Sam Ezersky’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Pretty diagonal through the middle of the grid, no? I’m generally not wild about themelesses that are densely populated by 7s and indeed, only a few of the 7s (POP QUIZ, GROUCHY, PETUNIA, PIGTAIL, ST. KITTS) call to me. Stuff like GATEMAN and a single, solitary PORK RIB? Meh.
New to me:
- 43d. [Drawing of the body without its skin, from the French], ECORCHE. Is there a word for that in English? Is this such a big genre, that it needs a designated word?
- 50a. [L.A. jazz venue where Thelonious Monk recorded a live album, with “the”], IT CLUB. There’s a nonzero chance that pannonica has that album.
Five more things:
- 36d. [Hybrid Thanksgiving dessert], PIECAKEN. Hey! My husband and I were just talking about pie vs. cake preferences and the various ways in which piecakens can combine the two. The worst one we saw was, iirc, two different cake layers (maybe cake and cheesecake?), a bunch of frosting, and a mess of apple pie filling on top. Which is cheating! Also a cheat: A pie crust with a cookie/cake layer inside it, topped with pie stuff. But! That one looked pretty tasty, less monstrosity-ish.
- 37a. [Where I-25 meets I-40: Abbr.], N. MEX. Blurgh. I feel like it’s been 50+ years since anyone much abbreviated states with anything other than the 2-letter postal abbreviations. I’d like to see NMEX leave crosswords for good, along with NCAR, SDAK, and NDAK.
- 26a. [What’s mixed with bismuth, lead and cadmium to make cerrosafe], TIN. The clue is not [What’s mixed with lead to make pewter] (ahem, Fireball crossword).
- 9d. [Online marketing giant with a primate in its logo], MAILCHIMP. I only know this from people on Twitter several years back talking about the first viral true-crime podcast, Serial. I think the podcast was sponsored by Mailchimp and the hosts pronounced it mailkimp as a joke? Never listened to the podcast, as audio is my last choice among information media.
- 7d. [Baby-to-be], ZYGOTE. Uh, no. Who fact-checked this? About 50% of all fertilized eggs (zygotes) fail to implant in the uterine wall (and are flushed away with menstruation), so you’re buying into anti-choice rhetoric if you call a ZYGOTE a “baby-to-be.” I don’t get how this clue made it past the NYT’s entire test-solving, fact-checking, sensitivity-reading crew.
3.75 stars from me, but a lower score for the editing with that ZYGOTE issue.
Brooke Husic’s USA Today crossword, “Center Ice”—Matthew’s write-up
THEME: Center Ice: -ICE- is in the center of each themer
- 18a- PRACTICE COURT (Training space for a basketball team)
- 36a- PSYCHIC ENERGY (Force that drives mental activity)
- 55a- LICORICE STICK (Bendy candy)
Easily accessible theme, and I like that the symmetric themers break up ICE in the same way, and the odd one out that uses the word break is the central entry. It works, and works around the difficulty of finding a two-word phrase where the first ends in -I.
I quite liked most of the downs that cross multiple themers: SEAGLASS, SHOWDOWNS, and DO YOU MIND. Not much else in the fill that stood out to me, but nothing that raised an eyebrow, either, which affects my solving enjoyment more.
- 34a- (Singer and playwright Afsar) ARI. If you’re near to Arlington, Virginia, her musical We Won’t Sleep, about Rep. Jeannette Rankin, the first woman elected to Congress, is coming to a theater near you in 2022.
- 42a- (___ of the Dead) DAY. I was in San Antonio last weekend, a little too early for the celebration there, which is the largest Dia de los Muertos festival in the US.
- 35d- (“Sakhavu” artist Dhayal) ARYA. I didn’t know her, but am glad I looked up the poem/song. Embedded below.
Freddie Cheng’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Parts Unknown” — pannonica’s write-up
Anatomical reworks; metaphors coming home to roost, thusly:
- 21a. [“Woe is me! People don’t like high-fiving me…”] DEAD MAN’S HAND.
- 23a. [“…my veins are shot…”] BAD BLOOD.
- 34a. [“…I can’t dance…”] TWO LEFT FEET.
- 37a. [“…I’m awful at weight lifting…”] SMALL ARMS.
- 53a. [“…I get cold easily…”] BARE BONES.
- 66a. [“…my pronunciation sucks…”] STIFF UPPER LIP.
- 77a. [“…people think I have a scary stare…”] SNAKE EYES.
- 90a. [“…it takes me forever to get a jab…”] THICK SKIN.
- 94a. [“…can’t do marathons since my ticker is lacking oxygen…”] PURPLE HEART.
- 110a. [“…I have an inscrutable expression”] ROCK FACE.
- 113aR [Character whose creation is making the 10 complaints in this puzzle] FRANKENSTEIN.
Not sure what to say. On the one hand, many of these are stretches as items that could conceivably comprise Frankenstein’s Monster. On the other hand, a defining characteristic of the story and mythos is that the creature is a ramshackle affair. So is this crossword’s theme a metacommentary? Or am I just giving the constructor the benefit of the doubt, letting him have it both ways?
