Laura Dershewitz and Martina Waluk’s Inkubator crossword, “Top Billing”—Jenni’s write-up
The Inkbuator Email says that this collaboration is Laura’s debut, but our archives show one LAT and one Universal to her credit and I reviewed an Inkubator puzzle by Martina in 2021. In any case, it’s a good ‘un. I don’t often agree with the Inkubator difficulty ratings and indeed did not find this one moderately challenging. I enjoyed it anyway.
Each theme answer has letters in circles that unscramble to spell the same word.
- 20a [Keep from burning, as risotto] is STIR FREQUENTLY. Why do contestants on “Chopped” continue to try to make risotto? They never have enough time and if Scott Conant is judging it will not go well. Yes, Discover+ is my drug of choice when I’m trying to avoid, well, all the news. And I live in PA, so that’s pretty much all the time.
- 25a [Person appearing in deleted Instagram photos, perhaps] is an EX–BEST FRIEND.
- 42a [Fast way to make money] is HAND OVER FIST.
See the anagram? If not, we have a revealer to help you out: 48a [Protector of the right to free expression and a literal hint to each group of circled letters] is the FIRST AMENDMENT. Each set of circled letters will spell FIRST when re-arranged and they’ve been “amended.” Fun!
A few other things:
- 1a [Author who wrote of freckles, fudge, and fourth grade] is Judy BLUME. This was a gimme and the past tense sent me into a panic – did she die? She did not. She’s still alive at 84 and continues to fight book banning – her books are frequent targets for all the reasons that made me love them as a kid.
- 15a [Ellie’s love in “Up”] is CARL. I really really didn’t like that movie. Ellie – who never speaks and only appears in a short prolog to the actual movie – gives up her own adventuring to marry Carl, who appears to have fallen for her because she was an explorer. It’s mawkish patriarchal sentimentality at its misogynist best. I am glad I saw it so I could discuss it with my then 9 year old daughter. She was maybe a little older when we settled in with our popcorn at a different movie and she said “Mom, are you gong to make that noise? You know. The kind of huffing noise you make when you think something in the movie isn’t fair to women.” The answer, of course, was “Almost certainly.”
- 42a [Threw a fete] is a very good clue for HOSTED.
- 44a [“Sure, OK”] is I S‘POSE. I expect a bit more of a signal that it’s a non-standard answer.
- Speaking of non-standard we also have YA FEEL ME?
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: never heard of the drag queen MONET X Change. I have heard of ION TV and did not now they syndicate “NCIS.” And I am not familiar with Missouri rep CORI Bush. And no, not that kind of Bush. She’s from the other side of the aisle and a different gene pool.
Juliet Corless’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap
An easy Friday NYT (though it took me 50% longer than Weintraub’s Thursday New Yorker puzzle—the epitome of “easy themeless” these days is Thursday’s TNY) with the unusual choice of vertical triple stacks.
Fave fill: JACK OF ALL TRADES, FREAKING AWESOME, DRAMATIC LICENSE, PAROLE VIOLATION, TEMPORARY TATTOO, GODIVA chocolates, REDEPLOY (better than some other RE- words for sure), Angela BASSETT.
Can’t say I see AMOEBIC as [Amorphous, in a way], vs. modifying dysentery caused by amoebae. Didn’t know FERRITE ([Ceramic iron compound that’s nonconductive]). Can’t say I knew that POLARIS is a [Star that’s actually three stars]! Also had no idea that 56d. [Give: Sp.] is DAR, but I’ll bet at least a quarter of solvers know enough Spanish to get that.
Was NOT OK with NOT OK near “OK, OK.”
A few clues that popped:
- 63a. [One backward musician?], ENO. Sort of a cryptic crossword clue, ENO being “one” backward.
- 34a. [Truffle hunting option], GODIVA. When hunting for chocolate truffles, not having a pig root around for buried fungi.
- 5d. [Good faith agreements?], AMENS. As in religious faith.
3.9 stars from me.
Nathan Hale’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up
Switching up the endings of selected phrases.
- 56aR [Wall Street site, and what happened in order to form the answers to the starred clues?] STOCK EXCHANGE.
- 20a. [*Era known for Pegasus and other winged stallions?] WHEN HORSES FLY (when pigs fly). (54a [Notable period] ERA is a strong duplication.)
- 33a. [*Tenderize steaks?] BEAT A DEAD COW (beat a dead horse).
- 41a. [*Pet restriction set by the condo board?] DON’T HAVE A PIG (don’t have a cow).
While I can admire the tidiness of the theme I ALSO (16a) am not personally excited by the description of animals as [live]stock, nor of the the phrase(s) in 33-across. Sure, there are certain realities of practice and usage but I don’t have to like seeing them promoted.
- 2d [Game that introduced the joker into modern playing cards] EUCHRE. Did not know this, but then again I know next to nothing about EUCHRE.
- 44d [Pique-nique setting] PARC. I would have thought that the French word would have been le picnic, but it is indeed pique-nique. In fact, that’s the original cognate for the German Picknick and English picnic.
- Followed by 45d [Piqued] IN A HUFF.
- 49d [“Wolf Hall” novelist Hilary] MANTEL. Recently deceased.
