If you haven’t seen it yet, check out New Yorker crossword editor Liz Maynes-Aminzade’s interview of Will Shortz. It’s in the digital-only Interviews issue, so you won’t find it in the print version. I like the sort of discussion topics Will would only be asked by another crossword editor, and Will gets personal. It’s a good read.
Jem Burch’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
This puzzle played harder than I expected. I think I just need more sleep.
The center entry is the star here: 35a. [Confounding contraptions], PUZZLE BOXES. You might be asking, What the heck is a puzzle box? Watch the Netflix movie Glass Onion to see a wild example of one (and stay for the Natasha Lyonne cameo mentioning crosswords—both she and director Rian Johnson are puzzle people).
Other fave fill: ABOUT-FACES (plural feels a little weird), PIZZA STONES, potato LATKES, VAMPIRE BAT, SLEAZEBALL, AFFLUENZA (which seems like a “get over yourself” issue), SIZZLED, and BOLEYN.
New to me: 28a. [First letter of “tsar” in Russian], TSE. If you’re a language nerd with a little bit of Cyrillic alphabet knowledge (like I picked up from Encyclopedia Brown—I know I’m not the only one!), check out some Sporcle quizzes like this and that.
I am weary of entries like GASP AT, which append a 2-letter word to form a phrase that is maybe not a dictionary-grade sort of entry.
One of several fun/tricky clues: 48d. [Go-to spot for multiple dates?], PALM. As in date palm trees. If you thought this was salacious, that’s on you!
Four stars from me.
Wyna Liu’s Inkubator crossword, “Themeless 35″—Matthew’s write-up
Matt here, stepping in for Jenni. I can’t remember ever not loving the heck out of a Wyna themeless, but this may be one of my favorites. I’m hard-pressed to remember a grid with so much long stuff hitting the middle — typically below 70 words we’ve got stairstacks in the middle, wide-open corners without a lot of connectivity, or a diagonal streak of blocks through the center to help segment the grid. But here we’ve got almost a themed-grid shape around the edges and then, almost nothing in the middle.
PERIOD UNDERWEAR [They’re sometimes spotted in the laundry] is a great entry made even better by a great clue. That it’s right next to Nobelist SEAMUS Heaney highlights just how much can be fit into a grid. See also Aly RAISMAN next to KING PRIAM, or the juxtaposition of biology’s ALLELES – the real-world REAL FRIEND – fashion’s Bruno MAGLI – casual SPOSE. Idiomatic WET NOODLE!
Admittedly I wasn’t familiar with KIIARA (“Gold” apparently hit #13 on Billboard), or with the ONE-EARED nature of mantises. PHONE NO, RARO, CDRS all caught my attention as a bit awkward during the solve (I try to make a distinction between what I actually see during a solve versus in the 30-60 minute period of doing a write up after), but they’re plenty offset by the good IMO. There’s just such a deft balance of such a wide net here — GOLAN Heights and THE GRIND; KIWI crossing HAKA — it’s Robyn Weintraub, Kam Collins, Francis Heaney levels. And Wyna’s been delivering it from the jump – I can still remember solving her world debut with AVCX (get it for a buck here!)
Anyway, I liked the puzzle. Your mileage may vary, of course, but other than difficulty (I always want more) it’s everything I want in a puzzle. Two last things:
- 30a [Parers and peelers, say] UTENSILS. Love this clue – very prosodic.
- 50d [Undo ___ (embarrassment-saving email button)] SEND. I have this setting turned to the max on my email accounts and use it multiple times a day. It’s kind of rare I actually needed to use it, but it’s a nice security blanket.
Gary Larson and Amy Ensz’s Universal crossword, “Top Row”—Jim P’s review
Theme answers (in the Down direction) are familiar phrases whose first words (or two) can also be synonyms for “quarrel.” Each one is clued [Quarrel over x, literally?] where x is a hint at the final word in the entry. (The “quarrel” word(s) is over (i.e. above) x. Get it?) Note also the play on words in the title where “row” is yet another word for “quarrel.”
- 3d. [Quarrel over a song, literally?] SET-TO MUSIC.
- 8d. [Quarrel over a golf club, literally?] SCRAP IRON.
- 29d. [Quarrel over a venue, literally?] RUN-IN PLACE.
- 34d. [Quarrel over merchandise, literally?] BEEF STOCK.
The theme works, though I can’t say it does a lot for me. I think there’s a better chance at humor if you go the classic “wacky clue” route (e.g. [Tunes for a tussle] and [Golf club for combat]). I do like the title.
In the fill, I thought it was nice to see my Fighting IRISH represented in a theme-adjacent manner. Also good in the fill: TAR PAPER, “¿COMO ESTA?,” GOBLET, and “BEATS ME.”
Clues of note:
- 9d. [Sounds from a dying smoke alarm]. BEEPS. Also from a non-dying smoke alarm…when it’s triggered.
