Claire Rimkus’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap
I’m late to the puzzle because I was watching Annie Live on NBC and it was delightful, especially Celina Smith (in the title role) and all the other girls playing orphans. Tap dancing! Harry Connick Jr. singing Warbucks! Cute show. Never actually saw the musical (stage or film) before. Anyway! I have not gotten a SECOND WIND (great entry!), I don’t think, because I experienced this more like a Saturday puzzle. Just me?
Fave fill: UP TO NO GOOD, TOP-NOTCH, BABY GATES, STEADY GIG, GAY ICONS, “ADIOS, AMIGO” (for the longest time, I thought this would be a phrase ending with the words I GO), TEMPT FATE, GO BAG, TUXEDO CAT.
Nine more things:
- 21a. [Class structures?], DESKS. Tricksy clue but I saw through it.
- 23a. [Coruscates], GLINTS. A fancy word and I like it.
- 58a. [Oh, to be in France!], ETRE. Cute!
- 1d. [Challenge while sitting], BRAT. Babysitting, that is.
- 10d. [Covering some ground?], SODDING. Or, as the dictionaries remind us: VULGAR SLANG•BRITISH – used for emphasis, typically to express frustration, anger, or impatience. “That ringtone drives me round the sodding bend every time I hear it.”
- 16d. [Longtime newswoman Ifill], GWEN. She’s memorialized in a US postage stamp, of course.
- 20d. [Gender-neutral possessive], ONE’S. I had the O in place and filled in OURS. …What?
- 24d. [Giant in chip manufacturing], LAY’S. Not the Intel sort of chip.
- 46d. [Not cool – not cool at all!], WARM. Well, if it used to be scorching hot and now it’s merely warm, wouldn’t you say it’s on the cool side?
Four stars from me.
Nancy Stark and Will Nediger’s Universal crossword, “Headed for the Top”—Jim P’s review
Theme: The revealer is BOTTOMS UP (34d, [Toast words … or 3-, 4- and 9-Down, based on their meanings and direction?]). The other theme answers are bottoms of things and they’re written from bottom to top.
- 3d. [It hits the ground when you’re running] ELOS RETUO. Outer sole. The bottom of a shoe.
- 4d. [Place to end up after walking the plank] REKCOL ‘SENOJ YVAD. Davy Jones’ Locker. The bottom of the ocean.
- 9d. [Worst possible track meet result] HSINIF ECALP TSAL. Last place finish. The bottom of the rankings.
I admit to not fully grokking the theme even after finishing the grid. The fact that these things are bottoms of other things is a subtle feature that required some cogitating on my part. But once I had the aha moment, all was good. And the upward gimmick is a nice and apropos change of pace from the usual puzzle.
Fill is solid with some nice entries in BASS CLEF, B VITAMIN, OAT BRAN, LACTOSE, and Garry TRUDEAU (father of oft-published constructor Ross TRUDEAU).
Clues of note:
- 51a. [Enjoyed fufu, say]. ATE. Not to be confused with Little Bunny Foo Foo. Fufu is apparently dough-like balls made from cassava or plantains and is found in West African and Caribbean cultures. Here’s one recipe.
- 50d. [One who cries “Uncle”?]. NIECE. Cute.
Matthew Stock’s USA Today crossword, “Up Your Game”—Darby’s review
Edited by Amanda Rafkin
Theme: Each theme answer includes the word GAME going upwards (spelled backwards).
- 3a [“Publication ‘where Black girl magic comes alive’”] ESSENCE MAGAZINE
- 7a [“They might hold up grocery lists”] FRIDGE MAGNETS
- 11a [“Phrase to which a toddler might reply ‘pleeease’”] SAY THE MAGIC WORD
With two fifteen-letter answers and one thirteen, this is a mighty theme fill. Plus, I adore ESSENCE MAGAZINE and SAY THE MAGIC WORD equally, both because they are clued so well. Having grown up with a little sibling, “pleeeease” immediately triggers SAY THE MAGIC WORD so this was as natural as saying “IO” whenever someone says “OH” (you can guess where I’m from).
Grid-wise, I love this vertical wave in the middle leaving room for the three themers. I also thought it opened up the bottom left of the puzzle nicely for 58a [“Ideal examples”] EPITOMES, 63a [“Quartz, e.g.”] MINERAL, and 65a [“Sport or knife”] UTENSIL. While filling, I was full steam ahead on Across clues for the first half, right down until about 44a [“Verb ending found in this clue”] ING. Then, the Downs finished the grid for me. One of my favourite things about doing reviews here is that I make sure to go back through each clue, and I was like “oh, when did I fill in WASABI?” It’s hard sometimes to catch all of the words you get on the crosses when you’re full steam ahead in one direction or another.
Anyway, some Friday faves:
- 39a [“Branch of Islam”] – I’ve been working on my syllabus for next spring, and I always assign my students the “War of the Worlds” episode of Throughline from NPR because it does a great job of giving the background for the Sunni-SHIA divide.
