Andrew Linzer’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
I had some doubts about this grid since the NW and SE corners are fairly cut off from the rest of the venture, but it ended up not posing any trouble to me. And the center swath with stagger-stepped 9s, a thing of beauty. Stacked 11s, also on my “yes” list. So much good fill!
Things I liked: THAT’S A FIRST, RELEASE DATE (“check release dates” is on my to-do list for work every couple weeks, mainly for movies and TV shows), IMAX THEATER, KWAME Nkrumah, MASTER KEY, HUGUENOTS (such an exotic word to encounter when I was young), a fun WATER RIDE, JAZZ DANCE, SHAZAM, ONLINE POKER (shout-out to crossworder Ben Bass!), MED STUDENTS, DESK JOB, FUTZ, and BAZOOKA bubble gum.
What else? These five:
- 27a. [Super-useful item?], MASTER KEY. Super = a building superintendent with a master key to the apartments. Chicago doesn’t call them supers, though. Maintenance guys, maybe? One of the guys across the street from me is great because when Amazon misdelivers packages to his building’s mailroom, he takes it upon himself to trot the packages around to neighboring buildings to ring doorbells and leave the parcels in a secure spot for us. Golden!
- 46a. [Helps out with a lift], SPOTS. As in spotting someone who is lifting weights.
- 1d. [Seated position?], DESK JOB. Good clue.
- 2d. [“Yes, this has been brought to my attention”], “I’M AWARE.” I feel like this is best uttered with a withering stare.
- 6d. [“___ the day!” (exclamation from “Twelfth Night”)], ALAS. This could be a useful all-purpose gripe, no?
Rich Norris’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up
It’s lovely to know that Rich Norris is enjoying his retirement in part by still puzzling — now as a constructor and not the LAT editor! Back in the early to mid-aughts, Rich gave me a lot of great commentary when I first got into constructing, and I still have an extremely soft spot in my heart for him. Especially since he’s apparently the only LAT constructor all year who can make me do battle — I’m pretty sure this is the first time I’ve gone past the 4-minute mark on an LAT puzzle this year. So thanks for the good fight, Rich!
Notable entries and clues:
- 1A [File] is not much to go on for ARCHIVE. Especially since 1D [Stopped lying?] didn’t fool me into thinking it was about truth-telling, but could easily be STOOD or the correct answer, AROSE, I couldn’t get a foothold in this area, which is unusual for me and one reason this puzzle as a whole is so hard.
- 19A [Pass with a wave?] is SAIL BY, also in that tough NW corner. This one did fool me into thinking it was about legislation at first.
- 31A [Pub freebie] is a BAR NUT, which felt a little GREEN PAINT-y to me. You can have BAR NUTS, but do you call an individual nut in those mixes a BAR NUT, or just whatever kind of nut it is (peanut, Brazil nut, walnut, etc.)?
- 32A [Confection that supposedly improves heart health] is DARK CHOCOLATE. Yum, the best kind of chocolate!
- 40A [Scoring instructions] for TEMPI: This is a tough one even if you realize right away that “scoring” is a musical reference, given the non-S plural. Nice bit of difficulty.
- 4D [“Bruised” director] for HALLE BERRY. Clues for her tend to focus on her acting achievements, so I enjoyed this angle.
- 33D [Down ___] for COLD. Fill-in-the-blanks are often more associated with easy cluing, but boy does this get hard given that, before you have any crossings, it could be EAST, WITH, BEAT, TIME…
- 46D [Singer-songwriter Suzanne] was one of the few very easy gets for me in this puzzle. Raise your hand if you had “Tom’s Diner” in your head while entering this answer.
Wendy L. Brandes’ USA Today crossword, “Last Dance”—Matthew’s write-up
Quick today, but say hi if you’re at Lollapuzzoola!
The final words of our themers are types of dance:
- 17a [Ordinary people] REGULAR FOLK
- 29a [Finally come into some good luck] CATCH A BREAK
- 45a [At the peak of activity] IN FULL SWING
- 60a [Tart dessert bar] LEMON SQUARE
I’m a fan of the symmetric placement of the 2- and 3-word themers. This is a nice idea for a theme, and the themers do well to use the “dance” words in meanings away from the dances. I can’t think of too many other dances that lend themselves this way; perhaps FIGHTING IRISH, INDIE GOGO, and something with -LINE. So this may be a pretty constrained set that remains approachable and clear for solvers. I like it!
Two notes today:
- 52a [The Green Hornet’s partner] KATO. While the Green Hornet TV series only ran for one season, it was Bruce Lee’s performance as KATO that brought the comic character more attention. I had the pleasure of strolling through an exhibit on Bruce Lee about a year ago at the Wing Luke Museum in Seattle. I highly recommend the museum (and the exhibit, if it’s still there) if you’re in that neck of the woods.