- 32d. [British “dude”]. CHAP. Not quite the same. “Chaaaap” doesn’t sound nearly as good as “duuuude.”
- 54d. [“Let’s start the music!”]. “HIT IT!” Surprised to see “music” here since it dupes a theme entry.
Jeff Stillman’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up
A 16×15 grid today.
- 36aR [Ones fated to fail, or what the answers to the starred clues are, initially?] BORN TO LOSE. Each of those four answers has an isolated letter that’s dropped. In order, they are B-O-R-N.
- 18a. [*Children’s apparel company] OSHKOSH GOSH (OshKosh B’Gosh).
- 27a. [*Candy with a bee on its wrapper] BIT HONEY (Bit-O-Honey).
- 51a. [*Superstore for new parents] BABIES US (Babies ‘Я‘ Us). This one is iffy, to my mind. Expanding from the tse in today’s NYT, the key letter in the Cyrillic alphabet is called ya.
- 61a. [*Snack brand with Buttery Toffee and Almond Supreme flavors] CRUNCH MUNCH (Crunch ’n Munch).
I’m kind of indifferent on this theme. The general vibe that I get is that it’s ever-so-slightly short of being clean. Maybe it’s the syntax of the revealer. Maybe it’s that reflected R (even though it’s meant to be merely a simulacrum of children’s handwriting) which admittedly for all practical purposes is treated as a regular one. Whatever the reason, it just didn’t thrill.
- Some unusual fill livens up the grid: ROSINED, ASHCANS, KOLA NUT, DOE EYES, SAGE TEA, and some others.
- 39d [Punctuation marks that set off a series within a phrase] EM DASHES. All of our thematic letters are set off by different means than this. EM DASHES would certainly overpower a single letter.
- 32a [Campus security?] TENURE. Nowadays TENURE seems increasingly tenuous for academics.
- 67d [Jumps up and down to music] POGOS. I was curious to see if this verb predated the pogo stick, but it seems that it’s the other way around. m-w gives an example of punk rockers and dates the usage to 1977, so you can gather the context. But certainly the Masai people have been doing this for much, much longer.
- 68a [Origin] SEED. 26d [Scattered, as seeds] SOWN.
Christopher Adams’ New Yorker crossword—Matthew’s write-up
Themers each contain two instances of the letter string –OUT– and are connected by the apt, baseball-y, revealer DOUBLE PLAYS [Defensive baseball feats represented in 10-, 14-, 26-/30-, and 38-Across]
- 10a [Type of social program that might focus on at-risk children] YOUTH OUTREACH
- 14a [Nickname for Ted Turner] MOUTH OF THE SOUTH
- 26a [With 30-Across, regular exercise practice] WORKOUT ROUTINE
- 38a [Janelle Monáe protest song covered in David Byrne’s “American Utopia”] HELL YOU TALM BOUT
This is a satisfying puzzle with a tight theme, a spot-on revealer, and polish and depth I expect from a veteran like Chris. With apologies to that depth and polish, I have only one comment:
I am deeply grateful to Chris and the New Yorker staff for including HELL YOU TALM BOUT, which Byrne used as his closer on the American Utopia tour and called “one of the most moving political songs that I'[ve] ever heard.”
Monáe released a subsequent version in 2021, thirteen minutes longer than the original, with 61 names.
Stella Zawistowski’s USA Today crossword, “Exterior Doors”—Darby’s write-up
Editor: Anna Gundlach
Theme: Each theme answer is bracketed by letters spelling out DOOR.
- 15a [“Pursuit of two sets of degree requirements”] DOUBLE MAJOR
- 33a [“Work of managing a household”] DOMESTIC LABOR
- 54a [“Helping out”] DOING A FAVOR
This was a cute theme. It was pretty obvious and so therefore helpful as I went to fill in DOMESTIC LABOR and DOING A FAVOR in particular. It was also a really smooth ride, placing me at just over three minutes (if only I’d been able to type 55d [“In the style of”] ALA faster). It was a nice theme set, though I don’t feel like I see DOING A FAVOR more than I see DOING SOMEONE/YOU A FAVOR in a sentence out in the wild.
Like most folks, OBOE is my go-to guess for instruments in puzzles, so it was delightful to see 9d [“Wind player’s time to shine”] OBOE SOLO. I also appreciated that MAJESTIC crossed DOUBLE MAJOR in a J team-up. 34a [“How someone might listen to their favorite song”] ON REPEAT was very fresh, and it was great to get 13a and 15d [“Baby’s first word, often”] MAMA and DADA respectively.
I struggled with the cross between 40a [“Sara Gilbert’s role on ‘The Connors’”] DARLENE and 33d [“Long tirade”] DIATRIBE. DIATRIBE was just not coming to mind, and I’m not familiar with Sara Gilbert.
Overall, however, this was super fun and a great Friday grid.