Sara Nies’s Inkubator crossword, “It’s All in the Delivery”—Amy’s write-up
It’s Amy, filling in for Jenni. Puns on the surnames of four funny women are the theme this week:
- 17a. [*Issa’s illuminating jokes got the comedy going with a …], RAE OF LIGHT. That’s Issa Rae, ray of light. This doesn’t work great on the grammatical front.
- 26a. [*Margaret kept the fun going with her …], DOG AND PONY CHO. I do not believe she’s done an animal act!
- 47a. [*Amy’s comic timing drew us all in with her …], POEHLER VORTEX. I was trying to figure out what SCHUMER would be a pun on.
- 62a. [*And Jane ended the evening with a hilarious …], CURTIN CALL.
I like the span of comedians in their 30s, 50s, and 70s. Can you believe that the SNL “Weekend Update” catchphrase when Curtin coanchored with Dan Aykroyd in the 1970s was him saying “Jane, you ignorant slut”? (Her rejoinder of “Dan, you pompous ass” is neither crudely gendered nor so well remembered.)
Fave fill: “PUSH IT,” SMOLDERS, SHTICKS, COLD SHOWER.
Three more things:
- 23a. [Word never following a man’s name in wedding announcements], NEE. If he changed his name upon marriage, you might see the masculine né.
- 38a. [AFAB and still identifying as female], CIS. AFAB = assigned female at birth.
- 69a. [Michelle, author of “Sharp: The Women Who Made an Art of Having an Opinion” (2018)], DEAN. Don’t know her or the book. Here’s a Roxane Gay interview with Dean. (Also, somebody tell Dean she has a typo in her book title in her Instagram profile.)
3.9 stars from me.
Brandon Koppy’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
I figured the theme had to be Tetris by looking at the grid, and indeed, there’s 59d. [Best-selling video game celebrated in this grid], TETRIS extending into the black blocks at the bottom. With those four unchecked squares, woe to any solver who never heard of Tetris, because I don’t know that there’s any way to know what goes in those squares if that’s a gap in your knowledge. (The black squares are the various tetrominoes—four-square blocks in assorted shapes—that are Tetris game pieces. The black at the bottom would be space filled in successfully by dropping previous blocks there.)
The theme includes BLOCKBUSTER, DISAPPEARING ACT, and maybe DROP ME A LINE, since the BLOCKs are DROPped before they DISAPPEAR.
And yeah, lots of people aren’t keen on themes invading their Friday puzzle—it PERTURBS them.
New to me: 31a. [N.F.L. QB Tagovailoa], TUA.
A few clunkers in the fill (like ALPE and OMS) but mostly solid.
3.5 stars from me. Bring back my themelesses!
Lita Williams and Tass Williams’s Universal crossword, “Empty Calories”—Jim P’s review
Our theme today consists of sweet consumables that hide a synonym for “zero” within. The revealer is SWEET NOTHINGS (50a, [Tender words often whispered, and a hint to this puzzle’s theme]).
- 20a. [Almond paste confections] MARZIPAN CAKES.
- 25a. [Pie a la mode feature] VANILLA ICE CREAM.
- 45a. [Some tropical cocktails] BANANA DAIQUIRIES. Nicest entry of the lot since the hidden word spans both words.
Nice, tight theme. Typically, hidden words span multiple words as in the last entry, but the theme is so tight (not just food items, but sweet food items) that the other entries were given the okay. Both revealer and title are on point as well. Nicely done.
In the fill, I like WINGS IT, YALE LAW, TEL AVIV, WALNUTS, QUIRKY, and fully-named RITA ORA. It felt like there was a lot of proper names today (Cynthia NIXON crossing Laverne COX, RIRI, footballer Neymar in a clue for BRAZIL, IDINA Menzel, ELLA Fitzgerald) but the crossings were all fair save for NIXON/COX and even then, the X is the most obvious choice.
Clues of note:
- 43a. [Get down on the dance floor]. TWERK. This feels like a disconnect to me. “Get down” seems 1970s-ish whereas the entry is decidedly modern.
- 13d. [Flames that have been snuffed out?]. EXES. “Snuffed out” metaphorically, not that they’ve been offed by a hitman.
Nice puzzle that shouldn’t be done on an empty stomach. 3.75 stars.
Brooke Husic’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up
- 66aR [Show the door, and a phonetic hint for the answers to the starred clues] SEE OUT. The letter C has been removed from the beginning of one of the words in each theme entry. Further, there are no Cs anywhere in the grid. It’s a lipogram!
