Attention, fans of tough crosswords who are always looking for a fresh challenge! Andrew Ries has a new puzzle pack of variety crosswords in the Twists & Turns format he devised. Each “Twists” answer is 9 letters long and it’s up to you to figure out whether it starts or ends in the center, and if it ends there, where it starts. The “Turns” answers follow a path back and forth through the grid as you travel down, so you can use those words to help you figure out how the “Twists” are to be entered. Visit Aries Puzzles for more info and to buy the packet, which includes eight mini T&T puzzles (four 3×3 chunks in each grid) along with eight big T&T puzzles (25 3×3 chunks). Enjoy!
Erik Agard & Brooke Husic’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Bit of a mini-theme in this themeless with left/right symmetry:
- 20a. [Sleep aid said to reduce anxiety], WEIGHTED BLANKET.
- 51a. [More cover than usual … or what a 20-Across might offer?], HEAVY SECURITY.
Other fave fill: SMUSH, DORIS Burke, Frozen‘s ARENDELLE, HASHTAGS (great clue: [Pounds on keyboards?]), STREET FOOD, CANDY HEART, BALAYAGE (this is the technique my colorist has used on me in recent years), and POWER YOGA.
Five more things:
- 36a. [Some leporids], HARES. I went to a book signing for The Office actor B.J. Novak’s book of short stories. When I reached the table, I told him I appreciated that the word leporid was in one of the book’s first stories (that’s the nice thing about very short stories—you can read a few while you’re in line at the book signing). And B.J. said, “Oh, I had to look that up.” I was crushed. I wanted the TV actor/writer to actually be conversant with the vocabulary he put in his book!
- 37a. [Item in a husk], OAT. I tried an EAR of corn first. Oats come in husks, eh? Live and learn.
- 63a. [Cloud often seen in the summer], GNATS. Gaaaaaah. Yuck.
- 11d. [Round holiday fare], LATKE / 26d. [Round holiday fare], PIES. Yep, those are some of the primary round holiday foods in the U.S.
- 29d. [Make a lead balloon?], RACE AHEAD. This clue confused me till right this moment. It’s the lead that’s pronounced leed, not led, as in being ahead of the competition, in the lead. And here, balloon is a verb, not a noun. Make your lead over the competition grow larger, RACE AHEAD. A finely crafted clue!
4.25 stars from me.
Frannie Comstock’s Inkubator crossword, “Puppy Pose”—Jenni’s write-up
Welcome Frannie Comstock to Constructor Land with her debut! I agreed with the Inkubator editors that this was a “lightly challenging” puzzle and I enjoyed it.
I was looking for theme answers in the Across entries and didn’t see a connection because it turns out that’s not where they are. 27d tells the tail: [Inverted yoga position, familiarly…and a description of six answers in this grid] is DOWN DOG. I am not a yoga practitioner so I’ll leave it to someone else to say whether it’s common to shorten DOWNWARD to DOWN in the name of this particular asana. There are indeed six DOGs going DOWN in the grid.
- 4d [Athlete such as Lucia Rijker] is a BOXER.
- 6d [Knit blanket] is an AFGHAN. I have an afghan my grandmother crocheted for me when I left for college. Is that the same as “knit?”
- 10d [Megabus competitor] is GREYHOUND.
- 37d [Person who’s fetching?] is a RETRIEVER. My daughter, age 9: The dog won’t leave me alone! Me: Why don’t you stop throwing the ball for him? Daughter: I’m doing that to make him go away! Me: Honey, he’s a Labrador retriever. He’ll bring it back. Daughter: Forever?
- 49d [Crossword constructor, across the pond] is a SETTER. That’s a little inside baseball for an easy-ish puzzle – or at least it would be for the NYT. For the indie crowd, I think it’s fair game.
- 54a [Like a gravelly voice] is HUSKY.
All dogs! All going down! A solid theme I don’t remember seeing before.
