John Hawksley’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap
Cool grid, with those quad-stacked 9s and sort of a racetrack flow through the puzzle.
First up: Did we all laugh when [Renaissance-era cup] (“Chalice? Grail? Goblet?”) turned out to be a CODPIECE? More importantly, why aren’t athletic cups called codpieces? It’s a piece to protect your … cod.
Had no clue about [Potentially prophetic child], SEVENTH SON. Turns out to be some old woman-hating nonsense, god forbid someone wreck the magical powers by having a daughter along the way.
Fave fill: MAGIC SHOP, “IT WASN’T ME,” CAN’T UNSEE, ATHLEISURE, PORSCHES (not that I’d ever heard of the [Taycan and Macan]), SPACE CADET.
Can’t unsee but wish I could: APISHLY, ASIMMER.
[MIT’s sports team name], ENGINEERS. But their mascot is a beaver rather than an engineer. I learned why this week, from the Netflix series Never Have I Ever: Both CalTech and MIT have beaver mascots because the animal is “nature’s engineer.” CalTech teams are the Beavers, though.
Enrique Henestroza Anguiano’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up
The fill makes this puzzle a delight. The clues, although there are some gems, leave something to be desired — namely, difficulty. (2:28? C’mon, it’s Saturday.) Some highlights:
- 17A [Quaint arcade prompt] is INSERT COIN. “Quaint”? You calling me old? Because I totally put coins in arcade slots back in the day.
- 20A [Box set bonus] is a FEATURETTE. This is a great example of the kind of entry I wish there were more of in puzzles: I don’t think I’ve ever filled it in in the tens of thousands of solves I’ve done in my lifetime, and yet that is not because it’s a piece of pop culture whose 15 minutes were happening while the puzzle was being submitted and are already over by the time the puzzle runs.
- 37A [Do the right thing in the parking lot, perhaps] is a fresh-feeling angle on LEAVE A NOTE.
- 39A [Something to sneeze at] is a great, if not tricky enough to slow me down, clue for ALLERGEN.
- 54A [“I’m sorry you were offended,” e.g.] is NON-APOLOGY, which, like FEATURETTE, feels evergreen and yet not something I’ve seen a million times before.
- 3D [Queen who appears in “Olaf’s Frozen Adventure”] is ELSA. This is not actually a highlight except that it made me remember with a snort how that not-short “short” was so audience-detested that it was quickly pulled from its pairing with Coco. I think I saw Coco in theaters about three weeks after it came out and “Frozen Adventure” was already gone.
- 9D [Vitis vinefera cultivar] is a WINE GRAPE. I am here for clues with esoteric-seeming vocabulary that actually contains enough information (the “vini” in “vinifera,” in this case) to suss things out.
- 26D [Silver-colored plumber in Super Smash Bros.] is METAL MARIO. Fun!
- 46D [From ___ to hero] is ZERO. Who’s got the Hercules song stuck in their head now? (I did not realize how much that movie got stuck in the head of folks about 10-15 years younger than I am until I saw Gottmik of Drag Race S13 claim Sundial Guy as her inspiration for this lewk.)
Zhouqin Burnikel’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Perfect Game” — pannonica’s write-up
The trigram TEN is inserted, to wacky effect.
- 23a. [Live-in super?] WORKER-TENANT (worker ant).
- 28a. [“Who invented the typewriter?” reply, e.g.?] PATENT ANSWER (pat answer).
- 66a. [Rabbit ears at the North Pole?] SANTA ANTENNA (Santa Ana).
- 73a. [Extra in a vampire movie] BITTEN PLAYER (bit player).
- 110a. [Lipstick-loving cat?] MAKEUP KITTEN (makeup kit).
- 120a. [Alignment of the planets, perhaps?] SPACE PORTENT (spaceport).
- 36d. [Conversations in a tepee?] TENTED TALKS (TED Talks).
- 42d. [Super-insulting tribute?] POTENT ROAST (pot roast).
Liked, but didn’t love.
- 5d [Jane Campion film with three Oscar wins] THE PIANO, symmetrical to 90d [2010 Coen brothers movie that went 0 for 10 at the Oscars] TRUE GRIT.
- 31d [Diamond measure] CARAT, 38d [Diamond, e.g.] GEM, 82d [Diamond side] FACET. 101d [Diamond protector] TARP.
- 59d [Removes from the company?] ISOLATES. Better read without the definite article, but then the pun/misdirection is lost.
- 66d [Tell] SAY TO. Completed this as SAY(-) SO without looking at the clue, which necessitated hunting it up after the grid was completely filled in, to achieve a
- 73d [Sounds from a flock] BAAS. 1a [Sound from a flock] BLEAT.
- 92d [Halloween loot] SWEETS. Sounds so quaint.
- 30a [“Gandhi” or “Malcolm X”] BIOPIC. Sometimes it’s fun to rhyme this with myopic. But when I hear it said that way unironically …
- 32a [Last mo., alphabetically] SEP. I feel as if I should’ve known this immediately.
