Rachel Fabi & Christina Iverson’s New York Times crossword — Amy’s recap
A fresh and fun Saturday offering from Rachel and Christina played like a Friday NYT for me. It helped that 1a and 1d, both newer coinages (not things we learned during our school years if we’re over 45), were gimmes for me. Being online a lot helps for solving! CROMULENT ([Perfectly acceptable, humorously]) was introduced to the language in a 1996 Simpsons episode, while COPYPASTA is newer, [Block of text duplicated and reposted online, in internet slang]. I might argue that PASTES IN is a clear dupe of COPYPASTA, given the latter’s inherent pasting.
Fave fill: OUROBOROS, DR DEATH (heard of it, couldn’t have told you it’s on Peacock), “I’M SO DONE” (not loving the “I’M EASY”/”SO AM I” repetitions), the RULE OF LAW, ATTENTION SPAN (what a great clue: [Focal length?], as in how long you’re able to focus), and PONY RIDES. Special shout-out to LABNEH, a [Yogurt dip often served with pita], which I know from its inclusion in a number of Hello Fresh meal kits.
I didn’t notice till I began blogging the puzzle that the grid has mirror symmetry across a diagonal. The design made by the black squares in the grid’s center faintly resemble an arrow that could be NOCKED.
Rich Norris’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up
“Rich Norris themeless” and “sub-three-minute solve” are not phrases I normally associate with each other. This puzzle had a few of his usual traps, if not many. There were also a fair number of new-to-me facts that I nonetheless was able to complete the puzzle quickly without knowing in advance. I did enjoy that aspect of learning while I solve in clues like:
- 31A [2002 AFI Life Achievement Award honoree], which is Tom HANKS.
- 53A [TV series that teamed a conspiracy theorist with a doctor], THE X-FILES. I’m betting this fact is not new to many, but I’ve never seen the show.
- 2D [Capital of Shaanxi Province] is XI’AN. I have been to XI’AN, but didn’t know anything about its political importance!
- 4D [Loser to Explorer in the first browser war] is NETSCAPE. There’s some nostalgia. I remember building terrible websites with whatever their WYSIWYG was back in 1999!
- 6D [Volcano where Zeus trapped Typhon, in some myths] is ETNA.
- 8D [Chevys retired in 2020] is IMPALAS.
- 39D [Media mogul born in Mississippi] is OPRAH. I always associate her with Chicago, so this was new to me.
Freddie Cheng’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Next in Line” — pannonica’s write-up
The title definitely helped me to understand what was going on with the theme answers, so much so that the revealer was superfluous.
- 114aR [Back-to-back job stint, and a hint to the starred answers] DOUBLE SHIFT. The first letters of each word in those wacky entries have been advanced one space in the alphabet.
- 23a. [*Birthday treat for Al Capone?] MOBSTER CAKE (lobster bake).
- 25a. [*Location of extremely narrow shafts?] TIGHT MINE (sightline).
- 44a. [*One trundling through soil?] EARTH WADER (Darth Vader).
- 48a. [*Rejected dogma?] NIXED CREED (mixed breed).
- 62a. [*One packing the van in an orderly way?] NEAT MOVER (meat lover).
- 66a. [*Battle cry?] FIGHT CALL (eight ball).
- 87a. [*Gelato parlor special?] DOLLAR CONE (collarbone).
- 89a. [*Prison vocalist?] CELL SINGER (bell ringer).
- 112a. [*Aspiration for the band?] TOUR DREAM (sour cream).
None of these are exactly exciting or laugh-out-loud funny, but some are smirkworthy.
- 15d [1975 Tom T. Hall hit] I LIKE BEER. Maybe Brett Kavanaugh’s favorite song?
- 29d [Coat on a coat rack, perhaps] VARNISH. Nice.
- 66d [Distance-measuring device] FEELER GAUGE. New to me, but understandable post hoc.
- 67d [“Tell that ___ you do NOT want to play”: Dr. Seuss] CAT IN THE HAT. Nifty to see the whole thing as an entry.
- 88d [Geezers] CODGERS. Part of a cluster down there in the bottom center. The others are 105a [Mom’s pop] GRANDPA and 94d [Geezer] OLD DOG.
- 104d [Quantum physics pioneer] BOHR. 107d [Science fiction great Frederik] POHL.
- 76a [Tidal carve-out] SEA CAVE. A very famous one is Fingal’s Cave in Scotland.
- 80a [Name on African maps from 1971 to 1997] ZAIRE. I bet that’s a contemporary sweet spot for a lot of readers here.
