David Steinberg’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap
Not sure this puzzle is harder than most SatNYTs, but my slightly distracted solving time suggests it may be.
Lots of good stuff here! Fave fill: CRAB CLAW, SHAVED ICE, ALL SMILES, BLURTED OUT, Lady Gaga’s “BAD ROMANCE,” Rihanna’s hugely successful cosmetics company FENTY Beauty, CHAMPAGNE SHOWER, SPEED CHESS, PICKLEBALL, and the chatty “WHAT A TREAT!”, “MONEY IS NO OBJECT,” “HOW NICE!”, and “WOWIE ZOWIE!”
- 13A. [Respond quickly, as to criticism, with “back”], CLAP. Roxane Gay’s Twitter BIO used to mention “I clap back,” meaning if you respond to her in an irksome manner, she’ll respond in kind (and she’s cleverer than the typical RUDE troll). I’d love this term to be used during political debates, because there’s so much clap-back action there.
- 1D. [One of three in many baseball fields], ACRE. A fresh ACRE clue! Will wonders never cease?
- 7D. [___ Raine, W.W.E. wrestler who’s the daughter of Dwayne (The Rock) Johnson], AVA. A new AVA! This one is new to me.
- 47D. [F words?], “SEE ME.” As in the teacher writing “see me” on a test or paper with a grade of F.
John Guzzetta’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up
I like this puzzle a lot, and not just because it took me over three and a half minutes after a couple of 2:30ish Saturdays in a row. I could quibble with the green-paintiness of WOODED AREA and AZTEC RUINS in the NW corner, but there’s so much good cluing everywhere else:
- 1A/40A [With 40-Across, juice choice / See 1-Across] is SOLAR POWER. I’m generally not a fan of cross-references unless they’re in close proximity to each other or the tie is really good, and I think this one could’ve done as a clue for 1-Across by itself without the cross-ref. But “juice choice” is a wonderfully deceptive way to clue SOLAR.
- 6A [Tesla, for one] is SERB, but it sure wants to be UNIT, which is a nice deception on Saturday.
- 23A [Verses versus verses] is laugh-out-loud clever for MC BATTLE.
- 25A [“Set ___ the doors O soul”: Whitman]: If you’ve gotta have OPE in your puzzle, quoting an actual line of poetry is the way to do it.
- 37A [Netflix series whose fifth season concludes with the election of Tony Blair] is THE CROWN, and one of these days I’ll re-subscribe to Netflix so I can watch said fifth season.
- 44A [Unimpressive ride, in ’70s slang] is an ECONO-BOX. I was born in the late ’70s so this particular slang isn’t evocative for me, but it sure is fun to say.
- 54A [One with artistic training?] is an absolutely fantastic clue for BONSAI TREE.
- 58A [Really hard to mess up] is IDIOT-PROOF. I probably say “not that we’re idiots, but this needs to be idiot-proofed” at work at least once a week.
- 28D [“Let’s keep it clean!”] is NO CHEATING, but certainly led me to want to put in NO CURSING or NO CUSSING until I realized that was a letter too short.
- 32A [Characters that take off online?] is PROMO CODE. Great entry, and great clue!
7A [Airport north of PIT] for ERI was the one real clunker for me. Erie, PA, I guess? I say keep using the Verdi aria, and maybe someone named ERI will eventually become famous enough to have a different clue.
Universal, “Universal Freestyle” by Adrian Johnson — norah’s write-up
- STARWARS 1A [Saga set “in a galaxy far, far away”]
- STONEAGE 19A [Rocky period in history?]
- MEOW 42A [(Can I have some milk?)]
- EYEROLLS 62A [Teens’ reactions to dad jokes, perhaps]
- ITALIC 11D [Inclined to be stressed?]
- NOTETOSELF 12D [“I should remember this for later …”]
- GIANT PANDA 13D [Big fan of bamboo?]
- SAM 61D [Soul legend Cooke]
I loved solving this puzzle. It flows so well throughout. Those chunky 8x4s in the NW and SE corners! Those pairs of 10s in the NE and SW! This grid shape is a bit unusual for Universal freestyles, and I was surprised that it still comes in at 70 words, it feels like 68 in how open it is. The slightest of an eyebrow raise at WHOYOU and two NOs, especially so close to each other, but the rest of this puzzle is so good that it doesn’t take away from the solve.
Thanks Adrian and the Universal team!
Olivia Mitra Framke’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “What’s the Scoop?” — pannonica’s write-up
This crossword surprised me by having a more robust theme than I anticipated while solving. It wasn’t until it was all complete that I examined the revealer and understood that there was an additional element to each of the theme words.
- 112aR [Place to find what the circled letters spell (considering the words that cross at them)] ICE CREAM PARLOR. Cross?! What? Oh wow, look at that! And that, and that … double scoops!
- 28a. [Word spelled out by Gwen Stefani in “Hollaback Girl”] BANANAS. And the S is circled, which will be the first letter of S-U-N-D-A-E. But…
23d. [Promote] FOSTER. Yes, bananaS foSter is an ice cream flavor.
- 32a. [Level indicator] BUBBLE, crossing
27d. [Eucalyptus family tree] GUM at the U. (bUbble gUm)
- 65a. [Unadventurous, in a way] VANILLA.
