Matthew Stock & Nam Jin Yoon’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
As the puzzle says, HI, ALL! Tonight I learned two new things:
- 14d. [Niminy-piminy] means PRIM, apparently. Never seen that hyphenated term before.
- 57a. [Actress Beverly of 1989’s “Lean on Me”], TODD. I googled her after solving because the name wasn’t familiar. I’ve almost certainly seen her on the screen before, likely on 1970s-’80s TV shows or Six Feet Under.
Fave fill and clues: RESCUE DOG. [They’re put in quotes] for PRICES. [Stick in one’s mouth] cluing the noun TOOTHPICK. SLURPEE. A tasty PUPUSA, which helped me change those TAPIOCA / BALLS to a TAPIOCA / PEARL. BOWL GAMES and TIRE FIRES. IN THE MAIL. And the goofy “no, YOUR OTHER RIGHT,” which is definitely a thing people say. As a verbally left/right dyslexic (ask me which way to turn your car, and while I can point in the right direction, the wrong word is apt to come out), I approve of this entry.
What else is left? Well, WHAT ELSE IS LEFT feels awkwardly contrived to me; not sure it rises to the level of crosswordable fill.
Five more things:
- 39d. [Desserts once known as petites duchesses], ECLAIRS. Baking trivia!
- 12a. [Relatively new addition to Thanksgiving?], IN-LAW. That “relatively” can mean, as in my case, “person you’ve been celebrating the holiday with for 35 years, which is not as long as with your family of origin.” “Relatively” pulls double weight as the punny pointer to “it’s someone you’re related to.”
- 42d. [Fencing needs], POSTS. I know. You tried it. You wanted EPEES or possibly FOILS, to no avail. This fencing is the sort that might separate neighboring yards from one another, and not the sword-fighting sport. This one took me a long time to suss out, despite my sister telling me some neighbors-and-fences tales earlier today. D’oh!
- 5d. [Neck lines], FRETS. As in those ridges on the neck of a guitar.
- 9d. [Tiny pest], MIDGE. I thought midges were tiny, like little gnats or fruit flies, but there was a midge infestation around the Great Lakes this spring. Closer to mosquito size, but with a darker body. Glad they left!
Four stars from me.
Ben Tolkin’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up
- 48aR [Evolutionary mysteries, and a feature of three clues in this puzzle] MISSING LINKS.
- 20a. [S] MOVE SNEAKILY (“slink”).
- 28a. [C] SOUND OF A TOAST (“clink”).
- 42a. [B] CLOSE ONE’S EYES (“blink”).
I’m trying to be generous here, but I pretty much reject this crossword on the basis of the theme’s raison d’être promoting scientific illiteracy.
“Missing link” is an unscientific term that has all sorts of misinformative baggage and should be avoided if you don’t want to appear foolish. I’ve just now checked the Wikipedia page for the term and feel that the introductory paragraphs provide a succinct explanation of why it’s such a dubious and problematic formulation.
This is all exacerbated by the presence of 43d [Apelike] SIMIAN and 44d [Challenging puzzle] ENIGMA, which definitely seems an intentional pairing and crosses the revealer.
To the three theme entries, on their own merits I suppose they’re all right, though SOUND OF A TOAST is awkwardly phrased.
- 25d [Caravan mounts] CAMELS.
- 29d [Pull the plug] DRAIN. A clue so direct and literal that it could qualify as a double misdirection!
- 15a [Baseball family name] ALOU. Wow, hadn’t realized that this is a crossword staple that I have not seen in a while.
Again, aside from the thematic scaffolding, the crossword is generically all right, but ultimately it grinds my gears.
Trip Payne’s New Yorker crossword—Matthew’s write-up
Our theme uses clues and phrases that play on synonyms of “sort” or “ilk”
- 19a [Midas?] TOUCH TYPE. “Midas touch”
- 39a [Vegetable?] GARDEN VARIETY. “Vegetable garden”
- 57a [With 59-across, deli?] COUNTER EXAMPLE. “Deli counter”
The words to describe them aren’t coming to me, but I’m a big fan of themes that lend themselves to terse clues like this. I quite like that the relationship between the clue and each of the phrases is the same in all three examples — “(Midas (touch) type)”. It makes for a tight theme set and a consistent experience for the solver.
The overall grid is kind of sneaky at only 73 words – some relatively open corners for a themed puzzle, and TOMATO PUREE (I put -SAUCE initially, fixed it during the solve, and only now notice “sauce” is in the clue…) and CENTRAL PERK [26a “Frasier” : Cafe Nervosa :: “Friends” : ____”] are fun longer entries holding up the mirror symmetry architecture.
