Sophia Maymudes & Margaret Seikel’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Kind of a toughie for a Friday, no? Your mileage may have varied. I struggled with a few things that were new to me:
- 15a. [Place to slurp ramen], NOODLE BAR. Hadn’t heard the term before—ramen bar, maybe? (I’m not a big noodle or salty-broth fan.)
- 34a. [Group photo pose during a rush], SORORITY SQUAT. Zero exposure to such things. Rush -> SORORITY, but SQUAT was all crossings.
- 14d. [Marsupium, by another name], KANGAROO POUCH. Did I really not know the word marsupium till now?
- 42d. [___ Gant, protagonist of Thomas Wolfe’s “Look Homeward, Angel”], EUGENE. I’ve never read Wolfe.
- Filled this one in via the crossings, had no idea Drake started a label—47a. [Record label co-founded by Drake], OVO.
Fave fill: PROVOLONE and BURRATA (I like provolone and adore burrata!), classic NPR CAR TALK, the TINY HOUSE movement, VROOM, LOVERS’ QUARREL, TED LASSO, and civil rights legend FANNIE Lou Hamer.
Not keen on IDE and AHUM, but the rest of the puzzle’s pretty darn smooth.
Five more things:
- 5a. [Creator of terraced agricultural fields known as andenes], INCA. The term andene is new to me; apparently these terraces are found in the Andes but the word’s from the Spanish for platform.
- 2d. [Polecats, raccoons, squirrels, etc.], CRITTERS. I can’t believe possums aren’t in this clue!
- 22d. [Brazilian’s place], SPA. Brazilian waxing, not Brazilian people! Nice mislead for RIO.
- 37d. [TV character who said “I do love a locker room. It smells like potential”], TED LASSO. Oh? Is that what that smell is? (Can’t wait for season 3 to start next month!)
- 44d. [Windows might be opened by one], PC USER. Dang, this one broke my brain. I just was not parsing it correctly! A weird experience.
Four stars from me.
Paul Steinberg and Karen Steinberg’s Universal crossword, “Left Out”—Jim P’s review
It’s an all-Steinberg affair today, especially when you count editor David Steinberg.
Team Steinberg brought us a nifty grid in which every instance of the letter L can be removed while still leaving valid crossword entries in the grid. These entries are annotated with an arrow in the clue indicating what the words become without the Ls.
The central entry serves as a revealer: AXELS (37a, [Skating jumps … or, read as two parts, a theme hint –> Graph lines]). AXELS are skating jumps, but if we take it as two parts, we find the instructions AXE LS (i.e. remove Ls), and finally, when we do that to this word itself, we get AXES, which are graph lines. Quite a lot packed into one short word.
- 16a. [Spewing fumes, say –> Moping]. POLLUTING. Pouting.
- 18a. [Michael of Monty Python –> Nuisance. PALIN. Pain.
- 20a. [Moves like a crab –> Slaw and fries, for two]. SIDLES. Sides.
- 42a. [Hit with snowballs –> Ferret, e.g.]. PELT. Pet.
- 54a. [Paris or Kathy –> Discover suddenly]. HILTON. Hit on.
- 59a. [It really sucks –> It does the heavy lifting]. BLACK HOLE. Backhoe. Really nice find here.
- 3d. [Got soupy, maybe –> Handed (out)]. MELTED. Meted.
- 4d. [Heap –> It can be savory or sweet]. PILE. Pie.
- 9d. [“Anyhoo …” –> Barnyard symbol of anger]. “WELL, THEN.” Wet hen. An idiomatic phrase I’ve never heard of: “Mad as a wet hen.”
- 23d. [Intuits –> Charges]. FEELS. Fees.
- 36d. [Fancy foil –> Lose one’s hearing]. GOLD LEAF. Go deaf. Another impressive find.
- 47d. [Nearly boils –> Oodles]. SCALDS. Scads.
- 56d. [Spread a dandelion –> Curtsy counterpart]. BLOW. Bow.
Wow. This must have taken a lot of attention to detail and a long time to put together. Not only do the L words have to still make other words when the Ls are removed, but the crossing words must have Ls in those specific positions which must also be removable. And of course the grid must be fun and smooth and interesting, and this one sure is. The theme is pervasive in every corner of the grid, so there are a lot of constraints here, but overall, it’s an impressively executed theme. Nicely done.
It seems like almost all the long fill is involved with the theme, but there’s INTEREST, TIPS OFF, and BRASS HAT which are not. I’ve heard of “big brass” and “top brass” but not BRASS HAT. One dictionary I found says it’s chiefly a British idiom, another said it’s mostly used in the Army and Navy (not Air Force, which is my background). Whatever its usage, it refers to the fancy hats the bigwigs wear which often have gold braids on them.
Clues of note:
- 15a. [Tinker’s receiver in baseball]. EVERS. Well, CHANCE didn’t fit.
