Kyle Dolan’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Good puzzle! Highlights in the grid include EATEN ALIVE, BEAR CLAW, BLACK HOLE, GETS ALL A’S (weird but fresh?), SPECIAL K, SCRAP METAL, PENSIVE, BELLYACHE, and AUDRE LORDE.
Clue I quite liked: 10a. [New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, in brief], MAGS. Can’t say I really knew there’s a Los Angeles magazine, but I absolutely know Chicago and New York.
Five more things:
- 19a. [Tan writing books], AMY. Did you think this was about Moleskine notebooks, journals?
- 21a. [Duck, duck, goose, e.g.], BIRDS. Now go run around in a circle.
- 56a. [Legendary print maker], YETI. If you plunked ERTE down here, I hope you felt much better when you figured out the actual answer.
- 40d. [Informs at a later stage, with “in”], LOOPS. I like the clue angle.
- 43d. [“Let’s weekend!”], TGIF. Really? Let’s not. Say no to weekending!
Four stars from me. Let’s Friday!
Trent H. Evans’s Universal crossword, “Head of the Table”—Jim P’s review
Our theme answers today are two-word food items whose first word can also be a synonym of “smart.” The revealer is BRAIN FOOD (66a, [Grub that keeps you smart, and a theme hint]).
- 17a. [Smart breakfast grains?] QUICK OATS. Aside: This reminds of the grits scene in My Cousin Vinny. “How could it take you 5 minutes to cook your grits when it takes the entire grit-eating world 20 minutes?”
- 24a. [Smart Thanksgiving side?] SAGE STUFFING.
- 52a. [Smart dairy slice?] SHARP CHEDDAR.
I enjoyed this elegant theme. Grokking the “smart” synonyms didn’t take long, but revealing the food connection made for a nice little aha moment.
The fill is equally nice with EPIC FAILS, SOLAR FARM, GOOD GUY, FAD DIET, BLESS YOU, and SOFT SELL. I also liked SPIFFY and DIABLO.
Clues of note:
- 1a. [George Takei’s husband]. BRAD Takei née Altman.
- 42a. [Princess who became a Jedi]. LEIA. But she quit her Jedi training to return to politics.
A smooth, elegant theme and tons of fun fill. Four stars.
Jeffrey Wechsler’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up
Today’s theme is riffing on physics.
- 16a. [Atomic physicist’s favorite cookie?] FIG NEUTRON. Unfortunate that this was the first theme entry, as I didn’t yet know alterations were going to be part of the wordplay and naturally filled in FIG NEWTON and then added the S to pluralize—seemed harmless enough. But it would turn out that the theme is more specifically about subatomic particles and stretchier puns therefrom.
- 22a. [Atomic physicist’s favorite Golden Age movie star?] QUARK GABLE (Clark Gable). Charming.
- 35a. [Atomic physicist’s favorite side dish?] BOSON BAKED BEANS (Boston …).
- 44a. [Atomic physicist’s favorite wall builder?] STONE MESON (stonemason).
- 55a. [Atomic physicist’s favorite spy novelist?] ION FLEMING (Ian Fleming).
Entertaining enough. I got a slight charge out of it.
- Colloquial phrases! 11d [“Anything else?”] ARE WE DONE, 31d [Possible “Finish your tax return yet?”] I SENT IT IN, 32d [“Got any examples at all?”] NAME ONE.
- 10d [Region from the Sanskrit for “snow abode”] HIMALAYAS. Always worthwhile to learn some etymology.
- First name film people! 4d [W.C.’s “My Little Chickadee” co-star] MAE, 22d [He directed Samuel in “Pulp Fiction”] QUENTIN.
- 39a [Lion __ ] TAMER. Cruelty. Fortunately, most circuses and the like are moving away from using (and hence exploiting and often abusing) live animals.