- 17a [“Married with Children” dad] AL BUNDY. Ed O’Neill is more familiar to me as Jay Pritchett in “Modern Family,” if I may show my age.
- 33a [_____ Sapphire (alternative to Tanqueray or Hendrick’s) BOMBAY. Hendrick’s is the gin of choice in my household, but my father preferred Bombay.
- 62a [Maestro Zubin who became the music director of the L.A. Philharmonic at age twenty-six] MEHTA. Here’s someone I learned exclusively from crossword puzzles. I’ve always appreciated that MEHTA, SOLTI, and OZAWA (who am I forgetting?) have relatively few overlapping letters, so I’ve never needed many crossings to enter the correct one.
- 14d [It might be examined with a loupe] GEM. Here not for GEM, but for LOUPE, which is a common starting guess for me in Wordle (though DOULA is my most-used).
Have a great weekend!
Brooke Husic’s USA Today crossword, “Connections in High Places”—Darby’s write-up
Editor: Erik Agard
Theme: Each theme answer contains a word that is a type of connection at the top of the answer, making it be in a “high place.”
- 4d [“Symbol of queer pride”] RAINBOW EMOJI / RAINBOW CONNECTION
- 6d [“Well-known from TikTok, for example”] INTERNET FAMOUS / INTERNET CONNECTION
- 19d [“Messed up while knitting”] MISSED A STITCH / MISSED CONNECTION
These are three really solid theme answers. It was interesting because I went back and forth with whether or not each word should precede CONNECTION or CONNECTIONS. I think INTERNET CONNECTION skews it ultimately toward a singular connection, but I liked the reference in both, especially in “RAINBOW CONNECTIONS,” which is perhaps an inadvertent reference to acute queer love song by Garfunkel and Oates. Either way, RAINBOW CONNECTION is a song reference from the Muppets, so it’s a win-win. I linked the animated video below.
I always love seeing INTERNET FAMOUS because I think it’s such a funny phenomenon brought about by social media. With MISSED A STITCH, I’m hoping that the use of MISSED CONNECTIONS isn’t an omen for me, since I’m flying later today. I wanted to put SKIPPED A STITCH here at first, but 18a [“Athlete’s co-worker”] TEAMMATE quickly made it apparent that it was MISSED.
This grid is slightly asymmetric. There are some fun bonus eights in TEAMMATE and 43a [“Playing style often heard in funk music”] SLAP BASS. I also like the consistent references to a 3d & 40a [“‘Ella Enchanted’ creature”] OGRE and ELF respectively. Even if you haven’t seen the film, once you get one, you can pretty much guess the other, especially that “creature” is often code for OGRE in crosswords anyway.
Some Friday faves:
- 59a [“Design in the documentary ‘Skindigenous’”] – Skindigenous is a 13-part documentary series that looks at Indigenous TATTOOs and traditions surrounding them. It looks super fascinating.
- 22d [“Supermodel Alek”] – Alek WEK is from South Sudan and has been modeling since she was 18 in 1995. She and her sister were sent to London when civil war broke out in Sudan, and WEK acts as a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador, pointing that between fleeing her home country and becoming a model, “In a matter of years, I went from a faceless refugee statistic to one of the most recognizable faces in the world.” You can read more about her work here.
- 33d [“Something flown on Basant Panchami”] – Basant Panchami is a festival celebrated on the first day of spring, and it focuses on new beginnings. Forty days after Bansant Panchami, Holi takes place. KITE-flying is a tradition on this holiday, especially in North India in Punjab and Haryana. You can read more about the festival here.
Overall, I thought that the puzzle flowed really well, and it was easy to move from top to bottom pretty seamlessly.
Paul Coulter’s Universal crossword, “Think Twice”—Jim P’s review
Theme clues are specific words repeated. Theme answers are familiar two-word phrases where the first word is either a synonym of “two” or indicates repetition, and the second word is a synonym of the clue word.
- 17a. [Usher usher?] TWO SEATERS.
- 27a. [Command command?] REPEATED ORDERS.
- 45a. [Monk monk?] TWIN BROTHERS.
- 61a. [Slump slump?] DOUBLE DIPS.
Straightforward enough on reflection, that is, after the aha moment provided by the first theme answer. Not too hard to grok, but pleasantly satisfying. (Although, if one were to nitpick, the second theme entry should really be REPEATED ORDER, and the last one DOUBLE DIP.)
Fillwise, I’m eyeing TAPE DECKS, KIWI FRUIT, BIRTHDAY, GEAR UP, and NIBBLE for a highlight reel. I’ve never liked IDED as fill (or ODED for that matter). CCED is only marginally better. But it seems unlikely these will ever go away.
