crossword is, and how the quality continues to get even lower. I never thought I’d say it, but give me Tim Parker puzzles any day before I solve these. This site loses credibility when it includes reviews of it, as it belies the “best crosswords” bit in the slogan. I can think of at least a dozen regular puzzles that are of significantly higher quality that are not reviewed here. Of course, puzzle quality isn’t important anymore, as long as the politics of the constructor and editor are suitably aligned, so I totally get the “why” of it. Just is sad, really really sad.
I don’t want to dignify this with a response, but it’s just so ridiculous and I feel like it’s important to speak up on behalf of the many solvers who think the USA Today puzzle is great. I don’t believe it is (or at least should be) a political statement to have a puzzle that includes a wide variety of interesting content that might be unfamiliar to some people.
The themes are consistent and tight and the fill and cluing is creative and engaging. If you have an actual complaint about the puzzles that’s fine, but if your complaint is simply that you find it “too woke” or something, that is both disappointing and boring.
Thanks, Matt, for your tactful response. I agree entirely. USA Today is the only puzzle I do every day. Excellent in so many ways.
Thanks for prompting me to try it. It was for the most part incredibly easy but not “bad.” It certainly had a lot of words one doesn’t often see in these puzzles.
Thanks, Pedro, for the positive review!
My getting around to seeing it two days hence is indicative of my life pace right now. Marya and Carla are indeed sisters. They’ve written crosswords together for years, publishing them on their own website. See https://www.puzzazz.com/frechettedoery
I met them through the Cruciverb list-serve, and we got a couple of rejections from the NYT–including an earlier version of this one that David accepted for Universal. Simple theme, yes. The original idea was to make the puzzle look themeless, with 72 answers. I could not find any semblance of a theme of this nature in published sources (other than one of my own in the NYT in 1995: the theme there was [present-tense verb followed by word whose first syllable was said verb’s past tense; e.g., SIT SATURDAY, HAVE HADDOCK]).
Alas, as with so many other themes I’ve thunk up over time, the NYT knowingly and intentionally missed out on the debut. :-)
As for the zinger comment regarding USA Today puzzles, thumbs down! There is just so much good to say about Erik Agard and what he is doing with that venue. And yet, I only solve USAT’s these days (like Jon Stewart said in “Wordplay”) when I’m in a hotel and see the hard copy of the paper.
I only solve the Universal these days when I go out of my way to do so, as my own hometown paper’s digital edition has a dinosaur applet for online solving.
But, as with the USAT situation, there is so much good to say about how David Steinberg runs the ship in Kansas City!
These two major crossword venues (call them second-tier if you want, as the NYT has distanced itself from all the competition and is the only occupant of the perceived first tier) that were once ruled by Timothy Parker are now in the hands of two people who were showing up at ACPT as teenagers and who became industry leaders before graduation from high school, let alone college! We (the crossword community) should be eminently proud of their accomplishments.
What they–plus the Inkubator, under the creative guidance of Laura Braunstein and Tracy Bennett–have done is ignite, encourage, and facilitate an entirely new wave of diverse, youth-infused cruciverbalists, with the inevitable result that some of us must now live with long lines of accepted puzzle ahead of us when, and if, we can get an acceptance.
Have a great week, everybody!
NYT: Robyn’s tricky cluing, though amusing, was difficult when combined with the amounts of trivia one needed to know. I can always do without Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter and Simpsons clues, but all together in one puzzle they are just too much. (Give me back my Sam Levene!) I was surprised to make my way through, but my success was to Robyn’s credit despite everything.