Robyn Weintraub’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
What, what?? I solved this in a decidedly Tuesdayish amount of time. I know Robyn is great at writing easy clues as well as tricky ones, but a themeless NYT doesn’t typically skew this easy.
Fave fill: BANKROLLED, “FANCY THAT,” STAR FLEET crossing ICE PLANET in the sci-fi battle of the franchises, CRUNCH TIME, BIRDHOUSES, NOVA SCOTIA, SOLAR PANELS, the jocular CIRCULAR FILE, a school FIELD TRIP, the DUTY-FREE SHOP, and TENURE TRACK. This grid is just jammed with great long fill!
Seven more things:
- My husband was just watching a Jimi Hendrix documentary the other night, so I had to laugh at 14a. [Jimi Hendrix vis-à-vis the Monkees, in 1967], OPENING ACT. Then I read the clue to my husband, who also laughed and said “I wouldn’t want to be the Monkees.” Tough act to follow!
- 17a. [Supplied with dough, as a bakery], BANKROLLED. Fun clue.
- 33a. [Actor Burton], LEVAR. He’s on TV right now, hosting the Scripps Spelling Bee. Cytisine??
- 6d. [Looks like a jerk], OGLES. Indeed. Ogling is a jerk move, for sure.
- 15d. [Designer Kamali who made Farrah Fawcett’s iconic red swimsuit], NORMA. A bit of trivia I didn’t know! (And of course I knew the name Norma Kamali—that’s not the trivia part here.)
- 41d. [Take a plane to], SHAVE. As in using the tool called a plane to shave down a piece of wood.
- 45d. [Dollar alternative], EURO. And there I was, torn between “Well, AVIS doesn’t start with an E, and ENTERPRISE isn’t 4 letters.”
4.25 stars from me.
Jeffrey Wechsler’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up
Nary a K to be found in this grid, but most notably in the theme answers, where it’s been dropped from familiar phrases. Since in each case it would have been preceded by a C, they still sound correct. Additionally, the K-less remainders are words in their own right.
- 20a. [Medic with an office at Fisherman’s Wharf?] THE DOC OF THE BAY ((“Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay”).
- 25a. [Leaders inclined to work as a group?] BLOC HEADS (blockheads).
- 45a. [Captain Hook’s incredulous assessment of his nemesis?] WHAT A CROC (what a crock).
- 50a. [Puts comfy shoes through rigorous testing?] HOLDS A MOC TRIAL (holds a mock trial). I think this one is my favorite.
Those are fun, no?
- 12d [Early ICBM] TITAN I.
- 21d [Play-__ ] DOH. What makes it smell so distinctively weird?
- 44d [“The Gleaners” painter Jean-François] MILLET. The artist is not to be confused with his contemporary, English painter John Everett Millais.
- 51d [Move to a warmer state?] MELT, but I first tried NEAR.
- 24a [Extremely chill] SERENE, but I first tried SEDATE.
- 36a [Sun screen] PARASOL. Literally, ‘for the sun’.
- 60a [Some game] DEER. Never a fan of casual hunting references considering such animals ‘game’. I understand the historical context and that I’m reacting in part to modern sensibilities, but still feel this way.
Jeff Stillman’s Universal crossword, “Turning Point”—Jim P’s review
The revealer is RIGHT ON CUE (59a, [Timely, or a phonetic hint to how 16-, 26- and 47-Across turn]). The other theme answers are familiar phrases that feature the letter Q. Those phrases turn right (or down, depending on how you look at it) at said Q. Elegantly, the remaining letters—including and after the Q—spell out actual words which are clued normally.
- 16a. [With 18-Down, out-of-the-ordinary solicitation] SPECIAL RE(Q)UEST
- 26a. [With 27-Down, sea creature that can be 43 feet long] GIANT S(Q)UID
- 47a. [With 49-Down, gourd with ridges] ACORN S(Q)UASH
The turning aspect of the theme was apparent from the first theme answer, but why we were using the Q as the “turning point” wasn’t clear until I hit the revealer. I enjoyed that little aha moment.
My only nit would be the title which is too generic and would apply to any puzzle with a turning theme.
Turning themes take up a fair amount of real estate and put extra constraints on the grid. Those limitations are somewhat alleviated here by the fact that there are only three main theme entries. That allows the puzzle to breathe and have room for fun long fill like “BELIEVE ME!,” “I’LL SUE!,” “I AGREE,” OPHELIA, CUT GEMS, OLD HAT, and RED FLAG.