- 57d [Sky box?] KITE. Kind of a tough clue.
- 19a [Frog sound?] RASP. Alluding to a so-called frog in one’s throat.
- 36a [Either of the “Grey Gardens” women] EDIE. Keep meaning to see this (the original documentary). I think they went by Big Edie and Little Edie?
- 63a [Radical] ULTRA. Another tough-ish clue, but quite legitimate.
David Litman’s Universal crossword, “Have A Blast!”—Jim P’s review
Theme: TNT (37a, [Demolition letters … and a hint to 17-, 24-, 47- and 57-Across]). Those theme entries are familiar phrases of the form T___ AND T___ with the AND replacing the N in the revealer.
- 17a. [Sleep poorly] TOSS AND TURN.
- 24a. [Proven to work] TRIED AND TRUE.
- 47a. [Every possible obstacle] THICK AND THIN. Huh. I never considered the meaning of this phrase. I always considered it to be a rough equivalent to “for better or worse,” but thinking about it, there’s not really anything good about conditions that are either “thick” or “thin.”
- 57a. [Various things] THIS AND THAT.
Solid theme, nicely executed. The phrases are firmly in the language and each one fell quickly given enough crossings.
The fill is full of goodies as well with OSCAR SNUBS, GENETICIST, FRENETIC, LESS THAN, DENTIST, ETHANOL, the DAKOTAS, and WENT DRY. I also liked WAGYU and WACKO, but had no clue about HMU [“My DMs are open”]. I’m guessing it’s short for Hit Me Up. (The internets confirm that is correct.)
Clues of note:
- 6d. [Canine specialist?]. DENTIST. Given the first names of both the constructor and the editor, I’m surprised the clue isn’t [David After ___]. (Here’s an update on the young internet star as of last year.)
- 46d. [Roti flour]. ATTA. This feels like a step too far for most solvers. Not everyone partakes of Indian food, so compelling solvers to remember roti is a big enough ask, IMO. Requiring them to know the type of flour roti is made from is a stretch. I know we’re all tired of [Lead in to “girl”]-type clues, but it’s still the fairest clue out there. (I for one regularly enjoy Indian cuisine, but I see naan bread on offer far more than roti.)
Nice puzzle with fun fill. 3.75 stars.
Erik Agard’s USA Today crossword, “Ctrl+Alt+Del”—Darby’s write-up
Editor: Erik Agard
Theme: The first letter in each answer spells out one of the keys in CTRL+ALT+DEL.
- 20a [“Like a movie that feels like it could be a documentary”] CLOSE TO REAL LIFE
- 34a [“Fashion icon who wrote the 2020 memoir “The Chiffon Trenches”] ANDRÉ LEON TALLEY
- 54a [“Innocent expression”] DOE-EYED LOOK
This theme was really straightforward. I caught ANDRÉ LEON TALLEY entirely on the crosses, not knowing that he was the first African American creative director and editor-at-large for Vogue. Similarly, I wasn’t sure about DOE-EYED LOOK until I had most of it filled in already. In fact, for the most part, I filled this puzzle based on its down answers, shifting over when I couldn’t remember PARA for 14a [“Prefix for ‘normal’ or ‘legal’”]. When I wasn’t sure about a Down, I’d switch back to the Across (and was delighted to fill in 16a [“State whose three largest cities all start with C”] OHIO this way.
It’s a horizontally symmetric grid, which I always think is really fun, especially with the double grid-spanning themers. 36d [“Finalized agreement”] DONE DEAL and 32d [“Something a white rapper might be criticized for using”] BLACCENT were great to fill in. I also really liked the pockets of six-, then three-, and finally four-letter Down answers going through the middle.
A few other Friday faves include:
- 66a [“Cast-___ skillet”] – As we move through fall and approach winter, I’m even more excited for cast-IRON skillet recipes. There’s nothing like a warm, hearty meal on a cold day.
- 10d [“‘Sing’ like a husky”] – This was a really cute clue for HOWL. I’m sure there are millions of videos of dogs “singing” in the world, and they make my day every time.
- 12d [“Tennis star Frances”] – I recently finished Carrie Soto is Back by Taylor Jenkins Reid, and so tennis is on the brain (though I know admittedly little about the sport in real life). Frances TIAFOE is the son of Sierra Leonean immigrants, and at seventeen, he was the youngest American player in the French Open.
- 32d [“Something a white rapper might be criticized for using”] – A BLACCENT or Black accent refers to the use of African American Vernacular English by non-Black individuals. It is part of a long history of cultural appropriation. You can learn more about this trend here in the “Historian’s Take’ from PBS.
That’s all from me! Have a great weekend!
Mary Lou Guizzo’s New Yorker crossword—Matthew’s write-up
Themers in this wide grid are idioms drawn from baseball: BATTING A THOUSAND, PLAYING SMALL BALL, STRIKE OUT LOOKING, BOTTOM OF THE NINTH, STEP UP TO THE PLATE. Some are more common than others: I’ve never encountered STRIKE OUT LOOKING [36a Fail by not even trying] or PLAYING SMALL BALL [21a Favoring overly ambitious ventures in favor of incremental progress] in the senses as clued, though neither is uninferable from their usages within baseball.