David Karp’s New York Times crossword, “I Do, I Do … Do!” —Nate’s write-up
Hello from Aruba, where my husband and I (spoiler alert) are redeeming the trip I was lucky enough to win on Wheel of Fortune! After a day in the sun, my brain was luckily not too fried to solve today’s puzzle (and yes, we wore sunscreen and moisturized, those of you concerned). :) Let’s dive in:
23A: PIERCING SHREK [Preparing to put earrings in an ogre?]
31A: ORIGIN STORES [The Macy’s in New York’s Herald Square, and others?]
52A: FIVE PILLARS OF SLAM [Pentad for a poetry performance?]
68A: PICKING ONES BRAN [Shopping for some cereal?]
87A: CERTIFICATE OF CLAM [Prize in a chowder cook-off?]
104A: SPITTING MAGE [Old-timey wizard who needs to learn some manners?]
119A: THIRD EYE BLIND [Band with the 1997 hit “Semi-Charmed Life” … or a phonetic hint to this puzzle’s theme]
Sometimes I sneak down to where I think the revealer will be to see if I can drop that in as a way to short circuit the puzzle, and boy did this child of the 90’s plunk in THIRD EYE BLIND without hesitating. Knowing the revealer and noting that the puzzle’s title was missing its third “I,” made for a pretty quick solve. (For those of you stumped on the theme, each themer’s base phrase has three I’s, with the third one being removed to end up with these wacky answers.)
Some of the themers felt quite creative and made me smile (PIERCING SHREK, FIVE PILLARS OF SLAM), but gosh did some of the themers feel boring (CERTIFICATE OF CLAM, PICKING ONES BRAN). If the base phrase feels fusty, I think it’s a tough sell to find a transformation that is going to be joyful to the solver. I’d also argue that anytime “ones” has to be used as part of a themer phrase (likely to make it the right length), it feels forced and not in the language (at least to me – YMMV). I think if all of the themers had been as strong as my two favorites, it would have elevated this puzzle even more. Still, this was a quick, fun solve without any major slog areas.
– Major kudos for the cluing for AGE GAP at 73D. This clue could have easily referred to “the average American couple” and assumed straight, but it qualified the clue to acknowledge non-straight relationships. It’s small things like this that stick out to queer solvers like me in a major way.
– This puzzle had some fun entries – EGIRL, DOG SPAS, EARGASM, TREKKIE, REALITY TV – to balance out some rougher ones like GIGIO and ENIAC.
– [“Black” or “Pink” animal] for PANTHER was a nice double pop culture moment!
Okay, time for some aloe and sleep. I hope you’re well and that you have a great end to your weekend! For those of you headed to ACPT next weekend, have the best time ever!
Dylan Schiff & Matthew Stock’s L.A. Times crossword, “Split a Ride” — Jack’s write-up
Theme entries contain the name of a car make with one extra letter inserted so they appear split into two parts. The inserted letters spell out “car parts.”
- 23A. [Snarky response to criticism] = WELL EXCUSE ME (“Lexus” is split by the “c” in “car parts”)
- 32A. [Snack source] = VENDING MACHINE
- 41A. [Store with discounted athletic apparel] = UNDER ARMOUR OUTLET
- 64A. [Oscar night phrase] = THE ENVELOPE PLEASE
- 74A. [Festivals with jousts] = RENAISSANCE FAIRES
- 96A. [Cartoon Network show about a boy-genius inventor] = DEXTER’S LABORATORY
- 105A. [The whole lot] = KIT AND CABOODLE
- 120A. [“Just wait till I tell Mom!”] = YOU ARE SO DEAD
I guessed the theme as soon as I read the title and observed the circled letters with splits in them. Normally that would spoil a solve for me, as I prefer to have to work a little to grok a theme. However, the first themer, WELL EXCUSE ME, is such a sassy phrase and perfectly obscures Lexus with precisely one intervening letter that my disappointment did a 180. I hadn’t predicted the extra layer of the inserted letters spelling out a revealer of sorts: “car parts” – nice touch. Almost all of the themers are fantastic crossword entries in their own right. The one possible exception being UNDER ARMOUR OUTLET, which feels a wee contrived. The hidden cars even span two words in their respective entries. This is considered an elegancy and I tend to agree. 74-Across is an exception here, but finding Nissan in Renaissance is cool enough that it gets a pass. The theme set is so strong that I’m curious how many examples clutter the cutting room floor.
The puzzle offers plenty of zippy bonuses to boot: ART SHOP, HUGE GET, GOSH DARN, RIPSAW, EUROPOP, FAKE TAN, TO THIS DAY. Good stuff! The uglier fill is well-concealed. See 107D. [Día ___ Muertos] = DE LOS for an example. DELOS is typically clued as the rather obscure Greek island or the niche amusement park name in “Westworld”. Normally a partial phrase in a foreign language like “de los” would be bottom of the barrel fill, but by using an easy fill-in-the-blank clue with a holiday most everyone has heard of, the subpar fill evades notice. This has all been a long-winded way of saying that I appreciate the care you took in your puzzle Dylan and Matthew.