- 83a [Dances to jazz] BOPS. Would have preferred a ‘perhaps’ qualifier here.
- 91a [Ritzy Big Apple store] SAKS. Feels weird that I was able to fill this in right away. Maybe there just aren’t any other good 4-letter options?
Stella Zawistowski’s Newsday crossword, Saturday Stumper — pannonica’s write-up
Oof, this was hard.
Don’t have much to say right now because I’m beat and I would like to make some coffee.
Brief recap: I was able to s l o w l y work my way through the lower right, due in no small part to a quasi-guess on 44a ORANGEMEN.
After that, I made some progress in the upper left, thanks to 1d ELLIPSE and also seeing page in the clue for 26a SCOREPADS, which led me to Satchel PAIGE for the nearby 23-across.
From there it was spotty to say the least. After quite a while I was able to get enough letters to tackle the grid-spanning 7d [It may keep you up at night] CIRCADIAN RHYTHM, although I first spent some time obsessing over something like CIRCULAR THINKING.
Taking a flyer for 47a [Bayer’s headquarters] RUHR put me in the right geographical frame of mind for 16a [Originally, a river crystal] RHINESTONE. Another olden definition at 51a [Serf of the Vikings] THRALL.
13d [General rearrangement] is a cryptic-inspired anagram clue for ENLARGE. Nowadays there’s generally one of these type in the Stumper. Sometimes it’s a hidden word.
Nickname clues are generally tough, in my opinion. 55a [Nickname like Dita] EDIE. 30a [Nickname dropping “-el” or “-anna”] ARI.
Finally, a lot of the answers that seem obvious in retrospect were extremely recalcitrant while solving. Stuff like 18a [Not at all stalwart] UNRELIABLE, 50a [Hardly forthcoming] CAGY, 32a [Trash] VANDALIZE. and so on. So yeh, a hard crossword.
Okay, now I can go make coffee.
Ada Nicolle’s Universal Crossword, “Universal Freestyle 42” — norah’s write-up
- FUN SPONGE 33D [Party pooper]
- MIRROR SELFIES 30A [Many Tinder profile pics]
- COUNT VON COUNT 34A [“Sesame Street” vampire]
- PIANO BARS 50A [Businesses with many keys?]
- MOODBOARD 30D [Set of pictures curated to capture a vibe]
Ada is one of the best themeless constructors in the game and this grid is full of her hallmark style: ultra clean, super fresh entries, and modern takes on old standbys. I legit squealed in anticipation when I saw today’s byline. If you’re not yet a subscriber, get thee over to her Patreon as quickly as possible, at least in time for her to drop what is sure to be a banger puzzle #100. (and also her blog where puzzles are less frequent but just as fun)
(Psst… Universal team, more of this please! <3)
- CROSSSECTIONS 35a [Cuts often made to show off a burrito’s contents]. Three Ss in a row is cool, and also using a cool (food) angle is a fun way to clue this that I would not expect to see in a mainstream publication.
- SKIT 20A [Rap album comedy track]. fun!
- SMOKY 6D [Like blended eye makeup]. fun!
- TAKI 7D [Spicier Dorito alternative]. There was a conversation in crosscord just the other day whether a single TAKI is a usable recognizable thing. Yup, sure is!
- LOOPS 32D [Repeats, like a TikTok]. So easy to just clue this as “Repeats” but the reference helps the solver figure out what sort of loop they’re looking for and adding the TikTok is just doing so with a little modern flavor.
- PSA 50D [TV spot of Sonic telling you not to do drugs, e.g.]. This made me lol for real. PSA has been clued in NYT puzzles 106 times and not a single time like this.
- YAS 25D [Drag queen’s approval]. I wasn’t necessarily planning on listing this one until I saw a comment questioning the clue. Yeah, it’s valid (and good). “Yas Queen!” is a phrase originating in drag culture to mean something like “Hell yes!” So the nod to a drag queen in the clue is a hint the solver can use to narrow down possible answers – and also distinguishes it from YES. Here, that E is crossing ANA 29D [Actress de Armas]. ANA is a crossword mainstay these days but it’s still generally a good idea to be as specific as possible when crossing proper names with potentially ambiguous entries. (YES vs YAS, for example).
Ada says her original clue for COUNT VON COUNT was [“Sesame Street” character who’s doing numbers on Twitter?]. I can only assume this is a reference to @countvoncount which for *over ten years* has been just counting, one tweet per day at a time. Maybe a little too much of a deep cut for a Universal puzzle but funny and original all the same.
- POETRY 24A [Rupi Kaur’s art form]. Actually, I was gonna say “I learned” but then upon googling realized I am familiar with Kaur’s book “Milk and Honey”.
- RABBIT 39A [Bunnicula or My Melody]. My Melody is a Hello Kitty character that is in fact an adorable rabbit.
Thank you Ada!