David Distenfeld’s New York Times crossword—Erin’s write-up
Hi, everyone! It’s Erin, throwing up a grid for Amy, who is dealing with Internet Issues. This is David Distenfeld’s fourth NYT Friday/Saturday puzzle, all in the past nine months. What jumps out at me is a nice cross of triple stacks in the center, with DIRTY MINDED, STEAMED OPEN, and ARMED FORCES crossing ZOOM MEETING, MARRIED LIFE, and RANK AND FILE. We’ve got some older stuff like SUZANNE Somers and OPIE from The Andy Griffith Show. We’ve got some really old stuff like ELI Whitney and his cotton gin, which led to an explosion in the cotton industry as well as in slavery during the 1800s. And we’ve got some spicier fill like SEXILED and drag queen TRIXIE Mattel.
I have to go figure out why my child won’t sleep, then walk my dog, so why don’t you let me know your thoughts on the puzzle? Did any clues or answers stick out as amazing or rub you the wrong way? Tell us in the comments.
Malaika Handa’s Universal Crossword, “Universal Freestyle 36” — norah’s write-up
- ART THERAPY 2oA [Creative way to change your mind?]
- MICROBRAIDS 34A [Hairstyle that can take twelve hours to do]
- TRUECRIME 17A [“Serial” genre]
- PE CLASS 11D [School period where you might play cone ball]
Another fun and clean themeless from Malaika with a wonderful center stack and nice corners. I do love a puzzle that makes me hungry! and there’s plenty to dig into here including MASA [Pupusa dough], WRAPS [Kati rolls and burritos, e.g.], DALI [Artist Salvador who designed the Chupa Chups logo] (I didn’t know this!), HOT [Like ramen but not gazpacho], PERI [When doubled, an African chili sauce], and ELOTE [Grilled corn served with cotija].
In sports, I learned what cone ball (PECLASS) is, and I recently learned that pickleball (NETS) is one of the fastest growing sports in America.
Malaika is constructing for the Boswords Fall Themeless League, for which registration opens today!
Brooke Husic and Michael Lieberman’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up
- 16A [Nickname for fans of Instagram’s most-followed musician] is SELENATORS. Fun new-to-me fact, and totally gettable from crossings and context.
- 21A [Michelangelo’s milieu] for SEWER is one of a couple of modern-feeling misdirects, since it refers to Michelangelo the Ninja Turtle. (Please do not remind me that TMNT, being 35 years old, are not exactly modern any more. I know.)
- 32A [Hit a bunch of keys?] is a great clue for a fun entry, ISLAND-HOP.
- 42A [Only two-digit number spelled without the letter “T”] is ELEVEN, a fun angle on this common entry.
- 55A [Fashion designer Saab] is ELIE. I am here for any mention of him. Just look at the clothes!
- 10D [Units for Newton: Abbr.] Here’s another of those modern misdirects, since the answer, YDS, refers not to Isaac Newton or the physics unit named after him, but rather to Cam Newton the quarterback.
- 30D [Digital service provider] is a great clue for NAIL SALON.
Brooke Husic’s USA Today crossword, “Home Openers”—Matthew’s write-up
Striking grid from Brooke today that works to accommodate a 13-block central themer and some l-o-n-g downs for a themed puzzle. That middle themer, COOKING CLASS, does a lot of work to hold the grid design together, and the grid is ever-so-slightly asymmetrical to make it work.
Our themers begin with words that can follow “Home” to make common phrases:
- 16a [Hangs out with a long-distance friend, say] VIDEO CHATS. “Home video”
- 37a [Lesson in the culinary arts] COOKING CLASS. “Home cooking”
- 57a [Book that’s hard to put down] PAGE TURNER. “Home page”
There is some SERIOUS representation in this puzzle, and I love it. There are names I know from outside crosswords and am glad to see: Toni Morrison (born in OHIO), SAM Wilson, successor to Steve Rogers as Captain America in the MCU, double-Nobelist MARIE Curie. There are names I learned from crosswords and now know and enjoy outside: Issa RAE, IRENE Cara. And there are names I’m learning for the first time today I’m eager to learn more about: ELECTROSOUL artist Moses Sumney, SKA artist Millie Small, and author Kiley Reid, whose book Such a Fun AGE provides a new angle on a common entry and an addition to my reading list. And not to limit myself to proper nouns: TEA CEREMONY and WIRELESS BRA are entries and POVs that I certainly wasn’t seeing when I started solving puzzles.
Have a great weekend!
Gary Larson & Amy Ensz’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Foodies” — pannonica’s write-up
Just going to say it right up front: I found this crossword annoying more than anything else. The theme didn’t grab me, I noticed some duplication, there were some very rough entries, and there were a few clues that might have felt off (or perhaps just a bit too tough).
First. the theme: phrases where a short i sound becomes a long e sound, and the result has to do with food. For those keeping score at home, that’s a near-close front unrounded vowel shifting to a close front unrounded vowel. Spelling is altered as necessary.
- 25a. [Beginning a gluten-free diet?] AT WHEAT’S END (at wit’s end).
- 27a. [Bellies after banqueting?] FEAST BUMPS (fist bumps).
- 53a. [Roasts, e.g.?] OVEN MEATS (oven mitts).
- 79a. [Some greens?] BEET PARTS (bit parts).
- 104a. [Mentored in the art of preparing unagi?] EEL ADVISED (ill-advised). “Eel advised” doesn’t scan well, in my opinion.
- 109a. [Fuzzy fruits not grown in an orchard?] WILD PEACHES (wild pitches).
