Rafael Musa and Michael Lieberman’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up
I liked this one a lot! It had the fun fill I associate with a Rafael Musa themeless, but with the twists and tricks in the cluing that make for a nice Saturday, even if this puzzle was not one of the hardest I’ve seen in LAT:
- 13A [Internal revolution] is a nice tricky clue for PALACE COUP. I didn’t notice the parallel clue construction with 17A immediately below until after I’d solved.
- 18A [Joggers] at first reads like it refers to people performing the act of jogging, but in fact it’s a clue for GYM PANTS.
- 20A [Low-quality] is CRUDDY, but with that clue and even with half the crossings it could easily also be SHODDY, which makes this corner tougher.
- 24A [Filled in] might be read as something about filling space, but in fact it’s referring to awareness of a situation: UP TO SPEED.
- 43A [Dependents that can’t be claimed as tax deductions] is a really cute clue for PETS.
- 57A [Not set] doesn’t give you a whole lot to go on for UP IN THE AIR.
- 59A [Plot line] is very clever for AXIS.
- 3D [Pride of Lions, e.g.] is also clever for TEAM SPIRIT. I had enough crossings that I never looked at this clue during my solve, but it’s pretty great.
- 5D [One who makes everyone get down on the dance floor?] is a PARTY POOPER. LOL!
- 7D [___-Man] could easily be filled in as ANT rather than the correct PAC.
- 30D [Place of creation?] is ETSY, and it’s so very tempting to fill in EDEN.
- 56D [Discount when buying some foods?] makes a throwaway entry like TARE interesting and tricky to get.
I also enjoyed the entries MERCY RULE, REDDIT AMAS, and RECENCY BIAS. Great puzzle!
Ryan McCarty’s New York Times crossword — Matthew’s write-up
Matt stepping in for Amy today. Always a pleasure to open up and fight through a Ryan McCarty joint. True to his style, we’ve got a wide-open center. Let’s go right to notes:
- 17a [End of March Madness familiarly] NCAA FINAL. “Familiarly” here is a fact-checking hedge; in both the Men’s and Women’s NCAA Basketball tournaments, the games are officially the “National Championship Game”
- 25a [Document for some travelers] CAR TITLE. I’m sure I’m not the only one who was initially thinking “visa” of some sort
- 42a [Leading position] VAN. Completely new to me. I presumed it’s related to “vanguard,” and I do see it’s supported in M-W, so one of today’s lucky 10,000.
- 44a [Title lyric after “Ours is a love …” in a 1950s hit] SO RARE. I’ve been seeing this Jimmy Dorsey song in puzzles for as long as I’ve been doing them — 20 years now — and today I have learned this is the title, not some Italian-ish SORARE. Ah well.
- 47a [Street wear?] RUT. Nice.
- 53a [Never say never, say] IDIOM. This feels new to me for the Times, to omit punctuation in service of difficulty (I would expect quotes around the first three words). It’s standard in Stumpers and in indie themelesses, and maybe I just haven’t noticed it in past Times puzzles that I haven’t been writing up. But it feels new today.
- 2d [Film that gave Disney its longest-reigning Billboard chart-topper] ENCANTO. In reference to “We Don’t Talk About Bruno.” “Surface Pressure” is also excellent.
- 39d [Got down, in a way] KNEELED. Knelt? Whichever is convenient to the grid?
Erik Agard’s USA Today crossword, “Systems Down” — Matthew’s write-up
Down-running themers end in types of “systems:”
- 18d [Unharmed] SAFE AND SOUND
- 11d [According to a viral Tril Withers tweet, it’s white people’s equivalent of “you got me [bleep]ed up] NEWSFLASH BUDDY
- 26d [Assurance for an employee] JOB SECURITY
Edit: Thanks to Sanfranman and Lester in the comments for pointing out that ITS AN HONOR, OLD SCHOOL, and FACE VALUE are also themers. This considerably changes some of what I wrote initially, but I still feel this grid is a little too unconnected for my tastes.
At 12, 14, and 11 letters, respectively, these themers demand some pretty noticeable asymmetry, and we have little connectivity in the bottom half. SECURITY BOND would have meant two themers with the “system” word at the end, and one at the beginning, but might have afforded solvers a grid design that offered more connectivity and paths throughout the puzzle.
I quite like INJERA, OLD SCHOOL, and FACE VALUE.
David Alfred Bywaters’ Wall Street Journal crossword, “Repairers” — pannonica’s write-up
Excellent title for the theme mechanism employed here. You see, there’s a root word that can have RE- prefixed or -ER suffixed—the theme answers feature such pairs. re-pair-er
- 22a. [Bee on a break?] RESTING STINGER (re-sting sting-er).
- 32a. [Mall cop on a case?] RETAIL TAILER (re-tail-er).
- 49a. [Basketball player who’s just retired?] RECENT CENTER.
- 66a. [Part of a henhouse team?] RELAY LAYER.
