Another charity crossword pack is due out on March 1! Rachel Fabi spearheaded the “These Puzzles Fund Abortion” project, and the donations will be divided among seven organizations from New York to Tampa to the Midwest. Here’s the donation page—With a minimum donation of $15, donors will get 16 puzzles in the TPFA2 puzzle pack (that’s less than $1/puzzle!). Donors who give $25+ will also get a copy of the original 2021 “These Puzzles Fund Abortion” pack with 14 original puzzles (I helped edit the 2021 TPFA).—Amy
Ori Brian’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Quick recap, since I procrastinated on writing (I can’t help it if it’s fascinating to watch Korean street food being made on YouTube). Fave fill: OUTER SPACE, the non-canonical (I think) plural BATMEN, SEX-POSITIVE BONOBOS (seriously—those primates are sexing it up plenty), the GOSPEL TRUTH (which … actually is not irrefutable at all, if you aren’t a devout Christian), DESSERT MENU, DID TIME, BOX STEP, U.S. PASSPORT, SLIM TO NONE, BUTTERCUP, CALTECH, and SABRINA the Teenage Witch.
Question: Why choose the less familiar KASBAH spelling (36d. [Moroccan quarter]) crossing KIA when CASBAH and the CIA were right there? Perhaps our constructor has visited Marrakesh.
Did not know: 13d. [N.F.L. kicker Graham who played for 14 teams], SHAYNE. Guessing Shayne is the first name. My go-to Shayne-with-a-Y is Shayne Bushfield, founder of the LearnedLeague online trivia league. Yes, that’s correct—my chosen sport is trivia.
Jamey Smith’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up
Here’s a grid design you don’t see every day: it almost looks like faucets extending toward the center of the grid from each side, and with black squares coming down the first column and up the last column.
Some highlight answers:
- 14A [2018 documentary about Alex Honnold’s conquest of El Capitan] is FREE SOLO, which is a very, very good movie.
- 35A [Postgame celebrations] is FIST PUMPS. I think this entry could have used a livelier clue, but it made me smile nonetheless.
- 48A [Showrunner Shonda] is RHIMES; nice to see her in a puzzle.
- 6D [Tex. airport that’s bigger than Manhattan] is DFW, normally not an entry to write home about but elevated by its fun-fact clue.
- 21D [Calif. home of works by Matisse and Warhol] is SFMOMA. I’m not a big modern art fan myself, but there’s something about that combo of letters that reads lively to me, especially since that initialism is indeed how people refer to it in speech.
I’m sorry to say the fill overall had more misses than hits for me. Although I love classical music, I’d almost always rather not have the name of a key in a puzzle, as with G MINOR; that’s both because it’s hard to remember what key a piece is in even if you’ve heard the piece before, and also because you can fill in the M, the O, and the R without knowing. Shonda RHIMES notwithstanding, the lower right has an awful lot of proper names to know, plus the plural NEHRUS. (NEHRU JACKETS, sure. Not sure I buy NEHRUS.) TININESS, HAWSES, STRIATE, EMAG, TKT, GDS, ON RYE. I also really wish the 6A/8D crossing had been changed from DOWD/WEI to DODD/DEI, simply because the latter can be clued with reference to Latin for “god” rather than having to cross two proper names. (Guess where I had a mistake in my grid?)
Randolph Ross’ Wall Street Journal crossword, “Squat Did You Say?” — pannonica’s write-up
The idea here is that phrases featuring a word beginning with ‘w’ replace it with ‘squ’. All of the theme entries work for me phonetically but the title does not, as I usually pronounce ‘what’ with a schwa sound.
- 22a. [Agency that knights call when they need help?] SQUIRE SERVICE (wire service).
- 30a. [Container for zucchinis?] SQUASH BOWL (wash bowl).
- 45a. [Space for an illegible signature?] SQUIGGLE ROOM (wiggle room).
- 60a. [Memorable Far East weather event?] THE GREAT SQUALL OF CHINA (… Wall …). Why not describe it as Asian? This central grid-spanning entry is the only one with the squ- substitution in a place other than the very beginning of the phrase.
- 81a. [Buffalo’s offense or defense?] SQUAD OF BILLS (wad of bills).
- 92a. [Exterminator’s agenda?] SQUISH LIST (wish list).
- 108a. [Boxy residences?] SQUARE HOUSING (warehousing). Necessitates a spacing change. Perhaps the same can be said of washbowl, above?
