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.