Friday, January 27, 2023

LAT untimed (pannonica) 


The New Yorker 2:24 (Matt) 


NYT 5:17 (Amy) 


Universal 3:44 (Jim P) 


USA Today 5:39 (Darby) 


Joe Deeney’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap

NY Times crossword solution, 1 27 23, no. 0127

Quick review tonight. I appreciated the pair of 16-letter pop-culture twin-packs: THE SOCIAL NETWORK costarred JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE as the Napster guy, and the key 1990s album JAGGED LITTLE PILL is by ALANIS MORISSETTE. True story: When Alanis first broke out, my editorial assistant was dating a radio DJ, and she pronounced the name such that I thought the singer was named “Alana Smorsett.”

Other fave fill: CHUNKY peanut butter (I’m a convert in the past year or two), HOOLIGAN, Toronto’s CN TOWER (so I can mention that I was up top when that earthquake centered in Virginia hit, and the tower swayed), PAIR OFF, Burns’s “TO A MOUSE,” and SKEEZY (tried SKETCH{y} first).

Lowlights: MOILS, OSSA.

Movie rec: ANYA Taylor-Joy of The Queen’s Gambit was most recently in The Menu, for which she and costar Ralph Fiennes received Golden Globe nominations. Wikipedia calls it a black comedy horror film and that sounds about right. Not too scary, but a tad gruesome in an entertaining way.

3.8 stars from me.

Jeffrey Wechsler’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up

LAT • 1/27/23 • Fri • Wechsler • solution • 20230127

-OR is suffixed to familiar names and phrases to wacky effect.

  • 16a. [Specialized work at a confectionary?] CHOCOLATE LABOR (chocolate lab).
  • 36a. [Instructor for a monarch?] KING TUTOR (King Tut).
  • 38a. [Nickname for Luciano Pavarotti?] THE BIG TENOR (The Big Ten).
  • 40a. [Estate that went all-out with turquoise paint?] AQUA MANOR (Aquaman).
  • 59a. [Vicar who puts the pedal to the metal?] SPEEDING PASTOR (speeding past).

Not the most impressive theme, but that overlapping triple stack of theme entries in the center is definitely impressive.

  • The longest downs: 12d [Worrisome educational statistic] DROPOUT RATE. 24d [Disappoints] ISN’T UP TO PAR.
  • 17d [Boxer Spinks] LEON. Seems dated?
  • 25d [Preference] LIKING. “Is that your preference?” “Is it to your liking?”
  • Not part of the theme: 29d [Energy] VIGOR, 14a [ __ All: car care brand] ARMOR.
  • 64d [Rare color?] RED. We’re talking meat here.
  • 1a [Stock holder?] SHELF. Faked me out; thought it was going to be about farm animals.
  • 22a [Connecticut home of ESPN studios] BRISTOL. Is this widely known? Incidentally, I just watched the comedy-suspense television series The Outlaws, which follows a group of criminals doing community service and is set in Bristol, England.
  • 33a [Caribbean gastropod] CONCH. This is specifically the queen conchAliger gigas. In college I did a field trip to Jamaica and encountered living ones. I tell you, they are surprisingly cute animals, especially their highly mobile and contractible eye stalks.
  • 66a [Hard section of a textbook, perhaps] SPINE. Trickiest clue of the puzzle.

Jonathan BLACK’s Universal crossword, “Self-Starter”—Jim P’s review

Theme answers are familiar two-word phrases where both words can follow BLACK (39a, [Word that this puzzle’s author uses frequently … and that pairs with both parts of 17-, 25-, 51- and 61-Across]).

Universal crossword solution · “Self-Starter” · Jonathan Black · Fri., 1.27.23

  • 17a. [Arabica, for example] COFFEE BEAN. Black coffee, black bean.
  • 25a. [’90s optical illusion fad] MAGIC EYE. Black magic, black eye. Fun!
  • 51a. [Motor variety for a boat] OUTBOARD. Blackout, blackboard.
  • 61a. [Bad time to take stock, maybe?] BEAR MARKET. Black bear, black market.

Nice. I for one enjoy this type of theme because it’s always just a little bit surprising. That said, I prefer it when the “doubleness” of the theme is alluded to by the revealer. Like if the revealer here was DOUBLE BLACK (which turns out to be a whisky by Johnnie Walker).

But that’s not strictly necessary and I do like the meta aspect here with the constructor’s surname and the puzzle’s title which is a very nice touch indeed.

Beyond the theme, the puzzle was smooth all around. Some longer sparklier fill would have been appreciated, but the 7s anchoring the four corners are all solid, and the smoothness of the fill contributed to a quick solving time.

Clues of note:

  • 21a. [Pair from a deck, perhaps?]. MASTS. Sailboats, not cards.
  • 32a. [PC key used with F4]. ALT. I’m a Mac user, so I’ll have to look up Alt-F4. Ah, it’s to close the current window, like Command-W on a Mac.
  • 42a. [Cupid’s teammate]. DANCER. Reindeer, not gods. See also 44d [Cupid’s counterpart], EROS. Gods, not reindeer.

Fun puzzle. 3.75 stars.

Erik Agard’s USA Today crossword, “Countdown”—Darby’s recap

Editor: Erik Agard

Theme: The last word of each theme answer can follow Count, and each theme answer is a Down answer.

Theme Answers

Erik Agard's USA Today crossword, "Countdown" solution 1/27/2023

Erik Agard’s USA Today crossword, “Countdown” solution 1/27/2023

  • 7d [“‘Promise!’”] I GIVE YOU MY WORD / WORD COUNT
  • 12d [“Stops following a conversation”] LOSES THE THREAD / THREAD COUNT
  • 13d [“Finally reach a critical point”] COME TO A HEAD / HEAD COUNT

I love a set of Down themers, and I I also really loved the shape of this grid. Each of these fell into place pretty easily, though my solve was longer than usual, which I think was more to being unsure of answers like 34a [“Another name for the Kanien’keha:ka”] MOHAWK and 44a [“2019 movie about a prison warden”] CLEMENCY.