Clue of note: 35d. [Chinese gooseberry]. KIWIFRUIT. Did not know this. And it’s an interesting story how the Chinese gooseberry became the KIWIFRUIT after the UK and US both failed to grow the fruit and after a New Zealand importer decided a bit of rebranding was in order. (Fun fact: They considered calling it a “melonette” for a time.)
Breezy but satisfying Friday grid. 3.75 stars.
Inkubator Staff’s Inkubator crossword, “Since U Been Gone”—Jenni’s writeup
This is a very good puzzle for a very good cause. One of the Inkubator editors recently had a hysterectomy which resolved years of chronic life-disturbing issues from fibroids. Her story is unfortunately common: woman has chronic problems and is dismissed by multiple clinicians until someone finally notices the obvious diagnosis. In this case it was uterine fibroids; recurrent or chronic pelvic pain is high on my personal list of complaints that are frequently dismissed and not appropriately evaluated. The Inkubator team collaborated to help her wave bye-bye to her uterus and her years of distress; they’re donating the usual constructor’s fee to the White Dress Project, an organization that seeks to raise awareness of uterine fibroids and remove the stigma of talking about them.
Each theme answer is a song title that fits the situation.
- 19a [Lizzo banger that describes how I felt when my doctor and I decided on a hysterectomy] is ABOUT DAMN TIME.
- 31a [1982 Scandal hit, or what I said to my uterus on hysterectomy day] is GOODBYE TO YOU.
- 51a [2017 Kesha jam that describes something it wasn’t hard to do when it came to my uterus] is LEARN TO LET GO.
- 67a [2017 Demi Lovato bop that describes how I feel about yeeting my uterus] is SORRY NOT SORRY. This is the second time in a week that I’ve encountered yeet. The first was a Facebook post in which a friend proudly said she’d yeeted her paddleboard onto the roof of her car (she’s about 5′ tall, for context). I asked her and she said it means “throw.” This time I looked it up and Merriam-Webster confirms that with a nuanced explanation:
…yeet is being used broadly as a synonym of throw, and is applied especially when the throwing is forceful and includes more than a whiff of “good riddance!” along with it. When you yeet something, you’re not worried about how it lands.
While the word isn’t as new as I thought, it has undergone a shift in meaning:
The word is also used as an interjection: this use of yeet won the American Dialect Society’s 2018 Word of the Year in the “Slang/Informal Word” category. It was glossed there as being an “indication of surprise or excitement.”
So I can’t say it’s what I didn’t know before I did this puzzle, but now I know more!
I love the theme despite only knowing one of those songs (no one will be surprised that it’s the 1982 number). All were inferrable from crossings and from the context of the theme. The Inkubator team did a great job of shining light on a problem that is often overlooked or dismissed and giving us a fun puzzle while they were at it.
A few other things:
- ELOTE is Mexican grilled street corn. I’ve never been to Mexico so my ELOTE experiences were in San Diego and it was delicious. Highly recommend.
- [Waiting for a water break?] is a funny clue for PREGGO, which is a funny word in and of itself.
- Trust the Inkubator to reference a woman when the entry is a man’s name. KING LEAR is clued as [Shakespeare title character who could’ve been nicer to his youngest daughter]. True that.
- Another could-have-been-a-man-and-we-will-highlight-a-woman clue: [“Not Fair” singer Lily] ALLEN.
- I don’t think ALL TOLD is a perfect match for the clue [“In any case…” ]. Just me?
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: I had never heard of the NYAN cat. Here’s the story and here’s the cat.
And I’ll leave you with one of my favorite songs, DAR Williams’s “The Christians and the Pagans.” I think this was the song I sang for our blogmistress in public in Chicago a number of years ago. Still love it. If you have any affinity for lefty folkie singer-songwriter story-telling music, you need Dar in your life. “Where does magic come from? I think magic’s in the learning, because now when Christians sit with pagans, only pumpkin pies are burning.”
NYT: My kind of themeless. Challenging but gettable, not too much trivia and a lot of fun stuff. YOUR OTHER RIGHT is vaguely familiar, and it made me chuckle.
From SPACETIME to SLURPEEs, that’s quite the range.
And I certainly fell for Epees and Foils before POSTS.
I really liked!
NYT: YOUR OTHER RIGHT is an answer to WHAT ELSE IS LEFT?
LAT – I shouldn’t have liked this puzzle. The theme, as Pannonica notes, is inaccurate.
Combining that with the early crossings of crosswordese (ARLO/OREO, ALOU/ALOE) should have kept me scowling. Yet I chuckled at the revealer as I might a pun so bad that it’s good.