A few other things:
- 3d [“Who am ___ judge?”] is I TO, who was also an actual judge (without the space).
- I just don’t like the word FART. I’d prefer not to see it in my puzzles. I realize this is a personal preference and I can’t really ask indie constructors to avoid a word because I find it distasteful. I still don’t like it.
- 22a [Nanny] is the verb form. The answer is BABYSIT. And if you don’t think it’s a verb, you haven’t done it.
- I filled in 43a from crossings and couldn’t figure out what ANERA was. Turns out it’s AN ERA, as in “the end of ____.”
- I also dislike CROCs as shoes. I don’t mind the word in my puzzles.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: never heard of the BOXER Lucia Rijker. Didn’t know that Main Ingredient covered “Summer BREEZE.” Never saw “Despicable Me” and so didn’t know Margo was a TWEEN.
Turns out I like this version a lot.
Evan Mahnken’s Universal crossword, “File Storage”—Jim P’s review
The revealer is GOOGLE DRIVE (56a, [Cloud storage option whose apps are featured at the ends of the starred clues’ answers]. The other theme answers are familiar phrases whose last words are also Google products.
- 18a. [*Summer theme park attractions] WATER SLIDES. For presentations.
- 24a. [*Researchers on track to be profs] POST DOCS. For writing documents.
- 37a. [*Bed coverings that are unfit for a king?] QUEEN-SIZE SHEETS. For spreadsheets.
- 47a. [*Movies, books, paintings, etc.] ART FORMS. For creating/filling in forms, I wager. I haven’t had occasion to use this one.
Straightforward enough, though I don’t think I’m terribly keen on a puzzle touting one particular company’s products. There was a time when crosswords didn’t have any product placement at all. But it’s just a puzzle. Maybe Google can link to it on their main web site. Here’s an interesting discussion (from non-constructors) about whether or not they believe there’s product placement in the NYT.
Elsewhere, OVERSLEEPS and BEER BREWER top the fill. In my mind I enjoyed putting the two entries “BE COOL” and DORK together. DIAGON Alley might be tough for the non-Harry Potter crowd, but crossings are fair. Similarly, I’d never heard of REIKI [Japanese energy healing], but again, the crossings help out, especially the fun word JOKEY.
Clues of note:
- 22a. [File format that’s often mispronounced]. GIF. Ah, and what is the correct pronunciation, pray tell? I am Team Hard-G, and I will not be dissuaded! Despite a definitive statement from the creator himself), a soft G makes no sense. The G in Graphics is hard. Also, the word “gift” uses a hard G. What, do some people say “jift”?Next you’re going to tell me the correct way to hang toilet paper is with the loose end over the top. Sheesh!
- 28a. [“Deep Rock Galactic” resource]. ORE. Never heard of DRG. I didn’t know if it was a band, a song, a genre, or celestial body. Turns out it’s a video game.
- 29a. [Bestie]. BFF. Hmm. The B stands for “Best.” I would consider this a dupe, but sometimes there are clues such as [The B in BFF].
If you’re one who frowns on product placement in your puzzle, best to just skip this one. Otherwise, it’s a solid grid. 3.25 stars.
Jake Houston’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up
- 72a/73aR [ … space-saving furniture, and what the answers to the starred clues do] HIDE-A-BED. I was unsure if this was a brand name or a generic term. Turns out it’s the latter, but not one that I’ve heard much. Seems to be regional whether one calls it that or sofa-bed, sleeper sofa, bed-couch, or pullout sofa.
The relevant clues have dropped the names of bed sizes.
- 20a. [*Aircraft with dual turboprops] (twin-) ENGINE PLANE.
- 38a. [*Gutsy wager on “Jeopardy!”] TRUE DAILY (Double).
- 44a. [*Wildflower also known as wild carrot] (Queen) ANNE’S LACE.
- 57a. [*Tennyson poetry series set in Camelot] IDYLLS OF THE (King).