- 93d [Dizzying pattern] MOIRÉ. Among quite a number of things, such patterns can also be the basis for a type of animation.
- 103a [ __ invidia] ABSIT. A Latin phrase that I wasn’t familiar with, but I can see how it works. Cognates to English absent and invidiousness, right?
Universal, “Universal Freestyle 85” by Evan Kalish — norah’s write-up; 4:40
- SNOOZEALARM 17A [What helps you lie?]
- LETSPRETEND 59A [Invitation to consider a hypothetical]
- BIKELANE 11D [Path that might have designated traffic signals]
- TOERINGS 12D [Pieces of jewelry for low digits]
Could have done with a few more fun ? clues – we only get three and two of them (35D FOLD [Hand over your cards?] and 25A SIB [Short relative?]) are relatively basic. The stacks in each corner are nice and clean.
SATISFICED 28A [Settled for an adequate option]. I didn’t know this word! Surprised to see what I would call difficult vocabulary in a Universal themeless, especially one with this amount of real estate in the grid. For sure thought I had an error somewhere. M-W says satisfice: “to pursue the minimum satisfactory condition or outcome”
Thanks Evan and the Universal team!
Matthew Sewell’s Newsday crossword, Saturday Stumper — pannonica’s write-up
Ouch, definitely some mean ol’ clues in this workout of a puzzle.
- The grid is braced by a pair of long down entries, fourteen letters each: 10d [Active aspiration] ATHLETIC CAREER—kind of blah; 15d [Vitamin-enriched cereals, for instance] NUTRACEUTICALS, a term I vaguely recall but needed many crossings for here.
- 24a [Flowed to and fro] TIDED. A clue/answer combo that’s so straightforward it becomes difficult. <shakes fist>
- 28a [Comic relief?] BARSTOOL. That question mark is doing a lot of work. “Relief” is not a concept that comes to mind first, or second, or third.
- 32a [Word in two UN member names] ARAB. Had to look this up afterward—the official name for Syria is the Syrian ARAB Republic. (The other nation is the more obvious United ARAB Republic.)
- 36a [Fire marshal’s measurement] AISLE. Jeesh.
- 39a [Language once written in Cyrillic] ALEUT. Nice bit of trivia; not intuitive.
- 61a [Improve your progress] ACCELERATE. 7d [Improved your progress] SPED. Getting one of these answers helps with the other clue, which is a nice kind of time-release valve feature in a tough crossword.
- 62a [Apt rhyme for “praise”] OLÉS. Boo! I was expecting a one-syllable answer.
- 63a [Got bigger, apparently] NEARED. A matter of perspective, I guess.
- 8d [Military terrain-modeling tool] SAND TABLE. And now I have just learned of ABAX, which seems very useful for Scrabble/Lexulous.
- 9d [“Starry” precursor of the Apple 1] ALTAIR. I was thinking that the answer was pointing to another Apple product, but no.
- 25d [34-wk. period] DST. This one gave me conniptions. Typical human gestation period is about 40 weeks, the 34th week of the year (not that the clue indicates this, but I was growing desperate) isn’t in OCT, etc. Definitely needed crossings here.
- 27d [Antonym of “astride”] SIDE-SADDLE. One might quibble that these are opposites.
- 30d [Afford for now] LEND. Another clue with the obliqueness/difficulty ramped up.
- 48d [Spring, essentially] WATER. Pretty sure this was a misdirection toward HELIX.
- 52d [Track and field opener] DECA-, as in decathlon.
Amanda Rafkin’s USA Today crossword, “Well, Now I’m Hungry!” (Freestyle) — Amy’s recap
Themeless this weekend from USA Today, and the grid has some nice stuff in the middle — MEXICAN COKE, PERI PERI, and a down-spanning LETS PUT A PIN IN IT. I liked the more open NE and SW corners (CALIENTE and ADONIS especially) more than the other, less connected parts, but even those are smooth and nicely varied, and the whole is a really neat grid.
This could very well be chalked up to USA Today maintaining accessibility for solvers, or an off day on my end, but the cluing by and large didn’t land with me. [Northeastern state where lobster rolls are often enjoyed] reads awkward, no? As do [Mythological hot guy] and [Tennessee NFL team]. I’m always cautious about nitpicking puzzles upon closer review, but during the solve I certainly felt more clues than I’m used to were pretty perfunctory, definition-style approaches. Kinda dragged me down through a smooth and varied collection of fill that could have really been jazzier IMO.