Christina Iverson’s Inkubator crossword, “Themeless #38″—Jenni’s write-up
It’s cold, it’s dark, and it’s pouring rain, and this puzzle was a nice warm diversion.
It’s a 16×15 and we have two 16-letter entries. Despite that it played like several smaller grids, at least for me.
- Both the grid-spanners are original and fun. 18a [Dates for platonic dates] are FRIENDIVERSARIES. I can’t say I remember the dates I met any of my friends and now I want to celebrate FRIENDAVERSARIES.
- 60a [Ruth Bader Ginsburg quote used as a feminist mantra] is WHEN THERE ARE NINE. If you don’t know the story, Justice Ginsburg spoke at Georgetown University in 2015. She said “People ask me sometimes, when — when do you think it will it be enough? When will there be enough women on the court? And my answer is WHEN THERE ARE NINE.” When people responded with shock, she pointed out that there had often been nine men, and no one had objected to that. Funny thing.
- Someone who [Waits for a visit from Aunt Flo] IS LATE. I’m tempted not to explain and force some men to do their own research…but I am
- I enjoyed the juxtaposition of SLEIGH RIDE and DEAR SANTA.
- Until we started growing LEMON TREES in pots I did not know they were evergreen.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: I’m ashamed to admit I’d never heard of No More DEATHS. I suspect I’m not the only one. Information and an opportunity to donate are here.
Kameron Austin Collins’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Okay, I don’t breeze through Kameron’s puzzles because he’s got that gift for writing challenging clues. But this would be hard for a Saturday puzzle … and it’s a Friday puzzle? Oof. Tougher than you expected, or is it just me?
First off, let me mention the grid/clue dupes that Shortz officially doesn’t care about, but that jump out at me: 50d. [Cause of a game‘s end] for a pinball machine TILT when GAMER TAGS is across the way, and 33d. [Complete bores], SNOOZES across from GUN BORE. Entirely different sort of bore, I know.
Fave fill: BAD JUJU is an amazing 1-Across! Love it. Also TILAPIA, BOLT CUTTERS, CHOKEPOINTS, BAGMAN, DUNK TANK (fun!), a pack of KOOLS, and VODKA CRAN aptly crossing DRUNK.
Wasn’t NetZero an old ISP? 39d. [Environmentalist’s goal for harmful emissions], NET ZERO. Not a familiar term for me. Ditto for 17a. [Annual Roman Catholic service for members of the legal profession], RED MASS. I can only think of the Game of Thrones Red Wedding. Also new to me: 58a. [Abbott known for her “Treasure Island” and “Grimm’s Fairy Tales” illustrations], ELENORE.
Five clues of note:
- 23a. [Buildings in bad standing?], RUINS. This took me way too long to figure out.
- 26a. [Director DaCosta of “Candyman,” 2021], NIA. You’re gonna be seeing her name in more crosswords, because NIA is such helpful fill and because she’s got a Marvel movie coming out next summer.
- 2d. [Glass houses?], AQUARIA. Sure, houses for fish in captivity.
- 9d. [Sharon with a Pulitzer for poetry], OLDS. Crossword constructors, take note: Her 2016 poetry collection is Odes, so when you need a clue for ODE or ODES and you don’t have children in your audience, her titles are right there waiting. Check out the Table of Contents. Here’s “Ode of Girls’ Things.”
- 41d. [Certain hog], HARLEY. A Harley-Davidson motorcycle rather than a porcine creature. No SHOAT, WILD BOAR, or PIGLET to be found here.
4.2 stars from me.
Don Gagliardo’s Universal crossword, “Light Circuit”—Jim P’s review
Theme: FROM DAWN / TO DUSK (17a, [*With 61-Across, wakeful hours, or where the last words in the starred clues’ answers will take you]). The theme answers comprise a word ladder with the revealer entries acting as bookends.
- 17a. FROM DAWN.
- 19a. [*”Oh, fiddlesticks!”] “AW DARN.”
