Rachel Fabi & Emet Ozar’s Inkubator crossword, “Up, Up, Up and Away!”—Jenni’s write-up
It took me a bit to figure out what was going on here. I bounced around the grid for a bit and when the light finally dawned it was a satisfying “aha!” moment. The theme entries are two-word phrases where the second word is above and to the right of the first. There’s an ellipsis to tell us to keep going and a caret to tell us to look up. Plus there’s something high-minded about each clue.
- 20a [Seat to *hoist* a tot into for dining…^] and 18a are HIGH/CHAIR.
- 30a [Utensil used to *raise* a bite of kale…^] and 27a are SALAD/FORK.
- 52a [Actor’s ability to *elevate* a film…^] and 49a are STAR/POWER.
There’s also a revealer pair. 60d [With 68-Across, words at the end of a countdown…or a hint to solving 20-/18-, 30-/27-, and 52-/49-Across] is LIFT/OFF. It’s a complex, multi-layered, elegant theme and it was a lot of fun to solve,
A few other things:
- 5d [“Gotcha,” old-style] is I‘M HIP. I was thinking more Victorian than beatnik.
- 36a [Unnamed local figure in a headline for “The Onion”] is AREA MAN. Not to be confused with “Florida man” or “Florida, man.”
- Does anyone actually say AROAR? Anyone? Bueller?
- We have [Pilfer] for FILCH and [Pilfers] for STEALS.
- Cat Cora is a chef and her alma mater is the Culinary Institute of America, not the CIA you may be thinking of.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that OGRES are the smallest of the D&D giants. I also did not know that Millie Small plays SKA or that Celia Cruz is a RUMBA musician.
Claire Rimkus’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap
Fairly smooth 72-worder tonight. Fave fill: CLOSE GAMES, CAR TROUBLE, AT THE LAST MINUTE (any other procrastinators in the house?), “WHEN IN ROME…,” SPRAY TANS, NOT BY A MILE (might’ve been nice to clue PEEP without “not”), HOOKED UP, LAUGH TRACK, GYM RAT.
Three things, briefly:
- 34a. [Clutch, e.g.], PURSE. A clutch is a small purse, often without a shoulder strap, that is carried in the hand. You’ve seen them on the red carpet.
- 60a. [Tim of “Sister, Sister”], REID. Even further back, he played radio DJ Venus Flytrap on WKRP in Cincinnati.
- 2d. [Side dish with pastrami], SLAW. I always psych myself out that pastrami is Italian (the word’s from Romanian).
Four stars from me. Good night!
Jeffrey Wechsler’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up
The bigram SH- is prefixed to the second words of the theme answers.
- 19a. [Storage area for Christmas toys?] SANTA’S SHELVES (Santa’s elves).
- 24a. [Clippers used by Flopsy, Mopsy, and Cotton-Tail?] RABBIT SHEARS (rabbit ears). Editorial note: I detect the serial comma in the clue, which most crossword editors seem to eschew. Disclosure: I am pro-serial/Oxford comma.
- 40a. [Analyst for Ducks and Penguins?] HOCKEY SHRINK (hockey rink). Favorite theme clue and answer.
- 46a. [Earthquake-resistant?] FIT FOR SHAKING (fit for a king). And this is where I felt betrayed by the theme. Up until this point, I thought it was both orthographical and phonetic, but with this entry it’s clear that the theme is only about how it’s written. Note also that there is some re-spacing occurring.
That disconcertment affects my feeling about the theme, I can’t shake it.
- 22d [Grain of emmer, spelt, or einkorn] FARRO. Am reminded of the baseball triumvirate Tinker, Evers, and Chance. Also, note the serial comma once more.
- 26d [Trunk hardware] HINGE. During the solve, I thought this was about automobiles, but now I believe it’s just a regular storage trunk. Ultimately it doesn’t matter.
- 31d [Going head-to-head] FACING OFF. Crossing that hockey theme answer.
- 36d [Mineral in abrasives] CORUNDUM. Bit tough, but gettable via dim memory and crossings.
- 9a [Not great, chancewise] SLIM. Why did I put in SO-SO here? As if I dismissed the ‘chancewise’ modifier.
- Favorite clue: [Locks in a stable?] MANE.
- 16a [Chimney concern] NEST. Had I not had at least one non-T letter already, this definitely would’ve been filled in as SOOT. I wonder what kind of nest is most common? Bird? Squirrel? Mouse?
- 17a [Horror movie locale] CRYPT. Wrong again, I had CABIN.
- 30a [Flying things] WINGS. Before you say that WINGS are merely aids in flying and do not themselves fly, consider that “a flying wing is a tailless fixed-wing aircraft that has no definite fuselage …” (Wikipedia) — Many paper airplanes take this form.
- Something amusing about having BANJO and DINGO stacked together. (35a, 38a)
Jared Goudsmit’s Universal crossword, “Switch Jobs”—Jim P’s review
Theme answers are familiar phrases that hide an occupation spelled backwards.
- 16a. Old-timey timepiece (In this clue’s answer, see letters 7-4)] CUCKOO CLOCK. Cook.
- 31a. Softener, at times? (letters 9-6)] VOLUME DIAL. Aide.
- 38a. Dessert made with a vegetable (letters 8-4)] CARROT CAKE. Actor.
- 53a. Carbon emissions goal (letters 7-3)] NET NEGATIVE. Agent.
Every time I see the torturous clues in a Universal puzzle with circles, I think, “I thought we were past this by now.” Apparently not. Well, at least those of us with circles can ignore the square counting and focus on the puzzle.
