Bonnie Eisenman’s Inkubator crossword, “Press Play”—Jenni’s write-up
The blurb that came with this puzzle called it “nostalgic” and now I know why. Each theme answer (plus a bonus!) has the same four letters in various combinations. We know this because there are circles.
- 17a [Loungewear for many Zoom calls] are SWEATPANTS. Not for me. Leggings, yoga pants, shorts, but not sweats. Just not my jam.
- 31a [Unofficial trail created by repeated use] is a DESIRE PATH. This is new to me. I call them “herd paths.”
- 47a [Places to practice ollies and grinds] are SKATE PARKS.
- 64a [Part of a neo-burlesque performance, perhaps] is a STRIPTEASE.
- 61d [ ____ moss (gardener’s soil additive…and a bonus theme answer)] is PEAT.
I thought maybe we were talking about paté until I got to the revealer: 63d [With 59-down, old-school gift that might be curated for a crush, and a hint to this puzzle’s theme]: MIX/TAPE. Nice! And definitely retro.
A few other things:
- BETA and ALPHA are clued early and earlier release phases.
- TATAMI is one of those words I almost always miss on the NYT Spelling Bee.
- I enjoyed [“____ and you’ll miss it”] for BLINK.
- I also liked [“Ugh, I can never ___ that!”] for UNSEE. Sometimes a FITB clue is fun.
- Also very much enjoyed [Org. that defines what’s NSFW?] for OSHA.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: see above re: DESIRE PATH. I also am ashamed to say that I didn’t know that WAWA is an Ojibwe name despite living in WAWA land. The clue isn’t quite right, though. WAWA isn’t all over the East Coast – they are pretty much limited to eastern PA and adjacent NJ. And don’t even start with me about Sheetz.
Billy Bratton & Clay Haddock’s New York Times crossword–Amy’s recap
The Carleton College crossword mafia adds Clay Haddock to the roster with this joint venture with Billy Bratton, who also attends Carleton. May I just mention that Clay’s bio at Wordplay says he plays for CUT, the top men’s Ultimate team at Carleton? Neat trivia: Little liberal arts college playing in Division III for all sports except in ultimate frisbee, where the club teams play in Division I and do amazing. Not many small schools are out there winning Division I national championships.
OK, I’m done with sports for the day, except for that veiled-capital-R clue, [Rugby competitor], where I tried SIDE (meaning team) but it’s ETON, a rival of a UK school called Rugby.
Puzzle played hard for me. Just scrolled through a bunch of clues without encountering gimmes for awhile. Oof! Maybe tomorrow’s puzzle will feel decidedly Fridayish to me.
Fave fill: MUSIC VIDEO, SHTETL (as seen on TV! Hulu’s got the Mel Brooks-hosted series History of the World, Part II, and some of the Russian history sketches take place in a shtetl), LOVE TO HATE, WHITE SPACE, the verbal shrug of “DOESN’T MATTER,” GRUMP, and AVOCADO TOAST.
Potentially pesky crossing: the who-on-earth-actually says OH ME (which you need the first crossing for, because the equally terrible entry AH ME is possible), with the first letter found in 1d. [Feline friend of Tom on “Tom and Jerry”]. I wagered that TOPSY was more likely than TAPSY, but why the “Tom and Jerry” deep cut here? [___-turvy] is not a crime, just a tad easy for a Friday. (And grr on the OH ME/OH HI repetition.)
I liked 21a. [The “Y” of the code JPY] for seeming impenetrable but making perfect sense as Japanese YEN once the crossings landed.
One clue felt a bit off in its tone: 31a. [“Go for it”], for “YOU DO THAT.” The clue sounds more encouraging than the answer. In my circles, it’s often more of a dismissive tone. You might respond to “I’m not going to set my alarm for tomorrow morning’s job interview” with “Uh, yeah, you do that,” complete with an eye roll. Just me?
3.6 stars from me.
Pam Amick Klawitter’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up
- 54aR [“Not staying long,” and an apt title for this puzzle?] I JUST DROPPED IN. That’s because the longest across entries feature an extra letter I inserted somewhere to alter and wackify the original phrase.
- 16a. [Member of the swim-up bar staff?] TREADING WAITER (treading water). This answer requires you to maintain a sense of the original phrase as well—it needs to have waiter and water simultaneously.
