Meghan Morris’ New York Times puzzle– malaika’s write-up
Happy New Year’s Eve Eve everyone! This was a themeless debut for Meghan, her second puzzle in the Times so far. This was a pretty slow one for me, with a lot of the clues out of my frame of reference (waltz, old movies, baseball, Israeli politics, Teri GARR, ERICA Jong)– I absolutely could not break into the SW corner. LETS THINGS SLIDE was really nice, and the combo of FRUIT TART and TUNA MELTS in the opening corner was lovely.
I did feel like a lot of the entries were just slightly off? For example, I would say that a danger to desert hikers is a rattle snake, not a RATTLE SNAKE BITE— although that’s not wrong, of course. And I have never heard the term XRAY LAB, although again… sure, I guess? There was also what felt like a mountain of short fill that wasn’t particularly smooth– the partial OR LESS, the partial A PAT crossing the partial A PLAY, partial IN ROME, plural ELSAS, THS and ETTE both clued as suffixes, ARS, ID NO, TWA. I really don’t like LAWD in a puzzle, it seems like it’s mocking an accent?
I had to run the alphabet to get that VIA VENETO / Rapa NUI crossing.
Let me know if you found the puzzle easier than I did!
David Steinberg’s USA Today Crossword, “Out with the Old, in With the New”—Darby’s write-up
Edited by: Amanda Rafkin
Theme: The first letter of the three theme answers spells out “NEW” while they end with (or go out with”) letters spelling out “OLD.”
- 20a [“‘I’m Like a Bird’ singer”] NELLY FURTADO
- 38a [“Woolly mammoth or dodo, e.g.”] EXTINCT ANIMAL
- 55a [“‘Can you catch me up?’”] WHAT HAPPENED
This theme is obviously perfect for the last day of 2021. (How did we get here already???) I also thought it was a creative pairing of beginning and ending letters in a set. Construction-wise, this means that David had less flexibility when moving his theme answers around because he had to keep the two 11-letter answers (NELLY FURTADO and WHAT HAPPENED) in order.
Some Friday faves to finish the year:
- 16a [“‘However,’ in a text”] – OTOH, an abbreviation for “on the other hand,” is a new one for me. I’ve definitely used that phrase before but never the abbreviation. OTOH, I generally do like spelling things out.
- 51a [“Spanish for ‘two’”] – I wanted to point out here that we have both DOS and 17a [“Second tries”] REDOS in this puzzle. I think it’s interesting that they are so similar letter-wise but obviously sound different. Plus, both are clued using a two-related word.
- 25d [“Venue stocked with 3D glasses”] – We got this great bonus 11-letter answer with IMAX THEATER and its symmetrical time 11d [“‘I can’t believe this good fortune’”] IT’S A MIRACLE. A miracle is right, that’s for sure.
Here’s to next year being the end of the Covid ERA! I hope you and your fams are safe, happy, and healthy. Catch ya next year (read: Sunday)!
Emet Ozar and Matthew Stock’s Universal crossword, “You Can’t Have It Both Ways”—Jim P’s review
In retrospect I probably should have caught on to the theme with just the first theme entry, but as it was I had to spend a minute or two post-solve to sort it out.
First, the theme. Each theme answer is a familiar phrase that features somewhere within two letters that are one letter apart in the alphabet. These two letters MEET IN THE MIDDLE (58a, [Compromise, or what two letters of a phrase do to form each starred clue’s answer?]) and become that middle letter. So in the first entry for example, TUSSLES was TURTLES in the original phrase, but the R and T both become S’s.
- 16a. [*Altercations accompanied by irritable remarks? (Hint: What comes between R and T?)] SNAPPING TUSSLES. Snapping turtles.
- 24a. [*”I need to watch hoops!”? (… between A and C?)] GIVE ME B-BALL. Give me a call.
- 45a. [*Advice to someone building a computer? (… between C and E?)] ADD HARDWARE. Ace Hardware.
I was thrown off by a few things. First, the title, which had me thinking I would be looking for words both forwards and backwards (or one way or the other). This confused me enough that I didn’t see SNAPPING TURTLES right off the bat. Second, the other two themers are close to other actual phrases. GIVE ME B-BALL is close to GIVE ME THE BALL so I was trying to force THE to become B. Similarly, ADD HARDWARE seems like it was derived form ADWARE.
And try as I might, I just couldn’t make sense of the parenthetical hints in the clues. It didn’t help that that first entry had two extra S’s that weren’t part of the theme. And the revealer clue with the hint “two letters of a phrase” was not helpful.
