Kyle Dolan’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap
The word of the day is ZHUZH, clued as [Dash of panache], but it’s also used as a verb. I first encountered it on the original version of Queer Eye, where it was used for things like running your fingers through your gelled hair to lend a stylish bit of casual messiness. It took a while to settle on a spelling. The Oxford folks tell us it’s British English, with zhoosh and zhush spellings that I think are less common here.
Fave fill: LOCAL COLOR, “I’M A REAL BOY,” BEAR MARKET, DRUMS OUT, SUNBURST, TEMP AGENCY, VUVUZELAS, DOOR PRIZE, DRY MOUTH, RENE RUSSO.
New to me: 46a. [Where fur might collect indoors], PET CUSHION. Is that like a dog bed?
I don’t think this puzzle was harder than the typical Saturday NYT, despite my solving time. I seldom solve on the NYT site, and didn’t have the navigation tools set to my liking. Maybe next time! If you use the PuzzleMe interface (which I’m fast with) for puzzles from the New Yorker, Boswords, etc., what NYT settings are closest to that?
Malaika Handa’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up
- 12A [Long, thin fish also called a grenadier] is RATTAIL. Sure, I guess so, but I think this entry would’ve been better clued with reference to the hairstyle. “Rattail fish” without quotes gets fewer than 1 million Google hits, so I suspect I’m not alone in not having heard of it before/having to look it up after the fact. I’m not saying it was unfairly hard, just not very evocative in the way that cluing with reference to the hairstyle would have been.
- 33A [Charlie and Lola] is NAMES. Again, I had to look this up to understand why it was a pun, as I am neither the correct age to have watched the show/read the books it’s based on, nor do I have children who would’ve done.
- 6D [Bit of a draft?] is a nice clue for the ever-present SIP.
- 17D And [Popular item] is a very nice misdirect for POWER COUPLE.
- 31D I liked seeing COMIC-CON here.
Overall: This was fine, but I would’ve liked more zing out of those central 11s.
Gary Larson’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Exchanging Words” — pannonica’s write-up
In which the /ks/ sound is altered via spelling. The original versions all contain an x. So, homophones and such.
- 22a. [Belated April Fools’ Day pranks?] MAY TRICKS (matrix).
- 23a. [Fly-fishing rods?] RIVER STICKS (River Styx).
- 41a. [Whoops at a rodeo?] BRONCS CHEERS (Bronx cheers).
- 65a. [Eastern European soap operas?] CHECH’S SERIALS (Chex cereals).
- 89a. [Original studio tracks of Rolling Stones vocals?] MICK’S MASTERS (MixMasters).
- 110a. [Outlawed classical concertos?] BANNED BACHS (bandbox).
- 112a. [Special effects experts for horror movies?] GORE TECHS (Gore-Tex™).
- 16d. [Like Post-it notes on a bulletin board?] TACKS-FREE (tax-free).
- 76d. [Arctic golf course?] SNOW LINKS (snow lynx). This is apparently another name for the Canada lynx, Lynx canadensis.
There are some inconsistencies among the theme answers. First, there are some gratuitous pluralizations to achieve proper entry length: not really a big deal. I found the possessive form of CZECH’S to be not only superfluous but a little weird—plus, the clue should also contain a possessive, unless I’m completely misinterpreting things here. The greatest inconsistency, however, is that sometimes the accessory element is also respelled: SERIALS/cereals, MAY/ma-, BANNED/band. That’s just weird and off-putting to me.
On the other hand, overall the theme entries are amusing.
- 6d [External drive brand] LACIE. That’s LaCie, not Lacie.
- 13d [Short hole specification] PAR THREE. Made sense to me only in retrospect.
- This little block might have been toughish, as there are three proper names stacked together: 41d [Corleone enforcer Luca] BRASI, 42d [Atkinson of Mr. Bean fame] ROWAN, 43a [“The Audacity of Hope” author] OBAMA. Of course, I would think that everyone knows OBAMA, so it’s essentially two names there. But there’s also SAMSUNG crossing (59a).
- 58d [Pair in a theater symbol] MASKS. Sometimes called Sock and Buskin.
- 73d [Warned a weaver, say] TOOTED. On the road, driving.
- 83d [Playback bar in a video app] SCRUBBER. I had never heard this term before, but it checks out.
- 99d [McGrady in the Basketball Hall of Fame] TRACY. I spelled the crossing 119a [Judges, e.g.] TRYERS as TRIERS, and TRACI seemed plausible. Took a while to ferret that out. 48a [Bench wear] ROBE.
- 77a [“The Taming of the Shrew” schemer] TRANIO. Needed the crossings here. Totally forgot the name.
- 87a [Something that grows between buds] BROMANCE. Nice clue.
Stella Zawistowski’s USA Today crossword, “Right, Left!”—Matthew’s recap
Our theme involves synonyms of “right” on the left ends of phrases:
- 18a [One is typically capitalized] PROPER NOUN
- 38a [Tool for measuring decibels] SOUND LEVEL METER
- 58a [2016 Lizzo hit] GOOD AS HELL
In preparing this review, I was thrown off by the phrases “right good” and “right proper” while not making any sense of “right sound,” but the theme is simpler than that. That said, if you’re in DC and drink beer, Right Proper Brewing is a good place to find yourself. I miss it.
