Mary Lou Guizzo & Jeff Chen’s New York Times crossword–Amy’s recap
There’s a 19-letter theme entry split in three across the center: Supreme Court Justice KETANJI / BROWN / JACKSON, newly on the job. Nice!
Fave fill: ZEBRA (with a comedian’s joke in the clue: [“How fast does a ___ have to run before it looks gray?”: Demetri Martin]), HANGER-ON, a LATE GAME, Billie EILISH, tasty STREUSEL, the KONA COAST (had to work for the COAST part of this), ARMADILLO (great language clue: [Animal that the Aztecs called ayotochtli, or “turtle-rabbit”]), GOES ALL IN. (Note: I don’t like EILISH because it’s a pop culture name I know–it’s because she’s a talented songwriter and rocker who’s carving out a career in the sexist music industry on her own terms.)
Not sure how I feel about MAC ‘N CHEESE. That’s how I pronounce “mac & cheese,” yes, but I don’t spell it with ‘n.
27d. [Car modified into the Monkeemobile], GTO. Did not know that, but it’s nice to get an old car clued via pop culture instead of with gearhead references entirely unfamiliar to many.
Four stars from me.
Hanh Huynh’s Universal crossword, “Ghostbusters”—Jim P’s review
I ain’t ‘fraid of no ghosts! Mainly because we busted them up in this puzzle. The circled letters (assuming you have circled letters in your grid) spell out the names of the ghosts from PAC-MAN (67a, [Video game whose ghosts are in this puzzle’s theme answers]).
- BLINKY is found in RAMBLIN‘ / KYLO REN. Bonus points for finding a crossword-suitable entry that ends in _BLIN.
- PINKY is found in SPIN / KYRGYZSTAN. I’ll have you know that I filled in KYRGYZSTAN (spelled correctly) without a single crossing letter, thanks to my knowledge of PAC-MAN ghosts and some wild-ass guessing with the spelling.
- INKY is found in MADE A STINK / YAPS.
- CLYDE is found in TREACLY / DEBITED. I initially thought the fourth ghost was Sue, but that’s the fourth ghost from Ms. Pac-Man.
Fun theme, especially for one who knows (most of) the ghosts’ names. The choices for long theme entries are fun as well. It would have been neat if the grid could’ve resembled a PAC-MAN maze, but that’s probably too much to ask.
No sparkly long fill today, but there are numerous likable 7s: BAD DEAL, RUB DOWN, 10,000 MANIACS, SEE NOTE.
Clues of note:
- 24a. [SoulCycle verb (Last 3 + …)]. SPIN. I was confused because I assumed this was a musical group. Nope, we’re talking stationary bikes here.
- 28d. [Money spent at a konbini]. YEN. Konbini are Japanese convenience stores which Japan has more of than any other country. Here’s a fun guide.
- 29d. [Quirky]. ZANY. Hmm. I don’t equate these. “Quirky” is more subtly eccentric to me where I equate ZANY with “madcap.”
Enjoyable puzzle. 3.75 stars
Robin Stears’ Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up
Two-word phrases. The second word is monosyllabic and has an O for the vowel, and that O is doubled to wacky effect.
- 17a. [Filming that takes place in a vault?] BANK SHOOT (bank shot). I recommend Spike Lee’s Inside Man.
- 25a. [Revenue for the Witch Museum] SALEM’S LOOT (Salem’s Lot).
- 36a. [Blast from a tugboat powered by spuds?] TATER TOOT (tater tot). Ironically, the less juvenile approach.
- 50a. [Fantastic display of hustle?] GREAT SCOOT (great scot). That merited an Ngram query:
- 60a. [Footwear worn in a meatpacking plant] SPAM BOOTS (spambots). Oh, I guess that one wasn’t two words originally. Also, kind of gruesome.
I’ll just note that there are Os elsewhere in the grid that are unaffected by the multiplicative process. Makes for a less constrained grid that’s easier to construct.
- 12d [“Just Dance” game company] UBISOFT. All the crossings are easy, so this potentially tough entry is mollified.
- 24d [Time, in German] ZEIT.
(An extended but rewarding listen. I contend that certain parts can alter your heartrate.)