- 21a. [*What an eager newlywed requests from a wedding photographer?] ALL THE SHOTS (call the shots).
- 28a. [*Poem dedicated to a computer chip?] BINARY ODE (binary code).
- 43a. [*Band gear only used in the warmest months?] SUMMER AMP (summer camp).
- 50a. [*Reason for roadwork?] OLD SHOULDER (cold shoulder).
See, that wasn’t so bad.
- 3d [Pride of lions] MANE. No question mark in clue?
- 24d [Places for taking notes?] ATMS. This one fooled me. Impressive to come up with a fresh clue for that.
- 55d [Liu who plays the superhero Shang-Chi] SIMU. Was wondering when I’d first see him in a crossword. However, I’d be surprised if this is his cruciverbal début.
- 16a [“American Street” author __ Zoboi] IBI. Totally new to me. Ah, young adult author. I tend not to read those, even though I understand that many such titles are very worthwhile.
- 20a [“Mudbound” director Rees] DEE.
- 24a [Actress Taylor-Joy] ANYA. Watched Last Night in Soho last night. It was not what I expected, even though I can see how it fits in with Edgar Wright’s oeuvre.
- 61a [Snack __ ] BAR. Appreciate that it wasn’t cross-referenced to 11d [Person with a spiritual calling?] MIXOLOGIST.
- 65a [Condition underdiagnosed in girls: Abbr.] ADHD. Yep, and the whole puzzle has a female vibe, which helps to balance the historical scales.
May Huang’s USA Today crossword, “P.R. Pros”—Darby’s write-up
Editor: Erik Agard
Theme: Each theme answer is a profession two words long. The first letter is P for the first and R for the second, making them PR Pros.
- 20a [“Antiestablishment musician”] PUNK ROCKER
- 37a [“Fortuneteller who interprets life lines”] PALM READER
- 57a [“NPS employee”] PARK RANGER
I think that the two layers of this theme (one in them being PR words and the second in them being professions) is super fun. I thought that PUNK ROCKER was going to be a named person or group, which was at first harrowing (because my knowledge of popular music is limited), but I figured I’d catch it on the crosses. Then, the profession half of the theme clicked.
This grid is asymmetric, and I really like its open corners. The smattering of black squares in the center also didn’t feel too clogged up, making for a really smooth fill. It was nice having ETICKETS, REFRAINS, RESIGNS, and EPIC POEM for some longer answers in addition to the themers. I also thought that EGGED ON and PALETTE were both really fun.
Other Friday faves for me:
- 33a [“Fiction writer’s works”] – It felt appropriate to have STORIES cross EPIC POEMS here. Plus, we also get REFRAINS nearby and 69a [“Brainstorming breakthrough”] IDEA, making me feel like this is a super imaginative puzzle. Maybe it’s all the energy around creativity that can be found in the novel of 27a [“‘Maya and the Robot’ writer Ewing”] (EVE). The book is about a fifth grader whose homemade science project comes to life.
- 7d [“___-Hamantash Debate (University of Chicago tradition)”] – The LATKE-Hamantash Debate is an annual tradition that was started in 1946 and has continued. It debates whether potato pancakes (latkes) or the stuffed wheat-flour pastries (hamantash) are the superior Jewish food. You find more information about it here or watch past debates on YouTube. Also – the faculty participate while wearing full academic regalia, adding to the humorous nature of the event.
- 22d [“‘Always Be My Maybe’ star Park”] – I think that this movie is super reliable in its watchability. I’ve seen it several times now, and it never feels repetitive. Plus, I love both Ali Wong and RANDALL Park in whenever they appear.
That’s all from me today!
Matthew Stock’s New Yorker crossword—Matthew’s write-up
We’ve got vertical symmetry accomodating an eye-catching revealer: DUDE WHERE’S MY CAR [58a 2000 stoner comedy whose title is a hint to 3-, 6-, and 9-Down]. 4
The symmetry gives us a triptych of stacks, each with a phrase clued to the car make found in its second word:
3d [Missing Ford?] NO ESCAPE
6d [Missing Nissan?] GONE ROGUE
9d [Missing Kia?] LOST SOUL
Cool to see such a tight set found in common phrases. I’m tired from a long week of work, pretty hungry, and happily in Washington D.C., where I can find PUPUSAs [42d Salvadoran griddle cake served with salsa and curtido], so I’m cutting myself short today. Have a good weekend!