- 21a. [Exercise class that’s all all about one’s ego?] VANITY PILATES (vanity plates). Apt entry since the theme mechanism of inserting an “I” could be a punny way of describing egotism.
- 34a. [Elements needed to start NFL games?] PROS AND COINS (pros and cons).
- 48a. [Tricks for producing excellent Tweetstorms?] TIRADE SECRETS (trade secrets). This theme answer has the distinction of being the only one to feature the inserted “I” somewhere other than the final word.
It’s a standard sort of theme and I think it could have been tighter or more consistent. Even so, it was entertaining enough and the puzzle was worth a solve.
- 42d [UFO mechanics, presumably] ETS. Interesting spin.
- 30a [Interior designer Berkus] NATE. I’m assuming this is someone famous?
- 53a [Gray __ ] AREA. Symmetrically paired with 18a [La Scala showpiece] ARIA.
- 63a [Without any oomph] WEARILY. Good clue.
- 65a [Office binder] STAPLE. Along with 46a [Not fair] CLOUDY, the biggest misdirection among the clues, which for the most part are rigorously straightforward.
Prasanna Keshava’s Universal crossword, “Break the Bank”—Jim’s review
Theme: Well-known American bank names are split across two entries with circled letters pointing them out.
The banks and entries in question are:
- CAPITAL ONE: 17a PER CAPITA and 19a LONER.
- COMERICA: 28a “HOW COME?” and 31a RICARDO.
- CHASE: 50a CAPTCHA and 54a SELFIES.
- CITI: 66a ABACI and 68a TITLE GAME.
Solid. I like how each theme row spans the grid, and I like the choices for theme entries, especially that modern pairing of CAPTCHA and SELFIES. I’m also impressed with that hidden long bank name up top (vs. the shorter ones down the bottom).
Plenty to like in the fill with SMASH HIT, POLI-SCI, and ECLAIRS. I tried MAIN DOOR before MAIN GATE [Primary entrance], and I liked the Indian cuisine mini-theme of LASSI [Indian yogurt drink], NAAN [Bread with paneer masala], and SPICE TEA [Masala chai, for one].
Clues of note:
- 15a. [Red tag event]: SALE. Saw the reverse of the following question on Facebook the other day: What anagram can you make from RED TAG SALE that you might find at such a sale? Answer in the comments if you’re so inclined.
- 17a. [For each person in a country (Note the last 6 letters in this answer + …)]. PER CAPITA. We’re still doing this? I really thought Universal was done with the tortured square-counting clues.
- 50a. [Personality test?]. CAPTCHA. Tough clue. I got it mostly through the crossings.
Good puzzle. 3.75 stars.
Brooke Husic and Erik Agard’s USA Today crossword, “Heart”—Darby’s write-up
Editor: Erik Agard
Theme: The title “Heart” can be broken into “Hear” and “T,” and each theme answer makes it so you can hear a T.
- 18a [“Bad Bunny album whose title means ‘A Summer Without You’”] UN VERANO SIN TI
- 33a [“Spike Lee’s ‘British answer’ when asked for his thoughts on ‘Green Book’”] NOT MY CUP OF TEA
- 50a [“Shirt with an image on it”] GRAPHIC TEE
Admittedly, I needed help from Sally’s Take to figure out this theme, but I really love it. I love that it involves an auditory element, especially since the first two answers are verbal: UN VERANO SIN TI is, of course, an album, and NOT MY CUP OF TEA is something that is siad. It was also a nice variety, given that we got TI, TEA, and TEE. I needed help with UN VERANO SIN TI, but the crossings were were super clean, so those unfamiliar with the album could easily fill in the themer on the Crosses alone if need be.
I filled in this grid pretty smoothly, coming in under four minutes. There were a lot of small elements I enjoyed, like the crossing of 36a [“Pigeon sound”] and 36d [“Crow sound”] COO and CAW. I also really loved 41a [“___ rights”] TRANS and 35d [“Webpages devoted to celebrities”] FANSITES, as well as 3d [“‘Don’t worry about reminding me’”] I’LL REMEMBER and 22a [“Fleecy flock members”] EWES. It was nice very clean and smooth, making for a great Friday fill.
Overall, just a fun Friday with a lot of HEART.