- 22a. [*”Better not even think about it …”] “DON’T YOU DARE!”
- 40a. [*He played Dr. Sloan in “Grey’s Anatomy”] ERIC DANE. No idea. Needed every crossing.
- 49a. [*Sci-fi anthology set in Frank Herbert’s universe] TALES OF DUNE. Hadn’t heard of this specific anthology either, but it was easy to infer.
- 59a. [*Dramatic two-pointer] SLAM DUNK.
- 61a. TO DUSK.
I don’t mind a good word ladder, and this is a good one. Using the revealer as both beginning and end of the ladder is a nice touch I don’t think I’ve seen before.
Another crazy feature of this grid is the up/down symmetry. With a revealer entry broken into 8- and 6-letter entries, and with every theme answer being an even number of letters, this configuration may have been the only way to have any sort of symmetry at all, and still have a 15×15 grid.
The solve just had a different vibe with the unusual symmetry even though (to be fully honest) I didn’t realize why at the time. But there’s good flow and some lovely long entries to enjoy such as: TAKE A TURN, MOTHERING, TIMPANI, Maya ANGELOU, ROMULAN, SHALOM, and UPSCALE.
Clue of note: 42a. [Looking after with affection]. MOTHERING. We also would have accepted [___ Sunday, British day to honor a certain parent].
All in all, a unique but fun and flowing grid. Very nice. Four stars.
Ada Nicolle’s USA Today crossword, “Low Standards”—Darby’s write-up
Editor: Anna Gundlach
Theme: Each theme answer is a Down answer and includes a synonym for standard as the last word.
- 5d [“‘Same order as always’”] I’LL HAVE THE USUAL
- 12d [“Taking a shower, getting dressed, making coffee, and so”] MORNING ROUTINE
- 17d [“Recurring cast member in a TV show”] SERIES REGULAR
Seeing I’LL HAVE THE USUAL span down the grid was such a fun moment for me. Plus, I’m such a creature of habit, so I resonated deeply with this theme of regularity. All three themers fell smoothly into place, and I clocked one of my fastest solving times for a USA Today puzzle.
This grid was asymmetric, allowing for the different theme answer lengths. There was also so much good non-theme fill, from the biologically-oriented 11a [“Microbe”] GERM and 15a [Leukocyte and platelets”] BLOOD CELLS. There was also a nice flavor of experience with office printers – we’ve all been there, right? – where you can’t find a fresh REAM of paper or you get an error message saying that the TONER is out.
A few Friday faves:
- 17a [“Comic ___ (font)”] – Someone told me recently that they saw a TikTok where someone suggested writing in Comic SANS in essay drafts so make it seem less high stakes and to help relieve anxiety about final papers.
- 20a [“Ogwumike of the WNBA”] – I got NNEKA entirely on the crosses, so much so that I didn’t see her name until I filled the grid in. It’s always fun to see female athletes highlighted, and learning more about NNEKA Ogwumike of the Los Angeles Sparks was no different. She was the No. 1 pick in the WNBA draft in 2012 and the association’s MVP in 2016. Also – shout out to the crossover clue in 29d [“WNBA’s Sparks, for one”] TEAM.
That’s all from me for today! Definitely a great puzzle!
Matt Forest & Shannon Rapp’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up
Apologies for the tardy posting. Terse write-up follows; no fault of the constructors.
- 60aR [Untangle carefully, and a phonetic hint for the answers to the starred clues?] TEASE OUT (“Ts out”)
- 18a. [*Haymakers agenda?] BALE PLAN (battle plan).
- 24a. [*Major uptick in swimsuit sales?] BIKINI BOOM (bikini bottom).
- 37a. [*”The whole team earned happy hour!”] WE DESERVE BEER (we deserve better).
- 52a. [*Hungry hawk’s polite request?] PREY, PLEASE (pretty please).
A fun little theme, well done. The other fill is also good and well-clued.