So much of the fill was really fun and fresh. I loved seeing MEET CUTE and the clue on 15a [“X, Oak or Plum”] PROFESSOR was truly amazing (if misleading at first!).

A few other favourites:

  • 54a [“Fighter who might meet their opponent at dawn”] – Having been listening to Hamilton this morning, this clue conjured a very specific image of a DUELIST.
  • 56a [“At least as good”] – I wasn’t sure about where this answer was going, but the payoff on NPR, NOSE, SLED, and I GIVE YOU MY WORD made NO WORSE appear as a clear “well, duh!” answer.
  • 32d [“Nice and round”] – This immediately made me think of my parents’ PLUMP pugs (say that three times fast).

Overall, this was a cute puzzle for a Friday morning.

Rachel Goldstein’s New Yorker crossword—Matthew’s recap

Rachel Goldstein’s New Yorker crossword solution, 1/27/2023

I’m tempted to change my dinner plans after solving this one: mirror symmetry provides us with four down-running themers: OLIVE BRANCH, SAUSAGE DOG, BRIE LARSON, and CRACKER JACK, alluding to a spanner in the lower half of the grid: CHARCUTERIE BOARD. A fun theme with a revealer that caught me a bit by surprise thanks to HASTA MANANA and CATNIP MOUSE (both colorful entries in their own right) sitting next to and the same length as the two outer themers.

Stray thought: SAUSAGE DOG, or “wiener dog”? I use the latter more, but the puzzle needed the former, naturally. I haven’t kept up with the Marvel Cinematic Universe the last few years, but BRIE LARSON‘s Captain Marvel is one of my favorite characters despite appearing later in the worldbuilding. Synonymous meanings aside, I really like [Aplenty] to suggest the folksiness of GALORE – spot on cluing there.

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12 Responses to Friday, January 27, 2023

  1. huda says:

    NYT: So much I didn’t know as I delved into this puzzle. I was shocked when entered my last letter, the L at the intersection of IRL and LESLEA, and got a “Congratulations”. That’s a sign of an excellent Friday puzzle– when it gives you a run for your money but also enough opportunities to redeem yourself.
    SKEEZY is a fantastic word…

    • pannonica says:

      I would suggest that SKEEZY is a portmanteau of sleazy and skeevy, the latter in turn from an Italian-American dialectal form of schifo (‘disgust’).

      Oh, and I wasn’t expecting it to be there, but m-w has an entry for it and basically confirms what I posited.

  2. JohnH says:

    New York Magazine’s online-only Intelligencer posts today include an interview with the guy whose puzzle recently made the NYT as only a student. He says along the way that the NYT gets 200 submissions a week.

    I’m sure this is old news to you all, but I was amazed. How exactly do they vet that many? Will Shortz can’t conceivably solve them all (and anyway surely has better things to do as editor of puzzles that will indeed be published).

    • Ethan says:

      Well they never SOLVED them. submissions include a solved grid.

      But there’s something like 3-4 assistants now. I suspect the 200/wk gets winnowed down substantially before Will makes a call. That’s 40 submissions per weekday; that seems a reasonable per-person load to read and evaluate. I suspect a high number get a quick rejection.

  3. AlanW says:

    I could hardly believe NYT 10D I TRY and 40D NICE TRY. I know this blog has frequently observed that W. Shortz seems less concerned about dupes than many reviewers and solvers are, but to me, even if they’re only three-letter words, this is just over the line. (To be clear, I consider this at least as much the editor’s and test-solvers’ responsibility as the constructor’s. The constructor is too close to the puzzle to notice every such detail.)

    I suppose I should try to explain why I feel this isn’t just an arbitrary, crotchety rule. On one hand, I find that duplications across clues can often be elegant, because they’re creative examples of how the same sequence of words can lead to diverse meanings. In the same way, I enjoy imaginative cluing (if it’s not too vague, elliptical, or off-key), precisely because there’s no deterministic one-to-one correspondence between clue and answer; instead, you need to exercise your own ingenuity to find the answer, and there’s a satisfying “aha” click when you do. That also goes for an entry that echoes or calls back to another indirectly or allusively.

    But one entry that significantly overlaps another (absent some purposeful design), or a clue that overlaps another entry, to me offers none of this artistic pleasure. In a tiny way, it’s like the practice in early crosswords of clues that partly or fully overlapped their own answers. Those crosswords also felt free to duplicate entries altogether. We moved beyond that simplicity long ago. I look for creativity and challenge in a word puzzle, not just mechanical repetition.

    This is an esthetic taste, which can’t be more than subjective, but I suspect that many people will agree with me. Others might not. Others might also be able to put their reasons differently or better than I can. I’d be interested to hear your opinions.

    • Becky Moody says:

      While I haven’t gone through the same thought process, I was surprised by the two cases of “try” and resisted filling 40D until I had some of the crosses.

  4. Becky Moody says:

    Re the USA Today puzzle, the last words of the theme entries precede “count”, not follow it.

  5. Leading Edge Boomer says:

    The New Yorker: 43A–Clued as “Sugar daddy’s companion, maybe”, and answered BOYTOY. A Boy Toy generally refers to a younger male who is the companion of a Cougar, an older woman. The constructor either made an error, or included the possibility that a Sugar Daddy might have a companion of the same sex. Cougar and a Sugar Daddy are terms that are never used interchangeably.

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