- And, circling back to ambiguity, the crossing of 15-across and 12-down seems to have two valid answers—a superposition supposition, if you will. [Pre-euro currency] LIRA and 12d [Light touches] PATS could just as assuredly be LIRE and PETS.
Good morning friends! My time was a little slow on this one, not because the puzzle was hard, but because I have developed RSI in my right thumb. I am sort of panicking that my life as I know it (software engineer who makes and solves crosswords) is coming to an end… but I’m probably just being dramatic! On to the puzzle– this was my favorite Erik puzzle in recent memory. I love a layout like this, a high word count (72), with isolated stacks.
When solving, I jumped right to the central entry (in New Yorker puzzles, Erik typically ((always??)) centers a famous Black person in his grids) to see if I knew who it was and I did not. But eventually she unveiled herself to be VANESSA NAKATE, a climate activist from Uganda.
There was so much that I loved in this puzzle, but the stand out was probably the clue for CHESS MASTER, [Clock-puncher who might receive a promotion and resign in the same day]. There are three elements of that clue that misdirect you to an hourly employee, and they all perfectly describe a chess player. Brilliant.
I was slowed way down on SWEET CREAM because my brain read “coffee addiction” rather than [Coffee addition]. That stacked with LAST I HEARD and ITS A SECRET was a great opening. The New Yorker gets to show off their edginess with a sexy clue for VIBRATOR right next to MAGIC MIKE.
What else? I liked OUTDOOR CAT— my parents were both raised in countries where an outdoor animal is the norm. We had an outdoor dog growing up (as did many of my friends). And I liked seeing IKEA clued in reference to the POANG chair. I have a theory that 90% of households in NYC have one of KALLAX, POANG, RASKOG, HEMNES, or LACK– let me know if you’re in the 90% or the 10%.
Brooke Husic & Rafael Musa’s USA Today crossword, “End Pieces”—Darby’s write-up
Editor: Amanda Rafkin
Theme: Each themed answer’s last word is a synonym for “piece,” making them “end pieces.”
- 17a [“Adequately contribute to a group project”] DO YOUR FAIR SHARE
- 37a [“With only a few exceptions”] FOR THE MOST PART
- 62a [“Rock Steady Crew member aka Bobbito Garcia”] DJ CUCUMBER SLICE
I loved these theme answers. The grid-spanning DO YOUR FAIR SHARE and DJ CUCUMBER SLICE were great, and, I mean, the latter is definitely one of the most unexpected things I have ever 42d [“Use a keypad”] TYPEd into a puzzle. Plus, I felt like DO YOUR FAIR SHARE is the expectation of a group project, and the post-project answer to “How’d everyone do?” is “Oh, it went well FOR THE MOST PART” (if you have a halfway decent group). What a fun time.
We have a wacky shape in this asymmetrical grid, near where BASSISTS meets the left border, creating space for SNL and CAT. I like it though – it felt like a quick solve moving from SHALL and BASSISTS to the quick three- and four-letter answers in rows six and seven before opening up to the middle themer. Then, we’re right back with a quick clip for a bit.
Some Friday Faves:
- 58a [“Fashion designer Lowe”] – ANN Lowe (1898-1981) was born in Montgomery, Alabama. Having grown up in a family of seamstresses, Lowe eventually become one of fashion’s leading innovators, creating dresses for Jackie Bouvier’s entire bridal party for her wedding to JFK. You can see some of her work here or visit the 2023 exhibition when it opens that centers Lowe at the Winterthur Museum, Garden, & Library in Delaware.
- 25d [“Lowest acceptable amount”] – Seeing this chunk of blank space when I first looked at the grid, I wondered if it would be all Down themers. BARE MINIMUM does also feel like it could fit into that sub-theme of team projects.
- 36d [“Prima ballerina Maria”] – Maria TALLCHIEF (1925-2013) was a member of the Osage nation, and she was the United States’ first Native American prima ballerina. You can read more about her here.
That’s all from me! This was a fun puzzle to skate through. One could even say it had all the right pieces.