David Distenfeld’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
So much fun and fresh stuff in this grid! Fave fill: CATFISHES, LONG PAUSE, DIE-HARD FAN, IN THE WEEDS, STAGE MOMS, TWITTER FEED, HOUSE WINES, “I HAD NO IDEA!,” and ALL THE FEELS. If you’re looking askance at ALL THE FEELS, read what the Merriam-Webster folks wrote about phrases with the feels in them.
Never heard of: 66a. Film technique that accommodates wide- and full-screen display], OPEN MATTE.
Four more things:
- 52a. [First name in gossip], RONA. That’s Rona Barrett, who had a media career from 1957 to 1991. I just glanced at her career phases in Wikipedia, and have decided that late-night host Tom Snyder just might have been a sexist jackass.
- 4d. [Some pudding ingredients], FIGS. This made me wonder: Is figgy pudding actually made with figs? Per this source, the figgy pudding of seven centuries ago “was more of a wet, sticky, thick porridge consisting of boiled figs, water, wine, ground almonds, raisins and honey.” Yum?
- 10d. [They’re used during film production and promotion], TRAILERS. Double meaning. Trailers that are parked vehicles with dressing rooms, etc., inside, used during movie production, and then the promotional trailers/previews used to market a new movie.
- 63d. [Source of withdrawal?], ATM. Cute clue!
Four stars from me.
Matt Westman’s Universal crossword, “Liquid Assets”—Jim P’s review
The last word of each of the main theme answers HOLDS WATER (58a, [Seems valid, or what the end of 17-, 23-, 35- or 48-Across does]).
- 17a. [Self-serving use of government funds] PORK BARREL.
- 23a. [Replacement on the mound] RELIEF PITCHER.
- 35a. [Icon in Wikipedia’s search bar] MAGNIFYING GLASS.
- 48a. [He finds a Willy Wonka golden ticket] CHARLIE BUCKET.
Nice. I didn’t guess the THEME (52d) before uncovering the revealer, so it provided a pleasant aha moment.
Any puzzle with CHARLIE BUCKET in it is a winner in my book. I’ve seen the original movie many times since I was a kid, and that moment—when all hope is lost and Charlie is at his lowest, when suddenly and unexpectedly he finds there’s a chance for him and the tension builds—well, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t still well up and have a thrill in my heart as that hint of gold is revealed and that piccolo sounds. You go, Charlie!
Elsewhere we have an OMELET BAR with EGG WHITES as its symmetrical counterpart, plus ON PURPOSE and CAME CLOSE. Nothing much to scowl at, though LOW PH looks odd in the grid.
Clue of note: 20a. [Basketball legend Bird]. SUE. Shame on me for only thinking of Larry.
Enjoyable grid. 3.75 stars.
Gary Larson & Amy Ensz’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up
- 67aR [Holiday song, and, phonetically, an apt description of the answers to the starred clues] NOEL. Maybe partially phonetically, because it isn’t just the letter L that’s been dropped from the original phrases but the EL bigram. (68a [Start to sneeze?] ESS.)
- 17a. [*Genetically engineered retriever?] DESIGNER LAB (designer label).
- 24a. [*Colleague of an Idaho farmer?] POTATO PEER (potato peeler).
- 36a. [*Advice to someone who doesn’t want more kittens?] FIX THE CAT (Felix the Cat).
- 52a. [*Teaches tricks to circus animals?] LION TRAINS (Lionel trains). While I appreciate the play on ‘train’ here, I can’t conscience the ‘circus animals’ reference. It constitutes animal cruelty and most circuses have moved beyond such inhumane practices. Even the Nabisco cookies have finally shed the trope.
- 57a. [*Food and water supplied during a marathon?] RACE RATIONS (race relations).
Theme’s okay, but not too exciting. And it has that major ding.
- Speaking of dings, there’s another right at 1-down: [“You should smile more”] BE HAPPY. Really? That could be triggering to some. An anodyne Bobby McFerrin reference would’ve just as easy and far less controversial (despite the earworm).
- 3d [Soprano Teresa known for her recording of Berg’s “Lulu”] STRATAS. That seems a bit obscure, even to me.
