Madeline Kaplan’s Inkubator crossword, “Themeless #37″—Jenni’s write-up
This is a fun puzzle! Plus I learned something, which is always good.
- 3d [Issue you may hope to leave behind you in adulthood] is BACNE.
- Haven’t seen the two grid-spanners in a puzzle before and I liked both COCHLEAR IMPLANTS and I COULDN‘T TELL YOU.
- 39a [Having sex outside?] is a great clue for ADULTERY.
- 42a [Dying art form?] is ELEGY, not BATIK.
- 57d [Rolls around on the lawn?] are TPS. I always figure the TP is in the trees, not on the lawn.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that ANASTASIA has a song called “A Rumor in St Petersburg.” I also did not know that POTATO QUALITY means “poor quality.”
Robyn Weintraub’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap
I always enjoy a Weintraub themeless! Not in a mood for enjoying anything at the moment, though, with a pesky headache, so I’ll be extra-brief.
Fave fill, much of it chatty: THANKS A LOT, ALL OVER THE MAP, HERE WE GO AGAIN, POMERANIAN, LAKE HOUSES clued as [Superior dwellings, say] (meaning Lake Superior—and we just marked the anniversary of the loss of the Edmund Fitzgerald), MONSTER MASH, SKYDIVE, COPY THAT, CARE PACKAGE, TRASH PANDA.
Proper Friday NYT difficulty level, lotsa fresh clues, terrific fill. Four stars from me.
Zachary David Levy’s Universal crossword, “Behind Bars”—Jim P’s review
Theme: THE BIRDCAGE (64a, [1996 film in which Robin Williams plays a drag club owner, and a hint to this puzzle’s theme]). Types of birds are visually depicted with letters I pretending they’re bars of birdcages.
- 17a. [Visual depiction of a watchful feathered friend in an enclosure] IIHIAIWIKI
- 27a. [Visual depiction of a gobbling feathered friend in an enclosure] IITIUIRIKIEIYII
- 48a. [Visual depiction of a talkative feathered friend in an enclosure] IIPIAIRIRIOITII
Phew. I definitely needed the revealer to make sense of this even though I got the pattern down by the third entry. But I was rewarded with a nice aha moment which I enjoyed. If I were to pick a nit, it would be that you’re unlikely to find a turkey in what we normally think of as a birdcage, but that really doesn’t bother me at all. (Although it would be neat if Tweety Bird could somehow be worked into the theme.) I’m all for something different when it comes to puzzle themes (every once in a while), and I like the creativity here.
Top bits of fill include SAFETY BELT, TELEPORTED, SNO-CONE, and SEABEE. You know, I never knew why they’re called Seabees so I finally decided to look it up. As you might expect—since the military likes its initialisms—Seabees comes from “CB” which is short for “Construction Battalion.” And now you know…
All those I’s in the theme answers must have made filling this grid a challenge, especially where the I’s come at the beginnings or ends of entries. And so we get some weirdities like OUI OUI and IS ONTO, etc. But on the whole, given the sheer number of I’s in the grid, the fill is smooth enough. Old crossword standby I. M. PEI makes himself useful yet again with both I’s centrally placed in theme answers. Thanks for your contributions to crossworddom, my friend!
3.5 stars from me.
Mikkel Snyder & Brooke Husic USA Today crossword, “Tag Team”—Darby’s write-up
Editor: Anna Gundlach
Theme: Each theme answer is clued as “Person doing some tagging,” and so the three answers together form a TAG TEAM.
- 20a [“Person doing some tagging”] RETAIL WORKER
- 38a [“Person doing some tagging”] GRAFFITI ARTIST
- 55a [“Person doing some tagging”] FIRST BASEMAN
I wasn’t sure what to expect from this theme when I first opened the grid, but it quickly became clear and I started to think of all the folks who might tag things. It’s great that each “team member” tags differently, which just illustrates a precision in approach to the theme that works well with the device of using the same clue for each answer.
This was one of my quicker solves, finishing in under three and a half minutes. I loved how smooth it was. I filled most of it based off of the Down answers because I switched over early, and I think that the longer 4d [“‘Just be ___!’”] YOURSELF and 9d [“Where errands are checked off”] TO DO LIST offered a lot of structure moving through. Having GRAFFITI ARTIST as a 14, spanning almost the whole grid was a challenge only in that I couldn’t remember how many Fs were in it.
Some other Friday faves:
- 26d [“Prefix for ‘normal’ or ‘graph’”] – I thought that this was such an interesting confluence of PARA words, unless, of course, you’re reading a ghost story, which is filled with PARAnormal PARAgraphs.
- 27d [“Moves like a dreidel”] – I thought that this was a super cute and creative clue for SPINS.
- 44d [“‘Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul.’ writer-director Adamma”] – One of the selfish reasons that I love crosswords is that is that I regularly teach a Religion & Popular Culture class, and I’m always on the hunt for contemporary references, and I’m pumped up to watch this Adamma EBO-written and directed film to discuss religion, capitalism, and popular culture. Speaking of movies, I’m always always excited to see 69a [“‘Everything Everywhere All at Once’ star Michelle”] YEOH mentioned in a puzzle. 34d [“‘The ___’ (movie franchise that inspired ‘Cobra Kai’”] KARATE KID was also a nice bonus.
Overall, as a dork myself, I loved all the DORKY references in this grid and thought that the theme itself was very precise and varied.
David Alfred Bywaters’ Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up
Today we have phrases composed of pairs of words that are the same save for an absent U.
- 17a. [Grammarian?] USAGE SAGE.
- 29a. [Aspen, in the Rockies?] POPULAR POPLAR.
- 43a. [Nodding, e.g.?] AUCTION ACTION.
- 59a. [One inept at data storage?] CLOUD CLOD.
This is one of those mildly inspired, treading-water type themes. Neither good nor bad, merely adequate. I spied an errant U at the crossing of 26d GLUTEN and 36a LURE; save for that one they appear only as one part of the theme answers. On the other hand, would eliminating all ‘extraneous’ Us be so significant?
- 22d [Warns, with “off”] TIPS. Surprisingly difficult to see.
- 29d [Give a ring?] PIERCE. Didn’t really detect the direction of this one until it was filled in. Perhaps I was influenced by the nearby 18d [Weds without ceremony?] ELOPES.
- 44d [Droopy perennials?] IRISES. Wouldn’t occur to me to describe them as droopy but I suppose that’s an interpretation.
- 9a [Béla Fleck’s instrument] BANJO. This is the closest I could get. Drops the T rather than the U, but on the other hand we get a palindrome:
- 37a [Rich soil] LOESS. Sure but I tried LOAMS.
- 51a [Apollo 11 lander] EAGLE. NASA is finally getting the moon mission more correct with Artemis. It’s a small step. Will those missions have landers as well? If so will they be named after deer or something? Owls are more of an Athene thing.
Paolo Pasco’s New Yorker Crossword—solution grid
Themers move the letter C down the line from its initial position in common phrases, e.g. “Creation Myth” > REACTION MYTH. OCTILLION DRESSES (“cotillion dresses”) was a particular highlight for me. It all comes together with the revealer CARBON OFFSET.