If you don’t know by now, the NY Times Games site will stop offering Acrostic and Variety puzzles in digital versions on their website, and all archives will no longer be accessible. According to an email received from them, the ability to download and print these puzzles will be discontinued on February 26th, and the ability to access the archive will stop after March 1st.
If you would like to express your displeasure at this move, write to either NYT Crossword Care or directly to the Games team. According to the email received from them, they are still “collecting feedback on this change,” so please make your voice heard. As most of you know, Acrostics are far easier to solve online when compared to print, and posting pdfs of Variety puzzles should be a simple affair even if interactive versions were to stop.
Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Heed the Clues”—Jim P’s review
We have a simple rhyming theme today, though it’s certainly tighter than just rhymes. Each theme answer is of the form x THE y where each x rhymes with “heed” (from the title). As far as I can tell, there’s no connection between the final words of each theme entry.
- 17a. [Do an alpha’s job] LEAD THE PACK.
- 27a. [1988 David Mamet play] SPEED THE PLOW. Didn’t know this title and considered that the second E might be an N. Thankfully, the theme cleared that up.
- 43a. [Avoid a ticket, in a way] FEED THE METER.
- 58a. [“Those comments are completely inappropriate here!”] “READ THE ROOM!” I like this modern phrase.
So yeah. Not a complicated theme, but it doesn’t have to be. As long as the constraints are tight, and the theme answers are lively and gettable, then I’m happy. There aren’t many phrases of this form with that rhyming constraint, so I’m satisfied with this set and this theme. I did find PLEAD THE FIFTH as another potential entry, and at 13 letters, it could’ve gone right in the middle. But that might’ve been too much for the puzzle to bear, possibly wrecking the fill in the process.
Speaking of fill, we get HANG GLIDE and GREEN-EYED (hey, those rhyme, too!), as well as SPEAR GUN, “NICE SHOT,” COHERENT, ST MARK, and Indiana Jones’s FEDORA. I didn’t know the names MCHALE or LEHANE, but once again, the theme helped to sort them out. Also didn’t know WWI battle site THE MARNE.
Clues of note:
- 5a. [One of the two 2026 Winter Olympics host cities]. MILAN. The other city is Cortina d’Amprezzo. They aren’t exactly close to one other being 255 miles apart.
- 39a. [Rider of an eight-legged horse]. ODIN. Sleipnir is its name, just in case that ever comes up again in a puzzle.
- 41a. [Chain with carhops]. SONIC. They’re in 47 states according to their website, though the vast majority of their 3549 restaurants are in the South.
Straightforward theme, but nicely constructed. 3.75 stars.
Adam Wagner’s New York Times crossword–Amy’s recap
A surprising phonetic theme today, in a puzzle that seemed easier than the Tuesday puzzle which had wanted to be a Wednesday. Theme revealer: 52a. [Word sounded out by the ends of 20-, 35-, and 40-Across], ONOMATOPOEIA. Those three end with -ana, -mata, -pia:
- 20a. [Region in South America that’s technically part of Europe], FRENCH GUIANA. Kind of a gross story there. The French colonized the place, brutally. Taking land from Indigenous peoples, bringing in enslaved people from Africa, creating a penal colony with a massive death rate. France, do better.
- 35a. [Greek city renowned for its olives], KALAMATA. I like olive oil but cannot stand olives. Anyone else?
- 40a. [African country with its own 13-month calendar], ETHIOPIA. Who knew? Not I. More info on that calendar here.
Fave fill: PAD THAI, WELP, KIDS’ MENU, “I’LL PASS,” and that [Liquid that might be pumped], BREAST MILK.
Fave clue: 24a. [“Next time someone tells Bronx girls to take off their ___, they can just say they’re dressing like a congresswoman”: A.O.C.], HOOPS. Hoop earrings, if you didn’t know.
Four stars from me.
Hey squad! Will gave us a puzzle with stacks of four answers instead of three. I’ve tried to make a puzzle like that before and I have never succeeded, so props to Will. I did not finish this puzzle, because I did not know ALAN PATON or PORTO NOVO or LISLE. I stared at N??E? for a whole minute, but the clue wasn’t giving me much (Scholastique Mukasonga’s “Our Lady of the Nile,” for one) and eventually I gave up.
Other things that were new to me, CASCA and HEDDA and SAMEYNESS (though the last was pretty inferrable from the clue). While solving this puzzle, I listened to this playlist, which I’ve basically been looping since it was posted on Valentine’s Day. And then I realized the playlist’s creator was in this puzzle! HANIF Abdurraqib, thank you for your impeccable taste!
