Erica Hsiung Wojcik’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Can I just say I appreciate this constructor’s name, with its pair of consonant twosomes not commonly found in English? HSIUNG WOJCIK would look amazing in a grid! Moving beyond the byline, her actual puzzle is great, too.
Fave fill: up-and-comer Anthony RAMOS, FLIRTATION, SOLO PARENTING, “WHO AM I KIDDING,” GENIUS BAR, the SHIRELLES, TRAGICOMEDY (I’d have called Waiting for Godot an absurdist play, personally), spooky THEREMINS, and NOSE RING.
This one played pretty easy for me. Not as easy as the Thursday meant-to-be-easy New Yorker themeless, but easier than most NYT Fridays. Puzzles with lots of proper nouns in the grid tend to fall quickly for me. Your mileage may vary.
Five more things:
- 34a. [They promise no hurt feelings], PAIN RELIEVERS. Do they really promise no pain, though? Or just a reduction?
- 36a. [___ + anais (baby care brand)], ADEN. New to me. Haven’t had a baby around for a couple decades, so… (Crossings were easy.)
- 44a. [___ Chen, member of the girl group S.H.E.], ELLA. Don’t know the group or Chen, but again, easy crossings and a common name among young adults.
- Also never heard of 2d. [Klein who once managed the Beatles and Rolling Stones], ALLEN. Again, the crossings got me there. See also: 26a. [Montreal’s Côte Saint-___], LUC. Ha! Four entirely unknown-to-me names in this puzzle, but it was still a breeze. Wait, five—scientist HESS, too.
- 30a. [It’s just you and me, baby], SOLO PARENTING. Great clue! Shout-out to all the single parents—partnered parents can find it arduous to go it alone for a few days (we’re spoiled), while you folks are toughing it out every day.
Four stars from me.
Mikkel Snyder & Brooke Husic’s USA Today crossword, “Auto Fill”—Darby’s write-up
Editor: Erik Agard
Theme: Each theme answer has CAR filling in between two words.
20a [“2017 Eve Ewing books”] ELECTRIC ARCHES
- 30a [“Radio service based in London and Cairo”] BBC ARABIC
- 45a [“Material for the ball in a Keshjee ceremony”] YUCCA ROOT
- 55a [“Character played by Teyonah Parris in ‘Wandavision’”] MONICA RAMBEAU
We got four themers in this Friday puzzle, which is very fun! I think to some extent that really meant that Mikkel and Brooke had to keep it tight around those themers, hence our diagonal moves through the middle section of the grid. As for the themers themselves, I loved MONICA RAMBEAU since I’m a huge Marvel fan. BBC ARABIC took me a hot sec, but it quickly fell into place, as did ELECTRIC ARCHES and YUCCA ROOT. Speaking of YUCCA ROOT, it is used in Keshee, the Navajo Shoe Game, which involves players guessing which of several moccasins have a yucca root ball in it. It is meant to symbolize life and the idea that the natural order of things cannot be altered. You can learn more about it here.
This grid is asymmetric, which we can see most clearly in that the northeastern steps don’t have a twin anywhere, just as the right bottom corner is a lone buddy hanging out and holding USA and TEA together. I particularly enjoyed 43d [“Angelique Kidjo genre”] AFRO POP and 44a [“Member of a pride”] LIONESS, as well as the fun clue for EEL in 29a [“‘Shock me like an electric ___’ (MGMT lyric)”] and the cute clue for 34a [“Internet award (or a name for a pet spider”] WEBBY. Honestly, while I wouldn’t call myself Spider-Fan, I would say that’s my favourite clue/answer combo from this puzzle.
Some other things I noticed:
- 5a [“Howard is one”] – HBCUs originated in the 19th century as spaces in which Black students could access educational opportunities. The first HBCU was the African Institute (now Cheyney University), and it was founded in 1837. Howard University was founded in 1867 in a way of new HBCUs, including Alabama State, Barber-Scotia, Fayetteville State, Johnson C. Smith University, Morehouse college, Morgan State, Saint Augustine’s University, and Talladega College. The Thurgood Marshall College Fund offers a longer history, and The Hundred-Seven lists out all HBCUs in the U.S.
- 10d [“___ camera”] – I’ve taken enough photography classes (and yet am still a poor photographer?) to have learned about PINHOLE cameras. The PINHOLE itself acts as the lens, and light enters through, marking points that form the image. You can learn more about how these work here and, if you want to make one, National Geographic has put together a kid-friendly list of steps.
