Scott Earl’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap
Solved this one on a laptop without Black Ink solving software so I used the NYT web interface and I really do not groove on it—so take my solving time with a grain of salt, and don’t assume this is Saturday-tough … unless it kicked your butt, in which case I’ll agree it’s a toughie! I did slow myself down with 1d, guessing HERE’S rather than MELBA toast, which ruled out MONSTER MASH and sent me elsewhere in the grid.
Lots of great fill here: That novelty song is stacked with the EDITORIAL “WE” and a LIFETIME BAN. “I CAN’T WATCH!” and “NO SPOILERS!” are fun. The bottom stack puts the terrific RECENCY BIAS atop a PHOTO CREDIT and MIND-READERS. Elsewhere, I liked “GREAT GAME!,” NORTH STAR, and K-POP.
20a. [Like Chicago, geographically], UPSTATE. True story: We Chicagoans call pretty much the entire state outside of the city and suburbs (and possibly the exurbs) “Downstate.” Freeport and Galena are well north(west) of Chicago, but I’d absolutely bundle them with all the places south of Chicagoland. I half suspect New York City does a similar thing—is western New York deemed to be upstate?
Four stars from me.
May Huang and Wendy L. Brandes’s Inkubator crossword, “They’re Doin’ It For Themselves”—Jenni’s write-up
Good morning! This puzzle gave a good start to my Friday. I had no idea what was going on with the theme until I got to the revealer, which was literally the last word. That’s where I like it.
The theme answers don’t appear to have anything in common:
- 21a [*Potential site of treasure on the ocean floor] is a SHIPWRECK.
- 25a [*Meaningful gesture that’s sometimes random] is an ACT OF KINDNESS.
- 46a [*Tools used in rage rooms] are SLEDGEHAMMERS. TIL that there are “rage rooms.” And that there’s one nearby.
- 52a [*Skyline] is the CITYSCAPE.
I looked for something inside the answers that would connect and couldn’t find anything. 69a solved the mystery. [One doin’ it for themself in a 1985 Eurythmics hit…and a lead-in to the first word of each starred answer] is SISTER. SISTER SHIP, SISTER ACT, SISTER SLEDGE, SISTER CITY. The first is new to me. My husband, far more interested in war and transportation than I am, knew it immediately. A very solid theme that’s perfect for the Inkubator vibe.
A few other things:
- At first I thought 5a was part of the theme. [History repeat ____] is ITSELF and that seems to go with the title.
- 18a [Ornate wardrobes] are ARMOIRES. I don’t think of armoires as necessarily ornate. To me a wardrobe has two long doors and an ARMOIRE has two shorter doors above with drawers below.
- Loved seeing DivaCup namechecked in the clue for TAMPON. I thought I’d provide a link to explain this to the uninitiated and that’s when I found out that Wirecutter at the NYT rated menstrual cups. I check Wirecutter before I buy suitcases or kitchen equipment. It wouldn’t occur to me to look there for menstrual supplies. Good going, NYT people.
- 27d [Mandarin has four main ones] is TONES. May Huang is a translator working in Chinese and English. Sometimes you can tell who wrote what clue.
- Trust the Inkubator to clue O‘NEAL with Tatum rather than Ryan or Shaquille.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: see above for rage rooms and SISTER SHIP. I also did not know that Prince declined a STAR on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
And of course I will leave you with this. Annie Lenox and Aretha Franklin. Watch it.
Paul Coulter’s Universal crossword, “Have It Both Ways”—Jim P’s review
Theme answers consist of familiar compound words or two-word phrases where the first word and the second word (backwards) can be clued the same way.
- 17a. [Payment, forward and backward?] MONEY PIT. Both MONEY and a TIP can be a payment.
- 25a. [Container, forward and backward?] TANK TOP. Both a TANK and a POT can be a container.
- 37a. [Circle, forward and backward?] WHIRLPOOL. Both WHIRL and LOOP can be a circle.
- 52a. [Wintry, forward and backward?] COLD WAR. Both COLD and RAW can mean wintry.
- 61a. [Capture, forward and backward?] TAKE PART. Both TAKE and TRAP can mean capture.