- 46d. [Apple product with a notch]. IPHONE. Never thought about it, but I guess there’s a notch at the top where the speaker is.
Impressive all-Steinberg affair. Four stars.
Rebecca Goldstein’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up
Don’t entirely know what it is, but this crossword never seemed to jibe with me.
Caught onto the theme easily enough, but the relevant entries seemed kind of blah, and one anomalously obscure—at least to what I imagine is an average solver. Worse, that one’s located in a section (left flank to lower left corner) that has cluing—to my sense—notably more oblique and ambiguous than elsewhere in the puzzle.
The result is a schizophrenic solving experience, at least for me.
- 17a. [Something heard around Chicago, literally?] WE(ACCENT)ST = Midwest accent.
- 26a. [Hurdle before spring break, literally?] TE(EXAM)RM = midterm exam.
- 40a. [Passport or Pilot, literally?] SI(SUV)ZE = midsize SUV.
- 51a. [Frog that carries fertilized eggs on its back, literally?] WI(TOAD)FE = midwife toad. This behavior is carried out by males of the genus Alytes.
- 64a. [Reason to buy a sports car, for some, literally?] LI(CRISIS)FE = midlife crisis. I’d posit it’s more of an excuse than a reason.
As for that difficult section I mentioned above, for 39a [Brooding sort] HEN, I went with EMO, which impeded my progress for a long time. Was certain of 47a [Regional plant life] as FLORA, nearly as positive about 55a [Frozen over] as ICY. The tricksy 43a [Locked account] DIARY wasn’t particularly forthcoming. Then, the downs were tricky, as were the trio of three-letter answers at the bottom. 28d [Adult __ ] ADHD seemed as if it could be nearly anything, ditto 29d [“Suit yourself!”] SEE IF I CARE, and the hockey pun of 30d [Shark cage?] PENALTY BOX was mysterious. The aforementioned crosses: 62a [Snatches] NABS, 66a [Grasp] GROK, 69a [Hot] SEXY. Also, I feel that 51d [Boneless appetizer] WINGS should’ve been qualified as a sometimes boneless appetizer.
The rest of the grid? Much easier.
- 4d [Bit of info] FACTOID. Regular readers know that I eschew this particular word, preferring factette. The suffix -oid indicates “something resembling a (specified) object or having a (specified) quality”. Note that it doesn’t necessarily have those characteristics; the implication is that it may only appear to possess them.
- 5d [The “A” of LGBTQIA+, for short] ACE, for asexual.
- 15d [Mammal that uses kelp as a blanket] OTTER. Once again, this is specifically the sea otter, one of 13 extant species in the subfamily Lutrinae.
- 18d [Crust] CHAR. Poll: are these both verbs, or both nouns?
- 22d [Rust] OXIDE. Would have appreciated an e.g. qualifier for this one. Tried to put in OCHER/OCHRE at first.
- 53d [Yosemite peak free-climbed by Emily Harrington, familiarly] EL CAP, short for El Capitán.
- 60d [Corp. bean counters] CFOS. Very figuratively.
- 23a [Digital thermometer?] TOE. As in, using a toe to test the water.
Rebecca Goldstein’s USA Today Crossword, “Cuties” — Sophia’s recap
Editor: Erik Agard
Theme: Each theme answer is a two word phrase in which the first word begins with Q and the second begins with T.
- 20a [End of the workday] – QUITTING TIME
- 38a [Field of study that challenges heteronormativity] – QUEER THEORY
- 55a [Fast problem-solver] – QUICK THINKER
Standout fill: ASEXUAL, SEMISWEET, INKJET, all of the themers! There are a lot of weird letters (Q, J, X, etc) in the puzzle and none of them feel forced.
Standout clues: 61a [One of the White House Trio in “Red, White & Royal Blue”] for NORA, 16a[Kidlit character with a pet turtle named Skipperdee] for ELOISE. At different points in my life, I read both of these books a lot.
Take care of yourselves today, folks.
Finn Vigeland’s New Yorker crossword, “Lit reviews”—Amy’s recap
Slang words that mean “great”—dope, fire, tight, sick, and sweet—appear in phrases and compound words with different meanings. Finn clues the phrases as if the slang meaning holds there:
- 17a. [Five-star review of a ghost costume?], DOPE SHEET. No idea what “DOPE SHEET!” means normally.
- 39a. [Five-star review of a cheese plate?], “FIRE CRACKERS!”
- 62a. [Five-star review of a handmade sweater?], “TIGHT KNIT!”
- 16d. [Five-star review of a standup special?], “SICK JOKES!”
- 29d. [Five-star review of a lecture?], “SWEET TALK!”
Likes: the shortened OBVI and CHOREO, SWANKY, FREE RIDE.
33d. [Pull an Irish goodbye, say], SNEAK OUT. Aka the French exit. Some say the Irish goodbye isn’t sneaking out of a party unannounced but rather, spending a half hour at the door on the way out, enmeshed in conversation and unable to just go. What “Irish goodbye” is not is an ethnic stereotype.