- 70a. [Wrecking ball?] REBAR BARER.
- 86a. [Champion firewood stacker?] RECORD CORDER.
- 99a. [Useful post-shipwreck consultant?] REMAST MASTER.
- 118a. [Big celebrity who faces facts?] REALIST A-LISTER. Wondering if this one was the seed entry.
Not a huge fan of the theme but I can recognize that it’s well done for what it is. Just for fun, here are the ones that can take both affixes simultaneously: retailer, recenter, relayer, recorder, remaster.
- 17d [Green Muppet] OSCAR, originally orange. 28d [Red Muppet] ELMO.
- 40d [He chooses the red pull over the blue pill] NEO. Corrupted by reactionaries.
- A pair of good misdirections: 13a [Complex unit] CONDO, 18a [Take in] TRICK. There were some less-successful misdirections too, including: 80a [One who make take a gander] GOOSE and 124a [Tasty butterflies, e.g.] PASTA.
- 27a [Number of syllables in “guten Tag”] DREI. 39a [Number of syllables in “ciao”] UNO. 111a [Number of syllables in “feliz cumpleaños”] SEIS.
- 77a [React to a dog in the road] VEER. What a strange choice for a clue.
SN’s Newsday Crossword — pannonica’s write-up
I wish I hadn’t accidentally turned off the timer, because I’d like to know how long this beast actually took me. It was definitely a looong time.
Some really tough clues in here, but first I’ll highlight the central pair of long acrosses, which are exactly the same orthographically but very different when parsed correctly:
- 30a [Many Peruvians’ ancestry] INCAN DESCENT.
- 40a [Extraordinarily bright] INCANDESCENT.
Now let’s round up the toughest of the tough:
- 6a [Early influence on Asimov] PULPS, not WELLS or VERNE.
- 11a [Early word?] GOO. Come on.
- 43a [Disco-era on-air fad] CBS. Not actually related to anything disco, unless you count something like this:
- 50a [Digital attention-getter] SNAPPER.
- 53a [Ascend] AVIATE.
- 6d [Person or pet with well-developed muscles] PUG.
- 12d [Hobbyist’s hand tools] OILERS.
- 25d [Window dressing] FAÇADES.
- 51d [Title character of 19th-century French lit.] ATHOS. Tricky because it’s indirect, a reference to the fact that he’s one of The Three Musketeers. Compare to the parallel but more straightforward clue for 44a [Title character of 19th-century French lit.] Emma BOVARY, of Madame Bovary.
And some of the rest:
- 27a [What Mexicans call a “tree chicken”] IGUANA. Not to be confused with a Mexican tree duck, Dendrocygna autumnalis, which is in fact a duck.
- 48a [Editorial attention-getter] HOT TAKE. 9d [Most newsworthy] PAGE ONE.
- 55a [Height of a media mogul’s ambition] SAN SIMEON. No indication that it’s a particular media mogul.
- 62a [Outmoded rental] VIDEO. But people rent videos to stream all the time now.
- 13d [1940’s home of the Bushes] ODESSA. But they are originally from Maine? Then settled in Texas and then back to Maine for a time? You know what, I don’t really care.
- 21d [Surname akin to Russo] REID. Though this was going to be ROTH.
- 41d [Bon Appétit’s “invention that redefined baking”] CAKE MIX. Noted, but I’m not a fan.
- 42d [Much, much more than a wink] EONS. As in, it took me EONS to solve this crossword. Also, I conflated winks with ‘forty winks’ and tried COMA.
- 45d [They’ll make you smart] STINGS. I was wise to the misdirect but was still not confident about STINGS.
Universal Crossword, “Universal Freestyle 62” by Rebecca Goldstein and Rafael Musa — norah’s write-up
- ⭐SHOWERBEER 17A [Suds that may be sudsy]
- ICANRELATE 62A [“Been there!”]
- DRAGSHOW 57A [Performance for RuPaul]
- SIDEHUSTLE 28D [Source of extra income]
- TOEBEANS 20A [Cutesy name for the pads on feline paws]
- MOMAGERS 40D [Portmanteau for some parents of child stars]
- CATEYES 43D [Feline makeup that Taylor Swift draws “sharp enough to kill a man”]
I’m INTO IT! (23A [Excited about something])
Even among a steady stream of banger themeless puzzles from Universal, this one is a standout. Rebecca and Rafa at the top of their respective games here: grade a smooth gridding packed with modern entries and clues that balance ease, specificity, and evocative references.
I had a hard time seeing INSANDOUTS – those multi-short word long downs always do a number on me. We also have OOHANDAAH, ANDSO, and SOSO, as well as NO ONE and ONESIE — all edging on dupey, but taking care to distinguish these in the cluing
Fun that we have both a SHOWERBEER and a BEERFRIDGE among this weekend. I haven’t done the rest yet… maybe we’ll find an underlying meta theme…
Thanks Rebecca, Rafa, and the Universal team!