Otherwise, an extra-ordinarily straightforward grid, even for the generally-gentler USA Today. It’s rare that I don’t learn something new from a puzzle, and with relatively little theme content, it’s even more surprising today. NOM DE PLUME is a colorful entry, the “Scooby-Doo” cluing angle for DAPHNE brought a smile to my face. Have a good weekend!
Matthew Sewell’s Newsday crossword, Saturday Stumper — pannonica’s write-up
This one put up a lot of resistance, most notably for me in the upper-left and -central section. It’s a relatively well-integrated grid, so I’d say it was purely the toughness of the cluing that makes it so.
Where do I start? There are just so many oblique clues throughout. From 1d [Zip it] for RACE to the weird (but legitimate) 64a [Crystalline cleaner for cookware] KOSHER SALT, it was just a nightmare—but in a good way, I guess.
Let’s tour some highlights.
- 5d [Forecaster without favor] CASSANDRA. It was her curse to foresee the future but not be believed.
- 7d [Felon, informally] LOSER. Not sure how this one works.
- 9d [Animated brown bouncer] ROO. See? that’s just mean.
- 12d [Rolling over for dinner] FLATTENING. I don’t even know what this is supposed to signify. Rolling dough?
- 30d [Essence of some triangular snacks] PITA. I had tried FETA first, which is equally probable. Fortunately, this clue helped me to get 41d [Corny Disneyland debut of the ’60s] DORITOS, which in turn helped in breaking open that whole southeastern section of the grid.
- 47d [Short-sounding soda] NEHI.
- 49d [“Casablanca” bilateral lyrical equivalence] A SIGH (?). Help me out here, people. Tangentially, this past week I watched Casablanca for the first time. Honestly I thought I had seen it, but that was apparently a delusion on my part. It’s currently ranked №3 on AFI‘s (11a [Nonprofit first cosponsored by the MPAA]) “100 Years…100 Movies” list.
- 1a [Works far beyond the norm] No, it isn’t the opposite of ‘quiet quitting’, it’s RADICAL ART.
- 14a [Green first course] AVOCADO SOUP. I thought it must be a SALAD of some sort because of potential duplication with 59d [Soup sometimes garnished with Thai basil] PHƠ.
- 17a [Hits the beach, perhaps] COMES ASHORE. Ouch.
- 21a [Empty table label] NO DATA. I was, predictably, thinking of restaurants.
- 23a [Have undone] EAT RAW. Really tough one there.
- 25a [One way to save space for shipping] NEST. I confess to being distracted by the nearby duo of 13d [Major packer of Allen wrenches] IKEA and FLATTENING (12d).
- 29a [Trio of piano pieces] NOP. This is a cryptic-style clue, referring to the letter sequence in the phrase ‘piano pieces’.
- 31a [60-trillionth of a min.] PSEC. I’ve never had occasion to think of picoseconds before.
- 40a [Cooked up] PREPARED. Just realizing how much food-related content there is in this crossword. I won’t give you the whole menu, but feel free to graze.
- 42a [Welder’s protectors] APRONS. Had VISORS for a time. Combined with STAND IN rather than STOOD IN for 39a [Pinch-hit] and that reveals why I had some trouble completing this section.
- 46a [Majestuoso] GRAN. This is Spanish.
- 48a [Weavers often praised on “Antiques Roadshow”] IRANIS. I believe the specifics of the demonym have been discussed here recently and previously?
- 58a [Handheld virtual reality sensor] HAPTIC GLOVE. Fortunately I knew haptic; ‘handheld’ seems too misleading for glove.
Yes, that was a workout. Glad it’s over!
Jared Goudsmit’s Universal Crossword, “Universal Freestyle 41” — norah’s write-up
- STAND STILL (6D: “Don’t move!”)
- MONEY TALKS (17A: “Wealth is power”)
- COMEUPSHORT (25A: Fail to reach a target)
- ALLNIGHTERS (41A: They take hours to pull)
- WINECOOLER (12D: Fruity adult drink)
I don’t know about anyone else, but every time I’ve attempted to pull ALLNIGHTERS, I just COMEUPSHORT the next day.🤷♀️
Fourteen ten- and eleven-letter entries here – each one a real thing – give this puzzle tons of color. This is the kind of grid that as a constructor I want to just refill over and over again. I generally like a little more trickery and slight misdirection in a themeless; the clues here are majority straightforward.
- SALON (38A: Word after “nail” or “tanning”) BED doesn’t fit! That left me very confused for a few moments.
- PIE (37A: Pizza, or something to eat after pizza). Yum, either way.
- PETS (21D: Cats, tarantulas, etc.) This strikes me as funny – the two examples given are very different!
I learned about:
- HTML (1D: Inspiration for Hotmail’s name) Huh. TIL.
- NEWT (59A: Amphibian that can regenerate its heart) Huh. TIL.
A bit of a shorter write up from me today as I’m getting ready to take a handful of teenage girls to Six Flags. Wish me sanity!
Thank you Jared!