Hemant Mehta’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
I may not love every single entry in this puzzle, but I tell you, plunking the [Line of Pokémon] “GOTTA CATCH ’EM ALL” across the top like a banner makes up for a lot. I have a number of crossword friends who are Pokémon Go players, like me. We have a good time! (Shout-out to anyone else who’s still missing a shiny Rockruff.)
Other fave fill: Susan ORLEAN, GIRLS Who Code, TICOS (I have a Costa Rican cousin-in-law), BOOTY SHORTS, the KING OF BEERS (raise your hand if you feel that Budweiser is, indeed, the King of Beers—anyone?), MEDIA CIRCUS, SNOWCONE, lucky CLOVER, “BITE ME,” KETEL ONE vodka, DRAG INTO COURT, STICKY FINGERS, and PEASANTS. Neat center twist with the staggered 11s crossing a set of 13s.
Less keen on D.C.-BASED, ONE HR., EDESSA (if you’ve heard of the Greek town or its Mesopotamian namesake, it’s from crosswords, isn’t it?), awkward MOVIE AD, and the “on” trio of ON LAND, GOT ON, and BID ON.
It’s neat that the constructor’s first name, minus the N, anagrams to his last name.
Five more things:
- 22a. [Bad thing to miss], MEMO. The metaphorical memo, I assume (“We’re all wearing red today. Didn’t you get the memo?”), but could plausibly be an actual memo, too.
- 26a. [Locales for the Jets and the Sharks], RINKS. Because of the NHL teams from Winnipeg and San Jose. Anyone up for a “Disney on Ice”-style adaptation of West Side Story?
- 42a. [Swears at], DAMNS / 49a. [Divinity], GODHOOD. These jumped out at me since I know Hemant’s day job as an atheist writer, podcaster, etc. Wonder if that was his original clue for 49a?
- 13d. [Where cruise passengers end up], ON LAND. With any luck, yes. Might want to take that four-leaf CLOVER along ([Good luck with that!]) to be sure.
- 38d. [An adult one can spend up to 16 hours a day eating], HUMAN. … What? You say it’s PANDA? Fi-i-ine.
3.75 stars from me. Loved the juicy bits, wished some of the surrounding fill were smoother.
Zhouqin Burnikel’s USA Today crossword, “Slow Food”—Matthew’s write-up
Our themers are all food items, with the word INCH embedded across a word boundary:
- 17a [Product from America’s Dairyland] WISCONSIN CHEESE
- 27a [Potassium-rich snack] PLANTAIN CHIPS
- 55a [Tonkatsu ingredient] PORK LOIN CHOP
Oh hey, the puzzle is asymmetrical. Didn’t notice til now.
I learned more than normal from even a USA Today puzzle – so refreshing! Let’s get right to it:
- 33a [Patty Tavatankit’s nationality] THAI. Tavatanakit is a professional golfer on the LPGA Tour, and the 2021 LPGA Rookie of the Year. I imagine she’ll be in my neck of the woods for the U.S. Women’s Open in a few weeks.
- 44a [“(debatable)” panelist Duncan] ELLE. (debatable) is an ESPN product — I believe web-only — and while ELLE Duncan is lovely, I’ve lost patience several times over for ESPN’s prioritization of debate and roundtable shows.
- 51a [“Detransition, Baby” character] REESE. I was completely unaware of this book by Torrey Peters. A compelling review can be found here.
- 3d [Comedian Majimbo] ELSA. Majimbo is a Nairobi-based comic who gained popularity producing videos from her home during the onset of the pandemic.
- 8d [“Your Sister’s Sister” director Shelton] LYNN. “Your Sister’s Sister” is a 2011 rom-com I hadn’t heard of, starring Emily Blunt, Rosemarie DeWitt, and Mark Duplass.
- 57d [Tanabata sentiment] LOVE. OK, I did know this one, but only from a crossword in the last few months, so still including it today. Tanabata is a Japanese festival celebrated in July.
Caitlin Reid’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Fashionably Late” — pannonica’s write-up
Some punny phrases regarding fashion, presented as a mini-narrative.
- 24a. [Before the fashion show, the model bent over and her garment…] BURST AT THE SEAMS.
- 35a. [The designer needed a fabric patch, so she consulted her…] MATERIAL GIRL.
- 50a. [Disaster struck when her sewing machine broke, leaving her…] WITHOUT A STITCH.
- 68a. [She’d iron on the patch, but it was too big and had to be…] CUT DOWN TO SIZE.
- 85a. [Her colleague chimed in and said, “That patch isn’t the problem, your…”] SKIRT’S THE ISSUE. (addition of an apostrophe required)
- 97a. [The outfit did need something different, prompting a last-minute…] POCKET CHANGE.
- 114a. [Ack! The show is starting and they still need a…] TAXI TO THE RUNWAY.
I suppose it’s interesting how some of the phrases are originally about apparel but have become adapted metaphorically to other situations, and then to see them boomerang to be reapplied to the original context. Otherwise, the theme didn’t really grab me by the collar.
- 40d [What a baker has on hand?] MITT, of the oven variety.
- 86d [Back in Congress] SPONSOR. I liked the terseness of this clue.
- 99d [Smithy sounds] CLANGS. And this one was nicely evocative.
- 115d [Simple top] TEE. Theme-adjacent?
- 9a [Polliwog parent] TOAD.
- 13a [Draped garment] TOGA. Minor misstep for me here, as SARI.
- 33a [Bundle that might be forked over?] isn’t to do with money. BALE, as in a haybale, with a pitchfork.
- State whose capitol gift shop sells a plush Spuddy Buddy] IDAHO. Oh it’s just as creepy as you would imagine.
- 92a [Curved line in music] SLUR. I almost remembered this without a crossing.