Really cool theme. I don’t know how you would go about finding phrases that match this pattern without poring over many, many potential entries. I guess you’d start by finding words that spell a different word backwards then see if those words are part of a compound word or two-word phrase. But you’d still have to go through a lot of entries just to find a few where the first word and second word backwards can be clued the same way. The end result, though, is pretty nifty, and a good idea well-executed.
I’m loving BUCKAROO in the fill. NECKTIE, IRKSOME, and SCOTTIE are nice as well. Not so keen on ER DOC, though it’s not exactly terrible. LOW CAL seems weird to me, too. If you’re going to shorten “calorie” to CAL, wouldn’t you also shorten LOW to “lo”? I’m betting that little section could be tidied up by changing 33d CHU to THU, thereby allowing more options for 32a. But I feel I’m picking nits.
Clues of note:
- 22a. [Like diet soda]. LOW-CAL. Maybe, but it ain’t exactly healthy, either.
- 5d. [Like the Sherpa Tenzing Norgay]. NEPALI. Well, like all Sherpas, really.
Fun theme and good fill. Four stars.
Jeff Stillman’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up
The letter N is suffixed to words in phrases to wackify them.
- 17a. [Preference for the center of the road?] MEDIAN BIAS (media bias).
- 29a. [Where a Met singer reclines between arias?] OPERA DIVAN (opera diva).
- 46a. [Cereal that has amazing health benefits?] WONDER BRAN (Wonder Bra).
- 61a. [Hotel choice leading up to Eid al-Fitr?] RAMADAN INN (Ramada Inn).
It all works well. No fancy flourishes such as banishing Ns from the rest of the grid—and that isn’t an indictment of any sort.
- 4d [“Pretentious? __?”] MOI. Love the wryness in the clue.
- 11d [Mathematical concept based on a digit’s position] PLACE VALUE, 28d [Developers’ purchases] VACANT LOTS, which also have place value.
- 23d [Judy Blume books, e.g.] KID LIT. Is this synonymous with YA fiction?
- 26d [Dey-time drama?] LA LAW, a reference to Susan DEY, a crossword staple.
- 39d [Flat-changing tool, once] TIRE IRON. This came up last week and generated some discussion. Still used for many bicycle tires, though.
- 14a [Labor alliance] UNION. In the news lately.
- 26a [“Pumice-powered” soap] LAVA. Also in the news.
- 64a [Moreno of “West Side Story”] RITA. She played the role of Anita in 1961 and of Valentina in the 2021 remake. 65a [Jazz singer Anita] O’DAY.
Enrique Henestroza Anguiano’s USA Today crossword, “Primary Funds”—Darby’s recap
Editor: Erik Agard
Theme: The first word of each theme answer is a type of fund.
- 17a [“Labyrinth with green walls”] HEDGE MAZES
- 31a [“Publisher’s stack of unsolicited manuscripts”] SLUSH PILES
- 46a [“The Black Panthers’ community survival programs, for example”] MUTUAL AID
- 64a [“Team-building exercise that ends with a catch”] TRUST FALL
I thought that these themers were particularly fun and clever. I loved filling in HEDGE MAZES, especially with the crossing 18d [“Fortniters, for example”] GAMERS and 7d [“Agave-based spirit”] MEZCAL. MUTUAL AID was also really well done in that “community survival programs” helps you to get to MUTUAL AID and you get the historical fact of the Black Panthers’ administration of such programs if you weren’t already familiar.
This puzzle had a visually appealing symmetrical structure in its diagonal waves down the center. I moved through pretty slowly today, held up by a couple of the names I was unfamiliar with, like AILEY and DEE (but getting them on fair crosses). I liked the progression of 58a [“Annual ___ shots”] FLU to 60a [“Botch”] FLUB, which reminded me a bit of Anigrams. BAE, I’M FREE, and VEXED were some of my favourite fill.
Some Friday faves:
- 11d [“Like Madame Tussauds sculptures”] – Wax replicas freak me out so I’ve never been seen a Madame Tussauds’ LIFESIZE figures.
- 42d [“Accompany to the airport, for example”] – It’s always nice to SEE OFF someone when they travel, especially given how chaotic traveling can be.
- 63d [“Track star Shelly-___ Fraser-Pryce”] – Shelly-ANN Fraser-Pryce is a Jamaican track and field star who has won three gold medals at the Olympics. At 35, she was also the oldest sprinter to win a World Championship title when she did so in 2022.