There’s a lot to like here. The base phrases are all strong. The beds (don’t) appear in size order and alternate positions from front to back. Very nice stuff. Turboprops to the constructor!
I’m not sure that the L shapes in the black blocks have any import. I suspect they’re merely artifacts of being unable to find longer across answers for the top left and lower right. On the other hand, there are stacked vertical tens in top right and lower left: DIDGERIDOO, ADRENALINE and WAYNE MANOR, OPEN SESAME. More fine fill.
- 21d [CGI bird in Liberty Mutual ads] EMU. The newest EMU sensation is the very real and very disruptive Emmanuel who resides on a Florida farm.
- 45d [Unreliable stat from someone fashionably late] ETA. Someone sounds bitter, perhaps from personal experience.
- 47d [John Donne poem featuring an insect] THE FLEA. Here it is in its entirety.
Then there’s Augustus De Morgan’s “Siphonaptera” (based on writing by Jonathan Swift, as mentioned in the Wikipedia article):Great fleas have little fleas upon their backs to bite ’em,
And little fleas have lesser fleas, and so ad infinitum.
And the great fleas themselves, in turn, have greater fleas to go on;
While these again have greater still, and greater still, and so on.Ogden Nash’s “Fleas” is more succinct still:Adam
- 61d [Mined find] LODE, 71a [Mined find] ORE.
- 5a [Pronouns on a coffee mug, maybe] HERS. >gasp!< pronouns!
- 14a [Musical narrated by Che] EVITA. Y’know, I misread that as Cher.
- 29a [Manual readers] USERS. I always feel these should have a qualifier such as ‘hopefully’ or ‘ideally’ or ‘perhaps’.
- 70a [French flower] SEINE. Homonym didn’t fool me for a moment.
- 40a [“See ya!”] BYE.
Erik Agard’s USA Today crossword, “Mixing Beats”—Darby’s write-up
Theme: Each theme answer includes an anagram of the word BEATS.
- 15a [“Public test versions of software”] OPEN BETAS
- 34a [“Lambda-winning Da’Shaun L’Harrison book”] BELLY OF THE BEAST
- 57a [“Civil rights leader known for her work with the Little Rock Nine”] DAISY BATES
I love these theme answers! OPEN BETAS was really easy to fill in, and I got BELLY OF THE BEAST mostly on the crosses, though it was pretty intuitive once I had about half of the letters. I got DAISY entirely on the crosses and somehow managed to pull BATES from the deepest recesses of my mind (more on her below).
In general, this puzzle was awesome. I loved the wide open corners. It was so much fun to fill in MYSTERIES, EMPANADA, SCUTTLES, BASS CLEF, and EVALUATE. In the middle, A TOAST threw me off because of the A.
Some Friday faves:
- 21a [“Like cvtvhakv”] – In CREEK, cvtvhakv refers to “blue bread,” or a dumpling made out of corn meal. You can find a recipe for it here.
- 57a [“Civil rights leader known for her work with the Little Rock Nine”] – Originally from Huttig, Arkansas, DAISY BATES started The Arkansas Weekly in Little Rock, and it was one of the only African American newspapers focused on the Civil Rights Movement. She would use the paper to advertise schools who had obeyed the federal mandate to desegregate after Brown v. Board of Education. She chose nine students to integrate Central High School in Little Rock in 1957–”the Little Rock Nine.” You can learn more about her here.
Overall, this was such a fun puzzle and a great end to the week!
Tom McCoy’s New Yorker crossword—Matthew’s write-up
Tom McCoy! There’s a name I haven’t seen on a puzzle in some time. Tom is the constructor for one of my favorite puzzles ever, which I won’t spoil, but will link here (.pdf only, for reasons that will become clear).