Solid theme. I especially liked the CUCKOO CLOCK and CARROT CAKE entries. But I’m just not too keen on the title. “Switch Jobs” doesn’t say to me, “Look for jobs spelled backwards.” To me, it sounds like something’s going to be swapped for something else. Maybe “Working Backwards” would be a better title. Maybe?
I love the long fill today with MCMANSIONS, VOICE VOTES, AA MEETINGS, and STARRY-EYED. CADENCE and CORONET are nice as well as is ending the grid with a “JINX!”
Clues of note:
- 10a. [Sheryl Sandberg’s deg.]. MBA. She’s Facebook’s (actually Meta’s) COO (that’s Chief Operating Officer, not an indication that the word “coo” is in the puzzle).
- 18a. [Food additive that may cause vivid dreams]. MSG. Did not know this. And a cursory search online only produced anecdotal stories not scientific evidence. If you know of any, let us know.
Rafael Musa’s USA Today crossword, “Four PM”—Darby’s write-up
Editor: Erik Agard
Theme: Each theme answer is two words, with the first letters of each spelling out P.M., and there are four of them.
- 16a [“Reality show incentive”] PRIZE MONEY
- 28a [“Dividing line at zero longitude”] PRIME MERIDIAN
- 46a [“Insect sometimes kept as as a pet”] PRAYING MANTIS
- 61a [“Be good enough”] PASS MUSTER
It’s always fun to see four theme answers in a grid, and these were all fun. I needed the crosses to fill in PASS MUSTER and PRIME MERIDIAN, but PRIZE MONEY and PRAYING MANTIS fell into place pretty quickly.
This grid is symmetric with some really fun fill. I liked the cluing on 10d [“They can be secret or mistaken”] IDENTITIES, and, plus with its symmetric partner PENTATHLON, we also got a crash course reminder of numeric prefixes with its clue 28d [“Five-in-one Olympic sport”] and 26a [“Prefix between bi- and quad-”] TRI. GALAXY and BAZAAR were also really fun.
Some other Friday faves:
- 34a [“‘Born This Way’ singer Lady ___”] – Three women’s names appeared in this puzzle: Lady GAGA, 40a [“Broadway star Menzel”] IDINA, 67a [“‘The Diary of a Young Girl’ author ___ Frank”] ANNE. The fourth name to appear was 58d [“NBA player ___ Porter Jr.”] OTTO. Plus, it felt appropriate that musically inclined answers 36a [“Either ‘D’ in DDR”] DANCE and 43a [“Opera solo”] ARIA were so close to GAGA and IDINA respectively.
- 50a [“Take it one day ___ time”] – I was surprised to see AT A and 7d [“Totally relaxed”] AT EASE. I don’t mind the dupe here, but I did a double take when I realized.
- 6d [“The ___ Collective (‘70s abortion network)”] – I’m including this here since it’s referring to an organization rather than a specific person. I just saw a trailer for Call Jane, which is loosely based on The JANE Collective.
This was such a great puzzle! Have a great weekend!
Emily Carroll’s New Yorker crossword—Matthew’s write-up
I wish I could have gotten to this at my normal time, because Emily Carroll brings us a lovely theme and a quick solve otherwise. We’ve got four themers tied together by a revealer THAT’S MY JAM [63a “I love this song!” … or a hint to the starts of 17-, 27-, 39, and 52- across].
The respective themers are PAPER TIGER, SPACE CADETS, STRAWBERRY BLOND, and PEARL HARBOR. I adore that each of the “jams” is different; a movie, a band, an annoying printing mishap, and a food item. I also love [Person with a reddish beard perhaps] to clue STRAWBERRY BLOND, which of course needed to be “blond” and not “blonde” to make the theme work.
Wish I had time to say more, but it’s been a day. Have a good weekend!
NYT: Finally, an honest to goodness puzzle from the NY Times without cutesy graphics, endless highlighted cross-references or any other gimmicky nonsense. We need more like this.
Universal: Working Backwards is a much better title!
“34a. [Clutch, e.g.], PURSE. A clutch is a small purse, often without a shoulder strap, that is carried in the hand. You’ve seen them on the red carpet.” — I tried “Pedal” first. We’re reluctant to part with our 2001 BMW because it’s probably the last car we’ll own with a manual transmission. Fortunately, I knew the handbag sense of the word.
“60a. [Tim of “Sister, Sister”], REID. Even further back, he played radio DJ Venus Flytrap on WKRP in Cincinnati.” — In between those two shows, Tim Reid starred in a one-season sitcom called “Frank’s Place.” I remember it being pretty good. I’m told it’s available on YouTube; if so, it’s worth looking into.
Fun shows! Wish I could say the same for this puzzle. But with so much of its real estate taken up by banalities like the central grid-spanner, as well as several other lame entries, I found it to be an almost joyless experience.
I finished it in about ⅔ of my normal Friday time, even with a sloppy typo in 10A. Guess I didn’t have time to find it joyless. It won’t be on my Top 10 list, though.
NYT: Maybe I’m just grumpy today. I thought there was some good long fill, if not especially clever cluing. I was proud that I knew AVA Max and OSSIE Davis without any crossings, but I think there were just enough unfamiliar names (KERI, ANDY, REID, NESS) – and only vaguely familiar names (EGO, SAUL, DANNY, IDA) that I wound up more annoyed than entertained.
Such is life.
Universal: “‘Switch Jobs’ doesn’t say to me, ‘Look for jobs spelled backwards.’” Agreed. In fact, it wasn’t until I read Jim P’s review that I realized the jobs were spelled backwards and not simply jumbled.