Finally, I took a step back and recognized that SNAPPING TUSSLES was awfully close to SNAPPING TURTLES and that led to my aha moment. If you recognized this straightaway, good on you.
In the fill I needed every single crossing for BALENCIAGA, the luxury shoe brand I’d never heard of. Similarly, I needed a lot of help with OURAY [Uintah and ___ Reservation (tribal home in Utah)], but I have a lot more patience with Native American entries than luxury brands.
Clues of note:
- 42a. [Exam on which Elle Woods scored a 179]. LSAT. Is that good? Who’s Elle Woods? Ah. From Legally Blonde featuring REESE (31d, [Witherspoon of “Legally Blonde”]).
That’s enough out of me. 3.25 stars.
Joe Deeney’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up
Titles of magazines as the first parts of phrases form the basis of this punning theme. It’s the sort of thing that’s been done before, but this issuance is smartly done and has a new wrinkle or two.
- 17a. [Magazine article?] TIME PIECE.
- 24a. [Magazine employee?] PEOPLE PERSON.
- 37a. [Magazine revenue?] WIRED MONEY.
- 52a. [Magazine ad?] CRICKET PITCH.
- 61a. [Magazine founders?] O PIONEERS. My favorite find of the bunch.
Note the consistency and two-word efficiency of the clues. Oh, and your eyes aren’t playing tricks; the grid is 16×15.
Solving the crossword, I found the top half easy, thanks to some intuitive leaps and some broadside box-filling. The lower half was more of a scattershot affair, but I completed it easily enough, in the general scheme of things.
- 1a [Feel compassion (for)] ACHE. Bit poetic and maybe tough for an opening entry?
- 8a [Focus on winning a contest?] STARE. Heh.
- 19a [Pitching in] AIDING. Had ADDING at first, which was my only stumble up north.
- 30a [Iris part] PETAL. Some flowers—not irises, though—also have CORONAE (41d [Solar eclipse phenomena]) composed of hoods and horns.
- 50a [Days of anticipation] EVES. Yup.
- 6d [ __ the kicker: call a time-out moments before a field goal attempt] ICE. Not a phrase I knew. But, look at this: the entry symmetrical to this is 63d [Not very welcoming] ICY. Come on.
- 10d [Contested] AT ISSUE. A sly nod to the theme.
- 22d [Blues-rocker Chris] REA. A welcome shift from the Irish actor Stephen.
- 62d [Treat on March 14] PIE, as it is π Day.
Natan Last’s New Yorker puzzle– malaika’s write-up
Hey folks! Today’s New Yorker puzzle is recapping this year in politics, which basically means “this year in COVID.” Who is surprised that it is a Natan Puzzle? I think I’ve never reviewed one of his New Yorker crosswords, he usually constructs for harder days of the week. I found this puzzle incredibly depressing. Thematic content below, in chronological order. If you don’t want to hear me talk about politics, maybe stop reading now? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
- In January, JOE Biden was inaugurated. He’s been president for a year now, and still hasn’t given us the monthly pandemic payments that they campaigned on… not sure what’s up with that!!
- Critical RACE theory was mentioned by Fox news over eighteen hundred times in the first half of 2021.
- JUNETEENTH became a federal holiday this year.
- The DEBT Collective (borrower’s union that organized a loan-repayment strike in February 2021). Did you know that if we cancelled $50k of student debt (which Joe Biden could do without approval from Congress!) then Black Americans would see their wealth increase by 40%? [Link]
- TED Cruz fled to Cancun mid-pandemic while a winter storm devastated Texas in February.
- The EVERGIVEN is a ship that got stuck in the Suez canal in March, prompting some of my favorite tweets of the year.
- In April, NASA deployed the Ingenuity aircraft.
- The island of TAIWAN did not have a domestic COVID-19 outbreak until May of this year.
- In May, the head of the World Health Organization spoke of “vaccine APARTHEID,” referring to the immunization disparities between rich and poor countries. The US hoarding vaccines and vaccine knowledge will, quite literally, be the death of us.
- CORI BUSH camped outside the capital to protest ending the eviction moratorium in July. The eviction moratorium was put into place because the pandemic had started, and it was ended because… ??? Because the government could no longer bring itself to care about its citizens I guess?? Because this pandemic sure as hell hasn’t ended!
- Kathy HOCHUL became governor of New York after Andrew Cuomo stepped down due to a variety of scandals, but mainly of the sexual harassment variety. If I were a politician, I simply would not sexually harass anyone!! I do not know why they have such issues with this. Incredible that New York got it’s first female governor thanks to a sexual harassment scandal. Really makes you think!!!!!
