David P. Williams’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap
Fun one! Gorgeous, swirly grid with that central star of six 11s stacked and criss-crossed.
Lots of fave fill: The jaunty/druggy SPLIFF goosing us right at 1a. “HELL, YEAH!” MONEY SAVERS, GILD THE LILY, and MOLLYCODDLE (I mistyped that at first and now I’m dead set on creating a Mollycoddlr app) crossing the new-to-me CABARET CARD ([Permit required of old jazz musicians]), HOBBYHORSES, and CLOSED LOOPS. Giving you some SIDE-EYE at that SPRAY TAN. GO TO TOWN!
This is ridiculous, NSA: [N.S.A. surveillance program that shares its name with an entity in the “Terminator” movies], SKYNET. Are you trying to make people nervous?
Favorite clue: 46a. [Bronze finish, maybe], SPRAY TAN. I thought of third-place, bronze-medal finishes. I thought of patinas. It took a while and some crossings for SPRAY TAN to emerge.
Crosswordese I wasn’t expecting: 23a. [Narragansett Bay and New York Harbor, for two], RIAS. If you live by either body of water, tell me if you’ve ever heard it called a ria.
Wendy L. Brandes’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up
I would have liked a lot more misdirection in this puzzle, as my Tuesdayish time indicates. The number of extremely straightforward clues like [Weigh in] for OPINE and [Film lengths] for RUN TIMES is more appropriate to an early-week puzzle IMO.
High- and lowlights:
- 1A [Bulb that rarely needs to be replaced] is a clever clue for TULIP, and even if you don’t fall for the trap of thinking the clue refers to a light bulb, ONION is at least as plausible until you get a crossing.
- 38A [Stella alternative] is HEINEKEN. Someday I’ll realize that when I hear my name at a bar, it’s usually not someone trying to speak to me, but rather someone ordering a Stella Artois.
- 43A B-PLUS AVERAGE felt like green paint to me.
- 5D [One who may find it hard to say no] is PEOPLE PLEASER, which feels timeless and yet like I haven’t seen it before in a puzzle.
- 30D [“Game 7, 1986: Failure and Triumph in the Biggest Game of My Life” memoirist Darling] is…not my favorite clue. I like when book-title clues like this give a hint to the solver, or else help solvers who don’t know the name learn a fact without having to look anything up after the fact. This is neither of those things (unless you’re a Mets fan, in which case it’s the former, I guess, but “Darling” probably would’ve been enough information).
- 31D IT’S DEJA VU also feels green-paint-y because of the IT’S.
- 52D [Flightless birds?] for SSTS is probably my favorite clue in the puzzle, because it manages to poke fun at two crossword tropes at the same time: [Flightless birds] with a four-letter answer pretty much means EMUS, and SSTS have not made commercial flights in 20 years but hang around as useful crosswordese today.
Gary Cee’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “What’s Not For Dinner?” — pannonica’s write-up
This is an interesting theme for a crossword.
- 27a. [Southern dish that doesn’t actually include poultry] CHICKEN FRIED STEAK.
- 39a. [Christmas dessert that doesn’t actually include a fruit] PLUM PUDDING.
- 46a. [Indian dish that doesn’t actually include fowl] BOMBAY DUCK.
- 67a. [Meat items that don’t actually include baked goods] SWEETBREADS.
- 85a. [Meat jelly that doesn’t actually include a dairy product] HEAD CHEESE.
- 93a. [British dish that doesn’t actually include game] WELSH RABBIT.
- 108a. [Szechuan entree that doesn’t actually include insects] ANTS CLIMBING A TREE. Mildly surprised that the older transliteration is used in the clue rather than the more current Sichuan.
I’m sure there are many other misleadingly named foodstuffs out there, but the one that’s preoccupying my mind is toad-in-the-hole.
- Aside from the theme entries, the most notable aspect of the puzzle, to me, is the inclusion of the quite lengthy VERISIMILITUDE at 15d [Authentic appearance]. Its symmetrical partner is the less-exciting 48d [Speaker’s counterpart] MINORITY LEADER.
- 4d [Tea light threads] for WICKS is a little weird.
- 42d [Memory foam developer] NASA. It would have been a lot more impressive if the answer turned out to be NERF, as I’d initially hoped.
- 62d [Holiday created in the wake of the Watts riots] KWANZAA. I was unaware of the connection.
- 98d [Total, e.g.] CEREAL. Fooled me today.
- 23a [Paper clip?] ARTICLE. You might clip one out of a newspaper.
- 56a [Rooting section?] SOIL. Undecided about whether I like this clue.
- 76a [Zigzag in Zermatt] SKI. I finally got this via crossings.
- 119a [Like a declined case] UNHEARD. Good way to clue this without resorting to a partial (as in the phrase unheard of).
- 123a [Makeup crew for a school play] PTA. Don’t understand the connection here, help me out.
Enjoyed this one, despite noticing a tad too much crosswordese required to hold the grid together.
Steve Mossberg’s Newsday crossword, Saturday Stumper — pannonica’s write-up
Imagine my surprise when I finished this flawlessly in under twenty minutes, since I spent nearly the entire solve wandering around the grid as if blind. Seriously, I was filling in so many answers that I was uncertain about.