Clue of note: 39d. [Lagasse who contributed recipes to NASA]. EMERIL. Neat factoid. By all accounts, astronauts on the ISS seemed to like their meals kicked up a notch.
Enjoyable puzzle. 3.75 stars.
Rafael Musa’s USA Today crossword, “Big Break”—Darby’s write-up
Editor: Amanda Rafkin
Theme: Each theme answer is bracketed by letters spelling out BIG, literally “breaking” the word.
- 19a [“Field developing prosthetics”] BIOENGINEERING
- 35a [“Pink, purple and blue pride symbol”] BISEXUAL FLAG
- 52a [“Former tennis player with 39 Grand Slam titles”] BILLIE JEAN KING
I saw the grid for this puzzle on Twitter this morning before I solved it, and I was immediately excited by BISEXUAL FLAG, the clue for which was highlighted. The title was pretty self-explanatory, and it was super helpful as I was sorting through the organized mess that is my brain to find the word BIOENGINEERING. BILLIE JEAN KING was also such a fun third themer here.
Theme fill aside, I thought that this puzzle was so fun and so well-composed. I loved the very fun LGBTQ+-oriented answers that included both 18a [“Like many characters in queer fan fiction”] GAY and 10d [“Performer who might sport a fake mustache”] DRAG KING. Plus, I also loved that DRAG KING was right next to 9d [“Mississippi’s state flower”] MAGNOLIA for two really solid eight-letter answers.
Some Friday faves for me:
- 16a [“She holds the record for the most goals scored at FIFA World Cup tournaments”] – It is iconic that MARTA is most commonly known just by her first name. Marta currently plays for the Orlando Pride.
- 41a [“Author Ijeoma”] – Ijeoma OLUO is the author of So You Want to Talk About Race and Mediocre: The Danger Legacy of White Male America.
- 56a [“Stimulate, like interest”] -My interest is often PIQUEd in small 35d [“Small shops with trendy items”] BOUTIQUEs, and the assonance in that sentence is just great so I thought that this crossing was prime.
I had so much fun with this Friday puzzle. It felt very purposeful and smooth in its theme and fill, and I would do it again if I could.
Trip Payne’s New Yorker crossword—Matthew’s write-up
We’ve got a reality tv theme from Trip Payne today. I’ve been enjoying the heck out of Trip’s cryptics over at LEO, and this is the first “American style” I can recall solving of his. As I’ve come to expect, some fun humor, as the last words of reality show titles are anagrammed to create fun new shows.
- 16a [Reality show about an ex-Housewife’s fishing-tackle business?] VANDERPUMP LURES (“Rules”)
- 25a [Reality show on which contestants have to pretend to sing whatever song comes up on their iPads?] LIP SYNC TABLET (“Battle”)
- 44a [Reality show that rewards the most careless competitor?] PROJECT UNWARY (“Runway”)
- 57a [Reality show about queens trying to look glamorous while working on a small farm?] RUPAULS DRAG ACRE (“Race”)
I didn’t have much trouble completing the grid despite not really being a TV person; of this batch, I’ve seen the most of Project Runway, and least (none) of Vanderpump Rules.
Totally personal preference, but I like when we see 15-13-13-15 theme arrangements for the center area that come of out the L-shaped arrangements of black blocks. There’s some cool connectivity into that center range despite it being framed by those shapes, with GENE WILDER [3d Frequent collaborator of Richard Pryor], DOGS AGE, and EL MARIACHI [27d 1992 Robert Rodirguez film whose title figure is a travelling guitarist] particular highlights for me.
Karen Lurie’s Inkubator crossword, “Truth be Told”—Rebecca’s review
A great themed puzzle from Karen Lurie, that SPILLs THE T from the start of each themed answer.
20-Across [Pub orders you’ll drink down?] ALES OF WOE
33-Across [One preferring joints to edibles?] WEED BLAZER
44-Across [Babies reaching for hoops?] EAR JERKERS
59-Across [Tell it like it is, or a hint to 20-, 33-, and 44-Across] SPILL THE T
This puzzle gave me a few good chuckles and the SPILL THE T revealer brought something fresh to the ‘drop-a-letter’ genre. Of the themed entries, WEED BLAZER came easiest to me, but I didn’t get the theme until the ALES OF WOE fell – and the clues for each of these were great.
Here’s Janet Jacksons ESCAPADE