Rachel Fabi’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
What what? An easier Saturday than Friday? We needed some harder clues here!
Fave bits: MADAM C.J. Walker, the neighboring judgments of YUM and MEH, “BOOYAH!,” CROSS OFF THE LIST, singer RITA ORA (that last name is such a gift to crossword constructors! she just needs to get some top-10 hits in the US to be familiar enough), HANKERED (I just like the word), SLEEP ON IT, HUGUENOT (I can tell you very little about Huguenots or Hessians aside from “they’re from European history”), and “SRSLY.”
Did not know: 44a. Nikkie ___, beauty vlogger with more than 13 million followers on YouTube], DE JAGER. She’s Dutch and became a professional makeup artist in her teens, Wikipedia tells me. It also tells me she competed on the reality competition show Wie is de Mol?, which some puzzle people are huge fans of and have watched despite not speaking Dutch. Here’s a video, if you’re curious, where de Jager makes up half of Adele’s face.
Seven more things:
- 18a. [“There’s no accounting for taste”], IT TAKES ALL SORTS. I absolutely went with KINDS here first, until the crossings fought me.
- 38a. [Make it, gamewise], TAG. The clue confused me—I was thinking it was about making it, or succeeding, rather than being made “it” in a game of tag.
- 48a. [Replenish], TOP UP. I had a VW in the 2000s and when the wiper fluid was running low, the dashboard displayed the message “top up wash fluid.” So weird! Feels British, as the American idiom is top off.
- 56a. [Pays in the Alps?], SUISSE. Pays being French for “country” and SUISSE being French for Switzerland. So this is technically not at all a dupe of the crossing entry PAY STUB!
- 1d. [Challenging setting for the 2020 Olympics men’s road cycling course], FUJI. I lost my reading comprehension when looking at this clue and actually tried FIJI. The 2020 Summer Games (in 2021) were in Japan, so that’s Mount FUJI.
- 30d. [Network with Joy Reid’s “The ReidOut”], MSNBC. I rarely watch TV news, but I do follow Reid on Twitter.
- 51d. [“You don’t have to tell me!”], “I SAW!” You might think this entry looks contrived, but when a friend messages me about something she’s already posted on social media, if I’ve seen it, I might well say “I saw!”
I appreciate the effort Rachel made to be inclusive of women in this puzzle: MADAM, JOANNE and Lady Gaga, Tina FEY, DE JAGER, BETTE Midler, DELLA Reese, RITA ORA, Joy Reid.
Ella Dershowitz’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up
Uh oh. 2:38 this week, so that makes sub-3 on all three Patti-edited Saturdays and this was quite a bit under. I’m starting to despair that the “gentle challenge” in LAT’s updated Saturday specs means a lot more gentle than challenge. But I can forgive this puzzle for being easy because it has so much good stuff in it:
- 10A [Shortening in some cookie recipes] is a great and deceptive clue for TBSP, which is a “shortening” in the abbreviation sense and not in the Crisco sense.
- 17A [House blends, e.g.] is TABLE WINES, which is a nice evocative entry.
- 36A [Focus of a diary in some sleep therapy sessions] is LUCID DREAMING, which I don’t believe I’ve seen reference to in a puzzle before. A friend of mine swears you should regularly count your fingers while awake to facilitate lucid dreaming. Apparently if you are in the habit of doing this while awake, you may do so while dreaming, notice that you have more or fewer than the usual five fingers per hand, and thus enter a lucid-dream state. I tried this, but didn’t stick with it long enough to notice anything.
- 59A [Chow from a halal cart, e.g.] is the delightful STREET MEAT. I’m realizing I need to go out of my way to patronize some good carts now that I don’t work in the office any more.
- 62A [Yoga class respite] is CHILD’S POSE. Not just a respite from yoga class! Highly recommended as a cure for what ails you, if what ails you is “I sit at a desk all day.”
- 11D [Vacay for parents-to-be] is BABYMOON, a neologism I don’t believe I’ve seen in a puzzle before.
- 37D [Repurposed creatively, as trash] is UPCYCLED, another neologism that feels fresh.
Highly enjoyable, if too easy. Nice puzzle!
Ross Trudeau’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Ice Melt” — pannonica’s write-up
The theme answers in this one have ICE columns descending from them. They’re part of the original phrase, which is wackified by the absence.
- 26a. [Democratically elected comedian Margaret?] THE PEOPLE’S CHO.
14d [Freelancer’s bill] INVOICE.
(the people’s choice)
- 40a. [Pacino playing a convict?] AL IN CHAINS.
34d [Pizzeria order] SLICE.