Zhouqin Burnikel’s USA Today Crossword, “Seam Ripper” — Emily’s write-up
The bottom half was tougher for me today to break into, hence a longer time than usual. How’d you all do?
Theme: each themer is enclosed in a split (or ripped) SEAM, each torn at different points: SE—AM, SEA—M, and S—EAM respectively
- 17a. [Tennis feat named for a Williams sister], SERENASLAM
- 28a. [Basketball team with a lighting bolt in its logo], SEATTLESTORM
- 64a. [Current or Courage], SOCCERTEAM
SERENASLAM is a type of “grand slam” in tennis. SEATTLESTORM is a WNBA team and one of the famous players Sue Bird retired at the end of the 2022 season. Though I don’t know the Kansas City or North Carolina SOCCERTEAM from the clue, it filled in easily with a few crossings and a strong hunch they were team names, given that we have the Columbus Crew here in Ohio. Another fun commonality of these themers is that they are all women sports related. Nice one!
Favorite fill: ATELATE, ALLTHETIME, and KIVA
Stumpers: MARK (new to me), LAIDANEGG (kept thinking “flop” or “dud” so needed all crossings), and EASYSTREET (needed crossings)
Loved the pair of TALE and MYTHS as well. A trickier one for me, though in writing this post, the cleverness of the theme and my appreciation for it kept increasing—excellent!
Alexander Liebeskind & Yu-Chen Huang’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary
Alexander Liebeskind & Yu-Chen Huang gives us a theme based around the 15-letter WORKSLIKEACHARM. Four other phrases begin with charms: although I’ve never heard of an ACORN being a charm, and RAINBOW also seems a bit of a stretch. The more solid pair are HORSESHOE and SHAMROCK. I wonder if PENNY was a considered answer here? Anyhoo, the entries are:
- [Pride symbol], RAINBOWFLAG
- [Arachnid relative that resembles a crustacean], HORSEHOECRAB. Not arachnids, and the term crustacean is paraphyletic. I’d have gone with “Arthropod…” here.
- [Minty frozen treat at McDonald’s every March], SHAMROCKSHAKE
- [Nutty-tasting winter vegetable], ACORNSQUASH
Other notable clues and answers:
- [Greek salad fruit], OLIVE. Fruit in the botanical not culinary sense.
- [Sounds from happy cats], PURRS. But some purrs come from angered cats too..
- [Shish __], KEBAB. That’s the spelling I encounter IRL, but in crosswords, I expect things like KABOB.
- [Macy’s red star, for one], LOGO. As in Belgrade?
[Golfer Palmer, to fans], ARNIE. This clue makes the fandom sound quite current…
Aimee Lucido’s AV Club crossword, “Periodic Disposal”–Amy’s write-up
The puzzle is done but I haven’t sussed out the workings of the entire theme. There’s the more obvious part, made-up phrases formed by adding a metal’s chemical symbol to the front of a familiar word or phrase, as the beginning of the revealer’s clue explains: 65a SCRAP METAL, [Certain waste material, or what to do to three answers (as well as five clues) to reveal their original form]. Across Lite is terrible at displaying long clues! So I didn’t see the parenthetical part that explains the wonky bits that perplexed me. First up, the theme entries:
- 17a. ALARM CANDY, Al (aluminum) + arm candy
- 34a. AGLITTER BUG, Ag (silver) + litterbug
- 43a. FELINE DANCE, Fe (iron) + line dance
The oddball clue/answer combos (I’ve circled the first letter of each in my answer grid) are:
- 1a. [Cutie], DRAW
- 8d. [Nicola], SODA
- 11d. [Auburn], SINGE
- 51d. [Snoops], ERROR
- 64d. [Coolio], MIX
Ah! Now I SEE IT (49d felt a tad iffy to me, but here I am, using it quite naturally). A DRAW is a tie in sports/games, so scrap the Cu (copper) from the start of that clue. Cola is a type of SODA, so remove the Ni (nickel). To burn is to SINGE, scrapping the Au (gold). An “oops” is an ERROR, so scrap the Sn (tin). And an olio is a MIX, once you’ve scrapped the Co (cobalt). I love this theme! The five clues with scrap metal in them are a cool supplement to the traditional theme portion.
Fave fill: THE BEAR and WORDLE. Both things I enjoy!
4.5 stars from me.