- 33d. [Two-for-one salad special?] PAIR OF CAESARS (pair of scissors).
- 35d. [Corn dogs?] BREAD WIENERS (breadwinners). Is corn also slang for money, or is there a more literal connection? If it’s that corndogs are breaded, I don’t think you can get away with just saying ‘bread’.
- 40d. [Discount legumes?] BARGAIN BEANS (bargain bins).
Some of these are cute, others are just meh. I guess it proves that there’s a bounty of food words with a long e sound.
Had big trouble finishing, in roughly symmetrical areas (central flanks). On the righthand side, it was first and foremost not recognizing that OVEN MEATS was a theme entry—I’d filled in OVEN MEALS earlier on. Didn’t know 61a [Honshu’s “City of Trees”] SENDAI, and had had PANSIES rather than TANSIES for 37d [Aster relatives]. Of course I realized that AT BAP was wrong, so that was swiftly corrected. Nevertheless, AIR LINK persisted for quite a time at 36d [Scuba diver equipment] AIR TANK. Oh, I also had EMOTES instead of E-NOTES for 55d [Modern memos], oops.
Over on the left side, my troubles first started with 66d [Ruth nickname], THE BABE, where I’d had BAMBINO very early on. Even after amending that, there were problems. Going to call 57d [Creditor’s writ] ELEGIT the epicenter of those—completely new to me. I also resisted BEET PARTS because (a) I wasn’t thinking that it was a theme entry, and (b) I didn’t 100% see how it fulfilled the clue. Further, I didn’t know 85a ASA Butterfield of Netflix’s “Sex Education”. THIEVE, ERBIUM, and BONG HIT were a bit hard to get from the clues, which were nevertheless fair. Lastly, 58d [Fulfill, with “to”] LIVE UP; sure, it seems easy, but I was resistant about another UP.
I say another because: 34a [Up] AT BAT, 83d [Conserved energy] RESTED UP, and 90d [Listened enthusiastically] ATE IT UP. Seems like at least one too many.
- 74d [Early Christmas givers] MAGI. Good clue.
- 78d [Charge] TASK. Mildly tough clue. I believe it works as either noun or verb.
- 94d [Bludgeons] COSHES. Needed the crossing to determine if it would be COSHES, koshes, or boshes.
- 103d [This answer is a four-letter word] OATH. Despite a similarly-turned clue/answer in today’s NYT crossword puzzle, I wasn’t confident about the answer in this case.
- 43a [City near the mouth of the Columbia] ASTORIA. I recalled this from reading Annie Dillard’s The Living.
- 96a [“Everything’s fine”] IT’S OK, 76a [“I stand corrected”] GUESS NOT, 101a [“This looks very bad for me!”] I’M TOAST. Like a short story, eh?
- 119a [Modern speed figure] BAUD. It’s an eponym, from French inventor M.E. Baudot.
Anna Stiga’s Newsday crossword, Saturday Stumper — pannonica’s write-up
Yet another Stumper that seemed recalcitrant and then yielded rather easily. In fact, by the end it practically imploded—I was getting those long answers in to finish the proceedings. Was quite surprised to see how fast the solve time was.
- 1a [Flamboyant stuff] RAZZMATAZZ. Also the title of Christopher Moore’s latest comic noir novel.
- 15a [Florida’s “Inland Sea”] is Lake OKEECHOBEE. 55a [It’s northwest of 15 Across] SARASOTA. Ugh, the school board there.
- 16a [Suburban Big Apple school] IONA. Recently changed from a college to a university.
- 20a [Connection for kids] DOT TO DOT. Is this the game dots, which appeared in the Wall Street Journal crossword, or perhaps connect-the-(numbered)-dots drawing?
- 22a [Island whose official color is melemele] OAHU. New clue. Melemele is one of the yellow HUES (62a, which has an odd clue: [Some things over the rainbow]). 8d [“Beginning to faint … on __ of daffodil sky”: Tennyson] A BED.
- 34a [Conductors’ concerns] ETAS. Think trains.
- 39a [American nickname since 1876] CENTENNIAL STATE. Pretty sure no one calls it that anymore. Maybe ‘after’ would have been better wording in the clue? Oh wait, that’s not the United States, that’s the nickname of Colorado, which was admitted into the Union 1 August 1876. That’s all good then,
- 47a [“Sizzle Pork and Mmm” brand] SPAM. Looks like a commercial backronym to me.
- 50a [US debut during WWI] DST. Possibly ending soon? I think Congress voted to stick with the wrong setting.
- 67a [Poetic inspiration for “Lolita”] ANNABEL LEE. 32a [They have a big black-beaked mascot] RAVENS.
- 4d/37d [One of the brothers in a garbage can on a “Time” cover (1932)] ZEPPO, HARPO. In fact, those two are the most prominent figures in the photograph!
- 60d [Family nickname missing its three middle letters] BRER.
- 14d [Way out?] FAST ASLEEP. Oof, toughie.
- 27d [Biannual celebrant with Taylor Swift as its ambassador for 2022] RECORD SHOP. This explains why it seemed that Record Store Day happened again faster than I expected. It’s twice a year!
- 28d [Very early fliers] PTEROSAURS. Now that’s a fun entry to stick in a crossword.
- 29d [Where India’s national fruit comes from] MANGO TREES. Was perplexed at first, believing it would be a geographical location. But then I saw TREE grow right before my eyes and I understood.
- 41d [Abrupt transition] LEAP. Suspected it was going to be SNAP, but
How did the puzzle treat you?