47d. [Noggin] BEAN. (vaNilla beaN)
- 68a. [Clinked glasses] TOASTED.
38d. [Marzipan base] ALMOND. (toasteD almonD)
- 96a. [Bowling pin material] MAPLE.
89d. [Waldorf salad ingredient] WALNUT. (mAple wAlnut)
- 98a. [Place for putting on?] GREEN. That clue totally fooled me.
92d. [Gossip, in slang] TEA. (greEn tEa)
Very neat in conception and execution. Bonus content, theme-adjacent and symmetrical with the revealer: 22a [Special offering that might be found in this puzzle] FLAVOR OF THE DAY. And then there’s the central down entry: 42d [Absolutely scrumptious, like much of this puzzle] DELICIOUS—which I thought was way overselling it before I fully understood the theme. It’s still a bit much.
- 33a [Hollow] VALE crossing 4d [Deep gorge] RAVINE.
- 34d [Language from which Afrikaans evolved] DUTCH. Crying out for a crossing CHOCOLATE.
- 42a [Video game expansions, for short] DLCS. Uh, okay?
- 73a [Mammal whose etymology is akin to that of “water”] OTTER. Such a relief to see clue that isn’t [Playful mammal] or similar. m-w’s etymology is very extensive: “Middle English otre, oter, otir, going back to Old English otr, oter, otor, going back to Germanic *utra- (whence also Middle Dutch otter ‘otter,’ Old High German ottar, Old Norse otr), going back to Indo-European *ud-r-o- ‘aquatic animal’ (whence also Sanskrit udráḥ ‘aquatic animal, otter,’ Avestan udra-) with a feminine variant *ud-r-eh2-, whence Latin lutra ‘otter’ (with unetymological l- and -t-), Russian výdra, Bosnian-Croatian-Serbian vȉdra, Lithuanian ū́dra, Old Prussian udro (Balto-Slavic with vowel lengthening and acute accent), Greek hýdra ‘aquatic snake, HYDRA’ (also hýdros ‘the grass snake Natrix natrix,’ énydris ‘otter’); both forms zero-grade derivatives of Indo-European *u̯ód-r-/*u̯ed-n- ‘water’ — more at WATER entry 1″
- 79a [Pipsqueaks] SHRIMPS crossing 81d [Jambalaya ingredient] PRAWN.
- 85a [Moving companies?] TROUPES. While solving, I misinterpreted the clue as referencing the emotional impact of their performances, rather than the more straightforward idea of their itinerancy.
- 1d [HR term for a reorg-related layoff] RIF. Turns out it’s an acronym for Reduction In Force.
- 35d [One in a black suit] CLUB. Moderately tricky clue.
- 39d [NASA’s underwater program] NEEMO. Stands for NASA Exteme Environment Mission Operations.
- 54d [Flower that appears naturally in all colors but pure blue] TULIP. Trivia! (But… all colors?)
- 75d [Sister of Selene and Helios] EOS. Moon, sun, dawn.
- 101d [“Twilight” author Stephenie] MEYER. Never noticed the unusual spelling of her given name before.
Lester Ruff’s Newsday crossword, Saturday Stumper — pannonica’s write-up
A tale of two puzzles. I breezed through most of this one, starting pro forma in the top left and bifurcately seeping through the grid filling everything in my path down to the lower left and center-right. Bottom center, lower right, and upper right were holdouts, for which I needed one breakthrough entry in each to complete the entire grid.
For the upper right, it was taking a chance on GET CAUGHT for 28-across [Are involved in unexpected unpleasantness]. Experimented with PALE for 21a [Starchy] but it turned out to be PRIM—which I saw once 12d [Place for a drill] OIL RIG asserted itself.
In the bottom center, the key was correcting 57d [Scottish forebear] from first GAEL and then CELT to PICT. After that, 55a [Pixel portrait, essentially] was obviously BITMAP and I was off to the races.
The only other spot where I stumbled was 47d [Part of an Uncle Sam costume] GOATEE, for which I briefly had TOP HAT and then BOW TIE.
- 17a [Cutting board creation] ONION SLICE. Kind of a weak entry, no?
- 35a [Preschoolers?] ROE. Oof.
- 51a [Word of a despot] LAW. Tough but fair.
- 65a [Keats and Yeats] SONNETEERS. Got lucky, guessing this one from only the first letter.
8d [Bit of biscotti] ANISEED. For a traditional flavored version. Also almonds.
- 14d [One of MLB’s oldest mascots] MRS MET. Surprising, as the Metropolitans were a 1960s expansion team. Unless… are we talking about the mascot’s perceived age rather than historical existence?
- 29d [What a caddy often holds] TEA. 30d [Bad lads] CADS.
- 32d [Green sage of great strength] YODA. Tortured cluing, yeh?
- 39d [Glance] ONCE-OVER. 61d [End of a certain 39 Down] TOE: head-to-toe.
- 42d [One present at autograph sessions] FELT PEN, not some sort of FAN.
- 56d [Thumb-made preface] IMHO. Referring to the notion that it’s probably been typed out on a mobile phone’s keypad. My least-favorite clue of the entire crossword.
In the end, I finished with a fairly quick solve time, despite the agonizing finish.