Nam Jin Yoon’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
I quite enjoyed this puzzle, even though I took a wrong turn on 12d. [Very best] that made the upper left zone complete nonsense. Did you know that CREAM OF THE CROP has the same letter count as CREME DE LA CREME? That letter count is 14, and we’ve got a type of crossword symmetry I associate most with Brooke Husic. I’m glad the NYT accepts some puzzles with this diagonal symmetry—here, flipped along the NW-to-SE axis without rotation. The layout facilitates intersecting 13s and 14s, lengths that don’t show up in many themelesses. CONE OF SILENCE! FRIENDLY BANTER! “FORGET ABOUT IT” spelled with regular words! These are great fill, and the grid’s got good flow with no cut-off sections feeling like mini-puzzles.
Other fave fill: “PROVE IT!,” “I GET BY,” Mrs. DALLOWAY, ON POINT, MADE ROOM, “AND SCENE!,” KAPOW, PSYCH OUT, and LOVE POEM (raise your hand if you guessed LYRIC ODE off the L, and no, I don’t know much poetry).
Seven more things:
- 14a. [Needle exchange?], FRIENDLY BANTER. Wait, if you’re bantering with someone, you’re supposed to be needling them? In a friendly way? I think you can have friendly banter without the needling.
- 47a. [Fix], MESS. Short and sweet. “I’m in a real fix here.”
- 54a. [Scooched over], MADE ROOM. I appreciate scooched in this clue.
- 60a. [Common bake-off challenge], TART. It’s such a long wait between seasons of Great British Bake Off!
- 6d. [Costa, to a botanist], RIB. This applies to bones, too, not just plant ribs. Intercostal means “between the ribs.”
- 10d. [Contracting sheet], ICECAP. Tough clue—I was envisioning a builder’s spec sheet.
- 30d. [Traditional filling for momo (Nepalese dumplings)], YAK. It’s so hard to source yak meat in Chicago. My local momo restaurant has chicken and pork dumplings.
Agnes Davidson and C.C. Burnikel’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up
The entry that this puzzle was probably seeded around is so very, very relatable: 36A [Nana’s babysitting observation, perhaps] is I’M TOO OLD FOR THIS. See also: new hires at my office who are younger than my niece; most pop music released after 2005.
I think I spot C.C.’s influence in the lower left section of the grid, with two 10-letter food entries side by side (TOMATO RICE, ANTS ON A LOG).
The grid is pretty smooth overall, more solid than “wow,” but on the other hand making a themeless with lots of long entries and almost no “enh” entries is a feat in itself. DEAR SANTA, AERIAL SHOT, FACE SOAPS, SUNSHINE are all entries in that 8- to 10-letter range that are pretty darn good. My one needle scratch was ACTED SAD, which feels green-paint-y to me. Would’ve loved to see SINGAPORE clued with a reference to chili crab to food the grid up even more, but chacun à son goût.
Gary Larson’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “St. Elsewhere” — pannonica’s write-up
Going to be brief this morning, as I’ve gotten a late start. Theme here is phrases beginning with ST- but dropping that bigram produce wacky versions.
- 21a. [Compass, hiking boots, binoculars, and the like?] RANGER THINGS (Stranger Things).
- 26a. [Eventually feel the effects of poison ivy?] ITCH IN TIME ([a] stitch in time …).
- 43a. [Go lawn bowling?] ROLL IN THE PARK (stroll in the park).
- 66a. [Low-budget spy mission?] OP ON A DIME (stop on a dime). My favorite of the lot.
- 90a. [Made hi-hop music professionally?] RAPPED FOR CASH (strapped for cash).
- 110a. [Used up one’s financial resources?] ATE CAPITAL (state capital).
- 118a. [Over the hill, e.g.?] AGE DIRECTION (stage direction). Would [Time’s arrow?] have worked as a clue?
- 3d. [Trunk of a tree, to a chronologist?] RING SECTION (string section). Not sold on the clue here.
- 70d. [Partially completed paintings?] ART TO FINISH (start to finish). And a nice way to conclude the theme entries.
It all works well enough.
- 4d [First-rate] STELLAR. Obviously we are not excluding ST- from elsewhere in the grid. See also: 83a [Hotel visit] STAY, ay! and 125a [Cause of Colonial anger] STAMP ACT.
- 14d [Did some camping] TENTED. There’s dictionary support for this, so ok.
- 22d [Turned right] GEED. Its complement is HAWED.
- 46d [Chute material] NYLON. It’s only at this moment that I understand chute to be ’chute, that is, a parachute. Guessing the clue was written this way because of 114a [Beginning for military or medic] PARA-.
- 52d [Buildings with wings] HANGARS. The wings of the airplanes.
- 107a [Opal, essentially] SILICA. Did not know this, and it is my birthstone.
Amanda Rafkin’s USA Today crossword, “Set of Downs”—Matthew’s write-up
This was a fun little run from Amanda Rafkin! We’ve got a “Set of Downs” for our themers:
- 3D [Initial judgment] FIRST IMPRESSION
- 5D [English is the most common one] SECOND LANGUAGE
- 14D [Final stage of fetal growth] THIRD TRIMESTER
- 9D [Time, to a physicist] FOURTH DIMENSION
I haven’t set out to brainstorm other possibilities, but I love this theme set.
