Billy Bratton’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap
Some months back, I enjoyed a Carleton College alumni event on Zoom, featuring constructor/Fiend blogger Sophia Maymudes (like me, a Carleton grad) and a current Carl, Billy Bratton. So I feel like I’ve met Billy, but have not. He seems to specialize somewhat in themelesses, I think? My favorite crossword type.
This puzzle played more like a Friday NYT, while yesterday’s played tougher. Was it a flip-flopped weekend for you, too?
Fave fill: FAN BASES, ZIGGY STARDUST, READ LIPS, GUMMED UP (but not SAT UP, SOAP UP, USE UP), SPY VS SPY, SWISHED, MCGRIDDLES, BAD HAIR DAY.
Besides the four UP phrases, we’ve got FIT IN, SIT BY, and ACT ON in the “stretched out with a li’l preposition/adverb” category. I feel like such entries are used far more now than they were a decade ago. Longtime solvers, what say you? I feel like they dry things out, but concede that they’re better than, say, ORONO or ALENE. (I will call foul on SIT BY and SAT UP appearing in the same grid. That’s the same verb!)
I do use Reddit some, but can’t say I’d been aware there was an ASK REDDIT page. The clue gave me a solid idea of what it’s like, though: [Forum that provides material for many BuzzFeed articles]. My favorite subreddit is OddlySatisfying.
… Sorry, Reddit bumped me over to YouTube and I got distracted watching videos. (“Squirrel!”)
Evan Mulvihill’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up
In this themeless, I enjoyed the wordplay more than I did the YEKIOYDs (that’s short for “you either know it or you don’t,” for those who are unfamiliar with that initialism from LearnedLeague:
- 22A [Account statement?] elevates what might otherwise be a bland 14-letter entry, SWORN TESTIMONY.
- 42A [Robin DiAngelo book about race relations] is WHITE FRAGILITY. There’s a YEKIOYD — I suppose “race relations” at least helps a solver confirm WHITE, but IMO a 14-letter entry that is very easy for anyone who has heard of the book and must be gotten from the crossings if you haven’t doesn’t make for the most interesting solving experience.
- 46A [Shut up] is KEPT MUM, which because of the ambiguous tense of “Shut” can easily be entered as KEEP MUM, adding a (welcome) extra bit of difficulty here.
- 8D [Honoree who might wear a vintage uniform] is OLD-TIMER. For once, I’m here for the baseball reference, which I think is more evocative than simply cluing OLD-TIMER with reference to older folks in general would be.
- 17D [Master of disguise?] for ART FORGER (my favorite clue in the puzzle!), 20D [One whose priorities are in order?] for NEAT FREAK, and 23D [Winter figure] for SNOW ANGEL make a really lovely set of clues in the center.
- 31D [“Between the World and Me” writer Coates] is TA-NEHISI, another YEKIOYD.
I’m not opposed to YEKIOYDs altogether; one can learn something after the fact from them, and if I’m going into a puzzle prepared for a few, as I am with a New Yorker themeless, that’s fine. But when I can drop a 14 and an 8 into a Saturday newspaper puzzle with no crossings, I want to be challenged more than that.
Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Ball Drops” — pannonica’s write-up
I neglected to look at the title beforehand and ignored the circled squares during the solve, so had no idea what the theme might be.
The revealer turns out to be high up on the righthand side.
- 16dR [Square where the words in this puzzle’s dropping balls may be heard at the end of a song’s first verse] TIMES. Not a crossword square but a city square, several of 15d [Manhattan’s 14,600] ACRES. The ‘balls’ in this case are those circles.
From left to right we have:
- 3d. [1977 Ted Nugent song] CAT SCRATCH FEVER.
- 41d. [Everything not specifically left to someone in a will] RESIDUARY ESTATE.
- 8d. [Noted baseball routine] WHO’S ON FIRST.
- 66d. [Boston Beer Company’s flagship brand] SAMUEL ADAMS.
- 12d. [2015 Kenny G album that includes “Girl From Ipanema”] BRAZILIAN NIGHTS.
- 43d. [Director of “If …” and “O Lucky Man!”] LINDSAY ANDERSON.
THE | DAYS | OF | AULD | LANG | SYNE
Note how the circled letters (the ‘dropping balls’) are consistently spaced—a very nice touch. In light of the arrangement of the theme answers, the unusual location of the revealer makes sense.
Theme-adjacent: 20a [Serve the champagne] POUR, 59a [High spirits] CHEERINESS, 73a [Like the “New Year’s Rockin’ Eve” airing] LIVE.
- 32a [Anarchic, say] IN CHAOS. 35a [Disordered] IN A MESS.
- 49a [Thread component] EMAIL. My program labels, or styles, them ‘conversations’.
