Kameron Austin Collins’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
When you see the KAC byline on a Saturday, you know you’re in for a challenge. He excels at impressive grids and tricksy clues. Bring it!
Fave fill: RANGE ROVERS, “BRING IT,” LAMAZE CLASS, BORE TO TEARS. XOXO, Hostess SNO-BALL, and CURTAIN TIME.
New to me:
- 20d. [Case made for significant change?], MINT COIN SET. An expensive purchase for a collector, I gather from the clue?
- 35a. [Blues singer ___ Monica Parker], SISTA. I’d never heard of her, but who can object to a singer known as the Blues Lioness? Video below.
- 17a. [Jukebox crooner with the 1965 hit “1-2-3”], LEN BARRY. My husband also was not familiar with the singer.
- 10d. [PV = nRT], IDEAL GAS LAW. Can there be a better gas law than this? Or can there be better gases to have a law about?
Seven more things:
- 15a. [One of five official languages of Ethiopia], SOMALI. Hadn’t known that, but the two countries share a border so it’s not surprising.
- 59a. [In descending order: Mount Everest, K2, Kangchenjunga, ___], LHOTSE. I recently did a trivia quiz on the tallest mountains, so LHOTSE came to mind quickly. You folks who complain about puzzles with “trivia”—you don’t seem to object to geographical notables, but that’s trivia too! And I like it.
- 30a. [Tea brand with Wild Sweet Orange and Refresh Mint flavors], TAZO. Not the same kind of mint as in 20d.
- 36a. [Espresso foam], CREMA. It’s not just an Italian word—it’s also Spanish, and you could do worse than to buy some V&V Supremo crema for topping your Mexican food.
- 40a. [Co-host of the 1970s program “People Are Talking”], OPRAH. A deep cut from Winfrey’s long career.
- 48a. [Writer’s block?], PRESS BOX. Team Fiend’s Adesina Koiki has been working at the US Open tennis tournament. Here’s his Wednesday story about Frances Tiafoe, who is currently battling in a five-set semifinal.
- 18d. [Yellow slippers?], BANANA PEELS. Cute clue, but I saw right through it. :-)
Christina Iverson and Taylor Johnson’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up
Most of the time my theory about themelesses is that I don’t give a crap about grid fireworks; if, for example, a 64-word grid or a quad-stack of 15s comes at the cost of boring obscurities in the crossings, I’m not impressed. And if a 72-word themeless that doesn’t have a ton of entries that “sparkle” on their own is clued with brilliance, I am here for it.
This grid, however, feels like it was meant for a themed puzzle, and the 14s at 19A, 28A, and 48A don’t make me go “wow” enough to justify seeding a themeless around them, much less a themeless with this many 3s, 4s, and 5s (47 in total). I did very much like the clue [24-hour post] for INSTAGRAM STORY at 34A, which is a nice misdirect that had me thinking in terms of short-term jobs before I had enough crossings to realize what was actually going on.
I did enjoy these bits:
- 44A [Some spooky stories] for ATTICS.
- 52A [Sub standard?] is a fun punny way to clue SONAR.
- 4D [“Only Happy When It Rains” rock band] for GARBAGE takes me right back to high school.
- 29D [Opposite of a speaking fee?] for HUSH MONEY made me laugh.
Joe Deeney’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Animal Crackers” — pannonica’s write-up
During the solve I strongly suspected what the extra layer would be, so I was a little disappointed to see it made explicit in the final across answer, which is a revealer. On the other hand, it provides more context so that the hidden bit makes sense.
- 124aR [Plush items that might utter the phrase spelled by the letters between the pairs of circles] I’M STUFFED, which is an idiom with a different meaning in the UK.
- 21a. [Needing little provocation to become furious] HAIR-TRIGGER (hart, I).
- 29a. [Soda fountain treat] CHOCOLATE MALT (teal, M).
- 39a. [They usually include olives, anchovies and hard-boiled eggs] NIÇOISE SALADS (seal, S).
- 53a. [What’s left] ALL THAT REMAINS (hare, T).
- 64a. [Occasions with open mics] AMATEUR NIGHTS (tern, U).
- 76a. [Best of the best] CREAM OF THE CROP (moth, F).
- 90a. [Having an inflated ego] FULL OF ONESELF (loon, F).
- 101a. [Dinner table request] MAY I BE EXCUSED (ibex, E).
- 116a. [Pot winner’s exclamation] COME TO DADDY (toad, D).