- 35d [“Bun steamed in a bamboo basket”] – BAO are so good. They originated in northern China and are usually made from a white dough stuffed with an incredible filling. It feels like biting into a pillow and going to heaven. 10/10 would recommend.
That’s the end of my mental ROAMing for now. Have a good weekend!
Karen Lurie’s Universal crossword, “Vertical Lines”—Jim P’s review
The revealer is “COME ON DOWN!” (34d. [“The Price Is Right” catchphrase, or a hint to the meaning and direction of each starred clue’s answer]). Each of the other theme answers is a phrase roughly synonymous to “Come on!,” and they’re all in the Down direction.
- 4d. [*”Keep trying!”] “YOU CAN DO IT!” An encouraging “Come on!”
- 9d. [*”Oh, puh-lease!”] “GIMME A BREAK!” An exasperated “Come on!”
- 25d. [*”Nothing to see here!”] “MOVE IT ALONG.” A kick-in-the-pants “Come on!” I’m not sure the clue is equivalent to “Come on,” but when I’m doing crossing guard duty at my kid’s school, I definitely use “Come on” as a synonym for MOVE IT ALONG when a parent is dilly-dallying and holding up the line of cars.
Very nice theme. It took a second to make sense of that revealer clue, but then I was afforded a nice aha moment. I especially like the fact that each “Come on” has a different meaning. And I further like the title with its play on words (“Lines” meaning “phrases”.) Overall, a fun and lively theme.
Nice long fill, this time in the Across direction. We have STIMULATE, CORN COBS, PEACOATS, and FLIP FLOPS. Nothing in the fill slowed me down too much. I didn’t time myself, but it felt like a fast, smooth solve.
Clues of note:
- 15a. [“West Side Story” dubbing legend Nixon]. MARNI. No idea on this one, but her Wikipedia page lists her as the ghost singer for Deborah Kerr in The King and I and Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady, as well as Natalie Wood in West Side Story.
- 5d. [You can slide into them on Twitter]. DMS. Ah, these young people and their tech-speak. To “slide into DMS” is to send a direct message to someone over social media (like Twitter or Instagram) possibly as a flirtatious or romantic gesture.
An enjoyable theme and fill. Four stars.
Ryan Hecht & Doug Peterson’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up
Theme today is converting voiceless bilabial plosives to voiced bilabial plosive. That is to say—in plain English—a p-sound is replaced with a b-sound.
- 20a. [Group of apartments made of gingerbread?] EDIBLE COMPLEX (Oedipal complex).
- 35a. [Gang made up of very light eaters?] NIBBLE RING (nipple ring). Reminds me strongly of Der Ring des Nibelung.
- 43a. [Logo designer’s day-to-day existence?] SYMBOL LIFE (simple life).
- 53a. [Cute, furry problem for Captain Kirk?] TRIBBLE THREAT (triple threat). Referencing the famous episode from the original series, “The Trouble With Tribbles“. I’ve always supposed that tribbles are a metaphor for cats, distilled to their most basic qualities—furry, emitting a distinctive purring sound, reproducing prolifically.
Ok, sure, this works.
- 1d [2022 Australian Open winner, familiarly] ASH, short for Ashleigh. She’s since announced her retirement from professional tennis at a perhaps surprisingly young age.
- 7d [Puff stuff] TALC. Not entirely sure how this is meant. Like a puff dispenser? I use a similar device for diatomaceous earth.
- 25d [Kabayaki fish] UNAGI. “Kabayaki (蒲焼) is a preparation of fish, especially unagi eel, where the fish is split down the back (or belly), gutted and boned, butterflied, cut into square fillets, skewered, and dipped in a sweet soy sauce-based sauce before being cooked on a grill or griddle.” (Wikipedia)
- 32d [“Three Billboards …” actress Cornish] ABBIE. I knew it couldn’t be journalist AUDIE Cornish, but the temptation was there nevertheless.
- 36d [Two-piece piece] BIKINI TOP. 9a [Manhattan Project project, briefly] A-BOMB. Not a connection I’m pleased to be making, but the similarity of repeated words in the clues made it practically compulsory.
- 46d [Pre-election event] DEBATE. Unless one of the parties decides to unilaterally opt-out (for no particularly good reason).
- 15a [Country that outlawed alcohol in 1979] IRAN. A moment’s consideration made the answer quite evident; that was the year of the Islamic Revolution there, and the associated societal upheavals.
- 66a [Brownish gray] TAUPE. From the French for ‘mole’. I know I’ve mentioned this in previous write-ups, but it’s in my opinion a great factette, and some people may have missed it.