Dave Bartholomew provides us with how monkeys view linear evolution. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LNjuxtjtuWg
Granted, I worked in science for 40 years and was heavily trained in evolutionary science in particular, so I’m kind of sensitive to these things, but it’s almost unbelievable to me that 163 years after the publication of “On the Origin of Species”, we’re still seeing MISSING LINKS identified in our popular press as an “evolutionary mystery”. The “missing link” idea was thrust upon us by Darwin’s scientific rivals and then taken up by creationists and other science-deniers of that day who didn’t even care to understand Darwin’s thesis while insisting that he was a heretic and/or lunatic. And here we are … still … in 2022. Yeesh. It makes me wonder if 150 years from now, a substantial portion of people will still view vaccines, medical science in general and the moon landing as a hoax. [smh]
NYT: Fun puzzle that felt fresh both as to its answers and its clues. Probably my biggest challenge was sloppy typing — MIDGE somehow ended up as MofGE, making RESCUE DOGS much harder than it needed to be (as it was, I was thinking “pounds” was British currency).
Nam Jin Yoon’s last Friday NYT collaboration (with Brooke Husic) took me longer than any other Friday NYT puzzle in the past year or so. Today’s was so much easier for me, despite some very clever misdirection in places.
I’m sorry to have to say this, but I think anyone who dislikes the LAT because missing links has no basis in science just has no sense of humor. That was a delightful bit of trickery.
Even if this puzzle had appeared in an anthropological journal (I’m sure such journals run crosswords, right?), I would hope that solvers would appreciate the wordplay – though it doesn’t match their scientific worldview. From the Wikipedia entry @pannonica references, I gather geneticists might be fine with it, either way.
There’s too much scientific illiteracy about already, and we are witnessing—experiencing—very real, very deadly repercussions therefrom. So in a venue that purports to be an intellectual pursuit I am indeed offended by the unqualified promulgation of basic-level misinformation. So please excuse me if I suspend my sense of humor in this instance.
I understand what you’re saying, but I think you’re placing an inappropriate burden on the shoulders of a crossword puzzle. Maybe it could/should have been clued as “debunked evolutionary mysteries” or something like that, but it did not detract from my appreciation of the puzzle. YMMV … and plainly does.
I completely disagree with you on this one Grumpy. IMO, this is exactly how disinformation and misinformation becomes a part of the zeitgeist and is part of the reason that science has such a bad name in some circles. As I say in my previous comment about this above, the whole concept of a missing link was concocted a century and a half ago as a means of more or less poking fun at and rejecting Darwin’s theories. There is nothing in his theories that necessitates finding a missing link. In other words, the missing link concept is just flat-out not an “evolutionary mystery”. Maybe I’d have been fine if it had been clued as “evolutionary mystery hoax perpetrated by Darwin’s detractors”. If even a single crossword solver uses this type of association to cast “missing link” as a valid scientific term (after all, it’s published in a trusted news media source), it’s regrettable and even a travesty.
I agree that it might be appropriate if this puzzle were in a publication that’s targeted at scientists who have the background to know the absurdity of a “missing link”. But this was put out there by the “Los Angeles Times”.
I have to agree with Mr. Grumpy. We don’t need to be pedantic about wordplay in a puzzle. In fact, when I went to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary (because I’m too lazy to walk over and haul the massive unabridged off the shelf) the definition sparking this controversy was #2. The primary definition was “an absent member needed to complete a series or resolve a problem.” I rest my proverbial case.
First, I am not being pedantic about the wordplay. Second, the definition you cite—no matter its genesis—is generalized, whereas my complaint about the puzzle is that the phrase is explicitly couched in an evolutionary context.
Third, I have to thank you for prodding me to realize that the complaint regarding the puzzle’s raison d’être was incorrect. If the revealer had used that generic definition I would have been a little miffed, but not inclined to dismiss the crossword entirely.
Seconding Matthew’s preference for Hendrick’s, which taught me I could like gin!
Hendrick’s is some fine gin. If you haven’t yet tried it, another herby Scottish gin I bet you’ll like is The Botanist, made by the Bruichladdich distillery, Islay. Yummm…
BEQ Thurs: To add to Darby’s write up, each theme answer rebus was ACE in the across, and a playing-card suit in the down. The only way I found to write it in AcrossLite was AS, AC, AH and AD for the suits,
making 5d: me HEARTies
27d: sam SPADE
43d: neil DIAMOND
9d: rowing CLUBs
The graphic does show the rebus squares as I mentioned above, but Darby didn’t say anything in the write up about it.
I thought it was a very fun puzzle.
eta: oops I see STMV covered it. Missed that.