These phrases are all very good. It’s a well-put-together theme.
- 4d [Very close colleague at the office] WORK SPOUSE. A gender-neutral version of work wife, which I’ve seen more often.
- 8d [Beth’s preceder] ALEPH. psst, it’s in the Spelling Bee today.
- 26d [Fish with spiky scales] SCAD. Have not heard of these. I wonder if those spikes are called denticles, as they are in elasmobranchs.
- 93d [Silky beers] NITROS. Pretty sure I want to know nothing about this.
- 104d [In order that, in Germany] DAMIT. Bit advanced for crossword German vocabulary.
- 113d [“The Swiss Family Robinson” author] WYSS. Had a moment of hesitation for the square where this crosses 120a [“__ Newt” (1990s animated show)] NED’S.
- 109a [Pan’s counterpart] RAVE REVIEW. Momentarily forgetting 34d [“The Raven” feature] OCTAMETER, I thought this was going to be something like RAVEN TRICKSTER but shorter.
Matthew Sewell’s Newsday crossword, Saturday Stumper — pannonica’s write-up
This one played slightly differently for me than recent Stumpers. From the start, I was able to complete nearly all of the top left section, so it looked to be a pushover. But then there was trouble gaining footholds anywhere else, so my revised opinion was “uh-oh-tough!”
But somehow I kept finding a solvable entry just when hope seemed lost. Every time I needed one, it was there. As a result, the whole grid was done in relatively short order.
There were a couple of extra-tricksy clues down on the bottom, but since I had so much filled in, they proved to be easily surmountable: 58d [Audible crack] MOT, 53d [Made like some bee products] SEWN.
- Favorite clue: 28a [What may precede Q & A] LGBT. Somehow thought this was going to be an abbreviated LECT or LESS.
- 12d [One in a recital trio] PIANO PEDAL. Little tricky on the back end there.
- 26d [Alchemist’s “little person” statue] HOMUNCULUS. Knowing this with only a U crossing (I forget which one) was instrumental in hastening my solve.
- 34d [“Oppozitsiya” pronouncement] NYET. Educated guess gave me this one with zero crossings.
- 52d [Body language] LAWS. Not certain I understand this one. Is that an implied reference to a legal body?
- Symmetrical: 56a [40-time “Sports Illustrated” cover subject (1963–2016)] ALI; 18a [Where 56 Across wouldn’t go] NAM.
23a [Letter written by Tolkien] RUNE.
- 32d [Speak for] REP. “I REP the trees!” 54d [ __ farm] TREE.
- 41a [What you must provide for a kid’s cable car kit] TIN CAN. Is this a common thing? I suppose I can visualize it, but it seems kind of … unusual?
- 42a [Read Across America sponsor] NEA, the National Education Association. Tried PTA first.
- 45a [Playwright source for Shakespeare’s “King John”] PEELE. Bit of a deep cut there.
- 24a [Didn’t release] SAT ON. 48a [Didn’t give up] HELD. 50a [Gave up] PUNTED.
- 64a [Had an inspiration with stretched eardrums] YAWNED. Funny clue, but not funny ha-ha.
Rafael Musa’s Universal Crossword, “Universal Freestyle 37” — norah’s write-up
- DISCO BALLS 15A [Flashy party decorations?]
- RAD 22A [“Cool beans!”]
- ALF 37A [Sitcom character who came from Melmac]
- DANK 38A [Like some cellars and memes]
- WE’RE SAVED 52A [“Help is here!”]
- ANITA 2D [Lawyer and educator Hill]
- PLOTLINES 10D [Horror stories’ skeletons]
- SAL 7D [___ y pimienta (Spanish condiments)]
- DEMOTAPES 32D [Aspiring musician’s recordings]
- POP 55D [Balloon artist’s dreaded sound]
Super breezy puzzle from Rafa today that is right on my wavelength. So much fun and personality in the clues; just the way I like my themeless puzzles. The diagonal symmetry here is gorgeous, and allows for all of the long pairs to intersect each other: ITSABOUTTIME x RIODEJANEIRO ; LOANDBEHOLD x LOOPDELOOPS ; DISCOBALLS x INSIDEINFO. I learned that Maracana Stadium in RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (41A) has a capacity of over 78,000! and has hosted the World Cup, the Olympics, the Backstreet Boys, and one pope. The sole sticking point for me was MANU but I’m sure lots of folks are happy to see that one!