Psst! Did you see the new Orca Awards post from Sunday? Orcas and Oscar are anagrams, so the crossword awards came out the same day as the Oscars telecast. Go check it out, read about some terrifically creative crosswords and constructors, and mention your own favorite puzzles from 2022 in the comments!
Thanks to Rich Proulx for heading up the Orcas project this year. If you’re interested in joining the nominations and voting team, the Orcas team might have a spot for you.
Erica Hsiung Wojcik’s and Emma Lawson’s Inkubator crossword, “Themeless #41″—Jenni’s write-up
A nice smooth themeless is just what I needed this afternoon. Lots of fun stuff and, as always with the Inkubator, that distinct flavor of men not being the center of the universe.
- We start with [Wear] for DON and [Wears] for HAS ON on the top row.
- I agree with 41d that the SCOTUS decision in 1d, DOBBS, inspires ANGER (among other things that are not printable) and really appreciate that the clue for 1d includes the link to donate to the Mississippi Reproductive Freedom Fund. That’s worth amplifying.
- 17a [Tool used by some nursing people] is a BREAST PUMP because not all people with breasts are women.
- It was considerate of the team to provide a SPOILER warning for a plot point from Season 5 of The Sopranos. It aired in 2004, but hey, not everyone knows that Adriana was KILLED OFF. Oops.
- We had a DJ at my kid’s bat mitzvah, not an EMCEE, for which I’m grateful.
I did take except to one thing. 3d [Like a toddler who’s screaming “MOMMY MOMMY MOMMY MOMMY”] is NEEDY. There’s a negative connotation to that word. Screaming toddlers have needs. They don’t have the vocabulary or maturity to express those needs except by screaming. It’s developmentally appropriate. Also ear-splitting, exasperating, and embarrassing in public (and it always seems to happen in public). None of this is the toddler’s fault. It’s almost certainly not the parent’s fault (and let’s face it when parents get blamed for the kid’s behavior, it’s usually Mom, not Dad).
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: so many things. Never heard of the British show “We Are LADY Parts.” Never heard of KATALIN KARIKO and had to consult Google to make sure I’d parsed her name correctly. I have never in all my years heard of TELEDILDONICS and I am absolutely not looking to see if that’s all one word.
Carter Cobb’s New York Times crossword–Amy’s recap
Whoops, I spaced on blogging until after midnight. Better late than never! And thank you, Jenni, for having published the Friday post hours ago.
Fave fill (there’s a lot of it!): JUMP SCARES to which I am keenly vulnerable, the PHARAOH ANT I didn’t know existed, GO COMMANDO with the clue [Join a boxer rebellion?], BLUE WHALES, PROSAIC, PRETENDERS (but would have loved a clue about the Chrissie Hynde band), the sleepytime combo of EARLY RISER and BEAUTY REST, SAMMICH (I do say this sometimes, but sando has come on strong), and DRAG MOTHER, which was a gimme with the [Queen with a protégé] clue (Sasha Colby of the current season of RuPaul’s Drag Race is the drag mother of last season’s Kerri Colby, for instance–often a role model, professional coach, and nurturing figure). What was not a gimme was ROLL A CIGAR; I tried ROLL A JOINT first, and that feels more in-the-language to me.
Solid themeless from what I think is a new constructor. Congrats! Four stars from me.
David Alfred Bywaters’s Universal crossword, “Promising Young Professionals”—Jim’s review
The theme consists of made-up phrases that pair a synonym of “promising” with an apt profession with respect to that synonym.
- 17a. [Promising young horticulturist?] BUDDING GARDENER.
- 26a. [Promising young pilot?] RISING AVIATOR.
- 44a. [Promising young scuba instructor?] EMERGING DIVER.
- 58a. [Promising young banker?] ADVANCING LENDER.
I don’t know. I’m not sold on this one. I kept going through the solve expecting these to be actual phrases, and when that didn’t happen, I wanted an apt revealer.
At the very least, I wanted them all to work consistently. I can say, yes, a lender will advance you money and an aviator will rise while piloting a plane, both as essential parts of their jobs. But a diver emerging (presumably from the water) is not the key aspect of diving; in fact, it’s the opposite. And a gardener doesn’t “bud.”
But there aren’t that many synonyms for “promising” and making an occupational connection, however loosely, does still work as a basic theme.
Not a lot going on in the fill. I like PIGPEN most of all, and hey, putting GUAM at 1a is always a winner in my book!
Clues of note:
- Nice touch at 36a & 37a with [Drink a lot] CHUG followed immediately by [Drink a little] SIP.
- 54a. [Religious rationalist]. DEIST. I thought Deism was simply a belief in a God. But today I learned Deism is a belief in God, but not a God that intervenes in its creation. In other words, it’s the belief that God is revealed through nature and discovered via reason, not through miracles or emissaries. Still, I’m not sure how one uses reason to conclude that God exists. At some point I would think there would have to be an element of faith.
That’s all I’ve got. 3.5 stars.
Jess Shulman & Max Woghiren’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up
I have a question or two.
- 63aR [“You’re blocking the view!,” and what is needed to complete the answers to the starred clues?] DOWN IN FRONT.