- 26d [Not for the hoi polloi] ELITE, crossing 31a [Reprobate] LOWLIFE.
- 48d [Losing color] PALING. >moue<
- 51d [“__-daisy!”] OOPSY. Kind of fitting that this is a non-theme double-O.
- 52d [Shapes formed by angled spotlights] OVALS. 2d [Hand] OVATION. I just checked to see if they had a common etymology, if an ovation is literally a loose ’round’ of applause, but no—they have distinct roots. 19a [Comet’s path] ORBIT.
- 1a [Fiddler’s supply] ROSIN. Always nice when you can get the first entry right away.
- 23a [Cracker with seven holes] RITZ. There’s some trivia. Baking ken: those holes are called dockers and let steam escape during heating.
- 58a [“Solutions and Other Problems” writer Brosh] ALLIE. More contemporary than a reference to an ’80s sitcom.
- 66a [Bad start?] DYS-. But a good place to end!
Emily Carroll’s New Yorker crossword–Matthew’s recap
Long, in-the-language themers (including a spot-on-revealer) and lots of long downs made this a quick solve. Back after the workday with a recap.
Rafael Musa’s USA Today crossword, “With a Cherry on Top”–Darby’s recap
Editors: Anna Gundlach and Erik Agard
Theme: Each theme answer can have the word cherry added before it (literally, putting a cherry on top).
- 3d [“Marinara, for example”] TOMATO SAUCE / CHERRY TOMATO
- 7d [“Gaining momentum”] PICKING UP STEAM / CHERRY PICKING
- 10d [“Grow to become”] BLOSSOM INTO / CHERRY BLOSSOM
I figured out the theme as soon as I filled in TOMATO SAUCE, and it certainly helped me correct the SPEEDING UP I initially put in the first half of 7d (as did ROCKY). I thought that all three of these themers were really fun, and I love the connection to cherries. It’s such a well-crafted combo of answers and using the phrase “with a cherry on top” as the impetus to have Down theme answers.
The fill in this was also really fun. I especially related to 2d [“Verbal exams”] since I have my ORALS in two weeks. I also really LOVED the use of 33a [“‘I’m ___!’ (‘That’s hilarious!’)”] DEAD because I say it all of the time. Plus, we got a double “Telephone” reference with mention of both BEY’s and LADY GAGA’s songs. 47a [“‘He who ___ it dealt it’”] SMELT is also a classic.
Some other Friday faves:
- 25d [“Rounded building tops”] – This immediately made me think of the game Santorini, in which you’re working to build a temple to a Greek god and then stand on it. If you’re the first player to do so, you win. You can do some defense but placing DOMES on top of completed temples to stop other players from standing on them, even though you’ve made it so you can’t stand there either. It’s a super cute game – definitely would recommend.
- 29d [“Linguist’s speech notation system (Abbr.)”] – IPA refers to the International Phonetic Alphabet created by another IPA, the International Phonetic Association. It is uses a set of symbols to represent each distinct sound and encompasses all languages spoken (on earth, at least). I thought that this was a fresh way to clue IPA since we so often see references to beer.
- 48d [“Astros, in the 2021 World Series”] – I mentioned the Guardians yesterday in my review of BEQ’s puzzle, but the mention of last year’s World Series LOSERS made me laugh. Today is the first day of postseason baseball.
I had a great time with this grid! Aside from a few typos running up my time that set a few things AMISS and made me say OOPS, I had a pretty smooth solve.
Nancy Serrano-Wu and Kate Chin Park’s Inkubator crossword, “Firelight”—Rebecca’s write-up
Fun puzzle this week, with a quote from Sonia Sotomayor as the theme.
- 20a [Part 1 of a notable quote from a lauded First Gen alumna] THE LATINA IN ME
- 35a [Part 2 of a notable quote from the Justice known as “Baseball’s Savior”] IS AN EMBER THAT .
- 52 [Part 3 of a notable quote from Sonia Sotomayor, first Hispanic and woman of color to serve on the Supreme Court] BLAZES FOREVER
This puzzle played a bit like a themeless, and in addition to the themers we had some nice long answers, with WATCH PARTY, SAY NO MORE, I OVERSLEPT, and TEA COSIES all adding to the enjoyment of the puzzle.
