John Ewbank’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap
It’s a deft touch that the tallest entry in this puzzle is that central peak with EVEREST BASE CAMP. There’s a STEEPLE nearby but, hey, it’s not even half the height of the EVEREST entry.
Fave fill: TIME TRAVEL (I did enjoy Source Code), ACHILLES (DENNIS DEYOUNG didn’t fit for the [Styx figure]), ARMORED CAR crossing the other AR*OR word, ARDOR, AGUA FRESCA, HIT SINGLES aptly near BTS, “IN THAT CASE…,” and FINAL OFFER. I was years past college by the time SPARKNOTES became a thing.
Did not know: [Police officers, in British slang], PLODS. That is indeed one of the definitions in the Collins English Dictionary.
Smooth fill overall. Four stars from me. Good night, folks!
Morton J. Mendelson’s Universal crossword, “Circle Back”—Jim’s review
Well, this is different. And definitely in a good way.
The first hint at the theme is 17a’s TWENTY-FOUR HOURS [Length of Earth’s rotation].
Then we come across what is probably the longest crossword clue that ever existed. That entry at 22a is the start of a series of two-word phrases and/or compound words that loops around the grid in a rectangle—Marching Bands-style—and ends right back at square 22.
Lastly, we get the cherry-on-top revealer at 61a: YOU’LL COME AROUND [Optimistic remark to the unpersuaded].
So what’s the deal with 22a? Glad you asked. Here’s the clue, which is really a series of sub-clues:
[Start of a loop] When the sun shines / Break in a game / Amount spent / Break in a trip / Meteoric, like success / Drink before bed / Culminating achievement / Masonry / Monday to Friday, say …
It must be mentioned that since the answer to each sub-clue is a two-word phrase or compound word, the second word of a phrase is also the first word of the next phrase. Thus we have the answers to the sub-clues:
- When the sun shines: DAYTIME
- Break in a game: TIME OUT
- Amount spent: OUTLAY
- Break in a trip: LAYOVER
- Meteoric, like success: OVERNIGHT
- Drink before bed: NIGHTCAP
- Culminating achievement: CAPSTONE
- Masonry: STONEWORK
- Monday to Friday, say …: WORK WEEK
- (unclued): WEEKDAY
And notice that the words DAY and NIGHT at opposite corners of the rectangle are circled in an elegant representation of the 24-hour day/night cycle. Pretty nifty, eh?
Though I solved the puzzle relatively quickly, it still took me some time post-solve to piece it all together. And the more I looked at it, the more I liked it. This is really an impressive bit of construction to find the right phrases that allow everything to fit so tidily. Very nice!
There isn’t a lot of sparkle in the grid (BRYN MAWR is nice but HARD TASK is an eyebrow-raiser). But this grid is all about the theme, and I’m plenty impressed with its novelty in conception and smoothness of execution.
4.5 stars from me.
Joe Deeney’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up
The operative word for this theme is approximation. Familiar words and phrases are reframed in this context.
- 18a. [Middle, approximately?] FUZZY NAVEL.
- 27a. [Sequence, approximately?] GENERAL ORDER.
- 35a. [Straight, approximately?] BALLPARK FRANK.
- 44a. [Right, approximately?] LOOSE FITTING.
- 57a. [Quarters, approximately?] ROUGHHOUSE.
Works well; I liked it.
Had a little trouble completing the lower right corner, but looking back on it now I don’t see anything particularly difficult. Mysterious!
- 8d [Like molasses, vis-à-vis water] OOZIER. Because THICKER definitely did not fit.
- 34d [Barely get wet?] SKINNY DIP. I can’t articulate it, but this feels cousin to the theme items.
- 38d [Planner abbr.] FRI. Also today.
- 45d [Letters before a fresh take] OTOH. One hopes.
- 46d [Flip response to an ultimatum] OR WHAT. Nice clue/entry. 62a [Back talk, in slang] ’TUDE.
- 49d [“Yes and no”] SORTA. Approximately-ish.
- 23a [South American barbecue] ASADO. I guess the noun is masculine. So used to seeing the adjective, in carne asada.
- 64a [“Inspiration Information” musician Shuggie] OTIS. Great song, but I’m spinning “Strawberry Letter 23” because I just had strawberries in my breakfast and, uh, the year is 2023?
Emily Alinder Flynn and Kate Hawkins’s Inkubator crossword, “Scoring on Skates”—Sophia’s write-up
This puzzle is co-written by Fiend reviewer Emily, so I’m especially hyped to review it today!
- 17a [Quitting a corporate job to become a teacher, for example] – CAREER PIVOT
- 29a [Device that interferes with cellphone reception] – SIGNAL JAMMER
- 43a [Browser extension that stops unwanted ads] – POP UP BLOCKER
- 59a [Indoor contact sport whose positions are found at the ends of 17 Across, 29 Across, and 43 Across] – ROLLER DERBY
Pivot, jammer, and blocker are all roller derby positions! Cool! I personally know very very little about the sport, so even though the title tipped me off as to what the theme might be, I still needed to get all the answers via their clues and crosses. Kind of funny that the two middle answers, SIGNAL JAMMER and POP UP BLOCKER, are both technology related.
Fill highlights: I’M ON FIRE, TALK TO ME, ANTI-HEROES, HAIRDO
Clue highlights: [One of three in a 1988 cult classic] for HEATHER, [Paris pain?] for BREAD, [“Ticket to ___” (board game)] for RIDE – this is probably my all time favorite game and I loved seeing it here!