- TAX THE RICH was emblazoned on Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Met Gala dress in September. Great sentiment, but ugly dress, in my opinion. Here’s my favorite representation of the disgustingly evil amounts of wealth that people like Jeff Bezos are hoarding.
- In September, TEXAS instituted a near-total ban on abortions.
- In November, the NLRB ruled that Amazon “interfered with its employees’ exercise of a free and reasoned choice” in a warehouse-worker unionization vote in BESSEMER, Alabama. Amazon literally changed traffic light patterns to make it harder for them to organize. Evil, evil, evil.
- ERIC ADAMS is the mayor elect of New York City. He is known for starting an advocacy group called “1000 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care” (a name that could be pulled straight from Veep), living in New Jersey, and enjoying hot bubble baths with roses in them.
- India Walton LOST the mayoral race in Buffalo, and Malik Evans WON the mayoral race in Rochester
- Phil Murphy was REELECTED as governor of New Jersey
Impressive that TNY sustained its dense run of year-end crosswords, today on politics and the news. Of course, this being Natan Last, it opens with a sports clue and has more difficult pop culture than the rest of the week put together. But then you could commission him for a puzzle about molecular biology, and it would be about how that theme is reflected in sitcoms and top 40.
Given the subject matter, this puzzle was bound to be chock-full of proper names, and I was impressed that Natan managed to avoid any impossible/uninferable crossings along the lines of those that annoyed me the last couple of days.
I just wish they’d been proper names from the news, which I actually read. I lucked out, though, with MOESHA / HIPS as it didn’t quite make sense to say that “lips don’t lie.”
I, for one, am *shocked* that JohnH didn’t know two crosses that involved women of color.
NYT: I found it significantly easier than last Friday’s, despite my near inability to come up with stuff I know (JOEL Coen? We’ve seen virtually every Coen brothers movie, including the crappy ones).
We’ve done a lot of desert hikes and have seen rattlesnakes once or twice. I didn’t feel endangered, just respectful.
Nice clue for PROSE.
A perfect score on the LSAT is 180. Anything 170 and above is great. Previously, the best score was 800. Chop off the last number and insert a 1 in front for equivalence. 800 is 180. I am no longer sure whether a 180 today puts you in the same percentile as 800 did years ago. I don’t think so. The old SAT was scored much harder than the modern one. Legally Blonde was hilarious.
Hard puzzle today. Felt like a Saturday.
Malaika, I was happy to see a completion time that seemed more like mine (though this puzzle took me longer). I agree that “pit-” is pretty lame, and XRAYLAB doesn’t quite sound like something people say. However, I rather liked INROME and even ORLESS, since they were imaginatively clued, rather than the blah “More______” or “When_____”. And I really liked ARS clued as “Trio of horrors?,” which referred to the trio of Rs in “horrors.” I do enjoy clever and often misleading clues.
Thank you for explaining “trio of horrors” to me. I kept thinking “three R’s” which made no sense.
I would have been first to post on NYT, but I had to run off and win almost the money at golf, been guzzling wine all day after cleaning up. I love Fridays, this delivered fun.
Apropos my going on about 15-letter stacks last week … Construction-sise many of the big long answers had enough short crosses to make this one super speedy, thus the difference. (Monday 8-10 mins for me, a Fri/Sat can be :45, timer today was ~:20) I never rush a puzzle so I am slow, but have relative times
It had a LOT of OLD, but some notable stuff. Tons of “just write it in” if you’re not a kid but keep up, not rot.
IN ROME and VIA VENETO – Fellini at his most entertaining, VINO and MEAD almost side-by-side.
Blues Brothers – early one Sunday in Chicago I was driving north of the loop as they filmed car chases, fun to watch, had not been announced. Belushi came into our hospital with a sore back from doing stuff in the movie, he was great fun to talk to, all us Ortho guys watched SNL when it was new, lol – all filed by and chatted him up, he was very gracious and maybe a little scared, sore backs hurt like hell but are rarely serious.
Almost 40 years as an Ortho M.D. – no one says X-Ray Lab – just awful. I don’t even think an interventional Radiologist would say that.
Not just ELSA but ELSAS??? Halloween Hell
Very low bar for ADULTS, lol – maybe it was irony
oh well …
Have to say – Colorado Mountain Hikers need be wary of Rattlesnake bites, golfers, too, nearly stepped on one on a tee once – got that from the “R” – had to be RATTLESNAKE something.
Sorry to free-associate at the keyboard, but wanted to wish a Happy New Year all
LAT 21a. 22d. – Never heard of Art Ross or Chris Rea. Guessed correctly, but still a completely unfair cross.
No, they were fine. It takes a pretty big ego to think they’re unfair simply because you doesn’t know them.