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!
NYT: “Bring back my themelesses!” Yes – this!
Cute theme, but I don’t want to see it on a Friday. 8-D and 23-D were not bad, but otherwise, the cluing was very straightforward. If not for puzzling over Tim vs. Tom at 4-D (I’m not familiar with the Latin phrase), this would have been a Tuesday solve time.
I’m sure Mr. Shortz will kick my butt tomorrow to make up for this.
It sure seems to me that things are changing at the NYT Crossword Desk. I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s an editorial change announcement in the offing.
NYT: It was a fun change of pace. I liked the visual and the dark bottom of the grid.
I had disTURBS instead of PERTURBS, but RNA for the vaccine made me reconsider. I like “perturb” better as a word.
There are so many different names of ALLAH (99?), but Rahman means “the merciful” and it is used when you first read any passage of the Koran, but also when you embark on something hard or important or significant: “Bismallah Al Rahman Al Raheem”= “In the Name of Allah the Merciful”. Some people say it before eating, like saying grace.
I grew up with people around me fasting but I have never seen anyone use DATES to break their fast. A bowl of soup is more likely. I realize that dates are traditional fare in certain parts of the Middle East and I think there is “hadith”, i.e. a saying from the prophet Mohamed to drink water and eat a date to break the fast. At least in Damascus, the water stuck more than the dates.
That’s interesting about your experience with foods used to break a Ramadan fast. Several years back, I attended a neighborhood event hosted by an Islamic institution—art demonstrations, music, henna tattoos, and a feast after sundown. I very specifically remember dates, and they might have been handed out first or separately from the rest of the buffet line. The hosts included a range of Muslims—American-born, Turkish, and Kyrgyz, along with Middle Eastern, African, and South Asian. (And of course the food was terrific!)
I know that many Pakistani families begin Iftar with dates. (My son’s wife is Pakistani-American.)
haha, I guess Syrians are non-conformists.
It’s really cool that the tradition exists elsewhere.
I have a vivid memory from New Years Eve 1999. My mother had just passed away and my sister and I were in Damascus for her funeral. That evening, a lot of the world was celebrating the arrival of a new century. My sister and I wanted to get some take out from a traditional Syrian restaurant within walking distance from our parents house, so I ordered and went to pick up our order. The restaurant was completely full, but was completely silent, and no one was eating. It was eerie. Then I remembered it was Ramadan, and just around sunset. They actually fire some sort of cannon at sunset to announce the time to break the fast. So, I sat there waiting for people to be served before I could get our order.
When sunset was announced, about 8 waiters came out in single file with steaming bowls of lentil soup they placed in front of every person. Everyone said a prayer, drank water and then started eating.
It was such a contrast to the reveling we could see on TV from our the world.
But the food was delicious
Beautiful remembrance of your mom.
Thanks for sharing, huda. Like many Americans, I’m afraid that I’ve had little exposure to Muslim practices and traditions. I love learning about them and it’s particularly interesting to learn of them through personal stories. Keep ’em coming!
I want to +1 what sanfranman above said, Huda. I’ve really been enjoying your stories, memories and insights into your traditions and foods! It is an education for me and really interesting. :)
Thank you all! I really appreciate what a wonderful group of people this is, which is why I feel comfortable sharing these memories.
For a moment I thought the game was TENNIS, since the US Open concludes this weekend, but it clearly didn’t fit with the long downs.
I haven’t played TETRIS in years and there must surely be some solvers who don’t know it. Seems like an unfair puzzle to such people.
Thanks for saying this. I have never played Tetris and this was not a fun puzzle for me … and probably many others in my over-60 age group.
Another over-60 here, but I definitely know what Tetris is. It goes back quite a ways (1984) and I wasn’t even aware that it’s still a thing. I agree with Amy and others that this theme (on a Friday? yuck!) is almost certainly going to frustrate a lot of solvers, but I figured it would be more apt to frustrate younger solvers than older ones. It just goes to show that we all live in different worlds and have different experiences. The job that crossword constructors and editors have seems monumental to me, assuming that they want their work to appeal to a broad range of solvers.
NYT: I am in my 60s and I vividly remember people in my office in early 90s being so addicted to Tetris that the boss has to ban the game during working hours (FWIW, I loved this Friday puzzle!)
When I got a Nintendo in the 1980s, my mom, who is now well into the over-60 group, ended up playing Tetris on it as much as the kids played anything else.
TNY: Nice little Friday challenge. All three vertical themers are snappy and on point. But … EEP? Somewhere a real word is saying, “Dude, where’s my first letter?”
+1 … I enjoyed this puzzle and its theme also, but EEP reminded me of a Maleska-era made-up answer. At least it wasn’t an abbreviation that the constructor/editor made up from whole cloth. The only thing that made sense to me there with EE_ was a ‘K’, but that clearly didn’t work with the crossing SPORES.
TNY: EEP? Yikes!
Yes, that was really weird. I kept going over it to see where I’d made a mistake, but it just wouldn’t go away. The whole SW was rough going, too, with PEPUSA, LUE, and so on.
This one must have polarized responses. For some, with the stoner film and all the game theme answers , it must have been an awful gimme for a Friday, not to mention themed. For others, like me (and I love themes), it was surely a slog (and sure, once I finally got everything else, I did come up with TETRIS). Hard to believe anyone loved it.