- 68a [Homes on Wingspan cards] NESTS. I don’t play board games, mostly for lack of opportunity, but I’d been hearing about Wingspan for quite a while, and was certain it was about planes. Imagine my surprise when I finally saw folks playing, and it’s a different set of wings!
Julian Lim’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “The Flip Side” — pannonica’s write-up
The central vertical entry suggests the theme mechanism: 8d [Prelude to a question about fairness?] MIRROR MIRROR ON THE WALL. What’s going on is that the themed vertical entries on the left side have their two Ls replaced with Rs and vice-versa for the right side.
- 3d. [Family of chicks that’s all over the farm?] RIFE BROOD (life blood).
- 7d. [Diadems made to offend?] CRASS CROWNS (class clowns).
- 61d. [Nautical spar that’s about to fall apart?] RICKETY SPRIT (lickety-split).
- 13d. [Job for Jessica’s doctor?] HEALING LANGE (hearing range).
- 71d. [Weaving machine that’s way ahead of its competitors?] LEADING LOOM (reading room).
- 84d. [Item used to dry a manicurist’s tool?] FILE TOWEL (fire tower).
Took me a while to see what was going on, but RICKETY SPRIT set me straight.
- 5a [Fly target] PEC. It’s a sort of exercise, but I don’t know specifically what.
- 33a [2021 World Series champs] BRAVES, now called the Guardians.
- 42a [Skedaddle] BOOK IT. I grew up hearing book as a verb in this sense, but always thought it was a regionalism. No?
- 45a [Ages] A LONG TIME. Indefinite articles in entries often seem iffy. Seems fine—maybe it’s just familiarity?—however with 83a [Three or four] A FEW and 37d [Somewhat] A BIT.
- 82a [Like the White Rabbit] LATE.
- 34d [Location of la Piazza San Pietro] VATICANO. Have not seen the Italian name in crosswords previously.
- 62d [Antibiotic used for a number of infections] CIPRO. Needed the crossing for this one.
- 81d [Trounces, as a n00b] PWNS. I expect this will get some pushback, again.
- 93d [How some take stupid risks] ON A DARE. 38d [Anxiety about exclusion, acronymically] FOMO.
- 99d [Part of DINK] NO KIDS. Going to have to look up what the DI signifies. Ah, right. Dual Income.
Steve Mossberg’s Newsday crossword, Saturday Stumper — pannonica’s write-up
I’m a bit wiped out, so just a short recap here.
This one proceeded slowly but steadily. The biggest impediments were near-dupes that I resisted filling in until I became stymied:
- 22d [Become unavoidable] COME TO A HEAD.
- 20a [Take a letter] LEASE.
How do you feel about those?
- 28a [Employers of protection athletes] RODEOS. I guess those are the clowns.
- 34a [Direct connection] -IVE. Yes, that’s a suffix, that’s how it works.
- 35a [Source of pear-shaped tones] SITARS. Wouldn’t that be [Pear-shaped source of tones]?
- 38a [Reggae stick] CLAVE. Unfamiliar to me, but m-w says it’s “one of a pair of cylindrical hardwood sticks that are used as a percussion instrument”.
- 49a [$500+ Versace attire] ROBE. What a strange clue.
- 2d [Whom a European nation is named for] HUNS. Did not realize that that was the eponym of Hungary.
- Favorite clue: 25a [They had Marconi, Montessori, etc.] LIRE. It was just so mysterious until I had a couple of crosses.
- 41d [Cutter’s cousin] SLOOP. Was slightly distracted on this one because I watched The Outfit (2022) last night.
- 43d [Home of the Czech Supreme Court] BRNO. Was proud of getting this from just the N in NOLA (52a).
Good workout. Rest time. Or maybe coffee. Or both.
Rafael Musa’s Universal Crossword, “Universal Freestyle 35” — Jim Q’s write-up
- FUDGE THE DETAILS
- AMEN TO THAT!
- SHOWS MERCY
- I’M INNOCENT!
A breezy themeless today, hardly giving any pushback for me. I went through this quickly, pausing only at AKIRA Kurosawa and VIDAL after trying for a while to figure out the name hidden [Author in “Livin’ La Vida Loca”?].
Coulda done with out GO A in a themeless. PHAT, while certainly 90s, was really only around for a very short time. I hate to ascribe it to the entire decade. HOTEL POOLS isn’t something I think of as a stand-alone phrase, especially in the plural, so a bit of a bummer to see that taking up as much real estate as it is.
No RANTs here! Overall enjoyable.
3.5 stars from me.