Spencer Leach and Quiara Vasquez’s New York Times crossword — Erin’s write-up
Hello lovelies! It’s Erin again, here to share a Saturday themeless. It felt on par for a Saturday for me…the NYT app tells me I solved two minutes under my average, but I think that’s skewed by one too many episodes of falling asleep solving with phone in hand. Anyway, Spencer and Quiara had me at BBQ PORK BUN [Steamed Chinese snack also called char siu bao], kept me at YOU ARE HERE clued by the super clever [Line on a map?], and got me scratching my head at COAT HANGER [It has a hook and, sometimes, two claws]. Are the claws the notches in the shoulder areas of the hanger, or are they the clippy parts used to hang a pair of pants with the coat? I can’t seem to find the answer via Google.
- 53a. [Be a b-boy or b-girl, say] BREAKDANCE. Breaking will be one of the new sports seen at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.
- 3d. [Gentle rock arrangements?] ZEN GARDENS. I love this clue!
- 18a. [Ones waving at people who might be on their way out?] PRIDE FLAGS. The “out” here is out of the closet, but my medical brain jumped to the operating room staff as someone is being anesthetized (“knocked out”) for surgery, which is just plain wrong.
- 42d. [Sports stud] CLEAT. This clue had me stumped for a while…I kept thinking of individual sports stars, or what a star player for different sports would be called…nice misdirect.
Universal, “Universal Freestyle 78” by Amie Walker — norah’s write-up
- BADHAIRDAY 15A [Occasion to stress about tresses]
- SPICETHINGSUP 17A [Add some heat in the kitchen or bedroom]
- GETWELLCARD 24D [A punny one might read, “Sorry you feel so waffle”]
- NPRTOTE 42D [Certain pledge drive giveaway]
Fairly standard Universal themeless grid type here with the stacked 10s and paired 13s toward the middle. Amie fills it super cleanly, no complaints from me. Shaved another couple of seconds off my best time, so an ultra smooth solve. I enjoy the sprinkles of humor in the cluing for entries such as TILTING 8D [Vending machine no-no], TSK 60D [“I’m judging you”], and TWERP 14D [Annoying little brother, say] (is this a personal reference, Amie!? :D)
Thanks Amie and the Universal team!
Damon Gulczynski’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up
I hate to be Debbie Downer, but I wasn’t crazy about this puzzle. As one who is quite familiar with rejection emails about themeless puzzles, I know that often, even one entry like YREKA (population 7,800), YARE, or the archaic AHORSE is enough to move a puzzle to the “no” pile. I didn’t think the marquee entries in this puzzle had enough wow factor to make up for my saltiness over those three, which I will admit are the only clunkers in otherwise solid fill.
(I promise I’m not just saying this as a salty constructor; it’s that as a solver, I noticed those entries more than I noticed entries that made me go “yay!”)
I did enjoy the clues [Turkey bacon?] for LIRA, [Appropriate time for acting unprofessionally] for AMATEUR HOUR, and [Lack of space?] for AIR.
Scott A Hogan’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Deleted” — pannonica’s write-up
There’s some elision in the title. What it means to indicate is that the letter D has been deleted from familiar phrases. But it’s tempting to read it as it being leted or leeted, neither of which make sense. Anyway, it’s simple enough to detect what’s happening.
- 22a. [Work experience requirement in a Zamboni driver job listing?] TWO RINK MINIMUM (two drink minimum).
- 29a. [Package of paper that results in printer jam after printer jam?] THE IMPOSSIBLE REAM (The Impossible Dream).
- 46a. [Carted around a melting sculpture?] ROLLED THE ICE (rolled the dice).
- 64a. [“Fishing” in “fishing gear”?] ANGLING PARTICPLE (dangling participle). Heh.
- 83a. [Product of Noah’s pair of fireflies?] GLOW IN THE ARK (glow-in-the-dark).
- 96a. [Unspoken trepidations?] INNER RESERVATIONS (dinner reservations).
- 111a. [Dealing in black-market toupees?] RUG TRAFFICKING (drug trafficking). This one also got a smirk from me.
A bit lackluster as far as themes go, but it’s executed well.
- 2d [Bay, say] HOWL. I thought of the maritime feature, the spice, and the color prior to completing the answer via crossings.
- 13d [Drill part that grips the bit] COLLET. Did not know this. 35d [It’s good for smoothing things over] BELT SANDER.
- 21d [Many a mall] GALLERIA. Defined as “a roofed and usually glass-enclosed promenade or court” (m-w)
- 30d [Alternate form of ID?] IDAHO. This one confused me until I got the answer.