Today’s puzzle is a step up (edit: in difficulty — whoops) from most New Yorker Friday’s to date, both in theme and fill, in my opinion. Let’s dig into the theme and its answers moving in an unexpected direction:
- 3d [Approximately] PLUS OR MINUS, running bottom-to-top
- 31d [Shakespeare title character who is exiled from Rome] CORIOLANUS
- 7d [Masterwork completed circa 1485] THE BIRTH OF VENUS
- 9d [Redundant term for icing on the cake] ADDED BONUS
- 27d [Like some eggs … and how four answers are presented in this puzzle] SUNNY SIDE UP, running in the usual direction, but still keeping to the theme in doing so.
I … did not pick up on this theme quickly. I recognized quickly that PLUS OR MINUS was the answer and deliberately running reverse, but I was slow to see CORIOLANUS, which I haven’t read or seen performed, and then I was trying to see how the long central themer would function as a revealer. All this is to say, I had a few nice aha moments, and then a bit of a head slap when I finally realized quite why everything was upside-down. In retrospect, it’s obvious, but the grid design helped disguise it for a while, which made the experience more enjoyable for me.
YOU DO YOU [14a Tautological encouragement of self-expression] is a lovely highlight in the fill — it’s possible this is the first time I’ve seen this in a published puzzle? Perhaps not, but nothing is ringing a bell right now. Cluing GUITAR to Maybelle Carter and OER to The Who’s “Quadrophenia” instead of The Star Spangled Banner were also highlights for me. Not a whole lot else in the fill jumped out during the solve, but the journey through the grid and theme was so satisfying, I didn’t mind much. The middle three themers do a great job of keeping the grid connected while managing the potential for gluey fill in the middle.
Cheers! Have a great weekend!
Toughest NYT Friday I remember in a while. Really good puzzle! Thanks to Erik and Brooke.
The most recent NYT Friday to give me this much trouble was the collaboration between Brooke Husic and Nam Jin Yoon on May 13.
NYT: Toughest Friday since the last Friday with a Brooke Husic collaboration?
Some really great clues (RACE AHEAD (which I needed Deb Amlen to explain to me), STILETTOS, and especially HASHTAGS made some of the longer entries hard to get. It also didn’t help that I only sort of knew ARENDELLE (which almost makes me miss Elsa, Olaf, and Sven) and had absolutely no idea on BALAYAGE.
STREET meat worked well with “ear” as the “item in a husk,” but “ear” made me take out IN ABSENTIA, which certainly seemed to be right.
Much fun, though.
First DNF for me in a long time. The SW corner did me in. No idea about ARENDELLE or RACEAHEAD; the TV network at 55D could be any number of things; I wanted EARLS at 58D but then I couldn’t come up with anything for the farm unit.
I thought some of the clues were Stumper-like in their indirectness, and that’s not a compliment.
NYT: Loved the “making a lead balloon” clue! Really tricky to parse, so a fun aha!
Tough crunchy puzzle, as expected on a Friday and from EA and BH, and I did have a stumble at balayage (didn’t know vicar Elton). Also enjoyed the switch from acres to bales for farm units… and I left the husk clue blank thinking it could be cob or ear… haha! Oat was very slow to arise.
UC: Grrr at brand name product theme (one reference to a product obviously ok, whole puzzle? hmm), also grrr at “bestie” for “best friend forever” abbreviation. (Oh please, do give us some hoppy ale while we’re at it >:( . /end snark) Sidenote, TNY had a much better clue for the same answer, without any hint of a dupe.
TNY Friday themed puzzle is unusual for them in making the theme very much a part of solving. Also very nice. The fill was harder than usual, at least for me, such as the encouragement of self-expression in the NW. (Not knowing it, I first guessed “you be you.” It also crossed DUNE, which I didn’t remember had become a movie.) But I appreciated the channel.
I was in the YOUbeYOU delegation, as well.
I enjoyed the NYT also – but I have to disagree about “Arandelle”. I just think that “Frozen” clues are way overused; hence not my fave bit of fill. I feel the same way about all the ubiquitous playground retorts in crossword-land.