- 15a [How artichokes are available] IN OIL. I think this would’ve been a lot easier with a different item, such as tuna. Nevertheless, I got it with just the IN– from 9d [New York’s Angry Orchard, e.g.] CIDERY (my first filled entry) and then 9a [ __ liver] CALF’S and then 10d [Iodide or oxide] ANION (was not sure about that, but tried it anyway).
- 16a [Makeup ritual] ATONEMENT. Stumpery.
- 17a [Logging site] DIARY. Clue didn’t fool me, but I still required some crossings to know which possibility the answer would be.
- 24a [Bullheaded] HORNED, which I’d entered but then removed because the –IHE– sequence in 8-down did not look promising at all: see below.
- 25a [Phrase from refusers] A NO, as in “that’s a no”. My final bit of filling in. Seems akin to the equally terse 36a [Oral assurance] I DO.
- 32a [Short-term rental] POP-UP STORE. 11d [Short-term offerings] LOANER CARS. 38a [Impart] LEND.
- 37a [Copy over] TRACE. One of those tricky-because-it’s-so-straightforward clues. Experienced crossword solvers might expect the answer to be RE-something.
- 41a [Hollow center] ELS. DID NOT FOOL ME FOR A MOMENT (whew!).
- 43a [Mea culpa, new-style] SRY. Kicking myself for not getting this one sooner.
- 46a [[More people should come here]] ET AL. Oof, tricksy.
- 59a [35-calorie treat] OREO THINS. Was able to get this from a few crossings, which led me to realize that 49d [Capital of Latvia] was not RIGA (of course it wasn’t—that’d be too easy, eh?) and was instead EURO.
- 1d [Test subject] BETA. Does this work?
- 6d [Driving need] TEE. 7d [Driving needs] YENS. (33d [One will cost you 100+ JPY] USD.) Needed a crossing (which came from 16a ATONEMENT) before I could figure out which of these would involve TEE.
- 12d [Wicked artist?] FIRE DANCER. Do they employ wicks?
- 20d [Fuller shape] DOME, referencing Buckminster Fuller.
- 23d [Many a silents star] MATINEE IDOL, pairing somewhat appropriately with 8d [Madame Bovary or Jane Eyre] ANTIHEROINE.
- 26d [Personality pair addendum] NO RELATION. Kind of a wordsalady clue, but it is parsable.
- 29d [Ingenious expedient] DODGE, not FUDGE, as I’d first attempted.
- 37d [Storage units] TERABITS, which has about 2.1 million google hits, while TERABYTES garners 36.9 million. (I searched using the singular forms.)
- 45d [Boat’s bow or stern?] HOUSE. Houseboat or boathouse. It’s a clue of affixation.
- 54d [See reverse, shortly] PTO, please turn over. I needed to look that up.
Universal, “Themeless Freestyle 86” by Jordan Hilderandt — norah’s write-up; 4:35
- ⭐CRYINGJORDAN 39A [Meme featuring a weeping Bulls legend]
- LITEBRITE 60A [Toy that creates a glowing picture]
- ORIGINALSONG 34A [Cover model?]
By the time you’re reading this I will have arrived in NYC and I’m so stoked for Lollapuzzoola this weekend. Please come find me and say hi – I’ll be the one in the crossword t-shirt. I mean, I’ll be the one carrying more mechanical pencils than one person should own… I mean, I’ll be the one overexcitedly talking about puzzles…. I mean, I’ll be the one wearing two name tags! :D I hope that narrows it down.
Anyway! Today’s Universal themeless from Jordan is a delight. Happily, it provided a little more resistance than others lately. We’ve got PERSONALDATA x INFINITELOOPS x STRINGTHEORY, all clued in STEM-y fashion. THENET, MICROSD on top give this grid a nerdy tech vibe that I’m totally into.
I always love the constructor putting themselves into the puzzle and today Jordan blesses us with the CRYINGJORDAN meme. So great. It looks like this is the first puzzle from Jordan we’ve reviewed in about two years; welcome back!
Thanks Jordan and the Universal team!
Neville Fogarty’s USA Today crossword, “Duplex Houses”—Matt G’s recap
Happy Lollapuzzoola Saturday! Living where I do, the tournament was half over by the time I woke up, and by now I’m no longer the reigning champion. Congrats to Will Nediger, fellow Express finalists Jenna LaFleur and Dan Schwartz, and Local finalists Will Eisenberg, Reuben Henriques, and Simon Henriques (hope I’m reading the results spreadsheet correctly).
Today’s USA puzzle from Neville makes full use of four two-word phrases. Each word is a type of “house,” tied together nicely by the title “Duplex Houses”:
- 17a [Orwell novel that’s political satire] ANIMAL FARM
- 11d [Public university] STATE SCHOOL
- 25d [Leaving en masse] CLEARING OUT
- 61a [Give permission to go ahead with] GREEN LIGHT
I love that these entries are so in the language and so tight to the theme that the clues don’t let on any particularly trickery, or twisted syntax, to point you in the right direction. Very sleek!