Sam Ezersky’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Tough puzzle with lots of challenging clues and unusual fill in a 16×15 grid. The trio of 16s are great: the BIG TEN CONFERENCE (it has more than 10 schools), the CIA WORLD FACTBOOK, and the AMAZING SPIDER-MAN. (The BIG TEN was brought down a notch by TOP TEN also being in the grid. See also: I PRESUME crossing I SEE, with I SAY and I AM across the way. Sigh.)
Fave fill: VIBE CHECK, SKYLARKS (that should be a sports team name rather than a Buick), MR. GOODBAR (haven’t seen one outside of snack size in Halloween assortments in eons—and apparently Hershey swapped out the cocoa butter for cheaper oils so now it’s “chocolate candy” and not “milk chocolate”—sleazy!), SKIN TONES on a cosmetics chart, EGOTS (too bad the clue wasn’t updated after Viola Davis’s Grammy win last weekend making her the newest member of that exalted category). 63a. [Colon’s place, familiarly] clued the LOWER GI tract—a crazy-looking entry but fair game.
Crosswordese: EPODE, [Writing of Horace]. No, you don’t generally learn this term as a literature major. Also MIRY, [Like swampland]. Do any of you use either of these words?
“Wait, is that a thing?”: EU FLAG, ECOTECH, UP TWO, PSALM ONE. Don’t bible verses always use numerals? There does happen to be a Chicago rapper called Psalm One, whose second album was called Bio: Chemistry II: Esters and Essays. (She majored in chemistry.) She’s not too famous but you can still watch her videos (see below) or listen to her music.
A few more things:
- 57a. [Many people do this on January 1], NAP. Really? I had no idea.
- 36d. [Some lightweight protection] is SOFT ARMOR? That’s a thing? I googled this and yeah, it’s modern tactical accessories for the gun-involved.
- Two geographic learning opportunities I liked: 8d. [Capital known as Keijo before the 1940s], SEOUL, and 50d. [Where “talofa” and “tofa” mean “hello” and “goodbye”], SAMOA.
Three stars from me.
Universal Crossword, “Universal Freestyle” by Jess Shulman — norah’s write-up
- LEGOLAND 53A [Theme park filled with bricks] ⭐
- PICODEGALLO 5D [Salsa whose name means “beak of rooster”?]
- RETWEETS 2D [Amplifies on a certain social media site]
- PERIOD 23A [It comes to a “full stop” at menopause]
- SELFAPPOINTED 37A [Like authorities without endorsements]
- KITTENHEEL 19D [Short stiletto shoe]
Jess makes it look easy with clean entries and comfortable familiar cluing. Super smooth solve for me with no sticking points. And I appreciate the female vibe presented in PERIOD, LADIESROOM, and KITTENHEEL. Not exactly a fan of THE DA and TO PAR, but a couple such entries that tie together longer answers is not a big deal to me in terms of overall enjoyment.
Jess Shulman is one of many constructors who contributed to Grids For Kids, a puzzle pack to raise funds for childrens’ charities. Learn more and donate at gridsforkids.com
I hope FUNERALPOTATOES (15) is on everyone’s wordlists — the best version of which is made with CORNFLAKES (21D [Cereal used as a casserole topping])
Rafael Musa’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up
This puzzle belongs at UAMM: It’s a perfectly nice grid, but there’s not a tough vocabulary word to be found and the clues aren’t really ones to do battle with. A few notes:
- 19A [Book full of legends?] I’ve seen variations of this wordplay enough times that I knew I was looking for some kind of ATLAS right away (in this case, a ROAD ATLAS).
- 24A I suppose [“Welp”] isn’t much to go on to get to I SPOKE TOO SOON, but I had too many crossings in place, even early in the solve, not to get there quickly.
- 40A [Not taking a back seat] is a nice clue for RIDING SHOTGUN.
- 56A [“The __ U Give” (Angie Thomas novel)] is HATE. I recommend the book!
- 10D [Going dark] is cute for SUNTANNING.
- 26D/27D the side-by-side pairing of PAPER PLATE and ONE-TIME USE is cool.
- 39D [Jazz pianist Jamal] is AHMAD. The man is still making music at age 92 and I was delighted to see him referenced instead of AHMAD Rashad, whom I’ve seen in puzzles more often.
- 51D/52D [Helpful blackjack cards, maybe] and [Helpful blackjack card, maybe] for ACES and TEN, respectively, was a smart way to handle the juxtaposition of these two entries.
So: A nice puzzle, but either it should have gotten harder clues or been sold to an easier market. I expect to work for it at least a little bit on Saturday!
Rafael Musa’s USA Today crossword, “Quadmire”—Matthew’s write-up
Our themers all begin with the string FEN-, and given that we have four FENs, our title is a punny play on “quagmire,”
- 17a [Boston Red Sox stadium] FENWAY PARK
- 27a [Rihanna’s makeup brand] FENTY BEAUTY
- 41a [Protection for an epeeist] FENCING MASK
- 55a [Spice that can be used as a breath freshener] FENNEL SEED
A fun, balanced theme set. Busy weekend ahead so have to stop here. Have a good one!
Gary Larson & Amy Ensz’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “In the Drink” — pannonica’s write-up
(Write-up to come later, as I have a headache this morning.)
Matthew Sewell’s Newsday crossword, Saturday Stumper — pannonica’s write-up
(Write-up to come later, as I have a headache this morning. In the meantime, perhaps Seth
‘s detailed comment below may suffice?)