(Alice in Chains)
- 52a. [Aggressive image consulting?] COMPETITIVE PR.
55d [Potato presses] RICERS.
- 80a. [One sent to unseat senators?] POL DISPATCHER.
81d [Cause of some head scratching] LICE.
- 94a. [Actor Patel playing a doctor?] MEDICAL DEV.
85d [Pro tip, e.g.] ADVICE.
- 109a. [“Shoo, kitty! Her Honor doesn’t want you on her lap!”] OFF OF THE MAYOR.
92d [Imposing building] EDIFICE.
(office of the mayor)
And not entirely uncoincidentally, in the center is 67a [Crossword clue with a question mark, frequently] PUN.
Regarding PEOPLE’S CHO(ICE), this is based on real polling:
The theme is the sort of thing we see not infrequently, and this is a well-executed rendition.
- 27d [Happy Himalayan’s sound] PURR, 112d [Hungry Himalayan’s sound] MEOW. 106d [Manx male] TOM.
- 46d [Cheap cleaning tool] RAG MOP. 42a [Horrid digs] RATHOLE.
- 52d [B in music?] CARDI. 68d [She’s featured on Justin’s “Beauty and a Beat”] NICKI.
- 54d [Lazybones] IDLER.
- 58d [Tour hire] ROADIE. 41d [Intensify] AMP UP. 4d [Laborious voyage?] WORK TRIP.
- Favorite clue/answer? 74d [Firth froth] SPUME.
- 76d [Like some flags and pasts] CHECKERED. This was a vital entry for me. I had the initial C and was able to get the whole word from that, granting me access to the southeast section of the grid, where I needed an in.
- Second-favorite clue: 99d [Backs in the America’s Cup] STERNS.
- 110d [Pulitzer winner Robert __ Butler] OLEN. Is he still relevant? I’d prefer to see the excellent espionage writer OLEN Steinhauer referenced more. He’s recently received even wider exposure because the film version of his (in my opinion lesser) novella All the Old Knives was released a month or so ago. I haven’t seen it yet.
addendum: Robert OLEN Butler is still cranking out books too.
- 23a [Discovery channel?] NASA TV. Thought this might be NATGEO. Discovery here refers to one of the retired space shuttles.
- 29a [Control, literally] THRALL. Radical!
- 60a [Motion of the ocean] TIDE.
- 87a [“I didn’t expect that!”] HUH. 79a [“Gulp!”] EEP.
- 100a [Under-the-table flirting] KNEESIES. Had not heard of this, but it was inferable as a variation of footsie(s).
- 103a [Brother of Dori and Nori, in “The Hobbit”] ORI. Huh, eep.
- 117a [Like some military bands] REGIMENTAL. 123a [Govt. rule] REG (regulation). I checked etymologies and these are derived from different Latin words: regimen and regula, which may ultimately be related? In any case, I wouldn’t cry ‘dupe’.
- 126a [Bug juice?] GAS. Bug here is a nickname for the Volkswagen Beetle. Clue fooled me and I needed the crossings.
Matthew Sewell’s Newsday crossword, Saturday Stumper — pannonica’s write-up
Whew! Another workout. Not quite as stumpery for me as recent offerings, but still a major challenge.
Last section to fall for me was the lower part of the northeast. For the mysterious 11d [Lone Ranger ring request enclosure] BOXTOP I had no idea and thought perhaps the Lone Ranger was the adopted moniker of a professional wrestler (hence ‘ring’) so I went with BOOT UP. This gave me ROUS for 25a [Predators of the lizards of Oz] and I envisioned a mashup or fanfic of Oz lore and the Princess Bride because People Do Such Things. Previously I’d considered ROCS but that went nowhere with crossings. So ROOS is the answer I don’t know if that indicates kangaroos or something fictional. Finally, 18a [More, for less?] as OTRA (Spanish for ‘other’) somehow seemed plausible after some of the other clues I’d encountered. XTRA.
- 1a [Was stopped] STOOD STILL.
- 17a [Where posers are often presented] ART CLASSES. People! Do not confuse poseur and poser. The usage is correct here. This is also the proper spelling for a difficult problem or puzzle.
- 19a [“Miss” metaphor] BUS. Wow, that’s stretchy.
- 38a [One may be touring] CAR. Had VAN at first, and was speculating that 30d [Producer of a “Don’t Hang On, Hang Up!” video] FCC might instead be –TV
- 11a [Flying fruit-eaters] BATS. These are primarily but not exclusively megabats.
- 26a [Where to see columns on the house] FREE NEWSPAPER. I could see that there was misdirection in the clue but still needed a lot of crossings to get the answer. Another stretchy clue.