- 9d [Fellini’s farewell] CIAO crossing 19a [Foucault’s farewell] ADIEU. I see we went with consistent alliteration rather than two filmmakers or two philosophers.
- 22d [Popularizer of the Republican elephant and Democratic donkey party symbols] NAST. I thought he was the originator, but the clue doesn’t preclude that.
- 24d [Ellipsis trio] DOTS. Lots of ellipses in the theme clues.
- 50d [Manhattan relatives] ROB ROYS. (In my idiosyncratic cocktail lexicon, the proper plural would be robs roy, just as gins and tonic is the preferred term.)
- 79d [Stop wondering, maybe] ASK. Always better to ask than stare, I say.
- 84d [ __ Simbel (Egyptian temple site)] ABU.
- 108d [Darling pooch, in “Peter Pan”] NANA. Darling, Wendy Darling.
- 112d [Little lie] FIB. Great, now I’m thinking of Count Fibula. Thanks, crossword!
- 45a [“Dynamite” supergroup] BTS. I’m not up on my K-Pop lore, but I thought they were always a unit. Isn’t a supergroup in music defined as superstars from disparate bands creating a new band?
Jamey Smith’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
I have seen Jamey Smith’s byline a few times now. This was a fairly quick solve, but still a nice set of interesting entries. Gonna be a quick review today, as we are out of town for a short but well needed break! I am just happy I made no errors! (And you’ll have to trust me, as Black Ink doesn’t SHOW error marks!) 4.3 stars for this one.
Just a few quick comments:
- 15A [Elaborate theater] MOVIE PALACE – These are all the rage now, especially here in the midwest. 14 screens here, 16 there, 18; where does it stop??
- 19A [Aptly nicknamed section of D.C.’s Massachusetts Avenue] EMBASSY ROW -I don’t know DC that well, other than the touristy areas. I have no reason to go to this area.
- 31A [Sedimentary rock, from the Greek for “egg”] OOLITE – This looks like it shouldn’t be a word!
- 42A [“Law & Order” actor Jeremy] SISTO – How many actors were there on that show? Seems like quite a few. Still going strong in syndication; “SVU” is still going period!
- 59A [Tennis unit] SET – Slow time on the tennis calendar, although they just played the re-scheduled Indian Wells tournament in the last week or so. This “fifth major” is normally in March
- 11D [State name in a James Taylor classic] CAROLINA – “Carolina in my Mind” is a classic!
- 13D [Accessories that preserve your access] KEY CASES – Like a wall case? I have seen those. I don’t have one, but perhaps someone that has a zillion keys, like a storage company, would have one of these.
- 34D [Snack that comes in Rounds and Triangles] TOSTITOS – Grab some salsa!
- 35D [Pennsylvania’s __ University, home of the Fighting Scots] EDINBORO – I believe you!
- 52D [“Rack City” rapper] TYGA – This dude isn’t as popular in puzzles as NAS or DRE T-PAIN, but you might need to know this guy too!
I will stop there, but I could go on! Enjoy some James Taylor! This is a nice acoustic version.
Greg Johnson’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up
I AM getting used to Greg Johnson’s puzzles, finally! This one had me totally flummoxed at first, but it finally fell. The NW corner was the part that gave me the most fits, but after actually THINKING for a moment, it all worked. As mentioned in my LAT write-up, the solve was done in Black Ink, which doesn’t show error marks, but you’ll have to trust me when I say I had none! Again, a very nice puzzle from Greg, which comes as no surprise! 4.6 stars from me.
A few notes:
- 16A [Trattoria’s tiny toast] CROSTINI – BRUSCHETTA didn’t fit!
- 18A [Balloonists’ devices] RIP CORDS – Balloons have these? I wonder what for?
- 35A [Above-center piano key] TREBLE C – MIDDLE C was plunked in here immediately, and caused some notable issues. I rarely hear the middle key called this. But it is correct.
- 47A [World’s largest brickmaker] LEGO – Of course! I just put together a small Lego car for my son, and it is quite relaxing. Perhaps I will buy one of those 1,000 piece sets they make. For the challenge!
- 56A [Solemn assurance] “I PROMISE!” – Sometime this isn’t so solemn!
- 1D [French zipper (no, not a minor boast)] BRAGUETTE – Great entry! I learned a new word!
- 11D [Jokester’s preamble] “STOPME …” – “… if you’ve heard this before …”; nicely done!
- 37D [Six-decade game show panelist in “A Night at the Opera”] CARLISLE – I believe we are referencing Kitty Carlisle, who was on all kinds of game shows in the ’50s or around there.
- 50D [Punto cardinal] NORTE – Simply “cardinal point” in Spanish. Seemed hard at first glance!
- 59D [Nickname that’s Argentine for “Dude!”] CHE – I don’t think I knew this, although I know his real first name was Ernesto. From crosswords, of course!
Everyone have a safe and healthy weekend!