Evan Kalish’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
So much fun stuff in this puzzle, but I’m not sure why it’s running on a Saturday because it felt like a Friday puzzle to me.
Fave fill: THE SCREAM; mathy HEXAHEDRA; WALLABIES; the GREAT RECESSION; NETFLIX SPECIAL clued via two great ones, 36a. [Hannah Gadsby’s “Nanette” or Hasan Minhaj’s “Homecoming King”]; THWACK; TAX TIME; the TRIX RABBIT; a TANKINI; and “OH, IT’S ON!”
Wasn’t wild about ALKENE and THIS ONE, but the grid’s generally quite smooth.
Did not know: 36d. [Decorative painting on an airplane fuselage], NOSE ART. Small planes, warplanes, jumbo jets? Speaking of that, I feel like don’t really see a lot of tattooed noses. Let’s change that.
Five more things:
- 21a. [Needlework verb or noun], TAT. Remember back in the day when TAT was clued as a needlework verb, before tattoos got so commonplace and nicknamed?
- 49a. [“S.N.L.” alum Rachel], DRATCH. Love her!
- 57a. [Competitor in the Prix de Lausanne], BALLERINA. Another thing I knew nothing about. Needed the crossings to point the way, thinking it was probably some sort of race. Not quite.
- 6d. [Image problem?], REBUS. What a great clue! A puzzly problem involving a picture is an “image problem.”
- 46d. [Saya, for a katana], SHEATH. Saya was new to me, but I learned that a katana is a particular type of Japanese sword through my crossword-editing work. Definitely an educational job, my friends.
Four stars from me.
Angela Olson Halsted’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up
I’ve been slacking off on submitting themelesses lately — too many other irons in the fire — but I’m making a mental note to send at least one to Patti Varol that doesn’t have a single baseball clue in it. It’s not that I hate baseball; it’s actually the only sportsball I can put up with, and I have been known to show up at a Phillies game (or at a Mets game in Phillies clothing; uh-oh, now Patti’s never going to accept another puzzle from me again) now and then. But it feels like there’s been a distinct uptick in baseball clues since Mets fan Patti took the editorial reins, and this puzzle has three of them: Ken GRIFFEY at 15A, clued as [One cog in the Big Red Machine], Chase UTLEY at 29A [Chase with a slide rule], and NL EAST at 58-Across [Nats division]. The first two, IMO, require a reasonably deep level of baseball knowledge to get without a majority of the crossings.
So yeah: I don’t hate baseball, but I would like a little more balance! On to some highlights:
- 21A [Number of Olympic medals won by Katie Ledecky] for TEN. Yay for women’s sports!
- 30A [Age of enlightenment?] is TODAY YEARS OLD. Great newish-yet-not-already-dated entry and a great clue, too.
- 47A I was moving so quickly through the SE corner that I didn’t notice [Drag queen Bianca del ___] for RIO, but I would’ve dropped it with no crossings. She’s the winner of Drag Race Season 6.
- 14D [Jaleel White’s show]: Although it’s way too easy to drop in a 13-letter entry if it’s FAMILY MATTERS and you are a Person of a Certain Age, as I am, I enjoyed the reminder of my childhood.
- 15D [Roadside assistant?] is a hilarious clue for GOOD SAMARITAN.
I was not crazy about the clue [Catlike Pokemon] for MEW, given that the W is crossing a proper noun that’s clued on the tougher side.
Paul Coulter’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Enclosures” — pannonica’s write-up
For the theme, phrases are wackified by appending an N to the ending. “N-closure”.
- 23a. [Person who rents out a grassy expanse?] LETTER OF THE LAWN (… law).
- 33a. [Playwright O’Casey?] IRISH SEAN (… Sea).
- 49a. [Breakfast of champions?] SPORTS BRAN (… bra).
- 52a. [Presidential oath as the Depression took hold?] HOOVER DAMN (… Dam).
- 84a. [Place for couples to rest in a dance club?] DISCO DIVAN (… diva).
- 87a. [Housing for extremely smart cows?] GENIUS BARN (… Bar).
- 100a. [Totally impressive marsh wader?] EPIC HERON (… hero).
- 116a. [“Can I get some wardrobe advice?”] TELL ME WHAT TO DON (… do).
These are all mildly entertaining, but I can’t say I’m wild for it.
- 4d [Sloth’s kin] ANTEATER. Some time ago there was a catchall taxon called Edentata (“without teeth” — which is a partial misnomer anyway). That, however, was found to be polyphyletic, i.e., its members did not share a direct common ancestor. Sloths and anteaters, along with armadillos, comprise the superorder Xenarthra, and within Xenarthra they make up the order Pilosa.
- 35d [Military flyer] AIRMAN. Seems almost weird these days to see a non-gendered clue for a masculine entry.