I admittedly didn’t see much of the puzzle, pretty much solving downs-only, but it felt very “Amanda” to me. Let’s get into notes:
- 22a [Miranda Cosgrove series about making a web show with friends] ICARLY. I’m aware of this show, but I was a bit out of its age range when it was on. I’m more familiar with Miranda Cosgrove for her role in School of Rock.
- 48a [Creamy holiday beverage] EGG NOG. I have a coworker with whom I celebrate “egg nog season” each November-ish. Each year I swear I’m going to make some myself, and it hasn’t happened yet.
- 64a [ID on a W-9 form] SSN. Or possibly an EIN! A portion of my job’s EIN and my zip code are similar but not the same, so I always have to triple check when completing forms.
- 1d [Fabric for most pointe shoes] SATIN. You know, I’m not sure I knew this! Of course it’s something soft, and it wasn’t hard to get with even one cross, but I wouldn’t have been confident if it came up in bar trivia or something.
- 14d THIRD TRIMESTER. Covered above, but I encourage you to read this essay and solve the accompanying puzzle by Brooke Husic.
Steve Mossberg’s Newsday crossword, Saturday Stumper — pannonica’s write-up
After last week’s ‘less rough’ offering, we’re back to true stumperdom today. 57a [Return to prominence] RISE AGAIN.
So many times I was stalled and saw no way forward; yet each time, I paused a bit, came up with an idea, took a small leap of faith with an entry or even just a partial entry here, a cross there, another flier there, and soon enough the whole thing was complete. Quite the rigorous challenge.
The final part of the grid to fall was the lower right, but as you can see that eventually came together as well.
And look at that sarcasm right off the bat—1 across is ALL IS LOST [Lament of defeat]. So glad I didn’t fill that one in until about halfway through, and then mostly via crossings so I didn’t actually read it.
- 15a [Certain zoo-feeding aide] LION TAMER. Is this correct? In any event I don’t care for it.
- 20a [Manners of expression] MODES, 5d [Manner of expression] STYLE.
- 11d/45a [“Understood”] AH GOTCHA; OH OK.
- 16a [Kids’, in Moore’s poem] THEIR. Why this clue?
- 33a [Rhythm associated with autumn] OOM PAH PAH. Must be a reference to Oktoberfest.
- 61a [Economically put] TERSE. As is the clue itself, which I misunderstood to be about financial doings. 58d [CFO’s concern] NOS.
- 7d [They’re not done] OMISSIONS. Needed a moment to parse this one correctly after getting the answer.
- 23d [Transitional stage] PUPA. This is the first ‘leap of faith’ I took during the solve, and I might not have gotten anywhere at all were it not for this little four-letter entry.
- 24d [Word from Gothic for “patience”] ABIDE. Here’s the extensive etymology from m-w: Middle English abiden, going back to Old English abīdan, from a-, perfective prefix + bīdan “to bide, wait”; a- (also ā-, ǣ- under stress in nominal derivatives) akin to Old Frisian a-, perfective prefix, Old Saxon ā-, ō- (unstressed a-) and probably to Old English or- “outward, extreme, lacking (in nominal compounds),” Old Frisian & Old Saxon ur-, or-, Old High German ar-, ir-, er- unstressed inchoative verb prefix, ur “out of, away from,” Old Norse ūr-, ör-, “out of, from,” ør-, privative prefix, Gothic us- “out of,” us-, privative and perfective prefix; if from pre-Germanic *ud-s- akin to Old English ūt “out” — more at OUT entry 1, BIDE
- 28d [Purpose of a PC card] MODEM. In which PC stands for ‘parallel communication’.
- 44d [Gin] DESEED. As in, a cotton gin.
- 47d [Less likely to forgive] SORER; had STERN. 49d [Whom Woz once worked for] ATARI; had APPLE. These were two of the many reasons that southeast section proved so difficult for me to complete.
Malaika Handa’s Universal Crossword, “Universal Freestyle 10″— Jim Q’s write-up
- [“Great to hear, friend!”] I LOVE THAT FOR YOU!
- [Musical shifts] KEY CHANGES.
- [Lightest instrument?] AIR GUITAR.
- [Vegetable that kids pass on?] HOT POTATO. Clue of the year contender?
Had trouble starting and ending this one! Really had difficulty with the first clue [They’re virtually worthless] SPAM EMAILS. I think because I didn’t know what “virtually” was intended to mean. Still not sure. Having to do with technology? Or a sub for “practically”? Both? The plural of it seemed odd too. I think I consider EMAIL plural most of the time, depending on the context. The unfamiliar (but inferable) TOMATILLOS and POORI didn’t help me!
And to finish, I thought [Musical shifts] was asking for some sort of RANGES… so it took forever to see KEY CHANGES. KPH, LIBERO, THEE (as clued) also tricky.
Enjoyable challenge in this one. Dug the bite.