NYT: Despite the Supreme Court having started its new term this week, I don’t think I have read anything about the court in several days. I had trouble remembering KETANJI BROWN JACKSON’s name even after realizing she was the “history-making SCOTUS appointee.”
Mostly smooth sailing, but TEA roOm held me up way too long. It unfortunately worked with OBESE, which I was 99% sure was correct. I don’t pay much attention to the Grammys, so while I have heard of Billie EILISH, for a bit I had Eminem as the Grammy whiz kid. SHAME’S on me.
I loved seeing Justice Jackson front and center. And I loved seeing the Nahuatl for ARMADILLO, as I live about a mile and a half from the site of the long-gone Armadillo World Headquarters.
(If you don’t know “London Homesick Blues,” it’s a classic.)
Lots of fun clues throughout.
Amy, my sisters and I were big Monkees fans back then. I can picture the Monkeemobile, but didn’t realize it started out as a GTO.
Similar problems in SE. EMINEM and TEAROOM doomed me down there, with MEDEA and PASHA no help at all.
As a poker player I liked GOESALLIN. Also the shoutout to KBJ!
I was slowest in the NW apart from EPSOM. Hard to explain why, although I did wonder whether the Star Wars name up there was going to be OBI, and course ZAIRE couldn’t be a gimme however well you know the country.
I did get EILISH easily enough after some crossings. Overall, it was a relatively easy Friday for me (and clever). My big mistake was using NEE at first as a name connector instead of AKA.
Incidentally, while Amy feels sincerely insulted on the issue of recognition, I swear I didn’t mean that. I’d have sworn that all I said was, if I’m going always to be accused of refusing to learn anything when all I want is fair crossings and not TOO frequent a trivia quiz in the same puzzle (and I think of myself as a curious type and a lifelong learner, although more about music, science, and literature), then one shouldn’t then rank clues based on one’s personal faves. Amy has herself criticized, say, NYC landmarks as obscure (and this in a NY newspaper), whereas many are dear to my heart. (And I can’t help feeling that if I filled a puzzle with allusions to jazz or classical music, physics, and “serious” books, I’d get one heck of a lot of pushback.)
ZAIRE was kinda a gimme for me.
I still don’t get your objection to my “fave fill” being, well, my personal favorites. How the hell can something as subjective as language and culture be assessed without some subjectivity?
There’s been no shortage of jazz, classical music, physics, and highfalutin literature in the NYT crossword! Don’t get me started on opera, which, yes, many people love, but many more people probably get little exposure to, particularly if they don’t live in a big city or don’t have the money for opera tickets. Who is the crossword for? I posit that including pop culture makes the puzzle more accessible to a broader swath of solvers.
ZAIRE was pretty much a gimme for me also and it helped save my solve in the NW.
The concept of “fair crossings” is almost entirely subjective. We all come at crosswords with our own particular set of strengths and weaknesses. I can’t expect constructors and editors to tailor crosses to my specific spheres of knowledge. That said, I believe that puzzles these days are filled with more trivia than they once were (particularly of the pop culture variety, it seems to me, but that may just be because I no longer keep up with pop culture as I once did). I much prefer puzzles that rely on word play for difficulty than “you either know this name/fact or you don’t”. Of course, good word play is a lot tougher to come up with than trivia.
ZAIRE was not quite a gimme, but I must’ve known on some level that the name isn’t longer used. And I knew that the country, whatever it’s called, is relatively large.
I also meant to comment on “one shouldn’t then rank clues based on one’s personal faves” … I don’t see it that way at all. I don’t think of reviewers listing which clue/answer combinations they found most fun or interesting as a “ranking”. They’re simply pointing out what they liked in the puzzle. There’s nothing wrong with that. You may not agree, but that’s just a difference of opinion.
NYT: New to me was EGGBEATER as slang for helicopter. I think I’ll stick with regular rotor blades for my flight, thanks all the same!
What’s with the sub-three ratings for this puzzle? I found it solidly engaging, a straight-up Friday challenge that’s topical to boot.