- 17a. [*Bilingual Ed Sheeran song featuring Camila Cabello and Cardi B] OF THE BORDER.
- 29a. [*R.E.M. hit single on “Out of Time”] MY RELIGION.
- 47a. [*Carl Perkins rockabilly classic popularized by Elvis Presley] SUEDE SHOES.
The words dropped from these entries are synonyms for ‘down’. South, Losing, Blue.
BUT! Why are those words missing? What’s the rationale, or at least the explanation?
BUT! Why are these all song titles? I mean, credit for consistency, but again there’s no rationale or explanation.
Frankly, I’m mystified.
- 10d [Wind instrument?] AIR GUITAR. You can windmill on your AIR GUITAR.
- 12d [Mary Cassatt’s “Little __ in a Blue Armchair”]
- 33d [Low point] NADIR. Not theme-related.
- 58d [Chip in?] ANTE. Simple, economical, yet clever clue.
- 26a [Vane point] EAST. South of where ‘South’ would be in 17-across, were it not inexplicably vanished.
Brooke Husic & Neville Fogarty’s USA Today crossword, “Park on the Right”—Darby’s write-up
Editor: Anna Gundlach
Theme: The second (right-most) word of each theme answer can precede “park.”
- 17a [“Paralympic sport in which competitors wear blackout eyeshades”] GOAL BALL / BALL PARK
- 27a [“Song with the lyrics ‘To catch them is my real test / to train them is my cause’”] POKÉMON THEME / THEME PARK
- 44a [“Frank with a messy topping”] CHILI DOG / DOG PARK
- 57a [“Batman foe named for a plant”] POISON IVY / IVY PARK
These themers were so fun and interesting. They represented such a great variety. Not knowing GOAL BALL right off the bat was really intuitive with the crosses, and I likewise enjoyed the cluing on CHILI DOG. Plus, now the POKÉMON THEME is stuck in my head (and probably will be for the rest of the day). IVY PARK is Beyoncé’s clothing brand, and so that was a new fact for me as well, and I love that this puzzle drew attention to it. Plus, this grid stuffed four themers and very clean fill into it! And the title made the theme very, very clear, which is always nice.
I got the upper left corner entirely on the Downs, so I didn’t see great clues like 15a [“Admiral ___ Levine, U.S. Assistant Secretary for Health”] RACHEL until after the puzzle. Basketball, which is hitting its peak with March Madness, got a shout-out (albeit not a college-level one) in 7d [“Miami ballers”] HEAT. I moved really smoothly through the puzzle itself, coming in under four minutes at 3:42, and I enjoyed every bit of it. No EDITs needed.
Other favorite fill included:46a [“Some Sapphics”] LESBIANS, 24d [“Time off that might coincide with Passover”] SPRING BREAK, and 6d [“Stuff for shining footwear”] SHOE POLISH.
Overall, this puzzle was a BASH!
I just now accidentaly gave the NYT puzzle a 3 star rating but I intended to give it 4 1/2! Can that be fixed? I hope so! It was a wonderful puzzle!
Agreed. I knew pretty much nothing in the NW, which defeated me, but a fresh, interesting puzzle. Nice to see it!
As too often, TNY was only nominally themed. Ok, they hid some words. not that it would get a smile or affect your solving.
NYT: Very challenging for me, but nothing I thought was unfair or too obscure. I have family who escaped from Russia and Czar Nicholas II before the revolution (and some family who didn’t) who became cigar-rollers in NYC, so that answer probably felt more “in the language” to me than others. I never heard of “sando” – do you think that originated from the (to me) more common “rando”, meaning “some random person”?
Universal: I agree with Jim – the theme was pretty straightforward but left me wanting for more. Enjoyable nonetheless.
Hmm – wrote the above before doing the LAT – coincidence?
I would suspect that rando, hundo, and sando all came from the same generation.
I wanted to like the Universal, but it lacked any apparent [to me, at least] link to the base phrases. That is, I assume DAB was playing off BUDDING GENIUS, RISING STAR, and EMERGING TALENT, but I have no where ADVANCING [noun] comes from, and the whole thing was just too clunky.
“Advance” is often used with regard to loans, for example, one may get a cash advance from their company before going on a business trip, which is essentially a loan.
To pannonica, re the LAT puzzle:
I didn’t know what was going on at first, either.
But the omitted first words “south”, “losing”, and “blue” are each a synonym of *one* meaning of “down”.
Hey Pannonica, the LA times puzzle was great! “down in front” refers to not only missing words (meaning down) but also to the fact that they were the first words in the phrase (front).
Forgive me for neglecting to mention that aspect explicitly. However, that has little bearing on my why-are-they-missing query.
I really struggle with the concept that there has to be a “reason” for a particular theme. It’s a puzzle. It’s got a gimmick. So what? I wasn’t crazy about this one because it’s a theme that (unless you’re really clever) you just won’t get it until you flesh out the reveal. But, it was very well executed and the incidental fill was quite good.
David Alfred Bywaters’s Universal crossword, “Promising Young Professionals”—Jim’s review
Jim – I think emerging safely is arguably the most important part of a dive. ;)