3.75 stars from me.
NYT: For a while, it was surprisingly smooth sailing, e.g. in the NW. But then I hit some tough intersections and that SQUAT definitely threw me (SHOOT? SQUAD?). I’ve been to BIG SUR innumerable times but never heard of that park…
But the food helped! The NOODLE, the SHISH and the cheeses…And the 2 excellent down answers, KANGAROO POUCH and LOVERS QUARREL. Well done!
New Yorker: I could done without the ethnic stereotyping of 33D.
I had the same reaction. It took me quite some time to bring myself to enter it.
As with other themed TNY puzzles, a theme here means commonalities among long entries, not something the solver has to do, whether by working out a rebus or recognizing the phrase behind a punning answer. So, as usual, not a fave for me.
Its language and references will be either impressively contemporary or needlessly obscure, according to taste. Again, that’s TNY. So far, my 1.5 rating actually raised the average a quarter of a point, but that’s based on only four other ratings thus far, and others no doubt will differ.
Are you guys serious with that?
I appreciate your explaining it, and I stand corrected. Still, you have to admit that SNEAK OUT sounds neither like an affectionate, protected farewell nor flattering. It sounds like the MO of a thief.
That’s one interpretation, Amy. The other is sneaking out so the host won’t see how drunk you are. I stand by my disapproval.
Are you basing that on anything factual? Or did you just assume it was about drunkenness and take umbrage? Because the way people use this phrase, it’s got nothing to do with drunkenness at all. Did you apply a negative stereotype yourself and get upset?
In older times it was called “French leave.”
I laughed at “Like AOL software, orginally” (ON CD). I guess there are people who never heard of floppy discs.
OMG, I for one never saw those AOL floppies. I do still have some of those TYPE of floppy discs sitting around but not AOL… I did finally get rid of all my actual floppy floppies :D :D)… merely thousands of AOL coaster/frisbee/cds everywhere. Thanks for the pic!!
I remember my disappointment when AOL switched from floppy to CD. The floppies were actually useful as disks, but CDs were useless as anything but coasters.
NYT: It took me too many crossings to get TED LASSO, a show I’ve truly enjoyed and about the only sports-themed show I’ve watched. And I also needed too many crosses to get CAR TALK, a show I truly enjoyed and then oddly tired of (I guess I threw my shtick shift in reverse).
Fun puzzle with a nice vibe. A little faster than the average Friday, but not as fast as last week.
I could not get TED LASSO since I had SQUAD above and no idea that was wrong. Add a couple proper name crosses below and I was sunk.
Nice shoutout to Philly and (the much maligned) SEPTA!
I first had SQUAd, too, which may have slowed me down in getting TED LASSO.
I’d never heard of a SORORITY SQUAT before, but looking at pictures afterwards, I admit it’s a thing. (And I admit to some sympathy for the young women who are squatting. It’s not a dignified pose.)
LAT: I was inspired to solve this one by Pannonica’s link to Neko Case’s “Middle Cyclone,” though it’s only now occurring to me why it’s relevant to the puzzle. (Great album by a fantastic singer; we saw her about three weeks ago for our second concert since the pandemic.)
I typically dislike puzzles where the finished grid looks like a bunch of typos (e.g. WITOADFE). If I can make sense of the gibberish without too much effort, it’s better.
I caught on to the theme relatively easy with MIDLIFE CRISIS, but that SW corner took a while. I’d never heard of that frog/toad, I had “Adult Swim” for 28D, “biota” for 47A, and I don’t know my NHL teams well enough to have seen the hockey pun until I had half of PENALTY CAGE from the crosses.
I vote for “char” and “crust” being verbs. My dictionary defines “char” as a noun to mean a bit of charcoal.
Kind of a clever idea, but I’d have enjoyed it more if the SW had matched the rest of the puzzle in terms of difficulty.
I’ve never watched Ted Lasso but I’ve heard it’s very good. Is it possible (or common knowledge) that the locker room quote is an homage to the Robert Duvall quote about the smell of Napalm in the morning?
“Ted Lasso” is one of the best shows I’ve seen in years. It’s rare for TV or a movie to bring me close to tears, but that show has done it a couple of times. And it’s damned funny, too
I’m sure the locker room quote is an “Apocalypse Now” homage. “Ted Lasso” is full of pop culture references like that.
TNY: Now that I’ve seen the solution to the NW corner, I dislike the puzzle even more. How is “Boo-hoo” the answer to the clue “Give me a break?”
Say “boo hoo” in a sarcastic tone.
Doesn’t work for me. I tried “Come on.”
That’s the thing about that kind of clue/answer pair. The answer is often not the way I would express the idea represented by the clue. But I can usually imagine someone saying the answer in a tone that fits the clue.
LAT: boneless wings? Frankenfood! yuk.