I didn’t think of that one for a while either and went with ‘whirligig'(?). Then, ‘maple seed’ popped into my head briefly, even though it didn’t fit (I’m pretty sure we referred to them as “helicopters” when I was a tyke).
Point of trivia: those are called samaras.
Your knowledge of natural science is truly impressive, pannonica. I sure hope you make your living in a scientific field.
In another life.
In NY, kids would put a samara on their nose, like a little horn, after splitting the seed end. The right level of maturity (of the samara, not the kid — obviously) was critical so the developing seed pocket was mucilaginous enough to stick to your skin. Too early or too late and it wouldn’t work.
My wife just shakes her head at my reminiscence so it wasn’t a thing in her area. Was this NY only?
I can also vouch for this Cyranoesque antic in NY.
This wasn’t a thing in the Chicago and Milwaukee areas, my household believes.
Props for using “mucilaginous,” Martin!
I think “eggbeater” was slang for a particular type of helicopter that employed two main rotors, side by side, that rotated in opposite directions. The arcs of the two sets of rotors overlapped each other, and as they rotated, the blades of the two would mesh together, similar to an eggbeater/mixer. The two rotors spinning in opposite directions eliminated the need for the rear rotor that you see on most helicopters.
“What’s with the sub-three ratings for this puzzle?”
That’s a question I have almost daily when I visit this site. All I can think is that some people might want to consider another hobby — or at least find crossword puzzles from non-mainstream publishers.
I pay absolutely no attention to those ratings. By the end of the day, there are usually enough votes for the NYT puzzle for the average rating to have at least some meaning, but I think there are people who just knee-jerk rate puzzles as one star just to mess with the stats or because they found the puzzle too difficult for them to solve. Neither of these things necessarily says anything about a puzzle’s quality. The average rating for puzzles with less than 10 ratings are going to be misleadingly low if there’s even just a single 1-star rating.
Good points. I know I should disregard those ratings more than I do.
Evan Birnholz has argued here that DOACF should ditch the user ratings entirely. Sometimes I agree with him on that.
A while back, we were on this topic and someone bizarrely claimed to rate puzzles with either one star or five, and nothing in between. Amy, I recall your thoughtful, well-reasoned reply describing what factors inform the different star ratings for you.
Since this is your site, have you considered adding a succinct rating guideline to the right margin, underneath Blogroll, Recent Comments, etc.? Maybe something along the lines of this (with thanks to the movie-rating guide I adapted it from):
5 – As perfect as a puzzle can be
4 – Flawed perhaps, but still excellent
3 – Has its good and bad points
2 – Mediocre, but with some bright spots
1 – Poor, without any saving graces
That couldn’t hurt, but it won’t help with folks who just automatically rate every single USA Today, Universal or New Yorker puzzle (or whatever puzzle they generally happen to struggle with) as one star simply because the pop culture doesn’t hit their sweet spot.
Something like that might make the ratings more useful.
I frankly don’t want to think about how bad a puzzle would have to be for me to rate it one star.
I wrote an article maybe last year about customer service ratings, and several people told me it tends to be all or nothing. One star or five. Very few 3 or 4 star ratings.
LA Times 61 Down: The Pacific Coast Highway is not ONE, which was the expected answer, but US 101!!
It’s only US-1o1 south of San Luis Obisbo. At SLO, 101 heads inland and the rest of PCH is CA-1.
Most people who think the PCH is 101 would say “the 101.” Here in the north that marks you from that different country, Socal.
Being from SoCal, I got “ONE” quickly. There is more CA-1 from Oxnard to Oceanside and most of it is called PCH.
Hi if anyone solved Stan Newman’s puzzle today, what is going on?? I think I get 15A but I’m lost on the rest. It’s title is “all of it” thanks for any help
not much help. It is some kind of word ladder progression within each answer to the next (soup>> soul)>> (soil >> sail), but it falls apart at the end, 56A.
Sorry, I don’t get it either.
The word ladder proceeds from SOUP to NUTS.
thanks, Martin… I woke up with AHA and had it LOL!! I had messed up the 5th step in the ladder so the last one didn’t fit, and I didn’t the forest for the tree.