- 40d [Indeterminate ordinal] NTH, which seems vaguely theme-adjacent.
- 43d [ __ dixit] IPSE. Had IPSO for some time, which stymied my finishing the grid.
- Favorite clue: 58a [Common aspiration] AITCH. Or as they pronounce it over in the UK, haitch.
- 39a [Lowish USN rank] ENS. Also comes across as theme-adjacent.
- 61a [Alternatives to jumpers] SET SHOTS. With my misfill of IPSE and presumption that it was about clothing, it was difficult for me to perceive the basketball context.
- Similarly, 50d [Diamond club] BAT is a baseball reference, and then 71a [Makes a touchdown] is a football misdirection for LANDS.
- 125a [Coral colony component] POLYP. One of the rare times I would have appreciated a cross-referenced clue, in this case with 29a [Victim of Perseus] MEDUSA.
Steve Mossberg’s Newsday crossword, Saturday Stumper — pannonica’s write-up
This one fell astonishingly quickly for me. Was able to get toeholds—nay, footholds!—right away, and every time I encountered a relatively tricky clue there were already sufficient crossings to see through the ruse or opacity.
The only section which slowed me at all was the lower right, and even that didn’t put up much resistance as I SPED (2d) to the finish.
- 18a [Pitches caught by looking] ADS. Or hearing.
- 38a [Jacob, after his angel-wrestling] ISRAEL. Was unsure if the crossing 35d [Flyspeck] was MITE or MOTE, but OSRAEL just didn’t ring any bells.
- 40a [Pug nose] SNOUT. Clue invokes the dog breed. I actually considered the obviously-too-long RHINARIUM for a moment.
- 48a [Name close to Washington’s in reference books] OREGON. Those books would most likely be atlases.
- 61a [Nostalgic focus] YESTERYEAR. I still associate this word with the opening narration of The Lone Ranger television reruns I saw as a child: “Return … to the thrilling days of YESTERYEAR …”
- 10d [Many wedding dresses] SARIS. With no crossings whatsoever, that was my immediate guess, but I judiciously waited for confirmation.
Haven’t got much else to say about this one. Just a smooth themeless, and a decent Saturday morning diversion.
Amanda Rafkin’s USA Today crossword, “Running the Gauntlet”—Matthew’s write-up
Our theme today draws from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I can’t tell you how this would play for someone not familiar with the MCU, but I’d like to think only the central revealer really requires that knowledge. Let’s start there:
- 40a [Any of six items sought by Thanos, represented in the starred answers] INFINITY STONE. A storyline spanning a decade+ that came to a head in Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame a few years ago.
As the clue mentions, we’ve got six more themers throughout the grid. They’re all different lengths, so in nonsymmetric positions, and indeed the grid itself is asymmetrical to boot:
- 1a [“Hurry! We don’t have much ____!] TIME. The Time Stone first appeared in the Doctor Strange movies.
- 16a [“Do you ___?!”] MIND. The Mind Stone was initially in Loki’s Scepter during the first Avengers film, and was later used to power Vision, played by Paul Bettany.
- 51a [“Queer Eye” TV genre] REALITY. First appeared in Thor: The Dark World
- 70a [“The Final Frontier”] SPACE. First appeared in the Tesseract, which played a role in the first Captain America and first Avengers film.
- 71a [Heart and ___] SOUL. The last stone to appear in the film chronology, we only saw it midway through Avengers: Infinity War.
- 8d [Telekinesis or invisibility, e.g.] POWER. First seen in The Guardians of the Galaxy.
A little bit of bonus Marvel content, as well, in 3d [Wanda Maximoff, to Billy and Tommy] MOM, and 32a [Feature of each of the X-Men] MUTATION. Other highlights for me include: SUE ME, ITS NOT A RACE, FEEL OUT, and YOU UP.
Billy Bratton’s Universal Crossword, “Universal Freestyle 27” — Jim Q’s write-up
Oh boy. There’s a lot.
The pillars of course:
- TESTED THE WATERS
- ON SECOND THOUGHT
And virtually everything else, especially
- CHAT BOT
- ASKED AFTER
- DEAD PANS
Really, there’s no point in continuing. Everything in this puzzle was really quite nice. There’s literally no crud. No Crosswordese. Just beautiful. It flowed perfectly for me solving too. Just enough gentle bite (by Universal standards) to keep it fun and interesting and nothing to disrupt the solve.
I can’t remember the last time I solved a themeless that was this smooth.
The only thing I don’t get is the clue for EVERLOVIN’ [Emphatic, elided adjective]. When I google it, the only thing I get is a song with that title. Any help there?
My favorite mistake was seeing IPLAN?? and entering IPLANET (without reading the clue)… as in iPlanet. Like Apple is now making Smart Planets. Maybe reshaping Pluto into something useful. I dunno.
Anyway, a hard 5 stars for this one. Well done.