- 118a [Pale yellow cheese] EDAM, right above 122a [Red inside] RARE. And as we all know from crosswords, EDAM is famously red on the outside, thanks to its wax coating.
The crossword wasn’t precisely a slog nor a 4d SNOOZEFEST, but during the solve I was keenly aware that this was a 21×21 grid, which is an indirect commentary.
Steve Mossberg’s Newsday crossword, Saturday Stumper — pannonica’s write-up
Yet again, another Stumper that lives up to its name by initially seeming nigh-impossible and then by degrees yielding to to diligence, exploration and applied pressure.
A big breakthrough came when I realized that the grid-spanning down entry—7d [Nearing the end]—wasn’t going to have TIME near its own end, but instead ULTIMA… aha!… ULTIMATE; that left figuring out how many prefixes were needed, and it turned out to be ANTEPENULTIMATE. Didn’t have to go as far as preantepenultimate.
After that, with the help of some entries I’d already gotten on the righthand side, the NOTE and FOURTH elements of the central 15-letter across entry, I was able to complete SIXTY-FOURTH NOTES at 36a [Brief musical excerpts]. Were I more conversant with music I certainly would have figured that one out sooner. (In Britain they’re called hemidemisemiquavers or semidemisemiquavers—too long for this grid!)
The next big gain was the cross-referenced 31d [“Hello, gorgeous!” in some parts of the 59 Across], which could have been a dead-end if the the other clue simply referred back to the first. Mercifully, the clue was extremely helpful. While 59a turned out to be the ALPS, which could indicate one of a few European languages, [Where the Po rises] invokes an Italian river, hence CIAO BELLA. Big help.
Other turning points included resolving dilemmas such as: 48a [Q preceders] as LGBT and not MNOP; 49d [Thigh-rotating aid] as GLUTE, not ILIUM; 23d [Parlor implement] SCOOP rather than STROP; 62a [What a toaster may hold] STEIN not GLASS; 35a [Bracing] CRISP not BRISK.
- 1a [Hangouts where TVs hang] – BARS? PUBS? DENS? GYMS!
- 14a [Thumbs-down pair] NEITHER/NOR. Mildly tricky
- My very first fills: 18a crossing 12d at a V: [Pirate hideout, perhaps] COVE and 12d [Newlyweds’ habitats] LOVE NESTS.
- 23a [Bogus brown] SPRAY TAN stacked on 28a [Browns for a bit] SAUTÉS.
- 30a [Old hand] PRO? VET? TAR?? ACE!
- 39a [Where kids’ composer Raffi was born] CAIRO. This took me by surprise, as I had thought he was Lebanese or Syrian. Turns out he’s of Armenian descent (his last name is Cavoukian) and was indeed born in Egypt, although a longtime Canadian citizen.
- 46a [Starts training] BREAKS IN. Tough one.
- 55a [Monster first observed in 1980] ELMO. I’d have guessed mid-’90s.
- 56a [Insincere antic accolade] REAL MATURE. That’s overly obscurant.
- 11d [Something on the side] AVOCATION. Ah, but it can also mean one’s main vocation, so it’s a nearly useless term, especially with limited context.
- Favorite clue: 26d [Racket on the radio] PAYOLA. Really excellent, that one.
- Second favorite: 34d [Lacking seasoning] GREEN. cf 30-across.
- 43d [Gear for golfers and bowlers] SKORTS. I was definitely considering something involving shirts or shoes, so well done on the feint.
Another challenging Saturday workout. Kudos to Stan and his stable of constructors for consistently pitching the difficulty just right, even thought it may not seem so at first.
Jared Goudsmit’s Universal Crossword, “Universal Freestyle 16″— Jim Q’s write-up
- I CANNOT TELL A LIE
- STRETCH THE TRUTH
- ROSE PARADE
- ATE KOSHER
- ADIOS, AMIGO!
- HANG TIME
- BONGO DRUM
Love those crossing seed entries I CANNOT TELL A LIE / STRETCH THE TRUTH. What an excellent juxtaposition!
Lots to like in this puzzle. I mean, any puzzle with BONGO DRUM [Salsa ingredient?] as an entry can’t be that bad. That’s a law, I think. Enjoyed PASTA BAR as well, though I saw right through the trickery in the clue [Where bow ties are on display] and got if off the P.
My favorite mistake was ATE NO MEAT for ATE KOSHER. I rolled my eyes entering ATE NOT MEAT thinking That’s not a phrase! I can’t believe that made it in as an entry. Well, it didn’t. ATE KOSHER, on the other hand: definitely a thing.
BOWL GAME to me sounds a bit vague. Could that be referring to any BOWL- as in post-season football? That’s what google seems to think. It’s odd that such a vague term is clued so specifically [New Year’s Day event]. But maybe I’m misunderstanding something. I know very little about sports events on New Year’s Day, when I typically just lay in bed all day regretting the night before.
Enjoy the day!
John Ewbank’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up
A few highlights since I’m short on time:
- 10A [Rest of the day?] is a great clue for an otherwise throwaway entry, NAP.
- 8D [Tries to find oneself?] for EGO-SURFS, LOL!
- 12D [Ones working after strikes] is also very clever for PINSETTER.
- 24D [Password that’s weak by modern standards] for OPEN SESAME was chuckle-inducing.
- 25D SARDINE CAN is a good entry, and after several months in early 2021 of it not being an accurate [Rush hour metaphor], well, it is now.
- I liked ORGAN MUSIC at 57A even if I think there are more interesting clues than [Church staple]. If y’all baseball fans get your references to players in puzzles, why can’t ORGAN MUSIC be tied to Bach or Duruflé or Saint-Saëns?
All these nice long entries did come at the cost of a lot of 3s and 4s, but hey, one of them was a reference to Mario KART which is basically bait for me.