- 4a [Sacks] BAGS, 4d [Sack] BED, 5d [Body spray brand] AXE. Soooooo close to a triple-sack!
- 25d [Promotional links] TIE-INS. For a brief moment I imagined sausages with logos on them.
- The orthographic resonance between 43d [ __ Angier: fashion house known for accessories] ETIENNE and 44d [Sneaks on the court?] TENNIES is fun.
- 55d [Shrinking Asian sea] ARAL. “sea” (62a [Future louse] NIT.
- 16a [Binary pronoun] HER, 34d [Binary pronoun] SHE.
- 29a [Relatively small upright] PIANINO. Had SPINNET first.
- 33a [Socket set] EYES. Not tools here.
One final question: doesn’t the cusp of summer seem like an odd time to run this a crossword with this theme?
Claire Rimkus’ New Yorker—Matthew’s write-up
This week’s themed New Yorker was a bit tougher than the last few for me. Oh wait, it’s slightly oversized, at 16 wide. Now I’m not sure.
Anyway, our theme plays on phrases with numbers in them:
- 18a [Bikini alternative] (One) PIECE BATHING SUIT
- 37a [Unfaithful] (Two) TIMING TIMING
- 45a [Win back-to-back-to-back championships] (Three) PEAT PEAT PEAT
- 65a [Adjective describing many sedans] (Four) DOOR DOOR DOOR DOOR
If we haven’t seen this exact mechanism before, we’ve seen something like it, but it’s still a good time. I was thrown off throughout the whole puzzle by the difference between the first themer, which has different words, and the rest of the set, which have the same word repeated. The end result was I pretty much filled in each of the second, third, and fourth themers at the same time before cleaning up the remainder. I wonder if there’s a set out there that works for two-, three-, four-, and five-.
- 21a [France: Cesar :: Mexico : _____] ARIEL. I did not know of this award. From Wikipedia: “The name “Ariel” was inspired by a series of short writings called El Ariel by Uruguayan writer José Enrique Rodó that inspired generations of young Latin Americans in the first decades of the 20th century.” Neat!
- 22a [Cable convenience] TIVO. Has TiVo been generalized enough as a term to stand in for any form of DVR? I’m sorry I don’t have the time or bandwidth to research this at the moment.
- 74a [Whaler that inspired Melville’s Pequod] ESSEX. I’m always delighted for Moby-Dick references that aren’t AHAB. (I’m delighted for AHAB, too, but others are extra special). The story of the real-life Essex has inspired a number of retellings, including the 2015 movie In The Heart of the Sea.
Wendy L. Brandes’s USA Today crossword, “Quarter to Five”—Darby’s write-up
Editor: Amanda Rafkin
Theme: Each of the five women featured in this puzzle will appear on a quarter in 2022.
- 21a [“*Maya ___, ‘Still I Rise’ poet”] ANGELOU
- 37a [“*Wilma ___, first woman elected as Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation”] MANKILLER
- 57a [“*Nina ___, suffragist who advocated for bilingual education”] OTERO WARREN
- 70a [“*Anna May ___, first Chinese American Hollywood movie star”] WONG
- 72a [“*Sally ___, first American woman in space”] RIDE
I love this theme and theme set. It’s awesome to learn from Sally’s Blog (and Wendy’s commentary there) that these women will be on quarters beginning this year. Some of these women I could have gotten without as much information as was given in this puzzle, but others, like Wilma MANKILLER and Nina OTERO-WARREN, I definitely did not know as much about. As always, I love the educational aspect of this puzzle, and I think that this puzzle really exemplifies this.
Grid-wise, I loved the top open corners and the fact that it’s a horizontally symmetric puzzle, which is super fun and often allows for this much smoother upper half. It also allowed for both 31d [“Dairy aisle storage bins”] MILK CRATES and 30d [“Gets out of the rain”] TAKES COVER, which are two great tens. It’s also interesting to see the ways in which the women in this puzzle are highlighted and where. Anna May WONG and Sally RIDE anchor the bottom of the grid whereas Maya ANGELOU, Wilma MANKILLER, and Nina OTERO-WARREN fill through the center, making the theme really salient throughout the fill.
That’s all from me!