- 21A. [Mole, for one] = UNIT. This clue made me appreciate how many meanings the word “mole” has. I was thinking beauty mark, spy, and Mexican sauce before I struck the right idea. A mole measures the amount of substance in something.
- 46D. [Tombstone name] = EARP. Nice misdirection. Tombstones in graveyards have names on them but this is referencing Tombstone, Arizona, where Wyatt Earp roamed.
- 73A. [Runs in place] = IDLES. I came up short on the first few readings picturing treadmills. Runs as in running a car engine.
- 126. [Facts and stats, in a debate] = AMMO. A common crossword entry that I’ve seen clued hundreds of times. This angle feels genuinely fresh.
Plug for my puzzle lovers: I recently began writing a weekly puzzle column at Gizmodo. Each Monday morning I present a puzzle and the solution to last week’s. Check them out and let me know what you think!
Evan Birnholz’ Washington Post crossword, “ID Numbers”—Matthew’s write-up
Five longer themers contain circled letters. Those letters correspond to shorter themers that use numbers instead of letters to complete the grid.
- 23a [North Hollywood Spa in Los Angeles, e.g.] BATH HOUSE (HHO)
- 37a [Bloom featured during an annual D.C. spring festival] CHERRY BLOSSOM (COO)
- 57a [Video game in which you place flora to defend against an undead horde] PLANTS VS ZOMBIES (PSSS)
- 78a [Metallica song with the lyric “I’m pulling your strings”] MASTER OF PUPPETS (MPPP)
- 110a [Danger to a computer network] CYBERSECURITY RISK (YKK)
- 35d [Chemical formula for a compoound absorbed by a tree bearing a 37 Across (and a description of its circled letters)] CO2
- 42d [Shortened name of a consol for 57 Across (and a description of its circled letters)] PS3
- 101a [Chemical formula for a liquid found in a 23 Across (and a description of its circled letters)] H2O
- 116d [Potential audio file format for 78 Across (and a description of its circled letters)] MP3
- 121d [1999 tech scare believed to present a major 110 Across (and a description of its circled letters)] Y2K
Naturally, both the long and short themers are placed symmetrically. I quite like that the longer entry containing PS3 is a video game that was available on the console, et cetera. The non-theme entries that need to make the numbers work are natural fits — SCENE 3, 3 STAR in particular. An elegant theme that’s not too straightforward nor overdone.
- 37a CHERRY BLOSSOM. I believe peak bloom at the Tidal Basin is this weekend – of course if you’re close enough to make it there today, you already know.
- 92a [Light matter?] NEON GAS. Nothing groundbreaking in this clue, but it tickled me all the same.
- 125a [Like the most prestigious Michelin-rated restaurants] 3 STAR. I’ve eaten at a handful of 1-star places and have been blown away. I either can’t imagine the jump in quality to get to a third star, or it might be lost on me anyway. Or both.
- 3d [Fir ball?] ORNAMENT. As in a ball placed on one’s Christmas tree, typically a fir. Nice.
- 9d [“Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” actor Simu] LIU. The last few rounds of Marvel movies have not captivated as much as the previous major arc, but Shang-Chi is pushing Lucy Liu out of grids and Simu LIU in.
- 14d [Exhibitionist athletic event] UNDIE RUN. Have these fallen in popularity? It’s been a while since I’ve heard of the concept before this puzzle.
- 86d [Individual who governs alone] MONOCRAT. A new word for me, but inferrable. Sounds like a crap job, to be honest.
- 97d [Fall guy?] ICARUS. Another ? clue that struck me right this weekend.
Looking forward to seeing folks at ACPT this coming weekend!
Universal, “Themeless Sunday 28” by Adrian Johnson — norah’s write-up
- WHATDIDIDOWRONG 19A [“Where was my mistake?”]
- ENOUGHALREADY 39A [“All right, we get it!”]
- THEWHOLESHEBANG 51A [Complete package]
- BLOWPOPS 1D [Gum-filled suckers]
- ⭐ WORDSMITHS 5D [Crossword constructors, say]
- ELLE 53D [Woods who said “I don’t need backups. I’m going to Harvard.”]
I was initially confused by this puzzle! While the title assures us it’s themeless, it’s so rare for a themeless to have left-right symmetry, so I’ve still been looking for a hidden meaning… We have long acrosses of 15-13-15 which would work just fine in standard symmetry. But this grid does allow for the nice vertical stacks on the sides of the top half. IMHONORED and BANNERDAY next to each other is nice.
I learned about:
LEAH 52D [Chef ___ Chase, aka the Queen of Creole Cuisine]
Thanks Adrian and the Universal team!