- 47d [Dove rival] DIAL. Soaps.
- 62d [Pair on the back of a dime] ACORNS. You have to look closely. It also features an olive branch bearing two fruit buds. And a torch.
- 67d [Past regulation, for short] IN OT. Took me a while to parse the answer, after which I was able to correctly parse the answer. Backwards-moving, all the way.
- 94d [Teri of “Young Frankenstein”] GARR. Crossing 93a [1973 film role for Marty Feldman] IGOR.
- 106d [Pandora option] SKIP. This is the music streaming service.
- 19a [Abominable entity] YETI. I would prefer either quotes or a question mark.
- 37a [Hares that are hers] DOES. 63a [Sheep that are shes] EWES.
- 71a [Convenient kind of shopping] ONE-STOP. I used to live near a hardware/home improvement store that billed itself as a one-stop. But it was a lie! I found I had to keep going back to pick up more items for whatever project I was working on. The nerve!
Steve Mossberg’s Newsday crossword, Saturday Stumper — pannonica’s write-up
Wow, this was a major workout.
So many misfills, so many little spots that I needed to sew up. And then the final area to fill was right in the center.
As for that center section, I was held up for a very long time until I relinquished BONES as the answer to 30a [Means of support], at which point I was able to see SALVE as the answer to 27d [Assuage]. After that it was pretty easy to see CANES and then dash to the finish line.
The clues seemed especially oblique this week. Just me?
- 10a [Something to drink or drive] CAB. Cabaret, cabriolet.
- Two tricky, misleading music clues: 13a [Instrumental part favored by Beethoven] PIANO PEDAL, 7d [Duettist in Haydn’s “Creation”] ADAM.
- 17a [“Astronomicis bestia”] URSA. oof.
- 18a [Scrabble sextet that can form a seven-letter word with 18 of the 26] SATIRE. Double-oof.
- 19a [All the features] MOVIEDOM. Not getting easier, is it?
- 24a [Being side-by-side] JUXTAPOSITION. I held off on completing the end of this entry because it seemed as if it needed to be something more like JUXTAPOSED.
- 31a [Toaster’s goal, perhaps] BLT. I mean, come on. That’s a real intuitive stretch.
- 37a [“Birthplace of Confederation,” for short] PEI. Who knew this about Prince Edward Island? (I mean, that’s what I assume the answer references.)
- 38a [Keep doing what you’re doing] SOLVE. Very tricky. Having the aha-moment on this was instrumental in finishing out that final center section.
- 40a [Literally, “harm joy”] SCHADENFREUDE. I feel as if I should have gotten this sooner, and would have thus improved my solve time by several minutes at least.
- 44a [Tiny bit] DRIB. DRAM here held things up.
- 48a [Present day directive] OPEN IT. Note the lack of hyphenation in the clue.
- 53a [Shaggy shepherd] GUARD LLAMA. Triple-oof.
- 56a [They pair well with pasta] AGLIO E OLIO. Unexpected but ultimately fair. I-O-E-O is a bemusing sequence to see in the grid.
- 5d [Entry-level guy] DOORMAN. No indication of wordplay made this tough.
- Ditto 11d [Hot pursuit] ARSON.
- 26d [Made a cactus garden, say] XERISCAPED. In contrast to SCHADENFREUDE, I got this one right away and it probably shaved my time by a minute or two.
- 35d [Hybrid outerwear] COATIGAN. Have never heard the term, but lo! the spellchecker is not underlining it.
- 41d [Prepped for baking maybe] CORED. After trying CUBED and CURED.
- 50d [What a seer often says?] I’M IN. Really?
- 54d [Relieved] RID. Whew, I’ll say!
Amanda Rafkin & Brooke Husic’s USA Today crossword — Matthew’s write-up
Themers contain the word “UP” across word breaks:
15a [Animated martial arts movie featuring Jackie Chan as Monkey] KUNG FU PANDA
35a [Ancient Incan site in the Andes] MACHU PICCHU
56a [Words accompanying a polite request] IF YOU PLEASE
Nice long bonuses in the downs, with LINCOLN MEMORIAL and THERE YOU GO AGAIN. IFS crossing IF YOU PLEASE caught my attention and is not my favorite, but the USA Today team clearly takes the approach that the vast vast majority of solvers don’t notice pieces like that, and I don’t disagree, though I would personally prefer to avoid dupes.
23a [___ kwon do] caught my attention – this is the first time in a few months I’ve seen it clued as separate words rather than “taekwondo”. Both are attested, FWIW.
Does anyone else consistently forget which component of MACHU PICCHU has one -C- and which has two? I gotta get better with that one.