- The other long across answer was also recalcitrant, but I could only understand the clue retroactively: 41a [Where you meet we?] ROYAL AUDIENCE. Sheez.
- 35a [Call unexpectedly] POP IN. Call as in visit.
- 40a [Hardly fair] RAINY. As it is today where I am. Windy too.
- 45a [Artie __ (Disney “Gummi Bears” toucan] DECO. Pretty sure I don’t want to know about a gummi bears cartoon.
- 51a [Document placeholder] NMI (no middle initial).
- 55a [Special order for Qatar Airways (!)] KOSHER MEAL. Not seeing the need for the clue’s parenthetical exclamation point.
- 59a [Rise] ASCENDANCE stacked upon 61a [Rise preventers] SHIRT STAYS.
- 7d [Paper from the Latin for “woven”] TISSUE. Interesting to learn. “Middle English tysshewe, tyssew, a rich fabric, from Anglo-French tissue, from past participle of tistre to weave, from Latin texere (m-w)
- Longdowns: 12d [Coldly impersonal] ANTISEPTIC, which came rather easily. 27d [Many a railroad relic, today] RETRO DINER, which did not.
- 22d [Object of aversion] TOAD. That’s rather pejorative, especially if you aren’t explicitly invoking the metaphorical sense.
- 23d [Cabinet nickname] PETE. Buttigieg.
- 26d [Ecclesiastic sounding like an appliance] FRIAR. Cute and helpful clue.
- 36d [Zoologist’s mouths] ORA. A small but critical gimme for me.
- 39d [“Life” lesson] HACK. This refers to so-called life hacks, timesavers and other bits of cleverness. The clue confused me, however, and I thought the quotation marks were suggesting the board game or the photo-infused periodical.
- 40d [Best alternative] REGARDS. Referring to the closing of a letter, but the clue was oblique enough that I tried REGULAR first.
- 43d [Be of two minds] DITHER. 5d [Is in no hurry to decide] DALLIES.
- 52d [Whaler-turned-retailer] MACY. Did not know that origin.
Brooke Husic’s USA Today crossword “Saying Four Letter Words”—Matthew’s write-up
Our themers are common spoken phrases that are each three words of four letters long:
- 14a [“Choose any!”] TAKE YOUR PICK
- 33a [“I promise I won’t ask again”] JUST THIS ONCE
- 52a [“Please visit again!] COME BACK SOON
I struggled to move through this one due to limited connectivity from one side (NW corner) to the other (SE corner), and a high word count (78), but those are personal bugaboos. I appreciated the longer entries, as I often do in USA Today puzzles — SUCCESS STORY is particularly colorful, AFROMEXICAN [7d Like son jarocho music] provides me a YouTube rabbit hold for the day, and VAL JAMES a bit of hometown pride- more on him below.
- 28a [Root veggie in key sir alicha] BEET. I love BEETs, but can’t eat them, alas. Key sir alicha is an Ethiopian beet-and-potatoes dish.
- 2d [Genetic substance in the game Eterna] RNA. This isn’t just a cryptic-style clue- EteRNA is styled like so (though it would have given away the clue), and is similar to Foldit that crowdsources human puzzle-solving skills to learn more about how RNA folds – puzzles that are rather difficult for current computer models.
- 23d [Former NHL player who wrote “Black Ice”] VAL JAMES. James played parts of two seasons in the NHL, one stint with my hometown Buffalo Sabres, and another with the Toronto Maple Leafs. The first African American and first Florida-born player in the NHL, James played a number of years in minor league hockey as well before retiring due to a shoulder injury. And you know, the book is a darn good, no punches pulled, look at hockey and prejudice in sport during the 70s and 80s.
Taylor Johnson’s Universal Crossword, “Universal Freestyle 19”— Jim Q’s write-up
- YOU’RE NOT SERIOUS…
- SPACE WESTERNS (ok the plural is a bit weird…)
- THERE’S NO “I” IN TEAM
- POINT OF NO RETURN
- CLEAR FAVORITE
- “ME” DAYS
Really enjoyed all of the 14 and 15 letter entries in this one. Clued colorfully and enjoyable to uncover, especially THERE’S NO I IN TEAM which is delightfully funky looking in a crossword grid due to the double I.
I’ve never seen the SPACE WESTERNS “Firefly” and “Cowboy Bebop.” Have heard of both, though I admit I thought they were anime series. Google tells me that “Cowboy Bebop” is an anime actually, but I don’t see it tagged specifically as a “space western” on its Wikipedia page (whereas “Firefly” does call itself specifically that).
No big NITs today!
4.5 stars from me :)