Thinking that Mr Magoo is a SQUINTER OF MISCONTENT.
Anyway, let’s see what else the grid has to offer, but cursorily.
- 31d [Arabian shrub whose leaves are chewed as a stimulant] QAT. Known to Scrabble players far and wide.
- 54d [Panamanian coin] BALBOA, 108d [Peruvian coin] SOL, 103d [Turkish coin] LIRA.
- 62d [Lucy’s pal] ETHEL.
- Just want to mention that many of the words crossing at the thematic Qs lack an associated U, which brings variety to the proceedings. ESQS, QAT, FAQS, QED.
- 85d [Twice, in Latin] BIS. As seen sometimes on prescriptions. 1d [Recommended amount] DOSE. I would say, by the way, that this is a big duplication with the crossing 85a [Split] BISECTED.
- 86d [Job for un détective privé] CAS. That’s a potent bit of glue. Also: 58a [Brit’s brew, informally] CHA (from chai, presumably). And: 53a [“__ le roi!” (cry at the Bastille)] À BAS.
- 107d [Carrier to Karachi] PIA. Going to presume this is Pakistan International Airlines or something close.
- 26a [Blue bard] ELEGIST. Not convinced this works, but the wordplay is mildly amusing.
- Favorite clue: 40a [Lower part of a range] FOOTHILLS.
- 100a [Place for peace, hopefully] ON EARTH.
Lester Ruff’s Newsday crossword, Saturday Stumper — pannonica’s write-up
This one definitely lived up to its “Les Rough” promise. My recorded time is of a leisurely solve!
The dynamics were straightforward. A couple of immediate toeholds in the upper left—1a [Roast holder, perhaps] SPIT, 2d [Something spotted on a ranch] PINTO, and then I was off to the races. Wasn’t long before I’d gotten a tendril into the rest of the grid with 22a [Revelation rider] HORSEMAN and then a spy’s MINI CAMERA (14a) and bang! the grid-spanning 7d [As luck would have it] SERENDIPITIOUSLY was practically a gimme. I continued apace.
- 20a [Alternative to Xander] LEX. Realizing retrospectively that these are nicknames for Alexander. I’ve not personally heard the one in the clue, but it’s legitimate per the internet.
- 25a [Reference note for a certain sitter] is not about pets or children. We’re talking pianists. MIDDLE C. Yet, 42d [With 47 Down, scales for staff] PAY | RATES.
- 33a [Bit of a comet’s tail] ION. Ah, here’s the one spot where I tripped up slightly. Put in ICE and that created three Es in a row for 24d [Plywood portions] which I was reasonably certain wanted to be VENEERS. Nevertheless, it called into question the latter half of 35a [“You’re welcome” alternative] ALWAYS A PLEASURE and gave me pause. This bled over to 34a [Wet continental divide] URAL which I also temporarily erased, and the as-yet-ungotten 28d [Apt rhyme for “praise”] OLÉS.
- 42a [Sherpas, for instance] PORTERS. Of course they are often much more than this.
- 55a [“Magnificent __” (what Aldrin called the moon)] DESOLATION.
(insta-review: this seemed a bit over-the-top and derivative. I’ll post something better yet still appropriate at the end of the write-up)
- 59a [Its junior members are Antlers] ELKS. Makes sense.
- 4d [They may be good and hard] TIMES. Just times.
- 15d [Southern tip of New Jersey] CAPE MAY. How well-known is this nationally?
- 26d [Kin to colon-hyphen-close paren] LOL. Dang, that was an annoying clue. I glossed it and left it to the crossings.
- 51d [Word from the Dutch for “eye”] OGLE. Might be my favorite clue so far for this loaded word.
- 55d [“The private side of Twitter”: Abbr.] DMS. Direct messages.
Brooke Husic & Erik Agard’s USA Today crossword—Amy’s write-up
It took me some time to see the theme here, but each themer starts with a word that can follow “blank”:
- 20a [Piece of casual footwear] CANVAS SHOE
- 38a [Sun Ra film with a rhyming title] SPACE IS THE PLACE
- 56a [Self-promotional phrase] CHECK ME OUT
Oh, hey this is asymmetrical. I only noticed just now as I looked for the partner 15 to WHEELCHAIR RUGBY. Other highlights for me are WHATD I MISS and PAST clued to [“American Sonnets for My ____ and Future Assassin” (Terrance Hayes collection”], which is a lovely, lovely book. EIDGAH is new to me, but I’m only seeing the entry now, as I got it all off crossings.