I suspect “Frozen’’ is a pleasant memory for many solvers who are younger than me. I’ve never seen the movie, so pretty much everything I know about it I learned from crossword puzzles.
That’s my only source of knowledge about “Frozen,” too. Of course, that can easily make it seem too frequent in puzzles and to make an unusual and unusually long entry for it a twin obstacle in a tough corner.
I am not dead certain that “your” and “our” (even in French) are opposites, but it’ll have to do. I didn’t know guitarist Baker, where I’d have expected to know the field for sure, but good to learn. Still, a tough puzzle. I did enjoy finding SECURITY near the bottom after wanting it so much with BLANKET up top. (WEIGHTED ones were familiar comforts but not a familiar descriptor .) Overall, mixed feelings but nice to have the challenge, even if I found the NW and SW a bit too obscure.
LAT: re “HERS. >gasp!< pronouns!" … yup … I pretty much twist myself into a pretzel nowadays trying to avoid using pronouns in both writing and speech so as not to piss anyone off. It sure makes it difficult to communicate at times. It's a strange world and is seemingly getting stranger by the day.
This felt like an LAT Tuesday puzzle to me. Anyone else or was it just an “on my wavelength” thing?
I feel you’re overcompensating re: pronouns. The only people who seem to get pissed off about them seem to be those reactionary types who have no business complaining about them in the first place.
If you say so … Perhaps living in San Francisco for 23 years where I worked, lived and socialized with lots of assertive non-binary folks made it difficult for me to reliably gauge “reactionary-ness” in others (or when I might be overcompensating). All I know is that I was corrected on a semi-regular basis when I would use binary pronouns, particularly in the last several years I lived there. It was usually done in a polite way, but certainly not always.
I would think that honest mistakes are recognized for being just that, and polite correction would be in order. These are, however, charged times.
Is anyone allowed to complain about “them” or is it verboten?
If you’re complaining because you think the singular “they/them” is ungrammatical, then take it up with Jane Austen or, you know, shut up.
That wasn’t my point, thanks.
I was being facetious about Pannonica’s multiple uses of “them”.
“The only people who seem to get pissed off about them seem to be those reactionary types who have no business complaining about them in the first place.?”
NYT: I liked this one a lot. Three total unknowns for me: BALAYAGE, DORIS Burke, and ARENDELLE – but all of the crosses were reasonable, although it took a while, I finished with no errors.
I enjoyed the clever cluing – HASHTAGS, STREETFOOD, RACE AHEAD, STILETTOS, KIWI and GNATS were my favorites.
Glad to see others felt this fine puzzle was more Saturday level.
USA Today: I probably spent more time on this one than any other USA Today puzzle. Part of that was sticking to “l’chaim” in the middle for longer than I should have. Having the answer include the A didn’t bother me, as saying “a toast [to whoever]” seems pretty common.
Overall, a pretty good puzzle.
TNY: Kudos to Dr. McCoy — I very much agree that this fun puzzle is a step up from New Yorker Fridays to date. Let’s hope it’s the start of a trend. I would put it at about a NYT Wednesday level, which would make it perhaps the most challenging yet.
Oh, and seeing the word DOLLOP just makes me happy.
Didn’t love crossing balayage with Elton and gasps could be rasps. Really no way to get that. Don’t mind hard but that’s two obscure crossing each other and a 50/50 as well.
I agree on the ELTON/ALTON dilemma (and I’m glad to have guessed correctly there). But I don’t really see how rASPS fits that clue.
I feel like rasp gets applied to noisy, irregular breathing, no?
I don’t think I’ve ever seen “rasp’’ used that way. Harsh, possibly noisy speaking, yes. But not breathing.
In any case, that BALAYAGE was the hardest part of the puzzle (unless you knew the word, which I’m sure lots of people did).
In particular lots of women/femmes know the word.