- 53a [“What this clue does…does…does”] – One of my favourite things about crosswords are the internal hints in clues that go beyond definitional elements, such as the inclusion of an acronym as in 54a [“Espionage org.”] to give us the note that the answer is also an initialism (CIA). When I solve with people who are mostly just humoring me, it’s fun to offer those explanations. I was therefore stoked to type in ECHO for this clue and even to do the math for 31a [“This clue number minus 30”] to get ONE.
- 57a [“Journalist Ifill”] – GWEN Ifill was the first African-American woman to host a U.S. public affairs program. She also moderated the vice presidential debates between Dick Cheney and John Ewards as well as between Joe Biden and Sarah Palin (hosted here in St. Louis!). You can read more about her here.
OH LORD, do you think I’ve gone on long enough? Have a great weekend!
Jeffrey Diton’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up
After seeing the first theme answer (16a) I thought it might be a seasonal thing, but it turned out not to be. 23d [Not seasonal] ALL-YEAR.
- 34aR [Hit shows, and a hint to four puzzle answers] BROADWAY SMASHES. For each themer, two one-word titles are run up against each other to create a wacky phrase.
- 16a. [Nightclub for seasonal workers?] ELF CABARET.
- 22a. [Reaction to opening a can of Whiskas?] CATS APPLAUSE.
- 47a. [Like the Charles River in February, to a local?] WICKED FROZEN. My favorite of the bunch.
- 56a. [Styling gel for a ’50s teenager?] HAIR GREASE. I note that this one has a double layer of applicability.
Cute theme. I think these are all musicals? Not sure about Applause.
Quick tour of the rest:
- 1d [Act] DEED. Not directly related to plays, scenes, etc.
- 7d [Scand. land] NOR., 18a [Capital on a fjord] OSLO.
- 10d [Max who owned the Woodstock farmland] YASGUR. And it was actually in Bethel, NY.
- 35d [“It’s not __, it’s a when”] AN IF. Can’t say I’ve seen this in a crossword before, but I guess it was bound to happen.
- 37d [Crone] HAG.
- 43d [Certain clutch player, in sports parlance] ICEMAN, crossing that WICKED FROZEN entry.
- 57d [White House nickname[ ABE, symmetrical opposite 8d [Prez after Harry] IKE.
- 55a [Gold rush town where Wyatt Earp ran the Dexter Saloon] NOME. Did not know that at all.
- 63a [Half of a Chinese pair] YIN. See also, taiji.
Fine crossword, possibly a début.
May Huang’s Inkubator crossword, “Off The Hook”—Sophia’s recap
Hi folks – Sophia here subbing for Rebecca on today’s Inkubator!
Theme: Each theme answer begins with a part of a fish
- 17a [*The Great Depression, for one] – FINANCIAL CRISIS
- 33a [*Shape with three unequal sides] – SCALENE TRIANGLE
- 41a [*Foxborough arena] – GILLETTE STADIUM
- 59a [“Hmm… that’s weird”, or a hint to the starts of the starred entries] – SOMETHING’S FISHY
I loved today’s theme! Not only does the revealer nicely tie up the gimmick of the puzzle, it’s a fun phrase to boot. The fact that all of the theme answers are a grid-spanning 15 letters is a really elegant touch. It certainly didn’t hurt that I could drop in SCALENE TRIANGLE and GILLETTE STADIUM without any crosses either.
The fill is generally high quality; I like how there isn’t any particular area that feels overwhelmed by three letter answers. The OSTE/SCRIP/ARB section is a little rough (particularly OSTE; I really wanted an “O” on the end of that), but given that it runs through two theme answers there may not have any better options – looking at everything post-solve, I’m amazed how clean the center and center-right areas feel given the constraints.
Other notes on the puzzle:
- 53a [Caesar dressing?] for TOGA made me laugh; favorite clue in the puzzle. Other great ones include 2d [“I gotchu”] for ON IT (I love the casual vibe here) and 6d [The one with the hairy chest, in a children’s rhyme] for THIRD (immediately takes me back).
- Wouldn’t have known 40a [Web portal formerly owned by Verizon] as AOL had the New York Times not used this same cluing angle earlier this week!
- Does anyone actually use the word “lumberjane”? I… kind of hate it.
- The song SANDY will always remind me of my brother, who learned it at about age 4 and would perform it regularly for our parents/relatives despite having no idea what it was about. I think it was his favorite because of the drive in clips in the background of the movie scene.
Happy Friday all!
Caitlin Reid’s New Yorker puzzle– malaika’s write-up
Good morning folks! Quick notes today because I have a zillion errands to run. Fave answers were TELEPORT, DONE DEAL, POOL PARTY, GELATO, PUPPET, AINT GONNA HAPPEN, and OH COME ON. This struck me as a sort of active, peppy puzzle, with stuff like GUSTO, ZIPS, references to snowboarding with OLLIE, and the daily GRIND + bees? Idk, just vibes I guess.
Great clue for STONEHENGE, [Famous rock group?] which I think wouldn’t have needed a question mark if this were a Monday. Didn’t love the clue for RUMP— Sit on it! I think exclamation mark clues work best when people actually do exclaim those words (like Book it! for “hotel room” maybe) and I don’t really think people go around yelling Sit on it!