- 58a [Center’s job] SNAP. Seems as if the clue wants SNAPPING? Would [Center’s responsibility] be better?
- 65a [Buff buff] NUDIST. Cute clue.
- 106a [Singer nicknamed “The Velvet Fog”] MEL TORME. Seeing his name written always triggers for me the nonsensical phrase “tuna melt or me?” DON’T JUDGE ME.
- 114a [Co-star of Gene, Peter, Marty, Cloris and Madeline] TERI. The film in question is Young Frankenstein.
- 1d [Pale green color] SEA MIST. With the S-E already in place I plopped in SEA FOAM. Close.
- 9d [Forbidden pitch] SPITTER. 94d [Successful pitcher] SELLER.
- 59d [Venezuelan piranha] CARIBE. Vaguely familiar; I must have actually known this at some point. Pygocentrus cariba. “The name Cariba means cannibal in native language, and comes from the people of the Island Caribs who had a reputation as warriors who raided neighboring islands, and practiced cannibalism, according to the Spanish conquistadors. This species has very high propensity for cannibalism among its species. [sic]” —Wikipedia
- 87d [Crayola color renamed “peach” in 1962] FLESH. Good move. But I recall seeing and using (new) Crayola crayons with both names, and I’m not old enough to have predated the name change. Anyone else, or do my memories deceive me?
Universal Crossword, “Universal Freestyle 53” by Nancy Serrano-Wu — norah’s write-up
- ARROZCONPOLLO 25A [Latin American dish whose name translates to “rice with chicken”]
- MAINE 31A [All of ME?]
- DRAGONBOAT 55A [Chinese watercraft that a drummer rides]
- NEAPOLITAN 9D [Ice cream option for the indecisive?]
- BLOOM 11D [Rarity for a century plant]
- RITAMORENO 27D [Latina icon in the “One Day at a Time” remake]
- ONTHEROCKS 28D [Not neat]
- PAPERTIGER 38D [The Cowardly Lion, e.g., oddly]
This was delightful! I appreciate the representation here: I count five (?) uses of Spanish language in clues or entries (I love cluing SOPA 34D as [Gazpacho, por ejemplo]), plus we get SARI, DRAGONBOAT, TESSA, PAPERTIGER and DAL. To boot, this grid is extremely clean!
Nancy says “she finds crosswords to be more than just puzzles — they are an opportunity for others to feel seen. Words matter, now more than ever before. Her goal is to imbue her crosswords with as much of her personal experience as she can, emphasizing BIPOC terms.” (copied from her Inkubator bio).
This is Nancy’s Universal debut! Congratulations :) She is also on the 2023 Lil AVC X roster; I’m looking forward to many more fun puzzles from her in the coming year.
BROOMS 24A [What quadball players and sweepers hold]
Thank you Nancy, and Happy New Year to all!
(in response to Amy’s review – my favorite subreddit? r/crossword, obviously ;)
Lester Ruff’s Newsday crossword, Saturday Stumper — pannonica’s write-up
Rather a striking grid design today.
Despite the ‘less rough’ denotation, I was stymied for quite some time on this one. Finally I was able to chip away into the bottom half of the grid (the puzzle is nearly two separate halves), completing it, then expand to the top left, and finally struggle through the top right.
- Most memorable clue for me was 14d [Secure offshore] MOORED. At first it seems like a mismatch in tense, until you realize that both ‘secure’ and the the answer are adjectives. In addition to the trickiness, it was memorable because this entry was pivotal (no offense to 30a [Made a deft turn] PIVOTED) for my breaking through and finishing off this quadrant, and hence the whole crossword.
- 15a [Rapper’s “chilly” alias] COOLIO. None of the Ice people fit.
- 19a [Petting-zoo sounds] BAAS. Held off to see if it might be MAAS, which led me to think that 1d [They’re tracked by Canada’s Radarsats] ICEBERGS might be ICE MELTS.
- 20a [Drive out] REPEL? EJECT!
- 22a [Moving-around sound] WHIR. Quite literally, around.
- 27a [Cheat, with “out”] ACE. This seems gambling-related.
- 28a [A scream] RIOTOUS.
- 39a [Ear covering] HUSK, for which I initially had MUFF.
- 54a [Some base men] NCOS. Pay attention to typography.
- 3d [KO on the NYSE] COCA-COLA. Had I known this, the puzzle would have been completed much more quickly.
- 26d [Garden party] EVE. Ooh, tricky. Didn’t even see this answer until just now, though I rummaged at the clue a few times.
- 40d [Team __ ] USA. This was my very first entry into the crossword.
- 44d [Taking up?] ELATING. >head wobble<
Mostly enjoyable crossword, but that bipartite grid stifled some of the pleasure.