Echoing Matt, also excited to see you at ACPT! :)
David Karp’s Universal Sunday crossword, “Catch-alls”—Jim’s review
When it was announced that Jeff Chen would be taking over editorship of this Sunday puzzle, he prompted would-be constructors to send him puzzles with grid art. My initial glance at this puzzle made me think that’s what we have here. But what an odd picture. Looks like a person (a god, maybe?) with four closed eyes. They even have cheekbones.
But that’s not the idea. The actual idea is that the five U shapes are buckets. The circled squares in each bucket comprise a word that can precede “drop,” and further, at the top of each bucket is a phrase missing that word, which presumably dropped into the bottom of the bucket. The revealer is DROP IN THE BUCKET (84a, [Teensy amount … or a hint to the five circled words, relative to 21-, 23-, 60-, 62- and 104-Across]).
- 21a. [*Engages in a futile pursuit] CHASE (RAIN)BOWS. Raindrop.
- 23a. [*Basic style of horsing around?] BARE(BACK) RIDING. Backdrop.
- 60a. [*Boston hub] LOGAN (AIR)PORT. Air drop.
- 62a. [*All-night trip] RED-(EYE) FLIGHT. Eye drop. Oof. Timely. Be careful out there, dry-eyed peoples!
- 104a. [*They get the big picture] PANORA(MIC) CAMERAS. Mic drop. Hmm. Wasn’t happy that this one was different than the others. This “drop” isn’t a separate word (or part of a compound word) as it is in the other phrases.
I like a puzzle that’s different and this one certainly is different. It took some imagination and creativity as well as some grid-building chops to get everything to fit so tidily. You can be nit-picky and say that these aren’t really “drops” in the buckets, they’re “words that can precede ‘drop'” that are in the buckets. But sometimes it’s okay to give a puzzle some leeway and just go with it. And the theme does do its job by helping solvers fill in areas of the gird. So overall, I’d say this was nicely done.
Despite a theme-heavy grid, we still get some long goodies to enjoy: “THANK YOU SO MUCH!,” ANIMATED SHORTS, VINEYARD, CABLE CAR, PINE NUT, “I VOTE NO,” KLAXONS, “WE’RE DONE!,” SNOBBERY, INNUENDO, and KEG STAND.
I’ve never heard of a LASER RUN before, so that was neat to learn about. The modern pentathlon consists of fencing, swimming, riding, shooting, and running. The last two were combined into what is now called LASER RUN which sounds a lot more sci-fi-ey than it actually is. I was imagining runners having to dodge the lasers being shot at them by the spectators, but sadly, that’s not the case. Can’t have everything, I guess. Still cool, though.
Clues of note:
- 64a. [Canadian coffee chain, familiarly]. TIM’S. Tim Hortons, more formally.
- 98a. [Actress Cynthia of “Harriet”]. ERIVO. I just happened to watch her last night in the latest Luther movie on Netflix. She did a great job holding her own opposite Elba as that beleaguered copper and Andy Serkis as the sadistic villain. As a performer, ERIVO already owns a Grammy and a Tony and has been nominated for an Oscar and a Prime-time Emmy. With crossword-friendly letters, you can expect to see her name show up more and more.
- 10d. [Hole-in-the-wall damage?]. BAR TAB. “Damage” as in the phrase, “What’s the damage?”
Solid theme and strong fill. Four stars.
Stella Zawistowski’s USA Today crossword, “Inner Planet” —Darby’s write-up
Theme: Each theme answer includes EARTH spanning across two words.
- 15a [“Nautical command to pay attention”] – NOW HEAR THIS
- 23a [“Dax breakup song of 2020”] MY HEART HURTS
- 47a [“Device for tossing javelins”] SPEAR THROWER
- 59a [“Defuse a tense situation”] CLEAR THE AIR
I love space, and so it was really cute when I saw the title of the puzzle. It quickly became clear that one particular planet (ours) would be highlighted, and I certainly used it as I was working through themers. Given the letter composition of EARTH, it’s impressive that there are four themers that are clean. I struggled for a second with NOW HEAR THIS, but it’s pretty intuitive, especially once you get a handle on the theme itself. SPEAR THROWER and CLEAR THE AIR were similarly easy, and I got much of MY HEART HURTS on the crosses.
This puzzle took me longer than usual, and I blame 7d [“Floral fruit used in some herbal teas”] ROSE HIP and its crosses. It ended up just being a weak area for me, as I think that the crosses were pretty fair. I totally blanked on EVITA and struggled with CLAMP since it’s a more specific woodworking tool that I’d normally think of.
I really enjoyed 8d [“Turned ‘dormitory’ into ‘dirty room’”] ANAGRAMED, the cluing on 39a [“‘Sheesh!’”] MAN, and 38a [“Designer the Devil wears, in a movie title”] PRADA.